Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
Peter Wentz constructed one of my favorite Celebrity crosswords, about the Fallout Boy singer named … Pete Wentz. This puzzle here is considerably tougher. In fact, this Friday puzzle smacks of Saturday NYT. It’s a 70-worder jam-packed with really good entries, and clued beyond the usual Friday level. Not that there’s anything wrong with this puzzle! Not at all. I like it a lot, but was expecting something easier in this time slot.
My favorite fill is legion: Full names J.M. BARRIE, SAM ADAMS, and JANE DOE (and one-named COOLIO). Pop culture “I BELIEVE” and THE ROBOT. Idiomatic/slangy/spoken-word WEAKSAUCE ([Something lame, in modern slang]), ON A PLATTER, RARIN’, DANGED, “hmph, BE LIKE THAT,” “ALL MINE,” RIPPED, POT LIKKER, “WHAT SAY,” UP FOR GRABS, and (whew, out of breath here) CRAPSHOOT. Fine entries BALL-PEEN, CHICKENPOX, PRANKED, SCHUSSED, and PLUS SIGN.
Your average fun themeless puzzle has a handful of standout answers. I just listed 22 of ‘em from a single puzzle—nearly a third of the entries, not just one or two from each section of the grid. Wentz has some serious constructing chops, yo. Do you think Will Shortz scheduled this one for a Friday just to get it a bigger solving audience, even if it poses a Saturday challenge?
Some of the shorter fill is merely regular. Plural RADARS (40d: [Some highway patrol equipment]) is the clumsiest answer in the puzzle, and it’s still passable. This puzzle is awesomesauce (which is a word that’s probably been around longer than WEAKSAUCE): I’m not sure there’s any reason to withhold a 5-star rating here.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Eastern Island”- Sam Donaldson’s review
We’ve seen what I call the “reverse clue” gimmick before. It’s where the clue appears in the grid and the answer appears in the clues. You know it’s a reverse because the “answer” in the clues appears in ALL CAPS. What Patrick does here, though, kicks it up a notch–the three “answers” are placed end to end to form a fourth “answer” that also follows the reverse clue trick.
As explanations go, that was admittedly shoddy. It might help to take a peek at the clues/answers:
- 17-Across: In this puzzle, [MAN] is the clue for PROVIDES STAFF FOR. In a normal puzzle, of course, [Provides staff for] would be the clue for MAN. That’s the “reverse clue” thingie.
- 29-Across: [HAT] is the clue for IT’S OVER YOUR HEAD. I like that this one involves what would be a playful clue for HAT.
- 49-Across: [TAN] is the clue for SHADE AT THE BEACH. Another fun reverse clue!
- 64-Across: Now comes the payoff/twist–Those three “clues” combine to form [MANHATTAN], itself the clue for a WOODY ALLEN MOVIE.
Patrick has this gift for finding new twists on old gimmicks to keep them fresh. That’s just one reason I’m amped for tomorrow’s release of his Las Vegas Puzzlefest. You’ve seen it plugged many times on this website, but one more can’t hurt: if you haven’t ordered it yet, just follow this link (and then come back here, don’t forget).
Four 15-letter theme entries impose a lot of constraints when it comes to the surrounding fill. That’s why we get an assortment of short answers that induce some SCOWLS ([Sour expressions]): DO A, RMS, THX, SCH, ME A, AM A, APR, OTO, YRS, and so forth. But we also get AS A FAVOR and SHOUTS AT for long Downs and some interesting triple-sixes in two corners.
I slowed myself down by reading the clue for 50-Down as [Message substance, maybe] instead of [Massage substance, maybe]. Had I read it correctly, I’d like to think HOT OIL would not have seemed so strange.
Favorite entry = San ANTONE, the [Texas metropolis, informally]. Favorite clue = [Paul or Jeremy] for RON. Because we need more porn stars in crosswords.
Gary Whitehead’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Just an “add a letter” theme from Mr. Whitehead today; but kicked up a notch by three of the four base phrases being really delightful: POWERNAP, SIGHTGAG and SMOKINGBAN , not that I have anything against HEARINGAID; and a really clever tricksy to parse revealer in the centre. ADDENDA becomes the three word “ADD END A”. If you’re like me you had to pause for a few seconds for the old mental cogs to line up! Another level of tightness is added by having all four newly created words be proper nouns: AIDA, NAPA, GAGA, and BANA. For completeness’ sake, we have:
- 20a, [Enjoying "O patria mia"?], HEARINGAIDA
- 40a, [Contract extras, and read differently, a hint to today's theme], ADDENDA
- 59a, [Whomping actor Eric?], SMOKINGBANA
- 11d, [Supply electricity to a Calfornia city?], POWERNAPA
- 35d, [Spot a flamboyant singer?], SIGHTGAGA
The pinwheel grid is quite conservative for a Friday. Mr. Whitehead uses this to inject Scrabbly fill into his grid. It mostly works, but coming across ANAS and ETAS in tiny enclosed corners is a bit of a downer, IMO. Crossing ROTI and CINQ as clued also seemed a touch mean on “xenolinguophobes” (that isn’t a word, BTW). Is ROTI as the popular Indian bread not familiar to Americans? One local curry place sells them as Rotties which conjures up a disturbing image for me as to their contents!
- 15a, [Trapper's tool?], RADAR. A-plus clue. Also has a weird M*A*S*H echo to it: Trapper John and Radar O’Reilly.
