Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
This is not the first crossword I’ve seen about Pope Francis’s election. Nope, the Daily Celebrity Crossword (for which I’m one of the editors) ran a puzzle with a new-pope theme back on March 16—online publishing has a timeliness advantage over traditional print media. I’d been waiting to see when the NYT’s pope puzzle would appear! Ian’s puzzle lays it all out:
- 17a. [Predecessor of 63-Across], BENEDICT XVI.
- 21a. [Sign that 63-Across was elected], WHITE SMOKE.
- 37a. [Original home of 63-Across], ARGENTINA.
- 57a. [Protector of 63-Across], SWISS GUARD. They’ve got their work cut out for them now that Francis is Popemobile-averse.
- 63a. [Official elected March 13, 2013], POPE FRANCIS.
- 3d. [63-Across, e.g.], PONTIFF. And yes, pontiff is etymologically related to the French word for “bridge,” pont.
- 45d. [Current home of 63-Across], VATICAN.
All that’s missing is the Jorge Mario Bergoglio part, but Ian squeezed in quite a number of key words and names to flesh out the story. Nicely done.
This puzzle and yesterday’s NYT have about the same number of theme squares, and although today’s has a few rough patches (MHO, LEONE, yes-I-still-don’t-like-TAL-because-most-people-don’t-follow-chess, OLEO, and [French tire] PNEU), there are also lovely bits like these:
- 41d. [Stand-up routine in a stadium?], THE WAVE.
- 29d. ["You're preaching to the choir!"], “I KNOW!”
- 8d. [Message one might not want the tabloids to see], SEXT—in a pope puzzle!
- 22d. [Room with a pool table, wet bar and TV, say], MAN CAVE. I bet Benedict’s Vatican apartment had one, don’t you?
- 11d. [One-named pop star with the 2001 hit "Whenever, Wherever"], SHAKIRA. More famous now that she is one of the coaches on The Voice.
- 12d. ["You've gotta be joking ..."], “COME NOW …”
- 46d. [Racy stuff], EROTICA—placed right beside VATICAN!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Hey Hey Hey”
Or perhaps the puzzle could be called “Hubert H. Humphrey.” Each theme answer has H.H.H. initials:
- 17a. [Belly laugh noise], HA HA HA.
- 20a. [1990s children's show about how machines work], HARD HAT HARRY.
- 32a. [Naughty by Nature hit], HIP HOP HOORAY.
- 43a. [Former alternative to Twinkies], HOSTESS HO HOS.
- 58a, 63a. [With 63-across, game with marbles], HUNGRY HUNGRY / HIPPOS.
This theme … is not resonating with me. 17a is so short, I’ve never heard of 20a (after my time, before my kid’s time), and I’ve never heard of 32a (although it’s an adorable title for a rap song, isn’t it?). The HO HOS and the HIPPOS, I know—but I was already feeling a tad alienated by the time I got to those entries.
Five more things:
- 15a. [It's hot in Hanoi], PHO. That’s a hot, beefy soup. Not up my alley. Pronounced more like “fuh” than “foe.”
- 68a. [Part of USNA], NAV. I don’t think I’ve seen this clued as shorthand for a car’s GPS navigation system yet.
- 1d. [Wednesday substance], ASH. Ash Wednesday.
- 3d. ["Who stole ___ bucket?" (LOLrus's query)], MAH. Yes! I love the LOLruses. I need to correct Matt’s spelling, however. It is bukkit.
- 35d. [Green light or thumbs-up], OK SIGN. This clue had me confused for the longest time. I think I was reading the clue words as verbs.
3.25 stars. “MAH bukkit” accounts for .25 all by itself.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s review
To describe the theme of this puzzle would be more tortuous than simply listing the relevant entries and letting self-evidence work its wonder.
- 18a. [Crooner Perry's ad?] COMO’S PROMO.
- 23a. [Space pilot Han's shirt?] SOLO’S POLO.
- 33a. [U2 frontman's bit of naughtiness?] BONO’S NO-NO.
