David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword
The theme was easy to cotton to, I thought. I saw four long Downs with circled letters, went straight to the clue for the central Down (15d. [Moves like a buoy in the ocean … or a hint to the circled parts of this puzzle?]), filled in BOBS UP AND DOWN, and figured HOPE or EPOH would be one of the 4-letter circled chunks. Yep:
- 3d. [Elton John’s dedicatee for “Candle in the Wind 1997”], PRINCESS OF WALES, with Bob FOSSE bobbing up.
- 4d. [Classic board game with a Peppermint Forest], CANDYLAND, Bob DYLAN bobbing back down.
- 35d. [1980 one-woman comedy produced by Lorne Michaels], GILDA LIVE, Bob VILA bobbing up again. Don’t recall the comedy, but I’ll bet it’s terrific.
- 10d. [Don Juan types], SMOOTH OPERATORS. Here’s Bob HOPE bobbing down.
The central theme revealer is a perfect description of what’s happening in the theme, and the theme answers are a neat way of visualizing BOBS UP AND DOWN. Thumbs up (not bobbing down).
Five more things:
- One thing I do in my Daily Celebrity Crossword editing job is accept, modify, or reject theme submissions. When a theme answer hinges on a movie and it doesn’t ring a bell, I check Box Office Mojo to see if it’s reasonable to expect solvers to know the title. (Anything under, say, $20 million that didn’t get major awards is NO-GO.) 23d. [2014 Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper film], SERENA? Ha! It grossed $176,391. Assuming an average ticket price of about $10, about 0.005% Americans went to see it. Bad timing to not have a Serena Williams clue, given that she was named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year today. Oof.
- 9d. [Nickname on the 1960s-’80s Red Sox], YAZ. I much prefer the Yaz (Yazoo in the UK) that recorded “Only You.”
- 54a. [MouthHealthy.org grp.], ADA. Didn’t know the American Dental Association had that URL. How weird does it look to have “org grp.” in a clue?
- 55a. Capital on the Red River], HANOI. I always want this to be FARGO, despite North Dakota’s capital being Bismarck. It’s the only Red River I’ve been to.
- 62a. [Punch line?], OOF. This is one of my favorite brief responses to problematic things. I don’t think I can play it in Lexulous or Scrabble.
I didn’t love all the short fill, but nothing slowed me down to a scowl other than having to scrounge in my head for the title of the already-forgotten not-directed-by-David O. Russell movie. 3.9 stars from me.
Theresa Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Little R&R” — Jim’s review
Very basic theme today which the title gives away. It’s even simpler than yesterday which did involve some wordplay. Today we just have ___ AND ___ phrases where both words start with R. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that this type of puzzle typically appears on a Monday, and yesterday’s might appear on a Tuesday. But it all evens out, doesn’t it?
I had a timer ERROR (when my wife stopped by to chat), but my time was probably somewhere around 5 minutes. I’m sure it was faster than yesterday.
Let’s get to it:
- 17A [Angler’s equipment] ROD AND REEL
- 22A [Extreme disrepair] RACK AND RUIN
- 36A [Twin sons of Mars] ROMULUS AND REMUS
- 48A [Loudly carry on] RANT AND RAVE
- 57A [Sweetened whiskey drink] ROCK AND RYE
I found one other instance of this theme on cruciverb. That was Jeff Chen’s Nov, 2010, LAT puzzle. And yet, there’s only one dupe between them, RANT AND RAVE. Jeff also included ROCK AND ROLL, ROUND AND ROUND, ROUGH AND READY, and the revealer R AND R.
I think I have to give the edge to today’s puzzle. ROUND AND ROUND feels like a bit of a cheat and today’s puzzle didn’t have to devote any space to a revealer; we get five solid theme entries. Plus, the central spanner is wonderful.
I didn’t know the drink ROCK AND RYE, but have since learned it was popular in the 19th century and as a medicine as well. It has been enjoying a resurgence in the past few years. It consists of “rye whiskey infused with rock candy and fragrant herbs and spices“. Check it out.
