Announcement: The team who create the cryptic crossword for The Nation, Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto, have just begun writing a blog called Word Salad. I’m afraid I’ve fallen over a month behind on their cryptics (which are uniformly good and relatively challenging) so I don’t dare read the blog lest I encounter ample spoilers on puzzles I haven’t done yet. If you love cryptics but haven’t dropped the $18 a year for an online Nation subscription (which gets you access to a PDF from which you can print the puzzle out), think about it–well worth it, if you ask me.
Steven Atwood’s New York Times crossword
Neat portmanteau word theme: Atwood gives definitions for five smushed-together words and leaves it to the solver to puzzle them out. Excess words in wise sayings might be PROVERBIAGE, proverb+ verbiage. Armageddon gets a shout-out with that DISASTEROID–and I can’t believe that movie and Deep Impact weren’t widely called “disasteroid movies” when they came out. Clever. REPASTURE, PERSISTERLY, and CONQUESTION round out the batch.
Like the Onion puzzle yesterday, this one’s also loaded up with 7-letter fill in the corners. The 7s are good, though they usher in some crosswordese crossings (see ADZ, ARETE, -STER). I do somehow find myself more forgiving of that ARETE with the inclusion of a glacial MORAINE elsewhere in the puzzle. It’s bringing out my inner geology nerd or something.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Today’s puzzle is a load of bull. I guess that’s why it’s called BULL SESSION. The first word of each of these theme entries can be preceded by the word bull:
- 17a. [*Competitive business concern] – MARKET SHARE
- 22a. [*Done with one’s stint, maybe] – HEADED FOR HOME
- 35a. [*Arctic racer] – DOG SLED
- 38a. [*Lewis Carroll, for one] - PEN NAME
- 47a. [*Make fit] - WHIP INTO SHAPE
Nice theme (and rather dense!) here; all of these are in the language phrases or things. NO HASSLE is a great vertical addition to the grid. I fell for the misdirect at 6a. [Capital of India] – RUPEE, but the puzzle was otherwise straightforward. One question: when it comes to blood, do you say Type O or O TYPE? Or do you just get squeamish. (I’m a combination of the first and third options.)
I was pleased to see a couple of clues appropriate for this week in the puzzle. 2d. [“Psych” airer] is the USA Network; did you see last night’s half-season premiere? I won’t spoil it for you in case you’re catching one of the repeats of it over the next 7 days. Yesterday was February 29, that special occasion that provides the premise for 24a. [Only mo. that can begin and end on the same day] – FEB. I remember that this was the basis for a WWTBAMillionaire? question at a taping I went to many years ago. The contestant was stumped by it, as were many of the audience members. I heard one man in the audience whisper to his wife, “Are you supposed to have the calendar memorized?”
Here’s to a brand new month and the nearing of the ACPT – keep practicing! Bully!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Here We Grow!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries in today’s crossword starts with a word synonymous with “growing area:”
- 17-Across: The [Conveyance for captives] is a PADDY WAGON. Great entry! Are paddy wagons still in use today? I know them mostly from old movies and reruns of TV shows like The Flintstones (in which collected captives rode on the back of a giant centipede-like creature). Paddies, the fields for growing rice, on the other hand, are clearly still in use. Does anything else grow in a paddy (besides the water level, that is)?
- 27-Across: A [Bit of mock warfare] is a FIELD EXERCISE. I hate to exercise, and, as a kid born in the city, I didn’t really enjoy life on a farm. So you can imagine how I feel when the two words come together. Still, it’s a fine entry.
- 43-Across: Something that is [Commonplace] is said to be GARDEN VARIETY. Another terrific crossword entry. Brief research suggest the term comes to us from horticulture, where distinctions are made between rare, specially-grown plants and those that are “common-or-garden variety.”
- 57-Across: PATCH ADAMS is the [1998 Robin Williams title role]. I remember seeing it in the theater, I remember him wearing a red clown nose, and I remember thinking “Meh” (or its 1998 equivalent). But I don’t remember anything else about this movie.
