Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
Well, I never would have noticed this puzzle’s raison d’etre were it not for the Notepad explanation: In honor of the Friday the 13th SUPERSTITION, all the possible daily crossword puzzle answer lengths are included except for 13. So you have answers that are 3 to 12 letters long and also 14 and 15 letters. Whoop-de-doo.
These non-13s do include some good stuff, but the 66-word grid also includes a number of stinkers. First up, the highlights:
- 13a. I haven’t had a BUSINESS DINNER since 1997 and I really miss taking a group of doctors out on the town for a lovely meal.
- 18a. “NO CAN DO” is a good colloquial phrase.
- 37a. CALL TO ORDER, solid phrase.
- 46a. Geography + etymology = clue custom-made for me. The Japanese island of HONSHU is the [Island whose name means, literally, "main land"]. Didn’t know that. Speaking of GEOG., that’s a [Popular Sporcle subj.]. Speaking of Sporcle, see my 35d comments.
- 5d. RENEGING ON, great verb phrase.
- 35d. You’d think AL PACINO would see more full-name crossword action, what with the alternating consonants and vowels in his surname. (Speaking of CVCV—click the “Sporcle” tab up top for a quiz in which all the answers alternate between consonants and vowels. Go bananas!)
The lowlights are mostly found in the Down dimension, crossing long answers, but not exclusively:
- 26a, 39a. Music FITB IN E and suffix -ANE make me wonder why not suffix -INE and Wheel of Fortune purchase AN E. Or—this may be crazy talk—neither one.
- 36a. EX-ENEMY feels clunky.
- 41a. Good ol’ HOD, the [Mortar carrier] I learned about from crosswords as a child. My grandpa the bricklayer never spoke of HODs.
- Partial action: I DONE! A LIAR! I started to feel like AND SO and FED ON were partials too. Gonna start saying “I done” when I finish a crossword.
- Abbreviations galore: FRI, MRS, SUNY, USSR, SST, TSP, USFL, APO, LAPD, GEOG, SSS, and SSN. Between USSR, SST, SSS, and SSN, I worry that there is a snake loose in the constructor’s house.
- 23d. [End of the 26th century]?? Now, why would anyone give a darn about Roman numerals over five centuries from now? MMDC is…blurgh.
- 32d. Speaking of “blurgh,” there’s also a 4-letter [Alphabet run], LMNO.
Three stars from me. How’d it treat you? And are you superstitious about 13? My orthopedist’s office is on the 13th floor, but of course the elevator button calls it 14. I’m OK with knowing it’s the 13th floor. What could be more medieval than taking nutty old superstitions seriously, am I right?
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Problems at the Literal Library” — pannonica’s review
This looks like a job for Jurisfiction!
Here’s the story: I liked the puzzle very much, liked the theme answers too, but was underwhelmed by the theme itself. Cliff’s Notes version: the motif of this short work is illustrated by five books that are, for various reasons, unavailable or unusable. This represents the futility of existence, the infinite variation of the cosmos, and of course man’s inhumanity to man.
- 17a. [Item: 1936 novel. Problem: Missing from collection after a freak storm.] Answer: GONE WITH THE WIND.
- 24a. [Item: 1966 true-crime work. Problem: Pages soaked with viscous red substance.] Answer: IN COLD BLOOD.
- 37a. [Item: 1991 play. Problem: Borrowed by New York patron, never returned.] Answer: LOST IN YONKERS.
- 51a. [Item: 1937 memoir. Problem: Sent to us by wrong supplier (text is in Swahili).] Answer: OUT OF AFRICA.
- 60a. [Item: 1947 novel. Problem: Currently inaccessible, also probably sustaining fire damage.] Answer: UNDER THE VOLCANO.
The theme feels, if not incoherent, then at least tenuous because the conceit lies in reinterpreting the titles in ways that demonstrate the books’ inaccessibility. But only two of them (gone, lost) can be viewed this way independent of the clues, while the other three (in, out, under) are entirely reliant on them. I’m not enough of a linguist to assert that it’s due to the former being adjectives and the latter prepositions, but it is a suspicion.
