This is the 10th anniversary of the very first Diary of a Crossword Fiend post! I dedicate this bloggiversary to two lovely puzzlers who we lost this week.
Thomas Gazzola of Portland, Oregon, was a math professor, a master of puzzle hunts, a crossworder, a member of the National Puzzlers’ League, and someone remembered by friends and acquaintances as a warm, kind, and generous soul. Tom’s life was cut short by a drunk driver—please don’t drink and drive, friends.
Longtime crossword editor (Uptown Crosswords Club, Dell), Games magazine veteran, theater buff, and all-around convivial personality Leslie Billig also passed away unexpectedly. I’m not sure I ever saw Leslie without a smile on her face at a crossword tournament. It’s been a tough week for puzzlers.
Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword
Brad alone, his puzzles are excellent. Doug alone, his puzzles are excellent. Combine the two for a Brohug puzzle, and it’s possible the level of goodness rises a notch or two further. Super-lively long fill, on the Scrabbly side, and no junk fill. It is not all that hard to come up with zippy long answers in stacks, but the challenge comes in choosing the entries carefully and backing up the moment a terrible crossing is encountered. Brad and Doug are both good at not accepting hideous short crossings as the price of having fun long answers.
The 1a/15a/17a stack lines up a Z, two X’s, and a Q. ZERO WASTE is a good goal, EXOTIC PET is cool, and though I’ve never heard of a TAXI SQUAD ([Group of practice-only N.F.L. players]), I don’t mind learning the term. On the other side of the puzzle, there’s a SHRINK RAY, ART FORGER, and the SOUTH POLE. The puzzle’s also got two full names (CEELO GREEN, STAN LEE), a UNIBROW (35a. [Sign of lycanthropy, to some], really??), and CORDON BLEU. And REGIFT! Nice. The clue is [Pass along, with dubious propriety].
The abbrevs ETD, WIS, and SAS are pretty dull, and plural GOOS is questionable (we would have accepted GOOD crossing half-ASSED). That’s the worst Brohug have wrought here.
Five more things:
- 47a. [Where Chipotle was founded and is headquartered], DENVER. Did not know that.
- 60a. [Criminal who welcomes a hanging?], ART FORGER. The clue sounds GORY but then is not.
- 1d. [Riemann ___ function], ZETA. Pretty sure I have no idea what this means. It’s mathy.
- 22d. [Pride : lion :: business : ___], FERRET. Don’t know that I knew you could have a business of ferrets.
- 32d. [Pen set], SWINE. This clue did not trick me. I wonder what percent of “pen” mentions in clues relate to pigs and/or sties vs. writing instruments. The twisty prison clues will also account for some.
- 41d. [Mostly-women Olympics sport, familiarly], SYNCHRO-nized swimming.
- 48d. [Bent for collecting curios], VIRTU. This is your high-end vocabulary word of the day.
4.2 stars from me.
OK, so I started this puzzle on a quiet Saturday morning, and after about 10 minutes, I had maybe 15 letters filled in. Put it down for about 30 minutes, came back, got to maybe 1/3 complete. (Mostly the right side fell first.) After a smooth solve on last week’s Stumper (other than one tiny corner!), I thought maybe I wasn’t feeling well. So, during another break from it, tackled the Saturday NYT. Done in 11 minutes! So, in typical Frank Longo fashion, this puzzle is HARD. If you’re interested in competing in a final at the Indie 500 next year, this puzzle is great training! That final puzzle was completed, to the best of my knowledge, by NOBODY in less than 11 minutes. That means it would have taken me, like this one, about half an hour.
Did I mention I had to use Google…..?
- 23A [It has buses and ports] PC SYSTEM – Not necessarily a phrase I’ve heard used. People speak of their PC, or their SYSTEM, but not a PC SYSTEM. Having said that, GREAT clue!
- 34A [City north of Sacramento] CHICO – I mention this because it was my first Google search. With the puzzle still relatively empty! This helped break most of the middle and feed into the top left.
- 48A [Crystal product] RADIO – Another great clue. Probably the last thing filled in. In the image, the faded mark on some squares denote errors; there are plenty in this entry. Explanation here.
- 50A [Nickelodeon owner] VIACOM – Filled this in early, then thought I was wrong and put in DISNEY, since they own everything else, but then changed it back. Watched a lot of Nickelodeon 25+ years ago, so I thought I new this. I think they own MTV as well as other channels.
- 53A [Notable [heh-heh] part of Elizabeth Tower] BIG BEN – I wondered why there was a wry snicker in here; the clock tower was only recently renamed Elizabeth Tower. Very cruel! Renamed apparently in 2012.
- 55A [Having the same voltage for each component] IN PARALLEL – Another great clue. I was thinking something ending in C or D, not this.
- 62A [Dream on Me product] TODDLER BED – Another Google search. But I need to do a better job of inferring the answer. What else would you “dream on?” This is a Learned League skill I’m just learning, as well…
- 1D [Tender vendor] KFC – First clue I filled in! With ATM, though…!! AWESOME clue!!
- 2D [What “Even Harry Truman says” in an Irving Berlin song] I LIKE IKE – I Googled this, too. Totally unfamiliar with this song.
- 7D [With 19 Across, onetime Bob Hope bandleader] STAN KENTON – Another Google find.
- 23D [Emerald look-alike] PERIDOT – My birthstone! I think the color is quite different, but they’re both essentially green.
- 24D [Site of Schindler’s factory] CRACOW – NEVER seen this spelled without the Ks. German spelling, maybe??
