Newsflash! If you like variety cryptic crosswords and Patrick Berry’s work, you are in luck. Here’s his announcement of his latest puzzle set:
I’m pleased to announce the release of Son of the Crypt, a set of 13 never-before-published cryptic crosswords available exclusively on my website (www.aframegames.com). Five are block-style diagrams, including a jumbo-sized 19×19. The other eight are variety cryptics, featuring several unusual grid types (some of which will be familiar to regular solvers of my variety puzzles). Devilish clues, intriguing wordplay finds, and satisfying payoffs abound!
I worked much of his previous Crypt set but didn’t quite manage to finish! The weather’s turning cooler, and hey, if it takes you all fall and winter to wrestle the puzzles to the ground, that’s okay, because you need something to do indoors.
Sam Donaldson and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The latest from Samuel “Sam” Donaldson and Doug “Duck” Peterson has a theme in which familiar phrases with H words are morphed into made-up phrases with CH words, with the spelling changing beyond the CH part:
- 17a. [PowerPoint slide with fake data?], ARTIFICIAL CHART. Heart.
- 26a. [Sliced serving with ritzy crackers?], CHEESE SO FINE. “He’s So Fine.”
- 48a. [Pep squad member’s lament?], I’M OUT OF CHEER. “I’m out of here,” which is crying out to have OUTTA instead of OUT OF.
- 63a. [Briefs from Walmart or Target?], CHAINS’ UNDERWEAR. Hanes underwear.
The theme’s got less humor than I always hope for in such wordplay themes. Where’s the whimsy, the wackiness? PowerPoint and Walmart aren’t doing it for me.
There were two things that bugged me here: First, SNAP is clued as [“Oh, ___!” (“Good one, girlfriend!”)], a perfectly cromulent clue except that OH NO crosses SNAP. Second, with a longish answer in the middle that could plausibly be a theme answer, there oughtn’t be a question-marked clue that makes it look more thematic. (38a. [Rag covered in dirt?], TABLOID.) People! It’s Tuesday!
Didn’t see the SKOR bar while solving, but I like crunchy toffee so that’s a favorite answer here. I also liked ZILLION, SHAMWOW, and OFF DAY.
Four more things:
- 25a. [Pressing business?], WINERY. Tricky clue for a Tuesday, maybe? I actually had to work the crossings to figure out what the answer was here. Maybe it’s just me.
- 55a. [Flying circus performer?], FLEA. Who’s fact-checking these things? Fleas don’t have wings! They are jumping, not flying.
- 26d. [Steep rock face], CRAG. I kinda thought CRAGs were more like rugged peaks, but apparently they are indeed cliffy.
- 10d. [Products featuring Siri], IPHONES. Not exclusively! With the Sierra Mac OS, Apple computers also offer Siri.
3.7 stars from me. The fill’s pretty smooth, but the cutesy question-marked clues seemed misplaced on a Tuesday.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 280), “This is So Dope!”—Janie’s take
While these days, “dope” is slang for “cool” or “awesome,” the word has long been used to describe someone who is, well, clueless—as Oscar Hammerstein did in his lyric (from Allegro) “The Gentleman is a Dope.” And it’s in that sense that today’s themers cheerfully reel off four dope-related synonyms, though in non-dope-related contexts (and always at the end of the theme-phrase). So thanks may be in order to Mr. ROGET [Synonym compiler] (though I feel quite certain of Liz’s ability to tap into her own noggin where this kind of theme development is concerned!). And so we get:
- 16A. “WHAT KIND OF FOOL” [Hit 1981 duet by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb]. Song is by Gibb and not to be confused with Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s “What Kind of Fool Am I?“
- 23A. CLEAR AND JERK [Weightlifting maneuver]. See how it’s done.
- 53A. ALL-DAY SUCKER [Long-lasting sweet treat].
- 62A. CRASH-TEST DUMMY [One who’s often in the driver’s seat].
This solid theme set is nicely complemented by long, strong fill like TRAVEL IRON with its punny, lively clue [Pressing need for globetrotters?] and the tuneful “I LOVE PARIS” [Francophile’s favorite Cole Porter song]—from Can-Can, Francophile’s favorite Cole Porter show… The attitude-specific HARPS ON gets my (thumbs-up) NOTICE as does the TREND for “K”-fill, like KILNS, and grid-opposites KEEP AT and KEEN ON. Because of their image-producing clues, ditto my appreciation for UNFADED [Not bleached by the sun] and ROARS AT [Greets, like a lion].
