Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Film No-R”
Yup, that’s a Patrick Berry puzzle, all right: theme that isn’t stale and that contains some pleasing surprises, fill that contains nothing to make me go all frowny. You know the stuff I’m talking about—obscure place names or ’40s stars, oddball abbreviations, awkward and clunky vocabulary. (Plus he’s got theme entries stacked together at the top and bottom, the way Merl Reagle and Henry Hook are also wont to do.) Nobody seems to know how Patrick makes it look so easy. Best guess: he sold his soul to the devil in a Faustian bargain that pays dividends mainly to the rest of us.
Instead of film noir, this theme features “Film No-R,” movie titles that have lost an R and thus changed the storyline:
- 19a. (R)AGING BULL is a [Film about a corrida participant put to pasture?].
- 23a. Film about […a candy-sharing confederate?] is THE GUMBALL (R)ALLY.
- 28a. […a small-minded lady?] is P(R)ETTY WOMAN.
- 44a. This one took me the longest to figure out because I was assuming ACES expanded to RACES rather than ACRES. […an embarrassingly one-sided tennis match?] is A THOUSAND AC(R)ES.
- 67a. Spanning the full grid is BEDKNOBS AND B(R)OOMSTICKS, […decorative furniture elements being blown off with dynamite?]. When I was a kid, I never understood what bedknobs were supposed to be. Still don’t know. But I love “boom stick” because of Bruce Campbell’s line in Army of Darkness, “This—is—my boom stick!” (He went back from the present day to medieval times and had a shotgun, which he explained thusly.)
- 93a. […a demonic horse?] is MY F(R)IEND FLICKA. This blog right here, folks—this is where to come for the very best in demonic crossword commentary.
- 112a. […drink garnishes?] clues OLIVE(R) TWIST. The garnish in my drink tonight (a cocktail called El Diablo) was a half a lime shell, inverted, filled with creme de cassis that cascaded out of the lime when poked. I’m pretty sure I keep ordering El Diablo because it’s so cool to watch.
- 121a. […a seedy Hollywood bar?] is a MULHOLLAND D(R)IVE.
- 126a. FI(R)ST BLOOD is clued via […skinned knuckles?].
There’s no shortage of lovely fill and cluing in this puzzle, but it’s growing late and I like to knock off a few puzzles before turning in for the night so I won’t list all the challenging clues or coolest answers.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Stretching Your Dollar”
In these tough economic times, one of the simplest ways to stretch your dollar is to insert other letters. I kid you not: In the theme entries, slang terms for “money” are spaced out (in the circled squares) amid longer phrases that…are…entirely unrelated, other than being nouns. This theme didn’t do much for me, to be honest. Here are the theme entries:
- 23a. CABBAGE is in CARIBBEAN GETAWAY—[Stretch your dollars with this vacation].
- 32a. SIMOLEONS are found in SONDHEIM COLLECTIONS. [Stretch your dollars with these Broadway CDs]. Wait, isn’t “Sondheim collections” a rather arbitrary phrase?
- 51a. [Stretch your dollars with these desserts] clues BUNDT CAKES. BUCKS are in there.
- 57a. [Stretch your dollars with this sporting event] clues a SOCCER MATCH, with SCRATCH in there.
- 65a. [Stretch your dollars with this sweet] yields MILK CHOCOLATE. There’s a little MOOLA there.
- 77a. [Stretch your dollars with these tools] clues CLAW HAMMERS (CLAMS).
- 84a. I don’t really think of BROMELIADS (BREAD) as flowers. How about you> [Stretch your dollars with these flowers].
- 95a. [Stretch your dollars with this Woody Allen DVD] clues DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (DOUGH, just 5 of 14 letters circled). Wow, was that an annoying movie.
- 108a. [Stretch your dollars with this sci-fi toy] clues DISINTEGRATOR RAY (DINERO). I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen such a toy. I first spelled it DISINTEGRATER, crossing ELD, which is so closely related in meaning to the correct answer, OLD. I’d have liked to see a more obvious, unmistakeably-not-ELD clue for OLD.
Aw, man, I’m too tired to delve into the fill for this puzzle.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Constructor Martin Ashwood-Smith bends the rules a bit departing from our normal (“rotational,” or 180-degree) symmetry with a grid that is mirror symmetric. (The way I think about this is if you set a mirror down in the center running from top to bottom you’d see the other half of the grid in the reflection.) Questions to the solver: Did you notice? If so, did you care? If it made for livelier entries, is it worth breaking the rules? From my perspective, I didn’t notice until after I had solved the grid and realized there were two long 15-letter entries at the bottom not paired with entries at the top. Let’s dive into the entries and see if it was worth the risk:
I would say those 2 15s at the bottom provide a lot more sparkle than the 4 15s in the center, the latter heavily constrained by the crossing entries.