I’ve cast about my mind, trying to think of other titles that satisfy this more rigorous criterion, without much luck. The most promising—meaning one that’s conceivably been heard of by at least 20% of the audience—is Tim Cahill’s 1993 collection of travel writings, Pecked to Death by Ducks; then again, a book is never technically alive. Casting with a wider ’net, I discovered, and rejected, Stolen by the Sea (2006), Buried in the Snow (1879), Left in the Dust (2006), Blown to Bits (1889), Dropped In It (vanity-published 11 May 2011!), and (my favorite even though it’s 17 letters long) Eaten by a Giant Clam (2010). Burnt by the Sun is a play based on the original movie.
Bonus chits for having the titles in alphabetical order, but in true library fashion it should have been by author. Of course that would cause critical construction complications.
Robust fill, solid cluing, very low CAP Quotient™ and pangrammatic save for the letter X. The symmetric cascade of 10d, 26d, and 47d (A MINOR, OFF YEAR, AT ODDS) appeals to my sensibilities. Pairing (Russell) CROWE and [Untrustworthy sort] ROGUE (57a & 58a) just can’t be coincidental. For the inadvertent imagery category, I can easily imagine a whole story—more than one, actually—based on Row 15, “DRS. STUN WAYNE.” Am undecided about the all-names Row 14 (NED, NAOMI, OLSON).
Other notable fill:
- The balanced QUEBEC and KOREAN (32a & 43a), the identically clued neighbors (7d & 9d) D’OH and MEH [Exclamation popularized by “The Simpsons”], 3d SAN MATEO, 46d JOCUND, 40d REST EASY. 45a, J-BAR, was new to me; T-BAR is the more common [Ski-lift type] found in crosswords.
Unsavory quasi-repetitious fill:
- 6a & 10a ADAM next to ADM.
- 31a & 69a DR. NO, DRS.
- 57a & 48d CROWE intersecting ROWE.
The non-theme fill lacks that distinct Higher Education vibe (the existence of which may eventually turn out to be some sort of confirmation bias on my part), but overall I enjoyed doing this puzzle, recommend it to other solvers, and would seek out other works by this
Gary Lowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This is a sound-switch theme, sort of a spoonerism theme. Each theme answer swaps the order of the consonant sounds in one word:
- 20a. Hell’s Kitchen becomes HELL’S CHICKEN, a [Red-hot entrée?]. This is the only theme entry in which the sounds wind up spelled with different letters, and it’s also my favorite of the four. Who wouldn’t like to try Hell’s chicken?
- 33a. Magnesium sulfate is another word for Epsom salts, which can be dissolved in the tub. A [Bather using magnesium sulfate?] could be a SALTED TUBBER (salted butter), provided you’re willing to use “tubber” as a word meaning “bather.”
- 42a. [Avoidance of chewy candy?] clues NON-TAFFY DIET, playing on non-fatty diet. Whoa, that’s not a phrase I’ve ever encountered. It gets only about 5,000 Google hits. “Fat-free diet,” on the other hand, gets 89,000. “Low-fat diet,” which is eminently more reasonable to follow, gets over a million Google hits.
- 58a. [Best man's moment of uncertainty?] is a TOAST STAMMER, playing on “toastmaster.” Solid.
This puzzle took me longer than the Friday NYT and as long as a typical Saturday LAT. Part of that is attributed to my difficulty in making sense out of the clues in the upper left corner of the grid. Wanted 1a: [Newspaper section] to be OP-ED, but it’s DESK, as in the foreign desk or metro desk. 14a: ANTE is a common enough crossword entry but [Required payment] had me thinking RENT, DUES, or FEES. 17a: [Shipmate of Starkey] completely mystified me; it’s the pirate SMEE from Peter Pan. I know two Starkeys: Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey. And 1d: [Bolts] sort of wanted to be hardware rather than the verb DASHES.
And then! The upper right corner was the last part I tackled, and it too stymied me. 10a: [Drop hints, say] clues FISH, as for compliments. 16a: [Strength] is an unusual clue for AREA; “that’s not really my area” sort of gets at it. Without the F and A from 10a and 16a, I wasn’t quite seeing that 10d: [Timid] wanted FAINT. 11d: [Sched. producer] is the IRS, but the word “producer” had me thinking of TV schedules. And then 13d: [Horse power?]—it’s a rather loose way to clue HAY, isn’t it? Between those two corners, this definitely felt tougher than the usual Friday LAT.
