Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Fitting Rearrangements”
I enjoy anagrams, but apparently I have been enjoying anagrams for far too long because at least three of the anagram pairs in this puzzle were familiar to me:
- 24a. [College student’s place], DORMITORY.
- 116a. [Apt anagram for 24-Across], DIRTY ROOM. Learned this one at least 20 years ago, probably more like 30.
- 31a. [Procrastinators’ enablers], SNOOZE ALARMS. I was going to argue that procrastinators merely put off work during their waking hours but then I remembered how long I stay in bed in the morning.
- 3d. [Apt anagram for 31-Across], ALAS, NO MORE Z’S.
- 42a. [Visa offering], DEBIT CARD.
- 94a. [Apt anagram for 42-Across], BAD CREDIT. Hey! That’s a good pair. I don’t think I’ve seen it before.
- 55a. [“Decision Points” author], GEORGE BUSH.
- 30d. [Apt anagram for 55-Across], HE BUGS GORE. From 2000, probably. Feels familiar.
- 79a. [Galileo, for one], ASTRONOMER.
- 54d. [Apt anagram for 79-Across], MOON STARER. Also one I’ve known for decades, and an annoying one because when does anyone ever use the word “starer”? Has a roll-your-own word vibe to it.
- 103a. [“Great” 1666 conflagration], FIRE OF LONDON.
- 63d. [Apt anagram for 103-Across], INFERNO OF OLD. I prefer “of yore” for such formulations.
Hey! Wasn’t I just saying the other day that I have been waiting for ARSENAL to be clued as the football club? 26a. [British soccer powerhouse], boom.
Lots of longer fill in this grid. Highlights include ARSENAL the team, MADE NICE, FROM A TO Z, HIDEOUTS, REPO MAN, ABERDEEN, ROSSETTI, and CORDELIA.
I slowed myself down by trying an electric EEL at 83a (instead of EYE) and misdoing MARG Helgenberger as MARJ, and thus having two wrong letters in the Al Gore anagram.
Most hesitant fill: 71a. [Local bird life], ORNIS. I had it in there and took it out. Ornithology is the obvious cognate, but avian was intruding in my head.
Favorite clue: 1a. [Postal ID], IDAHO. Not “postal identification” but “ID to the postal service,” the abbreviation for Idaho.
3.25 stars. I like a more open grid, but if you’re going to play the game of apt anagrams, ideally you’ll slave over the art of creating your own set … and then matching up lengths and building a theme. It’s a lot more work, I know. And likely there are many solvers who will either enjoy learning anagrams they didn’t know or appreciate the gimmes for the ones they did know. (I appreciate gimmes most in really hard puzzles or in tournament settings.)
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Northern Neighbour” — pannonica’s write-up
This was a funny puzzle for me to solve. The theme played havoc on my somewhat shaky and inconsistent spelling that awkwardly straddles American spellings and their British counterparts (antiparts?), here couched as “Canadian.” I blame early exposure to UK editions of various books (as well as a measure of æsthetic (see?) bias).
The most noticeable difficulty, however, is evidenced by the black mark at the intersection of 53a and 39d. But that isn’t the real problem.
There’s an asterisk next to my reported time because that’s when I gave up and used the check solution option in Across Lite. I was convinced that the problem lay with 27-across [Furnace withstander]; I checked and rechecked the crossings, convinced that ABEDNEGO was wrong and that I was looking for something closer in spelling to asbestos. My failure here is due to my ignorance of the Bibble, for I have no knowledge of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and ABEDNEGO. My focus with that entry blinded me to the typo that was the actual problem, the one mentioned in the previous paragraph. Ironically, my obsessive rechecking of the crossings interfered with RETRY [Take another shot at]. Ha, ha.
Back to the theme.
- 23a. [Ottawan’s pet hue] FAVOURITE COLOUR. I don’t do the U thing.
- 31a. [Canadian on a sci-fi journey] TIME TRAVELLER. I use doubled letters in such situations. Travelled, focussed, et cetera.
- 40a. [Manitoban mug feature] MOUSTACHE. My preferred spelling.
- 46a. [Acting and staging for Albertans] THEATRE ARTS. I generally don’t do the ER/RE terminal transposition, but will for effect or if replicating a place’s name.
- 49a. [Home level around Hudson Bay] SECOND STOREY. I do that, which helps distinguish architecture from narrative. See also 61d [Flight segment] STAIR (for once, I didn’t fall for the misdirection!).
