New York Times online/Across Lite solvers who are perplexed: Click the NYT link above for a hint, which will be followed by spoiler space so you won’t necessarily see the whole solution.
Are you hankering for more great crosswords? Are you keen on supporting the Reading to Kids organization? You’re in luck: A set of nine puzzles from the Crosswords LA tournament is now available for $10 here. I test-solved the puzzles in September and my favorites were the themed puzzle by Jeffrey Harris (so creative!) and Trip Payne’s themeless finals puzzles (super smooth).
David Kwong’s New York Times crossword
If you’re wondering what the heck to put in certain squares in the applet or Across Lite, try the letter X. Deb Amlen reports that the NYT’s HTML5 online gameplay does not have this constraint, and of course the printed puzzle won’t either.
That’s annoying, isn’t it?
Our Halloween theme is old-school Hollywood movie monsters and their mirror reflections. The clues are rather annoyingly vague for such a fun subject:
- 23d. [Things worth looking into?]. MIRRORS. The center column of the grid serves as a mirror here.
- 1a. [Universal Studios role of 1941], WOLFMAN.
- 8a. [1-Across, in 23-Down], NAMFLOW.
- 17a. [Universal Studios role of 1931], MONSTER.
- 18a. [17-Across, in 23-Down], RETSNOM.
- 59a. [Universal Studios role of 1925], PHANTOM.
- 61a. [59-Across, in 23-Down], MOTNAHP.
- 64a. [Universal Studios role of 1931], DRACULA.
- 65a. 64-Across, in 23-Down], … just a blank space, because Dracula cannot see his reflection in a mirror. If solving the .puz or Java applet way, enter XXXXXXX instead. I wonder what other characters people tried. A period? A zero? A blank underscore? MIRRORS? No letters go with the Down crossings, which all end one letter short of their space.
I did not love the gimmick. An opportunity to entertain was missed with the drab, undifferentiated “Universal studios role of year X” clues. What MONSTER is this, anyway? Frankenstein’s reanimated man? Too vague.
Outside of the characters forwards and backwards, plus the MIRRORS, there is not much else of note in the puzzle. SWEE’PEA is nice, and SHIATSU and J.S. BACH are a little fancy. I love that MITTENS is clued as 10d. [Nickname for a 2012 presidential candidate]. Who was calling Romney “Mittens,” for the most part? I’m thinking it wasn’t people who were excited to vote for him. (According to a poll, 2% of voters picked Mittens as Mitt Romney’s actual first name.)
53d. [La mía es la tuya, they say] clues CASA. I’m guessing this is Spanish for something like “What’s mine is yours,” but I’ve never, ever seen tuya before.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 67”
Lots of answers I haven’t seen in crosswords before, including some I didn’t know:
- 27a. [PC user’s mistake reverser], CONTROL-Z. Perhaps my favorite entry in this puzzle. On the Mac, it’s command-Z, which I would also love to see in a crossword.
- 34a. [Debut album of 2010 “American Idol” runner-up Crystal Bowersox], FARMER’S DAUGHTER. Didn’t know it.
- 44a. [Celebrity gossip sources], FAN SITES. Fresh entry.
- 55a. [Former general manager of the Mets], OMAR MINAYA. I reckon I know him mainly from crosswords.
- 4d. [Editors’ deadlines], PRESS TIMES.
- 7d. [1786 opera by 54-Across], LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. A gimme with the L*N*Z– in place.
- 11d. [“Catch ya later”], “PEACE OUT.” Great entry; casual/slangy.
- 30d. [Veal cutlets], SCHNITZELS. Home of the fourth Z in the grid, after the opera and MUNIZ/LA PAZ.
- 34d. [Organizations run by one dominant person], FIEFDOMS. Clued in a modern way.
Nobody’s excited to see ESSO in a grid, but the King of Original Cluing brought something new to the table: [Little Oil Drop was its mascot]. Aw, who doesn’t find petroleum products to be adorable?
Worst misstep: I read 40a. [MVP of the 1994 NBA All-Star Game] and had the final -EN in place so I filled in RIPKEN. It actually worked for four of the squares, but it’s the Bulls’ Scottie PIPPEN. Cal R. was not known for his hoops prowess.
Two other clues that held me up:
- 16a. [First name of an electrician-turned-president], LECH. Poland, not the U.S.
- 10d. [WYSIWYG shooter], SLR. We’re talking cameras here but I was thinking of “what you see is what you get” computer stuff and first-person shooter video games and was at a loss.
Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Sickeningly Sweet”
Like the Wednesday NYT, Halloween candy is the theme here—only in this puzzle, the candy tends towards the gory:
- 19a, 57a. [With 57-Across, “atomic” sucking candy that violates building safety codes?], FIRE BALL. You’ll need a sprinkler system for these balls.
- 24a. [Chocolate-covered fragments of actress Witherspoon?], REESE’S PIECES. Mmm, peanutty, fleshy goodness.
