CS 6:59 (J—paper)/3:00 (A—Across Lite)
John Farmer's New York Times crossword
John's crafted a perfect and timely theme, filling 66 symmetrically placed squares to honor the hosts of THE / TONIGHT SHOW on the occasion of CONAN O'BRIEN taking over the show. Since 1-Across and 6-Across's clues tipped the puzzle's hand, I knew early on where the puzzle was going. I just couldn't get my cold fingers (brr! c'mon, meteorological summer is starting!), keyboard, and mouse to work together to get through this puzzle in a Monday amount of time.
Heeeere's the theme!:
Remarks on assorted clues and fill:
Updated Monday morning:
Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Chalk It Up"—Janie's review
What a great way to start the week. This puzzle is loaded with lively fill and clues, and from beginning to end was simply fun to solve. The theme? As hinted at by the title (and revealed at 66A), POOL. The last word of each of the theme phrases is an object related to that [Game played in a hall]. Brilliant device? Nah. We see it all the time. But look at the fill. This is terrific stuff and contributes to the way this puzzle "pops." Each theme phrase makes a strong showing—and each is appearing for the first time in major puzzle.
I think the only non-theme fill that raised a flag for me was (CS debut) BAKE PAN—which is not a phrase I'm accustomed to using. Especially for meatloaf. Then I use a loaf pan... Otherwise I call that "vessel" a "baking pan." In the strictly for-what-it's-worth column, BAKE PAN gets 1,480,000 Google hits; "baking pan," 4,970,000.
And since we're in the kitchen...toques off to EMERIL, fried RICE and carne ASADA—which was new to me. Looks good!
The shout-out to sports comes by way of SKI, CFL [...org. north of the border] (Canadian Football League), NHLER [Ranger or Duck for short] (National Hockey LeaguER), TAMPA [Buccaneers' home], SUMO (playfully clued as [Big sport in Japan]), and golf [...links] term MAKE PAR (another CS first).
We get a PAIR of movie stars, too: the adorable Alan ARKIN and the controversial (the-less-said-the-better, SHO 'nuff...) Mel GIBSON.
Other happy-making examples:
Cluing (not previously mentioned...) that caught my attention: 38A [Words of agreement] for AMENS followed by 40A [Sign of agreement] for NOD; [Come to] for EQUAL (I was thinking AWAKE...); [First name in moonwalking] for NEIL (and not MICHAEL); and [Hit with a low blow] for KNEE. Ouch.
Because I know almost nothing about photography, ASA clued as [Film speed letters] was completely new (not merely NEWISH) news; and ["The Whole] NINE [Yards"] put me in mind of this whole etymological conundrum. Discuss amongst yourselves!
Orange here again. Following up what Janie said, "bake pan" in quotes gets just 66,000 Google hits, vs. nearly a million (surprisingly low, if you ask me) for "baking pan." "Loaf pan" (which is what I call the thing) garners 460,000.
Now can we get an air hockey theme? Or will someone give me an air hockey table of my own? My hand-eye coordination stinks for POOL, but I like air hockey.
Gary Steinmehl's Los Angeles Times crossword
Gary Steinmehl's theme feels a little bit hit-or-miss, but overall smooth and entertaining. The theme clues are all commands involving the word hand:
The iffiness of those theme entries is offset by the long Down answers in the fill and the pop culture material. I love EMILY [___Litella: Gilda Radner's "Never mind!" character]. There's NESTEA echoing the playful clue for ICE-T: [Refreshing rapper/actor?]. Jimmy Durante's "INKA Dinka Doo," Christopher REEVE, a TALKIE, [Old-time drummer Gene] KRUPA, Bobby FLAY from the Food Network, John LOCKE from Lost (oh, wait, it's clued as [English philosopher John]), and Jay LENO. Two answers in the top row are young animals, a FAWN and a CALF. And those long answers—the CAFETERIA is a [Food fight site], DOUGHNUTS are [Dunked snacks], a VIDEO GAME is a [Purchase for your Xbox], and [Years on the job] are one kind of LONGEVITY.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"
Yay! Themeless Monday! Brendan was shooting for easier clues, and he did pull that off. So if you're afraid of Friday and Saturday NYT puzzles, try this themeless.
The fill's mighty splashy. Who's that at the bottom? Sonia SOTOMAYOR, crossing emo boy eyeliner, or GUYLINER. There's an IPHONE APP, GAPKIDS and a HANGOVER (clued as a [Morning sickness?]), AL D'AMATO near SADR CITY, L'CHAIM crossing UNITARIAN in ecumenical corner, MEGADETH and JUVENILE, and a pair of verbs that go well together, BELABOR and DEIGN TO.
I didn't know IAMBUSES was a word—these [Metrical feet] are also called iambs or iambi. And STORIETTE, a [Brief tale], is not a word we used in our college lit classes.
May 31, 2009
May 30, 2009
NYT diagramless 16 minutes
Kelsey Blakley's New York Times crossword, "Odd One Out"
Well, you can fill in the whole puzzle without reading the Notepad note and without having the faintest idea of what the theme is. Then you can read the Notepad and get an anagramming puzzle...for which you don't need to do any work because 68- and 70-Across can be filled in via their clue (68A. [With 70-Across, some people are ___ crosswords]) and the easy crossings. Each of the eight long starred answers contains each of its letters twice, except for one solitary leftover letter. The eight leftovers can be anagrammed to spell NUTS OVER, but you don't need to pull out those letters and anagram them, do you? And knowing the letters-appear-twice gimmick probably wouldn't speed solving because those answers have straightforward clues and mostly easy crossings. I am left wondering what the point is, as the theme didn't give me any "wow" effect. Oh, well.
