Belatedly interjected second announcement! Matt Gaffney will have his review of Patrick Blindauer’s monthly website puzzle tomorrow. The puzzle is up today, here. Get on that!
Announcement! The lineup of puzzle constructors for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was announced on Friday. Here are my predictions for who’s got which puzzle:
Easy puzzle #1, Mike Shenk
Medium puzzle #2, Brendan Emmett Quigley
Biggish puzzle #3, Ian Livengood
Easy puzzle #4, Patrick Berry
Insanely tough puzzle #5, Lynn Lempel
Biggish puzzle #6, traditionally Maura Jacobson for decades, Kevin Der
Sunday-sized #7, Patrick Blindauer
Finals themeless, Elizabeth Gorski
Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
Interesting factoid from Brad this morning: This is the 24th Peterson/Wilber (or Lars Doubleday) puzzle to be published, but it was also their first collabo, dating back two years. It sure has been a fruitful constructorial partnership since 2010, hasn’t it?
The hallmarks of a Doubleday puzzle were in evidence from the start: a slew of zippy long answers to rope us in, and playful clues to keep us entertained. A few highlights:
- 1a. [Game with the figures “soldier’s bed” and “fish in a dish”], CAT’S CRADLE. The string game. Clue had me befuddled.
- 15a. [Superpower with which Clark Kent shaves himself], HEAT VISION. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I’d opt for flying, but my son made a sound argument in favor of teleportation. Heat vision would be pretty low on my list.
- 58a. [1971 film with the tagline “You don’t assign him to murder cases. You just turn him loose.”], DIRTY HARRY.
- 61a. [Regime change catalyst], PALACE COUP. That reminds me: Gareth, you want to run the Fiend Palace during ACPT weekend?
- 63a. [Site near an outdoor recording session in “Help!”], STONEHENGE. Beatles trivia I did not know.
- 12d. [Genre that glorifies gunplay], GANGSTA RAP. Were you thinking of movie or fiction genres?
- 25d. HAREM PANTS are always fun, and the clue utterly confused me until right now. [Part of an iconic Eden outfit] doesn’t refer to the Garden of Eden—it refers to Barbara Eden, Doug’s beloved (or is that just Elizabeth Montgomery? I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched were both in incessant reruns when I was a kid, magical genie and magical witch, adorable blonde actresses … the overlap is obvious).
- 27d. [Low-priced item, maybe], LOSS LEADER. A retail marketing term. Whereas 49a: [Aids in marketing?] are grocery CARTS. If only bookstores had carts too.
- 36d. [TV show that has spawned many movies, briefly], SNL. I wanted some 3-letter version of Star Trek first.
- 48d. [Zach ___, “Garden State” actor/director], BRAFF. Scrubs is usually on Comedy Central when I’m at the gym on the stationary bike so I get a lot of Zach Braff these days.
The unhappier bits were few and far between:
- 11a. [Real-estate mogul Olenicoff], IGOR. Apparently I have fallen woefully behind on my real-estate moguls.
- 24a. [Dental patient, often], RINSER. Mind you, nobody would refer to that person as a “rinser,” not even during those swish-and-spit moments. Which are a thing of the past! Dentists now squirt the water into your mouth and suction it out. No more spit sink. So really, the dental assistant is the RINSER now.
- 39a. [Lead characters in “Mork & Mindy”?], EMS. Urgh. They’re M’s and you all know it. (I prefer E.M.S.)
- 2d. [Prefix with -stat], AERO. Do you know the word aerostat? I just looked it up. “An airship or hot-air balloon, especially one that is tethered.”
- 7d. [Leaning], ASLANT. Yes, it’s a word. But how often do you use it?
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Light My Fire”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Good grief, is it March already?!? The year is slipping away, but on the plus side it’s just one more week until a bunch of hunks and hotties converge on Brooklyn for the ACPT. I can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones.
Today’s puzzle is a tribute to pyromania, celebrated through five two-word terms starting with a word that, in another context, can serve to keep a fire burning:
- 17-Across: PAPER MOON is the [Oscar-winning film for Tatum O’Neal]. Which will she win first: a second Oscar or her first Orca?