- 65a. [Banff car tag] LICENCE PLATE. It took me forever as a child to understand the inconsistency I’d encountered with licence and license. My intention these days is to spell it the American ‘s’ way, but sometimes I slip.
- 80a. [Acadian’s grapevine phrase] RUMOUR HAS IT, which is the title of a hit Adele single, but that angle wasn’t available for cluing (notice how I didn’t spell it clueing?) as the decision was to go Canadian, and Adele is British.
- 83a. [Mountie’s slick move] MANOEUVRE. This one’s a hot mess no matter how you spell it. Up for grabs.
- 92a. [Notable Vancouver skyscraper] HARBOUR CENTRE. Both variations covered elsewhere.
- 106a. [Proof of payment in Toronto] CANCELLED CHEQUE. Yes to double-L, no to -que in lieu of -ck.
Nice how a few (the first one and the last two) double up on the spelling differences, especially as it’s done while (naturally) avoiding vocabulary duplications. The rest of the grid is filled with good variety: long and short, common and unusual, easy and difficult.
- Didn’t know: 68d [Racehorse __ Lap] PHAR, 69d [Woman’s toga] STOLA, 6d [River through Verona] ADIGE, 73a [Praying figure] ORANT.
- 81d [Rappish Rihanna hit] UMBRELLA, near 88d [Rappers’ sounds] KNOCKS.
- 90d [Pentagon alert rating] DEFCON, short for DEFense CONdition.
- 84d [People things are named for] EPONYM. Also, perhaps curiously, the thing named for the (eponymous) person.
- 36d [Still-life fruits] PEARS.
- 12d [Batting champ Joe] MAUER, 34d [Skiing medalist Phil] MAHRE. Wasn’t familiar with the former.
- AVAST, AFOOT, ABLAZE, AFAR, ADIEU, AMIDST, (but not A WET, À LA, ACORN, ADORNS, ARAB, AGUE, APLOMB, A-LINE, AQUA or ADOBE). Think I assorted those correctly.
- 89d [Reprint mag “__ Reader”] UTNE. Haven’t seen an issue in ages, but in my experience it contains a fair amount of original material as well.
Good puzzle, but the only rating I could possibly give it is of course an Eh.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 157”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I’m pleased to be one of the new reviewers of the Post Puzzler, along with Fiend vets Janie and Gareth. (Yes, it takes three of us to equal our predecessor, Doug. Even then we might come up short.) The Post Puzzler is routinely one of my favorites each week, so I’m eager to talk about it with you. For my first assignment, I drew today’s 66/26 gem from Patrick Berry. (I think I’m gonna like this gig.)
For new readers, “66/26” is my shortcut way of noting that the puzzle has 66 entries and 26 black squares. For whatever reason, I always make note of this when I solve a freestyle crossword. I guess I’m more impressed with open grids, so for me it’s fun to track stuff like word counts and black square counts. When I’m solving, of course, these things mean nothing. But if a puzzle feels smooth and has a low word- or black-square-count, I’m super-impressed. And Patrick Berry is the Czar of Smoothness when it comes to low-word-count grids.
I broke into the grid with MBA as the [GMAT taker’s goal]. Working off the rare letters M and B, I had little trouble with METEORITE as the [Lunar lander?] and BALD-FACED as the answer to [Audacious, as a lie]. Anytime you can get adjoining nines in the grid that early, you take it and run. Or, in my case anyway, take it and mosey.
It felt nice to plunk down ALASKAN KING CRAB as the [Catch on the TV series “Deadliest Catch”] with only a few end letters in place, as it gave me lots of new letters to work with and a sense that all that time spent with reality TV had its payoff. I then used the two Ks in ALASKAN KING CRAB to fill in the crossings, and in fairly short order the bottom half of the grid was complete.
It proved more difficult to crack into the top half, as the tail end of RECKONS ON (clued as [Expects]) just looked confusing. What could possibly end in -ONS ON? Once I figured out the [Planning problems] were KINKS, though, I started making my way up the staircase in the middle. That fed nicely into the northeast corner, and eventually I was able to work my way into the northwest corner. I thought I was done but wasn’t getting the green light from my solving software, so I lost another ten or fifteen seconds trying to find my mistake. Turns out I forgot to add the G at the end of RATED G ([Like “Hawmps!” and “C.H.O.M.P.S.”]). Stupid blank squares! They always cost so much time.
