(updated at 12:30 Thursday afternoon)
Happy New Year! Stay tuned for talk about another 1,700 or so crosswords over the course of the coming year. I have a good feeling about this 2009 business.
It could be the New Year's Eve margaritas talking, but I found Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times crossword to be just lovely. Sure, there are only three theme entries, but the trade-off is that we get eight 8- or 9-letter answers in the fill and a 72-word grid that satisfies the word count limit for themeless puzzles. The theme answers tack on a Z (the best of all letters) to completely change the subject of a phrase:
The longer answers in the fill include phrases like ON ONE'S OWN ([Independent]), ALL AT ONCE ([Suddenly]), and the surprising HOLD WATER ([Add up]), and the under-ballyhooed BALTIC SEA—that's [Part of Poland's border], not to mention the Baltic lands of Lithuania (I'm an eighth Lithuanian, you know), Latvia, and Estonia. BOYZ II MEN (pronounced "Boys to Men"), the R&B vocal group, are clued with [Band whose 1994 song "I'll Make Love to You" was #1 for 14 weeks]. That title seems a little racy for the Gray Lady, doesn't it? The Gray Lady is gettin' some action tonight.
Remember when yesterday's puzzle had YAKUT in it? Today, we get [Yakutsk's river], the LENA; you owe it to yourself to read up on Yakutsk—ice road truckers, four months of well-below-zero temps, a Museum of Mammoth, and a highway you can't always access from town. ILLER is clued [More wonderful, to a hip-hopper]; the daintiness of "more wonderful" amuses me here. [Certain scale start] is CDEF; these are music notes, I presume, and the C*EF lured me into entering CLEF at first. I didn't see this clue while doing the puzzle—[Rear end, anatomically] is NATES, with two syllables, a plural noun meaning the buttocks derived from the Latin natis meaning "buttock, rump." Despite my years of crosswords and medical editing, that one's new to me. Pound and stone are units of weight, while [Pound and Stone] are two EZRAS. Ezra Stone? He's as unfamiliar to me as nates—he got famous as a radio actor back in the '30s.
I'm glad I saved Karen Tracey's Sun crossword, a "Themeless Thursday," for this morning. I was much too tired to do it justice last night. I mostly waltzed smoothly through the clues—until I reached the 4x5 section in the upper right corner. For the longest time, all I had was the -OR at the end of the constellation. Eventually it occurred to me that [Woodstock artist] meant the creator of Snoopy's bird friend and not a 1969 musician: CHARLES M. SCHULZ. It might've helped if I hadn't been convinced that [Where Samsung is headquartered] was somewhere in Japan rather than SEOUL, South Korea. It all looks so plausible now, but I needed just one of those answers to be a gimme. I should've known [Service designation] would be the ol' ONE-A.
Favorite clues and answers:
Andy Sawyer celebrates New Year's Day with a bowl game theme in his LA Times crossword:
It almost looked as it DUMB DOWN ([Uncomplicate to a fault]) and BONA FIDE ([True]) could be theme entries too, based on their length and positioning. Oh, if only there were a Dumb Bowl in NCAA football!
Overall, an excellent and timely theme with some interesting fill and Thursday-tough clues. [Spanish sherry city, formerly] could be spelled Jerez, but here it's XERES, crossing GEN X, or [Thirtysomethings et al.]. [Makes a bust] isn't about narcs, it's about Rodin and his peers—the answer is SCULPTS. Its L crosses GADFLY, or [Annoying sort]; I hereby make a New Year's resolution to find more uses for the word gadfly. [Yearns for pines?: Abbr.] duped me again—it's SYN, short for synonym, and the last time I saw a clue like this, I was lost. A few days ago, PORNO was in the Sun crossword, and now it's in the LA Times one, clued as [Blue books?]. Miscellaneous other clues: MINYAN is a [Synagogue quorum]. CASCA was [One of Caesar's assassins]. [Insolvent banking giant, familiarly] is WAMU, recently reported to have been approving anyone for a mortgage.
Tom Schier's CrosSynergy crossword also has a seasonal theme—"Resolutions for the New Year." His four resolutions are notably lacking any mention of "get better at crosswords," but exhort the following: BE NICER TO OTHERS, SAVE MORE MONEY, EXERCISE DAILY, and LOSE EXTRA POUNDS. I like to misread multi-word crossword answers, don't you? "Be nice toothers," those are words to live by. One of the long Down answers, [Part of a sportscaster's game recap], is FINAL SCORE—there'll be plenty of that going on today. My personal favorite is the hockey Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, a matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Redwings. I wouldn't want to be sitting outside in Wrigley when it's 30° out—it's tough enough to make it through a spring ball game when it's 50°. (But then, I wouldn't have wanted to be standing in Times Square last night with the frigid temps, either.) It's cool to have an NHL game happening in the neighborhood, though, and luckily the skies are cloudy so the skaters won't have to contend with blinding glare.
