Two hot tips:
This is the final week to get in on Patrick Merrell‘s Kickstarter project, a kids’ book called Zep (in the Curse of the Evil Dr. Sumac Who Lives Next Door), written and illustrated by Pat himself, with some sort of cunning meta puzzle hidden within it. Click over, watch the video, sign up!
Also, if you’re looking for puzzly holiday gifts for kids this month, check out Cynthia Morris‘s new book, Kids’ Krostics: Puzzling Penguins – And 49 More Amazing Animals. This is Cynthia’s first volume of acrostics for kids. She’s also got a weekly online acrostic puzzle for adults at American Acrostics (you can print out a PDF if you prefer hard-copy solving).
Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword
38a. [World Wildlife Fund logo … or a three-word hint to the answers to the four starred clues] clues PANDA … or P AND A. Now, I reckon Patrick knows about the P&A Magazine, a bimonthly puzzle hunt magazine you can buy online here. I haven’t ever investigated it myself, but I know that a fellow who goes by the name of Foggy Brume publishes it, and I know that many of the hardcore MIT Mystery Hunt folks never miss an issue. Luckily, you don’t need hardcore puzzle hunt skills to solve Patrick’s P AND A puzzle—it’s a Tuesdayish crossword with four theme answers that have P.A. initials.
- 17a. [*One who goes out seven nights a week, say], PARTY ANIMAL. Super-zippy phrase.
- 62a. [*Old coin-op locale], PENNY ARCADE. Is this before my time? I think it is.
- 3d. [*Manhattan boulevard], PARK AVENUE.
- 30d. [*1998 Robin Williams title role], PATCH ADAMS. Never saw it, heard dreadful things about the movie. Worth watching?
Initials themes are often boring, especially when drawn out to the Sunday size, but this is a crisp assortment of theme answers, and the puzzle had plenty of lively clues and some interesting fill to keep things perky.
- 21a. [Bag holder?], TEAPOT.
- 25a. [Breaking point?], LEVEE. I like question-mark clues but isn’t this one kind of … dismal?
- 35a. [What separates first from second], BASE PATH. Not sure I’ve seen this entry in a puzzle before.
- 40a. [A cousin?], THE. Indefinite and definite articles.
- 44a. [Support], SUCCOR. Not an everyday word, but also not remotely any sort of crosswordese.
- 58a. [Decaffeinated coffee, slangily], UNLEADED. Love it! Not coffee. Not decaf. The clue, I love the clue.
- 6d. [Ones coming out of the closet?], LINENS. I wouldn’t really call LINENS “ones,” but still. Cute clue.
- 7d. [Nonpolygamous grouping], PAIR. Any less than a PAIR, it’s not a grouping. How often does the puzzle mention nonpolygamy? Hardly ever!
- 12d. [Cause of bigheadedness?], AFRO. Fresh clue for AFRO, I approve.
- 18d. [Gets the team together?], YOKES. What’s more fun than getting the band back together? Yoking oxen.
- 45d. [Cause of a gut feeling?], ULCER. Although technically, the ulcer may present more as chest pain. If you’re feeling it down low in the gut region, it’s probably not a stomach ulcer. Then again, ulcerative colitis is very real.
- 52d. [Anders Celsius, for one], SWEDE. Scientist trivia!
I counted one partial in the fill and no crosswordese dreck. 4.5 stars from me. A strikingly enjoyable solve for a puzzle with no knock-’em-dead gimmick or whizbang fill to hang its hat on. Impressively open grid, too, where the theme answers intersect in those two corners.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “NBA Mergers”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to another Hump Day.
For those who are sports fans and regularly do crossword puzzles, this grid, offered up to us today by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, should have been right down your alley. In it, each of the four theme answers are portmanteaus, using mascots from two separate NBA teams to create the resulting phrase. The entries are clued as puns. As a bonus, the “sports…smarter” moment(s) has moved, for today, from the end of the blog to each of the four theme answers. Here’s hoping you don’t mind that. If so, my deepest apologies.
- SPURS BULLS: (17A: [Plays the part of a picador?]) – San Antonio Spurs + Chicago Bulls. Former player who played for both the Spurs and Bulls? Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman, who, at least recently, was the (very) unofficial U.S. Ambassador to North Korea. (Said in a very sarcastic tone.)
- HAWKS PISTONS: (23A: [Peddles engine parts]) – Atlanta Hawks + Detroit Pistons. Current player who has played for both the Hawks and Pistons? Former NBA slam dunk champion Josh Smith, who won it in 2005 (currently on Detroit).
- NETS WARRIORS: (51A: Captures soldiers?]) – Brooklyn Nets + Golden State Warriors. Former player who played for both the (New Jersey/Brooklyn) Nets and Warriors? Chris Gatling, who overcame a freak head injury while in high school, which led him to having a steel plate inserted inside of his head in 1989, to play in the NBA. He even made an All-Star Game appearance, back in 1997.
