Univision’s Tumblr blog—in English! so handy for those of us who don’t read Spanish, which is TV network Univision’s usual language—has a Latino-American perspective on the ILLEGAL flap in the NYT crossword.
Heads up: I’ll be leaving the blog in the capable Hands Across America (and Also Canada) of the Crossword Fiend team for a couple days. I trust you will all comport yourselves like ladies, gentlemen, and other nice people. Don’t burn the joint down.
Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword
I was wending my way through the puzzle and had no idea what the theme was. I had a momentary “PATTON OSWALT, huh, could be about General Patton” thought but the other theme entries didn’t scream “movie title” to me. Caleb is a movie buff, though, and a fine constructor despite his insane youth (I think he’s maybe 19 now). In fact, he’s made crosswords for the Directors Guild‘s DGA Quarterly.
So: The theme people’s first names are also BEST PICTURE Oscar winners: OLIVER STONE, PATTON OSWALT, REBECCA DE MORNAY, and MARTY FELDMAN. Timely puzzle since the Oscars are awarded this Sunday. I also like the time span of the movies and the people, ranging from a 1940 movie (Rebecca) to a currently popular comedian (that’s Oswalt), with stops in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
The long Down answers are also cinematic—the LIGHT SABER and BONES MCCOY—but they aren’t part of the theme. They’re merely delightful frosting on the cake. Did someone say cake? SARA LEE is in the puzzle, too. I don’t think Sara Lee still makes Black Forest cake but you know what? I had a chocolate/cream cupcake tonight and washed it down with a glass of Trader Joe’s tart cherry juice and it tasted like Black Forest cake. Yum! AMSTEL would not have enhanced the cake experience nearly as well.
Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”
Tough puzzle for Tuesday, no? If you’re a fan of BREAKING BAD, you’ve got a leg up on the competition, and if you’re like me—you know the show’s supposed to be fabulous but you just haven’t gotten around to watching it yet—the theme is slow to come together. And a lot of the pop-culture stuff in the fill is tricky too.
First up, the theme:
- 17a. [Critically acclaimed crime drama since 2008], BREAKING BAD. I think of “crime dramas” as shows like The Sopranos, but I guess meth dealers/makers are no less criminal than mobsters.
- 25a. [Star of 17-Across], BRYAN CRANSTON.
- 38a. [Character that 25-Across plays on 17-Across], WALTER WHITE.
- 37a. AARON [__ Paul (co-star of 25-Across on 17-Across)] is a bonus answer.
- 40a. Another bonus answer: HANK [__ Schrader (DEA agent played by Dean Norris on 17-Across].
- 1d. AMC is the [Network that airs 17-Across].
I’ve never heard of 1a: AMP, the [PepsiCo energy drink]. And it’s a good thing I knew 6d: BELINDA, [Go-Go’s singer Carlisle who wrote the 2010 autobiography “Lips Unsealed”], because I sure didn’t know 4a: DEB, [Dex’s sister on “Dexter”]. MELINDA is plausible, but DEM is an implausible sister’s name. (Oddly enough, my good friend Deb Amlen has seen her name in the media as “Dem Amlen,” most recently in the Univision post linked above before they fixed that booboo.)
Challenging puzzle overall, with tough pop-culture clues for common words and for names, with all of ’em interlocking and stacking. WALTER’s first four letters are part of four proper nouns—WHAM, PAULA, ALLEN, and STACY—that in turn cross another proper name, ALEC. Clues for words like FIRE, EVIL, and SAND also quiz you on pop culture. In upcoming Celebrity puzzles, you’ll see less of this sort of pile-up.
Updated Tuesday morning:
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Erin Go Bra” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s crossword title brought to mind that Happy Days episode when Joanie hit puberty. (Okay, there was no such episode–I don’t think–but the title did make me think of that.) I confess I had to stare at the theme entries for a while before figuring out the theme–each of the four longest Across answers starts with a word that’s also a part of a bra:
- 20-B Across: The [Drink that “we’ll tak’ … yet for auld lang syne”] is a CUP O’ KINDNESS. The bigger the cup the more the kindness, I take it? Doesn’t that clue look funny with all its punctuation and broken words?
- 36-C Across: HOOK OR CROOK means [Any means possible]. That expression looks a little naked to me without the “by” in front, but it’s legit.
- 43-D Across: I never knew there was a word for a [Subway rider without a seat] besides “stander.” It’s a STRAP-HANGER. Interesting term. I guess there aren’t many crossword-appropriate terms that begin with “strap”–when I did a Google search for other such terms, my seat mates here on the plane got quite an eyeful, I’m afraid.
- 57-EE Across: The [1973 multi-platinum album by Wings] is BAND ON THE RUN. Kinda gives it a new meaning when you think of it as a bra band on the run.
Yes, taking so long to figure out the theme left me feeling like a boob. Sometimes it’s hard to keep abreast of themes even after I’m done solving. It’s as if that one extra task of finding the theme makes my melon explode. You’re welcome, 13 year-old readers.
Three things I loved about this puzzle that may leave you thinking less of me:
- (1) I love how SNOOKI from Jersey Shore (the [Pal of J-WOWW and The Situation]) crosses [Nabokov’s title professor], PNIN. Only in crosswords! Should I be embarrassed that SNOOKI was my third guess after PAULY and VINNIE? Well I’m not. (Had SNOOKI come to mind after DEENA, SAMMI, or RONNIE, on the other hand, I wouldn’t even confess to it.)
