(Reagle, original write-up from 25 Oct 2009)
Congrats to Eric Maddy, who won the Crosswords LA tournament Saturday afternoon! The other finalists were Jon Berman and Brian Fodera. I don’t yet have a link where you can buy this year’s set of puzzles, but I test-solved them and will post the link when it’s available so you can enjoy the puzzles, too.
Bill Zais’s New York Times crossword, “Halloween Costumes”—Amy’s write-up
The puzzle’s title and theme concept seem a little bit off. Nobody dresses up as a tombstone or as eye of newt for Halloween, do they? These things are all sort of Halloweeny, but not all plausible as costumes. Here are the themers:
- 23a. [Halloween costume for … a CNN anchor?], WEREWOLF BLITZER.
- 39a. [… a former “Dateline” host?], TOMBSTONE PHILLIPS. You might be thinking that all the theme answers are going to be news people, but you’re entirely wrong. Also, you might be wondering if we’re still supposed to know who Stone Phillips is.
- 58a. [… a onetime House speaker?], EYE OF NEWT GINGRICH.
- 85a. [… an old Notre Dame basketball coach?], GRAVEDIGGER PHELPS. I couldn’t have told you who Digger Phelps was. Googling “gravedigger costume” tells me that I have never seen someone in an old-timey gravedigger outfit.
- 104a. [… a silent film star?], GHOSTBUSTER KEATON. Looking forward to the remake of Ghostbusters starring Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon.
- 122a. [… a pop/folk singer with numerous 1970s hits?], BLACK CAT STEVENS. When I was a kid, I thought Shirley Temple Black was an African-American child actress of yore, a black counterpart to Shirley Temple. Now I’m trying to imagine the songs of a Black Cat Stevens.
I’m not sure why the costume conceit was used to try to unify this set, as it doesn’t quite work. 88d: LAID AN EGG came to mind.
I wasn’t loving the fill, in general. The Scowl-o-Meter went a little nuts. The opening minute of my solve, I hit ORE CAR (do they really have those in coal mines, or just in mines pulling out metal ores?), ACE IT, SEEPY, IS IT A GO/IT IS SO, GOT AN A, COZENER, and NOBS. In the rest of the grid, I continued to find things that made my nose crinkle—HUMPH, OYS, LIQ, CMD, TRA LA, PITMEN, LOLAS, ILL-GOT (what? we’re looking for ILL-GOTTEN here), and so on.
Did like GOOD GAME, PLAYS IT SAFE, ON THE DL (the other one!).
Four more things:
- 41d. [Hard labor spot], SALT MINE? True story! An acquaintance of mine teaches philosophy in Cleveland. One of his students missed class because they’re short-handed at the salt mine, where he works as a supervisor. You can learn a little about the salt mines far beneath American cities like Cleveland and Detroit here.
- 89d. [Maxim tear-out], PINUP. Gross. Had no idea the lad rag had pull-out objectification posters.
- 26a. [Three times daily, in Rx’s], TID. Hey! This (in lowercase) is what doctors may actually write on a prescription pad for three-times-a-day dosing. Crosswordese TER? Never.
- 50a. [Turbaned sort], MYSTIC. Oof. I’ll bet the average Sikh who’s doing this puzzle will be irked by this clue.
2.9 stars from me.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Now You See It … “—Andy’s review
In this puzzle, a single letter “c” is removed from the beginning of a word in a multiword phrase, and hilarity ensuses. Themers:
- 22a, RIME OF PASSION [Coleridge love poem?]. Crime of passion.
- 34a, I’M NOT A ROOK [Knight’s comment when he was mistakenly put in the corner?]. I’m Not A Crook. Nobody puts Knight/Baby in the corner, mistakenly or otherwise.
- 49a, LEAR SAILING [King of the sea?]. Clear sailing.
- 68a, BARBARY OAST [North African hops drier?]. Barbary Coast.
- 85a, ORANGE RUSH [Citrus high?]. Orange Crush. Got this one without any crossings.
- 102a, APE OF GOOD HOPE [Encouraging simian?]. Cape of Good Hope.
- 2d, ALLIGATOR LIP [Backtalk in the Everglades?]. Alligator clip. This was probably my favorite theme answer just because I got to imagine what alligator lips might be like.
- 55d, APOSTLES’ REED [John and Peter’s woodwind?]. Apostles’ Creed.
Once again, the LAT runs an “add or subtract a letter/sound” theme on Sunday. Nothing particularly new about this one, especially as it used one of the same theme answers as a similarly themed Judith Dalton puzzle from 1983. “I’M NOT A ROOK” was probably the best theme answer in this one. The theme was consistently executed, and there were no stray “C”s left in the theme answers.
This puzzle lost me in the top row, with MASTIC, EBATE, and WODEN. None of which are by any means fatal, but it was tough to encounter them all right in a row. There’s some good stuff there too, like EMIRATES, NEOPRENE, COLD SNAP… I even liked ELF-LIKE. Elsewhere, I also liked HABANERO and KIRBY clued as [Pink Nintendo icon].
