Late addition to the Saturday 6/16 post: Write-up of Hex’s WSJ variety cryptic and mention of Roger Wolff’s new book of variety cryptics, available via Amazon. I haven’t yet had a chance to peek at the review copy that came in Saturday’s mail.
Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword, “Playable”
Is the puzzle playable? It is. And each theme answer plays a -BLE at the end of a word to turn it into an inherently fun-to-say word. It’s one of those add-some-letters themes that demonstrates to you why Will Shortz accepted yet another spin on the concept.
It bears noting that “Kyle T. Dolan” anagrams to TALL DONKEY. I’m sorry, Kyle. You knew this already, right?
Here’s the theme:
- 22a. BUMBLE RAP, [Falter while imitating Jay-Z?]. Mind you, most rappers are not imitating Jay-Z.
- 24a. RUMBLE PUNCH, [Something thrown in “West Side Story”?]. I had RUMBLE DRINK first.
- 36a. WARBLE ON DRUGS, [Sing high notes?]. Ha! Double meaning of “high” caught me by surprise.
- 54a. “THERE’S THE RUBBLE!,” [Cry upon arriving at an earthquake site?]. I prefer to preface that with “ay.”
- 77a. DROPPING TROUBLE, [What the turnover-prone football player had?].
- 92a. NOBLE NONSENSE, [Shenanigans at the royal court?].
- 110a. QUEEN MUMBLE, [Nickname for a hard to understand monarch?]. My favorite.
- 114a. HUBBLE CAP, [Lens cover for a large telescope?]. Good one.
The original phrases are every bit as lively as the +BLE results: a bum rap, rum punch, the war on drugs, “there’s the rub,” dropping trou, no-nonsense, Queen Mum, and hubcap would all be welcome assets in a crossword grid.
It was all crossings for me in 53d. [“The Magic Flute” protagonist] is named TAMINO? Good thing the crossings were all gettable, because I’ve never seen the name before, I don’t think. The clue for 111d, [Its stem is used in miso soup], did not at all deliver me to UDO. And what is this gamy business of 30a: BELOT, a [Trick-taking game]? Its Wikipedia write-up is riddled with misspellings so I suspect that not many native English speakers play the game. BELOT is “the name of a French trick-taking card game very popular in Bulgaria, in some parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia (Especially Bitola), and in Saudi Arabia. It is also played by the Armenian Diaspora, in former USSR area (Russia, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova) and by Jewish communities worldwide.” You don’t say. Especially Bitola! Aren’t you surprised it’s not big in Montenegro?
Fill I liked includes 103d: ZEPPO Marx, 79d: NEPENTHE (this [Mythical elixir of forgetfulness] shares its second half with ABSINTHE), 4d: “OH, BROTHER!,” 19d: the dentist’s “OPEN WIDE,” 29a: LONDON crossing the 25d: POND across from which you will find us, 83d: HANDYMAN, and 81d: UPPER DECK. Could’ve done without crosswordese bits like YPRES, OLEO, NACRE, ALB, and AMAH.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Dropped Off at the Movies”
I enjoyed this puzzle, though I recognize that the theme is incredibly loose. “Take a movie title and delete one letter, or maybe two letters, and reclue accordingly.” There’s no rhyme or reason, is there, to why these particular movie titles are included, or to which letters are dropped? The results are reasonably entertaining, however:
- 23a. [1984 film set in Miami and Phoenix?], PLACES IN THE HEAT. (Heart.)
- 33a. [1952 film about what there was between Larry and Curly?], ROOM FOR ONE MOE. (More.) Never heard of the original movie.
- 44a. [1974 film about Jay Leno’s childhood?], CHIN TOWN. (China.) “Forget about it, Jay—”
- 53a. [1970 film about desperate print-shop owners?], THE OUT-OF-TONERS. (Towners.)
- 68a. [1937 film about a book publisher’s worries?], THE PRICE AND THE PAPER. (Prince, Pauper.)
- 86a. [1987 film about the world’s sloppiest restaurant patron?], FULL MEAL JACKET. (Metal.) But “full-meal jacket” would be a clumsy description of a jacket with a lot of food spilled on it.
- 92a. [1970 film about a Dutch fashion that never caught on?], WOOD SOCK. (Woodstock.) Because of the wood shoes. I like it!
- 98a. [More apt title for a 1936 Astaire-Rogers film?], FOLLOW THE FEET. (Fleet.) Never heard of the original.
- 117a. [More apt title for a 1979 Pacino film?], AND JUSTICE FOR AL. (All.)
