Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Off With Their Heads!”
The theme answers are all made-up two-word phrases with two letters in brackets at the end of their clues. Add those letters to the head of the answer words and you get a famous name:
- 14a. Sick girl? [BB], ILL LASS. Add the B’s and get Bill Blass, fashion designer.
- 18a. Trendier-than-thou types? [CJ], HIPPER ONES. Chipper Jones, some sort of athlete. Baseball?
- 62a. Certain motorcycle trip? [CP], HARLEY RIDE. Charley Pride, country singer. Excellent find, this answer pairing.
- 68a. Pub delivery vehicles? [DE], ALE VANS. Dale Evans, singer and costar on The Roy Rogers Show.
- 11d. Foul-smelling body part? [FM], RANK ORGAN. Frank Morgan, movie actor from 1916 (!!) to 1950. I was thinking of M*A*S*H, but that was actor Harry Morgan and character (played by someone else) Frank Burns mixed up in my head.
- 19d. “Mwahahaha” of a Bond villain? [ES], NO’S LAUGHTER. Enos Slaughter, old baseball legend.
- 23d. Collide with a pothead? [BS], RAM TOKER. Bram Stoker, Dracula author.
- 25d. Dearth of fuzzy stuff? [CB], LINT LACK. Clint Black, country singer.
- 40d. Person who’s really into exposing closeted gays? [DS], AVID OUTER. Ha! David Souter of the Supremes.
The contest challenge was to find another answer that, with two letters added, could form another theme answer. So I started looking at plausible two-word answers and testing them out. ANT TRAPS, um, there’s nobody named Pant Straps. I’LL LIVE, Jill Olive? No. ALL EARS, Pall Bears? No, no, no. Finally turned to a shorter one, I’M HOME, and thank goodness I’ve heard of baseball’s Jim Thome, because Thome isn’t a common surname at all and this would have been tough to crack without having heard of him. There’s your answer.
The puzzle would have worked with fewer than nine (!) theme answers and a regular 15×15 grid, no? But I liked all the theme answers—even the unfamiliar Frank Morgan was salvaged by the goofiness of his RANK ORGAN. And HARLEY RIDE is just terrific.
Solid fill throughout, nothing to scowl at.
4.5 stars from me.
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times puzzle — pannonica’s write-up
Each of the six theme answers are clued with the introduction “Good Twitter handle for a …” As all accounts at that internet social network by convention (and technology) are required to begin with the ‘at symbol’ (@), the corresponding answers each begin with the prefix at- joined to a root word that’s appropriate to the clue’s object.
Here, the prefix is a euphonic form of ad-, meaning ‘near, at’ or ‘toward, to, tendency, addition’. The at- version is most commonly (exclusively?) encountered when the root begins with the letter t, but there are many others: a-, ac-, af-, ag-, al-, ap-, ar-, and as-.
- 17a. [Good Twitter handle for a seductress?] ATTEMPTING. Unnecessarily gendered clue.
- 21a. [ … for a teacher?] ATTESTING.
- 37a. [ … for a musician?] ATTUNES. Had ATTONES (don’t say it!), as well as JEST for JOSH at the nearby 31a [Kid around]. These errors added significantly to my solve time.
- 39a. [ … for a sleepyhead?] ATTIRED.
- 53a. [ … for a eulogist?] ATTRIBUTE.
- 59a. [ … for a tire company?] ATTRACTION.
All of the theme entries are on the short side, with the two sevens in the eight row the runts. As compensation, the downs include the lengthy specimens CATACLYSM, STATE FAIRS, YOGI BERRA, STAND TALL, SHUTTERFLY, and TAXIDERMY. I’m not thrilled with the clues for those last two.
The first is [Internet photo company named after an insect]. Really? Which insect is that? The name is inspired by that of an insect, is a pun based on said insect, but is not named after it. In case it isn’t clear, we’re talking butterfly here, with a dash of the old-timey term for a camera hobbyist, shutterbug, mixed in. Technically, I suppose named after could be considered expansive enough to include inspired by, but in this case it falls on the wrong side of my >ahem< pedantry razor. So there. For the other, the clue is [Professional stuff?]. Look, I’m all for early-week crosswords stretching out, being a bit looser and more playful, but this is a bridge too far.
Oh, and I don’t want to neglect mentioning the duplication in the clue for 26a [Fly catcher] WEB.
Other loosened clues are 49a [They go in and out and in and out] for TIDES, 58a [It falls in the fall] LEAF. We also see the double-duty [Kind of clef] for 53d ALTO and 55d BASS, plus the cluechos of 57d [Mosquito bite annoyance] ITCH and 50a [Sound of a mosquito being fried] ZAP, plus SMELT and SLAG, whose clues both invoke refining (27a, 13d).
Roger Wienberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
A Monday-typical word-X-precedes-the-first-part-of-phrases theme. Today’s offering is CRAB, via 68-across [Nebula named for a crustacean, which can precede the starts of 17-, 25-, 39-, 51- and 64-Across].
