Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Edginess”
I read the puzzle’s title and instantly knew that the theme would involve the outermost entries in the grid. And then I started solving, and I was tired, and I completely forgot that hint. Failing to grasp the theme despite the title’s pointed hint did not serve me well. Also, I would like a nap. Or caffeine. — Okay, I took a break and watched a Syfy original movie, Axe Giant. Paul Bunyan horror movie. Perked me right up. — So. The theme. The answers around the edge are all missing the word LINE after them, and the middle of the puzzle has three explanatory entries.
- 69a. [Gray areas, maybe ... or a hint to 12 incomplete answers in this puzzle], BORDERLINES.
- 38d, 56d. [With 56-Down, where to find this puzzle's 12 theme answers], AROUND THE / PERIMETER.
- 1a. [It may come down in a storm], TELEPHONE line. Before I figured out the theme, I had HAILSTONE. The rest of the theme answers are listed in clockwise order.
- 10a. [Divider in a musical score], BAR. Bar line? No idea what that is.
- 13a. [Hang-out locale?], CLOTHES line.
- 19d. [Hobby activity], SIDEline.
- 42d. [Court stripe], FREE THROW line.
- 100d. [Bottom of a contract], DOTTED line.
- 125a. [Means of one-to-one communication], DEDICATED line.
- 124a. [Draw a mark through for cancellation],
- 123a. [Supermarket time-saver], EXPRESS line. Or lane.
- 107d. [Locale for finished works that haven't yet appeared], PIPEline. As in the pipeline of accepted NYT crosswords that haven’t been published yet.
- 50d. [Quarterback protectors], OFFENSIVE line.
- 1d. [Movie theater sight], TICKET line.
Since the crossword cannot have 2-letter answers or unchecked squares, those long answers around the perimeter must be part of three-stacks of equally long answers. And so we have CARRIES ON/ARGENTINA/FREE THROW, FINAL EDIT/PRECIPICE/DEDICATED, OFFENSIVE/FOUR-COLOR/MENNONITE, and TELEPHONE/INITIALED/CHASTISED. The only “Wait, what?” crossing of those stacks is ASIR, 75a. [Province of Saudi Arabia], so it’s mostly smooth.
Four more remarks:
- ONION DOME, GRAB BAG, ALOUETTE, RAVIOLI, TERI GARR, and AUTOPILOT are great fill, too.
- 78a. [Old-fashioned street conveyance], HORSE CAR. You don’t say. Not a term I’ve seen before.
- DES’REE crosses DESIRES. (61a. ["You Gotta Be" singer, 1994] and 61d. [Urges].) I rule that this is not a dupe because Desiree and Des’ree are proper names, even if they share a root with DESIRES.
- “I’ll take Female Literary Icons of the 1970s for $2,000.” 76a. [Susan who wrote "The Volcano Lover"], SONTAG (that book was later in her career, though). 83d. ["Fanny" author Jong], ERICA. Note, too, that ERICA crosses LIBIDO here.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Smooth 72-word themeless from constructor Patrick Jordan today, anchored by two 13-letter across entries and an 11-letter down entry that joined them:
- [Hooch hutch] clues LIQUOR CABINET – I first read this as “pooch hutch” and thought “dog house.” Instead, “hooch” is slang for liquor and reminds me of what ALAN ALDA called it on M*A*S*H.
- ["To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar" actor] was JOHN LEGUIZAMO – I’m familiar with the actor, but had no idea how to correctly spell his last name until the crossing down entries helped me out.
- [Adjective for a noisy campfire] is CRACKLING – and for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
Looks like the grid is a Y short of a pangram, and I’m ok with that, as technical feats like that don’t improve the solving experience, imho. Nice mid-length entries of TEQUILA ([Sunrise component] as in the drink, Tequila Sunrise), FANZINE, FINE LINE (clued as [Subtle distinction] or what someone might walk if they’re about to get into trouble), and LOZENGE. I wasn’t familiar with singer SUZI Quatro, but here’s a link to her 1978 song “Stumblin’ In,” which I do recognize. My FAVE entry was [Alpacas and vicuñas] for WOOLS as I’m considering raising alpacas here on our farm in Vermont. (These animals are related to the other two camelids, llamas and guanacos.) My UNFAVE was [Hammer or anvil] or EARBONE, which sounds like something you’d hear in Dem Bones.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 176″- Sam Donaldson’s review
I like the unorthodox grid in today’s 72/33 Post Puzzler, and it hosts a good number of fun entries and clues. Think of it as further proof that you don’t need ultra-low word counts or ultra-low black square counts to make an entertaining freestyle crossword.