December 31, 2008
December 30, 2008
NYT 4:06 by the time I found the typo
(updated at 10:30 Wednesday morning)
Hey! I just reserved my room at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott and booked my flight for the 2009 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The Friday evening program includes a panel about crossword blogging. Listen, don't ask me hard questions if you want me to look smart, okay? (Ridiculously hard questions for the other folks are fine, of course.) Thanks. I hope to see many of you in Brooklyn!
Tim Wescott's New York Times crossword has a foursome of 15-letter entries, but those aren't exactly the theme answers—rather, the theme lies within the first letter of each and a trio of letters in the middle. The center of the grid has a WWW, [Letters after two slashes]. The first letters of the four 15's spell out HTTP, or hypertext transfer protocol. The circled letters within each 15 are a web domain:
I like the visual twist of the theme, but would be happier if the 15's were more unimpeachable as crossword fill and if the 3-letter domains were all split across answer words.
I blew a half minute or so in the applet by typing DUKE instead of [Dick Van ___] DYKE. Dang those adjacent-key typos that yield plausible words in one direction! Toughest answer in the grid: YAKUT, or [Native of NE Siberia]. Those Yakut folks are thousands of miles from the URALS, a [Range extending south from the Kara Sea]. Biggest duplication: ONE P.M. is a [Common lunch hr.], while U.S. ONE is an [Auto route from Me. to Fla.]. Tastiest answer: GUMBO, clued as [Okra stew]; my husband just polished off the last of Sunday's carryout gumbo from Heaven on Seven. Favorite answers: SKORTS are [Women's hybrid clothing], the spork of fashion; and SCREWY means [Off the wall].
Do you know how many 4-letter words there are for your rear end? In Patrick Blindauer's Sun crossword, "Rear Ends," he's taken six 4-letter rears and split them in half, putting 2 letters at each end of a longer phrase:
The British prat and arse are left out, as are the assorted 3-, 5-, 6-, and 7-letter synonyms. Twenty points to Patrick for working in six theme entries without forcing untoward compromises in fill. A bonus of 5 points for BUMPPO, or [Natty of literature]. I don't know what James Fenimore Cooper was thinking when he came up with that character name for The Last of the Mohicans. (You're picturing Daniel Day-Lewis in his flowing locks promising "I will find you!" now, aren't you?)
This is the week for butt themes, apparently, because Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Bum Deal," is also fixated on the hindquarters. The term ASS BACKWARDS holds the key here: The other three theme answers contain synonyms for your rear end (or maybe somebody else's) backwards. To wit: (Whoops, that's last week's puzzle, and Angela blogged it last week, and I did actually read that post.)
ASS BACKWARDS is definitely "in the language" these days, but would be verboten in your standard daily crossword puzzle. I'm glad we have these other indie xwords opening up new angles in puzzling.
Highlights in the clues and fill:
Deb Amlen celebrates New Year's Eve in her Onion A.V. Club crossword. Deb groups four staples of the evening, pairs them with various beginning words, and gives them holiday clues. You have a toast at a party, the Waterford ball drops in Times Square, and people make resolutions for the coming year:
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle for this week is called "Chasing Out the Rats." 2008 was the Year of the Rat, and 2009 will be the YEAR OF THE OX. That joins six other theme entries that end with OX:
Other good stuff:
Pamela Amick Klawitter's LA Times crossword has APB'S, or [Emer. broadcasts (and this puzzle's hidden theme)] parked within the four theme entries. I was led astray by the theme answers all starting with S, though SNAP, SOAP, SCRAP, and SAP don't rhyme and have varying letter counts, so I was confused. The theme entries are:
Who doesn't love those [Mythological vengeance deities] known as the FURIES? The [Rodent yielding the fur nutria] is, as luck would have it, called the nutria. It is also called the COYPU. The scientific name of this "large semiaquatic beaverlike rodent" is Myocaster coypus. The word coypu is from the Araucanian (an Indian language family from Chile and Argentina). [Hawaii's "Gathering Place"] is OAHU.
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Count Me In," counts in a ME to change each theme entry's base phrase into something new:
This theme type isn't an innovative one, no, but I admire the deft execution of a standard theme variety. The crossword is improved further by lots of longist fill—a NERF BALL crossing SELF-HELP, DODDERS crossing Lou DOBBS, a TANGRAM [Puzzle with geometric shapes], and a STOGIE, for instance. I'm also partial to the [German name for Cologne], KOLN (Köln, actually). I appreciate it when those high-school German classes come in handy.
