Bob Klahn’s New York Times crossword, “Happy Birthday, New York Public Library!”
Monday is the 100th birthday of the N.Y.P.L. Mazel tov, Library!
In the applet, the long title and inclusion of “(See Notepad)” before the byline meant that all I saw of the byline was “B” for “By.” So I tried to guess who the constructor was while solving this 22×21 puzzle. The fill was interesting and lively throughout, so even though there was no architectural twist to the theme, I was thinking Elizabeth Gorski. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Bob Klahn! We don’t see his name atop Sunday-sized puzzles that often. This explains the tough fill, like this stuff:
- 2d. CAUSERIE = [Informal talk]. Not CHITCHAT, my first attempt.
- 11d. BOROGOVES = [“Jabberwocky” birds].
- 19d. MUGSY = [Cartoon criminal]. Huh?
- 27d. CAMBRIA = [Wales, in medieval times].
- 55d. ANDES = [Llullaillaco’s locale]. I know the Andes, but this Llullaillaco, I do not know. It sure has a lot of Spanish double-L’s.
- 49d. ORIBIS = [Small African antelopes]. You sort of wanted ORYXES, didn’t you?
- 110d. INFRA = [__ dignitatem]. I’m guessing this means “beneath dignity” but I’ve never seen the phrase before.
- 118a. KNURL = [Button ridge].
Highlights! We have them:
- STAYCATION at 59a, some LENTIL SOUP at 80a, the FATHA/FATWA meeting, BICEPS clued as 109a: [Pull-up pullers], TUBE TOPS at 3d (clued as [Stretchy garments], and I don’t know why it was so hard to figure that out), an ENERGY BAR at 7d, and [Bench warmer?] as the clue for a JUDGE at 113d.
Oh, did you want to talk about the theme? It’s odd bits of trivia about the New York Public Library, sort of a trivia-quiz-within-a-crossword challenge. I didn’t know a single one of them, and three of the five very long answers surprised me. The [first-edition printing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is, to its publisher’s chagrin, __] SUBTITLED “A PARIOTIC SONG,” typo and all. Washington’s beer recipe and Dickens’ dead cat’s paw? Also unexpected.
4.5 stars. I generally like Bob’s tough crossword answers when I figure them out—they’re not weird names of obscure people or little-known abbreviations, they’re interesting words. And the Scowlmeter remained at zero the whole time. Excellent fill, clever clues, plus a trivia quiz—what more do you want? What keeps it from being a 5-star puzzle is that it’s not a knock-your-socks-off memorable theme that we’ll still be talking about a couple years from now.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Products I’d Like to See”
This is a really tight pun theme—each pun turns a familiar phrase into a fake product that could be used to get rid of some vexing problem:
- 21a. [Anti-crop pest product?] turns “deliver us from evil” into DELIVER US FROM WEEVILS.
- 31a. [Anti-amphibian product?] is TOAD AWAY (towed away).
- 34a. [Anti-faucet leak product?] is KNOCK OUT DRIPS. Knockout drops = Mickey Finn, as in “slipped him a Mickey.”
- 52a. [Anti-dysentery product?] is ADIOS, AMOEBAS (amigos). Cute! My cousin-in-law once had an amoebic infection and it was a horrible experience—so yes, “Adios!”
- 72a. Welch’s grape juice becomes SQUELCHES, [Anti-grape stain product?].
- 87a. [Anti-insect product?] clues LOOK, MA, NO ANTS (hands). I like this one a lot.
- 103a. [Anti-“pests in general” product?] is THE VERMINATOR (Terminator). No editorial comment on Arnold Schwarzenegger intended.
- 106a. [Anti-dandruff product?] is FLAKE OFF. I’m not sure what this pun is playing on. Anyone?
- 120a. “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” turns into GOODBYE, YELLOWISH MOLD, an [Anti-fungus product (with an Elton John jingle)?]. That’s just plain goofy. I don’t know that I’ve seen yellowish mold, but I wouldn’t bet against fungi to pull that off.
Lucky seven clues from the rest of the grid:
- 44a. [Drillmasters?] clues OILMEN, dudes who drill for oil. I wonder how many women are in the oil industry these days.