I was churning through it at breakneck speed until I hit the midsection of the right side. Ye gods, that zone worked me over:
It wasn't all a grumblefest, I promise. I liked these things:
In the underwhelming category, we have some -ER people and an -EST superlative. A [Telecaster] is an AIRER. A [Jester, e.g.] is an AMUSER. An ENTICER is a [Siren] luring the DESIRERS, or [Those with yens]. The superlative is MINUTEST, or [Least]. It's got plenty of Google presence, but some of those hits are typos for "minutes."
There's some crosswordese sprinkled throughout the grid, too—OLEO and STERE, STRIAE and NEE, that sort of stuff. And DIESEL OIL is clued as [Semi fill-up]. Is there such a substance? If there is, I don't think it's what truckers buy at the gas pump—that'd be diesel fuel or diesel. Diesel oil may be motor oil designed for diesel engines.
Francis Heaney's NYT second Sunday puzzle, a diagramless crossword
Diagramless fans are especially fond of puzzles that draw a picture, aren't we? Here, the diagram ends up depicting a spiral, which adds visual oomph to the theme. My spiral spills over by two columns on the right side of the grid because I settled on a starting square after figuring out the first four and a half rows, and I assumed the answers would spill to the left more. (The correct starting square is the fifth one.) Not a tragedy, as there's plenty of room in the right margin for a couple more answers.
The theme entries are:
The nonthematic fill is colorful. NICK FALDO ([Three-time Masters winner who's now a TV golf analyst]) and DANIEL BOONE ([Eponym of a Kentucky national forest]) sit up top. There's a DOPE FIEND who's a [Candidate for rehab]. [Vacation spot for people who like to pack light?] is a NUDIST CAMP. A plain old MUSIC BOX is a [Portable player that has only one song]—great clue, as it evokes questions about which iPod or MP3 player has such a limit. KUDZU ([Comic strip that shares a name with an invasive plant]) shares a Z with Tony DANZA (["Taxi" co-star] back in the day). The craziest answer is RAGNAROK—[Cataclysmic even in Norse myth that inspired "Götterdämmerung"]. There are also a lot of 3-letter answers to facilitate the spiraling diagram, which helped me a lot in solving because many of them had fairly easy clues. I was led astray by the clue for 24A, though—the [Traditional July birthstone] I know of the RUBY, but the answer here is ONYX, also 4 letters. Apparently the onyx is linked to the zodiac sign Leo, which begins in late July, but the clue borders on unfair because most sources will say July's birthstone is the ruby.
Edited to add: Holy cow! Reader Matt points out that two short answers also look to be part of the theme. The APEX is the innermost empty chamber, clued here as [Tiptop] rather than duplicating the words shell, chamber, or nautilus. I don't know if the outermost part of a nautilus creature or its shell is called END, but END is at the end of the spiral clued as [Wind up].
Edward Sessa's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Double Plays"
There's a critical mass of L.A. Times crossword bloggers (well, three of us—me, PuzzleGirl, and Rex) who blithely pay little attention to Broadway shows and fail to work up much enthusiasm for themes centered on them, especially when it comes to musicals. Today's theme entries combine the titles of two plays (some musicals, some not) and concoct a clue for the resulting phrase. [Munchkin femmes fatales?], for example, are WICKED LITTLE WOMEN, combining Wicked and Little Women. The latter was made into a play? I didn't know. My favorite theme entry wins for its "ick" quotient: HAIR GREASE is clued as [Inferior pomade?], and Hair and Grease are both quite familiar. I didn't know there was a show or play called Fanny, so FANNY-PROOF, [Like sturdy chairs], didn't readily come to me. And [Jazz lovers on the Mississippi?]—BIG RIVER CATS? Yes, I know about Cats, but I can't say Big River rings a bell at all.
Interesting word of the day: ALLONYMS, clued as [Ghostwriters' noms de plume, say]. As A.Word.A.Day explains, it's "the name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym)." Orange is a fictional pseudonym, but I read another blog where a writer uses an allonym. You know what would be a great pseudonym? Mac Homan. That's what 3D, the [1978 Village People hit], looks like when spaced differently. I envision Mac Homan as not at all a MACHO MAN.
There's more on the puzzle from PuzzleGirl at the other blog.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Going into Overtime"
Merl is the master of the entertaining Sunday theme. Sometimes his puns are groaners, yes, but he shines when it comes to cracking wise via a crossword theme. The title's a little backwards, as the OT goes into each theme answer rather than the reverse:
In the shorter answers, I duped myself into thinking the 3-letter [On-the-rack item?] (17A) was a BRA...but the answer turned out to be HAT. Whoops. Looking at 62D, I assumed there was an adjacent-key typo in the clue for GATES. Robert GATES is the [DOD boss], after all. But what Merl was going for was Bill GATES, the Microsoft [DOS boss].
Favorite non-theme clue: [Rocky greeting] for YO, ADRIAN. When I see "rocky" in a clue, I think of IBEXes gamboling on the TORs. WHO'S NEXT is a seminal album by The Who, but it's clued as [Waiting room query]. Thanks to songs like "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," I like WHO'S NEXT even with a waiting room clue.
