Crossword champion Tyler Hinman praises Roger Wolff’s new book of variety cryptics. If you’re a fan of challenging cryptic crosswords and crave the variety cryptics that, as Tyler puts it, “have some other twist for an additional payoff and/or a more difficult solve,” check out Roger’s book of 50 puzzles. A nice supplement to the Cox/Rathvon variety cryptics that run in the Wall Street Journal every fourth week.
Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword
I loved this puzzle. It’s in the vein of the brashest Nothnagel or Quarfoot puzzle, with tons of fun answers pitched squarely at pop culture junkies and those who like fun words and crossword entries. My highlights list is a big one, so I’ll just mention some of my favorites:
- 1a. BUZZKILL! Slang for [Party pooper], slaps two Z’s on the board right away. A gimme with the Z in [Actress Caldwell]/ZOE.
- 14a. [Local money?], good clue for UNION DUES.
- 20a/7d. WAMPUM meets LUMMOX. How can you not love the sound of both words?
- 34a. Etymology clue for the Italian dessert called TIRAMISU: [Literally, "pick me up"].
- 40a. KITSCHY, great word. Lots of consonants in a row.
- 41a. Johnnie Walker Red, a.k.a. the [Johnnie Walker blend] with the RED LABEL.
- 47a. [German leader?], misleading clue for SOFT G. Might have seen that clue before.
- 62a. COOKIE JAR! Pardon me, I need to get one of my Pepperidge Farm Geneva cookies.
- 65a. TOTEM POLE clued nonliterally as [Hierarchy]. As in “low man on the ___.”
- 67a. MORPHEUS, Laurence Fishburne’s character in The Matrix.
- 13d. “WHAT A GUY!”
- 36d. CRASH PAD, great entry.
- 38d, 48d. ED HARRIS, full name. FAT JOE, stage name. Or is that his full name? Last name first: Joe, Fat.
- 52d. [Flip one's lid?], one’s eyelid, and BLINK.
Toughest crossing for me: Where 60a: [Breakers ahead] and 64a: [Serotonin, e.g.] intersect 52d: BLINK. “Breakers aheads” does not signal PERIL to me. I don’t get this one at all. And I wasn’t sure if 64a wanted to be AMINO rather than AMINE.
You know who’s in PERIL? Ed the goat in this video. This may well be the funniest 33 seconds of your day (or the funniest five minutes, if you keep replaying it like we did, wiping tears from our eyes).
Now, for those of you who grouse that this puzzle has too much pop culture in it, I must point out that there are four times as many Biblical references (EPH, SAUL, HEBREW, EDOM) as Madonna songs (RESCUE ME), or reality shows (Growing Up GOTTI), or rappers (FAT JOE).
4.5 stars. Had a lot of fun working through this puzzle, even the tough corner.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spring Time” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today is the second full day of summer. It makes perfect sense, then, that today’s puzzle is an homage to all things SPRING. Wait, check that. It makes no sense at all, actually. But it’s true: the four longest Across answers all share the clue [Spring]:
- 17-Across: It’s a SEASON OF THE YEAR.
- 26-Across: It’s also a WATER SOURCE.
- 45-Across: But wait! There’s more! It’s also a COILED METAL.
- 61-Across: And just for shi-giggles, it’s also an EXUBERANT BOUNCE.
To summarize, then: “Next spring, I’ll visit the spring with my spring. That should put a spring in my step.”
The puzzle may have been about spring, but “fall” best describes my solving experience. There was a lot here that was either entirely new to me or very cumbersome to work through. Let’s start with SIM, clued not with reference to a video game but as [Actor Alastair of "A Christmas Carol"]. Then there’s [Norway's patron saint], who’s not just OLAF but OLAF II. Next up is MANO, clued not along the lines of “mano a mano” but as a partial: ["Look ___ hands!"]. And then there’s apparently something called a Prie-DIEU that serves as a “prayer bench.”
PAOLO Connor of “Gossip Girl” was an unknown to me, but that’s what happens when you’re not in everyone’s target demographic. The same goes for HESS as a [Toy truck label]. In my world, there’s Tonka and…nothing else, really. I always want AGOSTO to be answer to [Septembre's preceder], but if I paid better attention to spelling I would see that the Spanish “Septiembre” has an “i” in there. The French (?) version, AOUT, is much less intuitive. Look, I’m all for the occasional foreign word in a grid, especially where it’s very familiar to most English speakers. But this grid has three French terms (AOUT, ETRE, DIEU), three Spanish terms (CASA, ORO, and, but for the resort to a partial, MANO), and two Italian words (ADANTE and “NEL Blu, Dipinto Di Blu”). That’s just too much, it seems to me.
We haven’t even covered the unsightly fill yet. There’s MSEC, O-CAT, AT ME, SSE, RET, and MTGES, and on more than one occasion, two of these unpleasantries sit side-by-side. OOF, indeed. To be fair, there are some nice entries here, like DO IT NOW, IN FRONT, IT’S A GO, and HOT AIR. But it felt like we had to endure too many compromises to get these nuggets of goodness.