Let’s get to the items of note:
- I tried CONCURRENT (a perfectly reasonable guess) and even CONCORDANT (admittedly a perfectly unreasonable guess) before finally nailing COINCIDENT as the answer to [Simultaneous]. It would have helped to be better with nicknames of international sports figures, as there’s The Flying FINN and Perola NEGRA, or Pele, at important crossings. I’m not sure how I got AGNES GOOCH, the [Role for which Peggy Cass won a Tony and got an Oscar nomination] off just the last four letters, for prior to this puzzle all I knew about Peggy Cass was that she was a frequent panelist on To Tell the Truth.
- Right away my eye zoomed in on [CCXXI quintupled]. I know some solvers loathe Roman numerals, and some especially hate having to perform math functions to solve them. But I like it. MCLV was the first answer in the grid, and with helpful rare letters like the V and the M in place, that whole corner fell fairly quickly. It helped that I’ve had ALGE, the [Football player Crumpler who was on the Falcons, Titans and Patriots], on several of my fantasy football teams over the years.
- [Pound, e.g.] is a devilish little clue for POET. Props for that.
- Anyone else try HARMFUL as the answer to [Pernicious] before HURTFUL? Sure, “harmful” is not exactly synonymous with “pernicious,” but it seemed good enough to me.
- So now we know that COTURNIXES are [Japanese quails]. You can’t find much about them online, but I did enjoy this snippet from Wikipedia: “The Japanese quail, also known as coturnix quail, … is a species of Old World quail found in East Asia. They are a migratory species, breeding in Manchuria, southeastern Siberia, northern Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, and wintering in the south of Japan and southern China. … Japanese quail eggs have orbited the Earth in several Soviet and Russian spacecraft, including the Bion 5 satellite and the Salyut 6 and Mir space stations. In March 1990, eggs on Mir were successfully incubated and hatched.” There’s a Samuel L. Jackson movie in there somewhere. Coturnixes on a Space Station. “I’m tired of these mother-clucking coturnixes on this mother-clucking space station!”
- HEAVEN-SENT is a lovely entry, as is YOU’RE A DOLL. I’ll take affirmation wherever I can get it.
- The [2011 Seth Rogen film] is THE GREEN HORNET. I’m sure he’d much prefer a reference to THIS IS THE END.
- I can’t recall hearing of a “silent migraine” before, so ["Silent migraine" symptom] didn’t help me get to AURA all that quickly. As one online source says, the “aura” refers to “the distinctive symptoms that some individuals have immediately before the onset of headache. The most common aura symptoms are visual, and can include flashing lights, wavy or zigzagging lines, or other changes in the visual field. Additional symptoms that may accompany aura include hallucinations involving scents or sounds, a sensation of numbness or tingling on the face or extremities, confusion or vertigo. Approximately 20% of individuals who have migraines experience such premonitory auras, though these individuals may not have an aura before every headache.” Just to be clear, that last chunk was in italics, so you’re not experiencing any wavy or zigzagging lines.
- I really liked [One with unusual parts] as a clue for CHARACTER ACTOR. I had the back end of this one filled in first, and when I saw -RACTOR I figured the answer would end with TRACTOR. Deere me.
Favorite entry = HIGHWAY ROBBERY, a great term for an [Exorbitant charge] that my mother used to use all the time. It’s comfort language. Favorite clue = [Kill by doing nothing?] for a POCKET VETO. In a former life, I taught government classes at a community college, and the pocket veto was one of the favorite topics when we discussed the legislative process. As Wikipedia explains: “A pocket veto happens if Congress adjourns during the 10-day period [during which the President decides whether to sign or veto a passed bill], then the bill does not become law [if the President takes no action]. … If the president neither signs nor vetoes a bill when Congress is in session, the bill becomes law without his signature after 10 days.” Sometimes one has to edit the heck out of Wikipedia for it to make sense.
