We’re about a month off from Lollapuzzoola 5! Saturday, August 4, in the Upper East Side of the Manhattan Island. Optional Pizza Social after the crossword tournament concludes. Visit bemoresmarter.com for details.
Heads up! Matt Gaffney’s review of Patrick Blindauer’s July puzzle will appear below. If you didn’t get a chance to download the puzzle yet, here’s the PDF link.
Announcement #3! Late addition! Pete Muller’s Monthly Music Meta contest puzzle for July is now up here. It’s a fun one.
Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword
Fun theme: Add -STER to the end of a word found in a familiar phrase to warp its meaning.
- 17a. [Cheer to an interstate trucker?], GO, TEAMSTER! Go, team, go! Plenty of Teamsters (the majority, I’d wager) are not interstate truckers. In fact, many don’t drive trucks at all. Would like the clue better if it said just “trucker” or “union truck driver.”
- 28a. [One who peruses the dictionary?], WEBSTER BROWSER. Love this one! Who among us has not browsed the dictionary and made serendipitous discoveries?
- 45a. [Newsman Anderson with a theology degree?], MINISTER COOPER. Nice play on the Mini Cooper supercompact car. The deliciously handsome Anderson Cooper is topical this week, having officially come out to complete strangers on Monday. (He was already out to people who know him.)
- 59a. [One who's very good at rocking the cradle?], YO-YO MASTER. This one is brilliant. You get the “rock the cradle” double meaning (literal vs. yo-yo trick) plus a play on Yo-Yo Ma.
Highlights in the fill: ALTAR BOY, LET IT BE, TAPESTRY, SPYWARE, HACIENDA. The HERETIC clue amuses me: [Galileo, to some]. As if we’re going to be fair and balanced here; “Some say he’s a scientific genius. To others, he’s a heretic to be shunned. Watch Dateline tomorrow for surprising new information about Galileo that will change the way you think about him.”
I could always do without EDO in the fill, but didn’t really encounter anything that made me scowl while doing this puzzle. 4.25 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s July blog puzzle — Matt’s review
Patrick Blindauer is a cruciverbal cubist lately, dicing two of his recent crosswords up and then rearranging the results like a puzzle-making Picasso. In May’s “Dirty Double Crossword” he sliced the across clues off one and the down clues off the other of an identically-gridded pair of puzzles; in July’s “Quarter Master” he’s swapped the NW and SE and NE and SW quadrants of a standard 17×17 crossword with each other, with similarly beguiling results.
Here’s what the puzzle grid looked like unsolved:
Whoa, that’s a lot of grid infractions — two-letter words, unchecked letters, 53 black squares (OK, it’s a 17×17 grid, but still), un-numbered entries…and the small matter of all four grid quadrants being totally cut off from each other. In short, it looks like the TV Guide crossword after you’ve licked a toad’s head in the Arizona desert.
But wait: here’s what it looks like when you put it back together (sorry for lousy Paint skills today, but you get the idea):
See the trick? It’s not really a 17×17 puzzle, it’s a 16×16; the intersecting axes of black squares are actually the outer edges of the grid. The theme entries spell out the explanation: THE ANSWERS GO OVER / THE EDGE OF THE GRID / BUT COME BACK AGAIN / FROM THE OTHER SIDE.
Nice gimmick, eh? This isn’t the first time crossword answers have disappeared from one edge of a crossword only to reappear on the other, but Patrick’s new twist on this is the complete swap of the grid’s four quadrants, which is aesthetically pleasing and also wryly humorous.
As for the puzzle itself, as a crossword: I liked EGG TOSS, FIRE LANE, DUE DATES, GAS LEAKS, LOVE TAP, SBARRO, GREECE and TOUCHE. YOU SEE how much better fill a crossword has with lots of 6-, 7- and 8-letter entries?
Patrick certainly has his own style of crossword, doesn’t he? If you gave me 5 Blindauers, 5 BEQs, 5 Liz Gorskis and 5 Merl Reagles I bet I’d go 18/20 or better on who wrote what. I love how the internet has allowed more excellent constructors to develop and showcase their personal crossword skills and styles.
May it continue — or should I say August it continues, since that’s when I’ll see you back here to find out what clever trick Patrick has come up with next.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Hot darn this was a fun puzzle. Great work, Gareth!
