Hey, did you notice that you can rate puzzles on the blog’s main page now, rather than having to first click into an individual post? Please don’t be a Goofus and exploit that to assign ratings at random—just be a Gallant and give fair ratings to the puzzles you’ve solved. And if you made the puzzle yourself, maybe don’t reflexively give yourself 5 stars (we notice).
Kurt Mueller’s New York Times crossword
Cute pre-Halloween theme, featuring the things that ward off vampires:
- 20a. [Vampire’s bane #1], THE HOLY BIBLE. Well, I’ve never heard of this one. Holy water or crucifixes, sure. Maybe the bible fits the same category?
- 28a. [Vampire’s bane #2], DIRECT SUNLIGHT.
- 45a. [Vampire’s bane #3], GARLIC NECKLACE.
- 51a. [Vampire’s bane #4], SILVER BULLET.
- 30d/37a. [With 37-Across, vampire’s bane #5, represented literally], STAKE through the HEART.
Favorite fill: DOODAD, DIEHARD, and CHEERIO. Not keen on KGB SPY, which felt contrived when I saw it in another recent puzzle and hasn’t improved on second viewing. A DAB, AGER, plural OLES, -INI, -ERN, et ALII are also on my “no thanks” list.
Four more things:
- 14a. [Autodom’s A8 or Q7], AUDI. First, “autodom” is a terrible word. Second, the carmaker is pronounced “ow-dee,” not like “audio” without the O. German vowels. (I heard someone on public radio pronounce it “aw-dee” and was so disappointed.)
- 35a. [Grimm (or grim?) character], OGRE. Hey! Grimm‘s new season starts Friday night. Anyone else watching the show?
- 39a. [Savor, as cognac], SIP. Ha! I don’t know that I know any habitual cognac sippers.
- 25d. [Spider’s hatching pouch], EGG SAC. This is scarier than vampires, am I right?
3.66 stars from me. Good night!
Ed Sessa’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dead Reckoning” — Jim’s write-up
Continuing the Halloween festivities that began yesterday in the WSJ with CROWs, today we have a quip puzzle by Ed Sessa.
- 17a A CEMETERY RAISED
- 27a ITS BURIAL FEES
- 47a AND BLAMED IT ON
- 63a THE COST OF LIVING
I have to say the quip doesn’t do much for me except to make it harder to complete the puzzle, but then I’m not a big fan of the quip puzzle in general. This one is very cleanly constructed in that the quip breaks on fairly natural lines, and THE COST OF LIVING makes for a nice grid-spanner.
Aside from the theme we had 11d [Bit of a Kipling poem refrain] EAST IS EAST, from “The Ballad of East and West”. The full refrain goes like this:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
Other good stuff in the puzzle includes: SNAP PEA, PAY PAL, SUNDAY BEST, and EYEBALLS! For some reason, 30d BRAIN was clued as [Scarecrow’s quest] instead of [Zombie morsel].
Not as many Halloween entries or clues today as there were yesterday, but otherwise the fill is quite clean with little dreck.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Word Jubilee” – Derek’s write-up
A lively freestyle edition this week for the Jonesin’ puzzle. Seemingly effortless in its construction, Matt continues to make me jealous of his constructing skills. There is literally nothing wonky in this puzzle. I was not familiar with TEMECULA, the city in California, but the clue is written in such a way that I feel I should have known this! I also think ACONITE is slightly obscure, but this is another case of just learning a new word if you didn’t already. Again, the clue makes it seem relevant. LUNGWORTS may also be less than familiar, but the crossings make it more than solvable.
The good fill in this puzzle abounds. BASE SIXTEEN, ET PHONE HOME (!), YOU DO YOU, NESSMAN and FRITZ THE CAT just to name a few. My time was a little on the slow side for a Jonesin’ puzzle, but a decent time for a themeless wide-open grid. 19D [#696969, in hexadecimal code] GRAY was a nice tie-in to the clue for BASE SIXTEEN [Hexadecimal!].
This was a fun themeless. 4.3 stars from me. Almost a shame his themeless puzzles don’t appear more in other venues!
