Patrick “The King” Berry’s New York Times crossword
You know what this 66-word themeless puzzle doesn’t have? It lacks the letters F, J, Q, X, and Z. It comes nowhere near being a pangram. But the fill is smooth as ice, with great long fill. Intriguing fact, which I learned from John Farmer in the comments at Rex’s blog: Patrick Berry has not published a single pangram in the NYT, despite making 133 solo puzzles for this venue. Patrick continually astonishes me, as the fill in his regular crosswords and his variety puzzles (in Games magazine and a couple Saturdays a month in the Wall Street Journal) is always smooth, always has interesting long answers, and is never obscure or marginally acceptable. Nobody knows how he does it. One of his tricks is that he doesn’t chase pangrams. You may get some unusual letters in the grid, but never at the expense of other fill.
To wit: The longest four answers here are a PENCIL SHARPENER crossing the stacked MOTOR SCOOTERS, PAROLE HEARING, and WALKIE-TALKIES. All ordinary phrases, none seen at all often in other crosswords. And the stagger-stacked 13s are crossed mostly by longish answers, fluidly and flawlessly. Compare a triple-stack of 15s crossed by a bunch of arid 3s and 4s (your ENE and ENOL type fill)—this is probably harder to make despite the stacked answers being 13s rather than 15s.
Favorite clues and answers:
- 17a. [Popular name for tolnaftate] stumped me, but tough-actin’ TINACTIN worked its way out. That’s for foot fungus, isn’t it? I like that something medical stumped a medical editor.
- 23a. [Where Alfred Krupp was born] is ESSEN, Germany. Gettable mainly if you’ve done too many crosswords in which ESSEN is clued as the home of the Krupp iron works. I like being rewarded for knowing crosswordese trivia sometimes.
- 36a. I like the linguistic bent to the clue for BRYN, [Welsh word in a Pennsylvania college name]. Of course, I tried MAWR first.
- 51a. I love an egg tooth (husband and I saw one in use on a TV show once and it was captivating), so EGG TEETH clued as [Aids in breaking shells]? A gimme.
- 5d. [Caddy, e.g.] could mean a few things. I tried an AIDE on the golf course first, but it’s actually a Cadillac, or AUTO.
- 15d. HATE is clued as the creepy tattoo in The Night of the Hunter. I read the clue as being about Cape Fear, which made it a gimme. But I could have my movie references all mangled.
- 24d. Remember high-school chemistry class? I have the vaguest memory of BURETTES. Crazy to remember words you’ve long forgotten.
- 29d. MALAYALAM is a [Language that reads the same backward and forward], meaning that the language’s name is a palindrome. This is what made me swap out MAWR for BRYN, and the Y nudged me toward the rest of the language’s name.
- 32d. PAT RILEY, hoops coach, good first/last name combo.
- And, of course, the stacked 13s, especially WALKIE-TALKIES, and the PENCIL SHARPENER piercing them.
Paul Cuerdon’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This chemical symbol–themed puzzle seems to be a good bit easier than yesterday’s LAT. The symbol for the element COPPER (47d) is Cu, and four theme entries have added some copper atoms by incorporating the letters CU:
- 18a. [Raised to the ninth power?] is DOUBLE-CUBED, building on a double bed.
- 24a. CURARE BOOKS are [Poison literature?], as curare is a poison used on arrows and blow darts.
- 50a. The [Most adorable flier?] is the CUTEST PILOT. Have you been watching 30 Rock, with Matt Damon guesting as Liz Lemon’s cute pilot boyfriend, Carol?
- 55a. [Original Anglican assistant priest?] would be the FIRST CURATE.
Other fill is quasi-related to the theme:
- 1a. [Iron pumper's pride] is her ABS. Iron = Fe.
- 17a. TIN (Sn) is an [Element in pewter].
- 35a. [They may be noble or precious] clues METALS, like copper, iron, and tin.
- 15a. [One who may need technical terms explained] is a LAYMAN.
- 40a. [Madagascar mammals] are those cute LEMURS, among others.
- 1d. My son has been learning about the AZTECS and Incas this week in school. [Tlaxcalteca enemies]. I tried to blow his mind by telling him all the cool words that we got from the Aztecs, but could only think of chocolate. (Which is the best one!) Wikipedia reminds me, “English words of Nahuatl origin include avocado, chili, chocolate, coyote and tomato.”
- 2d. Interesting clue. [Cedar Revolution city] is BEIRUT, but what’s the Cedar Revolution? A 2005 uprising. Lebanon’s flag features cedars, of course.
- 8d. ['70s-'80s TV family] clues the WALTONS. I thought of the Ewings and the Bradfords first.
- 12d. [Cooked really well?] is a clever clue for OVERDONE.
- 21d. [Any Wrigley Field contest until 1988] was a Cubs DAY GAME. Then the stadium lights went in and a limited number of night games are scheduled each year. Day game, night game, doesn’t matter—either one befouls traffic in my neighborhood.
Most unusual word in the puzzle:
- An OCULUS is a [Dome opening, in architecture], like the pupil if the dome is likened to an eyeball.
John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Latin Americans”
Fun Latin theme! This 15×16 puzzle takes five familiar Latin phrases and changes one part of each into an American person’s first name that sounds similar. The resulting phrase is then clued with reference to that person’s last name:
- 5d. [“Singer Avalon’s tongue,” in Latin?] is LINGUA FRANKIE (lingua franca, the common language).
- 7d. [“Attorney Bugliosi is universally beloved,” in Latin?] clues OMNIA VINCENT AMOR (omnia vincit amor, “love conquers all”).
