robert w. harris's new york times sunday crossword is called "good and bad." the title informs us: For the answer to each starred clue, including the first letter is good; dropping it is bad. what does this mean? let's see:
overall, this was a so-so theme. a clever idea, to be sure, and i like that it's consistent in terms of keeping the full answer as "good" and the shorter answer as "bad." what i didn't like about it was the fact that one and sometimes both of the answers weren't really standalone crossword answers: WRECKLESS DRIVING and OVERT OPERATIONS, for example, are obviously made-up phrases. of course, i guess that's the idea; it's really a wordplay theme in disguise. maybe a tiny change like adding ? to the theme clues would have appeased me. or maybe i'm just being finicky. okay, i've talked myself into liking the theme. that was easy!
the puzzle took me a little bit longer to piece together than a typical sunday. clues that tripped me up:
most of the long fill in this puzzle seemed a little boring: LIBERATE, MANEUVER, SCHEMED, REBUKED, ADULATES, SPILLING, TACITLY. there were some quasi-awkward inflected forms, too, like SAXISTS (?!), STATIST, PANNER, BUTCHY (?!), EGGER, and NEARISH. but here's some stuff i liked:
okay, good night from here. i'll check in tomorrow morning(-ish) with the rest of the sunday slate.
merl reagle's philadelphia inquirer sunday crossword, "running gags," offers ten running-based puns on celebrity names, including (as is merl's wont) stacked long theme entries in the NW and SE. literally every single one of these took more than half the crossings for me to work out, but luckily the crossings weren't that tough. the only place where i tripped up was trying DOM DELUWHEEZE instead of DOM DE LA WHEEZE, since the actor's name is delUise, and i had no clue on the crossing down clue [Indian city, or Lord Jim's ship] PATNA. kind of a bummer, since i know some geography and love conrad, but i haven't read lord jim. it's on my list.
i don't love pun themes, and i don't love puzzles littered with names of people i only half-recognize (if that), so this one ... well, i didn't love it. but i did like it. it was nifty to include the M*A*S*H actress pun LORETTA SWEAT (swit), and also have ALAN ALDA's full name in the fill. other stuff from the fill that i dug: SPIKE LEE, RINGSIDE, ACTIVISM, NODS OFF, and the improbable-looking ukrainian river DNEPR. i'm pretty sure i'm used to seeing it with at least one and usually two more vowels than that, although even "dneiper" looks a little vowel-challenged. i also liked the scrabbly SW corner, with four Ks, a J and a Z.
updated 1:00 pm:
rich norris's themeless crossynergy sunday challenge is anchored by two 15s crossing in the center of the grid, SPOKE OFF THE CUFF and SCHOOL OF THOUGHT. i like SCHOOL OF THOUGHT, but the SPOKE part of SPOKE OFF THE CUFF seemed a little arbitrary to me. still, it's a fun answer with four Fs, and overall this was a good sunday challenge, with quite smooth fill overall.
the cluing was only a little tougher than a typical CS themeless; usually rich's name in the byline means we can expect some devilry. there were a few curveballs thrown in, of course. here were the sunny spots:
i did not know: HCH, the [Pres. before FDR]. did you know hoover's middle initial? wikipedia says it stands for clark. also, [Sch. with a Lima campus] is apparently OSU. i guess it's lima, ohio? or maybe oregon... or oklahoma. i'm gonna guess ohio.
i might not have time to get to the BG and LAT puzzles until late tonight. feel free to comment on them, though, and i'll try to remember not to peek until i solve those two.
updated 9:00 pm:
fred piscop's syndicated LA times sunday crossword, "catching fish," hides the names of types of fish across word breaks in nine long theme answers. my favorite was the delightful realization that MRS. O'LEARY of great chicago fire fame hides a SOLE. i did not know YUPIK ESKIMO, clued as [Todd Palin ancestor, e.g.], and in fact the entire NW was pretty tough going: SAY, TRU, and PAP had clues that i didn't immediately recognize, and both STPAT and ARABY were also not immediately forthcoming (though i've seen that STPAT clue enough times that i really should have caught onto it). in fact, it wasn't until i realized that the theme fish in the answer was a PIKE that i was finally able to crack it.
what i didn't crack was the square where [Hundred: Prefix] met [She played WKRP's Jennifer]. the prefix can certainly be HECTO- or HECTA- (among other things; HEKTA- is also used), and i just didn't know the actress... or so i thought. it turns out that it's just LONI anderson, whom i've seen clued a zillion times as [Burt's ex]. whoops. this is what i get for having only surface knowledge! actually, it's kind of refreshing to see this person clued via what she did rather than via who her husband was. there was another knotty crossing in the grid, with ["Peg Wolfington" author] charles READE meeting [Elissa of "The Count of Monte Cristo" (1934)] LANDI at the D. luckily i knew READE, who's been in crosswords fairly often; no clue on the 1930s actress. that's kind of rough.