December 29, 2008
(updated at 8:51 a.m. Tuesday)
Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword has a simple yet elegant theme. It runs the line of filial descent from Sr. to Jr. to III:
I fell into the anti-Ellen Ripstein trap when I entered AYES as the ["Thumbs-up" responses] without checking the crossings. Hmm, that wanted to be A-OKS to evade the BLYW and LOEI crossings. I'm sad to have missed seeing LOKI, my favorite [Norse trickster]. Highlights in the fill, which struck me as more Wednesdayish than Tuesdayish though I could be having an off night:
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Just Do It," has an unusual grid—16 squares wide by 15 high, with left/right symmetry. The theme is people who do or did "it":
Crossing those last two answers, there's a SYBARITE, clued as a [Hedonist of sorts]. The theme entries are all specifically tied to "did it" or "are doing it," but sybarites probably do all sorts of "it," too. My favorite clue: [It'll grow on you] for HAIR. [Shot to the forehead?] for BOTOX is good, too. Other clues of note and/or unfamiliarity:
THE DOG ate the cookie or dealt the stink, in [He did it! (in blameworthy situations)].
[She does...them? (on film)] clues DEBBIE, as in old porn film Debbie Does Dallas.
Jim Leeds' Sun crossword, "Adverbially Yours," interposes an -LY between two parts of a word or phrase to turn the first part into an adverb:
The theme is good, but it's the overall fill that really shines here. Three Z's, an X, and five K's lend a Scrabbly je ne sais quoi. My favorite answers all run Down: UNMANNING, ANNE HECHE with first and last name, SCHLEP, Gene RAYBURN of '70s game show Match Game, Monopoly's PARK PLACE, and a B-BALLER, or [One who plays hoops].
Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword journeys from [Always] to [Never] with two stops in between:
Running along the right side of the grid is NOLAN / RYAN, [baseball's career strikeout king], whose stats suggest plenty of "always" or "often." Favorite answer: the cross-referenced combo with the EVIL TWIN, a [Villain who might pull a 10-Down], or SWITCHEROO, clued as [Unexpected reversal, in slang].
Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Body Scan," scans the phrases from head to toe:
I don't watch Gossip Girl, so I had no idea that NATE Archibald is a ["Gossip Girl" role for Chace Crawford]. There's the NBA Hall of Famer Nate Archibald as well as the Crawford character. As far as I know, the abbreviation for the state of Virginia is Va., not VIRG ([Where Thos. Jefferson was born]). I'd have changed MERGE ([Get onto the highway]) to MANGE crossing WAD and VING Rhames to skirt that issue.
December 28, 2008
(updated at 7:37 p.m. Monday)
The key to the theme in Kevin Donovan's New York Times crossword is 54-Down: [Something 18-, 26-, 42- or 51-Across might have] is a RUN. Mind you, the three Across answers that intersect with RUN were easy enough to fill in without ever looking at the clue for 54-Down, so I had zero idea what the theme was when I finished the puzzle. The four things with RUNs are:
This crossword's got some answers that we don't often see in a Monday puzzle. BIG TOE is [Something often stubbed]. [Most morose] means GLUMMEST. NO DOUBT means ["Absolutely"] as well as being the name of Gwen Stefani's band. Steve CARELL of The Office entertains me on Thursday nights. To REPHRASE something is to [Say another way]. [Much ballyhooed] is HYPED UP. Favorite clues: [Like half of Istanbul] for ASIAN; [Like an N.B.A. center] for TALL; and [Sunbathe] for TAN—sunbathing this week was lovely, but now that I've passed through O'HARE, the [Chicago air hub], I am months away from another sunbathing opportunity.
Updated Sunday evening:
Peter Gordon's alter ego, Ogden Porter, constructed the Monday Sun crossword, "Foodies." The six theme entries are food metaphors for people. A STRINGBEAN is a [Tall, thin person]. An [Insignificant person] is a PEANUT. A [Show-offy person] is called a HOT DOG. BUTTERBALL is a [Chubby person]. A [Crazy person] is a FRUITCAKE, and I'm pleased to note that I have encountered no literal fruitcake this holiday season. A [Weak person] may be called a CREAMPUFF. If you ate too much of that stuff, you might be hankering for ROLAIDS ([Ad answer to "How do you spell relief?"]). Other food-related answers include QUIZNOS, TUNA, Seven SEAS salad dressing, LIMES, SALAD, and the AGRIBIZ that provides some of this stuff. There's such a thing as GENOA salami, but the answer gets clued non-foodly as [Port south of Milan]. Non-theme answers of note: SAPPHIC, [Like some odes]; SHEILA E., [Former percussionist with Prince]; and NOZZLES, or [Hose spouts], with a double Z.