While I doubt that anyone much loves pollution, I really do like the way Liz has clued—and crossed—two sorts (down there in the SE corner): [Invisible pollution] NOISE and [Visible pollution] SMOG. I far prefer this kind of repetition in a puzzle—which tautens the solving experience—to the type we see here, where a word in a clue then appears as a word in the grid: [Action-film guns] UZIS and GUN [Pistol] which, IMHO [Texter’s “methinks”], slackens it. YMMV. (Oh! I also got a kick out of seeing the very first entry, MOAN, anagrammed right down there at the bottom [center] with NOAM.)
My only other nit is a small one, and that’s the HIGH “C” [Soprano’s top note] combo. By definition, this is true. But there are sopranos and there are sopranos. Just ask anyone who’s sung the Queen of the Night’s very HIGH “F”s (Florence Foster Jenkins notwithstanding…) in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
And on that, ahem, high note, keep solvin’ and keep comin’ back! Leaving you with the real thing here:
Sheryl Bartol’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “That Smarts!” — Jim’s review
I like this theme! Sheryl Bartol brings us phrases that have to do with your cranium getting crumpled. Hooray for dark humor!
- 19a [Amusing puzzle] BRAIN TWISTER. This is unfortunate, though. “Brain teaser” is the more popular phrase by a mile. But, you know, symmetry.
- 37a [Astounding occurrence] MINDBLOWER. I usually hear this in adjectival form (i.e. “mind-blowing”) not as a noun. I think MINDBENDER would have been the better choice here.
- 43a [Heavy metal fan] HEADBANGER. Solid.
- 55a [Lying triceps extension, in gym lingo] SKULLCRUSHER. Great phrase. I would never have known this by the clue, though. I guess if you drop the barbell then, well, you know the result.
I like the idea here. Clearly some compromises had to be made in the execution, but I can look past them for a fun idea.
As far as grid construction, I’m curious as to why she put the 12-letter entries at top and bottom. Normally, one would put the shorter entries (MINDBLOWER and HEADBANGER both being 10-letters) as the outer entries thereby allowing them to go into the 3rd and 13th rows. This then provides another row of separation for the themers hopefully allowing for better fill.
But they are switched in this puzzle, so the 12-letter entries must go in the 4th and 12th rows, and the middle two entries are only one row apart.
We still get some decent mid-length entries (ODYSSEY, TEST LAB, and ADD UP TO) but nothing lengthier. Switching the themers should open it up more and allow for more interesting stuff to get in.
And then there’s DOG’S EAR clued as [Reader’s place marker]. No no no. I could find no evidence online of this phrase referring to a bookmark. The phrase is either “dog ear” or “dog-ear.” If anyone knows differently, please let me know.
Other less-than-great stuff: plural IOWAS and roll-your-owny DIREST. Meh.
I do like that left side with stacked BISHOP /AMPERE / MARACA, and the nice “Parks and Recreation” cross-referencing of SITCOM and PAWNEE. Favorite clue: [“Ha-ha! Gotcha!”] for PSYCH!
On the whole, it’s not perfect (few crosswords are), but I was entertained by this theme, and that went a long way to get me past the few speed bumps.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It is U!” – Derek’s write-up
Took me a theme entry or two to fully understand the theme going on here, but the title can be taken literally! Each long answer is a phrase with the letters “IT” removed and replaced with a “U”, hence “IT is U!”
- 17A [Author Grafton, when researching “T is for Tent”?] CAMPING SUE (camping site)
- 31A [Go back to the start of an ode?] RECUE POETRY (recite poetry)
- 40A [Put the outsider on the payroll on the Planet of the Apes?] HIRED A HUMAN (hired a hitman)
- 58A [1980s fashion line that people went bats#!@ crazy over?] GUANO JEANS (Gitano jeans)
The last two are the funniest and my favorites. Maybe because I am old enough to remember Gitano jeans! Matt keeps the humor level high in this one, and although slightly challenging, it is nowhere near as hard as the themeless from last week. A solid 4.2 stars.
- 4A [Indiana-Illinois border river] WABASH – Easy one for me!
- 26A [He plays Iron Man] DOWNEY – Why did it take me more than a pregnant pause to remember his last name? Somehow the Jr. in his name was all I could recall!
- 61A [Jockey who won two Triple Crowns] ARCARO – The famous Eddie Arcaro won the Triple Crown in 1941 and 1948 on Whirlaway and Citation, who was the last horse to do so until Secretariat in 1973. Also the first to win the Triple Crown with two different horses.
- 1D [ __ Tuesdays] TACO – Who started this? I don’t eat tacos on Tuesdays!
