Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Clogged Hearts”
Yet another AV Club puzzle in which my perception of the difficulty level is at variance with the rating Ben reports. 3 out 5 difficulty? I’m thinking more like 2. (Note: This is not remotely troubling, just curious.)
I like the theme. For all those times we see lame fill like OLEO or SUETY in other crosswords, finally we have them hidden within larger phrases where we don’t have to contend with oleaginous clues.
- 17a. [Footwear for RuPaul], DRAG HEELS. Hiding GHEE, the Indian clarified butter.
- 23a. [Concert stage about three hours west of Dollywood], GRAND OLE OPRY. OLEO, tucked away where we can pretend we didn’t see it.
- 39a. [How some shows may be brought back], BY POPULAR DEMAND. There’s your LARD, which I do not eat. My favorite pie place, Hoosier Mama Pie Company, uses butter in their delicious crusts. And my favorite restaurant doesn’t use lard in their refried beans because that wouldn’t be halal (and what’s not to love about an Algerian-owned Mexican joint?).
- 51a. [Bluster], ISSUE THREATS. SUET is from the kidneys (!) and loins (!) of cattle, sheep, and random other animals. That seems troubling.
- 63a. [Processed food staples, or what span the middle of this puzzle’s theme answers], TRANS FATS. Most of our puzzle’s fats are saturated fats, but they are TRANS FATS in that they go across (trans) two words in each theme answer.
Now, when the trans fats or saturated fats clog things up, it’s generally the coronary arteries rather than the heart (the puzzle’s title is “Clogged Hearts”), but we’ll allow poetic license since the AV Club is not a biomedical journal.
Five more things:
- 70a. [Breakfast order including bacon, sausage, eggs, and potatoes], FRY-UP. This is a noun? Totally unknown to me. Sounds like it’s got a lot of artery-clogging potential.
- 16a. [Hecuba’s sister, and Priam’s murder victim], CILLA. Never heard of her.
- 52d. [Film about leftover food?], SARAN. Great clue.
- 4d. [Chance to spin], DJ GIG. Slightly arbitrary phrase?
- 9d. [Delivery people whose jobs were obviated by refrigerators], ICEMEN. I hate the ice door outside my kitchen wall because it’s impossible to insulate and my kitchen cabinets are bonus fridges in the winter. The peanut oil has been solidified for weeks.
Fave fill: FOX MULDER. Other fave clue: 49d. [The German way?], BAHN. BAHN isn’t a great answer, but the clue redeems it.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest crossword, “What’s the Final Score?”
Hmm. Oversized (15×19) puzzle with seven presumable theme entries, and the instructions to figure out “What’s the Final Score.” Contest entries due by Sunday evening. Hmm. I think this one’s tougher than many of Peter’s meta/contest puzzles because I haven’t figured it out yet. Good luck to the rest of you Fireball subscribers!
No star rating from me yet because I don’t know if I admire the contest or not. (And no solution grid, obviously.)
Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword
Okay, it’s essentially a double-quip theme with a little Schrödinger’s-cat square rebus dealio:
- 17a, 27a. [With 27-Across, an old riddle], WHAT’S BLACK, WHITE, / AND RE(A)D ALL OVER?
- 49a. [Answer to one spelling of the riddle], THIS NEWSPAPER.
- 63a. [Answer to another spelling of the riddle], A SUNBURNED PANDA.
- 24d. [Box ___] can clue either SET (crossing the RED panda) or SEAT (crossing the READ newspaper).
Cute enough. The quip-themeness of the theme doesn’t especially grab me, but at least we get two punchlines and a two-way square to juice it up.
