Happy St. Patrick’s Eve, crossword fans! Sam Donaldson here filling in for Amy while she completes her March Madness bracket. Now that we survived the Ides of March, we can relax with the Tuesday puzzles.
Paula Gamache’s New York Times Crossword
This puzzle is LOADED with stuff worthy of comment. Indeed, the theme is LOADED, [What 3-, 13-, 14-, and 28-Down may be]. I don’t know why the main theme entries appear vertically instead of horizontally. Is it a play on the expression “loaded down?” If so, then shouldn’t LOADED appear as a Down entry? The recent Monday NYT by BEQ also used vertical theme entries, but if I remember correctly, that was for no reason except irreverence. Is that the case here too, or is there something lurking here that I’m missing entirely? Am I trying to hard to make a connection where none exists? Is there a limit on the number of questions a crossword blogger can ask? In any case, here are the theme entries:
- 3-Down. A [Tippler] is a BOOZEHOUND, and “loaded” is an apt description for one. Crosswords have lots of terms for excessive imbibers, and few (if any) are sympathetic–sots, lushes, souts, sponges, and (hic) more. Heck, this grid even features BLOTTO, clued as [Stewed to the gills]. My therapist would say that means something, but I’m not sure what.
- 13-Down. [Donkey, for one] clues BEAST OF BURDEN. This expression always makes me think of The Rolling Stones. I suppose “I’ll never be your beast of burden” is a skosh more seductive than “I’ll never be your donkey.” In any case, a beast of burden would certainly be loaded with tons of supplies on its back.
- 14-Down. [“How many months have 28 days?,” e.g.] is a TRICK QUESTION. I suppose that because a “trick” question is another term for a “loaded” question, the trick question is inherently loaded. The answer to the trick question posed by the clue, by the way, is 12. Do you have a favorite trick question? Mine is, “How many times can you subtract 2 from 21?”
- 28-Down. A MACHINE GUN is a [Rat-a-tat-tat weapon], and the dangerous ones are indeed loaded.
I wasn’t just being cute when I said this puzzle was loaded with noteworthy items. Let’s start with Kwame NKRUMAH, the [Advocate of pan-Africanism and the first P.M. of Ghana]. Not exactly your typical Tuesday fare. To be Tuesday-worthy, every crossing should be on the easy side, but here it intersects with BAUHAUS, the heretofore-unknown-to-me [German design school founded in 1919] (as opposed to the German design schools that opened in 1925 and 1974, of course). My very limited knowledge of German made me comfortable using -HAUS as the suffix, and the crossings with BAUHAUS were all very straight-forward, so eventually it fell into place. But that name just looks all kinds of wrong in the grid.
Other knotty entries/clues for a Tuesday puzzle included: AVOIR, [To have, to Henri]; GIA [Scala of “The Guns of Navarone”]; [Trome l’]OEIL; the [Cyclades island], IOS; and Poet laureate RITA Dove. Despite some of these minor obstacles, I managed to finish within my normal Tuesday range. The puzzle has 78 words and 40 black squares – a bit on the high side – but the solve still felt mostly smooth.
Some of my favorite fill included I REFUSE, OFF-HOUR, DEADPAN, and DUDED UP. Any grid with ISHTAR also gets bonus points in my book. I enjoyed several of the clues too, like [Makes advances?] for LENDS, [Formerly common rooftop sight] for AERIAL, [Something that swings] for MOOD, and [It’s a thought] for IDEA.
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t yet solved the puzzles from this year’s ACPT, skip to the next write-up below. OK, we should be safe now. Anyone else think of Mike Shenk’s wonderful Puzzle 8 upon seeing BAMBI at 1-Down? The [Disney fawn] was the entry at 1-Across in Puzzle 8, only there it was clued with the much easier [Flower’s bud]. If Paula’s puzzle had been rotated so that the theme entries read horizontally, BAMBI would have been 1-Across here too, and that would have been a fun little inside joke.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Leaving So Soon?”
- 20-Across is, [With 31-Across, clue to the first word of the mystery phrase]. Like quote themes, this requires nailing down some crossings before you get much confidence in the answer. That can be a discouraging way to start, but with a little “Faith, Faith, Faith” (and perseverance), you eventually get GEORGE MICHAEL’S / POP DUO. For this member of the high school Class of 1986, that’s a gimme: Wham! (I’m not excited to know this; the exclamation point is part of the group’s name.)
