Edited to add: Oh, hey: If you haven’t already printed out Trip Payne’s amazing “Crowded House” puzzle, visit Triple Play Puzzles, download and print the PDF, and get cracking. Some squares in this 17×17 crossword are to contain two letters because there are two legitimate answers for those clues that differ by just one letter. It’s a kinda crazy mind-bender, and it’ll take some thought to unravel. I loved the puzzle, and hope you will too.
Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword, “Can I Change Places?”
Theme: The letter “I” changes places in one word in each phrase, changing the meaning:
- 23a. TRAIL OF THE CENTURY changes from O.J. Simpson’s famous trial of the century.
- 35a. TEHRAN RAIN comes from “Tehran, Iran.” I say, any Ahmadinejad parade that gets rained out is a good deal.
- 57a. This one made me laugh out loud. [Top butcher’s title?] is THE LOIN KING. (The Lion King.)
- 76a. FRENCH FIRES used to be French fries.
- 93a. Martial -> MARITAL LAW.
- 112a. DON’T TOUCH THAT DALI, mister. (Dial.)
- 43d. Coin collection turns into ICON COLLECTION. This one was the toughest for me to make sense out of. Which is weird, because all I had to do is anagram a 4-letter word.
- 16d. Spiral staircase breaks the second word into two pieces for SPIRAL SITAR CASE. I’m not sure that a spiral sitar case could be engineered, actually.
Lots of wonderful long fill gave this puzzle extra sparkle beyond the simple wordplay theme. Wouldja look at these entries? “OH, GOD,” NERVE CENTER, STAR-GAZE, SCRAMBLE (aptly in a puzzle with this theme, clued as [Convert, as metal into a melt?]. Granted, “metal” contains no “I” that gets moved, but still), a West Side Story SWITCHBLADE, a RELIEF MAP, TAKES TEN, “WHO KNEW?,” and an ODOR-EATER—these are all excellent.
The shorter fill was pretty dang smooth, too. Sure, there’s a Roman numeral, IHRE ([Her: Ger.]), ENE, OASTS, INRI, and ETHENE, but no horrible crossings and no real groaners. I’ll give this puzzle a solid A.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Don’t Bug Me”—Sam Donaldson’s review
- The [Ghostly bugs?] are WEEVIL SPIRITS, a play on “evil spirits.” Always bet on these insects in a fight–weevils wobble but they don’t fall down.
- [Pagliacci’s pest?] is A GNAT AT THE OPERA, punning off the Marx Brothers classic, A Night at the Opera. I’m proud to add my name to the list of correspondents on this blog who have seen A Night at the Opera (and in my case, more than once). Jeffrey linked to a clip from the film earlier this week; now it’s my turn.
- [Some exterminators?] clues the MOTHBUSTERS, a play on the Mythbusters TV show on the Discovery Channel. My favorite episode of the show is entitled “Is Yawning Contagious?” To find out, the Mythbusters had to induce some yawns, so they asked the test subjects to read provisions from the Internal Revenue Code. See for yourself! As a recovering tax attorney, I would have found that stimulating. If anyone asks, the Mythbusters are, in order of coolness: (1) Kari; (2) Adam; (3) Jamie; (4) Grant; and (5) Tori.
- An [Organized bug group?] would be a FLEA ASSOCIATION, a variant of “free association.”
- [Naughty bug?] is one way to describe an ANT MISBEHAVIN’, a pun based on the first musical I saw in person, Ain’t Misbehavin’. I could go on about how it’s a great show, but I don’t want to make a mountain out of an anthill.
- A [Fat bug?] is a BEETLE OF THE BULGE, from the German WWII offensive, the Battle of the Bulge. I wonder how many people today know the phrase “Battle of the Bulge” strictly from diet commercials.
- Last but not fleas, the [Hollywood bug?] is the ROACH FOR THE STARS (from “reach for the stars”).
With only seven theme answers there should be lots of room for fun fill, and indeed there’s a swarm of it here. I liked FAT-HEADED, HICKORY, TOSS IT, STARE DOWN, DAY JOB, and DIE OUT, not to mention the trifecta of hipness in BFFS, SLACKER, and PIMP (the latter clued as [Decorate, in today’s slang]). Some of the pesky fill that ate at me included CREWED atop MELTER and KUE, clued as [It’s between pee and ar].
Hands down, my two favorite clues were [Cohort of Morley, oddly enough!] for LESLEY Stahl (that is a pretty cool coincidence) and [Si or No, e.g.]. For that one, I kept wanting some Spanish term for “reply,” but I should have seen the capitalized N sooner. Si is the chemical symbol for silicon, and No is the symbol for Nobelium. Each is an element, or, here, ELEM. Clever!
If you’re the sort of reader who pays attention to the posted solving times, you know why my nickname among Team Fiend is Molasses Sam. (Yosemite Sam’s slower cousin.) I’m cool with posting my slow times here, as I hope it gives confidence to others that at least they finished faster than someone. But I confess that I’m a little red-faced at notching a time north of 30 minutes on this puzzle. There was just a lot here that I didn’t know, as evidenced by this week’s Very Special Episode of Brushes with Lame. See if you notice a theme here.
