Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
I’m not philosophically opposed to crosswords that expect you to draw on them when you’re done, but it helps if the drawing instructions are superfluous because you can figure out what to do on your own. This how-to manual was nuts: connect four Vs into a square, connect the Ks into an upside-down L, connect each K to the closest V, and circle the X. (Why are the letters V and K and X? I do not know.) What you end up with is a die used in the dice game CRAPS, with one pip on the front and, uh, no pips on the other two visible faces. We all learned from that puzzle last week that a die has 21 pips, so isn’t it a bit of a letdown to only see 1?
The instructions were so out there that I had trouble visualizing on my computer screen what was supposed to be drawn. (This would be easier if I did the puzzle on paper, but I don’t.) I hacked together a graphic with the Preview app’s rectangle, arrow, and circle tools. (Hence the triangular arrowheads at some vertices.) Did you skip the drawing? Mazel tov! No need, when the graphic is here for you.
The theme entries include SEVEN COME ELEVEN, CRAPS / TABLE, ON A LOSING STREAK (which is not remotely craps-specific), the ONE/snake eye of the drawing (with a nonthematic partner opposite it in the grid), and BOXCAR (also not paired with a symmetrical partner). I guess you could call the Vs and Ks part of the theme, but…no.
I liked the JAMA/William OSLER combo. Gimmes for anyone who’s gone to med school or (like me) worked in medical publishing. Didn’t I hear recently that Osler was actually a lousy person?
And I love that the LOO is right there next to some CRAPS.
I did not like the number of times the Scowl-o-Meter level rose. The first answer I filled in was 1d, TSPS—ugly plural abbreviation right at the start meant the puzzle would have to work overtime to make me like it. But then: Philosopher ALAN Watts? Who?? REA clued as [New Deal inits.]? There’s a PETERSON A.F.B.? ROTA feels like old crosswordese. “AH, SO” is woeful. Perle MESTA, old crosswordese name. Weird SKINLESS and SAFE AREA as two of the 8s. Crosswordese NACRE, another plural abbrev in ATHS, NEAP beside ALVA, yet another plural abbrev in ENVS? Sigh. When I’m making a frowny face a dozen times while solving, the overall experience is not going to feel positive—and that was before I read the notepad and cussed.
Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Well! Apparently the Onion crossword team was asked to ramp up the sauciness level in their puzzles, and Deb has delivered with a SEX-packed theme and assorted other not-your-grandmother’s-crossword clues and answers.
First up, the theme: 71a is SEX, and you’re to stick it in the middle of each theme answer:
- 20a. [Like one who hoards copies of "Buttman Forever," with 71-Across in the middle?] clues ANAL-RETENTIVE. Put the sex in the middle and you’re hoarding comic books (?) about anal sex.
- 28a. [Finite period for going down on someone, with 71-Across in the middle?] is an ORAL sex PHASE. See? Totally ramped up. This clue is pulling no punches at all.
- 48a. [Place for dirty, public online chat, with 71-Across in the middle?] clues CYBER sex CAFE. Congressman Weiner, is that you?
- 58a. [Rehearsal for an orgy, with 71-Across in the middle?] is GROUP sex PRACTICE. Practice makes perfect, they say.
The not-in-the-daily-paper material includes the F-BOMB (well, actually, that’s probably fine for the NYT, no?), HORSE being clued as [Smack] (both words are slang for heroin), TOY clued in reference to sex toys, and the clue for BOTTOM. Frankly, I’m surprised that PERI isn’t clued by way of the peri bottle.
- 12d. [D.C. human rights act not yet ratified by Congress] clues the ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment. That’s right, folks: equal rights for women remain too radical for the ERA to be ratified by 38 states. Only 35 states were willing to go there.
- 39a. [Satan's accessory] is a TRIDENT, his pitchfork. Mine has a pencil in the middle. Given this answer’s location in the middle of the grid, I keep thinking the puzzle is really about having SEX in the middle of chewing a stick of Trident gum.
- OK GO and GLEEK, one after the other! Fresh stuff. If you ever saw that music video with the guys doing an uncut routine on a roomful of treadmills, you know who OK Go are. I like NO BIGGIE too.
Mystery Science Crossword Answer 3000:
- 37d. [Of a certain hydrocarbon group], ARYL. That’s a word? It looks like Daryl Hall lost his first initial.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hello There” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Howdy, crossword enthusiasts. Or, more appropriately today, hi! Lempel adds HI- to the starts of four expressions, with terrific results.
- 18-Across: The [Grouches on a long walk?] are HIKING CRABS, the result of adding “hi-” to the start of “king crabs.” I like that Lempel chose cranky people as the “crabs” and not the parasites. The thought of parasites hiking is much less pleasant.
- 27-Across: Take some tasty “red snapper” and add a little “hi-” at the start and you’ve got yourself a HIRED SNAPPER, clued here as [Wedding photographer, for one?]. I missed the comma in the clue the first time, so I was trying to think of what you would call a photographer who would be taking pictures of someone who was marrying himself or herself. The perils of missed punctuation!
- 46-Across: A [Successful dieter's thought while trying on jeans?] is HIPS, I LOVE YOU, a superb play on “P.S., I Love You,” what I know to be the 2007 film with Hilary Swank and the “300″ guy.
- 59-Across: To [Take some jerks as hostages?] is to HIJACK ASSES. Could this have been the seed from which this puzzle sprouted? I tend to think it was either this or HIPS, I LOVE YOU. Does it bother anyone that this theme entry takes a one word expression (“jackass”) and splits it into two words after the “hi-” addition? It didn’t trouble me in the slightest, though I think it would be fair to criticize the lack of consistency.
The theme put me in a great mood, and I thought the theme entries were all great. This puzzle is a model for how letter addition themes should work–the base expressions should be interesting, the theme entries should have a plausibility factor (I can imagine saying “hired snapper” or “hips, I love you”), and the theme entries should induce grins (if not muted giggles) instead of confusion.
As one would expect with a Lempel puzzle, the fill is very smooth. I found it a nice mix of gettable names (Johnny DEPP, LEN Deighton, SACCO, Disco STU and ELMO), interesting long entries (TRIFECTA and SEED POD), and entries with rare letters that didn’t seem forced (note the multiple Ks and Xs). A nice four-star treat.
LA Times crossword
I’m on a deadline and decided to skip this puzzle today. Luckily, PuzzleGirl has a write-up at her blog, so if you need an answer or whatnot, please head over there. (And then come back here tomorrow!)