Albert Picallo’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Guess what? I didn’t get caught up on sleep last night, so I’m still in a state of post-ACPT exhaustion. I have a sore throat from having conversations with old friends and new ones for 15 hours a day for four days. Eyes bleary; nearly submitted puzzle to the applet with a semicolon in the grid. Ergo: Short post!
Theme: TWIST OF FATE is manifested in eight symmetrically placed answers in which the letters of FATE appear scrambled in the circled squares.
- PORTHOLE, THE MAFIA (good use of the definite article) hooked up with OMERTA, and SLIDER clued as a [Small burger]. Remember when sliders were exclusively a term for White Castle’s little burgers? Now they’re ubiquitous bar food.
Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review
Before we get to today’s LA Times puzzle, I want to take a moment to share how much fun I had at my first ACPT this weekend. It was great to see some old friends and make a lot of new ones, too. A big thanks to everyone who helped make the event possible, especially those who hid behind the scenes most of the time. And congratulations to all of contestants, even those who didn’t walk away with any hardware – you’re still “nationally ranked”! Even if you’re not yet a Feyer-esque solver, I highly recommend coming to the ACPT. It’s simply too much fun! You’ll get to meet some of your favorite puzzle people (solvers, bloggers, constructors and editors alike) as well as take part in some superb crosswords and other games on the side. Do not miss ACPT 2012 – March 16-18.
To the puzzle now – puns on Tuesday! Kurt and Jan-Michele have four stately phrases here, each of which builds off of an extended state abbreviation. No need to go postal here – these are 3- and 4-letter abbreviations.
- 17a. [Having a sense of the Prairie State?] is FEELING ILLINOIS. That’s FEELING ILL… INOIS. Now we’re all on the same page. This was the only state nickname I didn’t know immediately.
- 27a. [Webster's impression of the Natural State?] is NOAH’S ARKANSAS. How about RAIDERS OF THE / LOST ARKANSAS? That one would break symmetrically.
- 44a. [Watch the Evergreen State?] = EYE WASHINGTON.
- 59a. [Close to the Magnolia State?] = NEAR MISSISSIPPI. Wiktionary defines a near miss as “very, very close. Nearly a hit, but a miss, nonetheless.” Any arguments that you’ve heard about the meaning of that phrase are officially settled. Even cooler – Wiktionary suggests anagrams! (Can you figure out the anagram of near miss without cheating?)
I liked this puzzle – nice early week puns, even if state-based themes are familiar. There’s some nice fill going on in here, too. You can find XANDY in the SE corner, and the fun long answer department features an ACE BANDAGE, ALL SORTS, and SPRING OPEN.
- 4d. [Beethoven's fifths?] are SOLS – the fifth degree on the diatonic scale. think it’s a prettier clue in the singular, but we take what we can get, don’t we?
- 45d. [Nut] is WEIRDO. Somehow, I’m not tired of vague clues even after the dastardly puzzle 5 at the ACPT.
- 52d. [Most popular baby girl's name, 1996-2007] is EMILY, like my friend Emily who came along to the ACPT. Despite this connection, I wanted ELLEN here with only the E in place. I declare this entry ungettable without crossings.
- 10d. [Toe inflammation] is a BUNION. Nothing pleasant to see here.
See you on Thursday!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gym Membership”—Evad’s review
The “gym” in the title is a homophone of “Jim,” short for JAMES, which is the first name of the men whose last name starts these theme phrases:
- [1971 Rolling Stones hit] is BROWN SUGAR. Riddle me this: If James Brown is the “Godfather of Soul,” who is the Godmother? (Sam Cooke and Aretha outrank them both in the royal court as the King and Queen, respectively.)
- Really enjoyed the clue [Enclave for the impractical] for IVORY TOWER since the clue seems to have been written by someone living in one! James Ivory is the Ivory portion of the Merchant-Ivory movie producing juggernaut.
- [Wall Street activity] is BOND TRADING. Rather dull phrase that spices up real quick when you think about James Bond, particularly in his most recent incarnation.
- James Hilton (unrelated to founder Conrad of the HILTON HOTEL chain) rounds out the theme entries. He wrote Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. The first of those two novels ended up being my one incorrect letter in the ACPT puzzle 6, in which constructor Maura Jacobson “futurized” the novel’s name to LOST VERIZON. (I had an H for that V, the crossing was a prince from the comics, and I had HAL instead of VAL. If the clue had been “Actress Harper to her friends,” I’d be sitting on an extra 200 points or so!)
So are these the most famous Jameses whose last name can start a phrase? I’ll take the constructor’s word on it. Some clues and entries that caught my eye:
- Three cute clues: [Cow poke] for PROD, [Stick up at sea] for MAST, and the rhyming [Howl from an owl] for HOOT.
- Do SNL comedians really call their sketches BITS? I’d be more apt to call them SKITS.
- An etymologist studies the origins of words; William SAFIRE writes about this in his How Not to Write. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting linguist Ben Zimmer of the NYT’s “On Language” column and the Visual Thesaurus over the weekend.
- The “soap” in the clue [Soap ingredient] is not the kind you wash yourself with, it’s what you might watch on daytime TV, full of LUST.
- Odd to clue DIG IT as an outdated “Dude…” phrase, when “Number” or “Finger” are much more current usages.
- Also liked the longer entries GAG ORDER, TY COBB, JAILBIRD and (The) DARK AGES.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Westerns Philosophy”
There’s a famous spaghetti western called The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The title’s “Westerns” points at the pluralization in the theme entries that appear in this puzzle with left/right symmetry:
- 17a. [Follow through on a promise] clues DELIVER THE GOODS. Solid.
- 34a. [Be a positive, on balance] clues OUTWEIGH THE BADS. That sounds just plain weird to me. “The good outweighs the bad,” people say. Who speaks of “the bads”? Boo.
- 51a. [Doing the nasty] clues the slang phrase BUMPING UGLIES. I believe this is the first time I’ve seen that in a crossword!
- 1a. Fresh ZYNGA, the [Company behind FarmVille and CityVille], those Facebook games I have completely blocked from view.
- 9a. Don’t bogart that JOINT, my friend. [It may get passed in secret].
- 49a. MALT-O-MEAL is a hot [Breakfast cereal brand]. When I was in college, the Malt-o-Meal plant in town disgorged a pleasantly toasted industrial aroma.
- 37d. THE SMURFS are a [Blue man group?]. Also a blue woman group.
- 43d. [Folk singer Pete and his poet uncle Alan, for two] are SEEGERS. I like Pete Seeger (grew up with his folk songs for kids) and am pleased to learn he had a poet uncle.
- GLIMPSE, SQUALL, FROMAGE—all good too.