Hey, folks! Got a touch of that winter cabin fever? Looking for ways to pass the time between now and February 15? You’ve still got plenty of time to wrestle with Patrick Blindauer’s newest suite of crosswords, Musical Puzzlefest. Each puzzle has a hidden answer to figure out, and then there’s a final challenge that wraps it all together. I’m about halfway through the puzzle suite myself and hope to wrestle out the final answer by that mid-February deadline. (There are prizes!) Swing by Patrick’s site for all the details.
Adam Fromm’s New York Times crossword, “Snow White’s Employment Agency”
Cute theme: Snow White’s housemates, the seven dwarves, are associated with jobs that would be a bad match for their named personalities. Sleepy would make a terrible NIGHT WATCHMAN. Happy and Grumpy would make a great team if they swapped theme answers: GOTH MUSICIAN and MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER. Sneezy’s allergies would act up if he were a FLORAL ARRANGER (though “florist” sounds more colloquial to me). Dopey and Doc are as opposite at Happy and Grumpy, with ALGEBRA TEACHER and VILLAGE IDIOT their mismatched jobs. (How much does that last one pay, anyway? Seems like there would be many qualified applicants for every opening.) And shy Bashful might not want to be a TV PERSONALITY. (Wouldn’t Snow White’s employment agency be more useful if it identified good fits rather than what jobs won’t work out?) The theme is light and accessible, but the rest of the puzzle has a little bite to it so the entire venture isn’t a waltz down Easy Street.
Things I liked: THE BARD; ELAINE clued as [Mrs. Robinson’s daughter] in The Graduate; UNCLE SAM; the SEAHORSE clued taxonomically as [Hippocampus hippocampus]; [Bar that shrinks] as a clue for SOAP; HEADACHE clued as a [Big bother] (and located not far from NAUSEA in this puzzle’s migraine section); insane “ALAKAZAM!”; GO VIRAL, or [Become a YouTube sensation]; [Serve up some ham?] as a clue for EMOTE; [Hallmark of the Philadelphia sound] cluing HORNS; and the clue for ART, [“Either plagiarism or revolution,” per Paul Gauguin].
Didn’t know 52d: CORONACH, the [Funeral song of Scotland]. Also didn’t leap at the anatomy term VOLAR, 98d: [Relating to the palm of the hand]. Luckily, the crossings for both words gave me what I needed.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Horsing Around”
Straight-up pun theme this week, with the topic being horses:
- 22a/30a. [Why Congress passed the Wild Stallions Bill?] = TO PROTECT / OUR NATURAL RACE HORSES (resources)
- 24a. [Subtitle of the book, “Runaway Horse”?] = A TALE OF WHOA (woe)
- 52a. [Chewing hay with one’s mouth closed, etc.?] = STABLE MANNERS (table)
- 61a. [Reason that mounting up is hard to do?] = STIRRUP TROUBLE (stir up)
- 72a. [Merry Christmas from el rancho grande?] = FILLIES NAVIDAD (Feliz)
- 83a. [Rider who always says “And away we go” at the start of a race?] = JOCKEY GLEASON (Jackie)
- 100a. [Attorney’s comment at a horse trial?] = NO FURTHER EQUESTRIANS (questions)
- 112a. [Reason to watch where you step?] = PADDOCK CAKE (patty-cake)
- 116a. [Another way of saying, “Congratulations on winning the race”?] = MUZZLE TOV (mazel)
Is 112a referring to a clump of horse manure? I believe it is.
Five more clues:
- 15d. [Man of degrees?] is FAHRENHEIT, the eponym of the U.S.’s favorite temperature scale.
- 85d. [Flipping a switch onstage, perhaps] could be a LIGHT CUE. Not something I ever thought of as existing, not being much of a theater type.
- 70d. [Custer biographer ___ S. Connell] clues EVAN. I didn’t recognize the name but he was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, which is a big deal, and he wrote the novels Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge that were adapted into a single movie.
- 46a. [Raiford Chatman Davis, familiarly] clues OSSIE. Never knew Ossie wasn’t his real name.
- 86d. [Thirty-two fl. oz.] clues ONE QT. Rather ungainly-looking answer, isn’t it?
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
There are enough 15s in this 70/30 freestyle puzzle to choke a horse. (In case you’re wondering, researchers concluded it takes nine 15s to interfere with equine breathing patterns in a manner sufficient to be considered “choking.” And no, we at the Fiend do not condone choking horses.) Some were quite sparkly (ALL THAT GLITTERS, TIME ON ONE’S HANDS, WELL EXCUUUUSE ME), others were, if not overwhelming, certainly neat (ANGER MANAGEMENT, AMERICAN WEDDING, EXERCISE MACHINE), and only one induced a “huh?” (ETERNAL TRIANGLE). I know a LOVERS TRIANGLE, the BERMUDA TRIANGLE, and that RON ARTEST NEVER MASTERED THE TRIANGLE, but ETERNAL TRIANGLE is a new expression to me.
More importantly, the short fill used to facilitate all the 15s is pretty smooth. The most awkward entries are probably SESE, ISE, EMER, and everyone’s favorite, the TERN. And that’s it. That’s pretty impressive.
