Steve Savoy’s New York Times crossword, “Plus Ten”
Oof. The puzzle took me 10 minutes to fill in, and then another 2 1/2 minutes to fix one square. I had changed 117a: PRODUCES to PRODUCTS when I thought 110d would be DITS, and when the first two letters proved to be TE, I left the other T in place. Single [Morse dashes] represent TEES, or the multiples of the letter T. Meh. Outside of crosswords, nobody much would suggest that TEE is in the alphabet.
The theme is “Plus Ten,” with an IO added to create each theme answer. Now, “plus one” is a thing (single invitee’s guest), and “plus fours” are short pants, but I don’t know of any distinct “plus ten” meaning. Just as 110d requires the solver to buy a three-letter word as identical to a single letter, the theme requires you to equate one and zero with the letters I and O. The theme answers include CLASSIFIED ADIOS (cute), WINE AND IODINE (gonna start keeping wine in the medicine cabinet, because you never know when its medicinal purposes will come in handy), DIORAMA QUEEN (cute, and “drama queen” is great base material), WILD CARDIO (my favorite of the theme answers), PACK RATIOS (meh), STUDIO MUFFIN (who doesn’t like muffins?), STUMP ORATORIO (didn’t quite know that “stump orator” was a thing, though “stump speech” is certainly familiar), CURIO RENT EVENTS (meh—don’t care for the splitting of “current” into two awkwardly paired words with the IO), OFF THE CHARIOTS (okay), and COOLIO CUSTOMER (cute, if a bit dated).
I love TOMATO SOUP, Megan MULLALLY, NOT SO HOT, and BOLOGNA, but the rest of the fill didn’t do much for me. Felt like there was quite a bit in the veins of AMAIN, LEO II, ALOP, and REDYE.
Mystery word: 110d: RUANDA, [Bantu language]. I know Rwanda, the country, and Luanda, the capital of Angola, but not Ruanda. Wikipedia has opted for a W spelling for the language, Rwanda-Rundi.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Guy on the Right”
I loved this theme, even if the first two theme entries led me astray. The guy on the right is the man’s name tacked onto a word that’s part of a sentence, and the word + name is also a real word:
- 15a. ["You're no ___, ___"] FUN, GUS. Went with FUN GUY (fungi) first.
- 19a. ["With your popularity, you'll be easy to ___, ___"] ELECT, RON. I went with ELECT RIC first—crossworder Ric Quinones led me down that path.
- 21a. ["The future's always ___, ___"] UNCERTAIN, TY.
- 31a. ["Just because you prefer Dharma over Greg doesn't make you a ___, ___"] HINDU, STAN. Hindustan is a historical geographic term.
- 40a. ["Is there more to this than you care to ___, ___?"] ADMIT, TED.
- 46a. ["You're looking ___, ___"] CHIC, KEN.
- 54a. ["I smell a ___, ___"] RAT, CHET.
- 65a. ["I hear your film has something to do with the ___, ___"] ENVIRONMENT, AL. Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth. I still haven’t seen that movie, but I have heard about global warming.
- 81a. ["You can take the stairs or the ___, ___"] RAMP, ART. Anyone else picturing the circular ramps at the Guggenheim Museum?
- 87a. ["What would you like in your ___, ___?"] PITA, PAT.
- 90a. ["You're dumb as ___, ___"] A POST, LES.
- 98a. ["No, I don't think 'virgin wool' means that the sheep was ___, ___"] CHASTE, NED. Ha!
- 112a. ["Christmas is over, so you can stop ___, ___"] CAROLING, IAN.
- 116a. ["Any time you're around, just ___, ___"] POP IN, JAY.
- 120a. ["So what's it like being an ex-___, ___?"] CON, DOM.
Fifteen theme entries is a lot! And they made for a fun wordplay game within the crossword. I didn’t love all of the fill, but the theme was so engaging that the fill was secondary. Or even tertiary.
Three mystery items:
- 83a. [Plant part that sounds like it was pilfered], STOLON. According to the dictionary, stolons are runners like those that spread from strawberry plants or the Vinca (periwinkle ground cover in my yard.
- 58d. [Humane device for catching abandoned pets], CAT TRAP. That’s a thing?
- 91d. [Dollar bill], ONE-SPOT. I know of the C-spot ($100) and ten-spot ($10) but no other currency spots.
I’ll give this one 4.5 stars. Really enjoyed this week’s theme, a good one to close out 2012.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The final Sunday Challenge of 2012 is the anti-Tootsie Pop. While a Tootsie Pop is hard on the outside and soft in the middle, this puzzle was soft (easy) on the outside perimeter but quite hard in the middle. At least that was my experience.
