Hello, Canadians! And also Americans who get CBC shows stateside, and anyone in the world who can access this webpage. David Gutnick has produced a short radio documentary about the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class in New York. Familiar names (and faces, in the picture at the CBC site) include constructor and J.A.S.A. teacher Ian Livengood and ace solver/blog commenter Dan Chall. The CBC show airs Sunday morning at 10, and has about 1.3 million listeners. The documentary, which runs about 10 minutes, is called “So Nice to Feel Clever.”
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle puts me in mind of one of Peter Wentz’s Daily Celebrity Crossword puzzles, the one where his theme was Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. Sam Donaldson could also do a newshound theme with Sam Donaldson in it. And today, David Steinberg puts comedian DAVID STEINBERG (26a. [Stand-up comic known for irreverent sermonettes]) in his grid. I confess the guy in this ’80s video doesn’t ring a bell, but he uses the word “mellifluous” so I’m sold.
Also? Given the fact that the constructor’s byline is a good bit smaller than the editor’s byline, this is a brilliant way to expand one’s presence on the puzzle page.
So, DAVID STEINBERG has made a helluva puzzle here. The highlights are many, in both the fill and the clues:
- 1a. [What’s “all in my brain,” in a 1967 rock classic], PURPLE HAZE. And that, ladies and gentlemen and people who reject gender binaries, is how you fill a 1-Across. It would have made me look forward to the rest of the puzzle except the clue was no help to me and I had to dig into another section of the puzzle first.
- 43a. [Do a vanishing act], DROP OUT OF SIGHT. Smooth four-word, in-the-language phrase.
- 48a. [One housed in a chest], LUNG. With any luck, you’re housing two of them.
- 57a. [Microsoft Office feature], POWERPOINT. The cool kids are moving along to Google Drive’s spreadsheet, free and stored in the cloud. (If you hate MS Office’s hegemony, check out the Google Docs option.)
- 61a. [No-strings declaration?], “I’M A REAL BOY.” Pinocchio! Terrific clue/answer one-two punch.
- 63a. [“So Wrong” singer, 1962], PATSY CLINE. Don’t know that song, but she is an incredible legend. What’s up with including songs from when your parents were little kids or not yet born, DAVID STEINBERG? You’ve got an old soul, haven’t you?
- 1d. [Labor leader’s cry?], PUSH the baby out of your…
- 11d. [Violent sandstorm], HABOOB. Only learned this word a couple years ago when a Phoenix haboob video went viral.
- 12d. [Old TV show hosted by Ed McMahon], STAR SEARCH. Pretty sure I never saw a full episode of this.
- 23d. [Product named for its “’round the clock protection”], DIAL SOAP. Did you know that?
- 26d. [Building with many sides], DINER. Side dishes, not exterior walls.
- 27d. [Fifth-century invader], ANGLO-SAXON.
- 42d. [Cylindrical menu item], EGG ROLL.
- 44d. [What outer space is that cyberspace isn’t?], PHRASE.
- 55d. [Affliction whose name rhymes with its location], STYE. At long last, a clue that makes me feel OK about having STYE in the puzzle. I didn’t think it could be done.
- 58d. [German granny], OMA. Basic first-year German vocabulary words for grandma and grandpa, Oma and Opa (cuter than Großvater and Großmutter), so well-suited to crosswords, and yet they rarely ever appear clued as such. Let’s everyone learn these words and be charmed when they appear in crosswords. Because a [Medical suffix ] that connotes tumors, [__-Locka, Florida], and [WWII price-rationing agency] all put me to sleep and are not remotely charming.
In the demerits column, well, nobody gets too excited about short fill like CEES, APSE, RDAS, EDE, and AAR, but DAVID STEINBERG threw his weight into the long fill and the zippy clues and crafted a puzzle in which the ugly filler bits slid by quietly. An excellent example of a 72-worder that entertains and engages me.
Today’s nominee for toughest crossing: If you don’t know the word HABOOB and you’re not up on your Chinese dynasties, that H in HSIA (11a. [Dynasty founded by Yu the Great]) may be difficult to get.
4.5 stars from me.
Steven J. St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
This is everything I want in a weekend puzzle. Nice, attention-grabbing long entries and (mostly) acceptable short entries. Highlights:
- 17a, JOHN XXIII [Pius XII’s successor]. John 23 presided over the church in the late ’50s and early ’60s. I particularly like the crossing with 4d, SIXTUS [One of five popes, ironically]. This fact wouldn’t have seemed ironic to the Sixtuses themselves, as Sixtus comes from the Greek for “polished” (as opposed to “Sextus,” a common Roman name meaning “sixth”).
- 35a, GAS GUZZLER [Road hog?]. The Energy Tax Act of 1978 created the Gas Guzzler Tax, which applies to the sales of vehicles with official EPA-estimated gas mileage below certain specified levels. As of 2006, the sale of a vehicle getting under 12.5 MPG carries a hefty $7700 tax burden.
- 53a, VIP PASSES [Celebrity perks]. Celebrity is sufficient, but not necessary, for VIP status.
- 27d, PUZZLE OVER [Ponder]. Or what you say when you finish a crossword.
- 40d, JERGENS [Maker of Natural Glow lotions].Sorry everyone, but I really wanted this one to be KY JELLY for some reason.
- 31a, SURE-FOOTED [Not likely to fall]. Could someone be unsure-footed?
