SoCal event alert: Constructor, editor, high-schooler, and Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project head David Steinberg will be speaking at a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the crossword this Saturday at the Palos Verdes Peninsula Center library. Event details here.
Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
Three 9-letter answers, two 8s, and everything else 7 and under—not my usual favorite sort of themeless grid, but Ian managed to fit in lots of fun stuff, both in the fill and the clues:
- 1a. [Locale that often includes a wet bar and large-screen TV], MAN CAVE.
- 8a. [Picture with a number], MUG SHOT.
- 15a. [Where it never gets above zero degrees?], EQUATOR.
- 16a. [One going around the bases?], USO TOUR.
- 20a. [Where a bud hangs out], EAR. Ear buds. See also: MAN CAVE.
- 34a. [Draft pick?], SAM ADAMS. The single most popular beer in a number of states.
- 61a. [Controversial 1715 measure of Parliament], RIOT ACT. It’s not just a figurative thing that’s read to miscreants.
- 68a. [“The Hangover” co-star], ED HELMS.
- 4d. [TV game show on the Discovery Channel, 2005-12], CASH CAB.
- 7d, 43d. [Unreal], ERSATZ and PHANTOM.
- 11d. [Edward Murdstone, to David Copperfield], STEPDAD. Ha! I was reading this as the magician and wondering who Murdstone is. It’s the Charles Dickens character, not contemporary famous magician.
Did not know there’s such a thing as TAR OIL (31d. [Distilled pine product]). Not so sure about the crossword-worthiness of “IT WORKS” (65a. [Infomercial testimonial]). Aside from those bits, everything flowed smoothly, and the puzzle felt easy. How did you like it?
Four stars from me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Quadruple Doubles” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A two-letter string is repeated four times in a row:
- [Chocolate snack scam in Africa?] was LESOTHO HO HO HOAX. I wonder what possible scam there could be around Ho Ho’s? Skimping on the creme filling?
- [Rangoon matriarch was successful?] clued BURMA MAMA MADE IT. Burma, as we all know, is now referred to as Myanmar by the ruling junta there.
- [Conversation with a granny from Acra?] was GHANA NANA NATTER. To “natter” is to talk casually about something, here I guess it’s a noun.
- [Marketplaces that sell rum cakes in Havana?] clued CUBA BABA BAZAARS.
Nice consistency that they all began with a country name; however, seeing BURMA as one of them was a bit off-putting. I also thought having that same one end with two words (MADE IT), made it a bit of an outlier as well. But the gods of crossword symmetry (and grid-spanning entries) are cruel even when on their best behavior. I liked the “BOOK ‘EM Dano” remembrance from the old Hawaii Five-O shows (do they say it in the current remakes? I’ve never seen it.) I have to admit to some problems in the SW, having CHOP before CLIP as the gridiron illegal block. Not knowing ANGIE Harmon from Rizzoli & Isles (nor even the TNT drama!), as well as the somewhat random [Bridge combo] of TEN-ACE (why bridge and not blackjack?), made that little area pretty tough.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Duel Personalities” — pannonica’s write-up
One-across evokes the idea of adversaries, but it’s unrelated to the theme answers, which are very straightforward. Ten paces straight forward? You’d have to consult with some historians to know.
- 20a. [Gunfighter who dueled with Davis Tutt in 1865] WILD BILL HICOCK.
- 30a. [Vice president who dueled with Alexander Hamilton in 1804] AARON BURR. Still meaning to read that copy of Gore Vidal’s Burr that’s sitting on the shelf.
- 38a. [Secretary of State who dueled with John Randolph in 1826] HENRY CLAY. So, old Henry didn’t have cold feet.
- 51a. [Naval hero who dueled with James Barron in 1820] STEPHEN DECATUR.
So, all in the 1800s. Good times back then, good times. Of the eight people invoked I’m familiar with only four, but that’s probably more a reflection of my ignorance than their notoriety, or lack thereof.
What, tell me, what, I ask you, is going on with those black blocks in the grid? They’re gigantic and I can’t see any graphical significance to them. Are they supposed to resemble 19th century pistols, with flintlocks? Somehow I don’t think so. The T shapes, I suppose, could be imagined as an overhead view of duelists starting out with their paces, but again I doubt this. Though they are expansive, those long blocks don’t sever the crossword as much as one might at first think; the grid follows a sinuous path with adequate girth through the middle. Nevertheless, they are attention-getting.
- Beefy quadruple six-stacks in the upper left and lower right corners, chock full of interesting letters and fill.
- Love the not-exactly-synesthetic clue at 12d [“You listen up!”] for LOOK HERE. Maybe we can call it sensory entanglement, or is that too much the same thing?
- 33a [Omelet option] HAM. Clue feels weird to me. “Option”? Welll, yes, but …
- Insider geekiness at 59a: [Like the number of answers in a crossword, usually] EVEN.
- Favorite fill: 39d [“Barbaric” cry in a Whitman poem] YAWP. “The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he complains of my gab and my loitering. / I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable; /I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” – from “Leaves of Grass” (52).
- 6d [They may be necessary] EVILS. Like, oh, ILEA, SDAK, and ODO, perhaps?
- 2d [Having achromatosis] ALBINO, but only because ALBINIC didn’t fit. ALBINO can function as an adjective as well as a noun.
Average crossword, but too dry, even for me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Finding the Good Within” — pannonica’s write-up
A 21×21 Gorski holiday puzzle and the grid doesn’t describe the shape of a fir tree? No matter, she’s probably pulled that old chestnut out before. This time around, we receive a puzzle studded with rebus angels. I’ve circled the relevant squares.
