Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword, “Drivers’ Translations”
- 23a. [YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK…] clues PORK BARREL PROJECT. Well, that depends. When it’s economic stimulus money paying to repave horribly pot-holed roads in my city, it’s not pork, it’s long-awaited and much-needed funding, and it’s putting people to work. The tone-deafness of this one makes me wonder if the puzzle’s been in the queue since before the recession hit in ’08.
- 33a. This one’s more about other drivers, not the first-person driver. Indeed, a [MERGING TRAFFIC…] sign means PREPARE TO BE CUT OFF by drivers who are zooming too fast and trying to cut ahead in line. I don’t like the ill-mannered and impatient at bottleneck points.
- 45a. The stop sign only means COAST ON THROUGH if it’s late and deserted. My one ticket (or have I been pulled over more than once?) involved coasting through a stop sign in the suburbs at 2 in the morning, and the only other traffic anywhere around turned out to be a police car a half block away. D’oh!
- 61a. ROAD RAGE ZONE is unpleasant.
- 72a. [NO THRU TRAFFIC…] can be interpreted as “ooh, GOOD SHORTCUT.” My street gets a lot of through traffic during morning rush hour from impatient people trying to dodge a backed-up left turn lane.
- 88a. This one is weird. [STAY IN LANE…] clues IGNORE THIS SIGN. Do people often change lanes when they see that sign? It’s usually in tight construction zones, in my experience.
- 103a. [NO STOPPING OR STANDING…] clues LEAVE IF YOU SEE A COP. Well…yeah. But not on a busy street. I always laugh when someone gets ticketed or towed for parking on Michigan Avenue. I think the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile tried to double-park on Michigan. Dude! You can’t do that.
- 112a. KEEP IT UNDER EIGHTY is clued with reference to a speed limit of 65 mph. This clue is wrong. It should cite a speed limit of 55 mph.
I’ve got the time for only a few highlights:
- 21a. Good clue here. A good SCARE is an [Adrenaline producer]. Were you wondering what 5-letter gland was responsible? ADRENAL GLAND doesn’t fit, and it dupes the ADRENAL part of the clue.
- 95a. BASE TWO is the [Number system with only 0’s and 1’s]. Did you know that today’s date, 10/10/10, fits that? 101010 in binary is 42. Apparently 10 times more people than usual are getting married this Sunday to capture a cool anniversary date. Some are nerds excited by the binary number bit.
- 3d. HORSEPLAY is [Roughhousing]. Are there other words with a double H?
- 86d. The POTEMKIN was a [Famed Russian battleship].
Hey, anyone know what motivates the people who “play against the clock” on the NYT applet but post patently fake times? Here’s the leaderboard for the Friday NYT, at a few minutes before the Saturday puzzle came out. We know howardb is ACPT finalist Howard Barkin, and wmcclennan often posts impressive but plausible solving times. The rest of those folks? I dunno. But I bet Dan Feyer et al. have nothing to fear from them at tournament time. Some post implausibly fast times a lot, so it’s not that they just clicked the wrong button by mistake. I just don’t get the appeal.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Take It Easy”—Sam Donaldson’s review
This puzzle offers a nice change of pace, as it were. Cox and Rathvon take eight expressions containing an uptempo word and replace it with its more deliberate antonynm. The theme is super-easy to grok, but that doesn’t mean all of the theme entries fall so easily. Let’s review them with all deliberate speed:
- The [Leisurely moneymaking scheme?] is not a “get rich quick” idea but instead a GET RICH IN A WHILE plan. A nice introductory theme entry, as it’s apparent from the beginning what’s going on here and it’s a fun twist on a common expression.
- Rapid City is not [Where South Dakotans take it easy?]. That would be TORPID CITY. I like the word “torpid,” and Rapid City is on my bucket list of places I’d like to visit. So I suppose it’s easy to see why I liked this theme entry.
- The [Mush for the lazy cook?] would be POKEY PUDDING. I thought this played off “instant pudding,” but given that “instant” appears in the Lennon theme entry below, I’m thinking now that it was supposed to play off “hasty pudding” instead. Hmm.
- The [Laid-back young inventor?] is not Tom Swift, it’s TOM SLUGGISH. Okay, here are three facts about Tom Swift. Raise your hand when you get to the one you did not know: (1) Tom Swift was the child genius/adventuer protagonist in over 100 young adult novels; (2) though Victor Appleton is the credited author of all of the works, the name is a pseudonym used by several ghostwriters; and (3) “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle” has been cited as the inspiration for the modern taser (in fact, the taser’s name derives from “Tom Swift Electric Rifle”). I’m ashamed to say my hand was up at number one. Tom Swifites? Sure, I know those. But Tom Swift? Nope. I was a Hardy Boys kid.
