Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Quick post, because it’s almost 10:00 here and the Fireball is also on my docket tonight.
Didn’t we just have some crossword clue that used a lowercase “L” instead of a capital “I”? Was it a New York Times puzzle? Was that foreshadowing? The theme clues here look like they start with capital “I” but the answers go with “l” words. [lago] is LAKE IN SPANISH rather than Othello’s undoing. (Anyone else fill in ITALIAN and screw up that whole corner for a while?) [lon] is ACTOR CHANEY rather than a charged particle. [lams, say] clues FLEES FROM PRISON, not a pet food brand. [lamb's place] isn’t poetry, it’s PASTURELAND. And the [Feature replaced in four clues in this puzzle] is that CAPITAL LETTER, I. The attentive applet solver will have noticed that 32a and 51a each have a capital I with serifs, distinct from the “l” in the theme clues. I don’t think the newspaper and Across Lite versions will have that aid. In any event, neat theme idea. Have we had a puzzle in which the all-too-common “rn”-looks-like-”m” kerning issue plays tricks on us?
Highlights: WEAK LINKS. My kid was a big fan of NED’S Declassified School Survival Guide, but the Nickelodeon show ended 4.5 years ago so I’m a little surprised to see it here. It never reached the level of fame of a Hannah Montana or iCarly.
Weak links: I wasn’t loving the fill. 43a: AH ME, clued as ["Such is life"]? Bleah. Nobody says that. The entry was rescued in last Saturday’s Newsday puzzle with a clue referring to Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” in which it’s a refrain of sorts. The RIT STN LENA ARNO L-BAR -ICAL LAHR stuff didn’t do much to enhance the solving experience.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest crossword, “Palindromes: More Than Half Off!”
Tough puzzle, what with the theme entries being really sketchily clued. The theme answers are beginnings or ends of palindromes, and it would be much too easy if the clue gave you the other end, wouldn’t it? So Peter provides the word and letter counts and tells you where any capital letters fall, and the rest is up to you.
Now, that’s only step 1. Step 2 is to figure out Peter’s secret palindrome, with a “Xxxx xxx x xxxxx” pattern, and email your contest answer by Sunday afternoon. I haven’t figured that out yet. As for confirming whether your grid is correct, you’re on your own—hey, it’s a contest! When I finished the puzzle and didn’t get the happy pencil, I used the “check all letters” tool in Across Lite (forgetting that, like the Matt Gaffney weekly contest puzzles, there should be no way to check your answers). But instead of having a locked solution, the puzzle checked my solution and declared every single letter to be wrong. So my answer grid is all X’ed out. Luckily, I also have Black Ink, which displays a little red X above each letter rather than crossing it off. And then there’s Antony Lewis’s Crossword Solver, which opens the puzzle with a cleanly filled grid. Yay for options!
Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (4:11)
Just say yes to this puzzle that just says no.
- 17a. [Symbolic gifts] – LOVE TOKENS.
- 22a. [Exasperate] – DRIVE TO DRINK.
- 35a. [Soother for men] - AFTERSHAVE TONIC
- 45a. [Indigenous language] - NATIVE TONGUE
- 56a. [President's option, and a hint to the puzzle theme...] – POCKET VETO
Okay, that’s a cute little hidden word theme. Four letters, including a V? That’s non-trivial, and POCKET VETO is a real thing (and just after Election Day). I think all of the phrases are entertaining, though I’m a little surprised that turning to alcohol made it into this puzzle. (Just a little – it is supposed to be an idiom and not literal – let’s hope.)
Five theme entries usually means there aren’t many sparkling filler entries. ONCE OVER isn’t bad, and neither is NITWIT. It’s not everyday you see a TRI-COLOR ink cartridge in a crossword, but I am quite familiar with it from paying way too much to refill my printer.
On the flip side, we have a six-letter abbr. in ECCLES. A lot of the rest of the puzzle is fine, just not sparkling. It doesn’t make me say, “Wow!” (Uh-oh – back away from the keyboard, disgruntled Neville. This is a fine puzzle!)
