Scott Atkinson’s New York Times crossword
Those who don’t care for a lot of names/pop culture in the crossword may demur, but I say this theme is lots of fun. The six theme entries (a lot for a Monday) present us with different ways of spelling the ICKY (4D: [Very unpleasant]) sound:
- 17A. The same ICKY spelling appears in PICKY EATERS: [They're choosy about what they chew].
- 37A. [Sensational 1990s-2000s talk show host] RICKI LAKE has a name I always want to spell as RIKKI. Can I blame Rikki Tikki Tavi for that?
- 42A. WIKIPEDIA is a [Popular online reference].
- 62A. The most famous [Walt Disney creation] is MICKEY MOUSE.
- Wait, there are two more ways of spelling the “icky” sound? 11D is Apu’s KWIK-E-MART, the [Store on TV that sells KrustyO's cereal]. If you are not a Simpsons fan the clue might’ve thrown you. And even a diehard fan could conceivably have trouble remembering how the store’s name is (mis)spelled.
- 36D. VIKKI CARR is clued as ["It Must Be Him" singer, 1967]. She’s my pick for least familiar theme entry, though your mileage may vary.
Cool stuff, tough stuff, etc.:
- Geography: OMSK is a [Siberian city] (31A). 34A: [Certain Indonesian] is a JAVAN, one from the island of Java. 39A: AVILA is a [Walled city near Madrid]; I know this factoid from crosswords.
- Worst collision: 49D: REMET meets 65A: E-TAIL. [Convened anew, as the Senate], [Sell online].
- 52A. MAUDE is the classic [Bea Arthur role]. That, and Dorothy Zbornak. Dang, I should’ve paid extra to Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords to get DOROTHY ZBORNAK into a puzzle this year.
Trip Payne’s variety cryptic crossword, “What’s Missing?” (Triple Play Crosswords)
A few days ago, Trip posted a brand-new variety cryptic at his puzzle site. I will hold off on the spoilers here (but feel free to ask questions about clues in the comments) because I bet most of you have not seen this puzzle yet. If you’ve ever done one of the Cox/Rathvon Atlantic/Wall Street Journal variety cryptics, you have an idea of the sort of challenge here. You take the sort of mental gymnastics required for a regular cryptic, and then multiply that by three.
If you really and truly just aren’t interested in this kind of puzzle, scroll down to the bottom of this page and click the link for the solution—because you can still appreciate how cool this particular puzzle is. Trip’s twist is inordinately clever and elegant, and I’ve never seen a puzzle quite like this one. Excellent payoff for the solver who perseveres!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cone Heads”—Janie’s review
No, this didn’t turn out to be a puzzle about Beldar, Prymaat and Connie, but I sure enjoyed being reminded of the family from, uh, “…Remulak, a small town in France…” Instead, we get another of Patrick’s pangrams, this time in service of a puzzle whose phrases all begin with a word that can precede (“head”) the word “cone.” And this plays out thusly:
- 17A. PINE BLUFF [City southeast of Little Rock] → pine cone. Comme ça. Pine Bluff, AK, fyi, also has the distinction of being known as the “Bass Capital of the World.” “…of the World“! How d’ya like that!
- 10D. TRAFFIC JAM [Rush-hour headache] → traffic cone. One of these.
- 27D. NOSE AROUND [Do some snooping] → nose cone. Or something like this.
- 63A. SNOW WHITE [Grimm girl] → snow cone. That’d be this, of course. Love the look in the grid of the wwh consonant run this fill gives us.
While both AXEL and SKATER appear in the grid, they’re not connected by their clues. While the former is clued in connection with the ice rink and a [Winter Olympics maneuver], the latter is a [Roller rink patron]. Another close-but-no-cigar combo can be seen in PAVE and SMOOTHED. The former here is clued as [Lay down some blacktop] (which would have to be smoothed), but that word is clued instead in connection with woodwork–[Ran a plane over]. Actually, that’s a pretty neat clue and conjures up images of the crop-dusting plane and Cary Grant in North by Northwest.
I draw an “almost” connection, too, between EYES [Visors shade them] and the poetic word for eyes, ORBS, clued today as [Celestial spheres]. And I liked seeing the juncture of opposites JOINS [Gets into, as a club] and EJECTS [Kicks out] at the “J.”
Also enjoyed [Its postal abbreviation is an exclamation] for OHIO–as in OH, or “Oh!” And the most surprising clue/fill combo today? ["Howdy, me hearty?"] and “AHOY!” Is this a cowboy sailor we’re lookin’ at here? I don’t know… the incongruity of this one just makes me laugh.
David Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is POKER-related actions lurking in unrelated phrases: OPENING NIGHT is a 20A: [Broadway premiere]. RAISING A RUCKUS means 28A: [Making lots of noise]. (Did this “lots” make you resist A LOT for 10D?) 47A: [Start of a wide-area police radio alert] is “CALLING ALL CARS.” And a FOLDING TABLE can be 57A: [Seating for extra guests, maybe].
Question: Do poker people use the gerunds much?
Overall, the fill had a bit of an old-school vibe to it. ABASE, MOTO, TADS, STEN, ST LO, ELOPER, and ILIA are all words I see far more often in crosswords than in the rest of life.
- 34A. On Halloween, a [No-treat consequence?] is a TRICK.
- 3D. GENEVA is a [Swiss city on the Rhone].
- WWII time! 71A: [British weapon of WWII] is the STEN, and 37D: [WWII invasion city] is ST. LO.
- Odd job! 44D: [One doing a pirouette, e.g.] is a PIVOTER. Lame word.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Going Too Far”
Brendan tries his hand at the puzzle variety, devised by Mike Shenk and used to good effect in recent years by Eric Berlin, in which the black squares are called into play. Each black (…or gray) square contains a letter that’s the first or last letter of an adjacent answer that “goes too far,” and those extra letters spell out a quote. The letters in the black squares are included in only one word, not the customary two, but they’re not unchecked because they’re part of the quote. Today’s quote is from Chris Rock: “Comedy is the blues for people who can’t sing.”
This twist on the crossword process means the puzzle takes a good bit longer than a standard crossword. You can’t be sure how long each answer is at first. Except for answers that abut the grid’s edge, you don’t know if a too-far answer will begin early or run late. And it’s harder to suss out the crossings, because each crossing is embroiled in the same uncertainties. If you’re paying attention to the quote squares as you go along—which I usually forget to do—it can absolutely help you piece everything together.
The fill’s highlights include a Pennsylvania Dutch (H)EX SIGN, P.D.Q. BAC(H), (N)IPSEY Russell, and one of the liveliest RE- formations out there, REGIFT.
The lowlights are concentrated in the middle left zone. Good gravy! IRANI is one of those words Merl Reagle calls a “flansir” that is rarely seen outside crosswords (and Iranis ≠ Iranians, dammit). Does anyone talk about SETTEE(S) outside of the crossword and antique furniture worlds? Partial AM TOO, old actress LOY, bad RE- word REMOP…this is not a Quigleyesque section at all. I could also have done without the intersecting AMELIA and AMELIE, which are essentially the same name (but either one alone is rock-solid).
I thought I knew my gemstones, but do not know the ALMANDINE, a violet-hued garnet and a [Purplish ruby color]. It’s not named after almonds, which are decidedly unpurple, but after the ancient city of Alabanda, where these gems were cut.