Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword
So, the highest number appearing in the grid is 49. The word count is 58, and only a dozen NYT crosswords in the Shortz era have had a lower word count, says XWord Info. I looked at the thumbnail images for the ≤58-word puzzles, and most of the grids are rather strikingly split into discrete quadrants. Brendan’s achieved some lovely flow through the grid, and the number of entries that really sparkle is surprisingly high for a puzzle with such severe construction constraints. It’s a beaut, Brendan—and you know I don’t say that about many low-word-count puzzles.
First up, the great stuff:
- 15a. Who doesn’t love those nutty city/state abbreviation answers? AKRON, OH is the [City where A.A. was founded].
- 20a. The ALMOND JOY has been a [Popular bar since 1946]. Can I have one without coconut, please?
- 23a. [Delivery that may floor you] is a LEFT JAB. Boy, that answer was looking implausible when I had **FFJ** in place and thought COIN TOSS was COIN FLIP.
- 27a. CHRISSIE HYNDE! [The great Pretender?] was the lead singer and guitarist for the Pretenders. How awesome is she? And how terrific a crossword answer is that? (“So very” is the answer to both.) And look at how this answer anchors the entire puzzle: Every single crossing answer is 6 to 10 letters long.
- 44a. I SAID NO is a [Reply to a pushy person]. BEQ is fond of the answers that talk to you.
- 5d. I read my husband the clue for RING OF FIRE and he began singing the song in his Johnny Cash voice. It’s clued as a [Country standard that begins "Love is a burning thing"]. Johnny’s daughter Rosanne Cash has an interesting Twitter feed.
- 10d. [Seemingly] didn’t help me get to the answer, but I do love the phrase AS IT WERE.
- 13d. A COIN TOSS is [What can give you a heads-up?]. I like the “heads-up” mislead.
- 24d. PAY-PER-VIEW is [Ordered programming] on cable. You know where it’s at? Free on-demand programming.
- 35d. Love the word SOIGNÉ, meaning [Elegantly groomed]. I am so soignée!
There are other clues and answers I admired, but those ones were my favorites. The clues for FOIL, WAGERS, PLIERS, and SNIP all classed up the neighborhood around CHRISSIE HYNDE—demonstrating that ordinary answer words can be made more interesting with challenging clues.
It’s not all beer and chocolate here, though. (Beer? No, sorry. There’s no beer in the puzzle, just that candy bar at 20a.) There are a few problematic spots, as you must expect in a low-word-count creation:
- Two answers include the word ROOM: 38a: [Pantry] is a STOREROOM and 40a: [What a compact often lacks] is LEGROOM. More importantly, if you have a pantry in your abode, how’s the legroom?
- 22a. Tough partial SAW A is clued ["I never ___ moor": Emily Dickinson]. I couldn’t get “I never met a Moor I didn’t like” out of my head. And when I finally got the answer via crossings, I cursed actor Devon Sawa for not being more famous. There’s another partial at 2d: TAKE A.
- 24a. The clue is accurate, but the answer is ungainly: [One doing laundry, often] is a PILER, but who’s gonna say “Oh, I’m a piler”? Nobody. This is one of those roll-your-own words that’s technically fair game for crosswords, but subpar. Now, 29d: RESTRING looks like another roll-your-own, but musical instruments and sports rackets are routinely restrung. [Fix, as a bow] gets at a violin-type usage.
- 30d. Some dictionaries list ENURED as the dreaded variant spelling, with inure being the preferred version. It means [Toughened].
- 34d. I haven’t heard of ATMOS [___ Energy (big natural gas utility)]. You?
There were a few tough nuts to crack, too:
- 6a. CANAAN is a [Biblical figure who received the curse of Ham]. I thought that was strictly a place name.
- 19a. Needed nearly all the crossings for BENNETT, the [Conservative pundit with a daily morning radio show]. Remember when his gambling habit became known?
- 6d. I knew a [Quail flock] was a COVEY and put the answer in…then took it out…then put it back in. Knowing people with the last name Covey was throwing me off track, I think.
- 21d. [Lake Chapala's state] is JALISCO, in Mexico. I know the state, but not the lake.
- 28d. HIRAGANA is a [Set of cursive Japanese symbols].
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Contain Yourself”—Janie’s review
Building on where we left off yesterday, we have a “like-type” theme again today, in which the second word of all four theme phrases is a kind of “contain”er. So we get a basket, a bucket, a barrel and a bag. I like how all four begin with “B,” and I especially like the lively phrases that “contain” ‘em:
- 20A. BREAD BASKET [Midsection, in slang]. So, not this, but this…
- 11D. RUST BUCKET [Demolition derby entry, perhaps]. Great phrase. Here’s a 4-speed rust bucket yet—start yer engines!
- 29D. PORK BARREL [Wasteful government spending]. You know—like those (in)famous bridges to nowhere.
- 56A. PUNCHING BAG [Training room equipment]. May be of use in bread basket prevention… On the topic of training, the grid also gives us DELT [Exercise target].
