Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword
I have a few technology-related complaints I must clear up before discussing the actual puzzle. First, I wish there’d been some “enlarge grid” alert telling me that if I didn’t want to scroll through the grid while solving, I should use the applet’s “enlarge grid” option. Second, there was a disconnect between my machine and the applet server and it refused to take my solution for the second time in recent days (I have cable internet service and my connection is robust, it is, so I don’t know that the problem’s on my end). Third, while I was confident I had the right answers, I can hardly post a solution grid from the applet when the side of the puzzle is cut off. I forgot that I could snip a pic of XWord Info’s solution and downloaded the .puz file, which (fourth!) wouldn’t work from the browser I was in. So I opened a different browser to download the file, but now (complaint the fifth!) I’m stuck using software that doesn’t navigate like Across Lite. Yes, Across Lite for the Mac’s Lion OS sucks. The navigation is not at all the same as the older Across Lite to which I’m accustomed. So I used the Mac program Black Ink, which also doesn’t navigate the same, so I’m continually typing letters in the wrong squares and wasting time. Gah. Do you think I’m going to give the puzzle a fair shake after being irritated five ways from Friday?
So. The 13×17 grid is shaped like an envelope, the long answer is BACK OF THE ENVELOPE, and without warning the whole rest of the theme answers pertain to postage stamps that appear on the front of the envelope, but when you connect the dots in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 order (the circles appearing somewhere in the words for those numbers spelled out), you draw the outline and flap for the back of the envelope. If you’re solving online rather than on paper, the first theme clues you’ll see are probably 1d and 16a, and those clues start with ellipses. The dead-tree solver will see the first Across theme clue at 11a promptly and will get the [Price in cents...] part that’s missing from the other clues. (Irritation #6!) So it’s the price in cents of postage stamps from certain years.
Neville has headed me off at the pass before I could complain about 65a: SHALALA being clued as [Refrain syllables], when longtime solvers know that [Refrain syllables] generally means TRALA or TRALALA. What about Donna Shalala? Too out of reach for the
MonTuesday solver, is she? (But the same solver is not cut any slack for 4d: BRAES or 32a: BIRL? Not to mention EDA LeShan or BAI Ling.) I couldn’t think of any SHALALA songs but Neville says it’s the refrain at the end of the Family Ties theme song. And look, there’s Meredith Baxter’s ELYSE (Family Ties mom) at 67a!
I like HEMATOLOGY but I don’t like EENT. I think the E people and the ENT people went their separate ways long ago. There are still clinics and hospitals that cover the eye, ear, nose, and throat but you know who practices there? Ophthalmologists and otolaryngologists (the latter being ENTs). So let’s take EENT out of our word lists, constructors.
I like MILKSHAKES but I had a small dish of Belgian chocolate gelato tonight, not a milkshake. So you know what landlocked country borders Belgium and Germany? I do now, because I watched the National Geography Bee tonight and knew approximately five answers.
“NOT SO FAST” and START IN ON are good, idiomatic answers.
Jeff Stillman’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
It’s a fab four of a puzzle today:
- 20a. [#1 by a 30-Across member] - BAND ON THE RUN (P. McCartney)
- 30a. ['60s pop group] – BEATLES
- 35a. [#1 by a 30-Across member] - MY SWEET LORD (G. Harrison)
- 44a. [#1 by a 30-Across member] – IMAGINE (J. Lennon)
- 54a. [#1 by a 30-Across member] – YOU’RE SIXTEEN (R. Starr)
I really enjoyed this one – maybe because I knew all of these songs? I figure once Jeff had this puzzle idea, it was just a matter of raking through song titles on Wikipedia. Nice selection – I bet the target demo knows all of these songs, too. I like the long fill, too. MATADORS, PICCOLO, DIOCESE, OXEYE and MOOLAH are fine.
