Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword, “Fill-in-the-Blanks”
Lots of words are coincidentally contained inside longer words. A group of such words are used here, with blanks, to clue phrases that include the hidden word plus a word connoting absence:
- 26a. [Su____ic], MISSING PERSON. The clue word is supersonic.
- 32a. [Ob____ly], DELETED SCENE.
- 50a. [____t], UNUSED MINUTES.
- 71a. [Lo____y], DROPPED CALL.
- 91a. [Li____nt], FORFEITED GAME.
- 105a. [Ca____t], STRIPPED BARE.
- 114a. [Wor____er], ABANDONED SHIP. The verb phrase “abandon ship” feels more familiar to me.
- 46d. [E____hen], STOLEN ART. This spring, there’ll be a Helen Mirren/Ryan Reynolds movie called Woman in Gold, about a woman suing Austria to reclaim her family’s Klimt painting, stolen by the Nazis.
The fill has been carefully selected to avoid having anything that requires a regular FITB clue. There are also lots of 8-letter answers in the grid to freshen things up.
- 6d. [Virgin offering], PLANE RIDE / 38d. [Jefferson Airplane genre], ACID ROCK. There are other acid rock bands that don’t include PLANE in their name.
- 35d. [Fill-in-the-blanks activity], HANGMAN. Not thematic.
- 57a. [Arrive casually, informally], BOP IN. Unusual entry.
- 122a. [Like oysters as an appetizer, often], EATEN RAW. Doesn’t feel like a crossword-ready phrase to me.
- 126a. [1976 hit for Hall & Oates], SHE’S GONE. The original source material for Gone Girl.
- 20a. [Modern juice ingredient], ALOE VERA. The “modern” here kills me. I’m not a juicer or juice-bar aficionado, but I also encounter so little in the way of aloe vera juice in the grocery store, conversation, or anything else.
Four stars. Solid puzzle, theme more interesting than an add-a-letter puzzle.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Back and Forth”
Merl’s theme this week takes the building blocks of some cryptic crossword clues and parlays them into a word game. They’re sort of complex clues combining reversals and charades, to use cryptic lingo. The first word signaled by the clue runs backwards, and the second (and sometimes third) word appear forward. Smush them together into a single word and get what’s described at clue’s end:
- 17a. [Famed (rev.) + Consumed = Go off], DETONATE. That’s NOTED backwards and ATE forwards.
- 19a. [Uses stickum (rev.) + Sushi need = Prepares to sell], SETS A PRICE. That’s PASTES backwards plus regular RICE.
- 21a. [Supposing (rev.) + Civil War general = Bait buyer], FISHERMAN. IF, SHERMAN.
- 22a. [Kazan (rev.) + Howard = Plane part], AILERON. ELIA, RON.
- 23a. [Slogan (rev.) + One = Relaxer’s prop], OTTOMAN. MOTTO, AN.
- 30a. [Busters? (rev.) + Certain weight = A city], SCRANTON. NARCS, TON.
- 53a. [Vaughan (rev.) + Emulate Vaughan = Badgering], HARASSING. SARAH, SING.
- 55a. [Certain bird (rev.) + Fragrant compounds + Take on = A meat topping], WORCESTERSHIRE. CROW, ESTERS (meh), HIRE. The first three-fer.
- 66a. [Pain reliever brand (rev.) + Certain antibiotics = 1959 hit song], LONELY TEARDROPS. TYLENOL, EAR DROPS. Nice find.
- 80a. [Called (rev.) + Challenge + A nobleman = Close-election advice], DEMAND A RECOUNT. NAMED, DARE, COUNT.
- 85a. [Less loco (rev.) + Penny = Showing new life], RENASCENT. SANER, CENT.
- 102a. [Part of NEA (rev.) + “Huh?” = Boater], STRAW HAT. ARTS, WHAT.
- 112a. [Write (rev.) + Ditty = Roman god], NEPTUNE. PEN, TUNE.
