Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
- 1a. A FABERGÉ EGG! Clued pop-culturally as an [Objet d’art at auction in “Octopussy”].
- 18a. Nice clue for icky little ROTS: [Languishes in the lockup].
- 24a. [Ancient dynasty name] is PTOLEMY. Who doesn’t like PT- words? Just last week at the King Tut exhibit, I saw an artifact depicting the Egyptian god Ptah, whom I’d previously known only from a couple crosswords that made compromises in the fill. Ptolemy’s a much more familiar name. And then there’s the ptarmigan, and “ptui!”
- 33a. [What a V may indicate] is PEACE, in the peace sign.
- 38a. MAH-JONGG, ending with a double G like 1a, is clued [It’s played with 144 pieces]. 45a: MAO, [He outlawed 38-Across because it promoted gambling].
- 43a. Tricky clue: the noun [Strands on a branch] points towards Christmas-tree TINSEL. [Effects created by 43-Across] are GLINTS.
- 49a. A SCORCH MARK from a lightbulb is a [Lampshade blemish]. You ever iron a scorch mark into your clothes? I’ve done that. Better to give up ironing altogether.
- 53a. AGLIO E OLIO, garlic and oil, is a tasty and [Simple trattoria dressing]. You like that insane four-vowel pile-up in the middle?
- 55a. The hairline WIDOW’S PEAK is a [Common feature of a Dracula mask]. Now I’m contemplating a ditch-the-apostrophe-and-move-the-S theme. WIDOW-SPEAK: ["Well, sure, it's my job to take out the trash now, but I sure don't miss his snoring."]
- 13d. I like the -monger words. A HATEMONGER is a [Prejudicial propagandist], and look how perky that alliteration is.
- 23d. [Himmel und ___ (apple-and-potato dish)] features some German 101 words: Himmel is “sky” and ERDE is “earth.” Apples grow up in the trees while potatoes are down in the earth.
- 26d. [Like men, women and children] is PLURALIZED.
- 40d. Who doesn’t love a manatee or dugong or SEA COW? [Creature with a paddlelike tail] doesn’t capture the most salient physical trait: the big oblong blobbiness.
Nobody gets excited to see ALIENEE in the grid, or the plural APRILS. But overall, I thought this was an eminently fair Friday puzzle. Looks like some folks are landing squarely in the Saturday-NYT zone, though. Trouble spots?
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’m covering for PuzzleGirl at L.A. Crossword Confidential tomorrow. If you read this and are saying to yourself, “This needs videos,” swing by tomorrow for my LACC post. There will be heavy metal kazoo action and Stephen Fry with a randy flightless bird.
The theme is puns that take a left turn to fancy houses:
- 17a. [Faithful caretaker of a religious residence?] is a MANSE BEST FRIEND. This plays on “man’s best friend.”
- 26a. [Stately home for debate team practice?] is a MANOR OF SPEECH, playing on “manner of speech,” which sounds off-kilter to me. Aren’t “in a manner of speaking” and “speech mannerism”a good bit more familiar than “manner of speech”? It Googles up OK, but…. (At my high school, the speech team and the debate team were entirely different activities, but the clue still works because the debaters make speeches.)
- 45a. ESTATE OF GRACE, playing on “state of grace” and Princess Grace, is a [Former European princess’s elaborate dwelling?]. With the ACE at the end, I tried something-PALACE too.
- 58a. [French castle built with misgivings?] is a CHATEAU OF A DOUBT, punning on “shadow of a doubt.” A redoubt is a fort, so I was messed up here.
This puzzle knocked me on my tuchis. The first theme entries I filled in were 17a and 45a, so I can be excused for thinking this was an add-an-E theme (MANSE,ESTATE). The pun business threw me for a loop, and it took me 5:19 to finish—basically 25% longer than a typical Saturday L.A. Times crossword. Was it a relative bloodbath out there for everyone, or did you cotton on to the pun theme without a struggle?
What I liked best:
- 10a. [Bar assistant?] is a PARA, as in a paralegal assisting the lawyers who’ve been admitted to the bar.
- 14a. ALEE gets a fresh tropical clue: [Like the northern Antilles Islands vis-à-vis the southern ones]. Antigua and St. Kitts are two of the Leeward Islands, sheltered from the prevailing winds. Windward Islands like Martinique and Barbados bear the brunt of the winds. I suspect one group is rainier than the other, but couldn’t tell you which is which.
- 16a. ENID, Oklahoma, is a [City named for a Tennyson heroine]. Never knew that trivia tie-in.
