Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “You’ll Know It When You See It”
The theme is a six-part quote theme, essentially. 67a: “WHAT IS ART?” is the [Classic question answered six times in this puzzle]. The answers are:
- 24a. [Answer to 67-Across, per John F. Kennedy], art is THE GREAT DEMOCRAT. Music, of course, is the great Republican, and dance is the great Libertarian.
- 32a. [Answer to 67-Across, per Yeats], art is BUT A VISION OF REALITY.
- 49a. [Answer to 67-Across, per Malraux], art is A REVOLT AGAINST FATE.
- 88a. [Answer to 67-Across, per Beethoven], art is SELFISH AND PERVERSE.
- 107a. [Answer to 67-Across, per Nietzsche], art is THE PROPER TASK OF LIFE.
- 116a. [Answer to 67-Across, per Emerson], art is A JEALOUS MISTRESS.
Difficult theme, as you have to work through the crossings to assemble the theme answers if you don’t have them all in your head as familiar quotations (I didn’t).
Highlights in the fill and clues:
- 10a. [Original state of the universe, in myth], CHAOS. Interesting.
- 55a. [Indignant reply], “WELL, I NEVER!” Zippy.
- 60a. [1994 film based on an “S.N.L.” skit], IT’S PAT. You are excused for hating this entry, but it amuses me.
- 78a. [Stiff drink, maybe], DOUBLE. Not one of the most obvious clue approaches for this word.
- 85a. [End an engagement?], GET MARRIED. Cute.
- 2d. [Mediterranean salad with bulgur wheat, chopped tomatoes and parsley], TABOULI. We would also have accepted TABBOULEH.
- 3d. [Gave a hand where one shouldn’t?], ABETTED. Criminal!
- 14d. [As easy as pie, say], SIMILE. Oh, my! With the next clue/answer being [As easy as __] ABC, you wanted SIMPLE here, didn’t you? I sure did. And that was just not working with 30a: [Pull (in)], REIN. I pondered whether REPO could work or if REAP had a crazy variant spelling of REPE. The clunky ONE-EAR (13d. [Like most Bluetooth headsets]) didn’t help me here.
- 72d. [Christiansen who founded Lego], OLE. Fresh OLE clue!
- 78d. [Those not favored], DARK HORSES. Nice fill.
- 81d. [Bridges of note], BEAU. Not little-b “bridges.”
- 82d. [Nightmarish thoroughfare?] ELM STREET. Better than the much more often seen ELMST.
In general, the fill is on the tougher side today, with answers like ANGIO, HORAE, PLENA, Porto-NOVO, CANA, RIA, STAVE, UNAS, AEREO, SNELL, and NITRE.
Overall, let’s give this scholarly outing 3.5 stars. My rating would be higher if the puzzle had been more fun(ny).
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Stepword Fives”
Instead of the Stepford Wives, Merl brings us his stepword fives—a themeless grid with diagonal swaths of stair-stepping 5-letter answers, lots of Scrabbly letters in the mix.
None. Correction: I didn’t see the Notepad entry: “NOTE: Two well-known “step”-related titles are hidden diagonally in this puzzle – both of them run in straight lines (although one makes an appropriate turn) and both are 18 letters long. Can you find them? (Answer next week.)” Thanks to Jeffrey for pointing out that UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS and UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE appear in diagonals. Whoa!
- 71a. [“Nuts!”], FOOEY. Never seen this with an F instead of PH.
- 56d. [Saxophonist-composer Jimmy, known for his big-band arrangements for Benny Goodman and Count Basie], MUNDY. I don’t know my big-band musicians.
- 54a. [Smoky stone], OPAL. “Smoky”? Not a word I generally associate with opals. There is a smoke-hued clear gemstone, smoky topaz, which the internet tells me is not topaz at all but merely smoky quartz. Perhaps Merl had the papal conclave’s white smoke in mind.
- 72a. [Eloi portrayer in “The Time Machine” (1960)], MIMIEUX. Yvette, I presume.
- 78a. [Boxer-actor Rosenbloom], MAXIE. He was also known as Slapsie Maxie.
I had fun zipping through this puzzle and encountering the occasional Q or X zones in the grid. Odds are that Dan Feyer and/or the other speed demons who post their solving times at Dan Does Not Blog will put up incredible times on this puzzle. I’m thinking there will be times in the 4-minute range, simply because there’s nothing thematic to figure out in this puzzle, very few of the entries are difficult, and the clues aren’t so hard. Four stars—and I’d love to see Merl make another themeless 21×21 with longer fill. Edited to add: Now that I know there’s a theme here, I’m knocked out. FOOEY and MUNDY are the only compromises I found in the triple-checked fill zones, and that is no mean feat. Move it up to 4.5 stars.
Michael Blake and Myles Callum’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “If Ever I Would Leave You”
Seven phrases that contain a single letter “i” drop that letter and change their meanings:
- 23a. [CliffsNotes bio of a civil rights leader?], CONDENSED MLK. Condensed milk.
