My mother listened to Puzzlemaster Will Shortz on NPR this morning. The special guests at the ACPT—which is coming up next weekend (!!) already—who will hand out the awards Sunday morning will be Patrick Creadon and Christine O’Malley, the director and producer of the crossword documentary Wordplay. You couldn’t ask for a nicer pair of filmmakers, honestly.
Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword
- 17A. MIND IN THE GUTTER is [What a dirty person has].
- 27A. HAND IN THE TILL is [What an embezzler has]. “You put your hand in the till and you shake it all about”—that’s the way to do it, baby.
- 43A. FOOT IN THE DOOR is [What a well-connected applicant has].
- 58A. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS is [What a dreamer has].
Aren’t they a nice foursome? The dirty person and the embezzler should play doubles tennis against the applicant and dreamer.
Like your typical Monday Lynn Lempel crossword, this is light, breezy, smooth, and fresh. How often do we see GROSS OUT in the grid? Hardly ever, I tell you. (39D: [Fill with disgust].) The NITWIT at the DOTCOM GUSHES to the TOP DOG about MEDICARE? Good stuff.
And now, a handful of clues:
- 34D. [Egypt’s last ruling Ptolemy, familiarly] is CLEO. Wow, I had no idea. Cleopatra was a…Ptolemy? I looked it up. The Ptolemies were Macedonian rulers of Egypt from 304 BC (Ptolemy I) to 30 BC (Cleopatra).
- 42D. A TOWEL is a [Low-tech hair dryer]. Yes, indeed. My blow dryer bit the dust a few days ago, when my car had a foot of snow on top of it and I wasn’t much inclined to drive to Target. Amazon to the rescue!
- 5D. The DONALD is clued as [Gazillionaire Trump]. Great clue! And it needs no fact-checking, because the term is accurate for a broad range of net worths.
Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hold ’em”—Janie’s review
In so very many ways, this puzzle is TO DIE FOR [Absolutely fabulous]. The theme fill is strong and the non-theme fill is cohesive and fresh. My problem? We had another poker-based theme only five weeks ago, Randy Ross’s “Straight and High.” Now I’m willing to bet that there are close to a zillion puzzles that have poker-based themes. It’s rich territory. I just wish this one could have been held for later in the year at least. Ah, well. As I said, though, there’s some terrific stuff in the grid, so let’s look first at the three grid-spanning theme entries. The first word of each familiar phrase also describes the kind of cards in your poker hand that’ll keep you in the game. And how nice that Nancy has them in value order. Ante in if you have a:
- 20A. PAIR OF STOCKINGS [Hose buy]. Loved this clue and the way it triggered the wrong idea. Thought this might have something to do with a “nozzle” or a “sprinkler,” but this was not about your garden-variety “hose.” Nice misdirection.
- 36A. STRAIGHT SHOOTER [One who tells it like it is]. [“Mama” Cass ___ ] ELLIOT sang with… The Mamas and the Papas. One of their bit hits? “Straight Shooter.” (And I’d swear we had this fill in the not too distant as I’m having this serious déjà vu about posting the exact same link… Cruciverb database is not fully up to date, however.)
- 56. FLUSH LEFT MARGIN [Text editor alignment option].
As you see, the theme fill is just FINE [Hunky-dory]. I like the triple columns of sixes in the NE and SW corners, too. PIFFLE is a word I associate in the context of something trivial’s being treated dismissively rather than [Hogwash], but I can hear it being used that way, too. ROT-GUT is [Cheap booze], sometimes even cheap beer has the distinction of being called rot-gut. Regardless, we know that brew’ll be YEASTY [Like bread dough or beer]. A PLUNGE is a [Dramatic dive]. Here’s a very short compilation video of Greg Louganis (in his SPEEDO) demonstrating the drama.
There’s a nice cluster of musical fill, too. If you [Mouth the lyrics] (think Milli-Vanilli…), you LIP SYNCH. [Pavarotti et al.] are (or were…) TENORS, and when one of those guys [Does a number], he really SINGS. When the singer takes a break and lets the chorines take over, you can be sure there’ll be RHYTHM, a [Must for a dance number]. Best viewing for dance? A LOGE [Balcony box] ain’t too shabby. As a courtesy to those around you, kindly make sure you’re seated by SHOWTIME [When the curtain rises].
I apparently omitted that [Jug band instrument], the KAZOO. But that’s because I wanted to make a point of saying how much I love the way it shares that “Z” with ZESTY–and how much I enjoyed the “Z” and “K” smatterings throughout the puzzle.
If you have a [Rash reaction] that includes an ITCH, ALOE (that [Hand cream ingredient]) can be nice and soothing. If you’re in a FRAT [Greek group], it’s not unlikely that when you support the jocks, you’ll socialize in advance of some big game at a [Kind of pregame party] known as a TAILGATE party. And finally, just because I like the phrase, want to mention YEA BIG [Size approximation]. It’s colloquial and colorful and a nice addition to this very well-made puzzle.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Puzzle available for online solving and printing at the L.A. Times website, but not in Across Lite at the time of this writing.
(Excerpted from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.)
