I thought of Merl Reagle when I read this list of "worse than Quantum of Solace" titles, from Chicago Tribune writer Steve Johnson. My favorite was "Cardamom of Venice."
We're having patrickberry pie with patrickberry ice cream—both the NYT and Sun crosswords are by the same constructor.
Patrick Berry's New York Times crossword shows again that he is the primary exception to the rule that I don't much care for 62-word themelesses because they're racked with compromises in the fill. This 62-worder has an oddball grid, with most of its open space in the middle rather than the corners. The fill is Berryesque, which is to say that it's smooth and unforced and rather light on tacked-on word endings and prefixes. To wit:
The cluing is also top-notch, presumably a mash-up of good ideas from the Berry and Shortz ateliers. Some of the items in this listing are not exemplars of great cluing, but rather, facts people may be Googling. I'll bet you can tell the difference.
In its very own category in this crossword, we have a PANTY GIRDLE, or [Unmentionable]. I guess there are still things called panty girdles on the market, but back in 1965, doctors recognized their danger.
Berry's Sun "Weekend Warrior" was a little harder than the NYT. This one's a 66-worder with about 15 people's names in the grid. My favorite clues:
And my favorite answers:
Those four longest ones frame the black square in the middle of the grid, and they make a beautiful quartet of crossword answers.
Weirdest answer: SEABAG is a [Duffel with a drawstring]. I never knew sailors had a special name for their duffels.
I won't have time for all four of the other Friday puzzles this morning because I came across a link to the Visual Thesaurus spelling bee, and I am powerless to resist its siren song. (I'm the Amy R. on the leaderboard. You add the aura of competition to something nerdy, and I get sucked right in.)
Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword has a slew of tricky spots, and the theme didn't come readily to mind, either. 63-Across, the [Sound created by the four identical letters missing from] the other four theme entries, is AIR LEAKAGE, so each missing letter is an S (as in a hissing SSSS). It took forever to figure out where COMIC BEING, or [Batman or Robin?], originally had an S. I daresay "cosmic being" is not so familiar a phrase. [Used up the subs?] is RAN OUT OF TEAM (steam). [Biennial rash?] is THE EVEN-YEAR ITCH (seven)—hey, I like this one. [Supplier of deep-fried fare?] is a FAT FOOD CHAIN (fast).
Clues that made me work for the answers:
Updated midday Friday:
Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Class Act," has a quote theme. The quote itself is fine (Aristotle: TEACHING IS THE / HIGHEST FORM OF/ UNDERSTANDING), but didn't at all enhance my solving experience. But I enjoyed the puzzle in spite of the quote theme. Those meaty corners with 7's crossing 6's helped, as did sparkling longer fill—the IROQUOIS include [Mohawks, e.g.], GOOD TIMES was the classic '70s [Esther Rolle sitcom], and WATERLOO goes beyond Abba and metaphor to be [Battle of ___ (1815 conflict)]. I liked the overall vibe of the puzzle, what with clues like these for wee little 3-letter answers: WHY is [Philosopher's question]. [Backseat driver] is one type of NAG. SUE is a [Boy in a Johnny Cash song]. ME A is clued ["Peel ___ grape"]. You'd think a quote puzzle with 34 3-letter words would just be horribly arid, and it didn't feel that way at all.
John Lampkin's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Failure to Launch," plays around with terms from astronomy that can be misunderstood by those not in the know. The would-be ASTRONOMER thought a RED DWARF might be Snow White's compadre, Bashful, and that MICHAEL JORDAN must be a shooting star. Given all the wrong answers on the short-answer test, the prof labeled the student a SPACE CADET. All right, that's cute. This puzzle seemed lighter on the erudition scale than most CHE puzzles (this is not a complaint, just an observation). The only clue that held me up was [It holds a yard] for MAST—the nautical terms just aren't at the forefront of my brain.
"Colin Gale," a.k.a. Mike Shenk, has crafted an impressive Wall Street Journal crossword. In "Make Me an Offer," there's a TAKEOVER BID in seven places in the grid—that is, the letters TAKE appear over the letters BID seven times (see circles in solution grid). I had no idea what was going on in this puzzle until I reached the explanatory clue, but I had noticed a lot of TAKEs floating around. I'm guessing it was quite difficult to find a workable way to place the lists of "words and phrases containing TAKE or BID" into the grid, with solid crossings. Try it yourself! Mind you, Mike made it a little easier on himself by not insisting on symmetrical locations for the theme pairs. But still—an impressive construction.
November 20, 2008