Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword, “Bright Ideas”
When I figured out that the theme featured a Thomas Edison quote, I assumed it would be the one about genius being mostly perspiration rather than inspiration, so I was pleasantly surprised to instead find a much less familiar quote. Here’s the whole theme:
- 23a. [Start of a motivational comment attributed to 86-Across]/29a. [Middle of the comment]/43a. [End of the comment], I HAVE NOT FAILED I’VE JUST / FOUND TEN THOUSAND WAYS / THAT WON’T WORK. That’s looking on the bright side.
- 86a. [See 23-Across], THOMAS EDISON.
- 96a. [Nickname for 86-Across], THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK.
- 106a. [Development of 86-Across ... as depicted in the middle of this grid], INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB.
- Tracing the outline of a light bulb, the circled letters spell “AHA MOMENT.”
The best part of this theme? Is that Edison’s crosswordese middle name, ALVA, is irrelevant. The puzzle took me quite a bit longer than the typical Sunday puzzle, what with drawing a blank on most of the clues along the top of the grid and having no toeholds in the quote. (Ugh, quote theme! Glad the quote was only about half the theme.)
1d. [French kiss recipient, maybe] clues AMI, your French friend who gets kissed. I was sorely tempted to fill in a gaping MAW waiting for some tongue.
The fill is quite good. Well played, Ian! It’s hard to fill a 21×21 in such a way that I am not grumbling hither and yon. Interesting long fill includes my hometown CHICAGO BULLS, THE NINERS of San Francisco, METALLICA, TAN LINE, SESAME BAGELS, BUS LANE, the NFC SOUTH, Dolph LUNDGREN, Wordplay‘s featured Yankee pitcher/crossword fan Mike MUSSINA, and BLOSSOM clued nicely as 69a. [Start to show one's real potential]. Also, in the midrange, TUSHES! And BARBRA, NUTMEG, and CRINGE.
The sciencey DNA MOLECULE and OPEN CIRCUIT didn’t feel particularly lively, but the other long fill carried the puzzle right past them.
Four stars from this solver.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Some nice longer answers in this themeless, but at 74 words (certainly the high end of themeless 15×15 puzzles), I’d like a bit more zip:
- Starting at 1-Across (where most of us begin, I would imagine), we have [Springarn or Caldecott recipient] cluing MEDALIST – the former is awarded annually by the NCAAP to an African American, whereas the latter is also awarded annually to a children’s picture book author. Nice random trivia there.
- [Pardoning] was LETTING OFF – my ear is waiting for “the hook” to drop.
- [Tonsorial throwaway] has nothing to do with tonsils, as I first thought, but with shaving, as this was a DISPOSABLE RAZOR.
- [They sniff out survivors] clued RESCUE DOGS – are rescue drones far behind?
- Not sure I get the clue [Letter bomb?] for DEAR JOHN – I know that a “Dear John letter” is one someone writes to break up with someone, but can the cheese stand alone without the “letter” attached?
- [Bluenoses's bane] for SMUT was fun more for the clue than the entry as “bluenoses” are prudes.
So, all in all, some enjoyable features to this one, but I feel there could’ve been more given the higher word count. To my fellow New Englanders, stay warm! Lows tonight here are supposed to get below zero (again)!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Special Team” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle appeared in print back when the (American) football season was still active, right around the Super Bowl.
The play: existing phrases willfully reinterpreted to describe football player positions.
- 23a. [Mall rat on the team?] SHOPPING CENTER.
- 41a. [Player who goes over the line?] CROSSING GUARD. Because TRANSGRESSIVE PUNTER has too many letters.
- 47a. [Ball-hogging player?] PIGGY BACK. Encompasses quarterback, halfback, and fullback. The last two are also running backs, though the quarterback may also run. And a running back may sometimes pass. No threequarterbacks, as far as I know. Then there are defensive backs.
- 68a. [Powerful ball-hiker?] WHIPPERSNAPPER. (1) Snapper is the same as center (see 23a), though it isn’t an official position name. (2) “Whipper” = “powerful”? Don’t care for this answer as a theme entry, though I love the fill per se.
