More to come tomorrow(ish) on the Second Annual Chicago Crossword Tournament, but for now I’ll tell you who won. William Hall qualified for the finals by finishing first in round 2 (next Tuesday’s NYT puzzle), and won by completing next Thursday’s puzzle in 8:14. Marty Howard was the round 1 champ (Monday puzzle) and placed a close second in the finals, at 8:20. Coming in third was Scott Orman, the round 3 (Wednesday NYT) qualifier, at 9:02. Congratulations to all of our finalists! Many thanks to Marbles: The Brain Store for putting on a great event, and thanks to Will Shortz for providing the crosswords.
Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword, “Whats-Its”
I tell you, I am all puzzled out from spending the afternoon at a crossword tournament, and I wasn’t even doing the puzzles—I was just emceeing the event. Plus, I’ve been up since 6 a.m., which is unlike me, so I’m ready to snooze here. So I’ll keep this ridiculously short: The theme is hard to explain. Familiar phrases that end with IT are clued with a noun that you could say the IT is replacing. For example, DON’T BET ON IT is clued with a [Sure loser], and (my favorite) TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT is clued with a double-barreled [A message]. There are, I think, 12 starred theme clues in all.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”
Nice quad-stacks of 10s (plus an 11)—the crossing 4s that hold it all together tend to be “meh” (TARN! How I have missed you, o [Mountain pool] of my crossword-solving youth! ETIC, weird suffix answer, clued as [Suffix with diet]). 1A began as a mystery: [It may be epic] clues GREEK VERSE, but I have this sense that GREEK VERSE is not a generic phrase I’ve run into before. Greek epic poetry, Greek drama, those sound more familiar to my ear.
All right, let’s stroll through the puzzle:
- 17A. [Like some houses] is a fairly vague clue. Can you think of a more specific (but not too obvious) way to clue SPLIT-LEVEL?
- 18A. The KEPI is a [Visored cap] of a sort.
- 36A. [Canine neighbor] is your INCISOR. Actually, the central incisors, the pairs in front, abut only the lateral incisors, which are the ones next to the canines.
- 37A. If it’s ON ORDER, it’s [In the warehouse, perhaps]. They should really get it off the shelf and ship it to you already.
- 45A. [Humble worker] is a PROLE, short for proletarian.
- 46A. [Browning work?] isn’t an ODE but a TAN. Wait, getting a tan is work? Or is this about tanning animal hide?
- 56A. WATER MARKS are [Identifiers, of a kind].
- 60A. [North Carolinians, e.g.] are EASTERNERS as well as Southerners and Tar Heels.
- 2D. Nice to see [Actor Everett] clueing RUPERT, a current figure in the movies, rather than SLOANE, who gets his name in more crosswords.
- 7D. [Type of bunny?] gets a question mark because the answer’s not zoological. It’s the ENERGIZER bunny.
- 11D. IJK is not one of the more common [Alphabet trios] that find themselves in puzzles.
- 12D. REENACTS is clued with [Stages, as a historical battle].
- 14D. A QUIPSTER is a [Wit].
- 33D. Right on the heels of 32D: [Cleanse]/DISINFECT, we have [Its leaves are used for cleansing]. Do you wash with SOAPWORT leaves? Me, neither.
- 35D. CORONADO was the [Seven Cities of Cibola seeker].
- 40D. NANTES is a [Port on the Loire].
- 43D. [More stygian] means more Styx-like, more like the depths of hell: DARKER.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “The Snausages Made Me Do It”
The theme entries take an S word and insert an N, changing the spelling as needed to make a real SN word. Like so:
- 22A. [Head of a wiretapping operation?] is the SNOOPERINTENDENT (superintendent). This one clanged for me because INTENDENT can’t stand apart from its prefix.
- 34A. [French chef’s nightmare?] is A DROP IN SNAILS (sales). Although if the snails drop in price, the chef’s profits will increase.
- 46A. [Behavior guidelines for a former TV host’s family?] are THE SNYDER HOUSE RULES (John Irving’s The Cider House Rules).
- 64A. [Movie villain’s favorite thing to get in the mail?] is the SNEERS CATALOG (Sears).
- 79A. [Ann-Margret film about really comfortable shoes?] clues THE PLEASURE SNEAKERS. I presume she was in a movie called The Pleasure Seekers, but that’s not ringing a bell for me.
