It’s here! April 17 is here! Saturday afternoon, I’ll be at the Marbles Chicago Crossword Tournament. Anne Erdmann, Katje Sabin, and Bob Petitto plan to volunteer their time as officials, and Anne’s noncompetitor status opens the path to the finals for everyone else. (She won last year.) Word is the turnout will be double last year’s. Look forward to seeing a few of you there!
Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Cool-looking grid, with the gently sloping diagonals replacing the usual 45° lines of black squares.
Let’s walk through the puzzle:
- 1A. MAN-MONTHS are [Industrial time units]. Usually I see reference to hours or years, not months.
- 16A. An AMEBA is a [Slide presentation?], in a way.
- 17A. SETS ONE’S OWN PACE ([Breaks from the pack, say]) looks so unassuming, and yet the end of it took me forever to figure out.
- 20A. Anyone encounter the ALINED ([Straight]) spelling anywhere other than crosswords? I don’t.
- 22A. Wow. I thought this was going to be a basketball player, but no. ANSEL ADAMS is the [Shooter who co-created the zone system].
- 26A. This one also took its own its own sweet time. [Not under] clues AT LEAST. It took me not under half the time I was working on this puzzle to figure out what the angle was.
- 29A. Yay, a clue I figured out with just the -TRY ending! PUPPETRY is the [Art of manipulation?].
- 34A. CROSSED is clued as [Like some arms and legs]. Just saw some insanely double-jointed people on TV doing unholy crossings of limbs.
- 42A. BORSTAL BOY was the [1970 Tony winner for Best Play].
- 51A. I love GO ASK YOUR MOTHER, though I personally use “go ask your dad” much more often. It’s a [Bit of parental diversion] that can be entertaining.
- 56A. LEMON RIND? Not PEEL? Hmph. It’s a [Strip in a bar].
- 58A. [Many bloggers] are ESSAYISTS. Some are more bulletedlistists.
- 3D. Nice mislead—[Packers' stat.] has nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers. Food packers label the NET WT.
- 5D. Boy, having the initial O didn’t get me far with this [Shakespearean lament]. “O, WOE!” I’m reading an advance copy of Deb Amlen’s It’s Not PMS, It’s You, and she makes the tragic Ophelia/Hamlet romance funny.
- 8D. HAS A SAY looks nutty in the grid. [Is part of the decision-making process] is a straightforward enough clue.
- 14D. MAE [___ Axton, co-composer of "Heartbreak Hotel"], is neither Mae West nor Mae Jemison. She’s no higher than third on the list of Famous Maes.
- 25D. SEEST is clued as [Biblical spot?].
- 27D. [Jamie Lee Curtis's "Freaky Friday" role] is a long way to go for TESS. Not exactly a movie with famous/memorable character names.
- 31D. [You'll get nothing out of a good one] clues a POKER FACE. Great entry.
- 38D. [Stains] clues IMBRUES, not a word we see much of. Here’s why: One dictionary labels it poetic/literary or archaic.
- 40D. CARY is a [Raleigh suburb]. Isn’t Cary the first name of the star of An Education? No, she’s Carey Mulligan. CARY, N.C., is or was home to a company that made statistical software, and that is the extent of my knowledge about the town.
- 41D. “OLÉ! OLÉ!” is clued as [Reinforced ring support?]. No grommets here.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Interesting grid, isn’t it? It’s got an extra level of symmetry—turn it 90°, 180°, or 270° and the black squares form the same pattern. Usually crosswords just have 180° rotational symmetry. Each quadrant has a pair of 10s that crosses an 8/10/7 stack, and those 8/10/7 bundles criss-cross each other in the middle of the grid.
The puzzle took me 4:35 to solve, so it’s on the tougher end of the Saturday L.A. Times spectrum. My only real trouble spot was a misfire at 37A: I answered [Goes ballistic] with WIGS OUT instead of LOSES IT based on that final T, but every other letter was wrong.
Lots of groovy fill! The highlights:
- 17A. PATSY CLINE is the ["I Fall to Pieces" singer]. Man, what a voice.
- 28A. An EXEMPLAR is a [Model]. I have a soft spot for words that end with -AR. Cultivar and exemplar have that Latin swing, as does Simon Bolivar.
- 38A. [Gravel transports] is an accurate but boring clue for DUMP TRUCKS. When my son was a wee bairn, he pronounced “truck” with an F instead of a TR, which provided me with plenty of hilarity when we drove anywhere and passed a truck, as he was wont to exclaim about every last one of ‘em.
- 48A. Dammit, there are no POTATO CHIPs in the house, and now I want one. Or more than one. [It's hard to eat one] when 20 are so delicious.
