If you’re looking for Merl’s puzzle and your usual download link isn’t working, you can get the puzzle at the Island of Lost Puzzles.
John Farmer’s New York Times crossword, “Persons of Note”
I was glad to discover that the “Persons of Note” theme had nothing to do with composers but was instead about people on US currency. This inventive rebus puzzle contains seven squares that double up: the last names of seven people in Across answers are the same as the historical notables whose faces appear on our money, and the bill’s denomination is used in the Down crossing.
- 1a. [Star of four Spike Lee films], DENZEL WASHINGTON / 7d. ["Be right there!"] 1 SEC. Would be slightly smoother if people actually said “1 sec” rather than “one sec.”
- 14a. [Longtime Ed Asner role], LOU GRANT / 17d. [Rapper who feuded with Ja Rule and Nas], 50 CENT.
- 88a. [Singer at Obama's 2009 inauguration], ARETHA FRANKLIN / 43d. [1980s British band], HAIRCUT 100. “Love Plus One” was in heavy rotation on MTV back around 1982. If you weren’t a teenager in 1982 who watched a lot of MTV and you weren’t a British pop music fan in the ’80s, I wouldn’t expect you to have heard of this band.
- 89a. [Baseball All-Star who was also a football Pro Bowler], BO JACKSON / 39d. [Pop/rock group with a 2002 hit co-written with Mick Jagger], MATCHBOX 20.
- 119a. [First film Tarzan], ELMO LINCOLN / 95d. [Celebratory gesture], HIGH 5. As with 7d, this one’s usually “high five” without a numeral. Also? Never heard of Elmo Lincoln, but I’ll bet film buff John Farmer knew him even before researching famous Lincolns for this puzzle.
- 123a. ["The Terminator" co-star], LINDA HAMILTON / 97d. [Does a surfboard stunt], HANGS 10. Another where the numeral looks wrong; “hang ten” is a dictionary-grade term.
- 124a. [Neighbor of Archie Bunker], GEORGE JEFFERSON / 113d. ["Terrible" toddler time], AGE 2.
- 31d/33d. With 33-Down, Skeptic’s advice … or a “noteworthy” hint to seven Across answers in this puzzle], DON’T TAKE ANY OF / IT AT FACE VALUE. Mystifying capital S in “Skeptic’s.
I’m not sure why the puzzle software didn’t accept the first letter of each “face” name. DENZEL W didn’t work but DENZEL 1 did. At any rate, the software flagged all my rebus squares as incorrect, which means the “corrected” versions have green check marks, which is fine because now it’s easier to see where the rebuses are in my answer grid. As Pangloss said, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”
Lots of pop culture in this puzzle, no? I do enjoy that.
Five more things:
- 19a. [1954 film septet], SAMURAI. Anyone else try DWARVES here?
- 15d. [Warren of "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia"], OATES. I don’t know who that is. Joyce Carol Oates, yes. Warren O. is in the Badass Hall of Fame.
- 31a. [Second-in-command: Abbr.], DEP. Short for deputy. And yes, I leaned on the crossings here.
- 58a. [It may extend for many minutes], ARC. Circle geometry!
- 91d. [Acronym for the hearing-impaired], AMESLAN. Short for AMErican Sign LANguage. TTY and CC wouldn’t fit.
Challenging puzzle this weekend, though it didn’t take me all that long to figure out the Washington/$1 gimmick. It still took me about 25% to 40% longer than the typical Sunday NYT crossword. It’s a treat to have a clever trick that hasn’t been done numerous times before, that isn’t what we’re expecting, and that is reasonably well executed (I’m knocking off a few points for the numeral/word discrepancies mentioned above). 4.25 stars.
(Edited to add: Pannonica just reminded me not to forget to mention the big $ sign made out of black squares in the center of the grid. D’oh! Didn’t even see it.)
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
So yesterday I was bragging about my quickening times solving these daily puzzles, but today I had a slice of humble pie with a constructor who always seems to offer a very tough, but also in retrospect, very fair, themeless challenge.
One of my first confident, but ultimately incorrect, entries was ROBODIALER for [Telemarketer's tool]. I even trusted that more than my pretty strong conviction that the country across from Yemen was ERITREA. The B in ROBO- led me to BUG for [Creeper or crawler], but I couldn’t do anything with the U and G of that as they crossed the three-letter [He's no pro] and the longer [Most people do this when they smile]. Made the wrong choice there, but at least the -DIALER part was right, and eventually AUTO- emerged from the mist, giving me the A that ended ERITREA that I was looking for. TOT for the creepy crawler and CON for the “no pro” soon followed.
