Natan Last’s New York Times crossword
Yes, it’s just past 9 p.m. in Chicago, and I am barely able to stay awake. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the margaritas I had with dinner. Let me walk through the grid and see what comes to mind.
- 1A. [Inspiration for Bjorn Again] is ABBA. An ABBA tribute band? Never heard of ’em.
- 10A. No S on the end—[Waves back?] are the sound waves of an ECHO coming back at you.
- 17A. The TRUE DAILY DOUBLE is a [Risky thing to try for on “Jeopardy!”]. If you have been on the show and said those timeless words to Alex Trebek—”Let’s make it a true daily double”—let me know.
- 20A. Boy, I needed a lot of crossings for this one. [Novel whose title comes from Ecclesiastes] is THE SUN ALSO RISES, by Hemingway.
- Suddenly I am gripped by a craving for chocolate-covered strawberries.
- 23A. The LAP of a preliminary heat at the track is a [Heat unit?].
- 33A. The UPS STORE is clued as [Offerer of package plans]. “Plans”? Huh. I find myself using the post office for most of my package-shipping needs these days.
- 35A. Not found in your grocery store—[Source of jumbo eggs, in brief], is a DINO.
- 39A. ANTIGONE is the [Subject of a Sophocles tragedy]. Yep.
- 42A. [Midgets of the 1960s-’70s, e.g.] are MGS. My Uncle Jim drove an MG Midget in the mid-’70s, in British racing green. Took us for rides with the top down.
- 51A. Clues like this, I need lotsa crossings. THE GREEN LANTERN is a [Justice League member]. I wanted CAPTAIN AMERICA, who’s only got 14 letters.
- 57A. What the…? HIDDEN BALL TRICK is a [Diamond deception]. Is this a well-known baseball thing?
- 63A. [Red, e.g., for short] isn’t a wine or a commie. It’s a member of the Cincinnati Reds, an NLER. Ryan and Brian of Be More Smarter fame are waiting for world-famous soprano Johanna Rosanna Nler to be invented.
- 2D. BAR-HOPPING, great answer. That’s a lush’s [Lush travel plan?].
- 6D. ARIANE is apparently a [1906 Massenet opera]. I’m sure plenty of you read the clue and knew the answer, but all I got out of the clue was “it may be a Frenchy name.”
- 9D. [It might include check boxes] clues a TO-DO LIST. I have six things crossed off on my to-do list.
- 11D. [Litter lying around a den] means a litter of bear CUBS in a den. Not beer cans and Cheetos bags. (See also 44D: [Bear, say] for a pessimistic stock SELLER.)
- 18D. [Brunswick, e.g., once] clues DUCHY, but Brunswick still says “bowling” to me.
- 29D. Crosswordese trivia! OONA O’NEILL, who married Charlie Chaplin and whose dad was playwright Eugene O., was a [Debutante who dated J.D. Salinger and Orson Welles].
- 30D. [Crushed corn creation] clues CROP CIRCLE. Anyone else thinking about popcorn balls and corn bread now?
- 36D. [Title holders] are BOOKENDS, “titles” meaning “books” and not the names thereof.
- 54D. Crossings all the way for me here, alas. [Like death’s dart, in Shakespeare] clues EBON.
- 56D. I learned this Spanish word from a crossword. TREN is a [Tampico track transport] with lots of alliteration. Isn’t Tampico a brand of juice? It’s also, I just this minute learned, a Mexican seaport on the Gulf of Mexico.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Help!”—Janie’s review
“… I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help! You know I need someone—He-e-elp!” While the Lennon/McCartney classic is a fave, it’s ABBA’s “S.O.S.” (or Rihanna‘s…) that’s the more apt musical tie-in (do check out the ABBA video if for nothing else than the ladies’ outfits and “choreography”), as the three words of each of Randy’s five theme phrases begin with those very letters. Additionally, the first two and the last two phrases overlap each other in the grid with seven letters. That’s a lot and is a neat construction coup in my book. Here’s how Randy signals the alarm:
- 17A. SLIP-ON SHOE [Loafer, e.g.]. E.g, not an “idler”… This fill sits over the last seven letter of
- 19A. SENSE OF SIGHT [Observer’s faculty].