Toughest clues: [Samoa's monetary unit] is the TALA. GEMSBOK is a [Large antelope]. ALTHORNS are certain [Brass instruments]. There are two old-school crosswordese actresses: THEDA Bara is clued as the [First name of "The Vamp"], and [Actress Negri] is POLA.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle in Across Lite, "Big Bucks"
The theme is a little flat, as it looks like most of the theme entries are about wealth, but then MISS MONEYPENNY doesn't connote wealth. And ROLLING IN DOUGH means "wealthy," but most of the other answers just include words that mean "wealth." So it feels uneven. And then there are a handful of woeful entries that make me say, "Oh, Henry, you're better than this." ELEMI and ANENT at least are old-school crosswordese that long-time solvers don't blink at. But VENITE? That's the [95th Psalm] and not a familiar word or crossword entry. UPOLU? It's a [Volcanic Samoan island], apparently. Better are ZAFTIG, MCGRUFF, TYLENOL, and even the Sea of OKHOTSK (Russian inlet).
You know, I'd write more about the puzzle if there were more of an audience for it. But when it's been a month and a half since it was in the newspaper and there are just those of us who use Cruciverb.com or Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers page who are still thinking about the puzzle...the motivation dwindles.
Updated again Sunday evening:
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy themeless "Sunday Challenge"
Aww, another easy themeless? I crave crazy-tough clues, I do.
The QWERTY KEYBOARD is a [Standard typing setup], all right. Joining it among the more lively answers here are these:
May 29, 2009
CS 7:23 (J—paper)
Matt Ginsberg's New York Times crossword
Write-up and answer grid coming later tonight, after raspberry shortcake and putting my kid to bed.
48A. [Chain of treeless rolling hills] is a WOLD.
44D. The W's crossing is a [Metalworking tool] called a SWAGE.
Now, TOLD/STAGE would fit there and could lend themselves to interesting cluing riffs, but no, we get WOLD and SWAGE, neither of which I've heard of. After decades of crosswording!
Aside from that, there are about a dozen Z's in the grid, which is just insane, so I enjoyed the puzzle. The "pick a random letter and see if the applet likes it" game got old pretty quickly, though. W?? Maybe it's a product placement for the W Hotels.
—Okay, I'm back, and my kid's still not in bed! This puppy's a 72-worder, which means it was probably easier to fill the grid in mondo Scrabbly fashion than it would've been for a 68-worder. I have no objection to hitting the ceiling for themeless word count, especially not when the fill boggles the mind. Favorite answers, enjoyable clues:
Here are a few answers that demanded that I work the crossings a good bit: MAZY is an odd little word, clued as [Tangled and interwoven]. [Clyde ___, "Beau Brummell" playwright, 1890] is Mr. FITCH. (Who?) I know what pomades are, but POMATUM—[Fragrant hair dressing]—is unfamiliar. In music, [Larghetto] means SLOWISH.
Updated Saturday morning:
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Pig Farm"—Janie's review
Anyone who attended this year's ACPT should remember Merl Reagle's puzzle #3: "Lipstick on a Pig" which gave us lots of cosmetic-treatment puns with a porcine twist. When I saw the title of today's puzzle I was immediately reminded of it. Once I started solving, however, it became clear that Martin's approach would be uniquely his. In three grid-spanning entries, Martin gives us some insight into what remains of a pig once it has gone to, and is resting in, Hog Heaven. And what might those options be? Our first choice is :
With two CS debuts (the first two) and one major puzzle debut, this theme fill is both fresh and a lot of fun to boot.
But it's not only the quality of the theme-fill that makes this puzzle so good. The lengthy non-theme fill stands on its own and it, too, is fresh as can be. There are three CS debuts here:
And two major-puzzle firsts:
Three other astonishing women—all born within 20 years of each other—get first-name mentions, and I'll mention 'em, too: hostess PERLE Mesta (1889-1975), aviator AMELIA Earhart (1897-1937) and author EUDORA Welty (1909-2001).
Some clues that shone: [Joltless joe] for DECAF (remember when Joltin' Joe was the spokesman for Mr. Coffee?...); and [Letters on a Cardinal's cap]. I really FALTERED with this one. What sort of religious esoterica is this? How am I supposed to...? Oh. Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. STL. Nevermind...
And have no idea why I like this particular pair of words, but I do: SPINAL and BUNION. Go figger.
This was a not-too-difficult puzzle with a lotta meaty fill. A Saturday treat (sorry, vegetarians!!). Need more? There's a CD that pokes fun of the ultra-earnest (Gregorian) Chant disc that was so popular for a while. This is called Grunt and is a recording of Pigorian chant...
Robert Wolfe's Los Angeles Times crossword
I've got a longer write-up of this puzzle L.A. Crossword Confidential today. One thing I didn't mention over there is my unease with the clue for 1-Across, WADES IN. Yes, the dictionary says it does indeed mean [Begins energetically], but that just seems wrong. If you're enthusiastic about getting into the water at the beach, you'll move beyond mere wading and splash in for full immersion. Whoever decided that wading in represented a "vigorous attack or intervention" was clearly on drugs. Is there a word for "idiom that seems patently backwards"?
EXTRA-LARGE is clued as a [Soft drink order]. I order that size only at the movies, and refer to it as "a trough of Diet Coke." (ASPARTAME!) [Philippine bread] is Philippine currency, the PESO. My mother-in-law doesn't bake much so I haven't had any Filipino baked goods, but that's not what this clue is about. [Caesar's tax form?] is 1040, or MXL—the clue is just nutty enough that I like it, even though it works that question mark hard. (Caesar did not complete any IRS forms.) The [Burrowing rabbitlike mammal] called the PIKA is adorable. It lives out west in the Great Basin, the area between the Rockies and Sierra Nevada. And, as I learned when reading about it for my L.A.C.C. post, it eats its fresh poop to extract more nutrients and only the second-round poop becomes the familiar pellets of rabbit poop. Shouldn't the pika have evolved a more effective digestive system so it could get all the nutrients out the first time? I'm relieved that humans' GI tract evolved past that.
