There are a couple new bonus puzzles at the Fiend forum:
- First up, Caleb Madison constructed an 18×19 crossword for DGA Quarterly, “Final Cuts.”
- Also, Peter Wentz contributed a 15×15 “Simpsons Portmanteaus” crossword. Both puzzles are available in .puz and .pdf options.
Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword
Oh, dear, again? Another brands-of-bar-soap puzzle? I’ve seen versions of this at least three other times, I think. It’s a fine theme, yes, but it treads well-traveled ground. It’ll be new to newbies, and to the zillions of solvers who pay no attention to themes, but I…sigh. Here’s how it plays out:
- 39A. SOAPS are [Afternoon fare…or a hint to the ends of 20-, 33-, 41- and 52-Across].
- 20A. On a phone, a [Keypad precursor] is a ROTARY DIAL.
- 33A. [Ghana, once] was called the GOLD COAST. Ivory Coast has Frenchified its name to Cote d’Ivoire.
- 41A. FLESH TONE is a [Body suit shade, perhaps]. You know how some people find the word “moist” gross? I feel that way about “flesh.”
- 52A. [One of two in a Christmas song] is a TURTLE DOVE.
What? There’s no phrase ending with SOUTH OF FRANCE, my preferred brand of French-milled soap? Ripoff!
Five more clues:
- 53D. [River to the Ubangi] is the UELE. There’s not much to say about it, judging from Wikipedia.
- 5A. [Crosswise, on deck] = ABEAM. Nautical crosswordese! Is this actually a common word among sailors? Dictionary tells me the word applies on airplanes, too.
- Hat tip! 26D: [Tip, as a hat] clues DOFF, while MA’AM is 30A: [Term of address from a hat-tipper].
- 46A. SPOT ON means [Absolutely perfect].
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Vocabulous–a little of this, that and the other”
I kinda wish Matt would make themeless puzzles more often. Perhaps he’s one of those people who can’t help coming up with themes and is thus compelled to make themed crosswords. Come on, who’s with me? Let’s march on Matt Jones’s house and demand more themelesses.
And while we’re at it, maybe we can demand harder clues, because this one took me only as long as a Wednesday NYT. I liked the fill, even if the clues lacked bite. Highlights:
- In the Long Names Department, we have EDIE FALCO astride BEN VEREEN, and also Krist NOVOSELIC.
- BUSINESS END is a terrific answer, idiomatic and rich.
- The SECRET SANTA is fun, and the ARROW KEYS are pragmatic.
- 28d. [Vowel inclusion with a disclaimer] is “SOMETIMES Y,” as Y is a vowel in a word like rhyme but not so much in yard.
Things I did not know:
- 53a. [Former wrestler Lex] LUGER? I pay no mind to wrestlers. To me, a Luger is a pistol that I may well have shot as a kid, or someone riding a luge in the Olympics.
- 17a. I’ve heard of The Screwtape Letters but had no idea SCREWTAPE was a [Title C.S. Lewis demon].
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. Baseball players [Robinson and Thomas?] are BALLPARK FRANKS.
- 37a. [Owens and Henry?] are a COUPLE OF BUCKS. The other two theme entries tie more specifically to the pair’s careers, whereas this one is simply “two guys named ___.”
- 54a. Musicians [Garfunkel and Tatum?] are both PERFORMING ARTS.
I like the theme, but if the middle phrase were a better fit with the other two theme answers, I’d love it.
Five more clues:
- 15a. [Dedicatee of Beethoven’s “Bagatelle in A Minor”] is ELISE. I have no idea if Für Elise is this piece or a separate work.
- 29a. [Where the buffalo roam] feels like a mismatch with LEA. I picture English cows roaming in a LEA, but buffalo are out in the prairie, the grasslands. Technically they’re one and the same, more or less, but who ever heard of the American West having LEAs?
- 62a. [Sweden neighbor, to a Swede] clues NORGE, meaning “Norway.” Norge was also the name of a dry cleaner or laundromat in my town when I was a kid.
- 1d. BIG BEN is the very familiar [Nickname of London’s Great Bell], which I have never heard called the “Great Bell.”
- 37d. [Bargain for reduced charges] clues COP A PLEA. Somehow, I was thinking only of bargain prices and reduced rates.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Middle Weights”—Evad’s review
- GOES OUT ON STRIKE – “Goes out on a limb” is a more familiar phrase to me, but that, alas, is only 14 letters.
- BRIDGE TO NOWHERE – ex-Governor Palin makes it into our CS puzzle two days in a row, this time with her support for the “Alaska boondoggle” $398m Gravina Island bridge.
- MOSQUITO NETTING – not as colorful as the other two entries; is this used outside of movies set in Africa?
So a tight construction all in all and I liked that the helper entry for TON was in the center of the grid as well. Here’s what else I noticed:
- A couple of nice 10-letter entries crossing 2 theme entries each: the unusual “Air current caused by a racecar” for SLIPSTREAM and “Illuminates, in a way” for SWITCHES ON. (Hard to come up with a clue for SWITCHES ON without using the word “on,” isn’t it? Do you “illuminate” a lamp or the room it is in?)
- TO NO END (“Excessively”) was hard to parse wasn’t it? I had TOO MUCH at first.
- Sympathy for the EU in the puzzle as well: ILS (“They, in Calais”), ICH (“I, in Munich”) and DER (“German article”).
- Who doesn’t love to see puppets in their puzzle? KUKLA finds his way into ours today–can you pick him out in this picture? (Hint: he’s not the human.)