Rathvon’s Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Doggone!” — pannonica’s write-up Unusual, a solo credit for Henry Rathvon. (Ed.: Technical error when the puzzle was sent out. Not a solo Rathvon after all.) A kennel’s worth of puns based on domestic dog breeds:
- 25a. [Dog that enjoys fishing?] RODWEILER (Rottweiler).
- 33a. [Dog that likes nylon and silicone?] POLYMERANIAN (Pomeranian).
- 58a. [Distressed dog?] ANGUISH SETTER (English setter). In Britain, crossword constructors are called “setters.”
- 65a. [Dog that pays rent?] BOARDER COLLIE (border collie).
- 89a. [Flower-loving dog?] PHLOX TERRIER (fox terrier).
- 101a. [Stevedore's dog?] DOCKSHUND (dachshund).
- 3d. [Dog playing on the lawn] SPRINKLER SPANIEL (springer spaniel), not a water spaniel (neither Irish nor American).
- 7d. [Rancher's dog?] LASSO APSO (Lhasa apso).
- 41d. [Dog with low cholesterol?] LIPITOR RETRIEVER (Labrador retriever). Little confused here. Don’t people take Lipitor® because they have high blood pressure. And isn’t the drug ostensibly to lower cholesterol to a normal level, rather than a “low” level? How does the clue work, other than impressionistically, or loosely associatively?
- 73a. [Dog that fingerpaints?] DAUBERMAN (Doberman (pinscher)).
Ten sizable theme entries, very generous. And the puns, while of course occasionally torturous, are amusing and entertaining. Playful too, the way the prostrate on their front legs and wag their tails. Little buggers.
My last square was at the intersection of 17d [Don Juan's "madre"] and 31a [Tramp] because I wasn’t sure if it was going to be INÉZ / FLOOZY or INÉS / FLOOSY. I rightly reasoned, however, that FLOOSY would be considered a variant spelling. Why is madre in quotes in the clue? Also, I have out from the library a nice new three-CD box of Don Giovanni, so perhaps I’ll providentially listen to it on this drizzly day.
- Lotsa French: 45a “APRÉS moi, le deluge”; 62a PERDU (à la Proust); 75a “Je ne SAIS quoi”; 45d AUTEUR; 49d MONDE. Not to mention 76a BOISE and 46d CERISE, two notable French-derived adoptions (though English—and this puzzle—is rife with such words).
- 88a: Why does [The King of Spain?] for EL REY have a question mark? To indicate that the definite article be included, that it’s a “literal” translation?
- Puzzle earned my good graces for including a trio of my artistic heroes: Hieronymus BOSCH, Erik SATIE, and Albrecht DÜRER (65d, 51d, 11d), though I must point out the typo in the clue for SATIE (Gynopodies for Gymnopodies, ha-ha).
- Had a little trouble in the teeny southeast corner, not knowing either 1960s singer EVIE Sands nor “NED’S Declassified School Survival Guide.” This was exacerbated by seeing A––A for 99d [Verdi work] and seizing on ARIA (for the nonsensical ERIE and NEIS). But of course it’s that crossword favorite AÏDA.
- Least liked clue: 92a [Midafternoon, maybe] III. Unannounced Roman numeral, and I don’t feel the “maybe” is enough there. Would it have been better to cross-reference it to 11a [Grandfather's face?] DIAL? Don’t know, as I’m not much of a cross-referenced clue fan.
- Least liked fill: Horrific abbrev. TCHRS [Sch. personnel]. (82d)
- Favorite clues: 76a [Snake feeder] BOISE; 38d [Who says?] SIMON.
- Extracurricular canine action at 70d [The Bumstead's pooch] DAISY. Might have been more judicious to eschew that kind of reference in non-theme material, especially as it’s the only instance.
- Dupe at 109a LIPASE with LIPITOR themer. Tsk.
- Have not seen (or noticed) 19a [Yann Martel's "Life __"] OF PI in a grid before, and despite pooh-poohing partials and not caring at all for the book, I surprisingly kind of like it here.
Not sure if I’ll get healthy bones and teeth, or glossy hair, from solving this crossword, but I’m happy to say that it has a low ash content.
