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?