- Here’s my favorite of the group: the [Unhurried delivery service?] is the PONY WHENEVER, instead of the Pony Express. Can’t you see the commercials (you know, even though there were no radios or TVs at the time of the Pony Express)? “When it absolutely, positively has to get there eventually, trust the Pony Whenever and its team of asses.”
- The [Long-awaited John Lennon single?] is TARDY KARMA. This had me flummoxed. Apparently the real title of the “Well We All Shine On” song is “Instant Karma.” (Granted, it’s the first two words of the song, but I never understood them anyway.) Check out the background in this clip of the song: Yoko’s knitting while blindfolded! C’mon, it was John’s birthday yesterday—go check out the clip.
- It was inevitable that there would be some take on “fast food,” right? The only question was what word would be used as the antonym. Slow? Dimwitted? Chaste? None of the above: the [Fare served little by little?] is GRADUAL FOOD.
- We get a nice closer as the punchline entry: the [War film in slo-mo?] is APOCALYPSE LATER, not Apocalypse Now.
The fill throughout is super-smooth, enabling my relatively fast solve. I especially liked the southwest, with its ACE HIGH, NOD OFF, GO SOFT, and TO BOOT. There’s little longer than six letters, though, and what there is doesn’t especially stand out as sparkly: LASAGNA, ABSTRACT, LORDSHIP, and LOUNGES are all perfectly fine, but none is very meaty (well, except maybe the lasagna). The only faux-clunker in the grid was UNDID—it just hurts my ears. But that’s my problem, not the grid’s.
The clues were on the easy side this week too. My three favorites were [Start of a quiz?] for WHAT, [Prudence, for one] for VIRTUE (I fell into the trap of searching for a surname to go with Prudence—and there aren’t many famous Prudences out there), and [Driveling researcher?] for PAVLOV.
I’m much happier with today’s solving time than the 30-minute-plus time I notched last week. But that doesn’t mean I knew everything in the grid. As usual, we have plenty of entries to fill another installment of Brushes with Lame, my weekly cataloguing of the stuff that was foreign to me.
- The [Beatified Junipero] is SERRA. Okay, when a two-word clue has one word I only kinda-sorta know and another that is completely unknown, I just move to the crossings and hope that I can derive it from there. Sadly, the first “R” in SERRA crossed with another unknown for me—more on that later—so I was playing the alphabet game until I got to the letter that made the most sense. SERRA has very common letters, so I better see if I can file this one away for later use: Junipero is the first name of Junipero Serra, an 18th Century friar credited with founding many of the missions in California. He was beatified in 1988, which means, I believe, that he is on the fast track to sainthood. It also means he is referred to as the Blessed Junipero Serra.
- [Tristram Shandy’s creator] is Laurence STERNE. If we can have a “Who the Hell Is Brendan Emmett Quigley” t-shirt, we can certainly have a “Who the Hell Was Tristram Shandy” shirt, right? Sterne’s novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, was apparently all the rage in the 18th century (clearly I need to work on my 18th century history), even though established contemporaries dismissed the work as trash. Maybe Sterne was the Stephenie Meyer of his day.
- RORY here is clued as the [Blues guitarist Block]. Previously, my universe of Rorys was limited to Calhoun and Culkin. Okay, and Gilmore.
- The [Phil of skiing fame] is MAHRE. Okay, I’ve heard of him and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him in crosswords before. But given that I had written MYNAH where MACAW sat, the resulting MYHRE looked just as plausible to me. I’m more embarrassed that I plunked down MYNAH off the M when I know that a mynah is not a parrot.
- The [De Valera of Ireland] is ÉAMON. De Valera was, according to a couple of online sources, a leading political figure in 20th century Ireland and one of the main forces behind Ireland’s Constitution. At least he’s not from the 18th century!
- [Maxim the writer] is GORKI, the entry intersecting our friend SERRA above. I know Maxim the magazine, and I know Maxim the rule of thumb. But Maxim the writer is new to me. The internets suggest Maxim Gorki’s surname was more commonly spelled “Gorky,” but that wasn’t what had me baffled. He was just an unknown, as I’m not at all up on my authors of socialist realism.
