Caleb Emmons’ New York Times crossword, “Winners’ Circle”
Various rivals intersect in the grid but clash with conflicting letters, and where they meet, the circled letter is to hold the winner’s letter.
- 14a. [Opponent of 14-Down, in sports], ALI / 14d. [See 14-Across], FOREMAN. Ali wins.
- 21a. [Opponent of 3-Down, in Greek myth], HERCULES / 3d. [See 21-Across], HYDRA. Hercules wins, so a C in that square.
- 22a. [Opponent of 9-Down, in classical literature], HECTOR / 9d. [See 22-Across], ACHILLES. Achilles wins.
- 51a. [Opponent of 28-Down, in comics], BATMAN / 28d. [See 51-Across], THE PENGUIN. Batman emerges victorious, of course.
- 60a. [Opponent of 49-Down, in film], KING KONG / 49d. [See 60-Across], GODZILLA. King Kong wins, but I would have put money on Godzilla. Atomic breath! How does a big ape beat that?
- 90a. [Opponent of 64-Down, in the Bible], DAVID / 64d. [See 90-Across], GOLIATH. Davey wins.
- 96a. [Opponent of 78-Down, in fable], HARE / 78d. [See 96-Across], TORTOISE. Slow and steady wins the race. B.J. Novak’s book of funny short stories, One More Thing, includes “The Rematch,” in which a vengeful hare seeks to beat the tortoise in a second race. Hare still has some attitudinal issues.
- 101a. [Opponent of 86-Down, in games], KASPAROV / 86d. [See 101-Across], DEEP BLUE. Deep Blue won one of their six-game matches, but Kasparov won the other. It’s not as cut-and-dried as these other rivalries, is it?
The .puz file marked my winners’ letters incorrect, and when I did “reveal letter” for one, it displayed two letters in the circle. No! If the theme is “Winners’ Circle,” it seems obvious that we’re just supposed to enter the letter that completes the winner’s name, doesn’t it? I prefer my solution.
It would have been neat if the theme names had matched up symmetrically in the grid, but finding eight winner/loser pairs that would fit in the grid while the Acrosses or the Downs all partnered up symmetrically would be a tall order, I suppose.
Edited to add: After getting a note from Janie, I see that I overlooked a key thematic detail: The circled letters spell out, in order, CHAMPION in the winners’ names and DEFEATED in the losers’ names. Okay, that is fancier.
Seven more things:
- 1a. [Boors], SCHLUBS. Terrific word to have parked at 1-Across. Schlubs may also be homely or talentless.
- 54a. [Animal also known as a hog-nosed coon], COATI. Also known as the coatimundi. You may think you have seen enough pictures of coatis, but you know what you need to see? This video of Elvis the coati getting petted and skritched, and whenever the human hand withdraws, Elvis pulls it back for more.
- 75a. [Relative of neo-soul], ACID JAZZ. Really? Because I like me some neo-soul, and I can’t say I have any interest in acid jazz. Not that I know what acid jazz comprises.
- 83a. [Unusual diacritic used in Portuguese], O TILDE. As seen in Saõ Paulo. As far as I know, it’s still just called a tilde whether it’s above an n or an o.
- 97a. [Cousin of ibid.], LOC. CIT. A 6-letter Latin abbreviation! How special.
- 6d. [Obsolescent summoner], BEEPER. The clue is correct in that while the beeper/pager has become obsolete among the vast majority of people, some health-care professionals still carry beepers. Not yet obsolete, but heading there.
- 47d. [Stanley, for one], STEAM CAR. Had no idea “steam car” was ever a thing. The Stanley Steemer carpet cleaner is far more familiar.
3.9 stars from me. Neat theme, mostly solid fill.
Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Welcome to the last Sunday in October, everybody!
