Links! First up, Anna Shechtman has written a splendid essay for The American Reader on women in crossword construction. I emailed the link to my mom (because Anna quotes me in her essay, and Mom likes to see such things). “My goodness, what a well-written piece,” Mom remarked.
Next, there’s a new crossword tournament in the works: The Indie 500 will take place sometime in May 2015, in Washington, DC. Five indie constructors are putting the event together—Erik Agard, Andy Kravis, Neville Fogarty, Evan Birnholz, and Peter Broda. (Click any name to visit that constructor’s website full of puzzles.)
Jason Flinn’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s inspired by civil engineering, with six answers ducking through an underpass in the grid:
- 12a-15a. [One who gets a charge out of charging?], SHOPA/HOLIC. The word passes through the 5-square underpass and comes out on the other side.
- 16a-18a. [Calculated], DELIB/ERATE.
- 19a-21a. [Lovable 650-pound TV character], GENT/LE BEN.
- 52a-55a. [One of two engineering features depicted in this puzzle], UNDER/PASS.
- 56a-58a. [Reflexive response to an accusation], I DIDN’/T DO IT.
- 60a-62a. [Writes briefly], SENDS/ A NOTE.
And then there are two structures above the underpass:
- 5d. One reason for a 52-Across], ELEVATED HIGHWAY.
- 7d. Another reason for a 52-Across], RAILROAD TRESTLE.
Definitely an unusual theme, much trickier than a rebus theme since we know what to expect with rebuses.
Five more things:
- 61a. [One way to see a talk, for short?], ASL. Toronto has a new restaurant called Signs, and all the wait staff communicate with sign language. The menu includes illustrations of the signs a customer must use to order an item, as no oral orders will be taken. So neat!
- 2d. [Rapper whose 2006 album “Doctor’s Advocate” was #1], THE GAME. This one was spoiled for me by the New York magazine article (about rap in crosswords) that gave away the answer ahead of time.
- 29d. [Another name for Odysseus], NOMAN. Here’s some context. Tough clue!
- 20a. [___-de-Marne (French department)], VAL. Really? In a puzzle with a difficult theme, you can’t just use actor Kilmer here? “French departments” are a shoddy way to clue something that has another option, if you ask me. There are about 100 departments, and I wonder if most French people know them all. Certainly the vast majority of American crossword solvers haven’t memorized the list.
- 9d. [One side in college football’s Iron Bowl], ALABAMA. Never heard of the Iron Bowl. The other team is Auburn.
The grid has lots of fine 7-letter answers, but also a slew of 3s. LEA EPI VAL EMU GRE HUS OBI YEE HEL TEL? Not so appealing.
4.5 stars for the freshness of the theme, 3.5 stars for the fill, so about 4 stars overall.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Matt’s review
Pressed for time today so a quick review. We have five (!) theme entries plus a revealer:
18-A [“Good lad!”] = THERE’S MY BOY.
23-A [“I’m positive”] = NO MISTAKE. Not sure about this as a stand-alone phrase. I’d prefer NO PROBLEM here.
30-A [Atlas index listing] = PLACE NAME. Place names are a fascinating subject.
47-A [“Whatever floats your boat”] – LIKE I CARE. More snark in the answer than the clue.
54-A [Base among boxes] = HOME PLATE. The batter’s box(es), though I don’t recall hearing them referred to in the plural, though there are two of them.
61-A [Character who, in an 8/15/1939 Hollywood premiere, speaks the first words of this puzzle’s five other longest answers] = DOROTHY GALE. And those initial words spell out her line “There’s no place like home.”
Cute theme, but why not schedule it for tomorrow so it’s on the date of the premiere? Seems odd not to do it, like when the NYT ran a pi-themed puzzle two weeks after March 14th, National Pi Day.
With so many theme entries the fill was probably going to suffer a bit, and here we had a lot of crosswordy entries: ELEA, SERA, ANO and OVO were a little scowly. But he worked some nice entries in as well: CAB STAND (excellently clued as [Where business is picking up?] and the symmetric LAKE ERIE stand out elegantly.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Copperheads”—Ade’s write-up
Today’s theme is a very slick one from Mr. Tony Orbach, especially for those people old enough to hear these terms in use before or are old souls that have come across these words in their specific context. In it, each of the four theme answers are the names of celebrities, with each of their first names also happening to be slang terms used for police officers. If at least one of the answers doesn’t make you recognize the theme, you could easily get lost in what’s going on. But if a famous TV show title was inverted and called FIVE-OH HAWAII, and then used in this grid, then some wouldn’t be lost anymore, right?!
