Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
I got off to a quick start here, marching through the Downs crossing 1a: MCADAMS. Except for 4d, which twisted me this way and that. Hmm, [Puts off]…DISCOMPOSES? No, that won’t work. DISCONCERTS? Ditto. I messed around with those for too long before DISCOURAGES finally emerged to remind me what I just felt. Oof!
We’ve got 64 words, a reasonable 32 blocks, a generous midsection of stair-stepped white space, and lots of flow between sections (although the northwest and southeast chunks are fairly closed off, they have long answers that feed into them). Pegged right to the Friday NYT difficulty level, too.
Quickly, because my new Tempur-Pedic pillow is calling to me, here’s what I liked best: ILLINOIS clued with Monopoly trivia. A PRIVATE MATTER you’d rather not discuss. The PEACE TREATIES clue: [They’re written for two-part harmony]. GEIGER COUNTER (which should have helped me with DISCOURAGES except that I was thinking of geysers rather than Geiger). WRITER clued as a [Play maker?]. ROAD RAGE is the [Heat in one’s car], not the RADIATOR. [Crime reporters?] as the clue for STOOLIES. Star Wars STORMTROOPERS, always fun. Bob CRATCHIT, et al. Never knew KATIE COURIC guest-hosted for Leno. PEIGNOIRS, which I own none of. [Fabulous singer], meaning “singer from fables,” for SIREN.
All too often, a tough-to-fill grid like this will have compromises, such as an overreliance on repetition of little words. You know the ones—those puzzles where three answers contain ON and two have IN, and it gets a little snoozy. Or lots of affixes (RE-, UN-, -LESS, -ER, -ES, -ED). We have a handful of plurals here, a single UN- word, a single ON phrase (TURN ON), and one with AFTER (RUNS AFTER—”after” being a 5-letter preposition that would be a lot harder to repeat in a grid). As I’ve said before, nobody seems to know how Patrick Berry manages to craft such smooth grids, time and time again. I wonder if he also makes plenty of junky puzzles that get rejected. (I bet he doesn’t.)
I could do without KALB and BEULAH, but there are fewer than 10 proper names in the grid and all the other ones were gimmes. Actually, KALB was a gimme too, but I know him only from crosswords.
Now, what you don’t necessarily get in a standard Smoothberry confection is super-sparkly fill that feels fresh and new. But who objects to a puzzle that doesn’t find ways to bug you? Not I. 4.5 stars.
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take Your Pun to Work Day” — pannonica’s review
Weakly ironically, this puzzles title—unlike so many others—is not a pun. [edit: is it a play on the non-inclusive “Take Your Son to Work Day”?] Instead, we hear tales of various professionals behaving in ways that are described as double-layer puns.
- 23a. [The pitcher who took Sterno to a picnic ___ ] BROUGHT THE HEAT. In baseball I believe “heat” in this sense refers to speed and power.
- 33a. [The lumberjack quit because he was ___ ] LOGGED OUT.
- 44a. [The spendthrift scuba diver usually ___ ] GOES OVERBOARD.
- 58a. [The pool-player-turned-actor often ___ ] MISSES HIS CUE.
- 79a. [The stand-in always has to ___ ] DO DOUBLE DUTY.
- 95a. [The chess columnist had occasionally ___ ] COVERED BRIDGE. In the original sense, the phrase is adjective–noun. This and 33a are the only two that have this form.
- 101a. [The narc-turned-sculptor recently ___ ] MADE A BUST.
- 120a. [A hung jury forced the judge to ___ ] TRY AND TRY AGAIN.
I enjoyed the variety of tenses among the answers, and didn’t in the least mind the clues that required torturous contrivance: the two with heavily hyphenated job-changers and the absurdist baseball opener. One-dimensional puns are tedious.
Somewhat unusually, there are some long non-theme answers among the acrosses: RAP SHEET, MOURNING, GO TEAM GO (sitting above the similarly repetitive TRY AND TRY AGAIN), CULPRITS. The downs offer only two as long as eight letters: TRESPASS and HIGH NOON. I especially liked MOURNING and CULPRITS.