stuff i enjoyed from the fill: CONFLUENT and ADOLESCE look like normal words that have switched endings. MUUMUU is always fun (and no, i've never played it in scrabble, at least not with the four-U spelling). CHARLATAN is also an excellent word. LEGMAN reminds me of the seinfeld episode with teri hatcher.
the boston globe puzzle link doesn't seem to be working, so i guess i'm done for the day. tomorrow, we can welcome ACPT 9th-place hero orange back from her trip. yay! it's been fun, but also exhausting, serving as your oxymoronic GUEST HOST this weekend. i don't know how amy does it every day.
February 28, 2009
Hello! Amy here with a short update from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The preliminary standings are up at the ACPT site now, and Dan Feyer is currently in first place and I'm in ninth with the first four puzzles scored. Puzzle 5 was kinda wicked and apparently it's taking a while to score all the papers that are mostly wrong.
The cool new thing is that everyone's puzzles will eventually be posted online (by contestant number only), so if you're wondering where you messed up, you'll be able to look at the grids yourself rather than e-mailing Will to ask. The fancy-schmancy new scoring software being used this year is Matt Ginsberg's brainchild, and it's quite possible that he will be the ACPT judges' superhero forevermore by removing the most onerous part of the judging/scoring process. Judge Ashish Vengsarkar just walked up—he concurs.
Evad and I are heading out to dinner at Grocery this evening with assorted forumesque luminaries, and I hear the food is going to be transcendent. I'm definitely looking forward to that and hope I remember to save room for dessert. Chocolate, after all, is brain food.
A reminder: If you've seen the tournament puzzles, be sure not to post any spoilers in the comments because some folks will be doing the puzzles by mail and it'll muck things up if they run into details about the puzzles, their themes, the answers, and the gnarliest clues.
February 27, 2009
frank longo's new york times crossword is a cranium-crusher of exactly the type you would expect from the author of cranium-crushing crosswords. the word count is only 66, and 16 of those are 8+ letters. my favorites were:
i actually solved most of the puzzle pretty quickly (it really helps when i can get 1a), but the SE region of the puzzle did me in. everything to the east of BAFTA was blank for a while, because i didn't know:
several anatomical terms are growing in this grid: a TRUE RIB; [Alveoli, e.g.], or AIR CELLS; DIGESTIVE tracts; and the ILIUM. there were also a bunch of little foreign words: ESSA is italian for "she," SCENA is an [Elaborate solo vocal composition], and [Heads of Italy] are CAPI. GAI is french for "happy," and is an unpleasant reminder of the time TOUJOURS GAI prevented me from finishing a saturday NYT about a year ago. (i didn't keep track of constructors at the time, but why am i not surprised to go back and find that it was brad wilber?) and AMO gets a very erudite clue: [Catullus's "Odi et ___"], which means "i hate and i love."
favorite clue: [It might be kicked after being picked up] is a HABIT.
updated 3:00 pm:
stan newman's Newsday Saturday Stumper was all very gettable except for the two longest entries, one of which i felt was clued unfairly, and one of which was a fictional character i'd neeeeeever heard of. CAUSTICALLY is an adverb, but [Emulating Mencken] seems not to be. how does everybody else feel about this? i don't think it passes the substitution test. and the [Oscar-nominated role of '50] is apparently ELWOOD P. DOWD. um... yeah. google tells me this is jimmy stewart's role from harvey, but even if the clue had been [Jimmy Stewart's role from "Harvey"] i would have needed every single crossing. working out the central part of this grid took me about the last 10 minutes of the 23 i spent on this puzzle. and although 23 minutes is a pretty typical time for me on the stumper, i felt i was doing pretty well until i hit an absolute wall in the OOH/DOE area. part of the problem was SPRAINS for [Stretches, in a way] instead of SPRAWLS, which led me to guess that the mystery name might be ELIOTT P. DOWD. then i tried ELINOR P. DOWD, but CREDN looked much wronger than CREDO.
stuff i liked:
i quailed a little when i opened up today's LA Times crossword and saw brad wilber's name in the byline. but this turned out to be a very smooth and enjoyable saturday solve, with none of the pull-your-hair-out moments i associate (fairly or un-) with brad's puzzles. the highlights:
gnarly/unfamiliar bits (fewer than usual for a wilber, but there were still some):
February 26, 2009
Sun (untimed, drat) — It's not too late to subscribe to the Sun and do this cool crossword
This is my last post 'til post-ACPT, most likely. I will see some of you at the tournament, and the rest of you will be entertained here by the bloggy stylings of Joon. Be nice to him, will ya? Thanks!
