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

Thumbnails

Puzzles for September, 2014
with Will Shortz comments

Mon 9/1/2014
GIZAJAPESEGAD
ACEDIWONTMALI
PERLEMESTAMSGS
COALSHIPMATES
SUSIEQTHEARE
ABUMUSTYRUNIC
MEMOAKAPICKAT
DELIMEATS
NAPALMERRBASE
ETHYLSSGTSPEW
TRAIANYUPPIE
LOSESTEAMILES
OPELLEGALTEAMS
SHIMAZUREASIA
SYNSSEATSDECO

The published puzzle today looks quite different from what the constructor sent me. Allan had the theme answers running vertically, which I didn't see any reason for. So I switched the Acrosses and Downs, so the main theme entries would read the usual way. A couple of corners were polished, too. The thing I probably like most about this puzzle is the bonus, "explainer" theme entry, TAMES, at 30D, crossing the "M" of DELI MEATS. A very elegant touch.

Tue 9/2/2014
DAMNPLASMNASH
ODIERASTAUMNO
TEXTBOOKEXAMPLE
SNELLWIPE
ROOMTOIMPROVE
STRIVELABEL
PITSMREMELONS
LGABEERNUTEOE
ALBEITDESISMS
NOLANHUSTON
BOARDMEETINGS
FLATCEASE
COLLEGEEXPENSES
AREAIRKEDUSES
PEEPCOEDSEYRE

I'm very impressed with Ethan's clues. Most of these are his. Lots of good ones, but my favorites are 10D, 12D (I did not know that!), 32D and 38D. I also like 64A, which is a tricky answer to handle. When I consider submissions, I pretty much ignore the constructors' clues, which I know I can revise myself, if necessary. But I do give some preference to contributors (like Ethan) who I know write good clues, and I tend to publish their puzzles more quickly after acceptance.

Wed 9/3/2014
DEPPDECORMICA
OVEROCULOASAN
CANOFWORMSGANG
SCHMORECREATE
PRIVYCOUNCIL
DAKTARIENTS
ETASOCTANATTY
LIZWCHANDYERA
ITALOYETIPROD
KAOSOCEANIA
JOHNFKENNEDY
EASTSIDEIDOSO
SRTAHEADSTARTS
SEANAMPEDYEAH
EDNATASESSOYA

This puzzle reminds me of a supposed "themeless" crossword that Will Weng once ran, in which each of the long answers contained a synonym for "rear end." After publication, when the hidden theme was pointed out to him, the proper-minded Weng embarrassedly expressed regret about publishing it. I wonder what he would have thought about today's theme?!

Thu 9/4/2014
CLEANINPENFIB
TILLSTORSOADO
REKLATSREEDROD
LUSTAMASEARLY
ONCESHAPE
TEMLEHORERBMOS
ARIDETHORSOPH
SIXDAYBOOKVIE
SCOTFROMARENA
EKLUMRAYARODEF
ONIONASIP
VEGASNUTSEGGO
OUIFLIPONESLID
IRSILEUMPIANO
DOTTBSPSANDOR
POW Fri 9/5/2014
OLDAGEPENSIONER
REEDUCATIONCAMP
RACETOTHEBOTTOM
VOSSKENS
WENTFEARHMO
ASSETALLOCATION
ITTOZMAISOLDE
TORINOCAPLET
IDUNNOROAMBRO
NICKELANDDIMING
GETDADAALDO
CHAWPOLA
PATRONAGEHIRING
GREATGRANDNIECE
STEMLESSGLASSES

I have a feeling today's puzzle won't be liked by some of the crossword bloggers, as the grid's vocabulary isn't the most scintillating, and it has a lot of three-letter words. Still, the fill is solid, and 17A, 38A, 25D, 26D and 43D are quite nice, so to me this is worthy. Most of all, the gimmick with the black squares is just ... wow!