Updated again Saturday afternoon:
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"
This is among my least favorite Doug Peterson themelesses (answer here), but it's still pretty good. (Doug's set his bar high.) And I like this difficulty level. First, let's look at the parts I liked most:
What worked less well here? This stuff:
May 28, 2009
CS 14:18 (J—paper)/4:36 (A—Across Lite)
Randolph Ross's New York Times crossword
The applet timer read 5:39 when I went to click "done!" and wouldn't you know it? Typo! No, [From this moment on] doesn't mean ANYLLNGER, it means ANY LONGER. Figures the typo was in the bottom row when I started scanning my answers at the top. That ANY LONGER—that goes with the negative, right? "I'm not doing that any longer?" I like "anymore" to stay in the negative too, but people've been using that non-negatively of late.
This 66-worder has some killer answers, some surprises, and a handful of entries with word endings that stretch things a bit (though truthfully, I didn't mind SPARERS and SLATING today). There are also several apt pairings:
One answer I got strictly through its crossings surprised me when I saw it in the finished grid. Another EERO: 14D [Finnish pentathlete Lehtonen]. Hey, we need all the famous EEROs we can get. Among my favorite answers and clues were these:
Then there are these three clues, which were not gimmes for me. I wonder how many solvers will have been stumped by these:
Updated Friday morning:
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy Puzzle, "Mixed Green Salad"—Janie's review
Anyone who solves cryptic puzzles can tell you: the word "mixed" in the clue is the tip-off that the solution involves an anagram. And the "mixed" in the title of today's puzzle is no exception. Take the ten letters of "GREEN SALAD," toss 'em up and whaddaya get?
Not only do we get this anagram quartet, we also get the centrally-located and unifying ANAGRAM, [What each of this grid's ten-letter entries is] at 38A.
And to balance the word-playful theme fill, there're two 9-letter major puzzle debuts: the perfectly idiomatic I'M ON TO YOU ["You can't fool me, buster!"] and the precise CLOCKED IN [Began the shift]. TEND BAR, B-MOVIE (in a CS debut), THE RAVEN, BOGUS, HOYLE, YAYAS—all of these add to the overall quality of the fill.
Then, there a couple of "mini-theme" clusters: PUMA, (CS first) SHE-BEARS and KOALA are all mammals. (And how about the cunning way that last one is clued—[Fetching furry folivore]. "Folivore"?! Well, of course—foliage eater!) The other little grouping includes A-BOMB, NUKE and ACID—all explosive (in their own way) and all of which can be "dropped."
Before taking a look at a few of the many-splendored clues, here's one grid-bit: the happy crossing of SHEBA with SHE-BEARS.
And now, to focus on some of those quintessentially-Klahn clues:
If I omitted your fave(s), by all means: speak up!
Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword
Wow, is it just me or was today's LAT tougher than any Friday LAT of recent vintage? As denizens of the L.A. Crossword Confidential comments know, some of the newspapers that picked up the LAT crossword after the demise of the Tribune daily crossword are getting noisy complaints from people who want a more Maleskan experience, a crossword that's amenable to crossword-dictionary solving. I'm assertively post-Maleskan and prefer clues with wordplay, clues that require flexible thinking, and interesting phrases in the grid. Today's was tougher than I was expecting, but tough = good in my book.
This puzzle's theme passes the buck and says it's not I, it's U—each theme entry changes a familiar phrase's I to a U, thereby reworking the meaning:
What were my hitches? EBRO instead of ARNO for 3D [Florentine flower?], TELL US instead of CALL US for 5D ["We want to hear from you"], YET instead of BUT for 12D ["Despite what I just said..."], all in the same area. (Ouch!) And then at 48D, with U*SET, I went with the not-at-all-the-same-thing UNSET for [Discomfit] instead of the now-obvious UPSET, even though ONART was patently wrong and 52A [Off-the-wall piece on the wall?] clues OP ART. It didn't help matters that I wanted PLODS or PLOPS instead of the correct POURS for 47D [Falls heavily]. I usually have far fewer wrong turns in a themed L.A. Times crossword.
There's a bit of a French vibe here. 13D [Cafe cup] is a TASSE and 42A [Silk, in St.-Etienne] is SOIE. And the YSER, a mostly Belgian [River to the North Sea], originates in France.
The interlock of the vertical 10-letter answers with the long Across theme answers suggests to me that Dan Naddor should be making themeless puzzles—but he oughtn't stop the themed puzzles because he comes up with so many new angles that he's one of the people keeping me interested in themed puzzles. MY LEFT FOOT is the [1989 Daniel Day-Lewis film] about an artist/writer with cerebral palsy. [It's hoisted on the ice annually] clues the super-timely STANLEY CUP; alas, the Chicago Blackhawks will not be vying for the Cup. I'm familiar with the "swords into plowshares" phrase, but had not realized that PLOWSHARES were [Cutting-edge farm parts], a plow's main cutting blades. The "shares" part is related to "shears," which makes perfect sense.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Friday"
I always read Brendan's post about the puzzle after I've solved it, and whaddaya know? He says he's had this one in his file for a while, perhaps not sold elsewhere as a result of the answers he singles out—most of which I did indeed have to hammer away at via the crossings. LIMOUSIN is a [Hardy cattle breed named for a region of France]? I'll take Brendan's word for it. QBERT'S QUBES was a [1983 arcade game sequel]? Never heard of it. A [Customs document] is a CARNET? Dictionary says it's a customs permit for taking a vehicle across the border. I also didn't know ARKY, [Baseball Hall of Famer Vaughn], having only the faintest sense of recognition.
