Puzzling

What’s so fun about Michael Carroll’s cryptic crosswords? Get a clue.

MICHAEL M. CARROLL can engineer words as well as anything. As Rice University’s dean of engineering, he supervises some 1,000 students and 96 faculty members, yet he also shines in a smaller but equally complex sphere: that of the cryptic crossword. Unlike the American crossword—in which the grid is denser and the clues largely just synonyms—the British-style cryptic offers fewer but longer clues, each a minipuzzle in itself.

A native of Ireland, sixty-year-old Carroll was raised in a rich literary tradition that included cryptics. He first created one twelve years ago “out of boredom” and has since been published in several periodicals, including the New York Times.  He has recently suspended puzzling (“I found I was trying to devise a better clue for twelve down rather than writing a research paper”), but he graciously agreed to create the puzzle at right—his first with a Texas theme.

For novices, here are a few hints. Each clue is part synonym and part decoding advice but appears to make sense as a whole. Anagrams contain a word implying rearrangement; in “A cow runs wild in town,” the letters in “a cow” are mixed up (“run wild”) to yield “Waco” (the “town”). Puns (indicated with a question mark or exclamation point) are popular: “Cold meat stew?” is “chili.” Dividing a word into components is called a charade: “Cerulean headgear is an emblem of state” translates into “bluebonnet.” Deletions work similarly—in “Two thirds of a bushel for George,” the answer is “Bush.” Reversals are just that: “Material mined the wrong way” gives you “denim.” Then there are hidden words: Look closely at “Alone, some do very well to read a novel,” and you’ll find Lonesome Dove. (Some answers require abbreviations to fit.) Finally, remember the number in parentheses—that’s the length of the answer—and the fiendish nature of the creator. He practices to deceive.

ACROSS
1. Long-range putter (5,5)
5. We should remember this starts with ice cream (1,2,4)
9. He won a squeaker in ’48 (9,6)
10. Make amends one hour after a.m. ends? (5)
11. Poor relations—not from the West (9)
12. Part of stupendous turnover (5)
13. Memo: Rats confused monkey (8)
17. Well lit? Call him! (3,5)
19. To team without a tribal symbol (5)
22. Esroh? (9)
24. Long a complex cause of Mideast tension (5)
25. It wasn’t just eggs got laid there! (3,7,5)
26. Steals quietly? (7)
27. Nobel laureate, ey? (Not EY?) (7)

DOWN
1. Pop-up? (5,7)
2. Cute advice to Dallas Mavericks coach? (7)
3. Need DDS? It could be swollen (9)
4. It seems Edward is willing to be an inventor (6)
5. “Whether he’s European, or ______, or Texan.” (Tom Kite) (8)
6. Racial description of Nolan or Frank? (5)
7. Laredo’s version of hard times (7)
8. Ernest’s tailless eagles (5)
14. Texas bay armada got dispersed (9)
15. You have in hand S&L money that X laundered (5,7)
16. Reconsider Cannes if money matters (8)
18. Ill-starred birds or fishes (7)
20. Drug find in city Leno loves! (7)
21. Ugly kisser at Vail (6)
22. One really does not like to rewrite Harte (5)
23. Merman from beside the Llano? (5)

(Answers)

 

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