If you’re looking for Merl Reagle’s puzzle before the Crossword Fiend “Today’s Puzzles” links flip over to Sunday, the .puz is at http://mazerlm.home.comcast.net/~mazerlm/pi120101.puz. (As of lunchtime Saturday, the Puzzle Pointers calendar for 2012 Merls isn’t up yet.) You can also solve online at Merl’s site.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Addendum”
If this puzzle were a soccer field and Patrick Berry was dribbling the ball toward his team’s goal, you know what the announcer would shout, don’t you? I refer you to 119a: [Monster of Jewish folklore]. “GOLEM!”
Flawless execution of an add-a-sound theme. A “schwa+M” sound is tacked onto the end of 10 familiar phrases, changing the final word and thus the phrase’s meaning:
- 18a. “See if I care” becomes SEE IF I CAROM, the [Pool ball’s “Watch this!” comment?].
- 23a. Stacked right below 18a we have a HYPNOTIC TRANSOM (trance).
- 32a. “Stem to stern” turns into STEM TO STERNUM. I like the STERNO echo below this answer.
- 46a. The store OfficeMax is transformed via addendum to an OFFICE MAXIM: [“You don’t have to be busy to look busy,” e.g.?].
- 59a. SILICON VALIUM (Valley). Cute. The uncanny Valium would work too, though its base phrase is less familiar.
- 71a. I like the beastly golfers who are a BRUTE FOURSOME (force).
- 81a. “Head of hair” becomes HEAD OF HAREM.
- 99a. Good luck getting a big cat into overalls that are THE LION’S DENIM (den).
- 110a. Particle board is boring and can give you splinters. PARTICLE BOREDOM is merely [Ennui among quantum physicists?], no need for tweezers.
- 116a. PIE A LA MODEM, yum.
Did you notice those two smooth corners that are wide open, with 5×6 swaths of white space? Par for the Berry course.
Clues I liked:
- 28a. [Thin blue line?] is a VEIN.
- 105a. NOAH of Ark fame is your [Rainy day planner?].
- 37d. TWELVE is a [Rare craps roll].
- 46d. OBI gets classed up: [One taking a bow in Japan]. That’s bow rhymes with “go,” not bow rhymes with “cow.”
- 94d. BEAT is clued as [About ready to drop].
Fill I liked includes CRUDDY and CHEAPO, SKULKS, PSHAW, “HEY JOE,” and edible letters PBJ and M AND M’S.
Because the theme works so well—no “well, around these parts, we don’t pronounce it that way” variations, just add-schwa-plus-M—and because the smooth fill’s accompanied by good clues, I’ll give this 4.5 stars.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Welcome, 2012!”
Merl’s first theme of 2012 is … 12. He’s assembled 19 theme answers that pertain to various 12-somes, and also hidden one in the grid somehow. I’m not sure why the instructions about that are in the 18a clue rather than a separate puzzle note. The explanation is: “NOTE: This puzzle contains twenty 12s, nineteen of which are in the clues. Can you find the lone 12 that’s hidden in the answers? It’s plainly visible, reading across or down. (Hint: It’s not six letters long.) Answer next week. Happy new year!” I found the crossword to be pretty easy, but I don’t have the faintest idea where—oh, wait! I just found it. Down in 119a: [Preparing for takeoff], the Roman numeral XII appears inside TAXIING.
The other 19 theme answers are:
- 18a. [12 in the title of a 1995 Bruce Willis film] = MONKEYS
- 23a. [12 on a to-do list] = LABORS OF HERCULES
- 31a. [12 in a troy pound] = OUNCES
- 35a. [12 in a program] = STEPS
- 38a. [12 on a ruler] = INCHES
- 44a. [12 on a pair of dice] = PIPS
- 55a. [12 high-level gods and goddesses] = OLYMPIANS
- 62a. [12 from an imaginary belt] = ZODIAC SIGNS
- 71a. [12 in a box] = JURY MEMBERS. (Not eggs.)
