Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Dime Store”
Ten of the 12 longest Across answers include a cent sign (¢), formed by crossing a C in the Across answer with an I in the Down answer. Here are the places where things add up to TEN CENTS:
- 23a. [2014, for Doublemint gum], CENTENNIAL crossing 1d. [Dangerous part of an alligator], TAIL.
- 25a. [Mexican president of the early 2000s], VICENTE FOX crossing 12d. [Percocet, for one], PAIN PILL.
- 40a. [Middle-of-the-road], CENTRIST also crossing PAIN PILL.
- 44a. [Like mother-of-pearl], IRIDESCENT crossing 45d. [Town on the south shore of Long Island], ISLIP.
- 66a. [Several days ago, say], RECENT PAST crossing 68d. [Like some patches], IRON-ON.
- 70a. [Bugs that technically are misnamed], CENTIPEDES crossing 58d. [Articles in a paper], WRITE-UPS.
- 93a. [Agent's cut], PERCENTAGE crossing 71d. [Actress who co-starred in "The Lincoln Lawyer"], TOMEI.
- 96a. [Total value of the symbols created by the special crossings in this puzzle], TEN CENTS crossing 97d. ["Honest!"], I SWEAR.
- 113a. [Something square to eat?], DECENT MEAL crossing 106d. [Right hand], AIDE.
- 116a. [Defendant's cry], I’M INNOCENT crossing 117d. [Actor McKellen], IAN.
I know what you’re wondering: “How did you get those ¢ symbols in there??” It’s easy on a Mac: option-4 (simple to remember, as the 4 key also has the $ on it). At any rate, neat twist on the two-way rebus square concept.
I know what else you’re wondering: “Did Amy meet any blog readers today?” Yes. Yes, I did! Greetings to longtime Fiend readers Karen and her husband Spence. Karen and I visited the Art Institute, where she shared her ample knowledge about Georgia O’Keeffe, and then we all went out for Krombacher Pils. (Chicago people: If you know any beer aficionados, it’s hard to find a richer beer list than at Howells and Hood, in the Tribune Tower.) Karen and Spence solve the puzzles together (skipping the easy ones, grateful for BEQ’s “Themeless Monday” puzzles tiding them over till the Fireball comes out) and then come to the blog to see whether I shared their opinion of the puzzle.
Rough start to the Sunday puzzle, with 1a. [Letter-shaped opening in a machine shop], T-SLOT atop 19a. [Goonlike], APISH. The crossing SPEED TRAP is great but those two answers were kinda ugly. Other salutary entries include HOT PLATE, RAVIOLI, MASTHEAD, and SIDE BET. These were offset by a number of Scowl-o-Meter triggers, such as the second row’s APISH EBRO ADANO ERLE, TRA LA, SSRS, I OWE, IRAE, AME, EDER, ENROBE not clued in relation to chocolate (come on! when do you ever see ENROBE in any non-chocolate context?), EAR TO/EYE ON, POLA, and SO A.
I had trouble piecing together 28a. [Tyler Perry, to Katy Perry, e.g.], NO RELATION. Was thinking it was one terrible word like NONRELATIVE but it turned out to be the very much in-the-language NO RELATION. Her real last name is Hudson, so…. I also spent some time eyeballing this answer to figure out what the theme was, but it’s just a 10-letter non-theme entry.
3.5 stars from me.
Postscript: Daniel Finan had a Sunday NYT under a year ago with both $ (S/I) and ¢ (C/I) squares in it, plus long answers having to do with finan(ce). That one, I gave the rare 5-star rating to. A tad surprising to see a much simpler version of his theme today—perhaps Liz’s puzzle was accepted first but ran later?
And back in 2011, Brendan Emmett Quigley self-published a 15×15 puzzle with a $ (S/I) feature and financial phrases as theme answers. Matt Gaffney gave that one 5 stars.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Homophones” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme features—you guessed it—homophones. Specifically, homophones featuring a long-o sound. Not uncoincidentally, “homophone” itself contains the \ō\ sound; anywhere from one to three, depending on your pronunciational proclivities.
- 23a. [Fact about a magic Singer?] WISHING MAKES IT SEW (sew/so).
- 49a. ["My group approves almost everything"?] HOW LITTLE WE NO (no/know).
- 69a. [Overheat some plums?] DO A SLOE BURN (sloe/slow).
- 83a. ["I __ to my virtuous upbringing"?] OWE MY GOODNESS (owe/oh).
- 112a. [What a Broadway composer's biographer did?] KEPT A LOEWE PROFILE (Loewe/low).
