(1) Happy birthday to our fearless leader, Amy Reynaldo! I had my first guest stint on this blog last year at this time, and it’s an honor to cover for her again this year as she once more celebrates her 29th birthday. Amy, I know I speak for all the Little Fiends in wishing you another year of health and happiness and thanking you for your extraordinary devotion to this craft.
(2) The CHE puzzle did come out (later) on Friday after all, so the Friday post has been updated to include it.
(3) Amy returns tomorrow, as I’m too scared to cover the Monday puzzles.
Daniel C. Bryant’s New York Times Crossword, “Is There an Echo in Here?”
Daniel C. Bryant is back with his first NYT puzzle in nearly two years. The seven theme entries phonetically repeat the last word of certain phrases, and the clues assume the “echoed” phrases are actual terms.
- The [Underachiever’s motto?] is MAY IT EVER BE SO-SO. We’ve come a long way in 20-some years. Remember in the early 90s when schools sent teens home for wearing Bart Simpson t-shirts with the expression, “Underachiever and Proud of It?” Now schools are just happy that the kids are wearing shirts.
- A [Majorcan affirmation?] is MEDITERRANEAN SI SI, a play on the Mediterranean Sea. Not much to say here, so let’s move on, shall oui oui?
- The centerpiece theme entry is the expression for [Registering a poddle?], LICENSING FIFI (from “licensing fee”).
- The [Guy holding a Hostess snack cake?] is THE MAN WITH THE HO-HO. This is based on the Edwin Markham poem, “The Man with the Hoe,” which in turn is based on the Jean-François Millet painting, “L’homme à la houe.” Okay, that’s too much culture for me, so we need an apt antidote. Go ahead and click it–you can always come back.
- The [Words of caution from Rodolfo?] is DON’T TREAD ON MIMI, playing on the famous “don’t tread on me” motto. Perhaps a reference to La Bohème?
- The [Reservation at a Johannesburg restaurant?] is a TABLE FOR TUTU, as in Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The best last night host, TV’s Craig Ferguson, interviewed Tutu in a 2009 episode that won a Peabody Award. Ferguson’s monologue starting at the 6:20 mark in this clip is the best four-minute history lesson ever.
- The [Landlord’s ultimatum?] is RENT OR BYE-BYE. This one vexed me for a while because the last word in the base phrase (here, “rent or buy”) is three letters long, not two. Well, that and I insisted that the [Slithering menace] was SNAKE instead of COBRA.
I thought the fill had plenty of highs and lows. On the high side: GAY PRIDE, the [Annual parade subject]; SPINDLIER, clued [More thin and frail]; UNLEARNT, as in [Not yet acquired, as knowledge]; RASSLER, slang for a professional wrestler, like [Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant]; DAY ONE, clued as [The beginning]; AT LUNCH; AS OF NOW; and NOT QUITE. On the low side: a northeast corner with SRTAS, SSSSS, and the awkward plural NOLOS (any one of which in isolation is forgivable, but as a trio it’s fugly); DICTS, the [Library shelfful] abbreviation for dictionaries; another awkward plural in ROTCS; NAMABLE, a legit but rarely used term; and various other abbreviations like IRT, PHYS, ENTOM, SCH, and ISR.
Some of my favorite clues included [Sitcom with three stars] for M*A*S*H, [Cream, e.g.] as a wonderful misdirect for TRIO, [Dom ___, “Inception” hero] as an about-as-contemporary-as-it-gets clue for COBB (I’m looking forward to seeing this movie on Tuesday), [Gently roast … or something thats’ roasted] for RIB, [Something that’s “Miss” titled?] for PAGEANT, and [What’s expensive in Paris?] for CHER. With her taste for the extravagant, I would have thought Cher is expensive everywhere.
There were a few tough nuts to crack here. Among them:
- I resisted SWEEP as the answer to [7-0 record, e.g.] because to me that clue means “undefeated.” A baseball team that’s 7-0 would likely have swept at least two series. [Go 4-for-4, e.g.] would be a more accurate clue, I think.
