Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
You know what parts of this 68-word crossword felt really clunky? Yeah, me neither. Patrick’s got all four corners packed with 8-letter stacks that intersect with 6-letter stacks and 10- to 12-letter answers. Every one of those stacked 8s is flawless—nothing too obscure, nothing stretching the bounds of how words should combine.
My favorite bit is that little word square that starts in square number 9. Did you notice that FOR/ODE/REN runs across and down here? My favorite big bits are STATESWOMEN touching FEMINISM, WEASELS OUT OF, and CHUMP CHANGE. Never heard of “ONE MINT JULEP,” but Ray Charles is one of the all-time greats.
Aww, 45a is MACS, [OS X runners]. Did you know that many of your favorite crossword blogs are written on Macs? True story.
- Three answers in the bottom have a similar creative vibe to them. 46a: [What a cookie cutter cuts] is a SHAPE. 48a: [What stars might indicate] is a general or crossword constructor’s RANK. Berry is a five-star general in the Crossword Army. Those insane variety grids he cooks up for the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Puzzle? Quite often five-star creations. 49a: [Foul ball's landing spot, often] is in the STANDS. Imagine if the clues had been [Mold], [Sort], and [Arises], respectively—snoozefest, right?
- 4d. STATESWOMEN are clued as [Leading ladies?].
- 41d. [Craft store?] clues HANGAR in that it’s a storeroom for aircraft.
- 46d. A STORM system is [One tracked by radar].
4.25 stars. The rating would be higher if I’d had more fun working the puzzle—run into more surprising answers, say.
Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I like it when the LAT crossword bends the rules, but it doesn’t happen often. Today, the bending is quite literal: LIE DOWN (12d. [Rest a spell, or a fitting title for this puzzle]) is interpreted as an instruction to run the letters LIE in the theme answers DOWN even though the long answers mostly run across.
The first hint that something was amiss was when COL wouldn’t work with the crossings for 1-Down. And then I reached the 3-letter space at 22-Down and there was no abbreviation cue in the clue, [Landlocked Alpine principality]. 22-Down’s crossings gave me LI, which pointed me towards filling in the rest of LIECHTENSTEIN where 33-Across stretched out with no clue. So 1d: [Henry Blake's rank in "M*A*S*H*"] is LIEUTENANT COLONEL running through 17a; 44a: [Lara Croft portrayer] is ANGELINA JOLIE, ending in 47d; and 64a: [Historic Cold War crossing point] is CHECKPOINT CHARLIE, ending in 67d. I like the additional meaning of LIE—in a way, the bendy answers’ clues are deceiving us.
The middle answer, 39a: CROSSES UP ([Confuses]), may also reflect how solvers were feeling while working this puzzle.
Five more clues:
- 3d. [Odd-shaped reef denizen] is a BATFISH. I don’t know it. Is it this fish?
- 6d. [Passport issuer?] is HONDA, maker of the Honda Passport SUV.
- 45d. A JETPACK is [Personal transport, in science fiction]. Dammit, why isn’t this a reality by now?
- 20a. Looking through the filled grid, I just got crossed up. F. TORD? What is that?? Oh, yes. [Former Calif. base], FT. ORD.
- 35d. [Share for the fourth little piggy] is NONE. Mind you, the fourth little piggy opted to buck up and take it like a boar. It was the fifth little piggy that cried “wee, wee, wee” all the way home, and we don’t even have independent confirmation as to whether the fifth little piggy had some roast beef or not.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cautious Consumption” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s quippin’ time! Our puzzle features this observation on modern dining: I PRACTICE SAFE / EATING. I ALWAYS / USE A CONDIMENT. (For maximum effect, click here.) Abstinence is also an alternative, but I’m more a fan of the rhythm method (as in steady eating).
Longtime readers have heard this before, but quips are the capital punishment of crossword themes, meaning that solvers tend either to like them a lot or hate them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Few take the middle ground, and each side thinks the other is just plain wrong. So it won’t do much good to tell ponder whether this is a solid theme, as most minds were probably made up upon seeing the clue [Start of a quip].
Since I absolutely abhor absolutism, I choose instead to focus on the fill and the clues. Here are some of the more notable ones:
- There are some lovely long Downs here, like JOE FRIDAY, GOLF CLUB, ONCE A DAY, and STANDS OUT. I had no problems with Anna KARENINA thanks to the third puzzle in The Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzles collection.
