Drop by the Island of Lost Puzzles to find the Thursday and Friday LAT puzzles in Across Lite. (They’ll be there until Cruciverb, which has been hacked by nefarious malfeasants, is back up.)
If you’re in Northern California, don’t miss Silicon Valley Puzzle Weekend this Saturday and Sunday. Saturday features workshops about crosswords (Mark Diehl on crosswordese; a panel of constructors moderated by Andrea Carla Michaels, with Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman, et al.), sudoku, logic puzzles, kids’ word puzzles, and more. On Sunday, there’ll be competitions (crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords, and puzzles for kids).
Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword
- ZINFANDEL (1A: [Red choice]) and ZIPPO (1D: Diddly]) kick things off with a Z in the first square. Gotta like a crossword that boldly announces where it’s going in 1-Across.
- 15A. IDA LUPINO is clued as ["The Hitch-Hiker" director, 1953]. I always like to see her clued as a director rather than an actress. Very few women made a go of it as directors in ’50s Hollywood, but Lupino did. She specialized in melodramas, I once learned in a film class.
- 23A. Sure, I no longer go by the moniker Orange here, but I’m still partial to citrus. KEY LIMES are [Dessert fruit] with the hidden plural in the clue.
- 26A. [Many reality shows] looks like it wants a plural, sure, but the answer’s the collective TRASH TV.
- 29A. FANDOM, rhymes with “random.” [Star followers]. Please don’t let them be following the Jersey Shore TRASH TV cast.
- 38A. You wanted [Spare part?] to be RIB, didn’t you? It’s a bowling PIN.
- 47A. ZANZIBAR! Best place name ever. [It merged with Tanganyika in 1964], forming the portmanteau Tanzania. Also a Billy Joel song, performed here: Zanzibar.
- 53A. RUSTLED UP. Great verb phrase! Très colloquial way to say [Managed to obtain].
- 60A. TYLENOL PM is [What might come as a relief at night?]. If you don’t have pain or a headache, just take some generic Benadryl and get the exact same sleepy-time med Tylenol PM combines with acetaminophen. Your liver will thank you.
- 62A. Full name for ELIOT NESS—[Noted Volstead Act enforcer]. That’s Prohibition, right?
- 2D. IDIOM is clued with an example: [Hit the ceiling, say].
- 3D. SPOILER ALERT! [Spoilers, often] are NANAS, or grandmothers.
- 14D. Read this clue out loud: [Four for for, for one]. 44441? It could be a TYPO, the kind where your fingers automatically type a different common word.
- 21D. [Loud drill bit?] is a clever clue for the response to a drill sergeant: “SIR, NO, SIR.”
- 23D. The KAMIKAZE is a [Vodka cocktail]. I forget what else is in a Kamikaze. I remember these from college. The upside-down Kamikaze is when you lean back in a chair with your head upside-down and someone pours a Kamikaze into your mouth.
- 25D. [Electronic gag reflex?] is your reaction online to a gag, or joke: LOL.
- 27D. [The Jimi Hendrix Experience, e.g.] was a TRIO. See also: the Police, Rush, the Dave Clark Five.
- 31D. ['Übermensch" originator] is that goofball NIETZSCHE. Always fun to navigate the spelling of that name, ain’t it?
- 43D. Most Insane Clue of the Day: [4.184 petajoules] is a MEGATON.
- 55D: [Digs cash?] isn’t about mining, it’s the cash you pay for your digs: RENT.
Good stuff, eh?
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Dull Day on Campus”
The risk you run when you build a theme around dullness is that the theme may be dull. The four theme entries begin with words/phrases that mean “dull” and they’re…dull. The BLAND-ALLISON ACT is not well-known in most circles, is it? I never heard of it before. DRY MEASURES and BORING TOOLS are…dry and boring. The irony (or whatever) of that does not substitute for entertainment. (Hmph!)
The clues try to jumpstart things by clueing these phrases as if they were topics that professors droned on about. But three of the four “classes” are not courses you’d encounter at your typical college. Economics, sure. But History of Free Silver, Home Ec, and Soil Mechanics? Maybe the NO-INTEREST LOANS clue should’ve referred to a course in Unsound Banking Practices.
- 32A. MANX is a [Little-used Gaelic language] and a tailless cat, and a fun word to say. I wonder if it’s been trademarked by anyone. The Spanx people should have a Manx line of men’s control garments.
- 36A. “CHEESE IT, the cops!” ["Run away," in old gangster slang]. I learned this one from a bare-bones Mac version of Yahtzee a good 15 years ago. There was a “Cheese it, the cops!” button to hide the game.
- 18A. The LARYNX is a [Musical organ?] you use to sing.
- 23D. What is [Shakespearean actor Kenneth] BRANAGH up to these days?
- 25D. “Jack” is slang for money, so European [Union jack?] is EUROS. Nothing to do with the British flag called the Union Jack.
- 27D. [Pull the plug on] isn’t the figurative “kill” or “discontinue.” It’s the literal DRAIN, as in pulling a bathtub plug.
Tough clues eliciting random factoids that I don’t think about much:
- [River called Hiddekil in the Bible] is the TIGRIS.
- [Celestial marriage practitioners] are MORMONS.
- TETHYS is the [Mother of the Oceanids].
- DNA is a [Molecule that can form supercoils].
- And an [Eastern Catholic] is called a UNIATE.