- 10d. AQUA VITO is clued as [“Gangster Genovese sleeps with the fishes,” in Latin?]. Aqua vitae means “water of life” and is another name for brandy.
- 23d. The paterfamilias, or male head of the household, turns into PETER FAMILIAS, or [“Actor Graves is head of household,” in Latin?].
- 43d. [“Soccer star Hamm is very sorry,” in Latin?] clues MIA CULPA, playing on mea culpa.
Cute theme. Made me feel smart to pull it all together. The Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzles are often good for that.
I also didn’t know that SVENGALI was an [Evil hypnotist in "Trilby"], mainly because I don’t know what “Trilby” is. Ah, George du Maurier’s 1894 novel, that’s what. Who can forget the Seinfeld episode when Elaine used the term but pronounced it “sven-jolly”?
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “B-Fore”—Janie’s review
“B-Fore” does just about what the title leads you to b-lieve the themed entries will do: take on the letter “B” in advance of in-the-language base phrases to create new-and-amusing variations. The results? B-you-tiful. Thus we encounter:
- 17A. [Quick-witted worker?] BRIGHT HAND. It’s even better for the employer when his/her right-hand (wo)man turns out to be a bright hand! Guess it all depends on whom you HIRE [Put to work].
- 10D. [Robin's residence?] BRANCH HOUSE. And look—with its wooden exterior, here’s a place that looks like it could (almost) qualify as a branch ranch-house…
- 24D. [Reaction to a fireworks finale?] BLAST HURRAH. Because of the strong visual (and aural) image it creates, this is my fave.
- 55A. [Mensa measuring tool?] BRAIN GAUGE. With this one running a close second—probably because of the clue, which could have been the far more clinical, less playful [EEG?]. Glad it wasn’t!
Am also glad for so much of the non-theme fill, so many of the clue/fill combos. For starters, there’s the symmetrical (near-) eye-rhyme pair of WASHRAGS [Cleaning cloths] and TRASH BAG [Hefty product]. (Oh, and I see that the latter has a true rhyme in ASH [Hearth refuse].) Then there’s the symmetrical [Key for parting words] and [Bygone beau]. Sounds like they might be related, no? The “key” to correctly parsing the former clue, however, is in reading “key” as a synonym for”button” (and not “crucial element”), and “parting” not as an adjective but as a gerund/noun. This, then, yields SPACE BAR (and not “IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME…”) and OLD FLAME.
There’s a nod to the Judeo-Christian tradition with [Biblical twin], [Pastor's flock] and [Mass number?] for ESAU, LAITY and (the non-physics-based) HYMN ; and to (more) music, by way of [Solo delivery] and [Stringed instrument of old] for ARIA and LYRE. The latter is also a variation of the name of a constellation (Lyra) which might be familiar to folks who are up on their [Sci. of the stars] ASTR.
Love the all-consonant cluster at 1A. of LCD TV [Tube at a sports bar, briefly] and the way it feeds into the consonant cluster that begins V-SHAPES [Some flying formations].
A [Snappish] CURT [One word of advice]? “DON’T!” From Anyone Can Whistle, here’s Harry Guardino singing Stephen Sondheim’s response to that particular kind of advice. Always nice to get the “contrarian” p.o.v.!
Myles Callum’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Zzzzz”
I like the root of this theme better than the hidden-word execution. The buzzphrase “There’s an app for that” morphs into THERE’S A NAP FOR THAT ([Punny motto for this puzzle, taking a siesta?]) and a NAP is lurking within each of the other theme entries, which “take a siesta.” Hidden-word themes seldom move me, though. While the phrases included in this theme are lively, there’s nothing that semantically unites them, and the “taking a siesta” clues don’t add much. Here are the theme answers:
- 23a. [Canned, maybe for taking a siesta?] = GIVEN A PINK SLIP.
- 31a. [Idiom for a neologist taking a siesta?] = TO COIN A PHRASE.
- 45a. [Simile of similarity taking a siesta?] = LIKE TWO PEAS IN A POD.
- 60a. [Famously felicitous palindrome taking a siesta?] = A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA.
- 93a. [NBA team taking a siesta?] = INDIANA PACERS.
- 106a. [Campaign catchphrase taking a siesta?] = LIPSTICK ON A PIG.
Least familiar answer words:
- 27a. [First saint canonized by a pope] = ULRIC. Wikipedia doesn’t make it easy to find this guy, but I’ll bet Joon could tell us all about him.
- 42d. [Soviet secret police chief] = BERIA. Who? He worked under Stalin, but adding “under Stalin” to the clue would have helped me not a whit.
- 58d. [Atlanta Symphony leader Robert] = SPANO. Who?
- 95d. [Sorghum variety] = DURRA. Never heard of it. Had the first letter or two and tried DURUM.
Answers of note:
- 1a. Right at 1-Across we’re hit with MAN UP, clued as ["Take responsibility!"]. I prefer “Skirt up!” to “Man up!”
- 19a. [Cannes site] = THE RIVIERA. Splendid fill.
- 21a. [Dray puller] = ASS. If an ass hauls a dray, what hauls ass?
- 41a. A pitcher’s [Mound accessory] is a ROSIN BAG.
- [One may cover your tab] = BAR BET. Film director Barbet Schroeder, call your publicist. Your name is slipping out of crosswords.
- 24d. [Former Ecuadorian money] = SUCRES. See also:
- 33d. [Peon's pay, perhaps] PESO.
- 55d. [Bakery buys] = BUNS. These are great for pulling a dray.
- 84d. [Vanishing point?] is the THIN AIR into which missing things seem to have disappeared.