Attention, crossworders in the Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore metro areas! Marbles: The Brain Store will host amateur crossword tournaments the weekend of April 28-29 in several locations:
- The Grand Avenue flagship store in downtown Chicago
- The King of Prussia Mall (the Court) in King of Prussia, PA
- The Mall in Columbia in Columbia, MD)
Marbles is hoping to arrange tournaments in the other regions where they have stores, but those aren’t confirmed yet.
We’ll post the links here when registration opens.
If you’re a crossword pro interested in judging at these local tournaments, let me know. Published constructors, people who edit or proofread crosswords, ACPT hotshots–we’d love to have you as judges.
Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Cool-looking grid, no? A 62-worder with those two massively open corners divided by a fat diagonal swath of words. The low word count brings a handful of compromises, but there’s some fun stuff to offset the bad mouthfuls. And there’s an uncharacteristic difficulty level, with the puzzle feeling more like a Saturday NYT than a Friday. Stark contrast with the prevailing vibe of late, which has been surprisingly pliable Friday NYTs.
- In the upper left chunk, I like the HOT SPELL (wanted HEAT WAVE initially) and FAT CATS, and I love HAM-FISTED.
- In the diagonal zone, we get SALLY RAND ([Dancer who was a fan favorite?] thanks to her famous “fan dance”), DENTAL CARE, PHYLA trickily clued as [Parts of kingdoms], RAW DATA, CAN’T MISS, SHOE STORE, TORI AMOS, and I HATE IT ([Short, strong pan]).
- In the last section, I’m partial to the itchy CHIGGER and MAITRE’DS. Tricky to put that Frenchy answer in the bottom with a tricky clue, [Four-seaters, maybe?], since the answer just refuses to take form as a recognizable English word for the longest time.
On the negative side, I wouldn’t have said that MEAT DIET was a “thing.” Latin plural [Tabulae __] RASAE is alarming to see. I rarely think of “sediment” as a verb (SEDIMENTED = [Deposited into a bank]). “I’LL NEVER” feels incomplete in a way that ["Not if my life depended on it!"] doesn’t. And the VALLI/VOILES crossing is probably miring a lot of solvers in cruciverbal quicksand. Those [Curtain fabrics] are VOILES, not TOILES. And I listened to pop radio in 1975, but have no recollection of the song in the Frankie VALLI clue, ["Swearin' to God" singer, 1975]. And yes, I had TALLI first. (Nice echo of the clue for TORI AMOS, though–[Singer with the 1994 #1 alternative rock hit "God"]. That song hit #72 overall in the US but topped the “modern rock” charts. Apparently the Valli song hit #6.
Obscure name of the day: ODO [__ of Lagery (Pope Urban II's real name)]. Who knew there was another Odo besides the Star Trek spin-off shape-shifter? (Answer: Probably Joon.)
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
You know those puzzles that flip the usual phrasing between clues and answers, with a single short word serving as the clue for a group of answers that read like crossword clues? This puzzle’s theme does that, but it has the sense to use [Flip] as the theme clue. The various definitions for that word include BECOME EXCITED, COMEDIAN WILSON, DIVING MANEUVER, and RESELL QUICKLY (as in real estate).
Now, these sorts of themes seldom move me, but I like the flippiness of the [Flip] twist and I like to be reminded of Flip Wilson, whose TV show my family loved when I was a kid.
Five more clues:
- 5a. [Nerdy guy in "Meatballs"] clues SPAZ.
- 62a. SUEDE is a [Good thing not to wear in a rainstorm]. Shouldn’t it be [Bad thing to wear in a rainstorm]?
- 66a. [Hockey Hall of Famer __ Stewart] clues NELS. Who?? And why does he have a Scandinavian first name and Scottish last name?
- 2d. [Shop alternative] is HOME EC, “shop” being another word for industrial arts class. I don’t remember the food or sewing projects I did in junior-high home ec, but I remember three things from shop: making a wooden napkin holder, making an acrylic desk-set doodad, and sawing through my thumbnail while working on that acrylic project.
- 11d. [Good street for playing] is a pleasant clue for a CUL-DE-SAC.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Center of Gravity” — pannonica’s review
There are few different activities going on in this astrophysically-themed crossword. First and foremost is the central block; that little square packs quite a punch. The across and down fill preceding it both end in BLACK, while the two answers following it begin with HOLE. Thus we have a BLACK HOLE reading in both directions.
- 39a. [#1 Rolling Stones hit single featuring a sitar] PAINT IT (BLACK).
- 41a. [Chad-creating devices] (HOLE)PUNCHES.
- 21d. [Soot used as pigment] LAMP(BLACK).