Old movies are not at all in my wheelhouse, so the marquee long answers for movies released in 1932 and 1957 both took a long time to fill themselves in, but surprisingly, I had heard of both A FAREWELL TO ARMS and THE SUN ALSO RISES. These both were adapted from novels by Ernest Hemingway, so a nice mini-theme there. Just a few other random solving notes:
- I always struggle with two entries with the same clue, so it took me a long time to figure out [Freak] was both GO MAD (I had APE first) and LOSE IT. Same for the abutting [Frame filler] cluing both PANE (a window pane, I’m thinking now) and ART, which happily wasn’t the more likely CEL.
- I’ll jump to my FAVE clue lest I forget: [Deep do] for BASS NOTE, where the “do” is the “do” of “do-re-mi.” Excellent misdirection there.
- Some nice unusual plurals like ASYLA and STERNA stopped me from my habit of inserting an S at the end of plural entries when I’m struggling for a toehold.
- Finally, another entry that took me a long time to figure out, was [Tuesday preceder, but only in leap years] for SUPER. I kept trying to do something with Monday, but this refers to the political reference to Super Tuesday, when many states have their presidential primaries. Presidents are only elected in leap years, even in the recent year 2000. Generally years equally divisible by 100 are not considered leap years, but those that are divisible by 400 are. Remember that in 2400, wouldya?
Congrats to Bob for another Sunday challenge that kept me on my toes and scratching my head!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Dis and Dat” — pannonica’s write-up
Presto-change-o! There’s a letter substitution going on. In each of the original phrases, the voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative diaphoneme (θ) is converted to dat of də voiced alveolar stop (d). In udder words, th- becomes d- to create new, wackified phrases.
- 22a. [Ring activity for fools?] DUMB WRESTLING. Internet, I’m disappointed. No decent virtual thumb-wrestling game?
- 41a. [Absent-minded dentists, at times?] DRILL SEEKERS. No, I’m not nervous at all.
- 81a. [RC air battle?] GAME OF DRONES.
- 103a. [Statistic in a detergent ad?] ZERO DARK DIRTY. This slightly absurd one nearly made me laugh out loud, as they say.
- 16d. ["Hamlet meets Macbeth"?] DANE OF GLAMIS. On his way to becoming King of Scotland, MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh moved up the medieval corporeal ladder from Thane of Glamis, through Thane of Clawdor.
- 25d. ["Are those dents?"] AM I SEEING DINGS?
- 33d. [Blaming it on Cheney?] LAYING IT ON DICK, which certainly sounds either risqué or nauseating.
- 57d. [Use a braid as a curtain tie?] HANG BY A DREAD. [Judicious] WISE approach to cluing this one. (50a)
Fairly entertaining stuff, and a wordwhile deem. With one exception, the grid is devoid of stray appearances of the θ phoneme—to wit, 82d Frederick FORSYTH; but since, unlike the theme answers, the sound here appears at the end of a word rather than the beginning, it seems sufficiently distinct to give a pass (not that it feels critical for this puzzle).
Disses and dats (wait, perhaps I should rephrase dat?):
- 14d DALE Earnhardt, 107a EARNEST, 37a AMELIA Earhart.
- 106a [Hershey creation] ZAGNUT is great fill, even if I’m not thrilled by its actual filling (peanut butter, a touch of cocoa—with a toasted coconut exterior). Technical stuff: it was created in 1930 by the Clark company, was subsequently sold to Leaf, and Hershey acquired it in 1996. In a sense, Hershey “creates” ZAGNUT bars by producing them, but did not originate the confection.
- From the drilling days of yesteryear! 76a [Formerly, in olden days] ERST; 86d [Lifeless, old-style] AMORT. Amort Adrucker? Amort Asahl?
- 67a [Striped "gato"] TIGRÉ. I know! The printed version had gato in italics! Got it! Gato a rayas. Ta-da!
- Suspecting that some solvers may have a tough time completing the grid in the WSW section, with 79a [Bygone UN bigwig once wed to Rita Hayworth] ALY KHAN crossing 80d ["Washington Crossing the Delaware" painter] Emanuel Gottlieb LEUTZE, 71d [Capital of Azerbaijan] BAKU, and 67d [Trig function] TANH (hyperbolic tangent).
- Some might also find a head-scratcher at the intersection of DANE OF GLAMIS and 52a [Baja California port] ENSENADA; an E might seem reasonable there, for those unfamiliar with the details of the play and western US geography.
- Speaking of ENSENADA, it isn’t so far away (in the grid) from 60d ["The ___ Morocco"] THE ROAD; blend, and you get “The Road to Ensenada.”
