If you’ve got $1.49, a Kindle or the Kindle app, and an hour to kill, check out constructor Robert Harris’s mystery novella, A Most Puzzling Murder. It’s a murder mystery set at a crossword tournament in New York, an event run by “Gotham Record puzzle editor Bill Long.” I found it hilarious and I didn’t see the ending coming (I bet some of you will).
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
A pleasing themeless with a number of unusual or interesting entries, plus crisp cluing:
- 17a. [Title film character whose last name is Patel], KUMAR. Of the Harold and Kumar comedies.
- 18a. [Observances of the law], STAKEOUTS. Observances as in periods of focused observation.
- 22a. [Very flexible], LOOSE-LIMBED. Loose-limbed basketball players are fun to watch.
- 31a. [It might be beneath your notice], BULLETIN BOARD. Beneath the notice you tacked up. Anyone else usually type “bulleting” when trying to key in this word?
- 34a. [Really tired], WIPED. Indeed! Let me finish up this post.
- 38a. [1970s fad items], CBS. As in CB radios. A nice change-up from the CBS TV network.
- 51a. [“Will do!”], OKEY-DOKEY. Please refrain from adding “artichokey.”
- 3d. [Decisive board game victory], GAMMON. I installed a backgammon app on my iPad and I’ve played two games against real people. I won. They skedaddled.
- 24d. [Lines of reasoning that go nowhere], BLIND ALLEYS. Better as useless lines of reasoning than as things you drive down.
- 31d. [Amount in six figures, say], BIG BUCKS.
- 38d. [Rustic agitators], CHURNS. Butter churns, not people demonstrating for fairer farm subsidies.
Note that there are no partials, just a handful of abbrevs, and nothing remotely too obscure for a Friday puzzle. 4.25 stars from me. And so to bed.
Judith Seretto’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Details” — pannonica’s write-up
For the the theme answers, the syllable \’dē\ is appended to the tail ends of phrases, resulting in new, wacky ones.
- 22a. [Hawn in her role as farmer?] FIELD GOLDIE (field goal). That’s like calling Astronaut Barbie “Space Barbie”.
- 27a. [Banana Peel Taffy and Coffee Grounds Brittle?] GARBAGE CANDY (garbage can). Pungently reminiscent of Art Spiegelman and Mark Newgarden’s Garbage Pail Kids.
- 42a. [Girl hang-gliding in the Alps?] FLYING HEIDI (flying high).
- 56a. [Cousin of currant cognac?] RAISIN BRANDY (raisin bran). In Turkey, this is called yeni raki. A version can also found from Greek distillers.
- 61a. [Sheer fabric essential to drapery makers?] VITAL ORGANDY (vital organ). I’m just going to reproduce the lyrics to Dr Seuss’ “Do-Mi-Do Duds”, as memorably performed by Hans Conreid in The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, in all their glory:
Come on and dress me, dress me, dress me in my finest array
‘Cause just in case you haven’t heard, today is do-mi-do day!
Dress me in my silver garters, dress me in my diamond studs
‘Cause I’m going do-mi-do-ing in my do-mi-do duds!
I want my undulating undies with the maribou frills
I want by beautiful bolero with the porcupine quills
I want my purple nylon girdle with the orange-blossom buds
‘Cause I’m going do-mi-do-ing in my do-mi-do duds!
Come on and dress me, dress me, dress me in my peek-a-boo blouse
With the lovely inner lining made of Chesapeake mouse
I want my polka-dotted dickie with the crinoline fringe
For I’m going do-mi-do-ing on a do-mi-do binge!
I want my lavender spats, and in addition to them
I want my honey-colored corset with the herringbone hem
I want my softest little jacket made of watermelon suede
I want my long persimmon placket with the platinum braid
I want my leg-of-mutton sleeves, and in addition to those
I want my cutie chamois booties with the leopard-skin bows
I want my pink brocaded bodice with the floofy, fuzzy ruffs
And my gorgeous bright-blue bloomers with the monkey-feather cuffs
I want my organdy snood, and in addition to that
I want my chiffon Mother Hubbard lined with Hudson Bay rat
Dress me up from top to bottom, dress me up from tip to toe
Dress me up in silk and spinach, for today is my do-mi-do day!
