Norm Guggenbiller’s New York Times crossword, “Overheard in New England”
The “ar” sound is changed to an R-less “ah” sound, New England-style:
- 24a. [A “Star Trek” officer and a physician are going to board a plane?], SPOCKS WILL FLY. (Sparks.)
- 36a. [Atlantic fishery auditors?], COD COUNTERS. (Card counters are blackjack/poker cheaters, right?)
- 59a. [Work agreeably in a greenhouse?], POT ON GOOD TERMS. (Part.)
- 76a. [“Happy Birthday” on a cake, e.g.?], GOBBLED MESSAGE. (Garbled.)
- 95a. [Sexy operators?], HOT SURGEONS. (Heart.)
- 112a. [Where frogs shop?], HOPPERS’ BAZAAR. (Harper’s Bazaar magazine.)
The theme is solid, doesn’t overreach, maintains good consistency with a change in the first syllable, always to a short O.
I was not so fond of the fill, zippy BUG ZAPPER notwithstanding. There was an off-putting pile-up in the Oregon zone:
- 36d. [Tortile], COILED. Raise your hand if you’ve never seen the word tortile before.
- 37d. [Italian princely family name], ORSINI. Semi-familiar from crosswords; I don’t follow princely Italian names outside of crosswords. (Villa d’ESTE!)
- 38d. [Sand ___ (perchlike fish)], DARTER. I remember the political squabbling over the endangered snail darter, but not the sand darters.
Did not know 29a. [German Dadaist Hannah] HOCH, or 64a. [“Dat ___” (classic jazz song)], DERE, or 110d. [___ & Carla (1960s duo)], OTIS, or 89d. [Fourth Arabic letter], THA. (Here’s a chart of the Arabic alphabet with the letter names. I see a number of cognates with Hebrew letter names.) Bored by the likes of PSEC, TRESSED, ANODE, A-ONE, ERN, EREMITE, ESTOP, 1a: ENCASES. Did like SHAMPOO, SUSPENSE, Les NESSMAN, OFF-CENTER, MR. ZIP, and RITALIN.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Marquee Mischief”
This 20×21 grid features six movie titles in which two of the words (either at the start or the end of the title) have been anagrammed, as if by a miscreant rearranging the letters on a movie theater marquee. One of my Facebook acquaintances took a picture of just such a marquee (see below, and don’t click on it to enlarge the picture unless you’re prepared for crude language), only with letters taken from some titles to spell out naughty words rather than anagramming within a title. So the theme concept resonates for me.
- 22a. [Comment from a frustrated rhizome hunter?], ROOT HERB, WHERE ART THOU? O Brother, Where Art Thou? I don’t know what “root herb” means.
- 29a. [All Mom says she needs in order to make Grandpa’s ghost costume?], THE OLD MAN AND A SHEET. The Old Man and the Sea.
- 53a. [Caveman 1: “I just thought of a new invention. I call it ‘juice’. Hand me those purple things.” Caveman 2: “___?”], THE GRAPES? WHAT FOR? The Grapes of Wrath.
- 61a, 71a. [With 71 Across, what happens before Damon’s voice message comes on?], MATT’S PHONE / ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. The Postman Always Rings Twice.
- 90a. [Wisecrack about an actor waking up from his nap on the set of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”?], HARK! TED KNIGHT RISES. The Dark Knight Rises.
- 102a. [What the final episode of “Breaking Bad” may mean for fans of the show?], THE SILENCE OF METH LABS. The Silence of the Lambs.
The theme required a bit of brain work to puzzle out—a welcome challenge.
With fewer theme entries than usual, Merl allows the fill to shine. We get GIBBERISH (beautifully clued with 45d. [Crelman with flerb on the ganointly, e.g.]) beside AVALANCHE, MAHARISHI, PHENOMENA, “SAY, MISTER…,” FOGHORN Leghorn, STEALTH, and “GET THIS!” amid other fill that did not have me grumbling.