- 40-Across is the [Clue to the second word of the mystery phrase], which turns out to be EMERIL’S OUTBURST. I know my Food Network stars all too well, so this was another gimme: Bam!
- 46-Across is, [With 55-Across, clue to the remaining three words of the mystery phrase]. This pair of entries is POLITE / COWBOY RESPONSE. Well, pardner, I reckon “Thank you, ma’am” is a polite three-word response from a cowboy, so that’ll do.
That gives us the mystery phrase: “Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am.” If that expression is new to your innocent ears, the Urban Dictionary offers a helpful definition: “Referring to a one night stand or a brief sexual encounter with no strings attached.” In my mind, though, the phrase usually connotes one’s lack of, um, endurance. As in, “He was cute alright, but once we got down to business he was all ‘Wham, Bam, Thank you ma’am’ and then five minutes later we were done. Not like Sam, who….” Er, anyway, you get the idea.
Like most of you, I’m sure, I figured out the phrase after the first word. After all, how many other phrases start with “Wham?” “Wham and Eggs?” The “Wham-bulance?” Still, I enjoyed the solve. I admire how Matt was able to parse the expression into three components that could be placed symmetrically into the grid, and I confess to giggling a little once I figured out the meta. I also enjoyed the longer fill entries like HATE MAIL (with the fun clue [Nastygrams]), THAT’S ODD, and BRAINWAVE. I didn’t know that PETER PAUL was the [Original company behind the Almond Joy]. Maybe they sold it off so they could afford to bring Mary on board.
This was a pretty fast solve by my standards. The Happy Pencil on Across Lite eluded me for a few seconds as I played “Guess the Letter” at the intersection of [German painter Albrecht] DURER and RYS, clued as [Guitarist Cooder and others]. I should have tumbled to RYS sooner, as it was part of the fill in the “Roughly Speaking” puzzle by Trip Payne that Amy tagged as one of her favorites from 2009 (go down 5 posts and you’ll see).
Some points must be subtracted for the six(!) partials in the grid. Normally I don’t mind partials at all; in fact, I think I’m in the minority that finds no fault in a 15x grid with three or even four partials. I think I could be forgiving of six, but some of these are painful. Here, let’s rank them by heinousness, saving the worst for last: (6) AIM TO; (5) A LEAP; (4) A TAXI; (3) A AS; (2) I STAB; and (1) K.C. AND. Are your lips puckered yet? If not, note that three of them start with “A,” two of them are side-by-side in the grid, and one of them is “K.C. AND!!” As 10-Across would say, AY PAPI!
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times Crossword
If you’re wanting to slather this puzzle in hugs and kisses, it would be fitting given its theme of O’s and X’s. 57-Across is TIC-TAC-TOE, clued as a [Pencil game that hints at this puzzle’s theme, found in the first and last letters of 18-, 25-, and 43-Across]. Sure enough, each of those entries starts with O and ends with X. There can’t be a lot of those words and phrases out there (but I suppose even fewer start with X and end in O). That there are just the three in this puzzle proves that pickins were pretty slim:
- 18-Across. A [Rival of Staples] is OFFICEMAX. I checked and it appears OfficeMax prefers to be written as a single word. HowUnfortunate.
- 25-Across. [Red Cloud’s tribe] clues the OGLALA SIOUX. I was able to plunk down SIOUX after getting the X from the CHEX crossing, but I needed a lot more help before I finally sussed out OGLALA.
- 43-Across. [Jane, to Dick, e.g.] clues OPPOSITE SEX. I think Jerome and Rich Norris got the order right ([Dick, to Jane, e.g.] would have been hilarious but some would take offense). Still, it seems to me there’s a better clue out there; I just can’t think of it. [Attraction for some]? [Type of marriage]? [Those banned from some sororities]? Help me out – can you think of a better clue?
On the whole, I found the theme entries a little tepid. There was much to like in the fill, however. RED SCARE, UPPERCUT, BRAT PACK, and STEPS ON (which could have been STEP SON, or the little-known French nun, STE. PSON) offer some pizzazz, and even some of the shorter fill sparkles (I especially like the clumping of OUIJA, OOPS, and GULP in the far west along with ZAPS, SNAKY, and STYX in the far east). The theme requires three X’s but a fourth is found in the SE corner for good measure. For those that care about such things, we have a pangram. Pangram-haters would counter that the SW corner might have been spared of the rather dull set of ERTES, ERLE, SEER, and INTER but for the pursuit of the elusive Q. But I didn’t really notice it until this write-up.
