Announcement! If you’re in the D.C. area and you like crosswords (hey, you never know—some of you may have gotten here by Googling jonesin’ and you’re really looking for drugs), there’s a shiny new tournament just for you! The first Arlington Puzzle Festival is scheduled for Saturday, November 5. There’s a crossword tournament with puzzles provided by Will Shortz, plus a sudoku tournament with puzzles by the legendary-in-sudoku-circles (or should that be squares?) Thomas Snyder. One Mr. Matt Gaffney will speak about constructing and solving crosswords. The Puzzle Festival is free, but attendees are encouraged to toss a few bucks to the Friends of the Arlington Public Library.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword: Contest Day 2
What a delightful theme! Patrick reimagines four words as logical (if unpleasant) portmanteaus of familiar paired words:
- 17a. “Starch” could be a mash-up of STARSKY AND HUTCH. Man, does that answer look great in the grid.
- 25a. PURE AND SIMPLE is a clean, refreshing phrase. Imagine if we shortened that to “pimple.”
- 44a. Aww, HUGS AND KISSES! Much sweeter than “hisses.”
- 57a. BEER AND SKITTLES (a chiefly British phrase meaning “enjoyment” or “fun and games,” as in “Harrumph! Blogging isn’t all beer and skittles, you know”) could condense into “beetles.”
Favorite non-theme answer in the grid: 5d: “AM-SCRAY!” You know, you could condense that into “Amy.”
No idea where this NYT crossword contest is taking us. I see some things I can play around with, but until we get our instructions on Saturday, who knows what’s meaningful? Oh, man. What if we don’t get any instructions at the end? What if we need to flail around with six grids and try to extract some sort of meta answer? I do appreciate the provision of basic instructions in Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “180 Degrees”
We recently had a juggling crossword by Dan Feyer in the NYT in which the word PIN was juggled every which way throughout the grid. Matt’s got a variation on the theme: a CAR makes a U-turn by following a U-shaped path through the grid. There are three long answers that tie in thematically: RETURN POLICIES, FROM FRONT TO BACK, and DON’T TURN AROUND.
The fill is mighty smooth for a puzzle that’s got a specific 3-letter word tucked in upwards, diagonally, across, and down. Yeah, nobody’s wild about having N. CAR. or SERAC in the grid, but all the other CARs are tucked in amid perfectly suitable fill.
Minus 5 points for having two unmarked CARs in the grid, inside 1d: SCAR and 62a: TRACI. Wait, are those unmarked CARs related to the NARC at 9a? If you Googled your way here because you’re jonesin’ for heroin, I’m afraid the cops may already be on your trail. Turn around!
- 24d. [Norwegian phrase heard in the Upper Midwest] is “UFF-DA!” I went to college in Minnesota (Norwegian-American central) so this was a gimme.
- 29d. [Start of a Danny Elfman band] clues OINGO. I never really did get into Oingo Boingo, but I give them props for a terrific band name.
- 41d. ["Johnny ___" (children's book set during the American Revolution)] clues TREMAIN. I really don’t know anything about this book. Is it any good?
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education Crossword for October 14th, “Letter Writing” — pannonica’s review
Names of Greek letters substitute for homophones in common phrases for the theme answers in this puzzle:
- 17a. [Greek letter that's embossed?] PSI OF RELIEF (sigh of relief), ψ.
- 30a. [Greek letter that's written in smoke?] PI IN THE SKY (pie in the sky), π.
- 45a. [Greek letter that's overprinted?] RHO UPON RHO (row upon row), ρ.
- 61a. [Greek letter that's half-finished?] NU BEGINNING (new beginning), ν.
What I liked about this puzzle is that constructor Feldman didn’t overreach. Just four themers, each one with a solid, if not electrifying, base phrase. As a result, the ballast fill is not hamstrung, flows smoothly, and has a fair share of appealing entries.
One might be tempted to cry foul at the “repetition” of ROW at 37d, but it was carefully clued [Noisy dispute] to prompt the non-homophonic version \’rau\, whch probably has a different etymology as well.
THESPIS, the [Actor credited with inventing tragedy], constitutes bonus Greek in the puzzle. Were I to dive into etymology, I’d be able to come up with a few more (EMPATH, IRONIST, and others), but that might be too murky for a relatively casual write-up. Incidentally, though, isn’t it stretching to claim that some ancient eponymic Greek fellow “invented” tragedy? Perhaps that it’s theatrical tragedy is meant to be understood. Also, I believe empath is still in the realm of science fiction (see: cruciverbal favorite TROI), having not yet joined its lexiconically approved cousins empathy, empathize, empathetic, and empathic. 53a, HERE IT IS ["Voila!"], condensed as HEREITIS looks plausibly Greek, as a person or disease.
