Pete Muller’s New York Times crossword, “My Treat”
Back in March, ACPT-goers enjoyed Pete Muller’s egg cream–themed crossword, and now he’s got an ICE CREAM SODA puzzle. It’s got assorted ingredients (SELTZER WATER, TWO SCOOPS of ice cream, FLAVORED SYRUP, maybe some CHOCOLATE, and or course the EGG SACS) and related ice cream drinks (COKE FLOAT, plural BROWN COWS), plus a TALL GLASS, a FLEXIBLE STRAW, and a LONG SPOON. The extra oomph comes from playing a connect-the-dots game with the circled letters, but you know what? Unless you want to futz around with painting software, the online or Across Lite solver is just not gonna get the full effect without printing it out. Luckily, we can just move on to peeking at Pat Merrell’s illustration to see that you’re supposed to end up with a glass, drink, ice cream scoops floating atop, straw, and spoon.
Now, I’m tired, so I don’t give a hoot that I have a typo somewhere in my grid. If you see something that looks wrong, congratulations to you!
I was a good third of the way through this puzzle before I filled in an answer that I liked. I started with SETA, OATS, REATA, EAR OF, GNARL, GESTE, LENI, and ALL OR. Oof! I had hopes that the longer fill would pack some punch, but MRI SCAN (that just sounds wrong—”CAT scan,” “CT scan,” “PET scan,” but just “MRI”), RULE ONE (huh?), SCALABLE, OVENWARE, and MADRONES did not wow me. Granted, the need to plunk certain letters in certain spots constrains the fill, but it doesn’t make for much fun when solving the crossword.
2.5 stars. This wasn’t my cup of tea (or ice cream soda).
Postscript: Gareth shared his attempt at connecting the dots much the way I would have done it. We are no threat to Pat Merrell’s illustration career!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Spondulix” — pannonica’s review
First things first. Spondulix (or spondulicks) is a 19th Century slang term for money. The Online Etymology Dictionary elucidates thus: “1856, Amer. Eng. slang, ‘money, cash,’ of unknown origin, said to be from Gk. spondylikos, from spondylos, a seashell used as currency (the Greek word means lit. ‘vertebra’). Used by Mark Twain and O. Henry and adopted into British English, where it survives despite having died in Amer. Eng.”
Sooo, we get a bunch of oddly-clued theme entries incorporating slang terms (or synonyms) for money (or dollars). There doesn’t seem to be a rigorous rationale to the wordplay; instead it feels like a British crossword or one of Mel Taub’s sui generis “Puns & Anagrams” puzzles.
- 26a. [Money roll?] SCRATCH PAD.
- 28a. [A little short of money?] LIGHT GREEN.
- 54a. [Fiscal felonies?] CAPITAL CRIMES.
- 61a. [Money material?] CASHMERE.
- 79a. [Money man in the making?] DOUGHBOY.
- 89a. [Charitable gifts of money?] TENDER MERCIES.
- 112a. [Easy money?] QUICK BREAD.
- 116a. [Financial committees?] BUCKBOARDS.
Only eight themers (2×13 letters, 4×10 ltrs, 2× 8 ltrs) totaling 82 squares in a 21×21 grid with 364 white squares; that’s less than 25% theme material, which seems a little sub-snuff. As a partial counterweight, there is a giant $ incorporated into the grid pattern, much like Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ puzzle of 23 June, which has a similar theme (it included slangy terms for “dollar”: buck, bill, bone, and clam). Not-quite theme entries: 24a [Eight bits] A DOLLAR, 59a [Airline seating class] ECONOMY, 52a [Gershwin’s savings acocunt?] IRA, 35d [Money, musically] DOREMI.
The rest of the fill is very smooth and the puzzle was pretty much a breeze to solve, but it wasn’t so easy that it felt like a mechanical exercise to write (type) the answers into the grid.
Clues of note:
- 40a. [Blades of Panama] RUBÉN.
- 48a. [Stat for swingers] RBI.