I wonder how many folks got tripped up with the intersection of [Chair maker Charles] EAMES and HALE, clued not with reference to Nathan or Alan but simply as [Healthy]. But for easy crossings, INIGO [Jones of English architecture] would have stumped me. Also, note that our mini-theme of alcohol consumption continues with WETS, or [Antiprohibitionists].
My favorite clues in this puzzle included [Make one of two?] for UNITE (a timely clue for the onset of March Madness!), [Petunia, e.g.] for PIG, [Conservative front?] for ULTRA, [Family board game] as a fun clue for LIFE, and [“I surrender!”] for UNCLE. Speaking of which, that’s enough blogging for one night. Uncle!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Open Wide”—Janie’s review
No, this is not a dentistry tribute. Rather, Bob’s five theme-phrases all split (“open”) the word “wide.” Three make a W/IDE split; two appear as WI/DE. To sweeten the pot, there’s lots more wordplay going on other than the gimmick that makes the theme work. But let’s look at the theme fill first with:
- 18A. WATER SLIDE [Run into a plunge pool]. Ah. So that “run” is a noun and not part of a verb + preposition construction. Sneaky.
- 24A. WEST SIDE [Slice of the Big Apple]. Yay. My part o’ town.
- 35A. WINDOW SHADE [Blind alternative]. “Blind” being a noun here and not an adjective–as in “blind taste test.”
- 49A. WAR BRIDE [Marrier in haste, maybe]. Here’s a link to a lengthy but terrific article from 2006 commemorating the 60th anniversary of the stateside arrival of British war brides. A worthwhile read–especially if you’ve no familiarity with this little piece of WWII history. Those [WWII dance halls] were USO’S (where certainly more than one serviceman or woman met his/her future spouse); and for a cinematic look at the period, there’s [“The Bridge at] REMAGEN” [1969 WWII film]. Never heard of it, but it does have a strong-enuf cast of leading men.
- 56A. WIPER BLADE [Parking ticket holder, at times]. Kinda like this.
Did you HURTLE [Move with great speed] through this puzzle, or take the time to enjoy the the careful, clever cluing? Maybe you managed to do both. Regardless, here are some of the best from the clue/fill department:
- Physical well being gets a salute with both [Graceful girl] and [Lean and limber] for SYLPH and LITHE.
- For sports fans, there’s the [Brave, Chief, Indian, or Redskin] (perhaps sounding less than PC…) for PRO and the rhyming [A, Jay, or Ray] for ALER. There’s a superb tenor by the name of John Aler. Sure wish he were more well-known! I heard him years ago, not in [“Nixon in China,” for one] but another OPERA, Der Rosenkavalier, as the “Italian Tenor.”
- Bob plays around with occupation names and the name of a famous writer with [Con stables?] for PENS (short for penitentiaries…) and [One well-versed in words’ worth] for POET (coyly summoning up poet William Wordsworth…).
- [First of spring?] Well, the equinox is but four days away (yes!!), but Bob’s goin’ for that ESS…
- [Mommie deer] as opposed to Mommie, Dearest is DOE; [Web sites for ducks, frogs, and kangaroos] refers to their TOES. Kangaroos?! And while we’re in the land down under (and in the animal world to boot), that [Aussie coin critter] is an EMU. Oh–even farther down under, and only in Antarctica in fact, you’ll find the ADELIE [Polar penguin]. Another web site.
- A [Sticks figure] is a YOKEL, who may also be as scrawny as a stick figure…
- [Demonstrative words], not “I LOVE YOU!” but “LIKE SO.”
- [Some soapboxes] are platforms for speakers (not containers of powdered detergent, say), or ROSTRA (plural of rostrum).
- [Facetious, half-serious, abstemious quintet?] gives us the vowels A-E-I-O-U. In sequence!
The EPILOGUE [Literary coda] to today’s write-up (so to speak) is a quick listing of other terrific fill, including SCREW UP, CHEMISE, RED-EYES and ELEGANT. If I’ve omitted your favorite clues and/or fill, have at!!
P.S. Bob probably wouldn’t plug his own work here, but I will, since [“Star Trek II: The] WRATH [of Kahn”] put me in mind of his crossword volume: The Wrath of Klahn. Enjoy!