- 78a. [12-sided figure] = DODECAGON
- 93a. [12 ___] NOON
- 95a. [12 from Israel] = TRIBES
- 97a. [12 in a scale] = TONES
- 101a. [12 in a year] = MONTHS
- 114a. [12 from a song] = DRUMMERS DRUMMING
- 12d. [12 famous followers] = APOSTLES
- 13d. [12-___] GAUGE SHOTGUN
- 60d. [12-___] STRING GUITAR
- 82d. [12 minor ones in the Bible] = PROPHETS
Two mystery answers for me today:
- 11d. [When doubled, a Thor Heyerdahl title] = AKU. Aku-Aku, the Secret of Easter Island. There’s also a video game character named Aku Aku, from Crash Bandicoot. (Never heard of either doubled AKU.)
- 48a. [Massachusetts town on Buzzards Bay], WA**HAM? Must be WALTHAM, which is a Massachusetts town I’ve heard of, right? Wrong. It’s WAREHAM, population 20,000. “The town of Wareham includes a number of distinct recognized subsections, including Onset, Wareham Center, West Wareham, and Weweantic.” Heh, heh. They said “wee-wee antic.”
Best 7-letter partial: 46d. [“I want ___!”] MY MOMMY.
Most awkward answer: 39d. Orlando’s location, gazetteer-style], C. FLA., short for “central Florida.”
The grid feels chopped up into a zillion zones of short fill without much zip. Twenty theme answers is indeed a lot, but twelve of them have 8 or fewer letters. 3.25 stars.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy New Year! I’m really looking forward to 2012, for reasons that have nothing to do with crosswords. But I’m still looking forward to solving many fun puzzles and, hopefully, creating a few fun ones too. May your solving times be faster, your vocabulary richer, and your love for puzzles deeper.
Now that the ball (in Times Square) has dropped, let’s get that ball rolling with some crossword resolutions. I, for one, resolve to attend the ACPT with the goal of moving up from the D Division and to get more crosswords accepted for publication. Those are lofty goals, perhaps, but if the Mayans are right then this is our last shot–we might as well make it count.
Now for the Sunday Challenge, brought to you by Bruce Venzke. It’s a themed puzzle, and one that could only run today. Still, it’s a 72/38 puzzle, within the normal limits of the typical freestyle we see in the Sunday Challenge. The theme entries are four 15-letter terms associated with the new year:
- 17-Across: [Something that often extends into January 1] is A NIGHT ON THE TOWN.
- 24-Across: [What people often do on January 1] is MAKE RESOLUTIONS. See above.
- 44-Across: [They’re often exchanged on January 1] refers to CHAMPAGNE TOASTS. My toast of choice is made with rosemary garlic bread from Highland Bakery.
- 57-Across: The [Words often sung on January 1] are FOR AULD LANG SYNE. See yesterday’s post for some links to that and related songs.
I like how the second and third theme entries connect through Down entries at nine different points, and those connections feel organic. My favorite item of fill was OVER IT, clued as [Not caring anymore]. [Short person’s slip?] was a fun clue for an I.O.U.
Even though the theme entries were generally easy enough to get (I kept wanting to make AULD LANG SYNE work without the FOR in front, but I figured it out soon enough), the difficulty level felt about right for the Sunday Challenge. I remember thinking, “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” when I finally got ONCLE as the answer to [“Mon ___” (Tati film)]. Equally tough for me was AIX-en-Provence, France. [Dalmatian, e.g.] struck me as a tricky clue for SLAV. And sadly it took me too long to figure out that [“The West Wing” actor] was Rob LOWE and not Martin SHEEN or Allison JANNEY or Dule HILL. I now associate Lowe with Parks and Recreation.
Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 91”
Karen Tracey is back in form with this puzzle, which seems more Karenesque than many of her other recent Post Puzzlers. Cast your eyeballs on these:
- 1a. [President of the 1980s] is South Africa’s P.W. BOTHA. You don’t see a lot of crossword answers that start with the trigram PWB, do you?
