Announcement: A write-up of the Thursday LAT has been posted [–p].
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Between the US Open, laundry, the DNC on the DVR, and assorted other tasks demanding my focus, this will be a brief post. Honest. I know that usually when I say that, it ends up being indistinguishable from a regular post. But I mean it this time.
Like the COLD SWEAT (who doesn’t?), I NEED A VOLUNTEER (I hope Amanda Hugenkiss raises her hand), LET THERE BE LIGHT, FAKE IT, CATHERINE the Great, CUTS ONE’S TEETH ON, PAD THAI, a BENTLEY (some sweet wheels, thriving decades beyond erstwhile rival STUTZ), the letter Z. Don’t care for plural ALECS and LOTTS, retro DIET PLATE, ugly ASLOPE, LEAST RESISTANCE (which dangles awkwardly without “the path of”), crosswordese AMAT and EZIO PINZA, and—ecch!—ECH.
Overall, not too shabby for a 66-word grid. 3.5 stars. (See? Short post!)
Kurt Mueller’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
The theme today is quite simple: 1. Add a Y to the first word of two phrases. 2. Drop the E in the first two answers, but not the subsequent three. 3. Clue wacky-style. A very simple theme idea, but I thought it was executed quite well. For one, the new -Y words make a colourful set: CHEESY, SAUCY, MEATY, CORNY and FISHY. One issue I did have was with the first clue: I’m not sure CHEESY and “inferior” are strictly synonymous.
What else do we have?
- ONLY/JUST are cross-referenced and stacked, which could make that area hard, if you can’t unravel that pair of answers. Many of us were stumped by such a trick in Caleb Madison’s NYT puzzle of two weeks ago, but I finished this section without too much hassle; how about you guys?
- INOT is a clever, though hard to parse answer – it’s “in o.t.” if you’re battling. The clue database tells me I have seen it before.
- Am I the only one who can never remember the first letter of the [New Jersey casino]? Had Raj and considered Haj!
- Crosswordland’s favourite three-letter holiday, TET, got the plural treatment today.
- I really liked the clue for NONFAT, [Milk for losers]. Again the database says it’s been done before, but I don’t remember that, so it was, ahem, fresh for me. (Although, FWIW, such milk is called “fat-free” here).
- Another briliant clue was [New gnu] for CALF: this time the clue really is a new/gnu one! Possibly interesting tidbit: never mix wildebeest (gnu) calves and regular calves, the former all carry snotsiekte, a deadly viral disease.
That’s all I have for you for today! Is there anything else I should’ve said?
Todd Gross’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “On Campus” — pannonica’s review
Hey, remember the CHE puzzle? It’s finally back. (Psst. They falsified their official transcript by relabelling the previous offering, “World Piece,” from 3 August to 17 August. That’s right, it’s been over a month since the last one appeared.)
This puzzle has a geographic theme—phrases involving locations of state universities—which seems apt, as students have recently been making their ways back to campuses.
- 17a. [University of Nebraska registers?] LINCOLN LOGS. Factette: Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright, Frank’s son.
- 24a. [University of Wisconsin thoroughfare?] MADISON AVENUE.
- 38a. [University of South Carolina transcripts?] COLUMBIA RECORDS. Probably no danger of the town being bought by Sony.
- 49a. [University of Kansas quadrangle?] LAWRENCE BLOCK.
- 59a. [University of Mississippi jersey?] OXFORD SHIRT.
Notes on the theme:
- The first three cities are also the state capitals, the second two are not.
- For convenience’s sake, I’m putting the cart before the horse here; the locales “remain” proper nouns in the original phrases.
- The non-locale components of the answers deviate in meaning—or don’t—to different degrees: logs is the most divergent (“registers” vs. “a sizable length of tree trunk”); records (“transcripts” vs. “audio documents”) has similar yet distinct senses; avenue is used slightly abstractly—as a metaphor—in the original phrase; block is similarly abstract, as a surname; shirt is unchanged in meaning.
There’s relatively good flow in the grid, but 40 blocks (not counting the one in 49a) is a lot for a 15×15 puzzle. Very nice vertical 9-stack pairs in the NE and SW: the academic LECTURERS with PROMENADE (clued as a square dance move (formation?) rather than architecturally, perhaps to distance it from the thoroughfare and quadrangle of the themers?), and the I-didn’t-know-the-name-of-that LOAD LINES with von Sternberg’s The BLUE ANGEL.
- ANG stacked on LEE at 58a and 64a.
