Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword, “Single-Minded”
Pat gathers up a bunch of idioms that end with plural nouns and rendered them in the singular, cluing them as the underwhelming counterparts of the originals:
- 23a. [Disappointing “Who’s with me?” response?], SHOW OF HAND.
- 25a. [Work to maintain a C average?], HIT THE BOOK.
- 31a. [Mention that you know a secret?], SPILL THE BEAN. People who are inveterate bean spillers can never stop at just one, of course. Have any of you ever blabbed just one secret in your life?
- 51a. [One who’s read an encyclopedia’s first volume?], MAN OF LETTER.
- 58a. [Podunk’s directory?], YELLOW PAGE. Not a thriving hub of business, that Podunk.
- 71a. [Having finished just one month of a job?], WET BEHIND THE EAR. Wait. Huh? The “one month” is weirdly specific. If “wet behind the ears” means you’re inexperienced … okay, I get it. You’re pretty inexperienced after a month, but not as inexperienced as someone with zero experience. Makes perfect sense eventually.
- 87a. [What one with a small nest egg enjoys?], GOLDEN YEAR. If you’ve seen Albert Brooks’ classic rant in Lost in America, the mention of an inadequate “nest egg” evokes a laugh. Unless it’s your own nest egg that has vanished, that is.
- 96a. [Despot’s concession?], BILL OF RIGHT. Mighty generous of our despot to give us one right.
- 109a. [Occasional klutz?], BUTTERFINGER.
- 121a. [Beginning magician’s arsenal?], BAG OF TRICK.
- 123a. [Go on a brief youthful binge?], SOW ONE’S OAT. Does anyone sow plain oats, or are they always wild oats? I think they’re wild. If you’re sowing your non-wild oats, you may be having a Wilford Brimley sort of experience.
I did not know that the [Seasick sea serpent of cartoons] was CECIL. Is this about Beany and Cecil?
- 6d. [Hamburg grr?], ACH. Sounds like “hamburger.”
- 102a. [It no longer sells maize or mulberry], CRAYOLA. I always did like the mulberry crayon.
- 60d. [Locale for tapping, toping and tipping], PUB. Tap the keg, tope like a sot, tip your bartender.
(Fairly smooth fill + a theme that works pretty well) × clues hitting an average-to-easy Sunday difficulty level = 3.5 stars. With 11 theme answers, there’s not a ton of wiggle room to accommodate a ton of sparkle.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Stumper” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s the first Sunday Challenge puzzle in Name That Constructor Month, my little game of guessing the identity of the puzzle’s constructor after I’m finished solving it. So let’s take a gander at this 72/29 freestyle crossword and see if I can figure out who made it.
A cursory look at the grid tells me it likely isn’t Martin Ashwood-Smith, since he likes grids with lots of 15-letter entries. This grid maxes out with a couple of 14s, a pair of 11s, and some stacked 10s. There’s lots to like in these long entries:
- Notice how FLOWER SHOP sits right next to ROSE PETALS. Since the clue for ROSE PETALS is [2-Down supply], you really can’t miss the connection.
- The other pairing features an IMPULSE BUY of PASTA SAUCE. I just got back from spending time in Italy (I’ll spare you the “and boy are my arms tired” line) where it seemed that every I ate had some kind of decadent sauce with it. I can definitely see how pasta sauce can be an impulse buy.
- There’s another subtle connection between the Tammy Wynette signature song, STAND BY YOUR MAN and COLLEGE DROP-OUT, as we get the contrast between “standing by” and “dropping out.” At least I think there’s a connection there. It could be jetlag.
- The other long answers, BULLY PULPIT and CONCEPT CARS, are likewise interesting. But if there’s a connection here, it’s totally lost on me.
I loved the fresh clue for SEXY, [“___ and I Know It” (2011 LMFAO hit)], but isn’t it more of a 2012 number than a 2011 song? I also thought [Name on the cover of “The Fountainhead“] was an interesting way to clue AYN Rand. Finally, the stacked sevens in each corner are nice and clean as a whistle. This is just a great freestyle grid. The zippy entries, the lively clues, and the clean fill have me leaning strongly toward one of two constructors, Doug Peterson or Tony Orbach. (Patrick Blindauer came to mind too, but we have seen him very recently.) For my third guess, I throw in the name of another occasional Sunday Challenge constructor, just to be safe. Here goes, then:
1. Doug Peterson. 2. Tony Orbach. 3. Lynn Lempel.
Yay! I’m back in the saddle with a three-point guess. (Truth be told, though, I feel a little sheepish about taking the three points here, since this puzzle really had a Doug Peterson feel to it throughout.) But I’m not sheepish enough to forego the points! I now have five points total and two correct guesses out of five puzzles so far this month. I better go take a nap as I recover from the jetlag–maybe I can get a winning streak going!
