Announcement! The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be virtual/online this spring, and registration is now open at the ACPT site. The puzzles will be released in an AmuseLabs interface like the one Boswords has been using for its various online crossword tournaments—I think I’m a notch or two slower there than in .puz format, but it’s certainly workable. The virtual ACPT will include via video many of the extra events and games you may know from in-person ACPTs of yore (I reckon you’re on your own for wine and cheese), and follow the customary schedule of fun stuff on Friday and Saturday night, puzzle sessions on Saturday and Sunday, and the finals competition and awards Sunday afternoon. $50 for individuals, $60 for the pairs solving option.
Obligatory reminder to bump your clocks forward an hour before you go to bed Saturday night, Americans!
Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword, “They All Laughed”—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got a Mad magazine theme here marking a cartoonist’s 100th birthday (he’s still around!):
- 101a. [Satirical cartoonist, born 3/13/1921, known for dreaming up ridiculous inventions … or are they?], AL JAFFEE OF MAD MAGAZINE. The entry is awkward, as the OF MAD MAGAZINE part isn’t the sort of detail that ordinarily shows up within a crossword answer.
- 22a. [Architectural innovation jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1982], GRAFFITI-PROOF BUILDING.
- 38a. [Grooming tool jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1979], THREE-BLADE RAZOR. The concept was further advanced by the Onion, with “Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades.”
- 52a. [Writing aid jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1967], SPELL-CHECKER. Wow! I did not know Jaffee foretold this.
- 73a. [Winter sport jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1965], SNOWBOARDING. How did Jaffee’s piece go? Was it two skis attached to each other, a wider board for better balance, or what?
- 84a. [Telephone feature jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1961], AUTOMATIC REDIAL. With the old rotary dial, seems like that would have been complicated to engineer, having to build in a way for a telephone to save that number in a non-digital memory somehow.
Happy 100th, Al! I was a big Mad fan during my early adolescence, same era when I got hooked on Games magazine.
Busy evening here, so let’s hop straight to a little listing:
- 82d. [Its coat of arms features a marlin and flamingo, with “the”], BAHAMAS. Interesting little trivia fact I didn’t know. They should have put the flamingo on the flag!
- 68d. [Blues ensemble?], THE SMURFS. Cute clue.
- 3d. [When the president may make a pitch], SEASON OPENER. How is Biden’s arm? Does he have any first-pitch invites?
- 4a. [Music genre for Carmen Miranda], SAMBA. I still get SAMBA mixed up with salsa and mambo. Wanted this answer to be SALSA, which suggested that the [Gym array] was LATS rather than MATS, which made not a whole lot of sense. Saved by the BRIOCHE! Which I don’t think of as particularly sweet, but maybe that sweetness is why it’s so damn good in my Thanksgiving stuffing.
- 90d. [Apt surname for a hot dog vendor?], WEINER. No, no, no. A hot dog is a wiener, derived from Wien, the German name for Vienna. The surname WEINER is either German for cartwright or from the Yiddish for a wine merchant. The German pronunciation has a long “i” sound rather than long “e.”
- 56a. [___ block], CINDER. I feel like there’s a different term of art that the building trades use, and that “cinder block” is dated, but cinder block is the term I’ve used since I was a kid.
3.8 stars from me. Enjoy the added daylight on Sunday evening!
Steve Mossberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Ad Creep”—Jim P’s review
It’s Pi Day, but no Pi’s in this grid, just more ads! Each theme answer is a well-known phrase with an added AD somewhere inside.
- 26a. [Top prize at a karaoke contest with music like “Don’t Stop Believin'”?] POWER BALLAD JACKPOT. Powerball. Have you ever looked at the lyrics for “Don’t Stop Believin'”? I once wrote a parody of the song which forced me to go through the lyrics which I found to be idiotic.
- 36a. [Like a somewhat rich dessert?] HALFWAY DECADENT. Decent.
- 60a. [Trying to be a champion at provoking?] GOADING FOR THE GOLD. Going.
- 71a. [Ability to see past superficiality?] FACADE RECOGNITION. Face. Probably a good skill to have for a building inspector.
- 95a. [Teaching staff’s swank ride?] FACULTY ROADSTER. Roster. They all have to share one car?
- 104a. [Finally decide on a home?] SAY YES TO THE ADDRESS. Dress. Best for last. I got this one just off the SAY YES…
These work for me, and a couple were pleasantly surprising.
Other goodies: BACK MASSAGE (sounds good right about now), BATHROBE, BODY SURF, PARAGUAYANS, ALWAYS ON, EYE DROP, and EDIBLES.
Clues of note:
- 48a. [Dim sum bun]. BAO. There’s an interesting take here on the anthropomorphization of objects in Pixar films, particularly the short film BAO.
- 90a. [You may fold one while eating it]. SLICE. I assume the clue is referring to pizza, but who knows? Maybe cake? Seems like the clue is lacking.
- 47d. [“Don’t sweat it,” in a text]. NBD. I don’t think I’ve seen this entry in a grid before, but I like it. Stands for “No big deal.”