- I can summarize most of what I know and like about curling in two words: Cheryl Bernard. So the fact that the [Canadian curling champtionship] is The BRIER is news to me. Even though the subject is mostly foreign to me, I like the clue.
- AEOLIAN is not a race of aliens on “Star Trek.” It means [Windblown]. So sayeth the clue.
- SIENA is the [Tuscan town, home of the painter Duccio]. With a name like that, I have to believe Duccio took up painting as an outlet for his frustration in never getting a date to the prom.
But nothing, nothing in this puzzle was as monstrously tough as the extreme northwest corner. It killed me. I had POD as the [Group of whales], but this grid wanted GAM. (Whales have killer legs?) I held on to AWAY as the answer to [“Go ___!”], but it’s the much friendlier ON IN. And then there’s the confluence of four writers–my kryptonite. The [Hersey novel setting] is ADANO–which I suppose is easy if you know that John Hersey is the author of “A Bell for Adano.” If you don’t, well, these crossings aren’t exactly going to bail you out so easily. I wonder how many others will go Google GOGOL (now there’s a tongue twister), the [Writer of the short story “The Overcoat”]. Gogol crosses the [Fin de siècle writer Pierre] LOTI. Hmm, I wonder when he wrote? One website describes his work thusly: “Loti’s fin-de-siècle readers were captivated by the blend of gentlemanly eroticism and fashionable melancholia that his books exuded.” I can relate–my writing likewise exudes gentlemanly eroticism. And Loti crosses PNIN, the [Vladimir Nabokov novel] about a random collection of letters. Holy Schnikes, what a corner!
Merl Reagle’s Syndicated Crossword, “S-capade”
- The answer to the old riddle, [Q: “How did you know I was a tea connoisseur?” A:___] is BY YOUR LEAVES (“s” added to the phrase “by your leave”). Fun way to start, but then I thought all the other theme entries would be in riddle form, so now it seems a little peculiar.
- The [Glasses for really, really sensitive eyes?] are NIGHT SHADES. Really? The clue needed to repeat “really?” Really?
- A [Raft?] would be the chief form of RAPIDS TRANSIT. Inner tubes would be a bit too bumpy.
- JACKS IN THE PULPIT is [What the preacher’s kid likes to play?]. This theme entry makes the puzzle bloom.
- To [Punch actor George?] is to BELT SANDERS. George Sanders? Couldn’t we have socked the KFC colonel instead?
- [“If you cut your hair that way, Alice, you’re goin’ straight to the moon!”] clues BANGS? ZOOM! But didn’t Ralph Kramden say “Pow” and not “Zoom?”
- [The real thing at Southern diners?] is TRUE GRITS.
- The [Tool with many uses?] is MULTI-PLIERS. Hmm. “Multipliers” is an actual word (just as belt sanders and nightshades are real things too). This is starting to feel a little inconsistent.
- THE PELICAN BRIEFS are [What Dad the fisherman is tired of getting every Christmas?]. Is that a pelican in your briefs or are you just happy to be out fishing?
- OUT OF THE BLUES is [Whence rock ‘n’ roll came?]. This might be the first time in English language history when “whence” appeared next to “rock ‘n’ roll.”
- The [Cookie Monster’s usual newspaper request in N.Y.?] is GIVE ME TIMES. That’s a fun image–Cookie Monster calling room service and ordering oatmeal raisin cookies and an espresso along with the Times. I can see Guy Smiley as the room service staffer delivering the goods on a silver platter to a pajama-clad Cookie Monster.
- [Filmin’ Jeremy?] is SHOOTIN’ IRONS. I’m guessing this is based on the 1927 movie “Shootin’ Irons,” thus justifying the absence of the G.
While the theme entries may be a little uneven, there’s no denying the prowess in squeezing 12 of them in this grid without overly compromising the fill. In fact, the stacked sevens in the corner are quite nice, with EMPRESS and BOHEMIA in the northwest and ARNOLDS and CAGIEST in the southeast. Merl normally relies on partials to make things fit, but there are only five in this grid, and all are perfectly fine by me. Other highlights in the fill are GO FOR IT, LIGHT UP, and [Pitcher Jamie] MOYER, who I believe recently set the record for most home runs ever surrendered by a pitcher–a testament to his longevity. If you give up a lot of home runs, you usually don’t stay in the major leagues for very long.
