Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Literally Speaking” — pannonica’s write-up
A potpourri of visual—or literal—wordplay, or at least letterplay. The key element is that the phrases employed in the theme answers contain at the absolute least one duplicate letter from the noun component. This allows the modifying portion’s ‘direction’ to work its wiles. The circled squares within the themers help spell out the process.
- 20a. [Result of a successful audition] CALLBACK. The letters spelling C-A-L-L appear in reverse order.
- 25a. [Instant] SPLIT-SECOND. The letters of S-E-C-O-N-D are divided at the beginning and end. (Just the one ‘S’ is duplicated.)
- 37a. [In bits] TORN TO SHREDS. “TO SHREDS” is at the beginning and end.
- 46a. [Kind of pie] MINCEMEAT. Letters spelling M-E-A-T are disjunct.
- 54a. [Lose that loving feeling] DRIFT APART. D-R-I-F-T split fore/aft.
- 62a. [Diner offering] SCRAMBLED EGGS. E-G-G-S in random order.
- 72a. [Art type] MIXED MEDIA. M-E-D-I-A randomized.
- 83a. [# # #] HASH MARKS. M-A-R-K-S, strewn about.
- 90a. [Like 0’s and 1’s in binary numbers] INTERMINGLED. INTER, mingled. Strange apostrophes in clue.
- 105a. [Card sharp’s deception] FAST SHUFFLE. F-A-S-T you-guessed-it.
- 112a. [Whole] UNBROKEN. Front/back, just the two measly letters U-N.
To recap, in order and using cryptic crossword terminology: reversal × 1, container × 2, [interspersion] × 1, container × 1, anagram × 5, container × 1. That cohesive chunk of anagrams makes the whole endeavor feel very lumpy.
Some nice flashes among the downs: PUBLIC ENEMY, OBEISANCE, but less surefootedly SEE AFTER, TWO-ROOM FLAT, SKID ROWS, START A FIRE. The across OKAY BY ME is nifty.
- 64d [Adorn, in old literature] DIGHT. Dight?! Yeesh. Oh, and 58d [Shield border, in heraldry] ORLE. Rampant yeesh.
- Cute-ish: 67d [“Big” star] HANKS, followed by 68d [Big, big, big] OBESE.
- (Take that, Alanis Morissette 19-across!)
- Favorite clue: 88d [They vary with circulation] AD RATES.
- Least favorite stuff: OTTO II, STG, SEER/SEE AFTER (duplicative and reminiscent of theme), ESAI (personal crossword peeve). 110a, 11a, 48a, 82d, 14a. Lukewarm on OTOE, suffix -ETTA, SEWED ON (versus SEWN ON). 45a, 39d, 44d.
- Tough clue for common crosswordese: 47d [Repeated film role for Skippy] ASTA.
Middling puzzle all told. Let’s call it 106d SO-SO.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “All Square”—Andy’s review
Am I missing something, or is the theme here just “things that are square”? Let’s review the theme answers together and find out:
- 23a, STICKY NOTE [Refrigerator message].
- 25a, BOXING RING [Fight spot].
- 38a, CROSSWORD PUZZLE [Pastime that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013]. Piece of cake for Fiend regulars.
- 54a, SCRABBLE TILE [One of a game’s 100]. Are Scrabble tiles square? I’m having a hard time finding an authoritative source on the subject, but they always felt a little taller than they were wide to me. Maybe I’m not playing with “regulation” tiles. Anywho, the North American Scrabble Championship is happening right now in The Biggest Little Crosswordese City in the World, Reno.
- 80a, PAPER NAPKINS [Picnic purchases].
- 93a, SALTINE CRACKERS [Soup toss-ins]. Not gonna lie — my consumer loyalty drove me to try ZESTA CRACKERS first.
- 110a, ALBUM COVER [Audiophile’s collectible].
- 113a, CHESS BOARD [Place to find a mate?]. Callback to a Bob Klahn clue from Monday’s CS puzzle at 1A… it was something like [Do more than just check] for MATE.
