Brendan Emmett Quigley and Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword
Today’s secret word is hidden at 66-Across, which happens to lie outside the grid below 63-Across. The invisible last letters of the six Down answers that cross it spell out SECRET, and all those theme entries whose clues allude to 66-Across are about “secret ___” things:
- 17a. The Batcave has a SECRET ENTRANCE.
- 21a. Your [anonymous Valentine sender] is a SECRET ADMIRER.
- 23a. SECRET SANTA is a [participant in a gift-giving activity].
- 35a. Elections use a SECRET BALLOT.
- 40a. [After 66-Across, classic 1911 children’s book, with “The”] clues SECRET GARDEN.
- 49a. A SECRET AGENT is a [spy]. Russian or Iranian or American?
- 53a. I think of Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History rather than a generic SECRET HISTORY that’s an [exposé subject].
- 58a. SECRET FORMULAS are [Marketing gimmicks].
Cute gimmick, this secret SECRET that modifies the eight theme answers. If you don’t figure out what’s going on before tackling the Down answers that need the SECRET endings, oy, you’re going to be struggling. 33d: [Person who doesn’t know how to quit], starts with WORKA, but WORKAHOLIC is one letter too long to fit? Not to worry—just jot that C down in the invisible square below the grid and everything will work out fine. (I’ll bet there are some solvers who do that in puzzles that don’t call for it, just because the answer they think of won’t fit.) The other SECRET crossers are as follows:
- 56d. AMA(s), [Member of a Latin trio].
- 57d. [Tessellation piece] is a TIL(e).
- 41d. To [Dig up] a body is to DISINTE(r) it.
- 54d. At last! A 4-letter European river clue actually requires a 5-letter river, the SEIN(e), for the [River that’s the site of Javert’s demise in “Les Miserables”].
- 48d. AT RES(t) is clued as [Still].
Five more clues:
- 43d. The nonspecific [Labor grp.] clue points to ILGWU as well as a more specific clue would have, for me. Looking it up…International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.
- 3d. WOTAN is [“Der Ring des Nibelungen” war god]. Also known as Woden, Odin, and the guy Wednesday is named after.
- 19a. [Popular headlights] clues XENONS, meaning xenon headlights rather than a plural of the element xenon.
- 26d. Trivia clue! ORONO is [Chief Joseph ___, after whom a Maine college town is named].
- 31a. [Options at a gym] clues YOGAS. You might have your regular yoga, your hardcore yoga, and your bikram (hot) yoga.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 23”
That whole northeast corner was fighting me, SCRIM, TREVI, RENAL calculus (that’s kidney stones, not math), JOEY RAMONE, an OMANI, and TESS? They and their crossings eluded me for so long. It all came together in the end, though. Hooray!
Freshest fill: MUFFIN TOP, the who’s-that? ANDY PANDA, JOEY RAMONE, “IT’S A SHAME,” SpongeBob the FRY COOK, ad VENTI LATTE (hasn’t that been in another crossword with its near-twin VENTILATE?).
- 41a. [Film that includes raw footage?] is a NUDIE film.
- 60a. Did you know RIGOLETTO was [based on Victor Hugo’s “Le roi s’amuse”]? I’m making a mental note of that.
- 13d. [2001 Wimbledon champ] Goran IVANISEVIC is a cutie. This one’s actually more of a “favorite people in the puzzle” item than “favorite clues.”
Overall assessment: Good challenge, one that may knot you up and possibly even REKNOT you.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Going to Pieces”—Janie’s review
“UH-OH!” [“Looks like trouble!“]. When someone is “going to pieces” s/he’s coming apart emotionally, like Peter and Gordon or Patsy Cline, who would “fall to pieces“. When something is “going to pieces” it’s coming apart by virtue of a… by virtue of the first word in each of Sarah’s theme phrases—where they have no connection to destruction but where they intensify or add some specificity to the phrase’s underlying meaning. To wit:
- 20A. RIP-ROARING TIME [Blast]. Makes for very fresh fill. This one and its theme-mates are making their CS debuts as well as what appears to be their (major) published-puzzles debuts.
- 39A. SPLIT-LEVEL HOUSE [Residence where floors are separated by about half a story]. Something like this.
- 54A. TEAR AROUND TOWN [Move hastily about a municipality].
I’m happy to say the liveliness is not limited to the theme fill but can be seen elsewhere in the grid with the likes of HOOPLA and [Ballyhoo], ECLAT and [Splash]; ANIME [Japanese cartoon art]; ADONIS and [Male arm candy]; PEACH and [Juicy fruit]; STAR [One who takes the lead] and [“Ad astra per] ASPERA[“], the Kansas state motto meaning: “To the stars through difficulties.” So they glorify challenges there. Which is very much in keeping with the American way. Particularly in the heartland.
There isn’t a lot of long non-theme fill, but I do like WRITES TO [Corresponds with]. When was the last time you received (or wrote…) a snail-mail letter? I received one the other day and nearly fainted—but I loved it. While I’ve thrown out a lot of old letters, I still have a collection that goes back some 40 years. A friend told me of a collection he’s transcribed: his grandfather’s letters home (to Indiana) during WWI. What a gold mine that is.
The other long fill? Refreshing ICE CREAM [Words before bar or cone]. As we make our way towards mid-summer, ice cream is a lovely way to cool off. Soon enough it’ll be really cool and once again we’ll be coping with sweaters of WOOL [Yarn for a winter garment] and pulling out the SLED [Downhill conveyance] to make the most of that first snow…
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17a. [Routes to work for a bell ringer?] are TOLL ROADS, as bells toll.
- 32a. [Routes to work for a water company engineer?] are MAIN STREETS, as in the big pipes called water mains.
- 41a. [Routes to work for a window treatment installer?] are BLIND ALLEYS, as in mini-blinds. Hey, blind alleys have dead ends, so it would be a challenge to use it as a route to anywhere other than the end of that alley.
- 59a. [Routes to work for a diet guru?] are FAST LANES, although diet gurus are more inclined to tell you what to eat rather than not to eat at all.
Now, none of these work in a literal fashion. Main streets are not so called because they have anything to do with water mains, for example. So this is a “suspend your disbelief/work with me here” theme.
- 16a. [Mayflower employee] is a MOVER who works for the Mayflower company, which has moving vans and crews of movers. Not the pilgrim ship called the Mayflower.
- 25a. [View from la costa] is AGUA. La costa is “the coast” in Spanish.
- 62a. [Unlucky fisherman’s catch, in comics] is a TIRE.
- 63a. [It’s hard to run on it] clues EMPTY, as in “running on empty.”
- 34d. [Up in the air] can be literal, as in ALOFT, or metaphorical, as in IFFY.
Mr. Quigley’s blog crossword, “Eat My Shorts”
Edible apparel is the name of the game: SPAGHETTI STRAPS on a tank/cami, JELLY BRACELETS from the ’80s (replaced of late with shaped rubber bands called Silly Bandz, apparently, that kids in my son’s school appear to have had zero interest in), and the SANDWICH BOARD Brendan wears in a photo on his blog.
For Brendan, a “really easy puzzle” means it hits Wednesday NYT level. Brendan, can you shoot for a Monday Newsday level, the sort of puzzle that the hotshots hit 2:00 on paper or 70 seconds online? I don’t know if you can. I think you might fall asleep mid-cluing trying to write such basic, obvious clues.
Gotta run now—