Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Soft T’s”
I don’t think the title quite works, as changing from a T sound to a voiced dental fricative TH doesn’t make it “soft,” really. But the theme is consistently executed, with the voiced TH each time and not the voiceless TH of “thing”:
- 23a. [What faking a stomachache might entail?], CREATIVE WRITHING. Creative writing. My favorite one.
- 30a. [Gun belts, holsters and nightstick straps?], THE LEATHER OF THE LAW. The letter of the law.
- 45a. [Dismounts like an expert gymnast?], GETS OFF LITHELY. Gets off lightly.
- 66a. [Women’s pants with pictures of wood shop tools?], LATHE BLOOMERS. Late bloomers. Wildly implausible.
- 86a. [Become a new person by washing up?], BATHE AND SWITCH. Bait and switch.
- 95a. [Unpopular ophthalmologist’s implement?], A SCYTHE FOR SORE EYES. (Ouch!) A sight for sore eyes.
- 108a. [What the giggling supporter of the Salem witch trials was told?], “NO LAUGHING, MATHER!” No laughing matter.
What distinguishes this puzzle is the fill more than the theme—all those clean, wide sections of 7s and 8s with crossings that are quite smooth. UMBRELLA, SCRAWNY, TAIL FINS, FREAKISH, CAPRIATI, ARACHNE, NEST EGG—these are not too fancy, but they’re also so much better than, say, a bunch of words with -ERS and -NESS endings. Really nice fill.
Things that gave me pause:
94d. Thomas who wrote “Little Big Man”], BERGER. Hey! I enjoyed that movie. “I’ll be your wife, Little Big Man”—a ’70s kid’s first exposure to transgender. . Author’s name was not at all familiar, though.
- 115a. [Defender of the West], NATO. I was thinking of the Wild West.
- 68d. [Gymnast Gaylord], MITCH. Mitzi Gaynor popped into my head and I almost turned Mitch into MITZI.
- 54a. [“___ Andy’s Ballyhoo” (“Show Boat” song)], CAP’N. Show tunes and I have nothing in common.
- 71a. [Sci-fi author ___ del Rey], LESTER. Isn’t Del Rey a sci-fi imprint? Never knew there was a first name associated with it.
- 72d. [“Music in the Key of Love” composer], TESH. I was thinking of the classical composers of yore rather than New Agey John Tesh. As a customer states in an Amazon review, “It is create (sic) as relaxation music and I use it all the time for background music.”
- 55d. [Historic multistory dwellings], PUEBLOS. I was thinking of, I dunno, Lower East Side five-story walk-up tenements.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Russians I’d Like To Meet”
Russian name puns are the name of the game this week:
- 23a. [Russian dancer at Chippendales? (M)], EURIPIDES PANTZOV. “You rippa dese pants off.” This Russian may be part Greek.
- 30a. [Russian high jumper? (F)], EILEEN UPANOVA. “I lean up and over.” This one’s part Irish.
- 40a. [Russian cosmetologist who does full body waxing? (M)], OLIVER HAIROV. “All of your hair off.”
- 50a. [Russian consumer advocate? (M)], SACHA RIPOV. “Such a rip-off.”
- 58a. [Russian customs inspector? (F)], ANITA CHECKEMOVA. “I need ta check ’em over.” Wouldn’t CHEKHEMOVA feel more plausible?
- 71a. [Russian marathoner? (F)], GLADYS ALMOSTOVA. “Glad it’s almost over.” Gladys is a Welsh name. Is anyone else finding the acutely non-Slavic first names a little jarring?
- 81a. [Not-so-sharp Russian sharpshooter? (M)], BOYER WAYOV. “Boy, you’re way off.” Boyer is … not a common name. At all. I checked.
- 90a. [Nearsighted Russian cab driver? (M)], MISCHA TURNOV. “Miss ya turn-off.”
- 99a. [Russian ice fisherman? (M)], FRASIER BUNZOV. “Freeze your buns off.”
- 111a. [Russian dominatrix? (F)], AMANDA WALKALLOVA. “A man to walk all over.”
I did this puzzle hours ago, before dinner and grocery shopping at three different stores (and would you believe only one half-pint of raspberries between the three supermarkets?), so I don’t remember the clues and answers that stuck out. So, here are five:
- 13d. [Never-ending story], SOAP OPERA. Well, except when the soap is cancelled, as has happened to most of America’s serials. We only have four left (GH, Days, B&B, Y&R).
