Final 24 hours to submit your meta answer to Pete Muller’s May edition of the Muller Monthly Music Meta, people. The puzzle’s posted at Pete’s site as well as on the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial app on Facebook (the 5/6 puzzle in the AV Club category). Contest answers are due by 11 pm Eastern on Sunday.
Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword, “A-V Club”
Came to the puzzle late because we were having a party for my kid, so now it’s late and I kinda just want to go to sleep. We’re in luck! There’s not much I want to say about the puzzle so PJ time fast approaches.
The theme is phrases with A.V. initials, like the constructor’s name. AUXILIARY VERB, ACTIVE VOLCANOES, AT VARIANCE (snooze), ARTICLE VII (that’s no letter V, it’s a number!), ALESSANDRO VOLTA, AFRICAN VIOLET, ALOE VERAS (unfortunate plural), and AQUA VITAE. Yup, there they are. That’s the extent of the theme, no?
In the fill, I like that EVIL EYE and the plague of LOCUSTS and I liked learning that Taiwan’s old name, FORMOSA, is an [Old country name from the Portuguese for “beautiful”]. But there’s a lot that just sits there—ISE, ALT-TAB, MILLE, DENTI, and OTO feel too representative of the rest of the puzzle.
For me, the puzzle was a yawn of the 2.5-star variety, a disappointment to have no wordplay to figure out. But I was yawning before I did the puzzle too. How did it treat you?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s Sunday Challenge is a nice workout from Bob Klahn. If the other CrosSynergy puzzles are “6-Minute Abs,” a Klahn Sunday Challenge is the full P90X workout. Even though I struggled mightily with fits and starts and fits and starts throughout the solve, I found a lot to admire in the grid:
- I loved the triple-stacked 10s in each of the corners, especially the southwest stack of THE JIG IS UP, RADIAL TIRE, and AMY POEHLER. Amy, I’m sorry. Big fan. Love your work. Parks and Recreation is terrific, and this season has been the best yet. But my first guesses for the answer to [She voiced Snow White in “Shrek the Third”] were EMILY BLUNT (call it John Krasinski envy) and then every other AMY I could think of (Adams, Grant, Sedaris, Madigan, even Winehouse. It wasn’t until a little FAITH ([Conviction]) came to me from nowhere that I finally figured it was you. There’s no excuse. All those other Amys mean nothing to me, I swear. (Well, I do like Amy Winehouse and harbor a mild crush on Amy Adams.) If it helps, I didn’t even get SAM (the [Hill serving as a euphemism for Hell]) for the longest time. I think that’s proof I was operating under diminished capacity.
- Fellow wordplay lovers probably nailed the stack in the northeast a lot more quickly than I did. It was the least section to fall for me (I’ve pasted my progress at the 10-minute mark so you can see I was generally snaking around the grid counterclockwise). I loved TOM SWIFTIE, ONE-MAN ARMY, and PALINDROME as a stack, but boy did those clues take a while to unravel. It’s not like the crossings helped much. I realize it’s ONA MUNSON, but you could probably convince me the right way to parse that is ON A MUNSON ([One atop catcher Thurman's kin?]). ME LIKE may be a [Cutesy approval], but it’s juuust this shy of being offensive to me. At least one of the crossings had the puzzle’s best clue: [Ford explorer, informally] is an awesome clue for INDY. I hope that one gets nominated for a Best Clue Orca (in part because that means there will be another Orcas award ceremony).
- One of these days I will learn to read clues correctly. Up until I had all but the last letter in place, I read the last word of [Black, tan and white breed] as “bread.” MARBLE RYE was the only answer I could think of. When the B and G fell into place, I wondered if it was a variant spelling of “bagel.” Only after the longest time did I see that it was “breed” and not “bread,” which made BEAGLE a near-gimme. Poor BEAGLE is suffering from a crossing FLEA BITE.
- Other highlights to me were AT SIGNS (you know, the “@”), DRAMEDY, and FOSSIL. I had a lot of ideas for [Like Hannah Montana]: CHILD STAR, DISNEY SHOW, OVERRATED, FIVE MINUTES AGO, and others. But all this puzzle wanted was TEENAGE. I see.
Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “H-hour” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: H added to beginning of phrases for your amusement.