I struggled most with NOVITIATE, the [Religious training period] that I simply didn’t know. Wikipedia explains: “During the novitiate, the novice often wears clothing that is distinct from secular dress but is not the full habit worn by professed members of the community. The novice’s day normally encompasses participation in the full canonical hours, manual labor, and classes designed to instruct novices in the religious life he is preparing to embrace. Spiritual exercises and tests of humility are common features of a novitiate.” The mid-section of today’s grid was indeed a test of humility.
I should have figured out DELUXE PIZZA sooner, but [Pie with the works] had me thinking of dessert pies, not pizza pies. If there was such a thing as a fruit pie with every conceivable berry in it, for instance, I’m sure I would have heard of it (and would have tried to make it, no doubt).
Until I got the PIZZA, the answer to [Horizon obscurers] had only the -ES in place, and that could have been anything. Underneath it sat four blank squares with the clue [Pro ___], which could have been most anything. It wasn’t until I figured out that a TONE ROW [has all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale] that I could finally crack FORESHADOWS ([Signals future happenings]), giving me enough hints to get through the obscure HAZES and Pro RATA.
On the error front, I had TOILE instead of MOIRE as the [Ripple-patterned silk] (I’m not proud of that one, but textiles and I are not the closest of friends) and RATS instead of NUTS for ["Phooey!"]. Rats! But the rest of the entries gave way more quickly. I liked all the little gems strewn about, like ASK OVER, AT AN END, DECAGON, AGES AGO, and the crossing EGG ON and GET ON. Onward!
Favorite entry = MARINER, the [Safeco Field ballplayer]. Favorite clue = [Fictional 640-acre spread] for TARA from Gone With the Wind.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Elevens” — pannonica’s review
The title says it all. The print publication of this puzzle coincided with VETERANS DAY [11/11], which is enshrined in the center spot, at 66-across. The theme clues and/or answers constitute the results of a constructors’ brainstorming session for items and concepts that can be described by “eleven.”
- 23a. [11th] JUNIOR GRADE.
- 29a. [11 am] PRE-NOON HOUR.
- 42a. [Apollo 11] MOON MISSION.
- 57a. [Side of 11] CRICKET TEAM. However, with the C–IC… in place, I confidently attempted to fit the one-letter-too-long CHICAGO BEARS. After that, I was wondering if they had a soccer team. All the while, primed by the word “side” in the clue, I was visually distracted by the obviously irrelevant image reproduced at lower right.
- Moving along, 76a [Ocean's 11] RAT PACK FILM.
- 92a.  SIX PLUS FIVE.
- 102a. [#11 on skates] MARK MESSIER. He of the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers. Nothing to do with crossword favorites from Boston (this crossword’s home) Bobby ORR or Phil ESPOsito.
- 112a. [11, for 11 theme entries] LETTER COUNT. Aha, another layer to the theme is revealed. Nifty, that. The last horizontal themer, a traditional “reveal” location.
- 16d. [11, classically] XI, TO CICERO.
- 65d. [11, in craps] NATURAL ROLL.
Certainly one or two of the answers are a bit of a stretch, but overall it’s a strong and entertaining bunch. A few “bonus” references are strewn about as well, and since the clue at 112a doesn’t have the definite article, perhaps they are also to be considered “theme entries.”
- 1a [One more than eleven] DOZEN.
- 6a [Buck who sang "A-11"] OWENS.
- 28a [Like 11-Across] EASY.
- 39d [11–11, e.g.?] TIED.
Additionally, there is 106a [Celtic retiree of 2011] SHAQ; wonder why the clue didn’t read “… of ’11.” Further along the believability scale is 52a ASCII, and I suspect it’s my imagination running away with me but it seemed as if many of the clues contained words with double lowercase Ls, which look like this: ll.
- Will get this out of the way first. Most awkward fill: SUER, EPISC., CLASS C, UNSET, BEV., READ IN.
- 20a [Dehumanized sort] ROBOT, 61d [Working stiff] PROLE.
- Cleverest clue? 98d [Slick band-mate Marty] BALIN. That’s Grace Slick, she of the quarter-octave range (*not intended to be a true fact). Also liked 43d [Range in the home] STOVE.
- Slight duplication with 100a [Diary note] ENTRY and the nearby theme clue at 112a, but perhaps that’s more easily forgivable since it’s such a crucial element in crosswords?
With the plethora of eleven-letter answers and a lack of long non-theme answers there seems to have been more flexibility to create generally stronger ballast fill, keeping the CAP Quotient™ at the low end of the scale.
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Missing Piece”
The theme is surprisingly nonviolent and nonballistic considering that GUNs unify everything here. The theme answers end with words that can precede “gun” to form mostly non-bullety devices:
- 23a. [Item on a resolution list], STOP SMOKING. Nifty reminder for those making New Year’s resolutions in the next week. (I never do.)