- 25a. [Common duty-free purchase] is LIQUOR, bringing us our Scrabbly Q quota.
- 28a. [Courgette, stateside], is ZUCCHINI. I kinda wanted eggplant here, so I learned something. Plus, Scrabbly Z. (Do note that despite loving Scrabbly fill and including ZQJK in this puzzle, Karen skipped an X and thus the puzzle is not a pangram. Why mess with a good fill just to wedge an X in there somewhere? This fill is solid.)
- 48a. [Archetype] clues POSTER BOY. Tyler Hinman is the POSTER BOY of speed solvers. And yet! Tyler is cutting back on his daily solving diet. Me, too. I don’t do many crosswords aside from the ones I blog and the ones I test-solve and the ones I edit. When you work on about 150 crosswords a month, man, the leisure-time crosswording begins to pall.
- 58a. [“Chocolat” star] JULIETTE BINOCHE is less of an archetypical Karen Tracey famous-person answer than most. There’s a single Scrabbly J, but no other Scrabblousness and no insane letter combos. Still, the name’s a good 15-letter entry. Anyone else see that insane movie she did with Jeremy Irons, Damage? Flail-armed monkey sex (among humans) and plenty of it. We found it risible.
- 18d. [Certain swindle] is a PONZI SCHEME. Terrific answer! Perfect letters for one of Karen’s puzzles.
- 33d. FRITTATAS are [Eggy fare]. Between Chocolat and FRITTATAS and ZUCCHINI, I’m ready for brunch and dessert.
- 47d. [1980 Blues Hall of Fame inductee] is B.B. KING. B.B. BOTHA would have made for a catchier name; P.W. should have changed his name.
- Geography: Karen dishes out two North African countries, LIBYA and ALGERIA. (Plus an IOWAN for good measure.) It’s not classic Tracey without some geography, preferably with exotic and hard-to-spell place names.
Favorite answer: 46d, [Colombian artist Fernando] BOTERO. Delightful paintings and statues of rounded people. Many are whimsical and light, but he also painted a series of hard-hitting works depicting his round-bodied people in dreadful Abu Ghraib torture poses.
I also like the shoutout to Wordplay director Patrick Creadon: 32a, [2008 documentary about the national debt directed by Patrick Creadon]. I saw I.O.U.S.A. and it was scary. Right about the time the movie came out, mind you, the country plunged into a recession and suddenly more deficit spending was exactly what many economists recommended, not a slashing of the deficit. Patrick’s next movie is Studio H, about an innovative educational project in a struggling North Carolina county.
Gia Christian’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “January First” – Doug’s review
Happy 2012, puzzle fans! So this the big doomsday year? I’m not worried. So what if the Mayan calendar is ending. My 2011 “Ziggy” calendar ended yesterday, and nothing bad has happened yet.
Gia Christian (one of Rich Norris’s noms de puzzle) brings us an entertaining puzzle to kick off the year. Gia adds a J sound to some familiar phrases, and the fun begins.
- 23a. [Advice to a nervous skier?] – KILL THE JUMP.
- 25a. [Hot air in the conference room?] – JARGON GAS.
- 43a. [“Eat my wake!” e.g.?] – SWIMMER’S JEER . I wonder if the Man From Atlantis ever said this. Love that guy.
- 69a. [“Ode on a Grecian Urn” genre?] – JARS POETICA.
- 94a. [Halloween carving of a Yankee hero?] – PUMPKIN JETER. Hey, I found a pumpkin Jeter. And if you squint real hard, it looks like he’s got “2012” on his bat. In reality, it reads “2722,” the actual year the world will end. I get all my predictions from pumpkin carvings. I saw a pumpkin a couple years ago that was carved to look like Lou Diamond Phillips, and it predicted the collapse of Greece’s economy. Eerie.
- 117a. [First punch of an old Roman bout? ] – JAB INITIO.
- 120a. [North African quip?] – BARBARY JAPE.