Mark Diehl's Sun crossword, "Think Twice," is Peter Gordon's way of going out with a bang and reminding us of how many truly exceptional crosswords he has edited and published. This is the final Sun puzzle until a possible vague future date, and it's a doozy. (It's in the running for the year's coolest gimmick crosswords.) It was kids' TV programming that tipped me off to the rebus gimmick—[Miranda Cosgrove TV character surnamed Shay] could only be CARLY, but there were four squares. With 12-Down being an adverb, the LY had to be the rebus square—and [With prudence] sounded like SAGELY, which would fit with two letters per square. Would you look at that? The entire grid is framed with rebus squares, 44 of them in all. The edges of the puzzle are DOUBLE-EDG[ED] in a sense—and [RA]ZOR BLADES and BROADSWORDS can also be double-edged. So there's a full-fledged theme to elegantly explain the point of having the rebus squares around the edge.
You know what? I believe Diehl's puzzle has more than 225 letters in its answers, though there are only 225 white and black squares. No wonder it took a while to finish! My favorite answers were the double-packed ones, like CORN CHEX, THE SCORE, and MONA LISA in four squares apiece and ED KOCH in three. Would you believe the music world has a non-Brian ENO? Yep, it's [Spoon drummer Jim]. Overall, a cool crossword packed with Friday-worthy clues, and a fitting valedictory for the crossword snob's breed of crossword.
If you'd like Peter to bring the Sun puzzle back some day, and you'd be willing to pay an annual subscription fee (just 20¢ per puzzle!) for these fine crosswords, click here to sign up. I was #7, and I expect that number to skyrocket now that I'm exhorting you to signal your interest, too.
The New York Times crossword by Joe DiPietro has a fearsome-looking grid, doesn't it? Triple-stacked 15's at the top and bottom, and not with dead-giveaway clues? Yow. (Another "yow" is likely in store for the Saturday puzzle. Will likes to make a splash during tournament weekend.) Here are the six big girls:
Now, here are my favorite clues. Sometimes favorite because of cleverness, and sometimes favorite owing to the sheer cussedness of a hard clue. And also, let's have some answers I liked.
Tom Heilman's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Drama Queens," has a theme of Hollywood trivia. What [Royal role] has been played by four different actresses, two of them portraying her twice? ELIZABETH I, that's who. BETTE DAVIS chalked up her queen roles in 1939 and 1955 and CATE BLANCHETT played Elizabeth in 1998 and 2007. The same year that Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar for playing Elizabeth, so was JUDI DENCH—she played an older Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love and won the Best Supporting Actress trophy. And GLENDA JACKSON played her in 1971.
A few non-theme clues:
updated 10:30 pm EDT by joon:
dan naddor's LA times crossword has a fun wordplay theme in which AR gets added to the beginning of an existing R word:
the even-length MURDERER'S ARROW necessitated an oversize 15x16 grid, but i didn't mind. lots of good stuff in the fill, including retired hitters DARRYL strawberry and hall-of-famer ROD CAREW, plus petco park's PADRES to round out the baseball mini-theme. more circuits (AMMETER), and some biology (PABA, or [Vitamin B-10], and AMOEBA). chemistry wanted to have its place, too, but DIMERS was clued as [Nickel-and-___: nitpickers].
old-school crosswordese: PROAS are [Indonesian outriggers]. unfamiliar names: ["The Shoes of the Fisherman" author] MORRIS west, [Innovative bebop drummer] MAX ROACH, and ['90s FDA commissioner] KESSLER. also, could somebody explain why EOS are [Prez's decrees]? i would have liked to see a mythology clue there.
today's brendan emmett quigley crossword, "Hello Brooklyn! -- Natives only," has a fun "welcome to ACPT" theme. words with ER sounds get changed to OI sounds, as if spoken with a thick brooklyn accent:
my favorite fill was the cluster of F-words (no, not that kind) in the top part of the grid, with FANJETS and FLAG DAY and the vowel-dropping website FLICKR. although actually, the F there did cross DFL, or [Like the contestant who came in 699 out of 699 entrants, initially]. hint: D = dead, L = last. so maybe yeah, that kind of F-word.
impenetrable to me: [Band leader of the "Centerfold" band] JGEILS (i don't even know how to parse this—or maybe it's just one name anyway?) next to ["Beauty and the Beat" rapper] EDAN.
harvey estes's wall street journal crossword, "male bonding," has a cool theme that's a little tricky to explain. it's kind of like the "before & after" jeopardy! category in that an expression which ends with a certain word is joined to an expression which starts with the same word, but in this case, the middle (shared) word is always a word which could generically mean a male person:
this one definitely gave me a stiffer workout than recent WSJ puzzles. the toughest area was the NE, where YOU DA MAN was quite difficult to parse, and was also surrounded by vague and/or tricky clues. my favorite was [Thatcher follower]. john MAJOR refused to fit, because the answer is tom SAWYER, who tailed after his crush becky thatcher puppy-dog style. also, OILCAN makes another appearance in this puzzle; chalk up another point for crosssynchronicity.
goodness, it's already 11:20 and i'm just finishing the friday blogging. the saturday puzzle has already been out for 80 minutes! will hop right to it.
