Kristian House’s New York Times crossword
Around these parts, daily repetitions of 20A and 39A aren’t met with “BUT WHY?” (13D/57D) so much as “No.” “I don’t want to.” “Can I watch TV?” “Can I play Wii?” No! You know why? BECAUSE I SAID SO. You will BRUSH YOUR TEETH and DO YOU HOMEWORK! (The household does not place an emphasis on [Parental order #2], PICK UP YOUR TOYS.) So I like the theme—easy enough to piece together with the aid of crossings, accessibly familiar phrases.
The fill bounces between “ooh, I like that” and “meh.” In the plus column:
- 48A. JAY-Z, Mr. Beyonce Knowles, is the [Rapper with the #1 hit “Empire State of Mind”]. I haven’t heard the song, but they say it captures New York nicely.
- 61A. I like the crosswordese English place name TYNE—[Newcastle upon ___, England]—because my kid played with a boy from Newcastle upon Tyne at a D.C. hotel pool last summer.
- 62A. Good mislead—[One of a Disney septet], 5 letters starting with D? Must be DOPEY, right? Nope, just a generic DWARF.
- 5D. SKY-HOOK is Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar’s trademark shot].
- 7D. “NO DUH!” [Slangy “That’s obvious!”] is the clue.
- 9D. Casually spelled SEE-THRU is clued as being [Like a sheer nightie].
- 43D. WIZARDS looks great in the grid. They’re clued as [Some Hogwarts students].
- 56D. Good clue for IOWA: [Where James T. Kirk was born and raised] in Star Trek. The T is for Tiberius, of course.
In the debit column:
- 48A. Not-so-common abbreviation INQ. is a [Govt. investigation].
- 59A. ROWEL is clued as a [Wheel on a spur]. A word I know from crosswords. See also 22A: EWER/[Vessel by a basin].
- 65A. Variant SAREE is clued with variant spelling [Ranee’s wrap].
- 21D, 51D. Rivers that flow through Crosswordland! The YALU is a [River to Korea Bay], while the ISERE is a [River of Grenoble]. Really, one crosswordese river is enough in one puzzle.
- 26D. Really? Didn’t know ACTO was [Part of a Spanish play].
- 47D. [Patisserie artisans] had me dreaming of French baked goods and then…ICERS? That’s like “drink your Ovaltine” in A Christmas Story.
I’m not familiar with the phrase AD WAR. Or am I? It’s clued as 50D: [Exchange of TV smears, maybe]. Is this in terms of political campaign commercials? Hooray for Illinois’s primary election today, because now the TV ads, mailers, and robo-calls will stop for a half year.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “B Boys”—Janie’s review
What’s this? A shout-out to breakdancing? No. Not today. Instead the alliterative title tells us to expect alliterative theme fill. And that’s just what we get: four “boys” whose first and last names begin with “B.” Blindauer’s buddies are:
- 20A. BURT BACHARACH [“Magic Moments” composer]. Lyricist: Hal David.
- 28A. BOB BARKER [TV game show host for 35 years]. 35 years of “The Price is Right,” but some 50 years in the industry. Between 1956 and 1975, he was also the host of “Truth or Consequences.”
- 44A. BILL BIXBY [“My Favorite Martian” star]. I never took to this show and was only peripherally aware of Mr. Bixby’s name, which I somehow tend to confuse with jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke…
- 53A. BUSBY BERKELEY [Director/choreographer of “Gold Diggers of 1935”]. And that’s just the tip o’ the iceberg professionally. He was famous for those overhead shots of his chorines, turning his choreography (in effect) into a dazzling human kaleidoscope.
I found this to be a rather easy solve–and a fun one, too, enhanced as it is by the “Z-factor.” Not only is there the sound of it in the name Busby, there’s also its appearance in such fill as ZOMBIE [“Dawn of the Dead” being] and ALL ABUZZ [Discussing excitedly]. I also like the “K” that joins PRANK (clued-by-example with [Short-sheeting a bed, e.g.]) and SNARK [Make catty remarks]. This is the first time I recall, however, seeing snark as a verb. I’m more familiar with its adjective form of snarky.