Updated Monday morning:
The Across Lite version of the LA Times puzzle isn't posted yet at Cruciverb, so check back this afternoon for that one.
Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy crossword, "Midafternoon," finds PMS—[Afternoons, briefly (and hint to this puzzle's theme)]—in the midst of the long answers:
I'm still waiting for PMS = premenstrual syndrome to be deemed acceptable for daily crosswords. It's not cancer, it's not scatological—it seems fussy to have it always be the plural of P.M. in crosswordland. Does mention of PMS really make anyone squeamish?
Good fill includes DR. PHIL, POP-TOP, the UPSHOT and LAY-UPS, and TEAM USA, the [2008 women's basketball gold medalists]. Salomon took a gamble on cluing RENO as [Betting setting] three answers before the [Skeptic's snort] I BET.
Updated Monday evening:
David Kahn's LA Times crossword was super-easy—all five long theme answers are "[name] THE [job]" monikers. When the clues and theme let you fill in a third of the puzzle with just five clues, everything else is bound to fall into place quickly too. The theme answers are:
You might think that OMOO ([Melville novel]) and ORONO ([Maine college town]) are out of place in an easy Monday crossword, but the rest of the fill is straightforward and familiar enough that these shouldn't have given anyone too much trouble.
December 27, 2008
NYT cryptic 9:16
NYT 8:04, maybe
(updated at 4:35 p.m. Sunday)
Wow, cruises and crosswords don't mix for me. I know Stan Newman puts on an annual crossword cruise, but I don't think I could ever go on that trip. The Transderm Scop patch cut down on seasickness, but gave me blurred vision, so I wasn't doing any crosswords. Now that I'm back on dry (well, rainy) land, my head is convinced that I am still aboard a ship—mal de debarquement makes me dizzy unless I lie down. So here's my answer grid for Patrick Berry's New York Times crossword, "Going Around in Circles." I have a typo or error somewhere, but I am ill-equipped to look for it as my head is swimming.
I also don't grasp how the theme works—something about planets in orbits, but the circled squares didn't mix well with dizziness. So if you have some insights about this crossword, feel free to share them in the comments. I think I'll lie down now, and hope the mal de apres-mer is short-lived. This is a really weird feeling, and I don't appreciate the way it is interfering with blogging!
A belated thanks to Puzzle Girl for filling in all week! I hope to get caught up on some of the week's puzzles and read her posts and your comments, but this may take a while.
I still haven't been able to find all the planets in Berry's NYT crossword. I get too woozy looking at the grid.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle has a classic Merl pun theme—all 13 of the "Guy Friends" have more or less plausible names that sound like phrases related to the clues. The [Hell-raising guy?], for example, is BARNABY WILDE, which sounds like "born to be wild." NOAH VALE is the [Guy who's just plain useless?], or "no avail." I enjoyed this puzzle a lot, but am seriously too woozy to write more about it. I need to take a lie-down break before moving on to another crossword!
Lying down with a small laptop isn't the best set-up for solving crosswords or typing, especially Sunday-sized ones. Oh, well.
Lynn Lempel's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has some goodies in it. My favorite clues and answers:
I'm not fond of ORE MINER, or [Iron man?].
Updated again, quickly:
Donna Levin's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Not on the Best-seller List," features a pun theme like Merl's puzzle. In Donna's theme, the theme entries are reworded book titles. A few examples:
The grid's got a lot of longish Down answers in the fill.
Doug Peterson crafted a cryptic crossword for this weekend's second Sunday New York Times puzzle. Like most American cryptics, this puzzle's a lot easier than the typical British cryptic. If you have any questions about how an answer is extracted from its clue, leave 'em in the comments.
Newsday tba (maybe)
(Updated at 12:45pm Saturday)
Hi everyone. PuzzleGirl here, trying to make it through the tough Saturday puzzles and then I'm outta here! Gonna be a little lazy tonight — hope you don't mind. I'm also filling in for the vacationing Rex Parker, so I'm going to send you over to his blog if you care what I think about today's New York Times crossword. I'll have the post up over there by 9am and I'll see you back here a little later with the rest of the day's puzzles.
I couldn't finish Brad Wilber's L.A. Times crossword without mistakes. Having gurgle for BURBLE at 1A — and being completely convinced that it was correct — made the northwest impossible. I also didn't know the word SARACEN so Siracen looked fine for [Crusader's foe] and [Neighbor of Scorpius] ARA might as well have been Ari. But this puzzle had a lot of fun fill. Only real clunker for me was the wildly out-of-place AWNINGED. But here's the sparkly stuff I liked:
Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Go Ahead," adds the letters GO to the beginning of familiar phrases and then clues the resulting phrases with question-mark clues.
