It’s here! American Crossword Puzzle Tournament time is here! If you’re interested in following the standings as they develop, start checking http://www.crosswordtournament.com/2014/index.htm beginning on Saturday afternoon.
My “training” for this year’s ACPT consisted of doing the occasional cryptic, variety puzzle, or variety cryptic, as well as arranging my social schedule for the weekend in Brooklyn. My goal is to have a grand time and remain in the top 30 while feeling as little stress as possible. Oh—and I’d like to get through the seven tournament puzzles without an error. I shan’t hazard a guess on who’s going to be in the finals, other than Not Me. Hope you see many of you at the tournament!
Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword
Still have some packing to do for my morning journey to Brooklyn and I’m ready to sleep now. So quick take:
Themeless puzzle with a three-part quasi-quip-theme/asymmetrical quasi-minitheme?
- 15a. [TV show that debuted on 11/3/93 (and start of a parent's distressed cry?)], THE NANNY.
- 39a. [TV show that debuted on 9/22/04 (middle of the cry)], LOST.
- 43a. [TV show that debuted on 1/5/70 (end of the cry)], ALL MY CHILDREN.
Now, usually “cry” in a crossword clue means “shout” or “sound emitted by an animal. (Is there such thing as a sheep’s cry or a cow’s cry?) Here, it really would be a tormented, sobbing cry. Probably that nanny is going to get fired. Possibly also prosecuted. Sort of grim, no?
Reminds me a hair of three past themelesses (see comments here) with triple-stacks of long answers that make up a plausible sentence (Byron Walden, 2005 NYT, ON THE OPEN SEA / FRANCIS X BUSHMAN / FELT A LITTLE LOST; Harvey Estes, 2006 NYT, AL AND TIPPER GORE/CAME TO THE RESCUE/ONE WAY OR ANOTHER; and Peter Gordon, 2010 Fireball, with a 14/15/15 stack of Mike Krzyzewski / crusaded against / Central Scotland). It’s nuttier to have your sentence in a stack than to have three answers of varying lengths in separate areas, no?
Likes in Matt “Dr. Fill” Ginsberg’s puzzle: quaint FLAGON (a bottle), delicious SCHADENFREUDE, okay NOT GREAT, HAZMAT SUIT (which, speaking of Byron W., was once partnered with baseball’s KAZ MATSUI in, I think, his NY Sun puzzle), and pretty LODESTAR. Unfond of TALI ERSE ECTO REBOTTLE (reflagon!) KETT ENISLE SST RLS ETTE ESSE ALIA.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Mystery Mix-Up” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A bit of a cryptic theme here, explained by the final theme entry, [Literary devices in mysteries, and what the first four letters of ... are] or PLOT TWISTS:
- [Like many washing machines] clued TOP-LOADING – not ours! We’re a front-loading family. I understand that they use much less water and energy to wash clothes.
- [1982 film with the tagline "They're here"] was POLTERGEIST – I read that the “polter” part means to make sounds in German, so these are the noisy types of ghosts.
- [Communal dining event] clued POT LUCK MEAL – ah, the gods of crossword symmetry are cruel. It’s either a “pot luck dinner” or just a “pot luck.” Not happy with meal here.
Not sure why the PLOT twists had to begin each phrase, but I guess the consistency is a point in the puzzle’s favor. The highlight for me, though, was 4-Down or [Doorbell alternatives], which are best illustrated by a movie clip:
I also enjoyed the longer entries DRAMEDY and VISHNU as well as the playful [They may go on a pantry raid] clue for ANTS. Given the saber-rattling in the Ukraine recently, MAKES WAR was a solemn foreboding.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle is a stunt puzzle. Like the recent one by Chen/Horne it features a giant letter. Bruce’s puzzle is however nearly the opposite of that aforementioned one: instead of each answer having an H, no answer has an E. There is a revealing answer, MISSING, whose clue, [What this grid's big symbol is, Across and Down], I found clumsy and probably unnecessary. Note that Bruce was also half responsible for the puzzle with the kite in it in the NYT earlier this week… He must like drawing pictures in his black squares!
The grid is asymmetrical, 42/73, with 3X15 letter answers and 33X3 letter ones. Still, although, the 15s were kind of meh (but a bit interesting in that they were 15 letter no-E answers), there were a few interesting and/or fresh bits to be found: POWCAMP; OKAYGUY, which seemed implausible to me when it remained unfilled and had accumulated 3 Y’s in its answer; PUSSYCATS clued as [Innocuous sorts]; BALIHAI.
One problem with the grid’s assymetry is uneven filling difficulty, with some very big swathes of white and some much more confined areas. Among those 33 3-letter bits, a couple were particularly irksome. I’m going to accept AAU if it’s something familiar to Americans; ICS however is not a crossworthy answer in my opinion.
