Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword
Hello; Amy again. Pannonica is indisposed on account of a generator that doesn’t run 24/7. If you only had a few hours a day of electricity, would you spend any of that time blogging about crosswords? Here’s hoping it won’t be another week before the power is restored.
My power’s fine but clicking “done” on the NYT applet blanked out the space where the puzzle was. Hence, the grid’s from Jim Horne’s XWord Info. (Thanks, Jim!)
Today’s theme is famous TRIOs, the first of whom is in the clue while the second and third members are in the grid.
- 20a. [Wynken's fishing buddies] clues BLYNKEN AND NOD, though I don’t recall anybody going fishing in that nursery rhyme. Are nursery rhyme characters allowed to have private lives outside of their familiar context? Did Jack and Jill grow up to make ambitious movies like the Wachowskis?
- 27a. [Moe's slapstick pals] are LARRY AND CURLY, except when they’re Larry and Moe’s bro Shemp.
- 43a. [Huey's fellow nephews] clues Donald Duck’s other nephews, DEWEY AND LOUIE. “Fellow nephews”? Hell, they’re brothers. Triplets, in fact. If Donald’s not in the clue, the “nephews” angle seems amiss.
- 51a. [Snap's cereal mates], CRACKLE AND POP. I just opened a Halloween treat my son got up in Evanston. “Chocolate Rice Bar,” it was labeled. “Organic/gluten-free.” It was too lightweight to be a Nestlé Crunch knockoff, so my next guess was Rice Krispies bar with chocolate on top. Uh, no. On the plus side, it is compostable. The three of us couldn’t finish the 3″ bar.
So I’ve got some reservations about how the theme played out, mainly on the cluing front.
Fill highlights include THE BIRDS, SCULPTOR, and O. HENRY. Lowlights include OCTAL, STENO, and the dreadful “AH, ME,” which pretty much nobody says or writes.
Pannonica has her crosswordese/abbreviations/partials quotient. I’ll put AH ME, SSTS, A LAW, A TAB, A MOON, and HOO in that category. How does that stack up compared with most Mondays?
Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Quick! Someone’s at the front door! Who could it be? Why, it’s Patti Varol, with an unfilled grid and some clues. Thankfully, no rope or revolver or vial of poison. She’s brought along a crossword puzzle with an annunciatory theme.
- 17a. [Return for one's investment, in slang] BANG FOR YOUR BUCK.
- 26a. [Plain dessert] POUND CAKE.
- 38a. [Prada imitation, perhaps] KNOCKOFF HANDBAG. The Debil Wears Prato!
- 46a. [Jay-Z, for one] RAP ARTIST.
- 61a. [Announce one's arrival gently … as opposed to words that start 17-, 26-, 38- and 46-Across] RING THE DOORBELL. This is the first I’m reading the clue, so I’m relieved I don’t have to point out the corresponding answer as different in tone from the other theme entries.
Solid theme, the only deviation from the mechanics is that the spanner (in the works?) at 38a has its urgent synonym as the first half of a compound (or, magnanimously and a bit old-fashionedly, a hyphenated) word.
Unfortunately, the predominant sense as I was filling in the grid was that there was a profusion of prosaicism and a healthy dose of unmondayish crosswordese among the answers. Among the former I include: 30a [Playing decks] CARDS, 62d [Ancient] OLD, 59d [Happy] GLAD], 31d [Furthermore] AND, 12d [Security device] LOCK—I realize that this often part and parcel of Monday-level crosswords, but usually not so egregiously; among the latter: 56d [Scandinavian literary collection] EDDA, 39d [Co. in Paris] CIE, 47d [German coal valley] RUHR, 19d [Perform another MRI on] RESCAN. And then there are the awkward abbrevs./clues thereof, most notably: 54a [The "I" in IHOP: Abbr.] INTL., 69a [Avg. levels] STDS, 35a [Diplomatic bldg.] EMB.
On the plus side of the ledger, there’s APRÈS-SKI, GAG MAN, and KERMIT the Frog at 40d, echoing the nearby Franz KAFKA; it’s difficult to be too disparaging to a puzzle that has KAFKA centered down the middle. Difficult for me, anyway. I also enjoyed some of the playful clues, which seemingly strive to counterbalance the humdrum ones I listed earlier: 67a [Very familiar note recipient?] SELF, 60d [Spreading trees] ELMS (note to self (and others): an ELM clue with no overt mention of shade!), 23d [Oldman or Newman] ACTOR (despite the repetition of 62d).
