New star ratings! Once a puzzle’s been blogged, let us know how you liked it by clicking the “rate it” link (you won’t leave this page) to assign stars. I figure 5 stars = A++, 4 = a solid A, 3 = B, 2 = C, and 1 lonely star = a D or F. I’m not sure any puzzle blogged here has ever been lousy enough to merit a 1-star rating.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “The Long and Short of It”
You’d be hard-pressed to name a crossword constructor who does better work than Patrick Berry. There may be a 10-way tie for second place, but I think he’s alone in first place. This puzzle is Exhibit A. The theme is well-conceived (change long I or short I sounds into their “opposite” to create funny phrases) and deftly executed. I had two or three little out-loud laughs while solving the theme entries, and that’s a rarity. Then there’s the fill—is there a single entry that is off-base? I don’t think there is. The clues are fairly tough, though, which may limit the puzzle’s appeal to a broader audience. I’m generally fond of tough cluing but I know not all the Sunday solvers are keen on Friday/Saturday-grade clues.
Let’s take a gander at the theme:
- 23a. SATURDAY KNIT (instead of “Night”) FEVER. Cute.
- 32a. [Contents of the Visine Gazette?] would be EYE WHITENESS NEWS, playing on “eyewitness news.” Double cute!
- 48a. Slit skirts become those SLIGHT SKIRTS worn by cheerleaders.
- 64a. A Zippo brand lighter turns into ZIPPO LITTER, or a [Cleanup crew's goal?].
- 81a. One of my favorites: [Punchophobic?] clues AFRAID OF HITS (“heights”).
- 94a. British Airways turns into BRIGHTISH AIRWAYS, with pilots of moderate intelligence.
- 106a. “THEM’S FITTING WORDS!” reworks “Them’s fightin’ words!” Cute.
- 16d. Walter Mitty transmogrifies into the newsman WALTER MIGHTY. Well, Cronkite would be MIGHTY WALTER, wouldn’t he? Word order, people!
- 58d. I love this one, too: Tender Vittles cat food becomes TENDER VITALS, or [Easily damaged major organs?].
I spent a minute fixing problems in my grid after I thought I was done with this puzzle. I originally had ARF at 110d for the dog noise, and forgot was 117a: [Springe] meant and foolishly tolerated SNAFE there. And then I never even noticed that 106a was looking like THEM’S FITTIN’ A WORDS. Oy! So I fixed the ARF and made it GRR, one slow square at a time…and still got the dreaded “You are incorrect, fool” message. Eventually spotted an adjacent-key typo, CGOPS/IDAGOANS for musical CHOPS/IDAHOANS. D’og!
A few more remarks:
- 105a. The ADA, or American Dental Association, is an [Org. that supports water fluoridation], yes, but it also supports reducing the amount of fluoride in the water to cut down on the permanent white spots that can form on developing teeth with overexposure to fluoride.
- 9a. TWOFERS: Terrific entry. I think we’ve seen it before.
- 40a. [Naval need of old] is TAR, I think to seal the timbers used to make the ship. I had OAR at first.
- 50a. A TAN LINE is [Where brown and white meet]. Or where lighter and darker browns meet.
- 112a. A HOME RUN is an [Undeniable success], like this crossword.
- 116a. How many of us, if we know the word yean, learned it from crosswords? I know I did. YEANING means [Bringing forth young, as sheep]. Don’t congratulate your sister-in-law on yeaning your new nephew. People don’t yean.
- 3d. The word ESTOPPEL brings to mind not [Legal impediment] but an unholy merging of John Stossel, Erik Estrada, and Blues Traveler’s John Popper.
- 44d. [Big guns] gives you the plural fake-out: ARTILLERY doesn’t end with an S.
- 47d. LEMONS, as in bum cars, can be [Nonstarters?].
