Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Excellent theme! A hair more like an indie puzzle’s theme than your standard newspaper crossword. Various phrases that end with words that double as verbs with a distinctly positive or negative vibe are clued as if they’re good or bad reviews:
- 18a. [Critic’s positive review of drummer Keith of the Who?], MOON ROCKS. Rocks from the moon double as Keith Moon being awesome.
- 31a, 40a. [With 40-Across, critic’s positive review of a Fox medical drama?], HOUSE RULES. The local rules for a game, Hugh Laurie’s show is awesome.
- 55a. [Critic’s negative review of a 1988 Hanks film?], BIG STINKS. Big hoo-has/kerfuffles, Big is lousy.
- 3d. [Critic’s negative review of singer Courtney?], LOVE BITES. Love bites are hickeys, aren’t they? Courtney Love is terrible, this review says.
- 32d. [Critic’s negative review of a newsmagazine?], TIME SUCKS. Time sucks are wastes of time. Crisp and modern term.
While I love TRAINED EYE and the REMBRANDTS, I’m never keen on fill that’s longer than most of the theme answers (especially when there are theme answers that run in the same direction as these entries). GROUP HUGS is my favorite answer here, and the clue is fun: [Many “Family Feud” celebrations]. I also liked quaintly Shakespearean PRITHEE, SNIVEL, BLOGGED, iPHONES, and THE WAVE.
One partial, zero abbreviations or crosswordese. Well-filled grid, Joel! 4.25 stars from me. A real treat on a Tuesday.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 179), “Voting Blocks”—Janie’s review
It’s the first Tuesday in November and all around the country there are local and national mid-term elections. Folks: get out there and vote for the people who will GOVERN, else ya lose the right to (legitimately) voice a WHINE when ya don’t like what those elected officials are doing!
How do you cast your vote these days? Digitally? Or are you in a location that’s still analog? You know, places with manually-operated voting machines, or where your vote is on paper and deposited into a BALLOT BOX, that 21D. [Election Day “container”…and a hint to six symmetrically-placed containers hidden in this puzzle…]. How did ya do? The color-coded grid (provided by Liz, thank you very much) spells it all out. Is this gorgeous or what? I mean, not only is the theme a timely one, but it’s been executed WITtily with each BALLOT in BOX formation. And the non-theme fill is mighty fine as well! But first things first…
Today’s embedded BALLOTs are created by stacking two words, one containing the letters *BAL*, directly over one containing *LOT*. Symmetrically yet! Thus we get:
- SLOT CAR (a toy I’d almost forgotten about. Something my brother played with back in the day. They’ve come a long way, baby!)
- ODDBALL with its not-a-personal-attack clue [Strange call by an umpire?].
- BAL [___ Harbour, Florida]. Amazing what can be done with swampland.
- SBALOAN (Small Business Association…)
- CLOTTED cream. Rich. Yum. Nigella knows best!
Abalone with its [Edible mollusk] clue, merlots, scones with the promise of clotted cream, timbale, plus SALADS [Green courses]—I’m gettin’ hungry! But lest you think this is an all-food-all-the-time creation, “Hello baseball fans!” Sure, your favorite sport went on hiatus last week, but in addition to that odd ball, this puzzle comes complete with an HOF [Attraction in Cooperstown, N.Y.] reference and HOME TEAMS [Most fans root for them] (clearly I’m thinkin’ “So let’s root, root, root for the home team…”). Notice, too, how home teams flanks the upper portion of ballot box at the right, and the positively peppy POPAGANDA [Organized rumor-spreading about celebrities] flanks the lower portion at the left. Makes for one solid spine to the puzz!
While I’m in full agreement that [Some hospital residents?] are DOCTORS, I’m not as convinced that [Stick figures?] really equates with OARSMEN, that wooden oars and “sticks” are the same. I see what this clue is going for, but it feels very iffy/stretchy to me. Where clever and/or double-edged cluing is concerned, much prefer [Tebowed] for KNELT, [Go out at siesta time?] for NAP, and [Corporate cow girl?] for ELSIE. And while SASS [Pert talk] and SNARK are not the same, both connote a specific attitude. Today, though, we’re reminded of the source of this word— snark as a Jabberwocky-based [Lewis Carroll creature].