- 16d. [Ziegfeld, during rush hour?] FLO OF TRAFFIC (Flo/flow).
- 17d. [Deer too impatient to bake?] RAW COOKIE DOE (doe/dough).
- 62d. [Caviar for Cain?] MURDERER’S ROE (roe/Row).
- 63d. [Two concerns for Cupid?] BEAU AND ARROW (beau/bow).
Note that the pivotal \ō\ sounds appear variously at the beginnings, ends, and middles of the phrases. Note also that there are plenty of permutations for the spelling changes. Makes it all very expansive.
Just a handful more thematic observations. Broadway proper noun duad with Florenz Ziegfeld and Frederick Loewe—lends an unbalanced quality. Clue for 17-down seems a bit more awkward and far-fetched than the others. Liked the confluence in the southwest: YEW [Longbow material] crossing Cupid’s ARROW (though there’s a transitive duplication with his ‘BEAU’), and also the perfectly parallel …ROE and …ROW. And of course, the fully stacked vertical theme pairs.
No eschewal of long-Os outside of the theme, so there are plenty to be found: FRO, VIVA VOCE, GO FOR, SCOLDS, OBESE, ROLES, COAL TAR, WILL O’-, GTO, SAY-SO, and so on. This sort of thing seems to be a constructor’s dilemma: go for the wow factor of having a specific theme element not replicated anywhere else in the grid but introduce enormous constraints (and potentially dubious compromises) to the fill, or be more casual and come away with higher-quality overall fill? Since the majority of solvers won’t notice the virtuosic flourish of the former approach, and the latter approach has a stronger influence on the cumulative solving experience, in general it’s the better way to go. But there are always exceptions.
- From Frederick LOEWE to not-exactly Alan Jay LERNER. That is, 81a [Student] LEARNER. See also, 9d [Recipients] TAKERS.
- 97d [Reddish] RUFOUS, 100d [Sly] CRAFTY. Am now thinking of Reynard the Fox.
- 40a [Beezer] SNOOT. Beezer is not a word I’d heard before, certainly not in this sense.
- 89a [Cell component] RNA. What a strange, vague, incomplete clue.
- 41d [Cartoonists' award] REUBEN. Bestowed by the National Cartoonists Society for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, named in honor of Reuben ‘Rube’ Goldberg.
- 114d ["More overleaf" (abbr.)] PTO, for “please turn over,” which is also new to me. Am familiar with the terse “over”, as well as “cont”/”cont’d”, and the more demonstrative curved or looped arrow. See also 41a [Right-hand page] RECTO. Both of these entries contain that \ō\
- Favorite clues: 53a [Alternative to fish] CUT BAIT; 84d [Critter in a pop song?] WEASEL.
- And we end with a bit of trivia. 124a [What Hitchcock used as blood in "Psycho"] SYRUP. Reputedly, it was Bosco chocolate syrup.
No outright scowlworthy junk, a fine crossword.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and here’s hoping you’re having a very good start to your Sunday!
Mr. Bob Klahn, we meet again! Another very challenging puzzle, and this was another uphill battle (but a very fun one). On the subject of fun, the back-to-back cluing of SNAP AT (21A: [Attack like a crocodile]) and SNIPE AT (22A: [Attack like a marsh bird]) was just that, and thank goodness that I watched a documentary on birds a couple months ago that mentioned snipes. Without that, wouldn’t have even figured out the mislead to that clue. Almost knew from the off that ICE SKATE was needed in the slick clue that it had (9D: [Half a pairs pair]), since I’ve definitely watched my share of pairs figure skating.
The Northeast, even with a few answers filled in, was tough, because of the across answers. I just wasn’t making the connections I needed to so I can get the answers. THE JIG IS UP had me at sea, since I was thinking about what people would say when they’re done with some sort of work or a project, not done with evil doing and having a scheme come to an end (5A: ["We're finished]). I’ve come across I AM A CAMERA a few times in grid, either as a clue or as a grid entry, and still can’t recall it from memory (16A: [1951 play on which "Cabaret" is based]). The long clues in the Southwest were easier to suss out, and was so psyched that ON LOCATION came into my mind right away when seeing its clue (50A: [Shooting away?]). Some of my college days were spent sipping on the bootleg, $2 wine, and one of my roommates always had Mad Dog 20/20 in the house, the SNEAKY PETE of his choice (55A: [Homemade hooch]). Again, a lot of challenges, and a typically slow time for me when doing a Klahn puzzle, but still always a fun time to be challenged by his devilish cluing. Thanks for the brain exercise…now to stare into space for about 15 minutes to recover!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PASADENA (19A: ["The Big Bang Theory" setting])- The number of full episodes I’ve seen of The Big Bang Theory? Zero. The number of entire Rose Bowl football games I’ve seen? At least 25. The January 1 college footballing extravaganza in Pasadena, which includes the Tournament of Roses Parade earlier in the day, is a yearly football game in Pasadena, Calif. that matches up the champions of the Big Ten Conference and the Pac-12 Conference. USC has won the most Rose Bowl appearances (33) and wins (24), while Michigan has the most Rose Bowl Game appearances (20) and wins (8) of any Pac-12 team. The 2014 Rose Bowl game saw Michigan State defeat Stanford 24-20.
