Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
I didn’t really have fun doing Patrick’s puzzle, but part of that is that the arrow and letter keys were lagging the whole time and you can’t really coast in a Csíkszentmihályiesque sense of flow when you’re staring at the screen, waiting for the cursor to get where you sent it. (Yes, this is an issue for a speed solver.) The fill is good, smooth, Saturday-caliber stuff (and in a 64-worder!), but the clues weren’t responsible for much amusement. One must give a note of appreciation for the inclusion of only a single abbreviation (BLVD), though, and the complete absence of partial entries.
- 16a. The GINKGO tree has such lovely fan-shaped foliage. There’s a giant old ginkgo in the yard at the Frank Lloyd Wright home and museum in Oak Park. Janie and I saw it together a few weeks ago.
- 21a. HANGERS-ON, great word and a tricky plural as the S isn’t at the very end.
- 25a. HOLE CARD, that’s a poker thing, right?
- 39a. SHIPBOARD romance. ♬ “Exciting and new! Come aboard, we’re expecting you.” ♬
- 52a. HOT SEAT, lots of common letters but the term has some punch to it.
- 9d. WALKED OUT of a show—have you done that? I don’t think I have. But a lot of people left the theater when I saw The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
- 24d. HAVE NO IDEA, [Be completely clueless]—Oh, you mean like how I was with about the first 10 clues I read.
Two particularly nice trivia clues—POLAND is where Samuel Goldwyn was born and Mia Farrow was on the first cover of PEOPLE magazine. Neither was a fact I knew, so I liked uncovering them.
I didn’t know a follower of St. Francis was a MINORITE. But one of my favorite newer words in the last year is “Inorite?” (Some people think it’s better as three words, but I disagree.) And this CLEON fellow—I keep wanting him to become Cleavon Little.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Take Charge!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Hey, under ten minutes on a Bob Klahn puzzle? I’ll take it! The theme is based on four common terms that end in -ION. The “ions” from all four terms have been removed (hence, we must “take (the) charge” from each term), leaving us with the theme entries that get clued as though they were free-standing terms. As 58-Down tells us, ION is the [Charged particle taken from this puzzle’s four longest entries]:
- 20-Across: The [Worshippers of Roman emperors?] would be a CESAREAN SECT, the result of cutting (pardon the pun) the -ION from “Cesarean section.”
- 32-Across: Take the -ION from The Black Stallion and you get THE BLACK STALL, or a [Children’s classic centered around a Gothic kiosk?]. There were several ways this one could have been clued, but, as usual, it would be hard to top the one chosen by Klahn.
- 40-Across: [“Ta-da!” or “Eureka!”] would be a LINE OF SUCCESS. I liked this play on “line of succession.”
- 54-Across: A [Beaver’s search for more dam material?] could well be described as a GNAWING QUEST (from the “gnawing question” that won’t leave you alone, like “Why do flight attendants insist that I buckle my seatbelt before we leave the gate and then demonstrate how to fasten the deat belt?” And what’s the deal with airplane food? Tap tap tap. Is this thing on?).
It felt a little weird to have both the SILENT B (the [Dumb terminal?]) and the LONG U (clued as [ It sounds like you]) in the grid, but if that’s the price of admission to get EROGENOUS, CUT UP, CHAMELEON, COCK, and FRICASSEE into the grid, I’m happy to pay twice the asking price (note the carefully placed commas in that last sentence–no hate mail in the comments, please).
It’s hard to keep from discussing at least half of the clues in a Klahn puzzle, but I’ll try my best to limit myself to five of my favorites:
- [Go, to the dogs] is nice because it might be easy for the eye to miss the comma. If it does, one is then searching for a term like ROT or SPOIL. The careful eye sees the comma so that the mind can think, “How do you tell dogs to go? Oh yeah, MUSH.” I like clues that reward the careful eye.
- [Roger Rabbit frame] is a great clue for CEL because it plays on the title of the film (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). Attention to details like that are vintage Klahn.
- Alliteration is a common Klahn-ian cluing technique, brilliantly exemplified with [Tristan’s tryster], the clue for ISOLDE.
- [Tail head?] employs three great cluing techniques at once: (1) the juxtaposition of “heads” and “tails;” (2) the wordplay of using “tail” as a suffix in search of a prefix and not as a stand alone word; and (3) the innocent, doe-eyed way to clue a potentially offensive term like COCK.
- I think I’ve seen something along the lines of [Refrain from singing about farm animals?] before, but I like how it plays on an alternate definition of “refrain.” Here, it’s a noun and not a verb, so the answer is E-I-E-I-O.
Tom Heilman’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What’s your favorite summertime refresher? A raspberry lemonade, a tangy limeade? I like a nice tall glass of PASQUINADE, though BALUSTRADE is tasty too.
What a strange way to open a puzzle, with 1-Across being a word like PASQUINADE, an unfamiliar (to me—and maybe to you too) word meaning [Public mockery]. Near the opposite corner, there’s BALUSTRADE, and I know that word but the clue, [Railing with molded supports], pretty much put me to sleep before I figured out the answer.
Allow me to grumble about the same answer, essentially, appearing twice and crossing at the P:
- 49a. [Chemical prefix?] clues PETRO-.
- 49d. [Stone: Pref.] clues PETR-.
Petrochemical has to do with petroleum, whose root words mean stone + oil. If these two answers had to meet up, it would have been better to clue PETR as the Slavic name (think former tennis star Petr Korda, probably lots of current hockey players). Yes, the name Peter/Petr/Pedro also ties to the Greek root for stone, but it’s better than crossing essentially the same prefix with itself!
