Michael Sharp and Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “What the …” — pannonica’s review
It’s ironic, I was just thinking to myself this evening that there was a shortage of voiced dental non-sibilant fricatives in my life and then bam! this puzzle comes along. The theme here is that that particular phoneme—which incidentally is represented by ð (aka “eth,” or “edh”) in the IPA (that’s International Phonetic Alphabet, all you beer-addled constructors)—is added to the the termini of words in various phrases to produce wacky results, which are then clued accordingly.
- 23a. [“Come on, woman, shape that wood!”?] LATHE, LADY, LATHE (Lay Lady Lay, a Bob Dylan ditty).
- 38a. [Cheerful superhero?] CAPTAIN BLITHE (Bligh, of Bounty and mutineering fame).
- 52a. [Take a patient approach to revenge?] WAIT AND SEETHE (see). The clue knowingly evokes the adage about it being a dish best served cold.
- 71a. [Ones who stop giving to their church?] TITHE BREAKERS (tie).
- 89a. [Softly exhale cheap sentiment?] BREATHE CHEESE (brie). (1) Can’t say that I’ve ever heard or read the phrase; it’s always been simply “brie,” although its a toponym so it would seem to make sense to have a clarifying agent. (2) It sounds very, very much like a cryptic clue. See also 40d [Big wheel at a reception?] EDAM.
- 101a. [Mad scientist’s sadistic exclamation upon attacking the Empire State?] “WRITHE, NEW YORK!” (Rye, a town just north of the City). (1) Why a mad scientist? (2) Reminds me of the notorious newspaper headline from the 1970s, “Ford To City: Drop Dead!”
- 119a. [What the Grim Reaper’s backup carries?] SCYTHE OF RELIEF (sigh). Ah, me.
- 15d. [“If you don’t like my anger, do something about it!”?] SO SOOTHE ME (sue). Now that is some grade-A passive-aggressiveness.
- 76d. [Hate coke?] LOATHE BLOW (low).
Okay, observations: excellent variety in the original words’ endings, very impressive; the new phrases necessitate some rather contortive, and often long-winded cluing—take this as you will; none of the new phrases are guffaw-worthy, but most are at least somewhat entertaining, which is generally what one would expect from a big Sunday puzzle with a lot of themers. Good also that the /ð/ sound does not occur outside of those nine entries. The grid’s well integrated, so the solve flows well throughout. Additionally, there’s a slightly elevated whimsicality, not to mention risquéness, to the clues, as (anecdotally) compared to other NYT Sundays.
- Longer non-theme fill: WATER PARK, RUMOR MILL, PARTY BUS, HONOREES, SKELETAL, and CABLEMEN (which is sort of an ECHO(114d) of “Caleb Madison,” no?).
- Just going to get this list out of the way: I SAW, ADA, I’M AS, ODS, A AND E, AT A, ONE-B, KIL, AST, LST, IRITIS, ENA. That’s the abridged version.
- Some fresh clues for stale fill. A few examples: 108d [“Get on the stick!”?] for FETCH, although the clue might be too reminiscent of the format for many of the themers, quote-with-exclamation-point-followed-by-question-mark; timely clues for 95a CASTRO (referencing the 2012 DNC) and 19a IRAN (citing the current movie Argo); 34d [Backbeat component, often] SNARE.
- 93a [Tenacious sort] PIT BULL.
- My cultural blind spots hindered getting 55d [Christine ___, “The Phantom of the Opera” girl] DAAÉ and 106a [“Popsicle,” in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” for example] SAFE WORD. I am most definitely not ashamed.
- 58d SCHLOCK!
- 116a [Canon fodder?] FILM. Really? Perhaps if they had stopped producing cameras before everyone went all-digital this clue wouldn’t be irksome.
- Row Nine: Psychologist PIAGET | ITERATE | IRITIS. “Tell me how you see things.”
- 96a [1978–79 CBS detective drama] KAZ. Riiiight, everybody knows that. And it crosses EZRA [Cornell who founded Western Union], whom everbody is also familiar with? Good thing a given “E-RA” couldn’t reasonably be expected to be anything but EZRA.
- Cross reference: 12d [Weenie] DWEEB, 111a [Like 11-Down] NERDY. Pointedly not cross-referenced: 20a LEDA, 22a APOLLO; 13a PISCES, 83a TAURUS.
- No, THAW (82d) and U THANT (46a) do not possess voiced dental non-sibilant fricatives. They have voiceless dental non-sibilant fricatives, represented by θ in the IPA. And U PONE (84d) is not a relative of the [Onetime U.N. leader].
Average to slightly-above-average puzzle, definitely worth tackling.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “I Worked with a Zombie”
Great theme, especially for Halloween week. All sorts of familiar phrases take on a gruesome vibe if you consider them in zombie terms.
- 23a. If you need a zombie’s help, never say “GIVE ME A HAND.”
- 35a. Never ask him to work the GRAVEYARD SHIFT.
- 42a. After an all-nighter, don’t say he looks DEAD ON HIS FEET.
- 60a. Don’t tell him that standing up to the boss SHOWS GUTS.
- 62a. Don’t refer to him as a WORKING STIFF.
- 78a. When you’re sneaking a nap, don’t ask him to KEEP AN EYE OUT.
- 83a. Don’t call an easy assignment a NO-BRAINER.
- 97a. After a rant, avoid saying you never meant to TALK HIS EAR OFF.
- 103. If he’s missing a few office supplies, don’t say, “It’s okay, we’ll DIG SOMETHING UP.”
