If you’re near Killingworth, Connecticut, Jan O’Sullivan (who comments here as “danjan”) has organized a local crossword tournament at the Killingworth Library this Sunday afternoon. Details here.
Also, the weekend after this one is when the grand Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest takes place. Terrific line-up of Saturday workshops, plus assorted puzzle tournaments (crosswords, sudoku, cryptics—adults and kids) on Sunday the 29th.
Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword
Cute theme! I happen to be a big fan of the colorful synonyms for “to-do” (many of which appear in this puzzle) and for “nonsense” (tommyrot, malarkey, poppycock, balderdash). You would be hard pressed to find a livelier group of words on any other thesaurus pages. The elegant touch here is that TO-DO LIST is used to tied the various to-dos together: BROUHAHA, HOO-HAH (also spelled hoo-ha), HOOPLA, HURLYBURLY, COMMOTION, HULLABALOO, and KERFUFFLE.
Now, what’s this puzzle doing on a Thursday when it’s no harder than a Wednesday puzzle? Or is it a Thursday-difficulty puzzle fair and square to anyone who hasn’t embraced the same thesaurus entry I love so much? If you don’t have these synonyms in the forefront of your mind, I could see how the grid design would stymie you. It’s basically four smaller puzzles linked by a handful of answers in the middle.
Plenty of sparkle throughout the grid, which has a themeless-caliber word count of 72 and lots of long answers. A HANDFUL, settle an OLD SCORE, OAXACA, and a movie title (NO ESCAPE) join the theme answers in the zippy department. I have grown quite fond of George TAKEI in his internet celebrity in the last year or two, and just now “liked” his Facebook page so I will see the funny pictures he posts even if my friends don’t repost them.
Less exciting are answers such as ANA, LOC, SLYS, KSU, LMN, YMA, and IMRE. But you know what? I forgive Derek and Sarah for those because we also got KERFFUFLE and HULLABALOO and BROUHAHA. Four stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 46″
It’s Fireball season again! If you want to subscribe, visit Peter’s website. $18 for 45 puzzles this year, specializing in themeless and hard themed puzzles.
This one’s a themeless, and Peter kicks off the year with VAJAZZLING at 1-Across. I can’t help thinking the practice has fallen by the wayside, but the word remains hilarious. (Still waiting for the phallic equivalent. Coinages, anyone? And no, “Erechtheum” is out.)
- 17a. VIETNAM VET is fully in the language, and yet how often does this term appear in crosswords? I dedicate 17-Across to my Uncle Andy, who I believe still has shrapnel from Nam inside his body.
- 25a. NETROOTS, fill I’ve never seen in a puzzle before but familiar to me from non-crossword blog reading.
- 47a. [Major sponsor] sounds so generic, but the PGA TOUR sponsors many of golf’s major tournaments.
- 66a. Love the clue for bottom-row-friendly answer ESSAY TESTS: [They cause pads to be filled during some periods]. I don’t know that I’d call a blue book a “pad,” but then I also don’t know that I’d choose blue liquid as a TV commercial stand-in for menstrual blood. Nice echo of blueness here.
- 3d. J. PETERMAN! Best loved for the fictionalized version Elaine Benes worked at on Seinfeld.
- 50d. [Punch-out tool?] is the LADLE you scoop punch out of the punch bowl with.
- 62d. [Bottom lines, perhaps?] are the inked lines on your bum, if you have an ass tattoo. (Does Donald Rumsfeld have an ass tattoo of the Princeton tiger or am I misremembering?) Ergo: TAT.
70 words, 30 blocks. Sam Donaldson likes to count those things when he blogs the themeless CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge.” Now what do I do with these numbers?
Four stars. Welcome back to the Fireball beat, Peter!
Updated Thursday morning:
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fashionable Footwear” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle has a lot of sole. It re-imagines five common expressions as new varieties of shoes:
- 17-Across: WATER PUMPS don’t just have to be helpful tools, you know. They can also serve as [Shoes for a cruise?]. I like the rhyme scheme in the clue.
- 23-Across: The [Shoes for riding Amtrak?] took a while for me to figure out because I have never heard of RAILROAD FLATS. My dictionary defines a railroad flat as “an apartment in which the rooms are connected in a line.” Even with the definition, I’m not sure that I have ever been inside of one. Are they common in a part of the country I haven’t visited much?
- 40-Across: I suppose DIVING PLATFORMS would be suitable [Shoes for scubaing?], but they would have to be clunky and hard to swim with what with all that concrete. More importantly, isn’t the spelling of “scubaing” weird? I keep wanting it to rhyme with “she-bang.” But maybe that’s just because I like the word “she-bang.” She bang, he bang, we bang. I bang, you bang, they bang. (You get the reference, right?) If not, try this.
- 51-Across: STUBBORN MULES aren’t just [Shoes that are hard to get on and off?]. Wearing them will also make you feel like an ass.
- 63-Across: SAND WEDGES are both the club I use most in a typical round of golf (sigh) and [Shoes for the desert?].