- 24-Across: A CHARCOAL SKETCH is a [Drawing in black and white]. As is ANYTHING DONE IN PENCIL, but “charcoal” is a little more consistent with the theme than “anything.”
- 40-Across: One who [Stops surfing, say] is one who LOGS OFF.
- 51-Across: A mass of people that [Proceeds as a unified group] is one that STICKS TOGETHER, like fingers after eating a juicy orange.
- 61-Across: [Fails to include] is the clue for LEAVES OUT. I’m embarrassed to say I had “leaves out” on the lawn for most of fall and winter. But it’s better now, just in time for some new lawn menace, I’m sure.
Look at the terrific fill in this puzzle! TOP BANANA, LEECHING, HOP IN, I.D. TAG, IN VIEW OF, GO TO SEA, OH NO, and more. Foodies will like SALAD, CHIPS, HAM (clued as a [Stage grabber], but still), and HASH. The only entries that pinged the Scowl-O-Meter were SHOAL, the [Sand bar] nearly unique to crosswords, and NITER, the [Compound found in fertilizers] (and crosswords).
Favorite entry = EARTHWORM, the [Treat for a trout]. Favorite clue = [You get them from dealers] for HANDS in a card game.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Switchcraft” — pannonica’s write-up
The phrases of the theme entries all consist of two words linked by “in the”; the gimmick is that those terminal components have been exchanged to create—you guessed it—a wacky phrase which is then—bingo again!—clued appropriately. Not being snarky about the pattern, it’s only that it’s such a convention in the wordplay of themed crosswords that it feels I type and read such descriptions all the time.
- 23a. [Starting pistol ammo mixed with construction site dirt?] BLANKS IN THE FILL.
- 40a. [“Que, Sera, Sera” singer working behind the scenes?] DAY IN THE BACK. Doris.
- 48a. [Small nicks marring nickels and dimes?] CHIPS IN THE CASH.
- 67a. [A section of Yankee Stadium’s golf course?] ROUGH IN THE DIAMOND.
- 84a. [Possible headline about a seagoing Chinese elephant?] TRUNK IN THE JUNK.
- 93a. [Photo spoiled by an extremity?] ARM IN THE SHOT. My favorite, due almost entirely to the winning clue.
- 117a. [Foggy loo at sea?] CLOUDS IN THE HEAD.
Sure, sure, the quality of mirth is a bit strained, but that’s par for the course. An aspect I really appreciate is that the selection of phrases varies the part of speech of the first word. By necessity, as it’s always the object, the word following “in the” is a noun. However, the first words in each phrase have often been transmuted.
The first themer, BLANKS IN THE FILL, is not representative of this phenomenon, as both BLANKS and FILL are nouns before and after. On to the others. DAY: noun, noun; BACK: adverb, noun. CHIPS: noun, noun; CASH: verb, noun. ROUGH: noun, noun; DIAMOND: noun, noun. TRUNK: noun, noun; JUNK: noun, noun. ARM: noun, noun; SHOT: noun, noun. CLOUDS: noun, noun; HEAD: noun, noun.
Well, now that I’ve taken the trouble to enumerate them, the parts of speech don’t change as frequently as the impression I had while solving! It should be noted, though, that the meaning of the nouns do change every time. The theme’s conceit would be a lot less interesting and entertaining if they didn’t.
Balance in the world:
- Loved the rhyming symmetrical pair of WINE SHOP and DEAD STOP. DMITRI and ISTHMI echo each other nicely.
- Good longish non-theme fill: FIRESIDE, SENTIENCE, PATTY CAKE.
- Is it my imagination or is there a lot of baseball related content in this puzzle? How about French stuff?
- Too many short partials, blanks-in-the-fills, and quasi-partials. A sampling: OF IT, ON AN, A-DEE, HAD I, OF ID, IN IT, and I’ll throw in ON TO.
- I’M HERE, I SEE, I DIG, IDEAS, IDAHO.
- Nifty touch, 13d [“Coriolanus” quintet] ACTS and 16d [Fit for a postcard] SCENIC.
- 86a [Day divider] NOON. Good clue (although it duplicates a key element from 40a themer).
70d [Dangerous speed?] METH. Good clue.
93d [Forge things] ANVILS. Good clue.
