Jay Kaskel’s New York Times crossword
Fun puzzle with Halloween right around the corner! The theme is COUNT DRACULA and various phrases reinterpreted with special relevance for Drac. He moans that REALITY BITES. He makes withdrawals at the BLOOD BANK. You’ll get a very specific PAIN IN THE NECK if he sucks your blood. And—this is my favorite part of the theme—a young Count Dracula has a BAT MOBILE in his crib that is not at all Batman’s sweet ride.
The puzzle’s got all sorts of Halloweeny content strewn throughout it for extra creep-out value. Your heart is ATHROB at a horror movie (lame crossword entry, though). Film NOIR can be scary, though horror movies are GORIER. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a noted HEROINE. In the confines of this puzzle, RIGOR evokes rigor mortis. The vampire story is only a LEGEND, they say. A vampire uses at least one FANG. And after seeing all these entries, the REEK is of spooky death.
The pervasive Halloween vibe served to distract me from the ooky fill. OATEN straw? Meh. Also: German EIS and Spanish OSA. Abbrevs STE, HDL, SYR, KPH, and LAT. Crosswordese EDO EKE ADAR.
I sure did like ORANGE clued as a [Popsicle choice], though. And POSEIDON and the tasty GELATO, too.
If this theme has you hankering for some good old-fashioned cinematic horror, check out Roger Ebert’s online collection of 10 legally available horror classics, including Nosferatu, all embedded here.
Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Hey! Look at that: a pun theme that I like. This week the Onion is used to flavor various VEGAN ([One feeling alienated in Wisconsin, perhaps]) protein sources:
- 20a. [Angry tirade about a meat substitute?] is a TEMPEH TANTRUM. (Original phrase: temper tantrum.)
- 28a. [Cry while exorcising the wheat meat?] is “BEGONE, SEITAN!” This one’s my favorite because I was once on a trivia team called Spawn of Seitan. (“Begone, Satan!”)
- 49a. A TOFU CUSTOMER, plainly enough, is a [Patron who buys a block of bean curd?]. (Tough customer.)
- 59a. [Protein picture sketched in like two seconds?] is a mighty informal clue, grammatically speaking. I like to enclose my “like” between commas, personally. The answer is BADLY DRAWN SOY. (Badly Drawn Boy, a British singer/songwriter.)
I’ll grant you that the second pair of puns are less deftly formed than the first two, but the first two are things of beauty. Plus, vegetarians hardly ever get crosswords dedicated to them.
Bonus: 4a. AMY’S [ ___ Kitchen (natural food line)] offers a lot of quick vegetarian foods in the freezer section.
I don’t know if DRAFT BEER is considered vegan. Is yeast vegan? I vote yes.
Favorite clue: 6d. “Y.M.C.A.” is the [1978 hit with the lyric “You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal”]. I hear it is fun to stay there.
Mystery answer: 51d. The SKY BAR is a [Necco candy with vanilla, caramel, peanut, and fudge]. Pretty sure my kid’s not getting any of that on Halloween. Ooh! This year, we’re gonna trick-or-treat on the nearby block with old million-dollar Prairie-style houses, too. My son is hoping the residents will be particularly generous with the candy.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Goal!”—Janie’s review
Boy. This was one pleasin’ puzzle. Because of the title—and because of the constructor—I was expecting something with a lot of sports references. And I was right. But I was wrong. While three of the four theme phrases (and a nice smattering of the non-theme fill) cagily connect to the world of sports, the “goal” of the title is not of the World Cup variety. As it turns out, this is a synonym puzzle, and the first word of each of the theme phrases is a synonym for “goal,” which gives us object, point, target and end. Here’s how it all shakes out:
- 17A. OBJECT BALL [Colored item on a pool table]. In other words, any ball except the cue ball. I was unfamiliar with the term, but it makes complete sense. Either the object ball or the cue ball qualifies as an ORB [Solid with no edges].
- 26A. POINT SPREAD [Statistic of concern to gamblers]. So when yer bettin’, it’s not just whether or not your team/player wins (or loses), but by how much it’s within the point spread parameters. This wiki article gives a reasonably clear explanation.
- 46A. TARGET FIELD [Minnesota ballpark opened in 2010]. Hmm. Some spread betting probably went on there this fall…
- 61A. “END OF STORY!” [“Period!”].
End of story? I don’t think so. For starters, let’s take a look at the additional sports-/gaming-related fill (related either directly or by association). There’s:
- TROPHY [Item that might be engraved].
- MASCOT [One with an oversized head, maybe]. Oh, how I love that combo.
- DARTS [Pub pastime]. And while we’re in that venue, notice how the grid also gives us SHOT [Strong bar offering] and LINE [Singles bar come-on]. Am thinking that a singles bar might, on some nights, also be the site for a RAGER [Wild party] (and yes, yet another new word for me…).