- And speaking of buddies, how about 93d [Hall's partner] OATES. Boy, Monty Hall and Warren Oates made some amazing films back in the early 1970s.
- Am unfamiliar with 31d [Deceptive acts] TAKE-INS, but am willing to believe it’s valid and common enough. Was not expecting 63d [In a way] to be the slangily-spelled KINDA. Not convinced that 73a ["My bad"] correlates well enough with OH-OH.
- 47a [Aubrey Graham's nom de rap]. With DR––– in place, how could it not be crossword regular DR DRE? It wasn’t; that gent’s real name is Andre Romelle Young and the fellow in the clue is DRAKE.
- 68d [Myanmar, once] BURMA, but I’m hoping it wont be too long before the old name is reinstated.
- 106d [Census-report stat] ZPG. Nothing to do with ZIP codes or anything; it’s the more universal “zero population growth.”
- Favorite clue: 91d [Duck down] EIDER. Sure, it’s been used many times before, but it still works and doesn’t feel stale to me.
Dumbs up for this puzzle.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 178″- Sam Donaldson’s review
You know the one bad thing about Patrick Berry’s freestyle crosswords? They never seem to last long enough. I’m not saying they’re pushovers. I’m saying that they’re such satisfying solves that I wish they lasted much longer. Today’s 68/32 offering had just the right mix of pop culture, high culture, and biological culture (the latter attributable to my eating yogurt as I review the grid and write this post).
There should be something here for lovers of every freestyle puzzle genre. If you dig triple stacks, you have some smart sets of 11s in two corners. If you like 15s, there’s one along the equator. If you like open swaths of white squares, you have not only the four corners but also a nice pocket of them in the middle. If you like rare letters, the northern half of the grid will be pleasing. And if none of the foregoing matters to you because all you want are interesting entries with good clues, there’s still a lot to like here. For your consideration:
- I’m probably not the only one who tried to make THE TONIGHT SHOW fit in the 11 squares allocated to 1-Across, clued [1980s TV program that caused a rift between Carson and Rivers]. And I’m probably not the only one who kept trying to do so despite the nagging suspicion that THE TONIGHT SHOW couldn’t possibly be the answer given: (a) The Tonight Show is not just a “1980s TV program”–it belongs to several decades; and (b) the answer couldn’t have been that obvious. Those of us … of a certain age … remember that Joan Rivers was the heir apparent to Johnny Carson at The Tonight Show desk until they had their falling out. I remembered their breakup was due to Fox wooing Rivers to host a late night show of her own, meaning she was now Carson’s competitor. But I didn’t remember that her program was called THE LATE SHOW. Here‘s the first part of her debut episode. That guest lineup was pretty impressive, even for a first show.
- [Core constituent] is a terrific clue for SEED, part of an apple core. Clues that twist a common phrase like “core constituent” into a new meaning are gold. Along the same line I liked [One thrown into battle] for a HAND GRENADE.
- I wonder if solvers are split on FASTER AND FASTER, the sole 15-letter entry clued as [At an ever-increasing rate]. I suppose some might carp that it’s an internal duplication, but the term feels so familiar to me that I think it’s great. Yes, something like QUICKER AND QUICKER or SPEEDIER AND SPEEDIER would be too arbitrary, but “faster and faster” seems very “in the language” to me.
- Inner Beavis appreciated [Was in heats] as the clue for RACED.
- I spoke of high culture, so let me highlight some of the more sophisticated items in the grid. There’s THOMAS Bowdler, the [Noted expurgator] of Shakespeare works, AMEN RA, the [Bipartite god of Egypt], JOHN GALT, the [Fictional inventor of a motor that runs on static electricity] from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and the fancy edu-ma-cated clue for the DALAI LAMA, [Leader whose title means "ocean guru"].
- Interesting that the [Writers Guild of America's best-written TV series of all time] is THE SOPRANOS. I dunno…if Breaking Bad‘s last few episodes live up to the first three from this final, truncated season, there may be a new champ on the horizon.
- The clue [When Solomon Grundy was married] was confusing to me because the only Solomon Grundy I know is a villain in the DC Comics universe. Turns out the villain is named after the figure of an old nursery rhyme that goes Solomon Grundy, Born on a Monday, Christened on Tuesday, Married on WEDNESDAY, Took ill on Thursday, Grew worse on Friday, Died on Saturday, Buried on Sunday. That was the end, Of Solomon Grundy. Must have been before the imposition of age limitations on marriage licenses.