- 5D [“You Will Be My __ True Love” (song from “Cold Mountain”)] AIN – Eww! But nominated for a Best Song Oscar, so I suppose it is legit! Nice song:
- 9D [“Green Acres” theme song prop] HOE – Man, I haven’t seen this show in decades! I don’t see a hoe, though. Is that a hoe on the end of the pitchfork at about 0:59?
- 27D [Atlanta Hawks’ former arena] OMNI – A different clue than the usual, but this clue is a tad outdated. Hawks haven’t played there since 1997!
- 33D [Home of an NBC comedy block from 1983 to 2015] THURSDAY – Why until 2015? Aren’t there still a few comedies on Thursday night NBC? It may not be two hours worth, but everybody is watching the football game anyway!
- 47D [Brewery head?] MICRO – I like this clue! Probably my favorite of the puzzle, and I don’t know why! It’s not that complicated, but maybe it just made me thirsty!
Matt keeps rolling out good work! Have a great week everybody!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This puzzle felt great! Might have had a record time, but I had one square in incorrectly at the very end. Maybe it was easy for a “TV” head like me: all of the theme answers contain those letters, and there is a clever revealer at 40-Across:
- 20A [Artsy Lower Manhattan neighborhood] EAST VILLAGE
- 58A [Drug bust calculation] STREET VALUE
- 11D [Panel decision that’s not unanimous] SPLIT VOTE
- 35D [Became a YouTube sensation] WENT VIRAL
- 40A [Set in a den, slangily … or, initially, what can be found in each answer to a starred clue] THE TUBE
Yes, the “tube” or “TV” may be the most life-changing invention of the 20th Century. Who doesn’t have one?? And who doesn’t have it on way too much? Clever theme, but still a nice easy puzzle. A break from the weekend stumpers! 4 stars even.
A few notes:
- 9A [ __ Rica] COSTA – I hear it is beautiful there. Part of me wants to go there and not come home!
- 38A [Site of Arizona’a Red Rock State Park] SEDONA – Another beautiful place! I have an invitation to visit there next winter!
- 66A [Video game pioneer] ATARI – I am not a gamer, and perhaps that’s because I am too old. The graphics nowadays are so good, but I remember the simpler gameplay from this earlier system. I think you can get all of the old Atari games now on an iPhone app!
- 34D [Quito’s country] ECUA. – Not the greatest, but with a super-easy clue, it’s ok!
- 56D [“This is your brain on drugs” ads, briefly] PSAS – Or Public Service Announcements. This may be one of the earliest, as it wasn’t too much past Smokey the Bear!
That’s all for today! Have a great week!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Any Will Do In a Storm” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Bruce Venzke, makes up come up with a few different definitions and descriptions for the word “port,” with that lone word making up the entire clue for each of the four theme entries.
- SHIP DOCKING AREA (17A: [Port])
- BOAT’S LEFT SIDE (27A: [Port])
- CABLE ACCEPTER (48A: [Port])
- RICH DESSERT WINE (63A: [Port])
Much tougher for me than I thought it would be, as I got hung it in places that I shouldn’t have been now that I’m looking back at it. Initially wanted to put in “adapter” instead of “accepter” for one of the themes, and had put an “S” at the end of the entry that ended up being ABORC/A, B, OR C (29D: [Possible exam choices]). Can you blame me for taking a little longer with the grid with answers like A, B, OR C, or an entry like ASKANCE (26D: [Distrustfully])? Then there was E-BOND, which also took a little while to figure out (44D: [Saver’s buy during WWII]). If you like adverbs with your grid, you’re in luck with HEATEDLY (10D: [With vehemence]) and BLINDLY (24D: [Without questioning, as following a doctrine]). Maybe it’s because I was busy all day interviewing college basketball players in preparation for college basketball season and was mentally fried by the time I got to solve this, but I shouldn’t have had this much trouble with this grid. Well, maybe another reason for the sluggish solve is because I stayed up until 3 AM Eastern to watch first baseman Brandon BELT and his San Francisco Giants win their elimination game against the Chicago Cubs last night (27D; [Boxing champions win one]). Here’s hoping the game ends at a reasonable time tonight!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SPAHN (53A: [Warren _____, baseball’s winningest southpaw]) – Accumulating more wins than any left-hander in Major League history, longtime Boston/Milwaukee Braves pitcher Warren SPAHN won 363 games in a 21-year career. Spahn won 20 or more games 13 times in his career, and he was named as the Cy Young Award winner in 1957, the year Spahn won his one and only World Series title as the Milwaukee Braves defeated the New York Yankees in seven games. In 1963, Spahn, at age 42, won 23 games.
See you at the top of the hump on Wednesday!