- Kind of cute that 1-across is SSS, which often appears along the bottom to provide crutchy plurals.
- Actors in films! 9a [Lanchester of "Witness for the Prosecution"] ELSA. 69a [80-Down's co-star in "The Quiet Man"] John WAYNE, 80d [69-Down's co-star in "The Quiet Man"] Maureen O’HARA; was this cross-reference worth the while? 62a [Christensen of "Parenthood"] ERIKA.
- Least familiar answers: 77a [Nobel-winning Japanese prime minister] SATO, 97a [Mars: Prefix] AREO- (from Ares, obviously), 91a [Triangular sails] LATEENS (a NAUT. (94d) term).
- DOUBLE-DUTY clue: [Kitchen sight] 39d OVEN, 77d STOVE.
- Was unaware that EPSON is owned by Seiko (30a).
- I’ve expressed my dissatisfaction with this sort of cluing before, and will continue to do so: 32d [Library catalog ID] ISBN. See this post and subsequent comments if you wish to review the discussion.
- Among my favorite clues are two that coincidentally reference scales: 75a [Scales up?] for LIBRA, “up” referencing the sky and hence the constellation; 47a [It has sliding scales] SNAKE, said scales slide over a surface, and a little over each other.
Digression: imbricate (adj.) lying lapped over each other in regular order <imbricate scales>; Late Latin imbricatus, past participle of imbricare to cover with pantiles, from Latin imbric-, imbrex pantile, from imbr-, imber rain; akin to Greek ombros rain; First Known Use: circa 1610.
- Oddest clue: 18d [Friend's possessive] THY. Seems archaic to m— oh, never mind, I see it now. Not an unannounced archaism but a capitalization misdirection, “Friends” referring to Quakers. Sneaky.
CAP Quotient™ about average. The punning in the theme answers was, to me, reminiscent of the sort that Henry Hook sometimes comes up with for his Sunday puzzle offerings, which I also write up for FiendCo.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Extra Sauce, Please” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I like when a crossword’s title matches something I say everyday. Now if only we could have crosswords entitled “Sorry, Must Have Been the Breakfast Burrito I Ate” and “No, Really, That’s My Own Hair.”
The theme involves adding a type of sauce to the end (on the side?) of four common two-word terms. Think of it as another take on the old Wheel of Fortune “Before and After” gimmick. Okay, let’s hit the sauces:
- 17-Across: If you’re not just “talking big” but TALKING BIG APPLE, you’re [Discussing Gotham?]. Mmm, applesauce. The perfect complement to pork chops. Just ask Peter Brady.
- 25-Across: One cure for a “dog face” is DOG FACE CREAM, the [Pet spa application?]. I tend to eschew cream sauce–too many calories for what’s generally too little taste.
- 42-Across: The [Retirement fund for Celtics cager Larry?] is BIRD’S NEST EGG, the union of “bird’s nest” and “nest egg.” Here‘s a recipe using creme eggs for the sauce. I’ll let you be the judge.
- 55-Across: The [Bath toy from Delhi?] is an INDIA RUBBER DUCK. This one slowed me down for a few seconds, as I wanted the first word to be INDIAN and not just INDIA. If only I knew this song.
Today’s the last day of August, which means it’s time for the season finale in Name That Constructor Month. In yesterday’s penultimate episode, we saw me snag three more points, boosting my total for the month to 47 points, three shy of my readjusted goal. If I can get this one right on the first try, I’ll make it. If I don’t, then … well, I don’t. It’s not like this is a “loser leave town” match in pro wrestling. But it’s been fun trying to figure out a puzzle’s constructor based on the signature features so many of them tend to weave into their crosswords. Puzzles have personalities, and just as children invariably adopt some of the characteristics of their parents, most crosswords reflect their constructors. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s very obvious.
