Thursday ushers in the month of August, and you know what that means—a brand-new puzzle from Patrick Blindauer. Look for that on Thursday, and then look for Matt’s review of the puzzle in Friday’s post.
Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword
Really a cool theme, and it took a while for the trick to dawn on me. Each theme phrase ends with a word that can be defined with a formula in physics terms, and the “X over (or divided by) Y” formula is presented visually with the words in circled squares.
- 17a. [With 22-Across, fail to cope with difficult circumstances], CRACK UNDER pressure, which is FORCE over AREA.
- 27a. [With 35-Across, highway sign meaning "slow down"], REDUCE speed, which is DISTANCE over TIME.
- 45a. [With 51-Across, Monaco has the world's highest], POPULATION density, or MASS over VOLUME.
- 60a. [What the three sets of circled squares in this puzzle represent], PHYSICS FORMULAS.
How neat is that? I give the theme 5 stars, but the 72 theme squares, if I counted right, clamp down on the constructor’s wiggle room for the fill. ERECTOR SET ([Old A. C. Gilbert toy]), BAR CAR, and FLUENCY are quite nice, but then there’s Roman CMI, [Colgate product for men] AFTA, LODI … And the unusual word form ENVIRON ([Form a ring around]). And an ERG in the middle of this physics puzzle, dangling uselessly apart from the theme.
Trickiest clue, for me: 18d. [Stitch]. I put in DARN and the middle two letters were right, which kept me from seeing that CRACK in the theme answer. It’s CARD, as in “funny person,” not “sew.”
Least familiar answer, aside from ENVIRON: 41a. [British poet laureate ___ Day-Lewis], CECIL. Never heard of him. Here’s a site devoted to his works, if you’re interested in exploring. Apparently he was Daniel Day-Lewis’s dad. The actor’s married to filmmaker Rebecca Miller, whose dad was also a noted writer—playwright Arthur Miller.
So subtracting a bit for the fill, we’ll wind up at 4.25 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Individual Medley (200m)”
It took a couple minutes for the theme to dawn on me.
- 17a. [Suddenly blow up], FLY OFF THE HANDLE.
- 27a. [Film whose last line is "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads"], ERUTUF OHT OT KCAB, or Back to the Future in reverse. Because the word “back” is in there?
- 46a. [Procedure that might ease neck pain], BREAST REDUCTION.
- 61a. [Psychoanalysis technique], NOITAICOSSA EERF, or free association backwards. Wait, there’s no word that means “reverse” in there.
Looking at the title might have tipped me over the edge to comprehension, but I was too distracted by the hint that was sent with the puzzle: each square is 3 1/3 meters. Pull up the calculator widget, multiply 15 squares by 3.33, and get 49.99. Aha! Fifty meters four times, the individual 200m medley in swimming. ButterFLY stroke across the pool, BACKstroke back to the starting point, BREASTstroke out again, and bring it home with FREEstyle. Pretty cool, eh?
You have to roll your eyes at something like 11d. [560% of DX + I], MMDCCCLVII. Didn’t do the math; just worked the crossings. ARAL, SERI, IONA, ESTAB, EEN, TAL, ALERO, SOT, STORERS, all “meh” to me.
But the pop culture junkie in me appreciated KEVIN SORBO and BRET McKenzie, and LASER LEMON and MR. YUK were fun too.
4.25 stars, breaking down pretty much like the NYT rating—terrific theme, fill not quite up to its level.
Updated Thursday morning:
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Well… That’s certainly an unusual grid Jeffrey Wechsler designed! Your options are kind of limited when you want to put 13-letter theme answers in the 3rd and 13 rows, to allow two central theme answers, 7 & 15 letters, into the middle of the grid. About this theme, I don’t think I’m getting it at all. Each of the answers is in the format OPTION A or OPTION B and has a weird clue. After that I’m a bit clueless…
First off, PUTUPORSHUTUP is colourful, in-the-language phrase, but I don’t understand how it applies to gamblers.
