Joon Pahk and Jeremy Horwitz’s New York Times crossword, “Made-for-TV Movies”
All right, how does one explain this theme? Each theme answer is a mash-up of one movie title and one TV series, but the words are combined in all sorts of ways. A short TV show inserted between the words of a longer movie title. A short TV show before a movie title. A short TV show after a movie title. 30a forms a compound word with the TV title, and four theme answers add a comma within the new title. Here’s how it plays out:
- 23a. [TV movie about … where I can easily get a cab?], TAXI STAND BY ME. Taxi + Stand by Me.
- 30a. [… where to go in Togo?], OUTHOUSE OF AFRICA. House + Out of Africa. A tad awkward with the “of Africa” wording. And I bet there is plenty of indoor plumbing in Togo.
- 47a. [… a Hispanic “hip hip hooray”?], THREE CHEERS, AMIGOS. Cheers + Three Amigos. Uh, I think you meant “Olé, olé olé olé.”
- 62a. [… trying to get a friar to violate his vow of silence?], SAY ANYTHING, MONK. Monk + Say Anything….
- 83a. [… a singing group that meets for bacon and eggs?], BREAKFAST GLEE CLUB. Glee + The Breakfast Club. Hey, guys, you lost your “The.”
- 97a. [… Skywalker’s trendy hygiene products?], COOL HAND SOAP, LUKE. Soap + Cool Hand Luke. Funny.
- 111a. [… giving a pipsqueak the brush-off?] GET LOST, SHORTY. Lost + Get Shorty.
I’m not entirely sold on the theme, given the various variances in how it works and the not-quite-funny-enough results. For example, the real made-for-TV movie She Woke Up Pregnant is way funner than these theme entries.
On the plus side, Joonemy (It’s like “frenemy” only Joonier) came up with excellent fill. The only thing I raised an eyebrow at was 52d: [Hellhound of Norse mythology], GARM—and I know Joon makes no apology for anything relating to Norse mythology, which he may love nearly as much as European soccer. (He correctly picked Bayern in the UEFA championship today.) The good stuff includes HOT BATH, OLE MISS, UPSTART, TRU TV, interesting demonym CAIRENE (meaning a person from Cairo, like 115a: [Yasir Arafat, by birth]), SLIDERS, BEEHIVES, IT GIRL, and TALKS DIRTY.
Four stars, with the fill carrying more weight than the theme.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Double Headers”
Each of the 16 (!) theme answers repeats its opening sequence of letters as its next set of letters:
- 17a. [International accord], ENTENTE.
- 20a. [“Barton Fink” star John], TURTURRO.
- 22a. [Of dandruff], FURFURACEOUS. New to me.
- 24a. [TV’s Golden Girls, e.g.], MIAMIANS. Note that these first four themers appear in stacked pairs.
- 35a. [It’s a pealing], TINTINNABULATION. Ringing of bells. Ringing in the ears is tinnitus.
- 55a. [Oscar Wilde’s “greatest of all art forms”], THE THEATER.
- 57a. [Stomach-growling sound], BORBORYGMUS. One of my all-time favorite words. The clue is off base, though. Stomach growling is stomach growling. What borborygmus is is rumbling and burbling of intestinal gas within your entrails, lower in the abdomen (not to be confused with flatulence).
- 64a. [Each], PER PERSON.
- 74a. [Aspect of the cabaret scenes in “Cabaret”], KINKINESS.
- 83a. [Dispatch, as Caesar] ASSASSINATE.
- 86a. [Jerry Springer was mayor of it] CINCINNATI.
- 98a. [She’s Midge in “Vertigo”], BARBARA BEL GEDDES.
- 118a. [Musical based on ABBA songs], MAMMA MIA!
- 120a. [Cautionary novelist], GEORGE ORWELL. Ooh, repeated 4-letter sequence, not just 3.
- 123a. [Stage storage space], PROP ROOM.
- 125a. [Kid in old shorts], ALFALFA.
You know what I say when I’m experiencing some borborygmus? URFA. That’s a 114d: [City in SE Turkey] and not at all a common crossword answer.
Five more clues:
- 18d. [Payment made via computer: abbr.], EFT. That’s “electronic funds transfer.”
- 94a. [Eskimo knife], ULU. You might carry an ULU when traversing the water in your umiak, maybe heading to Attu or Atka. (This concludes our study of Alaskan crosswordese.)
