People of earth! I have exciting news for you. If you have the slightest interest in learning to construct crossword puzzles of your own, you can now own Patrick Berry’s seminal handbook (which includes 70 puzzles that illustrate his points … and are also lovely Patrick Berry crosswords in their own right) for $10. The out-of-print “Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies” book (such a misleading title!) will set you back you over $100 on Amazon, or you can get the updated PDF edition, now accurately titled Crossword Constructor’s Handbook, directly from Patrick for $10. The puzzles will come in .puz format as well as PDF as a nice bonus. If you know someone who’d like to learn to construct, surprise them with this book. I’m excited to be able to point newbies to Patrick’s fresh edition now!
And if you’re more into solving, Patrick also has a mini-puzzle extravaganza called “Vicious Circle,” a suite of puzzles with a meta contest answer. Contest ends April 25. Puzzle pack costs $10, or $15 if you want his delicious bonus puzzles. Available here.
Michael Shteyman’s New York Times crossword
Really an odd sort of puzzle for a Wednesday. It’s a 70-worder that’s practically a themeless puzzle with a mini-theme on steroids—instead of having a couple linked 15s, this one has three linked 15s intersecting a fourth Midwestern capital with 13 letters. We get LANSING, MICHIGAN; LINCOLN, NEBRASKA (though I would argue that OK, NE, SD, and ND are the Great Plains more than the Midwest, as they’re so far removed from the Great Lakes area); ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA; and DES MOINES, IOWA. It’s neat that they intersect in the grid just so, but it isn’t exactly an entertaining sort of thing for me.
Michael’s notes at Wordplay tell me he reworked his very first NYT puzzle submission (rejected circa 1999), with the three 15s, by adding Des Moines. Eh. It’s an architectural achievement but not at all a wordplay one.
Likes: That ROLLED R at 1-Across, CAN’T-LOSE, and … well, despite the grid’s openness, there isn’t a ton of juicy fill aside from your city/state combos.
Five more things:
- 10d. [Final stanza in a poem], ENVOI. That’s more Friday-grade fill, isn’t it?
- Doctor, doctor! Young Dr. Shteyman, who was just a punk kid back in ’99, is now an anesthesiologist like my father-in-law was pre-retirement. So we get a medical CHART and an ICU and a patient calling out “NORSE!” Michael made more crosswords back when he was a pipsqueak, and they were impressive.
- 49d. [Trevor of the N.B.A.], ARIZA. Unfamiliar name for which I needed every crossing.
- 13d. [German steel city], ESSEN. The most crossword-friendly of all 5-letter cities, is it not? It is.
- 21a. [1,000 kilogrammes], TONNE. Could be British-variant English, could be French. What it isn’t is American spelling.
Hmm, 3.33 stars from me. Not much fun and games here. Just make us a straight-up themeless, Doc! I like a good themeless.
Aimee Lucido’s AV Club Crossword, “Inside Jokes”
Aimee’s theme is phrases whose central 3 letters are the title of a movie comedy:
- 17a. [Like the first item on a to-do list, perhaps], TOP PRIORITY. Didn’t see Rio.
- 23a. [People somewhere between three and six on the Kinsey Scale, collectively], LESBIGAYS. Big starred Tom Hanks and if you think, “Oh, my kid would love this movie,” don’t forget the scene where the 13-year-old child in a man’s body gets laid by a grown woman.
- 37a. [Channel where the circled offerings might air, and a spatial description of those offerings within the theme entries], COMEDY CENTRAL.
- 53a. [Part of a rock kit], SNARE DRUM. Red! My kid did like that one. Quite violent (like so many action movies). He wanted to see Helen Mirren, his grandma’s age, wielding military-grade weapons.
- 61a. [British dessert with an oft-mocked name], SPOTTED DICK. Ted was that Seth MacFarlane teddy bear movie I had no interest it.
Tops: AIRBNB, EARGASMS, YO-YO DIET. 29a. [Modern prefix with -grammer or -gressive] to clue BRO. 30a. [Soul or Fusion] for CAR. (My uncle who turns 80 next month bought himself a Kia Soul last year. Alien green.)
