- Lollapuzzoola 8 is on 8/8 (my parents engraved their anniversary date inside their wedding bands—that “8-8-64” may have been my first exposure to square number math) in NYC. Visit BeMoreSmarter.com for registration and more details. I’ve signed up for the At-Home Division for $10, cheap! Extra bonus: Ben Tausig’s putting together a booklet of sample puzzles from a zillion (give or take a few) indie vendors, so in-person Lolla attendees will have lots of puzzles to take home.
- Victor Barocas has a Kickstarter for “Ada Cross, Crossword Detective.” Backers will get eight stories (in 48 installments) and 40 crosswords with meta answers. Illustrations by Across and Down’s Hayley Gold! Looks like a lot of fun. In under a week, Victor’s already more than half way to the pledge goal.
- I will be taking a few weeks off from Diary of a Crossword Fiend, starting Wednesday. Scheduled for a kidney transplant next Thursday! Thanks in advance to everyone on Team Fiend—they’ll be covering all the usual puzzles while I’m recuperating.
Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “No Escape”
You can’t escape from a black hole, and there’s one at the center of this puzzle. The 12 answers that end at the black hole all end with an unseen “hole,” and the ones to the right and underside of the black hole run backwards so they still end with “hole.” There’s LOOP, MOUSE, and POT; backwards PIE, HIDEY, and BORE; backwards PORT, BLACK, and RAT; and NAIL, IN THE, and PIN. In addition, there are four long themers:
- 21a. [Novella that served as the basis for “Apocalypse Now”], HEART OF DARKNESS.
- 112a. [Tightrope walker’s concern], CENTER OF GRAVITY.
- 14d. [Avoidance maneuver], DISAPPEARING ACT.
- 42d. [1987 Michael Douglas/Glenn Close blockbuster], FATAL ATTRACTION.
The long theme answers are a good bunch—nothing acutely astronomical. The mid-range to long interstitial fill is good too—KRAKENS and LEANN RIMES, NEW HAVEN and an EASY FIX, EPISODE I and a MEAT PIE, HATE MAIL and GROUPIE, etc.
Five nice clues:
- 23d. [What L.A. is represented in twice], NBA.
- 1a. [Drug charge?], COPAY. This triggered me to look up copays for the meds they’ll prescribe after my transplant. Everything is in the $3 to $30 monthly copay range, except for the $4,000 med that says “not covered.” Hmm. Following up on that!
- 43a. [Idol worshiper?], GROUPIE, nice; 47a. [Idol worship], BAALISM, blah.
- 93a. [50 or more people?], AARP.
- 13d. [Change places], COIN PURSES. Clue reads more like a verb phrase than a noun. Tricky!
The Scowl-o-Meter bits were few and far between—OHMAGE, -ANE, NACRE, ARETES, OH ME, CIERA. Given the size of the grid, a handful of blah answers are easier to look past. Heck, plenty of 15×15 puzzles have more than six entries I don’t like.
4.5 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Constance of Consonants”–Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s puzzle begins with a note from Merl: “If you saw the headline ‘Fiend Found!’ you might notice that, between the two words, only the vowels change — the consonants stay put. Okay, if you were me you’d notice it. Anyway, this puzzle contains more of the same (with Y’s counting as vowels).” Well, I can’t describe the theme any more succinctly, so let’s take a look at the theme entries:
- [Lotto fever?] is MONEY MANIA.
- The PLUTO PLATE, not to be confused with the pu-pu platter, might be a [Disneyland keepsake?].
- [Like flooded roads?], some pathways are POSSIBLY PASSABLE.
- The [NRA issue facing voters?] is a BULLET BALLOT.
- The [Group that looks out for lost sea birds?] is the PETREL PATROL. Thank you, crosswords, for allowing me to plunk down PETREL when I don’t even know what one looks like.
- You’ll see this one again in the countdown of tough answers: [What some subathing Brits might be paying today if the currency had never changed?] is FARTHINGS / FOR THONGS. Didn’t have to change many vowels there, did we?
- The [Extreme reaction to certain cars?] is HOT-ROD HATRED. Probably my third favorite theme entry in this puzzle.
- RUGRAT REGRET, my second favorite, is [Second thoughts about not having kids?].
- My favorite of the batch is PATRICK’S PET ROCKS, the [Irish store that specializes in gag gifts?].