Sunday means time for the Sunday Challenge, and this grid, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, is another chock full of real fun long entries…as well as many options for the “sports…smarter” moment, which is always a plus for me. But that’s for later. Time to talk about what was right with this grid, and will start out with MR RIGHT (11A: [11A: [Ideal husband, e.g.]). For some reason, I had “–RIGHT” and then decided to put “upright,” which I guess isn’t the worst guess in the world…but far from the best. The Northwest was the last part of the grid I completed, and only when I was able to easily come up with MCATS that I knew Mr. Right had to be the entry going across (11D: [Exams for future drs.]). Speaking of an answer going across from MCATS, the 15-letter entry I appreciated the most was COME RAIN OR SHINE (15A: [No matter what]). Being that I was raised during the time the Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block of after-school Disney cartoons, was popular viewing, the clue to ANIMATED CARTOON was down my wheelhouse (9D: [“Chip an’ Dale,” e.g.]). Well, the Disney Afternoon was popular until Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers came along on Fox, which essentially hypnotized every child across America in the mid 1990s. Speaking of kids shows, I can admit that I watched a little bit of SHE-RA as well when I was young (27D: [“Princess of Power”]), and I’m totally not ashamed of sharing that TIDBIT with you (12D: [Choice morsel]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEAFS (25D: [Toronto Maple _____])– My Canadian friends might correct me on this, but the Toronto Maple Leafs, in my mind, are the hockey equivalent to the Chicago Cubs in baseball: a storied franchise steeped in tradition, great players, passionate fans, and, unfortunately, a lot of trophy-less seasons. One of the “Original Six,” the Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups – second-most in NHL history to the Montreal Canadiens’ 24 Cups – but none since the 1967 season.
See you all on Monday, and have a good rest of your Sunday!!
ADE (43A: [Hoosier humorist George])
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Twixt 12 and 20” — pannonica’s write-up
Wild-and-woolly, ramshackle, devil-may-care, freewheeling, irreverent, jury-rigged, funsome. Adjectives that came to mind during the solve.
The figures 13 through 19 appear in symmetrical entries, and I’m grateful the title enumerated the conceit so explicitly, as I was able to figure out some via process of elimination.
For the crossing entries, the 1s are read as Is, while the ones-place digit retains its numeric status. But then! Just for the hell (or convenience) of it, there’s a stray non-theme 1/I and a bunch of 0s/Os. Incidentally, AcrossLite didn’t care for my binary answers, instead preferring the input/output regime; I figured that was why my grid didn’t register as correct and red dog-ears festoon the solution shown here. Oh, and I circled the squares containing numerals and “numerals”.
Whew! On to the list:
- 24a. [Goes a round?] PLAYS 18 HOLES. Crossing the 1 is 13d [ __ fun (noodle variety)] MEI, and crossing the 8 is 25d [Poolroom pastime] 8-BALL.
- Oh right. More fast-and-looseness. This second theme entry doesn’t contain numerals; instead, it’s the sole two-part themer and those appear in part two. 26a. [With 107-Across, words from Warhol] FAMOUS FOR | 15 MINUTES. Oh yes, and that’s a curtailed version of the still-brief quip, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” Crossing the 1 is 51d [Con] ANTI, while the 5 has 86d [“Up top” gestures] HIGH 5ING (fiving) – further unorthodoxy. And, uh, inconsistency.
- 59a. [Coming-of-age affairs] SWEET 16 PARTIES. 49d [ __ middling] FAIR TO, 37d [Discard] DEEP 6 (usually rendered six).
- 72d. [1946 Cagney movie] 13 RUE MADELEINE. I’m more familiar with 31 Rue Cambon. Crossings: 61d [Election prelim] PRIMARY, 54d [End of a long weekend] DAY 3, which is a bit RYO.
- 109a. [Cicada] 17-YEAR LOCUST, about which I had something to say two weeks ago, in H Hook’s previous CRooked offering. 109d [Introductory] 101 – that’s right, all of the squares here have numerals. And crossing those are ONION, which converts the 0 to an O, but then it crosses a down themer and … well, just look at it and you’ll see. Ditto with JFK’s PT 109 at 119a. Oh, right. and the 7 goes to 110d oh-look-another-fillintheblank [ __ trump (highest bid)] 7 NO, which was completely unfamiliar to me. Dizzy yet?
- 14d. [Historic 1918 speech] WILSON’S 14 POINTS. Slightly nonstandard titling, but acceptable. 51a [Mid-March celebrants] IRISH, though the holiday is very inclusive, I understand. 58a [(The) elite] 400; oh look! More what-the-hell extra numerals. Frankly I’m surprised it wasn’t clued as [Truffaut’s “The __ Blows”]. Those zeros become ohs in 35d NOT SO and 41d SOHO.