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “I’m in the Lead” — pannonica
It’s an add-a-letter theme. For this incarnation the letters I-M are appended to the beginning of familiar phrases, altering them to varying degrees.
- 18a. [Claim, “He can’t fix shoes!”?] IMPEACH COBBLER. This is tricky one as an opener because it isn’t entirely clear that the clue is looking for an alternate exclamation, one that augments but is not necessarily interchangeable with the one proffered.
- 22a. [Frozen state?] IMMOBILE ALABAMA.
- 53a. [Do well at an audition?] IMPRESS AGENTS. See also 75a [Decreased] IRONED.
- 65a. [Someone really much older?] IMPOSTER CHILD.
- 102a. [Water bearer?] IMAGE OF AQUARIUS. Spiffy how the clue takes advantage of a double meaning of “bearer.” This was done to a lesser extent in 22a but it’s more impressive here.
- 106a. [DD bra, perhaps?] IMPLANT MANAGER.
- 15d. [Vandalizes the rink?] IMPAIRS SKATING.
- 44d. [Pulling the trigger?] IMPARTING SHOTS.
It’s an obvious observation, but the greater the effect of the added IM—whether in altering the pronunciation or converting the word to a different root or both—correlated with my greater appreciation. Hence, I liked IMPOSTER, IMPEACH, and IMAGE better than IMPARTING, IMPLANT, and IMPRESS.
In typical Hook fashion, the grid contains a massive overlap between some themers, evidenced here in the first and last two acrosses, which each have 14 letter contiguities. Overall good flow through the puzzle, but I was distracted by the two 7-block shapes that look kind of like this: ˦ with an extra bar, sort of like a llama figurine that’s been cut in half. I don’t think it’s detrimental, structurally or otherwise, to the puzzle, but there you have it.
- Did not know [Former CNN reporter David] ENSOR, although I’m aware of Belgian painter James ENSOR. (91a)
- Least favorite fill: VOIDER [Stamp that says “Cancelled”, e.g.], [Nostril-related] NARIC, i.e., of the nares. (24a & 80a)
- MIMOSA and SAMOSAS. Party time! (1d & 47a) At Los ALAMOS? (10d)
- SCENE III, MARK IV. Thought both were ok. (77d, 52a)
- 76a [Galley slaves?] EDITORS. Sneakily misleading clue by virtue of proximity to 62a [Thole insert] OAR.
- Favorite clue: 7d [The hot wings weren’t good for him] ICARUS.
- And last, at 104d, [African plant popular in Scrabble] is the good old u-less (but not useless) QAT.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Double Overtime” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: 117D. [There are two of them in each starred ans.] – OT’S
- 23A. [*Like Disneyland, vis-à-vis theme parks] – PROTOTYPICAL. Happiest, Bestest and Most Magical didn’t fit.
- 25A. [*Perform efficiently] – GO TO TOWN
- 48A. [*Tryst venue] – NO-TELL MOTEL
- 67A. [*Bit of campaign nastiness] – POT SHOT
- 90A. [*Get-rich-quick buy] – LOTTO TICKET
- 113A. [*Writer’s bottom line?] – FOOTNOTE
- 116A. [*1978 Commodores hit] – TOO HOT TA TROT
- 13D. [*Absolutely perfect] – HOTSY TOTSY. Two Hot?
- 73D. [*”Zilch”] – NOT ONE IOTA
Nothing says August like a hockey playoff theme!
- 11A. [Convert into an anesthetic] – ETHERIFY. Your goal is to use this in a sentence today. Wait, make it any day in your lifetime.
- 31A. [Dancer Falana] – LOLA
- 40A. [Amy Winehouse’s reaction to rehab, in the song] – NO NO NO
- 41A. [British Invasion drummer] – STARR who recorded the pro-rehab “The No No Song.”
- 42A. [Baker with the breakout album “Rapture”] – ANITA. Three straight music answers. Makes my job easy.