- 23a. [He was a true Renaissance man] MICHEL(ANGEL)O.
6d. [Celebrity supercouple] is the portmanteau BR(ANGEL)INA.
- 33a. [Sidecar ingredient] OR(ANGE L)IQUEUR.
12d. [Navy’s air show squadron] BLUE (ANGEL)S.
- 43a. [Heart-wrenching #1 song of 1960] TEEN (ANGEL). The “teenage tragedy song” is an entire subgenre, if not an entirely uncreepy one.
38d. [One-named neo-soul singer] D’(ANGEL)O.
- 69a. [Tony winner for playing Richard Nixon] FRANK L(ANGEL)LA.
51d. [Home of the Kings] LOS (ANGEL)ES.
- 71a. [Wheelchair-bound presidential adviser of film] DR STR(ANGEL)OVE. Erstwhile wheelchair-bound.
48d. [1933 Mae West movie] I’M NO (ANGEL). Cinema crossing!
- 93a. [Colorful aquarium swimmer] (ANGEL)FISH.
89d. [Citris hybrid] T(ANGEL)O.
- 102a. [On-air preacher] TELEV(ANGEL)IST.
105d. [Pasta variety] (ANGEL) HAIR. aka capellini.
- 118a. [Best-selling memoir of 1996] (ANGEL)A’S ASHES.
92d. [“On the Pulse of the Morning” poet] MAYA (ANGEL)OU, née Marguerite Ann Johnson.
That’s 8 rebus spots, for 16 theme answers, and there mostly though not exactly symmetrical. My favorites are the ones that don’t read “angel” in the containing names and phrases, especially DR STRANGELOVE and ORANGE LIQUEUR. Tack on the two long verticals that comprise Column 11, down the middle—CHRISTMAS | GREETINGS—and that’s quite a lot of material.
Additional holiday cheer:
- Did I mention chestnuts before? 90a [Prepares chestnuts] ROASTS; 122a [Words before “open fire” in a holiday song] ON AN. If you’re compelled to include an icky partial in the grid, best to dress it up in appropriate togs. Too bad for ON OR about at 76d.
- 49a [Winter air] NOEL.
- 1a [Yuletide dinner slice] HAM. Ya, that’s a small stretch, but it shows the solver where the puzzle’s coming from.
- 65a [Moves like thick eggnog] OOZES. Yum?
- 74a [Snowman’s coal chunks, e.g.] EYES.
- 97a [“… join in __ reindeer games”] ANY. Eesh.
- 16d [Santa suit color] RED.
- 67d [” … deep and crisp and __”] EVEN. Specs for snow, as per the carol “Good King Señor Wenceslas.”
- 115d [Bob Cratchit’s youngest son] TIM.
Mixed bag, wouldn’t you say? But it keeps the festivities light. [Makes merry], you know (59d, HAS FUN).
Favorite clue: 104d [Primary concern] VOTES, though I had VOTER at first. Least favorite fill: 95d [In a hackneyed manner] STALELY. Favorite fill from which to shamelessly link to a beloved song: 94d [Onetime capital of Persia] ISFAHAN.
The grid has some rough spots, in the form of the usual crosswordese, partials, abbrevs. and the like, but not nearly enough to drag the puzzle down noticeably. I did think the symmetrical pair near the center of EOSINE and OLEFIN was a bit clunky, though. Some personalities and geographical locales that might give some people pause.
Fun, fine, timely crossword.
David J. Kahn’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
I couldn’t care less about this round-number obsession that has led to the spate if “meta” crosswords. In Robert W. Harris’ puzzle last week, we learnt that ARTHURWYNNE created the crossword puzzle(*). David J. Kahn’s puzzle is something of a sequel. We are told that his puzzle had a SYMMETRICALGRID, was DIAMONDSHAPED, and was published in THENEWYORKWORLD (I’m sure I was one of many who had “Times” here initially). We also get nine clues/answers taken directly from that puzzle:
- 1a, [*A bar of wood or iron…], RAIL
- 35a, [*A talon], SERE
- 62a, [*To govern], RULE
- 27d, [*An aromatic plant], NARD. Not a common answer these days, although found in the Bible.
- 35d, [*Part of a ship], SPAR
- 36d, [*A bird], DOVE
- 39d, [*The fibre of the gomuti palm], DOH. Not a fibre I know. I appreciate the spelling. This “er” trend in the US must post-date the puzzle.
- 53d, [*A pigeon], DOVE. I assume this means Mr. Wynne duplicated some answers. I’ve done that by accident on plenty of occasions!
- 55d, [*Opposed to less], MORE
Some more crossword answers that post-date the puzzle:
- 14a, [Dashiell Hammett dog], ASTA.
- 33a, [Spice Girl __ B], MEL.
- 34a, [Pianist Templeton], ALEC. I didn’t know him. He was 3 in 1913 FWIW.
- 61a, [Youngest Wilcox child in “Howards End”], EVIE. Another name I didn’t know.
- 12d, [“Wheel of Fortune” buy], ANI.
- 24d, [Two-time Oscar winner Wiest], DIANNE.
- 31d, [Baby Ruth maker], NESTLE. Nestle itself was established in 1866 Wikipedia informs me.
- 38d, [“This Is 40” director Judd], APATOW.
- 43d, [“__ Lot”: King novel], SALEMS.
- 46d, [2002 Alice Sebold best-seller “The Lovely __”], BONES
- 49d, [Pop’s __ Vanilli], MILLI
- 52d, [Putin put-down?], NYET