Do you like themeless crosswords? Do you admire Frank Longo’s work? Do you like crosswords edited by Peter Gordon? Did you miss yesterday’s Washington Post themeless? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” hie thee to Puzzle Pointers and download the June 20 puzzle. (If Across Lite doesn’t open it, just change the .cgi file extension to .puz.) I wrote really nice things about this puzzle Sunday morning but failed to save them. D’oh! Long story short: One of my favorite themeless crosswords of 2010.
Fred Piscop’s New York Times crossword
- 17a. SIMPLE AS ABC sounds…a hair off base to me. I prefer “easy as ABC,” but both versions are fine. Even the dictionary says so.
- 24a, 46a. DUCK / SOUP. For me, this is primarily a Marx Brothers movie I’ve never seen. Not an idiom I use.
- 53a. PIECE OF CAKE. Mmm, cake.
- 11d. CHILD’S PLAY!
- 28d. NO PROBLEMO sounds a little inconsistent with the others. The others connote “it’s easy” to me, whereas “no problemo” suggests “it could be difficult, but don’t worry, I can handle it.” Yes? No?
- 26a. [Nadir's opposite] is ZENITH. I’ve always liked that word.
- 48a. [Autobiographer's subject] is his or her SELF.
- 9d. EMBRACES means [Hugs tightly], and it’s a happy word.
- 36d. [Like many tartan wearers] is SCOTTISH. “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!”
- 37d. Well, that’s one way to go when you’re clueing FLAP: [Pajamas' rear opening].
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Laughing Matter”—Janie’s review
There was a certain [Fluidity of movement] GRACE in this puzzle that added to the enjoyment of my solving experience today. Everything fell nicely into place to reveal the fill in the four-part “remark” Patrick has threaded through the grid. Was it a smooth solve for you, too? The tip-off in the title plus the context of the quip (provided by the clue, it’s a [Geneticist's remark...]) went a long way in yielding:
- 19A. I CROSSED A HYENA
- 24A. WITH A PARROT SO
- 41A. IT COULD TELL ME
- 48A. WHAT WAS SO FUNNY.
Sweet, as well, is the non-theme fill. The sci-fi feel of Star Trek‘s STARSHIP [The Enterprise, e.g.] ties in nicely with Star Wars‘ DROIDS [Artoo, Threepio, et.al.]. Then, in the real world of outer-space exploration there’s NASA [Skylab launcher]. That’s one place where (for safety’s sake) you’re likely to hear the words “NO GO” to describe a [Mission cancellation].
MERE MORTAL [Ordinary human being] makes its first appearance in a CS puzzle (though I wish it had been clued in a more original way…). But what a great phrase. And look at some of the examples who are present: vaunted as they are (but often less-than-perfect role models), we have the likes of SENATORS [They serve six-year terms]; medicos, OB-GYNS [Docs who oversee pregnancies]; and stars of stage and screen, LEONARDO (DiCaprio) [Kate's "Titanic" co-star] and [Crooner Clay] AIKEN (I mean, this guy really does have feet of …). While the movie title TIN MEN [1987 Dreyfuss/DeVito comedy] alludes to the fact that the guys sold aluminum siding, yes—they were very human indeed. Screwballs, to be sure, but human. On the other hand, as anyone who has read the book or seen the movie can tell you, REGAN [Linda's "The Exorcist" role] was anything but…
Finally, we get two pairs of almost-the-same-but-not (and thus eye-catching), and they’d be OMAN and OMAR, clued as [Arabian Peninsula nation] and [Epps of "Love and Basketball"]; and AT NOON and ATONE, clued as [When many workers go to lunch] and [Supply satisfaction (for)]. Parse it as AT ONE and it woulda been legit to clue the latter as [When many workers go to lunch], too, no? (Okay, but then I’d probably have complained about that particular kind of repetition…) Regardless, on this first day of summer, I simply found this to be a nice way to get the CS themed puzzle-week started.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Gareth explains what untoward events may occur on LAUNDRY DAY, 59a: [When the accidents at the starts of the answers to starred clues are apt to occur]: fading and running of colors and distressing shrinkage. The three unrelated phrases that include these laundry accidents make a lively bunch:
- 17a. FADING FAST is [*Losing ground quickly]. How many black shirts do you have that look all washed out next to a new black top?
- 25a. RUNNING FOR MAYOR is clued as [*Seeking a municipal office]. Chicago is waiting to see if Mayor Daley will run yet again in 2011. He’s been in office since ’89.
- 46a. An [*Extreme introvert] is a SHRINKING VIOLET. Buy your jeans too long so they won’t embarrass you when they shrink.
HOGWASH is clued as 45d: [Bunk] and is not part of the theme. A hog that is washed seldom runs, fades, or shrinks.
- 19a. [Farmer in a '40s-'50s film series] is PA KETTLE. Tell us the truth, Gareth: Do you know of Ma and Pa Kettle only from crosswords?
- 36a. [Southern Calif. daily] is the L.A. TIMES. Hey-o!
- 55a. SENT WORD is clued as [Notified].
- 65a. [Dalmatian, e.g.] clues SLAV. Dalmatia is a region of Croatia, and Croats are Slavic.
- 68a. [Inedible doughnut part?] clues HOLE. Well, except when they fry the excised holes and glaze them with sugar.
- 42d. ["Happy Days" catchphrase] is SIT ON IT. We would also have accepted UP YOUR NOSE WITH A RUBBER HOSE and FUNNY AS A CRUTCH, POTSIE.
- 58d. ["I'm sorry, __": "2001: A Space Odyssey" line] is addressed to DAVE by Hal the creepy computer.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
I didn’t know such a thing was possible, but it happened: A BEQ puzzle felt an awful lot like a Newsday Saturday Stumper. Answers I did not know include ONE-INCH punch, OLESTRA (would rather stain a deck with it than eat it), SAL, the AHL and RNC clues, IBIS, DENNY, HES (horrible answer, and the clue, [Swains], connotes more than mere maleness), SARA, IT ISN’T I (oh, dear), INTS, MENSA as a constellation, ELSA, and FIZGIGS. Too much! Without great payoff!
The worst fill falls in the roll-your-own word category, with the affixes -ER and -ED and EN- word changing a familiar word into a “Who uses that?” word: MIMER, GRIPERS, YEASTED (where is this a verb?), ENFRAME, SCENTER, DOTER. Enyow! I am not a liker of these.
I had FUZGIGS crossing MUMER because MIMER isn’t a common enough word to have leapt out at me, and I had RISES UP instead of the better RILES UP because an unknown ELSA could plausibly be ESSA because why else would the clue be so unfamiliar? I know the main ELSAs of crosswords.
There is good stuff in here, but it’s surrounded by so much of this other meh-ness. The highlights:
- I fell into the 1-Across trap, putting SPANISH for [Language in which "yo" is a pronoun] instead of EBONICS. (Technically, “your” and this “yo” are possessive adjectives and not pronouns, though. It’s “yours” that is a possessive pronoun. And yes, I had to look this up. Fourth-grade English homework taught me a lot this year.)
- EYEBROW TWEEZERS are not musical, but are still [Plucking instruments] all the same.
- MR. SLATE from The Flintstones.
- The BELLBOY with a lot of baggage, real baggage and not emotional.
- THE CARS.
- “YOU AND WHOSE ARMY?”—though I always used “what,” not “whose.”