June 1? That means (as I mentioned Thursday morning) a new crossword shall be posted at Patrick Blindauer’s site. PDF only, so there’ll be something that violates the (considerable) limits of Across Lite. Those of you without access to printers, I grieve for you. Look for Matt Gaffney’s review here on Saturday.
Some of you may be thinking June 1 also means a new Muller Monthly Music Meta, but we’ve got a few more days to wait. Pete’s next contest puzzle goes up next Tuesday (and will also be on the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial Facebook app on June 10). You can sign up at Pete’s site to be emailed when the puzzle’s out so you don’t miss it.
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
So the grid has 52 words? Big whoop. I don’t solve word counts, I solve crosswords. For the words. The ones in the grid and the entertaining or informative clues they facilitate. Sad to say, this neat-looking four-leaf clover of a grid has so many words that are put in not because they’re inherently cool words, but because they make it easier to fill a grid that is wickedly hard to fill. What, I ask, is the purpose of using such a challenging grid if the solvers must slog (but quickly! it’s a Wednesday-easy themeless even though there’s only one entry in the 3- to 4-letter range that usually populates easy crosswords) through BROODER and RECHOSE and USUALS and REGER? That last one—thank goodness the clue tells us the German composer’s name is palindromic, because I’ve never heard of him/her. If he/she were truly notable, he/she would be in puzzles all the time, what with those crossword-friendly letters. And yet!
I didn’t recall children’s writer Eleanor at 1a, but once I had the S in 2d: SERGEI, I filled in ESTES because a grid like this promises to be jam-packed with such common letters. Three quarters of the way through the puzzle, I thought to myself, “I’ll have to count up all the -S, -ES, -ER, and -ED answers.” And then I hit 38a: RECHOSE and laughed, saying aloud, “That’s not a word!” It might be an actual word, but when I Googled it “rechoose” just now, a bogus dictionary site in the search results said “Rechoose is a common misspelling or typo for: rechoosed, rechooser, rechooses.” Ha!
Now, 25a: LITERATURES may look like an utterly bogus plural, but a zillion colleges and universities have programs such as “Romance Languages and Literatures” so I’m okay with this.
33a’s clue might be lying to us. FUTURE RESULTS are [What past performance may portend]? Not in stocks and mutual funds, baby. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, really in any endeavor. Maybe a vague portent. Like, who’s to say Dan Feyer will ever win the ACPT again? He could totally start sucking at crosswords.
To be fair, a good 40 of the entries are perfectly fine by me. It’s just the other 10 or so that grate, and I don’t care to see more than a handful of Scowl-o-Meter answers (RETILE your MASKERS and EMBAY your STERES!) in any given crossword. 2.75 stars.
That’s my 2¢. How’d you like the puzzle?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Conflict of Interest” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This Bob Klahn crossword features a seven-part [Bob Hope quip]: A BANK IS A PLACE / THAT WILL LEND / YOU / MONEY IF / YOU / CAN PROVE THAT / YOU DON’T NEED IT. It certainly helped that I knew the gist of the quip from the very beginning, though I still lost a few minutes in trying to crack into the bottom five rows of the grid. As usual, I made it a lot harder than it had to be, as I kept thinking the answer to [Spare no expense] had to start with SPEND instead of being SPLURGE, that the [Barracks boss, briefly] was SGT instead of NCO, and that the [ER VIPs] were MDS and not RNS. Those early errors as I was in search of a toe-hold proved costly.
I never fail to find new little tidbits in one of Klahn’s puzzles. Here were the items that were new to me:
- There’s a 3-D movie called “Magnificent DESOLATION” that’s about walking on the moon.
- The [“Angels & Demons” antimatter org.] is CERN, an acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Of course.
- It’s [Holmes’s “Elsie] VENNER, not BORDEN.
- It’s Jack ELAM that [played Jake in “Big Bad John”]. When you know neither the actor nor the role, you know only that you’re in trouble.
From a construction standpoint, it’s interesting that Klahn broke up the 13-letter middle (YOU MONEY IF YOU) into three parts. That seemed strange to me, especially since it essentially created duplicate YOUs in the grid. I realized that a centered 13-letter entry would have required the use of even more “helper” black squares (what some pejoratively call “cheater squares”), but then I wondered if the 13’s that appear at the beginning and end could have been pushed to one side instead of centered–that would have reduced the number of helper squares. Given the final grid has an unusually high 44 black squares, one would think this would be desirable. So, for shi-giggles, I tried to see if I could make it work. Right away, though, I saw the problem, which you can see for yourself with the grid that’s pasted to the right.
The problem lies with the central Down entry. What five-letter entry fits the L?E?R pattern? Um, nothing good, it appears. Likewise, I came up empty with the nine-letter I?L?E?R?N pattern, as well as the 11-, 13-, and 15-letter variations. I thought about shoving the second and fourth quip lines up or down, but the resulting combinations looked similarly unworkable. This is all a long way of saying that while the YOU / MONEY IF / YOU arrangement looks a little awkward, at least it makes the puzzle do-able. I admire Bob for pulling this off, as I simply would have tossed the idea to the side as unworkable. Now I want to send him other ideas that I couldn’t make work just to see if he could.
Favorite entry = CRIME NOVEL, the [Piece of hard-boiled fiction]. Favorite clue = [It’s hardly a cutting-edge sport] for EPEE. As the discussion here explains, fresh clues turn Crosswordese into fun fill.
Joe DiPietro’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I was looking for more to unify the theme phrases than “blank in the/one’s blank” phrases redefined, and the LEAVES/PLANT in the first two and CHIPS/ROLL in the second two had me thinking of greenery and food. But what the theme’s doing is changing the first word, a verb, into a noun, so the theme’s tighter than I initially thought. There are other “verb in the noun” phrases that can be read as “noun in the noun,” but the change doesn’t always alter the meaning dramatically. For example, “walk in the park” keeps the same basic meaning for “walk” no matter the part of speech, and you don’t get a colorful image.
- 17a. LEAVES IN THE DUST, [Litter in an abandoned library?]. Not sure if these leaves have been torn out of books or if someone left the doors open on a windy autumn day. Must be book pages because otherwise the clue wouldn’t specify a library. Off the subject, isn’t a dusty, abandoned library a sad image?
- 31a. PLANT IN ONE’S MIND, [Imaginary nuclear facility?].
- 45a. CASH IN ONE’S CHIPS, [Singles among the Pringles?]. How awesome would that be, to open a can of Pringles and find cash money? I wouldn’t eat the chips then, but I don’t care for Pringles anyway. (This one changes the CHIPS more than the CASH.)
- 58a. ROLL IN THE AISLES, [Bread seen while finding theater seats?]. This one doesn’t quite work because a single roll can only exist in one aisle, and you’d have to kick it pretty hard to get it past all those seats to the next aisle.
So I like the theme concept of verb-into-noun/significant change in meaning, but I don’t think Joe nailed the execution.
Elsewhere in the puzzle:
- 28d. SIDE HILL LIE, [Golf ball-on-a-slope challenge]. Strange-looking phrase for someone who (like me) has never seen it before.
- 19d. HIDERS, [It’s quarry]. Wha…? Oh! Hide and seek. The person who is “it” is after his or her quarry, the HIDERS. Tough clue to parse.
- 25d. BOX WINE, [Libation pooh-poohed by some]. Box wine is especially handy for picnics and heavy drinkers.
- 1d. KELP, [Laminaria, for one]. I had no idea it was seaweed. My only frame of reference for laminaria is knowing of its ob/gyn usage.
- 53d. KILT, [Skirt often worn with ghillie brogues]. G(h)illies are shoes worn for Scottish country dancing. Brogues are shoes of untanned leather formerly worn in the Scottish Highlands and Ireland. (According to the New Oxford American Dictionary.) Scottish shoes go with a KILT.
- 43a, 67a. BUT IS / IT ART?, [With 67-Across, museumgoer’s musing]. Colorful phrase split into two partials. Slightly ugly, but helped greatly by the two parts both running in the same direction and the first part appearing above the second (and not too far away). Cross-references that go topsy-turvy are irritating.
- Twenty-eight 3-letter answers? And lots of 4s? Meh. Though this one was a bit lovely: 25a BUD, [Harbinger of spring].