Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
Great theme, all about the potty:
- 17a. [Metaphorical mess], CAN OF WORMS. Gotta go to the can.
- 23a. [Monarch’s advisers], PRIVY COUNCIL. Entirely unfamiliar phrase, but “privy” is one of those quaint synonyms for “toilet” I wish we heard more.
- 38a. [“St. Louis Blues” composer], W.C. HANDY. British term. Not a broadly famous musician, I don’t think—he has vexed people the previous times we’ve seen him in the puzzle.
- 49a. [Only president to win a Pulitzer], JOHN F. KENNEDY.
- 59a. [Race advantages … or a hint to 17-, 23-, 38- and 49-Across], HEAD STARTS. HEAD also doubles as a “toilet” synonym.
PAYDAYS, ISAAC STERN, MAGENTA, EAST SIDE, and KAZAKHSTAN are all zippy fill. I also like LANTANA (42d. [Showy flower]), because that’s is one gorgeous flower. A single flower head can have two or three entirely different colors, arranged in concentric rings.
Much of the time I was working this puzzle, though, I was frowning. OCULO, partials AS AN and FOR A, OCTA, ITALO, SRTA, SOYA, EVAC, PENH, OARED, IROC, NEAPS, SDS, TROI? The inclusion of over 20 proper nouns will slay many a solver.
Three more things:
- 9d. [Mobster’s gun], ROSCOE. Rather dated slang.
- 26a. [1960s TV show featuring the cross-eyed lion Clarence], DAKTARI. Barely have heard of it, never saw it.
- 25d. [French spa locale], VICHY. Fact! The town’s inhabitants are the Vichyssois. Fact two! The seat of government for Vichy France, the Nazi collaborators.
4 stars for the theme, 2.5 for the fill.
Patrick Blindauer’s September website puzzle, “Initial Public Offering”—Matt’s review
[Get the puzzle here if you haven’t solved it yet; click on “Play” and then “Free Monthly Puzzle”]
I’m a little pressed for time this month, so was glad when September’s Blindauer revealed itself to be straightforward instead of brain-crushing (though a Blindauer brain crusher is an elegant thing to behold).
Patrick takes three-letter, all-consonant initialisms, then fleshes them out with vowels to make a full word. Put those two together in a nonsense phrase, and hilarity must ensue:
- 17-A [No-nos on a Time Warner channel?] = TBS TABOOS.
- 21-A [Beverage for a Civil Rights leader?] = MLK MILK.
- 29-A [Prank performed by an EMT?] = CPR CAPER. About the last person you’d want to get pranked by.
- 40-A [Young Mormon men?] = LDS LADS. We’ve got two of these living in the apartment below us, on their mission. One’s from Nevada and one’s from Utah. Staunton’s a nice town, but we know a Mormon guy who got to do his two years all over Italy. I’d convert for that.
- 43-A [Powder for pampering?] = TLC TALC.
- 51-A [One who scrounges in a dumpster for a TiVo?] = DVR DIVER.
- 60-A [Area of the country where certain sandwiches are made?] = BLT BELT.
- 64-A [Goal of a VH1 rival?] = MTV MOTIVE.
So that’s amusing and, to my knowledge, original. And yes, since it’s a Blindauer I double-checked that the added vowels don’t spell out a secret message when popped into a ROT-13 decoder, cut in half and repasted at 90-degree angles, or baked into a lasagna and then defrosted. He’s allowed to make a crossword once in a while without a dozen layers of crazy to it.
*** 16-A [“Raiders of the Lost 27-Down” producer] is five letters, and you probably guessed that 27-D is ARK. Did George LUCAS produce that? I couldn’t come up with the name, but got a nostalgic grin when ATARI emerged as the answer. I don’t want to know how many hours I spent on that one game as a kid.
*** 54-A [Arsenic sulfide, to a chemist] = AsS. Now there’s an original clue. Another one is SST at 32-D; not sure when the last time I smiled at an SST clue was, but this one did the trick: [Former flyer I recently said it’s hard to come up with an original clue for].
*** I’ll ding the Missouri Magician (just made that nickname up) .10 for a dupe: MTV MOTIVE is too close to TVS (31-A) for comfort. “Even Homer nods.”
*** Great to see YANKOVIC in the grid at 8-D [He had his first #1 hit almost 30 years into his career]. Usually we just get EAT IT.
Minor but entertaining theme, fill only slightly ragged in places even with the many theme entries, and TLC given to each clue, even the words you’ve seen 100 times in puzzles. 4.20 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s American Values Club crossword, “Bi-Curious”
Well! Matt wondered why Patrick’s monthly puzzle (review above) lacked a byzantine angle. Apparently it’s because he went the full monty on his AV Club crossword.
In this variety puzzle, no answer is allotted more than 6 squares in the grid, but the clue enumerations tell us answers can be as long as, say, A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. The instructions at the top say “In this grid, you will only enter two different characters, which represent a certain code.” As I went through the clue list, jotting down my answers in the margin, I noticed that the answers all had O’s in them.