- Annnnnd, last but certainly maybe not least is 44d [Hit song from 1980] STEELY DAN’S “HEY 19”. Okay, just… just stop. Sure, it follows the structure of its symmetrical partner 14-down, but come on, how often is it called that? And in the song title Nineteen is spelled out. Honestly, I feel like a ricocheting pinball here. Crossing this are our old friends ONION and 109.
And there we are.
Oh sure, let’s visit a few other parts.
- Less-common words: 2d [Every 60 minutes] HORAL, 7d [Sameness] HOMOGENY, 55d [Deacon’s vestment] ORARION.
- Hey, how about that proper name crossing of 8a [“Saturday Night Fever” director] BADHAM and 10d [Colonial diplomat Silas] DEANE. Anyone else have a little dredging woes there? At least crosswordy playwright faves Alfred UHRY and John GUARE didn’t intersect, though they are quite near to each other. See also 65a [“A Doll’s House” surname] HELMER.
- Also neighbors are 28d [Strong reddish-brown] RUST and 46a [Yellowish brown] CAMEL.
- Many elegant clues throughout: 36a [Shine with a rainbow] IRIDESCE, 46d [Formerly in the lost-and-found] CLAIMED. 57d [Well] NICELY, 96d Fine] DAINTY, 50a [In addition] ALONG, 99a [Onward] FORTH.
- Least favorite fill: 45a [Fellow, to Fernando] ENTE. But you’ve got to love (hate) RYA and MMI (matched with ART and UNC) occupying the grid’s center.
- 52a [“Norma __”] RAE; 77a [“Cheers” patron] NORM. Meh.
- Fun-pun clue: 78d [Eau de Cologne?] RHINE. See also 89a [Lorelei, e.g.] SIREN, see also 17a [Firetruck need] HOSE.
Nutty, completely fun crossword. Very glad I wasn’t speed-solving it.
ps: And to make it even crazier, I just searched and learned that
“Twixt Twelve and Twenty is a  book by Pat Boone which offered advice to teenagers. Royalties went to the Northeastern Institution for a Christian Education. The book was a best seller.” (Wikipedia)
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Horrors!”
I find myself wishing this 12-part theme had just 8 or 10 theme answers instead. The Halloween-friendly “horror host” puns were a mixed bag and the fill seemed a little heavy on proper names, odd multi-word things, and crosswordese. Here are the theme entries:
- 22a. [TV horror host with a hypo?], DR. DREW BLOOD. Dr. Drew is Drew Pinsky. BLOOD is not remotely a pun on Pinsky, just an added word to the name the dude goes by on TV and radio.
- 28a. [Horror host with a “shrubhuman” mentality?], WITCH HAZEL. Okay, that’s not even a pun. That’s the real name for a shrub.
- 30a. [Horror host with fangs and a gun?], BAT MONSTERSON. Bat Masterson was an old TV character, I think. Not sure why bat and monster are combined here; the fangs go with the monster, I guess, but the bat is very vampirical at Halloween.
- 36a. [Horror host with a peek-a-boo evil eye?], DEMONICA LAKE. Veronica Lake, old-time movie star. No idea what the “peek-a-boo evil eye” bit is about.
- 50a. [Horror host with a shovel and a brother named Rob?], DOUG GRAVES. Just a pun not based on any famous person, right?
- 65a. [Horror host in a lab coat who works for the city?], MORGAN SPECTER. A play on “morgue inspector,” I think. (Is that a job?) But SPECTER = ghost, so things get muddled here.
- 72a. [Horror host who’s a swinger?], BARRY D. HATCHET. A play on the nonviolent “bury the hatchet.” Swinging a hatchet, I guess?
- 91a. [Horror host who’s so suave it’s frightening?], SCARY GRANT. Cary Grant plus a letter.
- 100a. [Horror host with big hair?], GHOULDILOCKS. Play on Goldilocks + ghoul.
- 106a. [Horror host who has “visions”?], SEYMOUR GHOSTS. A play on “see more ghosts”? Or is there some famous Seymour we’re supposed to think of here?
- 113a. [Horror host who always seems to have a great weight on his shoulders? (The only real host on the list. He was on TV for 25+ years.)], PAUL BEARER. Stage name for a guy I never heard of who was in the professional wrestling world. A play on pallbearer.
