- Trip Payne‘s going to create a puzzle extravaganza contest—a dozen puzzles of various types with words and images, plus a final “meta” puzzle—this spring if he gets enough funding via Kickstarter.com. The puzzles will be along the lines of a “special section” in Games World of Puzzles. In other words, nowhere near as tough as the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles but harder than the occasional NYT op-ed puzzle section crafted by Puzzability. If you want in ($10 minimum pledge), visit the project page at Kickstarter.
- The “Top 40 Thursday” Celebrity crossword that came out Wednesday evening on the Crosswords Facebook app was just constructed yesterday by Bob Klahn. The theme could not have existed more than a few days ago, so it’s topical (and no, it’s not a tribute to Kim Jong-Il, I promise you). The Celebrity crossword venue is likely to have more of these on-the-fly puzzles that reference current events. When you hear of a new scandal involving a famous person, don’t be surprised to find a puzzle about it soon thereafter. (Also, you should start solving these fun/easy puzzles, because we’ll be blogging them here soon.)
- Remember those puzzles called “Gryptics” by a Canadian puzzlemaker named Les Foeldessy? They’re good training for crossword solvers because they work your ability to make reasoned guesses about what word will fit a given letter pattern, without using crossword clues. Les’s book has been republished by the Sterling imprint Puzzlewright as Next-Generation Crosswords, and he’s giving away a copy in his December contest. I would have told you earlier than December 28 but Les’s note got snagged by the dang spam filter. (Hey, maybe there’ll be a January contest too. Check the homepage in a few days. That homepage tells us Les is releasing an iPad app of his puzzle form in January. Hmm…)
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
I like the theme okay, but this puzzle’s fill … it hurt me. It felt like a Greatest Hits of Crosswordese. If that’s the price for a theme with 63 letters in Across answers and 7 more letters in the circled squares, then I want my money back.
The theme is a brainteaser: NAME THE ONE / SEVEN-LETTER WORD / IN ENGLISH THAT / CANNOT BE PUT DOWN / IN SCRABBLE. It’s PIZZAZZ—there’s one Z and two blank tiles in Scrabble, so a four-Z word can’t be played—and it appears counterclockwise in the circled squares that form a really clumsy shape.
The tradeoff for the thematic density is a veritable explosion of unsavory fill. ATIP as [Eagerly expectant]—well, that’s a 4-letter word you can’t play in Scrabble. This entry would actually be improved by cluing it as a partial. OONA—that’s one of the least popular names for baby girls in New York City, the Times reports. Rare baby girl named Oona, please get famous! Don’t make us wait until you’re an adult. LIAO, ODAS, SERT, Sea of AZOV, Rudy VALLEE, ALAE, REO, -EAN, DDE, HOER, NINON, TORA, ADZ, ERN, N-TESTS—wow, they’re all here! They make Pope LEO VII and the York Peppermint PATTIE (I wonder why the candy company went with the “pattie” spelling) look good by comparison.
Anyone else try to figure out the first name of [Columnist Friedrich]? I could only think of Thomas Friedman. Eventually the crossings started to work out ENGELS and I realized it said [Communist Friedrich], not columnist.
The Scowl-o-Meter put off a few sparks while I was working this puzzle and I’m going to have to check the wiring in the morning. Tonight’s puzzle may have burned out some of the wires. 2.5 stars.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Do’s and Dont’s” — pannonica’s review
First of all, punctuation in the title. Shouldn’t it be “Do’s and Don’t's,” ugly as that is? This is one reason why I’m not in favor of apostrophe’d [sic] plurals.
Moving on, the theme works as one of those before-and-after mush-ups, the first component a hairstyle of dubious aesthetic sensibility.
- 17a. [The people on “Jersey Shore”?] BLOWOUTCAST (blowout, outcast). A chuckle for the chuckleheads.
- 27a. [Gust that might make you look like a hipster?] FAUXHAWKWIND (fauxhawk, Hawkwind). Hawkwind, 1970s (look Ma, no apostrophe!) space-prog rock band, associated with science fiction author Michael Moorcock. Need you know more?
- 47a. [What balding pirates sail?] COMBOVERSEAS (combover, overseas). Stranded!
- 62a. [Motion that might occur during headbanging?] RATTAILSPIN (rat-tail, tailspin). From oceans to motions.
In each instance, both the first part and second part is a compound word. I don’t perceive any quality or significance shared by all of the ends of the themers, either the full compound (sections two and three) or just the last part (section three). There almost seems to be a nautical affiliation, but I believe it’s coincidental. Anyway, it’s a fun theme.