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “A Separate Piece”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: A Part Goes the First Word
- 22A. [Steeple before it's built?] – A SPIRE TO BE (2 ha’s)
- 27A. [Henry Luce, once?] – A HEAD OF TIME (1 ha)
- 30A. ["Farewell, flabs; hello, abs," for example?] – A VERSE TO EXERCISE (3 ha’s)
- 43A. [José Canseco fashion accessory?] – A STEROID BELT (2 ha’s)
- 50A. [Where Bacardi is bottled?] – A RUM PLANT (1 ha)
- 68A. [What the boxer had?] – A BOUT LAST NIGHT (3 ha’s)
- 91A. [Upshot of Hanks or Hulce appearing in a turkey?] – A TOM BOMBS (1 ha)
- 93A. [Barricade just big enough to keep out certain birds?] – A SWAN HIGH DAM (2 ha’s)
- 107A. [What you get when you cross a calf with a dachshund?] – A LONG LITTLE DOGIE (4 ha’s)
- 113A. [Source of cruise music?] – A BAND ON SHIP (2 ha’s)
- 118A. [What Bob is wearing that smells so good?] – A DOLE SCENT (3 ha’s)
One-line review for those in a hurry: A musing twist on the alternate parsing theme.
- 10A. [Max's co-star in "The Emigrants"] – LIV. Max von Sydow and LIV Ullmann, 1971. I’m thinking LIV could be clued a little more modern, say Tyler. And by modern I mean born after the movie.
- 35A. [Author of "The Devil and Daniel Webster"] – BENET. Benét, actually.
- 37A. [Captain's place] – SEA. As in Seattle.
- 54A. [Certain NBA player] – SIXER. Has anyone ever been both a SIXER and a Niner?
- 61A. [Swellings] – EDEMAS. I see EDEMA in a Merl Reagle puzzle, I think enema.
- 67A. [State add-on] – TAX. Also country, province, city…
- 83A. [Credit counterparts] – DEBITS. “Credits counterpart” sounds better to me.
- 85A. [Three years after Caesar's slaying] – XLI. Also the year 60 Minutes debuted.
- 90A. [100 pounds of nails] – KEG/69D. ["Sayonara" Oscar-winner Miyoshi] – UMEKI. Got the K wrong. Please say you did too.
- 100A. [Biblical twin] – ESAU. Luke and ESAU, jedis.
- 102A. [Its capital is Hue (or backward, something from heaven)] – ANNAM, not seinnep
- 116A. [For all ___] – TO SEE/117A. [Look over] – EYE. Special vision subtheme.
- 124A. [Former "Grand Ole Opry" channel] – TNN. The Nashville Network, now Spike TV. I do get it on my cable service; I’m not sure why.
- 2D. [Bill's nickname] – COS. Bill “Fat Albert” Clinton. No, wait, Cosby.
- 5D. [Flame-blocking structure in walls] – FIRE STOP. I tried FIRE DOOR. It fits except for messing up the crossings.
- 9D. [Anti-Allies alliance] – THE AXIS. World War II. Not nice people.
- 12D. ["Otello" fellow] – VERDI
- 13D. [Inserts wrong, as fax paper] – MISFEEDS. Remember (not you, joon) the first fax machines where the paper was waxy and never came out properly?
- 23D. [Certain saison] – ETE. Été, actually.
- 30D. [Fully engulfed, perhaps] – A BLAZE. Theme answer to be?
- 38D. [Somewhat] – A BIT. Theme answer to be (2)?
- 42D. [Jamie's Oscar role] – RAY
- 49D. [Fearsome dino] – T-REX. No, Dino is actually a generic sauropod/prosauropod type.
- 59D. [Bestseller that became a musical] – RAGTIME
- 66D. [Mon. ___ Fri.] – THR. Let’s pretend we didn’t see that./70D. [Call in a bakery] – NEXT!
- 80D. [Bagel flavoring] – SESAME. Jeffrey’s Law: Every good puzzle has a bagel.
- 96D. ["___ through my incarnations ..." (Kipling)] – AS I PASS. Rejected theme answer – A SIP ASS.
- 103D. ["Close, but ___" (surgeon's gag)] – NO SCAR. Get me another doctor, stat!
- 108D. ["I'm not ___ judge ..."] – ONE TO. Yes you are, Simon.
- 109D. [Timberlake's old group] – N’SYNC
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 40″
Cup? Runneth over. Two excellent Berry puzzles in a single day. By the way, I voted twice on his NYT puzzle, one 4 and one 5, because I wanted to give it 4 1/2 stars. Mathematically, that may skew things, but I think it’s close enough for government blog work.
