Announcement! Doug Peterson celebrated his birthday last week, and Andrea Carla Michaels and Angela Halsted (PuzzleGirl) teamed up to make a birthday crossword in Doug’s honor. Give it a whirl!
Stu Ockman’s New York Times crossword
Cute theme idea, filling the middle of the grid with a dozen “eggs.” In my font, alas, the eggs are frightfully squat and circular (OOOOOO, OOOOOO) rather than egg-shaped. FREE-RANGE, EGG CARTON, ONE DOZEN, and OVER EASY round out the, uh, ovular theme.
Likes: SMACK-DAB beside LIBERACE, CREATORS echoing (and improving on) IDEA MAN. REUNITED, which is an awesome song from Peaches and Herb. DO-OR-DIE and MANHOOD lending some class to the rows of O’s. GESTALT, [It's more than the sum of its parts].
Unlikes: That TOSH/RONEE crossing; at least the former was clued as [Bilgewater] rather than as ["Comedian" Daniel who thinks rape threats are edgy humor]. AT IT sort of defacing 1-Across. Completely unfamiliar GIGLI who is [Tenor Beniamino __] rather than the cheesy Affleck movie. The NES/PRIE crossing, which is also tough if you don’t know French or modern-day crosswordese/extinct video game consoles.
Peter Collins’ Fireball crossword, “Land on Water”
It took me a while to grasp what this theme is, as I seldom read theme-revealer clues all the way through. There are four hidden country names parked directly atop hidden sea names:
- 13a. [Close connection between buds], BROMANCE.
- 16a. [Began to show progress], MADE A DENT.
- 20a. [Peruvian cornmeal dish], TAMALITO. Never heard of it, but I reckon it’s a small tamal. Am fond of Mali, as my college French professor Cherif Keita was from there.
- 24a. [Ball Park Franks parent company], SARA LEE.
- 38a. ["Character is much easier kept than recovered" penner], THOMAS PAINE.
- 44a. Thinking outside the box], UNORTHODOXY. Not sure I’ve ever seen this noun with an un- before, but it is, of course, an actual word. Am a much bigger fan or unorthodoxy than of orthodoxy, in fact, so I’ll have to work this word into my dialogues.
- 54a. ["Almost finished!"], ONE TO GO. Phrase feels iffy, but look! It’s hiding one of Africa’s cutest-named countries.
- 60a. [Sport for which the Winnipeg Shamrocks won a gold medal at the 1904 Olympics], LACROSSE. Awesome clue. The bronze medalists that year were also from Canada, and they were all from the Mohawk tribe. Interestingly, the three medal-winning teams were the only teams that competed in the sport at the 1904 Summer Games. Four years later, the US and Britain took the gold and silver and nobody won bronze.
- 71a. [Like four countries hidden in this grid, in two different ways], OVERSEAS. The theme would have been iffy if PERU or CUBA were one of the hidden countries, as “overseas” seems to connote “all the way across an ocean.” Although I do like to think of Canada as being overseas too.
Likes: STAGE-DIVE is fun. ME LLAMO is fresh but familiar to anyone who took a grade-school Spanish enrichment class when they were 10 (this is the extent of my formal schooling in the language). I like a good LATRINE but do prefer indoor plumbing. ANDRO is clued as [Big Mac additive in the 1990s?]—this is steroids and Mark McGwire, not burgers. [Joneses, so to speak] is a great clue for URGES.
Unlikes: [56% of MCM] cluing MLXIV—that corner wasn’t hard enough for me to need to do the arithmetic. SALSA DIP, because I never, ever combine those words. [Singer Carter with the hit "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me"] is MEL? Who on earth is Mel Carter? (The song was a hit before I was born.) And then there’s [Ronnie of R&B], DEVOE. Never heard of him/her, either, and never knew that Bell Biv Devoe contained an actual surname. [Some NFL linemen] tells me: Put an S at the end and wait for the crossings.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle “Brushes With Flame” – Jared’s review
Not much of a theme this week, as far as I can tell. There are four circled intersecting pairs of EXs [They run into each other frequently in this puzzle] representing two former romantic partners meeting, but that’s it. (Edit: Martin wrote the following in Tuesday’s comments: After solving “Brushes with Flame,” you’ll see that one of the horizontal grid rows includes three words that yield a number of wonderful two-word anagrams, including five that could be clued as “Supremely virile tools,” “Little brats who get criticized,” “Understands bluegrass instruments,” “Evil forces intent on giving you hypertension,” and “Ballroom dance done by rote.”) So other than the fact that we’ve got more Xs than usual (there are lots of others in addition to the circled ones) it plays out pretty much like a themeless, albeit one that comes with several free squares filled in once you dig (or “become hip to”, if you prefer) the gimmick. Although even “gimmick” feels like too strong of a word. I’m also not too wild about the title; it feels like it’s missing the word “Former” in there, or even an article such as “a”.
