Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
As announced earlier, this week the New York Times is running a crossword meta-contest. Apparently this first of all involves the puzzles not being available in Across Lite format. (Note from Amy: No, that’s just a glitch tonight.) The Notepad explains, sort of:
“CROSS” WORDS CONTEST All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Berry. Have your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six. When you hav
Got that? Good.
Now, I wonder if the NYT is withholding solutions so as to make the meta more challenging, only for the deserving. I am aware that an Across Lite file can be instructed to disable the Reveal Solution option. As far as I know, we in the cruciverbal blogging community haven’t been instructed to sit on solutions this week. (Note from Amy: Will Shortz requests that we not reveal the contest answers, and squelch any comments that reveal them. I believe the grids are fair game, though.)
It’s been a long time since I used the Java applet, and my time was slower than it should have been. Also, I deleted the completed grid twice after filling it in.
The theme involves replacing a terminal \(k)s\ sound, originally formed using the letters K and S, with a spelling involving an X. Perhaps the title should be sung, “I’m too Exy for Across Lite”?
- 20a. [Catch Groucho while fishing?] LAND MARX. ks → x
- 22a. [Blues player’s instrument?] SAD SAX. cks → x. There are, of course, happy blues too. It’s a misconception that all blues music is “sad.”
- 29a. [Cereal that doesn’t really taste like anything?] BLANK CHEX. cks → x
- 42a. [Wildcat that can’t sit still?] HYPER LYNX. inks → ynx. One word also becomes two. Similarly… style note: “Wildcat” refers to actual species of felines; it would have been clearer to say “Wild cat that…” This despite some dictionaries’ inclusion of smaller wild felids as a sense for the one-word term.
- 51a. [Levy paid by white-collar workers?] TIE TAX. cks → x. My favorite of the theme clues.
- 52a. [Formal wear for one’s belly?] TUMMY TUX. cks → x. There just isn’t a non-awkward way to clue that one, is there?
I’d be surprised if a similar theme hasn’t appeared before, but it’s all in service of a meta. Besides, the puzzle is just fine without worrying about its other duties. As expected for a Monday puzzle, the fill is smooth and relatively free of abbrevs. and crosswordese. The necessitated X-crossers don’t seem forced: V-SIX, STYX, MIXUP, TEX, LEXUS, XENA.
The most irxome part of the puzzle is 5-down. [Rampaged] RAN AMUCK. I can’t imagine either constructor Berry or editor Shortz missing this blatant mistake, as it should be ran amok, amok from the Malay language. (Not to be confused with 25A [Chaotic battles] MELEES, from the French mêlée.) As such, I can only assume that it’s significant in the meta. Sorry if I’m giving something away, but the error is so patently obvious that it cannot go unremarked.
Some varied fill for an early week puzzle, including LILY PAD, the ethnicky FATWA and KAPUT, and the colloquial WHAT SAY? Less welcome was the induced -in fatigue from the repeating SENDS IN and DUG IN, which made me less charitable toward the rustic AGIN and even SATIN. Cross-referenced clues for FDR and New DEAL fine but unnecessary.
Kelly Clark’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This puzzle’s got a basic theme type—four phrases end with synonyms—but the quartet of theme entries make for a diverse group:
- 20a. CHICKEN LITTLE is our [“The sky is falling!” critter].
- 33a. RICHARD PETTY is the [Seven-time winner of the Daytona 500]. After Sunday’s horrible fatal crash at an IndyCar race, how much longer will the “motorsports” crowd insist that car racing is a sport? Imagine if every few years an NBA player died on the court during a game, and occasionally a fan would be killed by something flying off the court. /soapbox
- 41a. [Like Chopin’s “Funeral March,” keywise] clues IN B FLAT MINOR. I never care for this sort of musical answer, but I give 41a credit for going all out with a four-word phrase.
- 57a. [New Orleans daily, with “The”] is TIMES-PICAYUNE. The Picayune cost one picayune, or a sixteenth of a dollar, when it first published in 1837. Picked up the “Times” part in a 1914 merger. This is, of course, my all-time favorite newspaper name.
Seven more clues:
- 16a, 23a. [Get the lead out], with and without a question mark, clue ERASE and HASTEN. Who doesn’t like double clue action?
- 4d. [Not off by even a hair] clues EXACT.
- 10d. [Taken with a spoon] reads weird, doesn’t it? “I’m quite taken with your spoon, you know.” ORAL medicine is taken with a spoon.
- 11d. [Singles, on a diamond] in baseball, are BASE HITS.
