Congrats to the winners at Saturday’s BACFill crossword tournament in the Bay Area! I hear that Jordan Chodorow won, thanks to nipping Eric Maddy by 2 minutes on puzzle #2 (which we’ll see as the Tuesday NYT). Team Fiend’s very own Doug Peterson placed third by winning the tiebreaker. We are still waiting for California’s female crossworders to place in the top 3 at the various West Coast tournaments, aren’t we? If you’re a speed solver in California with two X chromosomes, I encourage you to train for these events.
Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword, “Circling the Job Listings”
The circular theme makes good use of multiple meanings, but overall this puzzle went slowly and sloggishly (caveat: not a real word) for me. Headache? Oddball fill like EL ROPO? Tough clues? I’m not sure which was the primary reason.
For the theme, each job listing fits two different jobs, and each job is described by two job listings:
- 23a. [… and 33-Across: “must wear gloves in the field”] BASEBALL PLAYER.
- 33a. ARCHAEOLOGIST [… and 50-Across: “experienced in conducting surveys for sites”]. So the archaeologist wears gloves at a dig to avoid getting skin oils on relics, I think, and surveys dig sites.
- 50a. ONLINE MARKETER [… and 62-Across: “may be tasked with generating impressions”]. Online marketing efforts may survey websites as well as generating eyeball hits.
- 62a. METAL WORKER [… and 69-Across: “excellent filing skills required”]. Not sure what “impressions” metal workers generate. With stamping equipment? Filing metal is entirely different from filing library books … which aren’t filed.
- 69a. LIBRARY PAGE [… and 86-Across: “focused on improving circulation”]. Well… In my experience, library pages shelve books more than they do filing, and they’re not focused on improving circulation of library books aside from making the books findable by library patrons.
- 86a. CARDIAC SURGEON [… and 96-Across: “willing to open chests and work on vessels”]. Blood circulation, blood vessels, thoracotomy, yadda yadda.
- 96a. PIRATE CAPTAIN [… and 112-Across: “strong, disciplined hands a must”]. I call foul. Are there job listings for pirate captains? And must they provide the crew of “disciplined hands”?
- 112a. CONCERT PIANIST [… and 23-Across: “should be comfortable sitting on the bench”]. Piano bench, baseball dugout bench. And so we come full circle.
Spots that gave me trouble abounded:
- 5d. [Fishing line attachment], BOBFLY. Wha…? Is this for fly fishing? Because I’ve never seen this term before.
- 22a. [Cheap cigar, in slang], EL ROPO. Must’ve encountered this in prior crosswords.
- 40d. [Mount Narodnaya’s locale], URALS. Hard to find a clue for URALS that hasn’t been used umpteen times, but Kevin did it.
- 12d. [It might say “ATM Here”], NEON LAMP. “Neon light” or “neon sign” is a far more familiar term. I wasn’t sure if I’d seen neon signs saying “ATM Here,” but here’s one.
- 79d. [Mars atmosphere features], CIRRI. I know about Earth’s cirrus clouds but not Mars’.
- 57d. [Troubadour’s love song], ALBA. Hunh?
- 83a. [One down in the mouth], TONSIL. I had TONGUE. I think of tonsils as being at the back of the mouth, not “down.”
- 1a. [Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” e.g.], SIDE B. Wanted OLDIE.
- 19d. [Pride Lands queen], NALA. Don’t remember Pride Lands being a term from The Lion King but it must be.
- 85d. [Decorative Valentine’s Day gift], LOVE KNOT. Wha…?
Liked the pair of 10-letter Downs, ONE OF A KIND and DESIGN FLAW. Also nice to have GLYPHS crossing the ARCHAEOLOGIST. Not much else jumped out at me as fun. Three stars.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Constancy of Consonants”
As Merl explains in the note attached to the clue for 1-Across, “ABOUT THIS PUZZLE: If you saw the headline ‘Fiend Found!’ you might instantly notice that, between the two words, only the vowels change — the consonants stay put. Okay, if you were me, you’d instantly notice it. Anyway, this puzzle contains more of the same, with Y’s counting as vowels.)” This is the sort of theme I can get into.
- 23a. [Works as a “merchandising futurist”?], PREDICTS PRODUCTS.
- 27a. [Garnish for a tiny T-bone?], PETITE POTATO. I saw the teeniest little fingerling potatoes at Whole Foods the other day.
- 36a. [Pricey place to live?], COSTLY CASTLE.
- 52a. [What horror writers use?], GRIMMER GRAMMAR.
- 60a. [Headquarters?], CENTRAL CONTROL.
- 76a. [Political talk radio?]. DAY-LONG DUELING.
- 84a. [Moose?], VERMONT VARMINT. Cute.
- 101a. [Derelict American in Mexico?], GRUNGY GRINGO. Lively.
- 109a. [Ad boast in a Northeastern city?], BEST IN BOSTON.
- 118a. [Island ailment?], BORA BORA BERIBERI. Ah, yes. Merl saved the best for last.