David Phillips’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I would describe this puzzle as “cute!” Yes, much as one would describe a small kitty! The theme answers all contain an anagram of a certain word:
- 17A [Lois Land portrayer in “Man of Steel”] AMY ADAMS
- 21A [Earliest recorded Chinese ruling group] XIA DYNASTY
- 33A [Kevlar-lined vest] BODY ARMOR
- 44A [“Reelin’ in the Years” rock group] STEELY DAN
- 55A [High-definition medium] BLU-RAY DISC
- 63A [What a nine-to-fiver works … or, literally, what each set of circled letters represents] DAY SHIFT
So, yes, each theme answer contains each of the five anagrams of the word DAY. Very nice. Again, isn’t it cute? I actually wish I could generate themes better. Just a few quick notes:
- 41A [Multi-platinum 44-Across album pronounced like a continent] AJA – Great album. Especially for only having 7 tracks! Find it on Spotify; you’ve heard 4 or 5 of these songs many times. And a nice tie-in to one of the theme answers!
- 7D [“Frozen” princess] ELSA – Disney. Ugh.
- 12D [Director Gus Van ___] SANT – I will always remember that he remade the famous Hitchcock movie Psycho, and when I say remade, he REMADE it. Shot for shot, angle for angle, line for line.
- 32D & 67A [Co-creator of Spider-Man] STAN LEE – How much money has he made for these comic characters!?
- 35D [Magician Henning] DOUG – He has been dead now for several years, but I remember watching his specials on TV when I was a kid. Mostly pre-cable TV!
- 54D [“Sons of Anarchy” actress Sagal] KATEY – Of course more famous from Married with Children, but this show is pretty good. I got through a couple of episodes on Netflix. It’s on my list!
3.8 stars for this cutie of a puzzle! ;-)
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 230), “Happy Yell-o-ween!”—Janie’s review
Well, if the title hasn’t tipped you off, I’m here to tell ya that today’s puzzle is pun-packed—and all with the sounds (“yells”) of your favorite Halloween haunted house. I’m also here with a warning. WARNING: THIS PUZZLE MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CORN ALLERGY SUFFERERS!! This is Liz at her Worst—and I mean that in the Best Possible Way, so prepare yourself to gro-o-o-o-o-an.
- 16A. HOWL IN THE FAMILY [Sitcom filmed in a haunted house?]. All in the Family. Hmm. I wonder if this spin-off is also set in Queens…
- 28A. SHABBY SHRIEK [Haunted house decor that’s a bit loud?]. Shabby chic…
- 43A. SCREAM CHEESE [Breakfast spread served at a haunted house brunch?]. Cream cheese. My fave, this one. Like the base phrase, it’s just as smooth as can be.
- 56A. “A ROOM OF ONE’S MOAN” [Woolf essay written in a haunted house?]. “A Room of One’s Own.” Veddy high-brow, this one.
A perfect audio-based Halloween theme. Even when the punning is stretchy. It all works in context. And—there’s plenty of Halloween bonus fill to boot, the easiest one to spot being the [Go for a floating apple] BOB combo, because if ever there was a Halloween party staple, it’d have to be BOBbing for apples. But then, in a more subtle nod to the occasion, how about that O’HENRY reference, citing him as the author of [“Ghost of a Chance”…]. Or that passing reference to the macabre Addams family by way of [Hairy cousin] ITT, and to their tv competition, the Munsters, by way of the not-particularly-welcome EEEE—but which is at least on-point today clued as [Herman Munster’s shoe width]. Come October 31st, best keep some kind of MOJO [Lucky charm] about you lest any haunted-house-addled MANIACS [Crazies] wear you down!
There’s more punning to be found amid the cluing, too. For starters, [Alder
men?] are ARBORISTS, men (and yes, also women) who get quite up-close-and-personal with trees. The alder tree in this case. So we’re not talking about aldermen who are municipal councilors. (Do note how, in the U.S., this term has been brought up to speed where gender is concerned.) Then, look at that tricky clue for EBBS—[Seaside retreats?]. The construction of the clue is not “adjective + plural noun” but “noun + verb.” Very sneaky. Ditto [Mobile home?] for ALABAMA. Not “adjective + noun,” but “proper noun + adjective (since [as I parse it…] “home” is relating to a base of operations).
Of the longest (non-theme) fill, PAIN PILLS comes to us by way of another tricky-to-parse / punny clue [It won’t hurt to take them?] and is pretty lively. Less so the more-functional-than-FUN phrase ON OR ABOUT [Circa] combo. But that’s okay. This puzzle GOES a long way towards giving us other cruciverbal rewards. I like seeing both GALILEO [Pisa-born astronomer] and an object of his inquiry, STAR [Twinkler], in the same grid, for one. And then, didja notice how last week’s frump of a makeover candidate came back to us, proclaiming [“It’s the NEW ME” (I had a makeover”)]? Oh—but if your [Burning desire] registers as an ITCH, could be it’s time for some products derived from [Healing plants] ALOES…..
