Kameron Austin Collins premiered his biweekly crossword series Thursday. Not too late to get in on this! The debut puzzle’s a 60-worder that took me something like 8:28 (longer than a typical Saturday NYT), with excellent fill. And it’s free! Receive his puzzles via email on the 1st and 15th of the month by signing up here.
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Joe’s riff on New Ideas week is a 56-word grid with 17 blocks in the middle and another 30 blocks around the edge, making every letter touching the edge an unchecked letter. What makes it not an unfair deviation from the rules is that each of those unchecked letters is an unduplicated letter of the alphabet—so if you’re stuck on a few, you can rule out all the letters that already appear on the perimeter. (The Notepad even spells this out, so if you don’t notice on your own that there sure are a lot of uncommon letters around the edge—because they sure as heck don’t spell anything out—you can still get there.)
I miscounted the letters in OOPS…I DID IT AGAIN and tried BABY ONE MORE TIME instead, but then the crossings didn’t work. Pop quiz! Can you name any other Britney Spears songs that embody the concept of repetition? (I have no idea if any exists.)
Now, I know what you’re coming here for confirmation of: your NIPA/PEAK crossing rage. I happen to know that 45a. [Long-leaved palm] could be NIPA because nipa leaves are a traditional building material in the Philippines (read about nipa huts here), but hey, if you don’t know that, the P was tough to get because PEAK‘s clue was so tough. 46d. [Where people are drawn to scale?] should be parsed unnaturally as “place where people are attracted because they want to scale it.” If you haven’t figured out by process of elimination that the last letter is a K and you have NI*A crossing *EA*, you’re probably ready to have Will Shortz fired.
Top fill: The Spears song, TECATES (though my last cerveza was an XX Amber), OPEN PRIMARIES, TAVIS Smiley (though he’s clued too toughly as simply 25d. [First name on PBS]), Dad BOD, and RAISING THE BAR.
Not so keen on FAILING STUDENTS, DAY RATES clued by way of hotels (Google suggests there are primarily oil drilling and service industry applications), and the roll-your-own MOANER.
Vocab word of the day: VISCID, 11d. [Sticky]. Oxford American dictionary tells me it means “glutinous, sticky,” and gives a sample use: “the viscid mucus lining of the intestine.” Oh! Too much.
It’s not all that fun to eyeball a bunch of squares to try to figure out what letters aren’t there (this is more of an issue for a speed solver at the keyboard than for a leisurely on-paper solver, I suppose), but before many of the perimeter squares are filled in, you do have to be better at figuring out answers without having confirmatory crossings. Good skill to have when you encounter tough crossings. Four stars from me.
Paolo Pasco’s BuzzFeed crossword—Jim’s write-up
The end of the first week of BuzzFeed is here! What did you think? Me, I think there might be a few things to polish up, but all in all, it’s been a good week of wild puzzles. Keep ’em coming!
Today’s finale comes from youngster Paolo Pasco who, at last report, is 15 years young with 3 major publications under his hat. Nice!
As for me, having started life with a severe handicap (being born in the 60s), I’m not in the BuzzFeed demographic.
So it’s hard for me to understand kids these days with their hippin’ and hoppin’ and their hahas and lolz and their urls and irls! I’ll try to throw some of that lingo into this post to make them feel more comfortable. Lolz! (Did I get that right?)
This puzzle was totally radical! (Wait, that’s 80s.) It was phat. (Nope, 90s.) Sick? (00s). Dammit!
Good! It was good! Do they understand good? (Yes.) Ok, then. It was good!
What with your FLAVOR FLAV and IT’S A TRAP for your old farts and your TEAM JACOB and ALI G SHOW for your medium farts and your I CAN’T EVEN and CHRIS PRATT for your new farts haha. Plus HEARTBREAK, MEAN GIRLS, INDIE GOGO, LOVE POEM, STILETTO, FIREWATER, SEPIA TONE, JEGGINGS!
I <3 that SW corner with GREAT DANE, I CAN’T EVEN, and NOT SO FAST (with lively clues on those last two). The bottom right corner was pretty fly, too. (No.) Tight. (No.) Kick@ss. (Just stop.)
Being an old fart, I wasn’t sure I would finish, but the cluing was just enough to get me to the end. I have to say that I don’t purport to be a speed solver so I don’t mind long clues as a rule, but I can see how they might bug some people or they might grate after a while. But for the most part, I liked today’s clues; the voice that came through felt genuine. With puzzles like this, the future of PuzzFeed looks promising. 4.25 stars from me.
Still, there’s this…
Clues that I still don’t know what the fuck they’re about: 16A [Website where “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” was funded], 18A [Movie that made “trying to make ‘fetch’ happen” happen], and 1D [#squad___]. (Look I said fuck. In print. I’m cool and modern!)
Now get off my lawn!
Joanne Sullivan’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Contents Redacted” — pannonica’s write-up
From caveats issued by editor Brad Wilber, I knew to expect something different (a dubious term, perhaps, considering this week’s NYT lineup) with this puzzle. In fact, I should have relayed the warning ‘above the fold’ in today’s post. Apologies.
Heedless (and for convenience) I nevertheless solved in AcrossLite (XWord, actually), which turned out to be not so bad, requiring just a little extra mental projection. Between the various answers that were too long for the apportioned squares, the long theme answers, and the title, it was fairly easy to figure out the gimmick, and then see the payoff.