Just a couple quick observations:
So I'm still working on Sandy Fein's Newsday Saturday Stumper and ... it's not looking good. This is what I have so far:
But hey! I'm only 20 minutes in! If I finish this one, I'll log back on and tell you about it. If I don't, well, maybe Orange will take three minutes or so to complete the ridiculously hard puzzle and enlighten us all. It's been a blast as usual, guys. All together now: "Welcome back, Orange!"
December 25, 2008
(Updated at 7:30pm Friday)
Good morning, everyone. It's PuzzleGirl again. Hope you're enjoying your Day After Christmas, or your Fifth (fifth?) Day of Hannukah, or, ya know, your Friday. Whatever it happens to be for you, I hope it's good. After today you'll only have one more day of me before our beloved Orange is back, so things are looking up! I'll be honest with you, I don't know how early I'll get to the rest of Friday's puzzles. If you want to talk about them — is anyone really even here? — please feel free, but I'll try to get them up before 1:00 tomorrow afternoon. But no promises!
When I saw Brendan Emmett Quigley's name on the Friday New York Times crossword, I suspected I was in for a workout. And I wasn't disappointed.
I admit I was troubled by duplicate words in the grid: CRATE UP, NEXT UP, ONE-UP and FIT IN, ONE IN TEN, KEPT IN. A year ago, I probably would not have noticed this, but since I've been doing a lot of puzzles on a regular basis, I know that there's a "rule" and I don't really expect it to be broken. So, although I knew that NEXT UP looked really good, I was hesitant to use it when I had already seen CRATE UP and that one seemed to be right as well. Obviously, the "rule" can be broken and I certainly don't mean to chastise BEQ or suggest in any way, shape, or form that I could have made this puzzle better, I'm just saying it affected my solving experience. So that and four dollars will get you a half-caf skinny caramel latté (no whip) at Starbucks.
Hip Hip Hooray:
Karen M. Tracey's Sun "Weekend Warrior" started out with a big ol' collision of seemingly unrelated letters at 1 Across. [The IJsselmeer was a part of it before construction of the Afsluitdijk]. Um ... WHAT? Got the answer — ZUIDERZEE — completely from crosses and still don't know what it means because I didn't look it up and now it's late and I'm going to try to finish this so I can get to bed. Just to be clear, I'm not complaining. Those are all awesome words.
Okay, this is going to be quick. I was up early this morning with PuzzleSon, who felt like he was going to throw up. He didn't, but I was up with him for quite a while. Then I went back to bed and didn't get up until 11:00. I'm getting my hair cut at 2:00 and the kids are clamoring for ... breakfast? It's basically lunchtime! I guess things are a little off today. What? You don't care about this stuff? Okay, sorry. Here are the rest of today's puzzles:
Don Gagliardo's L.A. Times crossword is filled with puns where the original phrase includes a word that ends with the letter T and resulting phrases change that T sound to a D sound. I'm not one of those people who loves puns, but I don't hate them either. I kinda liked these.
[Low digits] pulls double duty today as a clue for both ONES and TOES. Also a couple of golf clues today with JULI [Inkster of the LPGA] and ERNIE Els, [Rival of Tiger (Woods) and Vijay (Singh)]. I was having trouble getting out of a jam instead of a RUT for a while. Had limo instead of DICE for [High roller's rollers], signing up instead of SIGNING IN for [Registering]. Never heard of Kimmie Meissner, but her milieu is a RINK, so I guess she's a skater. I can never remember how to spell SHIH Tzu. I know how it's pronounced so I always think the first word is going to be shit and then realize that, of course, can't be right. Don't get me started on [Like many couples] = WED. I just don't have time for that kind of a rant today.
Love love love Alice Long's Wall Street Journal puzzle today! It's called "Boxing Day" and rebus squares contain the letters ALI. Like Muhammad Ali! A three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer! Awesome!
That's a lot of rebus squares! The only other thing I want to mention real quick is that if you haven't seen the HBO series "Entourage," you should consider it. Vince's agent, ARI Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, is the best thing about the show. PuzzleHusband and I just started watching it last year but are catching up with our sweet Christmas present of seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. (One caveat: If you're offended by bad language and sexually explicit humor, this is not the show for you.) I was completely tickled last month when in one of the episodes the actor/director Peter Berg had a cameo. Ari was taking a call from him and told the other people in the room "This is Pete Berg! He was my roommate in college!" Well, that was a shout-out to those of us who attended Macalester College in the early 80s and know that Peter Berg was, in fact, roommates with Ari Emanuel, the guy Ari Gold's character is based on (and, coincidentally, Rahm Emanuel's brother).
Gotta go for now. Back later with the CS.