Using nine theme entries instead of 11 or 13 (as Merl often does) leaves some wiggle room for the Down fill. I’m partial to CILANTRO (tastes horrible, like soap, but makes for a good crossword answer), ROAD TRIPS, ROMANTICS, and SKID ROW. I kinda like the Warren ZEVON meets LEVON Helm crossing. They look a little like the crossing BAYERs on an aspirin tablet.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Double-O Seven” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: James Bond movies with an extra O added to the title.
Bonus theme answers:
- 23A. [Where chicks learn their ABCs?] – KINDERGARTEN COOP (kindergarten cop)
- 34A. [Midday duelers?] – NOON COMBATANTS (non com…you get the idea)
- 59A. [Establishment boasting whiskey and pedicures?] – BEAUTY SALOON
- 71A. [Lowdown on Wrigley’s?] – BUBBLE GUM POOP (Don’t go there, poopsters)
- 82A. [Deposit on a brownstone entrance?] – STOOP PAYMENT
- 105A. [Quaint caption for a cavalry photo?] – HERE BE DRAGOONS
- 124A. [Question about a noisy pet owl?] – HOOT ENOUGH FOR YOU
- 29A. [President after Calvin] – HERBERT. Tie in to today’s US Open Golf Championship, Calvin Peete and Herbert (call me Hubert and you spoil the gag) Green. Can you believe that finish? How amazing was [insert winner’s name here]!
- 47A. [Nina who had a 1959 hit with “I Loves You, Porgy”] – SIMONE
- 48A. [Slow-on-the-uptake response] – Huh? Don’t go where? OH! I GET IT!
- 134A. [Grammy winner Jones] – NORAH
- 5D. [“__ Pie”] – AMERICAN
- 15D. [Campy 1968 Fonda title role] – BARBARELLA. It took place in a BEAUTY SALOON.
- 25D. [“For __”: Beatles’ song] – NOONE. The Beatles’ ode to their inspiration, Herman’s Hermits.
- 30D. [“The Avengers” co-star] – RIGG. Bobby RIGG played Ant-Man.
- 78D. [California’s most populous county] – LOS ANGELES. Head south to Orange County, where the coolest attraction ever just opened. [Spoiler – ride video]
- 97D. [Computer scrolling key] – PAGE DOWN. If the PAGE DOWN button was above the PAGE UP button on a keyboard, do you think civilization would survive?
- 113D. [Kinks hit whose title is spelled out in the lyrics] – LOLA. Not Barry Manilow’s, but the one spelled G-L-O-R-I-A.
- 115D. [Ruth not in the Bible] – BABE. Oops. Boo-boo. [Ooh, double o’s!] BABE Ruth was the pitcher for the Sodom Gomorrahs. You can look it down.
By the way, if you are thinking:
Hey, shouldn’t there be no other “OO’s”? What about EROO, HOOD, NO ONE, O’TOOLE, SOOT? Isn’t that inelegant or some other fancy word for imperfection? Do I dock the puzzle’s pay or stars or something? Should I refer back to the glory days of crosswords? Shall I rant about the editors?
Stop thinking that. It is all good. The puzzle is good, the theme is good, the fill is good. Really. Stop looking for nits. It is just a crossword puzzle. Solve it, enjoy, and read the comics. In fact, why are you reading this? Go outside! Get some air.
Speaking of OO words, check out the FOODLOOP. Your food is delivered on a looping roller coaster!
Jeffrey, Bloogger to the Stars
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Gone over 26 years, still missed as much as ever.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy Father’s Day, everyone! Like so many readers, I owe a lot to my father. It was on his lap at a young age that I first got hooked on puzzles. When he was “stuck,” he would read a clue to me and I would “help” him. A good example would be “Sam, I need a three-letter word that starts with C that answers the clue, [It says “Meow”].” At the time I really thought I was helping him.
My father was not an especially open or expressive man, and our general interests rarely converged. He was a farm boy and I was a city slicker. I liked bright and flashy colors, and his favorite color was brown. (I remember being nearly mad with him about that. “Brown?!? No one’s favorite color is brown!!”) I liked watching pro wrestling and he was disgusted by it. My point is that our “puzzle” bond was one of the few connections we really had to each other. (That and a mutual love for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.)
My father died 18 years ago, long before I caught the crossword construction bug and long, long before I started contributing here at the Diary. But I think he would be happy to see that I’m keeping the puzzle bond alive, and it’s true that at least a part of the reason why I enjoy this craft so much is because it reminds me of him. So thanks, Dad. Oh, and the answer is CAT.
