C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword, “Pullet”
What do you do with each theme entry in this puzzle? You pull it (“pullet”), ergo the title:
- 23a. SALT WATER TAFFY
- 38a. RELIEF PITCHER—would’ve thought the starter gets pulled, not the relief pitcher, though I’ve seen games where the relief pitcher stinks and is soon replaced
- 64a. PUPPET STRINGS
- 93a. PRACTICAL JOKE—not a physical “pulling” involved here, unlike the other theme answers
- 114a. LITTLE RED WAGON—love that answer
- 3d. ALL-NIGHTER—okay, this one doesn’t involve tugging, either
- 51d. ONE’S LEG—I don’t like this as a regular entry, as [Something to stand on], but it works in the context of the “pull” theme
- 75d. GUN TRIGGER
I do like a little more wordplay action to wrestle with in a big Sunday puzzle. This theme pretty much has a single “aha” moment, when you figure out that they’re all things you might pull. And the octet of theme answers aren’t exhaustive—other things that can be pulled include a fast one, a muscle, teeth, a sled, hair, the tug of war rope, and a recalled product.
SOURPUSS looks great in the grid at 104a and I like the childish plaint “I WANNA” at 20d, but overall the fill and clues felt resolutely ordinary today. Stodgy bits like SENTA, RARA, OGEE, EMEER, and ESNE pull the puzzle further in the “meh” direction. And 8d: HER’N, [Not his’n]? Not sure I’ve seen that one in a crossword before.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This 70/38 freestyle’s key feature is the intersection of triple-stacked 15’s in the grid’s midsection. Running across the grid are BOGART AND BACALL, [Electricity pioneer] ALESSANDRO VOLTA, and PERSONAL OPINION. From top to bottom there’s OPENED AN ACCOUNT, OSCAR AND LUCINDA, and a ROCK AND ROLL STAR. As a group these entries are fine, but I found other entries like the [Slight sin] PECCADILLO, GREAT AUNTS, and TALIA SHIRE more interesting.
To accommodate the intersecting 15s, the grid sections off into four discrete islands. Each corner can be accessed through but a single white square, so one effectively solves five miniature puzzles to complete the grid. I prefer a little more openness in freestyle puzzles, but that’s entirely a matter of personal taste.
Let’s wrap it up with four items of note in the puzzle:
- 17-Across: The [Noted communist buried in Highgate Cemetery] is Harpo MARX. Honk if you got that without any crossings!
- 21-Across: I know the [Drain cleaner, at times] as a plumber’s “snake,” not a SNAKER. Is this a reference to one using a snake? If so, ugh.
- 34-Down: [John Boehner trademark] means nothing to me, but I had a funny feeling and guessed TAN, the right answer. Was George Hamilton unavailable?
- 32-Down: The [Prot. sect] is BAP. If that makes no sense, let me break it down: there are certain protesters known for their sudden tendencies toward violence. Some are heard to say, “If you don’t shut yer yap, I’ll bap ya.” (Not to be confused with BOP, the recreational activity of choice in a Cyndi Lauper song that appears at 35-Down.) They came to be known simply as “The Bap.”
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Standard Time”
My son is eagerly awaiting Flag Day on Tuesday, when his class will wear red, white, and blue. Merl honors the FLAG by hiding it in each theme answer:
- 23a. [There’s a major one in Disney’s “Bambi”] = CONFLAGRATION.
- 28a. [It might lead to an ejection] = FLAGRANT FOUL.
- 39a. [Hi and Lois of the comics] = THE FLAGSTONS.
- 55a. [“Fried Green Tomatoes” author] = FANNIE FLAGG.
- 63a. [Wagnerian soprano, 1895-1962] = KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD. Who?
- 76a. [Hidden] = CAMOUFLAGED.
- 90a. [Monk’s penance, once] = FLAGELLATION. Between the huge forest fire and the whipping, this puzzle is a little scary.
- 105a. [Co-founder of Standard Oil and developer of Florida’s east coast] = HENRY FLAGLER. Who?
- 110a. [Beer-filled tankard] = FLAGON OF LAGER. This is a contrived phrase, but Merl included it because it’s got double FLAG action.
- 4a. [Broadway Joe] clues the late Broadway producer Joseph PAPP, not Joe Namath. If you Google “Joe Papp,” you mostly get pages about a professional cyclist by that name, but there’s also a biography of the Broadway guy called Joe Papp: An American Life. I hadn’t ever seen him referred to as “Joe” before.
- 31a. An EEL is an [Octopus eater]? I had no idea.
- 61a. [Squeak solver] is the sort of crossword solver who emits squeaks and burbles and grunts while doing a puzzle. Or just an OILCAN used to oil a squeaky hinge.
- 4d. [Willy-nilly] and PELL-MELL make for rhyme time.
- 38d. Walter [Mitty portrayer] is Danny KAYE.
