Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Is this really just a 64-word puzzle? It plays more like a 68- or 70-word puzzle—lots of excellent fill, relatively little clunky fill. I was too busy noodling through the twisty clues to notice the puzzle’s dimensions.
- 1A. [Its workers aren’t behind closed doors] because they all work in open cubicles. They’re in a CUBE FARM. I nearly put TUBE FARM, working my way backwards and contemplating unheard-of agricultural options.
- 17A. [Places for some flicks] of the cigarette are ASHTRAYS. I considered NIGHTIE for 5D (the [Often red item of apparel turned out to be a FIRE HAT), which nudged me towards NOSEGAYS for 17A. So wrong!
- 26A. Best clue I’ve seen for AMINO: [Acid head?].
- 27A. The [Singing group] that sings like a canary consists of a bunch of STOOLIES, ratting out the bad guys. Stoolies would be a lovely name for an a cappella group.
- 34A. Dictionary trivia! SET [occupies 25 pages in the Oxford English Dictionary].
- 46A. I love MOPED because it can be the past tense of the verb “mope” as well as the [Fuel-efficient transportation] with a motor and pedals.
- 48A. “SO THERE!” is a [Cry when rubbing it in].
- 51A. I like [Play an ace?], as in an air ace, as a clue for AVIATE. Given the low word count, I can swallow AVIARIES (12D: [Zoo sections]) being in the same grid.
- 56A. HOLSTERS are [Places to store barrels?], if they’re gun barrels.
- 1D. [Washing-up place] is the COAST where things wash up (tar balls in the Gulf of Mexico, alas), not a basin where you might wash up.
- 13D. Aha! A prison SENTENCE is the [Follower of one’s convictions] in court.
- 25D. Great answer—”TOUCH ME” is a [1969 hit for the Doors].
- 31D. Another favorite entry—the ONCE OVER is a [Cursory cleaning, say].
Potential trouble spots, less familiar words:
- 29A. Crosswordese ECU is here. [It was worth three livres].
- 39A. I forget if I learned SCREE ([Mountainside debris]) as crosswordese or in Intro to Geology.
- 49A. [Hippodrome competitor] is a TROTTER, a sort of racing horse. Chicago chef Charlie Trotter would probably appreciate getting the crossword fame too, you know.
- 53A. [Currency that replaced pounds in 1964] clues LEONES, the currency of Sierra Leone.
- 55A. ERNEST [___ Evans, aka Chubby Checker]—really? I had no idea Chubby Checker wasn’t the name on his birth certificate.
- 6D. Oh, crosswordese cousin AGAR, is there anything you can’t do? You’re a [Clarifying agent in brewing] as well as an ice cream thickener?
- ONE-NIGHT BEAVER BIKINI? Barry, Barry, Barry.
- 9D. The ABBOT is clued as [One giving prior consent?]. Does this mean the ABBOT gives consent to the priors at the monastery? Not really clear on that.
- 52D. The fragment MAH is clued as the [Start of a Chinese game], mah-jongg. This is my pick for worst entry in the whole puzzle, and it’s not 100% awful. It’s gettable.
Steve Atwood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Prefixes and Suffixes”
- 16a. [Word that could mean “not entirely disobedient” or “headed for the metro”] is SUBWAYWARD. “Not entirely disobedient” is sub- + wayward, and “headed for the metro” is subway + -ward. Nifty, eh?
- 19a. [Word that could mean “before Samuel Johnson’s 1755 book” or “related to fortunetelling”] clues PREDICTIONARY.
- 35a. [Word that could mean “force vacationers to vacate” or “one who takes alternate routes”] is DETOURIST.
- 54a. [Word that could mean “sparsely filled with settlers” or “added a certain punctuation mark to”] clues SEMICOLONIZED.
- 60a. [Word that could mean “become too small to see” or “similar to a family vehicle”] is MINIVANISH. This one feels a little inconsisted because “vanish” doesn’t really contain a suffix.
