From the rumor mill: We hear that Games magazine is going to cease operations. So many puzzlers have such fond remembrances of Games dating back to the ’80s, when many of us first got hooked on the wealth of word, picture, and logic puzzles that the publication introduced us to. The magazine has been in decline for several years, but at one point it provided careers and avocations to a lot of people I know. Good thing we now have Will Shortz Presents WordPlay from PennyPress/Dell—though I sure would appreciate a nicer paper stock, cleaner font, and no un-bylined puzzles in WordPlay.
Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword
We’ve got sort of a rickrack-and-bows theme here:
- 17a. [Brand with the tagline “Established in Milwaukee 1844”], PABST BLUE RIBBON.
- 22a. [Part of the back], SPINAL CORD.
- 38a. [Extremist group], LUNATIC FRINGE.
- 51a. [Deli counter cheese brand], ALPINE LACE.
- 60a. [What Thanksgiving turkey may come with … as suggested by parts of 17-, 22-, 38- and 51-Across?], ALL THE TRIMMINGS. Cranberry sauce is better than something decorated with cord.
I was thinking that the second L in the cheese brand was a tough crossing, with the guess-the-year-of-Nero’s-reign Roman numeral clue, but if you look at RIBBON, CORD, and FRINGE and can’t put LACE together, I can’t help you.
Favorite fill: VIXEN, BURPS (33d. [Pats on the back, maybe]), PO’ BOY, ENCRYPTED, TV TRAY, BEEMER, and CYBERPUNK. Nice to have PEE in the BURPS section too!
Least fave fill: 69a. [Relatively cool red giant], S-STAR. I don’t know about plopping an astrophysics quiz in a Tuesday puzzle. The art quiz with [Belgian painter James] ENSOR is probably also tough for an early-week puzzle, as I believe a great many of us solvers know the artist primarily because of crosswords.
Most surprising clue: 42a. [Best friend of Thomas the Tank Engine], PERCY. A generation of kids, plus their parents’ generation and possibly their grandparents’, know this one. Writer Walker Percy, singer Percy Sledge, the Percy Jackson YA fantasy books … I can’t think of other Percies off the top of my head. Had to think for a couple moments before PERCY the Small Engine came to mind—my nephew had a Thomas addiction when he was younger.
3.9 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “‘Are’ We Having Fun Yet?”—Janie’s review
Hmmm. A very leading question, that. One that I have a mixed response to. Why do I equivocate? Because this was not a “love at first sight” solve for me. After all, almost immediately we find ourselves face-to-face with ANGIO [Prefix with -gram or -plasty]—either of which procedure is pretty serious business; APNEA, not merely a “sleeping disorder,” but here described as the [Dangerous sleeping disorder]; and a bit later on, an N-TEST, that [Atomic event, in headlines]. So no wonder there’s ANGST, a [Feeling of dread] in the air; no wonder there are not-exactly-“fun”-loving GOTHS [Men and women in black] in the picture (love that movie-referencing yet gender-neutral clue, though).
This, of course, is not the puzzle’s thematic material. No, that ties into the title’s first word. The one in quotes. That’s our clue to the gimmick, which is focused on homophonic wordplay with the letter “R.” Liz has taken six peppy and diverse base phrases and dropped the letter “R” from a critical word in each one. But wait! There’s more—which I didn’t even take notice of until after I’d solved. Each of those critical words follows the pattern “G-R-vowel…” While the carefully clued themers are uneven (some not-so-easy to parse puns, e.g. [and this from a pun-lover…]), ultimately I gotta GO EASY ON the results. Liz gets [Brownie POINTS] for executing the theme in a skillfully consistent way. It’s not my favorite theme set, but it has a real integrity to it. And, yeah, even some fun at times (after what was, for me, an inauspicious start…).
- 15A. where grain alcohol, clued as [Adult beverage that tastes like laundry detergent?] –> “GAIN” ALCOHOL. Don’t try this at home!!! This does not sound like fun—at all. (No “laundry detergent” pun intended!) This one made me wince some. So what a relief it then was to encounter
- 22A. Greek chorus, clued as [Group that performs “White & Nerdy” by “Weird Al” Yankovic?] –> GEEK CHORUS. Home run. Seed entry maybe?
- 9D. sour grapes, clued as [Open-mouthed stares from a grouch?] –> SOUR GAPES. Uh-oh. Kind of a downer again. But I do like how the look conjured up here might also be that of someone IN AWE [Transfixed].
