Don’t forget to visit Patrick Blindauer’s website on Tuesday to grab a copy of his latest monthly puzzle. Matt Gaffney’s blogging it here Tuesday or Wednesday and you won’t want to miss out on the fun.
Midday blog update: And! Also visit Pete Muller’s website for the first installment of Muller’s Monthly Music Meta. While the puzzles will come out on the first of the month, you’ve only got till the end of the week to submit your answer to the meta puzzle.
Zoe Wheeler and Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle was featured at seven (!) crossword tournaments last weekend—the four Marbles tournaments, the Brown University tournament (Zoe and Aimee are students there), and two other local events in Ohio and Connecticut. The six non-Brown tourneys also had the Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday NYT puzzles, while the other puzzles at Brown were future NYT puzzles by other Brown students.
The theme entries were made by tacking -IE onto the end of the first part of familiar phrases/words. Junk mail turns into 17a: JUNKIE MAIL, or a [Package full of syringes?]. (Rather edgy material for the Gray Lady.) 23a: QUICKIE STUDY is clued as a [Thesis topic for sex ed?]. (Again, edgier than usual.) 36a: SHARPIE SHOOTERS are [Cameras taking pictures of permanent markers?], 46a: BEANIE SPROUT is a [Pompom on a skullcap?], and 57a: BOOKIE CASE is a [Police investigation of a betting house?].
Did many of you watch Heroes? I watched most of the series, but I still kinda wanted JONAH instead of MICAH for 1a: [Child prodigy of "Heroes"]. Are you still a prodigy if you have superhuman powers? Using a minor character from a cancelled show seems like a dirty cluing trick, but I’m always game for an alternative to biblical names I don’t know.
Clue most likely to irk culture snobs: 21a, [Kardashian matriarch], KRIS. Yes, she and Robert thought the K name thing was kute and so we have Kim (the one mocked by President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner last weekend, who announced plans to divorce Kris Humphries 72 days into their marriage—but what can you expect when marrying a man with the same name as your mom?), Khloé, and Katastrophé. No, wait, that last one’s wrong. But I’m blanking on the third sister’s name. Mama KRIS married a plastically surgerized Bruce Jenner, you know. I’m sorry, did I say too much? I only saw one episode of their TV show a couple years ago, and it’s only because that’s what was on at the nail salon.
62a: [Students take them in class] clues not NAPS or DRUGS but NOTES. You probably got that one right away.
Favorite answer/clue combo: 1d: MOJO, [It's stolen in an Austin Powers movie]. This evokes the showdown scene between Austin Powers and Fat Bastard, complete with the latter’s slavering over the tasty “baby” who, if memory serves, is Dr. Evil’s sidekick Mini-Me. Don’t Scottish accents (like Fat Bastard’s) make anything funnier?
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
We’re celebrating a birthday today!
- 17a. [*Steady, unobtrusive background sound] – WHITE NOISE
- 24a. [*Highly charged, as a topic] – HOT BUTTON
- 31a. [*Sleeper sofa] – COUCH BED
- 44a. [*Nouveau riche] – NEW MONEY
- 50a. [*Especially favorable agreement] – SWEET DEAL
- 62a. [Mr. who debuted 5/1/1952, or in a way, what the first word of the answers to the starred clues can be] – POTATO HEAD
Pardon the quick post, but it’s exam season here in Kentucky. There’s still time to cram in some knowledge, as evidenced by all of the new words you can find in this grid.
- New word alert! PUNCTILIO! That’s a [Strict observance of formalities], if you’re like me and haven’t seen that word before. Looks like a new crossword word, too, by a cursory search. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: it’s great to learn a new word from an early week puzzle.
- Another new word! BUSHWA – that’s [Baloney], in the BS sense – that’s exactly what it’s a euphemism for. I’m not up on my 1920′s slang.
- I expected [Soothing words] to clue something you might say, like “It’s okay” or “There, there” instead of SOLACE. Guess I got unintentionally misdirected.
- [Con men]‘s a new meaning for CHISELERS for me, too. (I’m learning things left and right today!) Urban Dictionary has enlightened me: “Historically linked to thieves, but more recently associated with just about anything. Someone who picks something apart a tiny bit at a time. One can chisel on another’s stash, their money, their air, their space, their game, their well-being…whatever.”