- “Prove elusive” is ESCAPE DETECTION. The non-traditional symmetry of this puzzle escaped my detection until after I was done.
- “Hogan role of 1986” is CROCODILE DUNDEE. I first was thinking of Hulk Hogan, but here it’s the Aussie Paul Hogan. The original movie was followed by 2 sequels, Crocodile Dundee II and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. I guess the public was dundee with the franchise after three of ’em.
The four long entries in the center, though impressive from a construction perspective, don’t sparkle as much for me:
- Probably the least interesting is the first: “Shipper’s purchase” was MARINE INSURANCE. Only if the shipper shipped the shipment on a ship, right?
- “Pledges’ hurdles” was INITIATION RITES. MIT is known for its unique fraternity pranks–recently Tau Epsilon Phi settled out of court after stealing and then throwing a hunk of sodium metal into the Charles River to see it explode. Unfortunately, it didn’t blow up until a couple of boaters cleaning up river debris picked it up some time later. I hope they had MARINE INSURANCE!
- The AGE OF RETIREMENT has been on my mind quite a bit after turning 50 this year; too bad the stock market keeps pushing the date further out!
- And finally, the clue “Some also-rans” for SILVER MEDALISTS seems to diminish their accomplishment. I believe our MGWCC blogger joon finished in second place at the recent Lollapuzzoola and that is something to be very proud of, considering the esteemed competition.
My last entry in the grid was the crosser between 60’s singer RAL Donner and, what has to be the strangest entry I’ve seen in a while HELLA for “Very, in slang.” I’ve certainly seen HELUVA, but HELLA? I’d be more inclined to clue this as the author of Catch-22 to a Bostonian…
Evad, over and out!
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “C-Plus” – Sam Donaldson’s review
When I started the puzzle, I shrugged. Based on the title, I was expecting to add the letter “C” to various phrases. I should have known better. The “C” is the Roman 100, and this puzzle celebrates famous figures who lived to reach age 100+. Solvers who tend not to like names and trivia in their puzzles will likely be frustrated, but as someone who enjoys both, I dug it.
The reveal sits at 113-Across, LIVES TO BE 100, with the clue [Hits the same milestone as all the *d celebs]. In Hook’s last Boston Globe puzzle, we saw him use numbers in the grid at both crossings. This time, he uses the technique we have seen before where the number “1” becomes the letter “I” in the corresponding Down entry and each zero becomes the letter “O” in the Downs. This always trips me up a little, and given that I started in the southeast corner it shook my confidence to see -EIOO at the end of a long answer.
In all, we have have nine centenarian honorees, all clued in a most straightforward manner:
- [Songwriter] IRVING BERLIN;
- [Broadway producer] GEORGE ABBOTT;
- [Comedian] BOB HOPE;
- [Artist] GRANDMA MOSES;
- [Political matriarch] ROSE KENNEDY;
- [Ventriloquist] SENOR WENCES;
- [Senator] STROM THURMOND;
- [Labor leader] MOTHER JONES; and
- [Comedian] GEORGE BURNS.
Notice the lovely stacking of IRVING BERLIN atop GEORGE ABBOTT in the northwest, along with GRANDMA MOSES on top of the LIVES TO BE 100 revealer in the southeast. Similar stacking happens in the northeast with ROSE KENNEDY and SENOR WENCES and in the southwest with MOTHER JONES and GEORGE BURNS. Even if you’re not a fan of names and trivia, you have to admire the construction here.
From a speed solving perspective, I suppose the benefit of a puzzle themed with names is that you can make a lot of headway with just a few crossings, provided you know the people in question. The only name unfamiliar to me was GEORGE ABBOTT, but the crossings were fair enough to make it quickly inferable. Of course, if you don’t know one or more of the names, you’re in for a slog. While I had no problems with the theme entries, it was the names in the shorter fill that slowed me down. I don’t know the first name of [Political writer Charen]–turns out it’s MONA. At various times I had MILA and MINA. For a while, [Surrealist Joan] could have been any combination of three letters followed by an “O,” and none of those letter combinations would have felt … wait for it … surreal. Joan’s last name is MIRO. I skipped the [Daughter of Nicholas II] at first, but eventually cottoned to ANASTASIA. Finally, the [Big name in Italian fashion] could have been most anything: DOLCE, GUCCI, PUCCI, PRADA, et (It)alia. This grid wanted FENDI. Fair enough, but I was vexed for the longest time because the “F” intersected with an expression that was more foreign to me than most of Italian fashion, FOBBED OFF, which apparently means [Disposed of by trickery]. My dictionary gives an example: “fobbed off the zircon as a diamond.” That sounds like a British idiom—anyone out there know?
