Constructor Shawn Kennedy has a new website, Puzzlement, where he’ll have a “Daily Teaser” and a larger weekly puzzle. This week’s offering is a word puzzle called “Stuffed Birds”—the challenge is to look at something like R _ CT _ N _ _ _ and figure out what bird can fill in the missing blanks to create a word. Congrats on the launch, Shawn!
Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
We’ve got another winner from Paula: an impressive double-barreled theme in a grid with more 6- and 7-letter non-theme answers (14) than 3s (12). The theme’s tied together by the word KEEP (57D: [Hang on to…or a word that can precede either half of the answer to each starred clue]). Here’s what can be kept:
- 17A. To COUNT DOWN is to [*Mark the transition from an old year to the new, maybe]. You can keep count of how many puzzles you’ve done and keep down…a meal, unless you’re really queasy. I would’ve liked a noun clue for COUNTDOWN better.
- 37A. To PACE OFF is to [*Measure with strides]. Keep pace with Tyler Hinman if you can, but keep off the grass.
- 60A. [*New neighbors’ event] is an OPEN HOUSE. Keep your mouth open at the dentist, and if you don’t want to keep house, don’t worry—I won’t tell.
- 11D. QUIET TIME is a [*Period of contemplation]. Shh! Keep quiet! Both musicians and clocks should be able to keep time.
- 33D. To BACKTRACK is to [*Reverse a position]. Keep back! And definitely keep track of things.
Highlights from beyond the theme:
- 20A. [Mercenary in the American Revolution] is a HESSIAN. Hessians are from the German state of Hesse, if you were wondering.
- 23A, 49A. “STOP IT!” “LET’S GO!” Those are clued [“Enough already!”] and [“Come on!”]. I sense the puzzle is losing its patience with us.
- Let’s play games. Maybe some BOCCE (62A: [Italian bowling game]), or toss the DART (43A: [Pub projectile]) at the old dartboard. Or would you rather play backgammon? DICE are a 41A: [Backgammon pair].
- Famous women! ALICE, the 19A: [Restaurant owner in an Arlo Guthrie song]. 44A: ADELE, [An Astaire]. 25D: [Georgia of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”], Ms. ENGEL. And 39D: FARRAH Fawcett, [Jill’s portrayer on “Charlie’s Angels].
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 16A. JOSE CUERVO is a [Big name in tequila]. It’s heirs of the 18th-century José Cuervo who run the tequila business these days.
- 20A. Stacked beneath CUERVO are the first six letters of DIEGO RIVERA, the famed [Mexican muralist] who had a thing with artist Frida Kahlo.
- 33A. FRANCISCO GOYA was a [Spanish painter (1746-1828)].
- 50A. RAFAEL NADAL plays later tonight at the Australian Open. He’s a key [Roger Federer rival].
- CALIFORNIA is 56A: [Home to this puzzle’s theme], and SAN is a 61″ [Word that forms a city when combined with the first names in answers to starred clues]: San Jose, San Diego, San Francisco, and the lesser-known SAN RAFAEL.
I know some people grouse about having names in a puzzle, but these four were just plain fun to see EMERGE (11D: [Come to light]) in the grid.
- 1D. TIJUANA fits right into the vibe here. It’s a [Baja border city].
- 2D. Yes, this may count as an 8-letter partial, but I like it regardless. [What you “take” when you sit down] is A LOAD OFF.
- 10D. Don’t recall seeing TO TERM in a crossword before. That’s [For the full length of a pregnancy]. Some of us only make it to 7 months.
- 12D. I am always a fan of NO MAYO, though I will consent to a thin film of mayo (mayonnaise, not the Spanish month of May) on a turkey BLT.
- 36D. “YES, I KNOW.” [“That’s not news to me”].
I liked the theme so much, I was willing to look past fill like EEEE/[Extra wide, on a shoebox], CDEF/[B-G link], and the [Holly genus] ILEX. Plus, the snoozy 8-letter word AERATION has an off-base clue: [Soda-making process] suggests that carbonation involves aerating your sodapop. Carbonating pop entails dissolving carbon dioxide in it, and CO2 makes up only 0.038% of the air.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sweet Talk”—Janie’s review
So this was one of those puzzles whose theme utterly eluded me until I’d finished solving and could give it some thought. I saw the title and the rhyming goose, moose and noose and thought, “Well, goo is a word that’s sometimes used in connection with something treacly or ‘sweet,’ but how do moo and noo fit in?” And then, the proverbial light bulb went off. The key to the theme is not in the rhyme itself, but in the last three letters of the words that rhyme: -OSE, which, if you recall from your chemistry classes (or crossword solving experience…), is the suffix that denotes a sugar (ergo, “Sweet Talk”…). Think sucrose, glucose, lactose… Then take a look at the amusing results Randy achieves by adding that suffix to three base phrases:
- 20A. “GIVE IT A GOOSE!” [Advice to the driver of a stalled car?].