- 30D [Humors, maybe] TOADIES TO – Not familiar with this phrase, either. I may start using it, though…
- 32D [Spread over many pages] GONE VIRAL – Absolutely loved this one. I think I laughed out loud when I finally got it!
- 42D [FryDaddy brand] PRESTO – My last Google search. Again, probably gettable with some thought. Did I mention I didn’t feel well….
Painful as it was, I LOVE hard Saturday puzzles. Keep them coming! I gave this one 4.5 stars.
Another phenomenal Saturday challenge in the LA Times. I am learning to enjoy these more and more. Excellent fill, almost no dreck, lively cluing, and ultimately solvable. Just over ten minutes for me to solve, which means it may be slightly easier than a NYT Saturday, or I’m getting better!
- 14A [Cameron Indoor Stadium college hipster] BLUE DEVIL – Referring to Duke University, of course. This season’s NCAA champs in b-ball.
- 18A [Like Zitronen] SAUER – Evidently zitronen is German for lemons. Not sure why it’s capitalized; SAUER thus is German for sour.
- 20A [Tons] A SLEW – This clue is popular. Answer is usually A TON or A LOT or CADS when it’s four letters; with a five-letter entry needed, one has to think for a minute, which is good!
- 36A [Does some political maneuvering] JOCKEYS FOR POWER – Great entry. Need a few crosses to get this. I’ll tip my cap to you if you filled this in first!
- 63A [Police-search discovery] HIDEY-HOLE – I’m not familiar with this word. Isn’t this what they found Saddam Hussein in?
- 66A [10th-century English king] EDRED – Another new one. Definitely in the learn-something-new-everyday category. Also listed in Wikipedia as EADRED. Still don’t know him. Unfamiliar doesn’t make a bad entry, though. Seems pretty obscure, though. 10th-century?
- 3D [Reaction to excessive attention to detail] BUT WHO’S COUNTING – Probably my favorite entry in the puzzle. Wonderful long entry.
- 5D [Krabappel of “The Simpsons”] EDNA – I’d rather see this than the all-too-often reference to DAME EDNA.
- 7D [Unplugs, in a big way] GOES OFF THE GRID – Another great long entry. There’s probably a trick puzzle waiting to be made with this as an entry. Although anyone reading this is obviously wired, I think all of us dream at least a little of unplugging for at least a little while…
- 11D [Post-washing warning] CAUTION: WET FLOOR – Again, terrific entry and misdirection in the clue.
- 12D [Game for two] ONE ON ONE – Great misdirection here, too. Trying to shoehorn in here an actual game name.
- 36D [Marlboro Man contemporary] JOE CAMEL – Remember the good old days, when JOE CAMEL was encouraging 12-year-olds to smoke cigarettes?
- 39D [Gp. that includes Nigeria] OPEC – Once again, designed to fool. OPEC nations are usually thought of to be in the Middle East, not Africa!
- 47D [Amble (along)] TOOTLE – Not a word I use often…or ever.
Again, I loved this puzzle. 4 stars from me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “HAM Operators”—Ade’s write-up
Good day to you all, and I hope you’re having a good start to your Saturday. Looks like another great day weather wise, so I don’t think I’ll be indoors for too long. But I’m definitely indoors right now as I talk about today’s crossword puzzle, constructed for us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. In it, each of the theme entries are three-word answers that follow a “H-word AND-M-word” pattern. This crossword was unofficially sponsored by the clothing company, H&M.
- HIGH AND MIGHTY (20A: [Arrogant])
- HAT AND MITTENS (38A: [Winter wear])
- HAIR AND MAKEUP (57A: [Stylist’s forte])
Was tearing through this grid and thought I was getting ready to set a personal record for time when I hit a snag at an answer that should have been a gimme: I KNOW (56D: [“You’re telling me!”]). Instead of putting in an “I,” your not-so-fearless leader placed and “O,” making it ‘OK, NOW.” And I thought it was right. That, and I didn’t read the clue for SILTS immediately, so there was no chance to correct the error at that moment of trying to race through this grid (55A: [Bank deposits]). But, other than that tie-up, I encountered no problems. I did notice how timely this grid was, at least in terms of a couple of sports references. There’s ARENA, as the arena for the (Tampa Bay) Lightning will be in use tonight for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Chicago Blackhawks (21D: [Place for Thunder and Lightning]). (Just in case you don’t know, ‘Thunder’ refers to the NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.) Also, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is currently taking place in Canada, so there probably have been few OLE OLE chants from the spectators in the stands for those games (48D: [Cry heard at the 2014 World Cup]). Oh, and speaking of timeliness (more like coincidence), I had opened my ITUNES app right before I opened the grid and started solving, and was totally laughing out loud when I came across the clue and put in the answer (44A: [Apple service]). No, I wasn’t listening to my own podcast that’s on iTunes. But, if you are interested in listening to/downloading my podcast, here’s the link! A new show is in the works, and should be released in the next week or two. I’m hoping to have a Hall-of-Fame baseball player join me as one of my guests. So stay tuned!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STAN (34D: [Tennis player Wawrinka]) – At this time last week, professional tennis player Stanislas “STAN” Wawrinka was winning his second Grand Slam singles title, defeating World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final of the French Open. Wawrinka won his first major title at the beginning of last year, when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open. Oh, and what do you think about his tennis “shorts” that he wore throughout this year’s French Open?!? Hey, if wearing boxer shorts in public make you better at your profession, then you might as well go for it!
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!