- 55A. [Factory outlet] is a great clue for SMOKESTACK. Barry made you think of factory outlet stores, didn’t he? Not me, though. I had so many of the letters before I ever saw the clue.
- 5D. TWYLA! If you ask nicely, Rex will tell you that [Choreographer Tharp] went to the same college he did. Hell, he’ll tell you regardless of your level of interest. Then he may say “Chirp, chirp!” We pat his head soothingly and back out of the room.
- 6D. BOLLIXED UP is my favorite entry after PATSY CLINE. The clue’s [Made a mess of].
- 7D. Tough clue at first, and then obvious: [Collectible involving seeds] is the CHIA PET. Ch-ch-chia!
- 10D. Barry’s a big Phillies fan, so you know how psyched he was to get COLE HAMELS in here. He’s the [Pitcher who was a 2008 post-season standout for the Phillies]. I think there was a World Series win somewhere in there, but I really wasn’t paying attention.
- 12D. [It holds water] isn’t a GLASS and it isn’t a SEWER. It’s a LEVEE, which makes for a great destination in your Chevrolet.
- 26D. Literally, the ADAM’S APPLE is a [Lump in one's throat]. Well, provided that one is male.
- 27D. HIPPETY-HOP! Who here saw that goofball Coen brothers movie, The Ladykillers? The old woman complained about that “hippety-hop” music the young people listen to. Whenever I hear someone complaining that they don’t like/get rap music, I hear them calling it “the hippety-hop.” Clue is [51-Down's pace], 51D being a HARE or [Leveret, e.g.].
- 29D. MILKSHAKES is in a still-commanding third place in Amy’s Favorite Answers today. It’s clued as [Offerings at some parlors] because “milkshake” is a euphemism for a truly outrageous service offered at sketchy massage parlors. (Alternatively, you order it at an ice cream parlor.)
- 30D. PROSTATE! This all-too-[Male gland] gets its day in the crossword sun, at last.
Holy crap, you know what I just noticed about this crossword? It has no 3-letter answers at all. Nice job, Barry! Not all of the 4s are so hot (I’m looking at you, USNR NASL OMOO PKGS), but it’s a treat to have zero 3s to put up with.
Patrick Berry’s “Snake Charmer,” a Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle
I’ve been doing the Snake Charmer type of variety puzzle for years in the Games publications. They’re almost always easy, because any clue that’s a gimme pretty much hands you the two intersecting answers (or big chunks of them) right off the bat.
I did raise an eyebrow at NUPRIN being the answer to #4: [Ibuprofen brand name]. The brand died, and the name was sold to CVS, which is likely the only store you’ll find a bottle of Nuprin in. I learned this from a pharmacist’s hilarious (and profane) blog post.
This is merely a harmless Snake Charmer puzzle, but there’s a stroke of Berry brilliance. I knew that the [Lawyer portrayed by Ron Silver in "Reversal of Fortune" (2 wds.)] was ALAN DERSHOWITZ (#21), but that seemed like a wildly implausible name to plunk into a puzzle like this. It intersects with #9: ZEALANDERS, or [Residents of Denmark's largest island], and #10: HOWITZER, [Short-barreled cannon used in trench warfare]. How awesome is that?
Updated Saturday morning:
Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Getting Creative”—Janie’s review
We’ve another synonym theme today, nicely bookending Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Monday puzzle. Martin’s synonyms could be found in at the beginning of the theme phrases; Nancy’s fall at the end. And each one is a word that means “create”–whence today’s title. While not all of the phrases sparkle, they form a rock-solid set of theme fill, and the synonyms as a set are nuanced and nice. Here’s what we got:
- 17A. SMALL CRAFT [Boats subject to advisories]. Small Craft Warnings is also a lesser-known play by Tennessee Williams. As for craft, I’m thinking of the artisan who crafts jewelry, say.
- 23A. KISS AND MAKE UP [Settle a spat with a buss]. My fave clue/fill combo today. Story-tellers and novelists make up their tales.
- 36A. APPLICATION FORM [Would-be hiree's questionnaire]. Not my favorite phrase, but I like the way it works for the theme, conjuring up the the clay sculptor who may form her work to produce something either abstract or representational.
- 46A. MUSCULAR BUILD [Trait from lifting weights]. Better! Because it produces a vivid image. What was it Littlechap sang in Stop the World…? “Gonna build a mountain–from a little hill…”
- 58A. IN A FASHION [Somehow]. Great word, fashion as a verb. When something has been fashioned, I see it has having been constructed from an unusual or unlikely source–bowls fashioned out of old lp’s, for instance, or earrings fashioned from cut-up credit cards or buttons or discarded watch parts.
