Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
Not to give this fine puzzle short shrift, but I have set an ambitious bedtime goal and plan to blog the Fireball right after the NYT. So, in brief:
Really enjoyed this one. MANX CATS, “AM I RIGHT or AM I RIGHT?,” YESSIREE, HOUSE MUSIC, la PISTOLA, TICKET STUB, the IPAD [you might do some light reading on] (am starting to get hooked on Kindle reading on the iPad, no need to have a lamp on, perfect for bedtime), MINOTAUR, Johnny Appleseed the FOLK HERO, DEAD-TREE for [Print] editions, THE SITUATION, DRUNK-DIALED, and the PERSIAN GULF are all terrific clues and/or answers. When you have a dozen zippy longish answers, you are looking at a top-notch piece of cruciverbal entertainment, folks.
Fun clue for ABE: [Sausage king Froman in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"]. Drives a nice car, he does. Also for DRUNK-DIALED: [Made a loaded romantic call to?]. And for FUR HAT: [Russian dressing?]. And even the homely little ODE: [Elevated lines?].
Least familiar word: 31d: HOKE, [Bunkum]. Short for hokum?
Anyone else find 1-Down to be misleading without a Spanish upside-down opening exclamation point in the clue?
4.5 stars. Excellent themeless, Ian. Keep ‘em coming.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “And the Nominees Are…”
Yes, we just had a Fireball puzzle a day ago. Peter does a stunt puzzle every year on the day the Oscar nominations come out, including all the Best Picture nominees in the grid. This was a much easier task when there were only five nominees, although crazy-long titles and wild imbalances in titles’ letter counts posed challenges. Now that there are five to 10 nominees each year, the grid is bigger and some of the titles run together in the same crossword entry. This one’s a 20×21 grid, nearly Sunday-sized. The nine movies fit in as ARGO, ZERO DARK THIRTY/AMOUR, LINCOLN/LIFE OF PI, SILVER LININGS (to be continued), PLAYBOOK, LES MISERABLES, DJANGO UNCHAINED, and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN (to be continued), WILD. They all piggyback on the clue at 1a: [With 21-, 30-, 55-, 67-, 78-, 104-, 112-, and 126-Across, 2012's Best Picture nominees].
I think the puzzle went out about 9 hours after the nominations were announced. Could you beat the movie titles into submission, design a grid, fill it, and clue it in that amount of time, while holding down a day job? As stunts go, it’s impressive. There is not that much else to marvel at besides the stunt, mind you. The fill is mostly good stuff, and there’s even a non-Oscar-bait older movie in the grid (IRON EAGLE). Most interesting entry: 5a. STIM, [Aspie's arm-flapping, e.g.]. I am not entirely clear on what stimming means in the world of autism, but I know it is absolutely a term that’s used (for certain repetitive, stereotyped motions made by some autistic people as a result of … something) and I haven’t ever seen it in a crossword before. Thumbs up for STIM. It’s likely to get more broadly familiar each year, isn’t it?
Favorite clue: 8d. [Fireballs, say] for METEORS.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Chief Concerns” — pannonica’s review
For the purposes of this puzzle, “Chief” means Commander in Chief, videlicet, viz, the President, the Prez, of the US of A, and “Concerns” are scandals that took place during that CINC’s timinoffice.
- 17a. [Scandal during the Reagan administration] IRAN-CONTRA.
- 31a. [Scandal during the Nixon administration] WATERGATE. The mother of all the -gates. Wikipedia lists well over a hundred since 1972.
- 38a. [Scandal during the Grant administration] WHISKEY RING.
- 45a. [Scandal during the Adams administration] XYZ AFFAIR. Such a great name.
- 62a. [Scandal during the Harding administration] TEAPOT DOME.
It’s a strong theme—I don’t know if I’d call it a fun one—but a part of me wonders how difficult it was to create, seeing how this country’s sordid history is rife with political scandals. Nevertheless, it’s well executed and made for a satisfying solve.
The oblig longdowns are an asphalt-laying ROAD GANG and the [Enchanting talent] of WIZARDRY. Like that WHISKEY… WIZARD… XYZ… nexus over there.
- Double-duty clue [Flyers' org.] at 13d NHL and 35d USAF.
- Where you find TOGAS (27a), you’re bound to find at least one SANDL (21)—is that scandalous?
- Cross-reference: 52a [With 69 Across, "Cry-Baby" actress] TRACI | LORDS. Saw it a long time ago, don’t remember it well, but it was a John Waters movie and Johnny Depp was the titular character and, knowing the provenance, it’s safe to assume it involves at least one MISFIT (34d).
- New vocabulary!
Clue That Seems Fishy To Me: 61a [Requiring no transformer] AC/DC. Doesn’t a transformer change the voltage but not the type of electrical current? Is there more than one kind of transformer? Not completely comfortable with this one either: 54d [Mid-range clubs] IRONS; the ones with low numbers are woods (even if they aren’t made of wood, natch) but aren’t all the rest irons? “All the rest” includes the mid-range group, but perhaps this was the most effectively cogent way of phrasing the clue in a golf milieu?
- In a clue: 51d [Remuda members] STEEDS. m-w informs me that a remuda is “the herd of horses from which those to be used for the day are chosen” (American Spanish, relay of horses, from Spanish, exchange, from remudar to exchange, from re- + mudar to change, from Latin mutare — more at mutable –First Known Use: circa 1892).
- As an answer: LYRICON 42d [Electronic wind instrument].
Not a cheerful puzzle, but an edifying one, and a good solve.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ski Jumping”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I shuddered when I opened this puzzle. Not because it’s by Bob Klahn, the trickiest of all the CS constructors, but because the title referred to skiing. Skiing, for me, is right up there with skydiving and bungee jumping on the list of things I hope never to do in my lifetime. I hate winter, I lack any semblance of coordination, gravity is rarely my ally, and cocoa is overrated. So how would I possible enjoy skiing?
Fortunately, the puzzle has nothing to do with the activity. It’s a simple hidden word theme, where each theme entry contains the letter sequence SKI, and in case the letter sequence “jumps” from one word to the next. That’s how the hidden word gimmick is executed in its most elegant form. Here, then, are the theme entries:
- 17-Across: The first word in [Stand on the corner] is a noun, not a verb. That might help in unlocking NEWS KIOSK.
- 29-Across: The [Once-gritty Big Apple neighborhood sometimes called Midtown West] is HELL’S KITCHEN. Maybe “Midtown West” is used by those who don’t wish to swear.
- 44-Across: The SCISSORS KICK is a [Swimming or soccer technique] that is less successful in table tennis and billiards.
- 58-Across: The [Seemingly friendly act of betrayal] is a JUDAS KISS. Judas Priest, for the life of me I couldn’t come up with the second word! I needed all the stinkin’ crossings.
We love our Klahn puzzles for their vexing clues. Some of the best ones here included [Hose attachment?] for GARTER, [Bottled benefactors] for GENII, [Hearty "har"] for YUK, [Don't drop it or you might trip] for LSD, [Suit's top or bottom] for the ACE in every deck of cards, and [Fit leader?] for HISSY.
New to me were the [1977 Pulitzer-winning play by D.L. Coburn, "The] GIN GAME and GORSE, the [Spiny shrub common on links courses]. GORSE, GARTER, GORE, GAGA, and GRANT. Golly!
Favorite entry = CRAP SHOOT, the [Risky business]. Favorite clue = [Post-mark unit] for EURO, the successor to the Mark.
Ian Livengood’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Mr. Livengood also has today’s NY Times… It’s a really fabulous puzzle! You should do it if you haven’t already!
His LA Times is also super clever! I wonder if paper solvers will have a solving advantage here as there is no indication in Across Lite that the “-” clues mean “See previous answer”. So initially I was looking for a six letter answer meaning pWeather forecast data] for instance. I eventually figured out the theme, at WODNIW (WINDOW)/SHADES… And if I hadn’t THEYGOUPANDDOWN is a big fat hint! Boy did I need the theme today, as there were a lot of tough areas in the grid!
