Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword
Julian Lim’s been concocting some cool crosswords lately, hasn’t he? This one’s got a neat Thursday twist that has you doubting Will Shortz until you figure it out:
- 17a, 25a, 42a, 56a. The [Solving hint] is EACH ONE-WORD CLUE / IN THIS PUZZLE / IS A HOMOPHONE / OF ITS ACTUAL CLUE. It’s a big help that it’s not, say, 10 random tricky one-word clues that are hard to distinguish from a dozen straight one-word clues. My only quibble with the theme is that the solving hint reads weird at the end—”of THE actual clue” would be better than “of ITS actual clue.”
- 10a. [Lessons] sounds like lessens, which means EBBS.
- 35a. [Urn] sounds like earn, which means MAKE (as in money).
- 38a. A ROCK is a boulder or [Bolder].
- 62a. [Tails], tales, LORE.
- 63a. [Pores], pours, RAINS. Welcome to Chicago this spring.
- 8d. [Add], ad, advertising SPOT.
- 10d. [Flea], flee, ESCAPE.
- 23d. [Sail], sale, AUCTION.
- 26d. Uh, ["Keen!"] is a one-word clue with punctuation, and it doesn’t play the homophone game.
- 27d. [Chews], choose, TAKE, as in “I’ll take chocolate.”
- 54d. [Waist], waste, RUIN.
Forty theme letters in the homophone-clued entries, 54 in the solving-hint entries, several crossings between the long and short theme entries—this can’t have been too easy to construct, can it? There’s some blah fill (about 10 abbrevs, two Spanish words, two prefixes, a Latin word) but I wasn’t conscious of it while solving.
When I filled in 13d: SUEDE for the [Upholstery material], I couldn’t help thinking of swayed.
- 49a. LET IT BE
- 5d. KOOL-AID
- 36d. MEATBALL
- 41d. SPOILER
- 40a. [Where Samson slew the Philistines] is LEHI.
- 51a. [Having three parts] clues TRINARY, not a very common word.
- 9d. TERRAZZO means [Mosaic flooring]. Nice to have a double-Z crossing the double-Z of PUZZLE.
- 57d. TYR is a [Norse god of war].
Neville Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Kids these days, am I right? Neville’s puzzle makes me feel old. His theme includes four phrases that could be abbreviated the same way as four textspeak shorthand bits:
- 17a. To [Acquire incriminating info (on), as hinted by 19-Across] is to GET THE GOODS on someone. 19a is GTG, which was a new one for me. I think that one’s short for “got to go.” So, BRB (“be right back”) promises a quicker return than GTG?
- [33a. Lament about a lost opportunity, as hinted by 32-Across] is the spoken phrase “I MISSED OUT,” which would be IMO (“in my opinion”). I’d be way more likely to say “you missed out” than “I missed out.” Does that make me mean? I MISSED OUT feels like awkward fill to me, but I might just be mean.
- 38a. ["Break time's over," as hinted by 41-Across] is “BACK TO WORK,” or BTW, which really means “by the way.”
- 56a. [Charity for young alopecia sufferers, as hinted by 55-Across] is LOCKS OF LOVE. LOL used to mean “little old lady” but has shifted into “laughing out loud.” You ever hear the story about the woman signing condolence letters “LOL,” thinking it meant “lots of love”? “I’m so sorry for your loss, LOL!”
I like the theme structure, with the phrases and their affiliated abbreviations appearing in single rows in the grid.
I can’t believe OMG and WTF didn’t make the cut! Let’s see…WTF used to be the Wisconsin Tourism Federation but they had to change that. “Where’s the fire?” could work, except it’s too long to share a row with a 3-letter answer. OMG…Ol’ Mister Gasbag? I give up.
- 5a. JUAREZ, Mexico, is a rather Scrabbly [Chihuahua city]. Last week I passed a guy walking three chihuahuas, one of which was barking like a big mean dog. You don’t expect such a sound from a creature scarcely bigger than a rat, do you?
- 25a. [Stone's 14: Abbr.] is an incomprehensible-looking clue if you don’t know that the British unit of measure called the stone is equivalent to about 14 LBS. I once overheard an English woman trying to rent skis who needed to convert her weight from stones to pounds.
- 28a. CLEO, as in Cleopatra, was a [First-century B.C. pharaoh, briefly].
- 44a. [Bullish start?] is a good clue for an iffy answer, the prefix TAUR-.
- 1d. The game of TAG is a [Playground runaround?].
- 4d. A NETMAN is a tennis [Court figure]. As in “That Venus Williams is quite the netman”?
- 12d. [Private place] just means a RETREAT, not the private place people can’t touch without your permission.
- 26d. [Water bearer, maybe] had me thinking zodiac instead of BUSBOY. Great misdirect in the clue.
- 38d. BAZOOKA! Great answer, be it bubblegum or [Antitank weapon].
