Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword
What a sweet and delicious theme! Sarah takes ICE CREAM (62A: [Cold treat that can precede the last word of 18-, 23-, 40- and 50-Across]) and serves it up as ice cream bars, cones, sandwiches, and floats. I’ll take one of each, please. Here are the theme entries:
- 18A. [It’s directly below V-B-N-M] clues the SPACE BAR on a keyboard. Mine is below CVBNM,.
- 23A. [Highway safety marker] is an orange TRAFFIC CONE.
- 40A. How’d you like a KNUCKLE SANDWICH? There are those who eat pig knuckles, right? Does that come in a sandwichable format? The clue is [Punch in the mouth, slangily].
- 50A. The PARADE FLOAT is a [Homecoming display] in those places that have homecoming parades.
This puzzle was so smooth and easy, I just wafted through the grid until boom, it was done. Although I could see a couple crosswordese-type answers slowing down solvers who haven’t fully absorbed the lexicon of crosswords yet. 39A: ORNE is a [French river or department] (also part of the name of 1800s novelist Sarah ORNE Jewett). The O is shared by 26D: ENOW, or [Plenty, to a poet]. Given that contemporary poets probably stick with “enough,” this word is not likely to get much play outside of crosswords. The other potentially sticky spot is the U where 43A: ATTU, [Westernmost of the Aleutians], meets 41D: CULP, [Late actor Robert of “I Spy”].
Did you notice the way ASS (56A: [Pompous fool]) sits atop the ICE of ICE CREAM? It puts me in mind of Preparation H.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “1, 2, 3, 4…”
- 17A. [“…what are we ___?” (from a protest chant)]—FIGHTING FOR. Supply your own answer.
- 26A. [“…tell me that you ___” (from a Feist song)]—LOVE ME MORE. I don’t know this song.
- 36A. [“…I declare ___” (from a kids’ game)]—THUMB WAR. I suck at thumb war.
- 49A. Ahh, this one’s fun. [“…get your woman ___” (from a Coolio dance song)]—ON THE FLOOR. Here’s the video.
- 59A. [“…I love the ___” (from “Full Metal Jacket”)]—MARINE CORPS. Never saw the movie—not so big on war movies.
This is among the easiest Jonesin’ crosswords in recent memory. And that’s despite the wealth of longer answers (6 to 8 letters) that show up less frequently and are therefore less likely to have seen-it-a-dozen-times-before clues.What are the highlights? These things:
- 31A. Regular ol’ EYES are clued by way of [“___ Without a Face” (Billy Idol song)]. Ah, early-’80s music, how I love thee.
- 45A. [Place to catch a play in Italy] is a TEATRO, or “theater.” I misread this clue as “place to play catch in Italy” and thus had to lean on the crossings to figure out the answer. D’oh! I was honestly wondering if there was a 6-letter word for a bocce court.
- The reproductive slant. We have UNWED mothers, carrying a baby TO TERM, and BREEDS—along with HAO clued with a cartoon for preschoolers and Pooh’s friend EEYORE, for those solvers who have been reproductive in the last few years.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Needing a Lift”—Janie’s review
Each of today’s three grid-spanning theme phrases begins with a word that’s synonymous with “sad,” but none is actually about being “sad,” and two of them are likely to provide the kind of “lift” suggested by the title if you are “sad.” That sad said…:
- 17A. [Classic 1867 dance melody] BLUE DANUBE WALTZ. I think I’ll always associate that piece of music with 2001: A Space Odyssey, the docking sequence. Listening to the orchestration of that VOYAGE [It’s a trip] still gives me a lift!
- 37A. [Desirable deal in financial aid] LOW INTEREST LOAN. Financial phrases tend to be on the dusty side, but securing this particular kind of product has to be a happy-making experience for the applicant. So thumbs up.
- 57A. [Knocked out, in the ring] DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Well, not a happy-making position for the one what took the punch, but definitely a moment of relief for the victor. Guess the effect of this colorful phrase is kind of a split decision.
