A local TV station in St. Louis interviewed Patrick Blindauer about his crossword career. Patrick gives excellent interview—thoughtful, articulate. Watch it here.
Francis Heaney’s American Values Club crossword, “Get Back in There”
Okay! Billed as 4 out of 5 on the difficulty scale, this one took me as long as a typical BEQ “Themeless Monday” and longer than the standard NYT Thursday puzzle. I hereby declare it to be exactly as hard as I would expect a 4 to be.
Francis puts his derriere in a bunch of phrases to change their meanings entirely:
- 17a. [Debate team's consensus about rules for counterarguments?], THE REBUTTAL DEAL. BUTT in “the real deal.” Is that a colloquial phrase or a specific title?
- 23a. [Spat between priests who wore the same garment to a party?], CASSOCK FIGHT. That’s an ASS in a cockfight. Anyone else mistakenly try to make the priestly garment a Cossack?
- 38a. [Some really bad Dodge collisions?], DIRE STRATUS HITS. TUSH inside either the phrase “dire straits” or the band Dire Straits.
- 48a. [Restore the patriotic eagle Muppet after he was wadded up?], UNCRUMPLE SAM. Your RUMP is in Uncle Sam.
- 59a. [Credit card purchase a little kid was forbidden to make, but made anyway?], TABOO TYKE CHARGE. That’s a BOOTY in “take charge.”
Only the Muppet one brought me amusement here.
- 20a. [Brother from another mother, perhaps?], IN-LAW.
- 10d. [Show that recently added Sasheer Zamata to its cast], SNL. She’s all right.
- 33d. [The "it" in "Because it's there"], MT. EVEREST.
Favorite fill: AIRSICK BAG, SYRACUSE, LOUD SHIRT (always best with a finely coordinated necktie), HOT MEALS, SLEIGH RIDE.
Did not know: 45d. [Inept barbarian created by Sergio Aragonés], GROO (yikes); 7d. [How salsa may be danced], ON TWO (I don’t exactly know what that means and no, I have never salsa-danced).
Fill I was kinda surprised to see in a puzzle by Francis includes EPH, IGA, ALAR, partials IT A and TO ASK, SOYA, PLYER, and LAH. 69 theme squares and six colorful 8- to 10-letter fill answers come at a price, but it’s not an overly steep price.
67a. [Bean used to make natto] clues SOYA, which is crosswordese for “soybean.” Have you seen natto? An intrepid blogger named Steve tried to eat it and documented the experience here (note: some crude content).
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
In this 16×15 puzzle, several words we borrowed from are spelled phonetically (presumably not echoing exactly the received Japanese pronunciation) in English words:
- 18a. [*Blubbered?], WAS SOBBY. What the spicy condiment wasabi sounds like, but with that Z sound in WAS added.
- 25a. [*What happened after Mr. Onassis contacted A.A.A.?], ARI GOT TOW. Arigato, “thank you.” Ari got no grammar.
- 35a. [*Imaginary overthrow of the government?], PSEUDO COUP. Sudoku, but with the syllable accents all out of whack.
- 47a. [*Give a Dust Bowl migrant a ride?], CARRY OKIE. Karaoke.
- 57a. [Language that gave us the words heard phonetically in the answers to the starred clues], JAPANESE.
Most unusual entry: 2d. [Gravely ill: Fr.], ALAMORT. Maybe the French is three words, à la mort? The one-word version appears in some English dictionaries. Last seen, Cruciverb’s database tells me, in two themelesses: a 2003 Friday NY Sun puzzle by BEQ and a 1999 Saturday NYT by Nosowsky. So it’s tough fill for sure. The French cue is helpful.
- 21a. ["Wouldn't miss it!"], “I’M THERE!”
- 5d. ["Here we go again!"], “OH, BROTHER!”
- 34d. [Kind of shop], MOM AND POP.
The worst the grid has to offer is ELEA, -DROME, ADIA, and the woeful “OH, ME.” Just four moderately groany answers in a Krozel puzzle? I’ve struggled to appreciate the fill in many of Joe’s crosswords, but this one’s pretty solid. Lots of wide-open corners here, and while two of the corners are nearly cut off from the rest of the puzzle (with OH BROTHER and MOM AND POP the only routes in), the clues allowed me to move through the puzzle without hitting dead ends.
Seems like we rarely see ADHD (25d. [Condition treated with Adderall, in brief]) in the grid. It’s not as depressing or awkward as CANCER or GONORRHEA or DEMENTIA, so I’m not sure why we see it so rarely. (Two appearances in the Cruciverb database, 2010 CHE and 2012 LAT.)
Four stars. The theme is goofball and Thursday is a good day for that sort of thing.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Gotta Go!” – Dave Sullivan’s review
As in most cases, I try to guess what the theme entries will have in common after reading the title of a puzzle. Today, I at first briefly considered a bit of potty humor was in store. But, fret not Sunday Breakfast Test adherents! We have four phrases that mean It’s the Time We Have Say “So Long!”, all clued as ["Gotta go!"]:
- “IT’S BEEN REAL!” – nice colloquial phrase there.
- “SO LONG FOR NOW!”, which could alternatively been clued as ["Ta ta!"], or just “ta” if you’re a fan of BBC’s Eastenders.
