Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “At Times”
There’s a clue convention of using “at times” to get some wiggle room for something that isn’t a direct synonym, and to get a passable clue for an -ER word. For example, [Sommelier, at times] cluing POURER, or [Gardeners, at times] for RAKERS. Patrick riffs on this by taking more solidly legitimate fill—phrases that end with entirely respectable -ER words—and cluing them as if they are woeful little “at times” -ER answers:
- 23a. [Clumsy pharmacist, at times?], MEDICINE DROPPER.
- 28a. [Dressage rider, at times?], COLT REVOLVER. Is there a lot of revolving in dressage? I trust a member of the horsey set will enlighten us.
- 47a. [Old-fashioned barber, at times?], FOAM RUBBER. As in rubbing foamy shaving cream on a gent’s face.
- 54a. [Inexperienced shucker, at times?], OYSTER CRACKER. A crossworder named Harris Ruben was recently touting some knife-proof oyster-shucking gloves. Don’t shuck oysters without ‘em! Because you wouldn’t want to be careless and wind up cracking those oysters.
- 65a. [No-limit Texas hold'em player, at times?], ALL BETTER. Acceptable variant of bettor, betting it all.
- 74a. [Farmer, at times?], CHICKEN TENDER. Ooh, good one.
- 84a. [Sleeping sunbather, at times?], BACK BURNER. Stove burner, sunburn.
- 103a. [Dieter, at times?], SNACK COUNTER. One, two, three … twenty-seven, twenty-eight …
- 110a. [Person getting out of a tub, at times?], BATHROOM SLIPPER. I wasn’t sure what this meant so I Googled it and it’s an intriguing Japanese concept.
It’s a bit of an unusual theme, but playful and not at all stale. I always like a good twitting of crossword conventions.
Overall, the fill is smooth and the clues are good. Among the brighter spots in the fill are TRICK UP (88d. [Dress in fancy duds]), ABSOLUT, and … well, there aren’t many “wow!” entries, but there were zero Scowl-o-Meter triggers. Do you know how rare it is for me to get through a Sunday puzzle without wishing some of those words hadn’t found their way into the puzzle?
Here’s one clue I enjoyed: 31d. [One of four in "As I Was Going to St. Ives"], IAMB. “As I / was go- / -ing to / St. Ives.” I know what you were thinking: “Wait, there were seven of everything in that nursery rhyme, weren’t there?”
4.5 stars of the full Berry experience.
Jason Chapnick and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “The Living End”
The end of each theme answer is a place people may be living:
- 23a. [50 different ones were released over a 10-year period starting in 1999], STATE QUARTERS.
- 29a. [Get no laughs, as a joke], FALL FLAT.
- 35a. [Brillo, for one], SCOURING PAD.
- 48a. [Archeological sites], FOSSIL DIGS. Phrase feels slightly unfamiliar.
- 68a. [Everywhere], ALL OVER THE PLACE.
- 90a. [Electronics chain], RADIO SHACK.
- 97a. [It merged with Penguin in 2013], RANDOM HOUSE.
- 105a. [Bed with bars], BABY CRIB.
- 117a. [Embroidery slogan, and an alternative title for this puzzle], HOME, SWEET HOME.
I suppose the movie The Apartment was left out because (1) there isn’t another 12 in the theme set and (2) it quite obviously means exactly that, an apartment, whereas the end words are used in other contexts in all the theme answers. And that variety of contexts did indeed keep me wondering until I bumped into the revealer and the light dawned.
The fill’s not 100% smooth-as-silk (hello, RETAR), but it is packed with longish answers. About 30 non-theme entries that are 6+ letters long? It felt like a lot. (The Berry NYT has more like 25 6+ answers, with plenty of them no more than 6 letters.) Those corners with stacked 7s capped by thematic 8s are quite nice. Crisp clues put up little difficulty and I had a fairly quick and painless solve.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I find it infinitely karmic that my last puzzle to review here was constructed by my arch-nemesis, Bob Klahn. I feel the universe had one last joke to play on me, and here it is!
