Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword
I really like this theme. The phrases were not all super-familiar to me, but what ties them together was a bit surprising and interesting:
- 17a. [Hiker’s snack], GRANOLA BAR.
- 21a. [What’s being discussed in the National Enquirer or Globe], TABLOID BUZZ. Not a familiar phrase for me.
- 39a. [Provision in many a construction contract], ESCALATOR CLAUSE. I know this from publishing—the author’s royalties may escalate as the number of copies sold escalates.
- 57a. [Poor weight-loss practice], YO-YO DIETING.
- 62a. [Intellectual property protection … or what the starts of 17-, 21-, 39- and 57-Across once were], TRADEMARKS. Really? I knew Yo-Yo, but I can’t swear that I knew the other words got their starts as trade names. Kleenex, Band-Aid, Google, yes. Tabloid, no.
As much as I appreciated the theme, the fill was underwhelming. OSIER, OTOE, EMIL, MOA, CELS, LAO, ABAB, et al.? Eh.
- 42a. [Asian language with no plural form], LAO. Interesting fact, that.
- 53a. [Modern home of the ancient Zapotec civilization], OAXACA. I like any mention of Zapotec. I just wish that the EMIL Jannings clue were instead a reference to the Czech long-distance runner of the mid-20th century, EMIL Zatopek. He pairs well with Zapotec.
- 19a. [“It must be something ___”], I ATE / 66a. Didn’t go out for dinner], ATE IN? Two ATEs in one puzzle? I’ll pass.
- 33d. [Shaggy’s dog], SCOOBY-DOO. Love this one.
- 37d. [Transitional zone between plant communities], ECOTONE. I reckon there are people who use this word in their work, but I encounter it only in crosswords.
3.33 stars from me. Perhaps the stacking of the theme answers led to compromises in the fill? I like to see smoother, more familiar fill in a Tuesday puzzle.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Berry Good”
I was hoping the theme was about berries, because fresh berries aren’t really in season anymore in this hemisphere and I’m missing them. I gave up on my breakfast raspberries and strawberries when they kept disappointing me. On the plus side, Honeycrisp apples are in season, but they don’t go well on breakfast cereal.
Matt’s theme this week involves taking phrases with words that start with a V and changing them to B words, adjusting the spelling as needed:
- 17a. [What a forceful noblewoman often does?], THE LADY BANISHES. The Lady Vanishes.
- 33a. [Command for a sheep’s fleece to grow bigger?], “BURGEON, WOOL!” Virgin wool.
- 43a. [Five knit in one day, perhaps?], SWEATER BEST. Sweater vest.
- 58a. [“Yup, that’s the sound a stream makes”?], BURBLE AGREEMENT. Verbal agreement.
I have warm feelings about the V-to-B change, which is notable in the speech of people from various countries with native languages that don’t include the V sound. Ponder the Velveeta cheese substance. The Velvet Elvis kitsch painting. Viva Las Vegas. These all sound better with B’s, it is undeniable. I mean, the song from Cinderella, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” would not be half as catchy as “Vividi-Vovidi-Vous.”
- 31a. [Noodle or beach ball], POOL TOY.
- 54a. [Prickly bush], BRAMBLE. Looks good above BURBLE.
- 27d. [Start of some search engine queries], “HOW CAN I…” I plugged that into Google’s search box to see what the auto-complete suggestions were. “How can I … keep from singing (lyrics), make money, make my butt bigger, lose weight.” I had no idea it was such a struggle for people to restrain themselves from singing.
- 35d. [Newbs], FRESH MEAT.
- 44d. [Of a noticeably smaller amount], WAY LESS. Might never see this casual formation in the NYT puzzle, but I have certainly spoken the phrase.
3.75 stars from me. Quick solve, perhaps a little easier than the typical Jonesin’, theme that worked for my humor bone.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Let’s Throw in the Fowl!”—Janie’s review
Did you fall into the same trap I did? Did you see fowl in the title, think of “throw in the towel,” and then conclude “pun time!”? Well, in fact this is a pun puzzle of sorts—but not of the “sound alike” variety. This is one of the literal variety, wherein Liz takes a well-known, in-the-language base-phrase and “throws in” a well-known phrase featuring a species of the aves class to keep things lively. That is to say, um, fowl is fair (game) today… See the clever way four of our fine-feathered-friends are served up:
- 17A. HIT THE DUCK SAUCE [Indulge in a Chinese egg roll condiment?]. I’ll pass, thank you very much. But not before laughing first. And see how I deluded myself into thinking this could be a sound-alike pun theme: hit the deck → hit the duck…? Weak, I know. But when one wants to delude oneself, there’s no telling how far one will be willing to go! (Fueling the fire of self- deception is DOCK crossing the c in sauce…) Of course, what’s really happened is that the conflation of duck sauce with the base phrase hit the sauce has given us our first themer. And, on the topic of indulging (and puns…), we also encounter the timely BOOZING [Getting into the holiday spirits?] pair.