- 35A. SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN [Shortened shooter]. Ooh, I think this grid-spanner and its clue are just terrific. I’m wondering if this was the theme-fill that got things goin’. This firearm has been used by the likes of the Confederacy in the American Civil War and Clyde Barrow and has quite a colorful history.
- 48A. SAME OLD STORY [Tired excuse]. One letter shy is the Bette Midler Same Old… But since her final word is SH*T, that’s perhaps better fill for The Onion… (There are three “F” words that caught my fancy, though: FOSTER, FOGGY and FETID.) This entry sits atop the last seven letters of
- 53A. SINK OR SWIM [Survivor’s choice].
If the puzzle isn’t jam-packed with sparkly fill, it’s a solid construction still, where [Bats] is an adjective (and not a noun or a verb) meaning INSANE and thus has no relation to the equipment used by one of the [Shared name of a pro baseball and football team] GIANTS.
And there are other nice clues and clue pairs:
- [Fine subject] for ART as in “the fine art of painting or ballet.”
- [Changes from green to yellow to red, perhaps] for RE-DYES. Took me a while (i.e., too long) to think of anything that wasn’t related to a traffic signal…
- The sequential [Top-selling Toyota] and [One-time Toyota rival] for CAMRY and DATSUN; and [Goes up in the air] and [Goes downhill] for FLIES and SKIS.
I came in with a song, so let me go out with one. In case you’d forgotten that the [U.S. adversary in 1812] was ENG, here’s a link to Johnny Horton’s 1959 history-lesson-in-song “The Battle of New Orleans,” (the War of 1812’s final battle).
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17A: [Daring track official?] is a BOLD TIMER.
- 10D: [Clinton enjoying some R and R?] is BILL AT EASE. I expect he’s working a couple crossword puzzles.
- 31D: [Immortal comedian’s donkey imitation?] clues BRAY OF HOPE, Bob Hope. I’d have gone with an overlong clue about an optimistic and vocal donkey with aspirations.
- 63A: [Online journalist’s retreat?] is a BLOG CABIN. If only all cabins came equipped with wireless broadband.
- 49D: [Tyro, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is NEWBIE, or “new B.” That doesn’t quite fly for me, but it’s good to see NEWBIE in the grid.
- 1A: [Four-time Olympic gold-medal runner Zatopek] is named EMIL. I’m still waiting for the day a puzzle includes both ZATOPEK and ZAPOTEC, a people and their language from Southern Mexico. Doesn’t Zapotec look like a prescription drug name? “Zapotec, for a brighter tomorrow: Ask your doctor.”
- 24A: [“The Mikado” baritone] is KOKO. I picture George Costanza at a staff meeting, having his desired nickname of “T-Bone” overruled in favor of Koko, after the famed signing gorilla. Or chimp?
- 38A: [They’re usually in the 80s and 90s] clues OCTANES, as in gasoline. Hard clue if you don’t spend much time thinking about gas.
- 41A: [Toon who played Scrooge] is MR. MAGOO. I should’ve gotten that from the clue, but Scrooge McDuck firmly took up residence in that lobe of my brain.
- 2D: [One offering his seat?] clues MOONER. I’m not sure that anyone would be referred to as “a mooner” but I love the clue.
- 9D: [User of the prefix “i-“] made me think for a bit. Greek or Latin etymology? No, just APPLE with its iPod, iPad, iMac, iTunes, iChat, iLife, iCult.
- 11D: [Inspiring apparatus] for breathing underwater is AQUALUNG. Is this term used in scuba circles?
- 26D: [Fútbol game cheer] clues OLÉ. Gareth, do South African football fans say “olé”?
- 40D: [Juju or grigri] is a TALISMAN. Also spelled gris-gris. Friends of mine named their cat that, but I don’t know how they spelled it.
Gareth’s South African, and a number of words felt more Commonwealth and less American to me.
- 30A: [Dabchick, for one] is the little GREBE. They’re all over Africa, Europe, and Asia, but not in the Americas.
- There’s English tea: 67A: EARL [__ Grey tea].
- The British spelling TYRE is used. Cool clue, 70A: [Whitehall whitewall].
