Before we get into Sunday’s puzzles, there’s something very cool we want to tell you about. We asked puzzle maker Mike Selinker to tell you about it.
Hey Fiends, it’s Mike. This week, my team at Lone Shark Games and Humble Bundle launched a major feel-good puzzle project: the Humble Puzzle Bundle. It’s a collection of puzzle books by Patrick Berry, Francis Heaney, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Merrell, and many other legendary puzzle makers—and you can get them for whatever you want to pay, even a dollar. My book The Maze of Games (electronic and hardback) is in there too, with an all-new hint book called The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze. A lot of the books are brand new, never seen before. Best of all, a big chunk of your contribution goes to charities like Worldbuilders, the It Gets Better Project, and Child’s Play. We wanted to do something fun and positive for the puzzle community, which has been through a lot this year. So if you’d like to get about a zillion puzzles and contribute money to cool charities, head on over to the Humble Puzzle Bundle. I think you’ll be glad you did.
David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Out of This World” — Ben’s write-up
Happy Saturday night/Sunday morning, readers. I’m off to a midnight screening of Barbarella at my local theater, so it’s only appropriate that the puzzle I’m covering for Amy is all about another set of pop culture SPACE INVADERS.
In addition to circled letters forming the MOTHERSHIP from the game in the top center, the CANNON in the lower right corner, and single squares forming the “SAFE” wall present above the cannon, there are some ETs invading 9 entries in the fill, causing the grid entries to not match the expected answers:
- 39A: Admire oneself a little too much — PRETEEN
- 42A: Homer Simpson exclamation — DOETH
- 44A: – — MINUETS
- 60A: Expired — DIETED
- 62A: Occupied, as a seat — TAKE TEN
- 66A: “___ over” (dispiriting message) — GAMETE
- 76A: Twosome — DUE TO
- 78A: Stripe on a zebra, e.g. — MARKETING
- 81A: The pack in a six-pack — ABETS
In addition to all of this, there’s also a LASER shot up through 6D‘s PRESALE, giving a heck of a lot of theme elements to this puzzle’s tribute. I’m pretty impressed, and even though I feel like I’ve seen “alien invaders” leading to ET-enhanced phrases, this is impressively done on the whole. The rest of the fill doesn’t seem to really suffer in the service of this theme, either.
A few more notes:
- 10A: Boston megaproject completed in 2007, informally — BIG DIG (this project is going to appear in every project management book until the end of time, unless something goes more overbudget in a more ridiculous way)
- 75A: PC task-switching combo — ALT TAB (or: what I had to do from the document I was working on when I realized it was 10:30PM EST and I had agreed to sub on the Fiend post today – apologies for the delay!)
- 116A: Place to get drunk before getting high? — AIRPORT BAR (loved this clue)
- 123A: “Never ___ Give You Up” (1988 #1 Hit) — GONNA (just try to Rickroll me, Steinberg. In all seriousness, Rick Astley has a new album coming out, what I’ve heard sounds pretty good, and if he tours anywhere near Boston I’m going unironically)
- 63D: Palindromic nut — KOOK. (My brain kept going “there are KOLA and maybe KOKO nuts, but not a KOOK nut!”. I am sometimes a bit of a DODO.)
Only objection from me clue-wise was 26D‘s assertion that BRUNCH “may start at 10”. 10am is still prime breakfasting hours – I’d say it needs to be at least 11 to be brunch territory. Feel free to tell me I am wrong about this in the comments.
4.5 stars! This was fantastic and fun and everything I ask from a Sunday puzzle.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Event Horizon” – Jenni’s writeup
Today’s puzzle is easier than last week’s. No complaints! It’s still a lot of fun.
The “events” of the title are the second words of each theme phrase. The usual definition of the theme answers has nothing to do with the events. Amusement all around.
- 23a [County event for narcissists?] = VANITY FAIR.
