Ben Zimmer and Patrick Blindauer’s American Values Club crossword, “Hidden Msgs”
Arrgh. WordPress ate one and a half paragraphs. Here we go again. This is the third in the series of AV Club crosswords coauthored by celebrities. The past celebs were comic Patton Oswalt and rocker Ira Kaplan; this time it’s lexicographer Ben Zimmer. He writes about language for various nationally prominent newspapers; his current bailiwick is the Wall Street Journal. He’s also a talking head on TV, most recently on MSNBC talking about that regional American vocabulary quiz that went viral among language buffs (for the record, my word choices are similar to those from Rockford and Aurora, IL, and Grand Rapids, MI; not sure why Chicago doesn’t make my list of three).
Where was I? Oh, yes. Puzzle! The theme is hidden abbreviations that are used in text messages, or “msgs.” The theme looks cuter in the PDF than in the .puz file with circles around the thematic letters, doesn’t it? More like iPhone texts in the little balloons.
- 17a. [Kids whose parents are invested in them], TRUST FUND BABIES hiding STFU, or “shut the eff up.”
- 34a. [Persians may go in it], KITTY LITTER hiding TTYL, or “talk to you later.”
- 42a. [Cozy material used for pajamas and blankets], MICROFLEECE hiding ROFL, or “rolling on the floor.” Does anyone still use this one?
- 62a. ["Hamlet" words of Act V, Scene I], “I KNEW HIM, HORATIO” hiding IMHO, or “in my humble opinion.”
Solid theme with a lively assemblage of phrases. The puzzle announces its AV Club ways right off the bat with a D-BAG ([A-hole]) at 1-Across. The fill also includes two words found in Ben’s list of notable words of 2013: TWERK and DOGE. The latter is clued not as a historical Venetian magistrate but as the recent Internet meme.
- 33a. [Finless fish forbidden in kosher diets], EEL. Not your usual stale EEL clue.
- 6d. [Desi toon], APU. “Desi” is an Indian word for a person of Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi descent who lives abroad. I think the word is rather more prominent in the UK than in the US, but the word is definitely here. And yet DESI in the crossword grid pretty much always seems to be clued as Desi Arnaz.
- 25d. [Word before pig or position], FETAL. I think I skipped dissecting the fetal pig in junior high.
- 37d. [Homicide site in "Folsom Prison Blues"], RENO. “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” yes?
- 39d. [Ünnecessarily ümlauted band, for short], CRUE. Mötley Crüe.
Did you notice that SENATE and SEX ACT both follow the SE*A** pattern? That clue for 50d, [Congress], pointed that out to me.
Patrick and Ben, I’m curious to know how you split the labors on this puzzle. Patrick, of course, is a whiz at developing themes, filling grids, and writing clues, but I’m thinking longtime puzzler Ben (who joined the National Puzzlers’ League when he was but a boy) probably has some secret crosswordy chops too.
Todd Gross’s New York Times crossword
(Thanks to pannonica for filling in last night. Just when I was about to sit down to the crossword, zap—power outage. It’s hard to blog by candlelight, especially when the candles don’t make Wi-Fi work.)
It wasn’t till I found myself all the way down at 51-Across that I made sense out of the theme. The letters that I’ve circled are to be read rebus-style as, for example, “B ending,” meaning a letter B that ends the entry. Move that letter-plus-”ending” word to the beginning, and you get the stealth theme answers:
- 17a. [Food or drink dispensers], MACHINESV, or v-ending machines.
- 32a. [Robert Frost poem that includes "Good fences make good neighbors"], WALLM, or “M-ending Wall.”
- 51a. [Taking liberties], THERULESB, or b-ending the rules.
- 10d. [Going without help], FORONESELFF, or f-ending for oneself.
- 24d. [Future court case], LITIGATIONP, or p-ending litigation.
Crisp theme with a new bit of wordplay I haven’t seen before. I wasn’t crazy about Todd and David’s Arthur Wynne-themed puzzle on 12/21, but Todd’s redeemed himself with this theme. (Although again with the byline bunching! Only 12 days since Todd’s last appearance in the NYT.)
- 25a. [Like virtually all gold medalists in Olympic table tennis], CHINESE. Is this a Shortz clue or a pander-to-Shortz clue? At any rate, good clue.
- 40a. [Pope who declared "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition"], FRANCIS.
- 43a. [Hog], GLUTTON. It’s a neat word, isn’t it? It doesn’t look like many others.
- 7d. [Hircosity], LUST. Obscure clue word! (Not mentioned in dozens of dictionaries.) And one I did not know. The Collins definition says “the quality of being like a goat.” Are goats on the farm known for being particularly randy? (Note the inclusion of a sin clue for the pope and then some deadly sins.)