Pancho Harrison's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Travel Gear"
I slowed myself down in a few spots by mistyping things and failing to notice the errors for a while. ENSERD in lieu of ENSERF ([Make a slave of]) blocked FIGURE ([Illustration in a set of instructions], which was looking incomprehensibly like DIGURE. And then I inverted the vowel pair in ANTOINE into ANTIONE (the fingers, they are familiar with -TION, are they not?), which mangled its crossings too.
Theme? Oh, theme! Yes. The titular "Travel Gear" is five things that start with words/names that are also the names of noted explorers. Marco POLO SHIRTS are [Clothing to wear while exploring the Orient?]. PIKESTAFF is the wooden shaft of a pike, and the guy Pike's Peak is named after might use a PIKE STAFF as a [Walking stick for exploring the Colorado mountains?]. [Drying cloths to use while exploring the Antarctic?] are SCOTT TOWELS, also a brand of paper towels. COOK STOVE might be a [Piece of caping gear for exploring Newfoundland?]. And Stanley, the "Mr. Livingstone, I presume" guy, has a [Drinking vessel to use while exploring deepest Africa?], hockey's STANLEY CUP.
Favorite non-theme clue" [Contractors, e.g.] for MUSCLES.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Internal Medicine"
As I mentioned a couple days ago, when I test-solved this puzzle, it had no circles in the grid, and I only noticed half of the theme answers, the ones in the longest four entries. Each of the eight themers is a two-word phrase with the words joined by a two-letter abbreviation for a worker in the medical field: MDs are doctors, RNs are registered nurses, PAs are physician assistants, and NPs are nurse practitioners. So these "medicine" folks are "internal" to their entries. Do you think you would have seen them all in the absence of circled letters or, say, asterisked theme clues?
Highlights: Theme answer WHOOP-ASS is clued as [Can's contents, in belligerent slang]. IRS is [R.E.M.'s label, once]—much more entertaining than the Internal Revenue Service. Theme entry DENVER NUGGETS are a [2009 Western Conference Finals team]; my kid was rooting for the yellow team (Lakers) until I told him that the blue team was the one his auntie Pia likes, and he switched allegiances straightaway. [Playing the ___ (improvised verbal contest)] is the DOZENS. Another lively hidden-professional answer is SPERM DONOR, [Person paid by the bank to make deposits]. I like that GENDER-NEUTRAL ([Like some PC toys]) clue for SPERM DONOR. [Abraham or Homer] sounds a little Old Testament and classical Greece, but they're SIMPSONs. Three Star Wars references: LANDO Calrissian, HAN Solo, and Reagan's SDI.
Tony Orbach's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Technobabble"
It wasn't until I pieced together the hey-that's-not-a-real-thing VIRTUAL UV TRIAL ([Simulated sun exposure study?]) that I discovered this was an anagram theme. Unlike the Klahn CrosSynergy puzzle, these anagram answers don't all have the same letters—rather, each theme entry begins with a 6- or 7-letter tech term followed by a one- or two-word anagram of that term. The most impressive find is the wireless HOTSPOT POTSHOT, or [Stab at a wireless connection?]. I'm also fond of the E-TAILER ATELIER, or [Online merchant's workshop?], just because I love the word ATELIER. I am pleased to report that despite the many hours I log at my blogs, I have not developed WEBLOG BOW LEG, a [Deformity caused by excessive posting?].
A few highlights:
May 27, 2009
CS 7:28 (J—paper)
Eek! You know what I should've done today? Gotten myself all squared away for tomorrow morning's Jeopardy! audition. I need to fill out the form with my anecdotes and get to bed, so let's do the short-form blogging.
Gary Cee's New York Times crossword
That's an unfamiliar name in the byline, and it's great to see a cool theme from a newcomer. The central answer, GET OVER IT—[Advice for the brokenhearted...or one of four arrangements found literally in this puzzle]—explains the theme, which is entries with an embedded GET appearing OVER a phrase with a hidden IT. To wit:
They're aligned G over I twice and E over I twice.
Five clues: [Diggers' org.] is UMW, the union of mine workers. [Hungarian Communist leader ___ Kun]'s first name is BELA. John Philip SOUSA was a [Bandmaster from 1880 to 1931]. BREA is a not-so-well-known [City in Orange County, Calif.]. [Shoe part that touches the floor] is the OUTSOLE.
That's all the time I've got for this puzzle. Tune in Thursday morning for Janie's take on the CrosSynergy puzzle and sometime in the afternoon for the LAT (PuzzleGirl will have her solution grid and write-up at L.A. Crossword Confidential in the a.m.) and Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle (which originally did not have circles in the grid, so I completely missed half of the theme entries).
Updated Thursday morning:
Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "May the Fors Be With You"—Janie's review
What we have here is a fine example of verbal "for"-play. Randy has given us one noun phrase and three verb phrases, and altered each by placing the word "for" in the, um, forward position. In this way:
The strength of this puzzle is in the theme fill and cluing. The remainder of the fill is absolutely fine but with a few exceptions, not strikingly fresh. I loved seeing DEAR DIARY in there (a CS first); and WEED EATER, too. Did you know there's a band by that name? By the looks of things, however, this is a different kinda weed...
And there are several skewed clues that help give this puzzle some nice AHA moments: [Call at home] for SAFE, where "call" is a noun and not a verb; [Filing aid] for EMERY, not some kind of 5-letter organizer; [Split ingredient] for BANANA, as in, "My dessert choice is the banana split"; [Tiger or woods, e.g.] for NOUN (see [Call at home]).