Can you think of other phrases that would work well in this theme? BAHAMA MAMA BOHEME MIMI … COMOROS CAMERAS …
Merl saved room for some long fill, including ERYTHROMYCIN (please, I beg of you, do not pronounce the end of this as if it rhymes with “niacin,” as it really is not hard to pronounce it as “mice-in”), INIMITABLE, MODEL TRAIN, and the [1950s film gimmick] AROMARAMA. The latter was a competitor of Smell-o-Vision and its premiere revealed that the smells sometimes lingered too long.
Four stars for the theme, three for the fill.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Randy Ross gives us a natty little 66/24 freestyle puzzle for this week’s Sunday Challenge. The only real sticking point for me was having STATE PATROL for the [Governor’s guards] instead of STATE POLICE. That error cost me a fair amount of time in the northeast corner since I couldn’t get any of the crossings to work. I remember thinking more than once, “Gee, I would think the [Bread spreads] would be OLEOS, but this answer ends in -AS, not -OS.” I need to get a better sense of when to abandon my original answers when I get a nagging suspicion on a crossing.
I broke into the grid with NIA VARDALOS as the [Star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”]. Regular crossword-ers know NIA all too well, so it’s nice to see her get the full-name treatment here. Plunking down an 11-letter answer to start was a nice feeling, and it fed the rapid demise of the southwest corner. Speaking of that corner, hats off for the wonderful clue, [G, in music]. I was convinced the answer would be some musical term, but it proved to be KENNY, as in saxophonist and Seattle native Kenny G. Pure and simple, that’s an awesome clue.
The southeast corner is a bit choppy. ABOLISHER doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and LIVES HOME feels a tad arbitrary to me. Also on the arbitrary side is CULTIVATE A HABIT, the answer to [Faithfully exercise each day, e.g.]. I might cultivate a garden or even a relationship, but I don’t see myself cultivating a habit. Do you use this expression in your everyday conversation?
The only other entry that struck me as clunky was FIRST SEED, the [Favorite to win]. I know it as NUMBER ONE SEED. SEEDED FIRST is fine to my ear, but for whatever reason FIRST SEED seems off. Everything else, though, was really nice. I especially liked the clue for DRAFT PICK, [Pro choice?] (the absence of hyphenation makes all the difference). That’s a terrific way to start at 1-Across. Other highlights were KATE MOSS, the CABLE ACE Awards, A.A. MILNE, KIDDOS, and the [Basic training bark], TEN-HUT.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Wordsmiths’ Tongue Twisters” — pannonica’s review
Just what the title suggests, famous authors combined, possessively, with relatively similar-sounding nouns.
- 22a. [Verses by an American author?] TWAIN’S QUATRAINS.
- 34a. [Trash from a satirist?] SWIFT’S SCHLOCK.
- 52a. [Sneezy playwright’s accessory?] CHEKHOV’S KERCHIEF.
- 70a. [Tool for analyzing a writer?] SARTRE’S RORSCHACH.
- 87a. [That thing a dramatist does?] BRECHT’S SCHTICK.
- 104a. [English novelist’s brass?] HUXLEY’S CHUTZPAH.
- 15d. [Playwright’s neutral sounds?] SHAW’S SCHWAS.
- 62d. [French writer’s trouble talking?] PROUST’S LISP.
It’s an odd compendium of themers. Some of the items (QUATRAINS, SCHWAS, LISP) are overtly linguistic, some (KERCHIEF, CHUTZPAH) not at all, and some (SCHTICK, SCHLOCK) arguably related to writing, or at least applicable. There’s also a distracting preponderance of CH and SCH constructions, which unsurprisingly include a generous helping of Yiddish. Are such sounds overrepresented among tongue-twisters? I’ve learned from a previous write-up that my experience in this sphere is deficient. Finally, all but one of the wordsmiths is minimally identified, either by nationality or genre/style; poor Sartre is having an existential crisis.
- Bonus writers: NOËL Coward, Karen BLIXEN (ALIAS (102a) Isak Dinesen), and a passing mention of George Eliot by way of SILAS Marner. (18a, 87d, 92d).
- Less familiar fill: 16d [Summery wraparound] PAREO, 51d [Small carriage] CALASH, 63a [Neonate test eponym] APGAR (see also the backronyms thereof in English, German, and Spanish). 78a [Coe’s running rival] Steve OVETT, possibly familiar (especially six weeks ago, when this puzzle appeared in print) because of SEBCOE’s profile as the spearhead of London’s 2012 Olympics effort.
- For 33d [Helpless initials?] I’d originally plunked in SOS, but the better answer was DIY.
- Redundancy: 76a [Cross to bear] ONUS, and 38d [Irritated] CROSS.
- Favorite clues: 39d [Ad hoc screwdriver] DIME, 98a [Quark flavor] STRANGE. Best-looking fill: SYRUPY [Like treacle] (89d).
Good puzzle with a slightly puzzling theme.