- [Ranger Smith: Yogi Bear :: Officer Dibble : ___] should have been squarely within my wheelhouse. It has Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters and it comes in the form of those wonderful analogies from the SAT. And yet I had to pass through that far north section of the grid several times before I finally got TOP CAT. That drove me bananas.
- STYLETS are [Surgical probes]. Seeking elaboration, I went to my dictionary. It defines “stylet” as “a surgical probe.” Well there you go. You can always count on a dictionary to lift you from the shadows and fog.
- The [Vampiress] sought in this grid is LAMIA, the Greek mythological character that, according to Wikipedia, “was a beautiful queen of Libya who became a child-eating daemon.” This has the makings of a Lifetime movie starring Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Is Lamia well known to most? As Greek mythological figures go, Lamia’s not in the same league as the mighty Aphrodite.
- [“The Origins of Totalitarianism” author] is the political theorist Hannah ARENDT. I’ve heard of her, but it took me a while to tumble to the name in the grid. Besides, wasn’t that book co-authored by Hannah and her sisters?
- CURARE is the South American [Arrow poison] of choice for small time crooks seeking to commit crimes and misdemeanors.
- The [Johnny who rode Man O’ War] is LOFTUS, a Hall of Fame jockey back in radio days.
- The [1940s data-releasing agcy.] is OWI, short for the old United States Office of War Information. Well, this must be a generational thing. I see “OWI” and I think of Band-Aids and those times when everyone says “I love you.”
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Call Me Irres-Pun-Sible”
- 22a. [Deli item that always tastes a little rubbery?] clues a GOODYEAR BLINTZ (blimp).
- 33a. [What Menotti’s Wise Men left?] is AMAHL (“I’m All…”) SHOOK UP. I don’t care for this one. It left AMY DISAPPOINTED, which would be a terrible crossword answer.
- 36a. A WINCER KNOT (Windsor) is a [Type of loop that hurts when you tie it?].
- 50a. [Religious folks who like to toss ideas back and forth?] might be FRISBEE-TERIANS (Presbyterians).
- 69a. [Novel about a kid who looks just like Orville Redenbacher?] clues THE PRINCE AND THE POPPER (…Pauper).
- 83a. [Patrick McGoohan’s old TV series about Buddha?] clues SACRED ASIAN MAN, which changes two words of Secret Agent Man into puns.
- 100a. An EEKOSYSTEM (ecosystem) is [What mice are part of?].
- 102a. [Composer of “The Unfinished Dessert”?] Is FRANZ SHERBET (Schubert).
- 117a. [Flat, like photos of stately houses?] clues TUDOR MANSIONAL (two-dimensional). I’m not sure the Tudor part is clearly referenced in the clue, as the stately houses could just be nondenominational mansions.
The puns are all right, nothing too exciting or hilarious.
Comments on some fill and clues:
- 49a. STENT is clued as a [Surgeon’s insertion], but most stents are not inserted surgically. The doc usually goes in via some sort of vessel (such as the femoral vein) or orifice to place a stent.
- 55a. Merl’s patented plus-an-anagram clues rescue terrible fill from being deadly fill. Did you know the [Peruvian port (anagram of A LOCAL)] called CALLAO?
- 81a. MR. SULU is always a great entry to have in the puzzle. He was the [Crewman under Capt. Kirk]. So glad George Takei married his longtime partner the other year.
- 115a. [“Somebody Up There Likes Me” co-star Pier] clues ANGELI. Is that Angeli Pier or Pier Angeli? Actress Pier Angeli. She dated Kirk Douglas and James Dean, won a Golden Globe in ’51, and died of an overdose at age 39 in ’71.
- 7d. [Resembling the Baltic, e.g.] clues SEA-LIKE. “Which is more sea-like: the ocean or a large bay?” I just can’t imagine using this term.
- 57d. The LANCIA is an [Italian racecar]. Oh, sure, they make racecars. They also make minivans. Ferrari and Lamborghini don’t make minivans, do they?
- 79d. I like the clue for ADMISSION—[Letting-in or letting-on]—because whenever [Admit(ted)] clues a 5-letter entry, I never know how to finish LET*N without checking the crossing.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 26”
Has it already been a half a year since the themeless Post Puzzler began running? Wow. Good stuff. I hope the Post has been getting plenty of love letters from their subscribers about this puzzle, because I’d love to see it run in perpetuity.
Frank Longo’s famous in crossword circles for his phenomenal, well-curated word list. He’s packed this week’s Puzzler with tons of interesting, fresh fill:
- 1a. [Express settings] are the FAST TRACKS. This would be a good bit better in the singular.
- 17a. The figure skating move called the TRIPLE LUTZ is clued with [It’s tough to land on the ice].
- 20a. [Stinger’s delivery] is BEE VENOM, if you’re unlucky.
- 31a. The iTUNES STORE is indeed an [Important player in the music business].
