Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
What we have here, folks, is a miniature Merl Reagle pun puzzle by Joe DiPietro:
- 17a. [Lady paid for one insect?], MADAM BOUGHT A FLY. Madame Butterfly.
- 26a. [Rodent that lets air out of balloons?], DEFLATER MOUSE. If you gotta have a roll-your-own word like DEFLATER, you have to put it to work in a pun rather than pretending it’s a word people go around using. (Die Fledermaus.)
- 44a. [Spanish rum cake?], BABA OF SEVILLE. The change from Barber of Seville to BABA is rather more slight than the other puns.
- 57a. [Headline after one of Becker’s Wimbledon wins?], BORIS GOOD ENOUGH. Boris Godunov.
- 64a. [Each of this puzzle’s long Across answers sounds like one], OPERA.
I feel like we really don’t see many pun themes in the daily-sized puzzles. It can be a fun change of pace to let your inner Merl out once in a while.
Seven more clues:
- 20a. [One of the Baldwins?], PIANO. I wonder if a Baldwin piano has been on 30 Rock with Alec B.
- 50a. [Site of some Chicago touchdowns], O’HARE. Airport, not football stadium. That would be Soldier Field or, as locals call it, Soljerss Field.
- 60a. [Grp. created at the Baghdad Conference, 1960], OPEC. Hey! Fresh clue for an old answer.
- 1d. [Word after flood or floor], LAMP. Good lord, this one gave me fits. I had the LA part and was stuck until the crossings bailed me out. Only LANE and LAND came to mind.
- 13d. [Poet best known for “The Highwayman”], NOYES. I knew this only from crosswords until my son was studying the poem for reading. Man, that is one dark poem!
- 25d. [Like St. Augustine, in 1565], FOUNDED. St. Augustine the city/settlement in Florida, not St. Augustine the person.
- 30d. [Stock answer?], MOO. No matter what the farmer asks, the answer is the same.
I like the theme all right, although the fill’s ELIA, URSA, OLEO, EEO, OJAI, SERA, AONE, and AGEE did not do much for me, and the long fill is mostly fine rather than “wow!” 3.5 stars.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Clubhouse Division”
Baseball season is right around the corner, and Ben splits some MLB team names with other letters that expand the teams into longer phrases. Ooh! Maybe “Expansion Teams” is a title I should have suggested to Ben when I test-solved this puppy. Does that work? Does baseball have expansion teams? I honestly don’t know.
- 18a. [What an electroencephalograph shows], BRAIN WAVES. Atlanta Braves.
- 23a. [A-lists, hopefully], REPORT CARDS. Cincinnati Reds.
- 38a. [Certain spring training matches, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], SPLIT-SQUAD GAMES.
- 52a. [They match for residency], MED STUDENTS. New York Mets.
- 59a. [Ironically titled Lennon/Ono album], TWO VIRGINS. Minnesota Twins.
Top fill: “I’M RICH!,” “VA-VA-VOOM!,” ORBITZ, FONZ, “GET A ROOM!,” and that [Extremely goofy duck-billed creature], the PLATYPUS.
- 5a. [Roasts], RIBS. Both verbs pertaining to poking fun at someone else’s expense, and also both meats.
- 22a. [It’s a lot less slimy if you roast it, actually], OKRA.
- 47a. [Golfer Cheyenne Woods, to Tiger], NIECE. What’s this? Tiger’s an only child, I thought. Wikipedia explains that his dad had three kids from a previous marriage.
- 63a. [They might make you scratch your head], LICE. It’s because they’re confusing.
- 66a. [Cutting line?], SCAR. I still can’t believe my kid fit through my C-section scar. It hardly seems possible.
- 9d. [Strike supporters?], HAWKS. As in air strikes as part of war.
- 24d. [Kayak alternative, transportation-wise], ORBITZ. Both are travel booking websites. Only one is a boat.
