Have you been enjoying Evan Birnholz’s Devil Cross crosswords? Not only was it Evan’s birthday on Thursday, he also launched a Devil Cross fund-raiser. Put $10 in the tip jar to support Evan’s puzzling, and he’ll send you two 21×21 bonus puzzles—one themeless and one a wacky “Something Different” crossword full of ridiculous stuff.
Other news on the indie puzzling front: Sam Ezersky has launched his own crossword site, and he released his fourth puzzle this week. New puzzle every Monday.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Thanks to Pannonica, Doug, Joon, and Matt for filling in capably while I was away. Suffice it to say, the highlight of my time away was root canal treatment. I think you guys had more fun.
This 66-worder has stair-stepped 13s in the middle and plenty of flow from zone to zone. Standard Friday NYT difficulty level, I thought.
Top fill: SLEEPER HIT (man, that clue, [Delayed sensation?], confused me; a sleeper hit’s a movie or whatnot that gradually becomes a cultural sensation), BUMMING AROUND, ROCKING HORSES, “LOUIE, LOUIE.” Plus I always love a MORASS.
Hard to clue in an interesting fashion: 17a. BINGO NIGHT, [Someone might call your number this evening].
Genderiffically outmoded word: 18d. NEWSMEN, [Post office workers?]. Yes, there are “newsmen” working at various papers called the Post.
Philosophical bent: 26d. [Philosopher who wrote “Superstition is the religion of feeble minds”], BURKE. Not surprisingly, also the last name of a Lost character Juliet; the show had a Locke, C.S. Lewis, Hume, and Rousseau, too.
Cute clue: 32d. [Fault finder?], GEOLOGIST. Earthquake faults.
I dunno, I wasn’t really loving this puzzle. I liked it all right, but the shorter stuff (INGE, AGRA, etc.) was unexciting. Give me a 72-worder with really juicy fill and I’m all set.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Friends in High Places”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to Friday, everyone!
Here’s hoping that you all have had a good week as we head into the weekend! Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, is a clever puzzle in which words that are used to describe friends (which are clued in various parts of the grid) also happen to make up the first few letters – the high end – of some of the long entries going down. Is there anyone out there that likes to keep their friends in low places, and, in turn, like their friends to just LIE LOW (24D: [Try to avoid detection])?
- CHUM/CHUMP CHANGE: (1D: [Friend in the highest place in the answer at 26-Down]/26D: [Hardly a fortune])
- BUD/BUDGET HAWK: (7A: [Friend in the highest place in the answer at 11-Down]/11D: [Person who decries deficits])
- PAL/PALACE GUARD: (59A: [Friend in the highest place in the answer at 6-Down]/6D: [Beefeater, e.g.])
- BRO/BROKEN DOWN: (70A: [Friend in the highest place in the answer at 30-Down]/30D: [Dilapidated])
Was going along fairly smoothly until near the very end, when I plopped down DAKOTA instead of LAKOTA, and that slowed me down considerably (43A: [Crazy Horse’s tribe]). I left that answer alone for a while, and wished I would have seen the down crossing earlier, in which I would have been able to identify CEIL and clean up that unsightly “D” to make things right (28D: [Put a top on, as a room]). Also, for some reason, put in “clam it” instead of CLAM UP at the beginning, but that was a little easier to rectify for me (1A: [Shut one’s trap]). Not too much of a fan of the partial HOW I, but much more of a fan of the television show as a whole (66A: [“_____ Met Your Mother”]). Sadly, I stopped watching the show after about the third season, but not because I thought it got stale. I just flat forgot! Now isn’t that a HOOT (32A: [Highly amusing event])? In closing, with the weather getting cooler and more raw in some places, wouldn’t now be a perfect time to spend a week in CABO (42A: [____ San Lucas])? Oh, and that reminds me to plan a vacation, and soon!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REECE (41D: [Volleyball star Gabrielle]) – Although lots of people know that Gabrielle REECE first made a name for herself as a volleyball player, I’m not sure many of those same people have ever watched her play, either collegiately (Florida State, late ’80s) or as a professional beach volleyball player. She’s better known for her modeling career and her marriage to famous American surfer Laird Hamilton. Fun fact: by looking at Gabrielle, some would find it hard to figure out that her father was of Afro-Trinidanian descent.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you on Saturday!
Doug Peterson and Patti Varol’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A Separate Peace” — pannonica’s write-up
Title struck a familiar chord for me here, as I’m familiar with the book it evokes, but the theme was eluding me during the casual solve. And then, ironically, at 40-across [John whose most famous book bears the same title as this puzzle] I was suddenly unable to recall the author’s name, though it had flitted across my mind—probably inchoately—just minutes before. It’s KNOWLES (see also 62d [Be sure of] KNOW.
But that has little to do with what’s at hand. The theme takes a literal approach, as each of the longest across entries are bracketed by the letters P-E-A-C-E.
- 17a. [1960s TV soap basedon a 1956 best seller] PEYTON PLACE.
- 29a. [Cerulean cousin] PEACOCK BLUE.
- 48a. [Thai cuisine staple] PEANUT SAUCE.
- 65a. [Precursor to the Fall Classic] PENNANT RACE.
All solid two-word phrases, though none particularly fresh or exciting. The breakdown of the breaks—for those who are interested—is 2×PE|ACE and one each of PEA|CE and PEAC|E. I can’t come up with any candidates for the P|EACE permutation, not anything that’s (a) long enough and (b) doesn’t end with PEACE in toto as well.
- Speaking of flitted (see above), that was my first fill attempt for 42a [Moved like a ghost], FLOATED.