In general, I’m not a fan of cross-referenced clues, but found myself thinking it would be appropriate for 3d NIÑO and 36a TÍA, as well as the approximately symmetrical 2d ORAL and 66a EXAM.
Extremely tangential, but what 1-across [Chinese temple instrument] GONG reminded me of, an unusual record called Siamese Temple Ball.
So, on balance, I can best say that I felt the solving experience—and the puzzle itself—is average at best.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Broken Toys”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s mailbag question comes from a Brian Eno in Erie, Pennsylvania: I’m a music pioneer by day, but an aspiring crossword constructor by night. I’m thinking of making a “hidden word” puzzle. Any advice? Good timing, Brian, because we can use today’s puzzle as a model for How to Make a Hidden Word Crossword.
Lesson One: Choose an Interesting Word. If you’re going to hide the same word in each theme entry, it helps to start with an interesting word. RED is a little blah, and ENO is not great either (no offense) since it consists entirely of very common letters. Today’s puzzle uses LEGO, the playtime building blocks that probably all of us have toyed with at one time or another. Cool word, and it uses a G.
Lesson Two: The resulting theme entries should be interesting too. Just because you can make four or five common terms with your hidden word doesn’t mean they’re good ones. It helps if the terms are lively and in the language. Fresh would also be a plus, but inherently interesting is the threshold. Check out the four theme entries here that hide a LEGO within them:
- 17-Across: A [Calabash], apparently, is a BOTTLE GOURD, though since I am familiar with neither term, that one really means nothing to me. Wikipedia says the terms refer to “a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable, or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe.” Because, you know, when you need a pipe, you’re looking all over a melon.
- 24-Across: GALE GORDON is the [Actor on "The Lucy Show"]. The proper name is always a nice touch.
- 40-Across: [Vegetables and fruit] are examples of PERISHABLE GOODS. So are bagels and organic banana bread, the latest things to turn on me over the weekend.
- 49-Across: A BUBBLE GOWN is a [Christening dress], it seems, though I have never heard of it.
Lesson Three: The hidden word should, where possible, straddle at least two words, and there should not be any extraneous words in the theme entry. That usually means each theme entry will have two words. This puzzle follows that advice, and the result looks more polished.
Lesson Four: If you can, throw in some lagniappe. Hidden word gimmicks aren’t exactly new, so if there’s something you can do to make yours stand out from the crowd, the better the chances of success. Here, we get a little revealer at 61-Across, as we’re told that BLOCKBUSTER is a [Big hit, and a hint to 17-, 24-, 40-, and 49-Across]. That’s because each entry “busts” a Lego “block” in half. Randy Hartman for the win!
So there you go, Brian. A hidden word crossword in four easy lessons. Straight from the PUZZLE GODS.
Favorite entry = P AND G, the [Tide manufacturer, briefly], that stands for “Proctor & Gamble.” at 21-Down. Favorite clue = [City known for its Hurricanes and Heat and hurricanes and heat] for MIAMI.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Bring Out Your Dead”
Hey! A themed Monday puzzle from BEQ is a rarity. The theme’s a quip: MY GRANDFATHER VOTED REPUBLICAN HIS ENTIRE LIFE. NOW HE VOTES DEMOCRAT.” (Ahem: The party name is Democratic.) It’s so Chicago, am I right? Although the rumors of postmortem voting in Chicago are much exaggerated these days. “Vote early, vote often” is harder to pull off now, although the “vote early” part is easier than ever.
What else is in this puzzle?
- One mystery man: 17a. [Polo star Roldan], NIC.
- 41a. [Email list setting], DIGEST. What comes in digest form sometimes resembles the remnants of digested food.
- 46a. ["Is this your ___?"], CARD. Took me forever to understand the clue. A magician doing a card trick might ask this.
- 61a. [Subj. of a Financial Times article], EXEC. For example, the CEO of Brendan Emmett Quigley Enterprises was recently profiled. “Puzzles are like cheese”? Indeed they are, Brendan. I have experienced the Limburger crossword before. And now I’m going to liken stunt puzzles that alienate me to those stinky cheeses my friend K. calls “assy” (even though she loves such cheeses).
- 30d. [Community that shuns sinners], AMISH. Today’s soundtrack for crossword editing was TLC’s Breaking Amish.