Interesting non-theme fill: PRESS TIME, AMINO ACID, ONE-SIDED, ERIC DANE [He played “McSteamy” on “Grey’s Anatomy”]. I never watched the show so I didn’t know the name. But if that’s your thing, enjoy the picture at left.
Other good but shorter fill: PLASTER, UNMANNED, CANYON, GRADY, and RHONDA.
PENCILED and PEN NAME feels like a dupe. But almighty Google tells me PEN comes from Latin for “feather” (penna) and that PENCIL comes from Latin for “tail” (penis) which became “fine paintbrush” in Old French (pincel). So the next time you admire a fox’s luxurious tail, you might be accused of penis-envy.
Strangest fill of the day has to be 61A‘s IIII [Four on some clock faces]. I can’t imagine why this was left in when it could have been easily replaced. Yesterday we had a similar incident with QUAI and XIS, but that had the up-side of some interesting fill. This just doesn’t. But it was simple enough to get, even without any crossers. Also, I didn’t know 6D‘s EIDER [You might get down from it]. This seems like crosswordese fill I should know by now.
Favorite clue has to be 62A‘s [There’s one in this cule] for ERROR, which I didn’t notice until literally just now. EIDER‘s clue is good, too. 45D‘s [Site for some rafters] had me thinking building construction before I could switch to CANYON.
Simple but fine puzzle, and thus I shall bid thee ADIEU. What’s your preference for a closing song? Dr. DRE‘s “Deep Cover”? Perhaps some DARYL Hall? or Brooks and DUNN? Maybe an OPERAtic ARIA? Let’s go with, in the words of one commenter, “the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen on stage”. Enjoy “The Song of the Jellicles” from CATS.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 237), “VIP Central”—Janie’s review
“O, DEAR”… This is the unusual Gorski puzzle that left me more let down than ELATEd. It’s by no means without some genuinely beautiful “highs,” but today they feel outnumbered by some genuinely less-than-satisfying construction choices. And so it goes. The theme is, well, serviceable—not very sparkly—and gives us three themers (including two grid-spaners) plus a reveal. Comme ça:
- 20A. MUSHROOM GRAVY [Portobello-based turkey topper].
- 25A. FALLEN FROM GRACE [Suffered the loss of respect and admiration]. This is one of those genuinely beautiful “highs” I mentioned. Great phrase. Was this perhaps the seed entry?
- 43A. MEDIUM GRAIN RICE [Paella ingredient]. And a darned specific one at that… Folks at Chowhound speak out about paella RICE here.
- 48A. MIDDLE MANAGER [Corporate department head … and a hint to the puzzle theme]. So. A paean to MIDDLE MANAGEment. And as you can see, the abbreviation for MANAGER, MGR, is there connecting words within the theme phrases, though not (as I’d thought/been hoping it might) actually at center. That “central” in the title is a play on MIDDLE in the reveal. I’m gonna guess that MIDDLE MANAGEMENT doesn’t ordinarily get a lotta love, let alone the attention of a crossword puzzle. But I think there’s a reason for that. Namely that, ultimately, it makes for subject matter that’s more functional than fun. Rather than whetting my appetite (as is so very often the case), today’s heavy-side combo of GRAVY and RICE (portobellos and paella notwithstanding) had me imagining the kind of meal that leaves me with the feeling of an expanded MIDDLE (which may then require some MANAGEMENT…).
With the exceptions that I will conclude with, I was also let down by the quality of the solve as a whole, which had a “déjà vu all over again” feel to me. Last week we encountered ALAN Paton in the the grid; this week (and right off the bat at 1A.), ALAN Bean. Two weeks ago, [Humdinger in a Marjorie Henderson Buell comic strip?] clued LITTLE LULU LULU]; this week, [Humdinger] clued LULU (also at the top, at 2D.). Three weeks ago, I made a real point of highlighting the serpentine pattern in the grid; this week, –INE is clued as [Serpent’s tail?]. That kinda stuff.
