Bonus puzzle: Caleb Madison’s Bard Bulletin crossword, “A Swift Response.” It’s a 19×19 to accommodate the theme, and if you’ve been plugged into pop culture this fall, you’ll dig it. (Link is for a Java applet; here’s an Across Lite link.)
Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
Would you look at all the cool answers in here? Tyler Hinman was just saying on Twitter that “68 is the sweet spot for themelesses” because “68 is where you start to get the eye-pop factor without resorting to obscurities.” Brad’s 72-word grid may not have so much in the way of eye-pop, but the fill’s highlights (and the twistiest clues) do offer brain-pop. To wit:
- 1A. [Modern campaign element] is the ROBOCALL. If only robocalls were limited to political candidates.
- 30A. The SHVG in the middle of BUSH V. GORE looks bizarre. This is, of course, the [2000 Supreme Court case hinging on the 14th Amendment].
- 42A. GROUP HUG! Clued gruesomely as [Corporate retreat closer, perhaps].
- 56D. [They work to maintain their faculties] clues college DEANS.
- 65A. I always love to see the word AKIMBO, which is [One way to stand], with your hands on your hips.
- 68A. [Producer of a piercing look], fictionally speaking, is X-RAY EYES.
- 1D. REST UP, or [Recharge], is a solid phrase. Kinda looks like RE-STUP since multi-word crossword answers lack word spaces.
- 7D. LET IT BE is a [1970 hit documentary] and the Beatles hit song.
- 8D. The late, very great LES PAUL is clued as the ["Vaya Con Dios" hitmaker, 1953]. You know a guitarist is serious about his art if he shatters his arm in a car crash and, when the doctors say the elbow will be fixed in one position after surgery, instructs them to give him a permanent guitar-playing angle to his arm.
- 9D. TORI, plural of “torus,” was just clued in relation to doughnuts, I think in the LAT crossword. Here they’re [Bagels, e.g.].
- 32D. Great mislead in the clue. The [Model featured in "Little Miss Sunshine"] is the VW BUS the family drove, not a fashion model.
- 34D. BART is a simple little answer. The trivia clue is [TV character who says "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows"]. I am of the generation that uses “suck” as a synonym for “stink” without regard for any oral sex connotations the slangy usage may have had earlier.
- 37D. OKEY-DOKE! ["You got it"].
- 38D. DECREPIT’s clued with [Condemnable?] because a decrepit building might be condemned.
- 44D. The UV INDEX is another terrific entry, [It drops to 0 after sundown].
If you know your Greek roots/medical terminology, you can piece together what achromotrichia is even if you’ve never seen the word before (as I had not). 49D: [Start developing achromotrichia] clues GO GRAY, as in hair.
I wasn’t as pleased with the EX-YANKEE and OXHIDE (though I like the Scrabbly letters). Crosswordese EELY ENE AGAR, meh. The Italian word GLI is not so well-known, I think—61A: [Los : Spanish :: ___ : Italian]. Speaking of Italy, MODENA is the [Maserati headquarters city] and where that yummy balsamic vinegar comes from, SBARRO is a poor [Alternative to Uno Chicago Grill], and LIRA is the [Old capital of 36-Across] (meaning the old unit of currency used in Modena).
Overall, good stuff. I do like a 72-worder if it’s packed with goodies the way this puzzle is.
Updated Saturday morning:
Stella Daily & Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Getting Active”—Janie’s review
- 17A. SIT FOR A PORTRAIT [Have one's picture painted].
- 26A. STAND ON CEREMONY [Follow protocol to the letter].
- 48A. WALK ON EGGSHELLS [Proceed gingerly]. This one’s my fave clue/fill combo.
- 63A. RUN INTERFERENCE [One way to block defenders, in football].
There is nothing BLAH [Ho-hum] about that fill. It’s fresh, lively and long–four 15s for a generous 60 squares of theme fill.
While, on the whole, the “straight-forward” school of cluing prevails, there’s some nice non-theme fill as well. You can almost hear that BRAZEN GUFFAW clued as [Full of chutzpah] and [Hearty chuckle] respectively; or the person who SCREAMS [Hits the high note, in a way]–though one might also associate screams (the noun) with the sounds heard in the INFERNO [Dante's and Virgil's destination in literature]; or that “CLANG!” [Sound in "The Trolley Song"].
