Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle, once it’s filled in, looks horribly wrong. Unless you drop it, that is, and find yourself looking at the theme entries from a different angle. All six theme entries are made up of insane sequences of letters, but when you rotate the grid you get passable capital letters spelling out something that corresponds to the clue. Like so:
- 20a. The mystery item is an [*Antimicrobial bit in mouthwashes (90 degrees)]. Pre-rotation, that’s NHZUHOZ, but turn your head 90° to the left and see the ZINC ION with fat, stocky I’s.
- 22a. The next answer is UOZHU, with echoes of the constructor’s name. Turn it and you see CONIC, [*Like wizards' caps (90 degrees)].
- 35a. The song title “TURN, TURN, TURN” tells you what to do with the theme answers.
- 43a. SNOISSIWNOOW flips 180° to become MOON MISSIONS.
- 59a. Keep rotating past 180° to 270° (or just tilt 90° the other way) for the last two. [Marriage, say (270 degrees)] is a ZOHZC or UNION.
- 61a. ZOHZOOZ! Yes, I order plenty of restaurant items with NO ONION. Actually, I say “no onions,” with the plural, to be inclusive of white onions, green onions, Vidalia onions, and onions of all kinds.
What a mind-bending gimmick! I love it and I hope Mr. Zhou has more crazy crossword concepts floating around in his head. I printed this one out from the applet, which I almost never do (but did just last week for the Nothnagel contest)—I just had to show my husband this puzzle. He pronounced it to be insane (but in a good way).
Bonus points for the theme jacking up the Z count to 11. (Nigel Tufnel would approve.) Highlights in the fill include a tornadic VORTEX, a SHIH-TZU dog (I once photographed a sign taped onto a light pole—someone had completely lost their Shit-Zu), a PONZI scheme, a KOSOVAR from Kosovo, the Iranian city SHIRAZ (also a wine and a college classmate of mine) a good SHOUT-OUT, and the fun-to-say SOZZLED.
The bonus points are partly offset by the grievous bits of fill. The worst offenders are TAIS, AT YA, TWO HR., an OWER and EMOTER with some DOZERS, unfamiliar names ZORN and GUNN, and everybody’s favorite crosswordese [Biblical dry measures], the OMERS. Oh, and the bastard hybrid IT’S I, a [Formal/informal response to "Who's there?"] that blends “it is I” and “it’s me.” I was so knocked out by the theme (and so busy turning my head this way and that) that I didn’t much notice the cruddy fill. The crossings for the worst words tended to be better and those clues were pliable enough—so I didn’t struggle much with anything outside of the theme answers.
Theme – Oh, Behave!
- 17A. [Battle of the Bulge air assault division] – SCREAMING EAGLES. Appropriate for this Remembrance/Veteran’s Day.
- 23A. [Doppelgänger] – SPITTING IMAGE
- 34A. [It's hard to get romantic with one] – NAGGING HEADACHE
- 48A. [Reason to see a mechanic] – WHINING ENGINE. This one sounds a little odd. Am I WHINING?
- 56A. [Admonition to one acting out the starts of 17-, 23-, 34- and 48-Across] – MIND YOUR MANNERS. Consider yourself admonished. One step before being reprimanded.
- 1A. [U.S. dept. with a Race to the Top reform prog.] – EDUC. Do we really need three abbreviations in the clue to get the message that the ans. is abbr.?
- 14A. [JV team member, perhaps] – SOPH. More abbr.
- 30A. [Alice's workplace] – DINER. Mel’s to be exact.
- 32A. [Clue] – HINT. If the clue is clue why isn’t the answer ANSWER?
- 40A. [Important no. to most car buyers] – MPG. If you buy at 1D. [Gas acronym] – ESSO, it is l/100km (litres per 100 kilometers). No, I don’t know why. Only that lower is better.
- 47A. [Teeny] – ITSY bitsy.
- 53A. [__ Tunes] – LOONEY, for example 6D. ["__ Baba Bunny": classic Bugs cartoon] – ALI
- 8D. [Leia's last name] – ORGANA. Adopted name.
- 13D. [Uncle at 0001 Cemetery Lane, in '60s TV] – FESTER. Snap your fingers!
- 18D. [First name in shipping] – ARI. Onassis. Does anyone still remember him?