Five more things:
- 94d. [West of 40 Down] sounds like a geographic clue. All right, where in the world is 40d? Oh! It’s RAP music, and KANYE West.
- 31d. [___ about (wastes time, British-style)], MUCKS. Really? That’s a Briticism? Rubbish! Or perhaps brilliant.
- 68d. [Wd. before Dew on cans], MTN. Not a fan of abbreviating the word in that context, where it is never, I don’t think, abbreviated.
- 50d. [Girdle or lathe], SHAPER. Two different sorts of shaping going on here. A girdle or Spanx shape the hip/midsection zone, while a lathe shapes something that’s being turned against a cutting tool.
- 12d. [Dell or Dole, e.g.], BRAND. Only one of these companies is good for pineapples.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Smooth 70-worder from frequent CrosSynergy (and many other publications) constructor Doug Peterson:
Two marquee entries span the grid in the center column and row:
- [Baseball stadium feature, at times] was a RETRACTABLE ROOF – I’m a bit confused about the “at times”–either a stadium has one or it doesn’t, and if it does, it’s still retractable even if not open. The one that comes to mind is the one in Houston where the Astro’s play–Minute Maid Park.
- I think you need to be a parent to recognize [Family that first appeared in the 1962 children’s book “The Big Honey Hunt”] or the BERENSTAIN BEARS – if you’ve got about 5 minutes to spare, you can watch this video of them on YouTube. If not, I can summarize that the video teaches kids that it’s ok that each of us like different things.
Four 11-letter entries are also featured in the corners–Oscar the Grouch’s I LOVE TRASH was the one I loved the most. Some great clues in this one as well–[Dot-com that offers options] refers to stock options and was E*TRADE. I also enjoyed the misdirecting [Long key] (I was thinking of islands) for a keyboard’s SPACE BAR. The entry CARAMBA for [Acapulco “Oh no!”] seemed to be missing an “Ay!” or a least that’s how I remember Ricky Ricardo saying it. Nice job today, Doug!
Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 182”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Wow, was that a work out! Todd’s 68/25 freestyle had a lot of clever clues, some answers that look like anything but real words, and things I Just. Did. Not. Know. I normally wouldn’t crow about a nearly-20-minute solving time, but for a while during the solve I thought I would need more than half an hour. Thank goodness some wild guesses panned out.
Here, then, are the most memorable answers and clues from this week’s Post Puzzler:
- I got fifty cents that says 1-Across was the seed entry for this puzzle. (That’s not unusual, of course–the first answer in a freestyle puzzle should have a lot of pop, and when you have a great answer you want to show off there’s rarely a better place for it.) Here, the [Fashion dolls in diapers] are the BRATZ BABYZ, a Scrabbly answer that almost tries a little too hard to get attention. I figured out the “BABY” part early enough, but I kept wanting some variant of BEANIE BABIES that would fit. Luckily ZAN, the partner of [Jayna (TV’s Wonder Twins, whose names were inspired by an Edgar Rice Burroughs pair)], was a gimme for someone in my demographic (man in his 40s who watched Super Friends on Saturday mornings as a boy), so I knew there was a Scrabbly letter in the mix. I didn’t expect a second Z at the end, though, and that may have kept me from sooner figuring out ZYRTEC as the [Hay fever remedy].
- I’m not the only one who struggled in the southeast corner, right? ICOSAHEDRA (gezundheit!) atop SHOSHONEAN was brutal for me. [Some dice, geometrically] clued the former (heck, even if the clue had been [20-sided dice] I would have been uncertain about the answer). The latter had the clue, [Hopi’s language group]. That the answer contains “Shoshone” didn’t surprise me–my mother grew up on land owned by that tribe. But that “Shoshonean” is a word? That floored me, and with my low center of gravity I don’t floor easily. Alas, not one but four of the crossings were mysteries to me–(1) GNEISS, the [Rock with a garnet variety]; (2) CHI-[Rho (religious symbol)]; (3) HOA and not AMA as the [Org. for some residents (luckily AMA was lurking elsewhere with the same clue); and (4) director LASSE Hallstrom. So yeah, this ICOSAHEDRA/SHOSHONEAN pairing was the last piece to fall.