- 45d. [Unshown part of a stud hand] (HOLE) CARD.
Additionally, there is a related two-part symmetrical component:
- 17a. [With 65 Across, theorist of the phenomena at and around this puzzle's central square] STEPHEN | HAWKING.
Oh, and there are also circles, arranged in a circle, ringing the central ■. These letters—starting slightly unconventionally just before the “12 o’clock” spot, say 11:55—spell E-V-E-N-T–H-O-R-I-Z-O-N. Merriam-Webster’s definition of event horizon is “the surface of a black hole : the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing can escape from within it,” and states that the first known use was in 1969.
Oh! And also additionally, there’s another theme-associated clue, running down the east side of the central feature. 37d [What this puzzle's central phenomenon may once have been] STAR. The may seems unnecessary, since as far as I’m aware, the science is fairly solid on the matter. The fill’s symmetric partner is 29d RIPE [Somewhat smelly], which is wholly unrelated.
I like the theme, but my sense is that it lacks elegance because too many elements are piled on in a fit of overzealousness, with STAR the lopsided cherry on top.
Many of the clues, in varying amounts of tandentiality and tenuousness, seem to have a relation to the theme, although it’s probably a combination of having one’s mind primed and the vastness of the subject. Thus we have SPIN, ITALO Calvino as the author of Invisible Cities, NASA, the light-related RAINBOW. Stretching a little, cases can be made for the wonderment of OVERAWE and OOHED, the religion/cosmology divide (choosing a theologist named EDWARDS, rather than director BLAKE, politician JOHN, Egyptologist AMELIA, or another), the consuming destructive force of MORDOR, and so on.
Elsewhere, admirable triple seven-stacks comprise each of the four corners, this symmetry is a by-product of the central vertical theme content, LAMP and CARD. We have RAINBOW, INDIANA, STEPHEN; STEAMED, CORRIDA, TRAINER; OVERAWE, MIRAGES, ELEMENT; and HAWKING, EDWARDS, DEFTEST. The longest non-theme entries are the very welcome BIOSPHERE and MINNEHAHA (which means “rushing water,” not “laughing water,” as some have said—don’t be misled by the -haha).
A minimum of junk fill and a number of playful clues elevate the puzzle as well. Overall, a solid solving experience, but I do wish that either the constructor or editor had pulled things together more compactly and forcefully.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Hip to Be Squared” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The premise behind today’s crossword is that “squares” would see common expressions containing numbers as the square of those numbers:
- 17-Across: The traditional “two-party system” that pervades most of American politics becomes a FOUR-PARTY SYSTEM, the [Form of government for squares?]. (Two squared equals four, remember.)
- 38-Across: “Three little maids,” all in a row, become NINE LITTLE MAIDS, or ["The Mikado" trio for squares?]. (Three squared equals nine, you know.)
- 58-Across: Why take the “Fourth of July” off when you can instead celebrate the SIXTEENTH OF JULY, the [Parade date for squares?]? (Four squared = sixteen.)
I knew right away that I was in for a little bit of “fun with math,” as the clue for 1-Across was [Number that's its own square]. (The answer is ONE.) But it still took a lot of crossings before I finally figured out exactly how all the squaring was to be used here. Indeed, I had FOUR and NINE in place early on but couldn’t figure out how those entries ended until the SIXTEENTH OF JULY fell.
There’s some really cool stuff in this puzzle, but I have come to expect highly entertaining puzzles from Patrick. Some notable goodies include: (1) OYSTER BED; (2) STANK, clued as [Offended the olfactory senses]; (3) fun names like RUPAUL, YODA, and, of course, SAMMY Davis, Jr., the guy with the [Rat Pack name]; (4) HIT ON; and (5) that whole conglomeration of Professor SNAPE, NINJA, SHAFTS, HAN Solo of Star Wars, T-SHIRTS, and MONTAGUE. It all abuts UGH, but entertaining fill like that is the furthest thing from UGH!
Dave Tuller’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”
Good puzzle for “Sports Fan Friday,” with a three-piece theme and a bunch of sports-related fill throughout the puzzle. There are some names I didn’t know, but the crossing answers filled in the letters for me.
The theme is about my second-favorite pinoy who weighs under 150 lbs:
- 15a. MANNY PACQUIAO, [Filipino boxer and politician]
- 31a. WORLD CHAMPION, [Title earned by 15-Across eight times]. Pacquiao has fought in many different weight classifications.
- 48a. SERGEANT MAJOR, [Army reserve title of 15-Across before his promotion in 2011]. Didn’t know he was a reservist.