- Merl gets personal with this next one: [My reaction to a frustrating day?], I SING A SONG. Of sixpence, perhaps.
- Finally, we get something of a bonus conclusion with the [Slogan for a cat food commercial?], TROUT TREAT / TRY IT. Not only is this the only three-parter in the set, the last part (TRY IT) sits at 130-Across and there’s no theme entry symmetrically opposite at 1-Across. It breaks the conventions, but I liked it.
The title suggests this is a sequel. Perhaps you remember the original. I do not, but I can barely remember the themes from puzzles I solved three weeks ago, much less those from three years back. But this is a solid theme that merits a sequel. Is a trilogy in the works? Come back in 2018 for the answer!
I only had two long-lasting missteps, with DST for the [Clock-change abbr.] instead of the more regionally specific EDT and GAINED instead of GET FAT for [Put on the pounds]. My answer was more genteel, I suppose, but I had the wrong tense.
From the “Why were these clued as suffixes when they didn’t have to be?” file come [Henri add-on] for ETTA (especially when JAMES is in the grid at 1-Down!) and [Ethyl addition] for ENE. I’ll concede the latter is no big deal, for it’s not like ENE the directional abbreviation is head-and-shoulders above ENE the suffix. But that first one still has me, as the texters say, smh.
Let’s get to this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid. We’re proud to announce this gimmick now has a sponsor: the British game show Countdown!. So here, then, is the Countdown countdown:
- 5. We’ve already discussed JAMES at 1-Down, but here it’s clued as [The Amazing Randi], the famous psychic skeptic (say that three times fast).
- 4. TATIANA is the [“Eugene Onegin” heroine]. My knowledge of this novel is Onegin-off again.
- 3. SIR SPEEDY is a [Big name in copying] with which I am completely unfamiliar. Wikipedia says it has 600 locations in 13 countries. Alas, I’m red-faced to see two locations within a few miles of my home. Oh well.
- 2. ELISSA is the [Actress Landi of early films]. Wikipedia has the scoop: “She played the heroine in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Sign of the Cross (1932), but was overshadowed by Claudette Colbert who played the flashier role of Poppea. She was paired successfully with some of the major leading men, such as David Manners, Charles Farrell, Warner Baxter, and Ronald Colman in romantic dramas such as Body and Soul (1931) before appearing in the box office hit The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) with Robert Donat.”
- 1. As promised, we come back to FARTHINGS. My dictionary says a farthing is “a former monetary unit and coin of the U.K., withdrawn in 1961, equal to a quarter of an old penny.” I thought maybe the answer had SOU or HA’PENNY, but FARTHING was the furthest thing from my mind.
Favorite entry = GYRATED, clued as an [Danced wildly]. Favorite clue = [Water under the bridge] for MOAT.
Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Close Encounters”—Andy’s review
ETs have invaded the theme answers in this puzzle, wreaking hilarity wherever they go. Themers:
- 24a, CHILD-PROOF LOCKET [Pendand impervious to little hands?]. Child-proof lock.
- 37a, PICKETS A FIGHT [Demonstrates anti-boxing sentiment?]. Picks a fight.
- 57a, APPLE JACKETS [iPod holders?]. Apple Jacks.
- 79a, SOCKET PUPPET [Pinocchio plug-in?]. Sock puppet, presumably, but I had a ton of issues with this theme answer. First of all, why choose a phrase that already has -ET in it? Not particularly elegant to have both words ending in -ET and only one is non-native to the base phrase. Also, a Pinocchio plug-in would be a PUPPET SOCKET, no? [Marionette you can plug into?] would be a SOCKET PUPPET, IMHO.
- 98a, STRIPED BASSET [Cross between a hound and a zebra?]. Striped bass.
- 114a, SLEEP IN THE BUFFET [Nod off during cocktail hour?]. Sleep in the buff. Many of the theme entries were very solid, but this one legitimately made me laugh.
- 3d, MARKET TWAIN [Promote “Pudd’nhead Wilson”?]. Mark Twain.
- 71d, BALLET OF WAX [Tussaud’s tribute to the Bolshoi?]. Ball of wax. I didn’t love that the “ET” in this one makes a different sound [eh] than the others, but certainly not a dealbreaker.
