News flash for West Coasters! The sixth annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest will be held near San Jose the weekend of January 28 and 29. There’s a crossword tournament, sudoku tournament, workshops on making and solving crosswords, and much, much more (and I’m not just saying that—this puzzle fest really is packed with a wide range of events). For adult tournament registration, the suggested donation is $25, and for kids under 16, $10; proceeds benefit the Morgan Hill Library Foundation. Visit svpuzzle.org for details. (P.S. There’s an award for the participant who traveled the farthest, so non-Californians are encouraged to attend too.)
Steven Atwood’s New York Times crossword
Wow, I love this theme. Presumably someone somewhere has played around with -ISH words in a similar fashion, but the nine-piece theme feels fresh and surprising to me. Words that end with -ISH are clued as if they are defined as both the real word and a fake one with an -ish suffix that means “-like.” So FLOURISH is also FLOUR-ISH: [Be healthy, like a type of meal?]. Essentially, these are cryptic-crossword clues, which may account for my love of the theme. VANISH like a moving van, GARISH like a skinny gar, CHERISH like Cher, POLISH like a politicians, PUNISH like a groaner of a pun (this one is my favorite, [Hurt, like a groan-inducing joke?]), BRANDISH like a hot branding iron, LAVISH like a loo, and FINISH like tail fins.
The rest of the grid is undistinguished. I like the BUM RAP but the short fill has bits like UTA, HARA, SRI, IS HE, and DU LAC. But I don’t really care, because the theme is a delight. A theme that really works and entertains me buys an awful lot of forgiveness. 4.25 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Art Colony”
The “art colony” is a bunch of famous (?) people sporting tattoo ink and clued accordingly:
- 16a. [Demand that Kissinger squeal like a pig?] is “OINK, HENRY!” Writer O. Henry gets some ink, and Mr. Kissinger gets humiliated? That works for me.
- 23a. [Learn about all things rosy-colored?] clues MASTER PINK. Master P is a rapper, as you might’ve guessed from the name if, like me, you didn’t recognize the name.
- 32a. TATTOO PARLORS are [Where 16-across, 23-across, 46-across and 55-across all got their work done]. How far must you travel to reach the nearest tattoo parlor? I have to walk a block and a half.
- 46a. This one made me laugh. [Do the nasty with Jeter?] clues BOINK DEREK, and this is Bo Derek’s best work in years.
- 55a. [Ice skating area that’s totally green?] clues RINK KELLY, building on R. Kelly. This one’s less successful because we simply don’t tack on a “Kelly” after a noun to indicate that it is Kelly green.
Quickly, seven more clues:
- 18a. [What things could always be] is WORSE. Good to remember.
- 29a. [Time Warner launch of 1996] is the implausible-looking 5-letter string CNNSI. This is (or was) a CNN/Sports Illustrated site/portal of some sort? I really wasn’t paying attention to sports on the internet in ’96.
- 30a. The clue [Gross-looking delicacy] intrigued me but I couldn’t think what it would be. The crossings gave me PATÉ. *shudder*
- 52a. [Japanese historical period that ended in 1868] is the EDO ERA. Edo, which is solid crosswordese, is the pre-1868 name for Tokyo. I’ve never seen EDO ERA in a puzzle before, but recently learned that the era lasted for 250 strikingly peaceful years.
- 21d. [Cameraman’s certification, for short] is ASC. American Society of Cinematographers? Yes.
- 44d. This clue confused me. I was reading [Online call service] as, I don’t know, an online version of an answering service, or a customer service line, or something. It’s SKYPE, which lets you talk, video-chat, and IM-chat with people around the world for free. My family has Skyped to the Philippines.
- 56d. [Mark Tatulli comic strip] is LIO. Wha…?
- 57d. And [Former “Survivor” contestant ___-Man Chan] clues YAU. Wha…? If you don’t know how to spell CELIA ([Singer Cruz]), you may be sunk here.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review
Our Palau pal* and frequent contributor Julian Lim has a dense geographic theme for us today. Each theme answer is a country followed by that country’s first three letters.
- 17a. [Caribbean preserves?] – JAMAICA JAM, mon
- 27a. [South American fellow?] – GUYANA GUY
- 49a. [North American food container?] – CANADA CAN
- 63a. [Balkan priestly vestment?] – ALBANIA ALB
- 10d. [East African beachgoer’s color?] – TANZANIA TAN
- 24d. [West Indies watering hole?] – BARBADOS BAR
So many theme entries, but there’s a veritable MEGATON of Zs! Look at the PIZZAZZ in this puzzle! I’m neither CRAZY nor BERSERK about AZO, but I like the other Z entries. And the ADELE in this grid isn’t the one that’s famous with the kids these days, but if you’re looking for an anachronistic clue/entry pair, we’ve got [Hogwarts motto language] for LATIN. (It’s Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus, of course.)
There’s just something about this puzzle I really liked. I think some of the entries, like JULEP and JOJO, GETS IN and IN A ROW, and some others made it feel more fun than a usual Tuesday. YABBA dabba doo! Four and a quarter stars from me.
*I can’t confirm that Julian Lim is actually from Palau, but my hunch is no.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Triple Doubles” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Just in time for the upcoming NBA season, we have a crossword with the title “Triple Doubles.” But hoops are nowhere on the menu. Instead, each of the five theme entries contains two words, and the first three letters of the each word are the same, thus giving us “triple doubles” (or, less elegantly, double trigrams):
- 17-Across: When someone tells you to [Get real], you are directed to FACE FACTS.
- 23-Across: The [Pieman’s acquaintance] is SIMPLE SIMON. Better to meet Simple Simon than his cousin, Hard Harold, if you ask me.
- 37-Across and 40-Across: The [silent film legend] is CHARLIE / CHAPLIN. I’m a big fan of plopping a 14-letter theme entry with a (7,7) enumeration into the middle of the grid–it’s a nice contrast and aesthetically elegant.
- 48-Across: GRETNA GREEN is a complete unknown to me, and the principal reason I clocked in with a slower-than-usual time. Wikipedia says that one of every six Scottish marriages takes place there, making [Gretna Green response] an immediately serviceable clue for AYE, AYE LADDIE, and I DINNA KEN. (Yes, I’m resorting to Scottish jokes. You try blogging for 365 days and see if you don’t get desperate for material.)
- 60-Across: A CANDY CANE is a [Christmas decoration, often]. We should have more edible decorations.
Did you notice that all we’re missing here is a Volkswagen? (Yep, the grid is a V and W shy from being an overrated pangram.) Me neither, and only the abundance of rare letters (2 Zs, 3 Js, an X and a Q) sent me hunting to see whether all the letters were there. Fortunately, the grid’s super-smooth, making the rare letters more of a treat than a flag of nearby compromised fill. I liked TOM LANDRY, the guy who [won 270 games with the Dallas Cowboys], LARGE SIZE (clued as [Deluxe, maybe]), LEMON TEA, and NINJA.
My favorite clue was [December 13, for one] for IDES. Apparently one need not beware that particular ides. (Honorable mentions for Best Clue go to [Units of wisdom?] for PEARLS and the clue for MARCY, [ __ D’Arcy (“Married…With Children” role)].