Another week in crossword puzzling down, guys!! Thanks for the fun, and will talk with you tomorrow, when another CS/WaPo crossword week begins in earnest!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Who Are We?”
Merl’s latest offering has a meta angle to it—after solving the puzzle, if you haven’t figured out what the theme is, you need to study it more closely until it gives up its secrets. I finished the puzzle without having a clue what the theme was, but a couple minutes of eyeballing the asterisked answers and looking for hidden words gave up the secret. It’s the key words from the classic tale of “The Three Little Pigs” (video with written and spoken text here):
- 22a. ["Soon It's Gonna Rain" musical *], THE FANTASTICKS. House of STICKS built by the second Little Pig (it’s blow-downable and the wolf eats him).
- 29a. [Brat Packer who wrote "Love Life" *], ROB LOWE. “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll BLOW your house down,” the Big Bad Wolf says.
- 32a. [Ice cream flavor *], STRAWBERRY. The first Little Pig makes a house of STRAW, also blow-downable, and the wolf eats him.
- 50a. ["Eyes Wide Shut" *], KUBRICK’S LAST FILM. The third pig builds a house of BRICKS, and he builds it to code to withstand lupine tornadic winds.
- 61a. [The ___ (nickname for each season's recurring villain on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") *], BIG BAD. The BIG BAD Wolf.
- 70a. [Former World Bank head *], PAUL WOLFOWITZ. Big Bad WOLF.
- 82a. [Like Leno *], CHINNY. The pigs all deny entrance to the wolf by saying “Not by the hair on my CHINNY-chin-chin.”
- 91a. [Batting-practice contraptions (this involves two theme words) *], PITCHING MACHINES. “Chinny-CHIN-CHIN.”
- 108a. ["Fanatics & Fools" author *], HUFFINGTON. “I’ll HUFF and …”
- 111a. [North Atlantic birds *], PUFFINS. “… I’ll PUFF and …”
- 122a. [Query to a grump *], WHAT’S EATING YOU? Not sure, but I think the EAT and YOU are attributed to the Big Bad Wolf. The video retelling of the story that I linked to above doesn’t include any “I’ll EAT YOU up,” but it feels familiar.
Fun and sneaky theme! If you’re like me, CHINNY and the one-two punch of HUFFINGTON and PUFFINS is what pointed the way towards the theme … although Merl’s note to solvers says “The answers to the 11 asterisked clues all have something in common, which should become clear about halfway through.” Halfway through! Um, not for me. I wasn’t paying close attention to the asterisks while solving.
Three more things:
- 6a. [What a single coin gets you on a pinball machine], ONE PLAY. Hang on, are we talking about the Kennedy half dollar coin here? Or the mystical 75¢ coin? There aren’t a lot of places where you can still play pinball for a quarter. (Also, with PITCHING MACHINES in the grid, I’d have preferred not to see “machine” in a clue.)
- The inclusion of 11 theme answers makes for a harder-to-fill grid, and the result is a little more blah fill than I like to see. Partials SO NEW, A CODE, NEED BE, IN A, A TYPE, IN YOU (and three of those partials right in the 1-Across section, starting the puzzle off on a blah note). Crosswordese ODA in a variant ODAH spelling, plus OONA and INE and 57d. CGS, [Meas. system that includes dynes and ergs] (that stands for the centimeter-gram-second system of units). Actually, looking over the whole grid, I see less bothersome stuff than I felt while solving. It really is important to have a good opening corner, because it can color the entire solve. Those three partials put me in an “ugh” frame of mind rather than a “ha!” one.
- You may have asked yourself what Peter SCOLARI (54d. [Hanks's "Bosom Buddies" co-star Peter]) has been up to lately. Oh, look! He didn’t vanish into suburban dinner theater as I’d suspected. He plays Hannah/Len Dunham’s dad on Girls, and has done single-episode appearances on a slew of TV series.