This puzzle was challenging, no? (Please say “yes.”) Two things slowed me down. The first was putting in nautical ABAFT for 11d: [Rearward] when the actual answer was much better and less arcane: ABACK. The other thing that slowed me down was…the entire bottom half of the grid. Oy! Tough stuff.
Let’s amble through the list of 66 clues and see what’s worthy of note (after first marveling at the hyper-smoothness of Berry’s fill for a grid with a pretty low word count):
- 17a. In this case, [Show trials] doesn’t mean legal proceedings that get lots of attention—rather, it’s “trials” as in test runs for a show–DRESS REHEARSALS.
- 20a. [Stop order?] clues “DON’T MOVE A MUSCLE,” which is a slam-bang answer.
- 23a. A SHIITE is [One who thinks Ali is the greatest?]. The sect loves classic boxing, I tell ya.
- 24a. [Oil-bearing vessel] is a CRUET with salad oil.
- 32a. A HALO is a [Good indication?]. I was feeling vague about this clue and had HALE crossing a DENT in the wall (29d: [Hole in the wall?] = DOOR.)
- 36a. LEYTE, a Philippine island, was the [Site of a 1944 naval battle].
- 37a. No! Really? The [Occupation of Charlie Brown's father] was BARBER? Do you think he cut Charlie’s two hairs himself?
- 41a. WHATCHAMACALLIT! Love it. Fabulous answer. Clued as an [Untagged item?], meaning a thing that’s not specifically named.
- 44a. The Plain White T’s had a hit song this year, the title of which I might recognize if I saw it now that my kid’s a top-40 radio listener. Their [No. 1 hit of 2007]? Not a clue. Remember seeing mention of “HEY THERE, DELILAH” in Entertainment Weekly, I think, but I sure wasn’t gonna get that title without a zillion crossings.
- 45a. Really? ["Gabriel's ___" (theme from "The Mission")] is missing the word OBOE? Huh.
- 3d. Learned this from another fairly recent crossword. IDENTI-KIT is a system used when making police sketches of suspects. [It's used when making faces].
- 8d. THEATRICS is a great word, isn’t it? Also good: histrionics.
- 12d. I think [Swan of fiction] may be BELLA because Bella Swan is the name of that Twilight saga character, but I don’t dare look it up and solidify that unwanted knowledge in my head.
- 26d. Not my favorite of the full-name entry category. BRET HARTE is the [Writer whose line "Death shall reap the braver harvest" is his epitaph]. Is that line famous? What’s it from? How many of you have read Bret Harte?
- 31d. Ah! [Top spot] is the TOY CHEST where you might find a spinning top (probably not actively spinning while it’s in the toy box, though).
- 32d. HIRELING! Great word, that. I bet a lot of people wanted that [McJob holder] to be TEENAGER, especially if they hadn’t filled in TEENS at 49a yet.
- 34d. Verb? No, noun. [Stick in a cage] is the PERCH a bird sits on in a bird cage.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
I’m going to own up and admit that the first rating for this puzzle came from me and it was 5-stars! I really enjoyed this themeless from constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith. Although he is better known for 15-letter stacked entries, today’s offering was as or more impressive with its stacked 11s in the top, middle and bottom as well as two 15-letter entries thrown in between them.
- 1-Across, STAR CHAMBER isn’t Paris Hilton‘s dressing room, but an “Inquisitional court” that dates back to 15th century England. I don’t remember this term used in the excellent The Tudors series, but I do remember the meetings of the Privy Counsellors.
- TIME RELEASE is ad-speak for a drug that dissolves (or is absorbed) over time; all I can think of dropping a clock off the top of a building. Did Galileo or da Vinci do this in any of their experiments?
- AT AN IMPASSE is a much more hoity-toity way of saying “Stalled.” Negotiations between hostile countries often are said to be this.
- Loved both 15s, starting with FINE-TOOTHED COMB at the top and a teacher’s SEE ME AFTER CLASS toward the bottom.
- A “Pair of socks” isn’t ARGYLES, but a ONE-TWO PUNCH…”Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…”
- Tough that STALAGMITES and STALACTITES only differ in those center two letters, eh? The “gm” versions grow from the floor of a cave, where as the “ct” ones drop from the ceiling.
- TASTE TESTER is one of those RSTLNE phrases you see a lot of in grids with long entries, but it’s a small price to pay here for so many other much better ones.
