Are you a fan of Rows Garden puzzles? Do you find that the frequency with which you encounter Rows Garden puzzles (occasionally in the Saturday Wall Street Journal, occasionally but quite possibly as reruns in Games/World of Puzzles) is nowhere near adequate? Then 2014 is your lucky year, because Andrew Ries is resuming making his Rows Garden puzzles. He’ll make a new one every two weeks, available via email subscription. Name your own price (no, really). And choose your own difficulty level—each puzzle will be delivered in easy and hard versions. Details here.
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
Mr. Gary Cee has put a lot of fresh fill in this puzzle. Let us regard it, shall we?
- 8a. [Soft soap relative], SNOW JOB. “You are so talented! No, really—you are!”
- 17a. [What black licorice or blue cheese is, for many], AN ACQUIRED TASTE. You could argue that the indefinite article is extraneous here, but nobody ever says “the acquired taste.” For the record: Black licorice, NO; blue cheese, NO.
- 44a. [Apex], VERY TOP. Now, this time, I sort of want an article, and also an preposition. AT THE VERY TOP—yes? no?
- 48a. [Singular publication], ONE-OFF. Such as a special magazine issue dedicated to a celebrity who just died.
- 52a. [Line near the end of an infomercial], “HERE’S HOW TO ORDER.” I always like the largest number of “easy payments” that they can offer. “Really? Just four easy payments of $19.99 (plus shipping and handling)? That is only, like, forty bucks, isn’t it?”
- 56a. [Finish line?], “IT’S DONE.” Meh. Not a fan of this one.
- 58a. [Sexual desire, euphemistically], THE URGE. The definite article belongs here.
- 5d. [Smashed], LIQUORED UP.
- 6d. [Like a common printing process], FOUR-COLOR. If you’ve worked in publishing, this is totally normal.
- 11d. [Inquiry made while half awake, maybe], “WHA…?” I like it.
- 12d. [Mojave Desert sight], JOSHUA TREE. Add “The” and you have a U2 album that I should really listen to one of these days, at least the A side.
- 27d. [King John sealed it], MAGNA CARTA. Mistyped it as MAGNA CARAT in my puzzle, and then as MANGA CARTA in the blog. Both errors are not particularly promising theme seeds.
- 32d. [Technology standard named for a Danish king], BLUETOOTH.
Mostly very good material up there.
- 55a. [Get limited access?], ENTRAIN. I don’t get the clue. Are there trains called “limited”? I know of local and express, and the Darjeeling Limited.
- 9d. [Tennis star Petrova], NADIA. Ranked #16 in single, #3 in doubles. Most folks (self included) don’t much follow doubles tennis.
- 14d. [Inn inventory], BREWS. Usually I think of an inn as a place of lodging rather than a pub. Is this a New Englandy thing, or an old England thing?
- 18d. [Chemistry Nobelist Hoffmann], ROALD. Writer Roald Dahl was of Norwegian descent, but was born in Wales. Missed a Learned League trivia question recently about that.
- 26d. [Being with une auréole], ANGE. One halo over an angel, in French. This is not about areolas. (See also: 54d. [Bearded ___ (reedling)], TIT. Not about hairy areolas.)
- 43d. [___ Sendler, heroine of W.W. II's Polish Underground], IRENA. Unfamiliar to me, but she saved 2,500 Jewish children.
- 41a. [One having a ball?], EYE. Doctors call that the globe. It also has an optic nerve, goop inside the eyeball, tear ducts, and eyelids.
- 3d. [Rushing home?], FRAT. When you want to pledge a frat or sorority, you have to hurry. Or something like that. I went to a Greek-life-free school.
- 44d. [Blocker working with a receiver], V-CHIP. Not football.
Meh moments: ATP, ERN, REHEM, A SAD (unless that is clued [I has ___]), and ENSE. Five mehs is better than ten mehs.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Population Shift” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Anagrams of the word “population” are the order of the day. Let’s see if a case of triskaidekaphobia doesn’t bring any bad mojo to our solving experience.