Favorite entry = HONEY I’M HOME, the [Stereotypical entrance line]. Favorite clue = [Boot hills?] for the APENNINES. I’ll confess that I didn’t get this clue until working on this review. In case it likewise meant nothing to you, here’s the skinny: the Apennines are a mountain range in Italy, the country that’s shaped like a boot. It has nothing to do with “Boot Hill,” a common name for western cemeteries where cowboys were buried “with their boots on,” but the play on words is just too delicious. So now that I get the clue, I love it.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Ah, Labor Day!”
Cute theme, but overall the puzzle felt like it was going through the motions. A big Sunday puzzle filled with clues and answers that don’t provide enough challenge. A speed test more than a brain game, for me.
The timely theme is an assortment of idle-time phrases that would count as work for specific occupations:
- 23a. [What librarians do on Labor Day?], LOOK UP OLD FRIENDS.
- 39a. [What art critics do on Labor Day?], STARE AT THE WALLS.
- 50a. [What studio musicians do on Labor Day?], PLAY ALL DAY.
- 60a, 77a. [With 77 Across, what baseball players do on Labor Day?], TAKE A WALK / IN THE PARK.
- 67a. [What astronauts do on Labor Day?], WATCH THE WORLD GO BY.
- 90a. [What composers do on Labor Day?], WRITE NOTES.
- 96a. [What carpenters do on Labor Day?], ATTEND WORKSHOPS.
- 119a. [What corrupt officials do on Labor Day?], KICK BACK AND RELAX. Hah! This one is wonderful.
Just five more clues, because I slept past 11 this morning and the day is racing past me:
- 4d. [Godzilla came out of it], TOKYO BAY. Literally “came out of.”
- 91d. ["Give me a break!"], OH, COME ON. Great entry.
- 72d. ["I wasn't the only one?!"], YOU TOO?! I like the “?!” angle instead of the dryer “have a good day”/”you too” option.
- 59d. [Cavalryman, in India], SOWAR. Wait! This is nuts. I’ve been doing crosswords for over 30 years and I don’t remember ever seeing this word. The whole rest of the puzzle is straightforward and then there’s this little land mine of check-the-crossings-no-wait-check-them-again-”really?!?”
- 46d. [Tom Cruise's last name], MAPOTHER. If he’d joined SAG as Thomas Mapother, would he have had the same stardom?
3.75 stars. Kind of a quick and boring solve, but the theme works well.
Margaret Hannan’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Division of Labor”
Five words that mean “work” are split across adjacent pairs of long answers, filling five rows of the grid:
- 23a. [Brown outburst], GOOD GRIEF. Charlie Brown, not a … bowel outburst.
- 24a. [Georgia military post], FORT BENNING. EFFORT spans these two.
- 40a. ['90s three-door SUV], MAZDA NAVAJO. Zero recollection of this car.
- 45a. [Bazooka output], BUBBLE GUM. Oh! I thought this was about the rocket launcher. Bazooka bubble gum is much friendlier. JOB spans this pair of answers.
- 61a. [High class], UPPER CRUST.
- 64a. [Runoff collector], RAIN BARREL. With STRAIN.
- 85a. [Getaway with horses], DUDE RANCH.
- 87a. [Washington Huskies rival], OREGON DUCKS. Hidden CHORE.
- 108a. [Frequent button-presser], COUCH POTATO.
- 110a. [Arnold's catchphrase], I’LL BE BACK. Hidden TOIL.
The theme answers are reasonably lively unto themselves, but the lack of any thematic connection between them other than the ending and starting letters meant the puzzle felt a little rote to me, a little unthemed. It’s not unthemed, but there isn’t any innate humor in “hey, this phrase ends with letters that form a word with the first letters of this other phrase,” and then EFFORT, JOB, STRAIN, CHORE, and TOIL all feel unpleasant when stacked together. STRAIN feels like the odd man out—it’s more about muscle work than taking care of business.
Five more clues:
- 16d. [Pinwheel], WHIRLIGIG. Not a word with an ounce of strain or toil in it.
- 75d. [Lousy example], SAD EXCUSE. As in “Some in-flight magazines offer a sad (or sorry) excuse for a crossword puzzle.”
- 62d. [World Heritage Site org.], UNESCO. I used to be hooked on an online map game—drop the pin as close as possible to where you think a place is located. There were plenty of World Heritage Sites whose locations I did not know. There are a lot of them!
- 42d. [Mom's winter morning reminder], ZIP UP. Cute.
- 5d. [Dallas-based budget carrier], AIRTRAN. AirTran merged with Southwest and I’m not sure if the AirTran name will endure.