Okay, enough philosophizing at the finish line–I feel like I just dragged you through the equivalent of those painful montages in Survivor when the final three walk along a cliff collecting trinkets from all the other players that were voted off, all the while pretending that they like and miss their fallen colleagues when it’s sooo obvious they couldn’t care less. Sorry about that.
This last puzzle really smacks of Patrick Blindauer. The fill is hip and edgy, as evidenced in NAPALM, B-SIDE, NARC near RAT ON, GEEK, OK OK, and BLAH. There are playful clues, like [Pencil neck ___] for the GEEK, and [Prayer companion] for WING. And there are musical references (reminiscent of his terrific puzzle suite from late last year), like SHA Na, Na, the aforementioned B-SIDE, DIVA, ENYA, LENTO. (side note to Patrick: please tell me there will be another puzzle extravaganza this year too!).
Then there’s the fact that I don’t really get two of the clues ([Can opener?] for SHANK and [Slammer] for STIR). On more than one occasion, I haven’t been smart enough to fully grok Patrick’s puzzles, so this lingering uncertainty also leads me to naming him as my first choice.
But before I just slap on two more names and call it an entry, I should try to be more methodical in my approach. As with the past couple of days, I’ll nix the people who have had puzzles run within the past week or so. So long Gail Grabowski, Patrick Jordan, Bob Klahn, Randy Ross, Bruce Venzke, Ray Hamel, Donna Levin, and Tony Orbach (kinda tough to cut Tony, though, because he does love music and this puzzle’s heavy on it). Besides Patrick Blindauer, I’m left with Lynn Lempel, Sarah Keller, Randy Hartman, Alan Arbesfeld, Martin Ashwood-Smith, and Doug Peterson.
Could this be from Lynn Lempel? Absolutely. Very smooth fill, shorter clues that lean more toward straight definitions, and a wide array of subject matter from different eras–all of these I associate with her puzzles. This could also be Doug Peterson’s work. No partials, a baseball allusion to RARE perfect games, and the reference to “pencil neck geek”–that’s the sort of liveliness he injects into his grids. Heck, I could make a case for most of the remaining names on my list. So maybe I’ll stop where I am and go with this (fingers crossed, which makes for awkward typing):
1. Patrick Blindauer 2. Lynn Lempel 3. Doug Peterson
Wow–swing and a miss! Once again, Randy duped me into picking other people. I’m going to start referring to him as The Chameleon. (He could be a Batman villain!) I guess when I see his byline from now on, I’ll just have to think “Anything goes, but it will be a good ride.” There are worse reactions.
Final Name That Constructor Stats After 31 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; adjusted score to beat = 50 points. Better luck next time. Tune in tomorrow when we begin a new gimmick at the CS review: Name That Puzzle Month!
Norm Guggenbiller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Norm Guggenbiller’s puzzle, like many LA Times Fridays, has wacky-style answers. Today’s are formed through a change of sound. I don’t know all those fancy-shmancy IPA symbols, so I’ll just desribe it as “old” to “oed.” The revealer is the one word HEAD/COLD, split over two entries. So if you had a cold, HOLD would sound like HOED, OLD like ODE etc. Decent set of theme answers, my favourite being THEODEHEAVEHO, excellent basephrase and a pretty funny wacky one too.
14/13/13/14 are pretty unusual theme lengths, but are dealt with deftly by Mr. Guggenbiller, as he has used them to include pairs of 8-letter answers. However, my faves among today’s words were the 6-letter pair of OHYEAH (which made many people think of Ferris Bueller, I’m sure!) and DIATOM. The diatoms are very pretty plankton indeed (see right)! The article from which the image is purloined may interest a few of you, [may be NSFW, at least if your work has a policy against graphic pictures of phytoplankton sex! ;)].
I’m not sure there’s much else I want to point out. I didn’t care for the answer AHEART, though I don’t know bridge… joon, is that a legit answer? My Pavlovian response to seeing “bridge opening” – writing ONENO – was thwarted; maybe I’m just sore about that?