- 31D. power grabs, clued as [Networking sessions for big talkers?] –> POWER GABS. Another spot-on terrific one.
- 46A. bar and grill, clued as [Pub that encourages one to drink like a fish?] –> BAR AND GILL. Omma don’ know. I get it—”fish”/gill— but I hafta work awfully hard to make it make sense. Feels kinda forced to me. But I suspect ANHEUSER [Big name in beer brewing] does a good bit of business there… I was thinkin’ that Bar and Gill might make for a cute(sy) pub name, however. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.
- 57A. Gray’s Anatomy, clued as [Non-fiction Talese book that might cost an arm and a leg?] –> not NAN’S, but GAY’S ANATOMY. Oh, now that’s mighty clever. And look at the double-duty that “an arm and a leg” is doing. Effortlessly.
So now, yes, I am having fun. Especially when I see that the solve is sweetened by vivid (or twisty or downright fresh) clues and fill like:
- [Tangy, meringue-topped dessert] LEMON PIE. What’s not to like?
- [Best of the Billboard Hot 100 song list] TOP TEN. And we get more music in our puzzle with RAGAS and Massenet’s MANON, and TRILLS, too.
- the resigned but pitch-perfect [“Okay, that taught me a lesson…”] “NOW I KNOW…” and the more [Intensely excited] AGOG, [“It’s a shooting star!”] “OOH!”
- Borden [Dairy spokes-cow who has an honorary Doctorate of Bovinity] ELSIE. Perhaps awarded from a most ecumenical (ecowmenical? [Now who’s pushin’ it?…]) SEM [Sch. for a rabbi-to-be].
- [Employee on a coffee run] GOFER. Think Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada—she who would go fer coffee and danish on behalf of her higher-ups. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere.
- [Paid, with “up”] PONIED. Love that phrase. This piece offers a rather plausible explanation on its origin. And, saving the best and downright “freshest” for last:
- [Half moons?] CHEEKS. Cheeky indeed (note resonance of linked pic with clue for 9D…)!
And in bidding you adieu, one more item for the “don’t try this at home” list—or, if you insist, maybe with an “at your own risk” proviso.Yow!
Greg Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Excellent early-week puzzle here. The central revealer could instead have been used as the clue for all four long themers, but that would have made the puzzle harder. I liked the specificity of the four different shushes and the unifying aspect of the SHH.
- 17a. [“Please let me get my beauty rest”], “I’M TRYING TO SLEEP.”
- 30a. [“Too much noise”], “KEEP IT DOWN.”
- 41a. [Warning that often precedes 17-, 30-, 49- and 65-Across], “SHH.”
- 49a. [“No one can know”], “IT’S A SECRET.” MUM’S THE WORD almost fit, but it doesn’t follow SHH (which I hadn’t filled in until near the end of my solve).
- 65a. [“Junior needs his nap time”], “DON’T WAKE THE BABY.” When I was a teen, I successfully got my young cousins to quiet down by telling them “Shh, you’ll wake the baby.” That there was no baby in the house is immaterial. These words have a spooky power.
BEACH TOY, CRIKEY, and CAR SHOW (we would also have accepted AUTO SHOW, which is what the big car expo is called in Chicago) bring ZEST to the grid, but most of the rest of the fill is fairly ordinary language. Which is exactly what a Monday or Tuesday puzzle ought to have!
4.25 stars from me. All too often I find myself grousing at Tuesday puzzles that fall short of the mark, but this one pretty much hits the Tuesday bullseye.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Flippin’ Digital”
Nerds of my generation are well-acquainted with the letters that you can see when you flip a calculator display upside down. 0.7734 becomes hELL0, for example. Heck, I even had a book of calculator games (here is just one example of such books). Matt’s theme answers take various two-digit numbers and flip them into their corresponding letters:
- 18a. [Show with celebrity panelists filling in blanks on a Chicago railway?], MATCH GAME EL. Match Game ’73.
- 24a. [Product that makes it a cinch to slide around?], EZ SKIDOO. “23 skidoo” or “twenty-three skiddoo.”
- 35a. [Bean’s L.A.-based catalog distribution center?], LL SUNSET STRIP. 77 Sunset Strip.
- 53a. [The point at which people will see me as “The War of the Worlds” author Wells?]. WHEN I’M HG. “When I’m 64.” I didn’t know what was going on in the theme entries and when I got here, I had the wrong epiphany of “Oh! Mercury’s atomic number must be 64!” But then I knew that the 23rd element was absolutely not represented by Ez.