So come and dress me in the blossoms of a million pink trees
Come on and dress me up in liverwurst and Camembert cheese
Dress me up in pretzels, dress me up in bock-beer suds
‘Cause I’m going do-mi-do-ing in my do-mi-do duds!
You’re welcome. Video, if you care and if you dare.
- 78a. [Mr. Clean, in his superhero days?] MASKED BALDY (masked ball).
- 89a. [Festival film in a film festival?] HOLIDAY INDIE (Holiday Inn).
- 100a. [Worker on a Slayer tour?] DEATH ROADIE (death row). Is Slayer a death metal band? Does it matter in context of the clue?
- 34d. [Employee who always agrees with the mint company boss?] TIC TAC TOADY (tic-tac-toe). Tortured clue, but the payoff is my favorite answer among the themers.
- 38d. [Golfing feat by Hammerin’ Hank?] AARON BIRDIE (Aaron Burr). See also 20a [Green feature] HOLE.
Fine theme concept, well executed, reliably amusing. D-tally: 5 × -DY, 4 × -DIE, 1 × -DI. Good mix there.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to spiffy midlength fill such as VOLTAIRE [“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him” writer], IRISH ALE, FESTOONS, CASTANET [Instrument named for its similarity to a chestnut] (genus Castanea). and STOP SIGN [Braking point].
- 13d [1970s, as coined by Tom Wolfe] “ME” DECADE. Not to be confused with Medicaid.
- Duplicating a minor helping word is generally unremarkable, but when the positioning is similar and the two answers are located right alongside each other, it can be distracting and disconcerting: 8d [Joins the conversation] WEIGHS IN, 9d [Prepare to take the stand] SWEAR IN.
- 35d [Big name in American fashion design] BLASS, followed by 36d [Big name in Italian fashion design] FENDI.
- 40d [Filing aid] EMERY. Do not see also 77a [Job for an IRS agt.] AUD, oh please do not, ick. Also do not see also 69a [Where Carter holds an annual town hall for freshmen] EMORY. Also, also, do not see also 75a [Rids of roughness, in a way] SANDS, from which do not see also 61d [Mirage setting] VEGAS.
- 59d [Art class staple] PASTE. Oh, we’re talking about children here.
- Eye-catching clue: 67d [Branch breakers] GALES.
- Notable clever-style clues not yet mentioned: 51a [Cleanup positions] MAIDS, 75d [Cutting-edge features] SAWTEETH, 90d [Farm team] OXEN.
Solid crossword, about average.
Matthew Sewell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Smartest Guise in the Room” — pannonica’s write-up
The title recalls the 2004 book about Enron’s implosion and the subsequent 2005 documentary, but I didn’t recall it being associated with Sherlock Holmes, who is the subject of this puzzle. Though I found no evidence of such a descriptor in Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, it seems that a similar line was part of the promotion for the recent film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
In any event, the crossword pays homage to the MANY (33a) disguises the esteemed detective has assumed in various exploits.
- 17a. [Role played by Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House” … ] BIBLIOPHILE.
- 27a. [ … in “The Sign of Four” … ] MASTER MARINER.
- 37a. [ … in “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” … ] SICK MAN.
- 40a. [ … in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” … ] PLUMBER.
- 46a. [ … in “The Final Problem” … ] ITALIAN PRIEST.
- 61a. [ … in “The Man With the Twisted Lip” … ] OPIUM ADDICT.
- 12d. [ … in “A Scandal in Bohemia” … ] GROOM.
- 51d. [ … and in “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”] WOMAN. Any particular type of woman, one with some sort of occupation, or character? (See link, below.) Ya, I know, it fits symmetrically in the grid, but it definitely has a whiff of diminishment.
Eight entries—even if half of them are rather short—is quite a lot for a 15×15 grid. Chock full of Sherlockiana, you might say. Or at least a particular aspect thereof. Here’s one list of his masquerades. Also, I’m now picturing the famous detective disguised as both a FRYPAN and a MANTIS.