- I’ve heard of East L.A., East Orange, East Rutherford, the East Indies, East Berlin, East Lansing and East of Eden. But EAST ANGLIA, the [Cambridge setting] that’s part of the U.K., was wholly new to this Yankee.
- I didn’t know that D.C. COMICS was the [Publisher of Mad] Magazine, but I like knowing that now. Thank you, crosswords!
- I’ve been accused of effusive praise in my write-ups, so let me pick on two things that annoyed me as I solved. OCR, the [Text scanner: Abbr.] short for “optical character recognition,” is pretty unsightly, even though its presence allows for my favorite entry in the grid. And I feel like [Managers of fighters?] is trying too hard to be a cute clue for ACES. There, I said it.
- Alas, I’m infinitely more familiar with the BRO CODE than I am with BROCADE, the [Upholstery option]. If you asked me to list upholstery options prior to solving this puzzle, I would have come up with two: upholstered and not upholstered. The internet says brocade fabrics are “richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics.” Cool! Who knew they made fabric on the space shuttle?
- When I had the last letter of 11-Down, I was pretty darn sure that the answer [Glass cutting?] was ETCH. I’m not sure why I was so sure, because surely that answer doesn’t really mesh with the clue. Luckily the crossings told me quickly that it was something else, and GASH came shortly thereafter.
This week’s Favorite Entry sported this weeks’ Favorite Clue. Favorite entry = FLARE GUN. Favorite clue = [Lightening rod?].
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Take Your Cue” — pannonica’s write-up
In which the digraph QU—a miniature queue, if you will—is annexed to the beginning of a word in a recognizable phrase, making it significantly less recognizable. Since “cue” is homophonic with “Q,” the title only tells half the story. On the other hand, “Take This Cue, You” would be an atrocious title. Also, and for no particular reason, “take” can be interpreted either as add (“here it is, take it(!)”) or remove (“take this thing (from my sight)”).
- 21a. [Donator’s doubts?] QUALMS FOR THE POOR (alms …).
- 35a. [Shouldn’t’ve kept playing?] QUITS TOO LATE (it’s …).
- 55a. [TV doctor on vacation?] HOLIDAY QUINN (Inn …). That’d be Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, a Jane Seymour vehicle, which ran for six seasons in the mid-90s.
- 72a. [Address for the nauseated?] QUEASY STREET (easy …). Unsurprised but nevertheless pleased that the inaccurate nauseous was not used in the clue.
- 91a. [Randy and Dennis, on-screen?] VISUAL QUAIDS (aids …).
- 110a. [Actin’ up in a charmin’ way?] QUAINT MISBEHAVIN’ (Ain’t …).
- 20d. [Like porcupines?] QUILL-EQUIPPED (ill- …).
- 45d. [Soldier’s dairy buys?] MARTIAL QUARTS (arts …). I don’t know of any regional accent that can make “quarts” rhyme with “arts,” so this entry sits apart from the others. Conversely, it can be interpreted to indicate that the theme is only visual, lexicographic (regardless of a couple apostrophes).
Adding a whole bunch of Qs is a serious imposition in populating a crossword grid, so it’s understandable that one of this constructor’s common trademarks—strongly overlapping theme entries—is absent here. Relatedly, let’s see how all those Qs were absorbed by crossing entries: JQA (one of the less commonly seen presidential monograms); QUAHOG; QUOTH; HQS; POSSLQ [Roommate unlikely to borrow your clothes], which I had to look up — it’s “Person(s) of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters”; QED; QUAD; “QUEL dommage!” (“what a shame”). And one extra: QAID [Muslim judge popular in Scrabble].