I realise that, because of its stuntiness, the puzzle’s fill is more strained than normal, but I’ve found 3 spots where changing a letter will markedly improve the grid: 1. IWO/OWAR to IMO/OMAR; for me IMO>IWO and OMAR>OWAR by a big margin! 2. URN/SNUGS to URL/SLUGS; for me URL=URN but SLUGS is far superior to SNUGS!! 3. ISAY/ASI to IMAY/AMI; this may be more personal preference but I favour ASI to AMI, but then I’m more against partials than others…
As a crossword puzzle, somewhat fun: 2.75 Stars.
John Lampkin’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Not on the Same Wavelength” — pannonica’s write-up
Neat little scientific theme, probably suggested by the revealer: 62a [Phenomenon observed in receding galaxies … and in the answer's to this puzzle's asterisked clues?] RED SHIFT. Briefly, as objects recede the associated frequencies become longer; this is manifested visually as its colors shifting toward the longer end of the spectrum. Conversely, as objects approach, a blue shift occurs. The aural analogue of this phenomenon is the Doppler effect (think of a passing ambulance siren—the sound becomes higher pitched as it approaches and the frequency lowers after it’s gone past).
Appropriately, the theme answers contain colors in the visual spectrum—in order—but those have been replaced with the “next” color down the line, closer to red. No need to get into artificiality of seven spectral colors. Incidentally, I feel in this instance it might have been better to call the asterisks “stars,” considering the invocation of galaxies in the explaining clue.
- 17a. [*Duke Ellington classic] MOOD BLUE (from Indigo).
- 21a. [*Best-selling Canadian beer in the world] LABATT GREEN (from Blue).
- 37a. [*2011 superhero film] THE YELLOW HORNET (from Green).
- 54a. [*Commercial directory] ORANGE PAGES (from yellow).
Logically, one would expect the original final answer to have been something like the soft drink Orange Crush, but it becomes apparent that it’s a revealer only and not also part of the theme. Besides, were that the scenario then there would be no place where the nature of the theme is explicit—RED would only be implied. So it’s a conundrum.
On the clunky side, there probably should have been one more theme entry, encompassing violet. Honestly, indigo should have been elided (Newton used seven to better harmonize with musical notes).
(nota bene: I’d written the bulk of this a couple of days ago, but some events intervened and (1) I no longer recall any salient details of the solving experience, (2) many readers are otherwise occupied by the ACPT, (3) the CHE (and also the WSJ—brief write-up on the way) garner a relatively low amount of comment attention. So, I’ll just wrap it up.)
Handsome long non-theme entries, and quite long they are: THIRD PERSON, BUSY SIGNALS. Remainder of the ballast fill seems non-objectionable.
Good puzzle, though I found the theme execution to be slightly problematic.
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On the Edge” — pannonica’s (abbreviated) write-up
Each of the answers around the perimeter needs the word “call” added to be complete. The central answer at 66a frames it with WSJ flavor: [Brokers' demands, and a clue to this puzzle's theme] MARGIN CALLS. Clockwise, then:
- 1a. [Telemarketer's communication, euphemistically] COURTESY (CALL).
- 9a. [Acknowledgment of applause] CURTAIN (CALL).
- 16a. [Letter distribution on base] MAIL (CALL).
- 19d. [Late-night bar cry] LAST (CALL).
- 45d. [It involves many raised hands] ROLL (CALL).
- 71d. [Narrow escape from disaster] CLOSE (CALL).
- 102d. [A successful one results in an order] SALES (CALL).
- 122a. [Teleconference eagerly awaited by analysts] EARNINGS (CALL).
- 121a. [A prison inmate may make one] COLLECT (CALL).
- 120a. [Sound from the blind] DUCK (CALL). A hunter’s blind.
- 103d. [Junior broker's duty] COLD CALL).
- 76d. [Where many a ticket is dispensed] WILL (CALL).
- 46d. [Medical rarity these days] HOUSE (CALL).
- 1d. [Bart Simpson gag] CRANK (CALL).
Fourteen short and medium theme answers, not counting the revealer. A number of them are couched in explicitly financial/business terms, as befits the puzzle’s venue.
Have to confess that it took me quite a while to suss out the theme, though in my meager defense I didn’t arrive at the grid’s center until late in the game. Realized there was something going on with answers that didn’t seem quite right for their clues, but my contemporaneous thoughts were restricted mostly to the possibility of rebus squares. Also, I didn’t immediately notice all the “funny” answers were located on the grid’s edges.
Nevertheless, there were still a few that seemed off. For instance, 55a [Take piece to make peace?] for UNARM doesn’t quite work for me, with the poor syntax. 23a [Draws a laser gun?] for ANIMATES is also a bit much.
On the other hand, 46a [Good person to ask "What happened?"] HISTORIAN is great.
Elsewhere, the fill is uneven, with a mix of highs and lows, good and bad cluing, et cetera. But in general it’s at least average, and the fun theme is a plus.