So… I’m still not seeing anything deeper than “eight things that are square, clued in a straightforward way.” At 144 words, with a normal amount of theme content and nothing particularly restrictive about where the themers can be placed, you’d expect the surrounding fill to be sparkling. There are some really nice long answers; in particular, I like the two double-stacks of 10-letter entries in the NW and SE (DATA BREACH / ALICE MUNRO, MILLER PARK / IN DISARRAY). And there’s some other good stuff like PUB CRAWL, “SEE THAT?”, and CROP TOP. But there was also a fair bit of RES, ARR, EME, DOO, ESA, A WISE, DOREEN, CULPA, ABOIL, etc. Also, [“None for me”] isn’t really how I’d use the phrase I PASS. “I’ll pass,” sure. But “I pass” is pretty much reserved for card games with bidding.
Really nothing else to say about this puzzle. I haven’t solved a puzzle with a BARER theme in a long time, so it was over incredibly quickly.
Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “First-Name Basis”–Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s puzzle is a tribute to someone Diary of a Crossword Fiend friends know well. As Merl explains: “I have a lot of friends with the same name – it appears more than a dozen times in this puzzle – but one in particular is doing a hospital stint this week. Luckily, she’s a crossword whiz and should sail right through this.” Yep, the letter sequence A-M-Y appears twelve times in the grid:
- The [Shrugger’s comment] is IT’S A MYSTERY TO ME. Nice starter. I confess it took me a while to crack this one because I had already placed MYSTICALLY ([Via hocus-pocus]) and figured we wouldn’t see another MYST- word in the same grid. Oh well.
- The [Peanut butter option] is CREAMY. I’m a crunchy fan myself, but I can see where reasonable minds would disagree.
- [They’re hard to see out of] clues STEAMY WINDOWS.
- Something [No longer fresh] is GAMY.
- One new word for me was AMYGDALA, the [Brain part that’s key to motivational and emotional behavior]. I sometimes suspect mine is smaller than most, for I kept parsing this as a name, Amy G. Dala.
- BRIGHAM YOUNG is many things to many people; here he is a [Leader of a famous exodus] that happens to contain Amy’s name near the middle.
- AMYL NITRITE, another new term for me, is a [Chemical used to treat angina].
- RALPH BELLAMY is the [“Trading Places” co-star] you might think of after Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
- MONOGAMY is a [Marriage concept] to which some subscribe, but it’s not a formal legal requirement. So I understand.
- My favorite of the set is the [Revelation from Darth Vader] (spoiler!), LUKE / I AM YOUR FATHER. If we want to get technical, I believe the actual line is “No, I am your father,” but this is not the puzzle for picking nits. Merl needed another four-letter theme entry to balance with GAMY, and this trick worked beautifully.
- INFAMY means [Disrepute].
- Finally, Merl delivers a classic Reagle-esque punchline with GORILLA MY DREAMS, the [Ape’s heartthrob?]. A fun ending.
I don’t care what you think of hidden word themes (which I happen to love)–how awesome is it to see a tribute puzzle for our fearless leader? Answer: very. Such a nice gesture from Merl, one of the nicest in the business, to Amy, another one of the nicest in the business. (And I’ll just assume that SAM, [Rick’s piano player] in Casablanca, is really a nod to me. I know it’s not, but what the heck.)
I liked the “bonus” theme entries: YMA is the [Diva Sumac (and backward, the theme of this puzzle)], which sits near ETYMA, the [Word ancestors] that happen to contain the reverse-AMY as well, though the clue makes no mention of it.
Despite the theme density there’s some interesting fill in this grid, including COUNTY SEAT, MY GUY, GLIBLY, and OFF DAY.
Here’s this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid, sponsored this week by Bush’s Best Kidney Beans. Okay, the folks at Bush’s Best paid nothing for this, but it seems within the spirit of the puzzle. On to the countdown:
- 5. I’m going to put the two aforementioned theme entries here (that’s Queen AMYGDALA and AMYL NITRITE). There were only three gimme letters there, and we know what those were.
- 4. NEY is a [Marshal at Waterloo]. It’s also YEN backwards, but that’s not the point.
- 3. EMLYN Williams, says Wikipedia, “became an overnight star … with his thriller Night Must Fall (1935), in which he also played the lead role of a psychopathic murderer. The play was noted for its exploration of the killer’s complex psychological state, a step forward for its genre. It was made into a film in 1937 with Robert Montgomery, and again in 1964 with Albert Finney. It has been frequently revived, including on Broadway in 1999 with Matthew Broderick and most recently in the West End with Jason Donovan.”
