Hooray! Patrick Blindauer’s made a new suite of crosswords with a final meta answer, like the one he did last winter. This one’s called “Summer Puzzlefest” (oh! how I miss summer), it’ll cost you $9.99 for 10 puzzles (one of ‘em diagramless), and you might win $250 and 15 Blindauer books if you submit the correct answer. Visit Patrick’s site for details. I’ve ordered “Summer Puzzlefest” myself and can’t wait to receive it on Monday.
Barry Boone’s New York Times crossword
I’m glad I started this puzzle in the upper right because if I’d figured out that 1-Across was RESODS at the very beginning, it might well have colored my solving experience. For my money, the upper right is the showiest corner. My first answer was 18a: [April shower?], a CALENDAR. Whaddaya know? That’s right. It pointed me toward the BICYCLE/ED AMES/DALEY swath, and ZEN said “hey, 7a is BEDAZZLE.” BEDAZZLE gave me ZYDECO—great clue there, 12d: musical [Style associated with washboards]. (This is not about abdominal muscles.)
In my “meh” list together with RESODS are EXAMINEE, SOLIDER, ORLE, and H-TEST. Far more numerous were the entries in the “nodding approval” list: BEDAZZLE, “BE STRONG,” SOLO ACTS, ZYDECO, ZIPPO lighters, the redundant CHAI TEA, DUNCE CAP, FLEABAG, and HOBNOB.
Were you jarred by 34a: GESTAPO, [Like brutal tactics]? I was okay with it, but it’s clearly a polarizing word.
Complete mystery answer: 54a: NUDE BOMB? [1980 Maxwell Smart film, with "The"]? Never heard of it.
Among my favorite clues is 38d: [Responded to a crash, maybe]. I was thinking of car crashes, but the answer is REBOOTED. Also suggestive of car crashes (or psychological implosion) is 20a: [Causes of breakdowns]. I was surprised to see ENZYMES take shape. I liked 47a’s clue too: [It's worn while driving] refers to a tire TREAD.
Answers I learned from crosswords eons ago and still have rarely encountered anywhere else: AMO, EDO, DENEB, and OCA. And ELBA doesn’t get much attention in America among those who are not palindrome fans.
Medical clue/answer of iffy validity: 55d: [Apnea diagnoser, briefly] clues ENT, an otolaryngologist. Sure, they can see a flabby soft palate or chubby neck and suspect obstructive sleep apnea, but there’s now an entire medical specialty, sleep medicine, whose practitioners may order sleep studies for patients with suspected sleep apnea. It’s not an office diagnosis, no.
Overall assessment of this puzzle: I like all the lively entries (including four Zs, two Xs) but could do without the blah bits. I’d have liked more tricky clues, but the puzzle did weigh in as a semi-tough Friday crossword, and it’s not supposed to be Saturday-challenging.
Jonathan Porat’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Today’s theme is a horrifying one, what with Halloween being just around the corner: EXTRA MAYO! Aaaaah! Make it go away! It’s scaring me. (I’m a “hold the mayo” person.) The extra MAYO is split up into the four component letters, which are slathered at the beginning of four familiar phrases:
- 19a. [Designed for ancient sorcerers?] clues MAGE-SPECIFIC.
- 27a. ATOM FOOLERY is [Pranks at the Bohr Institute?]. Tomfoolery is a great base word.
- 46a. [Genesis baking ingredient?] clues YEAST OF EDEN.
- 54a. [Banning CFC production, e.g.?] is an OZONE DEFENSE.
The four 9-letter answers in the fill (DALAI LAMA, OPERA STAR, DRIVE-THRU, ENVISIONS) may look like they could be theme answers, but they’re not. They’re simply decent fill of the long variety.
A baker’s dozen of clues:
- 1a. [Type of pigment used in artists' paints] is AZO, which is usually clued with regard to dye.
- 16a. [Blanket-toting toon] is LINUS from “Peanuts.” Do you believe in the Great Pumpkin? I’m a cucurbitatheist.
- 18a. An NFLER is clued as [One often working on Sun.]. Well, technically, football players are probably off more Sundays than they’re on. Sixteen regular-season games (some on Monday night) and a handful of preseason games?
- 21a. Double hit of slang: your CRIB is your [Digs], where you live.
- 23a. [Sonoma prefix] clues OEN-, the prefix for wine. Usually we have the 4-letter OENO instead. AZO, OEN—these aren’t the only yucky little answers today. IN RE, ENDE, ENO, SWE, DIAG, ERNE, ADE, ASTI, OLDE, ESS?
