Hey! This Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m., please join me at the third annual Chicago Crossword Tournament, hosted by Marbles: The Brain Store. If you live in Chicagoland and you’ve never participated in a crossword tournament before, don’t miss this opportunity! You’ll get to:
- Do crosswords (unpublished New York Times puzzles, courtesy of Will Shortz)
- Mingle with like-minded puzzle people
- Browse through the Marbles game/puzzle store before or after the event
- Meet a famous author!*
And if you have attended a puzzle tournament before, you know what to expect—a low-key afternoon of competition and puzzle people without the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the ACPT.
Registration info here.
(*Uh, that would be me. That counts, right?)
Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword
The theme is built around the Acura INTEGRA, a car model that was discontinued about 5 years ago (making me wonder if perhaps the puzzle was submitted quite some time ago). The four longest answers begin or end with anagrams of INTEGRA:
- 17a. RED GRANITE, which I did not know was [Wisconsin's state rock]. I asked my cheesehead husband, and he knew. Then he told me the state mineral was galena. But I stumped him on the state soil!
- 23a. TANGIER, MOROCCO.
- 45a. Song I don’t know, “TEARING US APART.”
- 55a. “YOU INGRATE!”
The long non-theme Across answers are fun—SLAP-HAPPY and DEAR SANTA. The Downs are sort of weird. OPERA ROLE feels not quite lexical-chunky, HAD AN IDEA feels odd, I have never encountered PEA SALADS (n.b.: The first two recipes I found online contained dairy and thus are not vegan) and PRIORATES is not a familiar word (but puzzly people will note that subtracting the I gives you PRO-RATES).
Not sure what 25d: REPR. stands for. Reprint? That makes some sense with [Second ed.], but typically a reprint is a straight-up reprinting of a book, no changes, while a second edition has been updated enough to make a new edition worthwhile.
54a: JERI Ryan hasn’t been on Boston Public lately, since the show ended in 2004. But she’s on a brand-new show called Body of Proof, where she and Dana Delany play medical examiners. Man, I hope the show is a success because JERI needs a solid new clue.
Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I kept looking at this puzzle’s theme answers without understanding what the theme was. It took sending a Text Message of Desperation to the constructor to jar things loose in my head and see the theme. The first three theme entries invert familiar two-word phrases about the day’s meals:
- 20a. A snacky breakfast bar becomes the verb phrase BAR BREAKFAST, or [Forbid a meal?].
- 35a. [Smash a meal?] clues BREAK LUNCH, which flips your lunch break.
- 43a. The dinner rush at a restaurant turns into RUSH DINNER, or [Hurry through a meal?].
- 53a. Now that you’ve skipped breafast, broken the midday repast, and rushed through supper, you have the sudden [Realization after doing 20-, 35-, and 43-Across]: “MAN, I’M STARVED!”
- 7d. “GO GREEN!” is a [Come-on in many modern campaigns].
- 9d. A HOOKAH is a [Pipe at some Turkish restaurants]. Listen, people, don’t put 4d: HERB/[Weed] in your hookah at the restaurant. You’ll get arrested.
- 39a. “YOU’RE ON!” ["I'll take that bet!"]
- 32d. Gun-[Firing lobbyists] are THE NRA. Looking over my grid, I pondered whether “Then-Ra” was an Egyptian god.
- 44d. [Washington post] with a small P isn’t a newspaper, it’s a SENATOR.
- 47a. Current-events clue for SYRIA: [Nation with 2011 protests]. It’s not even a gimme. Other 5-letter countries with 2011 protests include Egypt and Yemen.
- 40a. TEN-CENT is an odd sort of answer, but [__ Beer Night (predictably catastrophic '70s stadium promotion)] salvages it.
- 37d. UNUS [__ the Untouchable ("X-Men" villain)]? Okay, I’ll take your word for it. I want this villain to be paired with a character named Pluribum.
- 41d. I’m sure Joon knows this one, but I sure didn’t know that NISSE was a [Shapeshifter of Scandinavian legend].
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Starting Rolls”
You know how Henry Hook (commenting as “HH”) often expresses his disdain for crossword themes in which the point of the theme is overtly explained by a theme-revealing clue and answer? One thing that tends to make Ink Well puzzles as tough as Thursday-plus NYTs is Ben’s trust that solvers can figure out his themes without being spoon-fed an explanation. This week’s theme is bowling, and each theme entry starts with a bowling term:
- 17a. [Member of a certain homeless subculture] is GUTTER PUNK. I’ve never heard of that.
- 27a. [Narrow ring outcome] is a SPLIT DECISION in boxing.
