Blogging the crossword from Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine

I flew Southwest when I went to New York for the Lollapuzzoola tournament. It’s been my favorite airline for years, and they typically had some good puzzles in the in-flight magazine. Last year, each issue of Spirit offered two crosswords by Brendan Emmett Quigley—an easier one and a tougher one, a little something for solvers of varying levels.

Earlier this year, Spirit replaced Brendan’s puzzles with crosswords from Myles Mellor, a constructor whose website boasts of his vast experience but whose puzzles seem to fall far short of the level you’d expect if you’ve been doing solid newspaper puzzles (such as the ones from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and Newsday).

I’d like to quiz you on some of the clues in Mellor’s easy puzzle, “It’s a Seasonal Thing,” from the August 2014 issue of Spirit. (The theme answers are SUMMER OLYMPICS, WINTER OVERCOATS—which sounds redundant, as I don’t know of summer overcoats—and SPRING CLEANING. Nothing like a seasons theme that includes only three of the four seasons, am I right?) There were a few answers that I don’t recall encountering in three-plus decades of crossword solving—and in the puzzle labeled “Easy Crossword”! The others were more familiar, but clued in a much less gettable way.

Pop quiz! Please post your answers in the comments, and I’ll come up with a nifty prize (perhaps a book of crosswords) for the person who gets the most right (without hunting down the solution from the magazine) or has the most entertainingly wrong answers. (The judge’s decisions are final and capricious.)

  • 15a. [Unwilling (var.)], 4 letters. Haven’t seen this one before!
  • 16a. [A ruminant], 5 letters. Really, cluing this one as a noun? That’s a strange choice. Some dictionaries list only the adjective sense for this answer.
  • 17a. [Brim], 4 letters. Verb, not noun.
  • 43a. [Barter, in Britain], 4 letters. Whoa! Also unfamiliar to me.
  • 44a. [Maximum], 3 letters. Nope, it isn’t CAP or NTH.
  • 56a. [Purplish tuber], 4 letters. It’s not TARO or OCA.
  • 2d. [Pretentious sort], 5 letters. Not POSER.
  • 3d. [Resin used in printing ink], 5 letters. Crosswordese!
  • 5d. [European gold coin], 6 letters. Not exactly a household word these days.
  • 43d. [Large fishing nets], 6 letters. Used to see this one a lot more often in crosswords.
  • 44d. [Spleen related], 6 letters. With 20+ years of medical editing experience, I’d never encountered this word. How many Southwest passengers know it?
  • 48d. [Provide], 5 letters. A literary sort of word that doesn’t get much use.
  • 53d. [Placer contents], 4 letters. I had to look up placer in the dictionary to understand this clue. The answer is wildly common, and yet the “easy” clue calls on a rather uncommon word.

Air travel today is fraught with delays and tension. You’d imagine that airlines would want to soothe their customers with fun diversions in the in-flight magazine, not frustrate them with crosswords filled with unfamiliar words, wouldn’t you?

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32 Responses to Blogging the crossword from Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine

  1. Sam Donaldson says:

    ◾15a. [Unwilling (var.)] = WERY
    ◾16a. [A ruminant] (no guess–I’m more familiar with Roman ants than ruminants)
    ◾17a. [Brim] = FILL
    ◾43a. [Barter, in Britain] = HAGG
    ◾44a. [Maximum] = ULT
    ◾56a. [Purplish tuber] = YUCA
    ◾2d. [Pretentious sort] = SNOBB
    ◾3d. [Resin used in printing ink]= XEROXY (ok, six letters–maybe it’s a rebus?)
    ◾5d. [European gold coin] = PESETA
    ◾43d. [Large fishing nets] = BIG-UNS
    ◾44d. [Spleen related] = ORGANY
    ◾48d. [Provide] = ENDOW
    ◾53d. [Placer contents] = JUNK

  2. Neville says:

    A few legitimate guesses:
    44a. TOP
    17a. TEEM
    5d. PESETA
    43d. SEINES
    44d. LIENAL
    …and one illegitimate one:
    2d. MYLES

  3. Noam D. Elkies says:

    15A is probably LOTH, variant of LOATH. 44A, maybe MAX since we’re told it’s badly clued. 48A, possibly ENDUE. 5D, maybe SEQUIN, a.k.a. zecchino, singular of zecchini [sic], and the same word that we know as a shiny metal bauble. 43D, SEINES, as Neville posted. 53D, ORES, as in “placer deposits”. The rest I’d need a few crosses for. If 44D is indeed LIENAL ( corroborates) then I’d need at least six crosses for that word…


  4. Howard B says:

    Unwilling (var.) LOTH

    16a. [A ruminant] QAJAQ

    17a. [Brim] = TEEM

    43a. [Barter, in Britain] = SWOP

    ◾44a. [Maximum] = TOP

    ◾2d. [Pretentious sort] = PSEUD

    ◾3d. [Resin used in printing ink]= QAJAQ

    ◾5d. [European gold coin] = GUINEA

    ◾43d. [Large fishing nets] =Seines

    ◾44d. [Spleen related] = YECCCH

    ◾48d. [Provide] = ENDUE

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      I later thought of TOP for “Maximum”, but if the answer is really TOP then it feels unobjectionable to me.