As usual, I had trouble establishing any foothold whatsoever, but finally made some slow progress starting in the center west and moving up into the north and east. Let’s start there:
- I was feeling pretty smart right off the bat when I popped in AA BATTERY for [Small cell] – I just wasn’t sure how many A’s that cell would have. The much shorter PBS, REA and BERET followed quickly after that.
- Speaking of not knowing how many A’s to put in, I was happy to see that [Responds to some depressing words] was SAYS AH and not AAH or worse, AAAH, which I have seen before when a constructor had a lot crossing vowels to deal with. HEPTAD for [Water polo team, e.g.,], D’OH and HOTSEAT came quickly after that, definitely giving me a giddy feeling I’d finally risen to today’s challenge.
- With the very crossword-friendly TAE BO and EPIC POEM in place, I was able to fill out pretty much the rest of the top of the puzzle, with just a slight speed bump with I WANT A HUG before I NEED one, clued by the cute [Words best not said to a bear]. I also enjoyed the “grand” connection between [Grand exercise] or ÉTUDE (referring to a grand piano) and [Grand] on its own for REGAL.
- SPINS, or what Rumpelstiltskin did (straw into gold), and GREAT APES, or [Cousins of ours] (I was thinking “cousins” not in a familial sense, but as terms that are similar to “ours”), were the last to complete the upper section.
So that’s where the momentum came to a crashing halt. I was pretty sure about LENIN for [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov], and AMES for [Billy Sunday's Iowa birthplace] (even though I had no idea who that was, there are only so many famous 4-letter Iowa towns.) But I kept thinking [Flying V] was GEESE so I questioned AMES and also held onto SHEER for [Virtually vertical] instead of what seems more obvious in retrospect, STEEP. Here are my other missteps:
- I’ve never heard of the cartoon “Ferd’nand,” so the K of MIK (short for Henning Dahl Mikkelsen) was not going to fall. Funny that yesterday’s NYT clued Gay TALESE with reference to his New Journalism connection, as today’s [Central character in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"], written by Tom Wolfe, is also a cornerstone of this literary style. The central character, KEN KESEY, was the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
- For [Cervantes squire], I confused the real-life revolutionary Pancho Villa with the very fictitious Sancho Panza, so I had VILLA where PANZA belonged. This led me to thinking that [Harlem's Savoy, e.g.] was a DISCO HALL and not a DANCE one, since I was pretty sure [Buster?] was slang for NARCO, and so I had that C in place.
- Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I yoyoed between the southwest and southeast, playing with MAMET where MILNE belonged (["Toad of Toad Hall" playwright]). (Prequel to Glengarry Glen Ross perhaps?) And I kept thinking [Sounds sound] referred to an aquatic sound, not a verb, so I struggled mightlily with TALKS SENSE. (An awkward phrase and my only quibble with this otherwise excellent puzzle, as MAKES is much more idiomatic than TALKS here.)
- Funny, just recently watching Blazing Saddles again, I couldn’t come up with Count BASIE, who leads a band while Cleavon Little rides by. I had SLATE before SLATY for [Stone-gray], so ELEGY or [Formal farewell] (which I am about to bid) was also hard to come up with. And though I’ve heard of the artist INDIA.ARIE, I know her not from her Grammy winning “Little Things,” but only from that odd punctuation in the middle of her name.
I guess SERENDIP-ity wasn’t on my side today, but at least I can say I didn’t go down without a fight. “Curses! Foiled again!” *shakes fist at sky as he rides out into the sunset*
Jeffrey Harris’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 209″- Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s Post Puzzler rides the momentum from last week’s construction de force, delivering another smooth and satisfying solve. It’s a 70/33 from Jeffrey Harris, one of the newer members of the Post Puzzler rotation. (For those keeping track, the current members of the Post Puzzler stable appear to be four of the original members–Patrick Berry, Frank Longo, Trip Payne, and Karen Tracey–along with four that joined later on: Doug Peterson, Todd McClary, Byron Walden, and Jeffrey. Talk about a dominant lineup!)
