Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
So, I’m several puzzles into Patrick Berry’s latest splashy puzzle book, Adventures in Puzzling. I’ve already encountered a couple types of puzzles that vex me (I reserve the right to just peek at the answers when I find a puzzle variety I don’t enjoy at all), but also did a fun “Some Assembly Required”-type puzzle with an asteroid theme and roundish grid. The goal of finishing each puzzle is to come up with a final answer, and eventually all those final answers will somehow coalesce into a grand final answer. (I haven’t peeked ahead, so I know nothing about the challenge ahead.) This is the book the puzzle people are talking about—get in on the fun.
Didja get a load of this crazy pinwheel grid? Four wide-open sections with only two small doors leading into a fifth middle section. I perused the clues for the two sections at the top and fled to the bottom. Yay! Armand ASSANTE (38d) bailed me out of a vacant grid. Next, 58a: SNEERS AT and its Down crossings began to give way, and that led into the mid-zone. From there, I backspaced into the lower left quadrant via BACKSPACE (29a: [Return a letter, say], in your text document). Eventually the TESLA COIL and LEECHES took me back into the top quadrants and before you know it, boom, puzzle’s done in a reasonable Friday time. Which was quite unexpected, really, after the slow start.
What is this, a 62-worder? It’s insane how solid the fill is. Whaddaya expect? It’s Berry. Of course it’ll be smooth. Not a Scrabbly puzzle (not with a word count this low), but smooth.
- 14a. Not necessarily a wonderful phrase, but dang, HAVE A GO AT packs four words into a single entry.
- 19a. “N’EST CE PAS?” That’s French for ["Isn't that so?," to Rousseau] as well as Charles DeGaulle, Catherine Deneuve, and Robespierre.
- 34a. George SOROS is clued as a palindromic billionaire. Take that, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett! You aren’t palindromic and no amount of money can buy that kind of happiness. (Just ask Lon Nol.)
- 5d. [Bird in a Sean O'Casey title] is PAYCOCK, which is another way of saying peacock. I don’t know what Juno and the Paycock is about, but it’s better that way.
- 7d. [It may be found in a dish] clues SOAP. Mm-mm, soap.
- 26d. Hey, SPORTS FAN!
- 45d. FISTS are [Handmade things?], all right.
- 51d. Did you want ZERO here, or a plaintiff coming before a judge, or a predecessor? [It comes before one] o’clock clues NOON.
Whoa, I didn’t know TAGALOGS were a pluralizable ethnic group (33d: [More than a quarter of Filipinos, ethnically]). Wikipedia tells me “In more recent times, the people of this ethnolinguistic group rarely refer to themselves as ‘Tagalog,’ and instead, refer to themselves simply as ‘Filipino.’”
47d: [Fur source] clues STOAT. You may be thinking, “Huh. I never see stoat fur coats advertised anywhere.” And yet the facts are that stoats are killed for their fur, particularly in winter when their fur turns white and people call them ermines. Aw, look at this cute little scamp.
Michael Ashley’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Tom Swift, Med-School Dean”
This week’s offering is a light and playful puzzle rather than a scholarly thinker. Each theme entry is a Tom Swifty pegged to a medical topic. Fever ties to HOTHEADEDLY, dermatology is spoken about RASHLY, sneezes relate to the word COLDLY, neonatology gets PREMATURELY, feedback from the hospital patients is given PATIENTLY, passing out relates to FAINTLY, and the ["The surgery department's budget may have to be slashed," Tom stated ___] CUTTINGLY.
- 9d. [Old Kingdom figure] clues EGYPTIAN. Okay, that’s scholarly business there. Needed lots of crossings.
- 32d. [Celebrity head shot?] is a BOTOX injection.
- 55a. [Ebro, por ejemplo] is a river, or RIO in Spanish.
- 46d. [Japanese plum] clues LOQUAT. You may be asking yourself, “Are kumquats and loquats etymologically or botanically related?” I know I am. Yes, the quat part is a Chinese root word meaning “orange,” but while kumquats are related to citrus fruits, loquats are in the rose family.
- 28a. [Man or mouse, e.g.] is a cute clue for a MAMMAL.
Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Bookend Rhymes”—Janie’s review
As suggested by the title, the first and last syllables of each of the theme entries (there are five of ‘em) rhyme. In solving, I found I liked most of these words individually more than I admired them as a theme set. We don’t make a point of emphasizing the rhymes when we speak these words (accenting the first and last syllables equally), so the gimmick itself felt forced to me. And so it goes sometimes. I think the real strength of this puzzle is the grid itself. First, though, a look at the theme fill:
- 17A. SCUTTLEBUTT [Juicy dirt]. Didn’t know of this juicy word’s nautical origins. But it makes so much sense—unlike the way I was associating it with the location (butt) of a rabbit’s tail (scut)… (Actually, make that the “erect tail of a HARE” [Overconfident racer of fable].) Clever clue, too, for the paradox it suggests.
- 26A. HANDYMAN [Mr. Fixit].
- 38A. MESSINESS [Slob's signature]. Interesting use of the word “signature.” That’s as in, “The mark of a slob is his/her messiness”—and does not refer literally to penmanship. (I suspect there are some slobs with perfectly beautiful penmanship.)
- 54A. FOLDEROL [Hogwash]. Hmm. This feels like a severe definition of the word which can mean (the more benign) “nonsense” or refer to a “useless ornament or accessory.” I always associate it with Frank Loesser’s lyric in the title song from Guys and Dolls: “When you meet a mug lately out of the jug/And he’s still lifting platinum folderol,/Call it hell, call it heaven, it’s a probable twelve to seven/That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.”