Let’s cover the remaining observations with bullet points:
- The grid is anchored by the four 15s, with the aforementioned ALASKAN KING CRAB and a DISMISSAL NOTICE on the bottom and INTER-OFFICE MEMO and TAILGATE PARTIES up top. TAILGATE PARTIES is not only the best of the 15s, it also has a terrific clue, [Vehicular blowouts].
- I figured I was in for a real slog with the clue for 1-Across, [Balneotherapy venue]. What? I tried breaking down the word for hints: new ball therapy? I was befuddled. Luckily the crossings saved me. Once I finished the puzzle, I looked up the term online. The folks at Wikipedia (you know, the 15 year-olds?) define balneotherapy as “the treatment of disease by bathing, usually practiced at a SPA.” Um, isn’t bathing at a spa how you get a disease?
- Anyone else try RANTS as the answer to [Shows signs of delirium]? It turned out to be RAVES. I’m just now seeing that Patrick squeezed a CLEANSE between TAILGATE PARTIES, SODOM, and RAVES. If we were playing the Sesame Street game of “One of these things is not like the others,” this would be a gimme.
- [It offers time for change] is a great clue for a parking METER. It nicely echoes the clue for GULLS, [Parking lot scavengers, often]. I also liked [Pioneer wares] for STEREOS.
- Hmm. TEA is clued as [Meal that might include cucumber sandwiches]. Really, high tea is a meal? For the peckish, maybe, but for this solver the finger foods at a tea service don’t even count as appetizers.
Favorite entry = SLIPCOVER, cleverly clued as [One rarely leaving the couch?] Favorite clue = [Cement layer] for a MASON.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Oh, It’s You”
On the way out the door to lunch, so super fast. (LA Times after lunch and shopping.) Theme answers change an O (or multiple O’s) into U(s). IN THE WURST WAY was the best of the batch. MATCHING RUBES took me the longest to make sense of (when I wasn’t paying attention to the title’s hint that the base phrases had an O changed to U). “Matching robes” is the original here. WENT HUG WILD is cute, too.
Lots of ungainly/stodgy fill, capped by 86d. [Island group off the west coast of Sicily], EGADI. [“___, don’t know what to make of this one”]. I have the sense that this might be an encore presentation, as not much in the puzzle feels too 2013 to me. I could be wrong, of course. But I do prefer puzzles that feel like they are from today.
2.9 stars, because while the theme was okay, I wasn’t loving the solving experience.
Don and Barbie Gagliardo’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “PC Connections”
Utterly straightforward theme: A gazillion medium/longish answers have P.C. initial letters. They include the following: PIT CREW, PIN CURL, PLACE CARD, PLASTIC CUP, PASTRY CHEF, PURPLE COW, POOL CUE, PACE CAR, PET CRATE, POLAR CAP, PIE CHART, PEACE CORPS, POP CULTURE, PAINT CAN, PINE CONE, and PAPER CUT. Sixteen theme entries! That is a lot.
I was mildly thrown off the scent by the answer lengths. Some theme answers are 7 letters long, stacked with non-theme answers and shorter than a couple nonthematic 8s (BAD SPORT, which is great, and ARPEGGIO, which is interesting).
I wasn’t paying heed to the puzzle’s title, so for a long time this felt like an unthemed puzzle with lots of nice 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s.
Least familiar answer: 71d. [Waterproof boot], SHOEPAC. Old word—its use has been attested back to 1731. Who knew? Not I.
Worst crossing: DE* meets CL*P. 28d. [Every other horse sound?] has to be either CLIP or CLOP. Quick! What’s the Latin word crossing it? 41a. [__ volente] clues DEO (the phrase is Latin for “God willing”), but Agnus Dei is another churchy Latin phrase. If you don’t know your Latin grammar and when your god takes an O and when an I, you are fresh out of luck here. I would have opted for CLIP (clueable in an unambiguous way, as a verb or a noun rather than a partial sound effect) and DEI.
Least modern clue: 1a. [Bebop aficionado], HIPSTER. Today’s hipsters live in Brooklyn or analogous neighborhoods in other cities, wear dumb-looking hats, and buy new music on black vinyl. They probably are not into bebop. (No offense intended to our hipster readers. You know your hats aren’t for everyone because if they were, you wouldn’t wear them.) Honorable mention: Cluing PSY as 102a: [College subj. in which 44-Across would be discussed] rather than the unabbreviated “Gangnam Style” rapper from South Korea.