- 114a. [Nick’s wife and others] would be NORAS. Nick and Nora Charles’ fictional dog is 115d: ASTA. If you’ve got to put ASTA in your grid, why not partner it with Nick or Nora?
- 130a. [French Revolution figure] is DANTON. I’ve seen the name but needed lots of crossings to pull it together.
- 14d. [Arkin-Falk comedy, “The ___”] IN-LAWS. A classic! You should see it for the “Serpentine! Serpentine!” scene on the tarmac.
- 37d. [Mil. trials] clues CMS. Pluralized abbreviation of court-martial, I presume—though I’ve never seen this abbreviation before.
- 64d. [Depp-Landau film] is ED WOOD, wherein Johnny Depp plays flaky ’50s schlock director Ed Wood. It’s a terrific movie. Martin Landau plays an aged Bela Lugosi.
- 73d. [Parenthesis alternative] is an EM DASH. If you want to set off some additional material—perhaps to further elucidate your point—you can use the em dash, particularly if you want to place some emphasis on the insertion. If the additional material is sort of beside the point (not really contributing to the main point of the sentence), you can hide it away inside parentheses.
3.5 stars. I enjoyed the theme, but some of the fill felt a little clunky to me (STYMY, ONE-A’S, and FROM ADAM all activated the Scowlmeter).
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This 72/30 freestyle has a little bit of everything–some juicy entries, some “huh?” entries, and some good glue connecting it all. What this puzzle does not have is crap fill, and that’s perhaps the most welcome thing of all. By my count, there are three entries that only hard-core critics would call “iffy:” ENL, TSE, and ESE. When those are the worst parts of a grid, you know you have a nice, smooth freestyle puzzle on your hands.
Let’s run down the juicy entries and the “huh?” entries together, starting with the good juicy stuff:
- The [Ginormous amount] is a GAZILLION. I’m partial to the word “ginormous,” so any use of it in a grid or in clues is most welcome in my book.
- OH HAPPY DAY is the [Gospel standard based on an 18th-Century hymn]. Never would have got that without crossings, but I only needed the consecutive H’s early on to see it. Oh happy day indeed!
- I should have figured out that the [Pros with rackets] were SCAM ARTISTS much more quickly than I did. I kept wanting to find something tennis-related.
- DIZZY DEAN is the [’30s pitching great known for his malapropisms]. A malapropism is a wicked curve ball.
Before getting to the “huh” entries, though, let’s consider some of the best clues:
- The [“M*A*S*H” prop] could have been many things: SCALPEL, OXYGEN TANK, AMBULANCE, FATIGUES, and JEEP all came to mind, though only AMBULANCE would fit in the nine squares. And yet the answer here was STRETCHER.
- When I saw the [Pepsi Center team] I knew right away it was a sports arena in Denver. I tried NUGGETS first but that didn’t fit. Then when I got the “V” I thought perhaps it started with DENVER. But I should have been thinking hockey, because it’s also the home of the Colorado AVALANCHE.
- I knew [Dry, in a way] started with B, so I tried BONY and held on to it for way too long. When I finally saw that it was B–T, I was in a fog. But some lasing and some lucky guessing with 18th-Century hymns led to BLOT.
- [Letter’s paper] is a great clue for LEASE. (Here, “letter” = one letting an apartment = tenant, and the paper agreement concerning the arrangement is a lease.)
Finally, then, the “huh?” entries:
- [Senator-]ELECT feels a little awkward to me. Of course it’s legit, but I hear “President-Elect” and “Congresswoman-Elect” much more often.
- Can’t say that the term TEA TROLLEYS means anything to me. I was thinking of a different “pot” for the [Pot holders?]. Must be 4:20 somewhere. My mother had a tea trolley, but we called it a “serving cart.”
- It has been a long time since I have chemistry, so ACID as the answer to [Proton donor] was deduced strictly through crossings.
- There once was a man from Dallas who viewed the END RHYME with malice. As a [Limerick feature], it seemed an ugly creature. Next time he won’t be so callous.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “MP3s” — pannonica’s review
This puzzle’s theme is readily evident and won’t be stumping competent solvers: concocted phrases with three occurrences of the diad “MP,” with varying degrees of success.
- 22a. A [Traffic jam at Yosemite?] is composed of BUMPER TO BUMPER CAMPERS. Pretty good.