Fave cross: the pair related to/by the thought process–PREFER [Think best] and DEEMED [Considered]. There are two nice stacks in the grid, too: OMOO atop MOOS, and DAZE atop DAZS.
A note on the grid: it almost looks like it’s divided into seven discrete areas, but I did find that the longer theme-fill bridged these areas really smoothly. Ditto the longer fill NE and SW. “Understatement of the year” would go to [Important parts of parachutes] as the clue for RIP CORDS. Uh, yeah. Am also fond of the lively fill in those substantive NW and SE (quadruple) columns of 6-letter words: TRYSTS [Encounters of the close kind]; AFLAME [Burning]; PEER IN [Look through a keyhole] (though that definition more accurately suggests PEEK IN to me…). To all this, I say [“Way to go!”]/”HOORAH!”
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme: The first three letters of four two-word phrases are synonyms (roughly) for JABBER. Four wildly divergent things are unified by nothing other than the short words hidden at their starts, so until you hit 40-Down (the unifying JABBER) there’s a lot of “What the heck is going on here??” I liked the surprise that lay in wait. I liked the theme answers for being mostly the sort of things that are never included in crossword grids. And I liked the fill’s use of less common letters (V, Y, K, J) to avoid staleness.
- 16A: [India’s first prime minister]/JAWAHARLAL NEHRU. Isn’t that fun to spell? (The answer is yes.) I have never used JAW as a verb but have seen it in crosswords plenty. “Talk at length, chatter,” says my dictionary (New Oxford American’s Mac widget). Anyone ever have a Nehru jacket?
- 22A: [Washington wine region]/YAKIMA VALLEY. Nowhere near as famous a wine name as Napa Valley, but YAKIMA is more fun to say. YAKking tends to be pejorative, no? Dictionary says: “talk at length about trivial or boring subjects.” Oh, like this blog! (If you don’t like crosswords, that is.)
- 43A: [Chicago ‘L,’ e.g.]/RAPID TRANSIT. To RAP is to “talk or chat in an easy or familiar manner,” possibly talking all night.
- 51A: [Part of a twill suit]/GABARDINE JACKET. When I was a kid I thought gabardine sounded horribly stodgy and old-fashioned. I think that steel blue suit I rocked in the ’90s was gabardine, though. To GAB is to “talk, typically at length, about trivial matters.
- 40D: [Talk on and on, and a hint to the three-letter starts of 16-, 22-, 43- and 51-Across]/JABBER.
- 33A: [Malice]/VENOM. These are both awesome words.
- 39A: [Iraqi, for instance]/ASIAN. Technically, everything from Turkey and Israel on east is in Asia. It’s just not all East Asia, you know? I like the clue’s off-kilter angle.
- 3D: [Honeymooner, probably]/NEWLYWED. How long had the Kramdens and Nortons been married? Why was that show called The Honeymooners?
- 6D: [Polygamous household group]/HAREM. I haven’t watched the HBO series Big Love, but that’s exactly where my mind went with this clue.
- 23D: [Quaint complaint]/ALAS. Oh, thank goodness it was ALAS and not, say, AH, ME. I went off on that Tuesday LAT answer in Facebook yesterday. Who says “ah, me”? Nobody, that’s who! I want to obliterate that answer from crosswords.
- Va-va-voom: 24D: [Medalworthy behavior]/VALOR is just one of the V words in the middle of the puzzle. VELDT, VENOM, VALUE, VIED.
- 34D: [Tony’s portrayer on “NYPD Blue”]/ESAI. My husband and I were watching the new sci-fi series Caprica the other night. ESAI Morales plays a dad who’s a Taurian, meaning he’s from the planet of…Taurus? Tauria? I don’t now. Caprica sounds like a Buick, doesn’t it? I think it’s another planet. Not sure why the place names sound like signs of the zodiac.
