Hey! Friday night at 7 p.m., if you’re in Chicago, swing by the Barnes & Noble store at Webster Place (Clybourn & Webster in Lincoln Park). I’m hosting Puzzlewright Press’s puzzle night. We’ll have word games, crosswords, sudoku, trivia quizzes—and nifty Puzzlewright books as prizes. Plus, a Puzzlewright pencil for every participant! Who doesn’t like a new pencil? Hope to see some of you there.
Vic Fleming’s New York Times crossword
Nice to have things working again with the NYT puzzles, isn’t it? There were a couple hairy days there. Anyone else have trouble deleting letters from the new online solving interface? For now, I plan to stick with the old applet. It’s like a pair of comfy slippers for me.
Vic’s crafted a 72-word grid braced by interlocking 15s, but all four 15s and a few shorter bonus answers are thematic. Judge Vic introduces REASONABLE DOUBT as to whether we could PROVIDE EVIDENCE that meets the STANDARD OF PROOF in our COURT APPEARANCE. Folks applying to law school need to take their LSATS, and a WRIT is a [Means of enforcing compliance]. Is “ANSWER ME!” also part of this trying theme?
Fill I liked: TV SEASONS, HIT THE HAY, the CADDIED/GOLF PRO/PAR trifecta, STOLEN CAR (hot!), “OH, BOTHER” and “DEAR GOD” (though the nearby [Prefix with god] is a mite jarring).
Cute clues: Rhyming [Lei Day "hey"] for ALOHA. [One of four in mythology?: Abbr.] for SYL(lable). [Yard sale?] for CLOTH, sold by the yard. [A good one is often carried out] for IDEA.
What I struggled with: Figuring out what verb preceded EVIDENCE in 62a (tried PRESENT). Didn’t know the [Fifth star in a constellation] was generically the EPSILON (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon). PICO [__ Rivera (Los Angeles suburb)] is nowhere I know, but I do know pico de gallo and writer Pico Iyer. ["He __ Me" (old hymn)]? I got the -ETH part and tried FINDETH and HEEDETH on the way to LEADETH. There’s an actor named TREVOR Morgan? He was a child actor in The Sixth Sense.
Didn’t care for: AWN, OOLA, A MOON, A HOT.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Matt’s review
Matt filling in for Gareth here so he doesn’t have to blog his own puzzle, and what a clever little puzzle it is: the first words of five base phrases take a new initial syllable to become -INE words describing animals, with wacky results:
- 17-a [What makes a cat a cat?] = FELINE DRIVE, not “line drive.” Although I have to admit that I don’t really understand the clue here. Is it drive as in determination? Why would that make a cat a cat? Maybe something like [What makes a cat highly successful?] would work better. But the phrase itself is still funny. My cats sleep 15 hours a day so they don’t have much drive at all.
- 25-a [Bearish directors?] = URSINE BOARD, not “signboard.”
- 34-a [Sea dog who’s actually a wolf?] = LUPINE TAR, not “pine tar.”
- 52-a [Dogs who inspire artists?] = CANINE MUSES, not the “nine Muses.”
- 59-a [Deliverers of certain farm news?] = EQUINE PRESS, not “wine press.”
These are great phrases and a tight, unique theme, but I wish a little bit more had been done with the clues, which had a lot of potential to add to the theme’s humor. Still, an excellent set.
The puzzle took me 8:12 to solve, so definitely a Friday. The first answer I plunked down was LIMEADE instead of the correct ICED TEA for [Summer quencher]. That corner had some brutal clues, like [Slave] for TOIL (I wanted “serf” or “peon” there) and [In any event] for AT LEAST. The bottom left was another knotty area, with the new-to-me JACANAS parallel to the new-to-me NANOBOT. Elsewhere, is URDU really a [Language spoken in New Delhi]? I figured New Delhi as a Hindi-speaking town, if it had to choose on the Hindi-Urdu divide. Perhaps a Desi reader can enlighten us in comments.
Overall the grid was solid, a little heavy on the ELD-DAH-NOB-UNU-AVI-EDD-NEY-PST short fill to accommodate five theme entries, but balanced by the states of ALABAMA and DESERET, plus OMG!, APPS, and multi-word A LA MODE, LAP UP, PART I, KEEPS TO and ACT ON. [Soccer mom’s ride] is a good clue for SUV, too.
4.10 stars. Well above-average puzzle and enjoyable solve.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “From Start to Finish”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Take a five- or six-letter word starting with S and see if you can make a new plural word by moving the S to the end. If you can, pair ‘em up and, abra cadabra, you’ve got yourself a wacky phrase dying for an appearance in a crossword. Alan Arbesfeld did so six times over in today’s puzzle:
- 17-Across: STRIP TRIPS are [Visits to Vegas?] unless you opt to stay downtown, where it’s a little seedier, a little cheaper, and a little eerier.
- 23-Across: STABLE TABLES are [Where reins and bits may be stacked?]. What do you think of this one, yea or neigh?
- 32-Across: STOUT TOUTS are [Portly tipsters?].I’ve never really taken to “tout” for a drunk. Gimme “sot” any day.
- 43-Across: SMALL MALLS are [Shopping areas easy to negotiate?]. Maybe because they have fewer anchors.
- 52-Across: Hey, I know what we can do this weekend for fun! Let’s SHOVEL HOVELS. You know, [Clean up some dirty digs?]. It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.
