Thanks to Joon, Jeffrey, and Sam for blogging the Wednesday puzzles! I’ve gone so far north, I’ve lost my Verizon data access on my phone. And while the cabin has wi-fi, I didn’t get logged in until this morning. On the plus side, the marshy edge of the bay is beautifully soothing, and my kid and his cousins are having a blast in the water. But the sun! There is too much of it. Then again, it’s better than the ridiculous thunderstorm we drove through last night.
Caleb Rasmussen’s New York Times crossword
Pfft. My browser crashed when I was half done with the NYT post. You know what? I’m on vacation and it’s time for s’mores by the fire pit. It’s a pity, because what I had was both articulate and enthusiastic, and now you’ll get the squooshed version.
Bonus points for a fresh visual shtick riffing on the popularity of violating those NO U-TURN signs. Everywhere a U shows up in this puzzle, the words make a turn, so two crossing words’ back ends trade places. Each corner has a pair, such as RECUR and SHOULDER looking like RECULDER and SHOUR.
Since NO U-TURN has two U’s (in symmetrical spots!), that central entry turns twice (though it never makes an actual U-turn), mucking up the lovely pair of GOOSEBUMPS and GESUNDHEIT.
OSSIAN is a bit tough, while BALLER and BYE NOW and I’M NO FOOL are super-fresh. Barely noticed the handful of abbrevs and partials while solving because the U-turns kept me busy. Fun puzzle! I’m giving it 4.75 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 42″
Does it make a mini-theme if the constructor includes two answers with a similar structure, both from the hip-hop arena? BUBBA SPARXXX and OutKast’s SPEAKERBOXXX both end with a trio of X’S, and it definitely helps the solver to have seen the name and title before as these answers do not have intuitive spelling.
- I have heard of the James Patterson character Alex Cross (thank you, Entertainment Weekly book reviews!) but didn’t know there was a book called I, ALEX CROSS. I can’t say I’ve seen the term SEAL RING before—dictionary tells me it’s a historical thing, a ring used to impress sealing wax. And I don’t know that I’ve seen the word form PRIGGERY before. Jiggery-pokery, yes.
- The two-word phrase GAMBLE ON, clued simply with [Play]—as in “play the ponies.” Did you want something along the lines of gamboling here?
- GARAMOND, the font named after a type designer. We just had a less distinguished font name, TAHOMA, in another recent crossword.
- “THAT’S AMORE” usually gets the mere FITB treatment, ["That's ___"]. Promotion time!
- I like the word CATHOLIC in its [Universal sense]. Rather ballsy for the Roman Catholic church to plunk that word right in its name, isn’t it? “I’m telling you, this thing’s gonna take off. Especially with the right name. It’s all about marketing, Peter. You gotta name it to claim it.”
- VANNA WHITE, full-name action.
The Scowl-o-Meter remained at bay while I solved this puzzle. A solid 4.25 stars.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
All rise – court is in session!
- 17a. [Fine print in Yogi's contract?] is BEAR CLAUSE – we’re in for legal puns. Vic Fleming, did you have a hand in this? No, I’m sure Marti’s well capable of handling this.
- 25a. [Court allegations requiring consideration?] are ATTENTION PLEAS. Please and pleas both stem from the Latin placere, so I call shenanigans here – too similar in meaning for my taste.
- 42a. [Product liability problems for WIlly Wonka?] are CHOCOLATE TORTS – not to be confused with the Malt-ese Falcon from Tuesday’s puzzle.
- 57a. [Vague religious law?] – Benedict XVI is a LOOSE CANON Pope on the edge who doesn’t play by the rules. (Coming to theaters this summer.)
- Bonus entry! 40a. [Courtroom cover-up] - ROBE – that’s not a jagged edge at all.
So we’ve got pure-synonym law puns – not bad at all. Mix in some well-clued fill, and you’ve got a nice puzzle – all on the tail of the Trial of the Year. (Seriously, though – that’s more than enough about Casey Anthony.) Good clues:
- 11d. [Team with a lot of pull?] - OXEN – cute, but perhaps on the easier side. They get tougher!
- 20a. [Body in a belt] - ASTEROID was somehow easy for me, even off of just the first two letters. (That could’ve ended right poorly.)
- 45d. [Prom dress] - TUXEDO! Dress wasn’t meant in the ladylike sense, and that threw me for a loop.
- 50d. [Chorus line] - ALTO, though I was think along the lines of “shoo bop, sha wadda wadda, yippity boom de boom.”
- 58d. [Writing on an urn] is an ODE, even if it’s not physically on said urn.
What made ’50s and ’60s pop acts DUOs more often than any other decade? I can think of a lot of groups from that time period with three or four members, too. And NILS clued as [A lot of nothing] leaves me with nothing but a grimace – I’d rather see COOL, ALPO and NOLO (courtroom!) in that section.
Judgment is 3.75 stars for the PLAINTiff – next case!
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Trunk Show” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I decided to print this crossword out and take it with me to an appointment where I knew there would be some down time. As I grabbed the paper from the printer, I paid no attention to the fact that my printer was so low on toner that entire streaks of the grid and clues never printed. The top half printed better than the bottom half, so the grid was more or less fine, but 25% of the Across clues and easily 50% of the Down clues were either missing entirely or too hard to read with any precision or confidence. It turned out to be an interesting solving experience, as I was left to guess at many of the crossings, especially at the bottom.