I loved these clues:
- 37a. [It's heard around the water cooler] = GLUG.
- 50d. [Secret spot?] is one’s ARMPIT, Secret being a brand of antiperspirant.
Never heard of this person:
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Singin’ in Any Weather” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Keller features three SONGS ([This puzzle's theme entries]) that are 15 letters long and fit the pattern “___ IN THE [weather condition].” The three songs on our playlist:
- 17-Across: The [Elton John tribute] to Marilyn Monroe is CANDLE IN THE WIND.
- 36-Across: The [Everly Brothers' 1960s hit] is CRYING IN THE RAIN.
- 56-Across: We had joy, we had fun, we had the [Terry Jacks hit adapted from a Jacques Brel musical work], SEASONS IN THE SUN.
Normally I try to be all “head in the clouds” when I review a puzzle, but this one didn’t do much for me. The theme is a bit sparse and the fill has too many abbreviations and other unpleasantries. The worst offender is LTYRS, short for “light years,” clued as [A very long distance]. Had this been the lone abbreviation, it would have been forgivable. But there’s
also ORIG (for “original”) and ISTH (for “isthmus”), together with crossword regulars SSRS (Soviet Socialist Republics) and HRS (home runs). 2 many abbrs 4 me.
DIPSO as a synonym of [Alky] was new to me, and it didn’t help that it crossed the not-so-lovely OPES, how one says [Unlocks, poetically]. On the bright side, I really liked ONE LEG, [What a flamingo usually stands on. But I can't decide whether I like or dislike U WAIT, clued as ["While-___"
(repair shop sign). It's kind of goofy, but in a nearly endearing way.
Mike Shenk's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Sandwiched" (written as "Colin Gale")
Two weeks in a row with puzzles bylined by Mike Shenk pen names? Constructors with good 21×21 puzzles, submit them to the Wall Street Journal! I’m guessing the pipeline is running low.
This is one of those themes in which the theme entries are all regular entries, clued normally, that camouflage particular letter strings that appear in combination. (T Campbell recently described a bunch of camouflage themes, but didn’t label this variety.) So there are eight places where the letters HAM appear right on top of RYE, and 120a: HAM ON RYE ties them all together. Elegant touch: Even the RYE in HAMONRYE has a HAM on it.
- 4a. [Fighter of the frost giant Ymir] = ODIN.
- 26a. [Peak south of the Vale of Tempe] = OSSA. This is Greece, not Arizona.
- 45a. [V8 alternatives] = ROTARY ENGINES. Were you thinking about juices? I sure was.
- 52a. [Rites of Spring and Fall Out Boy] = EMO BANDS. Nice inclusion of two seasonal words.
- 63a. [Move for Massine] = PAS. Massine was a ballet dancer and choreographer.
- 74a. [Will of "Blue Bloods"] = ESTES. Who? What?
- 97a. [Target of a CRT's shielding] = EMF. Electromagnetic frequency.
- 116a. [Odd trinket] = WHIM-WHAM. Wha…?
- 118a. [Lockheed spacecraft] = AGENA. I know this word only from crosswords.
- 4d. [124-Across, in Germany] = OHR. 124a is [Mr. Potato Head stick-on], or EAR.
- 44d. [Ones trapped in nonexistent boxes] = MIMES. Ha! Can we put them in existent boxes?
- 47d. [Bowl with a lid] = TOILET. Ha! I was thinking of dishes and Tupperware.
- 61d. [Iapetus circles it] = SATURN. One of Saturn’s moons.
- 63d. [Party animal?] = PIÑATA. Cute.
- 70d. [Stocking stuffer] = LEG. I like this clue, too.
- 71d. [Drop down, in London?] = MOULT, the British spelling of “molt.”
- 75d. [Not a single person] = SPOUSE. Good clue.
- 92d. [Azadi Tower setting] = TEHRAN. Not a tower I knew.