I'm so late getting to today's CrosSynergy puzzle that I'm just going to post the grid for you and tell you that the theme is Puppet Duos. PUNCH AND JUDY, KUKLA AND OLLIE, and BERT AND ERNIE. I noticed an old-timey feel to the puzzle with the inclusion of LASS, GENT, and FELLA. See ya in a little bit with tomorrow's NYT....
December 24, 2008
(Updated at 10:30am Thursday)
Hey, everybody, thanks for stopping by. PuzzleGirl here hoping you're enjoying a day filled with peace and are surrounded by people you love. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, that sounds like a good goal for today.
Are you ready for some football? Theme answers in Eric Tentarelli's New York Times puzzle mash three pro football teams' mascots into a clue-able phrase.
I'm not a big football fan — honestly, it's been so long since I've paid attention that I don't even know where half the teams are any more — but I still think the league's mascot names can make for enjoyable entries. And if you can package them up with some fun fill, well ... you've got yourself a crossword puzzle. I believe this is Eric's puzzle debut. Very nice job, Eric — congratulations!
Daniel A. Finan's Sun crossword, "Ancient History," plays on the phrase "water under the bridge" by locating the name of a river in the grid underneath the name of a bridge. Love it!
I had a ton of problems with Gia Christian's L.A. Times puzzle. It was totally my own fault though. The puzzle was just fine. First, let's talk about the theme. Then I'll tell you about the series of bad decisions I made while solving.
Theme answers are puns involving things you use to decorate for Christmas.
Okay. No problem with the theme. Here's where I had trouble.
It was just tough all the way through! Good stuff, but I was not on the wavelength At All.
In Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "Internally Consistent," the word same is buried in the theme answers: makeS AMEnds, gosSAMEr, MrS. AMErica, seSAME seed, haS A MEal.
December 23, 2008
(Updated at 11:00am Wednesday)
Hey, everyone. PuzzleGirl here. Is Orange back yet? What? It's only Wednesday? I mean, I'm having a blast and everything but this pace is grueling. I do most of the puzzles Orange does on a regular basis, but I don't typically do them right away. Let's just say I have several Saturday Stumpers still hanging around just waiting for the magic to set in. I'm hopeful. I guess I'm actually more worried about you guys not hanging around when you come here and find out it's just me. I know you're used to enlightening and engaging commentary on the art of cruciverbalism. And when I'm here you get the ramblings of a middle-aged stay-at-home mom who doesn't have a lot of recent experience with intelligent, grown-up conversation. I'm going to assume that you're toughing it out with me. As a favor to Orange? Kthxby.
Today's New York Times crossword by Warren Biro isn't likely to stir up the same type of emotion and ... enthusiasm we saw yesterday, but it's a good solid puzzle. Nothing too flashy, but nothing to get heartburn over either. Theme answers are all synonyms for [Power connectors] or PLUGS:
AVATARS, BLASE, TAPAS, PERSONAE, and APEMEN spice things up a little. And how awesome is it that the tallest building in North Dakota has only 19 floors? That would be the state capital building, by the way. As some of you know, I grew up in North Dakota. I used to have a postcard of the Fargo "skyline" that showed, basically, one building. I think the postcard was created with serious intent, but it turned out to be pretty funny. Oh, do you want to know what we called that building? "The High-Rise." Seriously.
Today's Sun crossword by Doug Peterson, "Cold Storage," adds the letters BR to familiar phrases to create new phrases. Heartsease, which I recently — and I mean very recently — learned is a common European wildflower, becomes HEARTS BREEZE clued [Simple task for a ticker?]. The three other theme answers are:
Finally, Doug, if you're reading, I would just like to express my appreciation for not having to see the phrase "baby bump" in this puzzle. Sincerely. Thank you.
The theme of this week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle by Tyler Hinman is a little unclear. It's about dictators and corrupt politicians leaving office and getting into legal trouble. But then it's also got a bunch of farewell-type words directed at President Bush. Not sure I get the connection. At least not out here on the Internet where the Google Machine can find me! Ha!
As expected, there's all kinds of funky fill in this puzzle. An air of RACINESS in some of the clue/answer combos, like BANG for [Get with, so to speak] and ["Thong Song" singer] SISQO. Some crumbs for the pop culture fans including Will Smith's wife, JADA Pinkett; astrologer to the rich and famous, Sydney OMARR; and NOAH Baumbach, who's married to Jennifer Jason Leigh and has written an adaption of Curtis Sittenfeld's novel Prep. (Sort of an I Am Charlotte Simmons Lite.) Should be good.
The best word I've seen in a puzzle all week? No contest. AKIMBO.
Another new experience for me today was solving Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword for the first time. And I must say I'm shocked — shocked — by some of the things I saw here! Bad language, drug references ... I mean, I think they're drug references, I wouldn't actually know. (Hi, Mom!)
