Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword
Mr. Craig, my crusty eighth-grade algebra teacher, stressed the importance of taking algebra seriously and not going off to take “Mickey Mouse” classes like “basket weaving” in college. Though his focus was on land-based crafts, Mr. Craig would have had nothing but scorn for the UNDERWATER BASKET WEAVING, that EASY A, lurking at the ends of four theme entries:
- 20a. KNUCKLE UNDER. Great verb phrase.
- 36a. TREADS WATER.
- 42a. BREADBASKET. Also known as the belly hole in the buzzy surgical patient in the game of Operation.
- 55a. SPELL WEAVING.
- Overall Scrabbliness, with assorted Js, Ks, Zs, and Xs.
- The Who’s WHO’S NEXT.
- Full name of JUDE LAW.
- This Is Spinal Tap clue for ELEVEN. Love it!
- CYRANO the NAVAJO.
- Topical name O’KEEFE, [Political activist James known for undercover videos].
- 32d. [Aster relative], *A*SY? Gotta be DAISY, right? Wait, the middle letter is an N. No way is it PANSY. The aster and pansy are nothing alike. TANSY? What the hell kind of flower is the tansy? … Dictionary says it’s a plant of the daisy family.
- 29d. [Tilling tool]…sheesh, I haven’t been tilling the soil in ages. What does one till with? I let the crossings do the heavy lifting here and eventually dug up a HARROW.
Four stars. Entertaining theme, lively fill.
P.S. See 17a: WE’RE ["__ pregnant!"]? Congratulations to Brendan and Liz!
Dave Sarpola’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
I can’t help but feel like there’s some to like and some not to like in today’s offering by Dave Sarpola. Well, let’s take a look at the theme:
- 17a. [What an inflammatory statement is intended to do] – PROVOKE CONFLICT
- 38a. [What a restraining order is designed to do] – PROHIBIT CONTACT
- 59a. [What a band PR man is paid to do] – PROMOTE CONCERTS
I think it’s best to look at 5 & 61d. [Both sides (and this puzzles title)] – PRO and CON - and make a list. First, the pros:
- Look at the theme clues – I like the symmetry involved there. Dave’s managed to find three phrases that are all two words, fifteen letters and keep PRO & CON is the right order. Nice work there, Dave.
- I like the look of GAS JET in the puzzle, especially opposed to the ETNA we often see when given a clue about Bunsen burners.
- Some solvers might not delight in long strings of vowels, but I’m enchanted by the BEE-EATER (though less so by the tautological clue [Bird that dines on stinging insects] – hey, it’s Tuesday though).
- If you’re going to use names for short fill, use familiar ones like Dave did – KWAN, LEVI, FARR and ABRAM. Don’t tell me that at least the opening A wasn’t a freebie!
- PAYDAY (even if mine is semi-monthly, not weekly), PINE TAR, YEE-HAWS and EUROPA are all great entries in my book.
Now for the cons:
- As much as I want to get into these theme answers, none of them quite work for me as ‘in the language’ phrases, and this doesn’t quite strike me as a clue-entry reversal puzzle. It still works, to be sure, but there’s something about it that feels off to me.
- Pardon me, but I ABHOR a Roman numeral like LVII in the corner where it could easily be worked around – this is left as an exercise to the reader. OMSK isn’t that great of a use of the K, either.
- SSNS in the lower right is a perennial trick of constructors to finish out the bottom of the grid – I’m guilty myself. We need to stop this tomfoolery. Also on notice but thankfully not appearing in this puzzle: SSTS.
Final verdict: I like it. I don’t quite love it, but I do like it.
Your huh for the puzzle:
- 9d. [Author of muchas epistolas] – SAN PABLO. So half of the clue is in Spanish? Fine – must be Saint Paul, who wrote a good number of letters in the Bible. I thought this was an island I hadn’t heard of while I was solving the puzzle. Could be both.
Finally, I can’t find a reference to both Dave Sarpola and crosswords anywhere on the net – this looks like it could be a debut. Congratulations, Dave! (If not, forget I mentioned it.)
Updated Tuesday Morning:
Tyler Hinman’s CrossSynergy Syndicate Crossword, “Final Example” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I had the honor and pleasure of test-solving the crosswords for the forthcoming Crosswords LA Tournament to be held this Sunday, May 1, at Loyola Marymount University. I offered my services because, as a two-time (two-time!) D Division competitor at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I can give an indication of how long it will take a slightly-slower-than-average competitor to complete the puzzles. I am happy to report that the puzzles–originals made exclusively for this tournament–come from a variety of terrific constructors and are all very good. A couple of them are especially creative and worth the $35 entry fee alone. But one stands in a class by itself, and that’s the puzzle by today’s CrosSynergy puzzle, Tyler Hinman. It won’t spoil anything to tell you that it’s one of the best puzzles I have solved in the past three years. Okay, I’ve solved maybe one-tenth as many crosswords as Dan Feyer over that period (probably not that many), but don’t let that detract from my point–it’s a super, super puzzle.