- 95A. [Approach that won’t work on Judge Judy?] is a SNIVEL DEFENSE (civil).
- 107A. [Result of an old-fashioned one-two-punch knockout?] clues BLACK-EYED SNOOZIN’ (Susan). I prefer lazy snoozin’ myself.
The toughest clue for me was 82D: [Thirst, in Calais], or SOIF. I took one year of French in college, and that wasn’t enough to make me remember this word. Isn’t SOIN hunger? “J’ai soin“? No, Google tells me it’s “J’ai faim.” J’ai faim, so I’m going to have a homemade bagel for breakfast. I bartered kids’ books for homemade bagels yesterday, and I can’t wait to bite into this chewy monster of goodness.
Kathleen Fay O’Brien’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “T for Two”
The theme entries are (semi-)familiar phrases with double-T words in which the second T has been jettisoned, changing the sense of the phrase:
- 23A: [Outwitting a Plymouth parent?] clues MIND OVER MATER. I was thinking of the Plymouth Colony and Cotton Mather, which almost fit. Did he have kids? I don’t know.
- 29A: [Loony misanthrope?] is the MAD HATER.
- 44A: [Japanese sleuth who always follows you around?] is PERSONAL MOTO. I’m not sure “personal motto” quite rises to the level of “mind over matter” and “the Mad Hatter.”
- 67A: [Farm child of destiny?] clues FATED CALF.
- 88A: [Reservation about smoking?] is a CIGARETTE “BUT.” One should have a lot of “buts” when it comes to smoking.
- 103A: [Like an Idaho farmer?] is IN TATERS.
- 113A: [Recollections of an aggressive dog?] clues BITER MEMORIES. As with the MOTO/motto entry, this one’s base phrase seems like any old adjective+noun phrase and not a solidly “in the language” unit of meaning.
- 37D: [Bulletin board hardware blueprint?] clues PLAN OF A TACK, the only theme entry in which the one-T version splits into two words. You could make a case for that being a flaw, but I kinda like this one. Would like the clue better if it ascribed agency to the tack itself. When the tacks become sentient beings and start to plot against us for our bulletin board crimes against tackhumanity, expect a lot more tacks-on-the-chair incidents.
- 42D: [Muppet monster quote about a more adorable snack?] clues COOKIE CUTER. My only objection to this is that Cookie Monster doesn’t spend much time looking at the cookies, if he can help it. He tries to resist but in a trice, the cookies are gone and there are crumbs in his blue fur.
Nice to see TEL AVIV (22A: [Eastern Mediterranean city]) in its entirety rather than split up with a fill-in-the-blank clue.
A few more clues:
- 21A: [Singer Ray with the Glenn Miller Orchestra] is named EBERLE. I’ve seen this in crosswords before and never remember it. Didn’t even see the clue this time—the crossings were easy, as were most of this puzzle’s clues.
- 43A: [AA co-founder] is BILL W. Pop quiz: Anyone know what the W stands for? No Googling!
- 47A: ELSA [Lanchester of “Bride of Frankenstein”] crosses 36D: Casablanca‘s ILSA [“You used to be a much better liar, Sam” speaker]. INGA feels left out, you know.
- 48A: [Source of “Once more unto the breach”] is Shakespeare’s HENRY V.
- 60A: [Online “Jeepers!”] is a hilarious clue for OMG. How many people are thinking “Jeepers!” but using OMG as shorthand? Approximately zero.
- 64A: [“Mazes and Monsters” novelist] is Rona JAFFE. I actually read that book when I was in high school.
- 79A: [Native Americans with a Sundance ceremony] are UTES. Good, fresh clue.
- 119A: [Mussel eater] clues SEA STAR. OMG, they can eat things of that size?? Now I’m a little frightened of starfish.
- 2D: [Sweater choice] clues KNIT, and this is weird. How is KNIT a sweater choice? Sweaters are generally always made of knits. Usually a clue like this would lead to POLO or V-NECK, a type of sweater.
- 9D: [“All the fun you think they had”: Erica Jong] is a terrific clue for JEALOUSY.
- 18D: [__ Creed] clues NICENE. Man, I really wanted APOLLO here.
