This weekend is the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I can’t wait! I’ll see many of you there—but those who aren’t going to Brooklyn can still participate. Click the links for “solve by mail” or “solve online” at the ACPT site to take part at home. For the online option, each puzzle is released to you shortly after the ACPTers do it in Brooklyn. I did “solve by mail” my first year of puzzle obsession—for $20, you get the terrific ACPT crosswords in the mail a week or two after the event, you fill ’em in, you send ’em in, and you get ’em back with the tournament ranking you’d have had for that performance in Brooklyn. The puzzles aren’t generally available any other way, and you don’t want to miss them.
Commenter Tuning Spork posted a puzzle on the occasion of my half-birthday! I loved the theme. You can find it here. (Thanks, Spork!)
Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword
This debut puzzle fails the breakfast test horribly…unless you’re one of the gazillions who like Spam or sausage for breakfast. Me, I don’t. Pancakes, eggs, sweet stuff—that’s what I like. PROCESSED MEAT (59A) is the inspiration for this theme, and the other three theme entries begin with “processed” (or anagrammed) MEATs:
- 20A. METAMORPHOSIS is a [Larva-to-adult transition].
- 35A. To MATE FOR LIFE is to [Be monogamous, among animals]. MATE FOR LIFE’s an interesting crossword entry, and not one I recall seeing. It feels solidly “in the language” to me.
- 42A. TEAM CAPTAIN is a [Leader on the field].
And just for the hell of it, BOLOGNA—a processed meat if ever there was one—is at 5-Down. Sure, it’s clued as an [Italian city after which a deli offering is named], but we all know that baloney is spelled B-O-L-O-G-N-A thanks to those Oscar Mayer commercials. 16A: CURED is [Smoked or salted], for more meaty saltiness.
This puzzle shows the value of attention to fair crossings. There was a bunch of stuff that seemed not so Tuesday-obvious, but I still finished quickly by turning to the crossings. Consider fill like this:
- 50D. SAMPAN/[Yangtze River boat]. Not the commonest boat in the American setting.
- 1A. Right at 1-Across! GRAN/[___ Canaria Island]. I blanked on this but 1D: GRIMM helped me out.
- 69A. [“Golly!”] clues “OH, GEE!” but could have been AW GEE too.
- 2D. Fill-in-the-blank RIDE A? Say what? [“___ Crooked Trail” (Audie Murphy western)] is nothing I’d ever heard of.
- 11D. PRESIDIOS are not easy fill. They’re [Spanish fortresses] and there’s one in San Francisco.
- 58D. [Mushroom cloud maker, for short] could be a lot of things. It’s H-TEST, but H-BOMB, A-BOMB, and A-TEST probably also pass crosswordese muster.
- 61D. If you don’t know that [Yemen’s capital] is SANA, make a note of it—and its more common (outside of crosswords) spelling, SANAA.
33D is clued [Nondairy spreads]. Were you tempted to squeeze in some LIVERWURSTS or PATES in keeping with the PROCESSED MEAT theme? The answer is OLEOS, which is a word I’d rather not see pluralized.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Slow Down!”—Janie’s review
When the title and three of a puzzle’s four theme clues tell you to [“Slow down!”], when the fourth theme clue gives you the [Idiomatic reason to slow down], maybe it’s time to cue up “The 59th Street Bridge Song” and book an appointment at the DAY SPA [Where to get a massage and facial]. As Sarah exhorts us:
- “WHAT’S THE BIG RUSH?”
- “DON’T GO SO FAST!”
- “TAKE YOUR TIME!”
- HASTE MAKES WASTE!
Actually, for back o’ the pack “speed” solvers (like me…), this is excellent tournament advice and I only hope I remember to apply it! Better to submit completed puzzles that are error-free than completed puzzles with careless mistakes. They’re the killers and undo all the good of an otherwise reasonably swift solve… “NO LIE!” [“Truth!”]
