It's not surprising, really, that Patrick Berry has crafted yet another perfect crossword theme in his Sunday New York Times puzzle, "Prioresses." Not surprising, no, but still astonishing, the level of craft of he brings to it. He's assembled a whopping 12 theme answers that follow the "prior esses" model—two-word phrases in which both words have a "prior" letter S added to the beginning. The resulting nonsense phrases are clued perfectly. I don't know about you, but working through this puzzle, I kept wondering how I'd never hit on this sort of wordplay before—but I'm sure it's nowhere near as easy as it looks to come up with a solid list of a dozen phrases that work well. Here are the lucky 12:
Among the more challenging clues in the puzzle were these ones:
And those were just the Acrosses! Now, some clues from the Downs: BEAKER is clued with [It might hold the solution], as in a chemistry lab. [Group with an Exalted Ruler] is the ELKS. [Maker of Caplio cameras] is RICOH. Never heard of Caplios; how about you? Ditto for [Writer William Dean] HOWELLS—chime in if you've ever read him.
Highlights in the fill include answers like MUST-SEE, a Philadelphia PHILLIE, VING Rhames (we just watched part of Mission: Impossible 3 last night), WILL / SMITH of Ali, and...well, with that many theme entries packed in here, Patrick didn't leave himself a ton of room to include intriguing fill. Berry being Berry, of course, the fill's full of familiar words and names and not oddball obscurities.
In this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword Merl Reagle cooks up some vegetables. The theme entries in "Eat Your Vegetables" center on veggie puns:
Man, that's a lot of oniony stuff. Shallots and leeks and scallions? This puzzle needs an after-solving mint. And then there's no CARROT pun on karats of gold or carats of diamonds? No LETTUCE ENTERTAIN YOU? No BEETS AROUND THE BUSH?
I found the clue for 7-Across to be misleading. [Flatten, as flats] hints at the British spelling RASE, as flats are British and apartments are American. Sure, SINGS didn't make much sense for [Throws hard and fast], but those flats were persuasive. So it's RAZE crossing ZINGS...and the clue for ZINGS doesn't really sing to me. Another tough square was the W in LAW, [Scheck's calling]. That's Innocence Project lawyer Barry Scheck, but his identity wasn't coming to mind with just the last name. At first I had LAT because TEENSY means [Very small, in part] and it's more common than the correct answer, WEENSY.
I liked seeing the last name of [Casimir of the American Revolution], PULASKI. The Chicago Public Schools take a day off to mark Pulaski Day in early March, and there's an artery, Pulaski Road, that spans the entire length of the city.
I enjoyed the theme in Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe crossword rerun in Across Lite, "Team Play." The 10 theme answers reframe assorted phrases as if they pertained to NBA teams. Here are my favorite examples:
There were two wildly unfamiliar words in this grid. [Early sonar, to Brits] is ASDIC, and [Informal banking system] is HAWALA. Neither word shows up in the Cruciverb database, so I'm not surprised I've never heard of them. Luckily, the crossings cooperated and the puzzle still came off as a good bit easier than usual.
This weekend's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword is Mark Feldman's "Lying Around." Each theme entry has an -LY added to a word to change the phrase's meaning:
Overall, this was a pretty easy crossword. Among the answers that might not be so obvious are these:
Geography: [Biblical name of ancient Syria] is ARAM. [Nevada Northern Railway Museum city] is ELY, Nevada. Other crossword Ely clues involve old Tarzan actor Ron Ely and bridge expert Ely Culbertson. Lake TAHOE is also a Nevada name—[Lake near Carson City]. The ARAL SEA is a [Shrinking lake] and not technically a sea.
Twisty clues: [Double take?] is a STUNT, as in a "take" when shooting a movie with a stunt double standing in for the star. [Brain cells?] are CRANIA, the metaphorical jail cells that hold our brains.
Movies and TV: [Actor Everett et al.] is SLOANES. [Roy Rogers's birth name] was Leonard SLYE. [TiVo feature] is PLAYBACK.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" was not much of a challenge, thanks to easy short answers crossing the six 15-letter answers. Just for sport, take a look at the completed grid and see how many alternatives come to mind for 3-, 7-, and 11-Down, 15-letter entries with ELA, NGT, and TIG in the middle. Martin's RELIVING THE PAST, or [Getting nostalgic, perhaps], is a great answer.
I had never heard of THE LAST POST, the [Robert Graves poem that starts" The bugler sent a call..."]. There are plenty of other works of art in this puzzle:
March 14, 2009