Overall, I thought the fill was a little below par. Lots of 3-5 letter crosswordese/partials/abbreviations; ACTS SAD wasn’t my favorite; minor dupe with NO SOAP crossing NO FEE and NO LOSE elsewhere in the grid (plus OR NOT and I’M NOT A ROOK), and so on. One day maybe we’ll see ERIKS clued as [Constructor Agard et al.].
Until next time!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Letter Heads” — pannonica’s write-up
Could easily have been titled Letters of Introduction, which is admittedly not as terse. Anyway, the theme is one of those “before-and-after” type gimmicks of overlap, with the limitation that the first parts are all words beginning with a discrete letter.
- 24a. [Things that launch draftsmen’s tools?] T-SQUARE SHOOTERS.
- 37a. [Philosopher with the most common blood type] O POSITIVE THINKER. Factette: the O should really be a 0, as it indicates the lack of either the A or B antigen. The originator of the typing system first assigned it as C.
- 55a. [Profits made from a Gap competitor?] J CREW CUTS.
- 80a. [Thing that shows the cost of an Apple product?] IPHONE TAG.
- 95a. [Drama teacher’s plea bargain to lazy students?] A-PLUS IF YOU ACT NOW.
- 113a. [Storm, Wolverine, et al. not wearing caps?] X-MEN WITHOUT HATS. Ooh, ’80s two-hit wonders.
- 4d. [10¢ photographer’s settings?] F-STOP ON A DIME. Ooh, deep.
- 61d. [High schooler’s cotton swabs?] Q-TIPS FOR TEENS.
Solid enough theme. Four generic terms and four branded ones, an evenness which I wouldn’t have expected, but welcome.
Before we go any farther, can we talk about prepositions? I know they’re (generally) short and it isn’t so unusual to find duplicates, especially in a larger grid, but some of the occurrences here seem gratuitous and awkward. 70a [Board, as the “Enterprise”] BEAM ON. Isn’t it “beam up” or “beam aboard”? Honestly, I’d much prefer to see famed long jumper Bob BEAMON, even if his heyday was the late 1960s. And 121a [Like a gas gauge that’s running really low] ON ‘E’. All right, I’ll concede that it would be worse to duplicate the noun ONE (11d [Bob Marley classic] ONE LOVE (which, incidentally, is crossed by 10a [One of two in an umlaut] DOT) rather than the preposition ON, but it’s all very irksome and I wonder how tough it would have been to rejigger the grid a bit. Also, 74d [Silenced] SAT ON and 98d [Like some favorites] ODDS-ON.
Exhibit B: to. 23a [With no ___ stand on] LEG TO, 31a [Regarding. in a memo] AS TO (see also direct and complete duplication at 111d [As to] IN RE), 21d [Halts a ship in the open water] LAYS TO (‘halt’ in clue sufficiently etymologically distinct enough from 25d [Some summer tops] HALTERS), 107d [“__ be in England”] OH TO, and more than a bit with 101a [Not deceived by] ONTO and 118a [Ripped to shreds] TORE INTO (which in my opinion doesn’t comport with the clue).
Exhibit C: miscellaneous. Some conjunctions and short verbs, in compound. Not so bad, really, but I guess I’m piling it on now. 46a [Cut that shows off the forehead] UPDO (cut, or style?) and 100a [Try a second time] REDO. The above AS TO plus 26a [To the degree that] INSOFAR AS plus 108a [Interferes with] MEDDLES IN. Not going to meddle with duplications of the article A, or prefixes like UN-, because that’s kind of ridiculous.
Oh! But check out this one last duplication: 1a [Ionian island] CORFU, and then a mere three clues later 13a [Martha’s Vineyard, e.g.] ISLAND.
I FEEL (87a) that 6d [Woman’s shoe] T-STRAP not only impinges on the theme (especially as it crosses 24a T-SQUARE …) but akin to my plaint about UPDO it isn’t a shoe per se but a feature that may be present on a number of different types of shoes.
This is no fun, relentlessly beating on a crossword, so let’s visit some highlights.
- Favorite clues: 109d [Place for Sundance?] ETTA (no way PARK CITY will fit), 18d [Calculus deg.?] DDS, 1d [Pacific state, in slang] CALI (not a kind of serenity)
- Fair amount of nauticality: 15d [Triangular-sailed ships] LATEENS, 16d [Nautical direction] ALEE, 21a LAYS TO, 96d [Fleet activity?] SEA WAR. Not to mention some other tangentially related entries, and some which could easily have been clued nautically (e.g., 1a CORFU, 13a ISLAND, 22a WHALED, 3d RIGS, 39d SPAR).
- 34a [Notes from those who’ve been cleaned out] IOUS, 102a [Student loans, e.g.] DEBT, 114d [Org. behind audits] IRS. Jeesh, downer.
So, decent theme, but too many picayune distractions for it to be enjoyable for this solver.