- 19D. [Angular measurement device used in surveying] – ALIDADE. The word is Arabic for “you’ve never heard of it so head directly to the crossings.”
- 26D. [Mineral with basal cleavage] – MICA. Not just any basal cleavage, mind you, but highly perfect basal cleavage.
- 32D. [__ Hop: bouncing ball brand] – HIPPITY. I’m not as up on my bouncing ball brands as I should be.
- 39D. [Callaway of golf equipment fame] – ELY. If you have to explain who he is, he isn’t really famous.
- 44D. [Rollercoaster ride, e.g.] – THRILL/45D. [Former Disney chief] – EISNER. Makes you wish you were in Orlando.
- 47D. [Part of a conspiracy] – IN ON IT. Six letters, three words. Beat that!
- 49D. [Kind of salad dressing] – NO OIL. Five letters, two words. Not good enough.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Boosting the Mix” – Jeffrey’s review
- 41A. [It deals with hard stuff] – BARTENDING EXAM
- 17A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – GIVE IT A SHOT
- 26A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – THAT’S THE SPIRIT
- 54A. [Apt encouragement for someone taking their 41-Across] – CONCENTRATE
Get it? SHOT, SPIRIT, RATE, oops CONCENTRATE?
- 48A. [9Lives rival] – MEOW MIX (check the title)
- 1A. [Ibsen's Gabler] – HEDDA. HEDDA Hopper was a gabber.
- 6A. [Memorial at a Buddhist wat] – STUPA. What’s a wat? Who’s on First?
- 11A. [Avril follower] – MAI. Janvier, Fevrier, Mars, Avil, MAI, Juin, Juillet, Aout, Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, Decembre. My English speaking spell-checker hates me right now.
- 14A. [Drug at the center of some 19th-century wars] – OPIUM. Opium, poppy, Remembrance Day. Unexpected tie-in.
- 15A. [Time for a tuck] – NIGHT. Shouldn’t that be tuck-in? Does anyone get a tuck-out? No covers for you! Wait, my wife does that to me every night.
- 16A. [Does a DJ's job] – EQS. Equalizing? Also known as mixing. Hey, wait a minute!
- 19A. [Massage] – RUB. Aye, there’s the massage.
- 20A. [Edible shellfish] – SCALLOP. So who was the first person who tasted it? And who was the first to think eating an egg was a good idea?
- 21A. [From an ancient Greek city] – NEMEAN. I haven’t met too many NEMEANS lately.
- 23A. [Boxing, to pacifists] – ANATHEMA. If they hate boxing why is “fists” in their name?
- 32A. [Historic Memphis blues street] – BEALE.
- 33A. [Place for those only interested in getting off] – EXIT LANE. No double entendres around these parts. Nope, none.
- 35A. [Twice, "Notorious" band] – DURAN. My least favourite ’80s group. Twice.
- 37A. [The Andrews Sisters' ''Bei Mir __ Du Schön''] – BIST. Maybe if DURAN DURAN sang with the Andrews Sisters I would have liked them.
- 44A. [Open and shut, e.g.] – ANTONYMS. What is the ANTONYM of ANTONYM?
- 60A. [Short-lived and generally disastrous sports experiment of the early 2000s] – XFL. But it lives on in crosswords.
- 2D. [___ fail] – EPIC. See XFL.
- 3D. [Big-headed celebrity, so to speak] – DIVA
- 5D. [Question on walking into a meeting] – AM I LATE. Yes, you are.
- 6D. [Lose your cool with] – SNAP AT. Yes, you are!!!!
- 9D. [Puts a half-assed effort toward] – PHONES IN. I think I’ll end here.
- 13D. [0316038377, e.g., for "Twilight"] – ISBN. Did Ben enter the number randomly in Google and “Twilight” came up?? What luck.
- 22D. [One may be knocked over continually by those goddamn teenagers in their goddamned pickup] – MAIL BOX. This puzzle is starting to scare me.
- 28D. [One recognized at mid-season, often] – ALL-STAR. It just doesn’t pay to be good in the second half of the season. Seems unfair.
- 35D. ["There's a tarantula on your head"] – DON’T MOVE. Now I’m really scared.
- 36D. [Word processing option] – UNDO. I did an UNDO on the last few answers. Everything’s ok now.