The strangest answer is 50d: ESPERS, or [Telepaths]. People with ESP are ESPers? I had no idea.
Four stars. I don’t really know what SPLIT-SQUAD GAMES are (the team splits in half for practice and that needs a name?), and stuff like AGAR and ADZE are unexciting, but Ben writes such fun and fresh clues that they elevate the entire proceeding.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Old”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Days later and I’m still feeling pretty pleased with myself for finishing the dreaded Puzzle #5 in last weekend’s ACPT, a first for me in five years of competing. Puzzle #5 was constructed by Patrick Blindauer, the guy behind today’s puzzle. Whereas last Saturday’s tournament puzzle took me nearly 28 minutes of sweating to get it complete, today’s puzzle felt like a casual stroll (and that was fine with me).
Today’s theme requires the addition of a single letter to the starts of three common 14-letter terms, and the added letters, read from top to bottom, spell O-L-D:
- 17-Across: “Liver and onions” becomes OLIVER AND ONIONS, an odd combination clued as [Kitchen bulbs with a Twist?]. Had I paid more attention to the capitalization of Twist I think I could have glommed on to this one sooner.
- 38-Across: An “air conditioner” changes to LAIR CONDITIONER, [What a den mother uses after shampoo?]. Lair conditioner is important–you don’t want to cross paths with a bear having a bad hair day.
- 62-Across: As fun as it is to “e-file one’s taxes,” it’s substantially more fun to DEFILE ONE’S TAXES, or [Taint a return?].
We’ve seen plenty of grids with three 15-letter theme answers, but it’s rare to see them with stacked sevens in the corners–that’s what gives this grid the Blindauer touch. Not surprisingly, there’s some great stuff in those sevens, like PRE-NUPS ([Marriage contracts, briefly]), HOLES UP ([Hides away]), ARMOIRE ([Ornate wardrobe]), OFF-LINE ([Disconnected, in a way]), and SUBLETS ([Rents from a renter]). Many of the clues are playful. I liked [Nice nose?] for NEZ, [Po land?] for ITALY, and [Hot spots for dates?] (the food) for OASES. It’s odd to see RENT at 13-Down given the aforementioned clue for SUBLETS, but to be honest I only see that now.
Favorite entry = I GUESS, clued as [“Suppose so!”]. Favorite clue = [13-piece suit?] for the SPADES in a deck of cards.
Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’ve just completed a 12 hour, 1,000 kilometre car journey. That may have an impact on my solving experience.
It’s a well-trodden gimmick this, and one that I confess I don’t usually enjoy too much as a solver. There have been exceptions. I also admit to making a puzzle or 3 in the genre myself. Long answers are all definitions of the clue [GREEN]. The puzzle’s a few days off for St. Patrick’s Day. Has Rich started celebrating early? I like CONSERVATIONIST and THECOLOROFMONEY more than VILLAGECOMMON and PUTTINGSURFACE, as the phrases are real, even if the second doesn’t correspond to “GREEN” in its “in-the-language” sense. One quibble, GREEN is THECOLOROFMONEY only if you’re American… I guess that that’s 99% of solvers though.
Despite four long across answers Mr. Wildenberg got in several good’uns in the down fill. My favourite was FRUITFLY, and with its clue, made my science nerd heart sing! Also nice: SETBACKS, DARKAGES, FSCOTT and RINGTONE (though [Cellphone customer’s creation, perhaps] felt weird and stilted as a clue to me).
Clue of the puzzle is [First word of “Greensleeves”] – in full it opens “Alas my love you do me wrong / to cast me off so discourteously”. Such a beautiful, haunting song, and it’s over 400 years old! Here’s Roger Whittaker belting it out! Hey! I just noticed, there are more “greens” in the clues for ECO, TEAL, and ABC too!
3 Star theme + a half a star for a better than average grid! I’ll leave you with a trivia question riffing off 31d: What was Marilyn Monroe’s surname at birth?