- 41d. [Grenoble’s river], ISERE. The Isère is not to be confused with the Yser, an entirely different river. And apparently the Yser is teeny, so its appearances in crosswords are far out of proportion to its length. It’s 48 miles long and basically a creek, so you won’t be finding any river cruises that travel its course. Okay, I hereby want to ban YSER from crosswords. The Isère is not much bigger, at 177 miles. (Compare the Volga, 2,294 miles; Elbe, 678; Oder, 531; Saone, 298; Danube, 1,770; Rhine, 766; Ebro, 565; Arno, 150. The Arno is short but it’s got an important city with famous bridges, Florence, so I won’t lobby for its dismissal.)
- 46a. [Zhivago portrayer and others], OMARS. Isn’t Zhivago his surname? I would expect SHARIFS to fit the clue.
- 1a. [Capra’s John], DOE. Huh? Apparently Frank Capra directed a 1941 movie called Meet John Doe. John Farmer and Lois can tell you all about it; I only know what I see in Wikipedia.
3.25 stars. The theme’s kinda neat—it includes some interesting and unusual words—but most of the fill is underwhelming.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I found this 72-worder a bit difficult, but in retrospect I don’t think it was the puzzle. I was solving it last night while watching Shane Carruth‘s Primer (co-starring one David Sullivan as Abe, I wonder if I should follow David Steinberg‘s lead and include him in a puzzle I construct?) Anyway, I heard his new movie Upstream Color is a must-see, so I was reacquainting myself with his ouevre. Even on my second viewing, I still don’t know which Aaron is in which scene, so it’s no wonder I was a bit at sea with some of the entries in today’s CrosSynergy themeless challenge.
The marquee entry is the central 15, [Levi 550’s, e.g.] for RELAXED FIT JEANS. Nice scrabbly phrase and it looks great in the center of the grid. Speaking of Scrabble, we have a pangrammatic grid–all the 26 letters of the alphabet appear at least once. Two of the high-value letters of J, Q, X, and Z appear in that central entry, and the latter two appear in the shorter entry EQUALIZE crossing AQUA and AMAZES (with NO JIVE! thrown in for good measure!).
My FAVE entry was the fast food mini-theme of [Chicken McNuggets, e.g.] for CHUNKS (glad their marketing team passed at calling them “Chicken McChunks”) crossing [Ray of fast food fame] for KROC. Also like the alliterative clue for DOG SITS—[Feeds a friend’s foxhound, say]. (Do many people have foxhounds as pets these days?) The word POLTROON ([Cowardly type]) was new to me, or if a reacquaintance, it was a distant memory. I see that its etymology stems from the word “foal,” which also gives us today’s “pullet” or a young chicken. My UNFAVE entry was what may have irked our hostess Amy as well–the awkward phrase COED IT, which I envision someone telling the dean of Harvard in 1977. I also wonder if the crossing of HONORE for [Monsieur de Balzac] with HONORARY for [Like some degrees] is a bit infelicitous.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Notional Public Radio” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme: puns based on the titles of programs associated with National Public Radio. I was careful to say “associated” because, technically, some of the shows are not NPR properties although they are commonly broadcast by NPR affiliate stations. And yes, even though this minor aspect doesn’t diminish the conceit of the theme, I will be crossing my eyes and dotting those tees in the run-down which follows. But first, this hour’s news headlines…
··· "SS,DD" ···
All right, we’re back.
- 24a. [NPR astronomy show?] ON THE METEOR (Media). Produced by WNYC (New York) and NPR.
- 32a. [NPR show about worn furniture?] THE SPLINTERED TABLE (Splendid). Produced by APM (American Public Media).
- 61a. [NPR show about Iceland’s parliament?] ALTHING’S CONSIDERED (All Things). NPR’s flagship news program. And ALTHING? Whew!
- 68a. [NPR show that used to be better?] WEAKENED EDITION (Weekend). NPR. I’d put solid money (and I’m the farthest thing from the gambling type) that this was the seed entry because (1) it’s in the center of the grid, and (2) the show’s host, Scott Simon, pronounces the the title as if it were indeed Weakened Edition; it’s practically been proffered on silver platter.
- 81a. [NPR humor show?] THIS AMERICAN LAUGH (Life). WBEZ (Chicago), Chicago Public Media, and Public Radio International.
