José Chardiet’s New York Times crossword
Wow. I don’t know if you loved this puzzle as much as I did, but it’s in my favorite puzzles of 2010 folder. The Wordplay blog confirms that this is the constructor’s debut and also mentions that José is all of 16 years old. Whoa. Impressively, he already knows enough to scout out themes before submitting puzzles, and ditched a theme idea Brendan Quigley had already executed in one of his blog crosswords.
The theme is unified by EYE, which sounds like “i,” which is Apple’s favorite prefix for product names, supplanting even the Mac prefix. The various i___ products are represented in colorful phrases that end with words that can fill in that blank:
- 20a. [*”Ocean’s Eleven” actor] is BERNIE MAC, and my mom (hi, Mom!) has a lovely iMac. Any theme that gets started with the late, great Bernie Mac is in the win column.
- 25a. [*Tweaks] means FINE-TUNES. Impressively, the first and last pairs of theme entries are partially stacked in the grid. Yeah, and I have iTunes, too.
- 37a. [*Small sci-fi vehicle] is an ESCAPE POD. My iPod is a Nano, I think.
- 52a. [*“Get Smart” device] is Maxwell Smart’s SHOE PHONE. How fun is that? Probably more fun than an iPhone 4 being gripped just so in the user’s hand.
- 58a. [*Blastoff spot] is a LAUNCH PAD. (a) I was just discussing the WiFi vs. 3G options for the iPad with my brother-in-law today. (b) It was cool seeing the space shuttle on its launch pad last winter at Cape Canaveral.
Lest you come away thinking this puzzle is just a big free ad for Apple, first of all, EX-LAX (16a. [Going brand?]) shares the space. Second, it would be silly to suggest that these consumer products aren’t already household names.
What I really like about this puzzle is the accomplished fill. Look at those corners containing a dozen 7- or 8-letter entries! I was a fan of this puzzle when 2d and 3d fell: LOW BLOW and U2’s THE EDGE are both fresh and lively. Now, we could certainly do without CLEANSE crossing EX-LAX, couldn’t we? Didn’t notice that juxtaposition when solving. I also appreciated vernacular “OOH LA LA” and “DREAM ON,” SPOILER clued as [Unwanted plot giveaway] (some crossword solvers are hotly averse to theme and clue spoilers about puzzles, too), and ATE DIRT.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Vow Your Head”
When a couple gets married, they may promise to be together ‘TIL DEATH (45a. [Brad Garrett sitcom that ended in June 2010]) when they say “I do,” and the sounds of “I do” head up the words in each theme entry. For example, 21a: [Freezes the twos out of a deck of cards?] clues ICES DEUCES, which sounds like”I do” is you lop off the -CES syllables. The other theme entries are AISLE DUEL, IDES DUDES, and IDLE DOODLE. So there are a variety of spellings for both the “I” and the “do” sounds.
Easy puzzle for a Jonesin’, isn’t it?
- 23a. [“OK, now I’m ready to play!”] clues “GAME ON!”
- 47a. [Gossip site] TMZ has been in the alt-crossword grids before, but is it ready for the daily newspaper? I’m guessing no.
- 54a. [Pearl Jam leader Eddie] VEDDER. Yes, the band’s heyday was in the ’90s, but it’s not every day that Eddie Vedder makes it into the puzzle.
- 9d. JANE DOE, [That anonymous lady over there]. The same clue doubles for SHE at 70a.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I usually relish Donna’s puzzles, and this one is no exception. The theme is magazines, or MAGs (58d), which populate the theme answers:
- 20a. ELLE MACPHERSON is a [Five-time “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit cover girl].
- 33a. “EBONY AND IVORY” are the [1982 song title items that “live together in perfect harmony”].
- 40a. The Francis Scott [Key opening?] is “O, SAY CAN YOU SEE.” O is Oprah’s magazine. I’m fine with the other appearance of a stand-alone O in this puzzle—31d: [He put the “O” in “Jackie O”] refers to ARI Onassis.
- 53a. A [Great experience] is the TIME OF ONE’S LIFE. Bonus magazine here—TIME and LIFE have a long history together.
Donna includes two 10s in the fill:
3d. To [Accomplish a daring feat] is to BELL THE CAT.
