The crossword community bids farewell today to one of its most helpful and good-natured members, Doug Heller. Doug and Will Shortz were longtime friends, and among Doug’s other achievements in puzzling, he helped the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament run smoothly every single year since its inception. Cancer took Doug at age 57, a half a year after his diagnosis. It’s obviously a terrible loss to Doug’s wife Nancy, his family, and his many friends. My condolences to those who knew him better than I did and will feel his absence even more keenly.
In the Wordplay documentary, isn’t there a clip of Doug setting (and resetting) the ACPT digital clock in the montage that plays during the Eels song “Saturday Morning,” with his trademark grin?
You can read what Deb Amlen and Will Shortz had to say in Doug’s memory at Wordplay.
Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
Often I find that these 7-dense grids lend themselves to boring vocabulary, but Peter (“Not the One from Fallout Boy”) Wentz worked plenty of fun stuff into the mix. Like the CHEX MIX, for example. The “BOO! HISS!” opener at 1-Across. The snide “SO THERE.” The nutty algebraic X TIMES Y. Rodin’s THE KISS (though I’m partial to the Klimt painting by the same name, with a similar pose). Energetic SPIFF UP and SWOOP IN (with their neighbor CLICK ON for those who don’t want to leave their seats). Those bug-eyed AYE-AYES of Madagascar, which look more like perpetually alarmed possums than primates. And that’s just the Acrosses. In the Downs, there’s another strong verb phrase, BACK OFF, Dr. Ruth’s SEX TIPS, Fonzie’s compliant JUKEBOX, brand-name TRIMSPA, a FUN FACT, and Bart Simpson’s “GET BENT!”
Wait. POO? I didn’t see that one while solving. Hang on while I look up the clue. Oh, I did see that, [Jack-a-__ (hybrid dog)]. The clue had me safely thinking of poodle blends but then later I just saw a random POO dropped in the grid.
Five favorite clues:
- 54d. [Make unbearable?] for SPAY. Reminds me of a promotional sign at the health club I use.
- 43d. [Like some fingernails and eyelashes?], GLUED ON. I’m not quite sure how adhesive false eyelashes became quite so popular in recent years.
- 45a. [One of about a million on a jetliner], RIVET. But who’s counting?
- 61a. [Edible floppy disk?], PANCAKE. I should have gotten this faster considering what my husband ordered for dinner tonight at IHOP.
- 28d. [It might prevent a blackout], G-SUIT. A person passing out, not an electrical blackout.
My mystery item: 8a [Reddish-orange gem] in 7 letters, not enough space for SARDONYX or CARNELIAN to fit. What-what?? I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard of JACINTH, despite my fondness for gazing at shiny and colorful minerals. (If you are a fellow fan of mineral displays, get thee to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. You’ve probably never seen such an abundance of crystals and mineral formations and whatnot. Nearly a gymnasium-sized room full of glittering display cases, people.)
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Everybody Loves Raymond” – Sam Donaldson’s review
If the crossword is supposed to bring a ray of sunshine into an otherwise drab day, this puzzle’s a smash success. It bursts with four RAYs that have been inserted into common expressions, turning them into wacky new phrases:
- 17-Across: Coca-Cola, the official beverage of my new hometown, becomes COCA CRAYOLA, or [What comedienne Imogene used to color with?].
- 28-Across: To [Sell out, as Old MacDonald?], is to BETRAY THE FARM (from “bet the farm”). True story: when my father retired after a long career with the railroad, he longed to get back to his roots as a farm boy. Thus, at the age of 8, I was yanked from the city and thrust onto a small Christmas tree farm. My father was a good tree farmer, so it was only mildly surprising one day when a reporter from the local weekly newspaper asked to interview him for a feature story. The reporter came with a photographer, and I remember the photographer snapping lots of photos while my father worked. The next week, the front page of the paper’s features section had three photos of my dad working on the farm, together with a long story, all uwas the front-page story under the headline “Old MacDonald Has a Farm.” Well, we’re Donaldsons, not MacDonalds. I’ve rarely seen my mother angrier. I always think of that little story when I see “Old MacDonald.”
- 46-Across: To [Play the leader of the Knights of the Round Table?] is to PORTRAY ARTHUR, a spin on Port Arthur. I was thinking this had to play on Bea Arthur, but I couldn’t think of a way to insert RAY into BEA. But back to Port Arthur: what? Google seems to indicate there was a naval base with that name, and there are currently small towns in Texas and Wisconsin with this name. But there’s not much beyond that.
- 62-Across: When [Actor Phoenix made an ass of himself?], people said RIVER BRAYED, a form of “river bed.”