I'd even go so far as to say there's a mini baseball sub-theme, with the clue [Bull pen] (for CORRAL), that [Call at home]/SAFE combo, and the [Stat for CC Sabathia]/ERA pair. Where Sabathia is concerned, I'm afraid I've been living under a rock...
And for anyone who didn't know, Wikipedia tells us that "Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892 – April 21, 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym ERTÉ, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T." Forsooth!
Updated again Thursday afternoon:
Tom Heilman's Los Angeles Times crossword
Yeah, boy, it wasn't until I pieced together the theme that I truly accepted that the wrong-looking HOTBOILER actually was wrong. Al Hirt is probably the most frequently seen trumpeter in crosswords, so it took me forever to change [Hack's output] to the so-very-right POTBOILER. Yes, I know who Herb ALPERT is, but my HIRT impulse kicked in when I read ["Spanish Flea" trumpeter]. And then the [Film feline], yes, I filled in ILSA and pictured Ingrid Bergman's Casablanca character, utterly disregarding the inclusion of "feline" in the clue. ["Born Free" lioness] or [Designer Schiaparelli] would've been a safer clue.
The theme is POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK—those are the first words of five theme entries and they evoke a HYPOCRITE. Kudos to Heilman for including six theme entries and having the top and bottom pairs partly stacked together. Smooth, interesting fill—BANJOS, CHICANO, RANSACKS, TICKLE, POTSIE from Happy Days, a NERF ball, and some MOOLAH all have zing.
May 26, 2009
CS 8:20 (J—paper)
Crikey, my kid still had a fever today, for the sixth straight day. Apparently there's a non-flu virus superimposed on the strep infection, producing a sloooowly resolving fever and cough. You can't go back to school until you've been afebrile for 24 hours, so he'll be home again on Wednesday. Day 7!
Corey Rubin's New York Times crossword
Did this feel a little more like a Thursday degree of difficulty to you? It definitely felt Thurednesdayish to me. The theme is super-clever: familiar American phrases with limey equivalents swapped in for key words. Here are your theme entries:
One thing that made this feel a little tougher than the standard mid-week puzzle is the inclusion of a few oddball words. [Extract with a solvent] clues ELUTE; very science labby. [Stands at wakes] are BIERS, which is a not-too-common word; its similarity to PYRE makes me think BIERS are set on fire, but no, they're just stands used before burial or cremation. (Cheerful!) A [Playground retort] has plenty of options, and the first crossing is a fill-in-the-blank partial I didn't know—[Bernstein/Sondheim's "___ Like That"] is missing A BOY and the retort is AM TOO. (Other retorts: IS TOO, I AM SO, DO TOO, I DO SO, etc.) TENABLE is not all that common a word, is it? It's clued [Like a solid argument].
Highlights: [Cattle-herding breed] is CORGI, and I liked this because it snagged me into a misread (I went with ANGUS, which don't usually herd themselves, do they?). An OPT-OUT clause is split into two intersecting cross-referenced entries, [With 30-Down, kind of clause]. The Scrabbly JACK UP is clued with [Hike, as a price]. A GO-ROUND is a [Bout]; how many go-rounds did you need with this puzzle? I like IN DRAG, but the clue, [Clad like some Halloween paraders], seems faintly prudish in its avoidance of year-round drag queens. Ooh, here's MIX IT UP, or [Have a tussle]—terrific crossword answer. [It may have a spinning ballerina] clues a MUSIC BOX; remember that insane instrumental song that was a hit in the late '70s? Go ahead and
get your "Music Box Dancer" groove on. (It's more mind-numbing than you remember.)
Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Final Strategy"—Janie's review
The concept for this theme is quite straightforward: the end ("final" part) of each phrase of theme fill is another way of looking at the word "strategy." The execution is also straightforward, as most of the theme fill represents actual strategies. But what fresh and specific theme fill we get! The two 11s are CS firsts, while the two 13s are making their major-puzzle debuts. There's also a seven in the middle, bringing the total number of theme squares to a healthy 55. And what are these five "strategies"? We have a:
There is also a lot of non-theme fill that adds to the overall quality of the solve. I loved that the puzzle began with GAMUT—and that it's clued as [A to Z], since more often it's the other way around... Off of GAMUT we get MONOGRAMS (in a major-puzzle debut), clued as [Fashionable initials]. Before I saw how many letters were required to solve the clue, I was certain I was going to enter YSL. I disabused myself of that notion pretty quickly—though it took longer than I'd have liked to see what the clue was aiming at. This is a plus.
Another plus? The way MONOGRAMS' opposite number in the grid is the CS first-timer, ADORNMENT. Nice, too, that MONOGRAMS are traditionally used as ADORNMENT—on towels, on shirts, on any number of garments. Right next to that is the lively MEGAHIT with its peppy [Blockbuster] clue. Crossing the two of them towards the bottom, PINCE[-nez] (that's French for "pinch-nose"—which those specs do); and towards the top, sans specs, [Encyclopedist and leading figure of the French Enlightenment] DIDEROT. Took me a long time to get that right. Et pourquoi?
Well, I really didn't have a grip of the theme as I was solving (because there's something mildly inconsistent about the theme fill). So there I was at 38A, where the clue is [Aid for the directionally-challenged] and I think "easy" and confidently enter COMPASS... 41D is [Prefix for cure], there's the final S, so of course the fill must be SINE... Yes, it was that kind of solve for me. Before I had PONZI..., I tried to use PYRAMID... Needless to say, with this UNSOUND fill, I was [Likely to fail]. Happily, I finally did come out ON TOP.