Progressive references to time can be seen in YEARS [What birthday candles represent] and LIFE [Birth to death] and EON (which I’d not thought of as such but which can refer to a) [Geologic time unit]. If you fervently created objects with ROPE [Macramé medium] at some time in your life, chances are you’re of a certain age. Or if you baked your own granola, or rolled your own…candles…
[Stick in one's ___ ] CRAW is an almost quaint phrase these days, but I like it still. The craw is the stomach (of an animal) and the phrase is used to describe the way it feels when you just can’t easily dismiss something that’s bothering you; it causes resentment; it rankles. That would be an exaggeration of how I felt on encountering crosswordese SNEE, SPEE and TRON all in the same puzzle–but I also took pleasure in the way the first two rhyme with ONE G, TREE and NO TV. Cluing RNS as [They work with MDs] did not go unnoticed, btw. Or unappreciated.
Kyle Dolan’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The puzzle’s got an unusual grid, with two vertical 15s constituting a mini-theme: 6D, 9D: The mini-theme includes 6D: GREEN-COLLAR JOBS, or [Work in the environmental sector], and 9D: CARBON FOOTPRINT, or [Environmental impact factor]. Timely, since the international summit on climate change is coming up in Copenhagen this month.
Things that caught my eye:
- 13A. [Wild Asian equine] (ONAGER). Bonus points because this is an anagram of Orange.
- 14A. ISABELLA is, among other things, a ["Measure for Measure" heroine]. Speaking of Shakespeare plays, I just received an e-mail newsletter alerting me to a community theater production, Comedy of Error. (Just one? Sure, in these recessionary times, who can afford more?)
- 17A. [“Receiving poorly,” to a CBer[ (TEN-ONE). I know “10-4, good buddy,” but not “10-1.” Remember the ’70s, when a song about CB radios could be a runaway hit?
- How about some deep-sea diving? 35D: [Sea named for its seaweed] (SARGASSO) crosses 39A: [Watery expanse] (SEA). (Not many people love cross-referenced clues, but SARGASSO’s clue could’ve referenced 39A rather than including the word “sea.”) What’s in the sea? 20A: [Shockers in the deep] (EELS).
- Favorite fill, narrative style: The CLASS CLOWN got into trouble for throwing his PB AND J at the NINJAS, who fought back throwing stars crafted from BASMATI. The clown was sent to the principal, who declared him a LOST SOUL.
- 31A: [What it takes?] is TWO. To do what? To tango, to fight over the remote control, or move a sofa upstairs.
- 1D: [Possible source of unwanted feedback, for short] (HOT MIC). Short for “hot microphone.” This answer, in combination with the name in the byline, leads me to suspect today’s construct is under age 35.
- 3D: [Trattoria order?] (MANGIA). “MANGIA” is Italian for the imperative, “Eat!”
- 33D: [Big name in oil filters] (FRAM). Lame answer on its own merits, but it made me think of an Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong duet on “The Frim Fram Sauce,” and that makes me happy.
Merle Baker’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”
This one seemed a little more obliquely clued than the other recent Stumpers I’ve done. Among the clues I struggled with were these:
- 1A. [One of Maryland's state symbols] is the CALICO CAT. I was thinking state flower, tree, bird, gem, and seafood. Maryland has too many state symbols. The state sport is jousting. Apparently they like the calico because its colors—orange, black, and white—are shared by the Baltimore oriole and the state butterfly.
- 17A. [Unlikely Phi Betes] are B STUDENTS. Straight As will get you into Phi Beta Kappa more easily.
- 19A. BEES, not ANTS, are the [Symbols of industry].
- 27A. [Bonding agents?] are PARENTS. Eh, that clue reaches too far.
- 35A. [Fruit favored by Jefferson] is the GHERKIN. Who doesn’t love gherkin pie?
- 39A. STAGERS are [Home-sale aides].
- 58A. [Party snacks] clues EDAMS. Really? Pfft. Next party I host, I’m putting out a bowl of Edam cheese wheels. Potato chips and Edams, that’s it.
- 1D. [Sort of driver] is a CABBY. I prefer the “cabbie” spelling.
- 5D. Took a while to remember a 3-letter first name for a female dancer of yore. CYD Charisse is [Fred's partner in "Silk Stockings"].
- 7D. [Food processors] are the CANNERS who put your gherkins into jars.
- 9D. [It's often spoken into microphones] clues “TESTING…testing…one, two three.”
- 12D. WATER SKIS are [Skimming gear].
- 33D. [Frequent fast-food giveaways] are…GLASSWARE? Wait, didn’t that pretty much stop in the ’70s? I was just talking about this last weekend with my husband, but thought it was more of a gas station giveaway, the drinking glasses with cartoon characters or sports team logos on them. Have you seen a fast-food joint giving out glasses in the last 10 or 20 years?
- 44D. [Upgrade one's alarm] clues REWIRE. If you say so.
- 52A. TARES, the verb: [Computes net weight].