- 75a. [Like a feeble crone} ANILE: of or resembling a doddering old woman; especially: senile. (Latin anilis, from anus old woman;
first known use: 1652) —m-w.com
- 101a. [Gag reflex?] LAUGH.
103d. [Snow leopard] OUNCE. The scientific name is Uncia uncia. Some of you who are typographically inclined may notice a resemblance to “uncial.” It’s coincidental, but there is some etymological entwinement. According to m-w.com, the feline ounce/uncia comes from “Middle English unce lynx, from Middle French, alteration (by misdivision, as if l’once the ounce) of lonce, probably from Old Italian lonza, from Middle Greek lynk-, lynx, from Greek.” First known use: 1774. The calligraphic uncial is “a handwriting used especially in Greek and Latin manuscripts of the fourth to the eighth centuries a.d. and made with somewhat rounded separated majuscules but having cursive forms for some letters.” It derives from “Late Latin unciales (litterae) uncial (letters), from Latin, plural of uncialis weighing an ounce, from uncia twelfth part, ounce — more at ounce.” First known use: 1775.
- 106d. [Swift brute] YAHOO. As in Jonathan Swift.
Hey Puzzle, here’s a few stars… »toss« …go buy yourself a nice time!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I got off to an okay start on this 70/28 freestyle from the Zen Master of Clever Clues, but then got severely bogged down at a few crossings. The result was a very slow time, even by my comparatively low standards. That’s a little frustrating, because I had conquered the triple-nines fairly easily and thus felt a fleeting sense of confidence. Still, despite the frustration, there’s a lot here to admire:
- Just a few days ago I was sucked into thinking the clue [National rival] was asking for the name of another rental car company, only to find out it was FOREIGN STATE. So naturally I had no idea that [Dollar alternative] was asking for the name of another rental car company, this time ALAMO. Sigh.
- I really liked [Joint tenant?] as a clue for FELON. It’s bar exam time across the country, so budding lawyers who took some time off from cramming to solve this puzzle might think this clue was used precisely to make them feel guilty about taking a break. The bar exam does things like that to your psyche.
- I suppose it says something about me that I plunked down IDIOT with absolutely no hesitation upon seeing the clue [Every driver but you?]. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I was so confident–I’m just glad it worked out.
- I thought [“Foiled again!” competitor] was looking for an opposite exclamation, like I DID IT, or something similar. Instead, the clue wants to know a name for a competitor who might exclaim “Foiled again!” That would be the losing EPEEIST, a word we all use in everyday conversation.
- Unknown crossing #1: the intersection of [Hoover’s Secretary of State], STIMSON, with TOSHIRO, clued as [Mifune of “Yojimbo”]. “Yojimbo” tells the story of a wandering nomad who travels great distances calling out for his pal, Jim.
- Unknown crossing #2, 3, and 4: three letters comprising [“The Velveteen Rabbit” author Margery] WILLIAMS. Both of the Is and the first L were hard for me to suss out, as I’m not familiar with [“Exile in Guyville” singer Liz] PHAIR, the [“Watch on the Rhine” Best Actor Oscar winner], PAUL LUKAS, or the word PINNATE, meaning [Featherlike]. I blame the public school system, as it certainly can’t be my fault.
Other great items included DEEP-SIXES (which we just saw in a Doug Peterson puzzle this past week), MOOSEJAW, Saskatchewan, and my favorite clue, [They hang around waterfalls] for MISTS. So while I got clobbered, I enjoyed the beatdown and will be back for another. Maybe I’ll go solve the LAT puzzle and hope for better luck there–hopefully I’ll be on that constructor’s wavelength!
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 65”
There’s not a false move in this whole puzzle. Which is not to say there’s no trickery in the clues—there’s a little of that. The fill is smooth and smart and it’s got some fun stuff:
- 24a. If it’s SO BAD, IT’S GOOD, it is [Awfully entertaining?]. Not sure I’ve ever seen this answer in a crossword before, but I’ve definitely said the words.
- 8d. GONE FISHIN’ is cute, but I had no idea it was the title of a [1997 film co-scripted by J.J. Abrams]. When you follow this answer with 9d: SHUCKS, or [“Dadgummit!”], it is appropriate to take out your whittlin’ knife.
