Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
The theme entries append an ST to the beginning of a word—sometimes the first worst, sometimes the last word—to change the meaning. It doesn’t really seem like a Thursdayish theme, does it? But the puzzle took a Thursday amount of time, what with the fill that felt sometimes more Maleskan than Shortzian/Newmanesque. Oof! I didn’t have fun working this puzzle.
The theme answers are passable: STALL FOR ONE in a stable, TEXAS STRANGERS from out of town, JACK THE STRIPPER collecting dollar bills in his G-string, STRIKER’S ISLAND for union members to spend their measly strike pay vacationing on, and a soldier STILL AT EASE.
The ungainly fill can be categorized into two main groups: words I have never, ever used in real life and two-word phrases that jangled. In the latter, I question who ever uses 2d: HIT AT. 63a: PINS ON is just a weird-looking answer. 56a: A MAN is a partial. And 52d: IN LOW always looks odd to me in a crossword. In the first category, I place TRUK and its intersecting U-TUBE. Whut? [Horseshoe-shaped lab item] and [W.W. II Pacific battle site]? These are not commonly seen in crosswords; nor are they commonly encountered in the newspaper, on TV, or in books. Another intersecting pair is nearly as ugly: AROAR and AGASP. Come on! We had a deal: The limit is one ungainly A-___ formation per puzzle. You can use all the AWRYs, ASIDEs, ALONGs, AKIMBOs, AMOKs, and ASKANCEs you want, but AROAR, AGASP/AGAPE/AGAZE, and ATIPTOE are ATERRIBLE.
While IN THERAPY and NEVER MIND are indeed quite good, too much of the rest of the fill just sat there looking balefully at me. TVA TSARS ODEON EEN UTES ERG OJO ALF BSA SRS, bleh.
Three least favorite clues: (1) [What may give you the business?] for CNBC. (2) [Old line in Russia] for TSARS. (3) [Big inits. in camping] for BSA, which wanted to be first REI and then KOA).
2.5 stars. Is this one of those puzzles that’s intended to slake the thirst of the faction that still misses Maleska’s style, so that they can’t complain too much when we have funky puzzles that discard convention and include a rapper’s name? I feel it wasn’t made for solvers like me.
Addendum: TRUK U-TUBE video! Complete with shark feeding frenzy.
Patrick Blindauer’s Fireball crossword, “Little White Lie
Yes, I finished this puzzle. My grid is complete. The white squares spell out a little white LIE. [LIE] also clues 17a: GOLFER’S CONCERN and the spaced-out 63a: TELL A TALL TALE. The result of the empty white squares is that a couple answers get spaced out, while others have only 1 or 2 letters. Seriously! 20a is SI, 62a is EN, 71a is J (Juliet means J in the NATO alphabet), and 54d is E.R.
It took me until the end, putting the “E” together, before I realized what the empty squares’ purpose was. It’s a neat visual, but I don’t know that I’d be excited to see this concept used in additional crosswords. The general idea of “mess with the convention of [number of squares] = [number of letters] in answer” is welcome, though. Usually we see this go the other way, with multiple letters jammed into a rebus square.
I’m glad Peter explained the 1a clue in his answer PDF. [Del Rio or Houston, for example] appears to be about Texas cities, but the answer is LEO because Delores Del Rio and Whitney Houston are both Leos astrologically. Let me slam the brakes on right here. On Monday, Brendan Quigley clued SAGITTARIUS less misleadingly (because he included full names that clearly referred to people) but still with this same general slant: List two people with a particular zodiac sign. I call bullshit unless the people in the clue have well-known birthdays. Who the hell knows when Delores Del Rio or John Kerry’s birthday is? Ridiculous. Annoying. Clue approach that needs to go away as fast as it began. Now, if the birthdays are famous—say, Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King, Jr., both January—it’s fair. But two random birthdays nobody knows? That stinks.
Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Mmm… HAM. Four clues in this puzzle get the Same Clue Treatment:
- RADIO ENTHUSIAST
- SCENERY CHEWER
- HOLIDAY ENTREE – If you’re just eating ham on the holidays, you’re doing it wrong.
- NOAH’S WAYWARD SON
If you’re into this sort of puzzle, my hunch is that you enjoyed this puzzle. Personally, the find the clue hiding in the puzzle and then figure out which meaning goes where isn’t one of my favorites, and certainly not for a Thursday. Once you figure out that common clue, the puzzle becomes pretty easy.
I must commend many of this puzzle’s non-theme entries. We’ve got ITUNES off to the side, and coming down, there are four ten-letter entries. The PEDAL STEEL guitar is a neat instrument and CANDID SHOT gets the cute clue of [It's not posed], which I thought might refer to the inverse of a rhetorical question. Speaking of rhetoric, [Dismissive bit of rhetoric] clues “WHO NEEDS IT!?”. The final ten-letter clue sits funny with me – the biblical (by admission) “IF IT BE TRUE”, which really doesn’t feel like it’s in the language now (or then, even) enough to warrant its presence. All in the name of symmetry, eh?