- 36a. [Junk-rated salad?], BBB LETTUCE. Bibb lettuce.
- 64a. [Popular cosmetic surgery?], NOSE ABATEMENT. Noise abatement.
- 92a. [Winnebago-driving elder?], OLD MAN RVER. Ha! My favorite. Old Man River.
- 111a. [Prison?], CON COLLECTOR. Coin collector.
- 17d. [Art teacher’s tip for drawing a lion?], REMEMBER THE MANE. “Remember the Maine.”
- 42d. [What the team’s goat mascot did?], SWALLOWED THE BAT. Swallowed the bait. I was thinking of the flying mammal rather than the baseball bat at first.
Favorite fill: GIFT WRAP, CANDY BARS, “I’D LOVE TO,” TIME ZONE, and PET ROCKS (116a. [’70s fad items shipped in boxes with air holes]).
Least favorite things:
- 118a. [Parched], ATHIRST. Not in the upper echelon of a- words (awry, amiss, akimbo, and amok, I like). Agaze, agape (unless you mean the three-syllable word), atiptoe, and athirst? Meh.
- 38a. [Stereotypical Monroe roles], BIMBOS. Sigh. Puzzle also has MANTRAP.
- The crossing of two proper names using less familiar people for both. 45a. [TV reporter Peter] ARNETT has dropped out of the limelight, whereas Will Arnett is all over TV, movies, and advertising show, and is Amy Poehler’s ex so he’s had Hollywood power couple status too. The A in ARNETT crosses 38d: BARTON, clued as [MacLane who played General Peterson on “I Dream of Jeannie”]. Who?? Barton Fink and Clara Barton are both more significant. I wonder how many solvers opted for BURTON and URNETT.
- 46a. [Oregon Coast Aquarium city], NEWPORT. Oregon has a Newport? The one in Rhode Island, home of a famous jazz festival, is better known.
- 80a. [Story in la maison], ETAGE. Crosswordese French.
- Fill like L-DOPA, ETH, IMRE, THES, AIMER, OLEIN, EEE, GEOS, ASCAP, PRS, OSAGES, OSS, ODIC, SNERD, OCTA, INDO, LACERS, and RHEO also fails to thrill. It felt like there were more of these “meh” bits than usual.
I learned that 79d: [King novel with two apostrophes in the title] is ’SALEM’S LOT, contracted from “Jerusalem’s Lot.” I don’t recall being aware of that opening apostrophe. Now, Pet Sematary, I noticed.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 155”
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I’m a little short on time today, so let’s get to it. I love the four long answers in this grid: SWIZZLE STICKS, DIZZY GILLESPIE, BRACE FOR IMPACT, and BASKET WEAVING.
- 25a/26d. [House Minority Whip Hoyer] – STENY / [Roma’s river] – TEVERE. I wonder if this crossing will give people trouble. STENY is an very odd name. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say: “[Hoyer’s] father was Danish and a native of Copenhagen; Steny is a variant of his father’s name, Steen.” And I’ve never heard of the TEVERE River. Let’s look it up … Aha, it’s Italian for Tiber. Maybe I should have figured that out, since the clue uses the Italian “Roma.”
- 4d. [“Jungle Funk” musical] – TARZAN. I like this clue, even though I didn’t know Tarzan was a musical.
- 57a. [WiFi equipment maker] – ALTAI. I don’t remember seeing this clue, and when I saw the answer, I assumed it was clued with the tried-and-true Altai Mountains. I like this new approach.
- 14a. [It gets you nowhere] – TREADMILL. Makes me think of George Jetson, of course.
- 48a. [Native American craft] – BASKET WEAVING. Yes, Underwater Basket Weaving does have its own Wikipedia entry.
Other good stuff: ROD SERLING, YOU KNOW, DERRIERES. And a few more potentially tough names: Anita SHREVE, ELSTON Howard, FRANCESCA Schiavone .
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Long-time readers know that I usually like Doug Peterson crosswords. So when I say this is one of Doug’s best CS puzzles, believe me I’m saying something. This 70/28 freestyle offers fun at nearly every turn, with just enough resistance to make the solver feel triumphant in the end.
Many of us have noted the three elements to a great freestyle puzzle: snazzy entries, clever clues, and smooth flow. Let’s review how this puzzle rates in all three categories. First up: good fill. One need look no further than the triple 10s in the northwest corner: SECOND TEAM, GRAPE JUICE, and TIME WARNER. All of them are fresh and fun. But what I like most about them is that they feed into three fun long Downs: NEW-AGEY, the [Adjective for Enya], DJANGO, the [2012 title role for Jamie Foxx], and MERCEDES, the [Big name in upscale wheels]. I really like triple- and quad-stacks that can feed into nice crossings like this. Sure, this stack thrust the less-comely SGTS and OPE in our faces, but seriously, that’s a very small price to pay for such grandeur nearby.