The other really big “like”? The way the theme’s political feel has been woven through the puzzle as a whole. Especially love the way ballot box is crossed by govern and TAXERS [Heavies with levies] (think back to the Boston Tea Party and the way this country’s democratic process got its 18th century start) and how they’re both crossed by VETO [Mr. Obama’s power]. That 21st century reference is balanced by one from the early 19th by way of the ERA OF [___ Good Feelings (phrase coined by a Boston newspaper)]; and one from the 20th as well, via the ever so complex FDR [POTUS who said: “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made”]. Pretty impressive how this taut form—the 15×15 crossword puzzle—can course through so wide a swath of history in so few words, no?
“ANYHOO…” that’s my take on today’s A-ONE terrific puzzle. Need another fix? (Make sure ya vote and then, as a reward,) give Merl Reagle’s “Ballot Boxes” a go. It also has a visual element. And it also bumps things up a notch, in part because it’s a Sunday-size. But it’s also a great thematic complement to Liz’s more compact approach to the topic-of-the-day. Till next week then, “CIAO, all!”
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Lucky Number Seven”
This marks Matt’s 700th Jonesin’ puzzle! That is indeed a lot. Is this the second-longest-running weekly independently syndicated puzzle after Merl’s?
For #700, Matt opted to showcase his freestyle grid skills with a 7×7 block in the middle, framed by 15s and 10s on all four sides. Any 7×7 chunk of white space is going to be fearsomely difficult to fill smoothly. While I love MC BATTLES, “COVER ME,” and MIC STANDS—and like DON LARSEN, BAVARIA, TERRORS, and the forgotten CHOCO-BLISS—I’m only tolerating the awkward “I HAVE A POINT” and OPEN ABIERTO (39a. [One side of a bilingual store sign]) and the roll-your-own words SCARRER and AVERTER. LENTAMENTE I guess is legit but it’s not up my alley. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a large number of hard-copy solvers fill in the wrong letter at the crossing of 37a. [Desert after an Italian meal], TORTONI (um, that should be Dessert) and the obscure 17d. [Laurelin’s partner in Tolkien’s Two Trees of Valinor], TELPERION.
Outside of the center beast, I like the HONEYCRISP apple (a personal fall favorite), the Ramones’ I WANNA BE SEDATED, SAFE HOUSES, and NAMED AFTER. There are over 30 3-letter answers, which, meh. Can’t be avoided with the 7×7 swath in the middle of the grid, though.
There’s a transitivity error in 32a. [Get the bad guy], NAB. The clue suggests that cops just go around nabbing, rather than nabbing the bad guys. NAB needs an object. [Get, as the bad guy] is stilted but works on the grammatical equivalence front. (And I bet the vast majority of solvers won’t hesitate at NAB at all. Carry on.)
4+ stars for the effort but 3.5 stars for the outcome. There’s lots of wonderfully fresh fill that perhaps hasn’t been in other constructors’ word lists, but it’s offset by the awkward bits and the 3s (FRA ALY BEL LVI EEK all in a row!)
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Revolving Door”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody!
Today’s puzzle, offered up to us for our solving pleasure by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, takes us from door to door…to door to door. Each of the theme answers are terms and/or proper nouns in which the first four letters are D-O-O-R, but the letters are arranged differently for each entry.
- RODOMONTADE: (17A: [Bluster]) – Love this word!
- DROOPY DRAWERS: (28A: [Sign of sagging]) – I’m experiencing that right now with my waistline continuing to shrink.