- 3d [Hidden] OUT OF SIGHT. Great Elmore Leonard novel, with an excellent film adaptation, directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez.
- 30d [Hidden] UNDER WRAPS. Identical clue.
- And then, working its way across the midriff: 41a/38a/35a [ … Hidden] BEHIND | THE | SCENES.
Everything’s all symmetrical.
And then, the gimmick. Fill that suggested—required, really—letters to be ‘uncovered’ (recovered?) from behind black blocks in the grid, as if they’d been redacted by opaque marker or some other obscuring technology. These held true for across answers (three letters in a row) as well as downs (more forthcoming, just one letter apiece). Rather than reproduce all 16 (or ~18, if you didn’t use the PDF; see clue numbering discrepancy between the versions), let’s just bring up the ‘deredacted’ solution grid, kindly provided by B Wilber.
As is now abundantly clear, the three-letter strings are the acronyms of government agencies known for their secrecy and such: the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency (for a long time—when it really was very secret—jokingly referred to as ‘No Such Agency’), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. That last is unquestionably the least well-known of the bunch, but is just as valid.
I suppose arguments could be made for inconsistency: three agencies and one bureau, relatedly: three ostensibly foreign organizations and one domestic, and perhaps others. But these seem minor compared to the points of similarity: three letters each, all US entities (SIS would be easy enough, but try finding something reasonable for KGB or NKVD!).
update: It seems to be LEAFBIRD—oneword—the monogeneric family Chloropseidae, endemic to Indomalaya.
We get a little tangential seasoning with 6d/26d [007, for one] SPY, AGENT. Perhaps also 27a [Synthpop duo who sang “Chains of Love”] ERASURE.
Overall, the fill is pretty clean despite the constraints. The aforementioned LEAF BIRDS and Arrested Development‘s ISLA Fisher are the clunkiest to be found, with a side-eye cast at the insubstantial 33a I AGREE.
An inspired crossword theme, as I’m sure there’s a significant overlap between puzzle solvers and espionage fans. The only further criticism—and again a very minor one—is that it would be slightly more elegant to have the three-part answer shift top-to-bottom as well as left-to-right, but I assume that that was a practically unworkable construction, otherwise it would have been done.
Very clever and enjoyable crossword.
nb: Clue numbers in this write-up conform to the .puz version.
Mark Bickham’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Okay, sorry, but abbreviated post. Awful day at work, followed by pleasant, if tiring kuiertjie.
The puzzles theme is slightly off-beat. Phrases are in the form >dimunitive< THING. The diminutive part doesn’t change its meaning, but the word following it does, making wacky phrases. The resulting answers were pretty fun to work out: [Hummingbird feature?], SMALLBILL; [Foothills?], SHORTRANGE; [Hot Wheels Volkswagen?], MINIATUREGOLF; [Potty-training tool?], LITTLEJOHN; [Mouthpiece for a Lilliputian horse?]. Bonus points for using “Lilliputian”. The only author I know who was fond of that word and its counterpart Brobdingnagian was Gerald Durrell…
The rest of the puzzle featured a number of colourful answers, both large and small, tempered with a few shorter clunkers, though well within acceptable limits.
[Type of hippo], PYGMY is a nice introductory clue, though I’m not sure its relation to the theme makes it problematic… Also in that area, I’m not sure [Everyone in Mississippi?], YALL is correct; isn’t that ALLYALL?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Wet Blanket”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, crossword lovers. Can’t stay too long due to other responsibilities, but definitely wanted to pop in here to quickly talk about today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randall Hartman. Nothing too flashy about the theme, as each of the four theme answers end up “splitting” the word “wet,” as the first letter(s) of each them answer start with either “W” or “WE,” and the end of the entry ends with either the letter “T” or the letters “ET.”
- WELCOME MAT (17A: [Sign of hospitality])
- WEATHER FORECAST (26A: [Cloudy with a chance of rain, e.g.])
- WAREHOUSE OUTLET (42A: [Discount shopping destination])
- WALL STREET (55A: [1987 Michael Douglas film])
Nothing really jumps out in this grid, especially with the theme, though the 15-letter entries in the middle of the grid make up for it a little. Initially wanted to put in “ulnas” or “ulnae” instead of RADII (1A: [Arm bones]). Throughout all of my years at school, I missed out (if you can call it that) on ever taking a class officially titled HOME EC (10D: [Sch. class originally intended for young women]). I probably just missed that last generation where many schools had classes as such. I definitely grow my share of facial hair, but, funny enough, I’m not much of an AFTERSHAVE user (28D: [Brut, for one]). Why? It’s probably because I always hesitate using blades on my face and rather just use an electric razor/shaper instead. (Blades have always led me to get those unsightly razor bumps.) Have told myself in the past that I was going to start using a single-blade razor at home, but he time has never come. Maybe next time.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PEARL (22A: [“The Good Earth” author Buck]) – College basketball coach Bruce PEARL is currently heading the men’s basketball team at Auburn University. Pearl, at one time the mascot during his undergraduate days at Boston College, has taken two schools to the Sweet 16: the University of Wisconsin-Mikwaukee in 2005 and the University of Tennessee in 2007, 2008 and 2010. After being fired by Tennessee after recruiting violations and Pearl initially lying to NCAA investigators about his contact with a recruit and his family, Pearl became a college basketball analyst on ESPN, prior to his current job at Auburn.
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow!