The New York Times crossword puzzle brings newish constructor Joon Pahk to the ranks of Sunday puzzledom, accompanied by his friend Matt Matera. If you're interested in knowing how the puzzle came about, check out the interview at Jim Horne's Wordplay blog. If you just want the nitty-gritty about the puzzle, hey, stick around here, kiddo. The title of the crossword is "Closing the Deal," and card games typically involve cards being dealt out in some fashion. The end of each theme entry is a word that's also the name of a card game (and not just games using a standard deck of 52). I think there are nine theme entries, but if there are more I've missed, I know someone will point it out. Here are the ennead:
There are lots of cool answers and clues in this crossword, but right now I'm short on time. So let me start out by presenting the 10 Answers Most Likely to Stymie People:
My five favorite answers in this puzzle are these ones:
Wait, hang on a second. I just spotted a few more tricky spots I'd wanted to mention. I never remember if 69D [Pianist Jose] is ITURBI or ITURBO; it's ITURBI. His U crosses not-quite-a-real-word KUDO, or [Singular praise?] (81A). That's a mostly jocular back-formation treating kudos as a plural, which it is not. (It's from the Greek for "glory.") And then there are the two airport abbreviations clued with reference to one another. In 47A, the little cul-de-sac opposite PYE, JFK is clued as [Traveler's alternative to 90-Down]. 90D is clued as [Traveler's alternative to 47-Across], and it's LGA, the abbreviation for LaGuardia Airport.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "On the Road Again," adds a new CAR to each theme entry:
Mike Peluso's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, "Separate States," finds an embedded SSR—110-Down, [Former state "separated" in seven puzzle answers: Abbr.]—in each theme answer. I learned two things from this puzzle: First, that noun phrases in which a word ending in -SS is followed by a word starting with R- tend to be dull. Second, that "separate states" isn't a phrase that has any sort of stand-alone meaning that my husband and I are aware of. I wonder if the title had been something like "Breakup of the USSR," which would be cute but violate a crossword rule because SSR is in the grid. I'd have liked to see that title and no SSR in the grid. Granted, each SSR is broken up in the theme phrases and not the USSR, but "Separate States" does nothing for me.
Overall, this crossword was quite easy. I had one of my fastest-ever times for a Sunday LAT on this one, and there was a little conversation with my family during the course of doing the puzzle. There was one word in the fill that stumped me: [Stuff, as with food] clues STODGE. My dictionary says it's a chiefly British noun and not a verb, but either way, I know "stodgy" by its American non-food meanings but haven't encountered "stodge." [Good to go] confused me briefly too—the answer is A-OKAY, and I'm not sure I've ever seen it spelled out thus.
The theme entries are as follows:
Henry Hook's 6-week-old Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite, "Hot Stuff," breaks down like this:
I wonder how many of us are doing these puzzles now. I'm sure there are many thousands who do the puzzles when they appear in the Globe, but 6 weeks later via Puzzle Pointers and Cruciverb...are there even 100 of us? I'm not sure who the blog audience is for the Globe crossword, frankly. (Big thanks to Nancy Shack, who posts the puzzles in Across Lite, and to Emily and the Henrys who permit her to. Frowny face on behalf of all those Bostonians who might like to have a blog at which they could chat about the puzzle when they're doing it and not 6 weeks later.)
Paula Gamache's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" didn't present so much of a challenge today. Here are my favorite clues and answers:
March 21, 2009