In light of yesterday’s extended discussion on Roman numerals in crosswords, I feel obligated to mention 28-down, which more than one Fiendreader extolled: [Time at the end of a revolution, when I will be next] for XII. We’re talking about a clock face, the revolution a full circuit of the digits, where one o’clock follows twelve o’clock. Nice misdirection with the I, and a totally legitimate clue. It’s a bit long-winded for a three-letter answer, but that’s a barely legitimate criticism.
For long non-theme fill, there are the offset vertical stacks of OFF-LABEL/FARM TEAMS and CANONICAL/LOW-CLASS. Speaking of apostrophes and plurals, note how critical it is in the clue for FARM TEAMS: [Twins' feeders]. I appreciate little touches like that (but I don’t want to see fantastical touchés in a puzzle, just for the record).
More apostrophe action, right there at one-across, or at least I prefer to think the application of TAINT [Perineum, slangily] derives from the contracted ’tain’t (as in, it ain’t one orifice or the other) rather than connoting putrefaction or corruption. No, you cannot force me to check urbandictionary.com. The clue is also, as a reliable percentage in these crosswords, a little …erm… rough around the edges. Speaking of which, I wonder why BOFF was clued as the benign [Big Broadway hit] rather than something a little more risqué. In my experience, the theatrical success more often boffo. See also: 12-down. Related material in this paragraph: 67a [They're often flashed in front of bouncers] IDS and 6d [One might swing] for the innocent GATE.
- 15a & 49d AILES & AISLES.
- Was unaware of ‘bite[s]‘ in the sense of CO-OPT[s] as per 57-across.
- In crosswordland, people in ski resorts only ever drink hot COCOA, always use a T-BAR to ascend, and may enjoy their chocolaty APRÈS-ski near to an INGLE.
- 55a [Egyptian Arab Spring activist Ghonim] WAEL. Wikichitlán sayeth, “Wael Ghonim is an Internet activist and computer engineer with an interest in social entrepreneurship. In 2011, he became an international figure and energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview following 11 days of secret incarceration by Egyptian police—during which he was interrogated regarding his work as the administrator of the Facebook page, ‘We are all Khaled Saeed’, which helped spark the revolution.” Not to be confused with Wiseguy Ken WAHL.
- 41a [Web mag for which Christopher Hitchens wrote] S___: Slate or Salon, SlateorSalon, Salonorslate? SALON! Of course the answer was the other one, SLATE (though he did in fact write for both). Grr.
- Favorite clues: 36a [Game with yellow and red cards] SOCCER. 61a [After-work option?] is a nice way to revivify the stale IRA. 46a [Character who interviewed Newt Gingrich] is Sasha Baron-Cohen’s ALI G.; ‘character’ is pivotal.
- Other things I didn’t know: 8d [2011 "American Idol" runner-up Lauren] ALAINA, and the ultra-Scrabbly VYBZ [talented-but-troubled dancehall star Kartel. The crossing with LOLZ [YouTube comment word] stymied me for quite a while, as I tried LIKE, then LOVE, then LOLS before zeroing in on the Z. nb: Not to be confused with talented Fiendish commenting star danchall.
- Least favorite clue: 39a. ["Here __ Again" (Whitesnake anthem)] for the unlovely partial I GO. First Hawkwind, now Whitesnake? The horror!
I’d give it IIII stars, if I were the type of reviewer to BESTOW (9d) stars.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Do I Hear a Waltz? I do!
- 17a. [*Fifth amendment right] – DUE PROCESS OF LAW
- 25a. [*Decorator’s forte] – EYE FOR DETAIL
- 46a. [*No place in particular] – HERE AND THERE
- 59a. [*End of an old pasta product jingle] – UH OH SPAGHETTIOS
- 66a. [Disney, et al., or, when added to the starts of the starred answers, a 1965 musical (listen!)] – WALTS
So “due eye here uh walts” sounds just like the musical Do I Hear a Waltz?. At first I didn’t think that this was so neat, but then I thought about it for a moment. First, each of the five words in the title has a proper homonym. Then, the title even has to do with hearing. That’s cooler than I had first thought. Props to Ed Sessa for coming up with this idea. As long-time cruciverbal fans know, not only did Stephen Sondheim write the lyrics for Do I Hear a Waltz?, he’s also an avid puzzler. Someone get him to the ACPT, please.