- 76a. [Specialist in a audibles?] STEREO RECEIVER.
- 102a. [Player with a grudge?] BITTER END. Possibly tight. Tight ends are sometimes receivers.
- 105a. [Player going for a catch?] FISHING TACKLE.
- 126a. [23-Across's buddy at the mall?] CONSUMER SAFETY, which feels incomplete to me; more a two-word adjective than a noun phrase. But I do appreciate how this last themer circles back to the first.
- Fake theme entries: 133a [Tom Brady's toll payment?] E-ZPASS. He plays for the New England Patriots, the home team of the Boston Globe, whence this crossword originates. 130a [What a tot punts with?] BOOTEE. Despite their cleverness, I’d have much preferred to see different, non-incursive clues. Also, there’s something quite intriguing about the (further) stacked ATOMIC BOOTEE.
As you can see, some of the positions—in fact, most—are represented as greater categories of positions rather than specific positions. Completely acceptable. nb: To remain consistent with the other theme entries, 68a may also be written as two words or hyphenated, but I find the ratatat of the one-word representation to be the most visually appealing.
- Fun how the crossword opens with a relatively unusual definition, 1a [Hit but ricochet] for GLANCE.
- 85a [Male turkey] TOM. Another reason to have used a different clue for 133a.
- Fill that’s much more fun to pronounce as if they were single words: 14d SUPERG, 44d ADREP, 92a NAGAT, 80d R’TEI.
- 38a [19-Down distinction] ONE NAME. Though of course 19d ["Diamond Life" singer] SADE is also the name of the band, and her real name is Sade Adu (Helen Folasade Adu). Oh, and ENYA is Eithne Ní Bhraonáin.
- Hey SASSES! So glad you aren’t in the bottom row. (66a)
- Sentimentally favorite entries/clues: 54a [Jazzman fronting the Arkestra] SUN RA. 71d [Mug or kisser] PHIZ. 82d [Crwth's lack] VOWEL – and you thought it was going to be SPACE, didn’t you? Strwth! (22a) Speakiing of space, [Erato's sister Muse] URANIA. 53a [What may be heaved] SIGHS.
- 61d [Cows, in olden days] KINE. Wonder if the cluing of the crossing IN-LAW at 74a contained an intentional prod or hint: [Kin after hitching]
- EEKS, (differently-clued) EEE, WEE, BOOTEE, AMIE, OPIE, and UEY (the proper spelling, according to moi).
- Who? 43d [Stevens of "Hang 'Em High"] INGER.
Solid puzzle, a playoff contender.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 207″ – Gareth’s review
Wow! That was brutal! I venture that was harder than 95% of NY Times Saturdays, and probably harder than the average Stumper too… I had very few gimmes, and a lot of unknowns.
I did have OCCIPUT and XKE early, and then ARENAROCK crossing, but that corner didn’t go anywhere after that; in fact it was my final corner to be solved! After 12 minutes (longer than the time it took me to solve Saturday’s NYT) I only sporadic answers and nothing much concrete except the bottom of the BEPREPARED stack. That (BEPREPARED) was the other long gimme, although I actually didn’t get it until the second go round, by which time had dropped down BAGEL.
The top-left corner was particularly devilish. [What patrons started picking numbers from in the '80s] is a vexing clue, I assumed it was going to be some American lottery thing. I’m not sure I’ve heard the term CDJUKEBOX, but I can imagine it is a thing. It’s also not easy to predict based on BOX. Another long across, [Seabiscuit won a famous one against War Admiral in 1938], MATCHRACE was equally unknown. I’m not up on my American horse racing terms. Apparently though, this isn’t limited to horse racing and it just means they went head to head. It doesn’t help when most of the downs are equally inscrutable. Apparently [Bette Midler specialty] is CAMP. I’ve never seen her being camp ever, but it would help to explain her gay icon status, which I’ve always wondered about… My experience has been her speciality is schmaltz. [Andy Griffith's alma mater, briefly], UNC is an American college, so I just put down a U and wait for some random letters to show up. ["The Prophet" author Gibran], KAHLIL – never heard of, also almost impossible to infer. ["Standard Operating Procedure" director Morris], ERROL you guessed it, never heard of him, but at least he had a common Anglo name! [Singer memorizing lines] is LORI – again not someone I know. The cutesy clue was easy for me to suss out, but it left me wondering who this actress singer was…
It’s not as though the rest of the puzzle was easy:
- ["Duino Elegies" poet], RILKE. Yet another name I have never heard of. The first letter was blank for a good time until I was sure.
