CS 6:18 (J—paper)
John Farmer's New York Times crossword
Not many NYT crosswords begin with a blacked-out square in the upper left, much less with a chunk of six black squares there. John's puzzle has a cute grid with four black corners bracketing a ring of 9-, 11-, and 13-letter answers. Those long ones are as follows:
Overall, this lovely puzzle has mighty smooth fill, even with all those 3's and 4's that had the potential to feel like compromises. It's a pangram, so there's an interesting assortment of Scrabbly words. And none of the clues or answers jumped out at me as being iffy. Keep 'em coming, Farmer John! Put on your constructin' overalls, park the tractor, and get to work.
Selected clues from the rest of the puzzle:
John Lampkin's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Work, Work, Work"
The title relates to the six trilogies in the theme. There's Tolkien's LORD OF / THE RINGS and Dos Passos's USA trilogy—the only two of the trilogies here that I could name straight off. Willa Cather's trilogy, 7 letters starting with a P? Hmm, PRAIRIE? Yes. Paul Auster has his NEW YORK trilogy, which sounds faintly familiar to me. I didn't know that Robertson Davies had a DEPTFORD trilogy, nor that Cormac McCarthy's books make up the BORDER trilogy.
There is a plethora of out-there tough clues and answers. To wit:
Updated Friday morning:
Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Cheese Heads"—Janie's review
This Friday puzzle can be described with three words: easy, breezy and cheesy. And when I say "cheesy," I'm speaking literally here. The first word in each of the four two-word theme phrases (the "head" of the phrase) names a type of cheese. Actually that's not entirely accurate, but I'll get to that a little later.
One of the reasons many of us solve puzzles is for the entertainment value, and this one is loaded with references (directly or in-) to the entertainment we enjoy on stage and screen. There's AGNES Moorehead of Citizen Kane fame (perhaps best known to boomers and Nick at Niters as Endora in Bewitched); ELSA Lanchester (whose name nicely crosses ELSE); LIZA Minnelli (whose name nicely crosses ZIMA at the "I"); Klinger portrayer Jamie FARR; the movie ORCA (which does appear to be a "must miss"); De Niro film A BRONX TALE (written by and now being performed as a one-man play by Chazz Palminteri); Broadway musical MAN OF La Mancha (also a [not-very-good] movie); the thematic AMERICAN BUFFALO (which put expletive-loving playwright David Mamet on the map); and finally, Joe Green's AIDA (I know, I know: Giuseppe Verdi!).
Fill I love: COOT for [Geezer], QUACK for [Snake oil salesman], SNAFU for [Major miscue]. (Where that last one is concerned, am also fond of its corollary, FUBAR...) Nice to see the two Xs, two Zs and that Q, too.
What I learned: the COBRA is an [Army helicopter].
While I'm usually delighted by repeated clues, something doesn't sit quite right with the twin [Pigs] at 26D and 28D surrounding 27D's [Koran religion]. And in the grid, ISLAM and SWINE run side by side. Perhaps I'm being overly PC/humorless, but given Islam's dietary laws, this pairing doesn't feel, well, particularly "kosher." So to speak. I guess I'm wondering if this was something that went under the radar of the CS team or whether it was included to test the waters. Puzzle construction being the complex task that it is I suspect there's no easy answer.
That said, I had a fine time solving this, and was happier still (once I'd read the title and fully appreciated the theme) that this celebrated "cheese heads" and not "head cheese"!!
Dan Naddor's L.A. Times crossword
Now Dan's just showing off. A 70-worder that somehow found room for five theme entries? Impressive. He takes five phrases that end with -KEY and lops off the EY:
The grid looks like a themeless one, with those four open corners and the parade of 7's (and a 9) stairstepping through the middle. A lot of these answers would score low in Scrabble (well, unless the player managed to lay down all 7 letters in one play). Consider EERIEST, IRON ORES, TRUSTEE, USELESS, E STREET, ARLENES, EELER, and ASIANS. SEXINESS, or [Allure], gets a boost from its X but is otherwise exactly the sort of answer you're likely to see holding up the bottom of the grid. Mind you, even if these answers mostly lack crazy letters, they still make for fresher fill than a slew of 3- to 5-letter repeaters would. Even the dullest 7 is going to be less stale than a puzzle filled with ERIEs and UTAs.
Least familiar clue: It's a two-way tie! [Glazunov wrote a 1934 concerto for one] refers to the ALTO SAX. [Pou ___: vantage point] clues STO. I have never heard of Glazunov—music is not my bag—but at least ALTO SAX was gettable as a musical instrument. Pou sto is a Greek phrase I've never encountered before. I do know that STO means one hundred in many Slavic languages.
Clue with the strongest parade associations: [Red fez wearer] is a SHRINER. Weirdest-looking answer: ALE KEG, or [Pub container].
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Think Thick"
Can you imagine how awesome this grid would be without those single black squares to the left of 26A and 43A? I wonder if Frank Longo, Patrick Berry, or anyone else could fill that grid.
Like some of Brendan's test solvers, I had an error where 3D meets 28A. The [Small toucan with a yellow breast] is the ARACARI, not the ARACARA. And [You usually find them up against the wall] clues light SWITCHES, not paint SWATCHES. I wonder if people who don't know Brendan just bought a condo made the same mistake—the bird is not a well-known one, but is it natural to jump to SWATCHES in the absence of suspecting autobiographical content?
[Interruption of thought indicator] is the EM DASH. I love me a good em dash (see the preceding paragraph).
I have inexplicably and quite suddenly fallen out of the mood to write about crosswords, so I'll just say that if Brendan were to decide to make three themelesses a week, that would be fine by me. They're always enjoyable.
Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Life Is a Merry-Go-Round"
Sometimes folks grumble when a chunk of letters in a rebus square are used to mean the literal word that comprises those letters. In this case, all six HORSE rebus squares use the HORSE as a horse, of course, as the HORSEs are arrayed in a CAROUSEL-style circle. The merry-go-round rebus (which, by the way, is perfectly symmetrical—when has Liz ever made a visual puzzle that doesn't layer on still more symmetry?) is a tribute to RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN, who partnered up on many MUSICALS including CAROUSEL.
Favorite clues/answers: [Boxer, for one] for SENATOR Barbara Boxer, and the [Elizabethan pronoun?] ROYAL WE. I hereby bestow the title of Queen Elizabeth on Liz Gorski and encourage her to begin using the royal "we" at every opportunity.
May 07, 2009