About the only hesitation for me came in the far north, where NGO sits atop FALA, the [First Dog of the 1940s]. That made it a little tricky to uncover LEAVES, but not for long. Today’s embarrassing confession: MOLT was the right answer to [Birds and snakes do it]. I wanted POOP. After all, everybody poops.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Homeys”
- The [Homey of TV hosts?] is SHACK PAAR, a riff on Jack Paar.
- The [Homey of the Celtics?] is CABIN McHALE, a fast and loose take on legendary power forward Kevin McHale.
- The next two are paired together: PUEBLO CASALS (Pablo Casals) is the [Cellist homey] of A-FRAME ZIMBALIST (Efram Zimbalist), the [Violinist homey]. I know Efram’s son, Efram Zimbalist, Jr., as one of the stars of TV’s “The FBI” and the father of the “Remington Steele” actress, Stephanie Zimbalist. I had a major crush her during high school. But I did not know that Efram, Sr., was a violinist, so that slowed me down.
- The [Homey of the Lenape tribe?] is WIGWAM PENN, from William Penn. Hmm, I’m not sure “wigwam” is close enough to “William” phoenetically to make this work.
- The [Homey of the “Cheers” cast?] is CHALET LONG, an adaptation of the actress who played Diane, Shelley Long. Long also won the National Forensic League national championship in original oratory while a high school student. I felt you ought to know that.
- The [Homey of former Red Sox?] is MANOR RAMIREZ, from Manny Ramirez. Whenever the old home creaks too much, it’s just Manor being Manor.
- The [Homey of Plains writers?] is VILLA CATHER, a take on the great American writer of frontier life, Willa Cather. You know, because every Plains writer has a homey.
- My favorite comes last. The [Homey of pageant emcees?] is YURT PARKS, a funny variation on Bert Parks, the longtime host of the Miss America telecast.
I found the edges of the grid relatively easy, and the middle relatively tough. Most of my problem centered around PUEBLO CASALS and A-FRAME ZIMBALIST. (Anyone else now think of Patrick Berry when they see “A-frame house?”) This grid required the solver to know lots of proper names. I’m okay with names in my puzzles, so this didn’t freak me out. But it felt like there were a disproportionately high number of people featured here: [Arthur’s sire] UTHER, Leslie CARON, Pat BENATAR, NICOL Williamson, AARON Neville, ILKA Chase, trumpeter Ray NANCE, Mario Vargas LLOSA, tennis player MARCOS Baghdatis, cager LATOYA Thomas, Archbishop EGAN, racer Rick MEARS, Ned BEATTY, and even the fictional Rick O’SHAY from last week’s Boston Globe puzzle.
The fill was generally fine, though DE-RAT, clued as [Free of vermin], is both gross fill and a gross image. I so wanted to cry foul on this one, but the Cruciverb database shows 23 prior uses of the word. May I add DE-ROACH to my word list? DE-ANT?
Continuing the long-standing tradition (okay, it’s the second week), let’s get a handle on my ignorance with this week’s Brushes With Lame (TM):
Final thoughts: [Site of the last Expos game] is a sad clue for SHEA (Stadium)–couldn’t Major League Baseball ensure that the last game ever played by the Expos would be held in Montreal? [Hero in Philly] was a fun clue for HOAGIE, largely because my first thoughts were FRANKLIN and ROCKY. BASTE may not be the most exciting fill, but [Squirt juice over] is a lively clue indeed.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post Crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 19”
Whenever I see Karen Tracey’s byline, I think three things: (1) there will be no partials and few abbreviations; (2) there will be a plethora of rare letters; and (3) there will be two or three names or places with which I will have NO familiarity AT ALL. For the most part, this puzzle fulfills these expectations.