- TOKE [Casino gratuity]. See above. Did know the second definition, however…
- EYE STRAIN [Danger for a video game addict].
- ROUGHED UP [Like the loser of a fistfight]. Or a boxing match, no?
- BROOM [Fans might wave one at the end of a playoff series]—if there’s been a “sweep”… and on the subject of “fans,” what’s a [Fan’s noise]? Why “WHIR,” of course! So we’re talkin’ this kind of fan…
You know what else I love? All of the colloquial expressions (and the colloquial expressions cluing ’em): opposites [“I agree completely”] for “YEAH” and [“Uh-uh”] for “NOPE”; [“Oh, but you must!”] for [“I INSIST!”] (and how cool is that one in the grid with its double-I beginning?); [“I see where you’re going with this!”] for “OHO!”; [That’s correct”] for the acknowledgment [“GOOD”]; [“So sad”] for “PITY” (nicely placed following WEEPS [Shows sorrow]); and (one mo’ time) [“I agree completely”] for “AMEN.”
TIN EAR, ANDROID and [Lingua] FRANCA [(way to overcome a language barrier)] keep high the level of the non-theme fill; and [High scales?] for the constellation LIBRA, [Staff sequence] for E-G-B-D-F (“every good boy deserves fudge” saith my piano teacher) and [Blue man group, for short?] for DEMS does the same in the cluing department.
As you can see, this is a puzzle not only to ENJOY [Have fun with], but that I DUG [Had fun with]. It’s tightly constructed, challenging enuf (NW took me a while to crack) and witty. Works fer me!
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Head to your woodshop and get out your tools:
- 17a. HAMMER THROW is a [Track and field event].
- 23a. If you [Agreed] with someone, you SAW EYE TO EYE.
- 39a. [Lou Gossett Jr. played one in “An Officer and a Gentleman”] clues DRILL INSTRUCTOR.
- 49a. [Air traveler’s need] is a PLANE TICKET, paper or virtual.
- 61a. A FILE CABINET is a [Folder holder].
Another solid theme from the late Dan Naddor, who cranked out so many LAT puzzles that we’re still doing them 10 months after his untimely passing.
Highlights of the puzzle:
- 11d. [“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” singer] clues PAT BENATAR. Hey! I just heard that song on the radio last week.
- 37d. [“Hush!” to Romeo] is SOFT, as in “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, / Who is already sick and pale with grief \ That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”
- NONO clued as the [Opposite of 43-Across], SISI ([Señor’s “Certainly!”]), rather than as a synonym of TABU ([Cologne that sounds wrong?]).
- 29d. [Señor’s sendoff] is “ADIOS, AMIGO.” Great entry.
- Geography lesson: 22d: MOROCCO is the [African country nearest Spain].
- 46d. [Number one Hun] evokes Charlie Chan’s “Number One Son,” doesn’t it? ATTILA doesn’t usually get clued this way.
Finally, an NYT Wednesday with Wednesday-level difficulty. That said, I originally entered LESTAT instead of LEGEND, so I made the SW harder for myself.
It hasn’t been blogged about yet, but today’s LAT is another Dan Naddor puzzle. Does anyone know how many of his puzzles have yet to be published? It wouldn’t sit well with me if I solved his final puzzle not knowing that it was the last one.
i wonder, too. at this point, dan has been more posthumously prolific than hemingway, although he probably won’t have papa’s staying power.
i choked on deb’s AV puz. i don’t know what SEITAN is, nor have i ever heard of BADLY-DRAWN BOY, so half the theme pretty much missed me.
OBJECT BALL eluded me too, but i agree with janie—excellent puzzle by tyler. simple but incredibly effective due to snappy fill and clues. the glut of sports didn’t hurt, either. :)
Rich Norris said at Wordplay last week that there are “a few” more Naddors in the pipeline. Hopefully he can give us a heads-up when that well is finally, sadly, dry.
And I’m off to conduct a rock opera about 52-Across…
I asked Rich and he reports there are two more Naddors scheduled for November, another half-dozen to follow, and a couple of unfinished ones he’d like to get completed too.
Crosswords in the press:
“I’d like to be a crossword clue one day. I want to be in The New York Times’s Sunday edition. Right now, the clue ‘Giants great’ is always Mel Ott. I want my clue to be down, not across. The down ones are usually harder. And when I’m the clue, I’ll fill it in — just that one — and frame it.
“How sweet would that be?”
-Brian Wilson, SF Giants pitcher
a) it’s been done.
b) good luck, buddy—you’re not even the most famous brian wilson!
Ah, but if the Giants win the World Series, he’ll be famous enough…especially if he ends the WS the way he ended the NLCS.