- I SAID NO packs some punch as an [Emphatic denial]. They don’t get much more emphatic than that (well, in a 15×15 crossword they don’t, anyway).
- I like when stacked entries make complete sentences. There’s a certain elegance to SNAILS HAMPER OPERAS, and very likely a certain degree of truth to it, too.
- FLO is clued as [Andy Capp's wife]. As a kid I collected Andy Capp comics that were published in book form by Fawcett. At one point I owned the book shown to the right, and at least two dozen similar titles. Looking back, I’m not sure what I liked about the strip so much. Andy was an abusive drunkard who, for most of his years in the funny papers, constantly smoked and who never removed his hat. The perfect role model for any growing boy. In any case, I’m all over the Andy Capp clues. I keep waiting for other characters like the neighbors (Chalkie and Ruby) and the landlord (Percy) to appear in crosswords, and yet they never do. Sigh.
Sure, there were some clunkers, like LEB., OSE, and SRS, but on the whole the fill was smooth and interesting. Quip lovers will give it 4 stars, haters will give it 2 stars, but in my book it’s a sold three-star offering.
Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “For Good Measure”
I would have liked this units-of-measure pun theme better if the puns had been more consistent in form. Some are real words clued playfully as if they’re units of measure that sound the same. Some are fake words that sound like real words, but are spelled much differently. Some sound like real units of measure. Some are pluralized. Pick one style and go with it!
- 23a. [Measure of laryngitis?] = HOARSE POWER. (Horsepower is a real unit of measure.) Laryngitis is more of an anti-power, no?
- 25a. [Measures for trillions of fasteners?] = TERRAPINS. Terrapins are turtles. Why isn’t this spelled TERAPINS to have the trillion prefix tera-?
- 37a. [Measure of half a large intestine?] = SEMICOLON. Punctuation redefined.
- 53a. [Measure for plenty of pain?] = MEGA HURTS. (Megahertz.)
- 66a. [Measures of the time it takes to slip on a peel and hit the pavement?] = BANANOSECONDS. This one adds a syllable to a real unit, nanoseconds.
- 85a. [Measure used when weighing an evangelist?] = BILLIGRAM. Rhymes with “milligram” and “Billy Graham.”
- 94a. [Measure of the force of falling fruit?] = FIG NEWTON. Cookie redefined.
- 112a. [Measures equivalent to 20 cents?] = PARADIGMS. Sounds like “pair o’ dimes.”
- 114a. [Measure for sailing short distances?] = KNOT FURLONG. Two nautical measures combined to sound like “not for long.”
- 42d. [Measure of wet socks?] = LITERHOSEN. Except lederhosen is pronounced “lay-der-hoe-zen,” not “lee-”. The “wet socks” connection to the fake word is mighty spurious, too.
- 47d. [Measure of a small amount of mouthwash?] = MICROSCOPE.
I’d never heard of HOUK, 109d: [Manager of Mantle and Maris]. Also didn’t know there was such as person as Yung L.A., so 80d: AIN’T I, [Hit for rapper Yung L.A.], was a mystery. That song peaked at #47 on the Billboard Hot 100. If it never made the top 40, can it be properly called a “hit”? While it’s good to avoid partial entries, cluing a phrase as a complete entity works best if the complete entity is familiar.
24d: [Dairy case import] clues EDAM. The only place I’ve ever seen Edam cheese in the dairy case is in a convenience store in London. It seems to be found only in the deli/cheese section in the U.S. stores I frequent. “Dairy case” means the aisle where butter, sour cream, cheese, and yogurt are found, right? (And milk is sold elsewhere in the store.) The imported cheese always seems to lurk by the deli.
I hoped that [Kicking around] (54d) was going to refer to the “let’s kick this idea around” usage, but no: ABUSING. Aptly, it crosses MEGA HURTS.
Pam Klawitter’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Odd Numbers”
Pannonica is still without power thanks to last weekend’s East Coast snowstorm, so you’re stuck with me covering her usual blog assignments. Pam Klawitter defines math terms for kinds of numbers in a playful way:
- 20a. [7 or 11 on the opening roll at craps is an example of a ___ number] = NATURAL. If you came here for the actual definitions of these math terms, let me refer you to Google or the closest dictionary.
- 22a. [2400 on your SAT scoresheet is an example of a ___ number] = PERFECT.
- 32a. [1,000,000 in the phrase "When I win a million dollars" is an example of an ___ number] = IMAGINARY. Ha! I like that.