This was a grumbly puzzle for me, nudging the Scowl-o-Meter reading ever higher with entries like these:
- 25a. [Kyrgyzstan city] is OSH. Oof.
- 37a. [Coastal freeze] clues FAST ICE. Never heard of it, as here by the “third coast,” we have no sea ice. I bet the folks in Southern California aren’t too hip to fast ice either.
- 44a. [Narrow ridge], ARETE, hello, crosswordese!
- 55a. OYEZ is bad enough, but OYES, clued as [Court cry: Var.]? It hurts me.
- 38d. [Caught] clues IN A TRAP. Constructors do use a lot of “IN A __” phrases but I usually don’t like them. “In a sec” is natural, thought.
- 46d. [Pola of the silents]? Oh, hello, Ms. NEGRI! Give my regards to Theda Bara and Virna Lisi, will you?
Now, to be fair, much of the puzzle was good stuff. SUNSETS clued as [Down times?] is great. I like the SPLASHY AXL ROSE PEAT BOG corner. I like GEYSERS (probably the most familiar English word derived from Icelandic), though the clue tried its DAMNedest to put me to sleep: [Surface phenomena affected by magma]. TEETHE had a good clue, [Use a ring, maybe]. OFF THE GRID (51a. [Independent way to live]) is terrific, a lively phrase. ONE-STRIPER had a Newsdayish misleading one-word clue, [Private]—I was thinking the adjective rather than the military rank.
Other good stuff includes MADE A MINT, JOCOSE, ALLIGATORS, SWAT TEAMS, and Dr. FAUSTUS.
Merle Baker’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Okay, combine the lag in displaying what I’ve given the keyboard with the Newsday applet’s navigation and you end up with a really irritating solving experience. When you type the intended letters in the wrong squares and it doesn’t show up right way, it’s…grrr. Stan Newman, why, oh why can we not get the Newsday puzzle in .jpz or .puz form for offline but on-screen solving? Why? I can’t separate out how much of my really long solving time was battling hard clues and how much was just the interface problems.
Am short on time, so straight to the list:
- 1a. [Ones used] = CAT’S-PAWS. Didn’t really know that one. “Typically used to carry out a dangerous or unpleasant task.” So when I make my kid take out the trash, he’s my cat’s-paw.
- 19a. [Lemurlike] = FURRY. Well, that’s nonspecific. How many other furry mammals are there? More than 5,000 species, that’s how many.
- 22a. [Trick] = FLAM. Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered this work used this way outside of flimflam. No hands? That’s what I thought.
- 30a. Surprising trivia. [Trademark derived from a Tom Swift book] = TASER.
- 32a. [Limestone-reef builder] = RED ALGA. You don’t say. “Red Alga Facts for $1,200, please, Alex.”
- 49a. [Took effect] = TOLD. Can you think of a substition sentence where both clue and answer work? I’m stumped.
- 56a. [Einstein or Fermi] was an EMIGRE.
- 1d. [Frosting expert] = COIFFEUR. Had the O, saw the trick right away, filled in COLORIST. That didn’t help matters. My answer’s more specifically accurate.
- 2d. [Ringed] = ANNULATE. Why, this word’s as exciting as DILATIVE.
- 21d. [Gourmet menu item] = SQUAB. Found out the hard way that squab is horrifyingly not for me.
- 23d. [“I Am Legend” actress] = BRAGA. No! You don’t clue BRAGA with Alice Braga. She’s much, much less famous than her aunt, Sonia Braga.
- 36d. [Toy-package info] = AGE LEVEL. I had AGE RANGE, which is also accurate.
- 37d. [Teases] is a noun here, equated to NEEDLERS, “those who needle.” Not sparkling fill, with the +ER and +S.
- 41d. [Exemplar of ogreism] = fictional Simon LEGREE>
- 42d. [Bridge support] clues the plural set of I-BEAMS.
- 51d. My favorite clue here: [Dieter’s address] is HERR, as Dieter is a German man’s name, roughly pronounced “deet-er.”
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Pinwheel” variety cryptic
Month after month, year after year, they do it. Emily and Henry devise yet another new riff on the variety cryptic crossword concept. This month, we get “Pinwheel,” which is similar to some Henry Hook variety crosswords I’ve done (if you don’t own Terribly Twisted Crosswords, you can get it for cheap via Amazon)—you don’t know which quadrant the answers will go in until you’ve got enough answers jotted in the clue list to start fitting them together in the grid, so you’re using spatial skills to place the answers. My first inroad was the unusual K in the “6” clues, POKE AT, intersecting with one of the K’s in a “4,” KIRK. There were two corners they’d fit into, but then the TINSEL and PRAWN pointed towards the upper right quadrant.
So what looked quite challenging initially came together soon enough with a little focused attention. I like this sort of crossword puzzle, where there’s more challenge finding out where to put an answer than in deciphering the clues. Although, don’t get me wrong—I certainly enjoy grappling with tough clues, cryptic or otherwise. It’s just such a treat to add another layer of challenge on top of the usual. This is why I enjoy the Hook and Patrick Berry variety puzzles (and books thereof) so much. The Hex duo specialize in merging variety grids with cryptics, a whole ‘nother level of delight.
The words in the unclued shaded squares spell out GO FOR / A SPIN and DIZZY / SPELL, tying into the “Pinwheel” concept.
Five stars. For all the reasons above, plus the smoothness and smartness of the cryptic clues.