This web browser is not supported. Use Chrome, Edge, Safari, or Firefox for best results.

Thumbnails

13 puzzles by Mike Buckley
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
138/17/200910/5/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0433300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60001
Mike Buckley
Mon 10/5/2015
CRESTSTOPZEST
HOWTOTHORUVEA
ISAAKARLOLIAR
PENNYDREADFUL
ZOOELSEGNU
MATACOCARHEAS
ONERILEAMENRA
NICKELANDDIMING
IMHOMETIOSUIE
CANDOOPELPSAS
ALIRONIPSI
QUARTERHORSES
FOURLACELANZA
ADENOPENATARI
NESSNESTREGAL

PENNY DREADFUL, what a colorful term! Along with common phrases NICKEL AND DIMING and QUARTERHORSES, the puzzle nicely covers the first four US coins.

What a cool-looking coin! Too bad THREE CENT PIECES are out of circulation.

I liked the long fill, too. EVIL GENIUS is a snazzy enough entry on its own, but referencing the great Lex Luthor makes it even better. (Boo, goody-goody Superman!) TECHNIQUES isn't as strong, but I appreciate getting a Q worked smoothly in.

THREE CENT PIECES … my initial impression was that it felt out of place, because it's out of circulation these days. There is something cool about a bonus quasi-themer crossing each of the three main themers, but it also muddied up the theme for me. I would have preferred either 1.) having an unrelated long down run through all the themers, or 2.) doing away with it so the middle entry could have been NICKEL AND DIME, for a cleaner set of PENNY / NICKEL / DIME / QUARTER.

Check out how many neat six-letter words there are today. REMORA, FERMIS (common units in engineering), the full AMEN-RA, MONICA, PIRATE, STANZA. They added so much to my solving experience. It reminded me of something Joel's been emphasizing with his lower-count puzzles: mid-length entries can greatly spice up a puzzle.

I also appreciated how smoothly Mike worked in the Z of ZULU / ZEST. Too often I feel like a J Q X Z gets shoehorned into a Monday puzzle, resulting in gluey bits galore. Some may argue that UVEA is esoteric, but as one of my previous careers was in ophthalmic pharma development, I'd have to politely disagree.

ADEN might also raise an eyebrow, given how that corner could easily have been TOUR / EDEN / NESS. But ADEN is a major port, and it's nice to get a little diversity, especially since we see EDEN all the time in crosswords.

A theme that made me think, very good fill with just minor OLA and TIOS kinds of stuff = an enjoyable solve.

Mon 6/15/2015
CABALSMARINAS
ASATEAMOLDNICK
LINOCUTSTANLEY
MAGNACARTAOEDS
CRYULRIC
RATERANYLEAST
EREEARNELNINO
OINKNSYNCTRIG
RESIGNMOOSEPA
GLENNPEWAPRES
GUARDBMI
EMAJDUEPROCESS
SOLOMONSAVANNA
SOTHEREINASUIT
ORANGESDRAFTS

Timely puzzle. Interesting facts too — I hadn't realized DUE PROCESS derived from the MAGNA CARTA, nor had I known that Pope INNOCENT issued an annulment. That surely makes him famous — or at least infamous. (Note: it's a little weird that it was Pope INNOCENT III, while the entry led me to believe it was INNOCENT I. Harrumph.)

Not so INNOCENT, eh, trey?

RUNNYMEDE isn't quite as interesting to me, as it doesn't have any trivia tidbits that go with it. I'm sure others will disagree. It is sort of cool how it interlocks into MAGNA CARTA and DUE PROCESS — never an easy task to achieve fortuitous interlock — but to me, the other themers had greater interest and impact.

That interlock also puts huge constraints on the grid, forcing big corners in the grid and not allowing very many long pieces of fill. Mike does well in the lower left, with SOLOMON / SO THERE adding to the quality of the solve. Those two nice answers at the price of only ESSO (which is still a big brand up in Canada)? Yes please! And SAMOVAR and PICASA are pretty nice as well.

In the lower right, I hitched on IN A SUIT. It takes up a precious 7-letter slot, and it felt arbitrary to me at first. Does that open the door for IN SLACKS, IN VELOUR, IN A THONG? Ultimately I decided I was being too picky though, as the phrase gets plenty of Google hits.

ULRIC crossing RUNNYMEDE is likely to give some people fits. I think it's more fair than not, as RUNNYMEDE felt familiar-ish to me, but that won't stop some people from grumbling.