The names I didn’t know were 20a, STAN, [Chicago Blackhawks GM Bowman] and 25d: DOM, [Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Capers]. Yes, I live in Chicago and yes, my husband’s a Packers fan, but I still didn’t know these names. Player names are far more familiar.
Other sporting content includes RORY McIlroy, a Maple LEAF, REY Mysterio (does WWE wrestling count as sports?), an ACE pitcher proud of her ARM, Barry Bonds being Bobby Bonds’ SON, Tony ROMO, RENE Bourque, a sportscaster’s LAPEL, SKI TRAIL, CAM Newton, GRIDIRON, number ONE ranking, Nascar CUP, PEP rally, boxing MATCH, and Mexican boxer ERIK Morales. No ugly pile-ups of unfamiliar names crossing each other. I liked this puzzle despite not really being much of a sports fan.
Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal Crossword, “Beware!” — pannonica’s review
“Beware the ides of March,” sayeth the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act I, scene ii).
105a [Time to beware, found in eight of the across answers) IDES, which is indeed to be found nestled among the words of the theme fill. Why the ides? Viaduct?
Anyway, this is a timely theme, as next Thursday is that unfortunate date. If the puzzle were to be published next week, the warning would be too late. Well, for Caesar it's 2,054 years too late, but that's a mere quibble, eh?
The clues follow a standard format, and try to frame the answer as something to beware of, with middling success.
- 22a. [Beware! (if you're a rookie pitcher)] SUICIDE SQUEEZE.
- 33a. [Beware! (if you were planning to elope)] BRIDESMAIDS.
- 40a. [Beware! (if you're squeamish about violence)] RINGSIDE SEATS.
- 59a. [Beware! if you're a cautious poker player)] INSIDE STRAIGHT. This one feels the strongest to me, as something that should unequivocally be avoided.
- 68a. [Beware! (if you're a mediator trying to forestall a war)] RAPID ESCALATION.
- 87a. [Beware! (if you're a manufacturer of picture tubes)] WIDESCREEN TVS. Not sure I get this one entirely, is the implication that all widescreen televisions are flatscreens (which is not the case) or that widescreen picture-tube televisions are bulkier, more awkward, and more liable to be damaged than standard-screen models?
- 93a. [Beware! (if you like solitude during your commute)] RIDE SHARING.
- 109a. [Beware! (if you're afraid of lions and hyenas)] KALAHARI DESERT. Great phrase for a hidden IDES, but it also would have been at home in Todd McClary’s “Repeating Geography” crossword, published five weeks ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Wikichitlán sayeth: “Derived from the Tswana word Kgala, meaning ‘the great thirst’, or Khalagari, Kgalagadi or Kalagare, meaning ‘a waterless place.‘”
Nice variation in how IDES is divided. Four IDE|S, two |IDES|, one ID|ES, and one I|DES. The symmetricist in me would have liked the revealer at 105d to have been counterbalanced by something else relevant to the theme. The most obvious four-letter entry would be the crossword staple ET TU (Brute), but it’d be a feat, seeing as that entry crosses the first across themer. Still, one can wish. For what it may or not be worth, 53-across, near the center, is ["Blood hath been shed __ now": Macbeth] ERE.
The cluing is pitched with a difficult, or at least occasionally recondite spin, which I believe is typical for these 21×21 WSJ crosswords. Some examples are:
- 12a [Like some bulls] PAPAL.
- 54a [Muzzles] SILENCES.
- 90a. [Everyone in the pool, in bygone days] STENOS. I’ve long been fond of the meta aspect of the shortened steno.
- 52d [Historic events] FIRSTS.
New to me is 40d [Bandleader Edmundo] ROS. Other people’s names in the grid are William INGE, Herb RITTS, SAL Paradise, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HEGEL, Heddy LAMARR, the fictional elephant CELESTE, DEBRA Messing, Christian SLATER, Muhammad ALI, Roone ARLEDGE, Frank LOESSER, BEN Wallace, Edith PIAF, GINA Gershon, Julia STILES, Scott WEILAND, John O’HARA.
- Air travel action! [Onetime JFK lander] SST, 76a [American, for one] AIRLINE, 12d [ABC premiere of September 2011] PAN-AM.
- Ugliest fill is probably 34d [Detailed accts.] RPTS. Also, not particularly fond of the partial at 71d [One way to be sick] AS A DOG.
- Very pleasing vertical stacks in the northeast and southwest: PAIRING [Somellier's suggestion], ARLEDGE, LOESSER, and ISRAELI, MAILMAN, ENDGAME.
- Cute flourish at the end: the final two verticals are TORTE and OTTER, anagrams.
I declare this a well-made puzzle. Et tu?