Then (re: quality of the solve), I’m not someone who loves an overabundance of names and proper nouns in her puzzles. Your mileage may vary. But in a puzzle with a lowish, Thursday-level count of 74 words, it’s a letdown that (by my count) 24 of ’em are just that. That’s practically a third of the fill. Lookin’ at you: ALAN, (Dame) JUDI, (Sir) ALEC, (Old King) COLE, LEANN, RIMES, TIM, NICHOLAS, SOLANGE, RIN(-Tin-Tin), HAMID, FRIGG, MOTT, MR. ED, LIZA, PNIN, NORMA, LE CID, AMATI, ORAN, URI, ITALIA, oh yes, and even you, FBI and NPR.
Things/fill that did ELATE? As those of you who read me regularly know, I am someone who enjoys internal connectivity in her puzzles (which is what I take “crossword glue” to be). Today we get MAMA [Nursery rocker], DADS [Nursery rockers] and even a more questionable (hence question-marked) [Family guy?], the CAPO. (Not fully heeding the clue’s punctuation, my first fill there was PAPA…which seemed to work just fine, but for the resulting POCOON…)
And there’s more glue, musical this time, with OPERA, that [La Scala show]. There you might see NORMA, that [Bellini opera] or LE CID [Massenet opera]. And where is La Scala located? In Milano. And what is [Milano’s land]? Why, ITALIA, of course. (Since it’s also fill, however, I could’ve lived without seeing the word “opera” in the clues—but this, again, puts us in highly subjective territory and I gather that editors who prohibit this kind of echoing are pretty much in the minority.)
It’s hard, too, not to crack a smile for the (especially) strong clue/fill combos of [Saint who makes house calls] and NICHOLAS (only 10 more shopping days until you-know-what…); [Silken envelope] and COCOON; and [Chicks of the sea] and MERMAIDS. CLEVER, PUB DATE and the oh-so polite “IF I MAY” also light up my life.
Then, while I didn’t love re-encountering ALAN, I did love learning that this fourth astronaut to walk on the moon retired from NASA to paint. And, folks—he’s darned good!
Finally, and for reasons I can’t really explain, I loved the [Kilt fold] PLEAT combo. I think it must have something to do with the clue’s specificity and the visions of tartans it evoked. At any rate, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!
Have a great week, keep solving—and see you again next Tuesday!
C.W. Stewart’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Not too difficult of a crossword, but my time slowed by a bit with a small error in the lower left corner. I often solve easier crosswords by zipping through the acrosses, then filling in the downs. When a bunch of across answers are incorrect, then, well, we have issues. I will have to solve these issues before the Stamford tournament, which is coming up fast!
Three theme entries feature circled letters in the .puz file, and the reason for the circles is explained in the fourth theme entry:
- 20A [Madison or Jackson, e.g.] STATE CAPITAL
- 32A [Workplace social event] OFFICE PARTY
- 41A [Camper’s gift from home] CARE PACKAGE
- 53A [Deviation from a normal routine, and a hint to this puzzle’s circles] CHANGE OF PACE
Are we going to nitpick and say that instead of ECAP there should have been a sequence of ACEP, which would then have all the letter shifts of PACE? Of course we do not have all of the possible anagrams, since there would be 24 different ones, but I like this execution nonetheless, and what I mentioned a moment ago is simply that: nitpicking. It would only improve the, shall we say, elegance….
Liked the puzzle anyway. 3.8 stars. Fill was seamless as usual in an LAT puzzle. Some quick notes:
- 14A [Edmonton NHL player] OILER – When I was in middle school, I first started learning about hockey since some of my classmates played on a team. This was about the time that the most famous Edmonton Oiler of all time, Wayne Gretzky, was starting to play. It was also slightly before cable sports exploded. How famous would he be if his exploits were on TV more back then like they are now? In 2015, it is possible to watch every game of any sport if one so chooses, and even without a sports package, most teams appear at least once on a nationally televised game, whether on cable or network sports. These kids today have it made!
- 62A [Figure skating leap] AXEL – We are getting to the time of year where figure skating will be on a lot!