Because I amuse easily, the combo of [Traveler down a fallopian tube] and OVUM keeps conjuring up something like Fantastic Voyage. I'm imagining this little egg with its little ROADMAP and tiny valise making its way to its destination. Or getting lost... I enjoyed seeing COPSE in proximity to STAND—because a COPSE can be defined as a "STAND of trees"; and CLAIM just above insurance-giant AETNA. As for clues that amuse: [It's next to nothing] for ONE; [Body of some art] for TORSO; and [Word repeated in prayer] for MANTRA. All three are so right and all three made me have to stop and think.
That, dear reader, is the mark of a top-notch puzzle (imoo...)—and this one's a GEM!
Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword
A reader has already posted a complaint about tastelessness in the Onion puzzles this morning. (Thanks, "fed up," for not including any spoilers.) This week's theme is T-to-D puns on band names, and the first of them is indeed tasteless: Playing on Boyz II Men, [NAMBLA's favorite R&B group?] is BOYS DO MEN. I'm going to have to agree with "fed up" that this is horrible—does anyone need to give the slightest affirmation to pedophile fantasies? Ick.
The second theme entry is ADD THE DRIVE-IN, or [Band that can retrofit your theater to accommodate automobiles?]. I suppose there's a band called At the Drive-in, but I couldn't tell you a single thing about them. Talking Heads gets a pun that changes both a consonant and a vowel sound (aw to ah) to become DOCKING HEADS, [Band with lots of songs about the French Revolution?]. Is there a Heartbreakers apart from "Tom Petty and"? HARD BREAKERS is an awkward-sounding phrase, clued as [With "the," backing band beloved by surfers?]. Is "hard breakers" a surfing term? I don't know surfing lingo, and I'm not crazy about promoting a backing band to theme entry status. (Sorry, guys.) [Band that treats phobias by hunting?] is DEERS FOR FEARS. The plural of deer is deer—is this the contraction, DEER'S FOR FEARS? Meh. Conor Oberst is Bright Eyes, and BRIDE EYES is clued as a [Band seen through a white veil?].
Kudos for packing in six theme answers, Brendan, but overall I GOTTA ([Must, slangily]) give you a C on this one for the theme and the inclusion of "meh" fill like OSTE, variant TEENIE, RESOW, TWO-A, and a bunch of abbreviations.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Predictive Text Movies"
This theme wasn't a natural one for me to grasp, even with the note above the puzzle on Brendan's blog tipping me off that "The theme entries are titles of movies typed out in the predictive text mode setting on a cell phone. Obviously the phone guessed the movies wrong." I didn't begin texting until I bought an LG enV with a full QWERTY keyboard, so I've never done this predictive text bidness. The theme clues are nonsense phrases that contain some correct letters from movie titles and some wrong letters, the wrong letters being other letters found on the same numeric phone button. (E.g., the 4 has GHI, so if you're typing 4 for any of those letters, the phone might assume you wanted a different letter. But I'm thinking the technology favors the most common words, so I wonder if anyone intending to type "the" actually gets "tie" instead.)
Hang on. 24-Across looks off-kilter. The USUAL SUSPECTS would come off as VID TRUCK PUP SEATS? Why would US come out as VIDTR? If predictive text adds letters in unpredictable ways, I would want to stomp on my phone.
Things I liked in the fill include MR. BIG STUFF (song I'd never heard of, sure, but so lively), FULCRA (plural of fulcrum, and who doesn't love Latin plurals?), UNINTENDED puns (and consequences), and J-LO clued as the [Richest person of Latin American descent in Hollywood, according to Forbes]. I didn't quite know where [Bellybutton lint] was going until SCUZZ emerged from the
bellybuttoncrossings. It looks like an arbitrary spelling, but the Mac's Oxford American Dictionary gives that spelling a definition of "something regarded as disgusting, sordid, or disreputable." Indeed!
Toughest clue for me: [Air thrust backward by a plane] is JETWASH.
Doug Peterson's Los Angeles Times crossword
This Wednesday puzzle was Monday/Tuesday easy, unless you add in the time it took me to understand the theme—in which case it was Thursday hard. After reading the theme answers aloud to my husband several times, the synonymity of the first words in the theme entries finally dawned: BEAT, SLEEPY, WHIPPED, and DEAD are all slangy equivalents of "tired." But within the confines of the theme entries, they don't have that connotation:
I had more to say at L.A. Crossword Confidential, and I'm feeling all blogged out this morning so I'll end here. Cheers!
crossword 15:55, with several googles
hi, everybody! welcome to the 51st installment of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest. this week's puzzle is an old-fashioned "clue" murder mystery: who killed mr. boddy, in which room, and with what murder weapon? to solve the mystery, let's look at the one overt theme answer in the grid: the central theme answer, clued as [What to look for to discover whodunnit, where and how], is EIGHT THAT END IN 2. this answer took me quite some time to piece together because of that final 2, which crossed R2D2, with the tough clue [Character played by the English dwarf Kenny Baker]. the second 2 of R2D2 cross PART 2, clued as [Second half, perhaps]. i don't know why that was so hard to suss out when i had PART_, but it was. i tried PART B (wrong, but oddly, it presaged the appearance of PART B in today's mike nothnagel NYT) and was then stumped by __DB until finally the light dawned.