- 58a. [“How did the Wizard project his image?” and others?], OZ QUESTIONS. 20 Questions.
As a nerd of my generation, I find this theme to be quite fresh and clever.
Zippy fill includes PINHEADS, NSFW, VEGGIE burger, BEGUILE, and BISQUE. It’s offset to a degree by things like ALAI, ETE, IRT, TAL, ISR, GAI, TSE, UTE, ON A, ONT, STET, I THE, and the three-word IN A STY.
I got KUSH right away (55a. [Hindu ___]), thanks to a 1958 book my husband read. Totally obscure, or something you knew, too?
I didn’t realize ZIMBIO was a 4d. [Celebrity news site]. I know it primarily as “one of the many sites that publish those silly quizzes that people love to post the results of on Facebook.” “I took Zimbio’s Which Crossword Constructor Are You? quiz and I got Matt Gaffney. Matt Gaffney makes people lose their souls.” (No, seriously! I asked a stranger who her favorite constructor was this week, and she said Matt Gaffney, even though he makes her lose her soul.)
4.5 stars for the theme, 3.25 for the fill, so around 3.875 stars overall.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Separate Peace”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and peace be with you all!
I almost know for a fact that Mr. Bob Klahn would want peace to be with you all as well, but his puzzle today is all about breaking up peace…literally. Each of the theme answers are common phrases/proper nouns that so happen to “separate” the word “peace,” leaving those letters on each end of the answer.
- PENNANT RACE: (17A: [September sprint of sorts])
- PERSONAL SPACE: (27A: [Physical comfort zone])
- PEARL NECKLACE: (49A: [Iridescent string])
- PEYTON PLACE: (64A: [TV’s first prime-time sudser hit])
As per usual, the cluing was tough, but definitely more than fair this time for me to get a good grip on the puzzle. A couple of the answers I got pretty quickly were TAPS (1D: [Base notes]) and EXES (10D: [Union busters?]), and once reading over the title again, I knew exactly what was going on when seeing the “p” and “e” in place at the end of the first theme answer. And once I figured out quickly that 17A was a sports reference, PENNANT RACE was a lock. From there, immediately went down to each of the other themes and filled in “P-E” on one end, and “C-E” on the other to make things easier. (Obviously, one of the answers could have been something along the lines of “peach pie” or “peach puree,” and that strategy would have failed and, eventually, slowed down my solving experience.)
Starting to get the feeling that RENO, NEVADA is a very, very popular entry in CrosSynergy/WaPo puzzles (11D: [Where Harrah’s began]). Just came across that entry (state name included) not too long ago, and have plopped down just RENO a few times on here as well. Absolutely loved the clue for ALASKA (32D: [Only US state that can be typed on one row of the QWERTY keyboard]), and literally just looked down and slowly typed ALASKA again so I can see my fingers not move up or down the keyboard. As for other clues, somehow remembered/got CARLYLE without any crosses (7D: [Historian Thomas who authored “The French Revolution”]), and the clue to ATE was just devilish (44A: [Got into a jam, a stew, or a pickle?]). Pure genius!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MANASSA (4D: [“The _______ Mauler” (Jack Dempsey)])– One of the greatest boxers of all time, Jack Dempsey was born in Manassa, Colo. and went on to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Dempsey also holds the title of being the first athlete to appear on the cover of Time magazine, in September 1923. He held the heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926 before losing to challenger Gene Tunney in September 1926. The rematch between the pugilists one year later still might be the most controversial, non ear-biting, fight in boxing history, now known as the “Long Count” fight. Dempsey knocked down Tunney in the seventh round, but the referee did not start the count until Dempsey moved into a neutral corner, which took around 5-7 seconds. Tunney got up at the referee’s count of nine, but, in reality, would not have beaten the 10-count if the count started when it should have. Tunney recovered and ended up winning the bout and retaining the title.
Before heading out, good spot by Kristi McLean (and I’m sure by many others as well) for noticing – and noting – that two of the down answers on yesterday’s puzzle by Patrick Jordan were JUNK FAX and SOUL MAN, and those answers also featured words (junk, soul) that could go before the word “food.” Thank you Kristi, et al., for picking up the ball from where I dropped it! Alas, a missed opportunity to tell you all which is my favorite junk food and favorite soul food dish. Maybe next time! But thank you once again, Kristi!
See you all tomorrow, and take care!