My Chicago Tribune interview is out now. My god, do I sound like a dork.
Edited to add: I picked up the dead-tree newspaper. Right beneath the "What's an 11-letter word for crossword whiz?" headline, there's a cool graphic. 11 squares, AM_R__NALD_, with a scratched-out D in the last square. And then on page 4 of the "Live!" section, there's a picture of me doing Tyler Hinman's Onion puzzle from last week, and it's possible that I look adorable in the photo.
Posted by Orange at 7:02 AM
February 25, 2009
Hey, sometimes Brendan Quigley makes crosswords that people pay him for, and not just those three free puzzles each week at his blog. His New York Times crossword has four theme entries, four phrases that have INGQ (or just GQ) in the middle. That sounds lifeless, doesn't it? It's not, because the Q is always up for a good time and the phrases are interesting ones:
I got off on the wrong foot with this puzzle by making 1-Down a wandering EYE instead of JEW. I just this minute learned that there was a wandering Jew in medieval Christian folklore—I only knew it as a houseplant. That corner was the last part I filled in, and KIRI wasn't helping me one whit (that's [___ Davis, "A Girl Like Me" documentarian].
I've got some favorite clues and whatnot:
It wouldn't be a Thursday Times without some curveballs:
Tony Orbach's Sun "Themeless Thursday" reminded me a bit of Karen Tracey's puzzles thanks to some Scrabbly names. There's TORQUEMADA (is it a coincidence that this [Cruel inquisitor] appears opposite MISTREATED with SADIST in between?) and the band JAMIROQUAI, and a most timely PONZI SCHEME crossing UZBEK. There's also a bakery zone, with TEACAKE (I'd have loved it if that were clued as the character in Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God) atop SODA BREAD. Never heard of the ["Mighty Mouse" villain] called OIL CAN HARRY. Favorite clue: [Jessica Simpson, to Bronx Mowgli Wentz] for AUNT. I haven't heard the term [Pigeon-hearted] before; it means MEEK. I was disappointed that the puzzle didn't have more challenging clues, but relieved that Tony didn't pelt me with an unfamiliar fish crossing a Puerto Rican fried food (as he did in his first NYT themeless).
In his LA Times crossword, David Kwong riffs on the phrase "kill two birds with one stone" with some rock 'n' roll trivia:
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Reel Copies," has a theme that was utterly unfamiliar to me when I test-solved it.
Miscellaneous non-theme clues:
February 24, 2009
BEQ 4:41—don't miss this one
Good news! This blog will not get rusty while I am away at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament because Joon will be here to take care of business. Now, he might not have a chance to get to all of the puzzles by morning every day, but I know you'll be appreciative of however much he's able to squeeze into his own weekend plans—because even if he blogs just one newspaper crossword all weekend, that'll be more than I'd be able to do. Thanks a googol, Joon!
Newcomer Kelly Browder's New York Times crossword is perfectly pegged to Wednesday difficulty, with a theme that makes you think harder than a Monday or Tuesday puzzle, and with some answers that might be out of reach for a Monday-only solver. The theme entries are all things that might be SPIKED (48-Down):
Among the tougher stuff in the fill we find these:
Peter Collins' Sun crossword is called "That's Unreal!" It's got one of those mathy themes calculated to thrill the mathy types. The two longest answers spell out THE SQUARE ROOT / OF NEGATIVE ONE, but those two entries are clued with nothing more than [See 73-Across]. 73-Across is SHADE, with a long clue telling you to shade what's suggested by 71-Across, hurricane EYES. SHADE in the squares with the "EYES," or each letter I (I used the Across Lite circles rather than drawing on my monitor). They're in the middle column and make a lowercase i, which stands for imaginary unit (hence the "unreal" in the puzzle's title) and is THE SQUARE ROOT / OF NEGATIVE ONE. There are no other uses of the letter I in the grid, and it's elegant to make a big i out of four I's.
Highlights in the fill include Winnie the Pooh's pot of HUNNY, MOD SQUAD, HOOVERED, BARCELONA, GASBAG, and KAZOO. Can you work those all into a single sentence? I know I can.
Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword pays homage to MOTOWN RECORDS, the [Musical legend celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009]. BERRY GORDY, JR., was its founder, and the "hallowed ground" of Motown's studio is/was called HITSVILLE U.S.A. Those three answers are clearly theme entries in this puzzle, but there are a number of shorter answers that may relate to Motown:
I think the rest of the puzzle's completely unrelated to Motown. I'm not sure I know the joke in question for [Subject of a Grecian joke], or URN; is this the "What's Greek urn? Oh, about $45,000 a year" joke? The last [Wonka candy] I ate was NERDS from Valentine's Day. I'm just the sort of nerd who appreciates old Turkish honorifics, so I dig the combination of PASHAS, or [Old Ottoman VIPs], and AGA, or [Palindromic title]. [Intercourse, formally] is COITUS; that means traditional etiquette rules govern how you are introduced to coitus, right? Or formalwear is required? [Barely make it across the field?] clues STREAK, as in run naked. [Barack Obama, to Frasier and Marian Robinson] is/was their SON-IN-LAW (was for the late Frasier, is for Marian).
Scott Atkinson's easy LA Times crossword has eight theme entries that are compound words or two-word phrases, and they're all tied together by LINE, or [Queue, and word that can follow both words in the answers to starred clues]:
I didn't remember that Jeb Bush's nickname comes from his initials; JEB is [John Ellis Bush, familiarly]. HELENA, Montana, is a state [Capital near the Great Divide]. [Words of worry] are "OH, ME," which I don't think anyone says. Crosswords also like to have AH, ME, which is about as implausible. ["This is too much!"] clues "I'VE HAD IT." [Sporty Toyotas] are SOLARAS. I thought those had been discontinued but it appears that Toyota is still making them.
Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword, "Following Directions," has a diagonal line of circled squares running between the NW and SE corners of the grid, with no clue given to explain it. The four longest Across and Down answers all refer to themselves, so no trivia knowledge is needed to answer their clues. 18-Across RUNS ACROSS. 56-Across is HORIZONTAL. 27-Down runs SOUTHWARDS (if you posit that the bottom of the puzzle = south), and 11-Down appears NWODEDISPU, or an upside down "upside down." I always like it when crossword answers are entered backwards or upside down. The diagonal spells out BACK TO SQUARE ONE, and indeed, it starts at the lower right corner and returns to square 1. I didn't know if ["Look out..."] would be UH-OH or OH-OH (crossing UBER or OBER?), and I didn't know what the [Expressway that passes through Williamsburg] was (wasn't thinking of HQS for [Command posts: Abbr.]), so I did use the QU of SQUARE to finish that section. Hooray for three-way checked squares!
Outside the positional theme, here's what I liked best:
well, well, what have we here? it's the 38th edition of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest! this week's contest, "Click for Puzzle," featured a not-too-tough crossword and then a doozy of a metapuzzle.
let's start with the crossword: the four-part instructions in the grid helpfully tell us: TO GET THIS WEEK'S / ANSWER WORD / JUST LOCATE / THE MISSING LINK. combined with the title, i was immediately thinking about hyperlinks. since you can't put hyperlinks into across lite files (or paper printouts), i figured there was some sort of easter-eggish link on matt's actual blog. so the first thing i did was scour the text of the blog post to find a hidden hyperlink; no luck. i even clicked on every actual link, to make sure it didn't take me somewhere surprising (à la rickrolling). nope; they're all legit. then i saved the HTML source file for the post and went over it with a fine-toothed virtual comb: nothing.
next step: re-read the contest instructions: This week's contest answer word is a five-letter surname. okay, so maybe i should look at that list of surnames over on the blogroll. hmm, several of these are five letters. maybe i should click them all to see if they go somewhere unexpected? nope. estes, hamel, jones, klahn, longo, payne, shenk. all legit. what's going on?
let's look at that list of names one more time. i know almost all of these constructors. patrick berry, joe dipietro, harvey estes, etc. is there somebody new on the list just for this week? wait one second, what's this nestled in here between patrick merrell and stan newman? missing! this, literally, is the "missing link" (really, the "missing" link) from the grid instructions. i dutifully clicked it (the title did tell me to "click for puzzle") and got... another puzzle. here it is (i'll save you the trouble of clicking back to matt's page). the instructions there read:
To get this week's contest answer word, solve this:
Take one of the surnames under 'Crossword Links' at MGWCC. Add a letter to the beginning of it and you get the medical term for a part of the human anatomy.
Take a second surname from that list, add two letters to the beginning of it, and you get a slang term for that same part of the human anatomy.
This SECOND name, which is five letters long, is this week's contest answer word.