so, EIGHT THAT END IN 2. what does this mean? my first thought: the answers to clues 2, 12, 22, etc. as this is an 80-word grid, it includes clue numbers all the way up to 73, so let's have a look at those clues:
okay, enough of my troubles with the crossword. i think this is the most interesting/amazing meta of any of the 51 MGWCCs so far. after fruitlessly staring at OKLA, RUNS A, MODISH, CLASH, HIGH, ALONG, CAFÉ, and TOPAZ for quite some time, i realized that i'd neglected the most important advice in solving a meta: the instructions and the puzzle title. the instructions aren't all that illuminating: This week's contest is a murder mystery based on the game Clue. Somebody killed Mr. Boddy -- but whodunit, which room did they do it in, and with what weapon? This week's contest answer is the answer to all three of those questions. but the title? "Clues are Clues" ... hmm. notice it deosn't say "clue"; it's definitely plural. that's the big hint that instead of looking at the answers to clue numbers 2, 12, 22, etc., we're supposed to look at the clues. lo and behold, every single one of those clues could be answered with a totally different word:
there you have it: miss scarlet, in the library, with the rope. case closed. when this finally hit me (like the proverbial ton of bricks), i was floored. there's a teeny tiny flaw in that the clue for (the first instance of) THE also includes the word THE. still, this meta is so amazing that i'll gladly let that slide. if you were wondering why some of the clues seemed awkward, or why there was only one theme answer in an otherwise unambitious 80-word grid, there's your answer. there were actually nine theme answers, and eight of them had to be at specific clue numbers. incredible.
well, a couple weeks ago, i said, "i found this puzzle surprisingly difficult for the second week of the month. (i shudder to think what it's going to be like the fourth, or even fifth, week of may!)" i guess that was a prescient comment, although last week's puzzle being on the easy side may also have had something to do with it, judging from matt's comments in his blog post. (and yes, i am positively terrified of next week's puzzle.) i've already explained the difficulties i had with the northeast, midatlantic, and south regions. the only other part that gave me a ton of trouble was the north, where i couldn't piece together the following:
that's enough out of me for this week. i'm curious to hear about your experiences with this week's meta. pipe up in the comment box!
May 25, 2009
CS 6:46 (J—paper)
Mike Nothnagel's New York Times crossword
Most of Mike's puzzles are themeless, so it's a bit of a departure for him to show up on Tuesday. But the six-part theme's augmented by Nothnagelian fill, in addition to being a flawless theme. The theme entries are:
Highlights in the fill, quickly: NANCY DREW's the [Character who first appeared in "The Secret of the Old Clock"]. DOT MATRIX is an [Early printer type]. [Annotates, as a manuscript] clues MARKS UP. K-PAX! That's the [Title planet in a 2001 Kevin Spacey movie]. Tony DANZA is the ["Who's the Boss?" co-star] who, by the way, looks like he could be Rahm Emanuel's brother. Crosswordese name NYE graduates to full-name BILL NYE, [TV's Science Guy]. And a TWINGE is a [Sudden, sharp pain]. Plus we have colloquial language like "GOT ME" and "I KNOW" ("IT IS I" is a lesser caliber of fill). Seeing EGEST in the grid just now made me imagine it as an E-word: E-GEST, a notable adventure or exploit on the Internet.
Updated Tuesday morning:
Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy puzzle "Going Once, Going Twice,..."—Janie's review
For the second Tuesday in a row we have a CrosSynergy constructor debut. A hearty welcome to Donna, yet another skillful, clever, well-published constructor, whose puzzles have been seen extensively as part of the Creators Syndicate (Newsday), the L. A. Times, the Sun, and more recently in the NYT. Her inaugural summons up the auction block. Live auction, not this kind... Each theme phrase ends with a word related to auctions and the first three of them are appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle; the last is making its major-puzzle debut. Whaddo-I-hear, whaddo-I-hear, whaddo-I-hear for:
And the beauty parts of the grid-as-is are many:
Clocking in at 7:30 (they ain't called INXS fer nuthin'!), here's a link to signature song "Need You Tonight" as the band performed it at Wembley Stadium in the early '90s.
All in all, one PRIMO premiere—and (fair warning) I am going, going,...
Fred Jackson III's Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme here is old musicals whose titles end with women's names:
Favorite entry in this puzzle: the ELKS CLUB, or a [Fraternal group, familiarly]. Super-fresh—or as fresh as a group of mostly older men can be. Biggest fake-out: I combined the Y from HELLO DOLLY and the clue for 46A, [Stevenson's ill-fated doctor], and automatically filled in MR. HYDE, grumbling that this alter ego wasn't a doctor. D'oh! It's Dr. JEKYLL, who has a Y in the same place.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "That's B.S.!—at least it's broken up"
Matt's puzzle has seven theme entries in which the first word ends with B and the other word begins with S, so there's a broken-up B.S. in each. Alas, there is a Down answer outside of the theme in which there's an unbroken BS—BEAR CUBS, clued as [Den mother's group]. The theme lacks a certain rationale, as we don't typically think of breaking up bullshit. Here are the theme answers:
There are always some bloggable clues in a Jonesin' puzzle—interesting or unusual answers, oddball names, etc. ["Hinky Dinky Parlay ___" (WWI song)] is completed by VOO (parlez vous). SAL ["___ the Stockbroker" ("The Howard Stern Show" personality)] is nothing I've ever heard of. BOPGUN is a [1977 hit from George Clinton and Parliament] and I can't say I recognize the title. What's a [Rounded architectural framework in cathedrals]? It's a RIB VAULT. LOW BP is clued as a [Healthy heart rate, on a doctor's chart], though actually, blood pressure can be dangerously low too. JOYSTICK, or [Arcade game control], is a terrific-looking crossword answer. I think Brendan Quigley might've had [Aladdin ___ (David Bowie alter ego)]/SANE in a puzzle recently, and yet I still forgot it. "A lad insane"? I'm not convinced that ZOOMANIA, or [Animal fanatic's condition], is a real English word; it might be a Spanish one.