- [Herds of elk] are GANGS. They mark their territory by hoisting antlers over power lines.
- [The elder Dumas] is PERE. So I came away from this puzzle thinking there was some author named Pere Dumas. Good grief. “Père” means “senior,” as in Alexandre Dumas, père, author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, among other works.
If for no other reason than this being 10-10-10, I’ll give this puzzle a 10. And this review comes SWAK, or “sealed with a kiss” (clued here as the [X substitute?]). Until next week, little monsters, adieu.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 27”
This is a lovely themeless puzzle. Nothing too showy—aside from the mini-theme of two related 14-letter answers—but also nothing iffy or obscure. Among the smooth fill are a number of people’s names, which I’m generally fond of in a crossword:
- 18a. [Winner of acting, writing and directing Emmys from a single series] is ALAN ALDA. He won a supporting actor Emmy for his role on The West Wing, but the other Emmys were from M*A*S*H.
- 26a. A JENNY is a [Female ass]. Okay, so this one’s not clued as a person’s name.
- 27a. You might not know the name MIA Wasikowski. [She played Alice in 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”].
- 45a. [Queen Latifah’s first name] is DANA. Dana Owens. She’s terrifically talented both as a musician and as an actor.
- 47a. ANNA [Kendrick of “Up in the Air”] held her own opposite George Clooney.
- 48a. Jessica TANDY‘s the [Oldest Best Actress Oscar winner].
- 56a. [Singer in “Kismet”] clues DAMONE. Vic?
- 2d. HENRY VII was the [First Tudor king].
- 11d. John MILTON is your [“Samson Agonistes” author].
- 42d. ALOMAR is the [Last name of baseball brothers who separately won back-to-back All-Star Game MVP awards in 1997 and 1998]. Roberto and…Pedro? No, Roberto and Sandy, my husband says.
- 45d. [He sailed to India on the São Gabriel] clues Vasco DA GAMA. Speaking of European explorers, here’s a video suggesting we “Reconsider Columbus Day.” (The video says 10/12 is Columbus Day because it’s a year old. It’s 10/11 this year.)
- 50d. ICE-T is a [Gangsta rap pioneer].
Here’s the nomadic mini-theme:
- 19a. [One who covers a lot of ground?] is a ROVING REPORTER. My son just read the tale of Nellie Bly, who paved her own way as a reporter despite newspapers who wouldn’t hire a woman reporter, and then she pulled the stunt of traveling around the world in less time than Phileas Fogg’s fictional 80 days. (She made it in 72 days.) She went on to do other important work.
- 49a. [Result of some cellular activity] had me thinking of mitochondria rather than a cell phone’s ROAMING CHARGES.
- 1a. [Conchiglie] is Italian for SHELLS. Mmm, I’ll take mine stuffed with ricotta and topped with marinara sauce.
- 36a. [Burnout preventer, maybe] clues an old-school REST CURE. The “mental health day” is a short REST CURE.
- 52a. An [Einstein’s opposite] is an IMBECILE. I like the clue.
- 55a. MAL DE MER, or seasickness, is an [Affliction caused by water], or the motion thereof.
- 3d. Thank goodness [Finnish relative] isn’t looking for a Finnish word for, say, “nephew.” The ESTONIAN language is a relative of Finnish. Too many double letters and Ks, if you ask me.
- 4d. Good clue. A tree’s LEAVES? [They return in the spring].
- 34d. LANDS’ END is a [Sears subsidiary]. Yes, they accidentally put the apostrophe there, and deemed it too much trouble to fix.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Rated XXX”
This theme is a turkey. No, wait. Three Xs in bowling means three strikes, a.k.a. a “turkey,” but that’s got nothing to do with this theme. Neither does XXX-rated smut. Nor does the Roman numeral for 30. I’m not sure why the title has three Xs in it, because the theme is a TEN rebus in which Merl wants us to put a Roman X in each rebus square, though that would make the rebusized answers look nutty. (Edited to add: Oh, wait. The date is 10/10/10, ergo three tens, XXX.) BICENXNIAL? XNESSEE? Weird. There are 12 TEN/X rebus squares in all. The Xs are in plenty of shorter answers and not in all of the longer entries. Do I want to list 24 answers that aren’t particularly exciting aside from containing a rebus? Nope.
My favorite answer in here is UNHOLY MESS (49a: [Utter shambles]). Has anyone done a negate-the-negation theme with a HOLY MESS in it?