- In Soviet Russia, 6-Down fills in you! (YAKOV Smirnoff’s old bit)
- Cute having A LA and LIKE with the same clue of [Styled after] – that adds a little to two common entries
- “Houston, WE’VE had a problem” gets the real Apollo 13 quote correct! Per Wikipedia, “the filmmakers purposely changed the line – and the character speaking it – because the original quote made it seem that the problem had already passed.”
Not bad. 3.8 stars.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Kiddie Lit Litany” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Yesterday’s puzzle (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE TRAVELING BACKWARD IN TIME AND THUS SOLVING THE DAILY PUZZLE IN REVERSE ORDER) was a tribute to the inventor of the sax. Today’s puzzle is a tribute to MOTHER GOOSE, the ["Author" with characters who share the surnames of 17-, 29-, and 48-Across]:
- 17-Across: TANYA TUCKER is a famous country singer. [Her first hit was "Delta Dawn"]. Perhaps she is a distant cousin to Little Tommy Tucker, the Mother Goose character. And perhaps they both learned at a young age to sing for their suppers.
- 29-Across: Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and NATALIE COLE, the ["Jump Start" singer], can sing a merry old solo.
- 48-Across: Old Mother Hubbard and her malnourished canine companion are classic Mother Goose characters who share the surname of L. RON HUBBARD, the ["Battlefield Earth" author]. As cruel as Old Mother Hubbard may have been, she’s not in the same league as the parents who pranked their kids by telling the kids that they had eaten all their Halloween candy.
The nine-letter Across entries, MESSIANIC and CEDAR DECK, are unusual if not especially jazzy. I’m a bigger fan of the open mid-section featuring both a LONG A and a TYPE B. Other highlights included AD COPY, PAIR UP, and LEAKY. There’s a contingent of “Huh?” and “Meh” stuff too, though, like [Historic actor Edmund] KEAN, ANNEAL, ESSO, and RLS (known to those with an eye for detail as Robert Louis Stevenson).
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “It Might Get Loud”—Matt Gaffney’s review
I’m tempted to write a two-word review of Brendan’s puzzle today that fits the pattern S*** SANDWICH. I’m slightly bitter since I had about 80% of this idea in my head to run on my contest site tomorrow—the 11×11 grid, the relevant line, and even noticing that NIGEL TUFNEL is exactly 11 letters (and that DAVID ST. HUBBINS isn’t). I abandoned the idea when I couldn’t come up with a clever riff on the key line; fortunately, Brendan did find a clever riff and wrote a puzzle around it. “Such a fine line between clever and stupid,” as another quip from the movie goes.
It’s 11/11/11 tomorrow, so Brendan and I were both naturally thinking of “These go to eleven” from the 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Here’s the clip (that’s Rob Reiner as the documentary maker, and Christopher Guest as the uncomprehending lead guitarist of “the world’s loudest band”).
The five circled letters in Brendan’s puzzle (shaded in the Crossword Solver grid depicted here) spell the word THESE, and they end, traveling diagonally and backwards, at the 11 square. Clever! Wish I’d thought of it. And this is an example of *good* use of circles in a puzzle grid.
- Just noticed from re-watching the clip above that Guest actually says the words “eleven…eleven…eleven.” That’s tomorrow’s date!
- In addition to NIGEL TUFNEL at 3d., BEQ also put another reference (to this same clip) at 8d. (MARSHALL AMP) and yet another at 24d. (“ONE louder”)
- And there’s GUEST at 31d and TAP at 25a.
- And there’s another ref at 12a. Yes, Spinal Tap had their rock dots/metal umlaut over the “n.”
- 18d has a nice clue: [Step up to the barre?] for PAS.
- 35d is a nice “clue rescue”: [Tragic ending?] for the mediocre CEE.
- 37d: Mitt Romney’s wife is ANN? I wonder how many other famous both-end-in-a-double-letter couples there are.
- It’s hard to come up with 11 valid observations on a small crossword.
- Did I mention that tomorrow is 11/11/11?
- Well, it is.
- And there’s your kicker entry, ELEVEN, at 41a.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and here’s a classic Spinal Tap song for everyone (with 30a: Ed BEGLEY on drums; yet another Tap reference he snuck in there!).