Sat 9/6/2014
CHICKFILAMYOPE
RADIOEDITAERIE
ONEANDALLGASSY
AGEYEHENRICO
KOFIROADRUNNER
EVINCELOOMOSE
DEXTERASSOC
REELGMTPING
RETROPUREES
OTOREEDESCORT
PINKYSWEARALTA
ENLISTBSAORI
RHINESQUIRTGUN
AANDEPUTSASIDE
STEADFASTPACED
Sun 9/7/2014ALL-ENCOMPASSING
RICHETAUPETEAMS
CELLARISWARVACATE
JUNKETSAKELASTOREUP
APAAHASAREOPERLGA
FOULWATHERORSONWLLES
ALLAHZENODELTQUANT
RATSONSVUIDOCUSSES
SUEDINNERSHAH
ASPSOAPEDTETRISOTO
REARENDEDWHICHEVER
TWENWEYAWD
SEASCAPESMISTLETOE
YINORDEALBORNEOERR
EMMAMASERLASH
SCRAMSSUNFEESTASIS
ALEROAPEDUSDAIVANA
BOLLWEVILSDONTSWATIT
EVAELANLEDATOPIDA
RETINALGIRLSIRATELY
SETSTOADWEKRECITE
STEENBETSYENEMY
Mon 9/8/2014
SCOTSOATSBLAB
WAHOOBAILLEGO
ARBORAREACODES
BOOKOFMORMON
SLYROANMADAME
FITBETMOD
DOORTODOORRIBS
ELWAYIONHENIE
TINTVOODOODOLL
EVEAERLOO
REDACTVEALALP
THEBIGFIVEOH
WHITERICEGARBO
WIFIALESALIEN
IMACNESTNEEDY
Tue 9/9/2014
LOBDACHASCRAG
AMOUPHOLDHELL
MANNERISMSUNIE
BROILCESABABA
NEMODUBLIN
ACCEDENATTY
SALTWALLSOCKET
AREEDSEASHAMU
POWERSTRIPERIN
NANASRCCOLA
PASSGOTOOK
ANTISTWOSEPIA
STYXFIELDTRIPS
TILTUNSEALKOI
ACEYRATTLYEDS

Anytime a puzzle contains triply-checked letters, like the circled ones here, there are likely to be compromises in the fill. The middle section of this grid has more unappealing entries than I like — especially CES, SDS, NLERS, ALAI, ASTA, SNO, and DAL. So the question becomes ... is the "aha" strong enough to outweigh the puzzle's weaknesses? In this case, obviously, I thought the answer was yes.

Wed 9/10/2014
APEMENSPAUFOS
BONAMIHEMNICK
LUDWIGARMANTI
ETSHOWYOUBEEN
OCTANEKARTS
SPACETEASES
PUTERTHEREHARP
ESTATEASEVER
CHANNOHARMDONE
BADLOTELWES
ECARDDORSEY
GIVEMETHATJAI
ALIELOAALBUMS
DIAZKWHREADON
SANEENSTSHIRT
Thu 9/11/2014CHANGE OF HEART
MOOSEAGOPEACH
AVAILLEACURIE
TAKESPARTPRIDE
VIEAHSSEL
GREETERASNER
FOECADGLO
LOTBARONALOHA
ADAATTOSSFOX
BEGETHUNCHAVE
DHLPERGED
TRYSTSTATLER
BEERAWPOL
INTERFIREWATER
GORMETNNEMERY
DROIDAGAROXIE

This year's Lollapuzzoola tournament was the first one I've missed in its seven-year history. On the day it was held, I was flying to London for the World Puzzle Championship. Patrick and Brian visited me before the tournament to borrow some supplies, though, and they told me about some of the cool things they had scheduled, including this. I asked if I could run it in the Times. But for when? It didn't feel wacky enough for a Sunday variety puzzle, or open enough gridwise for a Saturday. So I scheduled it for a Thursday (today), which is typically the hardest theme day. I know this hybrid of a crossword/variety puzzle is not to everyone's taste. I'm prepared for the "hate" comments! Still, solvers who love this will probably really love it, so I think it's worth running.

BTW, I changed a few of the tournament clues to make them slightly easier and less trivia-oriented than the originals. For example, not all solvers may know that "Pinky or The Brain, e.g." (Patrick's clue at 1A) is a MOUSE, or that "Guitarist Saul Hudson of Guns N' Roses, familiarly" (28D) is SLASH. These would have been stumbling blocks for many solvers. So I tweaked the puzzle here and there (not much) to make it more accessible.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy to introduce Lollapuzzoola to a wider audience.

Fri 9/12/2014
STADIUMROCKDIR
IMOUTTAHEREENO
TAKESTHERAPADM
UNICERAYTTRIA
BOREGOFIRST
PHOTOSBENICETO
HOVELMANETAIM
OWENNAKEDEDNA
NORBOXESELECT
ENSNAREDQUARTO
DETECTSFURL
HARRAHCLIODVD
ORERETAILPRICE
MTSDRIVETOWORK
EHSINTERSPERSE
Sat 9/13/2014
ADEPTCOLUMNIST
TOSEAPRONOUNCE
TWOAMLETTERBOX
ANTHEMINSERT
CHEESEBALLITEM
KERNSINESNARE
ERISCOATING
DECBADGIRLCAT
COLORTVCHIA
IMHIPMAGIBERG
NOUNLEMONGRASS
COMELYGRAPPA
INAMORATAIDEAL
TENACIOUSMINCE
EYESOCKETMOSES

One tricky answer to clue here was BAD GIRL (34A), as almost any clue could be seen as sexist. BAD GIRL has a negative connotation that BAD BOY does not, which seems unfair. The clue I ended up with, "Biker chick, perhaps," was my attempt to be neutral — which I think it is.

POW Sun 9/14/2014CELEBRITY SPOONERISMS
SPACEKAVAILSSCAPULA
LENORECATNAPWASHRAG
INVITEEULOGYATPEACE
CAINEPILLARFEYHEALED
ELLEGNATSBIGEARS
RIOSSERAEDYAOKS
LEESCIONSELESUNHIP
IRVINNISFIRTHBOTHER
NRAEGGNOGASIAMALY
GONERELITEDROOP
OLESGEREBOGGLESRPTS
SCOUTBOOLAKAYAK
USCMAAMSNELSONDUO
SHEENCLEATSEATNOANS
SUNNITOOTHWESTMYTH
RITTMIRALEERASE
EGOTISTLYSOLALGA
BYRNETACKPOEHLERSOUR
ROUTERSILOILONOLOSS
ARSENICNESSIEOPENTO
GETSANASTEEDSWESSON
Mon 9/15/2014
LEWISACTSABS
ALASKANOELLOU
BELLYDANCERDYE
OGLEVROOMJAZZ
RYEHICOENO
FISHANDCHIPS
EMMAPEELONCUE
VIETDRECKDARE
ELWAYPRISONER
ROLLOFTHEDIE
LULUSNLGPS
QUAYEVITADREI
URLBEANSPROUTS
ISEUCLASAVEAS
TAXDEUSJELLY

Andrea's original manuscript had her own name, ANDREA, at 13A. While I don't mind inside jokes in constructors' puzzles, they shouldn't detract from the fill — which, unfortunately, is what happened here. The corner also came with E LEE, RLS and ERLE. The revised corner is much cleaner.

Andrea and Will As is the case with many of Andrea's puzzles, this one is pangrammatic. I don't give a hoot about pangrams, which I don't think most solvers notice. At the same time, I don't mind them, as long as the fill doesn't suffer. The rare letters J, Q, X and Z can spice things up. In this puzzle all four of the rarest letters have been squeezed into the upper-right and lower-left corners, with the only real casualty being the unappealing ISE at 62A. Otherwise, nice. So this pangram's fine.

BTW, Andrea visited me a couple of months ago, and we saw Ian Hunter (formerly of Mott the Hoople, one of my favorite old bands) at a local music festival. I'm sure she and I were the only people among the thousands at the outdoor concert trying to make a crossword theme together!

Tue 9/16/2014
GATESPATWRIST
OARSERLEHORNE
TRAPCOAXYUKON
TONYTONITONE
INSENTBIOWAH
LONDONONTARIO
ERUPTSAOKLIDS
LACESPIKVITAE
EYEDGILRETINA
MONSOONSEASON
INTRYERIPGMA
ONANDONANDON
BRAVEURISCENT
EAGERTACOISEE
EMERYSWANSKYS

Today's puzzle, along with those for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, were used last Saturday at the 7th annual Bay Area Crossword Tournament, in Oakland, Calif. The event was run by Andrew Laurence to benefit the Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. More information, including the results, can be found at www.bayareacrosswords.org.

Wed 9/17/2014
TERIREDOSESTP
BEEFIMEASYWEE
IRISHCOFFEEENT
RIGEEROBEENE
DENSEYESMASTER
UPNHELOTS
ECCEORDEALASH
LAOSHOSEDPLEA
MMMSELLTOOKED
BEETLEWAG
PROSEPOEMFORAY
RIFLELOSTATE
EDAPOLLINATION
EGGELOISEISNT
NEEDELETEPEEL
POW Thu 9/18/2014
BITEASIANMAMAS
LOOPCASEYAGAVE
OWNSALERTRAMON
CASINCUEALIBIS
LAITAASINARE
CORONAELIONS
ARENAKILNTAGS
NYUSASINSEAUNO
EXPOROMEMURAL
RAINYIMITATE
EASINEYENICE
ALLEYSYASINYOU
STANDIAMBSSOBS
YENTAQRCIUILIE
ARTSYSCATSLOTS

Years ago my friend Evie Eysenburg, one of the New York Times crossword testers, was at Bloomingdale's buying something. The clerk had to call the credit department to verify Evie's information. For clarification the clerk spelled Evie's last name "E as in 'eye," Y as in 'you,' "S as in 'sea' ..." — which left the person in the credit department going "Wha-a-a-at??!" She and I have been laughing about this ever since.

After I told this story to Joel, he and I tried to think of a name in which every letter could have a confusing "clarification." He cleverly turned the result into a Thursday theme.

Fri 9/19/2014
HUMBLEBRAGARCS
INADEQUATETELE
LENADUNHAMELEA
LADYADMSPILAF
TRAILLLLANERO
OTTEREMAILNEO
PHENOMONRECORD
ONEPOTATO
POLLSTERSTEEPS
ARAIRISHENTRE
SLUMDOGOBSVOX
SATIENAMEBOOP
INNSSOCIALLIFE
ODESWINECOOLER
NORMFRESHSTART
Sat 9/20/2014
STREAKSLEADUP
QUIRRELLANGINA
UNDERDOGSTREWN
ANDASPECTRATIO
DELTSLOSESEP
SLEWAPEXPOLL
OPTICSODDY
PROJECTRUNWAY
CLAUSRIFLE
LAITCOMORAVE
AYNSHUNASTIN
MAGICTRICKSHOF
ARENOTCOCACOLA
TEARUPSTUNTMAN
OARERSSPAREST

The Thursday-Saturday puzzles this week were all created by constructors in their early 20s, part of a new generation of puzzlemakers. I don't have any hard figures on constructors' ages, but my gut feeling is that the median age has declined by about 15 years since I started in 1993 — from around 55 then to 40 now. Someone should do a study.

Sun 9/21/2014NASCAR ROCKS!
SAWSASTAANGLOZOLA
HEAPLAHRRILINGISPY
ARGOONEGANIMALHOUSE
WONTGETFUELEDAGAIN
ELOOLINRESECTMOI
MIRESENOLREAREND
IKISSEDAGRILLETASTY
DOASIDOMEYERSPHIL
INNPAGEDCASTASPELL
SSEGHIXERAPTESTS
MOVESLIKEJAGUAR
STEAMERALEEINSST
MINISTERTOTRANECAB
ORELLIONELNOTDONE
KASEMBRAKEONTHROUGH
ENCRUSTEDNAACTOR
YAONEWISHGEMSDIM
LIVINLAVEHICLELOCA
CITIZENKANEABETITLL
OPEDNEEDERLINDTTOP
XOXODRESSFATSYOYO
Mon 9/22/2014
BEANFAVORSCAM
EAVEERICATOGA
STICKUPMENAMEX
TALKEDAGATE
STATECANESUGAR
INLAWSTREVI
PIPEOLETOETAG
LSUPOLECARMIG
ALTERSBUNGELS
YESNOSIESTA
STAFFCUTSINKED
SOSADANGOLA
PAIRRODSTEWART
ACDCAKITAALOE
WHEETUNEDRAYS

Should a theme come with or without a revealer? To me it depends on the puzzle. Sometimes a revealer entry — one that explains what or where the puzzle's theme is — is needed for clarity. In this puzzle, though, you're on your own. You just have to notice that the starting words in the five longest Across answers are related. If you do, you get a nice aha.

Tue 9/23/2014
SOBEGALASYSER
PLOWATOLLALDO
EDGEMAGDAYOGA
NLERSRIATAAAR
DIYAKINSSUNRA
ENIGMAHONEST
RENOSIMMERS
GOLDNUGGETS
SOANDSOOLAF
STREWNASWIRL
ERASEBLATSPLO
PUNDREAMEASES
IDLEOGDENLLDS
AGONCOLBYLOGE
SEWSSTEAMSPED

Like almost all puzzles that contain triply-checked letters, like the shaded ones here, this puzzle includes some vocabulary that is not as crisp or clean as in puzzles with regular checking. That's just the nature of the beast. I thought this puzzle's theme was cool enough to justify the AAR, the LLD'S, the SSE, the ENS, etc. The grid really doesn't have anything awful, and overall it's about as clean as it can be given the constraints.

Wed 9/24/2014
LOAFSNORMAUFO
ARGOTONEAMNEW
MARXATTACKSFAN
PLAYBOYTETHERS
FEZSEAM
ABEAUTIFULMINX
SLEEPPARNIM
WETCELLREPLICA
APTEYERANKS
THELOVELYBOXES
DALIFEE
BRANDTSALLOWED
LAVEATXRAYLOVE
UZISTAELRAVEL
RESTERRYEVENT

This puzzle, along with Monday's (plus the Tuesday and Thursday puzzles from next week), were used last weekend at the 18th Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament in my hometown of Pleasantville, NY. All the money raised went to a local charity. Andy Kravis took the train up from his home in Manhattan to watch. It's a great experience to watch 60+ people race to solve a puzzle you've constructed! It's also a pleasure for the solvers to meet the constructor in person.