- 39a. [Was driven] really wanted to be FELT THE URGE, but it turned out to be FELT THE NEED. What say you, court of crossword law? Is this a random verb+object or an “in the language” unit of meaning?
- 49a. To TUCK AWAY into something is to [Chow down on] it.
- 54a. Supreme Court Justice ELENA KAGAN not only was the [Onetime dean of Harvard Law School], but she’s also got a name in which vowels and consonants alternate.
- 3d. SLIM THUG is a [Rapper whose 2005 album “Already Platinum” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200], and yet I haven’t heard the name.
- 4d. Fresh answer, but a weird one: TIPP [___ City (Ohio town named for a U.S. president’s moniker)] is presumably named after President…somebody and Tyler too. Who is the somebody? Google to the rescue: William Henry Harrison, who was a hero at the Battle of Tippecanoe. The town used to be called Tippecanoe City.
- 44d. [People adding to Facebook thumbs-up counts] clues LIKERS. Ehhh…those are people who “Liked” something. Nobody calls them Likers, I don’t think. Thumbs down on this answer.
Favorite clue: 41a: [Air Supply supply?] for BALLADS. “Lost in Love,” “All Out of Love,” “Even the Nights Are Better,” “Making Love Out of Nothing at All”…you’re hearing at least one of those songs inside your brain now, aren’t you? The first two are the most assertively ballady, but that “Even the Nights” is obnoxiously intrusive. Which one is tormenting you?
At 40d, ENE gets a fresh clue: [Spanish consonant]. Out of the 668 times ENE shows up in the Cruciverb database, 667 of those go with a direction or a chemical suffix. Just once is ENE clued along the lines Frank has: [16th letter of the Spanish alphabet]. This ENE is missing the diacritical mark, as the letter name in question is eñe. I believe that’s pronounced more or less like the name “Enya.”
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
What, Bob Klahn has the “Sunday Challenge” again? Egads, I thought after barely surviving last week’s tussle, I had at least another month of Sundays before having to take arms against another one of his gnarly creations. This one seemed a bit easier from the misdirecting clue perspective, but much harder for those of us who are personality-challenged. (Of course, I mean famous personalities, not my own personality, although some may find that challenging as well.)
Let’s step through today’s personality parade, all 10-letters long including first and last names:
- “Rob-B-Hood” star is JACKIE CHAN. Of the over 100 films he has been in, this one is chosen? Never heard of it…
- “The Element of Freedom” singer is ALICIA KEYS. Her Jay-Z collaboration, “Empire State of Mind,” would’ve been much more helpful in coming up with her name. The cast of Glee covered this in the second season premiere.
- Finally, no stranger to crosswords, STEPHEN REA of Breakfast on Pluto. I tried to fit deep blue-eyed CILLIAN MURPHY in there first; a masterful performance if you haven’t seen it.
A few shorter ones are added for good measure: LUCY Honeychurch from A Room with a View, John WAYNE of Brannigan, and Lady GAGA, clued here as “Moonstruck.” (And all along I thought that was CHER in that movie. The things you learn from solving puzzles, I tell ya.)
I bet not too many of the younger set got the “fix your wagon” reference, I see here it dates back to the days when The West was Wild. (Some may argue it is still that way. HELLA!) Finally, KNEE-JERK, SPAMALOT, M AND M’S and BADA BING liven up the medium-length fill. I wonder if Tony Soprano knew the last entry meant “Quick and easy!”…perhaps he did.
Arthur Verdesca’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Argot”
The title is “Argot” because an “R” got affixed to the beginning of 11 words to make fake portmanteau words with altered their meanings. The amplitude of a ramp could be RAMPLITUDE, for example, and an anthology of rants is a RANTHOLOGY. My favorite theme answers are as follows:
- 50a. [“I slept about eight hours”?] is a RESTIMATE.
- 53a. [Indifference to Dr. Dre?] clues RAPATHY. Lots of older folks have that, though it seems to verge on antipathy.
- 69a. A RUMBRELLA could be a daiquiri or [Mai tai decoration?].
- 89a. [Slam dunk component?] is the RIMPACT when the basketball player slams the ball through the rim.
Eight more clues:
- 24d. [In the first place] clues the Latin-based adverb IMPRIMIS. Though the word’s been in the English language for 500 years, I suspect it gets precious little use these days because it strikes me as patently unfamiliar.
- 28a. A MINEFIELD is a [Treacherous place].
- 45a. [Covert maritime org.] clues ONI, the Office of Naval Intelligence.
- 113a. [Removed with a chisel] is the clue for GOUGED OUT. I’m glad the clue doesn’t have anything to do with eyeballs.
- 1d. [French grape-skin brandy] is MARC. I’m guessing more of us know the more famous men named Marc than this brandy reference. Jacobs, Chagall, Anthony are my main three.
- 8d. [Aptly named flight] is a great clue for REDEYE.
- 51d. [Pizarro’s treasure] clues the Spanish word TESORO, which I suspect is a direct cognate of “treasure.”
- 103d. I didn’t know that EMERIL Lagasse was the [“Farm to Fork” author]. Haven’t heard of the book.