Jeremy Horwitz and Tony Orbach’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Fun puzzle with a fresh theme and tons of twisty clues to challenge the solver. The theme makes use of the various homophones of rain:
- 17a. [Beaver's motto?], REINWATER
- 31a. [Device for measuring a king's performance?], REIGNGAUGE
- 48a. [Jig performed by Wilson of "The Office"?], RAINNDANCE
- 66a. [Postponement ... or what was not performed in 17-, 31- and 48-Across?], RAIN CHECK
So nobody checked the spelling of REIN, REIGN, or RAINN and thus we ended up with three phrases with entirely different meanings from rain water, rain gauge, and rain dance. I confused myself by putting RAIN DELAY at 66a and wondering how an undone rain delay could alter spelling. D’oh!
Favorite fill: JUST IN CASE, IRS AUDIT, “ARE YOU NUTS”,” SLOSHED, and WINE BAR.
- 21a. [Auburn, e.g.: Abbr.], UNIV. Auburn’s also a hair color.
- 41a. [Doctor's threads?], LAB COAT. Not SUTURES!
- 53a. [City with Ibsen quotes set into its sidewalks], OSLO. How interesting.
- 69a. [Seller of SOMMARVIND beach accessories], IKEA. Swedish for “summer wind”?
- 70a. [Logical lead-in], ERGO. Not a prefix for “logical” but a preface to a logical statement. Ergo, the clue fooled me.
- 72a. [Ozzy Osbourne duo?], ZEDS. Musician + “duo” = thinking of Hall & Oates more than the letters in Ozzy’s name.
- 2d. [Old depilatory], NEET. Yes. It is old. It is no longer a rival to Nair in U.S. drugstores. It bugs me when crossword clues pretend that Neet is still sold in your local store.
- 25d. [Taxing event, in more ways than one], IRS AUDIT.
- 28d. [Mill story?], RUMOR. I was trying to think of authors named Mill.
- 29d. [Toy-saving org.], ASPCA. Toy dogs.
See? Lots of wonderful clues that make the solver use lateral thinking. It’s the lateral thinking clues that make me prefer tough themeless puzzles to most themed puzzles—the Saturday puzzles tend to have more such clues.
George Barany’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Cryptic Tribute”
Pannonica’s off today, so here I am. I forget what my solving time was this morning but I think it was around 5:30. And then some time spent figuring out the gimmick. No matter—this is a puzzle one would be happy to spend any amount of time on. A five-star puzzle, for sure. Will make it into the finals for Puzzle of the Year based on the star ratings.
Martin Herbach did the heavy lifting of blogging this puzzle down in the comments earlier this afternoon. He wrote:
The CHE is so amazing, I don’t know how they did it. We’ve had other substitution cipher puzzles of the “W IS E” variety, but the coded message is invariably garbled. Here, the “clear” message is a name but it encodes to another name!
If that’s not enough, the name that is coded is ALAN TURING, the most famous code-breaker in history. He cracked the German Enigma machine during WWII, which had profound implications for the prosecution of the war. He was one of the first theorists to work on stored-program computers. He was a tragic figure who was hounded out of his field and underwent chemical castration in lieu of prison for his crime of homosexuality. And tomorrow would have been his 100th birthday.
George Barany squeezed a lot of information about ALAN TURING and his field of cryptology into a 15×15. He made it a cipher puzzle. But first he found HRHALDEMAN to be a substitution cipher coding of ALAN TURING. So he selected the eight digrams that would effect this coding and made them rebuses. Then he constructed the puzzle. Easy.
The theme plays out like so:
- 17a. [What eight squares in this puzzle contain, thus creating a cipher key], TWO LETTERS. Those are the eight rebus squares.
- 26a. [Institution at which this puzzle’s honoree earned a Ph.D. in mathematics], PRINCETON.
- 37a. [1986 Hugh Whitemore play based on the life of this puzzle's honoree (or what you should be doing to read the real answer to 59 Across)], BREAKING THE CODE.
- 45a. BLETCHLEY [___ Park, where this puzzle's honoree did his most famous work].
- 59a. [This puzzle's honoree, born June 23, 1912 (but only if you've finished 37 Across)], H.R. HALDEMAN.
The eight rebus squares reveal a cipher. From top to bottom of the grid:
HA ER MI AN LT NG DU RL
If you eyeball the first letters of the pairs going down, those letters should look familiar. They’re all in H.R. Haldeman. Where you find those letters in his name, substitute the second letter in the pair. Boom, the real subject of the puzzle is ALAN TURING. How insane is it that George found a famous name that could encrypt the name of legendary cryptologist Alan Turing? And, as Foodie points out in the comments, how perfect is it that Haldeman was famous for secrecy?
A magnificent puzzle. Hopefully George will chime in in the comments to tell us more about the puzzle’s development. (All he told me via email is that working with editor Patrick Berry was a dream. I have heard before that Patrick has a knack for figuring out the perfect way to complete a theme in the most elegant fashion.)
Again, yes: Five stars, no deductions.