Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword
Boy, I picked the wrong night to get to the puzzle late after allowing sleepiness to attack. Instead of a midrange themeless puzzle, we’ve got an April Fool’s Day theme. Three 15-letter highway answers run vertically:
- 4d. ONCOMING TRAFFIC.
- 7d. MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, right in the middle of the grid. The Across answers that intersect 7d all dead-end there, except for AFT int he middle. I like that the answer sort of serves as a traffic-free median strip.
- 10d. NORTHBOUND LANES traveling northbound, thus reading as SENALDNUOBHTRON. Everything to the right of MIDDLE OF THE ROAD is cockeyed, running northbound. Took a while to unravel that!
The four vertical 7’s can also be considered thematic. AIR BAGS ([They’re subject to rapid inflation]—good clue) and the ODYSSEY of a traveler, a northbound TOWN CAR ([Lincoln, maybe]—tricky clue) and GAS CANS.
The theme began to reveal itself to me before I had anything in the right third of the puzzle. 26d: [__ Bell] really wanted to be TACO, but the T and C were in crazy places. Hell, why not go upside down?
Nifty gimmick, and not one I recall seeing before. I like that there’s a clear rationale behind the reversal—why, those are the northbound lanes over there. The oncoming traffic is going the other direction. The only part that doesn’t make sense is the existence of the Across answers, moving inexorably across the highway, Frogger-style. But you gotta have the Across answers or it’s not a crossword!
Seven lanes in each direction makes for an exceptionally wide highway, doesn’t it? And even with six lanes to the right, you know there’s gonna be a slowpoke holding up traffic in the left lane.
The clue for 46a: NUBILE strikes me as icky. [Available, in a way]? This dictionary defines the word as “1. (of a young woman) suitable for marriage, especially in regard to age or physical development; marriageable. 2. (of a young woman) sexually developed and attractive: the nubile girls in their bikinis.” My objection is that these days the word usually evokes definition 2 (hi, objectify much?), while definition 1 completely skirts the issue of the young woman’s interest (or lack thereof) in marrying. Just kind of a gross word. I can’t think of a suitable clue other than, say, [Word a skeevy guy uses to describe a 17-year-old girl].
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Two-Way Streets”—Janie’s review
No “April Fools!” twist in today’s puzzle, but if you think you’re seein’ double when you look at the theme fill, well, in some ways, you are. (Get your copy of the puzzle right here.) Randy’s “Two-Way Streets” are paired, two-word phrases and compound words that are each others’ reverse. The effect is something like full-word palindromes or mirror images. Each is a verb-phrase/noun combo and the full phrases in question are:
- 20A. PASS BY BY-PASS [Skip a detour?]. That’s one consonant-rich phrase.
- 28A. BACK OUT OUTBACK [Remove a Subaru from the garage?].
- 46A. RUN OVER OVERRUN [Review a busted budget?]. Hmm. This is an activity being engaged in by state and city legislatures everywhere it seems. Oh, yeah—and in D.C., too. Sigh.
- 54A. KEEP UP UPKEEP [Maintain maintenance?]. Nice the way the clue almost pulls off the same mirror image trick.
Both today’s puzzle and yesterday’s succeed in finding ways to keep the puzzle’s gimmick fresh. No mean feat when you’re constructing (and publishing!) so very many puzzles a year. Both Randys are also consistently successful in cluing and then filling the remainder of the grid in lively ways. “HOLY MOLY!” [“Jumpin’ Jehosephat!“]. See? That just leaps right off the page. (“Holy moly!” was pretty much my response to seeing YANNI [“In My Time” musician] peel off that final “Y.” I’m not a Yanni fan, so I’m not sure I mean that in an entirely “happy” way…) Then there’s a clue like [Water coolers?]. Nope. This has nuthin’ to do with the office. Or even The Office. ICE CUBES. D’oh.
Other fave fill today includes VLASIC, the classic [Pickle brand with a stork mascot], RAKISH [Devil-may-care] and ACUMEN [Sagacity]. And you really are seeing double where BIG SUR and MALIBU are concerned. Both are clued as [California coastal destination]. Close-but-no-cigar double cluing applies to two Alans: the sequential ALDA and LADD, clued respectively as [Alan of “What Women Want”] and [Shane portrayer].