- 43a. [Flooding problem?] is, not impossibly, a SWAMPED SUMP PUMP. Sounds reasonable enough.
- 65a. [Rainy “Little Rascals”?] leads to the compressed DAMP IMP ROMP, only eleven letters long and looking compromised, both in clue and answer.
- 87a. [Lake Placid structure?] prompts the redundant-feeling OLYMPIC JUMP RAMP. The Winter Games were held there in upstate New York in 1932 and 1980.
- 111a. represents an almost imperceptible format improvement: [MP4-playing nursery light?] is PLUMP HUMPTY-DUMPTY LAMP. That’s kind of frumpy.
- 14d. A most-likely grumpy IMPROMPTU UMP, which contains the only non-hyphenated double-MP word among the themers, is imparted as [Last-minute strike-caller?].
- 59d. [Rock festival array?] dumps UMPTY-UMP AMPS on the gridded stage. This one broke my composure slightly because, although “umpteen” is familiar, “umpty-ump” was umprecedented [sic] in my experience.
I was under the impression that (unwritten?) crossword constructing etiquette stipulates that the distinguishing qualities of the theme entries should not be repeated in the rest of the fill. If the remainder of the puzzle contained only one or two other MPs, I’d think they might have accidentally slipped through or been somehow unavoidable. However, there’s an ample quantity here:
- 70a. RUMPLE
- 99a. TAMP
- 118a. SIMP
- 46d. PRIMPS
What say you, compadres?
- 93a. [Flames no more] EXES
- 117a. [Leaves in bags] TEAS
- 30d. [Darwin Awardee’s downfall?] BAD IDEA
New to me:
- [Barbadian 58-Down] is a RUM SHOP, which turns out to be a legit name for a TAP ROOM in that Caribbean country.
- APULIA is the [Heel of Italy’s “boot”]
- HAMEL, [Veronica of “Hill Street Blues”]
Not so pretty:
- IRATER, MISAIM, PARTYER with a ‘y’, APR I for April 1.
A little echolalia:
- STABAT and SADAT. YAYAS and PAPAYA. Visually (so not echolalic), USURY and USURP, which aren’t etymologically related.
- 107a [Sartre’s first novel] was NAUSEA, not the crossword-common NO EXIT. 108d [Aforementioned] is SAID, not IBID. 62a [Mass unit] is GRAM, not (the liquid-volume) DRAM. 48d [Cotton fabric] is LISLE, not LINEN.
- I’d have loved it if 26a [Try to impale] were not the in-the-language partial STAB AT but had instead been clued [ __ Mater] to match the crossing 3d ALMA [ __ mater].
- Not sure that (120a) WHIRR would be [Music to a mechanic?], not the way a hum or purr is.
- Did not comprehend 76a [Gem found on Mars] = OPAL.
Verge’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “And/Or”—Gareth Bain’s review
Hi, guys! It’s me, Gareth; I’m on the other side of the great commenter/blog divide today. Sunday’s quite a busy day for puzzles as you well know, so I’m here to lighten Amy’s load a little. A couple of disclaimers to add: First, I have a puzzle in this self-same venue in two days time. If I say anything mean and hurtful you’re well within your rights to hang me by my own petard come Tuesday. Also, in the main I don’t enjoy Sunday-size puzzles as much as regular puzzles, with some obvious exceptions. Perhaps being a Millennial my attention span is too short! “The puzzle!” you say? OK, OK!
The first thing I noticed was the constructor: “Verge.” She/he (someone said Anonymous is always a woman, I don’t know who…) appeared once before: also the LAT, also a Sunday. Anyone come across any more leads since then? The title kinda tipped the theme’s hand – I only needed a few downs before BLAST FROM THE PASTOR appeared; after that I briefly considered whether ANDs and ORs were alternatively added, but it was just +OR. Nothing groundbreaking, but extremely well executed, IMO.
The theme entries are:
23a. [Important meeting for Domingo and colleagues?] = THE BIG TEN(OR) CONFERENCE: This modified phrase is a tautology!
33a. [Pulpit tirade?] = BLAST FROM THE PAST(OR): They do that!
50a. [Sale of swampland?] = M(OR)ASS MARKETING: My favourite theme answer, can envision the sleazy salesman!
63a. [Disloyal union member?] = LAB(OR) RAT.