Least favorite answer: ROBTS, clued woefully with 70d: [E. Lee et al., briefly]. I’m sure Merl was knowingly playful with that clue, but there is no such thing as a famous “E. Lee.” I’ve edited a clue to add the “___” before “Jessica Parker,” as [Jessica Parker] is a terrible clue for SARAH without the blank to fill in.
Don Gagliardo’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Perfection”
Okay, so apparently more than one constructor hit on the 10/10/10 date as inspiration for a TEN-filled theme. In this puzzle, the word TEN appears within each theme entry as well as by itself with an explanatory clue:
116d. TEN is the [Theme answer count, amount of letters in each, word hidden in each, and, when repeated twice, today’s date].
Hey! Look at that. I didn’t notice while solving that the theme entries were each 10 letters long, nor that they numbered 10. Here they are:
- 22a. [Audible sleep aid] clues WHITE NOISE, which is also the title of an ’80s Don Delillo novel my husband is reading. He keeps rambling about “airborne toxic events,” that phrase being pretty much all I remember from reading the book when it was new.
- 24a. [Stadium ticket datum] is the GATE NUMBER. Eh, kinda boring.
- 43a. [Hiker’s snack] might be a DATE NUT BAR. Eh, more boring.
- 46a. [It’s transferred from iron to pants during pressing] clues HEAT ENERGY. Also flat.
- 67a. [Barely sufficient] is JUST ENOUGH.
- 69a. [You, to you, at times?] might be your own WORST ENEMY. I’m torn on whether I like this answer or not.
- 83a. [Warning sign] clues DO NOT ENTER.
- 88a. WITHOUT END means [On and on].
- 112a. [Agreed to a proposal] is a good, slightly misleading clue for GOT ENGAGED.
- 114a. My kid just got a LATE NOTICE from the school library, a [Library reminder]. Except it was probably labeled “overdue notice.”
- 10d. [Laser entertainment] makes for a LIGHT SHOW.
- 52a. The clue [An atheist can’t be one] tells me that an ELK and the whole Benevolent Protective Order of Elks is not up my alley.
- 58d. An [Instrument that’s not seen and not heard] is the AIR GUITAR.
- 65d. [Cool sitcom guy] clues the FONZ from Happy Days. Utterly dated pop-culture bit, and yet Fonzie has a certain timelessness for members of my generation.
- 87d. [Banjoist, e.g.] clues TWANGER. Especially for SethG, I am honor-bound to cite this line: “Froggy, plunk your Magic Twanger!”
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Happy 10-10-10! (Looks like hoped-for judges’ results from Dancing With The Stars!) Hope you can read my posted solution; I’ll be blogging the Sunday thru Tuesday CS puzzles now (sharing the load with my partner in crime, janie) and to mix things up a bit, I wanted to scan my paper solutions instead. (You can see where I had trouble by my write-overs; I don’t erase, I just correct on the fly!) As you can probably tell, this one didn’t provide too much resistance. It also has a neat mini-theme of the four entries that span the top and bottom of the grid, which I like to call “Baby Talk”:
- “Shindig! dancer” is a GO-GO GIRL. This is a series I have never heard of; I see it ran in the mid-60s and was replaced in 1966 by Batman. When I think of go-go girls, I think of a show that ran a bit later, Laugh-In. Sock it to me!
- “Eyes and Dolls” descriptor is GOO GOO. Like how the clue plays off of the show Guys and Dolls. Goo Goo Dolls is a band name; “Iris” was their big hit from the late 90s:
- “Search party?” is GOOGLE – Google is showing up a lot in our grids lately; I wonder if this is a plot from Tyler Hinman to plug his new employer?
- No grid would be complete without LADY GAGA. She and her “little monsters” have descended on the Boston Garden many times in the last year (and she’s coming again in early March); it’s quite a show seeing what the concertgoers are wearing as I’m there waiting for my evening train.
My two sticking points were both in the middle of the grid–spelling the Japanese ARIGATO with a leading O, which I corrected when finding the crossing PARANOIA (I’m afraid someone was watching me when I made that mistake…or am I just being paranoid?) and I took “Building blocks” less literally, starting with ADDONS before ADOBES. (Recovered nicely turning that O into a B, huh?)
Finally, having the movie Life Is Beautiful running down the middle is a nice touch. I still remember how excited Sophia Loren was when she announced that Roberto Benigni won the Best Actor Oscar that year. I remember enjoying the movie quite a bit; should add that to our Netflix queue to see how it holds up 12 years later.
Celebrate the rest of “perfect 10” day!