First, a few words from our friends at Lollapuzzoola:
Lollapuzzoola, the greatest crossword tournament ever held on a Saturday in August, is accepting submissions! Our 9th annual tournament is happening on Saturday, August 13 in New York City — and it could feature YOU! Do you have a puzzle that is brilliant, clever, inventive, mildly wacky, curiously strong, and can measure up to the unrehearsed nonsense of Lollapuzzoola? Send it our way! We’ll take a look at themes, concepts, completed grids, etc. (but don’t feel pressured to finish cluing or filling). Submissions will be accepted until June 1, 2016. Please send your work to email@example.com
Andrew J. Ries’ New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
(Updated when I figured out the rest of the theme, about 11:05pm EDT)
Today’s theme is extra relevant for those who solve their crosswords during a restroom break, because the revealer is JOHNNY ON THE SPOT (38a. [Person who’s ready and able to help … or a literal description of four occurrences in this puzzle]). The first word of each long entry is the last name a famous Johnny: CASH, CARSON, BENCH, and ROTTEN. (Update: each JOHNNY sits upon an AD, or a “spot.”)
I like the theme. CASH MONEY may not be too common in some speech, but I hear it often enough that it came to me right away.
The revealer leads me to think maybe I missed something, though…is SPOT tied in to the entries in a way I am missing? A person can spot somebody some cash, and weightlifters can have someone spot them when doing an exercise like a bench press, but I can’t tie it to the other entries. Regardless, I like the revealer and enjoyed discovering the theme. (Update: now that the revealer makes sense to me, I’m loving the theme.)
I like all the long non-theme fill (ONSLAUGHT, FANDANGO, TWIST TOP. and OP-ED PIECE,), especially with FANDANGO clued as [Spanish steps?]. The shorter fill is proper noun-heavy, but there are several men of color and women included, which is nice. Other interesting entries include DUSKY and OH COOL. Also, CRAY is clued in the NYT for the first time as [Bonkers, in modern lingo] instead of as a supercomputer. On the other hand, there are some less than ideal bits included, such as the partial AN O, the suffix -ADEE, and several other “A” abbreviations and acronyms like ASCAP, ALG, and ADA.
Overall, I wish the fill were a little cleaner, but it’s difficult to make every bit pop with several long theme entries constraining things. It was still a fun solve for me (Update: especially now that I get the entire theme).
Stephen E. Atwood’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Articles of Incorporation” — Jim’s review
It’s been a good week so far in WSJ puzzle-land. Today we have an add-a-word theme from Stephen Atwood. Mr. Atwood has only a handful of published puzzles under his belt dating back to 2007, but from what I’ve seen they have all been meticulously constructed with a clever command of the language.
Today’s is another solid entry in which he’s added THE to various phrases, not as a standalone word, but embedded within others.
- 20a [Down dealer?] FEATHERMONGER. Fearmonger.
- 27a [Like someone who’s just used mouthwash?] SWEET BREATHED. Sweetbread.
- 43a [When things go well because you’ve shampooed?] BATHED HAIR DAY. Bad hair day.
- 53a [The well-dressed Mr. Toad in “The Wind in the Willows”?] CLOTHED HOPPER. Clod hopper.
A nice set with all strong base phrases, though the middle two don’t work quite as well as the outer two. Mouthwash-breath is usually more minty than sweet and nobody ever talks of bathing their hair. But that’s cool; they still work. It can’t be easy to add THE into the middle of words and get new words out of it.
It’s unfortunate that three of the base words became past tense verbs in the process. From that point of view FEAR becoming FEATHER is definitely the best entry. But I do like CLOTHED HOPPER because it has good surface sense.
Curious. Look at that. Crossing CLOTHED HOPPER is GRAHAMS at 42d. Change the S to an E and you have Kenneth GRAHAME author of The Wind in the Willows. I wonder if it was originally an E in the grid but changed to S because it might be distracting. LEDS at 64a would have been LEDE (which is buried all the way down at the bottom of the grid, haha). Did you know you can stay in the house where author Kenneth Grahame was born? You can! It’s right in the center of Edinburgh.
The solve was definitely tougher than yesterday or Monday with more deceptive clues. Case in point: [Smooth wood] at 3a is PLANE. And the simple word CRAZY at 52d gets a Patsy Cline clue. At 5a we get the clue [J.D. to Geena’s Thelma]. This one confused me; I didn’t know if it was asking for the actor or the role. Turns out it’s BRAD Pitt. My favorite clue is [Crew’s control?] for OAR at 41a, but doesn’t it seem like it should be OARS with that clue?
There is a load of good fill to choose from: BLEEPED, RUGRAT, WEAR THIN, TITICACA, GRAHAMS, and I’M DEAD. Oh, and who puts two 10-letter non-theme entries in the Across direction alongside the four themers? Stephen Atwood, that’s who. And they’re good, too: EGOMANIACS and I HAD NO IDEA.
There are a couple of less common names in the grid. At 45d we get EVONNE Goolagong of tennis. That first letter threw me off, but I will never not like saying “EVONNE Goolagong.” And then there’s [Kotto of “Homicide: Life on the Street”] which can only be YAPHET. Now, I have never watched Homicide, but I have been a fan of YAPHET Kotto, and his interesting name, since Midnight Run, one of my favorite films. In it, he plays Alonzo Moseley, FBI. He’s also been in Alien, Live and Let Die, and The Running Man.
One final nit to pick: 9d is PANGEA which I wanted to put in my very first puzzle that got published back in 2012. But my mentor (Jeff Chen) shot it down because the usual spelling is Pangaea. So I felt the clue [Supercontinent that broke up about 200 million years ago] should’ve had a “var.” added at the end.