- [Post-larval moisturizer?] was PUPA LOTION – I never realized that pupae suffered from dry “skin.” In reading about pupal mating, I ran across the word sphragis, which I’m vowing to include in my next puzzle.
- [Visionary pork-barreler?] clued UTOPIAN POL – I doubt there are many utopian pols, at least here in the US. I think most just settle for small victories for their constituents, probably not what motivated them to run in the first place.
- [Discretionary increase?] clued OPTIONAL UP – hmmm, moving on.
- [Baldwin on a demoted rock?] was not actor Billy or Alec, but PLUTO PIANO – poor Pluto, now designated as one of the 40 or so “dwarf planets” in our Solar System. Perhaps being the only other heavenly body with a Baldwin Piano is some consolation.
Odd theme, with rather tortured theme phrases, but Bob was up to his high standard in cluing the rest of the fill. I enjoy seeing two adjoining entries with similar clues; e.g., [The King's Mississippi birthplace] next to [Nat King Cole's birthplace] and [Sound at a spa] by [Sound at a séance]. Then there are clues such as [Cause of cold feet?] for ICEBATH, [Ripple-effect victim?] for WINO (“ripple” is a type of cheap wine) and [Juju, mojo, or grigri] for AMULET which are fun. Finally, we have alliterative clues like [Bitty bark] for YIP and [Reggae's roots] for SKA. I do have two questions, though, is there a particular reason [Participated in a three-legged event] was the more generic RACED other than to align the clue with [Four-legged event?] for RELAY? And also, how do feel about the indefinite article leading A GONER for [Done for]? I find it a bit arbitrary.
Michael Wiesenberg and David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
It’s so neat the way the five species of salmon form symmetrical pairs and a middle entry. The way the answers visually reflect the revealer of SALMON/SWIMMING/UPSTREAM is also extremely satisfying. This is such a beautiful, simple and elegant theme! The four salmon, written normally, are CHUM, CHINOOK, SOCKEYE, COHO and STEELHEAD.
It’s an unusual grid design: two black squares in the top-right and bottom-left corners to fit in the four letter salmon. Then the middle is wide open with mostly single and a few double black-squares making for an unusually flowing grid. The flow seems especially curious for a collaboration. Normally constructors try and find a way to divide the grid in two to allow a division of labour? Or is that just me?
The puzzle started with the gimme of ITSPAT. A not too successful and pretty awful movie that I only watched about 20 minutes of. It was striking enough to stick in my brain though! DAYONE as a [Nonspecific journal opening] is also clever; I was thinking scientific journal for some reason! KNISH, HOMEEC, LINUX, LALAW, MARROW, CHORIZO are further highlights. It’s a sign of a professional grid to have such interesting middle-length answers.
I thought this was the bees’ knees! 4.75 stars.
Maryanne Lemot’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Happy 100th Birthday!” — pannonica’s write-up
Longish solve time because I had trouble locating my error, which turned out to be misspelling Hong Kong’s neighbor MACAO as MACAU, suggesting that Aristotle wrote about … erm … LUGIC.
Didn’t look at the title, but the structure of the clues (“x debut of 1913″) pointed the way fairly obviously, concluding predictably (for regular readers of this blog, anyway) with 112a [Entertainment debut of 1913] CROSSWORD PUZZLE.
- 23a. [Musical debut of 1913] THE RITE OF SPRING. Poor clue, in my opinion. “Musical” strongly suggests a Broadway-style show. The famous Paris premiére of Stravinsky’s composition was just as notorious for Nijinsky’s startling balletic choreography as the unfamiliar music. And no, I don’t consider the clue to be a clever misdirection.
- 34a. [Transportation hub debut of 1913] GRAND CENTRAL. This time my issue is with the answer. It’s “Grand Central Station,” just like it’s “Carnegie Hall” and not “Carnegie.” If the clue had included a “for short,” that’d make it all better. Especially glaring when paralleled with the key theme answer, which conceivably could have been “crossword.” See also, 89d ["Winter's Tale" author] Mark HELPRIN; the edifice plays a prominent part in the novel, which I’m convinced only appeals to people who aren’t NYC natives.
- 48a. [Novel debut of 1913] SONS AND LOVERS, by DH Lawrence.
- 62a. [Household product debut of 1913] BRILLO PADS.
- 72a. [American magazine debut of 1913] VANITY FAIR.
- 85a. [Numismatic debut of 1913] BUFFALO NICKEL. Also (coincidentally?) it’s the 100th anniversary of the historic reintroduction of a small herd of bison from the Bronx Zoo to the wild in South Dakota, after the species had been nearly exterminated from its natural habitat.
- 100a. [Laundry debut of 1913] CLOROX BLEACH. Brillo pads and Clorox®? Wow, a banner year for domestic drudgery!
Not exactly a knock-your-socks-off theme, but something like this was to be expected. Brace yourself for more in this vein. We’ll see how they all shake out.
- You know you’ve been doing crosswords too long when there’s no hesitation after reading [Pulsing] before filling in ATHROB without any crossing letters. But then it’s a little much when the same puzzle offers 117a [Excitedly active] ABOIL and 5d [Render turbid] ROIL. No comment on A LIE, A LARK, and A FLAC.
- Upstate action! 2d [City about 180 miles northwest of New York City] ITHACA, 91a [City about 180 miles northwest of New York City] ELMIRA.
- 16d [Small constellation] ASTERISM. It’s also the name of a typographical symbol, ⁂, which has various uses.
- 45d [Corkscrew-shaped pasta] ROTINI. I had FUSILI. And would describe the more tightly coiled ROTINI (which isn’t even a real Italian word) as helical. But perhaps I’m being pastapedantic. You decide. Oh, rotini isn’t there because … you know; so here’s a Wikipedia link.
- 75d [Dictator's term, perhaps] LIFE. Reminds me of a great line from a so-so James Bond movie, one with Timothy Dalton. Robert Davi’s drug lord villain ominously says to the Central American dictator, who’s under his sway, “Remember, you’re only president … for life.”
- Not thrilled by the crossing of 57a [A's pitcher Dan] OTERO with 51d [Sawmill ramp] LOGWAY, but at least it was guessable.
- Favorite clues: 53d [Country album?] ATLAS, 121a [Lots of people have seen her strip] NANCY (by Ernie Bushmiller),
- Spent a long time trying to reconcile 1a [Calvados base] with APPLE, but it turned out to be CIDER. Also, for quite some time had TILL for 41d [Tender spot] GOAL.
About average CROSSWORD PUZZLE, not too much junk.
Zhouquin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Finishing Schools” — pannonica’s write-up
No-nonsense theme, perfectly placed in the proper venue. Phrases that end with letters that form the name of an institution of higher learning, circled for your convenience (or annoyance, such as the case may be).
- 17a. [Thick-rinded fruit named after a Turkish town] CASABA MELON (Elon). Well, there’s a didactic clue for you.
- 29a. [Athletic training may improve it] MUSCLE MEMORY (Emory). And here’s an open-ended one.
- 49a. [Novel that introduced 007] CASINO ROYALE (Yale). Quite specific. More specific: published in 1953.
- 62a. [Sticker number] ASKING PRICE (Rice). Little vague, but perfectly adequate.
Should I be upset that three of the four have four letter names, or that a different set of three lop off just the first letter of the phrases’ second word while one beheads two? I don’t think so; those inconsistencies feel minor. Overriding them is the consistency that the names don’t coincide exactly with full words.
Bonus fill: 4d [The college life] ACADEME.
- Longdowns: MEN AT WORK, Suzanne PLESHETTE, SOCCER MOM, and ANTI-NOISE with the great clue, [Like laws that may be used to combat rackets?]. Good stuff.
- New magical mantra (to replace “awa tugo siam”) IMPEL | ELAM | SIMI. (Row 7)
- Did not know this definition: 10d [Play a card out of suit] RENEGE. Is it the origin of the more generic term?
- Second favorite clue: 58d [Support for a proposal?] KNEE.
Low CAP Quotient™, solid puzzle.