Joon fans, head over to Brendan Quigley’s site for an interview with Joon as well as a strikingly BEQesque crossword by Joon.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Wow, who knew a town of 21,000 would rate a 10-letter answer in a Berry themeless? I’ve heard of PLATTSBURGH but I am definitely not up on my War of 1812 sites.
You know how sometimes I grouse about nautical lingo? BITTS! What the heck are BITTS? I figured the Italian seaport had to be BARI (having learnt it from crosswords), but that’s a scary little crossing to provide the B in BITTS. Bitts are pairs of posts on the deck of a ship for tying ropes and cables to. If I ever own a boat, Naughty Bitts would be a good name for it. (Don’t Google that, though. Somehow it brings up porn…for poor spellers, apparently.) I might’ve opted for MARI (French for “husband”) crossing MITTS (which I have heard of!).
Speaking of nautical, I’ve heard of hardtack but haven’t encountered SHIP BISCUIT as its synonym. AUTO ANTENNA sounds weird to me in a way “car antenna” wouldn’t. And my favorite STIPE is R.E.M.’s Michael rather than the mushroom stem, but I have just had a mushroomy day (two different sorts have sprouted in my back yard, including one that ages into a fringy-edged white cap—all this rain is heavenly for fungi) so I’m not complaining.
I feel like these are a lot of gripes for a Berry 66-worder. More than I’d usually expect in any puzzle with this byline, anyway. But the rest of it is rock-solid. You’ve got your SMALL-MINDED TOWN CLERKS, the CONEHEADS who STAY A WHILE, a HELICOPTER over the BIG APPLE, a SWAHILI PASTILLE, the nice stacked combo of REMINISCES and SOME TIME AGO, SALLIE MAE, a MARIMBA for the BALCONY, POLIDENT for cleaning your false teeth, and a whole passel of solid 3s and 4s and 5s (excepting BARI/BITTS). Favorite clue: [Can of Prince Albert?] for the LOO.
Neville Fogarty’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It’s Neville! Hi, Neville. Fancy running into you here.
Good puzzle. Looser grid than the NYT, with 72 words rather than 66. Lots of good stuff: I especially like the opening stack of TIME TRAVEL/”I CAN RELATE”/CHOSEN ONES. The clue for TIME TRAVEL is great, too: [Revisiting the past?].
The ugliest bits are TIR (19a: [The sport of shooting, in Soissons]—good lord! Filled that one in through crossings and never saw TIR in the grid till just now), a STARER crossing a REAMER (neither’s anywhere near as good an -ER word as RINGERS, meaning [Fakes]), TRA LA, partial IT ON, and the [Petroleum processing by-product] ISOPRENE.
Back to good stuff:
- 29a. [Like some boxers] clues CANINE, what with boxers being a dog breed as well as pugilists and the underwear that was in plain view on that shirtless fellow I passed on the sidewalk tonight. Really, sir? Shorts buttoned fully beneath the buttock curvature and genitalia zone? That is too much underwear display. I’m sorry, where was I?
- 41a, 42a. With the V-SIGN followed by T.S. GARP, I wanted a U-BOAT or U-TURN to come between them. Maybe preceded by Z-PAK (the antibiotic dose-pack) and YWCA and followed by R-RATED, Q-TIPS, and P.O. BOX, N-TUPLE, MLB.COM, K.J. CHOI, ITUNES, H.G. WELLS, FeSO4, D.C. UNITED, and B.A. BARACUS.
- 60a. BANANARAMA! Who knew they’d been a [Female pop trio since 1979]? I always appreciate a good early-’80s pop music reference in a crossword.
- 65a. The [Only place on Earth where crocodiles and alligators co-exist] is the Florida EVERGLADES. Not, I understand, a great place for wading.
- 12d, 13d. LADY GAGA! And current pop references liven up a crossword, too. She’s clued as a [Singer known for unconventional outfits], like that one made out of raw beef.
