New York was wonderful. I hardly did any crosswords for five days. I had a chance to do one at Byron Walden and Robin Schulman’s wedding, but wouldn’t you know it? I had already done their Friday nuptials puzzle in the applet Thursday night, and that’s what was available at the wedding. (Usher and constructor Tyler Hinman handed out the memento pencils, and constructor Jeremy Horwitz officiated. It was really a crosswordy wedding, I tell you.) I also did the Thursday and Saturday NYTs in the applet, except that I had a mistake in the Saturday puzzle and didn’t like the puzzle enough to spend any time figuring that out. Boy! The freedom you have to say “eh, who cares?” when you don’t have to blog about the puzzle. Did the Sunday NYT in the Magazine on the airplane. Learned via Twitter from Ben Zimmer that Merl Reagle’s puzzle featured eggcorns, so I’ve downloaded that puzzle but haven’t done it yet. Am skipping all the rest! No more obsessive “catching up on the puzzles I missed.” Freedom!
My family and I visited the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Central Park, Midtown, Times Square, the UN, downtown, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO, and we got so adept at this subway business that a misrouted guy asked us for guidance.
Last Friday, I lunched with several puzzle pals (Janie Smulyan, Tony Orbach, Patrick Blindauer, Ellen Ripstein, and Helene Hovanec) at the Overlook, which has a Pat Merrell cartoon crossword drawn on the wall. After lunch, Ellen gave me and Janie a tour of the Times offices, including the Will Shortz cubicle where Ellen gets the NYT crosswords put to bed each week.
At La Guardia, a shop was selling this collection of NYT crosswords, with puzzles from each year from 1942 on. $15, cheap! You think it’d be interesting or annoying to do crosswords from the ’40s and ’50s?
And yes, I hope to go back to New York in August for Lollapuzzoola 3. Who’s going?
Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
Ah, who doesn’t love a theme that pays tribute to the black-and-white crossword grid? Mind you, the theme clues don’t mention crosswords at all, but I can read between the lines. Here’s the theme:
- 39a, 41a, 43a. [With 41- and 43-Across, cop cruiser…or a description of the five animals named in this puzzle] clues BLACK / AND / WHITE. The animals are:
- 20a. SNOW LEOPARD, an [Asian cat].
- 60a. KILLER WHALE, like [Shamu, for one].
- 13d. ZEBRA, or [Equus quagga]. That one’s extinct, but three other zebra species remain. Odd clue choice.
- 30d. PANDA, [One of the 2008 Olympic mascots].
- 53d. SKUNK, or [Polecat].
Notes on other clues and answers:
- 1a. [AARP or the National Rifle Association] clues LOBBY. This feels like a tough clue for a Tuesday, but it’s a great clue so I’m not complaining.
- 25a. LEONORA is the [Heroine of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”]. I don’t know about you, but I needed lots of crossings for this one.
- 27a. [Euro forerunner] clues ECU. Ooh, not a good Tuesday answer. This acronym for “European currency unit” is not one that most Americans needed to be conversant in. There’s also the classic crosswordese écu, a medieval and early modern French coin. You need to stash both of these currencies in your crossword-solving head.
- 35a. Vocabulary word! TOCSIN means [Alarm bell].
- 67a. [Building usually without a 13th floor] is a HOTEL. Yes! The Grand Hyatt in NYC goes lobby, mezzanine, conference, ballroom…14th floor. We were on the 19th floor, which I suspect was actually the 10th floor. They just didn’t want to skip from 12 to 14 and have the folks on 14 cry foul, so they went with the crazy approach to floor numbering. Do other hotels use 14 for the first numbered floor?
- 73a. [Like the review “Hated it,” e.g.] clues TERSE. Love it! Who can forget the movie critics on In Living Color who made “Hated it!” fabulous?
- 9d. Hey, look at that—[Ogle] gets to be a clue instead of a repeater answer for a change. STARE AT is close enough.
- 22d. Partial DO NOW, [“What should I ___?”]? I dunno, maybe rework the grid to eliminate DO NOW?
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Bruce expands on the vowel-progression theme by using five 15-letter entries, moving from PAT through PUT at the starts:
- 17a. [Dad’s legal protection] clues PATERNITY RIGHTS. That feels less “in the language” to me than “fathers’ rights” and “paternity testing.”
- 23a. I do like PETRIFIED FOREST for our PET answer, clued as an [Arizona tourist mecca].
- 39a. Not sure I would’ve known offhand that the [Batting practice aid] that fires balls at you is called a PITCHING MACHINE. I am in a mood this month to be disgruntled by the amount of sports knowledge crossword solvers are expected to have.
- 49a. POT-BELLIED STOVE is a [One-room schoolhouse heater].
- 61a. PUTTING IT MILDLY feels naked without “that’s” preceding it, no? [Using a euphemism] is the clue.
- 64a. [___-Chalmers: onetime big name in farm machinery] clues ALLIS. Probably better than cluing ALLIS with respect to West Allis, the Milwaukee suburb, but—hey! Wikipedia tells me the company was based in West Allis. The dad of one of my best friends in junior high worked at the local Allis-Chalmers plant but got laid off when the factory was shuttered in the ’80s. Probably best to clue this entry as a two-word partial, eh.
- 1d. [Drink like a cat] clues LAP UP. When I thought 1a: [Pirate’s booty] was SWAG (instead of LOOT), I decided cats were wont to SLURP.
- 10d. LOGARITHM is a beautiful word, but logorrhea and biorhythm are not. Who can explain? I no longer remember how logarithms word, but the whole [Slide rule number] thing was on the wane by the time I took calculus.
- 25d. I nominate ODIC for ugliest word of the day. [Like Pindar’s works] is the clue, but I’d like it better if it meant “pertaining to Garfield’s drooling nemesis, Odie.”
- 36d. Potsdam is in Germany, so [Potsdam pronoun] is looking for a German pronoun like SIE (“she” or “they”).
Will Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Letters to the Auditor”—Janie’s review
The title today gets this puzzle gets off to such a terrific, fresh start. Changing the familiar “editor” to “auditor” is the tip-off that “sound” will play an important part of understanding the theme entries. Of course, I didn’t know this from the get-go, but as 17A came into focus, so, too, did the “aha.” Each theme phrase is based on a familiar phrase that consists of a word and a letter (or a letter and a word). The letter in the base phrase, however, is converted into a word that sounds the way the letter is pronounced. (This’ll be less confusing when I give you the actual examples…) To my disappointment, however, the theme-fill/-cluing was not consistently successful, so this ended up being a mixed kind of solve for me. I could see what Will was after, but I fear it eluded him at times. Here’s the theme fill:
- 17A. [Low-lying island for VIPs?] SPECIAL CAY. Which sounds just like Kellogg’s “Special K” cereal. See how this works? Pretty clever.
- 25A. [Really into debt?] OWE POSITIVE, which derives from the blood type, “O Positive.” But, oh, this one confuses me. I get the concept, but making sense of the clue/fill combo is harder work than a solver should have to experience. I had to concoct a whole little script: “So, you’ve spent your last cent and the bills are mounting up, huh?” “Yeah. I owe everyone.” “You’re certain?” “Positive.” Which can be distilled down to [“Really into debt?” “Sure am.”] for “OWE?” “POSITIVE.” Either way, I don’t think it’s the solver’s job to have to go to these lengths to make sense of the way a clue and fill work together. If I’ve missed something obvious, please lemme know!!
- 43A. [Line at a Manhattan taxi stand, perhaps?] AVENUE QUEUE, which salutes 2004’s Tony-winning musical Avenue Q (now enjoying a Broadway afterlife in an off-Broadway venue). Once again, I feel the clue misses the mark. Yes, a queue is line, and sometimes even New Yorkers wait on line for taxis, but mostly this occurs in front of Penn Station or in front of their hotels; but I can’t say they form a queue on the avenue… I don’t know. I love just about any shout-out to Avenue Q, but this clue doesn’t really get me there. (The title “Avenue” refers to”a dilapidated street in an outer-outer borough of the city…” and not one of Manhattan’s “Alphabet City” streets, btw.)
- 58A. [Marine biologist?] SEA STUDENT. Yes!! Another apt clue/fill combo. Just hope the student is keeping his/her head above water and is a B- or an A-student!
I’ve probably belabored the puzzle’s cluing, but let me say that there is some excellent longer fill today and not leave before bringing it to your attention. So, hello:
- MOCK-UPS [Layout sketches]
- MUSCADET [French white wine]
- SULTANA [Thompson seedless grape]
- KNEW A LOT [Was well-informed]
- RELAY TEAM [Its members may pass a baton]
- UTOPIA [There’s no place like it] (and what a terrific clue, too)
and my fave today, the rarely-seen-in-puzzles:
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Blocky Party”
Yay, themeless Jonesin’! Low word count (62), great-looking swaths of white space, and lively fill interspersed with some less savory fill.
- 1a. VUVUZELA! A [Cape horn?], as Cape Horn is in South Africa. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
- 26a. AKEELAH, [Title bee participant in a 2006 movie]. If you missed this spelling bee story, do rent it.
- 51a. I love ATALANTA, the [Character from Greek myth associated with golden apples], but from the Free To Be You and Me version.
- 57a. COMPEERS is a great old word for [Equals].
- 5d. ZIP LINE is a hand-held [Cable ride] where you hang on and whoosh down a hill or across a chasm.
- 12d. [Ben and Jerry, for two] is a great clue for STILLERS because you think first of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, not Jerry Stiller and Ben Stiller. STILLERS isn’t a great answer, sure, but the clue makes it worthwhile. (Would have been good to reword to avoid “two” given TWO-FOLD in the grid.)
- 22d. Starbucks EGG NOG LATTE? I know someone who loves December for just that reason.
- 41d. Good ICE AGE clue: [Time period that shaped the Great Lakes]. Glaciers, ho!
- 25a. [Make red with blood] = ENSANGUINE.
- 28a. [Goethe play with music by Beethoven] = EGMONT.
- 50a. [Lose personnel, in military-speak] = ATTRIT.
Question: For 9d: [Bowling league?], is CRICKET TEAM “in the language,” or should that be CRICKET SIDE?
I’m out of time—ta ta!
I thought Peter Collin’s puzzle was nicely done but a little tough for a Tuesday. I got stuck in the Upper East Side (fancy place to be stuck), because I though STLO was the answer to the French city. After I got the theme revealer, and knowing that Equus was horse related I came up with ZEBRA. I also did not know TOCSIN… hmmm
And down in the Lower West Side (Chelsea?) I reluctantly got rid of DAYS (Back in the) but USSR remained elusive for a looong time.
Glad you enjoyed NY, Amy. My two grown children live there and I go as often as I can, and I love how each neighborhood is unique and has so much to offer. And that wedding sounds like so much fun. I hope the couple will collect all the comments about their wedding puzzle from the various blogs to enjoy decades from now.
Would have liked to have joined you all for lunch, but my request for a location closer to my office was summarily ignored in favor of the Overlook. Wrong direction. Closer to the Times HQ would have been fine. Just to let you know.
Yay for Lollapuzzoola 3!
Loved the symmetry of the theme answers in the NYT puzzle. That is real craftsmanship. …. Also loved the misdirection in the clue, “Lafayette’s state.” And the French subtheme including etat, sans, bete and Metz.
Metz btw was where the Marquis de Lafayette earned his commission as a French officer. And here are a few items of Lafayette trivia for you: He was so admired and appreciated in the United States after serving as a top military advisor to George Washington during the Revolutionary War that his birthday was regularly celebrated by subsequent presidents in the White House. He was offered the governorship of Louisiana by Madison after that famous purchase. He was responsible for putting down an effort by New England militia to declare war on Canada. And lastly you need to know he named one of his sons George Washington Lafayette.
yay, freestyle jonesin’!! great clue and answer for VUVUZELA, and ATALANTA SHRUGGED should clearly be a work of feminist objectivism.
How do you know when a word is used for the first time in a CS puzzle? Is there a master list somewhere? Thanks.
Ha, Amy. I totally feel for you, saying wth when you knew you had an error in the puzzle but didn’t have to blog it. What you do must be a full time job! I also loved that clip of Men in Film. I’ll have to go back for more from YouTube.
I thought the NYT puzzle was difficut for a Tuesday, which is good news chez Jessie. I hate those easy puzzles on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s just a waste of good crossword-solving days. I’m not a speed solver, but it is frustrating to be done with the puzzle in <5 minutes. How much could it cost the NYT to put up a kiddie puzzle and a challenging puzzle online every day of the week?
Loved the clue for STILLERS – it was my first answer in the grid.
I hear the guys at work from Jamaica and India discuss their favorite CRICKET TEAMS on a regular basis. Does that count as in-the-language?
[Pluot] immediately made me think of ORANGICOT. So did ORANGE later in the puzzle.
Well, that answers my question from yesterday.
I’ve been expecting to see VUVUZELA in every non-syndicated puzzle for the past couple weeks, so I should have been ready to pounce on it today… except I looked at the 1-down clue first and filled in ALLTEL, so I needed to get the second U in order to figure it out.
I just happened to be exchanging e-mails with Patrick Blindauer today, and he mentioned the Overlook Lounge visit as well. Glad to hear you stopped in there to see a slice of the Upper East Side. It’s a cool place, although I haven’t been there for quite a while. Have to stop by there one of these days for a cone of fries and a pint.
johnathan — i use the cruciverb database. and no, it doesn’t go back *quite* as far as cs — but it covers most of the territory.
(CS) I enjoyed the puzzle, but I don’t understand the title. What does “Letters to the auditor” (or editor, for that matter) have to do with the theme?
re: crosswords from the ’40s-’50s: annoying
Jan: “Letters to the Auditor” is a pun on “Letters to the Editor” and emphasizes that letter names in existing phrases are to be interpreted as homophonic words by someone listening to them (the “auditor”). I argued for this title even though some reviewers, like you, did not get it. I think the common use of “auditor” to refer to financial review may make this title a puzzle instead of a help.