I really liked a lot of the fill in this grid, especially BE BRIEF, YEOMAN’S, SMIDGE, LOOKS UP, ARBOR DAY, CUCKOO, MUGGLE, and I’M NOT OK, the [Unhoped-for reply to “How are you?”]. T here were only a handful of clunker entries, some much worse than others: ENGR (awkward abbreviation = dull thud), SOL LA (awkward partial = thud), LINTY (awkward adjective = big thud), and ROTTENER (awkward everything = ginormous thud). On the cluing side, I enjoyed [Crap-game attaempt] as an interesting clue for the otherwise lackluster THROW, and [Don’t hog the microphone] for the aforementioned BE BRIEF. But the Clue of the Week (TM) award goes to [Wet chicken?] for BASTE. “Wet chicken”–what an evocative phrase!
Adam Cohen’s second Sunday NYT puzzle, “Three on a Match”
(Back to Amy now.)
The game here is to think of a 3-letter word that can be inserted somewhere inside a group of three non-words to create three actual words. The puzzle’s from last month’s National Puzzlers’ League convention, so it’s presented with some solving time info. Jeffrey Harris, who won last weekend’s Lollapuzzoola tournament, cracked all 30 sets in under 10 minutes, while the average NPLer figured out 25 of them in a half hour. While I was no match for Jeffrey, I did get them all in a little less than a half hour, so I’m feeling good about that.
If you’re stuck on any and don’t want to wait until next week for the official solution to be published, here’s my list of answers. Highlight the white text to reveal the answers.
1. WAR — 2. ALL — 3. RAY — 4. ILL — 5. LIP — 6. SHE
7. AMP — 8. ROT — 9. ACT — 10. USE — 11. SKI — 12. HER
13. ROD — 14. AND — 15. RAG — 16. RIM — 17. DIE — 18. THE
19. LOW — 20. PIN — 21. TIC —22. SIT — 23. LAG — 24. REF
25. URN — 26. TIN — 27. ORE — 28. SAG — 29. TOO — 30. NAG
Cool brain-bending little puzzle—and you’ve got to love a little puzzle that takes several times longer (if your name isn’t Jeffrey Harris) to unravel than a Saturday NYT crossword.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 20”
I didn’t love this puzzle, but I absolutely liked it. I kinda miss having stacks of colorful 10s or 11s, though I’ll take a heavily 8s-and-6s puzzle over a mostly 7s puzzle any day. The word count is 66, which is heading into “low word count” category, but Berry being Berry, the fill’s whisper-smooth. And I appreciated having to fight harder to finish this puzzle—in recent weeks, the Post Puzzler has been on the easier side. In a world filled with books and magazines and newspapers stocked with easy crosswords, I crave the toughies.
- 1a. Product placement! The Washington POST is at 1-Across but clued as [Blogging unit].
- 45a. [Builder of the WABAC machine] is MR. PEABODY. This is from Rocky and Bullwinkle, right? and WABAC is pronounced “way-back”? It’s a time machine?
- 49a. This clue made me laugh. [Ungracious to one’s host?] clues PARASITIC. My son and I enjoy watching The Monsters Inside Me on cable—dramatic reenactments and recountings of Americans’ parasitic diseases. A parasite is rarely the doctor’s first guess.
- 54a. It took me until just now to understand [Fuller figure?] as a clue for DOME. R. Buckminster Fuller designed geodesic domes, so the clue’s not simply asking for a solid figure with some fullness to it.
- 8d. VLASIC is a pickle [Food brand with a stork mascot]. Gotta love that VL beginning.
- 27d. [Good fiction?] clues a little WHITE LIE.
- 32d. [Where drivers park themselves] is CAR SEATS. I think that term is more commonly used for where toddlers park themselves.
- 37d. [Stopped seeing, in a way] clues DUMPED. Ouch.
- 38d. BABIES are [Changed persons?] because “time to change him” means “time to change his diaper.”
Other clues that might be tough:
- 16a. [They have many stories] sounds like a clue for SKYSCRAPERS or HIGH-RISES, but it’s the NEWS MEDIA.