- 27A. “FUN ‘CHICKEN RUN’!” [Good review of an animated Mel Gibson movie?]. For some reason, I had trouble making sense of this one initially (was still trying to make my sound-alike pun theory work, I fear), but, d’oh—this combo has a fun run with Chicken Run “thrown in.” Don’t quite understand how a film could win awards from both ASCAP and BMI (among many others), but this one has that distinction. And while it’s not clued as a bird sound, [“Not] A PEEP [from you!” (“Hush!”)] does make me think of little chicks. Yes, even the all-sugar sort… And, yes, even if those chicks’ve outgrown the NEST [Egg protector], gotta appreciate the additional fowl entries…
- 47A. BABY GOOSEBUMP [Reaction to seeing a small ghost?]. I’m finally seeing the light here as baby bump meets goose bump. This is good stuff in my book (note how the size of the goose bump is scaled to the size of the ghost, e.g.; or how BEBE [“Blue Bloods” actress Neuwirth] but also French for baby [okay that’s bébé—but it’s also close enough for jazz], crosses that very word), making it the perfect prelude to the puzzle’s just-in-time-for-Thanksgiving pièce de résistance:
- 63A. HOT TO TURKEY TROT [Excited about doing a Thanksgiving Day dance?]. Gorgemous (as I’m wont to say…). Hot to trot meets turkey trot. Now while a “Turkey Trot” has also become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition for some runners, it takes its name from the early 20th century dance craze that went along with the arrival of ragtime music. Am afraid this very brief clip will give you only an inkling of what it looks like—but better than nuthin’! Btw, I have it on good authority this was, in fact, Liz’s seed entry for the puzzle theme.
More puns? Elsewhere in the grid, I LAUD the KEEN pairing of [VIP with firm beliefs?] and CEO (newbies: focus on firm), and especially [Sap who may be the butt of jokes?] and ASS (now on butt)—who would certainly be second cousin to the DOLT [Puddinghead] (last week stumblebum, this week puddinghead—I do love those quaint yet oh-so colorful descriptors!). CHATS UP brightens the puzzle, and for reasons I can’t explain (is it the k? is it the z?), I just enjoy seeing that vertical KAZOO at center.Because I so associate it with Laura Nyro (who wrote and eventually recorded it), it was interesting to see [“And When] I DIE“ clued as a [(Blood, Sweat & Tears song)]. But it was their version of the song that reached the widest audience—surpassing Ms. Nyro’s and even the one recorded earlier by Peter, Paul and Mary. Read all about it!
Whether you’ll be observing this week’s holiday quietly, in the company of a manageable group who are near and dear, or among so many that a NAME TAG might be useful, I wish you a safe and happy one—and will see you all next week!
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Tanked” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four types of “tanks” end the theme entries today:
- [Do the impossible] was WALK ON WATER – well impossible for all but one person; a “water tank” used to be where office workers chatted about the prior night’s sports games or reality series, now I guess that happens over IM.
- [Reach a point in a creative endeavor when inspiration is depleted] clued JUMP THE SHARK – famous phrase related to a scene from Happy Days; a “shark tank” is a place you don’t want to spend a lot of time in without being in a cage
- [Surface, as a dolphin, say] was COME UP FOR AIR – “air tanks” are used in scuba diving, no?
- [Sputter to a stop, in a way] clued RUN OUT OF GAS – I think there was a recent NYT which featured the image of a gas gauge.
Rather straightforward theme from a constructor from whom I expect a bit more chicanery, but this was well-executed all the same with enjoyable theme entries. Notably missing is a phrase that ends with “think”–hard to think of one off the top of my head, but it might’ve argued to have a set where the tank began the phrases instead of ended them to include that one. Hard to have many hard feelings against a puzzle that gives us DEAR SANTA, GUMDROP and BATMOBILE, although 60 Minutes commentator Morley SAFER may have been looking for a reference to his name in 1-Across.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Here’s the theme revealer:
- 57a. [Pompous sorts … and what can be seen in this puzzle’s circles?], STUFFED SHIRTS. The other three theme answers aren’t all shirts, however. Two are words that can precede “shirt”:
- 20a. [Marinade for many Japanese dishes], TERIYAKI SAUCE. TEE in circled squares, frequent shortening of “T-shirt.”
- 36a. [Bovine Old Testament idol], GOLDEN CALF. GOLF is a sport and a Volkswagen. Golf shirt is a shirt.
- 44a. [UPS alternative], DHL EXPRESS. Again, DRESS is not a shirt. There are dress shirts and there are shirtdresses, but DRESS with letters inside does not represent a “stuffed shirt” to me.
So the theme doesn’t work well for me, but I do like a lot of the longer fill:
- 5d. [Language of the Philippines], TAGALOG. In Tagalog, the country is officially called Republika ng Pilipinas. The F-to-P sound thing is akin to the V-to-B sound thing mentioned in the Jonesin’ review.
- 11d. [“Just taste some!”], “GIVE IT A TRY.” I might say that more to get someone to do something rather than eat something, but I still like the entry. I like spoken phrases in my puzzle.
- 30d. [Blended seasoning], GARLIC SALT. I don’t like the stuff, but it’s good to season one’s crossword fill.
- 46d. [Covert agent exchange], SPY SWAP. Interesting, not-often-seen term.
- 51d. [With hands on hips], AKIMBO. Probably among my top 10 favorite words.
I’m not at all convinced that this clue/answer combo works: 43a. [Lite cigarette claim], NO TAR. First of all, “light” cigarettes tend to have less tar rather than no tar. Furthermore, in the US, cigarette companies are no longer permitted to claim that a cigarette has less tar. So the clue/answer fails on two counts, it would appear: the words “NO” and “claim.”