Now that I see the complete version on my computer, I see that I didn’t do too badly. I couldn’t get ELAINE, the [May of Hollywood], because the clues for 6- and 7-Down didn’t print at all. I managed to get A-ETA for 6-Down and was tempted to write ALETA, a little Crosswordese nugget that I knew I should have known. That would have been the right answer, as it was clued [Prince Valiant's wife]. I only had T-L for 7-Down, with no clue to work with at all. TEL didn’t seem right given the -INE ending to ELAINE, and I couldn’t think of any other options. Turns out it was TAL, but I don’t feel too bad because the clue, [Chess champion Mikhail], wouldn’t have meant anything to me anyway.
I had no clue (literally!) for 55-Across, but I had the AB- in place. Sadly, I could not read the clue for the corresponding Down entry, so I had to guess. I went with ABA, making the crossing GOADS, which seemed viable to me. Alas, the clue for 55-Across was [Blood-typing letters] and not [Org. for blood-sucking professionals], so the answer was ABO (meaning the crossing was GOODS, clued [Merchandise].
Like I said, it was an interesting challenge to solve a puzzle with about two-thirds of the clues. Speed solvers looking for ways to increase the difficulty of easy puzzles are welcome to use my low-toner printer to add this extra wrinkle.
Oops. I suppose I should discuss the theme, just in case you missed it. 38-Across, the central Across entry, is clued [Joyce Kilmer poem and this puzzle's theme]. The answer is TREES, and the four other theme entries are two-word nouns where the second word is a type of tree:
- 17-Across: The [Pastor's assistant] is a CHURCH ELDER. The elder tree is also known as a “Sambucus,” which I happen to think is a terrific name.
- 24-Across: [Some evidence left by a smoker] is not YELLOW TEETH, BURN HOLES, or AWFUL STENCH, but CIGARETTE ASH. The ash tree’s real name is “Fraxinus,” which sounds like the name of a pupil in Slytherin.
- 46-Across: Where I grew up, the answer to [Chew choice] would be KODIAK, SKOAL, or COPENHAGEN. Here, it’s SUGARLESS GUM, the recommended choice from four out of five dentists surveyed (the fifth one is just a money-grubbing louse).
- 56-Across: The [Powerful toxic defoliant] is AGENT ORANGE. Between this reference to our fearless leader’s online nom-de-plume and the answer to 11-Across, SAM, one could accuse Keller of pandering to us. (That’s a joke, just to be clear.)
It seems like there’s never a RESTROOM in your grid when you’re looking for one, so it’s nice to have the [Road stop convenience] so readily available in this puzzle. I’m not sure how I feel about it abutting AERATES, but, hey, it could be a lot worse.
Brendan Quigley’s blog contest crossword, “Elementary, My Dear”
It’s a contest puzzle, so no answers, no spoilers, no nothing. Gotta figure out the theme yourself if you want to enter Brendan’s contest. The prize is a copy of The Penguin Classics Crosswords Book, which includes puzzles by all sorts of lovely constructors, including but not limited to Brendan, me, Joon Pahk, Patrick Blindauer, and many more.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Opening Numbers” — pannonica’s review
Only three theme entries, but they’re substantial and there is much lengthy and interesting fill throughout the puzzle.
Each of the themers starts with a familiar object, slaps on a numerical prefix, and clues the new phrase. The prefixes, of course, are sequential.
- 17a. [Portable form of imaginary meat?] UNICORN ON THE COB. Certainly it’s a fantastic object, but then again, any type of meat “on the cob” is bizarre to imagine. On the other hand, there is this:
- 38a. [Arctic beast subject to mood swings?] BIPOLAR BEAR. An oldie but a goodie; probably the seed entry.
- 58a. [Kid's wheels used for extreme stunts?] TRICYCLE OF ABUSE. Walking—or perhaps pedaling—a fine line here, as the clue guides the solver away from a much less acceptable, but probably more immediate, image.
I found these three answers inspired but not exactly satisfying. Wacky, familiar, then weird. It’s hard to find fault with long fill entries such as SHISH KEBAB, ORDINARY JOE, GEORGE W BUSH, or the paired stacks of sevens in the NW and SE corners (ENSNARE/MOHICANS, EMULATE/NON-ACID, OVERSEE/SEERESS, REVISES/SEETHES).
Some examples of fresh cluing:
- 29a. TIKIS [Cheesy bar carvings]
- 32a. SEXT [Blue note?]
- 45a. VIBE [XXL alternative] Those are magazines.
- 46a. GYM [Place where it takes months to get guns?] Despite the lack of a waiting period.
All this goodness comes with a price, though: far too many abbrevs., often bunched together. In the northeast WAC is alongside WTO and neighbors TED, which intersects IED. The southwest has TSA/RCA, the fairly obscure Japanese-American rock guitarist James] IHA, and then BCE. In those same area, I appreciate the symmetrical acrosses of WWW and AAA. There are many others throughout the grid, but my least favorite is NIC [Neighbor of Hond.] for Nicaragua.
Despite these various slights, the good outweighed the bad and the puzzle was enjoyable.