First, Simeon Visser is developing new (and free) software for constructing crosswords, to run on multiple platforms. If you’re interested in helping to shape the program, read Simeon’s announcement at the Crossword Fiend forum.
Second, I’m heading to New York this week, so you’ll be entertained here by an all-star cast of bloggers: Sam, Jeffrey, Janie, Evad, and Angela. Yes, I’ve listed them in reverse alphabetical order. What of it? Wednesday through Sunday, they’ll have the goods.
Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
GHOST is the name of the game—a [Word game…or a word that can precede the starts of] the four longest Across answers. I forget what sort of game Ghost is. Is it the word game equivalent of the basketball game Horse? In my head, it is.
- 18a. TOWN COUNCIL is the [Governing body of a municipality]. Somewhat dull theme entry. You know what would be great? A ghost town council full of specters rattling chains as they discuss zoning variances.
- 26a. SHIP OF FOOLS is a [1965 Vivien Leigh movie] about which I know nothing. Ghost ships are the subject of great dread and merriment on SpongeBob SquarePants and in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
- 43a. BUSTER BROWN is the [Old comics boy with the dog Tige]. Wait, he was in comics? I had no idea the character existed apart from the children’s shoe brand. The singular Ghostbuster strikes me as odd. Are those movie characters ever referred to in the singular, or just as a group of Ghostbusters? You’re really hankering to see the video of the Ray Parker, Jr. theme song now, aren’t you?
- 54a. A STORY TELLER is the [Center of attention around a campfire, say]. Now, the person telling stories at a campfire is generally telling ghost stories, so the campfire reference in the clue makes this one stand apart from the other three. It’s too ghostly, this one.
- 3d. [Hockshop receipt] is a PAWN TICKET. I’ve never hocked anything, so I needed plenty of crossings to be sure of this one. Cool to have a couple 10s in the fill.
- 41a. [Strait of Hormuz vessel] is an OILER. An acquaintance of mine was on Jeopardy! recently and missed a Strait of Hormuz question; so did his opponents. I knew it (she says smugly). On the same episode, all three contestants were clueless about most of the sports questions, which was great to see. Hey, I don’t know those ones, either!
- 62a. PEYOTE is your [Hallucinogen-yielding cactus]. Anyone have a good peyote story to share?
- 19d. UMPS in baseball are [Stereotypically "blind" officials]. Cute clue!
- 5d. We don’t see a ton of short three-word answers in which none of the “words” are single letters. A LOT OF means [Many].
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Rumble in the Bowl”
- 17a. [Cereal for people with good fortune during a fictional "Simpsons" month?] is LUCKY SMARCH. Hmm, I don’t recall Smarch, and I hate those grody little “marshmallows” in Lucky Charms. Those things? They’re not marshmallows. I don’t know what the hell they are.
- 21a. Fiber One turns into FIBER EON, [Cereal that's really healthy, but takes forever to pass?]. Gotta love fiber-related regularity humor.
- 35a. [Cereal that's shockingly good?] clues GRAPE STUN. No more stunning than Grape Nuts, which are grapeless and nut-free.
- 43a. Nice reversal here: HONEY BMOC, spelling the COMB part backwards, is a [Cereal eaten mainly by important students?].
- 53a. [With 62-across, cereal that sounds like a bad accident between fighting ermines?] is CINNAMON / STOAT CRUNCH. Gotta love an anagram that yields a crosswordese animal.
- 46a. SYREN is a [Book in the Septimus Heap series]. I know nothing about this.
- 10d, 28d. Two solid full names, ANSEL ADAMS, the [Yosemite photographer], and TATUM O’NEAL, the [Record-setting actress at the 1974 Oscars].
- 22d. R. CRUMB is a great entry. He’s the ["Keep on Truckin'" cartoonist]. I like that he’s opposite PACMAN in the grid.
- 33d. An IGLOO is a [Cold home heated by a qulliq]. Who knew?
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What a terrific early-week puzzle! I really admire this theme because of the built-in surprise factor. I shop regularly at all the stores in the theme, and yet it took uncovering RETAIL to make the connection.
- 20a. [Information disparity in a social system] is a KNOWLEDGE GAP. The Gap sells clothes.
