I hopped from a link Deb Amlen posted on Facebook to Noah Veltman’s list of the “Crosswordiest Words” in the 1996–2012 New York Times crossword. The frequency of the crossword entries (excluding proper nouns and multi-word answers) were measured against the Google Books Ngram for the same time period, and entries that appear more often in the crossword than in books have a higher score. So if I include ASEA, SMEE, SNEE, ALEE, EGAD, STET, ALIT, OLEO, CEE, ASPS, APER, ALP, EMOTE, OLIO, STYE, ONER, SLOE, ARF, RANI, STENO, and ESSES (and so on, and so on!) in the lists of entries I didn’t like in various puzzles, there’s data supporting my contention that these words are pretty obscure in common usage.
Brendan Emmett Quigley and Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Do you like KenKen number puzzles? I did for a while, but haven’t done one in a couple years. This crossword includes some completed portions of a KenKen puzzle, but with the numbers spelled out as words, which strikes me as odd.
The theme consists of 47a KENKEN and the shaded/circled squares containing spelled-out numbers and in the leftmost/uppermost square of that shaded section, the clue number is followed by a math symbol. ONE and TWO hide in GONE/TWAY/ONZE (may I just say that TWAY and ONZE are kinda tough for a Tuesday puzzle?), with a “2÷.” TWO divided by ONE is 2.
The next section has “5–” for NINE and FOUR; NINE minus FOUR is 5. THREE and EIGHT get added together for “11+.” And “42x” is what you get if you multiply SIX by SEVEN.
As far as I can tell, there is nothing thematic here besides the 6-letter name of the math puzzle and the entries that contain the number pieces, placed in specific spots to accommodate a clue number that works as an arithmetic answer you’d get from the spelled-out numbers. Given my lack of interest in KenKen, there was not much entertainment in this theme for me.
What else? There’s plenty of iffy and/or difficult-for-Tuesday fill: ONZE, ECARTE, REE, EGAD (see top of today’s post!), SWALE, plural EHS, SPRIT, dated pop-culture OXENBERG, clunky IN A NET.
Three more things:
- 19a. [Christmas feature?], SILENT T. See also: Invasion of retail settings before Halloween even arrived.
- 4d. [Bad thing to cry over?], EYELINER. That clue seems weird to me. People talk of mascara running. Does eyeliner run just as much? I don’t wear eyeliner, so I don’t know.
- 41d. [Betty Crocker product], CAKE MIX. The world keeps telling me I need a cake.
2.9 stars from me. If you love KenKen, your mileage may vary.
Theresa Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Splitting the Vote” — Jim’s write-up
It’s Election Day 2015! Are you casting a vote today? We are, in Theresa Schmidt’s WSJ puzzle. But it’s a close one!
We’re told in 54D and 55D to look for a [Vote found in three other answers]. Those votes are AYE and NAY. So, we’re looking for those three-letter patterns in a total of six theme answers.
- 17A [How often we change the clocks] TWICE-A-YEAR
- 27A [Act the raconteur] SPIN A YARN
- 41A [Reef residents] MORAY EELS
- 53A [Beldar Conehead’s portrayer] DAN AYKROYD
- 3D [“Family Ties” co-star] TINA YOTHERS
- 24D [Bearer of a check] PAY ENVELOPE
The four Across themers are all solid. TWICE-A-YEAR is a little iffy, but just enough inside the acceptable window to be okay. The rest are good or great. The Down themers on the other hand…
TINA YOTHERS? This is a theme answer on a Tuesday? That’s digging deep, especially when 1A [A bunch] could easily be TONS (which is what I put in) instead of LOTS. I ended up with NINA YOTHERS, which seemed as legit as anything else (until I saw that 1D was TEGO instead of LEGO).
I mean, I remember Michael J. Fox and Meredith Baxter-Birney from that show, but beyond that you’re really stretching for it. When you look up TINA YOTHERS on IMDB the most recent thing she is “Known For” is a completely forgettable 1990 film “Laker Girls” which doesn’t even have an image associated with it. And the most recent credit listed is a “Perry Mason” film in 1995. Ouch. Nothing against her, but she’s not exactly a household name to build your puzzle around.
And I call a PAY ENVELOPE an ENVELOPE. Who receives their salary in a PAY ENVELOPE? *insert sound of crickets here* Maybe sweatshop workers? I don’t know.
While we’re on the subject of less-than-good things in the puzzle, let’s look at 15D MY BOY clued as [1975 hit for Elvis Presley]. Really? Now, I’m not a huge Elvis fan (that’s my sister), but I have never, ever heard this song. I know that doesn’t mean it’s not a legit clue, but maybe it’s not Tuesday fare in 2015.
