Charles Deber’s New York Times crossword
In my role as a crossword evangelist, I was just telling some folks (hi, Eric J.!) to beware of Thursday trickery in the NYT crossword. Sure enough, this puzzle’s theme comes loaded with trickery. It’s not about Hamlet’s soliloquy—just 38a: NOT TO BE, or [Ill-fated … or a hint for answering the six starred clues]. The six starred clues’ answers are incomplete in the grid, having lost their TO BEs. Here are the theme entrues:
- 17a. [*”I don’t know yet”] clues THAT REMAINS (to be) SEEN.
- 24a. [*1968 #2 hit heard in “Easy Rider”] is BORN (to Be) WILD.
- 50a. [*1924 Isham Jones/Gus Kahn song] is IT HAD (to Be) YOU.
- 58a. [*”No WAY!”] clues YOU’VE GOT (to be) KIDDING.
- 3d. [*Memorable movie quote of 1932] is Greta Garbo’s I WANT (to be) ALONE.
- 30d. [*Like someone who’s had a narrow escape] is LUCKY (to be) ALIVE.
The answers that have jettisoned those two words read like spam, don’t they? I’m not wild about themes whose answers look bizarre rather than, say, funny.
Get a load of the oddball names in this crossword:
- 5a. [Gov. Faubus in Arkansas history] is the most famous ORVAL we’ve got.
- 29a. [English fashionista Bartley] LUELLA is perhaps not as famous as erstwhile gossip columnist Louella Parsons, but she is surely the most well-known Luella out there. And yet I’ve never heard of her, despite reading the blog Go Fug Yourself, which covers British fashionistas unknown to most Americans. Wikipedia tells me she’s a designer. I didn’t realize “fashionista” could also mean designer and not just a slave to fashion. Huh.
Least favorite fill:
- 43a. [Boozer] = ALKY. I prefer the “alkie” spelling but could do without either version, frankly.
- 5d. [Length in years of a lenient sentence, maybe] = ONE TO TWO. Feels mighty arbitrary. Not at all “in the language” the way “5 to 10” and “15 to 20” years are.
- Two partials: 8d: [Arthur Miller play “___ From the Bridge”] = A VIEW. 51d: [“That’s ___ subject”] = A SORE.
- 25d. [Vaquero’s rope] = REATA. You never know if you’re getting REATA or the RIATA spelling.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Mermaids”—Janie’s review
Saw the title and had zero idea of what to expect—but was intrigued as to how it would play out. As it turns out, this is not a tribute puzzle to Madison (Darryl Hannah’s character in Splash) and Ariel of The Little… or even to the movie of the same name starring Cher and Winona Ryder. What we have here instead is a pun puzzle and Sarah has completed the assignment by assembling four A-List ladies (from TV, pop music, the White House and film) and replacing their first names (Oprah, Tina, Bess and Salma) with fish-family sound-alikes. This is how we meet the likes of:
- 17A. OPAH WINFREY (Swimming media entrepreneur?). Thought at first that all of the theme fill might use the “drop-letter” approach. Wrong…
- 31A. TUNA TURNER (Swimming female rock artist?). This one makes me giggle as I think about the I, Tunaautobiography.
- 47A. BASS TRUMAN (Swimming former first lady?). Reminiscent of the piscine treatment of the Gershwin opera set, appropriately enough, on Catfish Row, Porgy and Bass…
- 63A. SALMON HAYEK (Swimming Mexican-American actress?).
While I can’t say that any of the women would choose these new names as their PET NAME, surely they’d recognize that in the context of today’s puzzle, each is an (Affectionate appelation). For solvers who enjoy geography-related fill, this puzzle gives us not only Africa’s NAIROBI (Kenya’s largest city), but the URALS (Russian range) and ARAL, that (Shrinking Asian sea). This last one contributes to an Asian mini-theme as well with TAI (chi (Chinese martial art)), KUNG-FU (Martial art featured in Bruce Lee movies) (also Chinese, btw) and TSO (Chinese menu general). Regular solvers of the CSpuzzles will note that we saw both Tso and Kung-Fu just yesterday (with Tso being clued identically).
Those triple 6-columns SW and NE give us some b fill—like BLOTTO (Three sheets to thewind), (Café) AU LAIT (which might be useful in re-establishing sobriety), DROP IN (Pop over) and SEVERE (Like some winter weather). Other sixes that I particularly liked were DEEPEN (Intensify) and OLD PAL (Buddy from way back).
Finally, I like the lilting clue (Where dos are done) for SALON; ditto the upbeat feel we get from both “NIFTY!” (“Neato!”) and SUPER (Terrific). Upbeat works fer me!
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times Crossword – Jeffrey’s Review
- 20A. [Naughty object of Beethoven’s affections?] – IMMORAL BELOVED
- 38A. [Beethoven’s naughty opus?] – EROTICA SYMPHONY
- 53A. [Where to hear Beethoven’s naughty music?] – BANNED CONCERTS
One-line review for those in a hurry: Beethoven gets racy on his 240th birthday.
- 1A. [A whale has a long one] – JAW. What were you thinking?
- 4A. [Short pencil] – STUB. What were you thinking?
- 15A. [Lake Titicaca is partly in it] – PERU. This entire puzzle can be reviewed in such a different way.
- 17A. [Pure] – VIRGINAL. See?
- 22A. [X rating in old Rome?] – TEN. See?
- 33A. [Ding Dong relatives] – HO HOS. See?
- 35A. [Yoga position] – LOTUS. See?
- 43A. [__-ground missile] – AIR TO. See?
- 46A. [Biblical beasts] – ASSES. See?
- 60A. [Parker and Roosevelt] – ELEANORS. ELEANOR Parker is Rex’s mother, I believe.