Today’s puzzle is populated by a cross-section of individuals. There are ATHEISTS [Nonbelievers], ADOPTERS [Many humane society visitors] and ESTHETES [Art lovers]–any one of whom might also be a GOER [One who is not a stay-at-home person]. It’s also possible that one or more of these folks enjoys solving the ACROSTIC [Puzzle in which the initial letters of each line form a word of phrase]. One never know…
AGRA is that [Indian tourist city] and a place where you might hear RAVI [Sitarist Shankar] or see women who wear a SARI, because it isn’t only a [Pakistani wrap]. I love it when the non-theme fill and clues can be tied together. Today, for example, you can either [Enjoy a meal], EAT, or tell us that perhaps you [Enjoyed a sumptuous meal], FEASTED. For my money, it’s that internal glue that makes a puzzle A-ONE [Super-duper].
In an IDEAL [Perfect] puzzle world, we wouldn’t see repeats with the frequency we sometimes do. But it’s not, so we do. Both SKA [Cousin of reggae] and sari made appearances only yesterday. Even CASS [Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas] shows up again today (though yesterday it was her last name that the grid required). That déjà vu thang really isn’t the puzzle’s best friend. Imoo…
What does help is the inclusion of interesting words and phrases. Even when they’re not the longest. A fave pair today sits right there in the SW corner. There’s WYES [Some railroad switch points, e.g.]; and right atop it, A DIE–as in [Straight as ___]. Means “honest,” but the origins of the phrase do go back to dice. Cool.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “So Many Words” (themeless)
Every now and then, Matt’s in the mood to make a themeless puzzle for Jonesin’. He tends to draw up unusual grid patterns. 1-Across is a 3-letter answer crossing some 5s. See? Each of the two vertical 14s cross three 10s, three 7s, and an 8.
I didn’t get backed into a corner unable to figure out a square, but there were some entries I simply had not encountered before. One of the long answers is 15D: BILL FAGERBAKKE, clued with [He played Dauber on “Coach”]. I tried fitting JERRY VAN DYKE in there but he was too short. Naan and paratha are my favorite Indian breads; 36D: POORI, also spelled puri, is another [Indian bread variety] that I treaded carefully with because two of the crossings were unknown names. There’s 43A: SHERIE, or [Broadway actress ___ Rene Scott], and 39A: SOLSTAR, or [“Deadwood” entrepreneur]. I didn’t watch Coach or Deadwood, don’t follow Broadway. And I don’t follow 8D: [Estonian currency], though KROON appears related to all the krona/kroner currencies from Estonia’s neighboring region, Scandinavia. The last mystery answer is 11D: ESI, or [Triage scale for ERs (hidden in RESIDENCE)]. The crossings would have gotten me there but…I still don’t know what ESI stands for. Is there a doctor or ER nurse in the house? Speaking of odd abbreviations, 55D is PDS, or [Hockey game pts.]. What does that stand for?
We just polished off the last of my banana bread yesterday; that’s a QUICK BREAD too. 4A: [Scone, basically] works; muffins are also quick breads. Basically anything that doesn’t require the kneading and raising of dough.
I didn’t know POLKA PARTY but Weird Al clues are fun—55A: [“Weird Al” Yankovic album featuring “Addicted to Spuds”] places it in the ’80s/Robert Plant-in-a-suit era, doesn’t it?
2D: [George with a notable 2008 wedding] is Mr. TAKEI, who married his long-time partner in California.
32A: [Son of Aphrodite] clues PRIAPUS. You all know what priapism is, right?
Nancy Kavanaugh’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The unifying entry in this theme is weird. 61A: [What you can say about sketches, and about the answers to the starred clues] is that THEY’RE DRAWN. That’s technically accurate, but a phrase like THEY’RE DRAWN is an oddball sort of crossword answer, as it doesn’t present a single unit of dictionary-grade meaning. The other drawable things are as follows:
- 17A. [Relaxing soak] is a NICE HOT BATH. This one’s on the border between an in-the-language unit and a noun preceded by adjectives.
- 26A. [Great concert turnout] is a LARGE CROWD. This one’s also on the border. Is it substantively different from “big crowd” or “sizeable crowd”?
- 39A. [Many an exec’s remuneration] is a SIX-FIGURE SALARY. This one’s a dandy crossword answer, and “drawing a salary” is solid too.
- 51A. [Unlucky selection] is the SHORT STRAW. This one feels naked without its preceded “draw the.” While the other three are “draw a ___” phrases, this one’s definitely “draw the short straw.” I might like this theme better with the A and THE included in the answers, though of course that mucks up the lengths.