- 21d. A KEPI is a [Foreign Legion cap]. Raise your right hand if you learned this one from crosswords. Raise your left hand if you didn’t know this one. Anyone still have both hands down?
- 42d. [“Hands off!”] “LET ME GO!”
- 48d. PAULIE is the [Talking parrot voiced by Jay Mohr]. Good gravy. Surely this was the nadir of his career? Or maybe it’s not so bad, and it’s just that I can’t help thinking of Pauly Shore when I see PAULIE.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Only Four Left” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme consists of four well-known terms, each of which begins with a word meaning “only.” Thus, a synonym for only appears four times to the left of of the grid. Here are the theme entries:
- 20-Across: [It may be found on a wedding reception table] can refer to many things: GROOM’S CAKE, FAVORS, PLACE CARDS, CHAMPAGNE GLASSES, BRIDESMAID DRESS, and, well, let’s just stop there. This time, its for SINGLE-USE CAMERA. I have only seen this at a handful of weddings, and each time I wonder if the paid photographer kinda-sorta hates to be competing with the free pictures guests will take with the disposable cameras.
- 25-Across: Would you rather someone called you a [Rare entity] or ONE IN A MILLION? The latter sounds much more flattering to me.
- 50-Across: The [Nickname for Mexico’s northern neighbor] is the LONE STAR STATE, the nickname for Tejas.
- 56-Across: [Diva’s aria, e.g.] could be TERM I FIRST LEARNED IN CROSSWORDS. But here, it’s a SOLO PERFORMANCE.
It’s just another Manic Monday today, so I have to keep the rest of this post (mercifully) short. Bottom-line: I liked the nice, simple theme to get my week going on a happy note. I loved, loved, loved the long Downs of SIGNS OFF ON and IT’S BEEN FUN, and I found it interesting that ISOPODS sit mirror opposite from MAMMALS.
On the other hand, GORSE slowed me down some, and I suspect the crossing of OSSA, the [Northern Greek peak] and SISAL, the [Rope fiber] caused some problems for quite a few solvers. So too might the confluence of ARAL, the [Sea near the Caspian], MIRO, the [Picasso contemporary], and AMF, the [Bowling center letters], short for “Aw, M***** F*****! I rolled another gutter ball!”
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Holy smokes, the bottom of this puzzle was normal but the top half killed me. Too many clues that didn’t take me to their answers. I love 1a: AIN’T NO JIVE, but I was going to need some crossings to put it together. And with all the names-clued-in-unfamiliar-ways in the top of the puzzle, I was doomed to a slo-o-ow solve.
I wouldn’t equate 1d: ABRADES with [Bothers]. That clue abrades me. (See? It doesn’t fly.) Never heard that Adidas named a shoe after Ilie NASTASE (3d). For 5d, NENA was a solid guess off the A, but it could have been a song title or a performer, couldn’t it? Didn’t figure out JET LAG for the longest time; was thinking the discomfort related to being a stranger rather than to having flown to a strange land. I think of starships and rental cars much more than VANs for Enterprise. What, the airport shuttle? Guessed ELGAR at 10d for the composer because he’s so crossword-friendly, not because I recognize “The Dream of Gerontius.” Crossing these Downs, we have a BRAKE PEDAL that doesn’t tame the Jaguar—it just activates the brakes that tame the Jaguar. And RESONATING, as clued, seems a little off base; if a movie resonates with just 1% of its viewers (“some audiences”), would you say that it’s resonating?
Moving to the northeast corner, didn’t know TONI Onley. WIDE GAP doesn’t feel like a lexical chunk to me. An AEROBE isn’t a culture, it’s a bacterium that can be grown in a culture medium; [Culture that requires oxygen] seems scientifically inaccurate to me. Took me a while to remember that KOALA Kare is the label on those public-bathroom diaper-changing tables; haven’t changed a diaper since 2003 (but it’s cute to see Brendan working his papahood into his puzzles). 18a: A RED is just a stinkin’ partial but I love the WCW clue reference. Jacques DEMY, in the middle row? Oof. Don’t remember seeing the name before, though I must’ve at some point.
In the less memorable (because I zipped through it compared to my topside slog) bottom half, I like the topical NBA LOCKOUT, TEXAS BBQ, and QUE PASA. I really could do without TOOTLER and SHOOTEE, and the YEAR TO DATE clue, [Snow listing], feels off to me. I do not at all understand why—oh! I get it now. BEE is a [Letter-perfect time] if you’re talking about a spelling bee. I wouldn’t call that a “time,” though.