The 10-letter Downs, RADIO FLYER and IVORY COAST, had me thinking they were theme entries too, but I’m reasonably sure that’s not the intent. What grows on ivory–plaque? What grows on the radio–loud, vengeful rhetoric? There were lots of other entries that caught me eye, like MONEY PIT, T-MOBILE, STYMIES, JAUNTY, and MONGRELS. (Hey, those read like a bizarre newspaper headline.)
You’ll find every letter of the alphabet in this grid, and yet the inclusion of rare letters did not compromise the quality of the surrounding fill. Often I find myself thinking “Hmm, this grid’s trying for a pangram” when I see a collection of rare letters, but I never once thought about it during this solve, and I think that’s about the highest praise one can give about such a feat. It helps to have two-fer entries like ZONK, but any game show-related term works for me.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Game Change”–Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan gives us with five game changers today, where one-word board games swap presence in longer phrases with each other:
- 17-a. TABOO MANAGEMENT [No-no overseers?]
- 22-a. RISK WRONG NUMBER [Gamble and lose on the lottery?]
- 36-a. SORRY CEREAL [Miserable breakfast?]
- 51-a. I HAVEN’T GOT A LIFE [Loser’s lament?]
- 57-a. THE SWEETEST CLUE [Crossword writer’s dream?]
So the five base phrases are risk management / Sorry, wrong number / Life cereal / I haven’t got a clue / “The Sweetest Taboo.” The theme is a tad confusing since the board game starts the first three phrases and ends the last two, but there aren’t that many one-word games that fit nicely into longer phrases so this might have been inevitable.
Five games, so five observations:
- Good to see 25-d clue ORLY as the IM question instead of the airport.
- No fill over six letters due to those five theme entries, so let’s see how BizQuig does from closer in: GO BUST, PRE-NUP, FENWAY, GOTTI, LLC. Not bad.
- I know for a fact that you didn’t just ORT in a grid, BizQuig. I must have a mistake in that corner ;)
- Top 3 clues: [The rain in Spain, mainly?] for AGUA; [Opening bars] forINTRO; [Room at the top?] for LOFT.
- Palindrome hat-trick: ONE NO, ERE and HAH!
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 48″
I don’t have a good sense of how difficult this puzzle is, as I didn’t solve it straight through and I wasn’t on the clock. Lots of good stuff: I’M IN HEAVEN, NARCISSIST, SFMOMA, HOCKEY HAIR, AS SEEN ON TV, IVANA TRUMP, CLEMENTINE and TANGELOS for citrusy goodness, a CESSPOOL of crap, and an ARCADE GAME with a tricky hidden-capital-letter clue. I like the clue for the MINT where coins are made: [Home to quarter pounders?]. Plural ANNES would be a poor entry, but Auntie ANNE’S Pretzels–those buttery cinnamon and sugar delights–win me over. Before the chain had spread to the Midwest, I once chose a connecting airport solely because Pittsburgh had Auntie Anne’s in the terminal and the other city didn’t.
Doug Peterson’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”
I like that Bruno Mars. The video for “Grenade” is delightful, plus the song is catchy and I have a soft spot for Filipino-American stars because my family is half Filipino. Mr. Mars (not his birth name) is the subject of this week’s music theme:
- 7a. LAZY, ["The ___ Song" (35-Across single)]. Crazy monkey masks, dudes in boxers. Also an entertaining video.
- 14a, 26a. JUST THE / WAY YOU ARE, [#1 single for 35-Across]
- 35a. BRUNO MARS, [Singer with the platinum debut album "Doo-Wops & Hooligans"]
- 50a. GRENADE, [#1 single for 35-Across]
- 26d. WILL, ["It ___ Rain" (35-Across single)]
Check out the second row of this puzzle: AAA/AOL/AEIOU has just one lonely consonant amid a sea of vowels.
Fun puzzle. Lots of pop culture, but the names are all well-known so I didn’t get tangled up anywhere.