- Dan Naddor did it! He found a trivia fact about crossword constructors’ favorite car that freshened up the clue. 45D: [Last Olds off the line]/ALERO. I checked Wikipedia and sure enough, it was the last Olds off the assembly line. You know what’s sad? They saved the very last car and put it in a museum. Because isn’t that how Oldsmobile should be remembered, with a dorky compact car?
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “And the Nominees Are…”
Crap. I clicked a button in WordPress and the Fireball write-up vanished, never to be retrieved. What did I say? Here’s a summary: Peter’s annual Oscar puzzle (constructed as soon as the nominations are out) up-sized to a 19×19 to accommodate 10 nominees for Best Picture. He bundled them together in the theme entries in list form so they could adhere to crossword symmetry (and because one film,UP, has only two letters). DISTRICT 9 gets its numeral with a 9 AM crossing.
I figured we’d be waiting until Thursday for the Oscar puzzle, but no, Peter likes to show off and get that annual puzzle out on Tuesday after the nominations are announced. The nominations came out at 7:30 Central and Peter’s puzzle arrived about five and a half hours later. (And a non-Oscar Fireball will arrive Thursday, per the usual schedule).
Favorite clue: [Heat setting] for MIAMI, home of the NBA team the Heat.
If you always liked Peter’s Oscar puzzles in the Sun but haven’t signed up for Fireball Crosswords, it’s not too late to subscribe and get this one.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
The theme is SUPER BOWL / PARTY FOULS, and each theme answer is a football foul redefined as a “party foul.” CHOP BLOCK? I’ve never heard of that one. FALSE START, HOLDING, OFFSIDE, and DELAY OF GAME are more familiar, but their party-centric clues were difficult for me to make sense out of. The entire theme ran afoul of my wheelhouse, really.
46A: [Servicing]/IN AID OF didn’t feel too natural, an the ORGONE/I-BEAMS/FLEXES crossings (which crossed PELLE) were slow to emerge too. 65A: ALAINA [___ Reed Hall (portrayer of Olivia on “Sesame Street”)] was a complete unknown for me.
Highlights: I learned that ECSTATIC means [Literally, out of one’s body]. We have ZIPCARs ([Urban vehicular rental option]) in my neighborhood, but also Chicago’s own I-GO CARS, which is what I went with first (didn’t know they weren’t both national urban chains). I like the double Muhammad action: AISHA was [The prophet Muhammad’s favorite wife] and ALI [The prophet Muhammad’s cousin].
Updated Wednesday afternoon:
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Sidelines: Adding on some extensions”
It’s rare to see a theme that hinges on the way letters are formed rather than on their sounds, meaning, or mere existence. I always dig such themes, though. The letters that have symmetry (like those in TOYOTA with left/right symmetry), the letters that can be flipped upside down (M to W, H), the letters that can be turned (N to Z), the letters that are formed by adding strokes to another (F to E, O to Q, P to B)—these kinds of letter play hit me just right.
So even though I had no idea that any “Man With a Van” existed (turning into MAN WITH A MAN by adding two downstrokes to the V), I loved this puzzle. The Jimmy Carter evocation where football player Vince Carter becomes MINCE CARTER…the MIAMI MICE, free of Don Johnson…the Favrey goodness of a Minnesota Viking reworked as MINNESOTA MIKING…and the adjective switch from venial sin to MENIAL SIN. I don’t necessarily love the theme entries themselves—I just love how they were derived.
Now I’m looking at NO THANKS and seeeing TOM HANKS with a reversal of the first three letters and one added stroke transforming the N into an M.
Highlights: The puzzle made me dredge up the name KIM WILDE. That “Kids in America” song was repurposed in the Jimmy Neutron movie about six years ago, so my son would know it too. Also liked screen CAPTURE (which I do several times a day to get the grid images here), the aforementioned NO THANKS, WATERSKI and SKOAL with neighboring SKs, and the inside-baseball clue for IDIOM, [Many a long crossword answer].