Let’s talk about BED and board. I was looking for something like room and board, like what a tenant or dorm resident might receive. But this new-to-me phrase seems to pop up mostly in the idea of a divorce from bed and board – a separation without marriage dissolution. I learn something new every day – maybe you do, too.
The [Disco era term] A GO-GO is the Anglicization of the French à gogo, which literally means “in abundance.” Thank goodness Wikipedia is done protesting SOPA!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Afterthoughts” — pannonica’s review
nb: “PS” stands for the postscriptum, anglicized to “postscript,” which is used as an afterthought to a piece of writing, most often a letter of correspondence. Subsequent afterthoughts receive additional Ps, e.g.: post-post scriptum, post-post-post-scriptum, ad infinitum—or ad nauseam—if you prefer. Each of the theme answers starts with a familiar phrase, but has a PS appended to the end (that isn’t necessarily redundant, by the way), naturally. Wacky definitions constitute the clues:
- 17a. [Mario?] MAN O’ WARPS. Not really a Nintendo fan, is Portal not on everyone’s radar? Is the protagonist female?
- 21a. [Issuances from a robotic monarch?] QUEEN BEEPS.
- 33a. [One who spoils with sweets?] CANDY GRAMPS. When I was growing up at the beach there was a nice old man who always had lollipops for the children. He was very popular and we all called him “Mr Lollipop.” Somehow I don’t think that’d go over too well these days.
- 51a. [Tall mountains for cruising yodelers?] BIG GAY ALPS. I was stuck on this one for the better part of a minute, stymied by the crossing with 47d [Nickname for the Red Sox's Adrian Gonzalez] AGONE (A-Gone? AG-One?). Not being a South Park viewer or a big sports fan (combined with my avowed lack of Nintendo awareness, it makes me seem rather dull, no?) was a real hindrance here. In fact, I didn’t even know the base phrase was a South Park reference and had to revisit the clue a few times until I was able to suss out the “cruising” bit. It’s all spot-on for the alternative weekly demographic.
- 55a. [Security force that guards soft drinks?] PEPSICOPS.
I liked the theme concept well enough, especially how PS appears at the end of each answer, but the results of their attachments are of varying quality. My favorites were CANDY GRAMPS and the concise PEPSICOPS. Judiciously, the puzzle contains no other fill ending in -PS, although it does have ISP and PAS.
Other items from the AW-demographic youthful-and-risqué buffet:
- 29a [Reddi-__ (food-sex brand) WIP.
- 32a [Souvenirs from congrass?: Abbr.] STDS. That’s sexual congress.
- 27d [Hipster's alcohol order] PBR, aka Pabst Blue Ribbon. Very ironic.
- 30d [Combs, in the early 2000's] P DIDDY. A man of many names, but just one face, and one sound.
- 33d [One with ads in the back of an alternative weekly] CALL GIRL. Meta!
- 37d [Self-titled album named Pitchfork's #1 of 2011] BON IVER.
- 59a ROC is clued with reference to a hip-hop record label rather than the mythical bird of Persian myth, but see 36d, ALI BABA.
- I’d say even 4a [Roughly, in dating] has a knowing implication, in context. But it turns out to be the harmless CIRCA.
- Long non-theme fill: RECEIPTS (cleverly clued as [Slips in the store]), PAINT GUN, DUSTBINS.
- Relatively obscure: OVETA [ __ Culp Hobby, first secretary of the Department of Health]. 45d ["Romanian Rhapsodies" composer Georges] ENESCO.
- Pay attention to capital letters! 20a [Tinker with Jet pieces, say] EDIT.
- 62a [Brian who produced…] I didn’t read the rest of the clue because it was practically guaranteed to be cruciverbal mainstay ENO.
- 9d [Magazine that earns 1% interest?] FORBES. Nice, tricky clue. The much-discussed 1% of American earners show interest in that publication.
- 12d [Blended family member] was STEP[SON/MOM/DAD/BRO/SIS] until I had further crossings.
I’ll mark this one as par for the Tausig course.
p.s. “nb” stands for nota bene (“mark well”), “e.g.” denotes exempli gratia (“for example”), aka stands for “also known as” (nlo).
p.p.s. “nlo” stands for “no Latin original.”
p.p.p.s. I just made up that last one.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Space Odyssey” – Sam Donaldson’s review
If you’re just tuning in, this week I’m playing a game with myself: I’m solving the CrosSynergy crossword without looking at the puzzle’s title and byline, then seeing if I can suss out the theme and divine the constructor’s identity. Thus far I have earned 3.5 points out of a possible six–I’ve got the theme each time, and I got the constructor right on a second guess, but only once. My working hypothesis that most constructors have distinctive styles is not panning out thus far. Let’s see how this week goes.