I’m always surprised to see 58d: ANIL ([Blue dye source]) in any contemporary puzzle. It’s actually included in Stan Newman’s updated Newsday crossword editorial guidelines (coming soon to a Cruciverb near you) in the category of “uninteresting/obscure answer words” (along with things like AGA, ALEE, APSE, ASEA, and ASTA, just looking at words starting with A). I would be perfectly fine never seeing any of these words in a crossword ever again, frankly. I took a minute or so to try to get rid of ANIL in this grid. You can do it with ANON crossing Queen NOOR and OWNS, or more go modern-lingo with MOOR and PWNS. All it takes is a commitment not to allow ANIL in one’s grid. (In my work with Daily Celebrity Crossword, our constructors manage to keep the not-really-familiar-to-noncrossworders vocabulary out of the puzzles. It is absolutely hard work, don’t get me wrong. But apparently there remains a large contingent in the puzzle business that wholeheartedly accepts such fill as a necessary evil, or even a neutral non-evil presence. Me, I don’t care for it.) In sum, NOOR and PWNS aren’t as good as NOIR and OWLS, but ANON is several rungs better than ANIL. I would vote for ditching ANIL. (Memo to constructors: You could do worse than to strike those lame words from your word list. They don’t improve a puzzle.)
Five more things:
- 6d. [Home is one corner in it], BALLYARD. Is this about baseball? Never seen BALLYARD before.
- 59a. [Capital in 2004-05’s Orange Revolution], KIEV. Ah, yes. In the proud days when the people had power and weren’t tormented by the government’s police. Horrible, what’s going on in Ukraine now.
- 1a. [___ Beach, city near San Luis Obispo], PISMO. I may have been there one time. And I may have been excited because I had heard of the place before … through crosswords. Not a rousing 1-Across.
- 28d. [Fictional character who says “I am not what you call a civilized man!”], NEMO. That is because Nemo is a darling little clownfish, of course.
- 43d. [Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas,” recordwise], SIDE B. “Recordwise”! That makes me laugh. “What’s in the fridge, milkwise?” “How is it outside, humiditywise?” Can we add -wise to anything?
EPHEMERA is a lovely word. It should be a girl’s name.
3.25 stars from me.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Main Course to Follow” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Theme phrases which begin with something that might precede the main course:
- [Crazy for] was NUTS ABOUT – I think of nuts (and some of the following entries) as not so much an appetizer as a party dish. Guess we have a combination of both here.
- [Oil-checking item] clued DIPSTICK – the dipstick on my F150 is very hard to get to, and I’m over six feet tall!
- [Readings of the present?] clued ROLL CALLS – is a “roll call” a reading or is it always verbal? I think of a teacher calling out names and students replying (or not) “Here!” Anyway, I guess we’ve moved from the nuts and dip into the meal itself with a roll to begin with.
- [“Run! Here come the cops!”] was “CHEESE IT!” – funny, a recent Fireball had DESIST clued as this same slangy sense of cheese, and I had forgotten that already. My mind’s a sieve! Anyway, cheese brings me back to the party more than a meal.
- [Times of youthful innocence] were SALAD DAYS – a fun phrase; I wonder if the phrase comes from a salad beginning a meal (at least on this side of the pond).
Lots of theme entries in this one, making it pretty difficult for this solver. I also found it hard to grab much of a toehold anywhere in the grid, as I kept encountering entries that gave me pause. ON THE QT is great, but not the first thing that comes to mind with the clue [Secretly]. Funny how I plopped in BON JOVI for SINATRA, clued as [Larger-than-life singer from Hoboken]. (I see here that Bon Jovi is from Sayreville, which looks to be about 30 miles south of Hoboken.) There were comments on this site yesterday about OAST; how do you feel about it being clued as a [Tobacco-drying device]? I’m guessing KSU stands for Kansas State, and not Kent State, and that it’s also located in Manhattan, KS, but these are all just semi-educated guesses on my part.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Starter Quit” — Matt’s review
K becomes QU at the beginning of words (cf. “starter kit” with the title), with the following results:
17-a [Cheap hand protectors from London?] = QUID GLOVES. Kid gloves. Good.
26-a [Spar precisely?] = BOX QUITE. Maybe you need to be English to appreciate the syntax here. From “box kite.”
35-a [How a cranky comedian gets lulz?] = QUIBBLES ‘N’ BITS. From the dog food Kibbles ‘n’ Bits. Nice one.
48-a [The thrill one gets when using an inkwell?] = QUILL JOY. Killjoy.