Good luck, and I hope you had a ball with this week's contest!
well, i started at the top and looked for a name that could take a letter at the beginning. didn't take me long to find harvey estes, who can take a T to form... yes, TESTES. crude, but they are a part of the human anatomy. (or at least, my anatomy. amy's, not so much.) are there slang terms for those? i'd say yes. let's look at the 5-letter names in the list again: matt jones can take CO to become COJONES. ding ding ding! he's our winner. and yes, i "had a ball with this week's contest." quite the treasure hunt.
oh yeah, the crossword. i didn't think it was as tough as last week's, but a big part of that was the fact that i could fill in big chunks of the "theme" based on logical guesses; TO GET THIS WEEK'S / ANSWER WORD came pretty quickly. the bottom half was slower, but i got through it. notable stuff from the fill:
that's all from me this week. see you next time.
February 23, 2009
Lately folks have been saying that "four is the new three"—that themed puzzles usually seem to have four or five thematic entries rather than just three. Stephen Edward Anderson's New York Times crossword, a plus-sized 16x15 puzzle, has three theme answers and a lively pair of non-thematic 10's, and some good bits to the fill. The theme entries are "[bird that's a verb] ONE'S [noun]":
The aforementioned 10's are WIGGLE ROOM, or [Margin to maneuver], and PAPER TIGER, or [Toothless enemy]. OSLO is unexciting fill, but its clue links it to the [Norwegian coast feature], FJORD. Other fill and clues I liked:
Less welcome were the military abbreviations, SSGTS ([U.S.M.C. noncoms]) and PFC ([Low-rank inits.]); the suffixes, ENES ([Hydrocarbon suffixes]) and ITES ([Social finishes?]; the triple-letter EEE ([Wide shoe spec] and SSS ([Sound of bacon frying]); the HIREE who's a [Company newbie]; and the awkward-looking RED A, or [Stigma borne by Hester Prynne]. I've never heard of the PAM in this grid, [1989 Bond girl Bouvier]—that's the character played by Carey Lowell in License to Kill. You know what movie character I'd like to see in a crossword someday? Lars Thorwald, the heavy in Rear Window.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle is called "I Don't Got U, Babe" because each theme entry has lost a U:
Two TV-show names I'd never seen appear in the fill. JAIMIE completes ["The Travels of ___ McPheeters" (1960s TV western with Charles Bronson and a teenage Kurt Russell)], and ["For the Love of ___" (2009 VH1 reality show)] is about RAY J. I also don't spend enough time with desktop publishing to recall LOREM [___ ipsum (faux-Latin phrase frequently used by publishers in placeholder text blocks)]. Bonus points for two game-show references, NO DEAL ([Phrase said without hitting the button, on TV]) and Alex TREBEK ([Connery's foil, in "S.N.L." skits]), for swapping out the usual "Garfield" supporting character Odie for NERMAL, the [Overly cute kitten that annoys Garfield]; and for the scholarliness of Abraham MASLOW, the [Psychologist with a hierarchy of human needs].
Peter Gordon's inner esne, Ogden Porter, constructed the Sun crossword entitled "Puzzle of the Week." The theme is people whose first or last names double as a day of the week. Peter reached into fictional characters to fill out his hebdomadal septet:
Did you notice how tall this puzzle is? It's 17 rows high, so we get 30 more squares than usual and at no extra charge. Favorite answer: William WEGMAN, whose art photographs of his Weimaraners are so captivating.
Waah, I have a sore throat and I feel a bad cold coming on. Just in time for the crossword tournament!
Today's LA Times crossword is a quip puzzle by Pancho Harrison. The [Start of an editor's quip about verbose writing] clue is perfect—it's specific and gives the solver some guidance for filling in the theme entries, whereas a flat [Start of quip] clue just says "hey, bozo, good luck working the crossings." The quip theme still didn't excite me, but I appreciate the specificity of the clue. IN EVERY FAT BOOK, / THERE IS A / THIN BOOK / TRYING TO GET OUT.
[Tweeters' quarters] does not refer to stereo speakers with woofers and tweeters. Nor does it refer to Twitter users, whose Twitter action is called tweeting. The answer is birds' NESTS. The [Canonized pope known as "The Great"] is ST. LEO (he's called LEO I in more crosswords). [Supreme council of old Rome] is just a SENATE, nothing more obscure than that. [Turner and a general] clues IKES, as in singer Ike Turner and Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower. To [Exercise a 19th Amendment right] is to VOTE, if you're a woman. [Wall St. trading group] clues ASE.
February 22, 2009
(post updated Tuesday morning at 9:15.)
Just five more Sun puzzles left. (Sigh.)
Just five more days left 'til the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! (I have to date had exactly one day of ACPT-centered practicing. That day was yesterday.)