- Nice that the clue for 56a LAO eschews a fill-in-the-blank with -Tse because [Chairman __-shek] KAI already appears in the puzzle (47a).
- Higher-ed institutional clues: 42a [Alpha __ Omega (fraternity founded in 1865)] TAU, 6d [How Gallaudet University students converse: Abbr.] ASL, 10d [Non-tenure track faculty] LECTURERS, 57a [L.A.’s __ College of Art and Design] OTIS.
- Does ESL / ASL count as partial repetition? (67a, 6d)
- 68a [Hadassah founder Henrietta] SZOLD. Turns out, Hadassah is the Women’s Zionist Movement of America, begun in 1912.
- Liked the segue, intentional or not, of the XYZ Affair preceding the Ziegfeld clue for FLOrenz (60d & 61d).
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
Three squares. Three little squares. All the other ones fell in under five minutes. But finding those three squares containing errors added another 150 second to my solving time. Of course, I didn’t know there was more than one when I was done. All I knew was that there was an error somewhere (I had the red “the puzzle contains incorrect letters” alert and not the coveted green “the puzzle is filled correctly” message), and every time I thought I had it right, the red alert remained. Curses!
Two of the squares were my fault from not reading the clues carefully. I had SALUTES as the answer to [Paid respects to], ignoring the clue’s tense. Obviously, the answer was SALUTED. Thanks to my error, I had the answer to [Three-note chord] ending in -RIAS and not -RIAD. As it turns out, I don’t know my three-note chords from a hole in the ground, so my thinking was, “It’s musical, it ends in -RIAS, so it’s ARIAS. Move on.” Now I did check the crossing Down, but frankly ENARE looked just as good as anything for the answer to [“___ Nous” (Best Foreign Film nominee of 1983)]. Between us, however, it was ENTRE, meaning the three-note chord was TRIAD. Had I correctly ended SALUTE with a D instead of an S, this whole catastrophe would have been averted.
The other square was attributable solely to my own ignorance. The only answer to [“___ Man” (classic video game)] that I know is PAC. But this one had four letters, ending in -EGA. Well, SEGA is a name associated with video games, so I went with that, meaning I had ESBOW as the answer to [Form into an arch, old-style]. Look, the only answer I could come up with for that clue would be something like CURVE-FORME. So why not ESBOW? I didn’t feel good about it, though, so when the red alert stayed on I figured something had to be wrong here. Somehow, I convinced myself that the answer had to be ELBOW. What the heck else could it be? That meant I had LEGA-MAN for the video game. Didn’t ring any bells, but I knew it couldn’t be LEGO-MAN, since the answer to [Overly violent, perhaps] was R-RATED and not R-ROTED. So I figured ELBOW was right and my error sat elsewhere. After searching through the grid twice more, I came back to this pesky square, eventually finding MEGA-Man and EMBOW. Finally, the green message! But not until after much hunting and exasperation. Three squares, the new white whale.
Oh, yeah…the rest. I solved the puzzle without looking at the title (it’s part of the Name That Puzzle gimmick this month), so I’m guessing that there are four theme entries:
- 17-Across: The [Official document from the Vatican] is a PAPAL BULL. I’m not familiar with the term, but the green message tells me I have it right.
- 56-Across: An EASTER EGG is a [DVD extra]. .
- 11-Down: The [Hi-tech movie helicopter] is BLUE THUNDER, from the movie Blue Thunder, not White Nights or Red Dawn.
- 25-Down: A STICK FIGURE might be a [Pictionary drawing, perhaps].
So what’s the theme here? I’m guessing it relates more to BULL, EGG, THUNDER, and FIGURE than the first word in each entry, because I’m much less confident there’s a connection between PAPAL, EASTER, BLUE and STICK. I can’t think of any qualities that unite BULL, EGG, THUNDER, and FIGURE, so my guess is that it involves a common word that can precede or follow those words. Let me start with the oddest duck in the flock: FIGURE. We know it can’t be STICK. BALLPARK doesn’t work, nor do HOURGLASS, GO, or FATHER. Hmm, maybe the common word comes at the end. SKATE? Nope. EIGHT? Nah. HEAD? Wait a minute–maybe. Figurehead, egghead, thunderhead–those work well. But Bull head? I know “bull-headed,” bur “bull head” or “bullhead” or “bull-head” is foreign to me. Still, I like that HEAD can follow at least three of the last words in the theme entries, so I’m going with that as the theme.