- I think of Swiss chalets as the prototypical A-FRAME HOUSE. To the right is one in Duluth, Minnesota where they also get a lot of snow.
- The parable of the PRODIGAL SON is one of the most famous from the New Testament (Luke 15:11-32). It’s all about forgiveness, something we can all improve on.
- Finally, we have a TOMATO PLANT. We grew heirloom tomatoes for the first time last year, our favorites were the dark purple Cherokees.
Most of the crossing down entries were shorter, SALIENCE the noun form of SALIENT is a bit unusual, but probably the biggest head-scratcher was the city of TOMSK, Siberia. I see here over a half-million people call it home and it was founded in 1604. I also wondered why Assam and Victoria were chosen as exemplary STATEs; the former is in India, the latter in Australia. Loved the two capitalized Turners back to back, one a SPIT at a luau and the other the rebellious slave NAT.
Henry Hook’s online Boston Globe crossword, “Drop a Couple Pounds”
The symbol for a British pound is £, which looks sort of like an L. So if you “drop a couple pounds,” you delete LL from assorted phrases to generate the theme entries.
Oh, you’re wondering where Sam is? He broke his funny bone blogging here last weekend and is recuperating now. Sorry. I know you miss him. We all do.
The theme entries include JACKIE CO(ll)INS, THE OLD SHE(ll) GAME (now, who would call anything a “she game”?), the YE(ll)OW PAGES, MORA(ll)Y BANKRUPT, JO(ll)Y GOOD SHOW (referring to Joy Behar), BU(ll)Y PULPIT, THE BE(ll)E OF AMHERST, RUNNING OF THE BU(ll)S, and SPI(ll)ED MILK.
NIIHAU?? [Neighbor of Kauai]? It’s apparently an island near Kauai that’s occupied by native Hawaiians. Did I know this name? No-how.
HILDY? That’s what my late grandma, the one who loved crosswords, was called by relatives in her generation. Short for Hildegarde. (The following generations went with Anne, though she started life as Anna Hildegarde.) Had no idea it was also famous as ["The Front Page" role].
Learned more about KAPOK in Key West, where there’s a giant kapok tree on the old courthouse (?) lawn. Some months hence, the fluff will burst out of the seed pods. Back in the day, they stuffed life jackets with kapok.
Three favorite bits:
- I love RAT PACK and AFEARD. I don’t manage to use afeard as often as I’d like, dagnabbit.
- Ah, the TOUPEE clue fooled me! [Top secret?] is great.
Jack McInturff’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Oui”
It took me a while to figure out what the theme entries were doing: Changing an OU in a phrase to an I and cluing the new phrase accordingly. It wasn’t quite a giggle-out-loud theme (so few are, I find), but it’s solidly executed.
Funniest clue, in context: 56a: [Upgrade to five stars, say] for RERATE. The entry’s blah, but maybe subliminally the constructor will have raters thinking “five stars, five stars.”
- 23a. [Herb homily?]is SERMON ON THE MINT (Mount).
- 39a. [Like a stroller out of breath?] is WALKING WINDED, playing on “the walking wounded” but turning it into a verb phrase. “Stroller” generally means “wheeled vehicle for babies and toddlers,” not “one who strolls”—so that slowed me down.
- 50a. [Golf pro's protection?] is GRIP INSURANCE (group).
- 70a. [Coffee at church?] is HALLOWED GRIND (ground).
- 81a. [Adoptee's goal?] is FINDING FATHER (founding). A more probable person to engage in that pursuit is a kid who’s the product of a sperm bank, no?
- 105a. ["Last Comic Standing" winning routine?] is a CHAMPIONSHIP BIT (bout).
- 35d. Sour grapes becomes SIR GRAPES, or [Knighted vintner's nickname?].
- 46d. [Dorm room Christmas tree?] is a FIR POSTER (four-poster bed) posters being common room decor in dormitories.
- U.S.O. SHOW, GAME LAW, NO-NAMES, FAKE ID’S, SKYPE, ST. PETER.
There were five “Wait, who??” names in the grid. I’ve got to get started on cooking the cornbread casserole I’m taking to brunch and have a migraine to boot, so I’ll refer you to Doug Peterson’s L.A. Crossword Confidential post for the lowdown on those. (What do you know? Doug thought they were all mystery names too!)