Greater NYC area folks, if you’re in the mood for what is quite possibly the world’s very first ping-pong/crossword biathlon, head to Pleasantville this Friday night for the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It’s taking place at Will Shortz’s table tennis center, but the ping-pong is optional. Details here.
Kevin Christian’s New York Times crossword
It’s classic movie nostalgia time:
- 13a. [With 59-Across, where [circled letters] came from], OUTER.
- 20a. [Child actress who appeared with [circled letters]], DREW BARRYMORE.
- 25a. [Creator of [circled letters], SPIELBERG. Written by Melissa Mathison, based on (and I did not know this, but I believe Wikipedia) Steven Spielberg’s imaginary friend.
- 45a. [What [circled letters] wanted to do], PHONE HOME.
- 49a. [Means of escape for [circled letters]], FLYING BICYCLE.
- 59a. [See 13-Across], SPACE.
- 14d. [With 41-Down, composition of a trail followed by [circled letters]], REESE’S.
- 23d. [Best Original ___ (award for the film with [circled letters])], SCORE.
- 35d. [Costume for [circled letters] on Halloween], GHOST. I wanted SHEET.
- 41d. [See 14-Down], PIECES.
- And taken together, the two circled letters spell E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
I dunno, folks. The “[circled letters]” appearing in eight clues were a bit much. If the clues had just had “E.T.” in them, we wouldn’t have had the guessing game of “guess what this puzzle is about,” but we also wouldn’t have had the annoyance factor of incomplete clues—plus two phrases were split into two answers, so you get both a “With 41-Down” and a “[circled letters]” in the same clue. Eh.
According to Will Shortz’s puzzle notes, the circled E and T were his idea, and necessitated doctoring the fill in the MOBILE BAY zone. Do you think it was worthwhile? I wonder what the fill in that area had before, in lieu of ST LEO, EYER, EER, LUPE, and EUBIE. Speaking of LUPE: 51d. ["Little Latin ___ Lu" (1966 hit)]?? Not sure I’ve ever heard of that. Rapper Lupe Fiasco, sure.
Favorite fill: THEM R’S (just kidding, it’s THE MRS.), EAR DOCTOR, and the painful viral condition SHINGLES. Oh, wait, the latter is clued 37d. [They're "hung out" by professionals].
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Top Guns”—Janie’s review
Rule of thumb in puzzle construction: if the theme fill runs vertically, there’d better be a darned good reason behind the choice. Today’s theme does—and there is. The top (first word) of each is a kind of gun. Whence today’s title. Am also pleased to report that, when used properly, none of these is a lethal weapon. Or not exactly…more on that comin’ up. Firing with four cylinders, the Gorski gun gallery includes:
- 3D. RAY DONOVAN [Liev Schreiber TV crime drama that premiered in June 2013]. Ah, the RAYgun. Science-fiction’s contribution to the idea of weaponry sans projectiles. Instead, directed energy blasts away the threatening or obstructing target (alien, human or inanimate). Real-life applications of the technology are listed in the previous link and described more in depth here. (This is where the may-be-lethal-to-humans factor comes in…) As for the TV show… That’s a Showtime series I’ve not seen, though I’m a Liev fan (his stage work especially). Apparently, if not “perfect,” the show does have legs.
- 5D. RADAR O’REILLY [Gary Burghoff's role on "M*A*S*H"]. For a real change of pace (while stretching out/building on the sound), the RADAR gun, an altogether kinder and gentler kind of “shooter.” Though perhaps not so beloved by drivers marginally exceeding the speed limit. More fun for tracking the speed of baseball pitches or tennis serves, no? There are even apps for that! Corporal O’REILLY is a role Mr. Burghoff originated in the brilliant, black-comedy, 1970 antiwar movie of the same name. So he was both on “M*A*S*H” and in “M*A*S*H.”