Generally, it's a pretty clean puzzle, aside from a few RATER / AIRER things. I like to have all my gluey bits from different categories so they don't stand out as much, so it's too bad that these are both of the "add an -ER" variety.

I really liked the clue for OEDS. Funny to think of having a magnifying glass included in the sale! Again, an interesting piece of trivia to learn.

All in all, I liked the trivia. Those tidbits helped the puzzle stand out from other tribute puzzles.

Thu 2/5/2015
TAPASGIRLPAMS
IVANAEBAYERIQ
FORYOUREYESONLY
FWIWKALEUPEND
SHERRIBELLES
STIEGDECODE
ARARATVIAALOU
LONELYTEARDROPS
SISIKOIDEEDEE
WHENCEAPERS
CACAOSANKLES
EDENSSNOWOTIS
LEADEROFTHEPACK
ELSEIDLEELREY
BEERDAYSKESEY

This particular arrangement of six intersecting grid-spanners (highlighted below) is notoriously hard to execute in a 72-word grid. The problem with all these criss-crossing answers is that you create constraints in every single part of the grid.

There really is no one area where the constructor gets full flexibility to work with a wide-open area, because every nook and cranny has at least two entries already fixed in place. And the center has sections where FOUR fixed entries completely border an area to be filled. Check out the SHERRI / UKR / EGAL region for example — that sits right in the middle of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, LONELY TEARDROPS, ANYWHERE I WANDER, and I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. Rough task.

Sal, at Sal's

So I was impressed that Mike was able to keep the number of gluey entries relatively low. It's particularly tricky to do this with longer fill, so the NW with PARISIANS and the SE with LODESTARS would have been very tricky. Granted, TROI and SALS are likely not broadly known, but try telling that to die-fans of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" and "Do the Right Thing." (Like me. Qapla'!)

And for a pop music moron, I felt like most of the songs were well-known enough that I was able to get almost all of them without resorting to every single crossing letter. The exception was ANYWHERE I WANDER, but apparently La Rosa was all the rage back in the 50's, so that's fine.

It would have been really cool if one of the songs had been titled something like CROSS DOWN ACROSS to pull everything together as a revealer. That's a song, isn't it? (Well, it should be. Get to work on that, Mr. La Rosa!)

Wed 5/21/2014
PASHATAROTGEM
ESTOPELIDEIVY
PLANERAPPERRIM
SANEOUSTRALLY
INDYCARIPADS
BANNEDLIEDER
DOTEDAEONORE
RAVEARTSYBRIN
ATVBLEUARMCO
WHIRLEDPIECE
EPICSCASABAS
BEWIGCEESTUBA
ALEHOARSESHOOS
SIRTORSIHENIE
HASSHEENURALS

Double homonyms today, both halves of phrases (or words) transmogrified into something wacky. PLAIN WRAPPER becomes PLANE RAPPER, BAND LEADER into BANNED LIEDER, etc. Whoo, was it a toughie for me, causing me slight panic toward the end at possibly not finishing a Wednesday NYT puzzle for the first time in years. What a feeling of relief to finally uncover PLANE RAPPER!

Matt Ginsberg had a puzzle along these lines a while back, and I struggled mightily with that one as well. It's odd — so many theme types snap into place naturally to me, add-a-letter or sound change ones requiring not a lot of thought to work out. But the double homonym, whew! I'm curious if others have the same mental block (and to figure out why).

Loved the longer fill Mike worked into the grid. Check out GIRLS DORM, HONEYBEE, RIP TIDES, TV VIEWERS, RED SCARE, BREATHER, all running in the vertical direction, all really nice stuff. But Mike kicks it up a notch, nosing in an INDY CAR and some CASABAS in the across direction. A huge slice of goodness to spice up his grid.

I often worry when there are more than six pieces of long fill, because this introduces so many constraints that a grid gets difficult to fill cleanly. It's a tough trade-off — you want to give the solver extra juice, but you also don't want him/her to notice an excess of glue-y short entries. I wasn't wild about some of the trade-offs today, the southeast chunk in particular. I like a BUONA flair here and there, but not when it's compounded with the odd ABOIL and SHU and SASES. Granted, BREATHER and CASABAS are both great entries, but their price of inclusion felt high. I wonder if adding a cheater square at the S of CASABAS might have helped?