- 47a, NED [Insurance salesman Ryerson in “Groundhog Day”]. Stephen Tobolowsky at his finest.
There were so many more entries I liked: STAPH, GNAWS AT, ARIZONANS, MOJO, MISERY, NO ONE ON (though it looks weird in the grid, like a newly discovered element), TEHRANI, OSMOSIS, ODYSSEY, GREASER, AIR TAXI, and HI Y’ALL! I liked PSY too, but I wanted it to be clued Gangnam Style.
In the dislike pile:
- 15a, I AM HE [Opening of a memorable walrus song]. First of all, “I am he” isn’t a particularly pleasant phrase, even given how notable the song is. Second, I’m not sure in what context it would sound natural to call “I am the Walrus” a “walrus song.” The phrase evokes whalesong.
- 49a, AT ONE GO [In a single effort]. I’ve always said “in one go,” but a quick search says “at one go” is more common than I’m giving it credit for.
- 56a, EDELL [Dr. Dean ___ of talk radio].Never heard of him. Is he famous, readers?
Not too much short fill, and very few abbrevs., partials, or crosswordese. Another lovely Saturday LAT — 4 stars. Until next week!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “OK Corral” – Dave Sullivan’s review
The letters O and K “corral” the misbehaving intervening letters within four theme entries:
- [L.L. Bean catalog page] is an ORDER BLANK. C’mon, who actually fills out physical order blank pages these days?
- [Aviator’s high altitude apparatus] is an OXYGEN MASK. I’m obsessed with the 24-mile skydive of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner; he certainly needed some oxygen in those rarefied airs.
- [Framework located around Texas wells] clues OIL DERRICK. Named after the star of the movie 10 of course.
- [Commercial building complex] clues an OFFICE PARK.
I guess I’d rate this puzzle as just “OK,” since none of the four theme entries seem to have much sizzle (oblique reference to Bo Derek notwithstanding). I wouldn’t go so far to say WHO CARES? in the puzzle’s DEFENSE. My FAVE entry was FAKE ID, which has a nice contemporary feel to it. I was less happy with the British spelling of GAOL, especially in its prominence at 1-Down, so that’s my UNFAVE today. Hope your Memorial Day weekend starts summer off with a bang!
Bruce Sutphin’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Dang! This is one tough puzzle. And the spots where I struggled—pretty much the entire southwest third of the puzzle—didn’t lend themselves to a Google rescue (unlike that NYT puzzle a week or two ago that had trivia clues I just plain didn’t know the answers to) so the choices were: (1) push through, reconsidering each clue and pondering alternate word meanings, or (2) give up. I persevered and eventually finished.
Here’s what made that southwest so hard for me:
- 50a. [Phrase accompanying a check], IT’S DONE. What?? No. After some thought, I suspect the clue is getting at checking something in the oven and declaring “It’s done.” But the clue is so tenuously connected to the answer, and with so many other senses of “check” out there. Meh.
- 35d. [Source of restrictions], LIMITER. Wasn’t expecting a roll-your-own word. It’s in the dictionary as a word from the world of electronics, but without a specifically electronic clue, it’s left looking like a roll-your-own with an awkward -ER tacked on.
- 56a. [They can get under your skin], GRATERS. Well, they’re supposed to get under the fruit or vegetable’s skin, but I suppose a slip of the hand can leave you a godawful bloody mess. (Cute that NEEDLES, which would work for this clue, is the answer right on top, with a [Bugs] clue.)
- 36d. [Beyond the blue horizon], OVERSEA. That’s a word? Dictionary tags it as a British version of “overseas.” Meh.
- 42d. [Metric system concern], STRESS. Poetic meter, not kilograms and millimeters. Nice mislead.
- 41a. [Producer of 16 Across], LIVER. The liver produces protein? Apparently yes, it synthesizes plasma proteins. Raise your hand if you had no idea. *raises hand*
- 44a. [Precursor of change], OMEN. Well, only if you believe that omens are real things.
- 24d. [They think alike], BLOCS. Fair enough.
- 29a. [Depart dramatically], STORM OUT. Left two letters blank for a long time, with the crossings reluctant to tell me if it was STORM or STOMP.
- 30d. [Rook relative], RAVEN. Somehow I thought rooks were longer-legged birds, but no, they’re crows.
This sort of 72-word grid generally has a lot less of the fun and zippy fill that a grid like Steinberg’s NYT can offer. Stumper clues strive to avoid gimmes, and there’s not much you could Google if you were inclined to look for help. My first easy entries in the grid (the ones where I wasn’t intuiting anything off the crossings) were 6d: ETA, [Seventh frat chapter]; 12d: NETZERO, [First free Web service provider] (Googleable!); 25a: DENG, [Mao successor] (Googleable!); 52a: ASININE, [Literally, “like a donkey”] … and that’s about it for things that weren’t a mental struggle or laden with landmines. Like 55a: [Begins to steam]—I figured it was GETS MAD, but no, it’s REDDENS. I had a number of answers like that, where something else was plausible.
Four stars. None of the fill is truly terrible (though the referee has shown a yellow card to both LIMITER and OVERSEA), none of the clues is truly unfair. I do wish that 43a: [Odd __] LOT were clued as Lot in the bible, because it’s a clumsy duplication of 21d: A LOT. None of the clues evoked any sort of “Wow! What a great clue!” feelings, mind you.