- 53A. [“WKRP” costar with Gary, Gordon, Howard et al.] – LONI. Oh my God, they’re turkeys!
- 61A. [“May It Be” singer] – ENYA
- 63A. [__ Wolf: Disney comics kid] – LI’L. Who? I doubt you can get your picture with him at Disneyland.
- 18D. [’50s TV adventurer __ Derringer] – YANCY
- 68D. [In “Wicked,” say] – ON STAGE
- 90D. [Lesser-of-evils situation] – LOSE LOSE. Well, if you go to double overtime someone may win.
- 109D. [Supreme leader?] – ROSS
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 122” – Neville’s review
Neville here, in for Doug who’s been off having too much fun at Lollapuzzoola 5. Let’s see what he’s missing out on… ooh! A Trip Payne puzzle! Let’s look at what’s going on here.
INLAND SEA was my in; LAKE wasn’t long enough. [It may be circular] is a nice roundabout way to get to REASONING, and AND CHANGE below that is a nice expression.
Matt Gaffney recently pointed out to me that THAIS nearly always gets a clue like [Massenet opera], not [People from Bangkok]. That paid off today. Do people still use HOTBOT? Did people ever use it?
TAR AND FEATHER is a great central entry. [Punish severely] seems a little straightforward for a Post Puzzler, though. There is a little bit of trickiness with [Block side]. That’s a city block; the answer’s STREET.
Down at the bottom of the gird, HOLE IN ONE gets another tricky one: [It takes a nice drive]. I think we saw INSTAGRAM a few weeks back in a BEQ puzzle with nearly the same clue: [2012 Facebook acquisition]. Ah, the glory that is running your own online puzzle! [Pray after completing a Hail Mary, perhaps] fuses football and religion with the answer of TEBOW – the kneeling sensation that’s sweeping the nation. Nice reference here.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Gunfight”
I enjoyed this puzzle. If I knew how to highlight the theme answers with a color the way Matt Gaffney does, I’d do that because I like the way the four 8s in the middle are arranged.
The theme entries narrate a gunfight, step by step:
- 21a, 30a, 42a. [Invitation to a gunfight (continues at 30 and 42 Across)], THIS TOWN AIN’T BIG ENOUGH FOR BOTH OF US.
- 51a. [Gunfight, Part 2], HIGH NOON. (Traditional time for a duel, and the name of a Western.)
- 60a. [Gunfight, Part 3], SHOWDOWN.
- 71a. [Gunfight, Part 4], FAST DRAW.
- 77a. [Gunfight, Part 5], SHOOTOUT.
- 83a. [Gunfight, Part 6], BANG, BANG.
- 99a. [Gunfight, Part 7], THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE.
- 112a. [Gunfight, Part 8], BOOT HILL. That’s the cemetery the gunfight’s loser will be buried in.
Merl uses multi-word partial entries more than a lot of constructors do, and he stretches them to 6 and 7 letters. But his partials here all escape the awkwardness and flatness that can plague such answers. Instead of being a blight on the puzzle, they maintain Merl’s mode of light humor.
- 20a. [“___ have eyes …”] FOR YOU.
- 76a. [“I ___ differ”], BEG TO.
- 5d. [Take ___ (drink heartily)], A SWIG.
- 11d. NOT IF [“___ I see you first”].
- 49d. [“That’s ___ me!”], NEWS TO.
- 56d. [“What am I, ___ money?”], MADE OF.
- 96d. [“Paint Your Wagon” tune, “___ to the Trees”], I TALK.
- 1a. [Setting of a William Holden war film], STALAG. I sure couldn’t tell you what movie.
- 43a. [Lucerne’s land, in NATO shorthand], SWI. The IGNACE crossing ([Pianist Paderewski]) might be tough for some folks.
- 48a. [Birthplace of the Dionne quintuplets], ONTARIO. Was afraid we’d need the name of a Canadian town at first.
- 116a. [1960s group of “Wah-Watusi” fame, the ___], ORLONS. I prefer the Nylons.
- 103d. [Part of a C major], E NOTE. Is “E note” a thing?
- 18a. [Feature of Dracula’s face], PALLOR.
- 107a. [Buddy and Rob’s co-writer, familiarly], SAL. Short for Sally, Rose Marie’s character on the old Dick Van Dyke Show.