Just one second ahead of Doug Peterson (deadbydawn) on the NYT applet...and I would've been in first place but for the interruption of one paulatc. Given that there's nobody named Paul who has been rivaling Tyler Hinman and given some patently unrealistic applet times, I am prone to think that this paulatc is one of those people who solve the puzzle in Across Lite and then enter their solution in the applet—but use the "play against the clock" option rather than the "check my solution" one. If you are paulatc and that's what you're doing, sheesh, wouldja knock it off already? It's bothersome. If you are legitimately super-fast, then head to the ACPT and test your mettle under tournament conditions. Please and thank you. (There. I feel better getting that off my chest.)
Alan Arbesfeld's New York Times crossword features a vowel-progression theme, with vowel changing in the B*ND word/syllable at the end of each long answer:
You know what's really cool? The B*ND words may all be etymologically related. Or at least some meanings of bend (a href="http://www.answers.com/bend">scroll down to word 2) relate to band, and binding and bonding tie into that as well, and the end of cummerbund means "band," too. Usually a vowel-progression theme has completely unrelated words.
What did I like aside from the etymological elegance of the theme? This:
Michael Williams' Sun crossword, "Pinstripers in the Hall," has a New York Yankees theme. Aw, I thought the Sun puzzle ceasing its run before the baseball season began meant no more baseball themes. This one appears to be nicknames of Yankees who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame, each clued with [Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown]. JOLTIN' JOE DiMaggio, some OLD PROFESSOR whose nickname I have never heard (Google tells me it's Casey Stengel's nickname), THE SULTAN OF SWAT (a.k.a. Babe Ruth), Lou Gehrig THE IRON HORSE, and Reggie "MR. OCTOBER" Jackson. Let's see...how many notable old Cubs or White Sox nicknames can I think of? There's Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks...and that's all that comes to mind.
Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzle, "Blank Expressions," asks us to fill in the blanks, and punctuation is the key to understand the context of these clues without any letters.
Technically, there is no such thing as a BICEP, the singular muscle being the biceps, but it's in the same common parlance that brings us MEH and OMGROTFLMAO. I didn't recall any Ritchie COOTE, a Beater on Harry Potter's Quidditch team, but the crossings were easy enough.
Updated Tuesday morning:
D'oh! I forgot to check back for the LA Times puzzle, which hadn't been posted to Cruciverb in the morning. Mike Peluso's theme has some stuff I just plain don't understand. The theme appears to be compound words or phrases in which the first part is a first name, and a famous person with that name is in the clue:
February 21, 2009
Whoo! That was not a hard crossword. I'm pretty sure I haven't cracked the 6-minute mark on a Sunday New York Times crossword before, but Barry Silk and Doug Peterson's "The Cruciverbalist" facilitated that just now. The theme entries are familiar to anyone who has submitted their work to Will Shortz, though a great many of those people don't make it to [Step 6 (the payoff)]. Here are the [Cruciverbalist's Step 1] through 6:
The exact wording of each theme answer wasn't completely obvious, and of course to anyone who hasn't given much thought to how constructors make puzzles, the steps and their order might be elusive. But the non-theme answers that surround the six steps were easy enough to usher solvers through the process. Perhaps because there are just six theme entries (albeit long ones), Barry and Doug were able to avoid any deadly crossings. The only completely unfamiliar answer I encountered was MNEME, or [Memory principle]; I know mnemonic but not MNEME (the word doesn't have a Wikipedia article for this definition, but look, it has its own web page). Wait, that's not true. HARZ, as in [Germany's ___ National Park], was also new to me.
The answers I liked best were these ones:
Assorted other clues:
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword rerun in Across Lite, "Body of Work," takes as its theme phrases that pair a body part and an "of ___" component. Working from the top down, there's HAIR OF THE DOG, HEAD OF CABBAGE ("head of steam" or "head of the household" would also have fit), EYE OF THE TIGER ("...the needle" also works), NECK OF THE WOODS, BACK OF BEYOND ("...the box"), CHEST OF DRAWERS, HEART OF THE MATTER ("...palm"), and the roving BONE OF CONTENTION. What, no 'leg of lamb," "butt of the joke," "belly of the beast"? I had one square awry, where a crossing could have a different letter and still pass muster for both clues—[Rush headlong] is CAREE* and [Excludes] is BA*S. CAREEN/BANS or CAREER/BARS? It's the latter, but a noun definition for either word would have made the choice clearer. There was another iffy square—the [Speculative investment] could be spelled FLIER or FLYER, and the crossing [City of Ecuador], c'mon, how many of you know if it's IBARRA or YBARRA? Turns out to be the I. A couple other relatively obscure words are here. AURATE is a [Gold-based acid salt]. HOSTLER is clued as [Roundhouse employee]; this innkeeper's hired tender of horses can also be spelled OSTLER, which also shows up occasionally in crosswords.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Oscar Night," redefines a bunch of words and phrases in an Academy awards context:
XEBEC, the [Corsair's vessel], has got to be the single most obscure word in this crossword. I like seeing L.A. TIMES right up top at 1-Across, clued as a [W Coast daily].