There’s a lot of nice non-theme fill here, too, though I wish more of the cluing were on a par with it and less direct, e.g., THREE-CAR [Like a large garage], RYE GRASS [Wimbledon surface] and HYDROGEN [Element in water]. Gail’s cluing-with-a-wordplay-bent succeeds well with [Jumps in a rink] for TOE LOOPS (where “jumps” is a noun and not a verb), [Stable kid] for COLT (where “stable” is a place and not a description of temperament) and [Safe location] for WALL (where “safe” is a noun and not an adjective). More cluing like this, please!
There’s a lot of fill that can be tied together, which keeps the puzzle “tight.” Just in time for the Masters Tournament, we’ve got a pair for fans of Woods and woods-and-irons with GOLF [Kind of cart or club] and BOGEY [It’s just over par]. And there’s a cluster of musical fill with SONGS [iTunes downloads], ARIA [Operatic piece], [Grand Ole ___ ] OPRY, OPUS [Numbered composition], and ADAGIO [Slowly, to Schubert]. For those who are more word-focused, there’s ELIA [Lamb’s pen name] and ODE [Dedicated verse] and PSALM [Old Testament poem].
A GALA is a [Major function] where some may choose to REVEL [Whoop it up]. These days, even the fanciest of occasions is sometimes held under a TENT [Pitched enclosure]. Have a grand night out but please, no MELEES [Confusing scuffles]. Is there a SNOB [Nose-in-the-air sort] in the midst? He’s probably also the one who’s observing the scene with a SNEER [Contemptuous look].
BABIES [Stroller riders] may, at times, let out a YOWL [Cry of distress], but still, we tend to ADORE ’em. And let’s hear it for the colloquial “SEE?” [What did I tell you?”] and “I’LL BE!” [“Would you look at that!”]. Nuthin’ HO-HUM ’bout that!
Kenneth Berniker’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This is the second puzzle I’ve solved using the Black Ink software instead of Across Lite. The navigation is a little different, which screws me up, but it has some advantages. First off, it’s specifically for the Mac (sorry, Windows people), whereas Across Lite’s Mac version is anemic. Mac users can only have one AL puzzle open at a time, and there’s no mouse-over pop-up for long clues. Black Ink doesn’t have those limitations. Also, you can fetch .puz files from within the app rather than clicking links to download the puzzles on the Web—the puzzles available that way include NYT Classic, WSJ, Houston Chronicle (CrosSynergy), Merl Reagle, Boston Globe (on the same delay we’re used to), Onion A.V. Club, Chicago Reader, and Chronicle of Higher Education. (You can open other .puz files you’ve saved to your hard drive, too.) The timer stops automatically when you’ve successfully completed the puzzle. And—this is a nice feature for the blogger—you can copy and paste a clue. So I’m thinking I should buy the software for $24.95 (I’m using the free 30-day tryout now) and get myself accustomed to its non-AL navigation. If you use a Mac, check out Black Ink. Rex Parker swears by it.
Now, where were we? Oh, yes. The puzzle. The theme doesn’t make much sense to me. If it’s just “three people whose first names are earthy adjectives,” fine. But the theme clues lead me in a weird direction where things don’t add up:
- 17A. [Jazz bandleader and lover of forests?] is WOODY HERMAN. If you’re making the “Woody” part literal, shouldn’t “Herman” mean something too?
- 36A. [Former heavyweight champ and lover of mountains?] is ROCKY MARCIANO.
- 60A. [Ex-Dodger pitcher and lover of beaches?] is SANDY KOUFAX.
Favorite fill and clues:
- 48A. [Give up amateur status] clues GO PRO. Great phrase.
- 7D. [__-de-lance: pit viper] is completed by FER. “Fer de lance” means “iron (head) of a lance.” There’s just something about the term “pit viper” that appeals to me. Mind you, I don’t wish to encounter one in the wild, but I like snake names. You’ve got your black mamba, your diamondback, your krait, your Burmese python.
- 39D. [“Up to this point, no”] clues “NOT SO FAR.” Perfect pairing of clue and answer.
- 45D. [Pecking order?] in another context could be the phrase “KISS ME.”
Least familiar answer: INYO. It’s a 30D: [California county in which Mount Whitney is partly located]. In yo’ face!