- Chewy long down entries: PRO FORMA, LIP READS, UNBEARABLE, SECTIONIZE, the last of which strikes me as one of those British verb formations with a superfluous suffix—of course, they’d spell it SECTIONISE.
- NEBR., LTRS., EMER. That’s at least one too many awk. abbrev. for my liking. And there are some other quite noticeable compromises among the fill, including the partials IF HE, O’ WOE, the unusual foreign proper nouns OSH, WEI, the [Tempura vegetable also called “mountain asparagus”] UDO, and more.
- 44a/45a [Language spoken in the Golden Triangle] THAI / LAO.
Okay crossword, but not really my cup of tea, or pinch of snuff.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Last Laugh”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to Friday, everybody!
Time to get ready for the weekend, and I hope that part of your weekend involves engaging in some laughter in some way, with friends, family or making fun of the New York Jets playing football on Sunday. Today’s grid, served up to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, brings the FUNNY (67A: [Word that can precede the last words in 17-, 34-, 41- and 59-Across]), literally.
- WINTER’S BONE: (17A: [Film for which Jennifer Lawrence received her first Oscar nomination]) – I just made a Hunger Games reference on my sports web site yesterday, and, just like that, the actor that plays the main protagonist in The Hunger Games movies is present in a clue. Does that mean I should buy the books or watch the movies? Umm, not just yet.
- BLOOD MONEY: (34A: [Compensation paid to the family of a murder victim])
- ANIMAL FARM: (41A: [Orwell work that satirized Stalin])
- BIG BUSINESS: (59A: [Economic group with political power])
Perfect way to end the week for me with this grid, recording one of the fastest times for a CS puzzle since I started solving the puzzles in April. It’s possible our constructor is into boating, with ALEE (31A: [Toward the sheltered side]) and STERN in the grid (51D: [Back at sea?]). Well, everything should be smooth sailing on that boat as long as it doesn’t hit a FLOE on the way to its destination (54D: [Chunk in the Arctic Ocean]). Loved the clue to INSOMNIA, especially given the fact that I’m usually up late at night making sure to have this same review up in the morning (22D: [Difficulty going out?]). Usually my insomnia comes because of my one-man traveling road show across the country covering events, but this week, I’m finally spending a weekend sleeping on my own bed (23A: [Traveling troupe]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GEICO (6A: [Allstate competitor]) – This isn’t really much about GEICO as it is about the former NFL player that stars in probably the most popular Geico commercial going around now. The person in the grocery store singing “get some cold cuts, get some cold cuts” and dancing because he’s next in line for cold cuts is Ickey Woods, former Cincinnati Bengals running back. The commercial plays off his famous “Ickey Shuffle” dance that he used to do after scoring touchdowns when he was member of the Bengals in the 1980s. This video will explain the phenomenon that was, and still is, the Ickey Shuffle, and how it originated.
Have a great weekend, everybody! See you on Saturday!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
We get a second helping of wacky this week, as Jeffrey Wechsler gives us four ST to SN changes. Mr. Wechsler must have been very attached to his particular answers, given the additional grid challenges created by opening and closing with 14s, having a central 11 and having another answer occupying 2×9 spaces. The puzzles wacky answers were solid, but I think yesterday’s edges today’s out for me. We have:
- [Why the kids can hardly sleep at night?], MOMANDPOPSNORE. And there I thought it was because momma’s got a squeezebox…
- […Motto for Jessica Fletcher], SHESNOOPS/TOCONQUER. Based on the old play. Possibly the seed for this puzzle?
- [Chuckles over a small kitty?], POTSNICKERS. I had to remind myself what a POTSTICKER was (a Chinese dumpling).
- [Acerbic opinion piece?], SNEERINGCOLUMN
Quite a crowded grid this! Still, Mr. Wechsler included a political message: PEACENOW, plus BYPLAY, BUMMER and NOMORE in the big corners of the top-left and bottom-right. It must have been tempting to link NUTRIA (a less-common variant name for the coypu) to FURCOATS, but Rich Norris probably decided the letters from PETA weren’t worth it. I know quite a few famous AMANDAs but heiress Ms. Hearst is not one of them. From over here, it looks like quite a curious clueing choice to say the least!