Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
I’ll call this puzzle a quasi-Gehryesque creation: The theme’s structure has as much impact as the theme’s content. The theme or gimmick, whatever you want to call it, is that there are nine pairs of 7-letter words (that’s a whopping 126 theme squares) and each pair of answer words shares a clue. Since you have no way of knowing which 7-letter possibility will go in the left spot and which in the right, you are forced to rely heavily on the crossings. While I love the theme concept and density, the puzzle falls apart for me in the crossings. Egad, there is some fusty crosswordese in those spots! I fear the Downs took me too much out of the zone that the cool Acrosses created. And a Gehry crossword‘s “Look what I made!” thrill needs, for me, to be accompanied by wit and entertainment and not by distracting blah bits of fill. I expect some fervid disagreement with my assessment.
Here are those Across word pairs:
- 1a, 8a. [Orient] is the noun FAR EAST and the verb SITUATE.
- 15a, 16a. [Ace] is an AVIATOR and, in a deck of cards, a ONE-SPOT.
- 17a, 18a. [Lower in stature] clues the verb DEGRADE and the preposition BENEATH.
- 34a, 38a. [I, for one] is a PRONOUN and a Roman NUMERAL. Ah, very good (but probably easy for long-time solvers). I bet a number of people considered something like ELEMENT, thinking of I as the symbol for iodine.
- 40a, 41a. ENTENTE is diplomatic [Understanding] and EMPATHY is emotional [Understanding].
- 42a, 43a. [Tire] clues WEAR OUT and a rubber tire that’s been given a new tread, a literal RETREAD.
- 60a, 63a. [Loose] is LIBERAL and AT LARGE. Excellent, not overly obvious.
- 65a, 66a. [Mean] is the noun AVERAGE and the verb SIGNIFY.
- 67a, 68a. GETS MAD and botanical or insect ARISTAS (a noun I have seldom seen outside of crosswords) are [Bristles].
The bits that lost me were the flock of ERNES near the suffix ERN, partials A PAT and ON OUR and AS A (I’ll give you a pat on your ASA), old-school crosswordese ARTEL, ugly trade name AGFA, ONER, AGA, and EWERS. I actually liked the GOLGI body, the African geography of NYASA ([Lake bordered by Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania]), and the medieval vibe of WOTAN and ETHS, though I could see some folks grouping those with the other answers in this paragraph. Oh, hey: Some of you know 20-something crossworder Jonathan Brown, who’s taking a couple years off from reading this blog while he’s in the Peace Corps in Lichinga, Mozambique. Why, that’s right near Lake Nyasa (aka Lake Malawi, Lake Niassa, Lake Nyassa). “Lake Nyasa? Oh, sure. I know someone out that way. Teaches math.” Speaking of puzzlers in southern Africa and the crosswordese in their lives, constructor/blog pal Gareth Bain recently reported his encounter with an AGAMA in South Africa. See? Sometimes we think things are crosswordese just because we don’t live in Africa.
Pancho Harrison’s LA Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Amusing job assessments
- 17A. ["So I hear your job as exercise class instructor is __"] – WORKING OUT
- 29A. ["So I hear your job as a burlesque dancer is __"] – TAKING OFF
- 46A. ["So I hear your trash removal business is __"] – PICKING UP
- 62A. ["So I hear your scuba diving business is __"] – GOING UNDER. Too bad. The other three jobs are going so well.
One-line review for those in a hurry: “So I hear my part-time crossword blogging is FILLING IN.”
- 21A. [Ancient Andean] – INCA
- 22A. [Davenport shopper, probably] – IOWAN. A shopper in Davenport, not one buying a Davenport. Unless they are shopping at “Davenport’s Davenports.” How’s that business going?
- 37A. [Big, outmoded piece of equipment] – DINOSAUR
- 38A. [Paris pronoun] – TOI/28D. [Of a pelvic bone] – ILIAC. Oops, I put TON/ILNAC, which is half right.
- 39A. [Accountant, at times] – AUDITOR. Indeed. My accounting business is ADDING UP.
- 41A. [Airport safety org.] – TSA. You never hear about these people, do you? Those guys are LOOKING UP and in and through and under and…
- 49A. [Dollar sign shape] – ESS. What about the line?