- 90d. [Polliwog] clues not TADPOLE but FROGLET.
- 91d. [Rio de ___] clues not JANEIRO but LA PLATA.
- 92d. [Seed covering] is a TESTA. Outside of scientific circles, this is practically crosswordese. Used to see this and ARIL a good bit more often than we do now.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 62”
This one had some rough patches. The asterisk beside my solving time is for the wrong square I had the software highlight for me. Really, Frank? EADIE crossing DARBY at the A, with pop culture 42 and 78 years old? I had the plausible DERBY and and the nonsensical EEDIE, but I am hard-pressed to say that EADIE isn’t equally odd-looking.
The 15s are a mixed bag. There are seven of them:
- 17a. [Oriental rug feature] = INTRICATE DESIGN. Nice, if not especially zippy.
- 19a. [Dell lineup] = PUZZLE MAGAZINES. Three Zs, plus who among us has never bought a Dell puzzle magazine? I was a regular consumer as a kid.
- 22a. [Red ink producer] = DEFICIT SPENDING. Topical, and thus livelier than it might’ve been a couple years ago.
- 34a. [Leaving lines?] = FAREWELL ADDRESS. Nice.
- 41a. [Examining the books?] = TEXTUAL ANALYSIS. A little blah, with the accounting/auditing mislead in the clue. I had an S in place of the X for a long time, as 24d: FOREX/[International currency market, for short] isn’t in my vernacular. Short for foreign exchange—okay, now I’ll remember that.
- 47a. [PriceGrabber and Nextag, e.g.] = SHOPPING ENGINES. Snooze. I never click on the Nextag links in my Google results.
- 56a. [Permanent resident, in Canada] = LANDED IMMIGRANT. Canadian legal terminology??
Hits and misses:
- 14a. [Kansas City suburb] clues LENEXA, which I would never have heard of if some crossword friends didn’t live there. (Hi, Barry and Beth!)
- 33a. [Title lady of a 1933 Ethel Merman hit] = EADIE. Grumble.
- 38a. [Beth follows it] clues the Hebrew letter ALEPH.
- 57a. [Community in Los Angeles County] is ALTADENA. It is just north of the more famous Pasadena and has about 43,000 residents. And we should know this name why?
- 3d. [Film in which Insectopia is sought] is ANTZ. I don’t remember that aspect at all, but was pleased to guess right.
- 4d. [Pharmaceutical company that makes the scar gel Mederma] is MERZ. Hmm, not too well-known as pharma firms go.
- 5d. [Of a banishment period] clues EXILIC. That’s a word??
- 27d. [Kim who played Mattie in the original “True Grit”] is Kim DARBY. I don’t think she went on to be Hollywood-famous.
- 36d. [“The Feeling We Once Had” singer in “The Wiz”] is AUNT EM. She’s Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz.
- 53d. [Olden ointment] clues NARD, an old crumb of crosswordese. Really? In a grid that also has ASTA, NISEI, GESTS, ENNE, STOL, DEFAT, EGALE, MEA, and AMO? I really expect juicier fill from Frank Longo.
Yes, it’s a 66-worder with seven 15-letter entries, but I don’t know that the trade-off of clunky fill makes the grid worthwhile. Three stars, if that.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Whaddya Say” — pannonica’s review
Heteronyms, whaddya gonna do?
This week, we see familiar phrases in which the first word is presumed to be a heteronym, prompting the entire phrase to have a radically different meaning and be clued appropriately. Heteronyms are a subset of homographs (words that are spelled the same) where both the meaning and the pronunciation are different. Got it? Well, it’s easy enough to demonstrate:
- 16a. [Fleas’ golf skill?] PUTTING ON THE DOG. That’s \ˈpə-tiŋ\ and not \pʊ-tiŋ\ I can just picture the little guys leaping for joy when they sink one under par!
- 23a. [Reason to sew in the bedroom?] TEARS ON MY PILLOW. \ˈterz\ not \ˈtirz\ Darn it! And from here on out, I’ll leave you to your own devices regarding the alternate pronunciations.
- 47a. [Make the wurst look the best?] POLISH SAUSAGE. You know what? I’m not going to say anything here. Nuh-uh.
- 54a. [Leave bad weather behind?] DESERT STORM. Don’t they consign deserters to the French Foreign Legion? And aren’t they always depicted wandering about the Sahara? Just ignore me and my synapses, ok?
- 67a. [What Joy Philbin and Mark Consuelos do?] LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY. No sir, I wouldn’t, not for a million dollars, and that’s my final answer.
- 80a. [Winner in a hot-air-fueled race?] LEAD BALLOON. Uhm. I think the answers start to lose altitude around here.
- 90a. [Quilt for an Apple bigwig?] JOB’S COMFORTER.
- 118a. [Some summer vacations?] AUGUST OCCASIONS.