- 39D. [Some bridge holdings] – TENACES. Ten ace is not a tenace. Queen Ace is.
- 40D. [Country fully landlocked by one other country] – LESOTHO. South Africa is that one other country.
- 42D. [Team of Queens] – NY METS. Ryan and Brian didn’t fit.
- 45D. [Candy for which Rahzel once shilled] – TWIX
- 47D. [Stunt biker Knievel] – EVEL. Well that’s one profession where the son won’t follow the father. Wait.
- 51D. ["Believe ___ not!"] – IT OR. And how would you clue ITOR? Huh? Thought so.
- 56D. ["Fortunate Son" band, to fans] – CCR. Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Hyperlinks”—Janie’s review
Oh, now here’s another fun one. This is a mash-up / Venn diagram / before-and-after theme with a popular-internet-site twist. Patrick’s new look at an old technique, the utter plausibility of the “afters” and the overall strength of the non-theme fill help to ASSURE [Make inevitable] this puzzle’s success. Here’s how it all PLAYS OUT [Unfolds]:
20A. [Investigation into a social networking site?] MY SPACE PROBE. Or, to spell it out (this time only) My Space + space probe = [My [Space] probe] . Very cool. Imoo.
31A. [T-shirt advertising a video site?] YOU TUBE TOP. Thing is, no flies on those folks at YouTube (well, Google actually…). You know they have merchandise. No tube-tops, but they sure do have T’s. And infant-wear. And mouse pads. And…
42A. [Screen frame displaying an auction site?] E-BAY WINDOW. I guess any page on the site would qualify. A bay window can let a lot more light in however…
53A. [Group for fans of a social networking site?] FACEBOOK CLUB. What the world needs now. If you’re on Facebook, aren’t you already a member of the club? I’m so not a member (or a “Facebugger” as one of my [actual] friends calls it). And while I think that the phenomenon is phenomenal and a defining aspect of this part of the century (whose technology and impact cannot be lightly dismissed—or dissed), I was still grateful to read Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis in The New Yorker of the effectiveness of social media vis à vis social change. A terrific read.
In addition to this fine group of theme fill we get a bonus entry—something that links together all these “hyperlinks,” namely the WEB, that [Browser's bailiwick]. Sweet.
What else do I like today? I’ll start with the 1A./1D. crossing of GRASP and GET. Both can mean “understand,” but Patrick mixes it up some, cluing them as [Clutch] and [Take vengeance on] respectively. Keeps things interesting! In that same NW corner is TYPE A [Competitive kind of personality]. This makes for a nice complement to the SE corner’s VIE [Compete]. We also find SLEDS there, for [Enjoys a snowy slope]. Snowy slopes can also be enjoyed with fill from the top: SKIS [Biathlon gear].
A [Diner dessert]? PIE. But note how it shares that “I” with DIETER ["The Biggest Loser" contestant]. Talk about putting temptation in one’s way… I suppose the dieter who gives in to temptation will soon become an ATONER [Penitent sort].
And how about SEXED UP [Made more alluring]? Take a listen. I think there might be a tie in here to “Love Zone” from ["Love Zone" singer Billy] OCEAN. Born Leslie Sebastian Charles, Mr. Ocean is from Fyzabad, Trinidad. Now there’s a place name for constructors’ word lists!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Play Grounds”
Where do you play various sports? The tennis or basketball COURT (JESTER), the cricket PITCH (BLACK), the running TRACK (LIGHTING), the football FIELD (TRIPS), and the baseball DIAMOND/boxing RING. Had you ever noticed that the phrase “diamond ring” consists of two athletic venues? I hadn’t.
- 1d. A nerve signal’s [Transmission part?] is a SYNAPSE. Nice mislead.
- 5d. Don’t go to UNO [___ Chicago Grill] and think you’re getting the sort of food everyone eats in Chicago. We eat a lot of thin-crust pizza here.
- 44d. SHADES are an [Accessory for Kanye West]. I was just reading that George W. Bush kept pronouncing the name “Conway” during his Matt Lauer interview. Who wouldn’t like a Conway West/Kanye Twitty mashup?
- 46d. [Bridge opening], A HEART? Feels like an arbitrary add-an-article answer.
- 51d. [Costumes made with bedsheets] wants to be GHOSTS but only TOGAS will fit.