- 41d. Sidekick [Robin's way down] into the Batcave is the BATPOLE. Great partner for BAZOOKA!
- 44d. [One taking a lot of notes] of currency is a bank TELLER.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Middle School”—Sam Donaldson’s review
At the school where I teach, we’re in the middle of spring quarter right now, which turns out to be an apt time to discuss this crossword. Ashwood-Smith finds three 15-letter entries with the letter series S-C-H appearing exactly in the middle. The theme is revealed by 36-Down, SCH, conveniently placed at the grid’s center and clued [PTA’s concern found in all three theme answers (abbr.)]. The theme answers themselves ain’t too shabby:
- 17-Across: The [Breaded dish] is WIENERSCHNITZEL. I knew this one once I had the WIEN- in place, but I felt nervous entering it into the grid as I was uncertain of the spelling. Fortunately, I got lucky. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted wienerschnitzel. Veal is not my thing, and I’m trying to lay off the breaded foods. Am I missing a culinary treat?
- 39-Across: The [Augusta tourney winner, e.g.] is a MASTERS CHAMPION. Charl Schwartzl is the most recent one, and yes, I have added CHARL, SCHWARTZL, and CHARL SCHWARTZL to my wordlist. (Heck, his name is one letter off from being a legit theme entry for this puzzle!) I’m a bit perplexed as to the use of “e.g.” in the clue—are there other “masters champions” besides the golfers who win the annual tournament in Augusta, Georgia?
- 62-Across: The [Grocery store feature] is the EXPRESS CHECKOUT. You know, the one with the “10 items or less” sign that should read “10 items or fewer?”
I like the grid’s design, what with the crosses in the center. I wish one of the horizontal bars in the fifth and eleventh rows had one fewer black square just to make the grid feel a little more open. As it was, my solving experience was like tackling four miniature puzzles (the north section, the east, the south, and the west, in that order by the way) that felt just a tad too disconnected. But this is a minor point—today’s puzzle is a 78/38 grid (78 answers, 38 black squares), which is certainly acceptable for themed crosswords.
I felt like I should have posted a faster time, like maybe 5:15 – 5:30 (a Monday/Tuesday time for me). Looking back, there were a few items that I didn’t get right away, and I suppose the cumulative weight of those brief pauses resulted in the slower time:
- [Housman piece] as a clue for POEM meant nothing to me. All I could think of was John Houseman, the Oscar-winning actor who played Professor Kingsfield in “The Paper Chase.” I think my world is a little narrower than I would like to admit.
- It took me a while to figure out that the first letter in the answer to [Intrinsically] was a P. I had –ERSE and kept thinking “verse” or “terse.” Of course, that’s my own fault for assuming it’s a one word answer. The actual answer is PER SE.
- I guessed ELLE as the [She, in Capri], then ELLA. I finally tumbled to ESSA when I divined the theme-reveal in 36-Down. Oops.
- I think we’re past the day when the automatic answer to [Apple bestseller] is IMAC, what with the success of the IPAD. Sure enough, I tried the wrong one first. This time I was supposed to go with the IMAC.
- I hadn’t a clue about CLU, [Actor Gulager].
Final note: I love the modern touch in the southwest corner, with SETH clued as [Green or MacFarlane] (both are voice actors and writers for the wholesome animated TV series “Family Guy”) and EPIC fail, the [Big thumbs-down]. This was hardly an “epic fail”—for using such modern clues, I say it’s Ashwood-Smith FTW!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Making Money”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Beautiful rebus theme from BEQ today, in both concept and execution. The puzzle’s three across theme entries are:
- 20a. LINE YOUR POCKET$
- 41a. DOW JONE$ AVERAGE
- 59a. $IX-FIGURE INCOME
The only S’s in these three aren’t just S’s, they’re dollar signs that serve a double purpose: going across they’re S’s, but going down they’re I’s. You sometimes see this gimmick (rebus where the key square represents a different letter(s) going across and down) with little rhyme or reason as to why; this theme is a cut above, since the $ neatly atomizes into its two component parts.
But wait, there’s more: the three crossing entries that take the dollar sign I are:
- 13d. SCR$P
- 7d. ACCRUED $NTEREST (grid-spanner; nice touch)
- 52d. Y$ELD
Notice that all six of these $ crossers are money/finance-related, not just the three 15s going across. Nice. And notice that the three $’s are placed symmetrically in the grid. Another nice touch. And, as if this puzzle needs another flourish, notice that the two 9-letter entries in the grid (PLUNK DOWN, as clued, and BANKNOTES) are also money-related.
Fill and clues don’t seem as important when a puzzle’s theme is as clever as this one, so I’m going to just briefly say that both were fine or better. The star of the show here is an inventive theme concept crafted with great skill and I’m giving it the maximum 5-star rating.
Thank$ for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a profitable Thursday, everyone!