Other interesting entries included HARVEST MOON, UGGS, UMBERTO ECO, and the foodie’s delight in the southwest: CHOWDER paired with a WIENIE (oh, and with COCOA [Krispies] to top it off!). Yum! There’s also MEAN GIRLS, CAVE MEN, and Dick CAVETT, [Author of the 2010 book “Talk Show”]. All that goodness in one grid! Pace yourself, Doug! You have to leave something for your next puzzle!
On the clue front, I liked these:
- [Doesn’t stay put] for ROVES. I can’t be the only solver to stick with MOVES for way too long, right? Right?
- [Steers, say] for LIVESTOCK. The clue is intended to make the solver think of a verb and not a noun. At least I hope that was its intent, because that’s what I did at first.
- I saw right through this one, but I love [Kennedy appointer] for President REAGAN. My guess is at least a fair share of solvers will keep thinking of John F. Kennedy or Bobby Kennedy or Ted Kennedy before tumbling to current Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Regan appointee.
- I so wanted the answer to [Cobb, e.g.] to refer to a salad. But instead it’s a reference to Ty Cobb, a noted OUTFIELDER.
- Was I the only one to plunk down CEOS as the answer to [Company leaders (abbr.)]? Even if I am, I like that I was tricked here. The answer’s SGTS.
Other fun clues included [Valuable diamond] for ACE and [They’re entertaining] for HOSTS.
The last criterion, smooth flow, is more subjective. One desperately searching for nits to pick could feast on the aforementioned SGTS and OPE, along with CTRS and maybe GAMA. Or maybe one could note all the plurals running up the staircase in the grid’s center. But to me, one splitting hairs that fine needs a microscope. I liked how one section segued into the next. I started in the northwest, worked my way along the left side, moved from there to the southeast stack, then up along the right, finishing in the northeast corner (after I finally changed MOVES to ROVES to get the much more coherent REVERES as the answer to [Values very highly]. It wasn’t my fastest time on a freestyle by a long shot, but everything was fair and nothing felt forced. Really an elegant construction from stem to stern.
Favorite entry = URBAN LEGEND, the [“MythBusters” subject, often]. Favorite clue = [Speak Persian?] for MEOW. We might see that one again next winter when we give the Orca for Best Clue.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Echo Chamber” — pannonica’s write-up
– “Anyone here?”
– “Keep your arms from me! Be off! I’ll die before I yield to you.”
– “I yield to you.”
The theme entries twice reiterate the last syllable of the first word, sometimes changing the spelling, and in the process creating familiar reduplicative words. The new phrases are, as we say, clued accordingly.
- 23a. [Cornhusker’s laugh?] OMAHA HA-HA.
- 25a. [Subdued response to a dinger?] HOMER MURMUR.
- 38a. [Part of a prison-break plan?] CASING SING-SING.
- 48a. [Valhalla feast?] ODIN DIN-DIN.
- 60a. [Nod to Olive Oyl?] POPEYE AYE, AYE.
- 66a. [Mad for logic puzzles?] SODOKU CUCKOO.
- 82a. [Loaded dice?] CASINO NO-NO.
- 88a. [Discs flung in a food fight?] FLAPJACK ACK-ACK. This was new to me, and the dictionary (m-w,com) informs me that it’s an antiaircraft gun and, by extension, antiaircraft fire. Surprisingly the origin isn’t onomatopoeic and instead derives from British signalmen’s former telephone pronunciation of AA, the abbreviation of “antiaircraft.” I, of course, can think only of the aliens in Mars Attacks! whose language consisted of nothing but those reduplicated syllables. Unlike the other themers this one doesn’t echo the entirety of the last syllable, which is jack, not ack. Just a minor technicality, I feel.
- 106a. [Nitwit about storms?] TORNADO DODO.
- 108a. [“And your little dog, too!”] DITTO TOTO. My favorite theme entry because (1) the clue is, in and of itself, a complete and familiar phrase, and (2) DITTO is a reminder, or comment on, the theme’s conceit.
Cute theme, though I know it—or something very similar—has been done before. But that just makes it a bit meta, right? The ballast fill has some highlights and lowlights (mostly tired crosswordese such as ’60s horse of the year KELSO, OPES, and humorist ERMA Bombeck). HMONG—sorry, among the former are unusual and interesting words including UZBEK, ELIXIR, the Zambian capital LUSAKA, JUDAIC, SKI POLE (with the deceptive clue [Glider’s steadier], and KERCHIEF.
- A pair of odd golf names: Sean O’HAIR, ISAO Aoki. (34a, 112a)
- Was unaware that RC COLA is a classic pairing for a Moon Pie. (64d)
- Had CLINK for 37d [Join a toast] before discovering that it was simply DRINK.
- 72d [Name at the pumps] AMOCO. Haven’t they all been changed to BP stations at this point?
- Have to confess that I had a lapse in considering 5a [Shawm descendant], thinking the name was a character from the Old Testament. OBOE.