David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword
I finished this puzzle without having any idea what the theme was, and then went back to read the theme clues again. The trick finally hit me with the weirdness of the clue for 41a. It’s the “out of” part of the clue that’s important—the letters in the words after “out of” are to be anagrammed. It’s sort of a cryptic-crossword riff on cluing, only backwards since the theme entries aren’t crossword-grade phrases and the pre-scrambling phrases are closer to that bar.
- 17a. [Weapon part that's out of this world?], SWORD HILT. Anagram of “this world.”
- 41a. [Attack on a Mideast land that's out of thin air?], IRAN HIT. Anagram of “thin air.” And so on.
- 66a. [Fisherman's feat that's out of character?], RARE CATCH. Boy, Don Baylor’s rare catch Monday night was definitely out of character for baseball. Tough break
- 11d. [Drenched gangsters who are out of the woods?], WET HOODS.
- 40d. [Military laundry that's out of harm's way?], ARMY WASH.
Pretty smooth puzzle. I was moving painlessly through the grid, encountering lively fill like Kurt COBAIN and the DOOBIE Brothers (plus PATTI Smith to round out the rocker vibe), ORIGAMI, ARMPIT! (48a. [Lady Schick target]), JOHN MUIR, the casually sporting “I GOT NEXT,” former Chicago local news anchor LESTER Holt, and NSFW (59d. [Office-inappropriate, in web shorthand], “not safe for work”).
- 50a. ["A revolution is not a dinner party" writer], MAO. Aw, he’s no fun. Will the revolution at least be televised?
- 15a. [Beast in the documentary "Blackfish"], ORCA.
- 1d. [Places where people hustle?], DISCOS.
- 12d. [The so-called "potted physician"], ALOE.
- 27d. [Drink that may feature "foam art"], LATTE.
There were a couple partials, Roman numeral MCLI, AGR, ONE-A, and URI, but not enough such things to bump me out of the solving groove. 4.25 stars, with extra credit for the “out of” cluing riff on an anagram theme.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Watery Buildup” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Five theme entries that begin with something “watery”:
- [Painter's protective floor covering] is a DROP CLOTH – we just use old sheets.
- [Beatrix Potter's waddling Jemima, e.g.] was a PUDDLE-DUCK – not familiar with this tale, which seems to have been published after her Peter Rabbit.
- [Item with six pockets] clued a POOL TABLE – these are my favorite theme entries, where the operative word in this context doesn’t have a watery connotation.
- [Liberal arts college near Chicago] was LAKE FOREST – seems rather small with about 1,500 students, though I bet Amy’s familiar with it.
- [Major transformation] was a SEA CHANGE – yeah, seas are about as major as you can get around here.
Lynn supplies her typical bonus theme entry in the center, but I have to admit to being a bit disappointed all these watery items generally have a watery sense in these base phrases. (POOL TABLE being a notable exception.) I have learned to expect more disparity among the theme entries and the title which brought them together. I guess that’s the price you pay when you set the bar as high as this constructor has in the past.
Lots of fresh fill, though, as I particularly enjoyed the BRAVURA, “YES I CAN!” and SPECKLE stack in the northeast, as well as the Zed-action in DENIZEN and END ZONE. MALE CAT for [Tom with nine lives] seems a bit arbitrary, but I was hardly IN A RAGE about it. Speaking of animals, I wasn’t familiar with HARPIES as a type of eagle, unless the clue is referring to mythology and not real-life.
Patrick Blindauer’s April website crossword, “A Farewell to Arms” — Matt’s review
You need to be familiar with David Kwong’s March 18th NYT puzzle to get the April Blindauer.
That crossword, which is the lowest-rated puzzle at Fiend so far this year, used the first letter of each clue to spell out a message that only made sense if you attended David’s TED Talk that day (Bill Gates was one of the speakers that followed him!). Unfortunately the puzzle itself was rather compromised on fill, which wasn’t necessary even with the gimmick, hence the low rating (plus the TED Talk still isn’t online last time I checked, so those of us who weren’t there can’t see exactly how it was used, which caused a little irritation).
The theme of that puzzle was A FAREWELL TO ARMS, and four entries lost an ARM to make a nonsense phrase. Patrick riffs off Kwong’s puzzle for his April website crossword, which has an unannounced meta (a Blindauer specialty, which will drive you insane on months there isn’t one when you think there is!).
The title is “A Farewell to Arms,” and each of the four theme entries drops a letter from “Arms” to get a nonsense phrase:
20-A [Used local listings to find a place to live?] = HUNTED HOUSES, dropping the A from “haunted houses.” This is almost a stand-alone phrase as is, since you can “house hunt.”
27-A [Immediate method of cooking broccoli?] = INSTANT STEAMING, dropping the R from “instant streaming.” But no matter how you cook it, broccoli still won’t taste like anything.
45-A [Tale of a Russian banker at Yankee Stadium?] = RUBLE IN THE BRONX, dropping the M from “Rumble in the Bronx,” which sounds familiar but I’ll have to look up. A famous baseball game? Wrong, it’s a Jackie Chan movie.
51-A [Audiophile's most dearly beloved sound?] = PRECIOUS TONE. Losing the S from “precious stone.”
So the puzzle ends there, right? Not quite. Rule #952 of crossword solving: “There’s always an extra layer you missed in a Blindauer.” I e-mailed the author after solving:
Feel like there’s something else going on besides the missing ARMS in the theme entries. The NW corner is bizarre with its AIL clue and having to use AMIE and MEA. And you didn’t need PARI or ADA or ASST/EGAN in the other corners, either.