There are no partials in the grid, but a fairly high number of abbreviations. LIC (for license), SRS (seniors), ANTH (anthology), SSA (Social Security Administration), N. MEX. (um, New Mexico), MSEC (millisecond), ETD (estimated time of departure), and SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope)–that’s eight in a 68-word grid–only 11% of the total entries, but that seems like more than normal.
We’ve got some rare letters, too, with a pair of Zs in the northeast corner, an X, a J, and a couple of Ks. To me the most impressive part of this contruction is having the two 14-letter entries partially stacked about double 9-letter entries, both instersecting a pair of stacked 10-letter entries. That feature may account for half of the aforementioned abbreviations, meaning they were the price to pay to get the elegant stacked entries.
And of course we have the “Huh?” entries, led by this puzzle’s white whale. It Who Shall Not Be Solved Without Crossings. Put the kids to bed–they shouldn’t see this at such a young age. Here it comes: ESBJERG! (Gesundheit.) The [Danish city near the Men at Sea monument] is a cacophony of consonants that look all kinds of wrong when smushed consecutively in the grid. I am tempted to cry foul, but won’t because all of the crossings were fair–yet even with all of the crossings in place I had zero confidence in my answer.
My toehold came at 11-Down with ZIRA, the [“Planet of the Apes” character played by Kim Hunter]. About all I remember from the original Planet of the Apes is Zira, Cornelius, and part of the Statue of Liberty (oops, should I have said “spoiler alert” there?). The northeast corner thence fell quickly, and with SMASH in place I figured that the [Hollywood success] was BOX OFFICE SMASH. Soon the nothwest was complete too and it was off to the southwest. I got OMAHA, the [Texas hold’em alternative], without any help, and somehow pulled NIKON, the [Leica competitor], from the cobwebs inside my brain. Unsure that [Hamlet’s sister, in the comics] could be HONI, I left the corner alone to tackle the southeast, home of ESBJERG. That’s where the wheels almost came off.
Random observations about the fill and clues, organized by bullets to make them appear less random:
- [Piccolo player] is a great clue for James CAAN–a solid start at 1-Across. Caan played Brian Piccolo in “Brian’s Song.” As William Shatner would say, “Caaaaan!” Oops. Wrong Khan.
- Did not know the [New Zeland aviation pioneer Richard] was PEARSE. Having just now looked up “Pearse” on Wikipedia, it may well be that Richard is the most famous of the Pearse clan.
- [Not-so-nice digs?] had me thinking of slum housing for the longest time. Sometimes I miss those question marks on the ends of clues. The correct entry is POTSHOTS, or insults.
- [Battle of ___ (World War II event of May 1943)] is such a gimme clue for ATTU. I mean, every school kid learns this early on, usually just after the names of Columbus’s ships. Right?
- Did you know that a RASTER is a [Line-by-line scan pattern]? I sure didn’t. And I’m not sure that I do now, to tell you the truth–and that’s after reading about it on Google.
- I thought [Joint tenants] was a clever clue for PRISONERS, occupants of “the joint.”
- [Flames] was a tricky clue for INAMORATAS. My dictionary says an inamorata is a “woman with whom one is in love or has an intimate relationship.” This puzzle gives me the plural form–am I supposed to have more than one?
Gia Christian’s Los Angeles Times Crossword, “Knock ‘Em Dead”
Gia Christian anagrams to “It’s Rich Again,” so to give credit where it’s due, this puzzle was crafted by editor (and gentleman) Rich Norris. “Christian” drops the letter M from the start of one of the words in nine common phrases (thus knocking “em” dead) and clues that which remains. See for yourself:
- ABSENCE OF ALICE is [What would trouble Trixie if the Kramdens moved away?]. The answer is based on “Absence of Malice,” the terrific Paul Newman courtroom thriller.
- The [Parallel world?] is OTHER EARTH, borrowing from “Mother Earth.” I might have preferred OTHER GOOSE, clued along the lines of [The second pinch?]. But that’s why I’m not an editor.
- The [Badly burned British dish?] is BANGERS AND ASH, from bangers and mash. I can’t tell you why, say the Eagles, but I liked this one a lot.