Meanwhile, we have a Sunday Challenge to discuss! I like that the black squares in this 70/36 freestyle grid form pluses and minuses, as there are some pluses and minuses to this construction. Let’s start with the pluses:
- Five of the six 15-letter entries are terrific. FATHER KNOWS BEST, I REALLY DON’T CARE, COME INTO CONTACT, STOPS THE PRESSES, and, my favorite, POPS THE QUESTION. (That’s a very nice entry, both because it’s wedding season and because it’s a sneaky way to get “pops” into the grid on Father’s Day.
- Today’s honoree, DAD, sits smack dab in the center, with the fitting clue, [Third-Sunday-in-June honoree].
- Even with six 15s there, there are some nice long Downs like STEPS IN, BOBCATS, DAWNS ON.
- I loved the clue for CREAK, [Indication of an oil shortage?].
But yeah, there are also some minuses, mostly in the form of Crosswordese. I have in mind EROO, RHEA, ERIS, ERE I, ANNI, ELOI, STEN, and OLAFS. And I wasn’t a big fan of the other 15, TACTLESS REMARKS. (Channeling Amy, I would say that one has a “roll your own” feel.)
But hey, these are relatively small prices to pay for the nice stuff listed above. The grid may have two plus signs and six minus signs, but in my view the ratio of good to bad stuff is easily 3:1 in the other direction.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 115” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. If you enjoy solving knotty themeless puzzles (and who doesn’t?), be sure to check out Brad Wilber’s latest offering in the Island of Lost Puzzles. It’s been up for a while, but some of you may have missed it. So go ahead and click here for a sweet puzzle. Brad says: “As usual, you can choose from a Smooth clue set (midweek solving experience) or a Crunchy set (weekend experience), or download both to peek at a few Smooth clues as needed.”
Speaking of Smooth, smooth grid from Trip today. No surprise there. That stack in the upper right is particularly sweet.
- 5a. [It goes a long way] – SPACE PROBE. On top of that stack is a good entry with a great clue. I might even go so far as to call it the Clue of the Day.
23a. [“Lisztomania” director] – KEN RUSSELL. One of the harder entries/clues for me. I vaguely know the name Ken Russell, and for some reason I thought he was married to the actress Theresa Russell. Turns out she was married to Nicolas Roeg, whose last name shows up in grids every now and then. And I’m also mixing him up with Ken Howard from The White Shadow. Anyway, Ken Russell, no relation to Theresa or ’70s basketball dramas, directed the 1975 film Lisztomania, starring Roger Daltrey as Franz Liszt. Yes, back in the day, Lisztomania was an actual phenomenon. From Wikipedia: “Admirers of Liszt would swarm over him, fighting over his handkerchiefs and gloves. Fans would wear his portrait on brooches and cameos. Women would try to get locks of his hair, and whenever he broke a piano string, admirers would try to obtain it in order to make a bracelet. Some female admirers would even carry glass phials into which they poured his coffee dregs.”
- 52a. [It may have a steel belt] – RADIAL TIRE. In a difficult puzzle, sometimes you can fake yourself out of a correct answer. I immediately thought of tires when I read this clue, but that seemed too obvious. Psych!
- 7d. [Supposedly protective items] – AMULETS. Reminds me of a Homer Simpson quote: “Seat belts? They kill more people than they save.” Homer’s got a point there. Disclaimer: Crossword Fiend Industries, Inc., is not responsible for injury or death resulting from following the advice found in silly statements quoted on the blog. Please wear seat belts and amulets at all times.
- 25d. [Chat when you’re feeling blue?] – SEXT. Insert your own “You’re feeling what?” joke here.
Have a nice Sunday. I’m outta here.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “I-Puzzle” — pannonica’s review
Yes, people, it’s true. We’re living in an iWorld. And iBlame this guy: Ken Segall. Why? Because he came up with the name “iMac.” Perhaps he’s a nice fellow, although it appears he’s written a book on Apple’s “simplicity” myth (but I won’t go into that) and to make matters worse, the blurb about it he features prominently on his own website begins, “Ken Segall has literally captured lightning in a bottle.” That’s right, although he could have simply chosen not to repeat that horrendous and inaccurate train wreck (not literally, iKid) without changing the tone or sense of the plaudit, he left it in. iDon’t trust someone like that.
What? Crossword puzzle? Oh, yes. Of course.
The theme here consists of blending two elements, such that result appears to be a regular word with an i prefixed and that i, combined with the first syllable of the word, constitutes a different, unrelated word. The cluing reflects this odd portmanteauization.
- 23a. [Beaten by a tsar?] IVANQUISHED. I/VAN/QUISHED. Ivan, vanquished. See how it works? Kind of like a Venn diagram. Not an iVenn diagram, because that’s just silly.
- 25a. [Sad about a pop star?] IDOLOROUS. Idol, dolorous. Looks kind of like idolatrous.
- 46a. [Symbolic cop?] ICONSTABLE.