- 26A. [Presidential stylists?] – HAIR FORCE ONE
- 45A. [Helipad fee?] – HOVER CHARGE
- 71A. [Fireside deity?] – HEARTH GODDESS
- 97A. [Punching range?] – HARMS LENGTH
- 117A. [Furs worn in a spring parade?] – HIDES OF MARCH
- 16D. [Closet consultant's concern?] – HANGER MANAGEMENT
- 38D. [What the winner of a catered wedding gets?] – HALL EXPENSES PAID
These were ok for me. Not roll on the floor laughing, not groan-worthy.
- 28A. [Apt. feature, in ads] – EIK. Everyone is kosher. Or eat in kitchen.
- 82A. ["GWTW" plantation] – TARA. Shouldn’t using the initials of Gone With the Wind indicate abbreviation in the answer?
- 108A. [Hollies hit featuring a shared umbrella] – BUS STOP
- 126A. ["If you ask me ..."] – I FOR ONE. The kids write this I41.
- 129A. [Geico spokespeople with a short-lived sitcom] – CAVEMEN. Wait, those were the same CAVEMEN?
- 58D. ["GWTW" side] – CSA. See? Told you.
- 66D. [What bored people may go through, with "the"] – MOTIONS. This does not occur with 87% of the puzzles blogged on this site. But don’t tell Amy I said that.
- 69D. [Grease, as it were] – BRIBE is the word, is the word, is the word...
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “April Showers Bring…(Part 2)”
I can’t even remember what last weekend’s “…May flowers” theme was. I recall not being into it, whatever it was. This week, Merl hews to his innate drive to make pun themes, and we get puns incorporating flower names. I like flower names! So the puzzle was all right for me. There’s not much to rave about outside the seven theme entries, and there’s some weird fill (There was an [Old Plymouth] called the GTX? We’re running plural names like HATTIES and EASTMANS? Shouldn’t the latter be EASTMEN?), but hey, if you’re looking to pass the time with a Sunday puzzle, you could do worse.
Here are the themers:
- 23a. CAMELLIA EARHART, [Flier who wore bloomers?]. Amelia Earhart, camellia, plus the bonus of the Amelia Bloomer echo and the double meaning of “bloomers.”
- 33a. MY WEIGHT PHLOXUATES, [Why I'm back on the "flower diet"?]. Phlox meets fluctuates.
- 51a. WHAT ZINNIA FUTURE, [What a florist-turned-fortuneteller can tell you?]. That’s “what’s in your future,” pronounced loosely.
- 66a. WELL-ORCHIDSTRATED, [What the flower-company takeover was?]. Well-orchestrated.
- 83a. LAVENDER HEADS OFF, [What the florists were doing at the comedy club?]. “Laughin’ their heads off.”
- 97a. AMARYLLIS-TATE AGENT, [Why I now sell more homes than flowers?]. “I’m a real estate agent.”
- 113a. DAHLIA LOOK GREAT, [Flowery words to a starlet?]. “Doll, ya look great.”
Truthfully, I prefer pun themes where the answers look like they could be actual phrases. “What zinnia future” isn’t a grammatical sentence fragment and “orchidstrated” isn’t a word. But I do like flowers, and I have a higher tolerance for nonsense that spotlights things I like. (A baseball terminology pun puzzle would put me to sleep–like that non-exactly-puns golf theme did a couple months ago.)
A hair under 3 stars from me.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 109″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Enjoyable Post Puzzler today. No scowl-inducing entries and plenty of clever clues. Just what you’d expect from a Trip Payne puzzle.
- 11a. [White House resident born on the Fourth of July] - MALIA OBAMA. Boy, it took me an embarrassingly long time to get this one. My mind was back in the old days: JEFFERSON? JOHN ADAMS? They both died on the Fourth of July, so perhaps that was confusing me.
- 35a. [They often have pet names] - ID TAGS. Clue of the day.
- 52a. [Character who was sometimes carried in a basket] - TOTO. Another one where my first instinct was way off. Anyone remember the cheesy ’80s horror flick Basket Case? That’s the one where the guy carries his hideously deformed brother around in a basket. The brothers were born as conjoined twins, and doctors surgically removed the little scary one and left him for dead. It’s a pretty twisted little tale. But yeah, my first thought was “I have to remember the name of the twin in Basket Case?!”
- 64a. [Longest-serving Republican senator in history] - TED STEVENS. Interesting bit of trivia. I’ll give you one more tidbit from his too-long-to-read Wikipedia article: “When discussing issues that were especially important to him, Stevens wore a necktie with The Incredible Hulk on it to show his seriousness.” I’ll remember that at my next job interview. Hulk tie = serious. I’ll save my Josie and the Pussycats tie for less serious occasions.