57-a [Put down posthaste?] = PLACE QUICK. Placekick. Meh on that one.
Mixed bag there, but five Q’s will tip the scales in the theme’s favor. Scrabbly for the win.
I’ve been blogging the NYT puzzle over at Rex Parker’s place all this week, and spending a certain amount of time complaining about the lack of fill zip there. I even invoked BEQ’s name at one point:
There’s not a single marquee piece of fill, and a grid with just four medium-size themers (and no revealer) should have been full of them. If Brendan Quigley had filled this thing there’d be six or eight pieces of stellar longish fill that no reviewer could fail to mention; here there’s not really a single one. None of the four rare letters make an appearance, either.
With the fill here you can see what I mean: five theme entries (and that Q quintet) do not stop the master from dominating at three-point range: EDIT MENU, SELF-DOUBT, TAKE TIME, DANZIG, RED-HOT and ANTEATERS are all nice. With shorter fill we have QDOBA, BBQ (not BEQ, BBQ), SHAQ and USA! USA!. Although this isn’t the perfect BEQ example, since the short fill gets a little more raggedy in places than we’re used to from Brendan (ERTES, ARA, OLEO). Actually I thought there were more — now that I write them out it’s not too bad.
Let’s look at the clue for EAU, [___ My (George Takei’s perfume)]. Now, no one would’ve complained if he’d just put [Water, in France] or [Evian, par exemple] or one of the other standard clues. Instead he takes a few minutes and gets a hip reference (yes, Mr. Sulu is hip these days on Facebook) that you don’t even have to know to get the joke: the perfume’s name echoes “oh, my” while poking fun at the word “eau” that’s in every perfume name. That’s an excellent clue that gave me a laugh, and I’d never heard of the fragrance. Awesome.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A cute concept, TROJANHORSES implying hidden horse words. The problem for me is that the 3 hidden words don’t go together: MARE, SIRE, PONY. MARE is paired with STALLION, SIRE with DAM… PONY isn’t related to either and is a subtype of horse, usually one less than 14 and a half hands and exhibiting different proportions (smaller horses that are in proportion are miniature horses). Anyway, I feel the puzzle as constructed is flawed. For completeness’ the answers are:
- 20a, [Emulate the successful bounty hunter], CLAIMAREWARD
- 29a, [“To the best of my memory”], ASFARASIRECALL
- 48a, [“Shalom aleichem”], PEACEBEUPONYOU. Great answer! Didn’t know the Yiddish? phrase, but recognise it as the pseudonym of “The Fiddler on the Roof”.
- 55a, [Devious traps, and a hint to surprises found in 20-, 29- and 48-Across], TROJANHORSES.
It felt like there were a lot of traps today. Either that, or I fell for them all! I had cAT before BAT; fNMA before GNMA; Arut before AJAM; bONEDUP before TONEDUP; mETS before JETS; and tPr before BPS (I’m not sure I like that answer, but I’m more than open to being convinced it’s genuine…) FWIW, I haven’t seen the medical shorthand TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration) in a puzzle – at least I don’t think I have. Do Americans use it? I also haven’t seen the medical shorthand TFBUNDY (totally f—ed but unfortunately not dead yet): I’m not holding my breath on that one though!
- 6a, [“Hurlyburly” playwright David], RABE. I learnt of him via crossword puzzles. See also 16a, LEMA (tragically, he died after winning only one major, at the age of 32). Does that fact make those bad answers? Or does it just mean I’m not omniscient.
- 5d, [Finger painting?], NAILART. Beautiful answer! Perfect clue! My not-into-cosmetics female colleague (is there a word for that? like a metrosexual, but in reverse) received a free day at a spa and came back with leopard print nails! They’re still going strong 2 months later!
- 6d, [Hilton rival], RADISSON. There’s one a few blocks from here; it opened a couple of years back… Very larney!
- 44d, [Like most new drivers], TEENAGE. I was obstinate and only got my license at 22…
- 58d, [Bout of beefy battlers], SUMO. Love that clue!
As I said, I really didn’t care for the theme, outside of its reveal. Otherwise above average in my book…