- 40a. [Cartoon possum's corporate symbol?] POGO’S LOGO.
- 47a. [Japanese General Hideki's talisman?] TOJO’S MOJO.
- 57a. [Movie pooch's picture?] TOTO’S PHOTO.
These clues and answers, however, are not part of the theme:
- 21a [Manicurist's aid] EMERY.
- 5d [Bodybuilder's "guns"] BICEPS.
- 6d [ __-Seltzer] BROMO.
- 19d [Pizarro's gold] ORO. Especially not this one. So close.
The long downs are interesting and spirited: Vincent VAN GOGH, NIMBLER, the vernacularese I GOT A COLD, COGITATES, Tommy Dorsey’s “OPUS ONE“.
The ballast fill in general is refreshingly chewy by Tuesday standards, making the solve much more accommodating for those above rank amateur status. I won’t list or highlight anything; all you need to do is scan the grid and it’s evident. See? Just as I didn’t explain the theme. This is turning into very much the existential write-up.
What’s the point? Why go on? I can’t go on, but I’ll go on.
MISERY, TORMENT, MOROSE … oh, sorry. Let’s try again.
- 49d [Harbor wall] JETTY. Not to be confused with a groin.
- Most precious clue/answer: 47d [Internet slang based on a common typo] TEH. As in, “teh Internets.”
- LIRA, IRA, IRAN, all smooshed near each other.
- 16a/3d OREGON / TRAIL, which is something also apt to be referenced by internet slangsters.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “West Coast Heads of State”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today marks the second anniversary of the day I started blogging the daily CS puzzle here at the Fiend. I suppose it’s as good a time as any to reflect on whether blogging has made me a better solver or constructor. I think the answer’s yes. When I first started this gig, my solving times were pretty consistently between 6:00 and 7:00 and lately they’ve been between 4:00 and 5:30. Blogging a puzzle makes you pay more attention to the things you don’t know so it makes it a little easier to remember them the next time. ITALO Calvino, for example, is someone I probably won’t forget soon, and that name has helped more than once the past few months.
I think blogging has helped my constructing too, in that it has given me even more appreciation for good clues and even less tolerance for icky fill. I can’t quantify this–I don’t make enough puzzles in a year to have any meaningful sample sizes. But I feel it when I’m filling in a grid and when I’m devising clues.
So don’t listen to what they tell you: blogging crosswords really can be good for the soul. Speaking of which, let’s get to today’s puzzle from Patrick Blindauer. The three 15-letter theme entries are really common 13-letter terms with a west coast state’s postal abbreviation annexed to the front. Elegantly, the three added states appear in order from north to south:
- 17-Across: First up is WAKING HENRY VIII, the result of adding Washington’s postal abbreviation to “King Henry VIII.” It’s clued as [Early morning job during the Tudor Dynasty?]. A few months ago, I saw the film Waking Ned Devine, an Irish comedy from 1998. It was fine, but I think a movie called Waking Henry VIII would be more engrossing (no, that’s not a play on words with “gross” and Henry VIII).
- 39-Across: “Bits and pieces” gets attached to Oregon, making for ORBITS AND PIECES, or [Another name for the asteroid belt?].
- 62-Across: One who has [Printed some primers?] has CAUSED TEXTBOOKS, the result of adding California to “used textbooks.”
I grew up on the west coast, so this theme clicked for me. Imagine constructing a puzzle that did the same thing for states along the east coast! We’re gonna need a bigger grid. (The theme entry for New Jersey would be interesting to see, too.)
I love the stacked sevens in each corner; they allow a little more openness and room for interesting stuff like BOLO TIE, RUBY DEE, and AS A UNIT. The long Downs, RUBIK’S CUBE and DRIVE MY CAR are also terrific. Other notable entries included TEDDYS, ASK OUT, and the phonetic trifecta of I SPY, I SEE, and IONE (Skye).
Favorite entry = FAKE IDS, or [Counterfeit docs]. Favorite clue = [Fir coats?] for BARKS.