- 124a. [Turn music-box keys?] WIND INSTRUMENTS. Is a music box an instrument? I guess so, but more in the “device” sense. Gives a novel and kind of off-kilter meaning to “musical instrument.” Ends the theme on somewhat of a high note.
The theme answers, while inconsistent in quality, have a lot to like in terms of quantity and placement. A 21-letter jobby spanning the center? Very nice, so what if the pivotal word is only four letters of it? Two double 15-letter stacks of themers? Get away! These nine entries total 129 squares and comprise over a third of the 365 letters in the grid!
As for the remainder of the fill, I thought it could be stronger, although it may be that the overloaded theme came at the expense of the rest. The highlights first:
- The corners sport minor double vertical stacks of eight and seven letters. (3d) I TALK TO [“__ Trees”] seems to have a dialogue with [Burns’s “tim’rous beastie” ode] TO A MOUSE (85d), and (15d) DRAINAGE could be a commentary on (96d) DURANTE [Hollywood’s “Schnoz”].
- Just a handful of other non-theme entries longer than six letters; of them, I liked (50a) HAND-EYE [ __ coordination] and (46d) SHEKELS.
…and mid- to lowlights:
- A lot of people. A lot. Anne MEARA, David ASMAN, Willie NELSON, KEANU Reeves, Leon URIS, Pierce BROSNAN, ERIK Satie, SANTHA Rama Rau, IRMA Rombauer, Paula DEEN, Lily TOMLIN, GWEN Verdon, (Ayn and Sally) RANDS, crossword royalty Al OERTER, SHELLYS [Country singer West et al.], William FILENE, TATUM O’Neal, ALANA Stewart, Margaret CHO, Jimmy DURANTE. To these might be added ERIS, SIVA, ELMO, BABAR.
- Prefixes, partials and abbrevs. from estimable to egregious: MIT, I WIN, MRI, UFW, CUT OF, PTA, TERA-, IGN., TEL., GMA, ISP, APB, UP YOUR, IS AS, ESK., WAC, LLDS, EXP., ATTN, NOS., AUX., CRO-, SSN.
- Obscuriana, including some geography and latinate words: AGIO [Currency-exchange fee] , MORONI [Capital of Comoros], SION [“The Da Vinci Code” Priory], NYE [Nevada country], T’PAU [“Heart and Soul” band], KNAR [Knot in wood], EVOE [Ancient cry of revelry], AGNI [Lambs, in Latin], UDO [Japanese vegetable].
- Some run-of-the-mill crosswordese.
The cluing is nothing to write home about, and not much to write a blog post about. Workmanlike, only occasionally playful or clever. But I feel compelled to highlight 104d [“Vidi”, to Tweety] prompts I TAW (as in “I taut I taw a puddy tat!”); it’s a bizarre one-step-removed mashup incorporating a crossword trope (the vidi of Caesar’s famous boast) and a rhyme.
Paul Hunsberger’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Wide-Eyed”
The phrase wide-eyed has two syllables that are the same except for the \w\ at the start of one. A \w\ sound is added to the beginning of a word in each of the theme entries, with spelling adjusted as needed to make the new creation into a real word:
- 23a. [Sale at the helicopter dealer?] turns “early-bird special” into WHIRLYBIRD SPECIAL. I kinda wish this one had been saved for the end, as it would be a great way to close out the puzzle. Terrific play on words, with colorful before and after versions.
- 39a. [Breakfast table exposé?] = THE WAFFLE TRUTH (awful).
- 60a. [Bittersweet title for a waterskier’s memoirs?] = WAKES AND PAINS (aches).
- 84a. [Lacking lingerie?] = OUT OF THIN WEAR (air). Meh. The result here is subpar.
- 104a. [Sweater under the tree?] = CHRISTMAS WEAVE (Eve). Hang on, nobody calls a sweater a “weave,” and sweaters are not woven, they’re knitted. A shirt is woven. [Hair extensions for the holiday?], anyone?
- 123a. [Charge against an illegal fly-fishing conspirator?] = WADING AND ABETTING (aiding).
- 16d. [Comment to an out-of-shape runner who reaches the finish line?] = WHEEZY DOES IT (easy). Yesterday I read an ESPN.com article about athletes pooping their pants in the heat of competition, including marathoners and triathletes as well as football and basketball players. Fascinating look at the physiology of digestion and the iron commitment of high-level athletes!
- 67d. [Homo sapiens’ cleverness?] = THE WILE OF MAN (Isle).
Except for 84a and 104a falling flat, I liked this theme, especially the WHIRLYBIRD SPECIAL. The fill was a letdown, however. IT A GO, ECG meets ETDS, FUL, FENN, CIT, REO, RIATA, KPH, AS I, ALF, and their ilk seemed to be all over the grid, and there were few interesting longer answers in the non-theme fill (though SWING ERA is lovely).
Three stars, a B.