Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “Yankee Doodle Dandies”
There’s really not much to say about this crossword, is there? It’s a trivia theme, gathering six famous people who were BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY and thus have a birthday coming up on Wednesday. CALVIN COOLIDGE, MALIA OBAMA, NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, GEORGE STEINBRENNER, ANN LANDERS (as well as her twin, Abigail Van Buren), and [Literary critic who was 65-Across (1905)], LIONEL TRILLING. I have a favorite Trilling and that is Calvin Trillin, whose last name actually isn’t the same at all. Lionel is the outlier in this theme, as someone whose name you don’t pick up by going to school and reading the newspaper. Malia is about to turn 14 and is much less accomplished than the late Trilling, but she has way more Google hits.
I don’t recall any clues or answers that were particularly noteworthy. ENDURABLE MOTONEURON DETRAIN DOADEAL ENROOTS? Meh. Don’t recall noticing anything truly grievous, either. This means I really haven’t got much to talk about today.
2.9 stars. Three stars would be entirely passable, but I’d like to be a little more engaged by a puzzle in order to go with 3+ stars.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Comic Opera” — pannonica’s review
comic opera (noun): opera of a humorous character with a happy ending and usually some spoken dialogue (1762)
comic opera (adjective): not to be taken seriously <a comic–opera regime> (1906)
145 years? Wow. Anyway, the theme here is puns involving the titles of operas, for the most part namedropping the composer in each clue. Whether puns are humorous or comic is beyond the purview of this write-up, therefore we shall assume that they are indeed funny. Capisci?
- 23a. [Not booing a Bizet opera?] CARMEN COURTESY (common…). Great start, an opera that just about everyone recognizes and a strong pun.
- 34a. [Emotional Massenet role?] STORMY WERTHER (…weather). Based on Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther).
- 41a. [Gounod’s comic routine?] WHO’S ON FAUST (…First). Sounds as if it could be a bedroom farce. Speaking of which…
- 63a. [Emma Thompson does Verdi?] ERNANI MCPHEE (Nanny…). The original phrase is the title of a 2005 film written by and starring Ms Thompson, one which I’ve never heard of, based on a series of children’s books by Christianna Brand, which and whom I’ve also never heard of. There was a sequel made in 2010, released as Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (UK) and Nanny McPhee Returns (US). I have an idea of why it was renamed for this country, but it’s just a theory. Oh, and I’ve never heard of that movie either. Obviously.
- 68a. [Baroque opera snacks?] ORFEO COOKIES (Oreo…). Gluck! Gluck, gluck, gluck! Stirring stuff, with the “Dance of the Furies” and “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.” This themer, unlike all the others, is more of a visual pun than a phonetic one.
- 88a. [Benefit for Verdi’s audience?] HEARING AIDA (…aid). There’s that Verdi guy again.
- 95a. [Beethoven runner-up?] SECOND FIDELIO (…fiddle). >twiddle, twiddle<
- 110a. [Retro version of Massenet?] OLD SCHOOL THAÏS (…ties). Not sure if the original is supposed to be “old school ties” or “old-school ties,” or whether said ties are metaphorical connections or items of haberdashery. The clue suggests a hyphenated “old-school,” but that isn’t relevant to the original construction. Oh, and that’s two by ol’ Jules.
Wonder if Peter Pears ever appeared in any productions of the above, because then they could have been called “comice operas.” Yes, I went there.
Anyway, despite this octet not being exhaustingly consistent, I enjoyed the results and the theme. Plus, there is a lot of other material in the puzzle to like.
A sampling (also including stuff less likely to be liked):
- Longer fill such as TERRAPIN [Diamondback with a shell], unpartialled MAL DE MER and HOLY SEE, EMPANADA, MANICOTTI, MARMOSETS, and the apt SPLENDID.
- Mini-farm theme on the left-hand side: 50a [Group in a coop] HENS, 44d [Cattle-fattening facility] FEED LOT, 82a [Porker pad] STY.