- 25a [School event where you can relax for a bit?] = BREAK DANCE. That one doesn’t parse all the well for me.
- 42a [Celebratory event where all you can eat are sundae toppings?] = CHERRIES JUBILEE.
- 57a [Afternoon event for fans of a Disney princess?] = JASMINE TEA.
- 70a [Networking event featuring the home of the pistons?] = MOTOR FUNCTION. I was all set to give a lecture about the difference between the Motor City and the word “motor” when I realized that “pistons” isn’t capitalized. Glad I noticed that and didn’t embarrass myself.
- 86a [Cultural event with a slumber party?] = SNOOZE FEST. I’m not sure why a “fest” is a “cultural event.”
- 103a [Social event for snowmen?] = FROSTY RECEPTION.
- 121a [Formal event where you might freak?] = STRESS BALL. I’ve been to a few of those.
- 125a [Catered event where you might streak?] = NAKED LUNCH.
FROSTY RECEPTION and STRESS BALL are tied for my favorite theme entries.
A few other things:
- 12a [ ____ puffs (cereal with a peanut butter and chocolate flavor)] = REESES. This does not pass the breakfast test for me. Literally. Ugh.
- There’s an advantage to letting your kid pick the music in the car. 58d [“Dangerous Woman” singer Grande] was a gimme for me. You mean you don’t know ARIANA?
- There’s a Mae West quote I’ve never heard at 97a [“An emotion in motion,” per Mae West] The answer is SEX. Of course.
- 103d [Citrus quaff] = FRESCA. Do they still make that? My dad used to love it. Then again, my dad loved Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray tonic, so there you go.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AMSTEL beer was brewed in Zoeterwoude, Netherlands. David and I shared a can of Amstel at the Yankees/Giants game yesterday.
Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody! How are things with you?! Only one more week left in July, and I hope you’ve been taking advantage of the summer so far.
Major props to Ms. Lynn Lempel for her Sunday Challenge today, especially since there’s an entry which pretty much sums up the weather in most parts of the country right now: HOT AS HELL (51A: [Sweltering]). Also noticed the political row near the top of the grid, with ANN (25A: [Mitt’s Mrs.]), CLINTON (26A: [One with a glimmer of Hope]) and INS all relating to politics in one way or another (29A: [Election winners]). Only had a couple of hangups while doing the grid, and one of them was putting in “dog food” instead of CAT FOOD to start off (1A: [Kibble, e.g.]). Probably took me a couple of extra minutes to untangle that, especially since the last four letters for each are the same, not allowing me to notice the error as quickly. Was wracking my brain for a little while and thinking back to my old high school science classes in hopes of remembering SYSTOLE without needing the crosses (34A: [It takes place in a heartbeat]). I was close, but I kept thinking and wanting to type “systele.” Speaking of high school, I definitely can claim never to have had an OLD FLAME during that time because I was too uncool and never was in a relationship while in high school (35D: [High school sweetheart, maybe]). I know, I know…cue the violin, right?!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELSINORE (40A: [Danish castle city]) – Seeing this entry made me think of a team that I almost worked for as a broadcaster, the Lake ELSINORE Storm, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the San Diego Padres located in Lake Elsinore, Calif., which is in one of the southernmost counties (Riverside) in the state. The team plays in the California League, which is notorious for its high-scoring games due to the fact that most of the teams’ stadiums are located well above sea level, allowing for baseballs to carry much further in the thin air.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everybody!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “City and State” — pannonica’s write-up
Another cute theme involving the states of the nation. There always seems to be more water in that well. In this iteration, the two-letter state abbreviations are treated phonetically as words, and fictional locales are prefixed—as per the typical city, state formulation—to create the semblances of familiar phrases. I hope you people appreciate how much effort I put in to consistency complexify these explanations.
- 24a. [Organic Aloha State city?[ NATURAL, HI (natural high).
- 27a. [Ominous Land of Lincoln city?] BODING, IL (boding ill).