- 2D. [Lively, to Beethoven: Abbr.] – ANIM.
- 7D. [Socket insert] – BULB. See?
- 8D. [Novus ordo __: Great Seal phrase] – SECLORUM. It probably means something rude.
- 9D. [Cupid’s missile] – ARROW. See?
- 13D. [She used to be a lambkin] – EWE. Is she related to the constructor?
- 18D. [Began to win a lot] – GOT HOT. See?
- 26D. [Provocation potential, as of a Howard Stern segment] – SHOCK VALUE. See?
- 34D. [Transgression] – SIN. See?
- 36D. [Steamy resort] – SPA. See?
- 39D. [Come together] – COALESCE. See?
- 54D. [Pocket vibrator, at times] – CELL. See?
- 57D. [Beethoven’s “Archduke,” for one] – TRIO
- 59D. [Hosp. heart ward] – CCU. I hope this puzzle doesn’t send you there.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Fresh Info” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: WikiFood. Food puns on the WikiLeaks story
- 17A. [Site that unearths classified produce documents?] – WIKILEEKS DOT ORG. One groan
- 22A. [Extremist discussed in some material released by 17-Across?] – OSAMA BEAN LADEN. Two groans
- 37A. [What the people at 17-Across do, among other things?] – TURNIP SECRETS. Three groans
- 47A. [What 54-Across promises to do if Interpol ever nabs him?] – BEET THE CHARGES. One groan
- 54A. [Founder of 17-Across?] – JULIENNE ASSANGE. Two groans.
One-line review for those in a hurry: Weird Al-ish topical puns
- 8A. [My grandfather registered one for a voltage regulator circuit] – PATENT. It appears to be patent number 3,370,217 (Martin S. Tausig). (nominee for best crossword blog research of 2010)
- 14A. [“So this piece of string walks into ___”] – A BAR and orders a pint. The barman looks at him and asks, “Are you really a piece of string?” And the piece of string answers, “No, I’m afraid not.” Three groans. (Editor’s note: No, no, no. Bartender throws the piece of string out of the bar. String bends over and roughs up his head end on the sidewalk and ties himself into a knot before walking back into the bar. Bartender says, “Say, aren’t you the piece of string I just threw out of here?” and the string replies, “No, I’m a frayed not.”)
- 15A. [WiFi password letters] – WPA. Wi-Fi Protected Access. Remember my “any three letters can be an answer rule”.
- 16A. [Best-selling fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini] – ERAGON
- 30A. [Beats by Dr. ___ (headphone line)] – DRE. Headphone line?
- 32A. [It’s about 400 miles from LAX] – SFO. I flew from SFO to LAX in September. Wow, that was even boring to write.
- 45A. [Letters on the scoreboard of a sad, sad sports town] – CLE. First thought was CHI.
- 67A. [“Bed Intruder Song,” e.g.] – MEME
- 7D. [Ringo’s drumming son] – ZAK
- 13D. [1990s Star Trek series abbr.] – TNG. The Next Generation was the best Star Trek. Make It So!
- 18D. [Actress Michele of “Glee”] – LEA
- 23D. [Hidden text embedded in video, in industry-speak] – SOFT SUB. More newness to me.
- 27D. [Will Shortz’s gig] – EDITING. Tried to fit “New York Times” in there.
- 33D. [Mall chain for bodybuilders] – GNC. I put GAP. That is so wrong, and yet, so right.
- 36D. [Medicare recipients: Abbr.] – SRS. Tried to put “All Canadians.”
- 39D. [Exam material you really wouldn’t want to memorize] – EYE CHART. Hint – the big letter is an “E.”
- 43D. [Gaming system with “Bubble Bobble”] – NES. It is always WII. Except when it isn’t.
- 46D. [Peak called “the little death” in French] – ORGASM. What you learn in crosswords.
- 49D. [Country singer Tucker] – TANYA
- 50D. [Jew sporting sidecurls, perhaps] – HASID. Perhaps.
- 55D. [It may precede sex] – UNI. Just a prefix. Nothing to see here. This ain’t the Los Angeles Times, you know.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Breaking Wind”
Surprisingly, it’s not a fart theme. Rather, there are three pairs of adjacent 7-letter answers that break WIND between them. As in the astronomically implausible ZARQAWI/NDEBELE pair. How often do we see either one of those words in a crossword, much less joined thematically? That dynamic duo in the middle of the grid is today’s highlight. IN A STEW/INDY CAR and ELBOW IN/DEBATED are less splashy.
Cluing note: DIS is defined here as [Denigrate, in the hood]. I suspect that a great many people under the age of 50 use the word DIS without feeling that they’re “talking like they’re from the hood.” It’s just a word now. Sure, it originated as black slang in the ’80s but it’s entirely part of American English now. (Not in formal writing, but in colloquial language? Absolutely.)
Favorite answers: INDY CAR, EX-WIFE, ORBACH. Plus the aforementioned ZARQAWI and NDEBELE, the latter of which I bet was a gimme for Gareth Bain.
Unfavorite answers: Plural suffixes ENES, ughs. REDYE. WIE clued as the golfer when there’s a perfectly good German clue for it. The preposition exposition: IN A STEW, IN FACT, ELBOW IN, ON OUR OWN, TWISTS ON, ON EDGE, ADDED IN. FROM is fine, but I do feel that Brendan leans more heavily on the verb+IN/ON gambit than most constructors. While ON EDGE and IN FACT are stand-alone phrases and ON OUR OWN is a title, the others don’t add flavor. (I recognize that other solvers think such answers are the bee’s knees. They’re marginally better than RE- and -NESS overuse.)