LOVEITORLEAVEIT sounds off to me as a phrase. It doesn’t google well at all either, not one of the results on the first page shows the phrase itself. LOVEMEORLEAVEME is how I’ve encountered it. Secondly, the clue references “super-patriots”, and seems to be evoking crotchety old men in the comments section of news sites who assert that any fellow American who disagrees with them should leave the country; so that was a bit distasteful.
FISHORCUTBAIT I haven’t heard of either, but this one seems to be a common Americanism; just not one used on TV, films etc. (probably too rural, since the media is dominated by urban types), such that I’d have encountered it… It sounds like this originally did apply to anglers in a literal manner; this would make it different to the first answer, which I don’t think ever applied to gamblers literally?
The last theme answer is DOORDIE which is clued in the way it’s actually used by or directed at those “out of options”. In conclusion, this theme seems to be a mess but it’s possible (probable?) I’m just not seeing how it all ties together!
Big white swathes abound in this grid: bringing opportunities for lively long answers, and the danger or short clunkers. We got both
My favourite answers were the clechoed IGUANA and TORTOISE tied together by the Galapagos citizenship! KIDSTUFF is also fun, but seems to be missing an “‘s”. While solving, I was expecting this to be part of the then unknown theme, but now I suspect it’s yet another quirk of American dialect. STUPIDME is another great answer as are VITAMINA, TILAPIA and FASTSELLER. PEPINIII (the short) was unexpected: interesting, but tough European history. On the other hand, I learned about him in grade 9 when I was doing an American syllabus during my homeschooling; so that probably means a lot of you learned about him too (and in all likelihood all-but forgot about him until this puzzle, like myself.)
I’m not going to list the weaker short fill; you can make your own minds up about what it constitutes, there seemed to be more of it than usual, but mostly it was pretty tame as these things go… Instead, I’ll highlight a few more mystifying things in the puzzle (there were quite a few today!) IMSOOLD is clued in a way suggesting it’s a 7-letter partial. I assume this line is some sort of repeated phrase in Bob Hope’s monologue, which would make it a fun answer; problem is, I’ve never watched / listened to his stand-up so I have no idea! Another mystery is in the clue for DUSTY mentioning the “white-glove test”. No idea! Who owns white gloves apart from the late Michael Jackson anyway??
I’m not understanding this puzzle at all, so I’m not going to form a conclusion about it. Feel free to explain what I’ve missed in the comments.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Assorted Nuts” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Hey look at that, it’s August already. Days are getting noticeably shorter up here, now the sun sets around 8pm, which is still a pretty long day. Today’s CrosSynergy puzzle offers us four phrases that begin with a word that can prefix -NUT:
- A [Pellet propeller] is a PEA SHOOTER – lots of news stories about the growing problem of peanut allergies recently. Some schools will not allow any peanut product to be brought into the lunchroom. It was a staple of my childhood, though.
- [Medical diagnostic tool] clues CHEST XRAY – does anyone pronounce the first T in “chestnut”? I pronounce it like the game, and it seems to me that Nat King Cole does the same.
- Small yellow flowering herb] clues BUTTERCUP – I think of squash when I think of “butternut,” but it’s also an ice cream flavor isn’t it?
- [Creator of the first designer perfume] clues COCO CHANEL – I had some yummy coconut gelato last night in Hanover, NH, right outside of Dartmouth College. It’s about 30 minutes from our home in Vermont.
I wonder if DOUGHBOY was considered as an additional theme entry? Pretty solid set here, though, and like the title implies, these nuts are truly “assorted.” I liked YOOHOOS, but wished it had been clued as the chocolate drink instead of [Attention-getting calls]. My FAVE entry was [Aquatic five-pointer] for STARFISH, which initially had me thinking of the sport of water polo. THRUM, as in [Pluck idly, as a guitar] was also unexpected, likely as many of you, I put in STRUM at first. And speaking of strumming, [They're played with plectrums] for ZITHERS was also nice, a “plectrum” is the name for that plastic triangular thingy that plucks guitars and other string instruments.