- 25a. [Wiggly belt?], JELLO SHOT. JELLO SHOT is terrific, though it took me forever to see that the “belt” was a belt of liquor.
- 47a. [Flour or sugar, e.g.], FOOD STAPLE.
- 70a. [Classic comedy duo], BOB AND RAY.
- 93a. [Sucker that debuted in 1931], TOOTSIE POP. Great answer. Hey, Sam just contrasted today’s CrosSynergy puzzle with a Tootsie Pop.
- 117a. ['60s-'70s compact resurrected in 2012], DODGE DART.
- 121a. [Vigorous effort], ELBOW GREASE.
- 36d. [Fixture in many an office hallway], CANDY MACHINE. I’d like a Twix, please.
- 40d. [Tyke], LITTLE SQUIRT. I grew up with “squirt guns” rather than “water pistols.”
“These things end with words that can precede X” themes can be dry, but Pancho gathered up a lively batch of theme answers. What other candidates do you suppose were on his list? Tooth and nail, Elmer’s glue (is it strictly “hot glue gun”?), set phasers to stun, over the top, and minute hand come to mind as possible theme entries.
- 102a. [It's often between two periods], SENTENCE.
- 61a. ["Madness put to good use": Santayana], SANITY.
- 3d, 7d. [Yellowstone bellower], [Yellowstone buglers], MOOSE and ELKS.
- 70d. [Baccarat call], BANCO. Rouge, noir, evens, odds—I was thinking of roulette.
- 92a. [Pueblo Revolt tribe], HOPI. Have heard of the Hopi, obviously, but not the Pueblo Revolt.
Only a handful of scowlers in the grid, so largely a smooth, swift solve. Four stars from me, largely on the strength of the fun theme entries.
Bob Klahn’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 143″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Sorry I’m a little late in posting this. Especially since I’m sure a few of you need help with the solution. This puzzle kicked the snot out of me. It was a DNFC: Did Not Finish Correctly. I was stymied by the crossing of 35d NEGEB and 49a TOURBILLION. My “solution” used NEGEF and TOURFILLION.
- 35d. [Israeli desert: Var.] - NEGEB. I’ve seen NEGEV in puzzles many times. NEGEF seemed to be the only variant that made sense. And I’ve never heard of …
- 49a. [Whirlwind] - TOURBILLION. Ouch! OK, maybe I should have made the connection between turbine and tourbillion, but I was also having trouble getting the first letter. So I was staring at _OUR_ILLION for ages. When I Google “tourbillion,” I get lots of hits for mega-expensive Tourbillon (only one “i”) watches. Tourbillion also means “a frame for the escapement of a timepiece, especially a watch, geared to the going train in such a way as to rotate the escapement about once a minute in order to minimize positional error.” Honestly, that definition would have helped me as much as [Whirlwind]. And why was I having trouble getting the first letter? Check out this nasty clue …
- 49d. [Theater props] – TONY. Ooh, that’s mean! Great clue. For the longest time, I had _ON_, because the Y was part of this entry …
- 56a. [Biography by James Fenimore Cooper with the alternate title "A Life Before the Mast"] - NED MYERS. I eventually figured out the last name was MYERS. I had MEERS for a while, even though that’s not a common surname.
- 28d. ["East of Eden" character played onscreen by Julie Harris] – ABRA BACON / 42a. [Product of fermentation] – BARM. Amy pointed out that there was another tough crossing at the “B” in BACON/BARM. If you’ve don’t know the character, MACON seems a more logical choice. And MARM is as likely as BARM. Fortunately for me, I’ve clued ABRA a few times and knew about her breakfast-y last name.
So did you survive this puzzle’s pitfalls? This was hardest puzzle of 2012 for me. OK, I don’t remember all the 2012 puzzles (I solved over 2,000 of them this year), but this one is right up there. Let’s take a look at some of the friendlier sections of the grid.
- 19a. [Cozying up?] – YARN BOMBING. From Wikipedia: “Yarn bombing (yarnstorming, guerrilla knitting, urban knitting or graffiti knitting) is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk.” Wonderful entry. And I love the clue. A cozy is a knitted covering for a teapot, and you’re looking at a “tree cozy” in the photo. Check out the yarn bombing in this gallery. I love it, though I don’t understand it.
- 13d. [Move in wrestling] – ELBOW DROP. I don’t think you can do this move in real wrestling. I’ll ask PuzzleGirl. And who can forget Randy “Macho Man” Savage and his signature Atomic Elbow Drop. Good times.
OK, it’s after noon back East, so I need to wrap this up. Other fun stuff: GOSSAMER, BOXSTER, MOUSE EARS [Circles overhead, perhaps], BOO-YA!