Other than that, this is a really nice puzzle with good entries and a plethora of interesting non-theme fill.
Let’s finish it out with Alonzo Mosely, FBI. Warning: NSFW due to language.
Francis Heaney’s AVCX crossword, “Moneychangers” — Ben’s Review
This week’s AVCX puzzle is a doozy, y’all. It completely earns its 5/5 difficulty rating, but the reveal is pretty great. You’re definitely going to want to click on the grid screenshot to get the full-sized entries, since there’s a lot of tiny bits an pieces (like BEQ’s entry a few weeks ago):
- 1A: Tired tot’s requst — (CARRY) ME
- 13A: Avis alternative — (NATION)AL
- 16A: Some shirts that fit me like tents and that I probably shouldn’t have bought — (XX)LS
- 27A: “Dang!” — WHOA (NELLY)
- 31A: Extreme way for things to break — IRREPARA(BLY)
- 36A: Discount chain T.J. ___ — MA(XX)
- 40A: Where to enjoy “Lemonade” — T(IDA)L
- 48A: Bulges — S(WELL)S OUTWARD
- 51A: Some gas stations — E(XX)ONS
- 64A: How Gilbert Gottfried speaks — NA(SALLY)
- 68A: “Let ___!” (casino cry) — IT (RIDE)
- 71A: Bob B. ___ and the Blue Jeans (’60s band) — SO(XX)
- 4A/70A: Successful campaign that also describes the four unclued entries in this puzzle (all of which were considered) — WOMEN/ON 20S
Like I said, there’s a _lot_ going on. 1D, 29D, 41D, and 65D in the puzzle are all unclued, but their associated acrosses all consist of one of the candidates the “Women on 20s” campaign considered on top of the roman numeral for 20, XX. It’s very cleverly done, although I did need to consult the official list of candidates considered to confirm that SALLY RIDE and CARRY NATION were considered, given what I knew about the women and people of color who are going to be added to our currency, which slowed me up a little while solving.
(Since Beyonce’s “Lemonade” isn’t on Youtube, here is SOPHIE’s “Lemonade”. It’s very different.)
Other fill/cluing of note:
- 17A: Thinking of moving? — TELEKINESIS (Nicely clued.)
- 22A: Capital of Qatar — DOHA (I may not know how to correctly pronounce Qatar, but I know its capital is Doha.)
- 30A: Hasn’t yet been spoiled by one’s Facebook friends, but will be within an hour — IS ON (My secret to not getting spoiled about what happened on Game of Thrones is not watching Game of Thrones. For a brief moment on Sunday night, you don’t understand what your friends are reacting to, but then you get to just go about your day)
- 59A: Machine that wanted to push humans down the stairs to protect them from the terrible secret of space, in an old meme — SHOVER ROBOT (I have been on the internet and aware of memes/flash toons/etc. for a long time and never heard of Shover Robot. Here is the video this comes from, so that we might all be better informed internet denizens going forward:)
- 49D: Like the quality of “Community” episodes (and I say that with love) — UNEVEN (I also say this with love – I’m so glad we got the 4 seasons of “Community” we did, spotty as they could be at times, and that NBC didn’t try to bring in a new showrunner after Dan Harmon left or make web episodes on Yahoo or something NO ONE CORRECT ME)
A clever theme, nicely executed, made for a tough but entirely enjoyable solve.
Robin Stears’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
ICLE is the tetragram added to the final parts of theme phrases today. The first change is the weakest, as LISTICLE is formed from LIST+ICLE. The other three changes were much more sweeping, and thus more satisfying. The puzzle is likely running on Thursday not Friday because you’re spotted ICLE at the end of the phrases once you twig onto the theme!
- [Bond portrayer Daniel’s BuzzFeed piece?], CRAIGSLISTicle
- [Leftover bit of a physics experiment?], SPAREPARTicle
- [Ezine feature?], MODERNARTicle. Let’s not pretend people actually use ezine.
- [Beantown treat?], BOSTONPOPSicle. Best theme answer, ending in a crescendo!
Adding four letters, as here, pushes you into longer theme answers. Here the theme goes 14/13/13/14. This puts the constructor into a design dilemma. You can either have the five block steps seen here around SPARE / ARTICLE, or have very big, open, and difficult to fill corners. Unless the latter is done very carefully, Robin’s design choice is usually the superior IMO. It does mean this grid has gone one over the stated black square maximum for the LAT of 43, but how many solvers are going to actually care…
- [Observe Ramadan, in a way], FAST. I live in a very Muslim part of the world. The spiritual home of Islam in South Africa is Macassar, two “suburbs” (in the American sense not the South African) over. The local Pick ‘n’ Pay supermarket is offering Ramadan specials on many foods, including instant oats. Why fast when you can eat discount oats? Apparently? I’m a little culturally confused by these Ramadan specials, tell the truth!
- [Banish to Hades, say], DOOM. Missed opportunity to have a fairly timely clue related to the rebooted video game gorefest…
- [Sydney school], UNI. Always confuses me – the term is used in South Africa, but the clue always pretends otherwise…
- [18%, often], TIP. Eh? Am I missing something? That’s a strangely specific number…
- [Online urban music magazine], VIBE. Is it an ezine then??
- [Actess Woodard], ALFRE. Never heard of her. Seems to have fairly extensive -ography.
- [Shoppe descriptor], YEOLDE. Stop pretending you aren’t a six-letter partial!
- [Wagga Wagga welcome], GDAY. I’ve passed through the city. Not sure how well Americans will know it, but it does sound fairly Aboriginal.