Also, six themers is a lot to fit into a grid and usually requires some sacrifices, but I’m hard pressed to find any clunky fill. OPER, G-MEN, and DR K is as bad it gets, which is to say it’s a remarkably clean grid. There’s not a whole lot of sparkle aside from SCENARIO; the themers take up most of the real estate. But the grid itself is so finely-polished. Perhaps this is due to the generous offering of “cheater squares”; but I’ll take a clean grid with “cheater squares” any day over a clunky one without them.
So, a nice grid, well-executed. But it suffers from very questionable themers. My vote: NAY. What say you? Cast your vote in the comments.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 231), “World Series”—Janie’s review
Finally—we bid adieu to “the boys of summer” (who are really the boys of late winter, spring, summer and mid-fall…). So with Sunday night’s last MLB contest, how appropriate to mark the end of the season with this aptly named puzzle. The best part: you don’t need to know the first thing about baseball to appreciate or solve this! (Well, maybe one thing: that A-ROD was the [Yank who kissed a mirror during a photo shoot], but you could get that from the crosses.)
No. Really the best part? Where to start? This puzzle has four of the best, liveliest, freshest themers any one puzzle could ask for. No kidding. And: each one spans the grid. And: the challenge of grokking how the theme works has been upped, something I savored. There’s no reveal today, so the “aha” of it all may be (have been) slower in coming. I solved without first looking at the title and (both during and after the solve) darned if I had any idea what unified the themers. Then I looked at the title and… darned if I had any idea what unified the themers. But then, very slowly, the light dawned. The first word of each of the them is one that can precede the word “world.” Cumulatively, they’re a “-world” series: fantasy world (presumably this; not the kind that’s nsfw…), first-world, Old World and Sea World. Perfect. And just look at the phrases they EMERGE from:
- 17A. FANTASY FOOTBALL [Gridiron game played with dream teams]. How “ecumenical,” no?
- 28A. FIRST-TIME CALLER [Radio talk show newbie].
- 44A. OLD AS METHUSELAH [Antiquated, like a joke]. I mean, is this a beauty or what? And then, with the best saved for last, we get
- 57A. “SEA OF HEARTBREAK” [Rosanne Cash duet with Bruce Springsteen], because you know it’s those same waters the Mets feel they’re navigating right about now.
We also get a healthy serving of peppy and/or colorful and/or image-conjuring cluing. Among my faves today:
- [Dove bar?] for SOAP and not GOOD HUMOR FOR THE ONE PERCENT.
- [Gob of Bubblicious] for WAD (of gum…).
- [Flower girl’s basketful] for those PETALS.
- [Chocolate dogs] for LABS. Because really, my first thought went not here, but here ⇒.
- [Rosemary or thyme] for HERB. Why? Probably because of its proximity to ADD SALT in the grid—and when I came upon it, all I could think of was how much better it would probably be to forgo the SALT and ADD instead a couple TSPS of an HERB or two.
- [Frosty flakes] for SNOW (and not [Frosted Flakes] for CEREAL]…).
- [Holders of world records?] for ATLASES. And not World Series-winning baseball teams (and the like).
And that, folks, will do it for today. We’ve had a lot of strong pun puzzles in the last several weeks. So it was particularly refreshing to see a different kind of theme, and then to see one that was developed so thoughtfully. And playfully. Hope you were as pleased with this one as I was!
Mel Rosen’s guest crossword at PatrickBlindauer.com: “For Henry Hook” — Matt’s review
The venerable Mel Rosen writes the first-ever guest crossword at www.patrickblindauer.com this month. It’s a commemoration of the late, great Henry Hook, with an interlocking H.H. cleverly serving as the central black square pattern, and with H.H. theme entries all around it:
17-A [48 times per day] = HALF-HOURLY. Not a phrase I’ve heard before, though it makes sense.
62-A [Rare breed of Greek dogs] = HARE HOUNDS. Also unfamiliar, but cat person here.
3-D [Best Actress of 1997] = HELEN HUNT. This one I know.
8-D [Unpleasant digs] = HELL HOLES.
34-D [Sixty-three gallon measures] = HOG’S HEADS. Another one I didn’t know, but great word. Does a hog’s head really hold 63 gallons?
36-D [Show some affection] = HOLD HANDS.
Note this very beautiful touch: in addition to the H.H. black square pattern, the six theme entries also form an H.H. of their own. See solution diagram — cool, eh? Distorted, but there. Almost gives it a ghost-of-Henry-emerging-in-the-grid aspect. Very, very nice, and I have to assume it was intended by the constructor (if you’re reading this, Mel, let us know in comments).
Some good and bad in the fill, but the theme is the point here so “whatever” as even adults say now. But I do like SCOOB, PINOCCHIO and AS YOU WERE.
A subtle and sweet tribute to a legend. 4.50 stars.
Doug Peterson’s Buzzfeed crossword, “Resist!”—Ben’s review
I loved the theme on this week’s Tuesday puzzle for Buzzfeed – it felt like something you’d potentially see in the NYT, but with just enough differences in the fill/cluing to remind you of where you’re solving. It’s all about modifying some familiar celebs to get their lesser-known relatives:
- 17A: Shorter brother of the Emmy-winning actor who plays Tyrion Lannister? — PETITER DINKLAGE
- 27A: Guy who fixed a bunch of his brother’s spelling errors in the lyrics to “Thinking Out Loud” — EDIT SHEERAN
- 49A: Actor who absolutely has to play Iceman’s brother in the “Top Gun” remake? — VITAL KILMER
- 63A: Fight back against authority…and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — STICK IT TO THE MAN
I would have liked this a little more if 49A had been a celeb that’s been of more recent note than Val Kilmer (and I say this as someone who dressed as Chris Knight from Real Genius for Halloween) – it would have gone a little better with the other two theme clues. On the other hand the list of male celebs where adding “IT” to their name produces another word may be more limited than expected. Still, very nice theme entries. Looking over the rest of the grid, there was some nice cluing for some otherwise basic fill – 14A‘s PIER had the snicker-worthy “Short site of a long walk that could end in a fun swim!” and 23A‘s HATS managed to ask the question I’ve had on my mind for some time: does Pharrell have multiple versions of that hat, or just the one? And while I can see 41D‘s SELF LOVE crossing 70A‘s SEX irking some solvers, I think it’s nice that the Buzzfeed crossword isn’t forcing itself to the breakfast table standard. If it’s not your cup of tea, good news! There are lots of other cups of tea on the internet for you to choose from!
Buzzfeed is still working on the lengths of its clues, although it feels like they’re not falling as flat as they were. I though that 21A‘s “New wave group whose most famous video features a ranch owner whipping the clothes off a woman, which was based on a true story they read in Dude magazine” was a smidge too long for the answer DEVO – you could have left off the bit about Dude magazine and it still would have been figureout-able. Is it an interesting fact? Sure. Is it essential to solving the clue? No. Similarly, 45A‘s clue for YES, “Response to a dress that a certain TV show might encourage you to do” felt a little clunky – there’s one too many logical steps that you have to take to parse the clue for it to work smoothly (although the attempt to find a slightly challenging way to clue “YES” is appreciated).
Clue that sent me down a YouTube wormhole:1D‘s mention of PUPS as “Stars of some unbelievabley cute YouTube videos” sent me down a wormhole of watching Boston Terriers have trouble with snow boots:
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
In a puzzle where the theme is explained in an entry that appears much later in the puzzle, I like to just enjoy the solve and get to the end and see what cleverness awaits. It’s similar with me when I watch a movie. I am not the type of moviegoer who says, “I KNEW she did it!” On rare occasions it is fun to try to figure that out, but mostly I like to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
In this puzzle, however, early on I found myself saying almost out loud, “These entries have the initials H.D.!” Sure enough, I was right about the theme. Here they are:
- 17A [Just swell] HUNKY DORY
- 21A [Serious romantic outing] HEAVY DATE – I was thinking of the late rapper Heavy D before I had more letters in, … and saw the clue!
- 28A [Pursue and catch] HUNT DOWN
- 37A [Stylist’s appliance] HAIR DRYER
- 49A [Yosemite granite formation] HALF DOME
- 56A [Sitcom with Richie and the Fonz] HAPPY DAYS – Literally just heard TODAY that Al from this show , the cook at Arnold’s where they all hung out, passed away. HIs name was Al Molinari. He was 96!
- 62A [Lowe’s rival] HOME DEPOT
- 71A [How many TV shows are shown, and a hint to the seven longest across answers’ common feature] IN HD
Yes, you counted right: a whopping 7 theme entries in a daily size grid. That feat alone will garner 4.4 stars from me! No, it is not too challenging of a puzzle, but it is tightly constructed, and again, as is becoming a staple of these LAT puzzles, virtually no garbage entries!
