Paula Gamache and Ed Stein’s New York Times crossword—Sam Donaldson’s review
Amy’s off consulting with the American Policy Institute this evening. Something to do with crossword grids. Assuming she returns, she’ll be back with the rest of the puzzles tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun discussing the NYT puzzle in the meantime!
Paula and Ed have crafted an Ode to Heteronyms, words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings. The five pairs of seven-letter heteronyms in this puzzle intersect at their midpoints and are symmetrically placed. That’s 65 squares devoted to theme material, leaving only 10 entries in a 78-word grid (by my count) that do not cross a theme entry at all. Holy cow, that’s a lot of constraints! And yet very little felt forced during the solve.
Here are the heteronyms du jour (note that each pair consists of one noun and one verb):
- A [Bit of derring-do] is an EXPLOIT (emphasis on the first syllable), and to [Take advantage of] is to EXPLOIT (emphasis on the second syllable). I dig the term “derring-do.” An unadventurous person might engage in a “derring-don’t.”
- The [Here and now] is the PRESENT (emphasis on the first syllable), and to [Show, in a show-and-tell] is to PRESENT (emphasis on the second syllable). Wouldn’t simply [Show-and-tell] be a sufficient clue?
- [Lincoln’s famous one was just 272 words]. What is ADDRESS, Alex? To [Prepare to drive, as a golf ball] is to ADDRESS the ball. Hmm. Here the emphasis in both versions is on the second syllable. In all of the other pairs, notice, the Across clue leads to the version where the emphasis is on the first syllable and the Down clue leads to the version where the emphasis is on the second syllable. For consistency, I would have preferred that the Across clue here be something along the lines of [Two lines on a magazine subscription form]. Does anyone say “The Gettysburg AD-dress?” Say, that could be a theme….
- [Aromatic sticks] are INCENSE (emphasis on the first syllable), and to [Make boiling mad] is to INCENSE (emphasis on the second syllable).
- The [Home entertainment centerpiece] is a CONSOLE (first syllable emphasis), while to [Say “There, there” to, say] is to CONSOLE (second syllable emphasis). Drop the “to” in that latter clue and you’d have a fun mirrored clue: [Say “There, there,” say].
Despite the aforementioned constraints on construction, the fill overall is smooth. Any puzzle with SPRAT, the [Jack who could eat no fat], and DO IT!, [“Go ahead!”] does well by me. We have some things old (the crosswordese-y PFCS, EELER, ENL, and RELET), some things new (PREGO pasta sauce, actor VIGGO Mortensen, IMAX screens, media giant VIACOM), some things borrowed (EDAM cheese from the Dutch, AUDI from the Germans, and OUI from the French), and some things blue (like a SPEEDO swimsuit, perhaps).
The theme is easily ESPIED, [Spotted], once you get over the momentary “Huh?” of having the same word intersect itself in the grid. And that enabled me to finish in a relatively speedy Tuesday time. My only lasting pauses came in the puzzle’s heartland. I have no familiarity with [French actor Alain] DELON. (Wikipedia says he was known as “the male Brigitte Bardot.” As the male Angelina Jolie, I feel his pain.) And for whatever reason, I can never summon IDYL as the [Pastoral poem]. OMNIA [vincit amor] wasn’t too troubling–it’s the old expression, “love conquers all,” meaning it will suck your soul, take half of what you own, and leave you a shell of your former self. Good thing I’m not bitter.
Another hesitation came with the [Cremona craftsman], the violin maker AMATI. And were it not for easy crossings, I would have struggled with GESSO, the [Painting surface]. Same for ODETTE, the [“Swan Lake” swan]. I lost a little time trying DROPS and then DRIPS for [Small amounts] when this grid wanted DRAMS. Looking back at this list of unknowns, it seems to me this easily could have been clued as a Thursday puzzle, but perhaps the simplicity of the theme itself tilted the puzzle toward Tuesday. It worked for me–a most enjoyable Tuesday puzzle.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Everyone’s Gotta Eat”
Hah! I did not see that punch line coming. Sure, it seems obvious now, but I had to work to get that last bit of theme. The bulk of the theme entries spell out a question: WHAT WORD DO / VEGAN ZOMBIES / CHANT / AS THEY ATTACK? The answer, of course, is GRAAAAAINS. Because vegan zombies would never eat brains. Ick.
I grouse about most quote themes, but this riddle was fun, and the phrase VEGAN ZOMBIES looks incredible in the grid. There’s gotta be a band by that name on some college campus somewhere, right?
And now, two thirds of a dozen clues:
- 26a. [Famous naked horse rider] is Lady GODIVA. Anyone have Paul REVERE here? Or Eddie ARCARO?
- 43a. POP is clued [Go after a zit]. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not your daily newspaper.
- 53a. [Sound of being hit with a newspaper] is a solid WHAP.
- 1d. DAWS [___ Butler (voice of Yogi Bear)]…maybe I faintly remember this from childhood (having been an inveterate credits reader) and maybe I really don’t know it at all.
- 4d. [Trying to change society] is the noun ACTIVISM. I went with ACTIVIST first.
- 8d. [Liechtenstein’s capital] is VADUZ, and it’s those damn Sporcle geography quizzes that have cemented that in my head.
