- Registration is now open for Lollapuzzoola 4, now organized by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer and now held in a church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan rather than in Queens. Movin’ on up! Saturday, August 6. Be there and be really square.
- Do you like science fiction? Is your brain packed with all sorts of sci-fi trivia and names? Do you know someone who’d love to receive a gift of crosswords about sci-fi? Then pony up some money via T Campbell’s Kickstarter page and he’ll craft 50 crosswords with sci-fi themes. Deadline’s June 24.
- On May 24, Trip Payne added a new cryptic crossword to his Triple Play Puzzles site. I haven’t had a chance to peek at the puzzle yet but I did download it. Available in .puz and .pdf options.
David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
Oh, the deliciousness that is a DQ puzzle. Those stacks of 10-letter answers intersecting with stacks of 9-letter entries include some juicy stuff, and there are some hot 7s too. My favorite parts are these:
- 1a. ["Shhhh!" follower] is “IT’S A SECRET.” Perfect clue. Imagine how the longer “SH, IT’S A SECRET” would look in the grid.
- 15a. The GUITAR HERO video game. It astonishes me that my household is still without Rock Band and/or Guitar Hero.
- 17a. ON THE RADIO is OK as a phrase. It’s also got cred as the title of a Donna Summer song.
- 38a. POP-TART!
- 58a. Whoa, ABE LINCOLN patented a system to alter the buoyancy of steamboats? Little-known fact. Couldn’t think of any other 10-letter pols whose names ended with -OLN.
- 61a. LASER MOUSE… *looking under mouse* Oh! Yes, that’s what I have, a fabulous wireless Logitech mouse with all sorts of buttons and a four-way scroll wheel.
- 63a. PRESSENTER looks like “presenter” misspelled, but it’s the common computer instruction to PRESS ENTER.
- 1d. Crosswordese partial IGOTA is expanded to the full album title, I GOT A NAME. I know this only from crosswords, mind you.
- 8d. RED BULL! Super-fresh entry. Clued as a [Drink containing taurine]. You see where they got the name? Taurine : Taurus the bull : Red Bull.
- 33d. PASSED OUT, [Dead to the world].
I didn’t know King KONG was called ["The Eighth Wonder of the World," informally]. That’s just one of many fresh clues for more familiar answers. See also the clues for SERBS, LICE, TISSUE, DAN, DIP (that [Chew] means a wad of chewing tobacco), TSAR, and CON. Good stuff. Made me look past things like EDE, ATRA, and SAES.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cooling It” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Two weeks ago, the “AC” light on my car’s dashboard started blinking. I assumed this meant the car was low on/out of freon (or whatever it is that makes the air conditioning work these days). When we had our first warm day here in Seattle last week, I turned on the air conditioning only to find out first-hand that the indicator wasn’t lying–the vents just blew hot air, so I had to resort to the old 2/50 air conditioning system of my youth (roll down 2 windows and drive 50 miles per hour).
Today’s puzzle offers another reminder that I need to break down and get the air conditioning fixed. Klahn cools off three 13-letter entries by adding the letters “AC,” turning them into wacky entries that span the entire 15-square width of the grid:
- 17-Across: The [Academy for eccentrics?] is a CHARACTER SCHOOL, the result of adding “AC” to “charter school.” We didn’t have charter schools or magnet schools where I grew up in Oregon, at least not then–we just had “schools.” Anyway, this lead-off entry enables one to grasp the theme easily.
38-Across: [The finish for Captain Nemo?] is NAUTILUS SHELLAC. Hmm. “Nautilus shellac” doesn’t exactly roll lightly off the tongue. Couple that with the fact that the term “nautilus shell” and I were perfect strangers before this puzzle, and my frustration with the grid’s midsection makes sense. I have seen nautilus shells before (there’s one to the right!)–I just didn’t know that was the precise name for them. In any case, the clue feels too forced to me. My guess is that Klahn wanted us to read “finish” as “the reason for Nemo’s demise” instead of the intended meaning, “a final coating.” On an ordinary entry this misdirection would be perfectly fine (welcomed, in fact), but wacky theme entries have a certain degree of deception/complexity built in already. To be fair, I think, this clue would probably require two question marks, one for the wackiness of the theme entry itself and a second for the wordplay going on with the clue. “Captain Nemo’s finish?” strikes me as a better choice.