- 9D [Skedaddles] BEATS IT – xwordinfo.com lists only 5 Shortz era entries of this. BEAT IT is much more common.
- 26D [Gymnast Comaneci] NADIA – I am showing my age, since I remember her! Her perfect score in the 1976 Olympics was when I was on the way to second grade!
- 54D [Four and five, but not six and seven] NINE – Favorite clue of the puzzle! Produced a big smile!
Happy puzzling! Until next Tuesday!
Max Sherer’s Buzzfeed crossword, “Double Double”—Ben’s review
It’s appropriate that for a puzzle titled “Double Double”, there were two things going on. I completely missed one of them until I started writing things up:
- 17A: *Suddenly loses consciousness forever — DROPS DEAD
- 26A: *Delicious dip for pre-dinner bread — OLIVE OIL
- 32A: *Depleted, like Sandra Bullock’s oxygen at the end of “Gravity” — USED UP
- 44A: *The shorter member of Outkast, ironically — BIG BOI
- 47A: *Outside help on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” — LIFE LINE
- 61A: *Like the American sniper in “American Sniper” — EAGLE EYED
It’s a little on the nose, but also well clued – I liked the reference to “Gravity” in 32A (although I’m not sure it needed the leading “Depleted” in the clue), and the little trivia factoid about Outkast in 44A. Other clues I liked:
- 1A: Word that grammar police love because it gives meaning to there entire existence when it’s they’re — THEIR (a clue that made me smile AND have a slight eye twitch about grammar – this puzzle truly is a double double)
- 3D: “The King’s College of Our Lady of ____ besides Wyndsor” (original name of a British boarding school) — ETON (another nice bit of trivia, and something I didn’t ever look up because I had absorbed it as crosswordese long ago)
- 35D: Steel ___ (product sheared from robo-sheep) — WOOL (I love a good dumb joke you guys, and this is a good one.)
- 36D: Goo Goo Dolls song that you probably know from the way John Rzeznik snarls “But you don’t even know who I am” — IRIS (I knew this one from “Goo Goo Dolls song”. That song is burned in my brain and I vaguely remember seeing the video a bunch on VH1 growing up.)
Plenty to like this time around, but there were also a few things that irked me. From a minor formatting perspective, I didn’t love that 14A opened with an asterisk in the same way as all the theme clues – it temporarily threw me off until I realized there were a pair of asterisks surrounding an action in the clue. Other minor quibbles: I always find it weird when Artoo DETOO is spelled out (as in 11D), since I always think of R2-D2 as not needing further spelling out (still excited for the new movie on Friday, though! I’m waiting until I’m with family for Christmas to see it since I grew up going to all of them with my dad). I also thought the clue for BAGEL at 44D, “Food that loos like a doughnut who participated in the #nomakeupselfie campaign” was just a little too long/clunky to quite work.
Clue that sent me down a YouTube wormhole: 38A‘s clue for SWE (“Nor. neighbor”) made me realize I totally forgot to try and get tickets to next spring’s Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in Stockholm, when they went on sale a few weeks ago. It may too late for me to catch everything going on in the Ericsson Globe in person, but hopefully Lynda Woodruff, the EBU spokeswoman, will be back to assist in the broadcast:
A fun double-theme helped elevate some minor quibbles this Tuesday. Keep it up, Buzzfeed!
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “On the Soapbox”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Again, I hope you’re enjoying the winter-like weather, which means, here in New York in 2015, it’s once again a 60-degree day. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson, is all about letting your voice heard. Each of the first three theme entries are multiple-word answers in which the first word refers to a type of formal discourse, and the fourth theme entry, LECTURE SERIES, ties them all together (51A: [Opportunity to hear informative orators…and what the first words of 20-, 27-, and 44-Across can be described as]).
- TALK TO THE HAND (20A: [“I don’t wanna hear it!”])
- ADDRESS LABELS (27A: [Bulk mailer’s supply])
- SPEECH BALLOON (44A: [Bubble above Blondie, say])
One of the former bloggers of CrosSynergy/WaPo puzzles, Mr. Samuel A. Donaldson, told me that he used to intentionally not look at the constructor’s name while solving a puzzle to see if he could guess which person created that day’s grid. If I were to do that today, I pretty much would have been able to know that Mr. Peterson did today’s grid, especially after seeing references to both the New York Yankees with LOU (25A: [Yankee legend Gehrig]) and to Batman with, well, BAT (31D: [Bruce Wayne’s inspiration]). Keeping the DC Comics theme, there’s also PERRY from the Superman comics (43A: [Daily Planet editor White]). Actually, I should have known that Doug created this puzzle by the Soviet daily double of LENIN (48D: [October Revolution leader]) and SICKLE sitting right next to each other (44D: [Symbol on a Soviet flag]). OK, I have absolutely no idea if our constructor has any affinity for the former Soviet Union. Can’t say that I ever heard the term DOT TO DOT, as I’m always familiar with that being called Connect the Dots (3D: [Youngster’s pencil puzzle]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BOOM (6A: [Dynamite sound]) – The Seattle Seahawks have been arguably the best team in the National Football League in the last few seasons, and one of the main reasons for that has been the play of the defensive secondary, known as the “Legion of BOOM.” The original four members of the group are cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner (now with the New Orleans Saints), and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. In 2013, Seattle led the NFL in fewest passing yards and fewest touchdown passes allowed on their way to winning Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos. The most popular of the group of defensive backs is the effervescent Sherman, whom I got the chance to interview in Jan. 2013 after the Seahawks won a playoff game against Washington. This was probably one of the last 1-on-1 locker room interviews he’s gotten to do, since his popularity (and demand) pretty much soared afterward. P.S. The awesome blue sweater I’m wearing I have managed to misplace, and I’m soooo upset about it as we speak! Someone help me find it!!
See you at the top of Wednesday’s hump tomorrow!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “We’ve Got u Surrounding” – Derek’s write-up
No, not “We’ve got you surrounded!” but “We’ve Got U Surrounding!” The thematic entries all start and end with the letter U. Who knew there were any, let alone three?!
- 20A [Group that keeps count fro AK to WY] US CENSUS BUREAU
- 37A [WWII naval cruiser named for a Hawaiian city] USS HONOLULU
- 56A [1929 Luis Bunuel/Salvador Dali surrealist short film] UN CHIEN ANDALOU – This was a Learned League answer not too long ago. Famous for a scene in which an eyeball is sliced!
I like it. Probably no other way to do this with using the abbreviations US and USS both, but they don’t really mean the same thing, so it’s all good. A fresh, different idea in this puzzle. 4.3. stars for originality!
A few mentions:
- 7A [“Today” rival, initially] GMA – Good Morning, America of course. I am a Today Show man myself. Willard Scott is retiring!!
- 13A [“Not my call”] UP TO YOU – Another great partial sentence phrase that is actually heard a lot. Nice.
- 18A [Canniest, for instance] ANAGRAM – Best clue of the puzzle! I am usually fooled by this type of clue for ANAGRAM, and today was no different!
- 29A [James Bond’s first foe] DR. NO – They have a lot of old Bond movies on Hulu now. Conspicuous in it’s absence is Dr. No. I am still watching a few of them, which I should have done BEFORE the Learned League Mini on James Bond movies!
- 40A [Night wear, for short] PJS – Or as I call them, home clothes!
- 63A [Namath, in 1977] RAM – Little too obscure? Who remembers Joe Namath as a Ram??
- 5D [Air purifier emissions] IONS – These are all the rage these days. Lots of people cannot tolerate perfumes and such anymore. These devices come in handy in filtering out these odors.
- 14D [1300, to civilians] ONE – Didn’t understand this one for the longest time! Of course we are talking military time here!
- 37D [Password accompanier] USERNAME – Who knew 20 years ago that we would all have a complicated list of usernames and passwords?
Quite a fun puzzle this week. What is in store for the holiday week, I wonder?