Clive Probert’s New York Times crossword
What do you think: Was the notepad annotation really necessary? I’m thinking only the least observant solvers would fail to note that every answer contains at least one B. In the applet, the entire byline was wiped out by the notepad-related message and I had to check Wordplay for the constructor’s name. (Aww, look how cute Patrick Merrell’s Ashen and Noir cartoon is.)
This 78-worder lacks any long theme entries aside from the, you know, 78 short theme entries. It would be pretty easy to assemble some tongue twisters from the fill, wouldn’t it? “NUBBY RIGBY BEBE BABIES ELBOW PABA A-BOMB.” Go ahead. Try to say that three times fast.
In a brief Wordplay interview, Probert says it was Will Shortz’s idea to extend the theme into the clues—each clue contains at least one B, but it’s less obvious since most of the clues contain just one. The previous records for B counts in a 15×15 puzzle were 20 in the NYT and 22 in the New York Sun. This one has a whopping 48 and about a fourth of the the puzzle’s white squares contain a B.
It’s a cute puzzle and I liked solving it just fine, but it doesn’t much lend itself to a lengthy discussion, does it? Three of the least familiar answers are these:
- 20a. ST. ALBANS is the [Locale of Britain’s first Christian martyr].
- 40a. The drum called a TABOR is clued [Its beat may accompany a fife].
- 45a. Speaking of musical instruments whose names I learned from crosswords, look here! The REBEC is an [Old stringed instrument with a narrow body].
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I’ve circled the stacked ARCs in the grid that represent three DOUBLE RAINBOWs. Did you see the ARCs along the way, or were you staring at the grid afterwards, trying to figure out where the promised “three visual representations” were? I did some gazing, and then when I finally saw what Tyler had done in the grid, I marveled. I exclaimed. I laughed. I wept. Okay, so that didn’t really happen, but it’s what goes on in the viral video mentioned at 37a. I hadn’t heard of this video until doing this crossword; if you are similarly unaware, check this out:
More from the puzzle:
- 15a. [A as in archaeology?] clues ANNO, from A.D./anno Domini. I was just explaining A.D. and C.E./B.C. and B.C.E. to my son at the King Tut exhibit in New York.
- 20a. EACH WAY is an answer I don’t think we’ve seen in a crossword before. [Per leg], as in “the airfare is $149 EACH WAY.”
- 21a. [European soccer powerhouse, familiarly] clues BARCA. Barcelona? I’m a big fan of Barca’s lounger.
- 31a. PET PEEVE is terrific fill. [Smacking gum, e.g.] is pretty bad but for my money, it’s hard to beat whistling.
- 49a. I like the inside-baseball clues we see most often, I think, in the Ben Tausig family of puzzles (Ben’s own Ink Well puzzles as well as the Onion puzzles he edits). [Poetic preposition most puzzlemakers are tired of writing clues for] is ERE.
- 2d. New trivia clue for hockey legend Bobby ORR: [Subject of a statue unveiled in Boston in 2010].
- 34d. I’ve never heard of ELIAS [___ Sports Bureau (statistics source)].
- 39d. [“Eh, not too many”] clues ONE OR TWO. Great answer or terrible one?
- 44d. [Enliven, as a crossword grid with previously dull letters] clues JAZZ UP. Again with the inside-baseball cluing. Well played, Tyler.
- 63d. [Letters of self-responsibility] are CYA, or “cover your ass(ets).” I’ve used the abbreviation for years, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen it in a crossword.
Michael Doran’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is a very basic type of theme—phrases that include words that are synonymous in other settings—but it’s not obvious. There’s a theme-revealing answer to clear things up, but it’s a 6-letter word. Aren’t revealers much more commonly only 3, 4, or 5 letters?Here’s the smooth theme:
- 20a. A DELL COMPUTER might be an [Apple hater’s purchase?]. Pfft, Dell—I’m going for an iMac for my next machine.
- 37a. DALE EARNHARDT, JR., with his oddball consonant and vowel pile-ups (RDTJR, RNH, EEA), is the [2004 Daytona 500 winner].
- 56a. [“Wichita Lineman” singer] clues GLEN CAMPBELL. I consider this clue illegitimate and will only accept references to “Rhinestone Cowboy” because my sister and I bought the 45 of that song in the ’70s. You know what’s crazy? We had to spend about a dollar to get one song (plus a lame B-side) on vinyl. Thirty-five years later, the price for a single has barely changed, thanks to iTunes.
- 49d. A VALLEY is a [Geological depression, and what the first word of 20-, 37- and 56-Across is]—dell, dale, and glen. These aren’t the only VALLEY synonyms out there, but the others don’t double as proper names. We’ll excuse the “one last name, two first names” inconsistency since the “all proper names” twist keeps the theme plenty tight.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never heard of 36a: UDINE, a [City of NE Italy]. Whoa. I checked the Cruciverb.com database, and it appears likely that I’ve actually done several puzzles containing UDINE. So I’ll call it “eminently forgettable unless you’ve been there.”
Ten more from the fill:
- 17a. [Pins and needles holder] is that old piece of crosswordese, the ETUI.
- 29a. [Drive up the wall] is a good clue for IRK.
- 54a, 3d. “I’ll take ‘Anatomical Terms Beginning with U’ for $800, Alex.” You’ve got your ULNAR [__ artery: forearm blood vessel] here, and UVULAS are [Tonsil neighbors].
- 6d. A HAYMAKER is a [Powerful punch]. If you make hay while the sun shines, are fisticuffs involved?
- 7d. Sure, A ROPE is a lame partial, but who isn’t fond of [Soap-on-__] A ROPE?
