There are two upcoming crossword tournaments in the Midwest, both. (Yay, Midwest!)
- Minnesota Crossword Tournament—Saturday, February 2—James J. Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, MN. Details here. The event’s part of Winter Carnival, yes, but it will take place indoors. (Of note: The puzzles will have a Minnesota flavor and are by local constructors.)
- Kansas City Crossword Puzzle Tournament—Saturday, February 23, 11:45–3:30—UMKC, Flarsheim Hall, Room 310, 5110 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO. This one’s a fundraiser to benefit Higher M-Pact, sponsored by Altrusa International. The competition puzzles will be unpublished NYT crosswords. Please direct inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Quarfoot’s New York Times crossword
This, Jim Horne tells me, is the 7000th New York Times crossword edited by Will Shortz. That’s right: It’s Will’s 1000-weekiversary. Congratulations, Will! May the next thousand be as good as today’s puzzle by David Quarfoot.
Once again, DQ fills his puzzle with a ridiculous amount of juicy stuff. It’s a 72-worder so the grid isn’t breaking any records, but that’s irrelevant when the fill brings so much to the table. And the clues pop too. To wit:
- 1a. [Religious emblem, informally], JESUS FISH. As seen on the back of cars. The secular counterpart, of course, is the Darwin fish. It has evolved feet. (Also? Yes. This is how to open at 1-Across. Win me over from the start.)
- 17a. [Backwater, in Australia], BILLABONG. Fun to say. Also a brand of Australian surf/skate gear.
- 20a. [A search may be done with it], BING. The Microsoft search engine that tries so hard.
- 27a. [Get along], CLICK. Usually clued as a sound, this is zippier. DQ’s puzzle style clicks with me.
- 48a. Guitar device producing a vibrato effect], WHAMMY BAR.
- 65a. [Measure of progress], STATUS BAR. I find that Apple’s status bars tend to indicate exactly what percentage done you are, while assorted Microsoft ones have left me hanging with no actual information other than “it’s still doing something.”
- 1d. [Governmental stimulus of 2012], JOBS ACT.
- 11d. [Carleton College rival], ST. OLAF College. Northfield, represent! Or perhaps Nirthfolde.
- 23d. [A power of dos], OCHO. Dos cubed is OCHO.
- 28d. [Cry when reaching the other side] of the checkerboard, KING ME. Love it!
- 39d. [Comics character named for a flower], SWEE’PEA.
- 40d. [High-end accommodations, familiarly], THE RITZ. As in “Well, it ain’t the Ritz, but it’ll do.”
- 43d. [Statistician's anathema], BAD DATA. Nate Silver would know how to adjust for that, wouldn’t he?
- 58d. [Introductory course?], SOUP.
Nobody loves to see REATAS or OSE in the puzzle, but it’s easy to swallow a few clunky answers when so much of the grid is packed with delightful, lively words and phrases.
SINGLET, a wrestler’s outfit or [Grappler's gear], amused me because I know that there are multiple blogs devoted to photos of wrestlers wearing revealing singlets. Like this Tumblr. Good gravy, can’t they wear underwear under those things? What if their mothers or grandmas are attending the wrestling meet?
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Adopt a Pet”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme consists of house pets inserted into common two-word terms, with whimsical clues to match the new, hybrid three-word expressions. Absent any other element tying things together, this would be a pretty random theme. But the inserted pets in each case can follow the first word in the two-word term to form another common two-word term.
Meh, my explanation is making the theme appear more complex than it really is. Let’s just talk about the theme entries so you can see for yourself what’s going on:
- 17-Across: The [Ad material from Hebrew National?] would be HOT DOG LINES (hot lines / hot dog).
- 28-Across: An [Unoriginal newspaper worker?] is a COPY CAT EDITOR (copy editor / copy cat).
- 48-Across: The [Prison fundraisers?] are YARD BIRD SALES (yard sales / yard bird).
- 62-Across: To [Be wild about a kids' card game?] is to GO FISH CRAZY (go crazy / go fish).
HOT DOG LINES feels a little more forced than the others. I suppose it’s the right call to have it bat lead-off in the puzzle so we forget about it as we progress from top to bottom. Then again, maybe it should have been buried in the middle so it wouldn’t stand out as much (or left out entirely). Of course, this all assumes I’m not the only one who feels that this one is just a skosh less sparkly than the others. On these matters of taste, I’m often in the minority.
Some of the fill felt decidedly un-Lempelian in its awkwardness. Lynn’s puzzles don’t usually have so many abbreviations (ENS, AMT, OED, SRS, IOC, CEOS) or other cheap filler (MIO, ORO, I’VE, O’ER). One thing that’s definitely consistent with Lynn’s grids, though, are the lively long Downs. Yes, in my line of work, PROXY VOTES is a lively term. Isn’t that true for everyone?
