Pamela Amick Klawitter’s New York Times crossword, “Separate Checks”
Ooh, a nod to crossword lingo in the title, or just another example of a suitable theme entry? The theme answers consist of one word suggesting “broken” plus another word that appears elsewhere in the grid (in circled squares), broken by a black square. In addition to the standard Across and Down “checking” of each square, the circled letters and their paired words in the theme entries serve as an additional “check.” Now, it would seem that the intentional duplication of those words would make the puzzle a lot easier, and somehow my solving time was a good bit longer than normal. Go figure. Can you imagine if the hidden words weren’t circled? Good gravy.
The theme entries are:
- DIVIDED HIGHWAY, broken-up word last
- FALLEN APART, broken-up word first
- TORN ASUNDER right in the middle, broken-up word first—but either word connotes the splitting. Since the other circled words are all more than 4 letters long, I’m a little surprised that ASUNDER wasn’t torn in the grid.
- BANANA SPLIT, broken-up word first
- FRACTURED SKULL, broken-up word last
- CRACKED WINDOW, broken-up word last
- BROKEN PROMISE, broken-up word last
I like themes that play around with echoes elsewhere in the grid. Remember the SUPERB OWL puzzle by Eric Berlin and Craig Kasper? And Byron Walden’s intersecting-anagrams-aptly-described-elsewhere puzzle? Those were so memorable. (Those are the sorts of puzzles I reserve my 5-star ratings for—the ones I think I’ll remember clearly 5 years later.)
I did not know there was such a thing as a BEAR PIT (59a: [Place for some animal baiting]). Here’s the Wikipedia explanation.
Worst answer in the puzzle: 73a: RETOTAL, or [Check, as one's numbers]. You know who always double-checks the restaurant bill to make sure they’re not chipping in to pay for other people’s cocktails? Teetotaling retotalers.
Favorite clue: 44a: [Inches for pinches] for FLAB. How many inches can you pinch at your waist?
Favorite entry: 83d: “TALK TO ME,” or ["I'm listening"].
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Space Exploration”
Merl explores where else you could put spaces in selected words and phrases, and the results make for good crossword fun:
- 18a. [Daydream?] = DEPART MENTALLY. Not sure if this is supposed to play off of “departmentally” or if “department ally” is somehow a lexical chunk. Not my favorite base phrase, but this entry’s part of Merl’s patented stacked long theme answers.
- 22a. [Obvious trait of a certain two-digit number?] = TWENTY-FOUR’S EVEN. “Twenty-four seven” means all day, every day.
- 38a. [Rock Star Pays Kid's Bail?] = BRUCE SPRINGS TEEN, newspaper headline style.
- 45a. [Prepares to play Scrabble?] = TURNS TILES. Wait, more stacking of theme answers in the puzzle’s midsection?
- 57a. [Tarzan's response to, "Hey, where do they keep the sugar on this ship?"] = “BOWL IN GALLEY?”
- 66a. [Request from someone who brought his own cola?] = JUST ICE.
- 71a. [Bride's guy, in France?] = LE GROOM. Didn’t we just have this answer in another puzzle the other week?
- 80a. [Choice of sailing topics?] = WINDS OR KNOTS.
- 96a. [Makin' mistakes on the sitar?] = RAGA MUFFIN’. Love the word “ragamuffin,” but wouldn’t messing up your ragas be phrased “muffin’ ragas” rather than “raga muffin’”?
- 98a. [Registers one's answer on a computerized true-false quiz?] = HOLDS DOWN THE “F” OR “T” on the keyboard. Brilliant!
- 119a. [Cowboy?] = PERCHER ON HORSES. Have you heard of Percheron horses?
- 126a. [Florida's new "be kind to golfers" slogan?] = SAVE THE MAN A TEE. Merl lives in Tampa, which is right there in prime Gulf of Mexico manatee territory. (See also 60d: [Like Tampa weather], HUMID.)
Merl, if you’re reading this—let us know how this theme began. What’s the seed entry, how long have you been developing your list of suitable spaceable words and phrases, and are there more than 100 other candidates on that list?
You know, a lot of Sunday-sized puzzles make do with six to eight theme entries. Merl has 12 here, and eight of them are stacked to some degree with other theme answers. You don’t see that sort of thing often. Color me impressed.
- 4d. [Needed rewinding] clues RAN DOWN. Does this refer to a movie reel? I’m having a little trouble figuring out what’s what. Am grateful, at least, that the clue isn’t [Plowed over with a car].
- 24a. [Prestone rival] is ZEREX. Oh! I recognize that brand—from a previous crossword.
