Matt Gaffney’s got a serious article over at Politico. It’s called “The crossword writer’s candidates” and it’s an examination of crossword constructors’ professional reasons for supporting a presidential candidate. It goes way beyond U NU, people.
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
Crisp theme: Six two-word phrases are made of words that form new phrases/compound words when preceded by the word HIGH. This makes each of those theme answer words a “HIGH” TAIL. You’ve got ENERGY BAR, ROAD TEST, ART CLASS, MASS CARD, JUMP BALL, and TIMES SIGN, six fairly lively entries unto themselves even without the double-barreled HIGH+ action. It’s a high-energy, high-test, high-class theme. All the components were familiar to me except for the high sign. Non-Catholics may not know what a mass card ([Catholic remembrance]) is; I know them as those little cards, sometimes laminated, handed out at a funeral and giving the name/dates of someone who died along with an inspirational verse or bible quote and perhaps a stock religious picture.
Highlights: HURRAY, RAN HARD, MIXED UP, THE JETS, and AUDUBON. Lowlights: HANA DUZ EDO (this is a sequel to Debbie Does Dallas), ANIL, SSRS, AES, ALTAI, EELY, and YMA—a whole lotta crosswordese. Do the theme and the stacked 7s offset the short clunkers for you? Without those crosswordese blights, I’d have rated this one above the 4-star mark. With them? Still 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the puzzle overall.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Calling the Geek Squad” – Sam Donaldson’s review
You think you have technology problems! Today’s puzzle is infested with four different computer glitches. More accurately, the grid features four terms ending with a word that can also be a computer problem:
- 17-Across: One [Winter woe] is a COLD VIRUS. To me, the bigger woes are snow and ice.
- 32-Across: The [1968 Disney film] is THE LOVE BUG. Who says product placement is a creature of the last decade or two?
- 48-Across: The [Ocean invertebrate] is a MARINE WORM. They’re like earthworms with gills. Or really small eels.
- 66-Across: To [Attend uninvited] is to GATE CRASH. Don’t show up uninvited to Alanis Morissette’s house or you’ll never hear the end of it.
Oof, it felt like I never got much traction in solving this beast. It started at 1-Across, when I could see Scott CAAN of “Hawaii Five-0” but couldn’t think of his name for the life of me. Caan! It didn’t help that JAVA was my first (inane) thought for [Andean stimulant] instead of COCA. Or that [Toowoomba native] meant nothing to me as a clue for AUSSIE. Or that I was fooled into thinking of the gemstone with the clue [Diamond family name] instead of baseball. Had I seen that trap in advance, I could have plunked down ALOU, the most wonderful four-letter, three-vowel surname in all of professional sports. So yeah, that was an ugly start.
There were other rough patches, like where I wanted ESTEEMED instead of EMINENT for [Highly regarded]. CAPER seems like a better choice for [“The Anderson ___” (1971 Sean Connery movie)] than TAPES. I’d much rather see The Anderson Caper than The Anderson Tapes. And it never occurred to me that Al GORE would be a [Reason for an R-rating, perhaps]. I thought An Inconvenient Truth was PG.
I hang my head with deep shame as I confess that I wanted GREEN HORNET as the answer to [Lamont Cranston’s alter ego, with “The”] instead of SHADOW. I’m convinced that if you randomly stuck this clue in front of me, I’d get it within a second 99 times out of 100. Alas, today was number 100.
Both of long Downs tickled me more than any of the theme entries. ANKLE-BITER, another term for a [Rugrat], has always struck my “inappropriately funny” bone, so I loved seeing it here. PAPER TIGER, the [Toothless threat] is likewise great. I like SYNDROME but the clue, [Broken heart, for one], really made me work for it. I needed lots of crossings before the proverbial light bulb lit.
Favorite entry = PENNY, [Leonard and Sheldon’s neighbor on “The Big Bang Theory”]. It may be the only studio-audience-laugh-track sitcom on television today that’s any good. Favorite clue = [They’re chased by an ambulance chaser] for CLIENTS.
Michael Dewey’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Michael Dewey has an A+ theme idea in my book! Four parts of a knight’s protection are found in long theme answers: RUNSTHEGAUNTLET, HELMETTOHELMET, SHIELDONESEYES and CHINKINTHEARMOR. It’s nice to see a categories theme with a discrete set of interesting answers; However, it comes with quite a lot of inconsistency to overlook. The first three objections are all minor and don’t bother me at all. Yes, the answers aren’t consistently placed within the phrases two at the end, one at the beginning and one bookending the phrase; and HELMET repeats; and some of the phrases use the theme part in the original sense, e.g. CHINKINTHEARMOR. But so what? I’m perfectly fine with those in the pursuit of a novel theme. However, GAUNTLETS and a HELMET are subtypes of ARMOR [sic]… That’s a bit of a flaw (ahem, CHINKINTHEARMOR) I’d say… Probably I’m just nit-picking though… And we do get four lively phrases, so it’s all good!