- 33d. [“Press ___ key to continue”] clues ANY. “I can’t find the ANY key. How am I supposed to work this thing? Grr!”
- 41d. [Like some softball teams] clues COED. See? Adjective. Not noun. Well played, Matt.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Q & A Sessions”—Janie’s review
Nope. No “questions and answers” herein. But “yes” to four two-word theme phrases whose first word begins with “Q” and second with “A.” Because of the constraints all those Qs present, there’s some odd-lot (and not always sparkly) fill at times, but the puzzle has its high-points, too. First the theme fill:
- 20A. QUEEN AMIDALA [Sci-fi role for Natalie Portman]. First name, Padmé. Ruler of the Naboo. For a full bio of the Star Wars icon, click here. I know the well-dressed queen appeared in Episode I (and II and III), but I think it’s also legit to say she appeared in PART I [Series opener], too. (Well, maybe not for the purists… At least I didn’t confuse this with ACT I [Theatre opening?].)
- 28A. QUARTER-AFTER [When the big hand’s at three]. Analog—quaint, no?
- 42A. QATAR AIRWAYS [One way to Doha]. And while we’re in the Middle East, note the way IRAQI [Chemical Ali, e.g.] shares the “Q” here. But, oh, Ali Hassan al-Majid a/k/a “Chemical Ali,” so named for his of chemical weapons in his attacks against the Kurds—is he really someone we needed to be reminded of here?… Almost makes MIKE TYSON (a/k/a “Iron Mike”) [Youngest boxer to win the WBA heavyweight title] look like a pussycat. (But on second glance, do note how that “A” in Iraqi is crossed by A RAT—as in [“I smell ____”]. The possible editorial comment works fer me!]
- 51A. QUAKING ASPEN [Tremulous tree]. It’s probably quaking because of its proximity to Chemical Ali…
Randy has only mixed success in finding other “real words” to cross his “Q” words. We do get the aforementioned Iraqi and QUOTA [Salesperson’s goal], too. But we also get the long (alphabet) [Run after M] N-O-P-Q-R and QE II, the [Legendary ocean liner, familiarly]. A splendid ship she is, too—though it looks like she’s actually known as the QE2. Well, I suppose a little license may be taken.
While we don’t get any more strings of letters, we do get a lot of initials, like literary letters RLS [“Treasure Island” monogram] (for Robert Louis Stevenson) and financial-world letters OTC [NYSE alternative] (for “over-the-counter” stocks). And where will you find the NYSE? On Wall Street, which gets a shout-out via STS [Canal and Wall in N.Y.C.]. Yum!, now the parent company of KFC [Colonel Sanders’ co.], trades on the NYSE as YUM. For Law & Order or Bones or The Closer or Numb3rs, tune in TNT, the [“We know drama” network]. If you want Star Trek reruns, however, and the chance to see life on the U.S.S. [Enterprise], looks like you’ll do best on the WWW…
I like the culinary feel of the Spanish PAELLA and the Asian SATAY and SOY SAUCE. Other fill that gives this grid some muscle includes ROAD TEST and RAINOUTS and THICK-SET and MESMER. To end on a high note, nice, too, how the “I” of INS [Happy folks on election night] crosses that of WINNER [Contented competitor].
Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I hadn’t figured out what the theme was when I made it down to the clue for the theme-revealing answer, and you know what? The clue didn’t give it away. 63a: [“Round” thing suggested by the first words of 17-, 26-, 46- and 61-Across]? At first I drew a blank on what sort of round thing that was, but the crossings said “TRIP, silly,” and then the PACK, LEAVE, STAY, and RETURN all made sense. Those verbs are included (still serving as verbs) in these phrases:
- 17a. [Have significant influence] clues PACK A PUNCH.
- 26a. [“Enough on this subject”] = “LEAVE IT AT THAT.”
- 46a. To STAY THE COURSE is to [Persevere].
- 61a. To [Respond at the front] is to RETURN FIRE.
I appreciate the consistency of using the key words as verbs in all four of those entries. PACK ANIMAL, LEAVE OF ABSENCE, STAY OF EXECUTION, RETURN ADDRESS—there are familiar non-verb options that were left on the table here.
- The letter sequence OLARI shows up in two answers. 21a: SOLARIUM is a [Sunroom], and 44d: POLARIS is another name for the [North Star].
- Two boxing clues: 20a: Muhammad [Ali trainer Dundee]’s first name is ANGELO, and 58d: IRON is clued as [Boxing’s “__ Mike” Tyson].
- 39a. [Disease cause] clues GERM. My kid’s watching a forensic science show while I blog. He just asked me, “What’s a pathogen?” So I explained patho- = disease and -gen = cause. Too bad PATHOGEN doesn’t fit at 39a because the clue is spot on.
- 64a. ENOKI are [Mushrooms used in Asian cuisine]. The word looks like it should be the name of something in the Star Wars universe.
- 3d. For [SOS responder, often], I was thinking of EMS. When the answer proved to be USCG, I thought to myself, “How ‘often’ are emergency calls handled by the Coast Guard? Pshaw.” Then I looked at the clue again: SOS, the message sent out by a boat in distress. Yep, that’d be the Coast Guard’s call.