Assuming that’s right, then, I need to come up with the title. Big Heads? Nah, it’s a common enough term, but it doesn’t really capture the theme. Head heads? I never thought I’d say this, but that’s too much head. I’m liking Use Your Head, though I have a funny feeling the real title is something much more clever.
Yep, it is. The real title is “From Heads to Tails,” signifying the fact that the starts for each of the HEAD terms moves to the tail of each theme entry. Tres clever!
Highlights in the fill included CBS NEWS, MINCEMEAT, and PALM BEACH. For reasons alluded to above, I was less a fan of ENTRE and EMBOW, but if we’re going to be complete we should add TO A, SYS OP, MARNE, and IDLER.
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Extra Specialists” — pannonica’s review
Most doctors have extra letters after their names, like MD MHSc D(ABMM) FRCP. In this puzzle, a single letter has been affixed to the beginning of their specialty to make something new and different. Perhaps the byline should read “Randolph Ross, MD FACS”?
TRAUMA | SMUSH ! (69a & 70a)
- 23a. [Specialist who delivers for the Sopranos?] (M)OBSTETRICIAN. So close to mobster, alas.
- 27a. [Specialist who doesn’t know what he’s doing?] (L)OSTEOPATH. Fun Fact: with –O––—OPATH in place, before I knew what the theme was about, I figured this was sociopath. Ha-ha, ha?
- 44a. [Arabian hearing specialist?] (S)AUDIOLOOGIST. Nothing to do with veterinary science.
- 62a. [Specialist who listens to sole music?] (I)PODIATRIST.
- 83a. [Specialist who treats Santa’s broken ankle?] (N)ORTHOPEDIST.
- 95a. [Specialist who’s paid in continental currency?] (E)UROLOGIST. No change in sound, interestingly.
- 103a. [Specialist who keeps a Kardashian healthy?] (K)IMMUNOLOGIST. Again, nothing to do with veterinary science.
- 31d. [Specialist who checks pupils at the police academy?] (C)OPTOMETRIST.
- 40d. [Ethical specialist who does extractions?] (M)ORAL SURGEON.
Can’t say I’m thrilled by the theme, but at least there’s a lot of theme content, right? The gymnastics employed to suture the befores-and-afters are widely varied. For instances, there’re a homophonic pun (“sole music”), a conceptual stretch (Santa ≈ NORTH), and a sly use of an ad homonym approach (“pupils” = students).
Some very appealing long non-theme fill: full title of THE MIKADO [Operetta set in Titipu], [Feeling angst] is a good, minimal clue for UNSETTLED. A TACK ROOM is a [Saddle storage spot] in that it’s where saddles themselves are stored, not a place to stow things in (or on?) a saddle.
- Nifty triple-seven stacks in the NE and SW corners. FASTEST / OTHELLO / RHOMBUS (!), and the absurdist-looking PHONENO / IONESCO, balanced atop the decidedly more mundane CHARTED.
- Never noticed until now that HAM HOCK (26a) and hammock are just one letter apart.
- PLAY-DOH, nice fill. Once I was in one of those L’Occitane stores and the clerk (“associate”?) proffered something fragranced for me to sample, to which I accurately responded that it smelled just like Play-Doh. My companions immediately recognized that I was correct and we were rewarded with a scowl. Never liked those stores anyway.
- 39d [Weed-__ (lawn care brand)] B-GON. Whoa.
- 29a [Last king of a united Sweden and Norway] I figured this would be yet another OLAV/F, but it turned out to be OSCAR II. Bonus: 66a [City served by Gardermoen Airport] OSLO; if you’ve been doing all the puzzles lately, you’d know that city is also the home of the Edvard Munch Museum and Ibsen Museum (see CrossSynergy and LAT, 5 September).
- LEST on YET, [In case], [Still]. (82a & 87a)
- The etymology of SCUT [Bunny tail] is unknown, according to m-w.com. Different origin from the SCUT of scut work, which that dictionary suggests derives from “medical argot scut junior intern.”
- Good clue/bad clue: 41d [Stock holders] CORRALS, 54d [Super dupers?] LIARS. Honorable mention: 72a [Looks both ways?] SEES.
- Who? 84a [Umenyiora of the New York Giants] OSI. Together, that’s OSIUMENYIORA. Wow.
- Clues with extra hints: 76a [Lake tribe] ERIE, 39a [“Les __ in A Minor” (Allman Brothers Band song)] BRERS.
Okay puzzle, weighed down by an underwhelming theme. In closing, I’ll take up my new chant: SMUSH STAUNCH STINT, SMUSH STAUNCH STINT… ommmmm.