Thu 9/25/2014
GUMPSTETOTOES
INREOOZEPENAL
SACAJAWEAPREGO
CAPEKMORALE
RACERRIBOSOMES
AEIOUSEIZER
MOGULSLGAAPP
ONATEARARMENIA
SSRDUBTASTER
ARISESSPOCK
SPACESHIPHONES
TALCUMJANUS
ARLESFILIPINOS
READEONKPTIDE
KEYEDEGOSOLEG
POW Fri 9/26/2014
PARISSHAGSAAB
AGENTPIPETRIO
BINGONIGHTAGRA
SLEEPERHITBOHR
TEEWISDOMNOD
BUSTOHARE
BUMMINGAROUND
CARPENTERANTS
ROCKINGHORSES
OAKENLASS
BLTGIBSONPJS
OMANDRAGGEDOUT
TILELOUIELOUIE
INKSEONSSINCE
CESTSKATENDED

One of my rules for crosswords is that I want the solver to understand every clue after its answer is filled in. The clue can be misleading, infuriating, maybe impossible to get without all the crossings, but once it's filled in, the solver should understand what it means. I know I hate it when I don't "get" a clue. Hence, I have some qualms about the clue for NEWSMEN ("Post office workers?") at 18D. Some solvers might wonder, after finally filling in the answer — Why would newsmen work at post offices? (rather than get that Post here is a proper name). In this case, though, qualms be damned. The clue was too good not to use.

Sat 9/27/2014
IBEFOREEFLUKE
DELAWAREJOINED
SEALSKINOUTING
ABBAECIGARETTE
YEOKEEN
REBSTRUMBA
ICALLEMASISEEEM
NATIONALAVERAGE
BREAKERONENINER
INONESSPARETIME
GENSCHSTUN
EASTGPS
TOPTENLISTPLIE
ARABICEARPIECE
WECAREGROANSAT
SNAREESPRESSO

I accepted this puzzle only recently, but decided to run it quickly because of the recent death of 15D. Not that it mattered, but the puzzle just felt more timely this way. I love the quad-stacks besides, some of the best work on this sort I've yet seen.

Sun 9/28/2014FOUR BY FOUR
MAHARAJAIMARETSHTTP
ANABOLICCALORIEOHHI
SAMETIMENEXTYEARLEON
SCALIAREFICRIEDOUT
ETSNSAGALLTANEY
TIESOLLIELOINS
SANESALTLAKECITYUTAH
AREASMIIERODEROSE
COURTISAACOPENSHOTS
HORDESATLASENSUE
SMOOTHSEGGONTENACRE
WHOMEAESOPRODHAM
JOANOFARCROGETCHIVE
ABUTARGOTOREOILER
WITHARMSWIDEOPENGENY
STOICSPENDTESH
STREPSPANHUHFRA
INAWHILERBISTITLES
HERALESSTALKMOREROCK
ORALENCLAVEEVALARUE
POLLDAIRIESWILDCARD
Mon 9/29/2014
MPHAGHASTSIBS
SERLOITERJAMIE
NAHIKNEWYOUWHEN
BLAHADAALLTOLD
CELEBRITYDIO
DRATESMENAB
STEELARGUEMIRE
HUMBLEBEGINNINGS
EBAYLEASTOREOS
PANITLLGUAM
SROMAKESGOOD
CLIPARTANOENZO
HOMETOWNHEROTAP
APACEICEAGEHRE
PECKNODDEDSKY

I made two small grid changes in Eric's fine puzzle today. He had CREEL, a fishing basket, at 34A. It's a hardish word. I wouldn't have minded it, actually, even for a Monday, but my 22-year-old assistant, Joel, was not familiar with H. R. HALDEMAN, which intersected it. He suggested STEEL instead, and I agreed. No one should have trouble now.

Another issue was the constructor's answer TEN-K at 67A. That could have been tricky for beginners, as the number in the race name is usually rendered in digits and the hyphen is unexpected. Of course, not everything in a Monday puzzle has to be easy, as long as the crossings are fair. I don't want to baby everyone. But all in all PECK seemed like a better choice.

Tue 9/30/2014
BILBOATANUKES
ADOREDOWBRAVO
ROVERDREWCAREY
BLEWPOISENANA
BEGINABUTS
MIDASSAVES
POTUSSPREEPSA
THEPRICEISRIGHT
ASSINTELCDROM
ONDVDSALAD
MANGOTENET
TOBEOOZESWILT
BOBBARKERMINEO
SLAINSACELGIN
PASTYOLEIDSAY