Last bit of grumbling then I’m done. I know it’s a lose-lose scenario, but having ATF and ACHT in the bottom-left rankled a bit. Very easy to avoid if you don’t introduce a J and an X. Of course then you lose the bits of colour that FIJI and TWIX introduce. Like I said, a lose-lose situation, although Mr. Dewey did painlessly fit in a J, an X and a V in the opposite corner so it can be done.
- I always appreciate new clues for EWES, and [Shorn shes] is a doozie!
- My strangest knee-jerk answer was, off SU, wanting to write SUrly not SUAVE for [Like James Bond.] Make of that what you will.
- “If IHAD a nickel…” I’d nickel in the morning…
- [Lining with decorative rock] is not really the meaning of STONING that leaps first into my head. Rather, I think of Stephen in the book of Acts.
I know everybody is craving to hear the song in the clue for YARROW, “Peter who co-wrote ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’” so I’ll leave on that note!
Patrick Blindauer’s October website puzzle — Matt’s Review
October’s Blindauer puzzle is up, and the theme trick is quite subtle…maybe a little too subtle? Here are the theme entries, each bearing an asterisk:
17-a [*Hit AMC show] = MAD MEN
18-a [*Librarian’s workplace] = HELP DESK
30-a [*Piece of sanding gear] = DUST MASK
39/41-a [Red alert?] = STOP SIGN. Nice clue.
54-a [*Classified announcement] = YARD SALE
64-a [*What some egotists think they are] = GOD’S GIFT. Doesn’t feel quite right as a stand-alone; needs “to women” or “to men” or “to music fans everywhere.”
68-a [*Animated film of 2002] = ICE AGE
My crossword schedule has been heavy lately so I had to concede on this one after less than half an hour. I just couldn’t see any link among the seven asterisked phrases, and the two alternative titles the author provided — “Twin-Twin Situation” and “Common Sense” didn’t turn any light bulbs on, either. Finally Patrick explained the idea: there’s a hidden MESSAGE in the seven theme entries, found by the common letter (in a common place) in each two-word phrase.
So the M in MAD and MEN is the only common letter between the two, and it’s also the first letter in both. The E in HELP and DESK is their only common letter, and they’re both in the same place in their words (second, here) as well. Similarly with S, S, A, G and E in the remaining five entries, and there’s your hidden message.
I’m not sure I ever would have gotten this, and for once I’m not crazy about a Blindauer website puzzle. Two main gripes: 1) the MESSAGE-hiding mechanism is so subtle that I think the puzzle needs explicit instructions (“you’re looking for a hidden seven-letter word,” e.g.) instead of just the asterisks, and 2) even then the gimmick doesn’t feel that tight because there are a lot of two-word phrases that would work for many of these. CARD GAME for YARD SALE, THE ONE for ICE AGE, SLAP SHOT for STOP SIGN, and so on.
I’ll grant that the restriction looks a little tighter now that I try to come up with my own alternatives — remember that the two can’t share any other letters besides the “twin”. For instance, I can’t find a good alt-entry for MAD MEN or GOD’S GIFT. But it’s still not something that would’ve jumped out at me since there are too many other possibilities for most of the seven.
A stingy and whiny 3.60 stars from me. I expect an upper-deck home run every single month and when I don’t get it I complain in public. You?
Deb Amlen’s Onion AV Club crossword
Quickly, because I want to blog this puzzle and blog the Fireball for tomorrow’s post before the NYT puzzle comes out in … 33 minutes.
The theme is travel:
- 20a. [Visit to one’s parents, even though you could’ve gone somewhere fun instead?], GUILT TRIP.
- 52a. [Journey for cats?], TOM CRUISE. Cats love water.
- 10d. [Journey with the top off?], FLASH DRIVE. Ha!
- 29d. [Journey with a beverage cart?], WINE FLIGHT. Hic!
Highlights: “SO THERE,” FISH TACO (let us not speak of the clue; somebody was just telling me they made some terrific tilapia tacos and I regret that I didn’t ask for the recipe), non-Reese PEE-WEE (26a. [Paul Reubens alter ego who laid low for a while after the public masturbation bust]), the clue [A finger in the air might connote one] for IDEA, and the return to the Biblical ONAN clue angle I learned in my youth, [Bible character killed for spilling his seed]. When I was 12, I didn’t know what “seed spiller” meant (birdseed?), but eventually I learned. And now? It keeps getting clued as the partial ON AN. Boo! More seed spilling. (See also 49d: YANKS.)
New-to-me name: 34d. [Footballer Hazard of Chelsea], EDEN.