Kelsey Blakley’s New York Times crossword, “Swapping Partners”
The theme is not really about swingers in nonmonogamous relationships. Rather, two adjacent letters change places to make each theme answer:
- 23a. Anais Nin is the DIARY QUEEN. I believe I have made my position on soft-serve ice cream clear (see yesterday’s NYT post).
- 25a. Not sure that prison garb is truly a discrete unit of meaning that lends itself to originating theme answers. “Prison uniform,” “prison jumpsuit”? So PRISON GRAB didn’t grab me.
- 39a. Haven’t thought about internal angles since high-school geometry. INTERNAL ANGEL is a good description of that little “angel on your shoulder” bit.
- 59a. I like MARITAL ARTS because I do often mistype marital and martial.
- 76a. Ditto for the attorney’s TRIAL BLAZER—I have mistyped trial and trail plenty.
- 94. Don’t think you’d call a pachyderm wearing makeup a ROUGE ELEPHANT. What color blush even goes with gray skin?
- 113a. “Devil’s lair.” Is that a thing? It’s a cave in Australia. So DEVIL’S LIAR doesn’t work great for me.
- 116a. TROT REFORM is fine, if unexciting.
- 3d. SCARED COW, playing on sacred cow. Have seen this before, but it’s still cute.
- 80d. ARMY CROPS, okay.
With the prison, trial, and tort/trot answers, three of the eight themers are sort of connected to jurisprudence. There’s a devil and an angel. Two large mammals. And three other stand-alones. Faintly distracting to be half-wondering if all the theme answers are supposed to tie together somehow, I found. Pretty sure they’re just linked by the letter swap action.
Today’s “Wait, what?” answer is 6d: INUNCT. [Rub with ointment, as in a religious ceremony]? Not a common word, to be sure.
I approve of the clue for 50d: TESSA. Yes, it’s a [Nickname for Theresa], along with Terri/Terry/Teri. And the “famous” Tessas are so unfamous, this is a kinder way to clue the name.
Felt like more than the usual quantity of fill in the EROO/ELIA/EYER/DOGE/IRENA/ENIAC class.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer/Los Angeles Times crossword, “S’wonderful! S’marvelous!”
Merl riffs on the title phrases by combining two words into one new adjective, portmanteau-style:
- 22a. [“Emeril’s new soup? ___!”] = STIRRIFIC. Stir + terrific.
- 24a. [“Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s new series? ___!”] = SISTERICAL. Sister + hysterical.
- 35a. [“Josh Groban’s new Broadway show? ___!”] = SING-CREDIBLE. Sing + incredible.
- 39a. [“Ben’s new game show? ___!”] = STEINAMITE. Stein + dynamite. Pfft. See what the National Center for Science Education has to say about Ben Stein’s anti-science “documentary.”
- 50a. [“Revlon’s new smudgeproof lipstick? ___!”] = SMEARACULOUS. Smear + miraculous.
- 54a. [“Black & Decker’s new cutting tool? ___!”] = SAWSOME. Saw + awesome.
- 69a. [“Sharp’s new calculator? ___!”] = SUMBELIEVABLE. Sum + unbelievable.
- 86a. [“Disney’s new dwarf collection? ___!”] = SEVENLY. Seven + heavenly.
- 88a. [“L.L. Bean’s new fishing rod? ___!”] = STREAMENDOUS. Stream + tremendous.
- 99a. [“Tiger’s new golf course? ___!”] = SCOREGEOUS. Score + gorgeous.
- 102a. [“The new Metallica CD? ___!”] = STEELIGHTFUL. Steel + delightful.
- 115a. [“The Swedish Chef’s new cookbook? ___!”] = SVENOMENAL. Sven + phenomenal. Speaking of the Swedish Chef, if you have ever had any fondness for the Muppets, go see The Muppets on the big screen. And if you liked the goofy songs on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, you’ll like the songs in the movie—Bret McKenzie wrote them.
- 119a. [“National Geographic’s new book on volcanoes? ___!”] = SPEWTIFUL. Spew + beautiful. Merl would never make this clue about puking, but he might make the joke in person.
Thirteen theme entries is a lot, but a fairly standard Merl quantity. Note the consistency in cluing: Some people, some corporate entities, all in the “[noun]’s new [thing that’s being reviewed]” format. And the theme answers are all formed the same way, to sound like, for example, “S’miraculous!” but be spelled in a way that invokes the [noun].