- 87d. [Highest in salt, perhaps], BRINIEST. Please use this in a truly plausible sentence.
- 69d. [Cable for cash], PAY TV. I feel that the term “pay TV” is a little outdated, no? You have those fights that are pay-per-view/pay cable, but given the near ubuquity of cable, “pay TV” sounds quaint.
- 124a. [East Asian weight unit], TAEL. Hey! Crosswordese.
- 91d. [Rope fiber (anagram of SAILS)], SISAL. I wouldn’t have thought this would need an anagram clue, but then again, it crosses three theme answers that are fake names, so it’s only fair to narrow down the letters.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 160”- Gareth Bain’s review
First time blogging the Washington Post Puzzler, and this happens… I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be as hard as a Saturday NYT; yesterday’s beat me up pretty bad, but I still came home correctly in 21-odd minutes. Here I finished, in 32, but had errors. By that time I was past caring… Sigh. I’m sure you all demolished this, right? The bottom two-thirds (barring 3 shaky squares, two of which were wrong, it transpires) took about 5 and a half minutes, and then brick wall. At about 17 minutes in I broke into the top-left, and at about 28 minutes the top-right. I’ll discuss why I found the clues/entries in those sections hard in separate paragraphs, and then list some other highlights in the rest of the grid after that.
Before I start, a short word about the grid. It’s 32/68, but what makes it unusual is that the stacks aren’t in the corners, rather they form two staggered 10/11/10 swathes near the centre. I like seeing a bit of variety in themeless grid design!
Top-left: I had ???SLEDDER, which wanted desperately to be bOb, only those B’s were obviously wrong. Loren Smith probably would’ve known who Susan Butcher was, but I’m not up on my Iditarod winners! Guessing DOG was what finally opened things up. I wanted CLAMOR to be uproaR. I needed a “D” to dredge up SCROD, to guess SONOMA to see CLAMOR. I really like having [Reality show victim] as a 1a clue, but it meant nothing to me. I know JOESCHMO is something to do with reality tv, but needed a lot of crosses, which I didn’t have. Other stuff I learned: [Pascal’s Theorem] – if I ever learned about it in high school/varsity maths, I forgot I learned it; Chiffon makes OLEO – not an American brand that’s come up yet for me; [Differerential fluid] is found in the REARAXLE – I’m clueless about cars; mechanics love me.
Top-right: PDAS was my first answer in the grid. Still this area was my slough of despond! I still don’t know what [in-pocket notes] are. Google isn’t helping me. I get the feeling all 3 people reading this are rolling their eyes at my ignorance. Still I had it narrowed down to SUSPECTED/INSPECTED/RESPECTED. I vaguely recognize the name BRADRUTTER now, but there was no way I was going to come up with it on my own. He ended up being BRA DRUTHER because while I was stuck I was banking on DRUTHER as a surname… If his name sticks, I can now name 3 big “Jeopardy!” winners. JOONPAHK and KENJENNINGS were the wrong number of letters! What finally opened this corner up (a crack) was dredging up crossword-ese IONA from the A. My mind got stuck on ELON. What else? Don’t remember encounter a non-Chaney LON before. My brain unhelpfully wanted WES for some reason. ALIBIS/INSANE made a tough clue-pair. Wanted MONROE to be someone Spanish like DESOTO. Never encountered SEES before (see also “Chiffon”), and it’s not an obvious sweet name! Also, I couldn’t remember if Godiva made chocolates or bras…
- My 3 guessed letters were firstly the YETTA/CREON crossing: (right: yay me!). Also, I had FLiES for FLEES so PE?IR/RUT?ER looked liked it could be anything… If your surname is Ostrum who knows what kind of wacky first-name you have!? Peter, apparently.
- ROTATORCUFF is a fun long anatomy answer. So is ATROPHIED.
- NOTALITTLE: Litotes!
- OPERASERIA: [Mid-1700s genre]. Sorry for those of you who like your pop culture to be pre-1700 only…
- If like me you’re wondering why on earth [Catfish hunter?] needed a “?”, apparently there was some sort of baseball player with this name. I see a theme: MEADOWLARKLEMON, CATFISHHUNTER, plus other baseball players I haven’t heard of…
- PEEREDIN, [Looked through a cracked window, perhaps]. Another “cracked” clue!
- [Hot tub filler], HOSE. The light only dawned now. You fill a hot tub with a hose, rather than a hot tub filled with hose.