- BEAR BRYANT: (17A: [Longtime Alabama coach]) – Alternate clue: most famous wearer of a houndstooth fedora.
- BOBBY CANNAVALE: (28A: [Emmy-winning supporting actor from “Boardwalk Empire”])
- SMOKEY ROBINSON: (49A: [Motown star who wrote the lyrics for and sang “The Tears of a Clown”])
- DICK CAVETT: (66A: [Late-night talk show host starting in the late ’60s])
So two of the slang terms for police officers, it seems, comes from Smokey the Bear?? Fair enough. Even with that, seeing PATROL CARS in the grid just puts a cherry on top of this grid, even if figuratively putting cherries on top of crossword puzzles is a little weird (11D: [Black-and-white cruisers]). Oh, and ABPS crosses PATROL CARS as well…wow! That’ll be the whipped cream then (10A: [Perp alerts, briefly]). Black-and-white was a little mimi theme throughout, with ORCA (14A: [Black-and-white cruiser?]) and another entry that I’ll talk about in the “sports” moment. Although it looks like crosswordese, I actually like RE-UP, especially given its regular use in sports vernacular (39A: [Go for another tour]). Originally typed in “bated” instead of BABY’S, which slowed me down for a little (18D: ______ breath]). Other than that, a very smooth solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OREOS (29A: [Black-and-white cookies]) – For those of you who follow NFL quarterbacking brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, you’ll know that they usually put out at least one gut-bursting commercial, as they either dress up and entertain as rappers for DirecTV, or join the Double Stuf Racing League, as they turn licking OREOS into a popular worldwide competition…sort of. Here’s that commercial…
Oh, and if you need to see their latest commercial/performance/rap hit, here goes. There’s an appearance by Joe Namath being his “Broadway Joe” self, which is priceless…
Thank you once again, and we’ll see you on Friday! TGIF is soooo close!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Bike Share”
Made-up phrases embody the “bike share” concept by splitting a type of bike across words. (And did you see the news this week about the fatality rate in American bike-share programs? Something like 23 million rides taken via bikes rented from a city program, zero deaths. Excellent!)
- 16a. [Blue-state lama?], TIBETAN DEMOCRAT. Tandem bike.
- 21a. [Percussion player who works for Big Blue?], IBM XYLOPHONIST. BMX bikes are those racing bikes used on dirt tracks, no?
- 36a. [Answer to the question, “In your opinion, what do you suppose is the object most likely to scare away Dracula?”?], CRUCIFIX, I EXPECT. A fixie is … well, I’m not exactly sure. Ah, a fixed-gear bicycle. I would not like such a bike.
- 47a. [Stomachache after taking an ED drug?], LEVITRA ILLNESS. Trail bikes.
- 55a. [Riding mower that doubles as a British luxury car?], DEERE-CUM-BENTLEY. Recumbent bikes don’t work for my knees. This theme answer is so weird, it’s my favorite. Plus, it hides a 9-letter word!
Thank goodness for circled letters, amirite?
Five more things:
- 4d. [What goes after eggs], SPERM. I wanted SPERT, even though “eggspert” has just one S.
- 63a. [’80s bombshell Tawny], KITAEN. Unusual surname. She was in the classic Tom Hanks/Adrian Zmed movie, Bachelor Party. If only Tawny and Adrian had become a Hollywood supercouple. Zmetaen!
- 25d. [Hugs and kisses, symbolically], OXOX. Why is it that we say “hugs and kisses” but more often write “XOXO”? That’s all backwards.
- 38d. [“Redneck Crazy” country singer Tyler], FARR. Never heard of him.
- 47d. [Jumping-off point], LEDGE. Don’t do it! Call 1-800-SUICIDE if you’re considering jumping. Please. We would all miss you too much if you were gone, and I promise you that there are brighter days ahead.
I like the “Bike Share” theme concept, and Brendan executed it well and goofily. I don’t love all the fill (I’m looking at you, UTA TEALS ILEA and abbrevs), though. 3.9 stars from me.