- [Prey for a tiger], WILDPIG. The tiger seems oddly specific to Asia to use in a clue for an animal type found in most parts of the world (natively or as a feral). It’s not wrong though.
- [Mayo is a part of it], EIRE. That’s County Mayo, not the month. I’m pretty sure if I looked at Ross Beresford’s Pavlov’s Guide to Crosswords it would Mayo = Spanish month there!
- [Offense involving a little pinch], PETTYTHEFT. Inscrutable clue at first!
- [Brainstorm relative], RAPSESSION. I’ve dimly heard of this term. Guessing this actually opened up a lot of answers, eventually.
- [To such an extent (as)], INSOFAR. I weirdly had ASFARAS at first and didn’t go back and reread the clue until quite far in!
- [Casual remarks?], SEZ. Cunning!
- [Line of Xerox printers], COLORQUBE. Xerox makes printers??? Still, I sort of suspected the COLOR part for a while. QUBE was a big surprise!
- [Question of incredulity], AREYOUMAD. Great answer!
- [Record bottom], ALLTIMELOW. Another great answer! Minimalist but excellently vexing clue too!
- [Former Cowboys linebacker Dat ___], NGUYEN. No idea. I know that’s a Vietnamese surname. I wasn’t aware that there were Vietnamese-American American football players.
- [1990 film with the tagline "The few. The proud. The totally insane."], AIRAMERICA. Another thing that was wildly unfamiliar.
- [Brand of label printers], EPSON. I know them as a brand of printers. I considered them for a good while, but the “label” parth threw me.
- [Like some fishing], INSHORE. I kept wanting this to be ICEHOLE for some reason…
- [Under the table], OILED. Even with clue and answer together I still don’t have the foggiest how they’re related!
- [Nuzzling couple in England?], ZEDS. This always gets me. If it was just “Nuzzling couple” I’d have been onto it a lot quicker!
I don’t feel like I’m in a position to fairly assess the quality of this puzzle. Please discuss this among yourselves below…
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “I’m Not Quite Myself Today”
I loved this theme! I worked the puzzle without reading the explanatory blurb and without having access to the bars that appear in the grid in the newspaper and sundaycrosswords.com versions of the puzzle, and it didn’t take me any longer than usual. It’s exactly the sort of wordplay that my brain is fond of: Famous names are broken down into pronounced letter names and words that, when strung together, sound like the name:
- 22a. [Sermon subject + a letter + trial subject + cat sound = ?], SIN D LAW PURR. Cyndi Lauper of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
- 24a. [Intention + a letter + really cold = ?], AIM E POLAR. Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation.
- 36a. [Make, as money + a letter + sheltered bay + chopper = ?], EARN E COVE AX. Ernie Kovacs, comedian of yore.
- 44a. [Prickly sticker + current fashion + steal cattle = ?], BUR TREND RUSTLE. Bertrand Russell, philosopher.
- 59a. [A letter + nautical term + query start + ray source = ?], M ALEE WHAT SUN. Emily Watson of Breaking the Waves. WHAT and Wat- have different vowel sounds, no?
- 77a. [Paddle + 2 letters + Morse word + void's partner = ?], ROW Z O DAH NULL. Rosie O’Donnell, comedian/actress/talk show host. This was the first themer I filled in.
- 93a. [Old stories + a letter + stitch + reside + 2 letters = ?], LORE N SEW LIVE E A. Laurence Olivier of Marathon Man.
- 101a. [A pronoun + renter's contract + eye part = ?], MY LEASE IRIS. Miley Cyrus of, recently, underwear-clad singing.