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The grid’s widened to 16 squares to accommodate the grand unifying answer, 38A: THE WALLS HAVE EARS—["Be careful what you say," and a hint to a feature shared by this puzzle's perimeter answers]. Indeed, every answer around the outer WALLS of the puzzle contains an EAR, never once having any hearing-related meaning:
- [Poet Edward and a king] LEARS, Anne MEARA the ["Like Mike" actress], EARN, NEAR-MISS, APPEAR, SWEAR, A BEAR, YEAR, TEAR AWAY, and the does-that-still-exist [Shoe. co. founded in Venice Beach], L.A. GEAR
So the stealthiness inherent in the saying “the walls have ears” is embodied in the puzzle—just because the you can’t see the “ears” lurking behind the wall doesn’t mean they’re not eavesdropping on you. Cool theme.
I’m not sure how much the presence of those repeated EAR chunks constrains the task of filling the grid, but I suspect the fill was A BEAR (70A: [Tough test metaphor]) because of the surprising rash of crosswordese here. SNEE, 4-letter Western towns ELKO and OREM, ALOP, EMEER, and ENA? Those are all a bit much, but A BIT MUCH is itself a terrific entry (8D: [Adequate, and then some]). Other highlights:
- 19A. JAIME is [Lindsay's "Bionic Woman" role]. I love pop culture clues that summon up the TV and music of my childhood. (SADA [Thompson in the Theater Hall of Fame]? Aw, c’mon, clue her as [Kristy's mother on "Family"]!)
- 28A. MAYHEM is a word I love. [Chaos] is not as fun to say.
- Double “Casey at the Bat” references: 3D: AT BATS are [Casey's turns], and 28D: MUDVILLE is [Casey's team].
- 12D. I’m also fond of the word ANATHEMA. (A secret attraction to words with a hidden HEM?) It’s an [Object of loathing].
- 23D. HONOLULU is a [Frequent Pro Bowl site].
- 18A. GABON is an [Equatorial African country].
- 53A. [Baroque composer Jean-Philippe] RAMEAU is not among the 10 most famous European composers. Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Verdi, Puccini, Haydn, Chopin, Stravinsky—all better known than this Rameau, no?
- 2D. The [French card game similar to whist] is ECARTE or, if you include the accents, écarté.
- 13D. [Mahdi, in Islam] is a REDEEMER.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Writer’s Bloc”—Janie’s review
I always enjoy seeing what can be done to ordinary, everyday phrases by adding or removing several letters or even, as is the case today, by removing a single one. The title gives us the hint to the missing letter–and it’s “K.” Specifically, the final “K.” Today we get six theme phrases, and that letter vanishes from the end of the first word in half of ‘em and from the end of the last word in the other. At:
- 3D. packrat → PAC RAT [Deceitful lobbyist?]. Is this clue perhaps redundant?…
- 18A. “Dock of the Bay” → DOC OF THE BAY [Chesapeake-area physician]. Looove this one. I got it pretty early on and knew, as a result, how the theme would work. In a puzzle with strong theme fill, this is the strongest.
- 28A. buck-naked → BUC NAKED [Scandalous Tampa headline?]. Funny. And I love the way that initial “B” is shared (going down) with BARES [Reveals]. Very nice indeed.
- 43A. crock pots → CROC POTS [Vessels for cooking some big reptiles?]. Best and funniest image of the lot!
- 47D. pet rock → PET ROC [Tamed behemoth of myth?]. Love the word “behemoth” and the color it brings to the clue.
- 56A. “Take your pick” → “TAKE YOUR PIC!” [Impatient words to a photographer?]. All right already!!
All in all, I have great ESTEEM [Admiration] for this creation and find that between the solid fill-and-cluing, there’s little to DETRACT [Diminish, with "from"] from its strengths. I like the geo-political entries: the very current MYANMAR [Renamed country between India and Thailand], SLOVAKIA [European nation since 1993] and the more settled, stable IBERIA [Spain together with Portugal]. Oh–and there’s the topographical ARARAT [Turkey's tallest peak], too. That’s where Noah’s ARK [Biblical refuge] purportedly came to rest.
I liked the scientific GENOME [Organism's set of inherited material], the poetic LENORE [Poe title heroine who "died so young"] and (because it brought back memories of art-projects-past], the “crafty” DIORAMA [Student's shoebox scene]. STAMINA [Fortitude] was a fine word to see in the grid, and best of all: the edgy DEBUNKED [Exposed as false].
There’s a nice proximity in the grid of (near-)homophones PRAY [Entreat] and PREYS ON [Hunts, catches and eats]; and I think my favorite clues would have to be [Delivered in a way] for BORN and [It often comes between partners]. Not BAD BLOOD–or not in three letters anyway. No, the correct fill keeps everything upbeat here. AND. It’s nice to see the “common” words get the uncommon touch. That’s the kinda detail of construction that keeps the solving experience lively.
Myles Callum’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Brainstorming”
Brr! My building’s boiler is uncharacteristically sluggish this morning, when the outdoor temps are in single digits. My fingers are cold. They do not much like typing when they are cold. So: cursory blogging!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Central Processor”
The theme is Steve JOBS’ Apple IPAD, which is called into duty as a rebus square in the middle of the puzzle. OM MANI PADME HUM is a mantra,and a DYNAMIC IP ADDRESS is some computery thing.
Freshest fill: VOCODERS. Most impressive vocabulary word: [Caducity], cluing AGE. Dictionary says it’s an archaic word for the infirmity of old age or senility, or a poetic/literary word for frailty or transitory nature.