- 75d [Two times penta-?] DECA-. Why a question mark? On the topic of numeric prefixes, TRICE sounds like thrice (although it is wholly unconnected etymologically), but TRI- is in the grid, at 112-down [Cycle starter?], question mark justified.
- Bonus fill‼ 93a [“Works,” literally] OPERA. Alas, its symmetrical partner is unrelated to the theme: 39a GLOSS [Sheen]. I would have appreciated a fill-in-the-blank (don’t look at me like that) here; an opera GLASS is “a small low-power binocular without prisms.” The crossing vertical could be changed from TOSS to the erstwhile (but mildly crosswordese) Soviet news agency TASS (Телеграфное агентство Советского Союза); I believe those minor compromises would be reasonable.
- Speaking of FITBs, for 74d [ ___ Shuffle] I so wanted LIDO, when it was IPOD, quotation marks be damned.
- 62d [Peer of Shadrach] ABEDNEGO was a complete mystery to me. In fact, I thought it was to do with Dutch or Danish or Norwegian, but it turned out not to be a “Peter” Peer and simply the vernacular peer, “equal.” It turns out this guy is a minor figure in the Bibble, cohort also of Meshach. Full story here.
- More religious ignorance, as 52d BANNS was also a revelation. It’s clued as [Hitching notice] and the dictionary (Merriam-Webster, which I’ve consulted for all definitions today) speaketh thusly: “public announcement especially in church of a proposed marriage (plural of bann, from Middle English bane, ban proclamation … First Known Use: 14th century).” Interestingly, it appears only in the plural. The crossing of BANNS and 58a [French king Hugh] CAPET was totally unknown to me, but I guessed correctly the first time, with an A. The last square I filled in.
- Ludwig van appears in the puzzle again, with reference to his symphonic EROICA (117a).
- Not a duplication per se, but I was nonetheless fazed by 34d [Aspersions] SLURS echoing the proximate 19d [According to] AS PER.
- Found the odd and awkward 9d [ ___ squared (circle area)] PIR (pi r, π r) to be charming.
- Completely misread 45d [Spanish appies] TAPAS as “apples.” I suspect that was an intentional ruse. Appie is (someone else’s not my) lingo for “appetizer.”
- 76a VELDT! How can you not like veldt? Neither sleek nor svelte, yet utterly wonderful.
John Lieb’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “When Worlds Collide” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Take phrases with the word “World” in them and replace “World” with another word (shown in red below) that fits the clue but is otherwise unrelated. (If there is more to this please tell me in the comments.) (Thanks to Andrew: 2 halves to the themers; first half is a phrase that ends with WORLD and second half is phrase that starts with WORLD; hence the title. So DEAD TO THE WORLD meets WORLD ATLAS and so on.)
- 24A. [View from much of the Oregon coast?] – WATER WITHOUT END. Oregon is on the Pacific ocean.
- 36A. [What Ceylon, Siam and Upper Volta are nowadays?] – DEAD TO THE ATLAS. These are now known as (going by memory) Sri Lanka, Thailand and South Carolina.
- 51A. [List of The Duke’s films?] – WAYNE’S HISTORY. Canada Day shout out to Johnny Wayne.
- 68A. [Double eagle in a PGA event?] – SHOT HEARD ROUND THE TOUR. A double eagle is a rare golf shot where two birds are hit by one ball.
- 89A. [Battleship game setting?] – SEA OF WARCRAFT. B-10.
- 101A. [Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, at the time?] – BRAVE NEW RECORD. Aaron was an Atlanta Brave, at the time.
- 119A. [Pneumatic tube in a drive-thru?] – WONDER OF THE BANK. No idea. Did Stevie Wonder play a pneumatic tube?
The randomness of the new phrases seems odd to me. (Wrong as noted above. Much less random and odd.)
- 28A. [Country singer who was an 8-year-old “Star Search” contestant] – RIMES.
- 45A. [Comic Amsterdam] – MOREY. Buddy on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Currently showing on MeTV.