- 30a. [Brassy Keystone State city?] OOM-PAH, PA (oom-pah-pah).
- 50a. [Solitary Vacationland city?] LONESOME, ME (lonesome me).
- 61a. [Curious Cowboy State city?] WONDERING, WY (wondering why).
- 67a. [Attentive Hoosier State city?] LISTENING, IN (listening in).
- 81a. [Upright Buckeye State city?] STANDING, OH (standing O [ovation]).
- 97a. [Optional Beaver State city] EITHER, OR (either/or).
- 102a. [Over-the-top Show Me State city?] SO MUCH, MO (so much mo’ [more]).
- 107a. [Probable Razorback State city?] CHANCES, AR (chances are).
See? Cute. Would have felt cleaner if the remainder of the grid had been free of actual US cities and phrases ending in two-letter words, especially two-letter words that are state abbreviations. I’m talking about one-across (one-across!) [City in a northwest state] BOISE—oh, and the following 6a GEMS reminds one that Idaho is the Gem State, though the clue doesn’t reference that distinction. I’m also talking about 56d [Climbed aboard] GOT IN, which happens to cross LISTENING IN. That there are only two notable entries INTRUDING (48d) in this was suggests that an effort was indeed made to minimize them.
The themers are rather short for a 21×21 crossword, so it isn’t surprising that the grid is artfully stitched together with a number of nourishing midlength entries. Stacked SEMINOLE / ENSNARES, ICE CUBES / NEWSCAST, SAUTERNE, STEAMERS, IMAGINARY, and INTRUDING. Sure, lots of esses, ars, aes, ees, and ens, but they still feel fresh. (4d, 5d, 82d, 83d, 9d, 81d, 46d, 48d)
- 21a [Table salt, symbolically] NACL, 84a [Sn in a table] TIN.
- 114a [Lauder of cosmetics] ESTÉE crossed by 105d [Lauding lines] ODES.
- 14a above 22a [Crewmate of Kirk] SCOTT, UHURA. Also at five letters are SPOCK, BONES, MCCOY, and probably some more.
- 37d [Gas choice] AMOCO. Er, defunct since 2004. Not a viable choice.
- Mini garden-path clues. Or maybe just curveballs? 47a [Flipper’s call] TAILS, 53d [Being out of this world] ANGEL.
- 86a [Con-caught] STUNG. Is it me, or is that just a weird clue?
- Favorite clue, I guess: 82d [Water coolers] ICE CUBES.
A nice, gentle Sunday distraction.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Getting Connected”—Andy’s review
Quick review today. C.C. brings us an LAT Sunday puzzle for the first time in a long time, and I just destroyed it. Solid concept: two-word phrases with the trigram USB connecting the two words. (They all split US/B, because I don’t think “Adieu, Sbarro!” is a real phrase.) Get it? They’re “connected” by a USB 120d, [PC connection found in this puzzle’s eight longest answers]. Themers:
- 21a, ANGUS BEEF [Omaha Steaks Private Reserve product].
- 27a, STIMULUS BILL [2009 recession response].
- 43a, VENUS BREEZE [Gillette razor for women]. Love this entry.
- 92a, VITUS BERING [Eponymous explorer of the Aleutians]. Excellent find.
- 111a, CENSUS BUREAU [Department of Commerce division].
- 119a, GENIUS BAR [Apple Store support station].
- 14d, RELIGIOUS BELIEF [Sacred conviction].
- 42d, SERIOUS BUSINESS [Not something to kid about].
Exactly the kind of theme I’ve come to expect from the LAT Sunday, executed very well. Some truly awesome Burnikel-esque fill, including DRAW NEAR, CREEP OUT, POPSUGAR!, HAVE AT IT, BUGBEARS, PULITZER, ST. ELMO, PSYCHO, and LIKUD. BB SHOT was a little strange to me, but totally inferable.
Good stuff! Until next time!