24D. WATER BUFFALO [Powerful rice paddy beast]. Yay—the WATER gun! Yes, I know that some have been mistaken by officers of the law for actual, ammunition-expelling firearms, but I’m thinkin’ here of summertime recreation and less complicated childhood times and the delight taken in soaking one’s target. Or getting soaked. And, bubbelehs, let’s not forget the bubalas bubalis a/k/a the hard working WATER BUFFALO. “Nice puppy.”
- 31D. FLASH DRIVE [Pocket-sized computer storage plug-in]. The term FLASH gun was new to me and, in fact, there seem to be two kinds. One is used where light is low by photographers (which I always thought of as a FLASH attachment); the other, by magicians to “throw fire.” Seems to me like that tiny FLASH DRIVE is the most miraculous of all!
On reflection, I think I’m more taken with the execution of the puzzle as a whole (which has some great fill) than the theme itself. Not sure if this is due to my lukewarmness to its gun-dependent concept, or (as someone who solves a lot of puzzles) the somewhat serviceable nature of its being a “types of” theme. Probably some combo. I caught on pretty quickly and, as a result, did a lot of my solving by way of the “Down” clues. Which got me into a bit of trouble, truth be told. See that clue at 6D—[VW forerunners]? The “S” I entered in the fourth square did me no good whatsoever. This is not a clue about Volkswagen automotive history but the alphabet, pure and simple. So the correct fill is RSTU… (VWXYZ….). This is a terrific use of misdirection in cluing, btw.
So let’s look at some more of the fill and clues that (imho) are unequivocal standouts. Look at the central vertical fill for a moment. I love this part of the grid and the way the long fill cascades down, right to left, from the character-defining “GET OVER IT!” ["Stop whining and move on!"] to the ethereal AIR KISS [Superficial Oscar Night smooch] and the usage-based “AS WRITTEN” [What “[sic]” means in a quotation]. That’s a solid way to anchor a puzzle’s mid-section!
Placed about this core, horizontally now, we also get ON WATCH with its double-edged clue [Remaining vigilant about a Timex factory?]; comic book villain Lex LUTHOR; the cagey [Freudian mind reader?] for ANALYST; and the colloquial phrase RAN LOW for [Almost out of stock].
Just noticed, and was amused to see, that the last four letters in the clue [Furry TV E.T.] (for ALF) are echoed in the fill TV SETS [Sports bar fixtures]. Where you might see archival footage of ALI, the ["Sting like a bee" boxer] underscored with strains of [“I am just A POOR boy…” (“The Boxer” lyrics)]. (Question: are those large flat-screen TVs also called “sets”? Somehow I don’t associate that word with today’s sleek TVs but with, well, something more analog…)
And because I enjoy it when there appear to be mini-themes in a puzzle (as above, or the mere fact that someone who’s LIVID is likely to throw a SNIT, say…)—and even though Sunday was the first day of autumn—I enjoyed today’s homage to winter by way of SNOW and SLED and SKI. Hmm. Sounds like a good excuse for some hot chocolate… ADIEU for now, all!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Thinking of View”
Did you ever notice how “thinking of you” and “thinking of view” would sound pretty much the same? (Unless the speaker is particularly meticulous in enunciating words.) The theme answers sneak a V in after an OF:
- 17a. [Bed linen where bad stuff goes on?], SHEET OF VICE. Ice.
- 36a. [Drinkware crafted between the mountains?], FLAGONS OF VALE. “Flagons of ale” is not exactly the most familiar phrase. Anyone else try VAIL before VALE?
- 44a. [What sports car engines have?], PLENTY OF VROOM. Room. Nice one!
- 65a. [Technical genius at filmmaking?], WIZARD OF VID.The Wizard of Id comic strip. Do people refer to the field as “vid”?
The theme works consistently, but I’m not always enchanted by the base phrase or the results.
- 32a. [Site to search for stomach remedies], WEBMD. Could do without MDS at 1-Across, though.
- 55a. ["Primal Fear" actor Edward], NORTON. Say it with me: “I-I-I-I lost time.” If you haven’t seen that movie (costarring Richard Gere and Laura Linney), look for it. It might do a number on your mind.