- 4d. [Nickname inappropriate for an only child] - SIS. I love this clue. It’s so hard to come up with fresh clues for three-letter standbys like SIS. This is perfect.
- 25d. [It follows two things that rhyme with it] - THETA. Another nice one. I once memorized the Greek alphabet to help me solve Greek letter crossword clues faster. It’s kind of blur now, but I still remember zeta, eta, theta.
- 35d/44d. [Infamous 2000 computer worm] / [Some factory workers] - I LOVE YOU / ROBOTS. Who doesn’t love robots?
Other favorites include ICE SCRAPER, PRESS CORPS, KEY CARD, SAVE FACE, and the skin-burning PARSNIP.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Anagram Kit” — pannonica’s review
“Anagram Kit,” indeed! It’s sort of like cryptic clues—the anagram variety only—distilled and reverse-engineered. If any solvers are trepidatious when it comes to tackling cryptics, this puzzle just may be an ideal primer. The querying clues lead to answers in which one of the words in the clue is anagrammed, preceded by a word (or element) which suggests physical alteration or rearrangement.
- 23a. [How to confuse Sarge?] SHIFT GEARS, with shift signalling that gears can be anagrammed to sarge. The clue suggests the overall meaning of the entire phrase. In a bona fide cryptic crossword, it might appear thus: [Shift gears for drillmaster] = SARGE, with the mechanism as described above, and drillmaster providing a straight definition for the answer (for is an inconsequential, but acceptable, connector between the mechanics and the definition).
- 25a. [How to create streams?] MIX MASTERS. Mix signalling the reconfiguration of masters to get stream.
- 38a. [How to arrive at site?] TWIST TIES. Twist, ties. “At site”? who says that?
- 43a. [How to make heaps?] CHANGE SHAPE. You should have the idea by now. Interestingly, shape, as a verb, is also an excellent anagram signal.
- 89a. [How to shake up Etna?] ALTERNATE.
- 60a. [How to form tendon?] DOCTOR DENTON. Who forms tendon?
- 65a. [How to get broad?] SHUFFLEBOARD. Who gets broad?
- 86a. [How to end up with serape?] SHAKESPEARE.
- 106. [How to reach Nepal?] MODEL PLANE.
- 108a. [How to find Debra?] BREAK BREAD. Something’s screaming for a Debra Messing clue.
So there you have it, a primer on the elements—if not the exact form—of the primary element of cryptic crosswords. Sad to say, 80d MINCE PIE is not an additional themer. Ipe!
With ten theme entries, all of moderate length, there’s plenty of room to construct a well-integrated grid with sturdy, varied, and interesting ballast fill. BEAR ARMS, LEFT BANK, TRAVESTY, (58a) RESCUE ME [R&B hit of 1965] (by Fontella not-cross-referenced-to-18-down BASS), WEAR AWAY, ETHNIC, TWANG, LOSE HOPE, THINK BIG (crossing TEENY), BROMANCE, and others. The cluing is often sprightly, but remains for the most part restrained, perhaps to spotlight the themers.
A handful of observations:
- 20a [Late Olds] is the crossword staple ALERO (introduced in 1998), which I frequently confuse with another crossword staple of roughly the same vintage: the Amtrak “high speed” (ha-ha) service, ACELA Express (first service, 2000). 20a
- Nifty little clue for a so-so word: EASTWARD [How Fogg traveled]. Not a mode of transportation. Nellie Bly, in emulating the fictional Phileas, went the same way. Cosmopolitan‘s reporter Elizabeth Bisland, in competition with Bly, travelled westward. 27a
- Did not know that BAST was [Fiber from phloem], but did know it’s the name of the ancient Egyptian cat deity. 31a
- Other likes: 34d [Blood in Hera's veins] ICHOR, which was the inspiration for one of my all-time favorite words, petrichor. 39d [Radio "okay"] WILCO, aka “will comply.” 33d [Target of a pickup artist?] LITTER. 49d [Clubbed or sprayed] MACED. 65d [Biblical queendom] SHEBA; I will always adore John Hiatt for rhyming “Queen of Sheba” with “amoebas.” 88d PLUMB followed by 90d [Plummet preventer] (RAIL).
- 68d EPICAL?? Bah.
Good puzzle, and I do hope it encourages some solvers to try (or retry) cryptics.