My flub-up in this puzzle was the (I think) rather reasonable guess of MILNE for the originator of the WILDE quote “I am not young enough to know everything.” It’s those near misses that can burn you, when many of the letters work, so you refuse to change the others. Fortunately I guessed correctly that the [Shasta no.] referred to the mount’s ELEV., not to something like FL. OZ.. Crisis averted.
I like a portmanteau word like SCRUNGE where, even though I’d not heard of it, I can tell it’s some combination of scrubber and sponge. And that’s not the only fun-to-say entry – we’ve got a TWO-FER and ROTGUT. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the crossing of TOPS OFF and DENSE FOG, both of which were near-end fill-ins for me. This was a fun one for me to end the year blogging on – see you in 2012!
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Nice Abs!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The title of today’s puzzle is a great compliment, even though I hear “Nice keg!” more often than “Nice abs!” We can return the favor by telling Tony Orbach, “Nice puzzle featuring five two-word entries with the initials A.B.,” or, more simply, “Nice A-Bs!” Here are the theme entries:
- 20-Across: The APPLE BLOSSOM is a [Flower of a certain fruit tree]. I would think [Fruit tree flower] would be a sufficient clue, but maybe there’s more to it than I realize.
- 31-Across: One [Museum shop purchase] is an ART BOOK. I used to question the appeal of a book containing pictures of what I just saw displayed in the museum until I visited the old art gallery at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas. It contained a number of works from Steve Wynn’s private collection and was just spectacular. I happily shelled out the $60-or-so asking price for the official art book on sale in the gift shop.
- 38-Across: One [Old nickel depiction] is the AMERICAN BUFFALO. America and Canada both have buffalo, but I hear the view from the Canadian side is better. (That’s right, folks–this here’s the only crossword blog featuring Niagara Falls jokes. Roll out the barrels!)
- 45-Across: A [Pilot’s station] is an AIR BASE. Given the theme of yesterday’s CS puzzle, I kinda wanted this clue to refer to a fort.
- 55-Across: The [Display platform at Sotheby’s] is an AUCTION BLOCK. Lately I’ve heard the term used to describe neighborhoods with many houses in foreclosure (as in, “the whole block is up for auction”). A sign o’ the times, as Prince would say. I guess you can say the housing crisis is not yet over in this neck of the woods.
Those two seven-letter theme entries evaded me at first–I started to carp that the puzzle had only three theme entries using up only 39 squares. But after a second look, I saw that there were five theme entries using 53 theme squares. So never mind, there’s plenty of thematic content. Move along, people. Nothing to see here.
Maybe part of what had me thinking there were only three theme entries was the remarkably smooth fill (not to mention the abundance of rare letters for added spice). I loved FACELIFT, the [Cosmetic fix] that, conveniently enough, sits symmetrically opposite of the SCULPTOR, the [Builder of bodies?]. Other great entries, in my view, included THE MOB, TEFLON, I’M OUT, the Denver BRONCOS (God’s pick for the Super Bowl, it seems), and [Holmes’s creator], Sir Arthur Conan DOYLE. My personal favorite clue was [___ Bell] for TACO, but that’s just because over the years I have eaten more than my fair share of their bean burritos (just ask my family and friends).
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Sob Story”
What sort of inventive theme comes to mind for a new papa? The baby’s wailing “Wah!”:
- 17a. SWAHILI MATTRESS sticks a WAH inside a Sealy mattress.
- 31a. “Eenie meenie” becomes WAHINE MEANIE.
- 50a. In lieu of Brendan’s unused PRIMORDIAL WAHOOS (16 letters, one too long!), we get the theme unifier “FER CRYIN’ OUT LOUD,” which my paternal grandma used to say a lot.
Now, how often does a little bit of wordplay get you words like SWAHILI and WAHINE on the flip side? Not often. Nice and fresh. Also fresh: FELA KUTI, “NOW I KNOW,” iMOVIE, LUMIERE (that’s Tony Orbach’s dad Jerry doing the voice of Lumiere, you know—you should hear Tony’s spot-on Lumiere impression), and “I’M ALL OUT.” I like the clue for UNIONS, [Some groups at protests]; it puts me in mind of the huge protests in Madison earlier this year. And sure, most crossword constructors would probably clue FALCO as actress Edie, but Brendan hits my ’80s-teenager sweet spot with that [“Rock Me Amadeus” singer] clue. Not sure about this 26a: [QB nicknamed “The Gunslinger”]; my husband’s a lifelong Packers fans and he hasn’t heard this used to refer to FAVRE.