- 3d. [Reason for insoles, maybe], SMELLY FEET. Pee-yew!
- 33d. [Event where 13 is a good number], BAR MITZVAH. “Today, I am a man.”
- 47a. [Put at, as a price], SET AS. Huh? No. “Let’s set it as $4.99″ doesn’t sound plausible. Plus, there’s an “as” in the clue, which is necessarily tortured.
- 1d. [Total one's totals?], MISADD. I don’t get it.
- Lots of blah little 3s and 4s: I.AM, I’M A, FEIN, IST, EELS, TSO, SEVE, OSE, MLI.
Three stars from me.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “The Bar Scene” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Five phrases where the first word can precede the word BAR:
- [Time of youthful inexperience] clues SALAD DAYS – remember the days when salad bars didn’t have sneeze guards? Eek. Funny, the theme phrase dates back to Shakespeare’s time.
- [Stick-in-the-mud] is a WET NOODLE – I wanted “wet blanket” here first; a “wet bar” is that island thingy a lot of folks have in their family rooms which has a sink and a liquor cabinet.
- [With "The," 1985 coming-of-age comedy-drama featuring the "Brat Pack"] is a very long clue for BREAKFAST CLUB – I wanted a reference to the Sunday morning BREAKFAST TEST here, instead. Is a “breakfast bar” what a hotel might offer as an amenity? Or is it something in someone’s kitchen where breakfast can be served?
- [Exploration competition started by Sputnik] was the SPACE RACE – these are my favorite type of entries where the “space” in “space race” means nothing like the “space” in “space bar” (on a keyboard). Well, not really “nothing like” as they both imply an area of nothing.
- And for all you keglers out there, [It results when a bowler neither strikes nor spares] was a OPEN FRAME – I grew up playing candlepin bowling, I think it’s only native to New England. An “open bar” is what might be offered at a wedding reception where drinks are free.
I enjoyed the theme and entries but felt the fill on this suffered too much from the weight of 5 theme entries, what with ARA, ACA, MIII, REICE, AXLED, DE SAC, BORA and perhaps my most UNFAVE, a variant of “Shh…” or what a sibilant librarian might utter, SSH. I’ll give my FAVE today to the Zed action in the northwest–PULITZER and IZOD in particular.
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’ve seen a few “the theme entries begin with words that are kinds of cheese” crosswords before, but the addition of the jocular CHEESEHEADS (62a. [Green Bay Packer fans ... and a hint to the answers to starred clues]) lends a fun touch.
- 17a. [*1972 hit with the line "The day the music died"], AMERICAN PIE. My kid won’t eat American cheese.
- 26a. [*County fair prize], BLUE RIBBON. And I won’t eat blue cheese.
- 40a. [*Home-based business], COTTAGE INDUSTRY. I didn’t eat cottage cheese until I was an adult because it looked suspect.
- 49a. [*Beef-braised-with-tomatoes dish], SWISS STEAK. I eat neither Swiss cheese nor steak.
Honest, I do like cheese a lot. Just not all cheeses!
Five more things:
- 46a. [Blue gem, for short], LAPIS lazuli. Why don’t I have a heart made of lapis? I want one. Or at least a polished hunk of lapis, to go with the hunk of green malachite. (I am fond of minerals.)
- 71a. ["Star Wars" surname?], DETOO. Eh. Clue is trying too hard. Given that the droid is R2-D2, pushing the I-never-see-it-outside-of-crosswords DETOO as a surname is going too far. I prefer my playful clues with non-iffy fill.
- 11d. [Vehicle safety devices], SEAT BELTS. When I was little and cars were sold without seat belts, my dad had seat belts installed in our car.
- 28d. [Bassoon vibrator], REED. I didn’t see this clue while solving but now that I see “vibrator” in the puzzle, I am amused.
- 30d. ["But I don't wanna __ pirate!": "Seinfeld"], BE A. From the “puffy shirt” episode. Loved this clue.
3.5 stars. I deducted points for fill like ESSEN and AVI.