- BUCKS KINGS: (61A: [Opposes hereditary rulers?]) – Milwaukee Bucks + Sacramento Kings. Former player who played for both franchises? Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson, who started his pro career with the Cincinnati Royals, who moved to Cincinnati from Rochester (NY). The Royals then moved to Kansas City in 1972 and changed its nickname to “Kings,” then finally ended up moving to its current home of Sacramento in 1985. The “Big O” won his only NBA title in 1971 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
I’m kicking myself in the rear that I couldn’t get FRITTATA from the outset of seeing the clue, as I need to brush up on my Italian breakfast and foods more (10D: [Omelet alternative]). Though I’m not familiar with frittatas, I definitely am familiar with ESKIMO pies, since I had the worst sweet tooth for a while (50D: [Alaska native]). After getting CLAMP in the Northwest (1A: [Shop holder]), I wasn’t fooled by the plural clue to POSTAGE and put that down immediately, really shaving into the time to do the puzzle (5D: [Stamps]). The lid that I would want most out of a HAT BOX would be a kangol hat/Irish wool cap, though a bowler wouldn’t be too far behind on my preference list (48D: [Where to find a bowler, perhaps]). Yup, I indeed typed in “novel” first instead of NOUNS (44A: [War and peace, e.g.]), getting caught in the TRAWL net of crossword trickery (53D: [It may be dragged to catch fish]). Fun grid all around today.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: See theme answers above.
Thank you all for your time, and I’ll talk with you Thursday!
Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Serial Numbers”
Ben’s theme is EAR/WORMs, those songs that burrow into your brain and refuse to leave until you replace them with another catchy song. 37d. [With 43-Across, word for a song stuck in one’s head] clues EAR and WORM, and then the songs are all hidden in the grid, burrowing into the wormy dirt of a black square and coming out in another direction. Each song’s component parts are legit crossword entries unto themselves.
- 1a. [Fashion magazine prohibitions (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from Journey)], DONTS / 13d. [Foremost], TOP / 21a. [Disprove], BELIE / 28d. [“The Fast and the Furious” actor/producer Diesel], VIN. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” four parts. Damn!
- 9a. [Pale (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from the Spice Girls)], WAN / 15d. [‘hood], NABE. “Wannabe.” Not an earworm for me; I don’t know the song!
- 20a. [Arthur of “Maude” (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from Michael Jackson)], BEA / 26d. [Boob], TIT. “Beat It.”
- 24d. [One wielding tear gas or driving a tank, perhaps, alas (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from Barry Manilow)], COP / 42a. [Obamacare, by its real name: Abbr.], ACA / 46d. [Eric who played Nero in the first “Star Trek” reboot], BANA. “Copacabana.”
- 51d. [Seasonal worker, say (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from Squeeze)], TEMP / 69a. [Big name in modern bloviation], TED. “Tempted” by the fruit of another … Earworm it right now! Here’s the video. (This is the first theme answer where I actually read the whole song part of the clue and looked for the other half of the title.)
- 61d. [“Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” protagonist (and, after burrowing, a 37-Down/43-Across from Los del Rio)], MAC / 71a. [Place for some dated rock], ARENA. “Macarena.”
Interesting way to riff on the term earworm, no? In all, 18 of the 80 entries in this grid are thematic. The song bits are short, but highly inflexible, and since all the song titles run through legit Acrosses and Downs, the 54 squares in the titles are “triple-checked.” We’ve got a higher-than-normal word count and more black squares than usual in order to accommodate that, and I’m impressed that the fill is largely ordinary stuff (yeah, some partials, fragments, and abbreviations) plus a few sparkling long answers (OSCAR BUZZ is particularly delightful).
Three more things:
- 16a. [Hodgepodge, as the etymology of a word], MACARONIC. New to me. I had an L in place of the first C, since NFL is a broader but also correct answer to 3d: [Giants’ domain, briefly].
- 12a. [Frees, as from the shackles of the bourgeoisie], UNFETTERS. “Shackles of the bourgeoisie” for the win.
- 20d. [Conformist, in slang], BASIC. I believe this word is mostly applied to young women as a way to shame them for following trends. (And those who don’t follow trends can also come in for mockery. Can’t win.) I hereby move that we coopt “basic” as the word to insult boring crosswords that fail to be fresh or interesting in any way.
4.25 stars from me.
Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Amy here filling in for Gareth, whose day lacked time for blogging.
Simple anagram theme today, with four phrases beginning with the letters AELNP:
- 17a. [Geometry subject], PLANE FIGURE. “Plane geometry” is familiar, but “plane figure” isn’t really ringing a bell as something we talk about.
- 28a. [Vertical window dressings], PANEL CURTAINS. I’m a supporter of panel curtains, but it’s still a rather dull term.
- 47a. [Carrier based in Kathmandu], NEPAL AIRLINES. Very few of us have ever flown Nepal Airlines, but I think that’s the airline the dad of a guy I kissed in college was a pilot for.
- 61a. [Place for some exiled prisoners], PENAL COLONY. I suppose there are countries that still have penal colonies?
No real excitement in the theme. QUIRKINESS is a lovely word, and that WINE BAR is also juicy. Cyndi LAUPER is always welcome in my puzzle—she recently won a Tony for composing the Kinky Boots score, the first woman to win that prize for a solo composer gig; mostly I love her for her ’80s pop deliciousness. On the down side, we’ve got QID, UNI-, OR I, RHE, OF IT, SDS, ADESTE, URAL, and EDA bringing no spice at all.
Three stars from me.