- 64d. [“Ich bin ___ Berliner”]. EIN. The image to the right has been making the rounds on the internets.
Solid grid. 3.75 stars.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword, “Pi Day” – Jenni’s write-up
It’s March 14, also written 3/14 (at least in the US) and sometimes 3.14, so…..Pi Day! Each theme answer add PI to a base phrase with generally quite amusing results.
- 24a [Shrimp dish ordered online?] is INTERNET SCAMPI (internet scam).
- 34a [Not someone you’d want in the cockpit?] is a VACANT PILOT (vacant lot).
- 45a [Candidate’s concern after the latest poll?] is OPINION DIP (onion dip).
- 68a [Hook during a typically slow period?] is an OFFSEASON PIRATE (offseason rate).
- 93a [Physician for longshoremen?] would be a PIER DOCTOR (ER doctor).
- 99a [No-brainer card game?] is STUPID POKER. My favorite.
- 117a [Like most clouds compared to cirrus clouds?] is NONE THE WISPIER (none the wiser).
All the base phrases are solid and it’s a funny wordplay theme, so I’m happy. Not so happy with some of the fill. ESALE should take a long walk off a short pier. VIS is clued as [Discernment meas., in meteorology], so I presume it’s short for VISIBILITY. It’s not a great entry in any case and the clue makes it worse. 96d [With 97-Across, words before “good reason”] is GIVE/ME ONE. ME ONE would pretty much have to be a FITB, which is bad enough. Why on earth make it even more tortured with a cross-reference?
A few other things:
- 5d [“Take a shot at it”] is YOU CAN TRY. In my head, YOU CAN TRY is said with great doubt, the implication being that YOU CAN TRY but I will be shocked if you succeed. The definition isn’t wrong, per se, but it’s not…quite…right.
- We’re reminded that Mexico also has states. [Gulf of California state] is SONORA.
- LORRAINE is clued as [French region associated with an eggy dish]. I love quiche, and would also love more women in my puzzles. That’s a missed opportunity.
- 90d [Game that might end in a library] is CLUE.
- Do people still use the word STEADY to mean [Exclusive date]? I’ve been married since the Pleistocene, so I have no idea.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of LEANA WEN, a CNN medical analyst.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Big Little Lies” – Jim Q’s Write-up
Isn’t it fun to open up a WaPo puzzle and see that there’s wackiness before you even start? Actually, don’t answer that. I often forget there’s quite a few solvers who aren’t keen on the wackiness :)
THEME: What’s big is small and what’s small is big.
Hard to fully describe, but the words TINY, WEE, and MINI are oversized and make up the answers for MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, SATINY, RETWEETED ALT WEEKLY, GEMINI, and DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. They are also parts of shorter fill.
The words LARGE, VAST, and MEGA, on the other hand, are quite small, fitting into rebus squares and becoming parts of the entries for DEVASTATE, CANVAS TENT, SOLAR GENERATOR, DOLLAR GENERAL, OMEGA MAN, and HOME GAMES.
Loved this one! Felt very Alice in Wonderland-sy. I initially tried to hack my way through the top of the grid first, since that’s where it appeared the gimmick was, but I found it a little tough up there. I venture to guess it may be more difficult on purpose as to not reveal the gimmick too quickly. The south was easier for me, but I certainly was not expecting rebus squares, so that was fun. As soon as I uncovered LARGE in DOLLAR GENERAL is was a big AHA, and I figured what was going on (with the oversized squares as well).
I solved on paper, and very casually, pecking at it here and there over the course of two days when I would pass by the printed out grid laying on my kitchen island. I rarely do that. I kind of enjoyed the lax approach! As a result, I don’t really remember where or when (or if) I was stumped for too long. I just remember some toughness in the north and the usual-for-WaPo unfamiliar names (fairly crossed).
Lots of fun! Thanks for this one :)
Ed Sessa’s Universal crossword, “Cryptic Clues” — Jim Q’s write-up
Title is a little on the meta side, but pretty standard fare today!
THEME: The word CLUES can be found scrambled in common phrases.
- JACQUES CLOUSEAU
- SOLE CUSTODY
- SINGLES CLUB
- BRONZE SCULPTURE
A bit of a late write-up. Apologies! By the way, I can’t find today’s Universal puzzle on the Andrews McMeel website. I wonder why…
We recently had a similar unscramble-the-hidden-word theme, and while I don’t dislike them, I prefer them to be spread out a bit more. BRONZE SCULPTURE felt a little GREEN PAINT-ish to me, and I known them as SINGLES BARS rather than SINGLES CLUBs (fun clue for that one though!)
My favorite mistake was LSAT for PSAT, which led to YOU LICK! for 5D. I assumed it was a phrase I never heard. Or a trend, like perhaps licking one another was a new thing that started amongst friends just before Covid but quickly went the wayside… eew.
Fine puzzle all around.
Oh wait… I almost forgot to complain about the fact that Universal doesn’t offer circles in its publications to the masses. 2 stars without circles because, from what I’ve seen, newer solvers don’t take well to being asked to count and circle their own letters.