Do you enjoy themeless crosswords by the younger generation of constructors? Kameron Austin Collins is launching a biweekly subscription deal for themelesses (low-word-count ones). For free! Receive his puzzles via email on the 1st and 15th of the month, beginning next week. Click here to sign up. I’m really looking forward to these puzzles!
Patrick Blindauer’s October website puzzle, “Caesar Salad” — Matt’s review
Patrick has been throwing us relative softballs the past few months, but now he’s back with a 100 mph slider. I didn’t manage to crack the code, so veni and vidi but no vici for me.
19×19 grid with nine entries labeled [Ingredient #1], [Ingredient #2] and so forth. Each answer soon revealed itself to be complete jibberish, such as UROBK UOR for [Ingredient #3] and WYRFNSJQJYYZHJ for [Ingredient #5]. Actually #6 was MOO, but I figured that was a coincidence, and on #5 we got a “___ sauce” hint and on #9 a “___ cheese” nudge. But you get the idea.
It was clear pretty quickly that we were looking at a cryptogram, so I dutifully marked down all nine pieces of ciphertext. Translating them to plaintext wasn’t hard to do, since the canonical ingredients of the title salad are well-known.
But something funny happened on the way to the forum: it emerged that we were dealing with not one cryptogram code, but two or possibly more. Is Patrick this evil, I wondered? He is, it turns out. In full the ingredients in plaintext were 1) CROUTONS, 2) GARLIC, 3) OLIVE OIL, 4) ROMAINE LETTUCE, 5) WORCESTERSHIRE sauce, 6) EGG, 7) LEMON, 8) PEPPER, and 9) PARMESAN cheese.
So Ingredient #8 was VKVVKX, which had to be PEPPER, and Ingredient #3 was UROBK UOR, which was clearly OLIVE OIL. But then I started plunking those letters into the other entries, and just got more jibberish — except in one case, #2, which was MGXROI and had to be garlic. This was the only one of the others that made sense with PEPPER and OLIVE OIL.
Long story short: I started counting whether you went up or down in the alphabet to get from ciphertext to plaintext. So for Ingredient #6, ciphertext MOO, to get to plaintext EGG, you travel 8 letters up the alphabet. For ingredient #7, ciphertext QJRTS, to get to plaintext LEMON, you travel up 5 letters. But then for some of the others you travel down the alphabet. And the only other repeated code was for #1 and #9, which match up like #2, #3 and #8.
You may notice now that the 9-letter phrase ET TU, BRUTE? repeats its letters 1 & 9, as well as 2, 3 and 8, and that Ingredients #4 and #7 also share a code. I cracked and checked the solution, which is very nice: there’s something called a Caesar Shift, which you may know and I wish I had known and am now glad that I do, wherein you simply move each letter down in the alphabet, looping back from Z to A when necessary. Damn! I should’ve thought of that.
The number of spaces you must shift down for each Ingredient is, you guessed it: 5, 20, 20, 21, 2, 18, 21, 20, and 5, whose corresponding letters of the alphabet spell out Caesar’s famed shout to the treacherous Brutus. Making ET TU, BRUTE the answer to the unannounced meta.
This is a complex and lovely creation, and I wish I’d gotten it. When I read the solution I at first wished that Patrick had included meta instructions, but in retrospect I think that would’ve given the game away. “A famous quote” would lead many guessers to the right answer, especially in light of the 9 Ingredients.
Patrick is the only one I know of who creates this sort of “unannounced meta,” and they’re pretty cool. IV.LV stars from me.
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
First up, my favorite fill here: GENIUS BAR, HELLION, LASER PEN, CAHOOTS, METH LABS, AIR HOCKEY (man, if the crossword tournament hotel had air hockey tables, I might wind up missing some of the crossword sessions), TRATTORIA, HIP-HOP, SKOR bar (*crunch*), SATSUMA (introduced to me by my puzzly friend Katje … I’d been using the Body Shop’s satsuma-scented soap for years without having any idea satsuma was basically a tangerine), BITCOIN, and LABOR POOL. Oh! And EDH, an [Old English letter].
- Where 35a. [Patriotic org. founded in 1889] meets 29d. [Former cave dweller, informally]. I wanted DAR for 35a, but I’m guessing that was founded much earlier, as this answer is SAR, the Sons of the American Revolution. The “cave dweller” clue was getting me nowhere—it’s OSAMA bin Laden. Would have preferred OBAMA/BAR, but that’s off limits because of GENIUS BAR.
- And also where 43a. [Spray source] meets 44d. [Sharp knocks]. Figured 44d was PINGS, thinking of engine knocks. But UPI? News agencies don’t produce a “spray.” Eventually figured out it was UZI, with a poorly timed spray of bullets, crossing ZINGS.
Five more things:
- 23d. [How some legal rights are made], ON RED. Not wild about the entry, but I like the clue, about legal right turns.
- 1d. [“Lord of the Flies” chief], RALPH. I was reading this clue as if it were about The Lord of the Rings. Same difference.
- 14d. [Like some shady contracts, from an auditor’s standpoint], NO BID. No idea what any of this means.
- 20d. [“Lux-x-xurious!”], OOH LA LA. Has anyone anywhere ever drawn out “luxurious” in such a way that the sound would be represented by a series of X’s?
- It’s one thing to put PLAYBOY MANSION or TOPLESS DANCERS in a puzzle. Putting both of them in just elevates things to the level of grossness.
