Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword, “Musical Remixes” — pannonica’s write-up
Simple theme to describe row-mate entries are anagrams, the first a wacky take on the other, a popular music act. In a nice but strained touch, the new phrases are music related.
- 23a. [Alternative band that sounds like every other alternative band?] INDIE CLONE.
25a. [#1 Billboard artist that’s an anagram of 23-Across] CÉLINE DION.
- 45a. [Invitation for musical plagiarism?] USE MY LYRIC.
48a. [#1 Billboard artist that’s an anagram of 45-Across] MILEY CYRUS.
- 66a. [Greeting to a conductor?] HI MAESTRO.
68a. [ … ] AEROSMITH.
- 87a. [Friendly music genre?] GENIAL ROCK.
89a. [ … ] CAROLE KING.
- 112a. [Part of a hospital playlist?] NURSE’S SONG.
115a. [ … ] GUNS N ROSES. See also 22a [Drivetrain part] AXLE, and 59a [“… __ other name would smell as sweet”: Juliet] ANY.
Perhaps this would have been a bit more gratifying and less drudging if the cluing for the second member of each pair wasn’t so repetitive. Or better yet, had the anagrams been unannounced, and the relationship—thus explanation for the strange fill on the left—bequeathed for the solver to discover.
Theme related: 41a [Like some drinks and emotions] MIXED. This repeats the title. It also reminds me of the knowingly smug, latter-day beat-trite lyric of Tom Waits’ sleazy narrator character in the first song from 1974’s Nighthawks at the Diner.
There are also some other entries that are theme-proximate, even if not “#1 Billboard” artists, such as 28a [“Wicked Game” singer Chris] ISAAK.
Superb long downs in SPOILER ALERT, LETTER OPENER, HOCKEY MASK, PARK RANGER, all with excellent clues.
- 40d [“Heavens!”] MERCY ME.
- 44a [Full of frills] LACY, 55a [Frilly trim] RUCHE.
- 99a SAGAWARD. This is what happens when the novel you’re writing gets away and grows to ponderous proportions; it leans SAGAWARD, [Alternative to an Oscar]
- 20a IPAD, 75d IMAC. No! I draw the line at two in the same crossword.
- 108a [Sea creatures with beaks] OCTOPI. The least of the three plurals for “octopus”.
- 56d [Maa in “Babe”] EWE, 76a [Welcome to the fold?] BAA. 46d [“Whatever”] MEH.
- 63a [Carrier letters] USS, but I was hoodwinked into filling it as UPS, which made 64d [Epitome of desolateness] seem temptingly like it wanted to be the non-fitting PEORIA rather than SIBERIA.
- 61d [Jacob’s name after he wrestled with the angel] ISRAEL. This I did not know, unsurprisingly.
- Favorite clue: 19a [Spot check?] LEASH. There are quite a lot of others that try for cute/cleverness but mostly seem, not unlike the theme’s anagrams, strained.
Average Sunday, draggy.
Gordon Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Eight is Enough”—Andy’s review
I think this is Gordon Johnson’s debut puzzle. Someone correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. Mazel tov, Gordon!
Oddly, the puzzle has a similar title to last week’s Matt Gaffney meta. The “eight” in question turn out to be a [Familiar octet], the PLANETS. Embedded in the beginning of the eight theme answers is “My very educated mother just served us nachos,” a MNEMONIC used to remember the order of the planets:
- 23a, MY LIPS ARE SEALED [*”I won’t tell a soul!”].
- 36a, VERY COLD [*”You’re not even close!”].
- 53a, EDUCATED GUESS [*Not just a shot in the dark].
- 59a, MOTHERSHIP [*Sci-fi fleet leader].
- 73a, JUST FOR FUN [*Not seriously].
- 82a, SERVED ME RIGHT [*Words from the aptly punished].
- 94a, US VS. THEM [*Adversarial attitude].
- 113a, NACHOS AND CHEESE [*Popular party dish].
I solved the SW corner of this puzzle without ever having to look at the clue for 104a, MNEMONIC [A typical one for the 35-Across (PLANETS) can be found in the first words of the answers to the starred clues], so I finished the puzzle without getting the theme revealer. It really shouldn’t have been so difficult to figure out, but even after scanning the clues again and racking my brain over the theme entries, I still missed the theme. Thanks to joon pahk and Neville Fogarty for explaining the embarrassingly obvious theme to me. Of course, the mnemonic I learned back when Pluto was a planet was “My very enormous mother just served us nine pizzas.” This one’s probably better.
