Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
This wide-open grid’s got 64 words, with a bunch of 10s and 11s stacked together in the middle of the grid. Constructor types, please tell me: Is this the sort of grid that requires computing power and a fierce wordlist to put together, or can it be worked out manually, with no brute-force auto-filling? I know that Frank Longo and Joe Krozel, our reigning princes of the low-word-count puzzle, use the brute-force-with-his-wordlist method. No idea if Patrick Berry’s in the same camp or more of a hand-crafter. Brendan Quigley’s a known hand-crafter, and I’m pretty sure he’s come out with some 62s and 64s, but this one’s so smooth yet wide open that it involves deft use of either technology or black magic.
Mind you, only 61 of the entries are super-smooth. I’m never wild about OATERS; the plural noun MACHOS looks bizarre (but is absolutely in the dictionary as a noun); and IN A PET is a phrase I’m not sure I have ever encountered outside of crosswords.
Far better are TRIPOLI, CHILL OUT, SIDE DISHES, CRACK SHOT, PREACHERS, BATH PILLOW, CRUISE SHIP, COPACABANA (here’s my eternal favorite “Copacabana” video), SCRATCH PADS, CHEAT SHEETS, and KRISS KROSS (the young ’90s rap duo was spelled Kris Kross, and no, the [Word puzzle popular since the 1930s] clue didn’t help me out too much here). Anyone know what it is? Googling … oh, that puzzle. Loved it when I was a kid, don’t care for it anymore.
- 17a. [Ordered pair?], SIDE DISHES. Clue sounds mathy.
- 23a. [Not down with anything], WELL. “The flu? Oh, yeah. I’m down with that.”
- 33a. [Symbol of liberty in the French Revolution], ELM. Didn’t know that.
- 51a. [Common gathering in a public square], PIGEONS. Last week when I went downtown, all the pigeons I saw were standing in a group with their feathers fluffed fatly. It was very cold and windy. Not -20°F wind chill cold and windy, but still cold and windy. They should have huddled closer together for warmth.
- 24d. [1978 disco hit featuring the warning “Don’t fall in love”], COPACABANA.
Okay! It’s time to take a CENSUS here. How many of you are MACHOS? I need a count of all the machos at Crossword Fiend.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy /Washington Post crossword, “Going Bananas” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four phrases that end with a word that can precede BANANAS:
- [Country that includes Bohemia] was the CZECH REPUBLIC – 1993 was the year the former Czechoslovakia dissolved into this republic and the Slovak Republic. A “banana republic” is either a “kleptocracy” or a retail store which may also be considered to exist for the personal wealth of its owners.
- [Very quickly] clued LICKETY SPLIT – is “lickety” a word in any other context? Can one say that a particular lollipop was especially lickety? Anyway, a “banana split” is a type of dessert.
- [Facial treatment for smoother skin] was a CHEMICAL PEEL – I was just reading yesterday that Cameron Diaz regrets the botox treatments to her face that have given her an unusual appearance. Ya think? A “banana peel” is something you can slip on.
- [Life’s necessities, as requested in prayer] was OUR DAILY BREAD – any good “banana bread” recipes out there?
Straightforward theme, and unusually, I had a harder time than with most puzzles from this constructor. Not sure why; looking back at the solved puzzle it seems easy enough. I enjoyed the trivia in the clue [Most US college students these days], which happily was WOMEN and not COEDS. The Z shared between TIMEZONES and KAZOO was a nice find as well, as was the J in J-LO and JETTA. (I guess I’m a sucker for high-value Scrabble letters.) I did wonder about the pluralized [Mongolian rulers like Genghis] or KHANS, as I’m only familiar with Genghis himself. I read that, based on DNA samples, he has over 16 million descendants, so that’s a lot of KHANS in the world.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Innermost” — pannonica’s write-up
Another one of those themes for which the solver, once grasping the mechanism, can pre-fill many letters. At its core, the theme is easy to see: made-up two-word phrases; the first word is a superlative adjective, the second is the same, but with the first and last letters removed, like the tallest “lodgers” at Procrustes’ place. These—with one exception—invariably form plural nouns.
As a result, in addition to the predictability of the fill (-IEST/-IES) there’s a sameness in feel.
- 23a. [Art-house films that have the most dialogue?] WINDIEST INDIES.
- 34a. [Dust Bowl migrants who tell the most corny stories?] HOKIEST OKIES.
- 41a. [Texas athletes with the most puffiness under their eyes?] BAGGIEST AGGIES. Did not realize unmodified bagginess could be understood to refer someone’s eyes.
- 61a. [Family members with the most cheerful manner?] JAUNTIEST AUNTIES. Vowel pronunciation change for this solver.