- 114a. [Relay prop (rev.) + A pronoun = In no way], NOT A BIT. BATON, IT.
- 118a. [Hung on to (rev.) + London gallery = Ravage], DEVASTATE. SAVED, TATE.
- 120a. [Girl’s name (rev.) + Girl’s name = Former radio network], AIR AMERICA. MARIA, ERICA.
- 122a. [Dick’s brother et al. (rev.) + A pronoun = Dick’s last name], SMOTHERS. TOMS, HERS.
A whopping 17 theme answers, but with some just 7 to 9 letters long, not overwhelming in the grid. If you enjoy cryptics, you probably breezed through this theme. If you don’t—well, tell me. I suspect most of you don’t do many (or any) cryptic crosswords. Was this theme difficult to wrangle?
(By the way, if you do dig cryptics and are skilled enough to tussle with a variety cryptic, Cox and Rathvon have one at the WSJ this weekend.)
There is not much room in the grid for sparkling fill. Almost everything’s in the 3- to 6-letter range. The fill’s mostly ordinary stuff, nothing that hasn’t been in plenty of other crosswords. The exception is 4a. [Abbr. after the name of a Denver politico], R-COLO, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a puzzle before. It follows Associated Press style, and you can see “R-Colo.” in the wild here.
I enjoyed the wordplay in the theme, though there wasn’t any particular challenge to it, and there wasn’t any guesswork as the directionality was always specified. Four stars from me.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Welcome to the last Sunday Challenge of 2014, everyone!
First of off, my sincere thanks to Amy for spotting me yesterday! Apparently. I missed a not-so-elegant northwest corner of the grid in terms of fill, but that definitely is not the case with today’s Sunday Challenge, presented to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith. Started off fast right from the beginning of the grid, as STOLEN BASE was a gimme for me (1A: [Diamond theft]). For those that don’t like rodeos or roadeos, maybe ROLEOS are more down your alley (28A: [Lumberjacks’ contests]). Loved the intersection of MAN TRAP (20D: [Femme fatale]) and TORMENT (36A: Bedevil]). I remember studying up for the SAT years (and years) back and buying vocabulary flash cards to improve my vocabulary, and probably the one word that I came across that stood out the most for years to come was AMELIORATE (57A: [Better]). The flash cards had drawings/animations on them to make remembering the word easier, and I’m pretty sure I remember a mom sitting on a bed next to her sick child as the illustration. No lie! I’m now familiar with seeing BARENTS SEA in a crossword grid, so I got that entry off of the pattern of the letters that I had already inputted more than a knowledge of the actual place and/or the eponymous explorer (59A: [Arm of the Arctic Ocean]). I’m blogging this crossword in a hotel lobby after a long day/evening of covering college football, and, in a perfect world, I’ll go back to my room now and have a PINOT and get ready to hit the hay (23D: [Napa Valley wine variety]). It doesn’t look like a pinot is getting ready to happen any time soon, but a STRONG TEA is a strong possibility, though (33D: [Dark brew]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MALONE (45A: [Moses or Karl of basketball])– Serendipitously, it just so happens to be the case that Moses MALONE ranks sixth all-time in NBA history in rebounds (16,212) while Karl MALONE ranks right behind him in seventh place (14,968). Moses was one of the first players in league history to go straight from high school into the pros, and he ended up having a 21-year, Hall-of-Fame career, including winning the NBA Finals MVP in 1983 as part of the Philadelphia 76ers championship team. Karl played on two Utah Jazz teams that reached the NBA Finals (1997. 1998) and also was a member of the original United States “Dream Team” that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and was a member of “Dream Team III” that won the gold medal in Atlanta in 1996.
Thank you for your time, and now it’s time to sleep the day away! See you on Monday!
C.C. Burnikel’s syndicate Los Angeles Times crossword, “The Sixth Sense”
The theme entries include the letter trio ESP split across two words:
- 23a. [Nonconformist], FREE SPIRIT.