There’s a conglomeration of proper nouns in the mid-section that might slow down a number of solvers. Giovani RIBISI crossing Midori ITO crossing MACAO crossing AMOS OZ crossing CESAR ([Composer Franck])–that can make for a tough go if the names are unfamiliar. Daniel MOYNIHAN and Ivan LENDL also make appearances in the southeast, and there’s ERNO Dohnanyi up in the northeast.
My favorite clues were [Merlin and Simon] for ELECTRONIC GAMES, [It’s usually tired] for CAR, and [Elevator filler] for GRAIN. [March VIP?] had me thinking of St. Patrick, so PAT was my first attempt before seeing the drill SGT. And sure enough, I tried a golf TEE for the [Caddy’s holding] instead of TEA. In my defense, it was a pre-coffee solve.
Henry Hook’s Sunday Crossword Puzzle, “EPIC FAIL” — pannonica’s review
Minimal clues with maximal answers. Each themer is clued with a one-word metaphorical synonym for a failure, each answer is a descriptive phrase for an alternate sense of the word.
- 22a. [TURKEY] ENTRÉE FOR THANKSGIVING.
- 30a. [LEMON] YELLOW CITRUS FRUIT.
- 55a. [BOMB] QUARTERBACK’S LONG PASS. If it’s of the desperate variety, it can be called a Hail Mary.
- 65a. [BUST] STATUE FROM THE CHEST UP.
- 93a. [FLOP] THREE TEXAS HOLD ‘EM CARDS. Not being a gambler, I was only vaguely aware of the game’s colorful terms. Here’s the lowdown, via Wikipedia: It “consists of two cards being dealt face down to each player and then five community cards being placed face-up by the dealer—a series of three (the flop) then two additional single cards (the turn and the river or fourth and fifth street respectively).”
- 102a. [DUD (?)] SINGLE PIECE OF CLOTHING. The question mark is there because, in the sartorial sense, duds appears exclusively in the plural. Like civvies, for instance.
Takes more than a little chutzpah to title a 21×21 crossword “Epic Fail,” but that’s exactly the sort of perverse transgression we’ve come to expect from Mr Hook. I deem it a success. Wait! Not a success at fulfilling the promise of its title, a success inandofitself. Yes, that’s it.
- 39a. Delayed timeliness! [Site of an annual Mystery Hunt] MIT. The contest took place last weekend, even though the puzzle was published in print six weeks ago.
- 26a [007’s foe in “Moonraker”] is DRAX. Even though it’s an inferior movie, and he’s an inferior villain, I have a soft spot for Hugo DRAX, always overshadowed by DR NO in the vast pantheon of four-letter Bond baddies beginning with D-R. The phrasing of the clue unfortunately averts misdirection.
- Awkwd. abbrevs.: 63a [Bibl. cataclysm] APOC. and 43d [EU member] BELG.
- Names! Sonja HENIE, Hugo DRAX, Sesame Street’s ELMO, Erik SATIE, ABE Lincoln, LOLA (from Damn Yankees), Biblical ENOS, HUCK Finn, MOE Szyslak, Robert PRESTON, RENE Russo, the odd plural VERAS [Farmiga and Wang (Attorneys-at-Law)], TERI Hatcher, EINSTEIN (in the metaphorical sense), FESTUS Haggen [“Gunsmoke” Deputy], Dutch settler Peter MINUIT, Katie COURIC, Max BAER, Oldd Testament prophet BALAAM, Oliver PLATT, PABLO [Casals or Neruda), KEANU Reeves, AESOP, TESS Derbyfield, PETER [“Family Guy” dad], EMINEM, KRIS Kardashian.
- Ugly-looking fill that’s a partial? And I liked it? How is that possible? 84a [“When I Take My Sugar __”] TO TEA. The Boswell Sisters(1931).
- Was hung up a bit in the southeast filling in GIVE instead of CAVE for 91a [Say uncle] and ROLLS for FALLS at 110a [Kayaker’s worry]. Contrary to most peoples’ experience, my kayak associations are with flatwater and oceans rather than whitewater. All three are distinct endeavors.
- Geography! 11d [Coastal Slovenian town (that looks like an urban Turk?] is a weird but gettable clue for the unfamiliar ANKARAN. 52d [10,000,000 rupees] CRORE (yes, foreign currency counts as geography); one crore is indeed equivalent to ten million rupees, or 100 lakhs (currently $199,100 US). 89d [Province of Spain] ORENSE. 52a [Colombian city] CALI.
- 81d [Stanford team] is one of those unusual non-plural names, CARDINAL. It’s the color, not the bird or Catholic title.
- New crosswordese to me: 67d [Carolina college] ELON,
- Least favorite clue/answer: 77a [How long Miss America reigns] FOR A YEAR. Awkward clue, not a “real” answer.
- Should 46a [Emoticon’s mouth, often] PAREN have had some sort of signal to indicate that it’s a shortened, possibly nonstandard form of parenthesis? Isn’t it mostly editors and proofreaders who use that term? DELE, when clued, is typically specified in such a way.