Dan Naddor's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, "Star Search," combines a crossword puzzle with a word search. Naddor takes a couple liberties with the theme entries' layout. The eight theme entries are titles of movies whose stars won an OSCAR (116-Across), the [Award won by lead actors in this puzzle's starred films: the winners' names are hidden "word search"-style in the grid (across, down or diagonally, and forward or backward)], but they're not all in symmetrical locations. (I've added circles to the squares where the stars' names are spelled out in my solution grid.) A couple long non-theme answers butt in:
In addition to PHILADELPHIA, here are the theme entries:
Despite the limitations that the word-search answers place on the constructor, the overall fill is remarkably smooth—no overreliance on unfamiliar abbreviations, foreign vocabulary, or obscurities.
(If you're an LA Times reader, you may be wondering why this isn't the same puzzle that's in your Sunday paper. I don't solve the one that's printed in the Sunday LA Times, but you can do the excellent syndicated Sunday puzzle for free. Just register (it's free) at Cruciverb.com, download the Across Lite crossword-solving software (also free) here, and click the LA Times link in the Cruciverb home page's sidebar on Sundays. The Monday through Saturday LA Times puzzles are also available in Across Lite via Cruciverb, and these will be the same as what's in the newspaper. With Across Lite, you can solve on-screen, save a partially finished puzzle for later, or print it out for pen/pencil solving. )
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has some sort of blah fill, but also some fun stuff:
In the "blah" category, we have these:
February 20, 2009
Mike Nothnagel and Byron Walden are two of my favorite themeless constructors. They have similar sensibilities about the kinds of answers they like to wrestle into a grid, so it's natural that they'd pair up on this New York Times crossword. They're both mathematically inclined, so the minitheme of two related 15-letter answers makes sense:
I was just telling my kid that crosswords have a rotational symmetry rather than the left-right flip kind of symmetry mentioned on his math worksheet. And now this puzzle proves me wrong by having its symmetry be the reflected-images variety, with the line of symmetry running along the diagonal from upper left to lower right. I don't believe I've ever seen a crossword with this kind of arrangement.
And wow, look at the density of Saturday-friendly answers that would be Wednesday-hostile. Most of the Across answers aren't so bad (even if their clues may be tricky), but the Downs are a minefield:
Tough clues for familiar answers:
Other favorite things not already mentioned:
Barry Silk's LA Times crossword has a single "ick" answer (that'd be SWEAT STAIN, or [Workout consequence]) and a whole bunch of great ones:
Here are my favorite clues:
Crosswordese Maine college town Orono gets promoted to the big time with ORONO, MAINE, clued with [It's 42 miles NNW of Bar Harbor]. The [Mythical Hun king] is ATLI, and Tyler Hinman and I once named our trivia team after him. You know how the fish mahi mahi often shows up halfway in crosswords, clued as half a fish? Now MAHI is given as a complete entity: [Literally, "strong" in Hawaiian].
Today, the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (solution here) seemed a little easier than the day's other themeless puzzles. It wasn't dull, though—there were a few clunky words (-ER ones) and boring ones (TERN, or [Skimmer relative]; ESSE, or [They: It.]), but a bunch of terrific answers too:
There were weird clues for MARION—the [Surprise-attack master of the Revolution], Francis MARION, is no one I'd ever heard of—and CRINGER ([Mouse, at times]). The CRINGER is accompanied by other -ER answers: STRUTTERS ([Peacocks, e.g.]), RIDGIER ([Comparatively corrugated]), ABLER ([Less error-prone]), VEXER ([Irritant]), and SKATERS ([They work with figures]).
Nobody really likes a clever clue for a danged marble-of-crosswordese, do they? TAW is clued as [Sharp shooter]. Much better is this fresh clue for OREO: [One of a half-trillion sold since 1912].
The "name the person for the title/quote" clues were tough. James AGEE is the ["Permit Me Voyage" poet]. Essayist ELIA is the ["Man is a gaming animal" writer]. Robert BORK is ["The Antitrust Paradox" author]. The ["A Bridge Too Far" author] is Cornelius RYAN; between this one and MARION, that's about two military-history answers too many for my taste. Tea LEONI is the ["Ghost Town" actress] from that Ricky Gervais movie that nobody saw last fall.