- 32a. [Ready-made graphics for frames] are CLIP ART BORDERS. I don’t exactly know what these are, but I do know what Borders stores are. There are two in my neighborhood. Alas, we lost our Barnes & Noble.
- 40a. [Standard cooking supplies], such as flour, sugar, and oil, are KITCHEN STAPLES. Staples has become my preferred office supply store because I pass one more often than I see the Offices Max and Depot.
- 56a. [Skeet challenge] is shooting a MOVING TARGET. Ooh! I have a Target store opening in my neighborhood next month. I suspect I’ll start going a lot more than once every month or two.
- 45a, 66a. [With 66-Across, each of this puzzle's four longest answers ends in one] clues RETAIL / STORE.
- 14a. Boo on ONE K, or [Short race distance, for short]. Grown-up runners run the 1,000 meter event. It’d be better if clued with reference to those races for kids that sometimes precede longer races for big people.
- 19a. Just the other day I voiced my antipathy for the word COED as a noun. But hey! This clue gets it right: ["Here Come the __": 1945 college comedy] properly references COEDS as an old-fashioned word for women attending college.
- 5d. Who doesn’t love MAGENTA? It’s a [Purplish hue]. Etymology time! The color gets its name from an Italian place where a battle was fought not long before the discovery of fuchsin, a blood-red dye also called magenta.
- 25d. A STELE or stela is an [Inscribed pillar]. Commit this piece of crosswordese to memory if it’s unfamiliar, as you will surely see it again.
- 43d. ["Here's what happened next ..."] clues “AND THEN…” This entry can’t quite decide whether it’s iffy or awesome.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “From Orzo to Ouzo”—Janie’s review
This is one charming puzzle. Like yesterday’s, it was a very smooth kind of solve and (because it works so well) is graced with a smile-making gimmick. It’s a substitution theme where (as the title suggests) the “R” in a well-known phrase is swapped out for a “U.” I don’t think it’s often that we see a consonant replaced with a vowel, but Sarah accomplishes the task handily—and happily—as (at):
- 17A. Morse code → MOUSE CODE [Mickey's secret language?]. This is terrific and conjures up a strong visual of Mickey as a telegraph operator. I had no success in finding an actual image of him in that role—but I bet there’s one out there. Somewhere.
- 36A. Back porch → BACK-POUCH [Modern baby carrier?]. Love the transformation but was surprised by the cluing. Haven’t Native Americans been using papooses for a long, long time? Actually, this didn’t escape Sarah’s notice and she was generous enough to share her thinking with us. In her own words: “My generation used hand held baby carriers, strollers, and carriages. Younger, more “modern” parents then began the practice of using back pouches to tote their infants. Thus, the definition of modern in my clue.” Thanks for the insight, Sarah. Apparently everything old is new again!
- 41A. Torch song → TOUCH SONG [Music read by fingers?]. This exists, in fact, and is known as Braille music. I suspect there’s many a “torch song” that’s been converted, too. (While “ESO Beso” probably wouldn’t qualify, there are arrangements of ["I've Grown Accustomed] TO HER [Face"] that certainly could.)
- 62A. High horse → HIGH HOUSE [Multistoried residence?]. I do like how the theme-fill is bookended with the rhyming mouse and house. I was thinking, too, that an aerie is also a kind of high house. For birds, of course…
Someone who’s arrogant may be said to be on his/her “high horse.” While this is a figurative horse, the puzzle does include the literal type as well with [Horses' relatives] ASSES and [Get back on, as a horse] REMOUNT. And those horse references lend the puzzle a bit of a southwest feel, which is reinforced with CACTUS [Spiny plant] and ARROYO [Dry gulch] and yep, NOOSE [Lasso loop].
As for the “charm” factor I mentioned, that’s not limited to the theme fill but is also apparent in such fill as CUTEST [Most adorable], SWEE’ PEA [Popeye's son], EWOKS [Furry sci-fi creatures], ABSENCE [Fondness intensifier?] and COO, with its model-of misdirection clue [Bill's partner in love?]. Because HILARY, while fitting, just wasn’t gonna fit.