Okay. Moving on to the rest of the puzzle, I’m confused. Why is 36d: [Young’s partner] GAY? Was it Gay & Young before Ernst came along?
Five more clues:
- 5a. [Antepenultimate st.] is ARIZ. Hawaii was the 50th/last/ultimate state admitted to the union. Alaska was the penultimate (49th). And the one before that is Arizona (48th).
- 55d. [Continent crosser] is MARCO POLO. With matching crossings in place, I confess I tried NORTH POLE here. Which continents, exactly, does the North Pole intersect?
- 76a. [Unmitigated] clues ARRANT. That word was a lot more popular a few centuries ago.
- 128a. [Kentucky cave] clues ONYX. Google tells me that Arkansas and Arizona also have places called Onyx Cave. I regret to say that I’ve never heard of any of them.
- 100d. [Hearing problem?] clues EARWAX. Did you know! There are genetic differences among humans based on region of origin, and nearly all people of European or African ancestry have the “wet,” sticky earwax, while most East Asians have “dry,” flaky earwax. Both types are found among groups from other regions. Here’s the scientific abstract, and a summary. This concludes today’s Science in Crosswords lesson.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 87”
You know the compromises a constructor makes to fill a 66-word themeless grid? I don’t think Patrick does. The closest thing to a compromise I see here is the intersection of two words with the same word root after different prefixes—32a: RECEDE and 29d: SECESSION share the Latin cedere (“go”). One is back + go, the other is apart + go.
The puzzle doesn’t go overboard with the 15-letter answers. Two stacked pairs with mostly longish and interesting crossings are, to many, more appealing than stacked trios or quartets with a bunch of grievous 3- and 4-letter crossing junk.
- 1a. [It has white plumage in winter] clues everybody’s favorite PT word, PTARMIGAN. I wanted SNOWY-something, but no. (Also in the avian category: A GAMEBIRD is a [Flushed thing] and the god ARES is a [Greek hawk], so to speak.)
- 15a. [1977 album title track that won Record of the Year] is HOTEL CALIFORNIA. What a goofball song.
- 17a. [Carburetor connectors] are INTAKE MANIFOLDS. Did you know: Manifold comes from the Old English manigfeald. I don’t know the Old English word for “carburetor.”
- 19a. [Internet phenoms] are called MEMES. Plugging in the image of the Pepper-Spraying Cop from UC-Davis so it looks like he’s using pepper spray on people in famous paintings is the latest meme to spread like wildfire, peaking about a week ago.
- 42a. [Thing often dropped in a tunnel] is a cellphone CALL. Great clue.
- 45a. [Strike zones?] are bowling LANES. Another good clue.
- 16d. [Solidarity symbol] is a FIST. Fight the power!
Bonus Coverage: NYT Second Sunday Puzzle, Acrostic by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon- Sam Donaldson’s review
If you’re like me, the Acrostics that run every other Sunday in the NYT are a treat, but a hassle at the same time. Solving on paper is tedious, and I tend to make at least a couple of mistakes in writing letters in the wrong boxes or in the wrong dashes. Solving on the f-ugly NYT applet isn’t much better, sadly.
But now Jim Horne, emperor of the xwordinfo website, has written a terrific program that is leaps and bounds better than the NYT applet. It requires a mouse and a keyboard (so no solving on iPads or smartphones just yet), but it beats the NYT applet in every way. So I thought it would be fun to blog the Acrostic as a way of bringing attention to this terrific new solving tool. Jim has today’s Acrostic here, and you’ll find an archive of all Acrostics in the Will Shortz era on the same site.
This week’s Acrostic features a quotation from Raymond CHANDLER’s book, PEARLS ARE A NUISANCE. The quotation is quite fun: HE SNORTED AND HIT ME IN THE SOLAR PLEXUS. I BENT OVER AND TOOK HOLD OF THE ROOM WITH BOTH HANDS AND SPUN IT. WHEN I HAD IT NICELY SPINNING, I GAVE IT A FULL SWING AND HIT MYSELF ON THE BACK OF THE HEAD WITH THE FLOOR.