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Who You With?” — pannonica’s review
Phrases reimagined more or less as “relationship statuses,” for our social networking age.
- Let’s come back to the first one later, ok?
- 28a. [Narcissist's relationship status?} DATING MYSELF. I feel the phrase is more commonly "I'm dating myself…" or perhaps even "but I'm…" Nevertheless, .close enough for jazz.
- 45a. [Casanova's relationship status?] SINGLE PLAYER. Is that a “thing” as a stand-alone (so to speak)? Isn’t it nearly always a hyphenated adjective, as in single-player game?
- 58a. [Married person's relationship status?] UNION MEMBER. Easily the most cogent, and therefore best, of the themers.
- Welcome back. 17a. [Groupie's relationship status?] SEEING STARS. This one, despite having a solid original phrase, is problematic. In the relationship status sense, “seeing” is equivalent to dating, but a groupie “seeing” stars doesn’t really date them. Shame that SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS is too long for the grid.
So, I’m tepid on the theme, but I was impressed with much of the rest of the puzzle. Most notably the vertical triple-nines in the NE and SW:
- YO LA TENGO | ONE DOLLAR | WATERFORD. I wouldn’t call Hoboken’s YO LA TENGO a “nerdy band.” Indie superstars, yes. Critical darlings, yes. Fakebook is a good album to start with. Normally, ONE DOLLAR is a questionable phrase saved by an excellent clue [Words under Washington]. WATERFORD isn’t as typographically outrageous as SWAROVSKI, but, hey, it’s good fill.
- FRESH MEAT | INDIA ARIE | RAINSTORM. Frankly, I’m surprised that Tausig opted for the innocuous [Butcher's offering] clue when he could have referenced raunchy college remarks, gory horror films, or perhaps even army drill sergeants. I can never remember how to spell 31-down’s name, what with crosswords being so chock full of dies IRAEs and lofty AERIEs. Irie, mon. And isn’t the dot in her name a little precious? Had 32d as _AI_STORM until I could determine if it needed an R-N or an H-L.
- Stacked ABBA and SAAB look nice.
- Was all set to assert that 21a [Domino's ad character] NOID needed an “erstwhile” or “one-time,” but was shocked (and distressed) to learn that they’ve revived the bugger. Bonus trivia: he was originally voiced by someone named PONS MAAR. Wow. Also: “On January 30, 1989, Kenneth Lamar Noid, a mentally ill customer who thought the ads were a personal attack on him, held two employees of an Atlanta, Georgia, Domino’s restaurant hostage for over five hours. After forcing them to make him a pizza and making demands for $100,000, getaway transportation, and a copy of The Widow’s Son, Noid surrendered to the police. After the incident had ended, police Chief Reed Miller offered a memorable assessment to reporters: “He’s paranoid.” Noid was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, extortion, and possession of a firearm during a crime. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.” (Thanks, Wikipedia! Chicago Sun-Times requires payment for access to the original article.)
- 39a [Ancient Roman magistrate] EDILE. Yuck. Boo on NEGATOR too (26a). And L[en]GTH (40d).
- 20a. EVAC. Don’t most “medical thrillers” take place in hospitals, in ORs (and sometimes ERs), and in laboratories? I think of operations (yes, cute misdirection) such as helicopter evacuations of the injured as parts of action or disaster movies.
- Tausig-style suggestive content: 10d [Rock hard ones might be a turn on] ABS. Got to love those anti-lock braking systems, so sexy.
- Completely unknown to me: 22d ["Harlem World" rapper] MASE. Born Mason Durell Betha, previously known as Murda Ma$e. Also an inspirational speaker.
- Believe me, I tried to confirm that (24d ) SAS (Scandinavian Airline Systems) offers Danish Blue cheese, but could not verify it definitively. Looking at their meny, though, it seems likely.
- The last four down answers—MOOG, UGG, MAP, EMU—taken together sound like some arcane incantation. MOOG, by the way, is pronounced with a long-o sound, the notorious Moog Indigo album notwithstanding.
Iffy theme, solid puzzle.