- 62A. CRACKERJACK [Ace]. Crackerjack‘s another crackerjack word.
Now—look how nice and open that grid is. Only 34 blocks, a very white center and those lovely, open corners. Triple 7-columns in each one plus the one seven at center give us a baker’s dozen of ‘em and such solid fill as MACRAMÉ (punnily clued as [Knotty craft]), BRUISER [Tough guy], RUN LAST [Bring up the rear], OFF-BASE (clued non-militarily as [On the wrong track]), DIE-CAST [Molded, as metal], ANARCHY [Lawlessness] and STRIKES [Bowler's goals].
I coulda lived without BELEM [Brazilian seaport] which I suspect is known more to constructors than to solvers. And I sure didn’t adore DE-RAT (particularly in a puzzle that also includes DE-ICE), though I kinda liked its delicately (and alliteratively) phrased clue [Purge, Pied Piper-style].
Other clue/fill combos that worked well include [Pusher's pursuer] for NARCO and, with its almost parallel construction, [Hound hounder] for FLEA. Oh, and let me not forget [Public hangings?] for ART.
Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Guy Thing”
Liz blends familiar phrases with familiar Mr.’s:
- 21a. [Putting a Batman foe on the payroll?] combines “hiring freeze” with “Mr. Freeze” in HIRING MR. FREEZE.
- 30a. [Exchanging a fictional educator for goods?] clues BARGAINING MR. CHIPS. This one is my favorite, though I fear the surface sense of “bargaining Mr. Chips” falls a little shy of ideal.
- 50a. The MALL OF MR. AMERICA is a [Bodybuilder's complex?].
- 66a. [Heaven-sent soul mate?] is a DIVINE MR. RIGHT. Nice rework of “divine right.”
- 88a. [Ad character with a concealed weapon?] clues PACKING MR. PEANUT. Now, you would say “Mr. Peanut is packing,” but would you describe him as a “packing Mr. Peanut”? I say no. I’d rather stuff Mr. Peanut in my suitcase to take him on a trip.
- 101a. Do you hear the frightened clay falsetto in this clue, ["Ohhh nooo, is that an impostor on SNL?"]? I do. There’s a COUNTERFEIT MR. BILL. Cute.
- 118a. Tying it all together, we have MAN IN THE MIDDLE, a [1963 Robert Mitchum film, and this puzzle's theme].
Good theme—fun, light, with some good comic payoffs.
Highlights in the fill include “PARTY ON,” SCHLEP, “OH, MY,” LANDSLIDES, and TURNED BLUE.
How about some more clues?
- 7a. [Katherina's sister, in "The Taming of the Shrew"] is BIANCA. If you didn’t know this answer (I didn’t), hopefully you recognized that BIANCA would fit the letter pattern. Two of the crossings were a little on the tougher side: [Oscar's U.K. equivalent] is the BAFTA award, and to [Hoodwink] is to COZEN.
- 64a. CEYLON was a [British colony until 1948], and one with a beautiful name. It was renamed Sri Lanka in 1972.
- 75a. [Kidney stones] are CALCULI, plural of calculus. And no, [Advanced math classes] wouldn’t work as a clue.
- 84a. The SAMI are a [Reindeer-herding people], the Lapps of northern Scandinavia. This answer crosses three people/character names (USAIN Bolt, Don IMUS, Cousin ITT), which is suboptimal for a fairly obscure word like SAMI.
- 116a. [Ralph of "Paths of Glory"] is Ralph MEEKER. Who?? You can read about him at the Dead B-Movie Stars page. Have you folks heard of him, or would you rather have had a clue like [Less bold]?
- 6d. An ENGRAM is a [Memory trace]. No, I don’t know who uses the word and in what circumstances.
- 106d. [Maternally related] clues ENATE. Your agnate relatives are the ones on your dad’s side. If you have two moms, the word ENATE is pretty useless to you.
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Okay, I don’t understand all the theme entries. We seem to have a theme of disparate puns incorporating names of U.S. presidents:
- 18a. [Presidential putdown?] is a GRANT SLAM, playing on “grand slam.”
- 23a. [Presidential advisers?] clues MADISON CABINET. Oh! I just got this one. “Medicine cabinet.” If a pun is too hard to figure out, is it not a failure?
- 32a. [Presidential ATM sign?] clues FORD (for) DEPOSIT ONLY. Well, that’s implausible.
- 48a. [Presidential university?] is COOLIDGE CAMPUS. Oh, wait, I just got this one too. “College campus.” This one and 23a mess around with vowel sounds, instead of the mild consonant differences seen in the other three.
- 53a. [Presidential belt-tightening?] clues NIXON CUTS. I presume this is a play on “nicks and cuts,” but I’m not sure “nicks and cuts” is a solid stand-alone phrase.
Five more clues:
- 3d. The ANTEATER is a [Lover of armies?] of ants.
- 10d. [Mubarak of Egypt] clues HOSNI. Oh, is he still in Egypt? Perhaps.
- 13d. A TOMATO is the [T in a sandwich], the BLT.
- 31d. BONAPARTE is a [Ruling family name in 19th-century Europe].
- 37d. [HMO employees] is a weird clue for LPNS (licensed practical nurses). Are HMOs really known for hiring LPNS? I thought LPNS were mostly hospital and nursing home employees.