- 84a. [1-A or 3-B, perh.] could be an APT. NO., or apartment number. Not to be confused with 38d: B-TEN, a [Bingo call], or R2-D2, [That bleeping droid] sometimes called 5d: ARTOO Detoo.
- 86d. ["Harper Valley P.T.A." writer Hall] clues TOM T., one of those uncommon first name/middle initial crossword answers.
- 117a. [Part of ERA],t he Equal Rights Amendment, clues EQUAL. Does it not boggle the mind that the ERA was never ratified? It may sound like an artifact of the 1970s, but we’re still working on it!
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 69″
Good stuff this week, particularly the Africa corner (2d: [Official language of Ethiopia] = AMHARIC; 3d: [First name on the algathafi.org home page] = MUAMMAR. Really, “al Gathafi”? That’s a new spelling on me) and the BANJO/GANJA crossing. Evoking both of those pairings, we also have CONGO (28a: [1995 movie that involved the lost city of Zinj]) and BONGO DRUMS (45a: [They're pounded together]).
Trickiest clue, for me: 1d: [Rice concoction?]. It’s Anne Rice, who wrote those vampire books about LESTAT.
Other clues I had to work for:
- 35d. [Gael Greene, e.g.] is an EPICURE, a food critic. I think I had author Gail Godwin in my head, because I half wondered if EPICIST was a word for someone who writes epics.
- 16a. If you’re IN THE PAINT on a basketball court, you are [Ready for a rebound, maybe]. Great entry.
- 44a. [Word found beneath an oak branch] is DIME. Know your coins, people! There will be a quiz.
- 47a. [Stud asset] is an ACE. Took me until now to understand this as a poker reference. If all the poker clues could get on a boat and sink with all the nautical clues, I’d be OK with that. Except for the ALEE business. I need that word, as “Hard alee!” comes in handy on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This 74/36 is notable both for its rare letters along the equator and in the northeast corner as well as having more entries and black squares than the typical freestyle puzzle. (Newer solvers may not know that freestyles very rarely have more than 72 entries or more than 32 black squares.) Shorter entries generally equate to speedier solving times, and that was certainly the case for me. My solving time suggests this was a Tuesday-level puzzle in terms of difficulty, but maybe I was just on Jordan’s wavelength this time.
It’s always nice to get off to a confident start by plunking down the answer to the first clue you read. For me, that was 1-Down, [Old Navy sister store]. I’m hardly a mall rat, but even I know that’s THE GAP. AGES and PEDAL came next, and those allowed RUBBED, GAB, and HOMAGE to fall shortly thereafter. Only EMBATTLE (clued [Fortify for fighting]) gave me pause, but I was sure of the crossings. And from there I was off to the races. Well, okay, compared to the other bloggers on this site and most of its readers, mine was a light jog compared to their sprints. But by my standards, it was a race.
- I’m happy Jordan decided to showcase the best entry, HARSH ONE’S BUZZ, by placing it in the center. It may mean to [Dampen a person's good mood], but the entry had exactly the opposite effect on me.
- VAMPIRE BAT is already an interesting entry, but the clue, [Its saliva has an anticoagulant called draculin], made it sparkle even more. Let’s pray that in 20 years it’s not changed to Edwardin.
- Is LEAFINESS really a [Lettuce shopper's criterion]? For me, it’s color first, crispiness second. Then again, I suppose if the head lacked leaves, I’d pass on it. So maybe leafiness is a subconscious criterion. (Google “leafiness,” by the way, and you’ll be asked whether you meant “L.A. Fitness.” There’s an interesting connection there.)
- I loved the reference to Snowball II from The Simpsons in the clue for HOUSECAT. It always reminds me of the poem, Meditations on Turning Eight.
- [Yawning depths] are ABYSSES. Abyssi?
- [Colony-crashing creature] is an evocative clue for an ANTEATER.
- ELM is the [Street in Johnny Depp's first feature], not 21-JUMP.
Best wishes for a Happy August!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Punnery” — pannonica’s review
“Punnery” because each of the theme entries is a terse two-word phrase in which the second part ends in -er.
- 23a. [Landlord who keeps mum?] SILENT LETTER.
- 28a. [Any old anesthetic?] RANDOM NUMBER.
- 48a. [One pointing out a shooting star?] METEOR SHOWER.
- 64a. [Stream in the Gobi?] DESERT FLOWER.
- 70a. [Guy who scams you while giving a lift?] CONNING TOWER.
- 86a. [Least talented sketch artist in class?] BOTTOM DRAWER.
- 108a. [Doer of "two" Irish dances?] DOUBLE JIGGER.
- 117a. [Abacus from New Delhi?] INDIAN SUMMER.
