David Steinberg and Barry Haldiman’s New York Times crossword, “A Giant Crossword”
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Barry Haldiman (a speed solver who competed in the “C” finals at the 2010 ACPT, and creator of Barry’s NYT Xword Ref) and his wife Beth Welsh when they were in town. About a quarter of the way through the puzzle, I remembered what the theme was*—not that it made me solve the thing much faster. Anyway, congrats to Barry, who makes his crossword debut here (15-year-old David Steinberg is already a seasoned constructor).
The theme relates to JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, which vines its way down the middle of the grid. Might’ve been more beanstalky to have the letters snaking upward, but harder to make sense out of the circled words. 3d and 50d evenly split the giant’s statement, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN. Before he said that in the story, of course, the giant said “Fee, fi, fo, fum,” and those are found at the stars of 54d: FEEBLE ATTEMPT, 33d: FINITE RESOURCE, 30d: FOAM AT THE MOUTH, and 14d: FUMBLE THE BALL. 14d and 30d are particularly zippy.
Favorite fill: 12a: OFF DAY (have you ever had an off month? that needs to be a real phrase, too), 23a: PIZZA OVEN (Pequod’s pan pizza on Clybourn is nummy), 36a: AL LEWIS (which I filled in fine but later parsed as ALLE WIS), the odd trio of BUTTS IN/MEAT/BEEFY, sci-fi TELEPORT, “SHE BANGS,” IT’S PAT, LOST CAUSE, OLD-TIMER, and THE LIONS, clued as [Football pride of Detroit], although for so many years they were an abiding shame of haplessness.
My mystery items:
- 20d. [1972 Eastwood western], JOE KIDD. His costar was a chair. They had a shootout at noon. Joe Kidd lost.
- 87d. [Arts and crafts supplies], GLUEPOTS. No idea what that is. Dictionary says it’s a pot of hot glue, basically. Does anyone use such a thing now? I know there are sticks you melt in a hot glue gun, which seems a lot more convenient than warming your glue in a pot over a double boiler.
Nothing grievous in the fill, no off-base clues, accessible theme. Not necessarily a rollicking fun solve, but so few Sunday puzzles are. 3.5 stars.
Public service announcement: David, Barry, and a corps of volunteers are digitizing NYT crosswords from before Will Shortz’s tenure. So far, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project has converted almost 4,000 puzzles into database-ready, solvable files. If you’d like to join the team of volunteers (there are 12,000 more puzzles to go!), visit the site for details.
Pam Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Prix Fixe Menu”
I wonder if this theme was inspired by all those restaurants that advertise a “prefix menu.” Pam has taken assorted phrases and assigned each a different prefix, turning the first word into something quite different:
- 23a. [Where there’s no rest for the weary?], DISCOMFORT STATION. A comfort station is a public bathroom for campers or travelers. What’s more comfortable than a toilet?
- 38a. [Precinct high jinks?], MISCHIEF OF POLICE.
- 47a. [Adman’s demo reel?], PRODUCT TAPE. Have you seen the new colors and patterns of duct tape? The Duck Tape brand has introduced tape in a slew of bright colors and patterns (penguins! zigzag!), and they’re pushing the idea of using the tape in arts and crafts, decorating things, and so on. Whatever genius came up with the idea of expanding a hardware-store product to having arts-and-crafts appeal has hopefully received a massive bonus from his or her employer.
- 63a. [Engross the financial district?], PREOCCUPY WALLS TREET. Timely, given that we’ve hit the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s beginning.
- 82a. [Court defense team?], ADVICE SQUAD.
- 88a. [Where meteorologists relax and talk shop?], FORECASTING COUCH. Makes weather sound a little sexy and a little coercive.
- 109a. [Overpromotion of a Stephenie Meyers fantasy novel series?], TWILIGHT POLLUTION. Mm-hmm, pollution.
I like seeing FRESCA and “OH, DEAR” (my motto) in the lower left corner, but it’s too bad that RE-EARN ([Gain again, as trust]) is foisted upon them. Most of the fill is pretty straightforward, with a handful of old/crosswordese type answers (I’m looking at you, OGEE, ARETE, SOHIO the [Old Cleveland-based gas company]), COEUR d’Alene, and OISE).
Haven’t got much else to note here. 3.5 stars for the theme, a bit less for the overall fill.
P.S. It kinda drives me bonkers that this constructor has four different bylines! We’ve had constructor tags for Pam Klawitter, Pam Awick Klawitter, Pamela Klawitter, and Pamela Amick Klawitter. If you’re looking for all of the posts about her puzzles, you’ll need to hit all four tags. If I were editor of the world and had a staff at my disposal, I would make constructors commit to one version of their name (middle initial or no middle initial?) and use it everywhere (and all venues would have to make sure they were using the constructor’s preferred name). Sadly, nobody has appointed me editor of the world. Yet. It’s in my five-year plan.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
“Oh God,” I thought to myself upon opening this puzzle and seeing the byline. “Better get comfortable, ’cause this could take a while.” Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I found every second of this 70/29 freestyle a real struggle.