- 62-Across: STALE TALES are [Stories lacking originality?]. Much like crossword blog jokes.
That’s 64 squares committed to thematic material, folks. Unless you stack them atop each other, you can’t squeeze them any closer together, so you’re pretty constrained when it comes to the surrounding fill. That’s why I really admire some of the great entries here, like MOOT POINTS, SINGLE-FILE, BAILS OUT, and PASS-FAIL. We usually two long Downs like these, not four. Consider too the gems like THE LOT, TOO TOO and TAP-INS. That all this goodness comes to us in such a constrained grid is that much more impressive. And it makes me much more tolerant of clunky short stuff like OONA, TAI, EDT, ADM, SSSS, TOS, ATTY, and a few others you’ll easily find on your own.
Favorite entry = UV RAYS, the [Tanning salon emissions]. Favorite clue = I’ll go with [Duck known to get you down?] for EIDER.
Myles Callum and Michael Blake’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Element of Surprise” — pannonica’s review
111-down sayeth [Element of surprise in this puzzle’s theme answers] TIN. Surprise? Just because it’s ensconced within existing phrases to create wacky new ones? Or perhaps they’re surprisingly new? In any case, here they are:
- 23a. [Sibling who's watched too much "Twilight"?] BI(TIN)G BROTHER.
- 37a. [Seedy bar that's really rank?] S(TIN)KY DIVE.
- 64a. [Bakery critic's task?] RA(TIN)G A MUFFIN. Ragamuffin is such a fun word.
- 91a. [Back when men were homines?] LA(TIN) TIMES. And territi sunt oves?
- 109a. [Minor gambler on the Cote d'Azur?] FRENCH (TIN)HORN.
- 17d. [Considering celibacy?] ABS(TIN)ENCE-MINDED. Just try to tell me this wasn’t the seed entry.
- 43d. [Magazine for toilet-training tots?] WEE (TIN)KLY READER. Huh? Weekly Reader? Never heard of it. Apparently it’s a weekly newspaper for elementary school children. Somehow I don’t think I missed much.
The symbol for tin is Sn, from the Latin stannum. I’ve always kind of thought that the name Stanislaw, as in 48d [Science fiction author Stanislaw] LEM, was derived from it, but that isn’t the case; it means “someone who achieves glory or fame.” (The familar name Stanley is unrelated, coming from a contraction of the Old English for “stony meadow.”) Nevertheless, I’m happy to see 48d honoring the author rather than yet another reference to NASA’s Lunar Excursion Module.
Brief write-up, cursory listing of highlights et cetera:
- Corners are filled with 7s, in stacks of three and two.
- Nontheme longfill includes: ESKIMO PIE [Treat originally called an "I-Scream Bar"] , THE SYSTEM [What a nonconformist may buck], ARGENTINE, WATERLINE [Bank limit?], CROTCHETY, MILESTONE.
- 36d [Surrender a second time] RELOSE. I repeat, RELOSE.
- 63a [Prefix with athlete or angle] TRI-. 83d [Not multi-] UNI-.
- 87d [Novel feature] PLOT, not PAGE.
- 67d [Spiral-horned antelopes] NYALAS, surprisingly not the crossword-staple ELANDS. This was always a useful critter when as a child I coerced my family into playing “animal geography,” since there are so few that begin with N.
- Many, many playful, engaging, and tricky clues, typical of a Mike Shenk-edited puzzle.
Good, fun puzzle.
Joe Krozel’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Portmanfaux Words” — pannonica’s review
You all know what portmanteau words are, yes? Coined—like so many mischievous lexicological playstuffs—by Lewis Carroll and described by the personovage of Humpty Dumpty, they are a combination of two or more words or morphemes into one new word—like chortle from “chuckle” and “snort.”
In this puzzle, Joe Krozel upends that notion and takes existing, legitimate words and imagines them as portmanteau words via inane back-formations.
- 17a. [Opinion piece published at the start of the year?] JANITORIAL (January + editorial).
- 21a. [Rider who leaves junk on the floor of one's car?] MESSENGER (messy + passenger).
- 33a. [Slice of meat from an ill-fed animal?] GAUNTLET (gaunt + cutlet).
- 43a. [Concern about being able to communicate in a foreign country?] LANGUISH (language + anguish).
- 51a. [Nutty ice cream topped with a hot dog condiment?] MUSTACHIO (mustard + pistachio).
- 60a. [Conversations with one's kitty?] CATALOGUE (cat + dialogue).
Undeniably an original theme, and an entertaining one to boot. Even though none of the themers are exceptionally long, there are six of them, which is quite a lot for a 15×15 grid. That doesn’t leave much room for sparkle among the ballasteers, but there isn’t anything atrocious among them.
The longest downs are the not particularly fresh-smelling CAR MODEL (cross-referenced to the Oldsmobile ALERO sitting in the center) and the jingless RADIO ADS. They’re rounded out with the quartet of STICK ON, THAT’S OK, CORNELL, and UPTIGHT. INTONED and DEEP SEA.
- BOLERO, ALERO. SALSA, ALAS. JUJU, HAHA, HOO-HA.
- Most ambitious clue: [It's polished at one's desk] PROSE. Honorable mention: ["It Takes Two" is one, appropriately] DUET.
- Ūgliest clue/answer: [A bkpr. reviews them] ACCTS.
- Cutest clue: [Pointless, as a point] MOOT. See also METE, MITES.
Very entertaining crossword.