John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword
Okay, so yesterday’s puzzle had that awkward “extra” theme answer that lacked any symmetry, so we suspected it was an accidental coincidence that was added to the theme rather than removed by reworking a little of the fill. And then! Today’s theme lacks any pretense of symmetry (unless you count “half are in the top half of the puzzle and half are in the bottom half”). We have six words that, as clued, must follow the word “silent”:
- 5a. [Hit 2006 horror film based on a video game series], HILL. I have never, ever heard of Silent Hill.
- 54a. [Seminal 1962 book on the environment], SPRING. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
- 63a. [Some passive-aggressive behavior], TREATMENT. The ol’ silent treatment.
- 4d. [Business associate uninvolved in management], silent PARTNER.
- 12d. [Popular Christmas carol], “Silent NIGHT.”
- 50d. [Almost any pre-1927 Hollywood production], silent MOVIE.
I can’t help wondering if I am missing some other layer to the puzzle. A 76-worder without theme symmetry, with a fair amount of ungainly fill … there’s got to be something else to make up for the shortcomings, no? —Yep, a friend points out that the first letter of each of the “silent” answers is a silent letter in its crossing. Thus, the first M in MNEMONIC, the T in LISTEN, and so on. I’m glad there is more to it, but I suspect a massive swath of solvers will miss that aspect entirely and just feel disappointed.
Seven more things:
- 17a. [Brains], SMARTNESS. It’s a legit word, sure, but an awkward one that doesn’t get that much use. When you Google a word and the top search results are dictionary definitions, you’re looking at an uncommon word.
- 23a. [Probes], SEES INTO. I think of “looking into” as probing. “Seeing into” is more like “looking through a window at the contents therein.”
- 3d. [Decree], UKASE. Students of Russian history may have come by this word honestly. Many of us know it only from crosswords.
- 5d. [What a girl becomes after marriage, in an old expression], HONEST WOMAN. I don’t know what the hell “girl” is doing in this clue. When there are so many female children in this world who are forced into marriage with older men, good lord, you don’t want “girl” in this clue. “Bride” would have eliminated the distaste.
- 11d. [Jules Massenet opéra comique], MANON. I know this from crosswords alone.
- 24d. [Great Hall locale], ELLIS ISLAND. Perhaps better known among New Yorkers? There are plenty of other rooms called Great Hall out there.
- 29d. [What there may be a lot of interest in, for short?], CDS. I’ve got money in a CD that’s accruing 1.09% interest, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t “a lot of interest” at all. More than a passbook savings account these days, but still paltry.
Now, let’s look at 43d. [Lord’s estate], DEMESNE. Guess what? This very uncommon word … has a silent S. (Pronounced “di-main.”) I would like the puzzle a lot better if it didn’t have this word, because of the word itself and because of the silent letter. And 29a: CZAR has a silent C, but is not part of the theme crossings either. This gives the theme a slapdash mishmash quality.
2.9 stars from me. Not a satisfying solve overall, unfortunately.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 75”
Lots of unusual fill in here, plus a sort of mini-theme involving leap day:
- 35a. [Leap Day William’s home], MARIANA TRENCH. This … is weird. It’s a joke from an episode of 30 Rock. Kenneth the NBC Page dressed up as Leap Day William here.
- 56a. [Italian composer born on leap day in 1792], ROSSINI.
- 60a. [Cleveland Indians third baseman born on leap day in 1924], AL ROSEN.
Today … is not leap day. That would be February 29.
Bulleted list of observations and whatnot:
- 1a. [Russian peasants (and the highest-scoring opening word in Scrabble–it’s worth 128 points)], MUZJIKS. I learned that when Googling to make sense of the theme in the 6/18/14 NYT puzzle (which did not include this word).
- 15a. [City in Connecticut’s New Haven County], ANSONIA. Obscure.
- 27a. [Dodeca- quartered], TRI-. Had to untangle the Greek (and see the do = 2, deca = 10 that tells me this isn’t the icosahedron with 20 sides) and divide by four.
- 41a. [Secret place?], PIT. Secret brand antiperspirant, armpit.
- 62a. [If you go out drinking with them, say “Cheers!” instead of “Bottoms up!”], MOONERS. Meh. “Mooners”?
- 13d. [Lottery winners’ shout], “WE’RE RICH!” Fun.
- 33d. [Shot at, as a line of troops], ENFILADED. Not a word I’d seen before. Tried FUSILADED first.