The theme answers contain synonyms for, um, rear-end spelled from right to left. That is, ASS BACKWARDS. So prat is hidden in GUITAR PICK (by the way, plectrum?), can is hidden in DANA CARVEY, and butt can be found in TEST-TUBE BABY. Tons of pop culture references including several hip-hop/rap artists: Sean COMBS, BIZ Markie, and Young JEEZY. This puzzle was a blast and I will definitely add it to my schedule in the future. In fact, I probably won't do any future Ink Well puzzles until I've done every single one from January 2008 forward. (I like to be ... thorough.) You know what impressed me the most about this puzzle though? I love the extreme boldness of putting both UMA Thurman and UTA Hagen in one puzzle. Love it!
Kids are off school today and I have a few things to do yet today, so this will be quick. If I miss something that you're just dying to talk about, please have at it in the comments! Gene Newman's LA Times puzzle hides a FRUIT in each theme answer.
The clue [Fed] doesn't refer to food today, but to a government worker, or G-MAN. And [Fraser or Douglas] doesn't refer to people but to FIR trees. Anyone else originally have moats for [Ancient city protectors] instead of WALLS? I guess I had never thought of a NERD as particularly obsessive, although now that I think about it, it makes pretty good sense. It will be a happy, happy day in PuzzleGirl's world when GABLE is clued not with reference to Clark, but to "Iowa wrestling legend Dan."
Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy crossword describes a few things people do to get ready for Christmas. They DECORATE THE TREE, HANG UP STOCKINGS, LEAVE SANTA A NOTE and, finally, OPEN THE PRESENTS. Do you guys open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Those of you that celebrate Christmas, that is. We open everything Christmas Eve and then the kids have their "Santa" presents in the morning. I don't know how it is at your house, but the PuzzleKids have been lobbying hard for early opening. I have a feeling this is going to be a looooong day.
I'm going to go ahead and wrap this up with two quick clips for you. First, for you young'uns out there who don't remember MIKEY, here he is. And I'll leave you with a Christmas medley from SONNY and Cher. I'll even throw in Bernadette Peters and Captain Kangaroo for free. Random!
Enjoy your Christmas Eve and I'll see you back here tomorrow. You'll all be here tomorrow, right? I'm sure you don't have anything else planned....
puzzle ... maybe 2 minutes?
this week's installment of the matt gaffney weekly crossword contest, titled "Eight Isn't Enough," was a combination of an outstanding crossword and a really clever puzzle idea. it might have been my favorite of the series. each half of the four long theme answers is the name of one of santa's reindeer anagrammed, plus one more letter (circled in the solution diagram at right):
so who's missing? it's none other than DONDER, the best friend of BLITZEN (german for "thunder" and "lightning"). sometimes DONDER is known as DONNER. why? well, the poem "a visit from st. nicholas" (better known as "'twas the night before christmas") is the original source of the names of santa's reindeer (sans RUDOLPH, who was invented by a montgomery ward employee in the 1930s). the poem, which is ascribed to clement clarke moore in 1844, was actually written by someone else (nobody is quite sure whom) in the 1820s. the version that ran in an 1823 albany newspaper had "dunder and blixem" (!), which are again thunder and lightning... in dutch. the 1844 moore version had donder and blitzen. nowadays, the german word for thunder is DONNER, not DONDER, but there is some confusion as to the name of that ninth reindeer. i prefer DONDER.
anyway, the theme was only a small part of what made this puzzle so much fun. the fill clocks in at an ambitious 64 words, and is chock full o' gaffnish goodness. it more than makes up for any style points matt might have lost for anagramming DANCER to PRANCED, which is uncomfortably close to the name of another reindeer. highlights:
tricky/tough stuff included:
that's all for me this week. great puzzle. see you guys in the comment box. happy christmas to all, and to all a good night!
December 22, 2008
(Updated at 10:45am Tuesday)
Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword is, well, it's, in a word ... awesome. It's a Thursday puzzle dressed up (or maybe dressed down) to look like a Tuesday puzzle. Or maybe it's just a Tuesday puzzle in a Thursday puzzle's grid. I would have liked this theme a lot on Thursday, but the fill was definitely Tuesday level. Should I stop babbling about the days of the week and get to the specifics already? If you haven't figured out the theme yet — and I'm guessing there are a few people out there who haven't — you might want to sit down because this is going to blow your mind.
The puzzle is symmetrical. No, not just the grid. The letters in the grid. Check it out: TED at 1 Across in the northwest corner mirrors DET at 72 Across in the southeast corner. And, yeah, keep going. It works through the Whole. Damn. Puzzle. I don't care who ya are, that's impressive. Nicely done, Joe. (Is it okay if I call you Joe? How about Krozie?)