- 20a. [War of the Currents figure] clues TESLA. The deal is that Thomas Edison was fond of DC and Nikla Tesla liked AC (or vice versa). So, is “AC/DC” the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of electricity? Two great tastes that taste great together?
- 28a. A suit[Case handler] is a PORTER.
- 34a. I didn’t know EURAIL was a [Netherlands-based train service].
- 35a. [Soften for cooking purposes, maybe] clues SOAK, as in soaking dried beans overnight before cooking them.
- 38a. A BLIP is a [Point of light] on a radar screen. Not an obvious clue.
- 51a. Chimpanzee ENOS was the [Mercury-Atlas 5 passenger].
- 1d, 2d, 3d. Three names sandwiched together can make for a rough corner if you don’t know the names. Harold PINTER is your [2005 Literature Nobelist]; I figured this out with a few crossings. O’KEEFE is a [Last name in “A Wrinkle in Time”]; I had to piece this one together entirely from the crossings. SEWARD was [Lincoln’s secretary of state]; needed a few crossings to point the way.
- 9d. [Articles of association?] clues SIDEBARS, one meaning of which is those little mini-articles that appear with a longer article to elaborate on something. The clue’s wording doesn’t quite work for me—the “of association” part feels clunky to me.
- 12d. [Hand-washed laundry, often] clues SWEATERS. LINGERIE also fits, but BRASSIERES does not.
- 15d. Not sure what a WATER OAK is other than a [Bottomland tree], or where it grows.
- 30d. AUTOTUNE is a [Pitching machine?] in that it automatically adjusts the pitch of a singer’s voice in a recording, something along those lines. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it does. Cher had some hit song that was famously AUTOTUNEd, and Jay-Z had a song about the death of AUTOTUNE, but I suspect it’s here to stay—whatever it is.
- 41d. In Greek and/or Roman mythology, PSYCHE was a [Mortal girl cursed by Venus]. Psyche’s Greek, Venus is Roman. So how come it’s not Aphrodite in the clue?
Pamela Amick Klawitter’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “An Earlier Flight”
- 23a. [Military overstock seller] is an ARMY SURPLUS STORE.
- 33a. [21-Across are taken on it] refers to OATHS to clue a WITNESS STAND.
- 38a. [Nickname at the Derby] clues Kentucky’s nickname, the BLUEGRASS STATE.
- 65a. [“No verdict yet”] means “THE JURY IS STILL OUT“
- 92a. [Applying to all] means ACROSS THE BOARD.
- 101a. [Exerts influence] clues PULLS STRINGS.
- 116a. [1952 Jane Russell film] is THE LAS VEGAS STORY. Never heard of this one.
- 118d. [Earlier flight hidden in the seven longest puzzle answers] is the now-grounded SST.
I like how the theme entries include nouns, a state nickname, an idiomatic spoken phrase, an idiomatic prepositional phrase, a verb phrase, and a movie title. Sometimes you want more consistency in theme entries, and sometimes you want a little variety to keep you interested.
- 1a, 6a. Good ’70s TV pop culture pairing of [Ed of “Lou Grant”]/ASNER and [Lou Grant’s ex]/EDIE. Not sure if EDIE got mentioned much on that show, but she was definitely part of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
- 36a, 50a. [50-Across wrong?]/AIN’T and [36-Across right?]/ISN’T make a satisfying cross-referenced pair because they’re close together in the grid (but don’t cross one another).
- 54a. [All worked up] clues IN A LATHER. See also: My mood this morning. Boy, do I need my sleep.
- 78a. [Spanish bread] is money used in Spain, the EURO.
- 90a. [Play the siren] clues SEDUCE. Wouldn’t it be great if SEDUCE were the word for turning on the siren in an emergency vehicle?
- 13d. [It’s elegant when turned] clues a PHRASE. I was thinking of lathes and table legs.
- 41d. Cute clue! [Reminder of an old flame?] is ASH.
- 46d. [Dish alternative] clues TV ANTENNA, though really, the alternative to satellite TV is cable. Especially with digital transmission, which I think doesn’t involve a TV ANTENNA. I suppose TV ANTENNAs may still be in wider use in other parts of the world.
- 81d. [Boardwalk cooler] isn’t ITALIAN ICE or LEMONADE, it’s a fresh SEA BREEZE blowing in. At first I thought the answer meant the Sea Breeze cocktail with cranberry juice, but no.
- 102d. Great clue: [Group for people in labor?] is a labor UNION.