- 33a. [Roadwork warning], REDUCE SPEED.
- 45a. [Candy that comes in three colors], REESE’S PIECES. Tastily addictive.
- 70a. [X Games pursuits], EXTREME SPORTS.
- 89a. [Position held three times by Henry Clay], HOUSE SPEAKER.
- 103a. [Athlete’s setback], ANKLE SPRAIN.
- 117a. [Pledge drive talk, essentially], SALES PITCH. It’s not a sales pitch if you’re not selling anything at all. Pledge drives are pitches for donations, not purchases.
- 15d. [Colorado Gold Rush area], PIKE’S PEAK.
- 80d. [Polite acceptance], YES, PLEASE. Also (without the comma) the title of Amy Poehler’s memoir.
- 97d. [One with the ability hidden in nine puzzle answers], PSYCHIC.
I know one crossword editor who prefers to tack on a “supposedly” or “purported” or “claimed” in ESP clues, as there’s really no scientific evidence that ESP exists. I have no objection to that practice.
Nine more things:
- 39a. [Rosemary relative], OREGANO. I was ready to cry foul and then I looked up the taxonomy. The broader mint family of plants, Lamiaceae, includes not just the ones with big leaves (mint, basil, sage) and medium leaves (oregano, marjoram), but also small leaves or needles (thyme, lavender, rosemary). Tarragon is the odd man out; it’s in the daisy family.
- 56a. [Don McLean song that begins “Starry, starry night”], VINCENT. I have never heard of the song and worked the crossings for every letter. This, despite the fact that yesterday I started working on a Vincent Van Gogh jigsaw puzzle! (Not Starry Night.)
- 114a. [South Pacific capital], APIA. This is crosswordese to most American solvers, no? And it’s on top of ERSE. ESTE, CIII, OREM, NSEC, EMEND, PDT … there is a smattering of flat fill but it doesn’t overwhelm.
- 115a. [Tea grade], PEKOE. I had no idea pekoe wasn’t a variety or flavor. Apparently picked tea leaves are graded by size, the smaller/newer the better. Orange pekoe is fairly high-grade.
- 16d. [Feature of club nights for wannabes], OPEN MIC. Good entry.
- 37a. [Equally hot], AS MAD. I have never once used “hot” to mean “angry,” personally. Hot = angry only when the temperature increase is concentrated under the collar.
- 50d. [Citrus drink], LIME SODA. Is that a thing? Certainly not a common thing in the US. Mexico’s Jarritos brand and assorted small soda makers offer lime sodas.
- 1d. [Paella ingredient], SAFFRON. I bought some saffron and now I don’t know what to do with it. I won’t be making paella. Maybe Indian rice. What else is good?
- 81d. [Gets buff?], GOES NAKED. The GOES in this entry feels a little sub-gridworthy to me.
3.25 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Demockracy” — pannonica’s write-up
Just a straightforward quote theme this time around, courtesy the source’s characteristically cynical and acerbic wit: [Democracy, per H.L. Mencken … ] THE THEORY THAT | THE COMMON PEOPLE | KNOW WHAT | THEY WANT | AND DESERVE TO GET | IT GOOD AND HARD. (32-, 52-, 65-, 67-, 84-, 99-across)
The moderate size theme gives the ballast fill room to breathe, and rather than squander that flexibility really flashy material, the constructors have sagely decided to elevate the quality of the fill overall—including a bunch of 6- and 7-stacks—making for a robust and rewarding puzzle.
- Despite the just-mentioned lack of flash, there are a number of notably strong entries of moderate length: DRUNKARDS, APARTMENT, VOLITION, AT BOTTOM, AL FRESCO, DIGESTED, ARMY/NAVY, WHEEZERS.
- Was pretty sure I was going to have a smooth experience with this outing right away, when I was on the wavelength with 1-across [Uninspired new take] and filled in REHASH without hesitation. And so it was. Wait! I don’t mean the puzzle was a rehash, I mean that it was a smooth and quick solve.
