Attention, ACPTers! There’s still time to get in on the Cru dinner on Friday, March 7. Details here.
Attention, constructors! Jeffrey Harris, crossword editor for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is looking for some smartypants puzzles. Here’s Jeffrey’s call for submissions:
Submission rates for the CHE crossword have dwindled quite a bit recently, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind people of the venue. You can visit the Chronicle site for a detailed spec sheet (scroll down to below the list of puzzle links), but here are the bullet points:
- We accept 15×15 (or occasionally 15×16 or 15×14) crosswords with scholarly themes—literary, scientific, etc. Constructors are encouraged to send theme queries before filling a grid, and filled grids before writing clues.
- The pay is $150 per puzzle, which I believe is only behind the Times and Fireball in open-submission pay rates for that size.
Since submissions are low, turnaround time will be quite fast.
(Amy here.) The CHE has run some really fabulous puzzles with intricate, tricky themes, as well as puzzles with more straightforward scholarly themes. It’s a boon to constructors to be able to submit themes for approval, too, rather than creating an entire puzzle only to be asked to rework the theme. Show us what you’ve got!
Ian Livengood and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword
Hey! We just had another puzzle by Ian and his crossword-construction pupils two months ago. I figured we were a year away from the next one, but either the class was super-productive or the course is happening more than once a year. Lots of super-crispy fill, as we typically see any time Ian’s name appears in the byline. I’m partial to these bits:
- 1a. [1987 #1 hit with the line "Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán"], “LA BAMBA.” Such a catchy tune. Anyone else in the mood for marinara sauce now? Pro tip: Top Ritz crackers with mozzarella, melt the cheese, dip in pasta sauce, and enjoy. Tastes like chicken parmigiana, I’m telling you.
- 15a. [Samsung Galaxy Note rival], IPAD AIR. “Rival”! As if. I picked up an iPad Air for myself on the way home from a trivia competition. I earned it.
- 17a. [Forward to some followers], RETWEET. I probably retweet more than I tweet. #lazytweeter
- 18a. [Curt chat closing], KTHXBYE. Can I get a ruling on the proper spacing, if any? Is it “k thx bye” or “kthxbye”?
- 42a. [Modern device seen on a bridge], GOOGLE GLASS. Had so many crossings, I didn’t even need the clue. The “bridge” in question is the bridge of the nose.
- 49a. [Den delivery], LION CUB. Seldom seen in the grid, not too fancy, but utterly familiar and way cuter than the average 7-letter word.
- 67a. [Like some stockings], FISHNET. See also: 28d. [They sometimes lead to runs], SNAGS.
- 6d. [Welcome message to international travelers], BIENVENUE. Wilkommen!
- 21d. [Novel groups?], BOOK CLUBS.
- 30d. [Italian brewer since 1846], PERONI. If your local Italian restaurant doesn’t stock this, ask them what ails them.
My favorite clues:
- 8a. [Throwback], ATAVIST. Been seeing “throwback” each Thursday in social media, when people post old photos of themselves and call it Throwback Thursday, or #tbt.
- 38a. [Four roods], ACRE. “I’ll take Medieval Units of Measure for $1,200, Alex.” So, so many boring, stale clues for ACRE. The medieval angle is fresh!
- 40a. [Pawnbroker, in slang], UNCLE. This is insane. Never heard it in my life! Learned something new.
- 55a. [They're game], FOWL. Bawk, bawk.
- 59a. [Sack dress?], PAJAMAS. As in the dress/apparel you wear when you hit the sack. Toughest clue for me to parse.
Outdated clue: 57d. [Modern posting locale], WALL. Facebook quit the whole Wall thing a year or two back and moved to Timelines.
Hardest to understand: 7d. [Danza, e.g.], ARTE. Eventually I figured out danza must be Italian for “dance,” and ARTE, of course, is “art.”
Didn’t love all the shorter fill, but how often do I?