      • Andrew says:

        I like your suggestion of MAX the best. Maybe something stupid like ALL, too.

        For the gold coin, I suggest GILDER, misspelled and all.

        This is an amusing exercise, though the fact that BEQ was replaced by this guy is enough to make me retch. At the time of the announcement I think I made the comparison that it’s like switching from Maker’s Mark to raw sewage, and I still like the analogy.

  5. CY Hollander says:

    I’ll guess OVINE for the ruminant.

  6. Evan says:

    15a. [Unwilling (var.)] = SHYE
    16a. [A ruminant] = OVINE (I see CY Hollander beat me to it)
    17a. [Brim] = SATE
    43a. [Barter, in Britain] = TRED (I think Howard’s got it right)
    44a. [Maximum] = END
    56a. [Purplish tuber] = VEIN
    2d. [Pretentious sort] = ARTER. Or perhaps ACTOR?
    3d. [Resin used in printing ink] = ELEMI
    5d. [European gold coin] = FLORIN
    43d. [Large fishing nets] = SNOODS? (maybe he was thinking of the wrong kind of nets)
    44d. [Spleen related] = SPLEAL
    48d. [Provide] = ENFIT
    53d. [Placer contents] = SAND

  7. Alex B. says:

    How big is Southwest’s yearly operating budget, and how much is the price difference between BEQ’s puzzle and MM’s? Yeesh. On the plus side, I finally know what this tweet was all about.

    15a. [Unwilling (var.)] LOTH
    16a. [A ruminant] ?
    17a. [Brim] TEEM
    43a. [Barter, in Britain] SWOP
    44a. [Maximum] LID
    56a. [Purplish tuber] EDDO
    2d. [Pretentious sort] PSEUD
    3d. [Resin used in printing ink] … ALKYD? Might be ELEMI.
    5d. [European gold coin] FLORIN
    43d. [Large fishing nets] TRAWLS (only because others have guessed SEINES)
    44d. [Spleen related] ?!?!
    48d. [Provide] ENDUE
    53d. [Placer contents] ??????

  8. Tom says:

    “How big is Southwest’s yearly operating budget, and how much is the price difference between BEQ’s puzzle and MM’s?” — my thoughts exactly. I, unfortunately, fly Southwest quite a bit. I highly encourage everyone to write to the airline/magazine and complain:

    Funny enough, the theme is not entirely incomplete. There is a lone FALL sitting at the bottom of the grid. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a product of autofill and entirely unintended.

  9. Alex says:

    Seems a bit rude to just make fun of a guy’s puzzle, even if it isn’t up to most newspaper standards…

    • Evan says:

      He’s not some little boy making a puzzle for his 3rd grade classroom. He’s an adult getting published in the official magazine for a popular airline. He’s earning professional money for this. Plus the guy he replaced is a far, far superior constructor.

      If Myles doesn’t want his puzzles critiqued, he shouldn’t publish them in any major outlet. And if he doesn’t want his puzzles ridiculed, he shouldn’t make shitty puzzles.

    • Andrew says:

      It’s a disservice to everyone interested in crosswords. It’s a terrible experience for the solver, no doubt, as Amy has described. Clearly there’s no editor working to fine-tune these puzzles, as they’re mostly autofilled garbage puzzles. And most importantly for those who are professional constructors, or at least those that make a good chunk of their living writing crosswords, he drives down the fees that we can charge from puzzles by lowballing clients, and further his puzzles do nothing but frame crosswords as cheap, low-quality entertainment. This last part is what offends me the most.

  10. Martin says:

    Any chance we could see a pic of the puzzle in question (filed or unfilled)?


  11. tamz29 says:

    Does Myles get printed in leading newspapers (NYT, LAT etc) a lot?
    Cause all the magazines he gets printed in are so unrelated (roadbikes, bankers, yoga…), and they don’t seem to qualify as an outlet that has keen eye for crossword quality. As if the editor just wants to find the cheapest crossword to fill their pages.

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    The “easy” and hard puzzles can be found here:

  13. Francis says:

    15a. [Unwilling (var.)] = NTST (Variant abbreviation for “intestate”)
    16a. [A ruminant] = EWWWE
    17a. [Brim] = TEEM
    43a. [Barter, in Britain] = KERB
    44a. [Maximum] = LOT
    56a. [Purplish tuber] = DOUG (He likes tubing, and he gets sort of purplish if he’s out in the sun too long)
    2d. [Pretentious sort] = RICKY (Doug’s friend, kind of a jerk)
    3d. [Resin used in printing ink]= SQUIDO
    5d. [European gold coin] = AUEURO
    43d. [Large fishing nets] = XLNETS
    44d. [Spleen related] = BITCHY
    48d. [Provide] = GIMME
    53d. [Placer contents] = LACE

  14. pannonica says:

    Late to the party, so it’s more tricksier.