I think I would love the puzzle more if I had a shoe fetish a la Carrie Bradshaw. “Mules” and “wedges” just aren’t in my footwear vocabulary. But it’s not the puzzle’s fault that said vocabulary is pretty much limited to “sneaker,” “loafer,” “slipper,” and “flip-flops.” And it wasn’t the shoe terms that slowed me down as much as the northeast corner. I knew the answer to [Obsessed over] was __ED ON, but since I was struggling with the FLATS on Amtrak, it took a long time to finally get DWELLED ON. I kept wanting LIRA instead of LIRE as the [Old Italian loot], so trying to figure out the answer to [Yields] ending in -AS instead of -ES sucked up a good 40 or 50 seconds. (The answer’s CEDES. Tricky little clue, because I was thinking of “yields” as “produces” or “blooms.”) I had a hunch the [Platter by The Platters, e.g.] was a DISC, but the D threw me as the start of the answer to [Obsessed over]. It wasn’t until I finally got WOKE as the answer to [Roused] that it all fell into place.
Despite my struggles, there was much that I enjoyed. MINI BIKES and GREASE GUN were my favorites, though I’m not the least bit mechanical or into biking. There was more than the usual amount of Crosswordese, however. NEUT, IST, EFF, EDEMA, ITALO Calvino, HOAR, OPP, SHU, OTIC, SSTS, STRIA, and REATA all make appearances.
I know ENID as both an Oklahoma city and one of the best songs from the Barenaked Ladies, but not as [Geraint's love]. Hmm, their names anagram to DINE and TEARING. Their dates must start well but end on bad terms.
Dan Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Let’s get right to this puzzle – no playing around here.
- 17a. [Nuts] – PLAIN CRAZY
- 25a. [Switching device] - POWER RELAY
- 37a. [Keeps at it] – PLUGS AWAY
- 50a. ["We want you here"] - PLEASE STAY
- 60a. [Dally, and a literal hint to 17-, 25-, 37-Across] - PLAY AROUND
We’ve seen a lot of this type of theme; there’s not that much innovation here, but it’s just a crossword puzzle. I think we’ll live. Nice execution with the three potential splits each demonstrated; the perfect split is shown twice.
I like the opportunity afforded by the long spaces in the corners, and I APPROVE of entries like TEST LAB and ZILLION. [Effervesced] is a fun word for FIZZED, which is fun in and of itself. DRY LAND makes more sense than DR. KLAND for [Terra firma]; remembering the difference between YEATS and KEATS is rather helpful. I’LL BET those of you taking the Jeopardy! online test this week reviewed your poets and poetry, though. Why can’t the word RAGOUT be spelled like it sounds? Oh yeah, that’s a trademark.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Right Angles”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan’s four theme entries take downward right angles in the grid, each one with the RIGHT itself forming the turn at the G (your clue numbers may vary, depending on the puzzle format you used):
- 20a. [Sane] = IN ONE’S RIGHT MIND
- 9d. [Treating in a morally just fashion] = DOING RIGHT BY
- 37a. ["One sec"] = BE RIGHT THERE
- 29d. [Political talk show fodder] = LEFT/RIGHT DEBATE (I had DIVIDE here instead of debate for a while)
- This is a nice twist on the angled-entry idea, and the symmetry of the themers is another elegant touch.
- Good fill as well: TAJ MAHAL, MERMAID, I CONCEDE, DE NADA, and FBI/RBI crossing in the center.
- At 3d, Brendan reveals that his favorite Beatles album is REVOLVER. Mine is Abbey Road. Leave yours in comments!
- Don’t overlook the two 5×5 boxes in the SW and NE corners. Outstanding.
- Speaking of which, I botched the upper-right corner in this one, putting STRADS and RENTER where AMATIS and ROOMER should’ve been. Took me about 2 minutes just to untangle that, since those two crossing sixers looked uncontroversially correct. Finally just erased the whole corner and started over with REGENT, and then it fell quickly.
- Funny clue for 52a. I won’t sully the pages of Crossword Fiend by typing it out, though.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and do the right thing today, everyone!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Campaign Records” — pannonica’s review
What? I have to write a longer review than that? All right.
This week, we get three punned musical albums—each utilizing two entries—incorporating contenders for the Republication presidential nomination.
- 17a. [With 62-Across, GOP candidate's collaboration with the Beastie Boys?] RON PAUL’S BOUTIQUE (Paul’s Boutique – The Beastie Boys (1989)).
- 23a. [With 31-Across, former GOP candidate's kitschy electronic reworking of classical music?] SWITCHED ON BACHMANN (Switched on Bach — Wendy Carlos (1968)).
- 44a. [With 51-Across, GOP candidate's album featuring the single "In Da Country Club"?] GINGRICH OR DIE TRYIN’ (Get Rich or Die Tryin’ — 50 Cent (2002)).
I. Did. Not. Like. The. Theme.
Far too incoherent for my taste.
- One candidate is no longer in the race, Bachmann dropped out on 4 January. I realize that there are publishing deadlines, but I believe the turnaround for an independent weekly is pretty fast. My guess is the puzzle was written a while ago and the clue was recently modified, inserting “former” into the clue. If the overall quality of the theme execution were stronger, I’d understand.
- Two of the albums are rap albums, one is classical-ish. All three should either be of the same genre or of completely different genres. The weighted imbalance is unappealing.
- One of the punny titles involves a significant alteration of the original title, in both pronunciation and spelling: Get Rich → Gingrich. The other two merely involve the addition of letters. Even so, they diverge in that one adds a new word (Ron) and the other appends letters to an existing word (-mann). The mechanics are all over the place.
The ballast fill was serviceable, but not remarkable. Certainly not enough to compensate for the unsatisfying theme. For every ARMS RACE, BEAN CURD, and RUBRIC, there are plenty of IN ANs, DIECIs, and DEHORNs.
On the other hand, SWOOSIE Kurtz has pride of place as the central across entry, so… 12 stars.