- 39d. [Multitalented court clown?] – POLYJESTER.
- 48d. [Nattily dressed Broadway character?] – JAUNTY MAME.
Since it’s technically a holiday, I think I can get away with only a couple more entries. I’m sure most of our blog readers are either hungover or watching the Chick-Fil-A Meineke GoDaddy Cotton Bowl anyway.
- 127a. [Online VIP] – SYSOP. Is this still a thing? I associate the term with bulletin boards and other old-timey internet stuff.
- 44d. [Fictional Stone Age redhead] – WILMA. The Family Guy guy is going to “reboot” The Flintstones for Fox, and the series is scheduled to debut in 2013. So maybe the world ending this year isn’t such a bad thing.
See you next week.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Uncommon Senses” — pannonica’s review
No ESP here, though the acquisitive solver will experience “Unusual Sensory Perception.” The theme answers highlight lesser-known definitions of familiar words.
- 23a. [One meaning of “pen”] FEMALE SWAN. A male swan is a cob.
- 25a. [One meaning of “must”] GRAPE JUICE.
- 45a. [One meaning of “ounce”] SNOW LEOPARD. What’s going on here? I already knew all three of the first themers! In fact, not long ago, I provided a small exegesis of this very sense, in another Hex Sunday crossword, in these very pages.
- 53a. [One meaning of “burden”] SONG REFRAIN. Ah, good. Something I wasn’t aware of.
- 76a. [One meaning of “painter”] MOORING LINE. And another. In fact, from here on out, the “uncommon senses” of nearly all of the themers were new to me.
- 84a. [One meaning of “panic”] KIND OF GRASS. So, one could have a picnic on the panic?
- 106a. [One meaning of “fetch”] APPARITION.
- 108a. [One meaning of “patch”] MOTLEY FOOL. Obviously different from the improvised motley fool I once made as a dessert.
- 37d. [One meaning of ‘defile”] NARROW GORGE. Ooh, knew this!
- 41d. [One meaning of “rote”] OCEAN’S NOISE.
If I had more time I’d delve into the etymologies of these obscurer definitions and provide the fruits of my researches here, because I—and I suspect many of the blog’s readers—am interested in such things. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the initiative for one or all.
On the one hand, I enjoyed the puzzle because of the no-nonsense and enriching theme. On the other, I encountered a fair amount of fairly hoary crosswordese and stale, overused clues. On the other, other hand, there were a number of fresh clues too. So it was a rather hot-and-cold experience.
The crosswordese includes IPANA, TAWS, OSIER. Typical of what I feel to be trite clues are [Country rocker Steve] for EARLE, [Speedy Bolt] for USAIN, and [Granola tidbit] for OAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen those exact locutions, though these puzzles are at a disadvantage because they are reviewed here about a month-and-a-half after they’ve been published.
I am compelled to point out, and decry, the nontrivial error at 72-across. [Shrews, voles, etc.] RODENTS. Shrews (family Soricidae) are in an altogether different mammalian order than rodents. They are members of the order Insectivora, which suffers the same unfortunate confusion between taxonomic classification and feeding behavior that the Carnivora does. That said, there are a few genera of rodents whose common names include “shrew rat,” but as they’re found in Sulawesi and the Philippines, they aren’t well-known to the western crossword-solving demographic. Oh, and don’t get me started on otter shrews, tree shrews, elephant shrews, and shrew moles.
I was surprised that the neighbors 11d and 12d [CRAG] and [ALP] weren’t clued in tandem but one referencing climbing and the other skiing. It seems strange, especially in light of the cross-referencing of MER and THE SEA for the disjunct 52a and 69a, and that of BRITS and ODOUR at 66d and 75a.
Some clues of note:
- 58a [Condition] PROVISO. Simple, but VAGUE (59d) enough to be tricky.
- 102a [Party announcement?] SURPRISE!
- 94d [Debris under a tree] TWIGS. Evocative.
I’m torn on a final assessment of this puzzle, because of its bipolarizing effect on me.