Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
I was all set to declare that this is a Saturday puzzle accidentally published on a Friday, but then I saw that Howard Barkin finished it in 5:37. That’s still longer than he typically spends on a Friday, I daresay, but not strikingly Saturdistic. (That’s my new portmanteau word: Saturday + sadistic.)
The biggest patch of white space is in the center of the grid, where the four 15s crisscross. But that’s not where the hard stuff was concentrated. No, sir/ma’am. The hard stuff sprawled all over the puzzle:
- 13a. PAULINE is the [Princess who was a sister of Napoleon Bonaparte]. I can’t say I’ve heard of her, but at least it’s not an oddball name.
- 28a. [Picked-up pickup, perhaps] is a RENTAL. The average airport car rental counter doesn’t offer pickup trucks, does it?
- 34a. I didn’t know this quote: ["Few can be induced to labor exclusively for ___": Abraham Lincoln] clues POSTERITY.
- 35a. I really thought we were looking for a species of shark rather than the generic MAN-EATING SHARKS for [Popular sea menaces of film].
- 50a. [___ Emperor (Taoism figure)] is JADE, but I was waiting for the crossings to lead me to something like HSIA or XIAN.
- 55a. Nautical terms, grr. RATLINE is a [Rope-ladder rung on a ship]. One dictionary I checked has this only in the plural, for the rung-like ropes used to climb the rigging.
- 60a. LASTEX is a [Yarn with a rubber core]. Sounds like “elastics” without the first letter. Never heard of it.
- 4d. [Pitched blade?] is the GINSU, subject to vigorous sales pitches.
- 6d. I could only think of CONSTRUCTION ZONE, but that’s too long. [Place with higher speeding fines, often] is a RESIDENTIAL AREA, apparently. Haven’t been aware of such an ordinance.
- 7d. [Army post unused since the 1950s] uses post as “job position,” not “fort or garrison”: it’s a FIVE-STAR GENERAL.
- 12d. [Containing element #34] means SELENIC. I tried SILICIC. I don’t know the element numbers.
- 13d. Oh, dear. [Losers of the Battle of Meloria, 1284]? That would be the PISANS. I don’t know who won. The Melorians?
- 25d. Never heard of BLYTH. Isn’t there an Ann Blyth? It’s also the name of an [English city that's home to the Spartans football club]. They’re not in the English Premier League, are they?
- 35d. [Nova Scotia's Lake ___, named for an Indian tribe] clues MICMAC. I actually got this one with just one or two crossings, but I don’t know why.
- 50d. JESU, ["___, meine Freude" (Bach motet)] means “Jesus, my joy.”
Yep, those answers peppered all five of the grid’s zones.
My five favorite clues:
- 52d. [One way to be turned down] is FLAT. Not only can you be turned down flat by someone, if you turn down your bed covers, those are flat too.
- 39d. KLEENEX? [It may be offered with a blessing] after a sneeze.
- Stacking palindromes! 18a: Monica SELES is a [Sports champion with a palindromic name], and 22A: ADA is a [Literary title character with a palindromic name].
- 59a. [Latin tongue] is LINGUA, the Latin word for a tongue. Does this mean both that muscle in your mouth and a language?
- 24d. [Magic word] isn’t PLEASE, it’s PRESTO. How many of you voted for PLEASE first?
Nowhere near my favorite Berry themeless, but it’s high-quality all the same. Partials? No. Questionable words? No. There are only eight 3s, and only one of those eight is an abbreviation (and IDA. could certainly have been clued as a name if not for TREVINO, ADA, SELES, PEI, NIA, PAULINE, JANE DOE, RYAN, and ANN already providing plenty of names). So it’s accomplished, but perhaps not as “Wow!”-inducing as many other Berry puzzles. Patrick, you have set the bar for yourself way up high.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Market Correction”—Janie’s review
Ooh, I sure did like this puzzle with its great set of theme phrases. All four are CS firsts and all but one seem to be making their first “major puzzle”-type appearances. Breathe it in. That’s the aroma of “fresh fill.” Even better, the first five letters of each phrase is an anagram of the first word of the final phrase, which is title-related and occurs at 55A: [Market correction (and a hint to the starts of 17-, 25-, and 43-Across)] PRICE ADJUSTMENT. I was more than a bit of a SLOWPOKE [Dawdler] in catching on, but that only added to the “aha”—and look at the perfect way Randy mixed it up:
- 17A. [Giftware distributor] PRECIOUS MOMENTS. Omg. It doesn’t get much more twee than this, the official site for Disney figurines and those figurines of children with teardrop-shaped eyes. Uh. Not my taste. But the name sure does make for some fine fill! Somehow never managed to hear of the company before solving this puzzle, but it gets some 3,160,000 Google hits. I’m gonna guess I’m somewhere in the minority.