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 127” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I had a great time at BACFill (Bay Area Crossword Tournament) yesterday. Kudos to Andrew Laurence for putting it all together and for raising money for a great cause: Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
The highlight of the day for me was meeting Manny Nosowsky. He came into the room just before we started solving Puzzle 1 and received a standing ovation. Great moment. Thanks to Andrea Carla Michaels for helping to arrange for Manny to be there. And also thanks to Michael Blake for delivering a touching tribute to Manny. Michael is one of Andrea’s frequent puzzle collaborators and the guy who created the Manny Nosowsky Wikipedia page.
OK, I’m still pretty beat after flying to and from Oakland yesterday, so let’s get to it. I enjoy puzzles with 11/13/15 stacks at the top and bottom, and I’ve found them deceptively difficult to create. Not suprisingly, Mike Shenk did a marvelous job with this one.
- 1a. [Professional sports team with a very long championship drought (100+years)] – CHICAGO CUBS. Gimme at 1-Across. Cubs last won the World Series in 1908. That was during the “Tinker to Evers to Chance” era. I’m a Yankee fan, so I consider a “long championship drought” to be three years.
- 42d. [“We are but dust and shadow” writer] – HORACE. “All we are is dust in the wind, dude.”
- 33d. [Greek wrestling school] – PALESTRA. Weird entry of the day. I bet that uber-wrestling geek PuzzleGirl hasn’t even heard of this one. From Wikipedia: “The palaestra was the ancient Greek wrestling school. The events that did not require a lot of space, such as boxing and wrestling, were practised there. The palaestra functioned both independently and as a part of public gymnasia; a palaestra could exist without a gymnasium, but no gymnasium could exist without a palaestra.” Okey-doke.
- 51d. [Total coverage?] – MILK. Total cereal. Marvelous clue.
Other goodies: COUCH POTATOES, MANHUNT [What might result from a slip of the pen?], SWEET CAROLINE, APRICOTS.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The “Going Daffy” title refers to Daffy Duck (71d. [This puzzle’s honoree, for one], TOON), a famous animated lisper. Each theme answer has swapped in a /th/ sound for an /s/:
- 23a. [Quite somber Independence Day?], FOURTH OF GRAVITY. Plays on “force of gravity.”
- 32a. Expandable waistline, say?], GROWTH MARGIN. “Gross margin.”
- 55a. Ghost from outer space?], ALIEN WRAITH. “Alien race.”
- 75a. Big bag of wind?], MIGHTY MOUTH. Fellow toon “Mighty Mouse.”
- 91a. Jet bridge?], BOARDING PATH. “Boarding pass.”
- 108a. The truth about Zeus, Apollo, etc.?], MYTH INFORMATION. “Misinformation.”
- 37d. Texas Hold’em player’s confidence?], POKER FAITH. “Poker face.” That is both a familiar phrase and the title of a Lady Gaga song, and I don’t know how anyone kept a straight face while filming this over-the-top video.
- 47d. Parisian pals?], FRENCH KITH. “French kiss.” Kith, of courth, are friends; your family is kin.
With all the crossword action that TO A T gets, it’s nice to see the full phrase, FIT TO A TEE (27a. [Was perfectly tailored]), for a change. Did you notice the stack in the upper right corner? Three answers with stand-alone letters: an EASY A, a G-STAR, and an O-RING.
Ten more clues:
- 44a. [Cape Cod feature], GABLE. In a Cape Cod-style house, not the peninsula.
- 65a. [They’re often full of hot air], FLUES. Above a fireplace.
- 1d. [Comedian Foxworthy], JEFF. He’s the host of a new game show on the GSN channel, American Bible Challenge. Puzzler/writer David Ellis Dickerson wrote tons of Bible trivia questions for the show.
- 10d. [’70s radical gp. with a seven-headed cobra symbol], SLA. That’s the Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that kidnapped Patty Hearst. Basically a footnote in history these days, but it’s nice to see a fresh clue for an old answer. I didn’t know about the seven-headed cobra.
- 41d. [Like most mailed letters], FOLDED. Personally, I like to crumple my letters up and mail them in a padded envelope.
- 46d. [Ebenezer’s epithet], BAH. Does a mere outburst qualify as an epithet? I think it’s technically a word or phrase used to describe someone or something. “Bah” is just an expression of contempt.
- 58d. [Rogers rival], AUTRY. Singing Cowboy Gene Autry, Roy Rogers. Did Rogers sing too?
- 66d. [One of five in a kids’ rhyme], PIGGY. It’s kind of creepy to think of a piggy eating roast beef, particularly if the piggy is actually a toe. (See also 104d: [Sandal revelations], TOES.)
- 70d. [Austrian city with a torte named after it], LINZ. That’s the Linzer torte.
- 73d. [Hard worker], PLIER. As in one who plies a trade. The Scowl-o-Meter doesn’t like this answer.
The fill is fairly ordinary. TALK SHOP is pretty zippy, but most of the rest is plain. Which is better than being clunky, awkward, or racked with crosswordese pain. I like the theme, especially if you read the theme answers aloud. Note also the consistency: Each theme answer lisps in one spot, with no excess unchanged S’s. There’s also a good mix of spelling changes (e.g., gross to GROWTH, race to WRAITH, mis- to MYTH, force to FOURTH) to keep things interesting. 3.75 stars.