Pawel Fludzinski’s New York Times crossword
Neat theme: [difficult things to be “between”], in idiomatic phrases, are spelled out in the grid in multi-part answers. There’s A ROCK AND A / HARD PLACE, SCYLLA AND / CHARYBDIS, and THE DEVIL AND / THE / DEEP BLUE SEA. My favorite is 10d/33d because The Police song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” rewarded me for learning what Scylla and Charybdis were from reading Homer’s Odyssey in ninth-grade English. (Bonus points for the song’s mention of Mephistopheles, also learnt in high school coursework.)
Now, I’m mildly troubled that while the “between” is the key point of the relationship between the things in the theme answers, the puzzle’s grid doesn’t have any sort of “between”-related difficulty. How brilliant would it have been to have a difficult answer appear in the row between each phrasal pair? But alas, two pairs have no space and the other has five rows with that THE in the center, so the theme is just a collection of these nifty idioms.
While I see some blah answers in the grid (ABASER, ETNAS, REE, IDEATE, ESSEN), my solving experience was one of enjoying the journey. Cannot believe how long it took me to figure out 10d/33d with the CHA*Y part in place; should’ve been much quicker there. Clues I liked:
- 21a. [Dion who didn’t sing with the Belmonts], CELINE.
- 29a. [Drill sound?], “TEN-HUT!”
- 52a. [It might be used for tracking shots], BAR TAB.
- 61a. [Look accompanying “Is that all you got?”], SNEER.
- 25d. [What Fred Astaire danced with], EASE.
- 40d. [*Boy, am I in trouble now!*], GULP.
Missteps: Thinking that Pro Bowler ASANTE Samuel was a pro bowler rather than a football player. Typoing TEN-HUT as TEN-HUR (I blame all Ben-Hur) and thus trying to figure out why HATCHER was a [Kind of job] (psst, it’s a HATCHET job). Missing the word “anagram” in 21d’s clue, [Roman numeral that’s an anagram of part of Caesar’s boast] and trying to make a four-letter Roman numeral out a string of consecutive letters in VenI VIDI VICI. IDIV??
Mike Shenk’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 53”
Tough puzzle. I wonder if Mike originally submitted this to Peter Gordon for the Post Puzzler but the BALLSIER PORN stepped over the bound of Washington Post vocabulary standards so Peter suggested the Fireball route, or if Mike intended it for Fireball all along.
Clues that worked me over the most:
- 39a. [Land of Oz], ISRAEL. Land of novelist Amoz Oz! No Wizard of Oz, no Australia.
- 30a. [Line of type], HYPHEN. It’s a rather short line segment compared to the en and em dashes.
- 22a. MIA the missing Bronx Zoo cobra? Zero recall of details here, other than sensing that the cobra had a Twitter feed.
- 45a. [One may be bitter], ENEMY. Not ENDER, which I had for a while. Is that even a thing? Am I conflating “bitter end” and “dead-ender”?
- 49a. [Oceania commoner], **OLE… hmm, is Hawaii ever considered part of Oceania? HAOLE fits. Durrr! PROLE, from George Orwell’s Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
- 52a. [Hawaiians call it “kukui”] is not at all helpful when you’re not sure you’ve ever heard of CANDLENUT. A.k.a. Aleurites moluccana.
- 12d. [Its motto is “In hoc signo vinces”], SIGMA CHI. Sigma Chi, of course, is the fraternity whose chapter president, Vince, needed cash fast so he put his neon beer sign in hock.
- 13d. [Likelihood that a randomly chosen U.S. state has a name with exactly six letters], ONE IN TEN. The “six” part threw me off. Got the answer through crossings and tried multiplying 10 x 6 and getting 60 states and being confused. Nevada, Oregon, Kansas, Hawaii, Alaska… I can’t get the sixth one. See! I’m still confused. 50 states, 5 have 6 letters, ergo 1 in 10.
- 29d. [Bark features], MASTS. Was thinking of tree bark and barking dogs rather than the boats called barks.
- 46d. [Royal for 21 years], BRETT. Baseball? George Brett? Not royalty?
You see why this took me longer than the typical themeless Fireball. Things I didn’t know + mental blocks = cruciverbal doom.
The fill is incredibly smooth, which is no surprise because Shenkian and Berryesque have a good deal of overlap. Fave fill: PREWASH, FLAMENCO, OH PHOOEY, SIGMA CHI, PHONE TREE, THE ALAMO. I also liked learning/guessing that MOLES were [Earthworm eaters]. Never thought of worms having natural predators other than birds.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Cross Words” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four longest Across answers begins with a word that can follow “cross:”
- 20-Across: The [Lawyers’ group] is a BAR ASSOCIATION (crossbar, the horizontal part of a football goal post).