Obviously, with the restrictions posed by the theme, some of the fill is going to be iffy, but I'm just going to let it go because the symmetry is so very cool. I'm not going to say much about this puzzle. But you should take the time that you would typically spend reading my commentary and admire the puzzle some more. I'll just tell you the one thing that made me laugh while I was solving. What does it say about me that when I saw the clue [Eat by candlelight, say] I thought of a power outage and not, ya know, a romantic dinner. Sheesh!
Whoa! Complicated theme and "A Flurry of Activity" in Brent Sverdloff's Sun crossword today! The four letters in the corners of the grid — W, O, S, and N — are circled, as is the letter R in the center of the grid. The notepad explains that the five circled letters can be arranged to form a word that rhymes with the first part of the starred clues. That word is SWORN. In addition, the four letters in the corners can be arranged to form a word that can precede the second part of the starred clues: SNOW. So here we go. Starred clues are:
In retrospect, the theme is kind of cool. It didn't help me at all while solving though. I looked at the instructions on the notepad and decided it was too complicated and I'd figure it out later. I did like quite a bit of fill in this puzzle though:
Pretty sure this is the first time I've ever done a Jonesin' crossword and it was hip, which is just what I expected! Theme answers in this "Note for Note" puzzle exchanges one letter of a musical artist or band name such that the resulting phrase contains a word describing a foreign currency. So the Scottish post-punk band Franz Ferdinand becomes FRANC FERDINAND. (Yes, I had to look that one up because I'm ... old.) Mary Wells, who sings "My Guy" becomes MARK WELLS. (I didn't have any trouble with that one.) Dinah Washington becomes DINAR WASHINGTON, Boys II Men becomes BOYS II YEN, and The E Street Band becomes THE E STREET RAND. Clever and fun!
I always get a kick out of seeing music-oriented clues and answers in puzzles. Unfortunately, this particular puzzle references one of my Top Three Least Favorite Songs of All Time, "Send in the Clowns." So now it's stuck in my head and I'll no doubt be cranky all day.
TAFKAP stands for The ARTIST Formerly Known As Prince. I wanted to post a link for any Prince fans out there but apparently TAFKAP is diligent in his review of copyright infringement on YouTube. So here's Tom Jones doing a Prince cover.
Oasis's song "D' YOU Know What I Mean?" is not the same as Lee Michaels's classic 70s song "Do You Know What I Mean?," which I first heard covered by Renee Geyer and which I'm seriously hoping gets stuck in my head now that I'm talking about it.
Ya know what? I could spend all day looking up all the musical connections I made while solving this puzzle, but I think I'll move on so I can get some other stuff done today!
I don't typically tend to struggle much with the CrosSynergy crossword, but today's constructor is Bob Klahn after all. Which means, of course, that it contains colorful fill, tricky clues, and a theme that I almost didn't see. The title of the puzzle, "Letter Openers," made me think that the theme had something to do with letters of the alphabet when, in fact, the first words of the theme answers can be added to the word letter resulting in a familiar phrase. We've got RED (letter) HERRING, CAPITAL (letter) CRIME, SILENT (letter) BUTLER, and BLOCK (letter) PARTY.
To my mind, Klahn is the King of Cluing Misdirection. Most of the time I really appreciate his humor — like OPIE for [Bee minder of '60s TV] and MADAM for [Address of the very first palindrome?]. There are also few in this puzzle that rate pretty high on the groan-meter. [Brest milk], [It's put before Descartes], and [Item peddled by a spokesperson?] leap to mind. Ya know what, though? I don't think a pun cares whether you laugh or groan, it just wants the attention.
I was going to tell you a funny story about Bob SEGER but I can't remember all the details off the top of my head and this is already taking me too long. Maybe he'll appear in another puzzle this week and I'll be ready for it.
Gail Grabowki's L.A. Times crossword offers us phrases that all begin with words that describe someone who TALKs A BLUE STREAK. The first theme answer, RAMBLING MANSION, made me think the theme was going to be adding -SION to familiar phrases. Of course I had the Allmann Brothers song in mind, but to make up for leaving out the Bob Seger story, here's a clip of his "Rambling Gambling Man." Do you think they couldn't afford a mike stand so he wrote his part for just the one hand? Other theme answers are GABBY HAYES and WINDY NIGHT.
Hey look! Just when Orange went to the trouble of letting us know that AT SEA is usually clued as [Confused] (or something similar), here it is clued as [Between ports]. I guess Miss Smarty-Pants Speed Solver doesn't know everything. Of course, she never claimed to know everything. I'm just making a joke at her expense because she's not here to defend herself. Plus I did yesterday's NYT in 4:07.
Finally, I'll leave you with my favorite NAMETAG and see you tomorrow.