- 20a. Clues like this trip up a lot of solvers. [Choose to reject, say?] is an ANTONYM, in that the word “choose” is an opposite of “reject.” Dastardly!
- 34a. Sure, AHEAD is a regular word, but Donna splits it into A HEAD, or [Per person]. As in “the benefit costs a hundred bucks a head.”
- 41a. We all know the KAZOO, sure, but its synonym, [Vocaphone]? Not so much. I learned something here.
- 51a. [It’s used at Gallaudet U.] clues ASL, or American Sign Language. My family and I just started an ASL class. I keep forgetting how to fingerspell the letters F, G, K, Q, and X. Clearly I will need to learn the sign for the F-word because spelling it out will be too tough for me.
- 66a. Clark KENT is a Perry [White underling].
- 3d. Hidden past tense: [Hit the road] clues WENT.
- 4d. Did you know the [FireDome and Fireflite] were DESOTOS, old cars? I did not.
- 5d. [Short nightie] clues BABY-DOLL. Great entry.
- 11d. [Operating room number?] means “stuff that numbs you in the OR”: ANESTHESIA.
- 13d. Another obscured past tense: [Put two and two together] clues ADDED.
- 28d. NEW ZEALAND is the [Home of the flightless kakapo] as well as the bloodthirsty KEA, which can fly and will probably swoop in and terrify you. But do not discount the ability of the kakapo to get in some blows!
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Inner P’s”—Janie’s review
In the past several months, Patrick has given us other puzzles that reference the alphabet in the title (“MT Nest” 3/24/10, “Attention to E-Tails” 7/1/10, ”K Study,” e.g.) and others with the add-a-letter approach to cracking the theme (“V-Six” for one). Today, taking the challenge of the latter, he reaches new highs (and new lows…) in the form. This is not entirely bad… The “inner P’s” of the title are pairs of Ps that have been added to familiar phrases (in their “double P” form, too). There are five theme entries, and the first two and last two overlap each other in the grid with six letters—which ups the ante for the constructor. Here’s what he’s come up with:
- 17A. Hay fever → HAPPY FEVER [Excitement over a certain dwarf?]. This is definitely on the silly side, but silly’s okay by me.
- 21A. Jet skiing → JET SKIPPING [Bouncing around in a hot tub?]. Hmm. Not the typical CS “visual” clue… But the clue/fill combo works well and is far livelier than, say, [Opting for prop planes] and more accessible than [Opting for props]… I still keep wondering, though, if that “bouncing around” isn’t somehow related to the excited state brought on by “Happy fever”…
- 38A. Frequent flier → FREQUENT FLIPPER [One who’s constantly changing the channel?]. Perfection, pure and simple. Is this where the theme originated?
- 52A. Nile River → NIPPLE RIVER [Stream filled with pacifiers?]. Yes, folks, you read it right. So does this one make you laugh out loud or gasp or maybe both? I’m in the “both” category. The image of this “river” (“pacifiers” be damned) is the stuff of bad, bad dreams. Is this really a “family-friendly” CS puzzle? Will I ever think of the “Nile” in quite the same way?
- 60A. Amber ale → AMBER APPLE [A Golden Delicious?]. Whew, this seems tame enuf. Thank you.
So Patrick maybe pushes the limits some, but he also keeps things interesting and when you’re constructing puzzles on a very regular basis—or writing about puzzles on a very regular basis—“interesting” is much appreciated and nothing to SNEER at. That would be the [Cynic’s response]. No, thank you, not there yet.
Patrick also keeps things interesting with his non-theme fill and cluing. VARIETAL [Like some wines] is a word we don’t see in the puzzles everyday and looks to be making its first CS appearance. (For a mini-lesson in what makes a wine a varietal, give this link a try). The words every amateur (in the sense of “not untalented aspirant”) doesn’t want to hear, [“Don’t quit your] DAY JOB[!”], XES OUT [Cancels] and OOM-PAH [band] all add oomph to the solve as well.
So do these combo-pairs that tie together nicely: PARA- [Prefix with graph or sailing] (or “chute”) and RIP [Word before cord or current] (you definitely want your parachute to have a rip cord); [Smartphone, for short] PDA, for which you might get some killer APPS [Purchases from iTunes, perhaps]; and SPAY [Neuter] (a procedure you may want for your dog) and ALPO [Iams rival] (a bowl of which might be a welcome treat after that procedure…).
And did I mention this one’s a pangram? This one’s a pangram!