- 46A. [Board-certified talk show host] – DROZ. Ludwig Von Droz.
- 58A. [2002 Streisand album] – DUETS
- 60A. [“Bohemian Rhapsody” addressee] – MAMA
- 66A. [Carp cousins] – DACES. New to me. It appears Mr Carp married Ms. Dace so the Carp family and the Dace family are now related.
- 96A. [“Fun, Fun, Fun” car] – T-BIRD
- 106A. [Character in “Scooby-Doo”?] – HYPHEN. Who can forget Velma T-Bird?
- 127A. [Battle of Thermopylae victor, 480 B.C.] – XERXES. Also known as the Battle of the X’s.
- 14D. [The 1973 Mets’ “Ya Gotta Believe!,” e.g.] – SLOGAN. The Mets finished only 3 1/2 games ahead of the 4th place Expos. Quiz: Which one of these was not a member of the ’73 Expos: John Boccabella, Boots Day, Gary Carter?
- 44D. [Runner down under?] – STYX
- 95D. [Movie props?] – OSCAR NOD. Best clue.
- 115D. [Jazzy Horne] – LENA
- 122D. [Plunk preceder] – KER. I always love KER, although it really is a lousy word.
- 124A. [“Later, dude”] – I’M GONE (But check me out at Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword today)
Quiz answer: Gary Carter didn’t join the Expos until 1974.
Bob Klahn’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 117” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Were you surprised when you saw today’s byline? This is Bob Klahn’s debut Post Puzzler, and it’s a doozy. Chock-full of crazy (in a good way) entries and definitions. I had a good time solving this one. Tough puzzle, but well worth the struggle. I hope you stuck it out and didn’t yell I GIVE! (2d. [What’s the answer already?!]).
- 1a. [What might help you deal with a lousy situation?] – FINE COMB. Yep, lousy as in lice. Ick!
- 8d. [Unwanted pickup?] – BAD VIBE. I made a goofball mistake on this entry. I had BAD V_ _ _ and for some reason decided that BAD VICE was the right answer. BAD VICE is a horrible entry, and I should have realized it’s not the sort of thing one would find in a Klahn/Gordon puzzle, but I convinced myself it was correct. That gave me CRAC SCRATCH for 26a. [Club DJ’s turntable technique], which I assumed was one of those hip-hoppy misspellings like “Tha Carter” or Eazy-E. So bad vibes for me on that crossing.
- 17a. [Speak slightingly of] – VILIPEND. Wow, there’s a word I’ve never heard before. I assume it’s related to “vilify.” If you’re interested, here’s a nice little article on vilipend.
- 38a. [Like the pooch Petey from “Our Gang”] – RING-EYED.
- 11d. [Member of the 1927 New York Yankees] – RED GRANGE. OK, this one’s just mean! I know the ’27 Yankees (considered by some to be the best baseball team of all-time) pretty darn well. I figured LOU GEHRIG was too obvious. WAITE HOYT? BOB MEUSEL? Nope, it’s football legend RED GRANGE… huh? Aha, there was a professional football team called the New York Yankees that played from 1926-1928. Bob Klahn strikes again!
- 12d. [February celebration signed into law by Sarah Palin in 2009] – MARMOT DAY. It replaced Groundhog Day as a holiday honoring Alaska’s marmots. That gives me a great idea for a sequel starring Bill Murray.
- 39a. [Beeline communication?] – WAGGLE DANCE. My favorite entry (even though I don’t like bees). A waggle dance “is a particular figure-eight dance of the honey bee. By performing this dance, successful foragers can share with other members of the colony, information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new housing locations.” (Wikipedia)
Other goodies: DOGGO, PIGGYBACK, RAINIER Wolfcastle, and a shout-out to head fiend ORANGE.