- 20A: [Baseballer with a tomahawk on his jersey] (ATLANTA BRAVE).
- 32A: [“Like I haven’t heard that before”] clues “WHAT ELSE IS NEW?” My first guess was a sarcastic “WHAT A SURPRISE.”
- 39A: [4x platinum hit single co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie] (“WE ARE THE WORLD”). It’s been rerecorded by an all-star troupe of singers including…actor Jeff Bridges? The money raised goes to Haiti earthquake relief. I’d happily buy the song from iTunes to help out, but so many people have mocked the new version. Better to just make a donation on my own, no?
- 53A: [Author of the novel indicated by the ends of 20-, 32- and 39-Acros] (ALDOUS HUXLEY). This was required reading when I was in high school. Soma! Where can I score some soma? If I’m in the A Division at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (this week!!), does that make me an alpha? And the good folks in the E Division—are they gammas?
Speaking of the ACPT, if you’ve never attended a crossword tournament, you can get a taste of the experience (though not the social aspect) by solving by mail. For $20, the ACPT will mail you all the tournament puzzles about a week after the tournament. Work the puzzles (posted time limits range from 15 minutes for an easy 15×15 to 35-45 minutes for a Sunday-sized puzzle), jot down your solving time, and mail back your set of puzzles. Ace solver Ellen Ripstein will grade your papers and tell you where you would have ranked at the ACPT with your points total. And you get the graded puzzles back in the end.
Back to today’s L.A. Times crossword. If, like me, you prefer to use Across Lite to solve or print out the puzzle, you’re out of luck this morning as the puzzle hasn’t been posted yet. I used the online version, where the computer keys you use to navigate the grid are different from Across Lite. A Monday puzzle should’ve taken me less than 3 minutes, but battling the online interface, it took me 4:27, probably 50% longer. Grr!
What all is in this puzzle? This:
- 18A. [Office divider] (PARTITION). More of a cubicle divider within an office suite.
- 23A. [Myrna of “The Thin Man”] (LOY). Entertainment Weekly spotlighted 20 stars who’ve never been nominated for an Oscar, but should have been. Myrna LOY was among them! Who knew this crosswordese legend had earned such (non-Oscar) respect? Not I. She was before my time.
- 47A. [Diving seabird] (PETREL). Not to be confused with petrol, gasoline in England.
- 57A. [Actor’s asset] (GOOD LOOKS). Steve Buscemi gets by OK without ’em. A caricature of him is really scarcely different from a photo.
- Festering subtheme: 35A: [Eyelid woe], 66A: [Painful spots] are STYE, SORES. Where’s a carbuncle or a wart when you need one?
- 10D. [Pontiac SUV named for an early Mexican] (AZTEK). Not only was this vehicle ugly, it’s spelled goofy. Which aspect was responsible for its poor sales?
- 19D. [Russian prince known as “Moneybag”] (IVAN I). Really? I did not know that. Why doesn’t every clue for IVANI mention this Moneybag thing? I think that’s his hip-hop name.
- 27D. [Deviates from a course] (YAWS). This is a sailing thing, but I like to think of it as applying to people who walk crooked.
- 29D. [Popped (out), as to the outfield] (FLIED). Not flew, FLIED. Gotta love baseball terminology.
- 42D. [Promise in court] (OLEO). No, it’s not OLEO! It’s a sworn OATH. Promise is a brand of margarine not commonly encountered in court. I read the clue as a verb phrase rather than a noun.
- 54D. [“Return of the Jedi” dancer] (OOLA). Not a significant character, commenter Gareth was just telling me.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
There’s an entertaining interview with Tyler Hinman at Brendan’s blog—if you’re reading this but didn’t go to BEQ’s blog for the puzzle, head over there for the interview.
A day after Valentine’s Day, we have LOVE CONQUERS ALL running down the center of this puzzle. It’s crossing FBI HEADQUARTERS, which, aside from Mulder and Scully, is probably an incredibly unromantic place.
- Full names for JULIE DELPY, ERIC IDLE, and TYLER PERRY. JULIE DELPY was just in another recent themeless. Her publicist is doing a great job. And The Jam’s Paul WELLER is great. I loved his work in Style Council. Google tells me he’s getting an honorary award at the NME Awards, a production of the British music magazine NME. It’s the Godlike Genius award. In crosswords, that prize goes to Patrick Berry.
- I like BENT ON, [Determined to do], better than something like Thomas Hart BENTON.
- The grid. This 66-worder has triple-stacked 10s with those crossing 6s making it wide-open. And the other corners have quad-stacked 8s.
- RANGE ROVER is solid, though I hate to see them on the road. They’re just not necessary for city driving, honest.
- What the heck is a FLAPCAKE? I know pancakes, I know flapjacks, but I do not know FLAPCAKEs any more than I know “panjacks.” Is FLAPCAKE a regional term?
- Odd jobs: PLEADERS, TAKERS. See also ALL-ROUNDER, not clued as British but should be.
- Nautical! KEEL is familiar; KEDGE, not so much.
- EUSTACIA [Vye of Egdon Heath]—I recognize this only from crosswords. EGDON has been in a few puzzles in its time, too.