Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword
Excellent Tuesday puzzle from Doug Peterson! Except for that middle theme entry that I’ve never heard of, but then, I’m not a shellfish fan. The five theme entries end with words that are worth $1 in other contexts but aren’t money when they appear in these phrases:
- 17A. [Disk-shaped sea creature] is a SAND DOLLAR.
- 24A. PASS THE BUCK means to [Shift blame to another]. The phrase does not use “buck” to mean $1 (the dictionary tells me this “buck” is short for “buck-handled knife,” which makes zero sense to me), so it’s consistent with the theme.
- 35A. [Chowder ingredient] clues SOFT-SHELL CLAM. I have heard of clam chowder, yes, and I know about soft-shell crabs, but I swear I have never encountered the term SOFT-SHELL CLAM. I Googled it and it’s completely legit, but it was new to me.
- 49A. With ****P SINGLE, I figured it was POP-UP SINGLE. What do I know about baseball lingo? The [Hit that just clears the infield] is a BLOOP SINGLE. This is only faintly more familiar to me than that clam.
- 58A. FORMULA ONE is an [Auto-racing designation].
The five theme answers make a nice bunch, don’t they?
Highlights in the fill:
- I rather like the AUEL/ALEUTS and MENSA/MENSCH crossings, with their shared letters.
- And I like the four corners, stretching to hold 6s, 7s, and 8s.
- 5A. TWANG is a [Banjo sound]. It’s folk singer Pete Seeger’s 91st birthday, and he has a way with a banjo.
- 15A. WATER gets clued as a verb: [Tend to, as plants].
- 64A. EXES are clued as [Ones who’ve been through divorce court]. These “ones” are not dollar bills.
- 18D. [Hornswoggle] is a great word. It means to cheat or DUPE someone.
- 34D. [Sound of thunder] is a CLAP. I like to interpret thunderstorms as rolling applause for me.
- 39D. MARIANAS [__ Trench (deepest point on Earth’s surface)]—raise your hand if you learned that when you were a schoolchild and never forgot it. It’s something like 35,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.
- 42D. Wasn’t [Orange part, e.g.] used to clue NAVEL the other day? Today, it’s a SEGMENT. That feels less intrusively personal.
- 44D. CLIMAX is clued discreetly as [Part of a book where you’re unlikely to stop].
- 45D. Learnin’! HORACE is the Roman [Poet who originated the phrase “harmony in discord”]. Why, I’ve never heard that one.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Retaining Wails”—Janie’s review
A perfect pun of a title (and yes, I read it first as “Retaining Walls”…) sets just the right tone for this terrific puzzle whose three theme phrases are basically all about following the Archie Bunker directive to “Stifle yourself!” The “wails” that go up today are:
- 20A. “SAVE YOUR BREATH!” [“Don’t even bother!”].
- 38A. “KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON!” [Don’t get so excited!”]
- 54A. “HOLD YOUR TONGUE!” [Don’t say a word!”]
So there’s this in-character, in-the-language and snarky feel to the theme fill, and that keeps it lively. And there’s plenty of lively non-theme fill as well, in addition to some very specific, well-honed cluing. Here’s a perfect example: SIDESWIPE and [Give a Geo a glancing blow, for example]. While it’s clued in a more straight-forward way, I liked seeing TROJAN WAR [“Iliad” setting] in the grid. Nary a HOWITZER [Short cannon] to be found there, but lots of armed combat. Oh, yeah. And a big ol’ wooden horse…
Fill that’s fit for a nursery includes CHOO-CHOO [Thomas the Tank Engine, to tots], “WAH!” [Cry from a crib] and NANA, because this [Dog that saw its people fly] was in the nursery of the Darling home when Peter Pan came to claim his shadow and where he encountered Wendy, Michael and John and taught them to fly. Fill with an Eastern edge? That’d be Chinese-American architect I.M. PEI [Designer of Dallas’s Patriot Tower], EDO [Former name of Japan’s capital] and UDON [Japanese noodle]. (Because of the assonance, it’s nice how this word sits next to OONA in the grid–and nicer still that this crossword staple has a fresh twist in the cluing, [Chaplin granddaughter].) Fill with a clandestine feel? HARI (and not BOND) is that [Last name in spydom]–and how apt that her name crosses RADAR, clued today as [Something a spy might fly under].