- DOROTHY LAMOUR: (47A: [She teamed with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the “Road” movies])
- ODORIFEROUS: (62A: [Smelly])
We had some interesting cluing with both POEMS (20A: [“Eulalie and “Ulalume”]) and OPERAS, especially since I had not heard any of those poems and operas that appeared in those clues (49D: [“Daphne” and Euridice”]). Despite that uncertainty, those clues ended up not being too difficult to SOLVE (39A: [Find the value of x]). Originally had “rigid” for RIGOR (42A: [Attention to detail]), so had to untangle that near the beginning of my solving experience today. It’s not perfect, but I definitely am happier with each passing day knowing that I have a DROID instead of an iPhone (28D: [Motorola smartphone]). Seems there’s less trouble with Droids than iPhones from the people that I know and talk to about their phones. So how will I SEGUE from phones to sports right now (34A: [Skillfully switch topics])? Well, I can’t…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TWIN (22A: [Womb mate]) – Straight from current events, the newest member of the Minnesota TWIN family is a person who used to play for the team at the end of his career. Hall-of-Fame baseball player and St. Paul, Minn. native Paul Molitor was named the new manager of the Twins baseball team yesterday. Did you know that Molitor, while playing for the Twins in 1996, became the first – and to this day, only – Major League player to earn his 3,000th hit on a triple?
See you all at “the Hump” for Hump Day!
Patrick Blindauer’s November website puzzle, “Short Cuts” — Matt’s review
In this month’s Blindauer, ten grid entries have had SHORT cut from their front:
1-A [Where to find finalists] = (SHORT)LIST.
10-A [Ozzie Smith, for one] = (SHORT)STOP. Probably the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, plus he played for Patrick’s hometown team (the Cardinals of St. Louis).
20-A [Food processor?] = (SHORT)ORDER COOK.
22-A [Work that may win the O. Henry Award] = (SHORT) STORY.
37-A [Underhanded?] = (SHORT)-STAFFED.
39-A [Not seeing the big picture] = (SHORT)-SIGHTED.
52-A [Like some ballistic missiles] = (SHORT)-RANGE.
55-A [International broadcasting device] = (SHORT)WAVE RADIO.
65-A [Fonzie’s nickname for Joanie] = (SHORT)CAKE.
67-A [Alternative to foreclosure] = (SHORT)SALE.
Works for me. Since it’s a Blindauer I checked to make sure the first letter of the theme entries didn’t spell anything when reversed, translated into Welsh and then spoonerized. They didn’t.
***You tend to learn something interesting from Patrick’s clues. Like here we learn that MAROON is from the French for “chestnut” at 34-A, and at 42-A that Olga Korbut was once famous enough to be impersonated on “Saturday Night Live” (by Gilda RADNER).
***He’s also good at finding a new cluing angle to a well-worn word. For the three-letter [Murder weapon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”] I was scratching my head until I recalled the right scene (Jude Law gets OARed gruesomely). And even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s guessable from crossers. Another example is 31-D, where IRENE gets new life with [___ Ryan Acting Scholarship].
***And then there are the just plain clever clues, like [Like those who are always losing their keys] for TONE-DEAF and [Just what the doctor ordered] for dose.
4.10 stars. 3.75 for the theme, but we’ll bump it over 4 for the excellent cluing.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoops! Forgot I had a third Tuesday puzzle to blog. So, in brief: 68a. [Country, and word that can be appended to the three-letter ending of 18-, 26-, 47- or 60-Across] clues LAND, and each “three-letter ending” is part of a longer word.
- 18a. [Hot-looking dude], STUDMUFFIN. Finland.
- 26a. [Unsavory-sounding Cajun side], DIRTY RICE. Iceland.
- 47a. [Taiwanese LPGA star who is the youngest golfer to win five major championships], YANI TSENG. England. I needed a whole lot of crossings for this unfamiliar name, but she certainly has amazing (and current) golf cred. I just don’t follow women’s golf.
- 60a. [Nook Tablet rival], KINDLE FIRE. Ireland.
No familiar phrases that end with SWITZER or THAI within longer words, and PO is so short, and none of these have 3 letters…
Fancy optional stacked 10s in the Down fill—X-RAY VISION, AIR STRIKES, ACE VENTURA, and DURAN DURAN.
The crosswordese (V-TEN with a spelled-out numeral, random Roman numeral DCL, suffix –ETTE, CEES), abbreviations (SYS, SDS, INIT, MPS, FBI), and partials (AS IT, DO TO) categories are all represented, and there are at least 14 capitalized answers, which can mire the “I don’t memorize names” crowd in empty squares.
I like the hidden pre-LAND chunks of letters feeding a geography theme, and I like those long 10s. The price of admission for those 10s is the stuff in the last paragraph. Overall, let’s call it 3.66 stars.