69a. [“Babe,” e.g.?] = PIG ST(OR)Y.
83a. [Really conservative Conservatives?] = OLD SCHOOL T(OR)IES.
92a. [Comment about a recently razed vacation complex?] = THE RES(OR)T IS HISTORY.
114a. [Maine travel agency’s come-on?] = MORE BANG(OR) FOR YOUR BUCK: More familiar with the British Bangor, as the suburb I grew up in had streets named for English and Welsh seaside towns! I am in the minority here, I am sure.
These eight theme entries take up 124 squares (all across) which is a lot!! Five of the base phrases are more than two words and THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE, THE REST IS HISTORY, and MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK especially are great starting points for theme entries. The resulting phrases at worst are solid: as I said, very well-executed theme. Some might want their ORs to be added in the same place each time, but I’m quite content with zippy phrases and ORs all over the shop!
Started at 1A, was convinced I didn’t know OZARKS but after dropping ZAHN in, it hit me. Rest of the puzzle mostly proceeded at normal Sunday LAT pace. The large quantity of theme made for precious few other long answers, but there wasn’t a whole heap of annoying shorter answers either; I’d say Ms. Verge did a very good job of accommodating the theme.
A few of the partials in this puzzle did get to me a little: LAP OF/A PILE. One partial in a section is usually enough! (Though I think I may have done something similar before in desperation.) TAPE TO – isn’t there a 5-letter partial limit too?
Lastly, I got stuck on two letters in the bottom-left for an astonishing length of time. IS APT TO is pretty weird, yes, but ignoring the “Imagine” part of the clue for AS ONE makes things way harder!! Ignoring “Imagine” is generally a good policy, though! 103d: ?ASE was also a mystery to me, subtle cluing! ([Facilitate an arrest, in a way], TASE.) The other tough letter for me was CFL/COP. Weird clue for 29a: COP. Not entirely sure how these two can be substituted: do sex fiends “glom a feel”? That doesn’t sound correct!
- 4d. RIBS: [Cage components]. Love me some anatomy in my puzzles! Also: CANINE, and, stretching a bit, EYECHART, HEELED and LAP OF. 16d is left off of this list deliberately.
- 28a, 32a. I WONDER ([“Hmm…”]), under YEARS ([A long time]). Really cute! I WONDER is also a song by Rodriguez, an American singer far better known here in South Africa and in Australia, but the whole album “Cold Fact” is a classic.
- 100a. [Lunch letters]= BLT. You don’t get those here, mostly, to my knowledge at any rate. They sound rather bland! I say ‘mostly”—during the World Cup in a restaurant in Nelspruit I saw one on a menu; I was not tempted. I don’t eat out a lot, so perhaps these are really common and I just never noticed? But I doubt it.
- 15d. ARROYO = [Gully]. Your South African vocabulary of the day: donga, whose meaning is fairly similar, to my understanding. It is not to be confused with Dunga, who wore yellow and kicked a soccer ball.
- 78d. ACES = [Scores 90+ on]. I didn’t realise there was a specific cut-off point for acing!
- 49a. [Scottish psychiatrist R.D. __] LAING: Our mystery man!
- 8d. [Legal scholar Guinier] = LANI: Our mystery woman! Do not know my legal scholars. Bite me.
- 59d. [Experian, formerly] = TRW: Didn’t notice this while solving, but it can round off the set as “mystery abbreviation.” Wikipedia says they made ICBMs amongst other things.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 59”
Quick write-up, because gardening awaits me.
This 66-worder is notable for having a couple lively 15s and only two 3-letter answers.
- MEXICAN HAT DANCE, a SHIRKER, “I DON’T UNDERSTAND,” CERVANTES and TURTURRO.
Lots of names in this puzzle, no? People, places, and brand names include AGNES, LONI, St. IVES, LAMOTTA, OSTER, GHENT, NOAH, T.S. GARP, ALICE, RYDER, PHIL, CERVANTES, PETER NERO, TURTURRO, LISAS, and ADOBE. Sixteen of them? This may explain why I found the puzzle easier than usual (I’m good at remembering names) and why some folks may be grumbling at it.
Not wild about the inclusion of an -LY adverb, but GHOULISHLY echoes ghoulishly with two words that cross it, AGHAST and SLITHERS.