Let’s start with the theme. Even before I got to the revealer entry, I could tell that this puzzle used a letter addition theme–each of the four theme entries is a well-known term that has been stuffed with an “MMI” somewhere in the middle:
- 17-Across: The [Kazoo-playing panel?] is a HUMMING JURY, a play on “hung jury,” a term used to refer to a jury that is well-endowed.
- 30-Across: [Cabaret buffoons?] are CLUB DUMMIES, a fun play on the otherwise lackluster “club dues.”
- 47-Across: Apparently a [Pawnee pizza?] is a PEMMICAN PIE (from “pecan pie”). Everything I have ever learned about Pawnee comes from Parks & Recreation, and “pemmican” is not on that list. Wikipedia says pemmican is “a concentrated mixture of fat and protein used as a nutritious food. … It was widely adopted as a high-energy food by Europeans involved in the fur trade and later by Arctic and Antarctic explorers.” Another site confirms that the Pawnee and Crow tribes were known for using pemmican, so it seems like this one is legit, even though it still kinda feels sketchy to me.
- 64-Across: The [Butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle?] would constitute a SWIMMING SET (from “swing set”), but the set is not complete until the dog-paddle is added.
I confess I was wondering what was so special about “MMI” as a letter sequence. In Roman numerals its’ 2001, but we’re 11 years past that now. But then I hit 65-Down, where MMI is clued as [Year missing from the puzzle title and inserted into] the theme entries above. So the puzzle’s title is obviously missing “2001,” and the only thing that leads me to think is that the puzzle’s title is “A Space Odyssey.” Ding ding ding! I got that one! Sure, maybe I don’t deserve a whole point if the theme is in a revealer entry, but it’s my game so I’ll play as I choose.
Now for the constructor. I have a very strong feeling about this one–I think it’s Randall Hartman. I seem to recall letter addition (or maybe subtraction) themes resulting in wacky entries that have come from him before, and he likes to insert Scrabbly letters were possible (this grid has and X, J, and Z all in close proximity). So I’m going to make Hartman my first guess. I liked the theme overall, though I’m still left with wondering why this theme was used 11 years ago instead of now–for that reason only it had something of an outdated feel. Goodness knows there’s a lot of other things to like about this puzzle (and not just the obvious shout-out from SAM I AM). Both DREAMGIRLS and FELT TIP PEN are awesome long Downs. Lots of names in the grid, notably Michael STIVIC, BOGIE, and Doctor MOREAU–but nothing distracting to me.
I’m at a bit of a loss for a second guess. Patrick Blindauer might have been an option, but we saw him on Tuesday. I’ll pick Randolph Ross again, just because I paired him with Hartman in another guess earlier this week. Okay, here goes….
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Starting Over”—Matt Gaffney’s review
The fill in BEQ’s puzzles is so good that I enjoy the solve even on the rare occasion when the theme doesn’t work for me. Today’s puzzle is that.
Brendan clues each of his three theme entries as [Start over, starting over] and they are:
- 17a. (T)AKE IT FROM THE TOP
- 33a. (D)O A ONE-EIGHTY
- 53a. (T)URN OVER A NEW LEAF
The parenthetical letters above you must put just outside the grid, which is to say that you are “starting [the theme entries] over” the grid’s edge. That’s an OK use of outside the box letters, but the theme had other aspects that I didn’t dig: (1) two of the three added letters are a T, which seems inconsistent (I’d prefer either all three be T’s or they be three different letters); (2) the word OVER appears in the last themer, which isn’t good because it’s such a vital part of the theme itself; and (3) “Do a 180″ isn’t really the same as “take it from the top” or “turn over a new leaf.” Both of those are “start over,” but “do a 180″ is more like “go back to where you came from.”
OK, but then the fill is so lively: wide-open grid with BOOZER, THE PRADO, SYFY, HERNIA, YEAR ZERO, USER FEE and RAMP UP. I must admit that I missed three letters in the tough upper left: I had ECHO and ICKIEST instead of TOHO and OOKIEST (killer crossing), which left me guessing at ?EAR DAY and ?ITS at 1d and 1a. I put a B but obviously didn’t feel comfortable about being right, and I wasn’t.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ!
Update: Amy points out that the three starting letters are not to be placed outside the grid, but rather come from just over the first letter in each entry. Well, isn’t that clever? I like the theme a lot better now. (Amy says: Brendan had to point that out to me, as I missed it too. If you noticed it on your own, have a cookie!)