So, there are a lot of problems with this puzzle. In a vacuum, the theme isn’t one of them. First-word themes like this are fairly common, and the revealer is embedded into the puzzle (even if I missed it). But with these eight words, some of the resulting phrases are destined to be subpar. SERVED ME RIGHT is a peculiar construction of the much-more-common phrase “serves me right.” NACHOS AND CHEESE? “Nachos” without cheese are just tortilla chips. Does anyone add the “and cheese” to the end of “nachos”? I understand you have to have a phrase beginning with “nachos” to make the theme work, and that’s the problem. There’s no real phrase like, say, “Nachos to you, MacGillicuddy!” where the word “nachos” means something other than nachos. In fact, “nachos” doesn’t even begin a lot of phrases about nachos, aside from “nachos supreme” or “Nachos Bell Grande.” VERY COLD is arbitrary; “cold” could be replaced with any adjective and be just as phrase-y. US VS. THEM looks weird in the grid. I think I’d prefer “us versus them,” but it didn’t stress me out too much.
And then the fill. I don’t want to dwell, so here’s the hit parade: REDIG, NORGE, REBEC, BE HAD, SEW A, SIREE, SYMS (as an abbr. for symphonies), IN F, -OLA (with the worst clue I’ve ever seen for it, [Ending with cup], DUMS, EPISC., EAR TO, A DIP, TO SEA. Credit where credit is due: there were some good moments in the fill, including ECO-WARRIOR, HEXAGONAL, HOVER CAR, XANADU, AVIAN FLU, and ELYSIUM.
Is ORE BODY good? I’ve never heard of it, but maybe it’s one of those important concepts that have just eluded crosswords. I love classical music and I’ve listened to some of Louis SPOHR‘s compositions, but along with URSAE and NAHUM he’s not making the SE corner any easier.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “So Sew Me” — pannonica’s write-up
In which a minor pun is expanded to 4 × 21 length as an anecdotal retelling, essentially a “quote puzzle”: WHEN I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL / I ASKED THE NURSE WHETHER / I COULD DO MY OWN STITCHES / SHE JUST SAID, SUTURE SELF.
Moderately impressive to come up with a phrasing that both sounds natural and breaks down so evenly. The real feat in the construction, however, is visual. Take a look at the grid. See it? The zigzag of the the thread, the turns, the boundaries of tissue?
What a neat trick! Couldn’t be any better, even had it been finished off with a tidy little bow. It nearly inclines me to forgive the title, whose quality of mirth is strained; does any dialect or region pronounce ‘sue’ and ‘sew’ so closely?
That quartet of grid-spanning themers—not to mention the block art—doesn’t leave any opportunity for showy long answers elsewhere in the grid, so the whole thing is held together with a regiment of short- and mid-length fill. Nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s preferable, at least metaphorically.
48-across: [Fate who spins the thread of life] CLOTHO. Lachesis measured the thread, and finally Atropos would cut it.
- 68d [Lady Ivanhoe loves] ROWENA. The parallelized 86d [Knight Enid wed] GERAINT, curiously, initially seems like foreign gibberish, possibly Welsh (aptly).
- Favorite clue: 82a [What you may mine] ORE. Runner-up: 59d [Hangovers at home] EAVES.
- 115a [Drawing often in ink] LINE ART. Not to be confused with LINEAR B.
- Least favorite fill: 17d [One landing a blow] SMITER. Smell the desperation! But it’s a rarity for this puzzle.
- 36d [Bechet who could swing] SIDNEY. Here’s his stately “Blue Horizon”, from 1944.
- 69d [One a-courting] SUITOR, not FROGGY.
- 80d [Zodiacal border] CUSP.
I’m out of control.
- All right, finally. 8d [A.k.a. snakebird] ANHINGA, Anhinga anhinga. The name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language. Observe the black-and-white patterning:
Hey, be thankful I didn’t select a Nurse With Wound track for you this morning. They’re a favorite, but I realize their music is not for everyone. Factette: The ‘band’ is essentially one guy, named Steve Stapleton. Staple-ton.
edit: With all the videos, music, and images, I’d forgotten that I’d intended to provide a brief discourse on surgical sutures. Forthwith:
So I’d say this crossword provides an example of an extended (or expanded) continuous Lembert suture, if such a designation exists.
Very spiffy crossword. Let the healing begin.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s tribute crossword, “A Loss For Words”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Newspaper accounts indicate that Merl Reagle didn’t have a backlog of puzzles when he died unexpectedly yesterday morning. We have no Merl Reagle puzzle to review, but it doesn’t feel right simply to let a Sunday pass. So what do you say we review the tribute puzzle Brendan Emmett Quigley released late yesterday? If you don’t have access to it, an Across Lite version is available here, and a paper version is available here. (Just try not to look at the solution grid too closely.)
57-Across in this 78/37 puzzle tells us REAGLE is the [Crossword legend who appeared on “The Simpsons” alongside Will Shortz (His first name is hidden in 15-, 16-, 27-, 40-, and 53-Across)]. Sure enough, you’ll see MERL all over this puzzle:
- 15-Across: The [Cabernet alternative] is MERLOT.
- 16-Across: The NBA SUMMER LEAGUE is where to find [Off-season hoops games]
- 27-Across: [Some reincarnated people remember] their FORMER LIFE.
- 40-Across: A HAMMER LOCK is a [Wrestling maneuver].
- 53-Across: An [Insistence on only buying Apple products, e.g.] is CUSTOMER LOYALTY.
There’s also the shout-out to Merl in the clue for CLUES, [57-Across’s specialty (especially terrible puns and wacky wordplay)]. As fans have taken to social media to share their grief, many have recalled their favorite puzzle themes and clues. One remembrance referred to Merl’s puzzles as stand-up comedy in a grid. Yes, his technical construction skills were superb; he could cram a grid so full of theme entries you’d wonder how he did it. But first and foremost, he was an entertainer. His puns made you laugh, they made you groan, and sometimes they made you exasperated. But they always made you feel something, and that’s no small feat.
Kudos to Brendan for finding some really juicy theme entries here–not a weak one in the bunch. You could pick the nit that MERLOT is unlike the others in that MERL does not span two words, but note that it sits symmetrically opposite the REAGLE revealer, and there are no six-letter two-word phrases that match the letter pattern ?MER L?. So I think that nit’s misplaced.
I got a little mired in the southwest, as I didn’t know [Owner of the Indianapolis Colts] JIM IRSAY or LUCES, the answer to [Henry and Clare of magazine publishing]. Thank goodness for my familiarity with the [Big name in cooking oils], CRISCO (none of your business), as it gave helpful crossings. Oh, and did anyone else try NOVICES first before NON-PROS for [Rank amateurs]?
The only thing missing from this puzzle is URINE. If you saw “Wordplay,” I think you’d agree that Merl would have liked that.
Sundays won’t be the same, and we’re going to feel this stomach-punching loss acutely for a long time. But we will always be grateful for his pioneering work, his generosity, and his indefatigable spirit for all things wordplay.
Favorite entry = SOJOURN, the [Temporary visit]. Favorite clue = [Fig. that might influence a decision as to whether or not to join the mile high club] for ETA, the estimated time of arrival.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying your Sunday so far.
Well, we have a Sunday Challenge from Mr. Bob Klan today, and it was definitely a challenge. Haven’t seen the ratings just yet on the puzzle, but I’m glad that there’s a lot of reaction on here when Bob steps up to the plate.
Thank goodness there were a few gimmes for me, especially a couple with the longer entries. Probably my favorite one was BARBARELLA, because of my love of Duran Duran, as well as my love for Milo O’Shea (17A: [Duran Duran derived their name from a villain in this 1968 movie]). I’ll talk about the other gimme that helped me open the grid up later on in this blog. As you already know, there’s such a huge trivia element with a lot of Klahn’s puzzles, and either you get them, or you’re praying that the intersecting entries are doable. There was enough trivia, but I felt the answers surrounding it and intersecting it were more than fair. Today, the across answers of UGGS (10A: [They’re warmer than Timberlands]) and SRI also bailed me out of jams (38A: [Title from the Sanskrit for “beauty”]). SRI was especially important, because GERRITSEN was on the top of my tonight, but wasn’t sure (30D: [Mystery writer Tess who created Rizzoli and Isles)] and it also made my initial hunch of HAIR CARE look even stronger (34D: [Shock therapy?]). Speaking of shock, I first heard the term “shock” in reference to hair when I was watching a soccer game on television, and one of the British commentators referred to one of the players, Napoli’s Marek Hamsik, as having a shock of hair, in more ways than one. And believe me, you would refer to this as a shock in more ways than one!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HARNESS RACING (35A: [The Little Brown Jug sport])– For those who are Michiganders and Minnesotans, the Little Brown Jug means the rivalry trophy at stake in football when the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota play each other. In HARNESS RACING, The Little Brown Jug is one of the most prestigious events on the calendar for standardbred horses – horses who pace or trot, not those in thoroughbred racing. The race takes place every September in Delaware, Ohio, and has been staged every year since 1946.
Thank you so much for your time! See you tomorrow, and have a great rest of your Sunday!