I liked BANFF, TEA URN (because it stumped me for a bit; I thought I had a letter wrong!), CORFU, BABYFACE, NO DUH, APTLY PUT, and HAM HOCK. Conversely, as mentioned earlier, no entries that make your brow furl! I am beginning to to enjoy Bruce Haight puzzles! Can’t wait until I see his byline again!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Turn it Down” – Derek’s write-up
I think I just reviewed a puzzle last week with a very similar theme. This puzzle, as indicated by the last theme entry, has long answers that all contain an anagram of LOW. Handily denoted by circled letters, I might add. Here are the thematic entries:
- 17A [Amazed] BOWLED OVER
- 26A [Topping in a tub] COOL WHIP
- 34A [“That’s so sweet] HOW LOVELY!
- 48A [Like Goofy but not Pluto] TWO-LEGGED – Don’t they both have four legs?
- 54A [Showtime series of the 2000s] THE L-WORD – Never seen it. I like other Showtime shows, though, so it must have been good.
- 70A [“You’ve really outdone yourself at sucking,” or this puzzle’s theme?] IT’S A NEW LOW
Nicely done. In a slightly different take from last week’s LAT which used the letters in DAY, it seems as if these anagrams are actually in a neat, logical order! That may be a minor thing, but it seems … tidier to me. In usual Matt fashion, the puzzle seems fun and light, with a lively sense of humor.
A few notes:
- 15A [Pipe cleaner brand?] DRANO – Nice clue.
- 45A [Oregon Ducks uniform designer since 1999] NIKE – Nike is based near Eugene, OR, in Beaverton, OR, a Portland suburb. The Ducks are legendary for their numerous uniform combinations, because their jerseys come in green, yellow, black, white, and grey. Imagine all of those colors available also for the helmet, pants, socks, wristbands, and you see why the Oregon fanbase needs a guide on how to dress!
- 30D [Like one leg of a triathlon] SWUM – This is my personal goal for 2016: to compete in a triathlon. It may be a small one, but I will do it!
- 65D [___ Vista (onetime search engine)] ALTA – Boy, I remember this! Am I that old?? What did they do wrong that Google did right?!
Again, a fun Jonesin’ this week. 3.7 stars. I will keep you folks updated when I do that triathlon!
Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Flower Girls”—Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, crossword fans. I hope you’re doing very well. Today’s crossword grid was created by the very passionate – and very friendly – New York Mets fan, Ms. Patti Varol, and it’s a surprise that there is no reference to anything Mets in this puzzle. In the grid, each of the four theme answers are fictional and/or animated ladies whose first names also happen to be a type of flower.
- DAISY BUCHANAN (20A: [Jay Gatsby’s love])
- ROSE NYLUND (32A: [Minnesota native on “The Golden Girls”]) – If only this grid also had the fill of “ST OLAF.”
- PETUNIA PIG (41A: [Merrie Melodies character with black braids]) – I had totally forgotten about this character until just now!!
- VIOLET CRAWLEY (52A: [“Downton Abbey” matriarch])
So not only is this grid about women (even though they’re all fictional), there’s the entry of WOMAN as well, and that’s a pretty nice touch (10D: [John Lennon love song]). The only entry in which I did a double take was PETREL (45A: [Low-flying seabird]), with that entry being much tougher for me when I had “pool” instead of POLL for a couple of minutes (41D: [Sampling of opinions]). I also noticed the high number (at least I think it’s high) of quote substitutions as fill in the grid, including GET BUSY (5D: [“Why haven’t you started yet?”]), IT’S YOU (23A: [“I knew I recognized that voice]) and LET GO (60A: [“Unhand me!”]). I have absolutely no problem with that; I just noticed that I saw that type of clue a number of times in one grid, which I usually don’t come across. Maybe on a Sunday-sized clue is where you might come across that number of quote substitution clues/entries. Maybe I’m absolutely wrong…and that’s definitely a possibility as well!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TORRE (16A: [Yankee manager before Girardi]) – Shame on you for actually believing me when I said that there’s no clues in today’s grid that has ties to the New York Mets! Among many stops that Joe TORRE made during his Hall of Fame baseball career was Shea Stadium, where he played his final three seasons as a player with the Mets, between 1975 and 1977. In 1977, Torre was briefly a player-manager with the team before retiring as a player and becoming the full-time manager. Torre couldn’t manage a winning season in those five years as a manager, as he was fired in 1981. His managerial career with the other New York baseball team, the Yankees, was much more fruitful, as we all know.
See you all at the top of the hump for Wednesday!