I’ve posted two pictures of the grid here–the first shows my progress after ten minutes (my self-imposed “par” for all of Bob’s puzzles) and the second shows the completed (and correct) grid. You can see some of my errors in the first grid, most notably PART II instead of RETURN as the [Word in many sequel titles]. (Knock, knock, Sam! Read the clues carefully!) There’s also TEN instead of UMP as the [Base figure], but that one seems defensible to me.
As you can see, I really got stuck trying to figure out the end to the [Cannonball sound]. I knew this referred to the dive and not to a real cannonball, but in my world the sound has always been KERPLUNK, not KERPLOP. So I had a devil of a time trying to make that section work. The other one that gave me fits, obviously, was the [Polish dance in triple meter]. With the K sitting where it was in the crossing, I figured it had to end in POLKA, and you can see I was unafraid to put those letters down as placeholders. Alas, the answer was MAZURKA, meaning I was in for some serious unwinding.
I’m proud that I didn’t plunk down ATLANTA as the [Capital of Georgia]. It was the right number of letters, of course, but that would have been way too easy for a Bob Klahn Sunday Challenge. Only problem was that I didn’t know the capital of the other Georgia, which proved to be TBILISI.
I can’t say the fill really sizzles, but that’s not really the point of most of Bob’s puzzles. His puzzles are about knotty clues and expanding our minds with new information. The things new to me included AND GATES, the [Digital pass-throughs that implement logical conjunction], ASCOT as a [Race place since 1711] and not just something around the neck of a fancy gentleman, PELF as [Filthy lucre], METIER as a [Calling] of some kind, and MICRODOT as a [1mm pic]. And while they weren’t exactly new to me, I can’t say I was overly familiar with THE BUMP, STAGE MOM, and HALF-TONE, at least as they were used here.
On the clue front, my favorites were [Hoisting device?] for PETARD, [Its homonym is its antonym] for RAZE, [Dirty dish?] for MUD PIE, and [Fisherman’s profit?] for NET. But overall, I’m coming away from this one just exhausted. Thank goodness this is a day of rest!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Anagrammys”
This week’s theme is song titles in which one word has been anagrammed into a new word:
- 23a. [Anagrammy-winning song about an escaped rodent?], WHERE DID OUR VOLE GO? (VOLE was Love.)
- 34a. [Anagrammy-winning song about where the Skid Row Hotel was built?], OVER THE WINO BAR. (WINO BAR was Rainbow.) This one kinda bums me out.
- 52a. [Anagrammy-winning song about Chicago’s favorite outdoor sport?], BOWLIN’ IN THE WIND. (BOWLIN’ was BLOWIN’.) Chicago technically is not markedly windier than other cities.
- 70a. Anagrammy-winning theme song of TV’s Barefoot Contessa?], DON’T CRY FOR ME, INA GARTEN. (Argentina anagrams to TV cook INA GARTEN. Great find, Merl!)
- 85a. [Anagrammy-winning song about Mr. Ed going bald? (with “A”)], HORSE WITH NO MANE. (Name to MANE.)
- 105a. [Anagrammy-winning song about a “Sesame Street” character?], GOODNIGHT, ERNIE. (Irene to ERNIE.)
- 118a. Anagrammy-winning song from a sci-fi musical?], MY EARTH STOOD STILL. (Heart to EARTH.) Never heard of the original song.
Who knew there was such a thing as a TREE TOAD (88d. [Hopper with sticky toes])? Pannonica, probably. I had TREE FROG.
Today’s two most obscure answers are:
- 20a. [Ataturk’s successor (anagram of UNION)], INONU. Inonu, out the other.
- 86d. [Indian peasant], RYOT. Yes, I have been doing crossword puzzles for three decades. No, I sure don’t remember ever encountering this word before. I’m surprised Merl didn’t toss in “(anagram of TROY)” (or TORY) here.
One clue pulls double duty. Both 24d and 25d are [Hospital VIPs]. The first one is DOCS and the second is VETS, raising the question of whether the second hospital is a veterinary hospital or a VA hospital.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 128” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Some great entries in today’s Post Puzzler, starting right at 1-Across/1-Down with STEAMPUNK and SMURFY. Lots of fun in the rest of the grid too.
- 10a. [Tarantula hawk, for one] – WASP. I hate bees and wasps of any kind, and this one sounds especially horrifying. Yep, the Wikipedia article confirms my fears. It’s a giant wasp that hunts and kills tarantulas and then lays eggs in the poor spiders’ bodies! I really didn’t need to know that such a creature exists. And if it happens to sting you with its 1/3-inch stinger: “…immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream.” I hope Obama & Romney address the tarantula hawk issue in the debates, because this monster has vaulted to the top of my personal “What’s wrong with the country?” list.