I’ve made an Acrostic as part of a puzzle hunt, and I can tell you first-hand that these things are a bear to construct. Finding the interesting quotation is easy enough, but it has to contain the letters of the author and the title of the work, there must be exactly 26 total letters in the author and title, and you have to find exactly 26 semi-interesting words using every letter in the quotation, and those words must start with the letters in the author and title. Talk about constraints. That Cox and Rathvon can make it look so easy and that they do it every two weeks is nothing short of amazing.
I think you’ll really enjoy Jim’s solving platform. By making Acrostics more accessible, hopefully more solvers will find the joy of solving them.
Darin McDaniel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Film Café” – Doug’s review
Hey, folks. It was a rough week here in Pasadena. We had some nasty 80-90 MPH winds come through on Wednesday night. And I mean all night long. Ended up with lots of trees & power lines on the ground. And a few trees on top of cars and houses. Ouch! My house was without electricity for about 30 hours. (No internet!) I could have driven to a motel or a friend’s place, but all the streetlights and traffic lights were out, so I just sat at home with my hand-cranked radio and suffered. On the plus side, I was walking around the lights-out neighborhood on Thursday night and found an awesome taco truck. The burritos were excellent! And I know enough Spanish to avoid the tripa, lengua, and cabeza tacos.
Today’s theme is coffee-flavored movie puns. I’ll take mine with tons of cream and sugar, please.
- 26a. [Mideast eggplant-flavored coffee?] – THE PURPLE ROAST OF CAIRO.
- 37a. [Coffee that unleashes your inner prehistoric beast?] – JURASSIC PERK.
- 53a/65a. [Words describing coffee that’s almost too smooth?] – THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEAN. This one was my favorite. It tickled my punny bone.
- 80a. [Coffee lover’s paradise?] – THE BREW LAGOON.
- 95a. [Wild West coffee to go?] – PONY ESPRESSO.
- 105a. [Coffee with a spot in “Guinness World Records”?] – THE GREATEST JOE ON EARTH.
More answers you might have noticed:
- 18a. [Express lane unit] – ITEMS. They recently changed the signs in the express lanes at my local supermarket. Now they say: “About 15 items.” Unacceptable!
- 23a. [Princess who battled Callisto] – XENA. This was the first answer I wrote in. Often, I read through a few clues to find an answer I really like, and then I start the puzzle there. Anyone else do that? Also, I never start a puzzle on an entry I don’t like, like ACNE or STYE. I might have a touch of OCD, Obsessive Cruciverbial Dorkiness.
- 11d. [Brand originally called Froffles] – EGGO. Good call. It’s impossible to say “Froffles” without sounding ridiculous.
- 48d. [Moose mating activity] – BUGLING. There’s a clue you don’t see everyday.
- 93d. [Anthony Hopkins’s “Thor” role] – ODIN. Allow me to quote my buddies from Rifftrax: “A performance by Sir Anthony Hopkins that were it any more phoned in, would be conducted through two tin cans and a piece of string.”
Solid pun theme with more chuckles than groans. Rating: 3.75 chocolate-covered coffee beans.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Hello again! I’m back with my regular Sunday gig–blogging the CS Sunday Challenge. This was a fun 68/27 freestyle puzzle. Among the highlights:
- LEARNED HAND is the [Jurist who wrote “The Spirit of Liberty”]. He’s also the author of my favorite quotation about tax law: “[T]he words of such an act as the Income Tax, for example, merely dance before my eyes in a meaningless procession: cross-reference to cross-reference, exception upon exception—couched in abstract terms that offer no handle to seize hold of—[leaving] in my mind only a confused sense of some vitally important, but successfully concealed purport, which it is my duty to extract, but which is within my power, if at all, only after the most inordinate expenditure of time.” Oh, snap!
- I liked [Dog star starter] as the clue for RIN, as in RIN TIN TIN. I was seduced into wondering whether Sirius, the “dog star,” had another, two-word name that started with a three-letter word.
- Likewise, I fell into the trap set by [Diamond discovered in New York City]. I toyed with HOPE, but thought perhaps another famous gemstone had been found in NYC. C’mon, Sam–it was NEIL Diamond.
- I wasn’t aware that Cincinnati’s baseball team was once known as the REDLEGS, but it was indeed a [Baseball team name from 1954 to 1959]. Much better to name them the Reds–no one in the Cold War era would have found that troublesome, right?
- A DART GUN is indeed a [Sharp shooter?]. A fun clue for a fun entry.
- FAT CHANCE is an expression I remember well from my single days. I can vouch that it means [“No way”].