And if puns aren’t your thing, no need for a FUSS (clued with the fabulous [Foofaraw]) or to get yourself worked up in A PET. There’ll be another puzzle next week. So, Happy Yell-o-ween, y’all—and as you’re preparing for trick-or-treaters, keep on solvin’!
Matt Gaffney’s Buzzfeed crossword, “B is for Backwards”—Ben’s review
Something seemed off in this week’s Tuesday puzzle for Buzzfeed. With a title like “B is for Backwards”, I figured there would be more going on with the theme than just…words that start with the pattern B_LLY?
- 17A: Taking one’s own insecurities and vulnerabilities out on another, psychologically or physically — BULLYING
- 25A: Priyanka Chopra’s domain — BOLLYWOOD
- 37A: “Dancing With Myself” singer/masturbator– BILLY IDOL
- 53A: Embarrassing follow-up to “Watch this flip!” — BELLY FLOP
- 64A: Hullabaloo (I wonder if they have the same root word) — BALLYHOO
Okay, so there’s a little more to it than just B_LLY, since it also has the vowel filling that blank going in reverse vowel order, but this puzzle still felt a little thin on theme. Elsewhere in the grid, it felt a little odd. There were a few nods to the type of content Buzzfeed’s likely to cover, like Demi LOVATO‘s new album (51A), but that shares the same grid as 26D‘s YUGO, a car that Buzzfeed’s audience may not recognize as the butt of many a joke. (I know it because I grew up listening to Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion.). Clue-wise, Buzzfeed is getting better about joking with clues, but there were still a few clunkers – The :p at the end of 48A’s “Fertilization parties…or chant at a Jay Z concert in London :p” didn’t save what was a weak joke, and the “knowneth” in 24A’s “Theatre knowneth for producing the plays of the Bard” felt like not quite enough – if thou willst do Ye Olde Timey talk, goeth all the way or goeth not at all.
Clue that sent me down a YouTube wormhole: I may have disliked the clue for 13A‘s ALLO (“‘French person residence, this is French person'” – another clunky one), but it didn’t stop me from going down a rabbit hole of watching about 20 compilations of clips from ‘Allo ‘Allo, including this one that has me hesitant to dig further, even as someone who loves British sitcoms:
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Manspreading”—Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! I hope you’re doing well today. Today’s crossword solution, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is all about what I definitely DON’T DO when I’m sitting on a NYC Subway train: manspread. Each of the four theme answers start with the letters “MA,” and the final letter starts with the letter “N.”
- MATT DAMON (17A: [“Elysium” star]) –
- MARTIN VAN BUREN (28A: [Eighth US President])
- MACAULAY CULKIN (49A: [Actor who was left home alone in “Home Alone”])
- MARK TWAIN (66A: [“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” author])
That Southwest portion of the puzzle was a real tangle for me, as the second part of RENT-A-WRECK was unfamiliar to me (30D: [Cheap National alternative]). It also didn’t help that, adjacent to it, was the term TECHNECK, something I’m not used to hearing when talking about the type of problem that was clued for it (39D: [Texter’s malady]). Combine those two, with having to somehow get NECCO, another unfamiliar term to me, and almost an entire three minutes (or even more) were spent on that section of the grid alone (68A: [Candy heart manufacturer]). Other than that, no real problems. Seeing FRY always reminds meow the main character of the awesome animated series Futurama, Philip J. Fry (41D: [Boil in oil]). Probably my two favorites answers in the grid were adjacent to each other: OIL BARON (10D: [J. Paul Getty, notably]) and GRUNGE ROCK (11D: [Alice in Chains music style]). Right before I went off to college, I listened to a lot of Grunge, like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, thinking I would come across that music much more while on campus. I think there were a couple of house parties where I heard it, but, alas, most of the music I heard around campus was Top 40.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CUB (22D: [Wrigley Field ballplayer]) – Sadly, to many people in the Windy City, we won’t be seeing a Chicago CUB in the World Series when the Fall Classic starts tonight, as the New York Mets – the team that vanquished the Cubs in the National League Championships Series – take on the American League champions, the Kansas City Royals.
RIP Henry Hook. I have been hearing many people speak about Mr. Hook and an article about him from years ago that’s appearing on my Facebook timeline. I’m sure a few of you have stories of knowing him and/or doing his puzzles. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.
Take care, and have a good rest of your evening.