30d. LORELEI LEE is [Marilyn Monroe’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” role]. I needed lots of crossings for this one.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “In Reverse”—Janie’s review
“PSST! [Clandestine call]—for a puzzle that delivers the wordplay while it has you wondering if maybe you’re becoming a little dyslexic, give this one a try!” As the title suggests, the wordplay in question involves reversing the letters “I” and “N” where they appear together in otherwise familiar phrases.
- 17A. THE GAME OF NICHES [Alternate name for hide-and-seek]. Think about it. That’s pretty good. Now I gotta tell ya, until solving this puzzle, I was totally unfamiliar with the colorful base phrase, “the game of inches.” But I happened to be listening to the local sports news just after solving, and don’tcha know Scott Clark of Channel 7 started to summarize a particularly close call in a particularly close baseball game by saying, “In a game of inches…” While baseball- and golf-writers will claim that each of those is “the game of inches,” from what I can tell, it’s most closely connected to football—and to a particular “motivational” speech delivered by Al Pacino in the movie Any Given Sunday.
- 27A. NITRO COURSE [Demolition class]. That’s your introductory course on nitroglycerin.
- 49A. ‘NINER CIRCLE [Football huddle in San Francisco?]. I don’t know why this one pleases me so much, but it sure does. And what’re the odds that this would fall into the grid at 49 Across?
- 63A. RHYTHM OF THE RANI [Beat pattern for an Indian princess?]. Wow. Nuthin’ like saving the best for last. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Cascades singing “Rhythm of the Rain.” Note that this “in reverse” is distinguished from the others as the one-syllable “rain” morphs into the two-syllable rani.
Elsewhere in the puzzle, we get a double blast of “cool,” neither having to do with the weather. There’s [Cool] meaning ALOOF and then there’s [“Cool!”] as in “NEATO!” Change the last letter of that entry and you get ‘NEATH [Below, to Byron].
I hadn’t realized that SCATHES [Criticizes severely] was a verb. It is. Mostly we see it as the adjective scathing (as in “Moose Murders received scathing reviews and became legendary as a Broadway flop…”). Dictionary definitions tell us that scathe also means “to harm or injure, especially by fire.”
The puzzle also has two excellent 10s: SWEET TOOTH [Penchant for Kisses, say] (so those are Hershey’s Kisses), and COPACABANA [Workplace of Lola and Tony]. RICO‘s here today as well—only clued in a more straightforward way as [“Wealthy” in Oaxaca]. (Here’s a link to the lyric in case you need a refresher…)
Just solved this tonight, and forgive the silly phrasing, but this one just rocked. Crazy stuff throughout the grid, a great theme (even though I’m not currently an iAnything owner myself), and all the stuff you already mentioned. Just crunchy stuff all around, and that includes EXLAX (as far as good answers). Just the right challenge for the day, didn’t compromise anything for tricky letters or that extra theme answer. And it even includes its own SPOILER! iLike.
That’s all before you mentioned the constructor bio, which is just great to see. Hope he works on more of these in the future, in his spare time of course.
Very nice puzzle.
Amy, twenty lashes with a wet noodle for touting WORD DROP yesterday. I have spent much more than your hour with it.
the NYT is on a roll. if monday and tuesday are this interesting, what can the rest of the week hold? congrats to josé on a wonderful debut.
This debut feels more like a puzzle from a seasoned constructor. Bravo, Jose! And the fact that he is only 16 makes it all the more impressive.
P.S. Unlike Amy, I will have to file it in a different folder, one titled “why didn’t I think of this simple yet creative theme?”
I’m hardpressed but compelled to heap additional kudos on this youngster. I revel in young people who can do, they are the future, and make it seem brighter. Talent is a beautiful thing that can not be taught, just nutured to allow it to bloom.
Thanks for the avatar hint, as you can see it worked just fine, I feel much better now with a real pic.
Didn’t really care for the Apple product placement xword in the NYT … but thought the CrosSynergy puzzle by Tony O was fantastic. That is a very, very clever puzzle. Too clever for CS. It could easily have been a NYT Weds or Thurs piece. Not only was the theme idea ingenious but the answers were very clever, and the placement of 49A blew me away.
Jose’s NYT puzzle was very fun for a Tuesday…and it almost made today’s East Coast scorching (103 in NYC, 102 in DC, 105 in Baltimore) bearable. Almost.