Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Worst of 2014”
Matt’s made a bit of a tradition of dishonoring the year’s worst crap in a crossword. Here’s the latest batch:
- 17a. [She got a Worst Actress nomination for a 10-Down for “The Other Woman”], CAMERON DIAZ. 10d is RAZZIE.
- 24a. [#2 on Time’s 10 Worst Songs of 2014], “LITERALLY I CAN’T.” I have not heard of this at all. I shall not research it further.
- 51a. [“Conscious Uncoupling” person of 2014, instead of just saying “divorce”], GWYNETH PALTROW.
- 62a. [John Travolta mispronunciation that made Rolling Stone’s “Worst TV Moments of 2014”], ADELE DAZEEM. Unreal names can be tricky to spell, but ADELE DAZEEM is the rendering I’ve seen most often. Travolta meant to introduce Idina Menzel on the 2014 Oscar telecast.
Entertaining bit of pop culture mockery. What are your nominations for 2014’s most ridiculous things?
Fill of note:
- 4d. [___-Kinney (band with Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia”)], SLEATER. They’re back with a new album. I’ve never heard any of their songs but I suppose that will change soon.
- 64d. [“Never Mind the Bollocks” closer (or label)], EMI. I have no idea what this “closer” bit in the clue means. Googling … It’s the title of the last song on that Sex Pistols album.
- 32d. [Glass containers], CANDY JARS. On the one hand, the term feels a hair contrived. On the other hand, JARS FULL OF CANDY. I’m calling it a winner.
Fill-in-the-blank partials overlap department: 59a. [“Am ___ only one?”] clues I THE, and the very next Across clue is 61a. [“I ___ Rock”], AM A. The American Medical Association and Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” feature were made for situations like this.
I just noticed the stack in the center left: LYCRA BOA JUNK. Heckuva visual there. The Google image search is left as an exercise for the reader.
3.9 stars from me.
James Tuttle’s New York Times crossword
The theme here is different ways of spelling the “roh” sound:
- 17a. [Africa’s highest peak], KILIMANJARO.
- 24a. [Noted French encyclopedist], DENIS DIDEROT. He was also a novelist; I read The Nun in college for a class on French literature in translation.
- 38a. [Parting, to Juliet], SUCH SWEET SORROW. This and 24a were the first theme entries I filled in, so I thought we were in for an alliteration theme.
- 48a. [Group you can rely on when it counts], CENSUS BUREAU. Actually, census data is riddled with errors. If you’ve done genealogy and looked at the same family’s census records for different decades, you see that people’s ages, birthplaces, and the spelling of their names can vary.
- 60a. [President who lived at Oak Hill], JAMES MONROE. “Oak Hill”? Entirely unfamiliar to me.
I suspect a great many solvers will finish this puzzle and have no idea what the theme is. It doesn’t help that the “roh” syllable isn’t stressed in three theme answers, has a full stress in MONROE, and has a secondary stress in DIDEROT. And with different preceding syllables, the rhyme aspect is obscured.
A few answers I wouldn’t have expected to see in a Tuesday puzzle: [German W.W. I admiral] SPEE, AGAR, ELUL, LEA, OLEA, EWER.
Three more things:
- 28a. [Scouts earn them], MERITS. I’ve never heard this usage. Really? MERITS is short for “merit badges”? I figured “badges” was the obvious shorthand.
- 64a. [Polish airline], LOT. Really? That’s your Tuesday clue?
- 46d. [Indian state whose name means “five rivers”], PUNJAB. Duly noted—I had not known that.
3.5 stars here.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 191), “Sheep Tricks”—Janie’s review
So this was one of those times when I hid the puzzle’s title before solving—to see if I could guess the theme by way of the themers themselves. And this was one of those times when it took the reveal to give me my “aha moment.” The bigger delight came when I looked at the title. No “cheap” tricks here—only those of the ovine-anagram variety; or as 51D. spells out (and where the puns continue to fly): [“Butter” that’s churned in four answers], leading us to RAM, an animal that loves to “butt” heads within its species. And here are the four terrific two-word phrases—two are grid-spanners—in which the letters R–A–M (divided between the two words) get “churned”:
- 17A. UNDERWEAR MODELS [Workers with brief assignments]. As great a start as a theme set could ask for. Though I wonder why this clue doesn’t include a question mark. After all, we find one in the proximate and complementary [Bottom drawers?] BVDS pairing. But am also amused by the way these clues and fill tie in with last week’s [Bum wraps?] LUVS combo. Do I detect a running joke (see previous link…)?
- 29A. FOAM RUBBER [Exercise mat material]. That it is.
- 44A. AM-FM RADIOS [Chatter boxes in cars]. Wow. Although ratings as a whole are sliding, this here Wiki article sez that in the U.S., conservative males are the largest part of the talk-radio audience. Sometimes I think I’ve gotta get out of my NPR head and into the real world! (Or mebbe not…)
- 60A. ANGER MANAGEMENT [Class for rageaholics]. Thank you, dear constructor, for bringing up neither the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson- nor the Charlie Sheen-movie of the same name. (What the world doesn’t need now!)
In addition to this fine theme-fill, please give a warm hello to the four lively nines in the grid. We have the colloquial “GOOD GUESS…” [“You almost got it…”] (with its proximate and complementary “I SEE!” [“Makes sense!’] pairing as well as the complementary, symmetrically-placed [“Now I GET it!”]), and three more that have gustatory appeal. First there’s PARTY FOOD [Nachos and buffalo wings, say] (did someone say Super Bowl?); MICROBREW [Beer festival offering] (or Super Bowl party quaff…); and finally, SUNNY SIDE [Egg order, with “up”].
But wait—there’s more!