Though I remember Arthur TREACHER, for whom a seafood chain is named, I wonder if many will and whether this chain is still around, so that gets my UNFAVE award today for its relative obscurity. May August live up to its synonym of grandeur for you all!
Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Ripping Up Drafts”
Cute title—it looks like the puzzle will be about the process of writing and editing one’s work, but what’s being “ripped” is something more evanescent:
- 17a. [Achieved], PULLED OFF. PUFF in circled squares. “Is this a drug-terminology theme?” I asked myself.
- 25a. [Red-green fruit from New Zealand], GALA APPLE. GALE in circles.
- 38a. [Myers-Briggs equivalent for dogs], TEMPERAMENT TEST. TEMPEST in circles.
- 50a. [Something to be on before going to a concert?], GUEST LIST. GUST in circles.
- 60a. [Clear the room, in a way, or what each of this puzzle's theme entries does], BREAK WIND. The circled letters spell out types of wind, and they are “broken” by the letters in the middle of each theme answer.
Cute theme! Is this too “edgy” for a daily newspaper? Because it’s clever, and it’s 2013, and everyone has intestinal gas unless they lack intestines altogether.
Didn’t know: 1d. [Role-playing game stat], EXP. Experience, I presume. Got the X by presuming that 14a. ["___, Gossip Girl"] *OXO was XOXO. Also did not know 49d. ["Game of Life" mathematician John] CONWAY. Interesting stuff, though—read up.
Crosswordese! 12d. [Bay window], ORIEL—hey, “bay window” is slang for a big belly, you know. You could call a paunch an oriel and only crossworders would have any idea what you were getting at. Also 46d. [Like some ancient markers], STELAR. Adjective form of STELE/STELA, oy.
- 39d. [Jumbo, on the runway?], PLUS SIZE. I was thinking of airplanes. Also, PLUS SIZE on a fashion runway might be size 10, no? And not 16+?
- 1a. [Airline boycotted by some rabbis because it shows R-rated movies], EL AL. Did not know that trivia.
- 9a. ["I ___ the dull routine of existence": Arthur Conan Doyle], ABHOR. Words to live by.
- 27a. [First words of many a TED Talk], WHAT IF…
- 55a. [Like a queen bee], BOSSY. As in the book about adolescent girls and bullying that the movie Mean Girls was inspired by.
- 4d. [Creature that might "has cheezburger"], LOLCAT.
Four stars, despite ORIEL and STELAR.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Rotation” — Amy’s retro-review from 2009
Put this in the category of “puzzle titles you should pay attention to”: the answers to the five question-marked theme clues are familiar phrases in which the Ns have been rotated 90° to become Zs. PAT BOOZE, or [Alcohol that's exactly right?], plays on straight-arrow Pat Boone. A crane operator on a construction site turns into CRAZE OPERATOR, or [Fad runner?]. [What the bearded lady has?] is a FUZZY FACE (funny face). The L.A. Times crossword had both NIT and ZIT, and this puzzle converts one into the other with HAS A ZIT TO PICK, or [Sporting a whitehead?]. Ick. The alliterative [Vermin's verve?] clues RAT’S ZEST (nest). It took me a while to see what was going on in the theme entries, what with paying no mind to the title, but when I saw boozy Pat Boone in the puzzle, the payoff was good. Seven Zs in this puzzle, six in BEQ’s Onion puzzle.
Please don’t grumble that PAT BOOZE and basketball’s Carlos BOOZER cross. They’re not the same word. BOOZER clued as a sot would be a duplication; this isn’t.
Favorite clues: [Overnight] shipping is NEXT-DAY. [Court do-over] is a RETRIAL, as this is not a tennis court we’re talking about.