Amy Johnson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Extra! Extra!”
Cute theme. Lots of newspapers use the same name, such as Star, Tribune, and Chronicle. And these newspaper names are common words that also appear within familiar phrases. Amy Johnson clues such phrases as if they were newspapers:
- 23a. [Newspaper for visionaries?], DREAM JOURNAL.
- 28a. [Newspaper for convicts?], CRIMINAL RECORD. I would absolutely read that if I were in prison.
- 44a. [Newspaper for settlers?], COLONIAL TIMES.
- 69a. [Newspaper for skiers?], SNOW GLOBE.
- 93a. [Newspaper for hams?], RADIO DISPATCH.
- 110a. [Newspaper for demons?], DEVIL’S ADVOCATE. Good one.
- 119a. [Newspaper for wedding planners?], HITCHING POST.
- 35d. [Newspaper for bumpkins?], COUNTRY STAR.
- 40d. [Newspaper for bakers?], COOKIE PRESS. I wondered for a bit if there were newspapers called the Sheet.
When I had R**ANNA and skimmed the clue, 53a. [1982 Grammy winner for Record of the Year], I filled in RIHANNA. Whoops! She wasn’t born till 1988. ”ROSANNA,” by Toto.
Is it just me or is this puzzle a tad heavy on the crosswordese/repeaters? To wit: ODA, ELEA, ELUTE, PNEU, ARUM, IDYL, TEY, ALAR, OSSA. The sort of words most of us could go years without encountering were it not for crosswords. Felt like there were more than usual today.
Toughest clue for me: 71d. [Rannoch and Tummel], LOCHS. Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, I can handle. These others are utterly unfamiliar.
Three stars from me. The theme’s more like 3.5 but the fill feels like 2.5, and the fill does occupy the bulk of the solving time.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “A Mental Pepper-Upper”
I had no idea what the theme was until after I finished the whole puzzle and read through the theme answers again. Pepper! It’s all about pepper(s) of various kinds.
- 23a. [How some businesses are built], FROM THE GROUND UP. Ground pepper.
- 31a. [1830 novel with the same historical backdrop as "Les Miserables"], THE RED AND THE BLACK. Red peppers that grow on plants, black pepper from peppercorns.
- 46a. [High price to pay, perhaps], MAJOR FINE. This made me think of Sgt. Pepper, but I think Merl was going for FINEly ground pepper.
- 48a. [19th-century English philosopher and economist], JOHN STUART MILL. Foodies recommend the Peugeot pepper mills. (Mine is red.)
- 64a. [Suburb of Cleveland], SHAKER HEIGHTS. Pepper shaker.
- 80a. [Swearing and such], COARSE LANGUAGE. Coarse grind.
- 82a. [Mattel bestseller since 1968], HOT WHEELS. Hot pepper, not from peppercorns.
- 96a. [Quite a feat], NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT. Achoo.
- 109a. [Just ___ a bit (why I made this puzzle)], TO SPICE THINGS UP.
MAJOR FINE is a bit drab, but otherwise the theme offers plenty of zest.
I took a wrong turn at 61a. [She won Oscars for two Woody Allen films] and filled in DIANE Keaton. Granted, if the answer were a first name, the clue might well say “Woody films,” and the answer was Dianne WIEST. I just needed to get a little lower in the grid to bump into 77a. [Ladd or Lane], which is clearly DIANE. Plus, Keaton only has one Oscar.
Not sure I’ve ever seen the plural METATARSI (76d. [Foot bones]) before. Usually folks use “metatarsals.”
I needed all the crossings to piece together the faintly familiar CACOETHES, 78d. [Uncontrollable desire, often for something harmful]. It’s a rare word, from the Greek for bad + disposition. “An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable.” You know all about that, don’t you? I hope you’re able to resist because giving in to cacoethes just gets you into deep caca.
27a. ["My good man," to a Brit], OLD BEAN? New to me.
25d. [Setting of much of the first Sherlock Holmes tale, "A Study in Scarlet"], UTAH?? Really? I had no idea any Sherlock Holmes stories took place in Utah.
In general, the fill was pretty smooth and the clues were not too tough. The theme was not your usual sort of crossword theme, and I liked having to think a bit to make sense of the theme. Four stars.