- (2) SKINS, the [Shirts’ adversaries, on an amateur game field], intersects two theme entries. In a puzzle about bras. That’s just awesome.
- (3) My favorite clues were [Comparable to a fiddle?] for AS FIT (that one really vexed me for a while, and I liked the payoff when I figured it out) and [Be crabby?] for SIDLE. I like that last one strictly for its own cleverness. It has nothing to do with the fact that it’s in a puzzle about bras. Seriously. Stop looking at me like that!
Billie Truitt’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Well this puzzle is a huge disaster. No, seriously:
- 16a. [Airport security canine] – BOMB SNIFFING DOG
- 23a. [Thanksgiving serving] – TURKEY DRUMSTICK
- 41a. [Frothy citrus dessert] – LEMON CHIFFON PIE
- 56a. [Women’s swimsuit size factor] – BUST MEASUREMENT(!)
Each theme entry starts with a bang — and not a good one. But the theme itself is a good one! I got thrown off immediately by some [Bad guys] – NASTIES, not NEMESES. But after SEEING STARS, I was back on the right track. There’s a food chain in the NE corner with a DOG, BIG CAT and a MYNA. (There’s a theme idea in there somewhere.) Li’l Abner fans and crossworders alike recognize DAISY MAE‘s name; she’s the most exciting bit of fill for me. (EAU DE VIE is too vowelly for my tastes.) Beyond that, the fill’s pretty unexciting. I wish that weren’t the price we paid for the fun theme entries (especially that last one).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a last ditch effort to make at Matt Gaffney’s contest.
Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ crossword, “Going Negative – totally in denial” — pannonica’s review
Not for nothing, but it would be easy to write up a negative review of this puzzle, if one were so inclined. Each themer takes a phrase, slaps a “not” before it, and clues the resulting twisted outcome.
- 18a. [“Oh 7, why’d you have to go and eat 9? And 6, did you help 7 out of fear? I’m shocked!”] NOT THAT, FIGURES! This was the most difficult of the four theme answers for me to parse, but it finally clicked well enough.
- 28a. [“I can see you on a cold day and you’re like a cloud … I’m impressed…”] NOT BAD BREATH!
- 37a. [“Hmmm … I’m stumped as to how you landed a role on “The Addams Family…”] NOT SURE, THING. Stumped is a nice visual touch.
- 48a. [“Oh yeah, like I’d ever see a guy with a ruffled shirt and heaving chest in real life…”] NOT TRUE ROMANCE.
All right, they’re on the weird side, but with a little effort they can all be seen to make sense. Consistent in that all four are presented as quoted statements. My solving time was lengthened slightly by not being able to quickly and easily read the long clues in AcrossLite; I skipped them the first few times around.
For ballast, the unappealing three-stacks in the northwest and southeast are made up for by the very nice double-eights crossing them: CO-ANCHOR & SORORITY and TIME CARD & UNFREEZE. More length in the eleven-letter acrosses, each lying their full length alongside themers: ONE BAD APPLE (“…don’t spoil the whole bunch”) and SILLY RABBIT (“…Trix are for kids!”).
Some other stuff:
- Sandwiches! 1d [Simple sammich] PBJ. 4d. [ __ mi (Vietnamese sandwich] BANH. Yum! for the latter, meh for the first. Not sure how I feel about the trendy “sammich” spelling.
- 14d [Serpent deity group , in Hinduism (in RUN AGAINST)] NAGA. You know it’s going to be something rather obscure if the clue requires such an overt hint. I mention this one only to point out that Naja—of the same etymology—is a large genus of cobra, the one that contains all the familiar, hooded species. More snake action at 50d [Diamondback stats] RBIS.
- 25d [Mythical giant with 100 eyes] ARGUS. “In [Greek] mythology the Peacock is identified with the goddess Hera… The eyes upon the peacock’s tail comes from Argus whose hundred eyes were placed upon the peacock’s feathers by the goddess in memory of his role as the guard of Io, a lover of Zeus that Hera had punished. The eyes are said to symbolize the vault of heaven and the ‘eyes’ of the stars.” (Wikipedia) Alas, the scientific names of the two species of peafowl don’t capitalize on the poetic possibility: Pavo cristatus and P. muticus. The iridescent eyes are called ocelli. Okay, biology and taxonomy lesson over!
- Obscure (to me) names! HAHN [Mayor of Los Angeles, 2001–2005], ARYE [“Ellen” actor Gross], OBER [Host Ken of MTV’s “Remote Control”]. Other solvers may have been unfamiliar with KOOP, MEARA, TIEGS, RZA, or BADU.
- 41d [They’re given in the “Wheel of Fortune” bonus round] RSTLNE. (Didn’t he write the Goosebumps books?) When did the show’s producers get wise and not have contestants pick their own letters? Also, I’m not fond of the fill for 29d AN O [“Would you like to buy __?” (“Sesame Street” song)], but since it’s so close to the concept in “Wheel of Fortune,” why not link the clues to give 29d a little more substance? They’re even close to each other in the grid.
- Hybrid words! Half-abbreviated. KO PUNCH rather than knockout punch or just K.O. PRE-SAT instead of PSAT. Are the intended fills in common usage?
- Was distracted and perhaps even flummoxed by 36d [“North by Northwest” film studio] MGM, because I had recently filled in 22d [Dir. opposite ESE] WNW. Dizzy!
- Favorite clues:
- 23d [Do some video production] EDIT. Nice to see it in a non-manuscript sense for a change.
- 29a [Without leaves] BARE. Simple, elegant.