- 51a. [12 in vitamin B12 is an example of a ___ number] = COMPLEX. As in “B-complex vitamins.”
- 36d. [1,000 in the phrase "No, no a thousand times no!" is an example of a ___ number] = NEGATIVE.
- 39d. [72 on Dan Dierdorf's jersey is an example of a ___ number] = CARDINAL. I needed lots of crossings here because I had no idea who Dierdorf played for back in the day.
Left/right symmetry gives a crossword an odd look and makes me try to see a picture in the pattern of blocks. I almost see a lion’s face, which of course has nothing to do with numbers.
Two Scrabbly words I like:
- 24a. [Early car horn] is a KLAXON. “Ah-OOG-ah” action.
- 27a. [Astrolabe reading] clues AZIMUTH. Klaxon Azimuth will be the name of a law firm in my first novel.
Five more clues:
- 15a. I wanted [Perot impersonator on "SNL"] to be Dana Carvey but the answer has 5 letters. Eventually, with the help of the crossings, I remembered Cheri OTERI with big ears.
- 28d. IGOR is one [Character not present in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"].
- 40d. [Coat on a tie?] is the CREOSOTE on a railroad tie.
- 11d. [Many IM recipients] clues AOLERS. Really? I’m thinking AOLers make up a teeny percentage of the people who IM these days. Between Gmail and Facebook’s IM tools, cell-phone IMing, and the other IM applications that have nothing to do with AOL, I don’t see how “many” can still be true. Are y’all still using AIM much?
- 1a. [Mr. Magoo's world?] is a BLUR. If only he would update his glasses prescription and wear strong enough lenses.
Answers in my Scowl-o-Meter list include MDLXI, ENOL, and ALEROS. And RUHR! I just added that one right now.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Go With the Flow”
So yes, pannonica’s power is apparently still off. She had hopes that today would be the day the wire crews hooked her back up. Cross your fingers, Fiendland!
I first solved this puzzle a couple weeks ago as a test solver, so I have no speed-solving time to report. The Ink Wells usually run me around 4:30, generally in the same ballpark as a Thursday NYT. When they inch past 5:30, I typically suggest spots where Ben might ease things up a bit. I think this one was in the regular Ballpark of Difficulty, though.
So, it was only in the last few years that I figured out that MCs are basically just rappers, performers who spit rhymes to a beat. This week’s theme takes familiar Mc___ surnames and “Before & After”-ifies them with phrases that begin with the post-”Mc” part of the name, and then clues them as if the resulting phrase was the name of an MC or the “B&A” mashup:
- 20a. [Biblically-minded rapper, or a story in which a 2008 runner-up kills his brother?] is MC CAIN AND ABEL, with reference to John McCain.
- 31a. [Rapper with no plans to stick around, or a "Back to the Future" hero after hours?] is MC FLY BY NIGHT (Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly).
- 41a. [Rapper who prefers a pretty large mattress, or comparable in build to fashion designer Alexander?] clues MC QUEEN-SIZED. I like Ben’s choice to go with the more contemporary Alexander McQueen rather than Steve McQueen.
- 56a. [Weight-conscious rapper, or what the singer of "American Pie" eats?] clues MC LEAN CUISINE (Don McLean).
This is not the sort of theme that would be at home in a daily newspaper, as a great many newspaper crossword solvers may not be able to identify any MCs other than MC Hammer. Google “top 10 MCs” and the search engine will suggest to you that the following rappers are most likely to appear in such lists: Eminem, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Drake, Ludacris, Rick Ross, Nas, and Nicki Minaj. Hey! Plenty of them show up in crosswords, just generally not clued as MCs.
Five more clues:
- 53a. [Like the students at Gallaudet] clues DEAF. There was a recent Language Log post about the linguistics work that goes on at Gallaudet.
- 12d. A SNEEZE is a [Convulsion often followed by a blessing]. You were thinking of The Exorcist, weren’t you?
- 38d. [Old Russian despot's daughter] is a CZAREVNA. This word is so unfamiliar to me, I still needed a ton of crossings the second time I solved this puzzle. Czarevitch is the son of a czar. Czarina is an empress.
- 27a. [Source of durable wood?] clues VIAGRA. *snort*
- 21d. [Actor Grant who received only an honorary Oscar], 4 letters…that can’t be HUGH, can it? No. Nor Grant Goodeve of Family fame, nor painter Grant Wood. CARY Grant! I’m embarrassed at how many crossings I needed to figure this one out.