- 26-Across: [News items, perhaps] describe CURRENT EVENTS (cross-current, literally one current flowing across another, figuratively a conflicting tendency or movement).
- 42-Across: [One who records judicial proceedings] is a COURT REPORTER (cross-court, a basketball pass or a tennis shot that spans the length of the playing surface).
- 50-Across: The [“Star Trek” catch phrase] is BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY (cross beam, a beam that spans from one support to another).
Notice that in all but one case, the “cross” term is more interesting than the entry in the puzzle (the one exception is BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY, which is more interesting than CROSS BEAM). In a perfect world, the puzzle entry should be the more entertaining term, since that’s the one solvers are chasing down. If we assume the theme is intended to help solvers in sussing out the longer entries (a fair assumption here given that the puzzle’s title provides a pretty direct hint as to the theme), the longer entries should be the pay-off.
To navigate this puzzle successfully, a solver must have a firm handle on two things: proper names and Crosswordese. On the proper name front, we have Erykah BADU, Jacob RIIS, Jean ARP, Tami HOAG, TEENA Marie, NAT Turner, ANOUK Aimee, Deborah KERR, Leonardo DICAPRIO, ESAI Morales, ANNE Murray, and Julia ORMOND. (I’m leaving off EDGAR because it was clued with reference to the writing award and not with reference to Mr. Poe directly.) I like proper names in my puzzles, but 12 of them in a 74-word puzzle feels a little too crowded.
As for Crosswordese, there’s SRTA, THOS (couldn’t decide if this abbreviation of Thomas should have been in the proper name paragraph or this one–for balance, I stuck it here), Eso BESO, ALEE, ESSE, OLEO, BANC, ACCT, ABBES and ERE. Between this list and the proper names, you’ve got nearly 30% of the grid’s answers.
On the positive side, I liked TIE-DYERS, SHOT AT, ACTS ON, PACKET, and CSI:NY. I even liked the partial NEED A, because I very much agree with the clue, [“I ___ vacation!”]. Favorite entry = AIRBRUSH, to [Alter a magazine cover photo, in a way].
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Chasers”
Matt’s on the lam right now so this review is coming from me. Matt’ll be back blogging the BEQ next week if we nab him.
This one’s a rerun of BEQ’s Onion puzzle from the week of October 15, 2008. Guess what? I blogged it already. What a time-saver! I refer you to my 2008 write-up.
Solving the puzzle anew this week, I still didn’t know the [Intel processor] XEON at 69a. Cute theme, but there’s some weird fill along with XEON. Q AS, T’PAU, MARL, ARMA, U NU, YRLY, SAONE, all sorts of TLAs. I appreciated seeing this, THO.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Why’d it have to be snakes?
- 20a. [Reggie Miller, e.g.] – INDIANA PACER
- 40a. [Last name of the start of 20-Across] – JONES
- 26a. [Long-eared hopper] – JACKRABBIT
- 69a. [Last name of the start of 26-Across] – RYAN
- 48a. [Reign between the Qin and the Three Kingdoms] – HAN DYNASTY. This looks so much like HANDY NASTY to me, and I can’t get over it.
- 5a. [Last name of the start of 48-Across] – SOLO
- 53d. [Actor born 7/13/42 who played characters found in 20-, 26- and 48-Across] – HARRISON FORD
It’s a theme-dense puzzle, that’s for sure. I figure it ran today (instead of Ford’s birthday tomorrow) due to the puzzle’s lack of difficulty. I found it rather straightforward; did you? Still, David Poole’s done a nice job of spicing up the rest of the puzzle. NOTRE DAME and BALLERINAS are nice symmetric entries with French clues (Napoleon and Degas are referenced). Getting the former led to me to correct spelling of ENURE immediately. That one can be a crapshoot, but never tell me the odds!
I really like that SAAB is three rows just above SOB. Of course, you might just read down on the east side and get UGLY PALE S.O.B. That can’t be directed to Andre AGASSI, can it? The west side vertical entries – A.J. FOYT, DARROW and ICICLE are a nice set, too.
39d. [“Picket Fences” Emmy winner Tom] SKERRITT is a new name for me, making it a toss up between RNA and DNA. Fortunately I chose… wisely.