By the time he e-mailed me back to verify that there indeed was more than meets the eye, I had already found it. Referring back to the Kwong puzzle, the first letter of each clue spells out: CANOE SHAMU NAIL VEGAN IRATE PARIS EPEES NORAD ADAM LALO AND O’SHEA. CAN YOU FIND THEM IN THE GRID?
Aha! So that explains the odd corners: extend CANO, SHAM, AIL, EGAN, RATE, PARI, PEES, NORA, ADA, ALO and SHEA by one letter outside the grid and see what they spell going clockwise:
Why it’s the VENUS DE MILO, who indeed said farewell to her arms long ago.
Awesome — you can see why this guy just won the Orca for Crossword of the Year. For its timeliness and cleverness I’m giving this one 4.75 stars. And if you liked this puzzle, strongly consider buying Patrick’s new contest suite of puzzles, Xword University. It’s $15 and highly recommended.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Growing Up”
April showers bring May flowers, and maybe even some April flowers. Ben’s theme has flowers “growing up” in the long Down answers:
- 3d. [Purchasing rule at the bar], TWO-DRINK MINIMUM. There’s a MUM, or chrysanthemum, at the end. It goes both ways, of course, being palindromic. Slight inelegance for the theme. Not a spring flower—late summer to fall in Illinois. They seem to hang on well into November.
- 5d. [Office gift exchange basis], SECRET SANTA. There’s an ASTER. That’s a late summer to fall flower around these parts.
- 26d. [Baked British treats made with alcohol], BRANDY SNAPS. Never heard of them, but brandy is booze and ginger snaps are familiar enough, so it was gettable. The PANSY is a spring flower that doesn’t like the heat.
- 10d. ["Will you marry me?" e.g.], YES OR NO QUESTION. The ROSE is summery, no? But I have seen blooms hang on into December when the weather holds.
I like botanical themes, and hiding them inside a lively batch of long phrases works for me too.
Nine other things I wanted to mention:
- 5a. [Stooge born Samuel Horwitz], SHEMP. I assume this means it would be fine for me to call constructor/friend Jeremy Horwitz “Jemp.” Or maybe “Jermp.” Or “Jormp-Jomp.”
- 20a. [Hole style], INDIE ROCK. Courtney Love’s band, Hole.
- 42a. [Manned the mixer, casually], EQED. As in “operated the equalizer controls on a sound mixing device,” not “chaperoned the mixer for new-students” or “mixed up some bread dough.”
- 43a. [Pal of "Cookie Monkey," according to my son who isn't that good at English yet but who certainly enjoys "Sesame Street"], ELMO. I do enjoy the long autobiographical clues.
- 49a. [Lover of Ares in Greek mythology], ENYO. Who??
- 57a. [Person from Boston, slangily], BEAN EATER. I know of Boston baked beans and Beantown, but have never heard “bean eater.”
- 63a. [Christie who wrote a mystery novel about bridge (but presumably never closed one on purpose to be a dick)], AGATHA. NJ governor Chris Christie reference.
- 53d. [Early data storage software], DBASE. I always want “dbase” to be shorthand for “database,” but I don’t think it is. Maybe “db” is.
- 55d. [We, in a text message], U AND I. I thought this was contrived and bogus until I asked my household teenager how he’d write this in a message. Yup, this is legit.
3.8 stars from me. Liked it, didn’t love it, found the ENYO/SNUS patch to be potentially troublesome.
Doug Peterson & Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This is a gorgeous little theme by Doug and Patti today. Six answers with in- prefixes are pluralised and parsed as being two words to create wacky-style answers. The one wrinkle is that most of the answers form natural plurals – only INBOUNDS and to some extent INVERSES do not. But otherwise it’s a subtle but extremely clever gimmicK! The drastic changes in meaning of the main affixes is what makes this puzzle really shine! We have
- 17a, [How poets write?], INVERSES
- 21a, [How moonshine is made?], INSTILLS
- 33a, [How parts of a whole can be written?], INFRACTIONS
- 44a, [How a priest preaches?], INVESTMENTS. My favourite answer!
- 57a, [How kangaroos travel?], INBOUNDS
- 62a, [How some paper is packaged?], INQUIRES.
This six part theme was more than enough to entertain me – and yet, bonus, there was lots more of note in this puzzle:
- 51a, [World power until 1991: Abbr.], USSR and 65a, [Land on two continents], RUSSIA are not cross-referenced. 53a, [Spirits brand with a Peppar variety], ABSOLUT is actually Swedish!
- 61a, [Meadow lows], MOOING. Great clue!
- 68a, [1987 Beatty flop], ISHTAR if clued as a film I know only from crosswords. The goddess is familiar to me from ancient history though and a really nice entry!
- 22d, [Needs a fainting couch], SWOONS – I appreciate that both clue and answer exude the same bygone field.
- 25d, [WWII female], WAC. I’m told you shouldn’t wave at one.
- 45d, [Coffee order], NOSUGAR. Great answer!
Another mini-theme was 39a, ["Doctor Who" actress Gillan], KAREN; 40a, [Taylor of fashion], ANN and 35d. [Willard of "Best in Show"], FRED. This mini-theme was names I know clued as people I’ve never heard of.