- 18d [Nancy Drew creator Carolyn] KEENE, 14a [Arthur C. of sci-fi] CLARKE, 98d [Zora __ Hurston] NEALE, 102d [Wrecked ship “Mary __”] DEARE, and sure-why-not: 100d [Joyce Carol __ ] OATES.
- 119a [“Unto the Sons” author Gay] TALESE. 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of his book about the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
- 7a [Group of 1000] CHILIAD. Ultimately from Greek, meaning 1000. And as you recall, Helen’s was the face that ‘launched a thousand ships’ in the Chiliad. I have nothing to say about the Chodyssey.
- I also don’t have anything much to say about VS Naipaul’s “ABEND in the River” (110a) about the twilight of colonialism in riparian Africa.
- Favorite clue: 75a [Canine’s coat] ENAMEL.
- 103d [Three-line opus] HAIKU. “Opus” seems a touch grandiloquent for such a short poem, but I get that opus can be taken literally to mean ‘a work’ and isn’t necessarily characterized by size. Besides, a seemingly small and simple haiku can be the result of immense concentration and distillation.
- EAT IN, ZOOM IN, RAKE IN, BEN IN, IN LIMBO, IN-LAW. Bonus: RISES TO, COME TO. (44d, 90a, 121a, 88a, 24a, 97d; 21a, 28d)
- Your weekly conversion-to-.puz quirk: ABBA spelled with lowercase letters in the clue for 122a.
The Post Puzzler No. 247 by Patrick Berry; Gareth’s review
Four minutes for three quarters of the puzzle. Twelve minutes for the top-left. The Post Puzzler is by far the most frequent place I encounter such wildly different difficulty levels.
Nothing was actually too untoward in the section, it was mostly the clues, and a few persistent wrong answers. ANTE for [Play starter] was confirmed by NONO, but actually should be NFL answer SNAP. [Woefully unimpressive] & [Captain of industry] were first PUNY/NABOB then the latter became WHEEL to fit LOMBARDI. The VINCE part of Mr. LOMBARDI’s name was a mystery to me. Is DOINGITUP for [Living an exciting life, slangily] a real idiom? News to me. ENTOURAGE as clued means very little to me; I recognize that it is a TV show. The [1959 No. 1 hit for Paul Anka] was my eventual way in, but without crossers, and then with some wrong crossers, it took an age to come up with.
The down clues are similarly opaque: [Lansing minor-leaguers] is about as unhelpful a clue, personally speaking, for LUGNUTS as I could wish for. I don’t think of PEONIES as particularly [Big blooms] – Rafflesia, now that’s a big bloom, and [Bug zapper] for ANTIVIRUS just seems plain wrong. A bug is an error in code, a virus is deliberately designed with malicious intent. So yeah – a mix of hard-for-me names and terms, weird clues (some fair, some less so) and a few missteps made for a disaster of a corner. Oh and also ELL for EDU. I think that’s a trap. Interested to hear if this section was as off-the-scale for everyone else the way it was for me.
Design-wise, this is typical Berry. Two very big stacks without obvious seeds, but also with generally high-quality longer answers and all the short stuff more than reasonable. The top-left’s ANTIVIRUS is its best answer – plus VINCELOMBARDI is probably exciting for those who do US sports – cute quote clue by the way ([“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm” speaker] – amusing, but not sure if that’s the best way to motivate someone.
The opposite side’s CHEMICALSPILL is quite dark. All over the CRANAPPLE too; oh dear! Nice to see that be more than just CRAN though. PAPARAZZI and PLANETOID are nice word choices too. CANALZONE is a good geography answer. I like how the clue, [Former U.S. territory whose motto was “The land divided, the world united”], is seemingly vague, but then is very obviously inferrable, or at least seemingly so, once the answer has emerged!
Do you spot a bad answer? Me neither!