    • 15a. [Unwilling (var.)] (4) ANTY
    • 16a. [A ruminant] (5) ELAND
    • 5d. [Brim] (4) TOPS
    • 43a. [Barter, in Britain] (4) SNYP (typo for “Barber”)
    • 44a. [Maximum] (3) MAX
    • 56a. [Purplish tuber] (4)
    • 2d. [Pretentious sort] (5) ELITE
    • 3d. [Resin used in printing ink] (5) DR DRE
    • 17a. [European gold coin] (6) ECU-ECU (all day)
    • 43d. [Large fishing nets] (6) TUNAS
    • 44d. [Spleen related] (6) MELLOR
    • 48d. [Provide] (5) CATER
    • 53d. [Placer contents] (4) DIBS
  15. Alex B. says:

    On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that there are far, far worse crosswords out there … [WARNING: link may make you want to claw your eyes out]

  16. Jim H. says:

    15a. [Unwilling (var.)] = NOPY
    16a. [A ruminant] = MOOER
    17a. [Brim] = FILL
    43a. [Barter, in Britain] = CAVE
    44a. [Maximum] = TIP
    56a. [Purplish tuber] = SPUG
    2d. [Pretentious sort] = DANDY
    3d. [Resin used in printing ink] = HI-RES (Cartridges are really expensive)
    5d. [European gold coin] = EURORO
    43d. [Large fishing nets] = SEINES
    44d. [Spleen related] = IRE-ISH
    48d. [Provide] = FURNE
    53d. [Placer contents] = SAND

  17. Martin says:

    Leslie Billig used to be an editor at Dell Champion. She knows her stuff (unlike the other guy!).


    • Andrew says:

      That she does, but if this is in reference to the American Airlines puzzle linked above, Leslie didn’t write that puzzle, Matt Gaffney did. No fault on your part, though – Matt’s name is buried under the grid, in smaller non-bold font. A topic for a different day, I suppose.

  18. Gareth says:

    I disagree strongly that these crosswords are definitely made with autofill. I learnt to make crosswords by hand, with a little yellow crossword dictionary occasionally coming to my aid to find an entry that would fit a particular pattern. At the stage, I was making crosswords in isolation and having only the local You Magazine to go on, was not concerned much about obscurity, only that the words fit. Most of those entries could have come straight from one of those early puzzles of mine!

  19. Tuning Spork says:

    44d. [Spleen related] = IRISH

  20. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Okay! The arbitrary deadline has been reached at 8:30 pm Central on Thursday the 14th.

    Alex B is the winner, correctly getting nine weird answers: 15a LOTH, 17a TEEM, 43a SWOP, 44a LID, 56a EDDO, 2d PSEUD, 3d ELEMI, 5d FLORIN, and 48d ENDUE. Maximum = LID is just odd, isn’t it?

    Howard is the runner-up, with LOTH, TEEM, SWOP, PSEUD, 43d SEINES, and ENDUE.

    Noam is in third place with LOTH, ENDUE, SEINES, and the would-need-every-crossing 44d LIENAL, which he likely picked up from Neville’s comment giving TEEM, SEINES, and LIENAL. So let’s put the N men in a 3rd-place tie.

    Evan is in fourth with 16a OVINE (as a noun!) and ELEMI. CY, Francis, and Jim H each got one answer, though Francis may have been convinced that TEEM was terribly wrong. Bonus points to Francis for the cryptic-style answer for [Placer contents] = LACE. Incorrect, but nice!

    I don’t think anyone figured out [Placer contents]. It’s GOLD. Apparently, placer means a sandy or gravely deposit in a river or lake bed containing particles of valuable minerals. Bonus points to Mellor for including “gold” in the FLORIN clue as well as in the grid with an incomprehensibly arcane clue.

    Alex wins … any puzzle book he wants that’s available from Amazon for a standard price of around $10. Alex, let me know what book you’d like and where to send the book!

    Thanks for playing, everyone! You’re as good as placer contents.

    • Tuning Spork says:

      Yay, Alex!

    • Alex B. says:

      Awesome! (though my vote would have gone to Francis.) I was helped by the fact that a lot of those clues have been used in reasonable, mainstream outlets before:
      [Maximum] = LID: NYT 1999-06-19
      [Brim] = TEEM: Post Puzzler 2012-06-17
      [Barter, in Britain] = SWOP: NY Sun, 2007-11-16
      etc …

      Can I contribute the $10 prize toward the “Yay Diary of a Crossword Fiend” fund?

  21. dave glasser says:

    Hey, at least now I know what Placer County CA is named for!

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