- 36d. [“Fiddler on the Roof” setting that answers the question “Where else could Sabbath be so sweet?”], ANATEVKA. All crossings all the way for me.
Fill I liked includes ABC NEWS, RWANDAN, DWEEBS, LIVE AID, MARVEL, and YOLO.
Four stars for this 70-worder.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Writers Blocks” — pannonica’s write-up
Don’t want to sound dismissive, but this may be the sort of crossword BEQ knocks out when he himself has constructor’s block. You know, when a really innovative idea for a theme escapes him, maybe he pulls out a list of fallback themes. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se—no, not at all—it just seems mild, not quite unambitious, for someone of his caliber.
Anyway, what we get are four symmetrically located 2×3 blocks spelling out the surnames of authors. Women on the left, men on the right: Charlotte/Emily/Anne BRONTË, Joan DIDION, George ORWELL (né Eric Arthur Blair); Joseph CONRAD (né Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski).
Interesting that the changed names belong exclusively to the men. Didion kept her name after marrying Gregory Dunne; Emily and Anne Brontë never married, and Charlotte likewise kept her name, at least professionally (though all three sisters wrote under the pseudonymous surname ‘Bell’, the middle name of Charlotte’s eventual spouse (Arthur Bell Nichols). This segues moderately smoothly to 11d [One who recently changed his or her name, perhaps] NEWLYWED; good gender equality in the clue. And that one leads to 42d [Jumped the broom] SAID I DO.
One of the reasons I suggested that this puzzle may have been banged out is that I detected some dupeyness while solving. 44a [Wet body] SEA / 27d [Seafood fishes] CODS. The very similar BESETS and RESETS converging in the bottom right (even though the -SETS aren’t explicitly analogous). I may be wrong. The explanation may be that BEQ doesn’t deem these mild duplications to be undesirable, or perhaps that it’s a common liability in self-edited crosswords.
Another notable feature is alternative clues for crossword regulars. 7-across is [Big name in synthesizers] for ARP, rather than pioneering Dada artist Jean aka Hans. The colloquial ¡ESO es mio! [ … (“That’s mine!” in Spanish)] instead of the Paul Anka song “Eso Beso”. The comedian Steve AGEE, not writer James. Perhaps that last was avoided because it could be seen to infringe on the theme, but that’s contradicted by 66a [“Where’s Daddy?” playwright] William INGE, as opposed to, say, ancient Norwegian and Swedish kings or Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann. Or might this be further evidence of hasty construction? Dunno.
Favorite clue: 18a [Glowing application] FLOOR WAX. Biggest mis-fill: 64a [Scratch covers] BANDAGES before BAND-AIDS.
The northwest and southeast corners are isolated, each connected the rest of the grid via a single entry spot, but this is minimized by the added dimension of the presence of a writer block in each; this helps the solver who has learned the theme’s gimmick. Oh, that reminds me—wanted to point out that the title lacks an apostrophe because these blocks are constitutive, not possessive.
A very good puzzle, difficulty set at “medium” as advertised.
Steve Blais’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
It took a while for me to fully get how WEARINGTHIN translates to words using THIN as a container: think of wearing a coat! [Like him or her], THIRDPERSON is solid if a bit bland, but the two 15’s are both nice: [Reagan/Carter debate catchphrase], THEREYOUGOAGAIN (wasn’t that just in a NYT puzzle ;)) and TAKEITONTHECHIN. The latter’s clue strikes me as a bit off though: compare [Fail Completely] to the dictionary definition “to accept unpleasant events bravely and without complaining”. Is there another meaning I’m unaware of?
There is some interesting non-theme fill included too:
- Using [Super Mario World dinosaur], YOSHI is brave – video games knowledge is rarely required in puzzles! Nice one!
- [Steed’s partner], MRSPEEL begins with a daunting-to-fit-in four consonants!
- [“Light in My Darkness” author], HELENKELLER is a nice full name to have worked into the grid!
- [Illuminate, with “on”], SHINEALIGHT is awkward as is, but it’s also a classic Rolling Stones song – an album track though, so probably why it isn’t clued as such!
- [Certs ingredient], RETSYN is only vaguely familiar: Wikipedia. It seems it’s not a single ingredient but a trademarked cocktail.
It would remiss of me to point out that again Canuck Steve has worked in some local stuff: [Edmonton skater], OILER; [Canadian gas brand], ESSO;[Singer Carly __ Jepsen], RAE – is 3 Canadian answers more than usual?