- 25a, ["Night Moves" singer], SEGER. Bob. Great song!
- 39a, [Aussie's school], UNI. South African’s too, though not in cross-land.
- 53a, ["Pork and Beans" band], WEEZER. A very nice “Z” answer.
- 68a, [Heraldry border], ORLE. Olde-schoole crosswordese.
- 69a, [Furthest from the hole, in golf], AWAY. New-to-me golf term! RN is a golf fan, I seem to recall!
- 32d, ["Come Sail Away" band], STYX. The song’s about aliens… Have a listen!
- 50d, [Boost, with "up"], LEG. Hands up for those who had rEv first! Boost (n.) not boost (v.).
Gareth over and out.
Michael Torch’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Iced T” — pannonica’s review
First, let me say that I’m firmly in the camp of (old-fashioned) iced tea, so the title won my good graces. The puzzle hasn’t anything to do with the rapper/actor (ICE-T) in the crossword triumvirate ((DR)DRE and EMINEM being the other two), but the letter T, which is iced, or eliminated from the base phrases of the theme answers. It isn’t suggested by the title, but the T is consistently removed from an ST digraph in each.
- 23a. ["American Idol" loss?] SINGING DEFEAT.
- 35a. [Order from the menu?] SAY THE COURSE.
- 57a. [Advice for an out-of-shape guy trying to attract women?] SUCK IN THE MIDDLE. Ashamed to admit that I’m remembering a scene from Meatballs.
- 74a. [Sign where the cabinetmaker finishes?] SANDING ROOM ONLY.
- 93a. [Result of a cloudy day at the beach?] SUNNING UPSET.
- 112a. [Boxing matches?] SOCK EXCHANGES.
- 5d. [Kidnap Confucius?] TAKE THE SAGE.
- 68d. [Meet with an awful oracle?] GET A BUM SEER.
Those two down answers seem to share more than just their orientation. Unlike the others, the original ST is located at the beginning of the last word, not the first. Also, they seem to be of like mind, invoking a SAGE and a SEER (Confucius, and some random oracle).
Not a wow theme, but a solid (stolid?) one that has some entertainment value. The supporting fill has more than a few highlights.
- VISHNU next to ELIXIR. Very handsome.
- Full name of botanist ASA GRAY.
- Favorite clue: [Cause of a shot in the dark?] LENS CAP.
- [Carolina university]. Four letters? I so wanted it to be RICE. Guess I don’t know enough crosswordese. ELON.
- Least favorite clue: [Great Lakes creator] ICE AGE. Probably being persnickety here, but it seems that the formation of the Great Lakes coincided with the prehistoric span called the ICE AGE, but wasn’t actually created by it. Yes, even though the icy glaciers were the instruments of their genesis.
- Very dense corners in the NW and SE, (3×7)×(4×6) stacks.
- [Shop alternative] HOME EC. Do they still call it that?
- ADRIANS and OSKARS. That’s one too many unusual names in plural for my liking, even in a large-format crossword.
- [Online equivalent of shouting] all caps.
- ["Look to ___ troublous world": "Richard III"] SEE A. The worst of a bunch of partials/prepositional phrases (not listed here) in the puzzle, despite the funky “troublous.”
- Uh-oh, need to say something positive… Ah, of course! Praise the Shenk-edited clues (though of course the constructor may be responsible for all of them). Aside from the camera one, above, there are many gems, including: [Blanket material?] SNOW, [Head of the costume department] EDITH, [Number of e's in "Schadenfreude"] DREI, [Grave marker] ACCENT, ET AL. (41a)
Nina Rulon-Miller’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Writing Teachers” — pannonica’s review
- 18a. [Elitist schoolteacher created by Muriel Spark] JEAN BRODIE. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961).
- 24a. [Timid schoolteacher created by Washington Irving] ICHABOD CRANE. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820).
- 40a. [Utilitarian schoolteacher created by Charles Dickens] THOMAS GRADGRIND. Hard Times – For These Times (1854).
- 52a. [Mysterious schoolteacher created by J.K. Rowling] SEVERUS SNAPE. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s [Sorcerer's] Stone (1997).
- 63a. [Kindhearted teacher created by Charlotte Brontë] MISS TEMPLE. Jane Eyre (1847).
Did you notice that four of the five are by English authors? They really have a thing about school and schoolteachers there. Speaking of which, where is perhaps the most well-known and most beloved of British schoolteachers, ARTHUR CHIPPING? Alas, at fourteen letters, his name is too unwieldy for this puzzle, so it’s Good-Bye, Mr. Chips.
- Educative clues and entries, sagely not overtly tied to the theme: 60a [Platonic creation] ACADEMY; 55d [Diploma word] SUMMA; 44a [ __ Phi Beta (sorority founded at Howard University)] ZETA; 72a [Former attendee] ALUM; 4d [Collegio Romano student] JESUIT.
- Geography lesson! 15a [Universal Postal Union headquarters] BERN, 45a [Landlocked African nation] NIGER, 60a [Adriatic seaport] BARI.
- Favorite clue: 1d [Place on the wall] HANG; yes it fooled me. (See also, 26d [Make true] ALIGN.) Favorite answer: FUTZ!
The grid lacks long or longish non-theme answers, which often results in exciting mid-length fill. That isn’t the case here; the ballast consists of relatively tepid words and clues. Contrariwise, there’s admirable avoidance of junky crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials (my so-called CAP Quotient™). The overall result, however, is a relatively HO-HUM (9a) assignment.