- 37A. RECORD A PRO MOOSE [Capture Bulwinkle playing in the majors?]. It may be a little hard to see the base phrase here, but it’s record a promo–which is okay, if not as strong as its more conversational companions.
- 52A. “IS THAT A NOOSE?” [Apprentice hangman’s question?]. Hmmm. S’pose that apprentice is having second thoughts?…
Let’s go back to that idea of “rhyme.” I was in high school when I was introduced to “The Rubáiyát.” Remember?
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Name that poet! Right–OMAR Khayyám, that self-same [Mathematician Khayyám] he’s clued as today. This was new news to me. Seems this most learned man was also an astronomer (who may have preceded Copernicus with his heliocentric theory of the universe), philosopher and physician. Oh. And where will you find a statue of him? In the country of his birth: [Current day Persia] IRAN.
Also new news: [Dendrophobe’s fear] TREE. I don’t recall seeing the word “dendrophobe” before and it’s nice to meet it. At first I thought, though, “Well, who could be afraid of a tree, for pity’s sake?” And then I thought about Tim Burton and the way he gives trees lives of their own, as he did in Big Fish. And the trees in The Wizard of Oz. Yeah. Scary stuff and nightmare material for sure.
There are lots of good clue/fill combos today that add to this puzzle’s punch. Among my faves:
- [Aid in getting a date?]/URANIUM
- [Panhandler, possibly?]/OKIE. Think of Oklahoma on the map…
- [Cream, for one] x 2 = TRIO and ELITE
- (The solid) [Like a roc?] for AVIAN. And even though it’s clued automotively, I like the way AVIS [National rival] (and avian‘s root word) crosses it. Another non–avian flyer? [Jailbird], or CON.
- [Goldbrick]/DOG IT. Loaf. Lie around. The term seems to be enjoying a renaissance in the internet age where office workers, instead of multi-tasking are guilty now of “multi-shirking” and “cyberslacking”…
- The alliterative [Bob in a bay]/BUOY
- The punny [Rhine whine]/”ACH!”
- The imperative [“Get lost!”]/”SCRAM!” followed by the even more emphatic [“I said … get lost!”]/”TAKE A HIKE!”
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Special Effects—with a little extra thrown in”
I think the gist of the theme is that each of the five theme entries contains the letters F and X (special effects = FX), and the “little extra” is the vowel progression that’s happening between the F and X. The five longest answers contain FLAX, FLEX, FLIX, FLOX, and FLUX:
- 17A. FLAXSEED, also called linseed, is a [Healthy bread ingredient that produces oil]. I love bread with those little golden crunchies, I do.
- 20A. Stacked right below 17A is REFLEXOLOGIST, clued with [One may check you out with a hammer]. That’s what reflexologists do?
- 36A. [Mail-in movie, perhaps] is a NETFLIX RENTAL. I am Netflix’s ideal customer: I forget to return movies for a long time, just letting Netflix siphon off more money each month.
- 51A. Robin Hood’s name is ROBIN OF LOXLEY? I never knew. [He led a band of Merry Men].
- 58A. AEON FLUX is the [Futuristic MTV cartoon turned into a live-action Charlize Theron movie].
The toughest answers in this puzzle were names. NELLIE is the first name of [Singer-songwriter McKay]. Who? Is she from Loxley? PLEX is clued as a [“Yo Gabba Gabba!” character who’s a “magic robot”]. Matt has toddlers and is required to know such things; my kid was beyond the preschool years by the time the show began. I also needed lots of crossings for OFFENBACH, the [“Orpheus in the Underworld” composer Jacques].
I wanted [Entreaty to get some cojones] to be MAN UP or GROW A PAIR, but it was 6 letters long, not 5 or 9: BE A MAN.
Highlights: I liked the [Old phonograph brand], VICTROLA; OXFAM, the [UK-based confederation that deals with human rights]; the ELDORADO clue, [Legendary Cadillac?], playing on the mythical El Dorado; and the [High demand?] for stoners, MARIJUANA.
Believe it or not, when I read the clue [Soprano henchman ___ Walnuts], I was only halfway payying attention and I wanted the answer to be a famous woman with a soprano voice instead of PAULIE Walnuts of The Sopranos. So close!