- 57-Across: The [Devilish South Beach fashions?] clues SATANIC VERSACES, playing off the Satanic Verses. I heretofore knew that term only from the Salman Rushdie novel; I didn’t realize there really were “Satanic Verses” in the Qur’an.
Klahn’s puzzles always have unique clues, but before we get to some of the best we should pause a moment and acknowledge the solid grid. The triple-stacked sixes on the wings are an especially nice touch. Okay, some of the standout clues:
- A few references to the animal kingdom merit mention. I liked both [Dead player?] for POSSUM and [Word from the Persian?] for MEW. And yes, I fell for the latter trap, wondering what English term of Persian root would fit.
- Repeating clues are not altogether unusual (heck, sometimes you’ll see the same clue ten times in one puzzle). But when the repeating clue is used for consecutive entries, it’s a little more special. Here we have [Chinese brew] used at 59-Down for TEA and again at 60-Down for CHI. (I know the drink as “chai”–am I just wrong there?) Then there’s the nearly identical [Contends of some ducts] at 15-Across (for OVA) and [Contents of some decks] at 16-Across (for CARDS). Too bad 14-Across didn’t relate to “docs” or “docks.”
- I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but [Head across the pond] is still a great clue for LOO.
- [Hold out your arm] is a great clue for AIM, and [Guard's place for soccer] as a clue for SHIN is likewise terrific.
Bonnie Gentry’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I slept late and have brunch plans, so it’s time for quick takes.
- 1a. HIPSTERs get made fun of a lot these days.
- 17a. [Moving locks?] is the art of HAIR REPLACEMENT. Maybe Donald Trump just isn’t a good candidate for this surgery?
- 36a, 38a. Super-fresh: GO VIRAL is something your video might do on YOUTUBE.
- 58a. [Exact opposites?] would be inexact things, like BALLPARK FIGURES. Nice!
- 61a. [Letters read with feeling?] are written in BRAILLE.
Clue most likely to be Googled:
- 10d. [Derived from benzene] for PHENYL. Oof.
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Very nice puzzle. The needle on the Scowl-o-Meter didn’t budge from zero. Nothing much filled me with glee, but nothing disappointed me either, so on balance, it’s a win. Plus! There is, I think, just one solitary abbreviation in this puzzle, and it’s super-familiar (CEO). No, wait. There’s also I.R.A.’S, also familiar. It takes real dedication to keep junky little words out of a grid, but it definitely dampens the Scowl-o-Meter action. Let’s call it 4.4 stars.
- 55a. [Willie Nelson cause] is…legalized POT? No, that’s 59d: [__ shot]. Tax amnesty? No, his other great cause is the fund-raising concert FARMAID.
- 26d. [Where Daley Plaza is] is THE LOOP in Chicago. The public square and the adjoining county government/courts building are named after Richard J. Daley, Da Mare back in the day. His son, Richard M. Daley, just retired this month after serving longer (22 years) than Daley the Elder had.
- 9a. Not sure why I entered SCARAB without hesitation for [Ancient symbol of resurrection]. Whay made the Egyptians associate beetles with resurrection?
- 38d. Went with the wrong RULE at first. [Abridgment of parliamentary procedure] is a GAG RULE, not MOB RULE.
- 49a. Don’t think I knew this: TORAH means [Literally, "instruction"].
- 40d. The ZAMBONI ice-smoothing machine was a [2009 US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee]. No, wait. It’s Frank Zamboni, the machine’s inventor. Click the link to read his (short) life story.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Section Eight”
I love these “Section Eight” puzzles but they usually stymie me and take much longer than this weekend’s offering. Twelve minutes means I filled in all or almost all of the answers in each ring before moving on to the next ring. I had to back up to a previous ring for SHELTER and CELEBRATED, but the rest of the answers went in before I moved inward. That’s not at all the norm for me—usually, I’m struggling to piece everything together and it takes considerably longer. Did you have a similar experience? Have the clues been eased up quite a bit?
100% smooth fill, with tons of interesting long answers. CHEST X-RAY, BASKET CASE, SKATEBOARDER, CHAPTER AND VERSE, CHEESECAKE? Good stuff.
Five stars. I kinda missed the gnarly back-and-forth process of muscling through a tougher “Section Eight,” but the easier one today means I won’t be late for brunch.