Simple as that. Four of the themers (LETTER, DRAWER, JIGGER, SUMMER) are homonyms and the other half (NUMBER, SHOWER, FLOWER, TOWER) are heteronyms. All of them, however, can be typified as homographs. Translation: all eight have the pivotal, “punnered” word spelled the same; in achieving the new meaning, the pronunciations in half are unchanged while the other four have alternate pronunciations.
As far as themes go, this one is fairly lightweight. The wordplay is sufficient for the occasional smirk or grin, but neither good nor bad enough to evoke a groan. The quantity is not remarkable.
The ballast fill is strong, with good letter variety though not especially Scrabbly. Low CAP Quotient.™ Unusual—and welcome—longer entries include CRUCIBLE, SOLENOID, MR DITHERS, EUTERPE (take that, ERATO and CLIO!), RADIANTLY, AIRSTREAM, OPACITY, SOFT GOODS. Quite a lot of proper names, some of which I didn’t know:
ADELLE [Nutritionist Davis], METCALF [Laurie of "Roseanne"], Daniel ORTEGA [Sandanista leader], BETTY LOU [Blonde Muppet], KARRAS [Ex-footballer Alex], still probably best known for playing Mongo in Blazing Saddles, BEAU [Bridges in movies], EDD [Leno announcer Hall], Arthur ASHE [1975 Wimbledon champ], LERNER [Lyricist in a Loewe key?], ROBB [Virginia pol Chuck], TOSH [Reggae star Peter], ESPO [Bruin Phil, to fans], Christopher REEVE [A Superman player], ROLEN [Gold Glover Scott], CABOT [Old Boston family], CRENNA [Richard of Rambo films], ARDEN [Tennyson's Enoch]. Also, the aforementioned MR DITHERS [Bumstead's boss in "Blondie"] and three Biblical characters, EVE, LOT, and Krazy KAT.
Favorite clues, mostly punny:
- 5d. [Octet + sestet] = SONNET. Wasn’t thinking of poetry at first.
- 40d. [Pearl's mother?] NACRE, a.k.a. Mother-of-pearl.
- 72d. ["’Course"] NATCH. Colloquial!
- 103d. [Some sealers] ALEUTS. Echoes the theme.
- 110d. [Jazzed state?] UTAH. Basketball.
- 114d. [A bed to lay in?] NEST, as in eggs.
- 116a. [Wearing a rack] ANTLERED. I see what they did there.
Finally, the minor observation that there are a number of clues with seemingly superfluous, or at least not strictly necessary, quotation marks:
- 37a. [What's past "due"?] TRE.
- 108a. [Doer of "two" Irish dances?] DOUBLE JIGGER.
- 112a. [Cup in a "cafe"] TASSE.
- 124a. ["Agua" source] RIO.
- 105d. ["Pal" or "sport"] KIDDO.
Mike Peluso’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Oohs and Aahs”
I’m okay with the theme here—though pronunciation-change themes inevitably highlight regional differences in pronunciation that partially invalidate one or more theme answers. This week’s concept is changing an “ooh” sound to an “aah” sound to pun on familiar phrases:
- 21a. [Charity that rewards golf talent?] = ALMS FOR THE PAR. Poor to par.
- 33a. [Treat a Saudi king with TLC?] = COMFORT FAHD. Food to Fah. One of two answers to include a proper name; changes “comfort” from an adjective to a verb.
- 56a. [Timid officer?] = CHICKEN COP. Coop to cop.
- 67a. [Miniature B-17?] = BABY BOMBER. Boomer to bomber. Cute.
- 88a. [Hall of Famer Warren after garage work?] = GREASY SPAHN. Spoon to Spahn. I know he’s a Hall of Famer but I know this name only from crosswords.
- 106a. [Padding in an Easter basket?] = CHOCOLATE MOSS. Mousse to moss. No, no, no. It’s pronounced “mawss,” not “mahss.” The one dictionary I checked doesn’t even give the “ah” pronunciation as an alternate.
- 15d. [Stuffy trio?] = THE THREE STODGES. Stooges to stodges. Cute!
- 41d. [Onset of boredom?] = BIRTH OF THE BLAHS. Blues to blahs. I like it.
My Scowl-o-Meter was running warm throughout the solve. For every BRAVURA WHIZ SNOOZES, there was a multitude of words like ASE, IPANA, HIS’N, ESSO, BALA, SANTEE and EURE rivers, OR TEA, ACNES, ARA, AROAR, OMA, and OGEE. Joon said something about it being pointless to list blah answers in a 21×21 puzzle, but I felt like those answers lurked in every nook and cranny, making for less of a fun solve.
2.75 stars, mainly for the fill.