And I loved seeing Sergey Brin's name in there — he and Larry Page were just a few years behind me in undergrad (look where they are now, look where I am now... hmm.). But wow, did I get tripped up at the ARMCO / ACS crossing. I like to think my knowledge of corporations is pretty good, but ARMCO makes me think otherwise.

Tough trade-offs, always. Anyway, a tough workout, good for keeping the mind both sharp and flexible.

Tue 3/19/2013
ADLIBIDTAGNOB
LEICASIEVEEAU
AFTERDINNERHST
NTHBANAESPRIT
ENRYHENHOUSE
USSWASPDOWN
LOOTPHEWITCHY
NIMPARTYONAAA
ALEPHACNEENCL
LASSNUTCAKE
GREENTEAVIOL
RELATEMARMZAX
ABEOFFICEBLOCK
BEGMARGEEENIE
SLYSNOODREEDS
Thu 3/14/2013
SLAPSHYSPAM
PILLSLOEURGE
ABBECAPNMIRA
CREATIVITYMET
EARTHSLAUREL
DSTESSORHODO
DROWSEASTA
ISTHERESIDUEOF
NEROSPINAL
KNITSTESTECU
SOCIALTESLAS
PROWASTEDTIME
OILSSARIAJAR
TTOPSHUNBARI
SARAOLESHOD
Thu 1/31/2013
SPACEJAMDESK
ORGANIZERSINCE
WOEBEGONEANTON
SONARCELERON
FARONTOLERATE
ESESUMMONED
SGTWAHRCRY
TEASTEASETEES
RELSPECADD
INASTATEHSN
MONARCHSOUTGO
NETLIKERAISE
EVITETINDERBOX
SINESEQUITABLE
SLEDSTRESSED
Wed 12/19/2012
PANDACELEBTBS
INERTAKELAALI
KNOWLEDGEISROM
HALROSETTE
KNOWINGATOMATO
TIECUTIRON
ISAFRUITGEL
STREAMSJUNIORS
LEAWISDOMIS
ESAISINNET
NOTPUTTINGITIN
JANEROEATE
OROAFRUITSALAD
ITOLIESTOSAKA
NONSTOATKEBAB
Tue 8/7/2012
GAPSDAHLSCENE
ODINEBAYTONER
RHEABENDAVIAN
DOCIMADDICTEDTO
OCELOTMAHER
NEHIINGMAR
SENSEEXECIAGO
TWITTERSORRYIM
AEROTOGAALONE
BROOCHQUAY
DREAMROASTS
NOTFOLLOWINGYOU
ILIACIDESORAL
MINSKCELTRUSK
HOSTSELLAAPTS
Wed 6/27/2012
MARSHY
STORMINATEACUP
LACKINGSYMMETRY
ALCOAOHMLOAM
YOURAIDPIC
SNLLOADERSIRA
STASHSINAI
CARETZANE
PENTOMINOES
TILEBIGOXAIRS
ONSTERIMOO
OTISETRESPUN
NONINTERLOCKING
ONETRACKMIND
ARENAGOLONG
EWEANTE
Tue 2/7/2012
BOGUSASIAHTTP
URIAHMANSOHIO
MIRROROFTHEMIND
RODRENEESING
ALLSTARRATES
PEEKCASEWORKER
ISHASSNIGO
HAITIGUTIFNOT
EINLEANIAL
PLATEGLASSAVEC
TONGAALABAMA
BRUTXEBECNIM
FAIRHAIREDCHILD
ONCEKEIRTOTIE
REEDASKSSPYON
Mon 2/28/2011
GAGAREFERDADA
OWENALIVEONIT
WARYTATAFORNOW
NYMPHETSHEART
LODEZOOM
MAMACASSELLIOT
ABACKLADYCOB
ABLEJAILSLURE
METTERMBALSA
YAYASISTERHOOD
ANTZIDED
ENEMYTEARINTO
BABAAURHUMDOES
OPAHGOAPEARCH
NANAHEISSHAHA
Mon 8/17/2009
CARAFEABCSAHS
CLEVERMEALLEI
CESARROMEROTYR
TIMGOTOSIDE
CHALICEBATMAN
EARLEAHXRAYS
ODESSARENEE
JACKNICHOLSON
AISLEISSUED
FLAREODESTWO
JOKERSTEAROSE
OTISCHICREF
RINHEATHLEDGER
DOTONZEENDASH
SNOTEEMSAYSSO