One last note. Brad Wilber has posted a new themeless puzzle. You can find his June Themeless at the Island of Lost Puzzles. As usual, you can choose to solve with either Smooth or Crunchy clues, or use a little of each. Enjoy!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This one lived up to the “Sunday Challenge” billing, that’s for sure. It was a bit like running a marathon. The going as tough. There were times I thought about throwing in the towel. I’m happy to have finished. It was good for me. And I won’t feel like doing something like this again for a quite a while.
I lost a lot of time with AUDIT TRAIL, the [Access history]. My problem was sticking with TOW as the answer to [Hill-climbing gear] (you know, like a ski tow) instead of LOW (as in the automobile gear below Drive). That gave me TRAIT as the last word in the answer to [Access history]. Not surprisingly, I hit a wall going down that path.
Other clues that tricked me:
- I thought SWEDISH should have been the answer to [Like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”], but there weren’t enough squares and, oh yeah, it was wrong. R-RATED was the right answer.
- I thought ARIA was a decent guess to [“La Sylphide” introduced it], especially since it sat in the second row, and A, R, and I are common second letters in words. Had I known it was a ballet, perhaps, I would have uncovered TUTU a little sooner.
- I thought the [Talker behind bars] was the TENDER of the bar (I knew it couldn’t be the obvious, like a jailhouse songbird). But no, it’s just a PARROT.
- I had TELE as the [Phone opening?] but it was supposed to be HOMO. That proved problematic, because TEE seemed like a perfectly correct [Bit of a chuckle]. Turns out it was HEH.
- Once I finally got PARROT, I figured the [Alternative to shells] had to be just plain old PASTA. But Sam, shells are pasta. PENNE is really the only acceptable answer.
Some of the many great clues here include [Where to find Athens and Cairo] for OHIO, [Your highness? (abbr.)] for ELEV. (short for “elevation”), [Hydroelectricity suppliers?] for electric EELS, and [Won’t give up on a dream?] for SLEEPS LATE.
No clue in the world would have helped with RILL, the [Little flower], or SMEARCASE, or [Cottage cheese, to some]. My dictionary says it’s “any soft cheese suitable for spreading or eating with a spoon, especially a sour cottage cheese.” Apparently it is used chiefly in the midwest. But I’ve never heard of it. An odd name for an odd food, IMO.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Parade Route”
So I guess this theme references “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man, though I really don’t know anything about the song. Also, 76 trombones is a ridiculous number for a single marching band. I’m guessing that the song lists all these other instruments in the grid as being part of the band. Merl’s [Instrument in the band] answers include GONG, CLARINET, EUPHONIUM (only three Across theme answers), TRUMPET, BASSOON, HORNS, TYMPANI, REEDS, and BASS. Really? Does the song use “horns” and “reeds” to subsume entire lists of instruments? The trumpet gets singled out but not the tuba? Clarinet but not oboe?
Also in the theme, the circled letters parading through the grid spell out TROMBONES LED THE BIG PARADE WITH CORNETS CLOSE AT HAND. If you don’t know the song, the circled phrase doesn’t give you a lick of help with the anguished fill in those areas. TROG, [Caveman, slangily (and the name of Joan Crawford’s last film)]. CAT DOC (you mean VET?). REGLE, [En ___ (by the rules, in French)]. CHM, [CEO’S other hat, freq.]; apparently it’s short for chairman but somehow CHM is not something that appears in many crosswords despite crosswords’ affinity for three-letter abbreviations. E NOTE, [Part of a C major]. STEN, [Old British gun], familiar if you know your old crosswordese. SERIATE, [Arranged in sequence] (can you use this word correctly in a sentence?). EGY, [Arab Spring country: abbr.]—no! Really? No. It can’t be. OLIGO CARR STEN EGY does not make for an attractive section of the grid (plus OSO and TALCS in the crossings).
Yes, it is difficult to run such a long song line up, down, forwards, and backwards in a grid and get the Across and Down words to fit. Given my utter lack of delight at a Music Man theme, the many trade-offs required left me scowling and scoffing way too much during my solve. If the song enchants you, you may well have loved how this puzzle played out. But for me, it’s a big 2.5-star “meh.”