- 122a. At office parties, never serve LADY FINGERS.
- 132a. And above all, never mention AL GORE.
- 63d. NARIAL, [Of the nostrils]. If you thought NARES was bad…
- 70d. SPAHI, [Algerian soldier in the French Army]. Never seen this one.
- 9d. [“Primal Scream” author Arthur] JANOV. Who??
Could do without the duplication of 29d: BY SEA and 89a: AT SEA.
If you’re interested in further explorations of zombie crosswords, you could do worse than to buy this t-shirt (photo at right).
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Thanks to high-speed technology, you can watch this grid fill itself as I show you my progress in solving this toughie. The pictures to the right show you how the grid looked every six minutes during my solve. That’s right, every six minutes, not seconds (yes, I’m embarrassed).
It might well go without saying that this one was a beast, but I need to vent a little: THIS WAS A BEAST! It’s as if Bob somehow cataloged all the things I don’t know and put them in one grid.
You’ll note the three items in that last paragraph are the first three Across answers in this puzzle. Great start.
But we’re just getting started on the confusion, kids. Didn’t know [“When Worlds Collide” coauthor] PHILIP Wylie, nor did I know his co-author, Edwin Balmer, or even what “When Worlds Collide” is (a 1933 sci-fi novel, it seems).
IMPORTUNE is new to my vocabulary. Perhaps I am taking the chance to importune you now about my frustrations with this puzzle. I was also unfamiliar with the PINCER [movement (military maneuver)], and I’m too crabby right now to look it up. I would have bet the farm that the answer to [Matilda, in an Aussie tune] was WALTZING, but it turned out to be a KNAPSACK. Zero-for-eight on the letters there!
I know HANK as [Hill of “King of the Hill”] or [Ketchum of comics] or even [Singing Williams], but not as [Skein]. I’ll let the folks at knitting.about.com explain: “A skein is similar to a ball [of yarn] but it is formed into an oblong shape. It’s the classic shape most people think of when they think of yarn. … A hank is a different way of selling yarn in which the yarn is loosely wound into a large ring shape and then twisted on itself to make a package that’s easy to ship and store. Untwist the hank and you’ll find yourself faced with a big ring of yarn that needs to be wound into a ball before it is used.” So there you go.
I’m especially embarrassed that I didn’t know IPANEMA, the [Rio neighborhood whose name means “stinky lake” in Tupi]. Yes, I tried TITICACA first, but it didn’t fit (thank goodness, or I would have been lost even longer). But since Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland is one of my favorite tunes from the B-52’s, I feel like I should have caught on to this one sooner–it was the last entry to fall. Next to it sits THREE PM, a perfectly innocent answer, but not when it’s clued as [Six bells, perhaps]. I’m not familiar with the “bell measurement” of time whatsoever. I would have thought six bells was six o’clock. The perils of a public education sometimes rear their ugly heads.
I tried ADAM and then NOAH and then ESAU for [Methuselah’s great-great-great-grandfather]. None of them were getting me anywhere. As you can see in the 24:00 picture, I finally got lucky when I guessed ENOS, though I didn’t know it at the time.
Favorite entry = ONE MAN ON, the [Single result, perhaps]. Favorite clue = [Plot device?] for HOE. It might have something to do with the fact that it was the first clue I could answer!
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 134” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Matt Gaffney remarked that Joon Pahk’s Saturday NY Times puzzle was “Shenkian.” (I agree. It was excellent. Solve it now if you haven’t already.) If you want to know what Shenkian means, check out this Post Puzzler: clean grid, plenty of eye-popping entries, and superb cluing.
- 6a. [Word trademarked (but not realized) by Pat Riley in 1989] – THREE-PEAT. Riley’s Lakers were knocked off by the Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals, so no three-peat. The Jordan/Pippen Bulls pulled it off a couple of times in the ’90s. “Steely” Dan Feyer is the latest solver to three-peat at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and he had to give 10% of his winnings to Pat Riley. What a rip-off.
- 25a. [They often run late] – MICE. Ooh, that’s tricky.
- 60a. [Villainous laugh added to Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2012] – MWAHAHAHA. This is one of those eye-popping entries I was talking about. I wonder how long it took the editors to settle on a definitive spelling.
- 63a. [Boor, north of the border] – HOSER. Take off, eh?
- 2d. [Consumer of potent blue ale] – ROMULAN. I thought this was going to have something to do with Smurfs, even though I don’t remember them drinking ale very often. Well, there is that one episode where they stage an intervention for Boozy Smurf. Look for it on YouTube.
- 38d. [It ends a knight’s move away from where this starts] – ONE DOWN. Wow, this is an amazing clue! How does a constructor think of something like this? Imagine the grid as a chessboard. You can move like a knight from the “38” square to the “31” square, the last letter of 1-Down, CHICAGO. Brilliant.
- 1d. [Running Bear’s home] – CHICAGO. Excellent clue. It’s an NFL Bear. I was especially confused, because I went to high school with a couple Native American kids whose last name was Running Bear.
- 36d. [1980 Tony-winning role for Mandy] – CHE. I assume it was Mandy Patinkin in Evita. My theater knowledge, gleaned primarily from crossword clues, made me confident this was going to be TRU. Oops. Tru was fals.
- 19d. [In one sense, it’s used in breaking, and in another, in entering] – CUE. Billiards and theater. Genius. This is the kind of clue I want to write when I grow up.
More cool stuff: ROAD MOVIE, MOUTHY, DON JUAN, and OPIUM WARS.