- 15a. [Creator of Encyclopedia Brown] – SOBOL. If you have fond memories of the Encyclopedia Brown books, check out Wikipedia Brown. It’s brilliant
- 35a. [They don’t have calves] – HEIFERS. I didn’t know this. A heifer is a young cow who hasn’t given birth to a calf. I thought a heifer was a certain breed of cow or something. And I’m afraid to look on Wikipedia for more info because I might stumble onto a “heifer hawk” wasp article.
- 28d. [King who sounds like Darth Vader] – MUFASA. I loved this clue! Darth Vader and Mufasa from The Lion King were both voiced by James Earl Jones.
- 32d. [Ford explorer?] – MECHANIC. Clever.
- 39d. [Ford explorer?] – HAN SOLO. Double clever! (OK, Han Solo is more of a smuggler than an explorer, but I’m not going to deduct any points.)
- 52d. [Hockley’s portrayer in “Titanic”] – ZANE. I got the initial Z and filled in ZMED. Seriously. Billy Zane & Adrian Zmed occupy the same place in my brain. A couple of Z-named actors who were vaguely popular at one time… I don’t think I ever sat through a whole episode of T.J. Hooker and I’ve managed to avoid seeing Titanic.
- 22d. [CDLXX x V] – MMCCCL. Constructors are allowed one Roman numeral per puzzle, so why not make the most of it! I realize I’m in the minority, but giant Roman numerals in puzzles actually amuse me. They’re so bad, they’re good.
Other goodies: HOLLA, KEEP KOSHER, UP THE ANTE.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Flat Line?” — pannonica’s review
This puzzle’s origin lies presumably in the observation that comedian RODNEY DANGERFIELD‘s catchphrase—which also served as a frequent rhetorical introduction to many of his jokes, as is the case here—has the same letter count as his full name.
23a. [Start of a quote, and a big hint to 107-Across] I DON’T GET NO RESPECT | I TOLD MY LANDLORD | I WANT TO LIVE IN A MORE | EXPENSIVE APARTMENT | HE RAISED THE RENT. (38a, 58a, 66a, 88a)
Wry turnabout, and I somehow managed to completely undermine it by filling in EXTENSIVE for EXPENSIVE, and not catching the mistake. The crossing entry was a mystery to me: 63d [W.W. I German general] S–EE and STEE seemed reasonable at the time. Of course, once I saw the correct quote I made the connection to the famous battleship Graf SPEE; it’s my ignorance that I wasn’t aware of its famous namesake.
- Another, perhaps more, potentially difficult crossing occurs at 86a and 73d. [Mother of Perseus] DANAË, and [Matador’s cloth] MULETA.
- 40d [Coe contemporary] OVETT. I’d only recently learned of this other British distance runner in the course of writing up COE in a different crossword. Steve OVETT.
- 1a and 67d. SAMSA / SAMOSA; one is [“The Metamorphosis” hero], the other an [Indian pushcart delicacy].
- 39d [Pack to the future?] TAROT. 81a [Futures dealer?] SEER. Erm.
- Randomness: 35d [Early afternoon time] ONE-TEN. Also, the bizarre clue for 1d [1 ac. = 6,272,640 __ ] SQ. IN.
- Personal randomness: 10d [Covers] SHROUDS. John Banville called his 2002 novel Shroud “my monstrous child whom I cherish but who horrifies others.” Speaking of which…
- Unlovely partials, both song titles: 72d [“Do you know the way ___ Jose?”] TO SAN, 116a [“__ Have No Bananas”] YES! WE. At least it wasn’t [“__ Can!”]
- Lovely long downs: MOOONSCAPE, SINECURE, TRANSIENT (a MOONSCAPE is anything but), FLUORINE, ASPOSTLES, AARDVARK. I understand the current Afrikaans spelling of that last—meaning “earth-pig”—is now erdvark. Hm, but the language isn’t spelled Afrikens? Anyway, its scientific name is Orycteropus afer and it forms the extant entirety of the monospecific order Orycteropodidae; that means it’s the only species in its genus, family, order. Lonely, no? Supposedly “orycter” is ancient Greek for a type of digging tool, so the generic name accurately indicates that this fossorial mammal uses its feet as powerful digging implements.
- Less common words: 5d ATTRITS, although WWI (Herr Spee’s milieu, remember him?) is typically described as a war of attrition, at least on land. 76a [Charlotte __, V.I.] AMALIE. At least it wasn’t yet another clue for the French film with Audrey Tautou. Oh wait, now that I’ve typed it, I realize that that was spelled with an e, not an a. Actually an é.
- I don’t understand the reason for the quotation marks in the clue for 2d [“Autobahn” auto] AUDI. The official name for this type of road is Bundesautobahn, but Autobahn is in wide use. The seminal Krautrock album and song by Kraftwerk doesn’t mention an AUDI in the lyrics.
- Favorite clues: 19a [High-pitched ring?] QUOIT. 44a [Macadamizes] PAVES. How can you not like “macadamizes”?
Whaddaya want? It’s a quote puzzle. They don’t get much respect.