- 20a. [Cultivated area with sloped sides] - SUNKEN GARDEN
- 28a. [Planet size calculation] – SURFACE AREA
- 44a. [Birkenstock fastener] – SANDAL STRAP
- 52a. [Summer getaway that characteristically has the three components hidden at the beginnings of 20-, 28- and 44-Across] – BEACH HOLIDAY
That’s a cute – and quite timely – theme. There’s a nice bonus with THONG in the corner. It’s clued as [Skimpy swimwear], but you can think of it as a sandal, if you must.
I love the stack in the northwest corner of MTWTF atop AEIOU. It makes for a neat little dichotomy, don’t you think?
Let’s stop beating around the bush. There are four great vertical entries in this puzzle:
- FUTURAMA, which I thought might’ve been too esoteric for the LA Times, but was pleased to see
- JACKIE CHAN, and yes, Karate Kid 2 comes out next year
- ROCKABILLY, which gets the clue [Hybrid ’50s musical genre] even though the first song that came to my mind was 1981′s “Rock this Town”
- BUST A GUT
What’s this? No Q? You could’ve had a pangram, Gareth! Oh well. Shout out to Jeff Chen’s puzzle from yesterday with VERA at 34a., that’s a nice editorial decision from Rich Norris.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Romney Present” – Sam Donaldson’s review
In honor of this year’s Republican nominee for President, today’s puzzle inserts the letter sequence M-I-T-T into three common terms so as to make three wacky new ones:
- 17-Across: “Up and coming” becomes UP AND COMMITTING, [Like a busy criminal after arising from bed?].
- 36-Across: Have you heard of a “reed organ?” If so, you’re better than me. Let’s turn to Wikipedia for an explanation: “A reed organ, also called a parlor (or parlour) organ, pump organ, cabinet organ, cottage organ, is an organ that generates its sounds using free metal reeds. Smaller, cheaper and more portable than pipe organs, reed organs were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but their volume and tonal range are limited.” Inner Beavis wishes “pump organ” was the more common term. Anyway, the reed organ here becomes a REMITTED ORGAN, a [Keyboard instrument sent as payment?]
- 59-Across: The “Y chromosome” becomes the MITTY CHROMOSOME, the [Genetic component of fantasizer Walter?]. I have a soft spot for puzzles that riff on Y CHROMOSOME.
Good thing the fairness doctrine doesn’t apply to crosswords, because it would be significantly harder to make a puzzle with a B-A-R-A-C-K letter sequence.
Surprisingly (okay, maybe not so much), you’ll find every letter of the alphabet in this grid. Unlike other pangrammatic grids that feel forced, this one has FINESSE (literally!). Highlights include QUARK, V-SIX, I MEAN IT, SEAQUAKE, TOP DOGS, and HOOKAH, the
[Boston escort], er, [Wonderland caterpillar’s pipe].
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “British Invasion”
Nice title for a puzzle in which the letters “UK” invade each theme answer:
- 16a. [Writing assignment that, through complete luck, got an A?], FLUKY PAPER.
- 19a. [Did away with Homer's neighbor for good?], NUKED FLANDERS.
- 34a. [Band of John Wayne-loving computer programmers?], DUKE CODER RING.
- 52a. Completely fooled one of the Beverly Hillbillies?], JUKED CLAMPETT. Not familiar with this “juke” verb sense. Dictionary shows it meaning “zigzag,” and you might zigzag to elude someone. Related to “completely fooled”?
- 58a. Bumper sticker slogan for Stooges fans?], I HEART “NYUK.” Saved the best for last.
- 10d. [Warning on video games with lots of gore], RATED M. My son is still not allowed to play the M games. T’s the limit.
- 3d. [Seeker's cry to the hider], FOUND YOU. Well, only if the seeker is successful and the hiders haven’t all left the neighborhood to be cruel.
- 43d. [Selena's music genre], TEJANO. Hey, look! The late Selena made it into a clue, instead of being in the grid clued as the late Tejano singer played by J-Lo in a TV biopic. Did you know: Selena Gomez was named after the one-named Selena, before the latter’s death?
- 47d. SIT ‘N [___ Spin (classic toy)]! Along with the Slip ‘N Slide, the best “S. ‘n S.” toy from my childhood. The toy company ruined the Sit ‘N Spin, though. I bought one for my son when he was a tot, and that thing played loud music. Isn’t the appeal the endless spinning, not a lights ‘n music show?
- 55d. [Fighting word that means "hand," not "person"], MANO. “Mano a mano” is not “man to man.”