36a [Chromatic set] TONE ROW. Notable clue.
- Unfamiliar with both RENA [Sofer of soap operas] and KARA [Hayward of “Moonrise Kingdom”].
- SBA LOANS [Govt. aid for mom-and-pop stores], at 35d, is bit ugly and esoteric, but gets a pass because this is the WSJ.
Good puzzle, with in my estimation too high a CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials). Certainly wouldn’t rate it “duck poo” anyway. Oh, that’s dumps in the down.
Jeffrey Harris’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Artistic License” — pannonica’s write-up
Didn’t even notice that this was a 15×16 grid until I was pasting the image into this post. I guess that makes it a portrait rather than a landscape, in the modern parlance.
For this puzzle, constructor Harris reimagines some common phrases by adding an -ism suffix, thereby folding in connotations of various artistic movements.
- 4d. [Low-quality Monets?] BAD IMPRESSIONISM. Shorter version of the clue: [Renoirs?].
- 5d. [Picasso’s Pictionary drawings?] GAME CUBISM. Those would kind of defeat the purpose of quickly and easily conveying ideas, but who’s quibbling? Oh, I am.
- 10d. [Tintoretto print on the nightstand?] BEDSIDE MANNERISM.
- 34d. [Understand the works of Courbet?] GET REALISM.
Bonus fill of a sort, running down in the middle: 25d [They feature many different artists] MIX TAPES. Clever clue and excellent answer, but it doesn’t exactly tie strongly into the theme. Also in the grid: 6d [Palette choices] HUES (see also, 33d [Soft palate neighbor] UVULA).
- Had LOAMS for 63a [Ore-rich deposits] instead of the correct LODES. This held up my solve for the better part of a minute, at the end. Was pleased to learn that ALIBI [… means “elsewhere” in Latin], which makes a lot of sense; I also perceive the shared root of ibid. (ibidem). The slightly unexpected terrestrial (or perhaps) arboreal ant SWARM strongly echoes the SMARM at 23-down [Unctuousness].
- 43a BALSAM. For centuries, various balsams, notably Canada and Copaiba have been used to make balms and other substances, often used medicine. As far as art and painting are concerned, there may be some balsamic resins used, but their purpose would be lacquer-like protection rather than, say, as pigments.
- Legal pairing: 32a [Court-side seating?] JURY BOX, 44a [Law-firm bigwig] PARTNER.
- 26a & 28a: PLUG-IN, ADD IN.
- 54d [Roy Rogers ingredient] COLA. Because little boys just couldn’t possibly be seen to drink Shirley Temples.
- Speaking of bad art, did EMMETT Kelly inspire all of those horrible and kitschy sad clown portraits?
- 67a [Language similar to Gaelic] MANX. Hands up if you had ERSE as an erstwhile answer.
(nb: Look later on today for a write-up of last week’s CHE crossword, which was made available belatedly. Update: link)
Dan Margolis’ Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
I’m feeling ambivalent about today’s theme by Dan Margolis. At first I was enchanted by how he was able to come up with ANCE to ANTS, but then as I looked more closely I noticed that the root doesn’t actually change except in the case of CHANTS to CHANCE. That doesn’t seem quite so impressive! There still enough wacky to justify the “?’s” though! We have:
- 20a, [Valets who get no tips?], POOR ATTENDANTS. Not giving a tip at all still seems ridiculously OTT and self-absorbed to me. [steps down off soapbox]
- 25a, [“Block that kick!” and “Dee-fense!”?], SPORTING CHANTS
- 43a, [Masked marathon runners?], SECRET ENTRANTS
- , [Temporarily contribute helpers?], LEND ASSISTANTS
1a, [Powerful swimmer], MAKO is a strong start to a grid, and, despite the dearth of longer entries (a consequence of the 4×14 theme answer arrangement), quite a few good short and medium entries: SAFARI, the KILO/ONICE (coincidental stacking… I bet!), BREASTS (just for HH), IMIN (clued as “Let’s do it”, which caused me to venture cMoN initially,) TETRIS (running vertically natch), and no more than the usual, unavoidable dross.
I’m going to, unquestionably objectively, give this puzzle 3.2 stars.