- 116a. [A letter + low in fat + huggable toy = ?], R LEAN DOLL. Arlene Dahl, … maybe an actress? I know the name only from crosswords. Least favorite themer.
- 119a. [2 letters + have no doubt + show reverence = ?], U G KNOW KNEEL. Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms playwright.
I’m glad I did read the blurb after solving, because it tipped me off to an Easter egg in the grid—”NOTE: In this puzzle, famous names have been changed into sound-alike parts. For example, “take to court + a letter + leaves port” = SUE / “P” / SAILS, or “Soupy Sales.” Solve the parts and say the answers out loud. In the grid, black bars separate the parts. When you’re done, there’s one more name spanning an entire row. Can you find it? Answer next week.” I started at the bottom and worked my way up, sounding out each row, until I reached the middle with CLAW DEBT COAL BEAR: Claudette Colbert! Terrific capper to the theme, what with the central location and the perfect 4/4/4/4 split.
Five more things:
- 95d. [Nutty Knotter company], WHAM-O. Say what? I think this must’ve vanished from the market by the time I was hanging out in toy aisles. It’s a string with a ball and you bounce it around to entice the ball into tying a knot, as you can see in this old ad.
- 1d. [Futile search], SNIPE HUNT. Not sure I’ve seen this exact term, though I know the fruitless “we’re hunting snipe” concept.
- 78d. [Chicago suburb], OAK LAWN. That is a might vague clue, as there are scores of ‘burbs. Oak Lawn is among the larger ones, and my uncle used to live there, but it’s markedly less famous than Oak Park. Note: Other Chicago suburbs include Oak Forest, Oak Brook, Lake Forest, Park Forest, Forest Park, River Forest, Park Ridge, Chicago Ridge, Forest View, and Evergreen Park, plus Glenwood, Glencoe, and Glenview. I can keep all of them straight, and there will be a quiz.
- 6d. [Mexican pastry], EMPANADA. “Pastry” shouts “dessert” at me, while empanadas are more often meat-filled pastries. The Portuguese and the Spaniards spread empanadas all over the globe.
- 107a. [Sanctuaries], ASYLA. Some dictionaries don’t include this plural. You must admit that “insane asylums” sounds more natural than “insane asyla.”
Annemarie Brethauer’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Call Me”
Crisp theme: Parts of a cell phone end each theme answer.
- 22a. [Precursor to reality shows like "Punk'd"], CANDID CAMERA. I bet there are still some bare-bones mobiles without cameras.
- 34a. ["Oh, I give up!"], “FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE!” I wanted Pete. Microphone.
- 54a. [Unlikely job for one with acrophobia?], STEEPLEJACK. Seen any help-wanted ads for steeplejacks lately? The phone jack lets you plug in earbuds.
- 71a. [Deceptive action], SMOKESCREEN. Don’t crack your screen.
- 88a. [1952 Groucho Marx film], A GIRL IN EVERY PORT. Not familiar with the movie. The spot where you plug in the phone for charging is a port.
- 107a. [General Lee, in "The Dukes of Hazzard"], DODGE CHARGER.
- 14d. ["That proves it"], “I REST MY CASE. The charger and case are accessories; the rest of the things are on the phone proper. I like that the two accessories appeared last.
- 63d. [Where the ends of 22-, 34-, 54-, 71-, 88- and 107-Across and 14-Down can be found], MOBILE PHONE.
That all works.
Five more things:
- 43d. [Legendary attendant of Charlemagne], PALADIN. I envision a cross between Jack Palance doing one-armed push-ups and Aladdin. Close?
- 84d. [Self-playing instrument], PIANOLA. Mazola, Pianola, Shinola: Any other -ola trade names out there?
- 67d. [Web revealer], DEW. Spider web, not World Wide Web.
- 3d. [Futurist painter Severini], GINO. Never heard of him. A Google image search tells me that I’d enjoy a museum devoted to Severini paintings. Sort of a Kandinsky/Picasso/Matisse mash-up in terms of styles, colors, and lines.
- 8d. [Wild African pig], WARTHOG. I think every crossword should make space for WARTHOG.
Solid theme, solid fill? Four stars.