- 55A. [Disease attacker] – DRUG. I first had Doug. Go get those diseases, Doug!
- 65A. ["Got it, Daddy-o!"] – I DIG. Why is “cool” always cool but “groovy” stopped being groovy in 1970?
- 68A. [Frosty's button] – NOSE. One of my two favourite December time shows (along with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
- 4D. [Yellow ribbon site of song] – OAK TREE
- 9D. ["__ a chance!"] — NOT
- 10D. [Bionic beings] – CYBORGS. What would the $6,000,000 man cost today?
- 22D. ["Everybody is __, only on different subjects": Will Rogers] – IGNORANT. I know nothing about this.
- 24D. [Watching "Avatar," say] – ESCAPISM. This clue/answer combo seems off.
- 31D. [Caboodle partner] – KIT. Poor caboodle, never able to make it on its own.
- 34D. [Artist __ Hals] – FRANS. Proof that there are no famous FRANSes.
Ben Tausig’s “Banned Can” crossword – Jeffrey’s review
- 17A. ["I Ran (So Far Away)" band, with "A"] – FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
- 22A. [Utopia, pejoratively] – CLOUD CUCKOOLAND. More unknownness
- 54A. [Appalachian peak] – LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN
- 60A. [Stealth object in fantasy games] – CLOAK OF DARKNESS
One-line review for those in a hurry: Never having heard of Four Loko, combined with 41 three-letter answers, leads to unsatisfying experience.
- 16A. [Online video site] – HULU. I never link here because they won’t let Canadians access it.
- 41A. [Musician Buckley who died swimming in Memphis] – JEFF. No idea. What I can’t get JEFF, the whole thing is doomed.
- 58A. [Cry when hit by a sibling, perhaps] – MOMMY/56D. ["$#*! ___ Says" (CBS sitcom)] – MY DAD. Nice parental crossing.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 34″
I was just in the midst of completely forgetting about blogging the Fireball puzzle I solved earlier this evening when Joon mentioned it in a comment. Yes! It is pretty danged wonderful. It’s pegged to just the difficulty level I tend to enjoy most—Saturday NYT rigor but not a killer that makes me question my aptitude.
Lots of starkly unusual and interesting fill, plus clues that make you think. Among the brightest spots in the fill are these answers:
- MAN ONE: Man alive! I could not figure this out for the longest time. The clue—[D.A. offering in a murder trial, perhaps]—abbreviates “district attorney,” which is your cue that the answer is curtailed too. (Didn’t think about the abbreviation until after I had the answer, alas.) Short for “manslaughter in the first degree.”
- QUETZALCOATLUS?!? That’s a dinosaur name? I had no idea. The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, sure.
- ZWEI UND ZWANZIG is twenty-two in German. (Similarly, “Neun und neunzig Luftballons” means “99 balloons.” Luft is “air,” not “red,” but translating the Nena song to “99 Air Balloons” would sound stupid. (What’s really crazy is that we expect German language surprise fill from Matt Gaffney, not Peter Gordon.)
- NORA EPHRON is a solid and familiar first/last name combo. But the clue! Those were Harry and Sally’s last names?
- DAEDALUS, father of Icarus. It’s a cool name, no?
- TWEEZES is fun because of its clue, [Disconnects, as a unibrow].
My favorite clues:
- 36d. [Brewer constituent] made me think of beer or maybe tea, but an ARIZONAN is a constituent of Governor Teresea Brewer. No, wait. Wrong Brewer. Jan Brewer! Teresa Brewer lives on in crosswords and was, I dunno, an actress and/or singer back in the day.
- 32d. [Founders] looked to me like a plural noun, but no, it’s a verb here: GOES UNDER. Unexpected.
- 5a. [Hog's little cousin?] is a MOPED because a “hog” is a big ol’ Harley Davidson motorcycle.
- 10a. [Target of a slugger's swing in the strike zone?] is a SCAB, if you envision a strike-breaking scab getting punches thrown at him by somebody. For once, something that looks basebally in a Peter Gordon puzzle turns out to have nothing to do with the sport.
- 28a. The ACLU is clued with [One of its concerns is LGBT rights]. Yes, indeed! I donated to the ACLU this fall because that’s what my best friend registered for as a wedding gift, and boom, today the Illinois legislature passed a bill authorizing the legal rights attendant on civil unions for same-sex couples. Thanks for your help, ACLU of Illinois! “This time, it’s personal.”