- The [Pint-drinking buddies’ experience?] is ALE BONDING, which is a common way in which the base phrase, “male bonding,” really goes down.
- VICTORIAN ORALS is one way to describe a [19th-century queen’s tough tests?]. Part of me wonders whether Rich toyed with a clue for ORAL MAJORITY and just couldn’t make it work.
- JELLO OLD are the words Tonto might use to tell the Lone Ranger that the dessert course is no longer fresh. Or, as clued here, [“Wiggly dessert stale, kemosabe”]. If we’re going to use broken English, I prefer to reference Cookie Monster, as Merl did this week.
- I like the [Religious dissenters?], PRAYING ANTIS, from “parying mantis.”
- CHOCOLATE ILK describes the [Type that regulalry visits Willy Wonka’s factory?].
- The [Mischievous long-eared critter?] is the ARCH HARE, from march hare. Rumor has it the Arch Hare frequently enjoys tea with the Ad Hatter.
I like that four of the nine theme entries are in the Downs. I get that we’re trained to have most (usually all) of the theme entries in the Across position–probably because it’s easier on the eye. But I like to see it switched up once in a while with lots of theme answers in the Downs. Some of the better fill here includes MAKE ME, IN-BASKET situated next to MISH-MASH, IRANGATE, and IN A PINCH.
From the Good Clues Department: [Boss’s okays, often] is a nice clue for INITIALS, as is [Cars over the road] for ELS. The cars in question are railcars which run above the road in elevated rail systems. [Addition symbol] proved to be tricky clue for CARET. Took me a while to catch on that editors use a caret to indicate where additional text is to be inserted in an manuscript. I like how VULCAN is clued as [Spock, partly], since he is half-human after all.
I know the [Three-handed card game] SKAT only from crosswords. I have no idea how it’s played, and I know a fair number of card games. Is it fun? I never seem to remember LESAGE as the [“Gil Blas” novelist], but the crossings here made it easy. CANEM, the answer to [Cave ___: beware of the dog], “hounded” me for a while. I tried CANIS, CANIO, and CANEN first. Finally, when I saw [Hindu loincloth], I thought, “D’oh!” Turns out I was almost there: it’s DHOTI.
Okay, Amy, the conch is yours again. I hope you had a good time at Lollapuzzoola, and a pleasant stay in New York. And I hope your return flight wasn’t canceled this time.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Finally a Bob Klahn puzzle that didn’t eat me for breakfast! I do have to wonder though if I’m getting more accustomed to his cluing style or this was just an easier “Sunday Challenge” than usual? We’ll have to see if a trend develops next time he’s up.
Actor Mel Gibson leads the way with BRAVEHEART at One Across, the “Epic tale of Scottish patriot William Wallace.” William Wallace didn’t ring any bells for me, but put epic tale and Scottish patriot together for a 10-letter entry and bam! Mel has been having a rough go of it of late, he’s been dropped by his agency, and now has been named as a criminal defendant in a domestic violence suit. Oyvey! What would William Wallace do?
The ZEEs (or ZEDs, depending which side of the 49th parallel you take your puzzles) added quite a bit of spice–“Place to get hay from a kiosk” first made me think of an ATM machine (I believe “hay” can be slang for “money”), but it’s the real version that you could give to animals at a PETTING ZOO. Then I hope you didn’t “Fail miserably after starting well” when you came across FIZZLE OUT.
Other interesting entries include:
- Bob’s unique cluing style is shown off where E-FILING (“Returning returns, more and more”) crosses IRS (“Returns home”). In both cases, the “return” is a tax return. Isn’t our deputy blogger Sam a tax accountant? I bet he got these right off the bat!
- MASTIFFs are one of the largest breeds of dogs, surpassed only by Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes.
- The clue for GROUCHO Marx wasn’t much to go on: “…the one, the only, ___!” has probably been used for everything from Coca Cola to Chevrolets. I wonder if this was how he was introduced on “You Bet Your Life“? Indeed, he was!
Hope this puzzle wasn’t a BEAR (“Toughie”) for you either…see you next week!