- 106a. [NPR show about subduing crooks?] WAIT, WAIT … DON’T TASE ME (Tell). Chicago Public Radio and NPR. Of course, in the geeky slash-fic/’tape’ (can it be heterosexual?) of This American Life‘s Ira Glass and Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross, their amorous encounter is punctuated with “Wait, wait … don’t come yet!” TMI?
- 118a. [NPR show hosted by 74-Down?]. All right, this is a bit of a doozy. 74d is [Singer Collins]. First, I’m not a fan of aberrant themers such as this one, the only one to cross-reference other fill (and it’s non-theme fill, to boot). Second, the referenced clue is a bit open-ended. JUDY, PHIL, PAUL? And those are just the ones that come to mind with the requisite four letters (others might be SHIRLEY, EDWYN, ALBERT). Could’ve used an additional descriptor here, such as “drummer.” Third, the theme answer is SUSSUDIO 360; my issue here isn’t with the numerals—I’m fine with that kind of isolated mischief in a grid. It’s with SUSSUDIO. Sure, it was a hit (Billboard #1, even!), but is it memorable 28 years later? Not memorable enough in my opinion. Add this to the other two grievances and this becomes an awful entry.
- 4d. [NPR fishing show?] CARP TALK (Car). WBUR (Boston) and NPR. Ironic, because a lot of carping actually goes on during the broadcast.
- 91d [NPR Wild West show?] RODEO LAB (Radio). WNYC (New York) and Public Radio Exchange.
Cute theme, for perhaps a limited audience, but one that probably overlaps rather a lot with crossword solvers. Hey, resonance.
- Back to those Arabic numerals. Before I had the theme entered, I understandably thought 121d [Halfway between noon and midnight] was SIX, but it turned out to be 6PM. 120d [Non-emergency number] is 311 (is this true outside of New York City? this puzzle is Boston-based, but sometimes NYC has a sort of universality), with the ones interpreted as Is in the crossings. Similarly, the zero becomes an O in TANGOS.
- 83d [V as in Veracruz] is a doubled up clue; the V is the Roman numeral for 5, Veracruz signals that we need a Spanish language answer: CINCO. Parallel—and equally alliterative—constructions at 57d [“You betcha!” in Yucatan] SÍ, SÍ (Yucután should have an accent, but that might have played havoc with electronic formatting; I’m sure HH will let me know in the comments), and at 115d [Tijuana locale] BAJA. Erm, okay, not a similar construction there. What happened?
- Speaking of fake-outs, 85d [Neighbors of radii] got me. Usually when a clue is calling for the plural of ULNA I leave the last square blank because it could be either the Latinate ULNAE or the Anglicized ULNAS. Felt for sure the radii in the clue was signalling “Latin! Latin!” and put in ULNAE right off the bat.
- 102a [Volunteer’s assertion] I CAN, 99d [“If asked, yes”] I WOULD. A bit duplicative despite the spiffy clue for the latter. See also 3d [“Makes sense”] I SEE. Or don’t.
- On the crosswordy, tough side: 97d [Normandy river] ORNE; fortunately the crossings, including the RODEO of the themer at 91d are readily gettable or inferrable. Harsher is the crossing of 39d [Muscle weakness] ATONY and the difficultly-clued 60a ANT [Pismire] (menmonic: try to remember “pissant”).
- 36d [“Diciembre” follower] ENERO. Don’t know why the quotation marks are there, but this is another opportunity for HH to tell me about the transcribing and printing conventions over there—I’ll never grasp them properly.
- Don’t know the allusion of 100d [“With a capital __ that rhymes with ‘P’…”] T AND. Anyone care to enlighten?
- Favorite clue: 5a [Use a lot?] PARK. 67a [Stiff containers?] for CASKETS is clever, but some might take offense (not that you-know-who would care much, I’d (again) wager). Also enjoyed clue & answer at 19d [Destination] POINT B.
Matt Skoczen’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Business Meetings”
LLC (125d. [Business “meeting” hidden in nine puzzle answers]) stands for limited liability corporation, and it’s not any kind of “meeting”—but those letters are where words meet in each theme answer:
- 23a. [“Gladiator” Best Actor winner], RUSSELL CROWE.
- 39a. [Ended up where one started], CAME FULL CIRCLE.
- 58a. [Hotel supervisor], BELL CAPTAIN.
- 70a. [One in a hospital room display], GET WELL CARD.
- 83a. [Annual sports event, familiarly], FALL CLASSIC.
- 102a. [One may include Barbies], DOLL COLLECTION.