- Other personal tough spots: 21a [Tango complement] DUO, not TWO; something feels off about that clue. Last square to complete: crossing of 58d [Barracks lineup] COTS and 64a [It fits in a lock] OAR; was thinking the former might be abbreviated rank akin to CPLS, and was befogged by the latter, thinking along hair lines.
- Prefix math! 67d [Hex- halved] TRI-; 4d [Two merged barbershop groups, say] OCTET. Ah, but a double quartet isn’t necessarily the same as an octet, say. This is true for jazz as well as classical groups. To be crystal clear: the clue is fine, I’m just kibitzing a bit.
- Yet another misfill: 1d [“Ocean’s Eleven” plot device]: HEIST ere CAPER.
- Long nontheme fill: ALTO FLUTE, TOGA PARTY, both are very nice (as fill).
Good but unremarkable crossword.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Change of Direction” — pawwosica’e write-up
Straightforward theme (so to speak), yet I’m curious to see how it’s received, as it’s akin to Andy Kravis’ Wednesday NYT offering. Aside from the UNFEMININE controversy in the comments (qv), there were some complaints that the theme—replacing a single letter with X in movie titles—lacked an overarching component; the substituted letters didn’t spell a word, the films didn’t have anything in common nor did the resultant phrases. et cetera.
Here, the theme phrases contain at least one of the initial letters of the cardinal directions (N, W, S, E), which is replaced with one of the three others. Only one letter is changed per theme entry, and the substitutions are not consistent across themers.
- 23a. [Birds who initiate lawsuits against marsh developers?] ACTION HERONS (action heroes, E → N).
- 34a. [Violent sibling, after being tattled on?] SNITCH HITTER (switch hitter, W→N).
- 37a. [Pair who might sing “Hoppy Trails”?] DUET BUNNIES (dust bunnies, S→E).
- 59a. [Fight that’s evenly matched?] CLONE COMBAT (close combat, S→N).
- 78a. [Glutton’s physique?] BODY OF EATER (body of water, W→E).
- 98a. [Exchanges of side dishes at a sushi restaurant?] GINGER SWAPS (ginger snaps, N→W). More of an accompaniment than a full-fledged side dish.
- 100a. [What the award for Fishiest Constellation does?] GOES TO PISCES (go to pieces, E→S).
- 117a. [Features of lobster laborers?] WORKING CLAWS (working class, S→W).
One thing I’ve noticed: none of the entries—before or after alteration—are proper nouns, it’s all lower case for the entire sixteen. Another thought: do these eight entries comprise all the possible permutations? No, because that would require 12 entries. How about: do they constitute four pairs of direction swaps? Nope, and that obviates my follow-up question, which would have been, are those swaps symmetrical within the grid? So, the answer is that there isn’t another level to the mechanics of the theme.
Six of the eight are two-word phrases, the other two consist of three words (but they aren’t symmetrical). I found all of the clues to be entertaining, and most of the answers as well.
- Long non-theme stuff: HORNRIMS, SMART BOMB, DROMEDARY, NEW YEAR’S [Big cleanup day in Times Square], TUNA MELT.
- Prepositional phrases: SPYING ON, TENSE UP, USES UP, TEED UP, SOURED ON, TO REST, OPEN TO, ON TOP, ÀPRES MOI.
- Final squares filled: crossing of 12a [Some Catholic missionaries] PAULISTS, 12d [Bobby Ewing’s wife] PAM; crossing of 32a [Maker of rosettes] ICER, 33d [Home of “The Amazing Race”] CBS.
- 80d [Participant in some Arabian races] DROMEDARY, 70d [Source of hypoallergenic wool] ALPACA; both are camelids, two-TOED (26a) artiodactyls.
- 44a [Jargon ender] -ESE. I like to use the (nonstandard) word jargonese, as it amuses me.
- 84a [Thimblerig need] PEA. Thimblerig, aka the shell game.
- Favorite, minimal clues: 57a [Whisper] RUMOR, 69a [Empathize] RELATE, 103d [Quail] COWER.
- 52a [Oozes] SEEPS, 109d [Oozing with smarm] OILY; 76a [Bull producer] POPE, 57d [Bull session?] RODEO.
Susan L. Stanislawski’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle plays on heterographs, one of which has a “ph” for the f sound and the other a regular f – two have other spelling changes too. The f version becomes the ph version, and the result is wackified. We get:
- [Seriously uncool dairy product?], NONPHATMILK. Here it’s termed “fat-free”.
- [Enjoy a TV psychologist?], HAVEONESPHIL. Is that even possible?
- [Followers’ flowers?], PHLOXOFSHEEP.
- [Sign on a hacker’s door?], GONEPHISHIN. Phishing being the practice done by the writers of those fake emails from various banks that direct you to enter your details into their fake websites…
- [Roman board game similar to modern backgammon], TABULA. Tough clue! I guess there’s little happy medium between this and [___ rasa].
- [Nail polish brand], ESSIE. Didn’t know this. I feel like it could catch on in crosswords! Which is the brand with the humorous, but not very helpful names again?
- [Flier on the beach], KITE. I put ERNE first… Crossword reflex!
- [Last little bit], DREG. I guess at some point theoretically, you must reach a last dreg after there being dregs! Is a single dreg more or less than a single lee?
- [Big name in chips], INTEL. Their big rival, AMD, also sell a ton of chips, but focus their marketing on distributors rather than consumers, it seems.
- [Medical suffix], OMA – vague wording because they don’t want you to know it, on its own, means “benign cancer”; CARCINOMA/SARCOMA is for malignant.