- “SEE YOU AROUND!” – yeah, I’ll buy that one too, although “YA” instead of “YOU” might be the more common variant.
- “I’M OUTTA HERE!” – yes, “outta” instead of “out of.”
Nice job! I’m wondering if Jay Leno’s departure from the Tonight Show has anything to do with the timing of this one. I’ll leave with a clip from Johnny Carson’s last show, which I’ll always hold dear to my heart:
So long, folks!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Fireball crossword, “Following Directions”
My solve wasn’t actually untimed, but I don’t remember what the timer showed last night when I solved the puzzle, and I inadvertently closed the puzzle and lost the timer. Probably in the 5- to 6-minute range.
Directional words are represented by the direction certain words appear in the grid:
- 20a. [Certain mind game, literally], YGOLOHCYSP. Reverse PSYCHOLOGY. Remember Ben Tausig’s 3/16/06 NYT puzzle with that same answer, plus MSICAR, EGAGTROM, and three other “reverse ___” words?
- 52a. [Moves on a hobbyhorse, literally], SKCORROCKS. That’s “ROCKS back and forth.”
- 3d. [Assert passionately, literally], RAEWSSWEAR. That’s “SWEAR up and down.” My favorite of the theme answers.
- 30d. [Put on airs toward, literally], TAESONRUOY. This is “turn YOUR NOSE up AT.” I’m not sure why the AT also travels up here. It feels a hair off base to me.
Five more things:
- 14a. [It was 5431.4 for "Spock's Brain"], STARDATE. Is the decimal for a month?
- 17a. [Tour de France reporter's spot], PRESS CAR. Didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s plausible.
- 30a. [Teammate of Rusty and Cleon], TUG. Ugh. Old baseball first-names-only random trivia, crossing the oddball backwards AT in 30d and a tough clue for 32d: [Storage units of cell messages?], GENES. I might have spent a solid minute trying to piece together TUG. Peter Gordon! Not everyone is a baseball obsessive. Would it kill you to throw in a “McGraw” assist instead of an “eff you if you don’t love baseball” clue?
- 59a. ["Annoying" YouTube character], ORANGE. Never heard of it. Here’s one video. “Hey, Apple.” That orange is annoying.
- 10d. [What a # symbolizes to a proofreader], SPACE. As in a space between two words. I knew this one. I wonder if newbie proofreaders think it’s called a hashtag.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “X Word” — Matt’s review
A tweet from this morning:
— Erin MilliganMilburn (@Dorktacular) February 6, 2014
And she’s right: this is a very successful add-a-something puzzle since its theme entries are so nice:
19-A [Titled Australian anteater?] = DAME ECHIDNA. We’re adding the Greek letter chi to base phrases, I should’ve mentioned. This one’s great because “echidna” is a nice word; base phrase is “Dame Edna.”
25-A [Spartan guttersnipe?] = GRECIAN URCHIN. From “Grecian urn.” I wasn’t familiar with the word “guttersnipe” but I like it.
40-A ["Olympic athletes are having sex?!?"] = SOCHI FUCKING, WHAT? From “So fucking what?”. Only now do I realize that this is a 16×15 grid; this must’ve been his seed phrase, then.
52-A [Red wine messiah?] = CHIANTI-CHRIST. From “antichrist.”
64-A ["Greetings, Mexican street band!"?] = AVE, MARIACHI. From “Ave, Maria.”
*** 29-A has [Mahmoud's PLO predecessor] for YASSER Arafat. I would have clued it referencing this guy.
*** I forgot to save my time but it was close to 10 minutes. Tough one. Did not know KOMBU in the Dakotas and it took me a ridiculously long time to come up with Grecian Urn as the base phrase up there, even though your only two choices are Urn and Formula.
*** At 38-A [Spicy haddock spread] is AIOLI. I remember when that used to be an exotic Scrabble-only word; now my town of 25,000 has a restaurant named Aioli.
*** BEQ-quality fill: WHERE AM I?, ACUITY, MASH-UP, TOTES, RFK. BEQ-style fill: PORN, RODMAN, AIN’T I? and GODDAM. Not to mention a few of those themers.
4.25 stars. Better than your average add-a-thing theme.
Jill Denny & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The essence of the puzzle is simple and cute: TOP/DOG points to the fact that POMegranate, LAByrinth, PUGnacity, CHOWderhead all start with dog breeds / dog breed nicknames. The grid has unusual symmetry to allow all the theme answers to start at the top. I’d say it’s a very nice theme by Jill Denny and the mister up to here.
There’s a lot of “bonus” stuff going around too though: LEADEROFTHEPACK fills in the unused bottom of the grid – a sort of second, not-quite-so-apt revealer, which is a bit distracting. I think the piles of “cheater” squares are meant to make the black squares form some sort of stylised dog; I may be way off base here though – I see a vague head, and that’s all, but I ask myself what could be the reason for all those squares other than an attempt at grid art?
Outside of the theme, there isn’t too much going on good or bad. The overall effect for me was on the flat side, as you’d expect of a grid with 50 black squares.
Sometimes with themes less is more: 2.75 Stars