Regarding the rest of the puzzle, some clues try too hard and one is downright sadistic, but it was certainly never boring which is really the most important part.
- [Walk like a dinosaur] - CLOMP. I’m not sure if I’ve seen this word before but it’s so evocative that it was easy to deduce with a few crossings.
- [Busing surface] - TRAY. I’m not buying it. A writing surface is a surface you write on. A playing surface is a surface you play on. A skating surface is a surface you skate on. But one doesn’t bus on a tray unless you’re a really tiny waiter.
- [Embarrassing thing to break in public] - WIND. I would like this if I liked fart jokes.
- [Alien introduction?] - XENO. For a clue like this to work, “alien introduction” has to work as a stand-alone phrase. It doesn’t.
- [It may be eaten undressed] - SALAD. Now this I like. The obvious (R-rated) misdirection is to wonder what food you’d eat while not wearing clothes but there’s also an X-rated interpretation that I’m guessing Ben noted, if not explicitly intended.
- [Founder of Genesis?] - LEVI. You’ve got to know that Levi founded the Israelite Tribe for this clue to be any fun. I didn’t.
- [Thing paid for in an alley] - LANE.
- [Three IVs?] - XII. For a clue like this to work, “three IVs” has to be something someone would refer to, ever. It’s not. “Doctor, this patient glucose level is really low – we need three IVs!” Uh uh.
- [Daily letters] - MTWTF. Pretty sure MTWRF is way more common.
- [Into anyone, potentially] - PANSEXUAL. To a pansexual, bisexuals are downright picky. While a bisexual tends to prefer a male or female partner, a pansexual doesn’t mind if you’re a healthy mix of both.
- [Where is dove in it] - ITALIAN. This clue seems almost aggressively obfuscated. This is the “omitted quotation marks” trick taken a step or two too far. As it turns out, the Italian translation of “where” is “dove”. So in Italian, “where” is “dove”. Ouch.
- [Nitpicks?] - REVIEWS A CROSSWORD PUZZLE.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Whoda Thunk It?” — Matt’s review
Initially I thought Brendan was going for cheese puns, since the first theme entry was GET YOUR MIND / OUT OF THE GOUDA (clued jarringly as ["Whoever's brain's in the cheese, please remove it!"]).
But no, the other two puns rhyme with the first word of the puzzle title (“Who’da Thunk It?”), as does gouda:
43-a ["That's as great as the Enlightened One"?] = IT’S LIKE BUDDHA. Funny, though I have to dock BEQ .1 stars because “is” is apostrophe-implied in both answers.
56-a [Garbage espoused by Hagen?] = UTA NONSENSE. That wacky Uta!
This is a somewhat bizarre theme, but the puns are goofy enough to work and I’ve certainly never seen it before, so thumbs-up.
BUZZSAW, TRAGIC FLAW and SEX-STARVED are all A+ material. OZS at 48-a isn’t a real thing, however.
7-d [Muppet seen on some diapers] = ELMO. Something tells me this is from personal experience.
10-d [Like baby showers, for guys] = TEDIOUS. Something tells me this is from personal experience.
25-d [Start of toddler-dom] = AGE ONE. Brendan’s little Tabitha should be approaching AGE ONE about now. Baby mini-theme in this puzzle!
38-a — nice to see emo in a clue rather than the grid. I can’t wait to use PHILIPS in a grid someday.
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Get ready to get your hands dirty in this puzzle.