- 121a. [Horror hosts nowadays, no pun intended?], A DYING BREED. No pun. Not many of those TV horror hosts left now. Chicago had Son of Svengoolie back in the day. And there was Elvira. I don’t know of any others. Were there a lot?
As I mentioned, the fill didn’t captivate me here. The first two rows alone have SLA, AS A GAG, -IANA, WILL BE, OLIN, and IRAE. Lots of names, like IDAS, OLIVA, KEENE, ARAM, W. GER., and RUHR. AND IT, A GONER, ON YOU, A ROAR, HER TO, I GOT NO, OR NO…. I’d prefer a smaller theme leaving breathing room for smoother fill overall. And a more consistent approach to the puns—all based on real people, or none based on real people, maybe.
2.75 stars from me.
Melanie Miller’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Give It a Go”
My favorite theme answer was the first one, so the puzzle got off to a great start. Each theme entry adds GO to the end of one of the words (or syllables) in a familiar phrase:
- 27a. [Fruit found in the back of the fridge?]. DIRTY OLD MANGO. Ha!
- 45a. [Class on an African river?], CONGO COURSE. The GO interrupts the word concourse.
- 58a. [Newspaper issue for arrogant readers?], EGO EDITION. Is E-edition a familiar term? It’s not resonating with me.
- 67a. [Google an African nation?], LOOK UP TOGO. Look up to meets more African geography. I do like geography.
- 83a. [Cruise for drummers?], BONGO VOYAGE.
- 95a. [Pasta sauce checkout line?], PREGO REGISTER. Preregistration is a tad dull.
- 35d. [Old MacDonald’s signature dance?], FARMER’S TANGO. Love the base phrase here, farmer’s tan.
- 40d. [Inexpensive game with cards?], BARGAIN BINGO.
My husband laughed at DIRTY OLD MANGO too. I would have liked a replacement for CONGO COURSE that didn’t split up a word. COMIC CONGO, CONGO AIR, CONGO BRIO, CONGO QUESO, CONGO EDISON?
Three more things:
- I liked the successive Down answers, 79d MONEY PIT and 80d EYESORES. They go well together, no?
- 39d. [Terminal communication], EMAIL. “Terminal”? Is anyone still working at a computer terminal? The clue feels outdated to me. As if we’re checking our email on the Vax.
- A touch of crosswordese here–AINU, ARAL, ARETE, SLA, OLEO.
3.5 stars from me.
“The Post Puzzler No. 238” by Patrick Berry – Gareth’s review
The two big draws in this puzzle are the 12/13/14 stacks in the top and bottom and a bunch of wonderful clues throughout!
The top stack is PINGPONGBALL with a trivia clue [Piece of sporting equipment that weighs a tenth of an ounce], [Balanced payment scheme?], ANEYEFORANEYE with the first of the many great clues and ILLGOTTENGAINS, [The wages of sin?]; in the last case, I don’t see why a “?” is necessary. The bottom stack has [Triangular treats], APPLETURNOVERS; perhaps forgotten [Synthpop group that won a 1986 Grammy for its version of Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” theme], THEARTOFNOISE who also reworked Prince’s “Kiss” with the help of Tom Jones and the hilarious and for me initially mystifying not-a-drug-reference [Crack that kills], SIDESPLITTER.
Other favourite clues of mine were:
- [Things to brood on], EGGS. Literally.
- [Wants someone else to try?], APPEALS – in court.
- [Really small matter], ATOMS. Literally.
- [Animal attacked by bats?], PINATA.
Other talking points:
- [Short-billed wader], PLOVER works provided you exclude genus Vanellus – the long-legged lapwings that are frequently called plovers, including by me, because the bird books I grew up with named them so.
- [Ring of ___ (mythological Greek artifact that rendered its wearer invisible)], GYGES – tough for me and I bet a lot of you. Not inferrable! But it has crosses!
- [First-rate], BANGUP sounds very British! Didn’t think Americans used it…
- [Landlocked territory with only one neighbor], ENCLAVE. Put LESOTHO in without waiting for crossers. Mistake!
- [Author who said “When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die”], SARTRE. And there I thought it was Chester Bennington…