To spell out the theme, relevant answers start going up on the left and end going down on the right. They are also all things that go up and down. The theme answers are:
- 1,2d, REMPET/ATURES (TEMPERATURES), [Weather forecast data]. I liked the answers that are separated by their two distinct parts more than these… It’s a mighty ambitious theme though so I’m not complaining TOO much!
- 11,12d, VELE/ATOR (ELEVATOR), [Transporter in a shaft]. It didn’t help that as my first language is English (not American), I wanted LIFT on the first pass.
- 31,32d, EES/SAW (SEE-SAW), [Two-person plank].
- 36,37d, EHT/DOW (THE DOW), [Financial index]. I pondered how Dow Jones could be six letters for far too long!
- 50,51d, WODNIW/SHADES (WINDOW SHADES), [Treatment seen in bedrooms]. I don’t quite understand “treatment” in this clue.
- 56,57d, ENIS/WAVE (SINE WAVE), [Oscillating curve]
Despite so much theme Ian also managed to include: MRBIG, ARKANSAS, SAMBUCA, and SKINEMAX (never heard of the last answer, but it’s inferrable and funny!) BINET crossing BIDET also amused me for some reason.
I Found the clue for TWINBORN a tad awkward, but then it’s the type of answer that’s awkward to clue! At the time [Aids for a bad 8-down] made no sense for ADAPTERS, but now I realise 8d is probably what’s labeled as 9-down in my puzzle: FIT.
4.75 Stars. It’s a rare treat to have a gimmick theme in the LA Times and I had a fun time today, a lot tougher than your average Friday!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Now You See ‘Em” — pannonica’s review
Indeed you do, if you’re solving this puzzle. Because the letters EM appear before the base phrases, altering their meanings.
- 23a. [Starts to climb up an oak while seeking apples?] (EM)BARKS UP THE WRONG TREE.
- 38a. [Billionaire who volunteers with the ambulance corps] (EM)T BOONE PICKENS.
- 58a. ["Baa, baa"?] (EM)ANATION OF SHEEP.
- 67a. [Fancify some rough cloth?] (EM)BOSS TWEED.
- 78a. [Changed one's prenup instead of getting divorced?] (EM)ENDED A MARRIAGE.
- 92a. [Suggestion to a narcissist?] (EM)BRACE YOURSELF.
- 112a. [What terrific stereo speakers do?] (EM)IT SOUNDS REALLY GREAT.
All right. Super-straightforward theme. Some of the original phrases are a bit random, for instance the way 112-across has a take-it-or-leave-it definite article, or the way different verb tenses are used for letter-length convenience (it could just as easily been BARKED … or ENDS …), or just how independent some of them may be. Nevertheless, none beyond the pale or indefensible.
My absolute favorite touch? The way 38-across works. It’s the only themer in which the prefixal EM is spelled out as two letters, and that’s because they correspond to the original phrase’s standalone T. Fine, fine constructing.
There’s plenty else to like in this puzzle, such as the long stacks that appear throughout the ballast fill: FATALIST / ELEVENTH stacked upon one of the 21-letter theme entries, UPS STORES and MATADORS below the other one? Very nice, although I’m not so thrilled with clue for the last—[Caped performers]—since it seems to me that the cape is removed (and then manipulated) once the MATADOR starts giving the main performance with the bull. He or she is no longer caped, no?
More stellar stacking along the puzzle’s flanks: QUIBBLES / UNCLAIMED / ACETYLENE and ITERATION / ACE OF BASE / UPSTAGED.
We get a healthy dose of clever and playful cluing, which always helps the solver combat fatigue in a larger 21×21 grid like this. A few examples: 20a [Land development?] CAMERA (that’s Edwin Land); 1d [Current location] OCEAN; double-duty [Barbecue bit] at 3d EM—yes I know it starts with EM—BER and 10d ASH (which I figured was RIB); 82d [Folder declaration] I’M OUT.
Certainly the grid is not without some clunkers (A NEG., I WIN, AVG, LGE, TCU, -ENCE, DIAG., I’M SO, IT EASY, and so forth), but so often that’s part of the constructor’s bargain. The key is not to let them outweigh a puzzle’s strengths and charms. This is why there’s an art to the endeavor.
Last, WAX BEAN was simply and humbly nice to see in the grid.
Phatic approval for this one.