I didn’t grasp the full effect of the theme while I was solving because the long theme clues were only partially visible while solving on screen. But even then, I liked the theme. It’s more elegant if you can actually read the full clues, mind you.
Updated Friday morning:
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Rant and Rave”—Janie’s review
Yesterday’s homophones–sometimes called homonyms–give way to today’s synonyms. And what high-drama synonyms they are. The four cousins to “rant” and “rave” are rage, storm, rail and scream. Shades of The Snake Pit, no? (Many characters in that 1948 depiction of life in an insane asylum did [Bounce off the walls], I’m afraid, though I’m not certain that they actually ECHOed…) Each of these words is the last one in theme phrases that offer them a more neutral context altogether:
- 17A. ALL THE RAGE [In]. What a simple, uncluttered, perfect clue. I love it.
- 11D. DUST STORM [Windy weather phenomenon in the Great Plains].
- 35D. THIRD RAIL [Dangerous subway track]. This is actually the most successful base phrase for my money, as rail here is entirely unconnected to anything having to do with turbulence or, um, high spirits.
- 62D. “HE’S A SCREAM” [“That comedian had us rolling in the aisles”].
There’s a fine array of clue/fill pairs that work well with each other, and they include:
- [Proclaim] STATE and [Proclamation] EDICT. An [Oktoberfest exclamation] is “ACH!”
- To [Really relax, slangily] is to VEG OUT; the grid-adjacent SLEEP, by comparison, is described as something [New parents might lack…]. These clues/concepts feel a bit interchangeable (in a good way). As anyone who’s taken yoga can attest to, sleep is something that can be accomplished when you allow yourself to “really relax” and veg out is something (else) new parents wish they could take the time to do. Ah, well. Everything in time.
- A [Parched feeling] is THIRST; [Moistens] is WETS; a [Southwestern gulch] is an ARROYO (a valley that has been cut by a stream]; it’s a place where you can almost see the water [Evaporate], or DRY UP.
- [Israeli dance] is HORA; [Synagogue scroll] is TORAH.
Back on Tuesday we saw the word skimpiest in the grid, and I suggested that “Itsy-Bitsy…Bikini” might fill the definition-bill. Today we’ve another example that’d do just as well, and since turnabout is fair play, thank you, Gail, for cluing SPEEDO as [Beefcake beachwear].
Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller’s Los Angeles Times crossword
You’d think the theme would have become obvious once I had MAGIC JOHNS filled in, wouldn’t you? But the Magic Johnson connection didn’t dawn on me until I made my way down to the explanatory ON END (50d: [Upright, and what’s been removed to form this puzzle’s theme answers]). The ON has been removed from the END to form each of six theme entries. Even with that trick in mind, I still didn’t get the other five so quickly. Either the theme clues were hard or my brain is in low gear today.
I love the ON END theme revealer. ON END and NO END are often clued indistinguishably—”incessantly,” “constantly,” “without interruption.” So I kinda hate them both, and I’m glad to see one of them used for a grander purpose than filling a corner. The ON ends were docked from these theme entries:
- 18A: [Underwear that never needs washing?] are MAGIC JOHNS. Except JOHNS ≠ underwear, even though long johns = long underwear. Is the L.A. Times afraid of both bathrooms and prostitute customers?
- 20A: [Attack of Tolkien’s Ents?] is a TREE SURGE.
- 32A: [Press watering hole?] might be a MEDIA BAR.
- 44A: [English horn?] is an ANGLO SAX.
- 56A: [Chest bump cousin?] is BELLY BUTT. That’s not a thing, but it should be.
- 61A: [Fido’s greeting?] clues WELCOME WAG. I had a welcome mat stuck in my head.
Minus one point for including some fill (IN ON, TOON) with ON ends.