- 50d. [One may come with wings] clues either a chicken BREAST or an airline pilot’s BREAST.
Today’s most colorful geography clue is [Country with a green, yellow and red flag], for MALI. (LITHUANIA wouldn’t fit.) Today’s “wow, I haven’t seen that name in ages” geography clue is [Chinese port also known as Xiamen], for AMOY. (You can read about the two names here.)
3.5 stars, plus a bonus for the light, entertaining vibe.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Asset Management” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Look closely and you’ll see something valuable hidden in each of the three theme entries:
- 20-Across: BASSET HOUNDS are [Hunting dogs]. At the risk of dating myself, my favorite basset hound is Droopy.
- 40-Across: [Some decks] are CASSETTE PLAYERS. I still have one, even though I think it has easily been 11 years since I last played a cassette tape.
- 58-Across: The [Oscar-winning director of "A Bug's Life" and "Cars"] is JOHN LASSETER. Oddly, many a bug’s life ends on the windshield of a car.
Typically in the “container” or “hidden word” gimmick, the hidden word spans at least two words. Here, the magic word (ASSET) is entirely contained within a single larger word. I tend to prefer traditional hidden word gimmicks, as the span across two words make it a little more challenging to find the magic word. But this is an interesting departure from the tradition, so color me satisfied.
There’s only 39 squares of themage, so we can fairly expect snazzier fill. SNAFUS, the [Major messes], fits the bill, and MALIBU is nice. And then there’s… um… actually, that’s about it. The rest of the fill, while not exactly sparkly, is kinda-sorta smooth. It works overall but it harbors some ugliness. I borrowed Amy’s Scowl-o-Meter (TM) to solve this puzzle, and it nearly blew a fuse with its violent reaction to REMAIL, ESQUE, and A COMA (wow, a partial that also references an unpleasant medical condition–I admire the courage!). I like the three Js and the added Z, but little else really stood out for me.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I’ve printed out Brad’s latest, long-awaited freebie from his blog but haven’t yet had a chance to solve it. Go get your copy of “Free Themeless Puzzle #3,” available in two clue difficulty levels, smooth and crunchy. (I take my puzzles crunchy.)
Brad’s “Stumper” hits a good difficulty level—not too tough but certainly not too easy. Most of it felt easyish to me, but the southwestern province was ridiculously blank for too long. It’s nice to see SAL MINEO get his full name in a puzzle (his first and last names appear more often alone), but the clue! ['50s portrayer of Brynner's son in "The King and I"] didn’t help me much at all. Brynner, Kerr…I’m out. I wanted the [Lock-changing kit] to be HAIR-something or HENNA DYE, something to do with hair color, but it turned out to be a HOME PERM. Who does those now? Anyone? The perm’s heyday is a couple-three decades in the past. Had no idea the [Original London Bridge construction material] was wood, but there are a few 3-letter woods to choose from (besides the correct ELM, also OAK and ASH). The bottom rows in this corner had answers with those vexingly Stumpy single-word clues: [Intensity] and [Incite]. I love the two words that eventually emerged, though: FERVOR and FOMENT.
- My medical terminology knowledge let me down here, but I am glad to know that 20a: [What physicians call "sternutation"] is a SNEEZE.
- 45a. Great clue for Anais NIN: [She said "I write emotional algebra"]. Don’t know the quote, but it’s neat.
- Oh, hey! The near-twin locals of TAOS ([Town near Rio Grande Gorge]) and LAOS ([Major tin exporter]) are both in the grid. The clues don’t do anything for me, and now I want to see CHAOS and CIAOS in the grid too.
- 21d. [Toronto jazz duo] is the letters, the ZEDS, in “jazz.” Hey, I’m thinking of traveling to Toronto soon. Any must-see destinations there?
- 42d. A LIONESS is a [Food-chain apex]. Don’t mess with her.
Smooth fill overall. Four stars.