- 39a. [USN officers] clues CDRS. Plural abbreviation that isn’t obvious to those without Navy knowledge.
- 43a. [Do a little math] clues SUM. Raise your hand if you went with ADD first.
- 3d. [Oxford campus] means Oxford, Mississippi, not Oxford, England—OLE MISS.
- 9d. Whoa! [Sea change with far-reaching effects] is quite literally a change in the sea: EL NIÑO. Love this clue.
- 10d. [Two shakes, with "a"] clues JIFF, meaning “moment.”
- 36d. [Campaign weaponry?] is the MUD that political candidates sling at their opponents. Timely!
- 41d. With a Z, I couldn’t help thinking [Rookie's initiation] was some variation of HAZING, but it’s RAZZING.
- 45d. [Explorer initials] clues MSN. Not sure this really works. It’s a Microsoft browser, not an MSN one; Internet Explorer can load a gazillion websites other than MSN.com. Good clue? Bad clue?
John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Italy, Wittily”
The theme is Italian city puns. “Venus flytrap” becomes VENICE FLYTRAP. “Room service” turns into ROME SERVICE. A “turn signal” is altered to become TURIN SIGNAL. And PISA FURNITURE plays on “piece of furniture.” The puns didn’t really grab me; maybe my pun receptors have settled down for the night already.
Two of the longish entries in the fill are dull verb/preposition phrases: TIED INTO and LIE ABOVE. Meh.
- 24a. [Tribeca developer] is about the SUV, not the New York City neighborhood: SUBARU.
30a. [Designer of Djoser’s tomb in Saqqara] gets my nomination for Most Insanely Impenetrable Clue of the week. The answer is IMHOTEP. Why, I never knew he had tomb design on his résumé.
- 9d. “BEATS ME.”
- 29d. [Steinbeck novella published in 1937 is THE RED PONY. Never read it, but I like to see literature in the crossword.
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Silent Treatment"—Janie's review
Ah, Coolidge. Our country's 30th president had the nickname "Silent Cal." When he was serving as Vice President under Harding, he's said to have gained some attention through this anecdote: Dorothy Parker is seated next to him at some official dinner. Saith she, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His famous reply: "You lose." In a tribute to his understated way with a word, Patrick gives us a three-part quip today from 47A. CALVIN COOLIDGE:
- 20A. I HAVE NEVER BEEN
- 25A. HURT BY WHAT I
- 43A. HAVE NOT SAID.
Guess that's about as understated as ya can get. But I have to wonder if swallowing one's words doesn't do some of its own damage. Experience, however, has taught me that soooo very much depends on time and place... Still, this makes for a terrific little reminder and quip puzzle.
If there's not tons in the remainder of the puzzle that GRABS [Impresses] me the way the quip does, there’s still some good solid fill—like ABOVE ALL [More than anything else], DOVECOTE [Place for pet pigeons], WARNS OF [Issues a caveat about], DÉTENTE [Easing of diplomatic tensions], FELINE [Leopard or lynx] and the active “ACT NOW!” ["Don't delay!"].
I like the memories that SEPIA [Photographic tint] evoked. The once-esteemed Baltimore Sun used to run “the brown section” on Sundays. Wow. Just Googled it and the very first hit was for it—including (parts of) this paragraph: “The most attractive part of the Sunday Sun was the three-part Photogravure section known by everyone as ‘The Brown Section.’ This was a hodgepodge of international, national and local pictures. … On other pages were spreads of Coolidge’s summer retreat in the Black Hills…”
Since even sepia has brought us back to Cal, I’m simply going to close out with one more (friendly) swipe at the guy, this time with the reminder of the time he was a punchline in one of filmdom’s most charming films about itself, the always sunny Singin’ in the Rain. Quoth Lina Lamont: “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than – than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!” – Jean Hagen, Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boo Who?”
Another Halloween theme, and a variation on the theme in today’s L.A. Times puzzle: Here, there’s a SCARECROW whose letters are added to nine words/phrases to change their meaning to something sorta Halloweeny—e.g., WITCH HONORS, DUTCH COVEN. Witches, owls, ghosts, eerieness, etc. My main conceptual problem with the theme is that while SCARECROW includes the word SCARE in it, it’s not generally scary to people and it’s more a farm thing than a Halloween thing.
As a bonus, there are spooky words scattered throughout the grid. Halloween pranksters EGGING houses, SHIES with fear, VERMIN like rats, SNOWMEN (what? tell me Frosty isn’t terrifying when he comes to life), the Frankenstein monster’s SCAR, NEW AGE music…Aaaah! LET ME GO!