Lotta good fill and/or clue/fill combos today that demonstrate Ray’s personal ÉLAN [Flair] where constructing is concerned. Among the better examples are:
- the spicy WASABI [Horseradish condiment].
- [Fleecy babe] for LAMB.
- [Run down] for BAD MOUTH. This one’s particularly strong, since the clue can be read as an adjective (meaning “exhausted”) or a verb. The colorful verb wins today.
- DEBATING, or [Addressing both sides]. When folks are debating it’s hard for them to AGREE [See eye to eye].
- [Where Dr. J's career began], which is the ABA. Dr. J. was a lawyer? No-no—this is not the American Bar Association but the American Basketball Association. The National Basketball Association was organized in 1946; the upstart ABA in 1967. Julius Erving played for two ABA teams (the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets) before the associations merged in 1976.
- the very visual [Leave, as from a cocoon] for EMERGE.
- [Cartoon cutie Betty] for BOOP; and
- the barnyard-connected [Hog dialogue] for OINKS and [Small chicken] for BANTAM.
Paul Guttormsson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Oil baron is certainly “in the language,” and given my proclivities, I didn’t bat an eye at CHOCOLATE BARON (20a: [Milton Hershey, e.g.?]). Took me far too much effort to tease out the theme in this puzzle because CHOCOLATE BARON didn’t sound like a made-up phrase to me. But it is: It’s chocolate bar + ON, and ADD-ON plays the role of 39a: [Extra, and this puzzle's title]. The other theme entries with an added ON are as follows:
- 56a. [Segundo matrimonio result, maybe?] talks about a second marriage in Spanish, so the answer is SPANISH STEPSON (Spanish Steps + ON). I like the steps -> STEPSON switch here.
- 10d. [Body of brewing rules?] might be the BEER CANON. This was the second theme entry I filled in, and it was somehow not sounding overtly fake to my addled mind either.
- 35d. [Ancient Germanic singer?] turns an alto sax into ALTO SAXON.
I wasn’t tuning into the clues’ wavelengths very well, so the puzzle was challenging. Ten more clues:
- 14a. [1959 British Motor Corp. debut] is the MINI.
- 24a. [Millennium-ending year] clues ONE B.C.
- 30a. Eine STRASSE ist ein [Place to see an Audi], vielleicht. Wir haben Audis hier auch, und wir sprechen Englisch, nicht Deutsch.
- 43a. [Buck parts] are CENTS. Not antlers.
- 2d. [Jedi nemesis] clues SITH. Now, if it were me, I would have pluralized the clue: [Jedi nemeses].
- 5d. PAUL ANKA gets his full name in the grid for a change. ["She's a Lady" songwriter] is the clue. Would you rather see SRILANKA or PAULANKA in the puzzle?
- 22d. [Lover of Cal, in "East of Eden"] clues ABRA. Raise your hand if you know this only from crosswords.
- 26d. Ooh, no. [Blood __] TYPER? Really?
- 41d. [What an apostrophe may stand for, in dates] is NINETEEN, as in 1970 being presented as ’70.
- 49d. RESHOE is clued as [Work on hooves]. People! It is time to reclaim this word from the horsey set. “I really need to reshoe myself. Nordstrom’s having a sale. Let’s go!”
Ed Sessa’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Specious Species”
- 17a. If the YAKETY YAK were an animal, it would be called [Bos loquacius?]. All sorts of cattle cousins are in Bos.
- 25a. Sandlot baseball makes [Peropteryx sandlottia?] the BASEBALL BAT. Our commonest bats aren’t Peropteryx, but the -pteryx part gives a good hint about wings.
- 35a. Coastal California has seals, so why not [Callorhinus califurnus?] for the STATE SEAL? Callorhinus, the Northern fur seal, does inhabit California waters.
- 49a. [Apis abecedarius?] is your SPELLING BEE. Did you all see the NYT article about the academic/military partnership that identified a virus/fungus combination as the cause of bee colony collapse disorder? It’s a relief to have an explanation that lends itself to preventive measures.
- 58a. [Buglossidium privatum?] clues INNER SOLE. Though actually, Buglossidium refers only to the yellow sole, not the edible soles. The Dover sole is Solea solea, which would give too much of the answer away.
- 15a. [Wood of Hollywood] clues LANA. Who the heck is Lana Wood? She was a Bond girl in 1971 and went on to appear in ’70s TV shows such as Fantasy Island and Starsky and Hutch, so I’ve probably seen her in something without knowing who she is. She’s Natalie Wood’s sister, and far less famous in Hollywood than Lana Turner.
- 16a. [Laborare est ___ (Masonic motto)] clues ORARE. What does that mean, Latin scholars? I’m guessing “work is talk.”
- 20a. [“The Flying Dutchman” painter Albert Pinkham ___] RYDER? Not a painter whose name is familiar to me. Any relation to Ryder trucks or the Ryder Cup?
- 48a. RWANDA is one of many countries that can be described as a [Landlocked African nation].
- 54a. CASEIN is a [Milk protein]. *snooze*
- 37d. The ABWEHR is a [German intelligence organization dissolved in 1944]. Not ringing a bell.