- 25A. [Luxury car of the early 20th century] PIERCE ARROW. Now that’s just beautiful. Or perhaps I should say “swanky.” A classic car built in Buffalo, New York, between 1901 and 1938. Those were the days…
- 43A. [Mushy dessert] RICE PUDDING. “What is the matter with Mary Jane?… It’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again…” Thank you, A.A. Milne.
Then, there’s a bit of a SCIENCE mini-theme. That word is clued as [Lepidopterology, for one]—which is the study of butterflies and moths. Herpetology is the study of the less fragile reptiles and amphibians. Today, the herpetological specimen [Tropical lizard] appears twice, yielding both the GECKO and the IGUANA. Geico Insurance has certainly done its part in improving the visibility quotient of the otherwise lowly gecko!
The [Tetley product] is TEA (with its “tiny little tea leaves”)—a cup of which in the morning suits me [To] A TEE [(perfectly)].
To wrap things up, here are some favorite clue/fill pairs:
- [Calico comeback] for “MEOW“—so no, this was not about dressing up in prairie skirts…
- [Boot liquor?] for VINO, where “boot” refers to the shape of Italy on the map.]
- [Kings and queens] are CARDS today, and
- [Always or never] is an ADVERB. (See my caveat two days ago re: [Hit or miss?] and VERB…)
Jascha Smilack’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Not only does the theme add an H to make S into SH, there are a heap of H’s in the grid. 28, to be exact. That’s a record: http://home.everestkc.net/nytxword/nyt-rec.htm shows 24 in the Sun, 16 in the NYT.THis puzzle could be called “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Not only does tHe tHeme add an H to make S into SH, tHere are a Heap of H’s in tHe grid—28, to be exact. THat’s a record: Barry Haldiman’s site shows previous HigHs of 24 in tHe New York Sun and 16 in tHe NYT. So well played, JascHa!
Here’s tHe tHeme:
- 17a. ["The herring ate my homework," e.g.?] clues a SHAD EXCUSE. I prefer “lame excuse” to “sad excuse,” but this works.
- 24a. The SHELL-BY DATE could be a [Number on a bag of walnuts?].
- 35a. [Stumbling block for a beauty pageant contestant?] are her DEADLY SHINS. I don’t quite get this one. I think of soccer players more than Miss America when it comes to shins.
- 48a. [Really needing to do laundry?] clues OUT OF SHORTS. Hey! I saw the embodiment of this theme entry at the laundromat a month ago. He had on teeny gym shorts with no evidence of undershorts. I think he was OUT OF SHORTS of both the respectable short pants and the undershorts variety.
- 58a. MIDDAY SHUN is clued as a [Reason to eat lunch alone?]. Wait. “Shun” is not a noun. It’s a verb.
The purposeful inclusion of so many H’s means we see HAH and HUH and HO HO HO (but no HEH).
Two weird presidential answers: 53a: HCH stands for Herbert C. Hoover, [Pres. during the 1929 market crash]. The plural 41d: ARTHURS were a [1880s first family].
I didn’t know STANFORD was in the Silicon Valley. I had Santa Clara University on the brain because it’s near San Jose (and employs as math professors two crossword constructors, Byron Walden and Jeremy Horwitz).
Horrible crossing: 8d: [Golf club socket] is a HOSEL and 21a: [Cubic meter] is a STERE. If you don’t know your crosswordese units of measure or your golf club minutiae, you could be excused for considering HOSAL and STERA, which scarcely look any weirder than HOSEL and STERE.
Hot stuff: To SHANGHAI someone is to 38d: [Kidnap, in a way]. 1d: [Hemp extract] is HASHISH. Don’t try to make rope out of that, okay?