Favorite entry = TIME TRAVEL, the ["Back to the Future" feature]. Favorite clue = [Knight ride] for STEED. If only KITT fit.
Steven J. St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Did you know: The best way to play POKER GAMES is with a HAND IN HAND! HAAAAAAHAHAHA
Okay, enough of my bad jokes. First, let’s learn a few tidbits of trivia:
- 42a, MAE [Space shuttle astronaut Jemison].This name is reflexive crosswordese to me by now, but today I took the time to look her up on Wikipedia. Turns out she’s pretty much a superwoman: “[Jemison] became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She has appeared on television several times, including as an actress in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is a dancer, and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities.”
- 6d, GOOSENECK [Manipulable lamp]. Makes too much sense, now that I see pictures of them. This naming scheme reminds me of the Medusa lamp I used to have in undergrad.
- 7d, ARIANA [Richards of "Jurassic Park"]. She played John Hammond’s granddaughter, Lex Murphy. Now, she’s a professional painter (you’re welcome, “Where Are They Now?”).
A look at the longer entries:
- 35a, ONE SECOND, PLEASE ["Hold your horses!"]. The tone of the clue doesn’t match the answer. I’d be happy to wait if an operator were to say, “One second, please”; less so if the operator were to shout, “Hold your horses!” (Expletive redacted.)
- 8d, MAN-TO-MAN DEFENSE [One-on-one strategy]. I’m always impressed by how many words fit in 15 letters. If you’re playing one-on-one basketball, there’s really no other choice besides man-to-man (except just letter your opponent score unguarded). “One-on-one” must be a descriptor of the strategy then, rather than of the basketball game.
- 1a, POKER GAMES [World Series components]. I was so baffled that I abandoned the entire NW corner at first. Embarrassing, given how much poker I have watched in my life, and that an acquaintance of mine has a World Series bracelet. Also, the amount of poker I have watched in my life is itself embarrassing.
- 15a, AMELIORATE [Better]. Verb, not noun.
- 17a, WEAK POINTS [What good debaters pounce on]. However, great debaters pounce on strong points. I just made that up, but doesn’t it sound wise?
- 53a, HAND IN HAND [Loving way to walk]. Much prettier than tongue-in-mouth walking.
- 56a, ASSISTANTS [Helping people]. Fine clue, gluey entry.
- 58a, SKETCHIEST [Least helpful, as a description]. Or “least well-lit, as an alley.”
- 11d, STAND ON END [Erect]. Verb, not adjective.
- 25d, ROSE GARDEN [Metaphorical dream world]. Anyone else reflexively start typing ROWS GARDEN?
The best clues:
- 5d, RIP [Let-'er ender]. Actually typed PPS before realizing what was going on here.
- 37a, STREAKED [Ran out of clothes?]. Giggleworthy, to be sure.
- 43a, FACE [It may be lost or saved]. Both rely on the same meaning of face, but cleverly obscure nevertheless.
- 24d, AIRLINE [Delta, but not gamma]. And that’s how you used the capitalized first letter of the clue to your advantage.
I loved the CAJOLE/JEREMIADS crossing, but ultimately this one had a lot of WEAK POINTS. Not a fan of the echoing RENAME, REBIND, and RELEASE, though they’re all fair entries on their own. Abbrevs., partials, and -fixes all OTP (over the place): ETTE, SESS, AGTS, TAS, ADM, SCH, A TAD, ASSN, INST, THE A. Not big on EDD or AHAS either. 3 stars from me.
Until next week!
Charles Slack and Nancy Salomon’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Today’s other themeless puzzles average about 10 multi-word entries. This one has a grand total of three: IRON AGE ([When forging began]), HEAD FIRST ([Precipitately]), and AL DENTE ([Rather firm]). I find that phrasal entries, aside from the boring little ones with an IN or ON or AT tacked on, bring a lot of punch to a puzzle. This one, with 65 one-word answers, even the 15s, felt rather dry as a result. Lots of word endings, too—PIANOLA, PROGNOSTICATION, PARED, POLEMISTS, BONED, SLUGS, NEWNESS, ARABS, SEAMIER, SLOPS, INTERSCHOLASTIC, MOORAGE, ROTATOR, PILES, SNOBS, LEAN-TOS, ICED, MASTS, CLOTHED, PIECES.
I would write more, but my son has just pointed out that we need to leave in 20 minutes and I’ve not yet showered. Signing off for now—three stars.
Back now: A commenter inquired about 41a. [Setting for Chicago's Summerfest: Abbr.]. The answer is CDT, Central Daylight Time, but the clue is terrible if you ask me. Chicago does not have any significant event called Summerfest. Maybe the stray street fair, but nothing on the scale of the Taste of Chicago or the Blues Festival. Milwaukee has a huge Summerfest each year, with top-name musical performers on a plethora of stages. Milwaukee’s on Central time too, so I have no idea why the clue is “Chicago’s Summerfest.”