- Final crossing for me was BURIN/BALAAM, because I am not intimately familiar with the details of steel engraving nor the Bibble.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 94”
Good news for Post Puzzler fans: The Post and Peter Gordon have inked a contract for another year of these themeless goodies.
If Doug were to have a rap name that reflected his crosswords, he would be Doug E. Fresh. Did you get a load of the answers in this puzzle?
- 7a. THE STRIP, as in Las Vegas, is (was?) the [Flamingo’s home].
- 16a. “HERE WE GO,” [Comment accompanying an eye-roll].
- 36a. CRINKLE-CUT FRIES! [Side with dogs, perhaps] was such a broad clue, it took me forever to tease out the answer. (Compare this answer, fresh and fun and in the language, to the Friday NYT’s TENDERLOIN STEAK and SEEDLESS RAISINS that nobody ever refers to as such.)
- 47a. SEUSSICAL, the musical, the [“Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” show].
- 60a. Not sure I’ve seen PASS PLAY in a crossword before. It’s [Many a Montana highlight], Joe Montana.
- 7d. THROWBACK JERSEY, [Old-school court wear] in the NBA. Anyone else thinking of English barristers?
- 32d. The comic strip “HI AND LOIS” is a [“Beetle Bailey” spinoff]. Not sure I knew that fact.
The clues, as usual for the Post Puzzler, have plenty of zip too:
- 31d. [Dieter’s crowd?] is DREI, because Dieter is a German dude’s name and three’s a crowd. Love this clue!
- 18a. Staircase RAILINGS? [They may prevent you from getting bumped off a flight].
- 40a. HUSKS are [Ear protectors], for ears of corn. Elsewhere on the ear front, [Pop in some headphones] clues IGGY Pop.
- 46a. [Rush target] isn’t a fraternity or sorority pledge, it’s a DEM that Rush Limbaugh takes aim at.
- 52a. DORMS are [Temple accommodations], at Temple University.
- 5d. Shape is a magazine, so [Shape changers, briefly] are the EDS on the masthead.
- 48d. I’ve made no secret of my antipathy for the word COEDS, but it is placed into its proper antiquated frame with the clue, [“Here Come the ___” (Abbott and Costello film)].
- 55d. [Knight backer]…hmm, this must be about chess. Or medieval jousting and quests. No, wait. It’s Gladys Knight and the PIPs.
Five stars. A mighty fine crossword, and fun too.
Jeff Chen’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Pajama Party” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. It’s a lazy Sunday morning, the perfect time for a puzzle about pajamas. But for God’s sake, put some clothes on before you leave the house. Did you see the story about the Louisiana lawmaker who’s proposed a law that would make it illegal to wear pajamas in public? That’s a bit extreme, but I appreciate the sentiment. I’m one of the laziest people around, and even I can muster up enough energy to put on a pair of pants before I go to the supermarket. Well, except for that one time… My lawyer has advised me not to talk about the case, so let’s just move right along to the nine pairs of PJs in the grid.
- 23a. [April first activity] – PRACTICAL JOKE.
- 28a. [Place to connect] – PHONE JACK.
- 34a. [Commercial flier] – PASSENGER JET.
- 50a. [Skin lotion ingredient] – PETROLEUM JELLY.
- 63a. [Many a bar] – PICK-UP JOINT.
- 84a. [Piña colada ingredient] – PINEAPPLE JUICE.
- 94a. [Local connection vehicle] – PUDDLE JUMPER.
- 104a. [Unlikely beauty contest entrant] – PLAIN JANE.
- 112a. [Being hoist with one’s own petard] – POETIC JUSTICE.
A few more entries that caught my eye.
- 25a. [Servile followers] – MINIONS. Amy, our supreme leader, has many willing minions who toil on her blog. And it’s not a bad gig. Especially when you consider the poor folks who slave away for Rex Parker. He hasn’t written a blog post in years. It’s all farmed out to a blogging collective in the Czech Republic. They’re forced to share an ancient IBM PC, Jr., and they upload their posts on a sloooow dial-up connection. And if they don’t get the blog posted on time…let’s just say it’s hard to type when you’re missing a couple of fingers.
- 56a. [Eponymous Hungarian inventor] – ERNO RUBIK. It’s always fun to see the full name of a crossword mainstay (ERNO) in the grid.
- 78a. [Klondike Gold Rush figure] – SOURDOUGH. Last time I was at a diner in Brooklyn, I asked for sourdough toast with my eggs and sausage. The waitress looked at me like I’d just landed from Mars. Apparently sourdough is not an option.
- 38d. [“Beverly Hillbillies” star] – EBSEN. Did you get the PJ tie-in here? Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction (PJ!) were all set in the same fictional universe. I don’t remember much about Petticoat Junction, but I do know the three young women in the show took baths in the water tower. Or maybe they were skinny-dipping. Either way, that’s gross!
- 50d. [Place for a pique-nique] – PARC. I love the fact that “pique-nique” and “parc” both look totally Franglish. Now I’m going to wrap up “le blogue” and see you all next “wique-énd.” Fun puzzle, Jeff!