CS 9:52 (J—paper)
Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword
This crossword's pretty much three puzzles for the price of one: The two small puzzles in the upper left and lower right corners, and the bigger one connecting the other two corners. If you don't get a couple answers quickly in those almost-cut-off quadrants, the task of filling them becomes much more of a challenge. Indeed, those partitions are where I spent the most time.
This is smooth fill as 58-worders go—there's not much leeway for including really showy phrases with uncommon letters and there's no room at all for answers over 8 letters in length. But the 20 8-letter answers are the sorts of entries that, owing to their length, are not common in crosswords, so the puzzle rates high on the Freshness Factor numerical scale.
The spots that gave me the most trouble:
Things I liked:
Updated Saturday morning:
Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Shot Selection"—Janie's review
When the puzzle has a Klahn by-line, you can be sure there will be nothing ERRATIC [Spotty] in the construction or TAME [Dull] in the fill or the cluing. The title of today's puzzle refers not to an athletic endeavor like basketball or racquetball or golf, where "shot selection" is part of the game-playing strategy, but to a variety of words to which "shot" may be attached as a suffix—here, the first word in each of the four bright theme-phrases.
So we have these very strong theme phrases and then, just look at the fill in the corners. The SW and NE have triple stacks of lively eights: FILING IN, ANACONDA (obliquely clued as [One could put the squeeze on you]) and REVENUER; and SCORSESE, ALLELUIA and BAD GIRLS, respectively. And the triple stacks of sixes in the NW and SE ain't too shabby neither: MASCOT (clued as [Yale's Handsome Dan, e.g.]), fave word ARCANA, and campfire fave SMORES; and FAMINE, OTITIS and RED ANT or [Bolshevik bug?], respectively.
Alliteration abounds in the cluing: [Podded plant for Paul Prudhomme] for OKRA (referring to the New Orleans chef of note), [Kin of culottes] for SKORT, [Saucy and sassy] for PERT, to cite a few. But perhaps just as clever are some of those clues that make you question your instincts and force you to think, like: [It may be squirreled away] for ACORN, which plays on the word "squirrel"; [Kind of pie?] for SWEETIE (sweet!); [Cover of knight?] for ARMOR; and [Wizard of ___? (masseur)] for AAHS.
All in all, a fine Saturday concoction by the "Wizard of 'aha's"!
Orange again. Aw, I missed a Klahn and saw Janie's writeup with all the spoilers before I knew it was his puzzle. I always like a chance to unravel his clues and put that puzzle in its place (which is "solved without too much trouble but with some brain work").
Doug Peterson's Los Angeles Times crossword
My full writeup of this puzzle is over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Here's an excerpt:
My goodness, does the upper left corner of this puzzle ever stink. I'm surprised some pungent garlic or garbage dump phrases didn't find their way in, amid HOG HEAVEN (1A: [Blissful state, slangily]) and an ONION DOME (15A: [Russian Orthodox church feature]). Pee-yoo! Nothing else made me hold my nose, though. And much of it had a pleasant aroma—figuratively speaking.
Favorite answers and clues: We've got 14 long answers of 8 to 15 letters apiece, and many of them rock. So do some of the short answers.
Doug Peterson's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"
Wow. This puzzle worked me over. (PDF solution here.) Tough—very tough—but fair. You can't ask for more than that, right? You could also ask for some amazingly fresh fill, and Doug's got that. Most of the short and mid-length fill is fairly ordinary—smooth, workable, but not so splashy. But look at thes five of the six longest answers:
These are all fantastic.
Lots of other clues to talk about—for example, the two carpeting answers that hid from me for the longest time. 1A: [Down] is PILE, somehow. I'm not sure why. Is this about carpeting? And 58D: [Long nap] isn't about sleep, it's about SHAG rugs. My living room rug has SHAG whose PILE has 3" yarns. Cushy! And also:
I've got a question for Doug, who of course may plead the 5th and decline to answer. Doug, you're a rarity in that we see your themelesses in the New York Times, the L.A. Times, CrosSynergy/Washington Post, and Newsday. There may be others who've had themelesses in all four, but perhaps not with your frequency. What I'm wondering is this: How do you decide what to submit to which venue? (Is it "send everything to the NYT and shoot for the biggest paycheck and divvy up Will's rejects among the other venues"? Or "Ah, this one's definitely a Stumper" or "This feels like a good one for CrosSynergy"?) What do you see as the substantive differences in prevailing themeless styles for the four papers, from a constructor's standpoint?
July 17, 2009