- 16a. [Rewards cardholder's benefit] - LOYALTY PROGRAM
- 22a. [Computer-generated visual media] - DIGITAL ART
- 32a. [Time for laundry and such] - CLEANING DAY
- 45a. [Salad dressing ingredient] - SOYBEAN OIL
- 60a. [Starting a project... and what the letters between each pair of circles are doing?] – BREAKING GROUND
A type of ground gets broken up into two pieces by this puzzle’s longest entries. Wow, it’s got five long ones! There’s an unusual black square pattern caused by theme entry length, but it all works out in the end.
[Reveal all?] clues both STRIP and GO NUDE… subliminal messaging, I DARE SAY! Those came easier to me than the crossing of SALADA and AMADO. I’m up on Tetley, Lipton and Nestea, but my knowledge of 6-letter tea brands ends there. [Brazilian novelist Jorge] AMADO has written all sorts of works that I’ve never heard of, including Dona Flor e Seus Dois Maridos. (Yes, that’s Dona Flor and her Two Husbands.) I do know Don PARDO, the announcer on SNL, though.
[Yale grads] is a much easier clue for ELIS than the clue in the NYT puzzle today that references Bush and Cheney without context. I like this method better, even if it is more straightforward. My favorite clue in here today is [Key not used by itself] - CTRL. I keep hitting CTRL and it’s not doing anything. I’ve lost control!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Old Growth” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme involves adding a letter to the front of four (mostly) familiar expressions starting with OLD:
- 17-Across: An “old master” becomes a HOLD MASTER, a [Wrestler with a topnotch grasp?]. I’m cool with the wrestling references, but art terms like “old master” sit three area codes away from my wheelhouse. (Wikipedia tells me “old master” is “a term for a European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist.”) I’m reasonably sure Piet Mondrian is not an old master. But I wouldn’t exactly call him “young,” either.
- 55-Across: “Old school” becomes MOLD SCHOOL, an [Academy concerned with the fungus among us?]. The entry succeeds more than the clue. Is it cruel to say the MOLD clue’s “spore?”
- 10-Down: An “old buzzard” grows into a GOLD BUZZARD, a [Codger who collects bullion coins?].
- 24-Down: Old Cape Cod becomes COLD CAPE COD, a [Massachusetts cottage with a wintry air about it?].
The theme doesn’t do much for me. Most anyone could come up with any number of theme entries here. BOLD NAVY, FOLD YELLER, SOLD TIMER, TOLD BLACK MAGIC, and so on. I did, however, have three favorite bits from this puzzle: (1) the use of the clue [Chicago, for one] twice, once for CITY and again for BAND; (2) lively entries like DADDY-O, PARDON ME, and BETA TEST; and (3) a second consecutive Shirley Temple reference (this time PINCURLS), and at roughly the same part of the grid no less!
We’re getting down to the wire in Name That Constructor Month. Just two days left and I need six points to make my readjusted goal of 50 points for the month. That means I gotta nail this one to have any hope. I’m going to rely on the same deductive process I used yesterday, even though it only snagged me two points. First, I’m cutting out all the constructors who have had puzzles in the last seven or eight days. So it’s not Patrick Jordan, Bob Klahn, Randy Ross, Bruce Venzke, Ray Hamel, Donna Levin, Tony Orbach, or Doug Peterson. That leaves me with Lynn Lempel, Sarah Keller, Gail Grabowski, Randy Hartman, Alan Arbesfeld, Martin Ashwood-Smith, and Patrick Blindauer. I’m liking Lynn Lempel here. The fill’s smooth, and she’s no stranger to the pinwheel arrangement of theme entries. But I could say the same things about Gail Grabowski, so she seems like a good guess too.
This puzzle has none of the signature features of Keller, Ashwood-Smith, or Blindauer, so I feel okay leaving them off the list. As between Randy Hartman and Alan Arbesfeld, I suppose I would guess Alan before Randy on this one. So he’ll be my third choice. As for the battle between Lynn and Gail for first, who knows. I seem to recall that the last time I guessed the constructor of a pinwheel grid it turned out to be Gail. So for no better reason than that I’ll take her over Lynn by a nose. The official prediction, then, is this:
1. Gail Grabowski 2. Lynn Lempel 3. Alan Arbesfeld
Yes! I still have a shot! Name That Constructor Stats After 30 Puzzles: 11 correct first choices (3 points each), 5 correct second choices (2 points each), 4 correct third choices (1 point each); 47 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points. .