- 38a. [Blood-spewing candy?], GUSHERS. Probably better for you than the traditional Gushers. More iron, less sugar and acids to eat away your tooth enamel.
- 48a. [Chocolate-covered clumsy digit?], BUTTERFINGER. The Rahm Emanuel special.
- 32a. [Category of person you’re attracted to], TYPE. Good clue.
- 37a. [Doubled, the second part of a pint-sized beauty queen’s name], BOO. It’s Halloween. Why not clue BOO in the scariest way possible?
- 53a. [Green-haired critter], CHIA PET. Good answer.
- 58a. [Whiny “Game of Thrones” character], SANSA. Yes! V. whiny.
- 63a. [Shake a can vigorously?], TWERK. Ha! I had trouble with this right up till I had the answer filled in.
- 4d. [Under-the-table activity?], FOOTSIE. Good answer.
- 44d. [Computer-to-projector connectors], DONGLES. My favorite British comedy sketch of recent years includes the word: “… but my wife’s seen a few dongles in her time.”
Okay, so that was seven things. Plus there’s CHESS CLUB, another great entry. Not crazy about BRAN FLAKE, though. Who contends with a single flake in a box of cereal?
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Vowel Play” – Dave Sullivan’s review
No “foul play” in this decidedly un-Halloweenish offering from one of the members of crossword’s constructor pantheon. Patrick treats us to four two-word phrases in which the words differ by only the vowel in the second position:
- [Young pet with lots of energy?] was a PEPPY PUPPY – my FAVE since it’s an adjective+noun and reads naturally.
- [Inane babysitter] clued NANNY NINNY – I had NINNY NANNY at first, not sure which order sounds more natural as they are both nouns.
- [Fully bandaged parent?] was the MOMMY MUMMY – maybe here was the Halloween tie-in? Anyway, another two nouns that could’ve easily been swapped.
- [Wimp with a big mouth?] was a SASSY SISSY – though I have a visceral negative reaction to the term “sissy,” at least this is an adjective+noun phrase.
I guess my favorite part of this was the creative title, since the theme entries pretty much filled themselves in once you got one of the two words. Nice to start a puzzle with the Scrabbly JAZZ ([Grammy category]) at 1-Across, and finish with an X shared between LENOX ([Big name in fine china]) and NEXT ([“America’s ___ Top Model”]). I do have to cry foul play though at the crossing between [Sponge made by 3M] and [Country crooner Roy]. That C shared between OCELO and ACUFF was a killer, and perhaps the most scary element of this Halloween puzzle.
Speaking of Scrabbly X’s, GO SOX!!!!! So happy to see my hometown share some joy after the tragedy of the marathon bombings back in April. Well deserved!
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Reed Music” — Matt’s review
Lou Reed passed away on Oct. 27th, and here his tribute puzzle is, a mere four days later. It’s getting competitive out there.
Instead of the standard cram-in-as-many-song-names-as-you-can, Brendan goes for a nice change of pace: a quote puzzle, reading as follows:
ONE CHORD IS FINE / TWO CHORDS ARE PUSHING / IT THREE CHORDS / AND YOU’RE INTO JAZZ. The last across entry is The VELVET UNDERGROUND, Reed’s famous band. I don’t know music theory well enough to understand if that’s funny or poignant, so I need to punt on judging the theme itself. But again, any tribute puzzle that’s not a movie/song/book title clusterflock I’m generally in favor of.
Fill and grid (lots of cheater squares) are clunkier than usual for a BEQ since there’ so much theme. But I can say I LIKE IT to WEBINAR, KATYDID, NASDAQ and SHAQ crossing at the Q, TEAM USA, ANY NEWS? and PUNCH UP. One the downside, lots of suboptimal short stuff along the lines of HEE-CRT-ELL-GAI-AGAR-OUSE-DTS. But hey, that’s poker.
Top three clues: [They excel at Excel: Abbr.] for CPAS, [It typically has many rounds] for BAR TAB, especially if you’re with me and/or Brendan, and [Baking ingredient] for THC (I had T?C and put the L in, no joke).
4.00 stars, one for each day it took to get this tribute puzzle up. Especially a 17×17, that’s pretty quick.
Gerry Wildenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
So today’s theme is a list-y one: 3 films set on DESERT/ISLANDs. Two, ROBINSONCRUSOE and LORDOFTHEFLIES, are far better known as books. One, SWEPTAWAY, I have never heard of, but Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars, which is something.
So if you started with the downs in the top-left, you may have seen a Halloween (mini-)theme with TPS, STAB and EERIE emergy. That quickly lost speed as one progressed through the grid.
Mr. Wildenberry opted for big corners with 8 seven letter downs in the four corners! Despite those big corners, the answers themselves didn’t wow me for the most part; I did like PENTEL, SEENOTE and ETOUFFEE. On the other hand, the answers ATL, AAS, READEM, and IANA impressed me less.