I liked BETRAY THE FARM best, but all of the theme entries have a nice ring to them. In the Remarkable Fill Department, there’s DINNER MENU, ZEALOT, both MYOPIA and ANEMIA, and BOB UP.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Fun Stumper this week–and for me, a smidgen easier than the NYT, which doesn’t happen too often.
Whole lotta highlights:
- 8a. [Loves to solve, e.g.], ANAGRAM. So many tricky clues for that word!
- 16a. COLLEGE, [Word from the Latin for “community”]. Etymology clue! I did not know this.
- 51a. AMOR, [Asteroid group that includes Eros]. Fresh clue alert! So the asteroid group gets a Roman name but it includes an asteroid with that name’s Greek equivalent.
- 61a. GOODIES, [Bag fillers]. Competitive children’s birthday goody-bag filling is a horrible thing. Parents spending $10 or more on sticky candy and made-in-China plastic junk for each kid attending their kid’s party help maintain the U.S./China trade imbalance, fill the landfills, and perfuse guests’ homes with toxic plastic fumes. Just say no!
- 1d. WOMAN, [Almighty’s “second mistake,” per Nietzsche]. Fresh clue. Mistake #1 was spending too much on goody bags.
- 3d. REGIS, [“Curia ___” (King’s court)]. Man! I can’t believe Regis Philbin didn’t call his talk show Curia Regis. He might’ve drawn more of an audience among classics scholars, especially if he spoke Latin.
- 5d. ADA, [Letters in canine care]. Canine = tooth -> American Dental Association. I couldn’t get DVM to work here.
- 12d. REPLY HAZY, [Magic 8 Ball phrase]. If you don’t understand this one, ask again later.
- 21d. GO-GO BOOTS, [Part of some NFL cheerleader outfits]. “These boots were made for cheering…”
- 28d, 36d. GOLDFINGER, [Onetime member of Forbes Fictional 15 richest people], and DR. NO, [Epithet for some dissenters]. Did you think Doug could clue those both without any reference to James Bond, Ian Fleming, movies, or the word “villain”?
- 34d. ESCAPE KEY, [It may be hit during a crash]. Computers should come equipped with air bags.
As the sub-NYT solving time suggests, the clues in this one weren’t so aggressively oblique. Sure, you’ve got [Beat] cluing TEMPO where THROB or WHOMP or PULSE could also fit, but overall it felt like there were fewer of the usual Stumper “no, you interpreted that all wrong” clues and more clever clues. Super-smooth fill in this 72-worder, too. 4.5 stars.
Tom Heilman’s Los Angeles Times crossword
So I had the -PLEX part of 17a: [Small cinema, nowadays]. Somehow I talked myself into ONEPLEX being a word. Then when 1d had to be SRTA, I decided that TWOPLEX was a word. But I just couldn’t buy WOWN for 2d: [No longer mint]. TRIPLEX! Okay.
Solid themeless with two old crosswordese names (39a: ARN, [Royal son of comics; 53d: ELIO, [Film director Petri]) and one new crosswordese entry (25a: NLERS, [Brewers, e.g., briefly]). Some argue that NLER and ALER should be barred from the grid; I’d argue that ELIO is worse. NLER and ALER may be news headline shorthand rather than sports fan lingo, but at least an American solver might encounter the terms in the news. An Italian director with an uncommon and utterly non-inferrable first name who was never famous in America in his ’50s-’70s heyday? Just…no. ARN is fair play since the comic strip is still running (ever since 1937–is there anything else in pop culture that has continued for 75 years straight?
- 26a. INCHWORM! [Geometer moth caterpillar].
- 29a. STYX, [Final crossing?]. So the last crossword square you fill in is the river Styx?
- 36a. CAN’T CATCH A BREAK, [Is having unending bad luck].
- 10d. OVA, [Biological duct travelers]. Among the best clues for OVA.
- 11d. PIMPLY, [Spotted in a troubling way].
- 21d. COME CLEAN, [Tell the truth, finally].
Troublesome filler, besides ELIO et al.:
- 33a. TRW, [Builder of Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft]. This doesn’t ring any sort of bell for me.
- 27d. N. CAR., [At 6,684 ft., Mt. Mitchell is its highest point]. The Wikipedia page on state abbreviations tells us that the USPS abbrev for North Carolina is NC, the old Government Printing Office abbrev was N.C., and the Associated Press uses N.C. N. Car. shows up only in the unexplained “Other” column. If you ask me, NDAK, SDAK, and NCAR should be used only about as often as ELIO. I’m all for geographic trivia clues, but not with abbreviations that may appear mostly in crosswords.