- 44a. [Person who's really crossed the line] is a STRIKE-BREAKER, or scab.
- 58a. SPARE PARTS make up a [Repair shop's stock].
Gutter, split. strike, and spare are all bowling terms. (This additional spelling-out-of-theme provided just for Henry.)
Eight more clues is enough:
- 1a. [Sinatra song people are sometimes killed for singing at karaoke in the Philippines] is “MY WAY.” You gotta be able to carry a tune.
- 16a. [Language for Pakistan's Daily Jang] is URDU. I’m guessing the Daily Jang is a newspaper, and now I’m thinking, Who among us couldn’t use a little jang in our day?
- 42a. [Dominate, as a noob] clues PWN. Rhymes with “own.”
- 5d. A Y-LEVEL is a [Surveying tool shaped like a letter]. Pretty sure I don’t own one.
- 13d. The ZUNE is a [Microsoft media player]. You wouldn’t believe how often this blog gets spam comments (caught in the filter) that talk about the Zune.
- 18d. [Sparks again, as a love affair] clues REKINDLES. Weird to see those syllables in the absence of a discussion of Amazon’s e-book reader.
- 29d. [Scatters throughout] clues INTERLARDS. As in “The cook interlards the non-vegetarian refried beans with lard”?
- 33d. [Where to find super-young chicks] is still in their mama’s NEST.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Next of Kin”—Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s a pretty simple gimmick today, as Hartman adds “-KIN” next to the end of three common phrases then clues the ensuing wackiness:
- 20-Across: The [English marsh plant?] is a CHESHIRE CATKIN (the result of adding “-kin” next to the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland fame). Um, okay. If I knew what a catkin was, I’m sure I would appreciate this more. I have pasted a picture of a “male catkin on a willow” immediately below the grid, in case the word is as new to you as it was to me. Now I know the name for those yellow flowers.
- 41-Across: The [Windy city rug?] is a CHICAGO BEARSKIN (adding “-kin” to the Chicago Bears football team). I suppose this was a better option than making a theme entry of “Come to the fores.” (Yes, yes, I know it’s “come to the fore” and not “come to the fores.” Throw me a bone here, people.)
- 56-Across: To [Order actress Ellen to switch sides?] is to say, “ROLL OVER, BARKIN” (the result of adding “-kin” to an SUV’s rollover bar). Something feels a little off-putting about this. Ordering someone to “roll over” just seems wrong.
With only 43 theme squares, Hartman has considerable freedom to design a grid with good fill, and on the whole this one realizes the potential. I loved ARMY BRAT and its great clue, [Base bawl origin?]. Other liveliness included DEVIL DOG, the [Leatherneck], WHATEVER (clued as [“I’m so through with this discussion!”]), WHACK, ME TOO, EAT UP, and the TV SET.
Let’s finish up with four random tidbits, presented in convenient bullet form:
- ARMY BRAT had my favorite clue, but a close runner-up was [Shpeak like thish] for SLUR.
- For reasons I can’t explain, I held on to WRITE as the answer to [Put on paper] when this grid wanted the past tense, WROTE. That made my crossing OTT I (father of Ott II and grandfather of Ott III). I’m guessing [Maestro Klemperer] would not be amused.
- [Kitty twitter?] as a clue for MEW seems like it’s trying too hard to be clever (and if anyone knows “trying too hard to be clever,” it’s me).
- Geez! See all those E’s in the southeast corner? E-gad!
Michael Blake’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Okay, I’m not loving today’s crosswords. This one is no exception, as the theme doesn’t quite add up. 48a: CHECK BEFOREHAND is supposed to tie together the other three theme entries, which could be said to have a type of “check” at their beginning. But the BEFOREHAND part, it loses me. First of all, “check beforehand” isn’t a smooth, natural lexical chunk. “Look before you leap,” yes. “Measure twice, cut once,” yes. “Check beforehand” just falls flat. Now, if the theme were things that are “checks” coming before things that are “hands,” you could argue that it works on a playful level. Then there are the “checks”:
- 20a. IN VOICEMAIL JAIL? I know “in voicemail hell.” Haven’t heard the “jail ” version. But—but—but! You can’t just grab an INVOICE by breaking and recombining words, not when the next two theme answers have their TAB and BILL as stand-alone first words.
- 25a. TAB ALIGNMENT, a really boring [Word processor setting].
- 42a. BILL OF RIGHTS, solid.
So the theme just feels terribly muddled to me, not well thought out.
Love 38d: MUGSHOTS, [Pictures of perps].
Weirdest clue this week:
- 63a. [White man's makeup?] is SNOW. The white man in question is a snowman. (The oppressor!)