To go along with those eggs, how about a nice toasted BAGEL on the side, that most [Hole-some breakfast order]? I do not, however, recommend the [Sticky roll?]. Not when it’s produced by, say, 3M and is a “roll” of TAPE. (For more on the bagel and why it has a hole, do check out this link.)
There are a slew of strong sevens, too: PINE NUT and ALSO-RAN and SOAP PAD (the [Kitchen cleaner] with the complementary BORAX [Detergent powder]), and the hippy-dippily clued GOT HIGH by way of [Took some hits?]. Also appreciated the PILL [Annoying pharmaceutical rep?] pair. And the RAD [It was cool in the ’90s] combo. If you’re not sure how to parse this one, think “Bart Simpson.”
And from the snow-bound mid-Atlantic, that, as they say, is a wrap. There are a LOT OF high spots in this puzzle, which clearly passed today’s scrutinizing [MAGNA cum laude].
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword
If you’re a stooge, you may find yourself taken advantage of a lot. It’s that kind of stooge that anchors this grid, not the slapsticky Moe/Larry/Curly sort:
- 20a. [Rock used for hammering, e.g.], STONE AGE TOOL.
- 38a. [Shari Lewis’ Lamb Chop, memorably], SOCK PUPPET. You don’t want to be someone’s puppet. On the internet, a sock puppet is a fake identity set up to leave blog comments, typically to support your own opinions without having those opinions tied to you, or to be your own lackey. Bloggers like me loathe sock puppets.
- 44a. [First piece moved in chess, often], QUEEN’S PAWN.
- 57a. [Classic comedy team, with “The” … and what the last words of 20-, 38- and 44-Across comprise], THREE STOOGES. One tool, one puppet, one pawn—three different stooges.
Five more things:
- 5d. [Fare steamed in corn husks], TAMALES. Hey! I have a dozen chicken tamales in the freezer (lard-free! I wasn’t kidding about the lard thing in my BEQ write-up yesterday) and now I’ve decided that’s what’s for dinner.
22d. [Cleaning up after the mess?], ON KP. I swear I’ve read that military servicepeople no longer do KP/kitchen work, that outside contractors are hired for all the food service. Yea or nay?
- 32d. [Fasten, as buttons], DO UP. I might’ve gone with SOUP here, crossing LESS crossing EEL … although a singular EEK is more fun than an EEL.
- 30d. [Films featuring chaps in chaps], OATERS. Old-school terminology.
- 40a. [Media workers’ org.], AFTRA. American Federation of Television and Radio somethings? Artists. No longer a stand-alone org, though, as it merged with the Screen Actors Guild to be the larger trade union, SAG-AFTRA.
Lowlights in the fill include URI, ALMA, plural AHAS and ONE G.
Overall rating, 3.75 stars.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Initial Names”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Hope all is well with you. The snowpocalypse that was supposed to rain down on us in the New York/New Jersey area didn’t necessarily happen, so I can’t be too disappointed in that news. Though I was looking forward to looking out my window and seeing mountains of snow on my window sills. Oh, well! Anyways, we were at least able to look forward to today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld. Probably containing the most theme answers of any grid in the past calendar year, the grid contains eight celebrities whose first names are converted to initials, though the pronunciation of their actual first names remains the same.
- R.T. SHAW (16A: [Legendary big band clarinetist]) – Artie Shaw.
- L.E. WIESEL (17A: [1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner]) – Elie Wiesel.
- L.N. BURSTYN (24A: [Best Actress nominee for “The Exorcist”]) – Ellen Burstyn.
- E.D. FALCO (38A: [Actress who won a Golden Globe, Emmy, and SAG Award in 2003]) – Edie Falco.
- U.B. Blake (40A: [Jazz pianist who composed “Charleston Rag”]) – Eubie Blake.
- K.C. STENGEL (50A: [Only person to manage a baseball team to five consecutive World Series championships]) – Casey Stengel. Probably the most difficult answer for people not up on their old-time baseball, or baseball altogether.
- O.N. WILSON (63A: [“Bottle Rocket” was his film debut]) – Owen Wilson.
- Y.T. FORD (65A: [Pitcher with the most World Series victories]) – Whitey Ford. He probably owns one of the best nicknames in sports: “The Chairman of the Board.”
With so many themes yet a pretty smooth solving experience, definitely would rate this as an ABOVE PAR puzzle (14A: [Better than expected]). OK, maybe the NO U entry wasn’t the best fill, but definitely can let that slide (61D: [___-turn]). Almost plopped down “trunks” instead of WAISTS when looking at its clue, and then was reminded of my own spare tire once I finally got it (8A: [Spare tire sites]). If anyone has used UBER, Lyft, or any of those mobile app car services, let me know, because I want to know if it’s actually a good experience or if I should stick with the more conventional way of attaining car services (2D: [Car service company accessed through a mobile device]). There were no ear worms that developed after this experience, but I’ll have to go to YouTube and listen to TAMMY, since the song title doesn’t ring a bell in my head in terms of remembering its tune (12D: [1957 #1 hit for Debbie Reynolds]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SWANN (13D: [Proust title character]) – So far, so good in terms of having a Super Bowl-themed “moment” for each day this week in the lead-up to the Big Game. Former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn SWANN was a member of four Super Bowl championship teams with the Steelers (Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV). Swann won the Most Valuable Player Award in Super Bowl X, as he caught four passes for 161 yards (40+ yards per catch!!!) and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Swann retired from football after the 1982 season, and in 2006, was the Republican gubernatorial candidate and ran against incumbent Ed Rendell (D) in the race for governor (Rendell ended up being re-elected). Before politics, Swann also was a sideline reporter for ABC Sports and for Monday Night Football.
See you all on Hump Day!