RATA, SAR, UZI, ASTI, URAL, plural ARGYLES, ENS and CPL, and CD-R join the least favored entry group.
Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Objective Constantinople” — pannonica’s write-up
Military history oliotheme.
- 33d. [Titular peninsula in a 1981 film about a 1915 military campaign] GALLIPOLI. That makes this year the centenary.
- 19a. [Strait seen from 33 Down] DARDANELLES. Known in the ancient world as the Hellespont.
- 39a. [Commander at 33 Down] ATATURK.
- 57a. [Royal residence that was a workplace for many in the “Vanished Battalion” of the campaign at 33 Down] SANDRINGHAM.
- 11d. [Land referred to by an A in “Anzac”] AUSTRALIA. That’s Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, combatants against the Ottoman Empire at GALLIPOLI. Pretty sure I’ve imparted this recipe before, but if you care to make ANZAC biscuits, here’s how.
Anzac Day is observed on 25 April each year, the date that the campaign was executed, so I don’t know why the crossword is being published now. It was a protracted affair, however, and continued into January of 1916.
Not part of the theme: 3d [River through Melbourne in 11 Down] YARRA; 68a [Youngster in a Pixar film set partly in 11 Down] NEMO. You all are familiar with my feelings about theme/non-theme intermixing, yes? On the other hand, I’m okay with seeing 31a [Some droning musicians] BAGPIPERS–who are a staple of Anzac Day functions–as there is no explicit connection suggested in the cluing or grid placement.
- 4d [Inst. that owns “Mountain, Navel, Anchors, Table”] MOMA; 56a [“Mountains, Navel, Anchors, Table” artist] ARP. Unclear to me why this piece was selected here. Though very nice and strikingly modern, it isn’t among his most widely known, nor is it currently on display at the MoMA. Can’t discern any connection to the theme, either. Perhaps it’s a personal favorite of the crossword’s constructor or editor?
- 48a [Gas brand extolled in old “Hockey Night in Canada” commercials] ESSO. Not also in current ones?
- Prepositions! 18a [Gives up] RATS ON, 62a [Visit spontaneously] DROP IN, 15d [Clean house] TIDY UP. Not-quites: 52d [Legislative rider, e.g.] ADD-ON, 66a [Emulates Garfield, in a way] OVEREATS.
- Most Higher-Educationy clue and answer: 20d [Veblen’s “The Theory of the __ Class”] LEISURE. That’s Thorsten Veblen, for all you Learned Leaguers. Runner-up: 65a [Hero of an early French Ballad] ROLAND.
- 44a [Harpy] TERMAGANT. Not to be confused with the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), or the ptarmigan (Lagopus spp.). TERMAGANT comes from Middle English and dates to at least the 13th century. ‘Ptarmigan’ is adapted from Scottish Gaelic tàrmachan; where the silent P comes from I have no idea.
Lastly, and it’s quite likely I’ve also shared this before—though I have no qualms about doing so again, as it’s so heartrendingly good—from her 1976 solo début album, June Tabor’s a capella version of Eric Bogle’s song recognizing Gallipoli veterans, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”:
Bruce Haight’s LA Times puzzle – Gareth’s review
I immediately saw the notes. It turns out, as the NOTES answer at the bottom explains, that there are starred answers that are the longest one can spell out using A-G. Their placement is irregular, like the rest of the grid. They’re CABBAGE/BAGGAGE/DEFACED/EFFACED/FEEDBAG and ACCEDED. I haven’t checked to see if this is indeed correct. I do not feel that compulsion.
The puzzle has six 7-letter theme answers. Unusually, the grid features a number of answers equal to or longer than these. We have the four longest arranged around the central note: POLICEWOMAN/POPUPADS/BICAMERAL and NATURALIST. They look chosen primarily as grid facilitators rather than seeds. I am amused (or something) at how [Member of the force] pretends that POLICEWOMAN isn’t an unnecessarily gendered term. It’s like how my mother says she saw the “lady vet”.
Among the other medium answers, TAMORA is some deep Shakespeare; GONERIL is more frequently encountered among us hoi polloi though. She’s next to AKIHITO, making for stacked unusual names. I’m not sure a downer answer like APOLLOI is something I’d want in my grid. IPECAC and CASABA are more fun to say. Lastly, I don’t believe ALACKOF is a real answer. It’s a random bit of a sentence masquerading as one; the awkward clue, [Rather little], bears this out.
Gareth, leaving you with, not TAMORA, but something close…
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hidden Valley”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everyone! About to leave the Barclays Center after watching the first game of the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, involves four theme answers in which the word “dale” is hidden, spanning both words in the theme answer. The reveal of sorts, DALES, lies right in the middle of the grid (34A: [Low lands]).
- HONDA LEGEND (17A: [Upscale Japanese import])
- RED ALERT (27A: [Danger symbol])
- HARD ALEE (39A: [Skipper’s command])
- TIDAL ENERGY (53A: [Green power source])
Originally had “Jeremiah” instead of NEHEMIAH, and that was the only real hangup that I had during my solve (33D: [Book after Ezra]). Loved most of the fill with the long, down entries, especially BONAPARTE (30D: [The Little Corporal]) and the cluing to RETIREMENT, as that threw me off for a couple of seconds (11D: [It’s no longer working]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CREW (8D: [All aboard?]) – One of the ten charter members of Major League Soccer, Columbus Crew SC is one of the more successful franchises in league history, winning the MLS Cup in 2008 and winning the title for the best regular-season record, the Supporters’ Shield, three times.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!