Finally, some fave clues:
- [Bankroll] as a verb and not a noun for FINANCE.
- [Iron products in a salon?] for CURLS, since a curling “iron” produces…
- The sequential [Tablet brand that keeps you alert] NO-DOZ and [Alert], which is a verb here and no longer an adjective, for WARN.
- [Count with a dumbell] for REP. This one just makes me laugh. Took me a while to realize “count” was a verb and not a titled nobleman… (So does that make me the “dumbell”? Rhetorical question!!)
Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I believe this is Mr. Barocas’s debut crossword, and it’s an auspicious beginning. The theme is simple but not stale: Four phrases have nonchromosomal YY pairs, which look weird in the grid because how often do you see a double Y?
- 20A: [Roger Clemens has won it seven times] is about the CY YOUNG AWARD.
- 27A: The [Tammy Wynette classic] is “STAND BY YOUR MAN.”
- 46A: The [1618-’48 conflict] is the THIRTY YEARS’ WAR. True confession: I didn’t remember how many years the “___ Years’ War” was and waited for the crossings to help me out. Yes, I see the 1648 – 1618 = 30 math problem staring me in the face now but skimmed over the clue while solving.
- 53A: [Sunny color] is CANARY YELLOW.
- 58D: [There are contiguous pairs of them in 20-, 27-, 46- and 53-Across] clues WYES, the plural of the spelled-out name of the letter Y.
I Googled the constructor’s name to see if I’d written about him before but forgotten. I hope he’s the same Victor Barocas who translated English fairy tales for Fairy Tales in Latin: Fabulae Mirabiles because “huffabo et puffabo et tuum domum inflabo” (from “Tres Porcelli,” or “Three Little Pigs”) is kinda funny.
The fill is pretty smooth and contains plenty of echoes within. There’s ELECTRIC /EEL pointing toward both the marine menace ORCA and the slithery SNAKE. AUDI crosses a couple SATURNS, though the Chevy IMPALA is clued as a [Savanna grazer]. The PAN AM plane will LAND ([Finish a flight]). Your [Wisdom teeth, e.g.]/MOLARS are in the vicinity of a TONSIL ([Throat tissue]).
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Schoolyard Pranks: Platinum Edition”
- 17a. [More formal version of an ear-related prank?] might be a WET WILLIAM. Giving a “wet willie” is licking your finger and sticking it in someone else’s ear. I am afraid to look up the etymology for that, given that “willie” is slang for, well, you know.
- 33a. [Chest-related prank with a more posh color option?] clues VIOLET NURPLE. The rhyming “purple nurple” is also called a “titty twister” and involves twisting and yoinking of another’s nipple.
- 40a. [Dignified version of a punch-to-the-leg prank?] clues CHARLES HORSE. Now, I know a charley horse is a cramp in the calf, but I did not know it was the name for punching someone in the leg too.
- 57a. [Version of a punching prank for a more refined palate?] is a HERTZ TORTE, a torte being a much classier pastry than the common donut. Do you know this prank? I didn’t learn it until adulthood, from my husband’s sister. You ask someone if they’d like a Hertz donut. They ask what that is. You punch ’em in the upper arm and say “Hurts, don’t it.”
- 4a. [Rockin’ out] is JAMMIN’. Appropriate fill for Jonesin’.
- 21a. Chuck WOOLERY! I remember back when he was the host of Wheel of Fortune, with Susan Stafford in the Vanna slot. The way she kicked up her heel when proffering her cheek for a kiss—I tell you, a generation of American girls learned a lot from that. He’s the [Chuck who told viewers he’d “be back in two and two”] on, uh, some later show. Maybe Love Connection?
- 4d. [Fast-moving ball game] is JAI ALAI, which hardly ever gets its full name in the crossword. It’s always Jai ___ or ___ alai.
- 25d. “GEE WHIZ” and [“Shucks”] are equivalent.
- 33d. VCR REPAIR was a [Correspondence course for fix-it types, once]. So quaint now.
- 59d. I have never seen TVM before—[“I really appreciate that,” while texting]. It must be short for “thanks very much.” TYVM would be nicer, wouldn’t it?