- 53a. [Dark Arctic mood?] IGLOOMINESS.
- 75a. [Emperor of big films?] IMAXIMILIAN.
- 82a. [Language of negativity?] ICANTONESE. In this one, the first part doesn’t make a single word, but two—one of which is a contraction: I can’t. It’s the only themer like this.
- 104a. [Cookies for the birds?] IBISCOTTI.
- 106a. [Fixer of mp3 players?] IPODIATRIST.
- 3d. [Bitter in Tehran?] IRANCOROUS.
- 16d. [Lab assistant’s oath?] IGORBLIMEY. I had not realized that gor (meaning dirt, dung, feces) was anything other than a misspelling (or variant, to be retroactively and unusefully charitable) of cor (an alteration of “god” used as an expression of surprise, especially in the UK). However, considering the clue’s “blimey” and a Google search favoring “cor blimey” over “gor blimey” by a factor of roughly six, I wonder if this phrase passes muster. This is the only themer in which the second part isn’t a single word.
- 67d. [Lack of metric clarity?] IAMBIGUITY.
- 72d. [From planet Klutz?] INEPTUNIAN.
Strange theme, with two unique outliers. Also, there are a couple of non-theme entries which—despite their shortness—strongly resemble theme entries: 53d I MEAN, and 22a IGAS. Combined with my preëxisting iAntipathy, this theme just didn’t hold together for me.
- 27a [Parodies] Subtly tricky because it can be read as either a verb, leading to SENDS UP, or a noun, for SENDUPS. As it’s the former, there is no partial duplication with 65a BOILS UP [Cooks, as pasta].
- Similarly, 9d [Even, as odds] can be read as either an adjective or a verb. It’s the former, again: ONE-TO-ONE.
- And another variation: 22a [Certain food stores], in which “food stores” can be either of two related nouns, one meaning accumulated provisions and the other a retail establishment. IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance) is an international supermarket chain. Yay, plural abbrevs.
- 48a [Something up your sleeve] ARM, not ACE. Surely I’m not the only one who fell into this trap. And surely this isn’t the first time this clue has been used.
- 43a [Arabic “son of”] IBN. Which led me to wondering what the difference is between ibn and bin… Cursory investigation points to vagaries of transliteration.
58a [Gumshoe] SHAMUS. Feeling marginally motivated by ibn, above, I decided to check into the relationship between shamus and the Celtic name Séamus, analogous to James. I untangled the two in my mind relatively late (sometime in my mid-teens), but never bothered to find out the etymology of shamus and lazily assumed it was a corruption of some Irish protagonist. Nope! Merriam-Webster says, “perhaps from Yiddish shames shammes; from a jocular comparison of the duties of a sexton and those of a store detective … first known use: 1925.” And, sexton = “a church officer or employee who takes care of the church property and performs related minor duties (as ringing the bell for services and digging graves) … Middle English secresteyn, sexteyn, from Anglo-French segrestein, from Medieval Latin sacristanus — more at sacristan.”
- 40a [McSorley’s Bar” artist] SLOAN. I could picture the painting, but have no idea how the guy’s name popped right into my head.
- 32d [Glass lampshades] GLOBES. This clue really threw me.
- 89a [Wall in] IMMURE. Nifty word! Crossed with 85d [Clump of grass] TUSSOCK, another nifty word.
- 92a: Collective noun time! [Members of a bloat] HIPPOS.
- “Challenging” to have a plural German noun in an American crossword. That is, a plural of something much more often seen in the singular. HERREN rather than HERR.
- 82d [Not kosher] in crossword? “Has to be TREF… eight letters?! Oh, it’s just IMPROPER. Ha, ha, ha.”
- 60a [Pointy beard] VANDYKE. Scrabbly.
- 73d [Long time follower?] NO SEE. Excellent clue for a partial. Sort of wish it ditched the question mark, for a little extra oomph.
- 55a [Landslide conferral] MANDATE. An example of a terse but perfectly evocative clue. There were a bunch in this puzzle.
- 94a [Wide-body jet] DC-TEN. Does anybody like these odd hybrid clues where something almost universally consisting of letters and numerals converts those numerals for cruciverbal consumption?
- 57d [Start of Hilarius’s popedom] CDLXI. I believe I’ve made it well-known my opinion of Roman numeral clues of this ilk, but that isn’t why I’m mentioning it. I’d never heard of the fellow(turns out the name is simply a latinization of Hilary), but it sure sounds like a character from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
- Unfortunately, the puzzle “ends” on a couple of low notes. The final across and down clues are, respectively, [Berger of fildom] SENTA and [Brand of blade] ATRA.
Just wait until Apple executes a corporate takeover of IHOP.