I found this one markedly easier than the Friday puzzle. I’ve heard that Will Shortz likes to run showy grids, like quad-stacks, on Fridays so that a larger audience will see them. Difficulty-wise, though, I’d have swapped these two. Four stars from me.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
I really enjoyed this puzzle. I really enjoy most of Mark Bickham’s themeless puzzles, in fact.
Right away in the NW, H.R. PUFNSTUF is an attention-grabber. That answer alone crosses the lovely PONTIAC FIREBIRD and STREET CRED. FLESH is clued as the bygone Crayola color, which is a fun reminder of racism in consumer culture. UVEA might strike some as crosswordese, but it’s a real thing, honest.
There’s lot of stuff that feels extremely “in the language” in this puzzle too. PRIMETIME TV, ABOVE IT ALL, IN A NUTSHELL, and the often-partialized END OF AN ERA are all good long phrases. From the batch of long answers, I also really liked PRAIRIE DOG, LOAN SHARKS, X-RAY VISION (when did this become such a common crossword entry?), and the only single-word long answer, MINESTRONE. The only long answer that didn’t really strike my fancy was POLITICAL LEADER, which is still a fine entry. None of these left me saying “I’M BORED.”
Other fill of interest: RUPIAH, FESS UP, HOT TUB, WIRED (clued as the magazine), URBAN (the papal name). Bad stuff: A LAP, API-, UIES, NUIT (although I like the clue of [Gaspard de la ___]), SEI, SITU, ENE. Not too bad, and I didn’t mind the compromise in order to get an interesting grid and fill. Overall, 3.75 stars. Until next week!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Busy day, behind schedule, need lunch, gotta hit the road soon, quick thoughts:
Easier than I was expecting for a Stumper.
Likes in the fill: MISSPEAKS, DRY-ERASE, BIALYSTOK, MAN-TO-MAN, ANTON EGO (a flat-out gimme for me), Muppet WALDORF.
Unexpected clue: 22a. [Every US president to date], SON. Technically, yes. Though that was not their most salient feature. (Maleness in general may be.)
Smooth fill. Four stars.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Bearing Arms”
Amy here—Dave was called out of town.
The theme is PACKING HEAT, or [Bearing arms, and a hint to what's inside 16-, 23-, 34-, and 47-Across]. Each of those answers contains the letter sequence HEAT in a non-heat context:
- 16a. [Invading, say], ON THE ATTACK. Neutral phrase, not thrilling.
- 23a. [Like pelicans, dietwise], FISH-EATING. Blurgh. Not a fan of clue words like “dietwise,” and FISH-EATING feels flat and awkward.
- 34a. [Duke Ellington classic], TAKE THE A TRAIN. Nice.
- 47a. [Illicit memory aid], CHEAT SHEET. Lively.
I don’t get it, Martin. You’ve got the title field available in this venue, so why not call the puzzle “Packing Heat” and put four phrases in the theme instead of five? Granted, it makes a little bit of a punch line as a revealer. Maybe cut out one themer and put two on top and one on the bottom with the revealer? Because the five long answers appear to have been hell on the fill. While HOT COCOA and ICED TEAS make a lovely pair, the Scowl-o-Meter kicked into gear with LACS, plural abbrev RTES, partial ON OUR, old ATCO, LESE-majesté, plural exclamation NAHS, alphabetical trio GHI, crosswordese [Glacial deposit] ESKER (when I encounter an answer that I used to see much more often in crosswords but haven’t seen in awhile, it throws up a red flag), crosswordese STEN, and terrible “AH, ME.” Is it not plausible that with one fewer theme answer, we might have been spared most of these?
Did not know: 38a. [Brit's billfold] is a NOTECASE. News to me; Martin probably carries one and actually calls it a notecase!
Three stars. I liked the revealer’s punch line, though it was no mystery what the theme was given that there’s also a gun-suggestive title.