NYT second Sunday "Takeaway Crossword" 13:08
Oliver Hill's New York Times crossword, "Perfect Jobs"
After I figured out how the theme operated, I kept forgetting again and thinking of famous people or characters with the names in the clues rather than noting what verb the name sounded like. The theme answers are apt occupations for a person with a name that sounds sort of like that worker's task:
Robin is unisex, but I'm disappointed to see the puzzle handed over to the boys. Where is Karen, the home health aide? Or Carolyn, the Christmas concert director? Or Marian, the justice of the peace or clergywoman? Sharon...whose job is it to share?
Clues and answers of note:
Matt Ginsberg's NYT second sunday puzzle, a "Takeaway Crossword"
Ah, that's more like it. Remember when we'd get a crazy, twisted Friday Sun crossword that would push the cruciverbal envelope and strain our brains in a delicious manner? Matt Ginsberg companion to the NYT Sunday crossword is one of those goodies. I opted to solve it without reading the notepad (doing so is definitely more badass, but there's no shame in using the notepad if you must), and I don't think it was all that hard to notice that the asterisks replaced all instances of a single letter within each clue, or to guess that the same letter would be omitted from the answer. The astonishing thing is that dropping the letter from the answer still leaves us with a valid crossword answer. Granted, with straightforward clues, this would be an awfully dull puzzle—but instead we have to work a different spot in our brains to come up with the answers.
Here are some examples. 9A is ["Dani*l Boon*" actor], with two E's replaced by asterisks. The actor in question is Ed Ames. Minus the E's, he turns into the word DAMS, and that's the answer that goes in the grid. 34A is RESIN, which is Kreskin with a couple K's excised—Kreskin is the [Mentalist inspired by "Mandra*e the Magician"]. 27D is ROCA, a Spanish word meaning I-don't-know-what as well as a confection (in fact, Matt has let me sample his wife's delicious almond roca at the last two ACPTs), and if you add four L's you get ROLL CALL, a [*egis*ative routine (Sp.)]. That tag at the end of the clue offers the solver a little help with the grid answer; other tags used in this puzzle include Lat., suffix, Ger., hyph., 2 wds., and Fr.
My favorite discovery was that Stuttgart is just SUGAR with four T's—64A is clued [Sou*hwes* German ci*y]. The hardest factoid I encountered was 40A [Apo*tle known a* "the Zealot"]. I don't know Biblical stuff too well, so I needed to lean on the crossings to get TIMON, which is St. Simon minus the S's. The only clue that led me astray was 52A [Italian po*t?]. I was thinking poEt and missing E's, but no, it turned out to be poRt. And given the question mark, we're not talking about a port city here—port wine. Marsala is a sherry type of Italian wine, and minus the R, it becomes MASALA, an Indian spice mixture.
Okay, Matt, you figured out how to make one of these work smoothly. Now how about constructing some more? I know Will Shortz doesn't have a ton of Sunday slots for variety puzzles like this, but I'd definitely vote to have more Takeaway Crosswords. Many of you adore the Cox & Rathvon acrostics that take up 26 of the 52 second Sunday puzzles, but I wouldn't mind swapping a few of those out for interesting puzzles like this one. (I wouldn't want to lose any of the diagramlesses or cryptics, though.)
Updated Sunday morning:
Kathleen Fay O'Brien's syndicated L.A. Times Sunday crossword, "Quiet Meetings"
See L.A. Crossword Confidential for my full write-up of this puzzle. The theme entries shorten PIANISSIMO to PP, both meaning "very softly" in music, and use the PP as "quiet meetings" between words in assorted two-word phrases (e.g. TOP PRIORITY, SLEEP PHASE). I'm always pleased to see a word like CHUTZPAH in the grid ([Impudence]), but the theme was definitely on the dry side. Bonus points for the liveliness of theme entries STRIP POKER and POP PSYCHOLOGY. The latter takes the "quiet meetings" theme to extremes by having the second P of PP be so soft, it's a silent letter.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Triple Doubles"
Here's another theme where it's the letters within the phrases that hold sway—in this case, each phrase has three sets of double letters. I'm guessing Merl started with the long title, split into two partially stacked answers at the bottom of the grid, that has two triple doubles, or sextuple doubles. The 1955 comedy is ABBOTT AND COSTELLO / MEET THE MUMMY. The remaining triple doubles are as follows:
The least familiar answer in the grid was MARK J., clued as [Secret Service chief ___ Sullivan]. Ouch.
Henry Hook's maybe-6-weeks-old Boston Globe crossword, "Done to the Nines"
This is my favorite of today's 21x21 puzzles. The theme entries are "done to the nines" by having the Roman numeral IX added to them, radically altering each phrase's meaning. Noncommissioned + IX = NIXON-COMMISSIONED, [Like the Watergate burglars?]. SPECIAL KIX might be a [Breakfast cereal blend?] of Special K and Kix. The Ming dynasty turns into MIXING "DYNASTY," a [Soundtrack job on a 1980s soap?]. A stock quote becomes STOCK QUIXOTE, a [Standard idealist?]. There are four other theme entries, but I liked these ones better.
Favorite clues and answers:
Bob Klahn's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"
Have I cracked The Klahn Code, or is this puzzle a good bit easier than, say, his occasional (and all-too-infrequent) Saturday NYT crosswords? I started out fumbling through the first Across and Down clues and seeing nothing I knew, but then it started rolling. 5A [Huge goof] tends to be the sort of clue we see for BONER (unless it's an Onion crossword), and checking the R's viability against 9D [Speak on the record?], that worked with RAP (great clue!). Toughest clues, for me:
May 16, 2009
NYT second Sunday "Takeaway Crossword" 13:08