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Publish or Perish” – Jack Nosy Cracker Sniffers’ review
All right, listen up. We’re going to “review” a crossword the proper way today. First, I want to say to you, the reader – what is wrong with you?! Why are you reading about an obscure crossword puzzle on an even more obscure blog? Get out of the basement! Go outside. Breathe some real air. This is no life.
Speaking of the 2011 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, here’s my financial recap of where your entry fee goes. Just pretend this is the Wall Street Journal crossword review.
Name tags, binders, other handouts: $11.50
Marriott hotel: $35.00
Evening events: $12.50
Dan Feyer Annuity Contribution: $10.00
Will Shortz Table Tennis Fund: $11.50
Federal, state and municipal taxes: $23.05
Pencils and water: $0.85
Donation to Crosswords Anonymous: $3.00
Computers, scanners: $5.00
Photocopying, paper: $10.50
Crossword Bloggers Voodoo Dolls (sent to each constructor in attendance): $18.75
Extra ink and paper to print “Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan” 700 times: $25.40
Total fee = $180.00
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It’s April Fool’s Day. Down is up is and Across is backwards. The NYT worked vertically while today’s LAT theme reverses the theme horizontally:
- 17a. [Start of an aptly expressed linguistic observation] is CIBARA DNA WERBEH, or HEBREW AND ARABIC backwards.
- 31a. [Observation, part 2] clues DAER ERA, or ARE READ in reverse.
- 45a. [End of the observation] is TFEL OT THGIR MORF, or FROM RIGHT TO LEFT reading from right to left.
I can’t tell you whether this puzzle was unusually difficult outside of the backwards theme or not. It took me forever (relatively speaking), but it may be that I was sleepier than I thought when I was solving the crossword last night. I sent myself to bed without finishing the CHE, that’s how tired I was. Did this puzzle knock you for a loop too? No?
Clues that slowed me like molasses:
- 1a. [Lexington and Concord fighters] clues MILITIAMEN. I started out wanting MINUTEMEN to fit there, and halfway convinced myself that there would be a blank square in it because of April Fool’s Day. Um, no.
- 15a. [Apple consumers?] clues ADAM AND EVE.
- 20a. [Roma road] clues STRADA. La strada is Italian for “road,” yes?
- 28a. [Flying need] is a PHOTO ID to prove the ticketed passengers are who they claim to be.
- 35a. [It’s about 325 miles east of Texas’s H-Town, with “the”] is New Orleans, the BIG EASY. Lovely answer. I was mired here because I had HEHS instead of HEES for 29d and BIG HASY was not making any sense.
- 37a. RHENISH means [Like Cologne and vicinity]. Whoa.
- 3d. [Checkup charges] clues LAB COSTS. I don’t know that I’ve ever described how much lab work costs as LAB COSTS.
- 4d. [Inviting words before “Want to come over?”] clues I’M ALONE. Feh.
- 25d. [Canadian young adult fiction author McClintock] is named NORAH. Who?? She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, Wikipedia tells me.
- 28d. [Numbers in a corner, often] looks like it’s asking for a noun but it’s an awkward verb phrase. PAGINATES can mean “mark page numbers in the corner of each page.”
- 37d. [Hall of Fame defensive back Mel] RENFRO is no one I’ve ever heard of. I am usually quite good with names in crosswords so it’s weird that this puzzle has two I didn’t recognize at all, RENFRO and NORAH.
- 48d. [Some alarm respondents: Abbr.] clues FDS as a plural of the abbreviation for “fire department.” Okay, raise your hand if you think “Feminine Deodorant Spray” when you see FDS.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fools Rush In”
Really, can you have a “stick an ASS in” theme any time other than April Fool’s Day? April 1 gives that plausible deniability: “What? Of course we mean nothing other than the synonym of ‘fool.'” Further supporting the innocuous interpretation of the theme is the use of the familiar phrase “Fools Rush In” as the title and rationale for the theme. “Stick Yer Ass In There” doesn’t have the same logic at all. Here are the theme entries:
- 23a. [Girl watcher in Glasgow?] is LassIE DETECTOR.
- 32a. [Part of the FAQs on Volkswagen’s website?] clues PassAT ANSWER.
- 50a. [Entrance hall?] is THE FRONT PassAGE. Nice use of the Ben Hecht play The Front Page.
- 69a. To [Hold the circus alfresco?] is to Pass UP TENTS.
- 83a. [Mouthing off to some St. Louis skaters?] is SassING THE BLUES.
- 101a. To PLACE A BassET is to [Find new owners for one of the pound hounds?].
- 116a. [How to truly appreciate a wild mustang?] clues LassO AND BEHOLD. Mind you, the wild mustang will not be behaving normally once you’ve lassoed it.
Lots of tasty clues in this week’s puzzle:
- 48a. [Boxer’s title: Abbr.] is SEN., as in Senator Barbara Boxer. Last names that double as common nouns have great cluing potential.
- 74a. [You might have a shot at it] clues a BAR.
- 91a. [Soul of the dead, in Philippine folklore] clues EEL. Whoa! Really? I did not know that.
- 56d. [It might make you pretty late] clues a NEGLIGEE.
- 76d. [Job holder?] is the BIBLE, with the Book of Job.
- 81d. [They may be on a roll] refers to SEEDS, such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
- 114a. [Grand] clues EPICAL. Not a commonly seen word, as epic serves as both noun and adjective.
- 19d. [Adriatic port that was the birthplace of Rossini] is an Italian town I’ve never heard of, PESARO.
- 108d. [Central Pacific’s eastern terminus] is OGDEN. Railroad and Ogden, Utah, I presume?
Tyler Hinman’s “Classic Crossword #2”
Tyler has posted a couple new puzzles at his blog. Tyler has always had a tight bond with tradition, and now he’s tapping his brainpower to bring us crosswords in the classic style. There’s a massive audience for classic crosswords, and we are ill served by these newfangled newspaper crosswords filled with malarkey like pop culture names and titles. I won’t spoil “Classic Crossword #1” for you, but let’s review “#2.”
- 1a. [___ es Salaam] is one of two fill-in-the-blank clues, and it’s a delight to have an FITB at 1-Across to gently usher us into the puzzle. DAR! It would’ve been a mite tougher had Tyler clued this as the Daughters of the American Revolution abbreviation.
- 4a. [Eagle’s home] is an AERIE. My god, would you look at that splendid beast of a word? It’s 80% vowels! A high vocalic index is as cool as anything containing a lot of the Wheel of Fortune RSTLNE letters.
- 6a. [Eero’s architect father] is the unjustifiably not-as-famous ELIEL Saarinen. You know what he ought to have done? Named his son Eliel Saarinen, Jr. Then ELIEL Sr. might have a shot at a higher percentage of the Saarinen clues.
- 7a. [Type of lily] clues CALLA. No. Just…no. This clue is inaccurate. The calla is no more a lily than a koala is a bear. Would you clue KOALA as [Type of bear], Tyler? I daresay you would not. Fie!
- 8a. [Draft org.] is the S.S.S.
- 1d. [Spanish historian Bartolomé ___ Casas]—ooh! Another FITB! But this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to rely on the crossings. Am I the only one who didn’t fill in DE LAS as a mindless reflex gimme?
- 2d. [Seed coverings] are ARILS. What I want to know is whether the anil/indigo plant has arils.
- 3d. [Cambodian cash] is RIELS. Not to be confused with the Saudi, Qatari, and Yemeni currency, the riyal or rial.
- 4d. [Nuclear agcy. in the Truman administration] is the A.E.C. Modernists talk of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but if you kick it old school the A.E.C. is where it’s at.
- 5d. [Guido’s note] is ELA. Yes! It has been far too long since this delightfully musical answer has graced the crosswords I’ve seen.
Now, I love a good themeless puzzle, but I like them to have tough clues. So Tyler’s classic, while generally welcome, left me wanting more. Come on, Tyler! Next time, give me a crossword that will take at least a minute.