- 17a. [Rural political bloc] GRASS ROOTS. Doesn’t that just imply a bottom-up organizational approach, centered around “ordinary people”? Nothing to do with rural (or suburban) locales, but more a salt-of-the-earth metaphor?
- 25a. [Crate-moving equipment] FORKLIFT.
- 39a. [Bone-breaking combo, in a playground rhyme] STICKS AND STONES.
- 51a. [Slow-cooked entrée] POT ROAST.
- 64a. [Retail outlet with a tech support area called the “Genius Bar”] APPLE STORE.
Crabgrass, crab fork, crab stick, crab pot, crab apple. Two botanical items, two implements used in the preparation and consumption of crabs—one I’ve never heard of (but is easily inferrable, and also essentially synonymous with both shrimp fork and lobster pick). and one shape of imitation crab meat. Not the most varied grouping, and frankly a rather dubious one. In my opinion, crab meat, crab cake, and crab claw would all be preferable to crab stick. Greater variety would have been achieved if a couple of these had been used as inspiration instead: crabwise, crab walk, crab louse, crab spider.
- Oof! 7d [ __ on a tangent] GO OFF, 33a [Silly error] GOOF, 12a [Emotionally distant] ALOOF.
- 21a [Opponents] FOES, 36a [Other side, in war] ENEMY, 61d [Civil War fighters] REBS, 48a [Double-__: traitor] CROSSER. Feels relentless.
- Mis-fills: 10a [“Get lost!”] SHOO before SCAT, to be recalled when the same clue appeared for 57a SHOO. 27d [Clean with a rag] WIPE ere DUST.
- Long downs: MORNINGS, STRIDENT, CONDIMENTS, SCIENTIFIC. Solid stuff.
- Check out the tenth column: 9d [Stand up (for oneself] ASSERT, and 42d [Shrill] STRIDENT (though the latter doesn’t necessarily have that quality; it’s just one sense).
- 47d [World’s largest desert] SAHARA. Sorry, but that’s simply WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The world’s largest desert is Antarctica. I’ve made this correction before, but a search of this site’s archives proved fruitless. Must have been in some other venue. See also 16d [Global extremity] POLE.
Good fill, workmanlike early-week cluing (no positive standouts), unsatisfying theme, two seemingly major cluing errors. Felt kind of sloppy and disappointing.
19a [Shortly, to Shakespeare] ANON.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Five minutes’ write! It’s like Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, only not hateful.
Loves: THROW SHADE (as exemplified by Michelle Obama here), “YOU CHEATED!,” “INTRIGUING!” clued as a spoken thing, DOLLAR MENU, SHANDIES (I thought those were mostly beer with juice, not with soda?).
New to me: GUYBRATOR. Finally finished the season of black•ish this week—in one episode, Junior finally grasps portmanteau words (starting with gaydar). Didn’t know HOUSER either.
Loathes: IT’S I; flat SEGO, SLO, FARO
Time for lunch! Four stars from me.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Timber Tenants”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well to start the week. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to all of us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, barks up three threes, and we have to answer for famous, fictional and animated characters that happen to live inside of trees.
- WINNIE THE POOH (20A: [Kiddie lit character who lives inside a tree])
- CHIP AND DALE (46A: [Disney character who lives inside a tree)
- THE KEEBLER ELVES (59A: [Commercial characters who live inside a tree]) – We don’t se the elves too much in advertisements anymore, at least on television. I guess enough people are now creeped out by them! Also, do we see too many commercials these days featuring animated characters, not including trailers for animated movies?
Had a slow start to the grid, but there was nothing really in the grid that did FAZE me overall during the solve (1A: [Unnerve]). Guess it was just a case of the Mondays and my mind just taking a while to warm up, I guess. Here’s a perfect example: initially, I had BOB instead of NOD (21D: [Bobblehead’s action]), not noticing that ‘bob’ couldn’t really work, given the wording of the clue. Oh, and then BOB ended up being an answer later on in a different clue (60D: [Cut short, as a horse’s tail]). Being such a Futurama fan, Bender definitely has to rank right up there as one of my favorite ROBOT characters (45A: [Bender of “Futurama,” for one]). Sorry to those who are fans of The Jetsons, but Bender definitely ranks higher than Rosie in terms of robot coolness! HOT ITEM was nice fill (5D: [Briskly selling product]), and so was MISBEHAVES, something that Bender the Robot does pretty frequently (32D: [Acts up]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WORM (35A: [Mole’s prey]) – Because of his penchant for getting under opposing players’ skin while on the basketball court, as well as being such a great rebounder for someone who wasn’t the typical height of a great rebounder, NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman earned the nickname “The WORM.” Rodman won seven NBA rebounding titles, was twice named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and won five NBA championships during his career.
Have a great day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!