I got a nice toe-hold in the northwest with BOB COSTAS, the ["Fair Ball" writer]. Hey, that’s a book I’ve read! That was a big help in tackling the rest of the corner, especially the answer immediately atop Bob (see below). From there I was off to the northeast, where the only long-term obstacle proved to be the [Black-and-whites] beginning with C, which immediately signaled COOKIES to me. Alas, no variant of the word would fit. It proved to be police CRUISERS. But it fell in due time, so I was off to the southern hemisphere, which proved for me much more challenging. I loved the shout-out to ["Saturday Night Live" alum Chris] PARNELL, who I know as the voice of Cyril Figgis on television’s greatest current-running show, Archer: Vice. You may know him as the guy who kept a straight face during the “More Cowbell” skit. But that whole section involving [Dancing Queen] LATIFAH, the FILTER TIP that’s a [Tar catcher] and that dern CRITTER, clued as [It's a livin' thing] really took a while to get through. In the end, though, I finished with a solving time that’s about par for me on the Post Puzzler.
Some of the better clue/answer combos included [Tourist site that's closed to the public on Fridays] and TAJ MAHAL, the perfect kind of trivia clue because you can use the information in the clue to deduce the answer; [Something that may be seen opening night?] for MID (as in “midnight”); the clever [Yahoo alternative?] for WHEE, which might have been a gimme 30 years ago; [Air, e.g.] for a TABLET computer; and [Item in a cradle] for a HANDSET. I remember those kind of phones!
Stuff I did not know while solving the puzzle:
- ALAN PATON was a [South African writer and anti-apartheid leader]. If I had ever heard his name, I forgot it. But I’m certainly familiar with the title of his seminal work, Cry, The Beloved Country.
- I knew Paul Prudhomme was a chef, but I forgot that CAJUN food was his specialty.
- I either didn’t know or forgot that MAINE was created by the Missouri Compromise. I know nothing of the details, but given Maine’s proximity to Missouri, perhaps Maine was the “player to be named later.”
- I coulda told you there was a Benazir BHUTTO, and I mighta been able to tell you She was Prime Minister of Pakistan. But I wouldn’ta been able to tell you he was the [Target of an unsuccessful 1995 coup].
- As perhaps the only person in America who didn’t like Back to the Future, I guess it’s no surprise that I couldn’t recall McFLY as [Tannen's rival, in a 1985 film].
Favorite entry = WWE RAW, the [Show that had "King of the Ring" specials]. Regular readers know that pro wrestling was like a third parent to me, so no other entry in this grid comes close. Today is Wrestlemania XXX, by the way. As someone who remembers the first Wrestlemania vividly, its 30-year anniversary is a bit of a slap in the face. Er, coconut in the head. Favorite clue = [Level best?] for HIGH SCORE in a video game.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Animalgrams” — pannonica’s write-up
As advertised, anagrams involving animals. More constrainedly, two-word phrases in which one word identifies an animal and the other is an anagram thereof. Word order is blessedly not rigid. Also, I’d describe these as gentle anagrams.
- 23a. [Emily Dickinson's home pet?] AMHERST HAMSTER. She was known as the Belle of Amherst—E Dickinson, not her hypothetical hamster—so “home” in the clue is engaging in a little cryptic-style misdirection.
- 38a. [Tinned fish with more grit?] SANDIER SARDINE.
- 63a. [Pooch's muscle builder?] POINTER PROTEIN.
- 74d. [Foghorn Leghorn fans?] ROOSTER ROOTERS.
- 94a. [Anteater in captivity?] CHAINED ECHIDNA. Though they are formicivorous and are called spiny anteaters in the vernacular, echidnas are not closely related to ‘regular’ anteaters. Nor to aardvarks or pangolins for that matter, but I’ll lay off the didacticism.