From BEBOP [Jazz genre] to BOFFO [Fab, in show biz], SNAFU [Major miscue] to PRANKS [Practical jokes], there’s a lively feel to the non-theme fill. There isn’t much by way of internal, mini-thematic glue, but fill like SOUNDBITE [Television-friendly quote] in combination with CATNIP [Tabby's tempter] and HISSES [Snake sounds] and “BOSH!” ["Hogwash!"] keep things active.
I also appreciate a lot of the clues–as usual, the kind with some word play in ‘em, like those alliterative ones above, plus [Looker's leg] for GAM or the repeat word [Rival rival] for ALPO. [Tends to a mop]? SWABS? No. COMBS (“Ohhh, that kinda mop!”).
Parting thought: now that the weather’s getting warmer, maybe look for a frozen dairy treat that does not list as one of its ingredients AGAR [Ice cream thickener]. Really. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that appealing.
Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
There’s an error in the solution to today’s puzzle. 41D: [Saint of Seville] is the patron saint named ISIDORE, not ISADORE. The crossing, 50A: [Man: Lat.] should be VIR (related to words like “virile”) and not VAR. Putting aside discussion of how fair it is to cross a name that has two common spellings with a Latin word, I’ll point out that this puzzle has a lot of names in it, often with clues custom-made for people decades older than I:
- 20A. [FDR cabinet member] is Harold ICKES.
- 27A. [Stallone, in "Capone"] played Frank NITTI.
- 30A. [Glenn Miller's real first name] is ALTON. I know TV cook Alton Brown and Alton, Illinois, but I am not up on my Glenn Miller trivia.
- 34A. [DuPont brand] clues FREON. The Wikipedia article about the company mentions a handful of other DuPont brands: Vespel, neoprene, nylon, Corian, Teflon, Mylar, Kevlar, Zemdrain, M5 fiber, Nomex, Tyvek, Sorona, Lycra, and ChromaFlair. This clue is irksome because of its nonspecificity; there are other 5-letter brands in that list. We’re expected to associate the DuPont name with its brand names? What is this, product placement?
- 39A. JUAN GRIS was a [Picasso portraitist]. Excellent entry, provided you know the name. Which you ought to.
- 43A. The first name of [Physicist Ohm] is GEORG.
- 53A. Look, more FDR trivia: [FDR biographer] is Joseph ALSOP. Is FHA from FDR’s era? (34D: [Government agcy. since 1934].)
- 55A. ["Exit the King" playwright] is Eugene IONESCO. I’ve read him, but I’ve never heard of the play in the clue.
- 6D. [Name meaning "kingly"] clues REGIS. (Speaking of words with that root, there’s also 2D: REGALIA.)
- 12D. ["Don Pasquale" character] is ERNESTO. Is this opera? Literature?
- 13D. ['60s CBS mainstay] is Red SKELTON. I know the name, but sure as hell couldn’t have told you what TV channel he was on before my time.
- 28D. [President with 15 children] is TYLER.
- 38D. [Two Oscar-winner for a '90 film] is Kevin COSTNER. I’m not sure about the hyphenation there. Wasn’t he a two-Oscar winner?
Moving past the names, here are some other clues:
- 26A. [Waterloo, in the UK] is a train STA., not a LAV. Water closet + loo = Waterloo?
- 29A. [Backwoods folks] clues UNS, as in young ‘uns. I don’t like this answer or it its clue.
- 32A. A [Gull] or sap is an EASY MARK. Good answer.
- 37A. [Aria + recitative] clues SCENA.
- 45A. ["Ride more than thou __": "King Lear"] clues GOEST. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Did Lear say that when he was raving mad?
- 57A. [Drip-dry, in Devon] clues the I’ve-never-seen-that-before NON-IRON. This is my nominee for most boring entry of the day. But wait! LIENEES (59A: [Some bank clients]) is rallying and trying to eke out a win.
- 62A. CHEESES? [They may be sharp]. Great clue.
- 8D. [Chocolate substitutes] clues UMBERS, which, like chocolate, are brown colors. Crayola used to have both raw and burnt umber crayons, so maybe this plural isn’t as bogus as it looks. Horrible to trick people into thinking about chocolate and then just going with its brownness.
- 14D. [Certain Middle Easterner] is like the DuPont clue: overly nonspecific. The answer is SYRIAN but could also be YEMENI, SEMITE, QATARI…
- 21D. KINKAJOUS is a fun word. They’re [Raccoon relatives].
- 24D. Awkward plural: [Auto adjustments] are TIMINGS.
- 49D. [Age] clues EPOCH. AGES AGO is also in the grid (17A: [Way back]).
- 58D. The French word NÉE is a [Form of "naitre"], meaning “to be born.”