- [1991 Naughty by Nature hit], OPP. If you don’t know what it stands for, you don’t want to.
That’s all from here. Sorry I blathered so long. I’d say this is an exceptionally well-crafted puzzle, but one that beat me up badly. I don’t feel I’m qualified to give it a rating.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Who Am I?” — pannonica’s write-up
As per the near-central answer at 64-across MASQUE, I can’t figure out the identity of whomever’s positing the title question. It’s quite obvious that the longest answers, across and down, end with first names.
- 23a. [Form of financial aid] GOVERNMENT GRANT.
- 39a. [Tournament format] ROUND ROBIN.
- 52a. [Flaw counteractor] SAVING GRACE. Nice, succinct clue.
- 90a. [Monthly mail, maybe] UTILITY BILL.
- 101a. [Gear on a pier] FISHING ROD.
- 119a. [Tangy treat] PEPPERMINT PATTY.
- 1d. [Expert] CRACKERJACK.
- 7d. [Stephanie Meyer subtitle] BREAKING DAWN.
- 65d. [Eroteme] QUESTION MARK. Ooh, did not know that. Derives from the Greek erotema, to question.
- 74d. [End-of-2012 hurdle] FISCAL CLIFF.
So, we have Grant, Robin, Grace, Bill, Rod, Patty, Jack, Dawn, Mark, and Cliff. Together, these names mean nothing to me. Do they share a last name? One that could also be a first name? Are they members of a group, or are they all connected some missing figure? Searching the internet (okay, googling™) yielded no significant results.
Perhaps if I hadn’t found the rest of the puzzle so annoying to complete I’d be more inclined to pursue this themic mystery, but…
- Partial fills-in-the-blanks: E AS, AS I, AN EAR, IT ON, A PAR, I’M AS.
- Ugly abbrevs. and affixes: ASST. DA, LIEUT., -OSE, -OLA, ECO- (although it’s arguably a stand-alone adjective now), AGRI-.
- Tedious or questionable plurals: UFOS, NOTS, OMS, EGOS, ELLISES (!), SGTS, OUTS.
- Britishisms: NARK [Stoolie, in Stratford], ANAEMIA [Lack of vigour], POSTIE [Mail carrier in Manchester]. Am calling these out because two of them are not commonly known on this side of the Atlantic. Honourable mention: RAF.
- Duplication: 27a [Bill] TAB, themer UTILITY BILL.
- Given names (of varying commonness) that aren’t part of the theme: AUGUSTA, BECK, ALLEN, ART, TANA, NOEL, ALAN, KATIE, GERI, PAT, BOB. Excluded: YAKOV, REUEL, OPIE, KAM, ONAN, EMO. This is a for-what-it’s-worth observation, but I was already annoyed. Take it as you will.
- What does “net” mean in 9d [Blitzer’s net]? Network? I get that it’s referencing Wolf Blitzer of CNN, but something seems missing here, or I’m missing something.
- Oh yes, there’s crosswordese.
For me, an aggravating puzzle, and for the mystery theme I give a solid meh. I bet the answer’s sour anyway.
Julian Lim’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “It’ll Have to Do”
The theme entries add the final sound of “it’ll” to the end of familiar terms, changing the ends to __TLE words:
- 22a. [Container for mystery meat?], SPAM BOTTLE.
- 31a. [Action scene in “True Blood”?], VAMPIRE BATTLE.
- 49a. [Courage of Manhattanites?], NEW YORK METTLE. “New York Met” in the singular sounds odd to me.
- 71a. [Cloak for a road trip?], HIGHWAY MANTLE. I wonder if I own a mantle. Does a polarfleece shawl count?
- 92a. [Reaction to an alarm?], RISING STARTLE. Vivid image.
- 102a. [Baby’s pre-vacation note to self?], PACK RATTLE. Good baby! I embrace the concept of a packing list. This baby has a bright future.
- 3d. [Venue for poetry readings in space?], SLAM SHUTTLE.
- 62d. [Livestock kept between buildings?], ALLEY CATTLE.
I like the corner stacks of 9s and the other lively long fill—DEAD STOP, CURE-ALLS, DUCT TAPE, and so on. I also enjoyed the recurring motifs throughout the puzzle. The PASTEL/MATTE/GLOSS treatments, the ATARI and RETRO NES games, SLEPT NAKED in a REVERIE until the alarm provoked a RISING STARTLE.
Favorite clue: 96a. [Noted lawmaker], NEWTON. As in the writer of certain laws of physics.