- 115a. [Big cat set free?] PAROLED LEOPARD. Hey, what’s with all the animal oppression? Wonder if he’ll change his spots.
- 16d. [Gift-wrapped snake?] SERPENT PRESENT. They say there are no snakes present in EIRE (42d).
- 51d. [Hotel counter for Foghorn Leghorn?] CHICKEN CHECK-IN.
Huh, imagine that. No mention of physicist Leó Szilárd. Am thinking that the clue for 65d RAOUL [French Fauvist Dufy], rather than referencing the film Eating Raoul or Hunter S Thompson’s alter ego Raoul Duke, is laying the groundwork for making DUFY acceptable crossword fill.
Back to the theme. I’d have much preferred that it were kept simply to types of animals. No doubling up with ROOSTER and CHICKEN (though the repeated evoking of—I say, I say—the repeated evoking of Foghorn Leghorn was a nice touch), none of this POINTER (just a breed of domestic DOG) stuff.
Aside from that infidelity, the puzzle was a breeze to solve, right on my wavelength. My only stumbles, and they were minor, were SOAK UP before SOAK IN at 30d [Absorb deeply] and the devious 62d [Hat remover, maybe], for which I of course wrote GENT before being surprised by a GUST.
- 43a COB (clued via corn), 125a [Whale groups] PODS, 4d [She-sheep] EWE, 24d [Hefty herbivore] RHINO, 76d [Young yapper] PUP.
- On the subject of EWE, there’s also 8d [Where grazers graze] LEAS, and 44d [Famed sheep loser] BO PEEP.
- Still on the subject [She-sheep], interesting to see non-gendered clues for 32a [Retiree's title] EMERITA, and 24a [Born with the name] NÉE.
- Some spot-on cluing: 100d [Perfectly awful] HORRID, 91d [Whatever person] WHOSO, 120a [Wrench handle?] ALLEN. Good, poetic stuff; it”s 88d [Outstanding] SALIENT.
- Of course, this 21×21 grid is not without its share of less-than-stellar material (hard to construct so large a puzzle to be so smooth), but as none were severe enough to create a SCOWL (82a) during my solve it’s hardly worth enumerating them here.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Dine In”
The theme entries are made by sneaking EAT into familiar phrases and recluing accordingly:
- 23a. [Bob Hope's favorite memory from his golf days?], BEATING CROSBY. Bing Crosby + EAT.
- 34a. [Position that allows more car space?], BACK SEAT DOWN. Backs down, word-spacing change.
- 41a. [Worrying about one's election chances?], SWEATING VOTES.
- 63a. [Noted 4 p.m. events?], THE TEATIMES OF LONDON. The Times of London is a newspaper.
- 70a. [Elizabeth's plaint after always losing to her royal sister?], “MARGARET, THAT CHEATER!” Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, meets Margaret Thatcher. I like this one best.
- 93a. [Words from a dog food commercial?], MEATY GOODNESS. This one is not appealing to me. I find meatiness overrated.
- 100a. [Q: "So, what do you think of words like 'peachy' and 'swell'?" A: "___"], “IN A WORD, NEATO.”
- 118a. [Bananas?], GREAT APE FRUIT. Ooh, this one’s good too. Even the great apes known as humans eat bananas.
Interesting to place two 19-letter themers close to the center, rather than using just one of the two and putting it in the middle row. The only path connecting the top half of the grid to the bottom is through the trio of 3s in the center.
Least familiar entry: 10d. [Monastery offices], ABBACIES. Runner-up: 46d. ["The pat with a hat that sits flat ___" (old slogan on individual butter portions)], ON A MAT. I remember no butter-pat rhyming slogans. Third place: 105a. [Paris suburb], ISSY.
Not much in the way of juicy fill, what with the theme occupying a lot of real estate here. EDAMAME is about it.
Best clue: 95d. [Pearl harborers], OYSTERS.
3.66 stars. The theme works very well, but there isn’t a whole lot else that captured my fancy.