- 68a. [Bonny girls exhibiting the most elegance?] CLASSIEST LASSIES.
- 88a. [Military forces with the most eccentricities?] BARMIEST ARMIES.
- 94a. [Most suspicious person born in early April?] WARIEST ARIES. Singular noun.
- 113a. [Hits from the past that are most antiquated?] MOLDIEST OLDIES, which is itself a variation of a hoary rhyming pair: moldy oldie(s).
- Favorite clues: 57a [Kin of oatmeal] BEIGE, not farina or grits or congee. The everso slightly disorienting 31a [Does as well as their mates] for DEER. Don’t quite like this clue, though I can’t put my finger on a why, but I do appreciate its cleverness: 79a [Strip for the blind] SLAT.
- Longdowns: the excellent Sandro BOTTICELLI and the thrice-wedded AVA GARDNER.
- Stacking imagery: an expertly CREASEd fedora atop an HERMÈS scarf (116a, 119a). Anyone else recall images like these from NYC, especially in the ’90s? 78a [Excite, with “up”] REV, above 82a [How Pyrrhic victories are won] AT A COST.
- New to me; 43d [Quarter of a pint] GILL. [Middle English gille, from Medieval Latin gillus, from Late Latin gillo, gello water pot – First Known Use: 14th century]
Little junk, decent theme, varied cluing … Solid puzzle.
Jules P. Markey’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Dynamic Tribute” — pannonica’s write-up
Descriptive title, augmenting the center-spanning revealer at 34a: [Metaphor for kinetic grace … or what this puzzle’s six eight-letter answers display?] POETRY IN MOTION. Indeed, there are only six entries of that length, although the verticals feature two of ten letters (more on those anon). Within each of those six, the trigram O-D-E—that is, ODE, the favorite poetic form of crossword constructors—incrementally moves from spots 1 through 3 through to 6 through 8. I’ve taken the liberty of circling the relevant squares in the solution grid.
Let’s get rolling.
- 13a. [Some Ukrainians] ODESSANS.
- 16a. [Guiding light] LODESTAR.
- 24a. [Like Buckminster Fuller’s dome] GEODESIC.
- 43a. [Makes over] REMODELS.
- 57a. [Eaten away, as by acid] CORRODED.
- 60a. [Exact opposite] ANTIPODE. Fittingly, near the bottom of the grid.
ODE – [Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French, from Late Latin, from Greek ōidē, literally, song, from aeidein, aidein to sing; akin to Greek audē voice] – a lyric poem usually marked by exaltation of feeling and style, varying length of line, and complexity of stanza forms (m-w.com)
Though they aren’t necessarily elegiac, there is often a timeless quality to odes, so I feel the symmetrical IMMEMORIAL and ETERNITIES.
As far as I can tell, there are no etymological overlaps for the various in-word ODEs, though I had some suspicions about ANTIPODE, GEODESIC, LODESTAR and even CORRODED (respectively: foot, earth, lead, gnaw). So that’s very commendable.
Good fill all around. Some clues, as to be expected—and welcomed, I may add)—are spun to the Higher Education vibe. Even though it moves around a bit, the crossword still felt a bit flat, but not quite 62a [In need of recharging] DEAD.
John Verel & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’m in the camp that believes pangrams are generally harmless but irrelevant to solving pleaure. Harmless of course, until you start filling 4*3 corners with junk in ord to achieve it. Jeff & John’s puzzle today winks knowingly at the puzzle-makers’ fetish by making a quote theme (of sorts) featuring a well-known PANGRAM: THE (QUICKBROWNFOX, in circles) JUMPSOVER THE LAZYDOG. It gets big ups for including a visual representation! I’m also generally pleased with the in-jokiness of it all! Last thematic note: the puzzle has left/right symmetry not diagonal.
- 10a, [City in Czechoslovakia] for OSLO. Such a beautifully jarring clue. It initially seems to imply that Czechoslovakia still exists, until you realise it actually indicates a word search…
- 15a, [Macho guys], HEMEN. This clue is needlessly verbose and should read [Machos].
- 20a, [Only woman to win the top prize on “The $64,000 Question”, JOYCEBROTHERS. Top-drawer full name inclusion.
- 51a, [Doo-wop staple], HARMONY. Take your pick!
- 2d, [Snow], DOAJOBON. is a very nice idiomatic answer. I also liked that in the clue, “snow” is unexpectedly a verb here.
- 32d, [Classic action figures], GIJOES. Always a great answer to work into a grid!
- 45D, [43-Downers?], HUMANS. A weird linkage – referring to “to err is human”.
- PHONY and CRUELLA are also very nice answers!
4.5 Stars. Clever theme, well-executed and generally a delightfully-filled puzzle.