On the other hand, there’s quite a lot of Latin readily on display:
- 26a ["Urbi et orbi" speaker} POPE.
- 43a. [Like some justifications] A PRIORI.
- 63a. [In medias __ ] RES.
- 44d. [Classical entranceway] PORTICO.
- 50D. [Burden] ONUS.
- …and that isn’t including etymological progeny such as POSTURE, ALIMONY, and INHIBIT, et al. What do you expect from English?
- Bonus Greek and Roman SANDAL (20a). Okay, fine, I’ll move on.
- Paired sequential clues at 26d & 27d, [Miner's quarry] and [Miner's quarry?] for PIT and ORE.
- Non-paired sequential clues that are simpatico at 4d & 5d: [Over-head projection?] and [Hat extensions] for HOOD and EARLAPS.
- March of the crosswordese all-stars in the southeast corner: TILL/ONUS/OGEE (with ONCE claiming honorable mention).
- 50a [Brain scans, briefly] EEGS. I believe regular readers of this blog are well-acquainted with FiendCo’s electroencephalographic policy.
- Somewhat cruel but clever clue for CHIN: [Hitchcock double feature?]
- Chronicle of Higher Education vibe™: POE! ["The imp of the Perverse" writer]; Planck’s constant! (HBAR, ħ); TS Eliot! (APRIL is the cruellest month…); Magritte! (“The SON of Man”…it’s that one).
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hollywood Addresses” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s another very interesting puzzle from Martin Ashwood-Smith. The theme is simple enough: three movies starting with forms of address. Check them out:
- 16-Across: MR. SATURDAY NIGHT was a [Billy Crystal movie of 1992]. It was his directorial debut, but it scored only a 56% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes “tomatometer.”
- 32-Across: The [Holly Hunter movie of 1989] was MISS FIRECRACKER. This film scored a more respectable 67% approval rating.
- 50-Across: Finally, MRS. WINTERBOURNE is the [Shirley MacLaine movie of 1996]. This one’s score is, um, lower than the others. A 7% approval rating barely edges out the 6% approval rating for the 2009 Razzie champ, All About Steve.
As themes go, this one is fairly unremarkable (it is nice that all three have 15 letters and that each is clued with reference to the title character). What makes this puzzle distinctive is the wide-open grid. There are only 70 words (most themed puzzles have 76 or 78 words, with 74 words considered a low word-count), and that means we’re treated to more six- and seven-letter filler entries that are inherently more interesting than the three- and four-letter entries that more frequently populate our grids.
Sure enough, there’s some lively entries. IT MAY BE is an interesting start at 1-Across, and other multiple-word entries include RAN LOW, DOG TRACK, ACT FOR, and IN COURT. The highlight is DROP ME A LINE, the eleven-letter entry intersecting the center of all three theme entries. That’s a great find. There’s also a nice sprinkling of rare letters, which makes for some great entries like SEX ED and JINX.
Sure, -EER, ELIZ, and A ROCK won’t make anyone’s list of favorite entries, but that’s relatively little clutter for such an open grid that still contains 45 theme squares. And don’t get me started on the “cheater squares” in the corners; I think they serve an aesthetic purpose here, and that’s good enough for me.
Peter A. Collins’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Look at the THEMATIC content in today’s LA Times puzzle. It’s a tribute to the 50th anniversary of WEST SIDE STORY‘s film debut in New York. Here’s what else is going on:
- 3d. [Song from 61-/64-/66-Across] – I FEEL PRETTY
- 25a. [Locations of some scenes in 61-/64-/66-Across] – ALLEY WAYS. Yeah, this seems like it was added in for symmetry.
- 40a. [Song from 61-/64-/66-Across] – Everything’s free in AMERICA (for a small fee in AMERICA).
- 43a/54a. [61-/64-/66-Across composer] – LEONARD BERNSTEIN
- 29d. [Co-star of 61-/64-/66-Across] – NATALIE WOOD. I’ll spare you the old Natalie Wood jokes.
So much cross-referencing in these clues, I just had to jump ahead to the bottom to put in WEST SIDE STORY. No love for “Tonight” or Rita Moreno? That’s okay – there’s only so much room in this grid. Time for four clues, since it’s late in the morning:
- 28a. [Creatures of habit?] – NUNS
- 44a. [Get far ahead of] – OUTSTRIP. New clue: [Lose to, at a certain variety of poker]
- 42d. [Lacking a solid foundation] – AIR-BUILT, like a castle in the sky. Is anything really air-built?
- 56d. [British poet Alfred] NOYES‘s name consists of opposites!