- 13d. [Mail Boxes __] ETC. has largely become an anachronism. The U.S. branding is mostly switched over to “The UPS Store,” and the Mail Boxes Etc. name for most of the planet is now owned, no kidding, by an Italian company.
- 21d. How nice for [Give one’s two cents] to clue CHIME IN rather than boring OPINE.
- 37d. A [Nyctophobe’s fear] is the DARK.
- 40d. HAVE A KID is nowhere near as “in the language” as have a baby. Its clue is [Give birth].
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Wild Things”—Janie’s review
Though we see this kind of gimmick pretty regularly around here—in which the first word of each of the theme phrases can follow a word in the title—we don’t always get results that are as sparkly as those we get today. This goes for both the “before” and “after” components. I suspect this is because of the built in “kinetic” nature of the word “wild.” Take a look at the hand that Tyler deals out for us:
17A. (Wild) TURKEY TROT [Popular name for a Thanksgiving Day road race]. This calorie-burner of a pre-feast race seems to have originated in Buffalo, NY, at the end of the 19th century. The fill is also the name of a popular (and Vatican-denounced) dance-step from the early 20th century (done to ragtime music); and Wild Turkey the name of a popular bourbon—which gets its name from this fine feathered fowl.
24A. (Wild) RICE PADDY [Place to grow grain]. While you’ll find white rice growing in a rice paddy, wild rice (a kind of grass that yields this grain product) grows in the shallow waters of lakes and streams. Wild rice is one fine accompaniment to wild turkey…
35A. (Wild) ANIMAL MAGNETISM [Attractive je ne sais quoi]. Great before and after combo—and ditto that clue.
46A. (Wild) CARD SHARK [Swindler at the poker table]. Are signs for “Dangerous Waters” posted when there’s a card shark in the area? Five-card draw and seven-card stud are poker variations that will let you play a wild card.
55A. (Wild) PITCH BLACK [Maximally dark]. The “pitch” of pitch black is related to coal tar, so that something that’s pitch black is black as tar—and that’s pretty black! A wild pitch is something that can occur in baseball, of course—and while we’re in that territory, we also get the reminder that [Commissioner Bud who call the 2002 All-Star Game a tie] is the vaunted (if equivocating, in this case) Mr. SELIG.
There’s OODLES [Gobs] (not TARS here) of strong fill and cluing of the longer and shorter varieties. Here are some of the standouts (the fill for its freshness; many of the clues for their specificity and/or sneakiness):
- TURNS TAIL is vividly clued as [Chooses flight over fight].
- FIRE PLACE [Winter warmer].
- MIND’S EYE (a phrase I love) is defined by [Imagination].
- WANT A LOT [Really crave]. Kinda like GONERIL, the [Power-hungry daughter of King Lear].
- SIN TAX is a [Liquor store levy]—for that bottle of Wild Turkey, say.
- IN A STIR [Agitated] may be the step just before BEDLAM [Total chaos]. Is this possibly the result of reading R.L. STINE [Author of the “Goosebumps” series] too close to bedtime?
- NEW MOON gets no directly astronomical tie-in, but is clued instead as [Sequel to “Twilight”].
- “BAA!” is that non-gaseous [Emission from a sheep].
Then, just to hit the ESPN zone ([“NFL Live” channel]) before parting, let me point out the remaining pair of sports-related clues/fill: KANE [Patrick who scored the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning goal] (didn’t know that one at all and went with MRTG at first and not MKTG for that [Corp. department]); and RPI [Empire State sch. with two NCAA hockey championships]. Hail, alma mater!
For the NYT, I spent the five seconds reading the notepad (before I started, for a change) and with that knowledge whipped through this puzzle for my fastest Wednesday time. I went back afterwards to appreciate the b clues. It did help with some words (I remember CASBAH) knowing a b was lurking there.
For the Onion puzzle, I’ve heard about that video enough that I was looking for ATW (all the way). It’s kind of trippy that the arc formed by the arcs is upside down. What does it mean?
NYT: Dunno didn’t really grab me, this. Maybe a clever revealer would’ve made it complete, but puzzles made because they’re very difficult to make still need some entertainment, and this was mostly lacking here for me. Instead we got old school crosswordese to dine on! STALBANS though was pretty familiar here – major city in early England (like Salisbury, it’s no longer so important). Surprised BOMA didn’t make it onto the unfamiliar list though… I had no idea as clued, I do the know word in the sense of “enclosure for holding game” – but I’m guessing that’s just me!
I didn’t read the notepad (esp. since it said “read the notepad to find the answer”)…I first thought the only gimmick was the Bs in every entry. It wasn’t until I got to “Beer place” for BAR that made me notice the Bs in the clues as well. (You’d think after last week’s MGWCC meta, I’d be looking at clues more closely!)
Anyway, B+ from me too.
It was fine, and I appreciate that I could rely on the theme to get a couple of, to me, obscure ones: YBOR and YOBS. There my criticism would be that BOLA and BOLO are both legit, per RHUD, so there was no way to decide unless you know YOBS vs YABS, for me just a guess.
It went so quickly, like most Wednesdays, so it’s silly of me to talk about how long I wanted to have all the answers contain both A and B, which would have been impressive. I thought of that because well over half in fact do, including most that I first obtained.
Onion: Last letter was the J. I couldn’t come up with JEFF. I think it is due to my pet peeve when I tell someone my name is Jeffrey and they instantly call me JEFF. That’s not what I said!
For the NYT, I didn’t realize there was a notepad entry until I read this blog. I agree it was pretty easy to figure out that it was related to B’s.
I think this is one of those puzzles that is more of an art form for the constructor than the solver – I imagine it took a while to create this one.
Good fun overall though.
If you like parodies of viral videos, this one is highly recommended: