Today the Chicago Tribune ran a story about last Saturday’s notable LA Times crossword by Michael Wiesenberg—by none other than LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris. Check it out.
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
The puzzle commemorates the ROYAL WEDDING, which is imminent. I just read that only 6% of Americans actually care much about the wedding, but then many other commemorative crosswords probably also target a small number of avid fans. Like that Woody Allen theme a couple years ago—what percent of Americans are truly Woody Allen fans? It probably isn’t more than 6%.
Anyway. The theme also includes PRINCE WILLIAM, KATE MIDDLETON, KING AND QUEEN, and the occasional scattered quasi-related entry like ALTAR, Q.E. II, O.B.E., POOL, GONDOLA, and GEORGE. And BAMBA. Who knew it was a wedding song?—45a. [“La ___” (traditional Mexican nuptials song)].
The single most obscure answer in the puzzle is 24d: [French river or department]. EURE?!? Presumably it was originally EURO crossing TON, but the European duplication posed by 27a: EURAIL nudged the constructor or editor to go with EURE. Would you rather take the dupe or the obscurity? I do like the WEBINAR crossing—kind of a woeful word, but it’s fresh and newish.
I like the 10-pack of 7-letter entries in the fill. Markedly less fond of DAAE, AUER, LYS, and PERI. Perhaps a different grid design with a higher word count would have polished the short stuff, even at the cost of all the 7s.
Three and a half stars. The theme works fine, such as it is, but I think the “bonus” thematic words tend to detract from it. OBE, a palace POOL, and a GONDOLA for honeymooners? Those don’t add anything useful to the theme.
Joe DiPietro’s Fireball crossword, “Turnaround Time”
This one’s in PDF form only, not .puz (though the .jpz and .ipuz file formats would probably handle the cluing tricks just fine). The list of Across clues includes several that have numbers found at the end of Across answers, not the beginning, and they’re all cross-referenced to Down answers. Those Acrosses, of course (!), run backwards; each of the reversable words is a palindrome. If you take the time to mark the linked Across and Down answers, you see that they’re laid out meticulously—though the “turnaround” Acrosses aren’t sited symmetrically, if you go one square southwest from the leftmost “end” of those answers, you get the beginning of the accompanying Down. Isn’t that lovely? So in the key entries, you go forward, turn around and come back the way you came, and then head south.
I like how each reversible word has two clues. RADAR is Cpl. O’Reilly one way, and RADAR / BEACON the other. [Thing that goes around] is the highly awkward stand-alone word ROTATOR (but I’ll give the awkwardness a pass because how awesome is it that the word ROTATOR…can rotate? So cool), flipping over for ROTATOR / CUFFS. The Honda CIVIC is a car that can turn around, pointing the way towards CIVIC / PRIDE. PULL UP is the oddball reversible two-parter, flipping to PULL-UP / BAR. Last but not least, LEVEL is somehow a Swedish vodka brand (??) but also part of LEVEL / OFF.
Jonathan Porat’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
This is one of those “squish two things in the same set together to make a new thing” themes. I like these themes when we get fun phrases, but I felt like these were a little dry.
- 20a. [Lawyer after too much coffee?] – WIRED ESQUIRE
- 36a. [A day at the spa?] – GLAMOUR TIME – my favorite, because the clue’s a real phrase.
- 43a. [George, Abe et al.?] – MONEY PEOPLE
- 57a. [Place to find both parts of 20-, 36- and 43-Across] – MAGAZINE RACK
Thumbs up for using well-known magazine titles, but unfortunately these don’t lend themselves to hilarious entries. Maybe I was just put off by the fact that I had to work from the bottom up I kept getting stymied up top. For me, 8:25 is far to long to spend on a daily LA Times puzzle – I think Jonathan Porat was out to get me with a slew of pitfalls. Here are some traps I fell into:
- 8d. [Cancel, slangily] – SCRUB, not SCREW.
- 7d. [OPEC founding member] – IRAQ, not IRAN. The Q didn’t work with the E I had in SCREW.
- 21d. [Bit of sediment] – DREG, not GRIT.
- 30d. [Zap] – LASE, not TASE.
- 54d. [Island nation near Sicily] – MALTA, not CRETE. Admittedly, I should’ve known better.
And those were just my trouble down entries. Ugh – never heard of CAR-X, but at least it made sense. There are also 6 Xs – though I usually love the high Scrabble letters, the bank in the NE takes away just a little bit. (Yes, this is a pangram. No, I won’t give it points for that.)
Some fun bits I did like: NEAR MISS, FACE UP TO, MADE IT clued with [Is living the dream], and the timely [April concern] for TAXES.
And my “huh” for the puzzle, which might not have been yours, came at 3d: [Printing extras] – OVERS. The internet tells me that these are extra copies that a publisher prints. I thought it might be when you go into the margin – just another time I was wrong on this puzzle. Hopefully I’ll have better luck at the NYC DASH puzzle hunt this weekend – hope to see you there or hear about your exploits around the country afterward!
Updated Thursday morning:
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Squeeze Play” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s a puzzle that would make Bob Vila dance the Bohemian Polka. Jordan finds four phrases that are “squeezed” by a boa constrictor; that is, they all begin with B-O and end with A. Here they are:
- 20-Across: The [Italian entree also called farfalle] is BOWTIE PASTA. I’m partial to penne, myself.
- 32-Across: The [Samba relative] is the BOSSA NOVA. When I was a kid, I thought this dance was called the “Boss of Nova.” This was not my only problem with dancing as a kid.
- 39-Across: The [Pricey tableware] is BONE CHINA. It should be expensive; after all, it can’t be easy to scrounge up the number of bones required to make a simple plate.
- 51-Across: [Mumbai, before 1995] was BOMBAY, INDIA.
As themes go, this may not be the most compelling, but bonus points for the clever title. The best thing going for this puzzle is the fact that the grid is a pangram but i didn’t notice it until after I was done solving. Usually one can smell a pangram because of a forced entry that faciliates the use of a rare letter. But this grid was so smooth that, while I noticed the rare letters in play, it never occurred to me that all 26 letters could be lurking in the grid.
Other items of note:
- I love the sassiness of CAN IT, the imperative clued [“Hush up!”], this sits directly in the center of the grid.
- As nontheme fill, OBJET D’ART, the [Aesthetic curio], is, well, a real work of art.
- I can’t say I have seen the word CARBARN, the [Building for buses], before. I know such structures as “bus barns.” But I don’t get out much.
- [Go like a kangaroo] is an interesting and evocative clue for BOUND. Anyone else try BOUNCE at first, only to get frustrated by the lack of white squares?
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Where There’s a Will”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Today’s BEQ puzzle is a contest so I can’t blog it. But good luck!