- 124a. [Triceps-strengthening exercise also called a French press], SKULL CRUSHER. I have never heard of this exercise, but I have seen Star Trek Into Darkness.
- 17d. [Old West showman], BUFFALO BILL CODY.
- 46d. [Marx Brothers forte], SCREWBALL COMEDY.
Did not know: 53d. [Baroque composer Jean-Marie] LECLAIR.
The three squares with green checkmarks are the ones where I typed carelessly or didn’t confirm with a crossing, and all things I should have filled in correctly.
Never heard of, but could infer: 93a. [Syndicated computer adviser Mr. __] MODEM.
26a. [Stomach opening?] clues the prefix GASTRO. Yesterday, a friend of mine wrote the following on Facebook: “I find the term ‘gastropub’ distracting, mostly because une gastro in french is like stomach cramps and diarrhea. Yes, I am aware that un gastro is different than une gastro but nevertheless… distracting.”
What is this offensive spelling? 103d. [Ukrainian port], ODESSA, with two S’s? Why are Matt Skoczen and Rich Norris siding with the Russian oppressors? /snark
Delighted to see DAP clued as 73d. [Fist bump]. It is not the commonest word for that, I don’t think, but the fist bump meaning has got to be more widely known in America than the skipping stones and fishing references.
Not sure I’ve seen this abbrev before: 51d. [Job: Abbr.], OCC. Awk.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 164” — Gareth’s write-up
Hands up if you knew the author of this puzzle before looking at the byline! I looked at the byline before I looked at the grid, but very few constructors attempt stacks that thick other than PB (I can’t remember if he’s 1 or 2, pretty sure he isn’t 3 though…) It’s a 66 word-er, and just over a third (23) of those answers are seven letters or longer! And yet I’d be hard pressed to pick more than a few entries that would be out of place on a Wednesday… How does he do it??? Well, a small part of his secret is a low average Scrabble-value: 1.47 here, where the norm is a bit over 1.6. (The greater part of that “how” is down to meticulous filling and just plain genius.)
I don’t know about you, but I found this puzzle to be on the easy side for a themeless, despite the wide-open grid. My first entry was [Band with the second-highest-selling album of all time (behind “Thriller”)], ACDC (“Back in Black” if you were wondering). I then dropped in BARA , IRON and most of the rest of the top-middle before being stuck. After pecking at most of the rest of the grid, I came back and completed the top-left. Then top-right, middle, bottom-left and bottom-right in a time that’s a bit above my average Thursday NYT time.
Some individual clues/entries I’d like to comment on:
- [Talk show host nickname], COCO. Needed CO?O. I was stuck on day-time talk stars. Glad he wasn’t clued as a comedian. That would just be fallacious.
- [Nameless “Romeo and Juliet” character], APOTHECARY. Fun word!
- [Tyne’s “Cagney & Lacey” co-star], SHARON. Old TV is not my forté. I needed all the crossings. Is that Tyne Daly? I didn’t know she was in something other than “Judging Amy”? I also thought one of Cagney and Lacey was male… Apparently not, and apparently the Sharon is Sharon Gless. (You’re allowed to laugh at my ignorance)
- [American symbols that stand out?], STATETREES. Fun answer! Average Scrabble Value: 1.00. Clue was a bit of a reach though (IMO).
- [They catch the drift], SNOWFENCES. I was only vaguely aware of the existence of such things… Clever clue though!
- [Easternmost Cuban province], GUANTANAMO. I can’t be the only one who read that clue and went “Next!” It sounded hella obscure… Once several crosses clarified things it was obvious!
- [Whimper], PULE. A nice 50-cent vocabulary word! It has a lovely ring to it too!
- [Company whose logo is a five-pointed crown], ROLEX . I put in ROYAL off the RO… Willing to bet I’m not the only one!
- [Harrison’s Hollywood wife], CALISTA. I kind of forgot she existed. Her post Ally McBeal career hasn’t been quite as successful as say, Portia De Rossi or Lucy Liu…
- [School : fish :: raft : ___], OTTERS. Interesting, tough clue! Although I got it off the second T. Not sure where I dredged that tidbit from… I wonder if it’s from the way they slide on their tummies?
- [White House dog during LBJ’s first term], HER. We had Him earlier this week…
- [Subject of Suleiman], OTTOMAN. (The Magnificent)
- [Birds Eye bagful], PEAS. I thought they made frozen fish???
4.25 Stars: clean as a whistle, with interesting clues!