Nine other clues:
- 17a. [Noted cat suit wearer] is Bert LAHR, who wore the Cowardly Lion costume. Whether he also wore stretchy, skin-tight jumpsuits, I cannot say.
- 34a. [Main ideas] are THEMES, but I had THESES for too long. Really mucked things up there.
- 42a. [Colorado conqueror] is a whitewater RAFTER on the Colorado River.
- 3d. [Without precedent] clues the great entry UNHEARD OF.
- 12d. [Winchester weight] clues TONNE, so apparently Winchester is supposed to make us think of England. I think of Winchester rifles and Charles Emerson Winchester III from M*A*S*H.
- 21d. I got in my own way here, too. [Miso bean] is SOYA, but I was thinking, “Mung bean? What’s another name for mung bean? It’s not SOYA.”
- 45d. [1955 title role voiced by Barbara Luddy] is LADY, the Disney cocker spaniel.
- 58d. [Michigan, for one] is my friendly neighborhood Great LAKE. I first thought of the state and the university, but not the cartoon frog.
- 60d. [Hamlet’s kin], like 58d, made me think of the wrong entity. I thought of Shakespeare rather than small-h hamlet, a TOWN.
Wall Street Journal crossword, “Insurance Claims”—by Marie Kelly (“really Mike” Shenk)
I finished the entire puzzle without having a clue what the theme was. Eventually it dawned on me that SLIDING SCALE was the base phrase for the middle entry—the titular “Insurance Claims” are the HMOs claimed by each theme entry, changing them from familiar to made-up phrases.
- 23a. [Distance between golfer Vijay’s blemishes?] is SINGH MOLE SPACING.
- 29a. [Singer Johnny’s auto care product?] is CASH MOTOR OIL.
- 41a. [Area where chefs get paid?] is DISH MONEY LAND. Aw, too bad Jeffrey isn’t blogging this puzzle. He loves Disneyland.
- 63a. [Brew whose mascot is a jerk coming home lying down?] clues SLIDING SCHMO ALE.
- 87a. [Barack’s chief of staff making a TV appearance?] is RAHM ON THE SHOW.
- 101a. SHAH MOVED ICE is clued [Ousted Iranian monarch got a job hawking sorbet?].
- 109a. [Title awarded to the student who does worst in algebra?] is MATH MORON OF HONOR.
I like how the changed phrases are so dramatically different from the originals. We get three people’s names (Singh, Cash, Rahm) disrupting regular words. “Matron of honor” and “single spacing” get the craziest changes.
Brendan Quigley’s blog variety puzzle, “Marching Bands”
I do always enjoy a good Marching Bands puzzle. I think the ones I solve in the Games family of puzzle magazines are usually by Patrick Berry, aren’t they?
My favorite part of solving this particular puzzle was the misstep I made. In band D, I had ART*CHO for the beginning of [It’s full of drawers: 2 wds.]. Why, look at that letter pattern! It must be ARTICHOKE HEARTS. Um, no. ART SCHOOL. Anyone ever notice that ART SCHOOL and ARTICHOKE have the same ART*CHO** pattern?
Overall impressions: (1) No crap in the fill. (2) Plenty of interesting multi-word phrases. (3) Good clues, some of ’em tough. (4) Wait, does anyone call the phenomenon BOND WOMAN? I’ve only heard Bond girl, but I’m certainly not opposed to jettisoning a “girl” designation for grown women.
Do you want to check your answers against mine? Here you go:
1 BOW-LEGGED / ONUS 2 CABLE CAR / MENSA 3 SOUR / CHIN STRAP 4 IDAHO / KEY ARENA 5 DALAI / RONSTADT 6 ONE SEC / IN A STIR 7 OREGON / NUCLEI 8 BOND WOMAN / HUGO 9 AT HEEL / GO TO POT 10 PECCADILLO / IRA 11 PRIDE / DRACONIC 12 ATRAS / RAT'S NEST 13 KEROSENE / BATON