3.8 stars from me.
Mike Peluso’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da”
Sound-change theme this week, and it’s that rare creature: a sound-change theme that doesn’t leave me grousing about regional variations in pronunciation. The long E sound that ends “Ob-la-di” turns into the “ah” sound at the end of “Ob-la-da”:
- 23a. [Clancy explaining the spelling of his name?], THERE’S NO “I” IN TOM. “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’” is the original.
- 38a. [Victoria's Secret seasonal line?], SUMMER BRAS. Summer breeze.
- 64a. [Trading Clue, Monopoly, Life and Boggle?], FOUR-GAME SWAP. Four-game sweep. The number portion feels slightly arbitrary … although I guess sweeps can apply to best-of-7 playoff series as well as a 3-game series during the regular baseball season.
- 75a. [Monastery grounds?], LAND OF THE FRA. Free.
- 98a. [Bathrooms decorated in denim?], LEVI’S JOHNS. Jeans.
- 116a. [Character in "Satanic Star Trek"?], SPOCK OF THE DEVIL. Speak.
- 17d. [Gorgeous farm gal feeding the pigs?], SLOPPING BEAUTY. Sleeping.
- 49d. [Stain left by a pool disinfectant?], CHLORINE BLOTCH. Bleach.
Mild levels of amusement with the changes, which is better than utterly absent levels of amusement.
Never heard of: 103d. [Strategic WWII island in the Northern Marianas], TINIAN. It is tiny but has been inhabited for 4,000 years. Did know, from crosswords: 16d. [Faulkner vixen Varner], EULA.
The grid includes lots of 6s and 7s, with lively bits such as MACHETE, ALI BABA, THE BETSY, BRONKO Nagurski (one of the all-time best football names), ATLANTIS, “SILLY ME,” TINY TIM, and SASHAY.
I wondered if [Tiny stinger] was off base as a clue for 121a. FIRE ANT, if the ant is more of a biter. Apparently it just clamps down with its mouth while it jabs its abdominal stinger full of burning venom.
3.75 stars from me.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 220″ – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle is a 25/64 with two 3-letter words, fresh fill and minimal junk. Guess the constructor. Surprise, it’s Patrick Berry!
I think I’ll approach this one stack by stack. The slight trade-off to this puzzle is the four corners are fairly walled-off, which could’ve been frustrating if the puzzle was more challenging.
The puzzle starts with [First mate?] which is a double-fake! Pavlov’s Guide to Crosswords will probably tell you to think Genesis, but it is fact the modern colloquialism BESTIE, short for “best friend”. Perfect 1-across! BIGBUCKS , TITLEIST and SNOWCONE are also top answers. Crosswords teach us to spell the latter SNO but the W version seems at least as common. The trade-off? Well, KENS is a plural first name; that’s about it. Other remarks? [Result of H. pylori infection] for ULCER – my understanding is that Helicobacter pylori (not a fan of the H. in the clue, which should only be used when the genus has already been established) is a commensal that, in response to an initial insult, can overgrow and prevent healing. I know we have a medical doctor or two in the house? Care to give us a better (correct?) explanation? [Deposits beneath the soil] was a masterful clue for INTER.
SCRABBLE/THELORAX/EASTWEST/WITHEASE is another fabulous stack. I especially loved the clue [Book featuring a Whisper-ma-Phone, a Super-Axe-Hacker, Gluppity-Glupp and Schloppity-Schlopp]. The approach [Obstinate] for CUSSED was a surprise!
The bottom-left had two tough-for-me proper names TRUJILLO, Peru & The Chevrolet CHEVETTE [Subcompact introduced in model year 1976], which sounds a lot grander than it turned out to be! [Metal bass guitarist Robert] would’ve made TRUJILLO a lot easier for me, but I think the city is a far better option on balance! More geography in that corner comes from downs HEBRIDES and MOJAVE!
The bottom-right was by far the hardest corner for me: [Back] is a tough angle for tricky-to-parse-in-any-case INVESTIN. BOAVISTA was another unknown piece of geography. I eventually clawed my way up from the bottom. [Catch phrase?] for IGOTIT was the best clue, and very tricky to suss it was!
Low word counts in and of themselves add nothing to the joy of solving a puzzle. Having a bunch of fun, fresh answers and playful clues is what makes a puzzle sing for me: and this one had those qualities in spades: 4.5 Stars.