- [Unable to tell a good pitch from a bad one] is a great clue for TONE-DEAF, especially since I thought the clue was referring to baseball.
- Other fun entries included ALL SORTS, NOT COOL, GO TO IT, and ED ASNER. Lots of great entries in a puzzle with only 70 answers.
But every rose has its thorn (so says Bret Michaels anyway). Among the lowlights:
- ENNE may have the nice clue, [Femme finale?], but it’s still awkward fill.
- ONE SEAT, clued as a [Single at the box office], feels a little forced to me.
- Would anyone really call a [Sewer of sequins, say] an ADORNER? Didn’t think so.
- Similarly, who the heck calls those who make profits (the [Happy investors] referred to in the clue) GAINERS? Is the opposite of gainer “losser?”
Small prices to pay for the fun solve overall, I say.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Coinage Collection” — pannonica’s review
Well! I was happy when last week’s Tausig included just a taste of this puzzle’s theme, so much so that the illustration I used in the write-up acknowledged it, though it wasn’t mentioned in the text itself.
Today we get a selection of nine (more if you count those that appear in the clues) newly-minted words from Lewis Carroll’s JABBERWOCKY, 62a [Source of the starred neologisms]. Right up the alley for playful word-lovers, who constitute much of the crossword community.
- 23a. [*Gyring and gimbling creatures] SLITHY TOVES.
- 25a. [*Avians that are all mimsy] BOROGOVES.
- 34a. [*Frumious beast] BANDERSNATCH.
- 49a. [*Prancing exultantly] GALUMPHING.
- 77a. [*Flier to beware] JUBJUB BIRD.
- 87a. [*Sound of a vorpal blade] SNICKER-SNACK.
- 102a. [*Things that outgrabe] MOME RATHS.
- 104a. [*Occasion for chortling with joy] FRABJOUS DAY.
No sense in my rehashing adoration and speculative interpretations for these; if you’re interested, galumph over to the Wikipedia page, which does a good job of covering the basics and more. For a recitation with animation based on John Tenniel’s classic and unsurpassed illustrations, take a look at Aly Wolff-Mills’ Jabberwocky Redux (2009).
The theme content doesn’t overwhelm the grid, so there’s a healthy amount of medium-length words here. XWord Info reports that the average word length is 5.23 letters, which is on par with the average 21×21 Sunday NYT (5.26), though the theme answers here are shorter than usual. Ergo, the ballast fill is slightly longer on average than a typical Times puzzle of the same size.
- Loose tie-ins to the theme? The clue for 43d HIKER, [Nosher on gorp] sounds as if it were cut from the same cloth as the poem, though nosh derives from Yiddish, and gorp—according to the explanation I’m familiar with—is an acronym of granola, oats, raisins, peanuts. 58a [Site of Wonderland on the MBTA] is an obscure clue for REVERE, Massachusetts, but will be known to the ostensible audience of this puzzle, which appears in the Boston Globe newspaper. Even 41a [“Barney Miller” detective] WOJO has a carollean air about it, in context. Incidentally, that 1970s show has also provided crossword staples HAL Linden, Jack SOO, ABE VIGODA, and MAX GAIL (who played Det. ‘Wojo’ Wojciehowicz). SMIRK (83a) echoes SNICKER-SNACK, which it lays above.
- Nice to see [Fingerpicker Leo] KOTTKE get some ink (64d). A favorite.
- Least favorite clues (consecutive, no less!): 97d [Batted but didn’t field] DHED (DH’ED? Designated hittered, or something; however it’s broken down it’s pretty yewgly). 98d [“Love Train” group member] O’JAY singular; I don’t know why this is so upsetting, since “Beatle,” “Rolling Stone,” “Supreme,” and so on seem tolerable.
- In the same area—108a and 109a—we have the consecutive LAMIA [Female vampire] and REINE [Queen, in France]. The former was new to me and as for the second, I have two positive observations: first, it’s a nice change from the ubiquitous (not to mention Ubu) ROI, and second, it’s better than REUNE.
- I was truly banjaxed and slowed down in the tulgey wood of the center right section, where NAHUM [Biblical prophet] crossed FNMA [DC-based loaner] (=Fannie Mae) and OMER [Passover-to-Shavuot period]. Hey, at least I knew (95a) EID [Islamic festival]!
Fun puzzle, edged upward in my estimation because of the playful theme.