- 2. I saw that [Poseidon’s predecessor] started with an O and somehow figured that perhaps I was looking for the word in the NATO phonetic alphabet for the letter O. But OSCAR left me with two extra squares. Alas, here the clue wants OCEANUS. I may not have known the answer, but I admit the clue is better than [“You all can go to the ___ beach-phobic vacationers are going to the lake”].
- 1. Young & RUBICAM is the [longtime ad agency that created the “Betcha can’t eat just one” Lay’s potato-chip campaign]. I know the campaign, but the firm name is well outside my wheelhouse. I wonder if Don Draper worked for them.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Solving the Hard Way” — pannonica’s write-up
As some of you may be aware, Henry Hook not long ago had some medical issues. While he was laid up a 56a [Day worker?] TEMP constructor stepped up.
From the distribution e-mail: “While Henry Hook is on temporary hiatus, we’re happy to have Brendan Emmett Quigley sit in as guest puzzlemaker. Please enjoy his first CRooked offering this week.”
From what I understand Hook’s recovering well, or has recovered, but the appearance on-line puzzles of reflect the customary weeks-long lag.
The gimmick in this one is converting words beginning with a soft g to ones with a hard g: /dʒ/ to /g/. Without exception, the original words begin with the letter j and the new ones with g. Also without exception, the spelling of the new word is different than the precursor (aside from the j-g discrepancy).
- 22a. [“Focus, Gossage!”?] GOOSE, CONCENTRATE (juice concentrate). This refers to a baseball pitcher from, I believe, the ’70s and ’80s.
- 28a. [Bandages that heal?] GAUZE OF LIFE (jaws of life).
- 45a. [Made someone feel culpable in front of a Sunday service?] GUILTED AT THE ALTAR (jilted …).
- 61a. [Glop that deviates from standard practices?] NONORTHODOX GOO (… Jew). Is that a common term? I’m familiar with “Reform(ed)” and realize that it’s more than a simple dichotomy.
- 75a. [Product book selling oars with hunky male models?] GAY CREW CATALOG (J. Crew). I’LL just BET (18a) this is a long-established in-joke name for the publication; it has that feel.
- 94a. [Schmaltzy hospital transport?] SENTIMENTAL GURNEY (“Sentimental Journey“).
- 110a. [Brute butcher’s knife?] GOON CLEAVER (June Cleaver).
- 117a. [Teacher’s comment to someone with randomly wrong answers?] SURELY YOU GUESSED (… jest). Great pun to end on.
Appreciated the theme. Self-contained, well-executed.
Some fill and clues that are more characteristic of BEQ’s musicality and edginess than we are likely to get from the other constructors (E Cox/H Rathvon, H Hook), such as: 20a [“Song 2” band] BLUR, 43d [“Girl U Want” new wavers] DEVO, 64d [Dear God” new wavers] XTC, MEH … okay, so it’s mostly music clues.
Dupey stuff: 58d [Sinks one’s putt] HOLES OUT, 72d [Huge hole] CHASM. 32d [Motion shower, once] COURT-TV (tricky clue, but I don’t think it’s that good), 96d [Boob toob] TEEVEE. 73d [Form’s first blank] LINE A directly above 11d [Draft selection] ONE-A.
- 33a [Strand in evidence] RNA. Was going to suggest that this was a poor clue, but apparently RNA is a relatively recent alternative to DNA as a viable forensic crime laboratory item. I don’t actually watch any of those shows I so often see in crosswords. You know, Grey’s Anatomy, the various titles in the franchises of CSI and NCIS, and so on. Or COURT-TV, for that matter.
- 41d [Hackneyed] TRITE, 76d [Become tiresome] WEAR, 90d [Stale] OLD. Perhaps my habitual listings of allied clues and entries fits these descriptions?
- 30a [Mustang, famously] SPORT CAR. Not so much.
- Unusual word: 15d [Causing elation] EXCITITATIVE; I kind of like it.
- 65d [“__ blimey”] GOR. More Ngrammery, hmm.
- Good contemporary clue for IDA: 42a [2015 Best Foreign Language Film], though it kind of irks me that it’s the Oscar awards is taken for granted.
- Favorite clue: 115a [“Jane __”] EYRE.