- 51D: [Guadeloupe has cinq] ILES. Guadeloupe has five islands? I had no idea.
- 62D: [Loyal Nixon friend Rebozo] is BEBE, and that is my all-time favorite Watergate era name. More fun to say than Zbigniew Brzezinski.
- 98D: [Lincoln Center landmark] is THE MET, and the definite article is so firmly affixed to MET that the answer THE MET is better than a plain MET would be.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 2”
Last week’s debut Post Puzzler was a lot tougher than this one. Aw, bring back the hard clues! The CrosSynergy Sunday puzzle already meets my recommended daily allowance of one easyish themeless per day. For optimal brain health, I need to consume one more gnarly themeless a week, and I’ve got my eye on this one to be it.
Anyone else start counting the letters in HOMOPHOBIA to see if it would fit at 4A: [Reason why some stars don’t come out?]. I wonder if Ricky Martin has ever experienced STAGE FRIGHT, the actual answer here.
- 1A. A good sports BRA is a [Need for some marathoners].
- 18A. [Before you can say Jack Robinson] means IN AN INSTANT. How did Jack Robinson get this job?
- 19A. The TULIP TREE is in the magnolia family and it’s [One of Indiana’s state symbols]. I’ll bet they’ve been in mad bloom for about two weeks in Indiana and are dropping their petals now.
- 22A. [1955 Wimbledon champion] clues TRABERT. I want to say his name is Jack, but I’m too lazy to look it up.
- 25A. [Alice Paul wrote it in 1923: Abbr.] is the best clue ever for ERA, the Equal Rights Amendment. I’m still dumbfounded that this didn’t manage to pass in enough states to become part of our Constitution. Seriously, people of the ’70s? You couldn’t get on board with promising basic equality for women?
- 34A. CALM is clued as [Expressing equanimity]. Yesterday at the Chicago tournament, Anne Erdmann related the equanimity-related pep talks she got from Trip Payne and Howard Barkin at the ACPT. Trip and Howard, you’re both class acts and generous competitors, and you exemplify the ACPT’s reputation for having the nicest people in the world.
- 37A. Cute clue! [They might get dumped after being taken out] refers to TRASH CANS. Nobody ever marries the trash can, people.
- 57A. “DON’T GO THERE” is a [Conversation-killing phrase].
- 58A. [It contains pork] clues a pig STY. I’ve never been a fan of calling animals meat (herds are cattle and not beef, if you ask me), but it’s got dictionary validity so it’s a fair clue. And a hard clue! Not obvious.
- 10D. Edmond ROSTAND of Cyrano de Bergerac fame is the [Dramatist who wrote the play on which “The Fantasticks” is based].
- 14D. [Bearded ___ (European bird)] clues TIT.
- 26D. [Figure head?] clues the prefix TRANS-.
- 30D. MARCO POLO is a swimming [Pool game].
- 44D. An OCTET is an [Expensive wedding band] to hire.
Updated Sunday afternoon:
Henry Hook’s old Boston Globe crossword, “Extra Pieces”
I had a dickens of a time dealing with the Black Ink interface today. It wouldn’t let me put in a “2” where one was needed (instead, it highlighted 2-Down). Then it took me a while to figure out how to insert TWO (after trying “insert special character” to put a “2” in). Then I missed a typo. And then it wouldn’t accept TWO as correct! It wanted just the “T.” Go figure. Plus, I had no idea if the football player’s name was DICK LANE, because I’d never heard of him, and the crossing was an [E. U.K. county]. An abbreviation for a British county? Are you kidding me? It’s LINCS? What is that, Lincolnshire or something? I considered DIRK LANE and DINK LANE and DIKK LANE too. Yes, DICK is the most plausible, but who the hell is he, and why should I be expected to know him? My husband the sports fan doesn’t know him. Hmph.
Anyway. The theme. It’s “Extra Pieces” that sort of make a JIGSAW PUZZLE—pairs of letters from that term are inserted into phrases to change them. “Being Green” becomes BEIJING GREEN and 20 Mule Team becomes 20 MUZZLE TEAM, for example. The puzzle felt fairly lively throughout, so I didn’t mind having no idea what was going on in the theme entries other than “two letters get added but it’s not the same two letters each time.”
Also? I wish I could rationalize spending more time doing jigsaw puzzles.