- 44a [Quire group?] REAM. I see what he did there. 9d [Capital of Qatar] DOHA; no other decent way to clue that one.
- 83a [Bookie’s commission] VIG, short for vigorish. Did not know this sense of the word, though it’s the one listed second at m-w.com. Number two is “interest paid to a moneylender.”
- More rough, sketchy, and/or crosswordese fill, attributable in part once again to the theme answers (not a complete list): Bambi’s aunt ENA; silents star Renée ADOREE; IPS (internet protocol (addresse)s); “OPEN A Window” (Mame song), which sounds as if it might be some computer program (“Open-A”?); Serbian city NIS; AT A crossroads; ITER, QUEL, JQA, MHOS. ROTI and Earl DERR Biggers should probably be included as well, but they’re both familiar to me not from crosswords but from experience.
- 13a [“__ favor, senor”] POR. This time I definitely know why the tilde is absent. Ditto the acute accent in 16d.
- 48a [He had the job before Alex] ART. Who, whom?
Strong cluing throughout, at times clever, at times misdirective, sometimes mischievously oblique. Quality puzzle.
Julian Lim’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Particle Mechanics”
Science! 69a. [Chemical reaction phenomenon, and what occurs in four symmetrical pairs of long answers in this puzzle] clues ION TRANSFER, and the letters ION are transferred away from phrases in the top half of the grid and tacked on to the theme answers in the bottom:
- 23a. [Arsonist’s pursuit?], BURNING QUEST. “Burning question” is the familiar base phrase.
- 30a. [Amer. armed forces traitor?], U.S. MILITARY RAT. Ration. Mildly perturbed by MILITARY sitting two rows about MPS, which is short for military police. (Similarly, 105a: SEN is a few rows above 131a: SENATE. Foul!)
- 57a. [Commuters per hour, e. g.?], RAILWAY STAT. Station.
- 16d. [Failure in treaty talks?], PEACEKEEPING MISS. Mission.
- 81a. [Tryout for a CPA?], IRS AUDITION. Audit. This one’s cute.
- 107a. [Fighting unit in the barnyard wars?], CHICKEN LEGION. Leg. Nice visual, unless you think of the bloody wages of illegal cockfighting.
- 122a. [17th-century anti-witch application?], SALEM’S LOTION. Salem’s Lot. “It uses the lotion or it gets the hose.”
- 39d. [Behind-the-scenes romance?], BACKSTAGE PASSION. Pass. Also cute.
2 theme answers I enjoyed + 6 others that work well but were less pleasing + interesting/sciency revealer = solid theme.
- 11d. [Arrangement of church services], LITURGY. Is that what liturgy means? Now I know.
- 35d. [Seventh fencing position], SEPTIME. I assume fencing has heavy French roots, given en garde! and riposte and this answer.
- 94a. [Green wheels], ECOCAR. I still never run into this term in anything I read. Hybrid, electric, plug-in, good fuel economy, subcompact, etc., sure—but no ecocar.
- 119a. [Plant animals?], CHIA PETS. Cute clue.
- 64a. [Ample, in verse], ENOW. Or [When you want webpages to load].
- 54a. [“The Office” network], NBC. The Office is no more. Why not clue NBC with a current show? But not SNL, which is just to the left at 47d, and clued as an [NBC comedy staple].
- 65a. [Early Alaskan], ESKIMO. Uh, you realize that there are still more than 100,000 Alaska natives in the state? The ESKIMO term comprises the Inupiat and Yupik peoples.
- 129a. [Body suit?], SKIN. Yes, I needed the crossings to put this one together.
- 53d. [Fail to chill], SWEAT IT. This feels like an incomplete phrase; either “don’t sweat it” or “sweat it out” feel more in the language. The clue had me stumped.
The fill contained rather more of the crosswordese-type stuff than I like to see—ESSO, SNEE, ABIE’S, N-TEST, ENSILES, -ANCE, ELIES, and so on. My overall rating is 3.33 stars.