Today’s CrosSynergy puzzle is another great Hinman offering. Hinman is becoming one of my favorite constructors. His grids usually have one or two pleasant surprises and are always smooth (here, for instance, there is not a single “partial” and only two-and-a-half abbreviations (ATL, ETA, and perhaps SPEC, though one could make a case that SPEC is not an abbreviation, as it is nearly universal for one to say “this was built on spec” instead of “this was built on specification”). On top of that, his clues are fresh and clever.
The theme is simple enough–add P-L-E to the back ends of four phrases to make new, amusing phrases. The title of the puzzle, “Final Example,” could be a theme entry itself, but it also gives a hint that the P-L-E insertion comes at the end. Here are the theme entries:
- 17-Across: The [End of a kitten's milk bottle?] is a CAT NIPPLE, the result of adding “-ple” to “catnip.” There’s lots of ways this could have been clued, but so many of them would be unusable. Kudos to Hinman for finding the right one.
- 26-Across: ["Don't stop the wave"?] could be the intended message behind “LET IT RIPPLE.” This is a great theme entry both because the result is funny and because the base phrase on which it plays, “let it rip,” is also interesting.
- 46-Across: The [Charmin seller who's become more popular?] is COOL WHIPPLE. This plays off of “Cool Whip.” (Stewie Griffin reminds you to pronounce the “h” in “Cool Whip.”) Younger solvers may not remember Mr. Whipple, the store owner who implored customers not to squeeze the Charmin bath tissue–as if that would somehow affect its residual softness. I remember him well, so I really liked this theme entry.
- 61-Across: This one took me a while to get–[Rum and cider, for one] is a HOT TIPPLE (from a “hot tip” at the track). I didn’t know “tipple” is, in addition to a verb meaning to drink booze, a noun referring to the booze itself. I suppose, then, that one can tipple tipple.
Take a look at some of the fill that really makes this puzzle shine: AS ALWAYS, THE MET, EGO TRIP (clued [Someone drunk with power might be on one]), MIX TAPE, and TWO TONS. There are some terrific clues here too, like [One who likes to light up] for PYRO (a pyromaniac likes to set fires), and [Car brand that translates to "I roll"] for VOLVO. But the winner for “Best Clue” goes to the winner of “Best Fill”–["Go me!"] for I RULE!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Bearing the Runt”
This week’s Jonesin’ theme involves phrases with BR- words that lose a B:
- 17a. [Part of a San Francisco movie car chase?] is a ROAD JUMP, on one of those hilly streets. You’ve seen exactly such a scene, have you not?
- 23a. [Magazine for bakers?] clues SOURDOUGH READ. Wait, who modifies the noun read by plunking another word before it? Other than something like “That’s a good read,” I don’t see it.
- 36a. Something that’s [So fresh that Ayn gets punished for it?] is RAND-SPANKING NEW.
- 50a. [Shipping yourself cross-country in a crate?] is a way to get a MAIL-ORDER RIDE.
- 62a. To [Activate everything in the house with the doorbell?] is to RING IT ON. Eh.
Not crazy about the theme, as the results of dropping the B didn’t strike me as particularly funny.
Five more clues:
- 20a. [Washington : 1 :: ___ : 5] had you thinking of U.S. currency and trying to figure out how Abraham Lincoln could fit into a 6-letter entry, right? Washington’s not only on the $1 bill, he was also our first president. The fifth president was MONROE. Favorite clue!
- 69a. [They sneak up on U] clues the letter string that comes before U, RST.
- 1d. [Chicken ___ (Italian dish, casually)] clues PARM, short for parmigiana.
- 12d. [H.S. test-before-a-test] clues PRESAT. Say what? I know of the PSAT. What on earth is this PRESAT?
- 13d. ["Hey brah, over here!"] “YO, DUDE!”
A zillion names in this puzzle, no? People both real and fictional, brand names, place names: IAMS, MONROE, HUTZ, LIV, ALICE’S, ENO, EDSELS, EVANSTON, BIJOU, LAUER, STRUG, NORAH, DR. OZ, QUE., Commander DATA, UMA, PIA (fresh Idol clue!), DAHL, KERR, EVA, CIVICS, F.D.R., O’NEIL, and CHE makes 24. Whoa.