- [Gap rival] – J. CREW. I disagree. Yes, they are both stores that sell clothing, but they’ve got completely different products. (J. Crew is classier is what I’m saying.)
- Words like AARE and ETAPE certainly aren’t new to veteran solvers. Surprisingly, though, they seem to be far from the interesting fill bits. Can’t explain that.
See you Thursday – there’s some fun in store! :D
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “May First” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy May, everyone! The new month brings some big changes for me. I’m no longer a homeowner, having sold my house in preparation for my upcoming move to the east coast. This is also my last full month at my current job, where I’ve spent the past 13 years. My colleagues seem really happy about my move. I don’t know if they’re happy for me or happy to see me go, but I’ll choose to believe the former. It’s also the last month for entries in the My Big Fat Fun Wedding contest–so now’s the time to tackle those puzzles and send in your entry!
Tony Orbach rings in the new month by featuring five two-word activities that start with a word that can follow “May:”
- 17-Across: DAY TRADING (“May Day”) is the [Practice of buying and selling shares in the same session].
- 23-Across: BERRY PICKING (“Mayberry,” home of crossword legend OPIE) is a [Pre-canning activity, perhaps].
- 36-Across: FLOWER ARRANGING (some ship called the Mayflower–anyone ever hear of it?) is a [Talent used in making centerpieces]. Others include ICE CARVING, CANDLE PLACEMENT, and TURKEY CARVING.
- 47-Across: POLE VAULTING (“maypole”) is the [High-flying track event].
- 57-Across: FAIR HIRING (“Mayfair,” a geographical term employed by lots of places) is an [Employer's impartial practice].
With 59 theme squares taking up a fair chunk of real estate, the corners are a bit more isolated than usual. Note that there’s exactly one square leading from the far northwest into the main section (and obviously the same is true regarding entry into the southeast). There’s also a concentrated dosage of Crosswordese here–EPEE, L. RON, URAL, HAI, ESTO, EDEMA, ENG, ILIA, ELEVS, RAMA, GEOG, LOIRE, and ONZE all find a way into the grid.
So what do we get in exchange for these less attractive features? Well, there’s the OZONE LAYER, a BRITISH-ISM or two, ON HIGH, JINX, PSHAW, and GONZO, all to complement the rather ambitious theme density. It worked for me, as I tend to like dense themes. But others may disagree.
Trip Payne’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”
Trip’s a big fan of reality competition shows, and Survivor is the granddaddy of them all.
- 14a. IMMUNITY IDOL, ["Survivor" talisman that prevents a person from being voted out: 2 wds.]
- 30a. TRIBAL COUNCIL, ["Survivor" event where people get voted out: 2 wds.]
- 44a. SOUTH PACIFIC, [Setting of the "Survivor" season that ended in December 2011: 2 wds.]
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Count On Us”
Tough theme this week. It helps if you know your single-digit numbers in many foreign languages, because those numbers are used to make puns by standing in for sound-alike words:
- 17a. NI CAPS, [Japanese count of baseball hats?]. Playing on “kneecaps.” Wikipedia tells me ni = 2.
- 25a. TRES ELEMENTS, [Spanish count for a chemist?]. Playing on “trace elements.” Tres = 3.
- 35a. QUATRE SCRATCHES, [French count of superficial wounds?]. Playing on “cat scratches.” Quatre = 4.
- 47a. DREI CLEANERS, [German count of bottles under the kitchen sink?]. Playing on “dry cleaners.” Drei = 3.
- 58a. YI BOOK, [Chinese count of a library item?]. Playing on … I’m not sure. “Yearbook”? Wikipedia to the rescue again; yi = 1.
The challenging grid contains six 8s and 9s and a whole bunch of 6s.
Freshest clue: 18a. GAGA, [Lady of a thousand looks?]
Least familiar word: 46d. ENCYST, [Surround in a sac, in anatomy]. With that Y crossing YI BOOK, that was where I struggled to finish the puzzle. The other letter in YI is the I in 59d: ILO, [UN body dealing with worker's rights]. I really don’t think enough people know their Chinese numeral names, the ILO, and words like ENCYST. I’ll bet a lot of solvers just walked away from the puzzle, or dropped in some random letters and declared the puzzle to be done.
2.5 stars, because while the theme feels like it belongs to a scholarly Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, the YI crossings are problematic. Cool fill like NEIL YOUNG and FLAME WAR wanted to be in a puzzle without a (subjective) flaw like that.