Seven solid theme entries, and one I wasn’t crazy about. Theme is pretty standard, and mostly well executed. Pretty solid non-theme fill: FELL FOR, PARABLES, OIL PUMP, MR. SULU, ANACONDA (disappointingly not clued as the Nicki Minaj song/video), EURAIL, OFF WE GO, ERASURE (sadly not the band), and RC COLA were the highlights. Nothing particularly scowl-inducing — maybe LITH., maybe NARCO or, like, DEBAR if I’m being picky. Melanie, this is solid stuff.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword” — pannonica’s write-up
Avifaunal puns, that is all.
- 22a. [Dealer in big birds?] STORKBROKER (stockbroker).
- 27a. [Bird fancier’s theme song?] I LOVE PARROTS (“I Love Paris”).
- 43a. [Picture of a small bird?] WRENDERING (rendering).
- 62a. [Prime time for songbirds] THRUSH HOUR (rush hour).
- 69a. [Songbird in a snapshot?] PHOTO FINCH (photo finish).
- 86a. [Test on a black and orange singer?] ORIOLE EXAM (oral exam).
- 103a. [Bird that’s no phony?] THE REAL MACAW (the real McCoy).
- 113a. [“I don’t want to talk about that bird”] NO CORMORANT (no comment).
- 21d. [Tape or CD of birdsong?] VIREO RECORDING (video recording).
- 42d. [Venerated hawk?] GRAND OLD OSPREY (Grand Ole Opry).
43-across and 113-across are unlike the others in that they require implicit understanding of the original to make sense per the clue.
While I’m happy to confess that I enjoy puns, I have high standards, and one-dimensional examples—even if there are a bunch of them linked by common theme—are not much to my liking.
You know what else is a little annoying? When fill with theme affinity shows up in other parts of the grid. Such as 116a [To be, in Paris] ÊTRE. Or 8d [Arctic seabird] AUK.
Conversely, I see little incursion when it comes to something like 16d [Work on a turkey] BASTE.
Toughest spot for me was the center, the crossing of 65d [Opera’s Lehmann] LILLI and 65a [Adherent of Tibetan Buddhism] LAMAIST. Didn’t help that I’d had 67d [Elton John’s longtime label] as RCA instead of MCA.
76d/83d [Get-up-and-go] VIM / PEP.
77a [Of some pond life] ALGAL, 106d [Frog hub] POND.
Mostly clean fill. But nothing particularly exciting, either there or in the cluing.
54a [Italian “Behold!”] ECCO, 76a [French “There you have it!”] VOILÀ.
And there you have it.
Randolph Ross’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Hope all is well, and also hope that, with all of the crosswords out there in offer on this Sunday, that you got a chance to do this Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross. Again, a fair to easy Challenge for those looking for a real skull-crushing experience.
That isn’t to say that it wasn’t fun or entertaining to solve, because, in my opinion, it definitely was. Someone must be a big fan of horse racing, with both SARATOGA (29A: [Summer horse racing venue]) and BARBARO in the grid (12D: [Derby winner between Giacomo and Street Sense]). I would have made ‘Barbaro” the subject in the “sports…smarter” section, but hearing about a horse being tabbed as the next great superhorse, only to have his leg shatter at the beginning of The Preakness and eventually having to be put down, would be too depressing.
Geez, how do you segue from that? Well, we focus on some other good fill, and I particularly liked OZONE HOLE (31D: [Bad opening for environmentalists]). It also was the entry that opened things up, as EL NORTE fell immediately after that (55A: [The United States, to Mexicans]). After a couple of double takes, I now know that cicadas CHIRR (25D: [Cicada sound]). Initially put in ‘chirp,’ which I didn’t think was right yet couldn’t come up with anything better. Also, the “p” in chirp would definitely not allow EGO TRIPS to work, though I knew that entry must have been just that (37A: [Vanity affairs]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ORLANDO (35D: [Magic place])– If you’re thinking the Magic Kingdom and Disneyworld, that’s cool. But this likely refers to the ORLANDO Magic basketball team, a member of the National Basketball Association since its inaugural season in 1989. Only six seasons into its existence, the Magic were playing in the NBA Finals, led by dominant big man (and crossword regular) Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Orlando ended up being swept by the Houston Rockets, and the Magic lost in their only other NBA Finals appearance, in 2009 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!