- 12d. [Completely unloaded?] clues COLD SOBER, which is often intensified with the word “stone.”
- 30d. [Woody Allen’s mother-in-law] is, of coruse, MIA FARROW. This one made me laugh and then read it to my husband.
- 35d. THE RIVER is a classic [1980 double album by Bruce Springsteen].
- 44d. [Pole position?] isn’t about auto racing, it’s about the ARCTIC.
Did you notice that there are only two 3-letter answers in this 66-word grid? That’s not easy to pull off.
Five more clues:
- 14a. [Second-biggest city in Venezuela ] = MARACAIBO
- 39a. [“A dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world,” according to George Santayana] = ARTIST
- 51a. [Ananias, for one] = DAMASCENE, meaning “person from Damascus”
- 10d. [Typical Monteverdi composition] = MADRIGAL
- 26d. [Amtrak train from New York to Montreal] = ADIRONDACK. I like the geographic poeticism inherent in many of the names of Amtrak routes. Three that pass through Chicago are the Hiawatha (to Milwaukee), City of New Orleans, and California Zephyr.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “General Search”
Easy crossword, with a tougher word search puzzle embedded in it. The Notepad says there are 14 Civil War generals hidden in the Across answers. I found 13 likely suspects, and then I turned to Wikipedia for help. You know what? There are about 150 generals from just the Union side in just the first three letters of the alphabet. I’m not looking at a couple thousand names to find the 14th hidden general! If you’re a Civil War buff, you can tell us if Tonstir or Norlace was a general.
I have said this before when writing about other puzzles, and I will keep saying it as long as constructors and editors keep using this clue: AN EEG IS NOT A SCAN. IT IS A RECORDING OF BRAIN ACTIVITY, NOT A SCANNED PICTURE OF WHAT IS INSIDE THE SKULL. Thus, a clue like 67d: [Brain scan, briefly] will chap my hide every single time.
There’s a lupine sub-theme lurking in here:
- 45d. [Orb in werewolf films] is the MOON.
- 78a. [Keitel in “Pulp Fiction”] is MR. WOLF. When you’ve got a brain scan all over the car interior, he’s just the one to supervise the cleanup.
- 103d. U-BOATS are [Wolf pack units].
Favorite fill and clues:
- 84a. [Suffer] clues PAY DEARLY.
- 96a. [Cinderella’s horses, before] were mere MICE.
- 98d. Hey, look, it’s crossword lingo. A CROSSER is a [Down word, perhaps].
Sam Donaldson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Say Again”?
Ooh, I like a good heteronym theme. Heteronyms are words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and meanings. The theme answers look perfectly ordinary in the grid, but they’re clued as if the heteronym has invaded a familiar phrase:
- 23a. [Understudy’s crime?] = LEAD POISONING.
- 33a. [Short ovation?]= MINUTE HAND
- 49a. [Instrument with colored bands?] = STRIPED BASS
- 68a. [Compliment on a skillful asphalt job?] = GOOD EVENING
- 84a. [Anesthetist’s error?] = WRONG NUMBER
- 101a. [Fight among forest females?] = DOES BATTLE
- 117a. [Clean kielbasa?] = POLISH SAUSAGE
- 16d. [Telescope?] = METEOR SHOWER
- 64d. [Jeans feature after a barbed wire encounter?] = TRAIL OF TEARS
Remember the Droid phone ads that said the device was a “bucket of does”? They meant “a bucket of the opposite of can’t do,” but it sure looked like we should expect to see a herd of female deer in a giant pail.
Lots of juicy fill—BENELUX, “OH, COME ON!,” “I GIVE UP,” HOT DOGS, POSTDOC, “YO, ADRIAN,” SUN TEA, and STRAY CAT.
- 108d. [See-thru wear?] = SPECS
- 44d. [Blowout on the court] = MASSACRE. Is this about Djokovic vs. Nadal?
- 50d. [Diamond wearer in “Copacabana”] = RICO