- 8d. [1968 #1 hit for the Supremes], LOVE CHILD. Don’t know the song, but it’s a good phrase regardless.
- 32d. [Where Snickers, Skittles and Starburst are manufactured], WACO. I had no idea. None at all.
- 39d. [Inconsequential stuff], PEANUTS. Good clue.
Did not know 43d. ["Grand Canyon Suite" composer], GROFE. And this 9d. [Feeling romantic], AMATIVE—that’s fairly uncommon, right? Amatory is more often used?
Lowlights include IBARS, DOETH, ETAPE, ODA, DOERR and DERR. Six Scowl-o-meter entries is not as bad as, say, 10 or more such entries, but it is definitely enough for me to notice while solving.
Four stars. Despite the lowlights, I admired the theme and there were plenty of deft Thursday(-plus) clues.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Pay Up!” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases in the down direction where PAY appears from bottom to top:
- [It's a plus for the consumer] clued HEALTHY APPETITE. “Consumer” in the more literal sense of someone who eats something, I’m thinking.
- [According to legend, its continued presence on Gibraltar allows the British to retain control thereof] clued BARBARY APE. I’ve actually seen said apes (actually I think they are a type of “macaque,” but maybe pannonica can clear that up), strange to pass through customs as you head from Spain into Gibraltar (you also cross an active runway as well). These “apes” are very tame and have learned how to beg for food from tourists.
- [Sticky treat stuck on a stick] was a CANDY APPLE. Before I had the theme pattern down, I put in CARAMEL POP at first. If there isn’t such a thing, there should be!
- [Woody Allen comedy with a rhyming title] wasn’t the soon-to-be-released tennis biopic “Clijsters and Her Sisters,” but instead MIGHTY APHRODITE. I think this one had Olympia Dukakis in it, but I’m not quite sure.
Not the most challenging of themes, but as typical with Bob Klahn puzzles, this one had me for lunch and dinner, and then got up and ate me again as a late-night snack. For some reason, I clung onto BASIN instead of ROSIN for [Pitcher's need], had no idea what [Fibbies] were (G-MEN, I finally discovered), and held onto BAR for PUB clued as [Spot for a shot]. BLOODY for [Really rare] was another tough entry as I was thinking about “hen’s teeth” at first. The nice juxtaposition of [Be curious] for ASK and [Curious] for ODD, was just one example of many felicities the puzzle offered. Another tough workout!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website variety puzzle, “A to Z” — Matt’s review
1) This puzzle type, which I believe was invented by Will Shortz, is one of the most enjoyable that I’ve ever come across. Brendan, if you’re not already writing a book of these, please do so. Way back when I tried to make Kaidoku the word-equivalent of Sudoku, but this variant is far superior. You can’t brute force it and just when you think the whole rest of the puzzle is about to fall…suddenly you’re not so sure. Awesome.
2) At one point in the solve I muttered to myself: “ZING, not ZEAL!” and then I used a four-letter word that begins not with the 26th letter but with the 6th.
3) I couldn’t remember whether LINUS or Schroeder had the blanket in “Peanuts.” But then I remembered Schroeder was on piano so he probably didn’t need the blanket.
4) I also had LOON instead of GOOF in the SW, until, panic-stricken, I realized that LINUS already uses the L.
5) Using point 5 to restate point 1: write a book of these, Quigley! They’re awesome.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
We’ve got ourselves another clever theme today! Each word begins with a CONTRACTION (clued as a [Beginning of labor...], which is nice – childbirth is underrepresented in crosswords!) A lot of the theme answers are one word, which is unusual; the words are interesting though, so I think it works well! We have “can’t” in CANTALOUPE (not a word in South African English, we favour “spanspek” for that fruit), “shan’t” in SHANTYTOWN (plenty of those here!), “i’ll” in ILLINOIS, “we’re” in WEREWOLF and “won’t” in WONTONSOUP.
The design features a very 7-letter-word-heavy grid. Other answers of note included:
- CARRARA the [City that was the source of the marble for Michelangelo's "David"], which I had no idea about… Way above my high culture comfort zone!
- ROES, [Agile deer]. I call foul on this clue. If you’re going to use the add s convention in the clue, you should use it in the answer and vice-versa. Don’t mix and match to try and trick solvers – it’s a cheap trick.
- BITER, [One with a muzzle, maybe]. I forget the previous time I saw the answer, but it was clued in a way that seemed much more contrived. I have definitely used “biter” in this context many times!
- GENTIAN, [Blue-flowering plant used in herbal medicine]. PSA, most medicine is herbal. It just makes sense to isolate the active chemical(s) and concentrate it/them and thus make it more effective.
Neat concept: 4 stars.