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “The En is Near”—Janie’s review
“The en is near,” but you’ve no reason to repent—or make a dash looking for dashes… It is incumbent on you, however, to augment four familiar (mostly two-word) phrases with an additional “EN”—sometimes attaching it to the start of first word, sometimes to the start of the last. Today’s guilty parties? They’d be:
- 17A. LUNCH ENCOUNTERS [Brushes with brown-baggers?]. Funt clue. Enjoyed having to decide whether “brushes” was a noun or a verb—and also just how the theme would play out. For a while I entertained the idea that there was a dropped-letter twist going on, so that those “brushes” might occur at lunche
- 27A. ENDIVE BOMBER [Crop duster, at times?]. This gets me thinkin’ of North by Northwest… Duck and cover, Cary!!
- 46A. ORANGE ENTRÉE [Macaroni and cheese?]. Third orange this week, but there’s been a fresh approach each time. Gotta love that. Ditto Prokofiev playing the piano transcription of his march from The Love for Three Oranges… Notice, too, the way the pronunciation of “tree” changes to “tray” with the addition of that extra syllable. Because of the simplicity and poignancy the of song that forms the base phrase, Doug accomplishes this even more successfully (and humorously) with the last theme item, which, in its own right, is an
- 60A. ENTRY TO REMEMBER [Noteworthy diary section?]. “Dear Diary, Tonight I saw a little show called The Fantasticks that had such a sweet opening number—a little folk ballad called ‘Try to Remember‘”… (Do check out the link. A constructor of note has posted a thoughtful comment.)
There’s so much lively fill in the remainder of the puzzle as well—with a bit of a theatrical bent to it, too. For starters, poised symmetrically in the grid are [Arthur Miller drama set in Salem, with "The"] CRUCIBLE and OPERETTA [Gilbert and Sullivan production]. Then we get a double-dip of Shakespeare, with ["Much] ADO [About Nothing"] (my fave of the comedies) and LEAR [King of tragedy]. (Among the tragedies, I go with “the Scottish play.“) And while PLAY is in the grid, today it refers to a [Quarterback's call]. Still, the word itself ties in nicely to that [Auditioner's goal]/PART combo—perhaps for a role in something by Jean-Paul SARTRE ["No Exit" dramatist].
From the cinematic and broader world of entertainment, there’s Star Trek‘s UHURU [Crewmate of Spock], ["Pulp Fiction" actor Ving] RHAMES (Ving being short for Irving; Rhames for Rameses…), ["The Green] HORNET[" (60s superhero TV show)], SESAME [Oscar the Grouch's street], the ["Everybody Loves Raymond" or "Everybody Hates Chris"]/SITCOM combo, and let’s not forget [Lady] GAGA. Really enjoy the way that entry shares its second “G” with the final one in GAG [Comedy bit].
I co-opted play for my own purposes, but it really does belong in the “sports-related” column—right there with ALI ["When We Were Kings" boxer], EVEL [Stunt biker Knievel] and (present with first and last name) MEL OTT [Polo Grounds slugger]. I have to say that with this puzzle, Doug made a good solid hit himself!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Thursday”
- 1a. BALAAM’S ASS? Oh, yeah. Might have to dock Brendan a point for crossing this answer with ANAL, though.
- 15a. I HAD NO IDEA! Good stuff.
- 19a. Always appreciate a good DOUBLE ENTENDRE and “That’s what she said” bit.
- 25a. ["Raiders of the Lost Ark" setting] is TANIS? Never heard of it.
- 37a. Apparently MULLETS are making a bit of a comeback. Wouldja do me a favor? Carry scissors, and if you find yourself beside a mullet, slip behind it and *snip snip*. No party in the back.
- 50a. I thought this was spelled HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW, but I guess I can go with YA.
- 29d. They say ‘TIL, with the apostrophe replacing UN, is unnecessary and dorky, and that the word till is perfectly serviceable. I say ’til is useful because till is also a noun meaning the money drawer. Nobody is taking ’til from me.
- 39d. I’ve always liked the Tunis/TUNISIA combo. Too bad other countries don’t call their capital cities Armen, Alger, and Indones.