The theme revealer clue, 91a: [Computer character set (5) … and what the grid can be converted to for a final message (reading row-by-row and using 8-character chunks)] led me to ASCII, which involves a binary code using zeroes and ones. The 0 looks like an O … and ASCII’s grid space had room for two characters, the II that (sans serif) can pass for 11. So I filled in just the O’s and I’s in each answer, working back and forth as needed between Acrosses and Downs to clear discrepancies and fill unknown spots.
Then I began to crack the binary code. The chart in Wikipedia’s ASCII article proved useless, as it had 7-digit codes for the characters. Say what?? I Googled my way to a better resource with the 8-digit codes I needed, and set to work decoding. The first three letters were SHA (really lowercase letters, per the distinct binary codes), leading me to suspect that the “two bits” of binary were taking us to “shave and a haircut, two bits.” And indeed, that is the secret message, complete with the 0010 0000 code for each space between words.
Well done, Patrick! This was at first infuriatingly opaque and then as it began to yield, I had a good time working through it. I hadn’t checked the Down crossings for the chunks of grid I’d filled in completely via the Acrosses, but luckily the binary code provided another layer of checking, and when a code was implausible, I corrected my fill via the Downs (I had relIgIOn instead of pOlItIcs for the [Contentious topic among friends, perhaps]).
No idea what 69d: [Common solvent substance (9,7)] is. IOOOO? Oh! IsOprOpyl alcOhOl?
I knew what the hidden answer phrase was going to be, so I didn’t really need to break out all the 8-digit chunks once shave_ was out there. That may have taken up 10 minutes of my solving time.
Interesting and clear clues, a wealth of interesting answer phrases, a brilliant concept for a variety puzzle, and an entirely apt hidden message. Five stars! A very rare rating from me.
Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This puzzle has an obvious and well-worn theme choice: PRNDL gives you a complete five word set to build from. It hasn’t been done in a couple of years though, and the theme set itself is well-chosen:
- [Canadian natural resource manager], PARKWARDEN. The American term is forest ranger? Here we use game ranger.
- [Dramatic backwards hoops move], REVERSEDUNK
- [Photon, e.g.], NEUTRALPARTICLE
- [Push one’s buttons, and then some], DRIVEINSANE
- [Like many diets], LOWCALORIE
- Biggest pothole in the puzzle – [Nevada county or its seat], ELKO. Four letters + Nevada = RENO, right? And then after confirmation with the O it’s lodged in there good!
- Weirdest clue – [Sweet tweet], ILUVU. Is that tweet as in twitter message? I can’t see anyone actually tweeting this, but I’m not on Twitter so I’m not a hundred percent sure.
- On the other hand, I liked the simple clueing angle for [Party amenity], FAVOR.
- [“Carmina Burana” composer], ORFF is not to be confused with the viral (zoonotic) skin disease of sheep and goats, which has one F.
- [Photographer Pattie who was married to George Harrison and Eric Clapton], BOYD inspired a lot of great music.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “ICKthyology”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning everybody! I hope your hump day ends up going very well today.
While most times, I wake up to the breeze that enters my room from the window that I leave open most of the time, today was a day where I woke up smelling fish…kind of. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, has a little fun with fish, as we have to figure out what the riddle is in the grid, as well as its answer. I’m more than fine with this particular riddle since, as I said before, I’m not a fish eater by any means…especially the kind of “fish” mentioned in this one!
- WHY DON’T YOU FIND CLOWN FISH ON A SUSHI BAR MENU: ([20A: With 31- and 42-Across, an ichthyological question])
- THEY TASTE FUNNY: ([56A: Answer to the ichthyological question at 20-, 31-, and 42-Across])
Had a tougher than usual time in getting started, and highlighting that was getting hung up longer than I should have on BRAVO (15A: [TV home of the “Real Housewives” franchise]). For some reason, I thought it was a home in terms of a city, and, after I had correctly put down HAS TO in the intersecting entry (7D: [Must]), I put in Miami instead of Bravo. As you can tell, I’m not into the whole “Real Housewives” deal. There’s a good chance that you’ll see BORAT on television again, now that the show in which the character made its debut is currently airing on FXX (61A: [Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakh persona]). If everything goes to plan, I’ll be in New Orleans just after Thanksgiving, and that will give me a chance to possibly see that statue of AL HIRT (46D: [Jazz trumpet legend with a statue in New Orleans’s French Quarter]). I know he passed not too long after I made my one and only trip to New Orleans back in February of 2002, but I’m not sure if the statue of him was already erected. Favorite entry of the day for me was CHEWABLE, though I’ve never had a Flintstone Kids tablet in my life despite seeing the advertisements on television a million times (2D: [Like a vitamin in the shape of Wilma Flintstone]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAO (23A: [Former world leader with a suit style named for him]) – Japanese figure skater MAO Asada recently set the world record for the highest score in a short program when she tallied a 78.66 score at the World Figure Skating Championships this past March in Saitama, Japan. Mao is a three-time world champion (2008, 2010, 2014) and also won the silver medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, though she did finish only sixth at the Sochi Games earlier this year.
Thank you so much for your time! See you on Thursday!