Bottoms: ARF ARF, ENO/ARP combo, SEM, ARTE, STN. Also, there have been some complaints out there about the stereotyped gender essentialism of the STIES clue, [Frat houses, often]. And by “some,” I mean “probably just one.”
- 41d. [App used by women to rate men], LULU.
- 12d. [Domain of King Tyndareus], SPARTA. Tyndareus?
- That BETTED was a valid past tense, not just BET.
3.8 stars from me.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “No-Hitters”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, crossword lovers! Hope you’re doing well on the final Wednesday in February. Today’s puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, provides us five theme answers, as each of the themes are multiple-word entries in which the final word happens to also be an instrument that, if you wanted to, could be used to sock someone over the head with! Essentially, they’re all types of sticks, but I didn’t want to say the word “stick” since that word is part of one of the entries. Well, I used “stick” now, so there goes some of the suspense, huh?
- VAMPIRE BAT (17A: [Bloodsucker named for a bloodsucker]) – For some reason, this answer remind me of this exchange from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, Hocus Pocus…
- SOUTH POLE (26A: [Site of the Amundsen-Scott Station])
- PEPPERMINT STICK (41A: [Red-and-white-striped treat])
- WAIT STAFF (51A: [Restaurant hirees])
- TURKEY CLUB (65A: [Sandwich shunned by vegans]) – My lunch, maybe? Hold the mayo, and I’ll be good to go!
I knew that Spanx sold the undergarments from the chest to below the waist, but didn’t know that they actually sell BRAS as well (64A: [Some Spanx sales]). Well, I guess I shouldn’t feel that bad that it wasn’t common knowledge for me, huh? For ICE BAG, I initially had the first two letters (I-C-___) and then filled in ICY HOT (22A: [Ache or pain soother]). I don’t think that answer is that far-fetched, is it? How awesome was the clue to BIRD CALLS (38D: [Tweets without hashtags])? For a split second, I thought, “Are my non hashtagged tweets actually termed ‘bird calls’ in the Twitter world?” For a while, some of my favorite programming that I watch is on the Investigation Discovery network (ID), and one of the shows that’s part of their lineup is a documentary called Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry? (10D: [Censor’s recourse]). As a matter-of-fact, I spent a couple of hours before the Super Bowl earlier this month watching a marathon of a show called Wives With Knives. Educational programming, I know! Fun puzzle today, especially with having five themes in offer.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SARGE (13D: [Beetle Bailey’s reprimander]) – Former Major League Baseball outfielder Gary Matthews, nicknamed SARGE, played 16 seasons in the pros, winning the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year as a member of the San Francisco Giants. In 1983, Matthews won the National League Championship Series MVP as he led the Phillies to a seven-game series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers en route to the Fall Classic. Matthews went on to be a longtime broadcaster on television with the Phillies before not being retained by the club heading into the 2014 season.
Have a good day everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’m less sure of the revealer, but the theme concept itself is super tight. Four phrases describing generic types of film roles have their adjective re-imagined to be describing the vocation of the role itself. This is summed up by the phrase TYPECASTING. So we have a shepherdess as a LEADINGLADY, a jeweler making a CAMEOAPPEARANCE, a horse trainer with a BITPART, and a weightlifter as a SUPPORTINGACTOR.
The rest of the puzzle was a mixed bag. Some interesting longer stuff – PUPTENT, POMPEII, ILLPASS and HIJACK – but also a lot of really awkward short answers of the contrived variety. IUM and ISE are pretty desperate as suffixes, and yet their areas don’t look deserving of such desperation.
- [Mutinous Kubrick computer], HAL. I’d have credited Clarke myself.
- [Boyfriend], BEAU. A word I’ve encountered chiefly while reading Nancy Drew novels as a kid.
- […based on my abilities], ASICAN. Use it in a sentence??
- [Stephen of “Breakfast on Pluto], REA. I’m more of a Chris man. I love the joke at 1:10 here.
4 Stars. Very strong theme, but with a few mushy spots in the grid.