- Favorite clue: ["Keep your opinions to yourself!"] – BUTT OUT. You know what they say – opinions are like a$$****s – everybody’s got one. That’s what I really like about this clue.
- I look back and I ask, “What’s LLM?” Per the clue: [Advanced legal deg.], a Masters of Laws. Hm.
- An interesting pairing of the [Craft whose name means "peace"] and the [SALT weapon] – MIR & ICBM.
- Another interesting pairing in the NW corner: PANAMA sits atop ARARAT; they both alternate between consonants and ‘A’s.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “General-ly Speaking” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Like many puzzle-lovers in my age cohort, Games Magazine was an important component of my childhood. I would comb through its pages looking for the 1- and 1.5-star puzzles (it assigns one star to easy puzzles, two stars to medium puzzles, and three stars to hard puzzles), as those were the ones I could usually solve.
Here at the Fiend, of course, stars are used to evaluate puzzles rather than to rate their difficulty. I mention this because today’s offering from Donna Levin is a nice example of a “five-star one-star puzzle.” It has everything you could want from an easy puzzle: an accessible theme, a zippy and uncompromised fill, and good clues.
The theme features four two-word terms where the first word can follow “General” to make another common two-word term:
- 20-Across: The [Four-wall dance originated by Ric Silver] is the ELECTRIC SLIDE (“General Electric,” the owner of NBC)
- 29-Across: The [Drafty covering of a sort] is a HOSPITAL GOWN (“General Hospital,” the long-running soap opera).
- 46-Across: The [Ford factory feature] is an ASSEMBLY LINE (“General Assembly,” most notably that of the United Nations).
- 56-Across: The [Group whose hits included "The Glow-Worm" and "Tiger Rag"] are the MILLS BROTHERS (“General Mills,” the big brand name in foods).
I didn’t even notice the theme because I paid no attention to the puzzle’s title until after I was done. I’m not sure that seeing the title would have helped me shave any seconds off my solving time; this is one of those themes best appreciated when you’re done solving. Sometimes you need to see the theme to solve the puzzle; in other cases, like this one, sussing out the theme is the bonus challenge that awaits after you’re done filling in the grid. Both theme types have their place.
I really liked the fill in this puzzle. Three of the long Downs are great–HOME MOVIE, SWISS MISS, and SPLIT PEA all add some zest. There’s also a healthy dose of two-word entries, like ONE-TWO, GET ON, NODS AT, and ET ALIA. My favorite, though, was the conversion of “nonet” into NO NET, a [Boast by a daredevil trapeze artist]. Some may carp at B-FLATS, [A-sharps, by another name] or the crossing partial, IF A. But if that’s the only beef you have with a grid, it’s pretty gosh-darn smooth.
In the clue department, everything hits at just the right level. I liked the recycling of [No-goodnik] for both RAT and LOUSE.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Metal on Metal”
You hear that sound, of metal scraping metal? Me neither. But each theme answer contains two metals, with the metallic words not always meaning the metal:
- 18a,61a. [With 61-across, baking item], ALUMINUM MUFFIN TIN
- 27a. [Classic Christmas song sung by Burl Ives], “SILVER AND GOLD.” The most boring part of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- 45a. [Typical line from a gangster movie bad guy], “EAT LEAD, COPPER!” Sounds made-up, but I’ll let that slide. Here, the COPPER is a cop, and the circuitous cross-referencing in the dictionary keeps me from guessing whether the word has any connection to the metal.
With 42 theme squares, Matt leaves himself enough wiggle room for answers like ATKINS DIET and OSCAR MAYER, plus a solid assortment of 6s and 7s.
Hey, wait a minute! I just realized the grid isn’t symmetrical. The northwest corner chunk has 6s running across, while the opposite corner has 5s because ALUMINUM is 8 and MUFFIN TIN is 9. Did you notice before, during, or after solving, or not at all? Symmetry or lack thereof really doesn’t affect the solving experience if the theme entries are easy to spot and there’s not a rebus.