- 33D: [Fur that’s a symbol of royalty] is ERMINE. Well, America certainly doesn’t have the trappings of royalty.
- 36D: [Church caretaker, in Chelsea] is a VERGER. I, for one, have never encountered this word before.
- 42D: [Like a tonne of bricks?] is METRIC.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “E-Books” (under the pen name Judith Seretto)
I love a good literary theme. This one uses the term “E-books” as inspiration, adding an E to famous book titles and clueing the altered titles. I don’t know about you, but this one entertained and engaged me. Here are the theme entries:
- 21a. FEATHERS AND SONS is a [Book about characters like Icarus?]. Fathers and Sons is by Turgenev.
- 31a. WEAR AND PEACE could be a [Book about concerns of an army tank maintainer?]. The clue doesn’t do anything for me, though I haven’t got a better idea for WEAR AND PEACE. (War and Peace, Tolstoy.)
- 41a. Dickens’ Hard Times becomes HEARD TIMES, a [Book about a newspaper’s audio version?]. This one’s where I figured out the theme’s game.
- 63a. [Book about a tribe’s smallest member?] clues THE LEAST OF THE MOHICANS. Good to see a 21-letter answer stretching across the grid. (James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of…. How come we never just call him Cooper?)
- 83a. [Book about a symbol found on a prehistoric burrow wall?] is RABBIT RUNE. (Updike’s Rabbit, Run.)
- 93a. AS I LAY DYEING is a [Book about a relaxed beautician?]. (Faulkner’s …Dying.)
- 107a. [Book about a pet basking in sunlight?] is Dr. Seuss’s behatted cat, now THE CAT IN THE HEAT.
Limiting the theme to seven titles leaves a little space for blocks of 7- and 8-letter answers, which I like. Overall, the fill is quite smooth, though I had trouble with MARNI. 73d: [Dubbing legend Nixon] means almost nothing to me. I have no clue what she dubbed. She’s right near 65d: HAVER, [June of “Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!”], whose name came to me only because June HAVER was in another puzzle I did the other day. She saved me from having MISERS instead of SAVERS for 69a: [Frugal folks].
A few favorites:
- 60a. CIALIS is clued as [“When the moment is right…” advertiser]. How many Wall Street Journal subscribers had a hard time with that one?
- 79a. [Like catbirds and koalas] means GRAY.
- 86a. [Holds a candle to] clues RIVALS. Does anyone ever use “holds a candle to” without negation? Or is it pretty much always a matter of what cannot possibly hold a candle to something better?
- 98a. [Cork masses] are the IRISH people who live in Cork.
- 116a. [Vanity case?] clues EGOTISM. Tell me the truth: When you had that initial E, you thought about an ETUI, didn’t you?
- 3d. SOAP? [It comes out in the wash].
- 11d. [Words with no repeated letters] are ISOGRAMS.
- 12d. Two-word RUN LAPS is nice. [Work out on the track] is the clue.
- 36d. [She played Bunny Lebowski] clues TARA REID. Really? Is this in The Big Lebowski?
- 76d, 94d. [“That’s what I think too”] clues both “SAME HERE” and “DITTO.”
- 81d. An AVIATOR is a [Banking expert?], in a way.
- 82d. TOY SHOP is a [Top seller?], or a store that sells spinning tops.
- 109d. [Bear’s offering], in the Wall Street Journal crossword—this is about the stock market, right? And the bear offers a HUG.
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Mary Had a Literary Lamb”
- 17a. [A rewrite of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” using ___: “A lamb quite little, Mary had / A lamb, fleece white as snow”] is an example of ANAPHORA, which is a sequence of words is given emphasis by being repeated at the beginnings of neighboring clauses. Yes, I had to look that up.
- 20a. [… using ___: “Lisa loved her little lamb / Its wool was white and waxen”] amplifies ALLITERATION action.
- 26a. [… using ___: “Mary’s microscopic lamb / So white, it struck me blind!”] is a funny example of HYPERBOLE.
- 38a. [… using ___: “Mary had no giant lamb / Its fleece was not unwhite”] demonstrates LITOTES, the “not un-” formation.
- 46a. [… using ___: “Gladys had a bantam lamb / Its hide was white as rice”] clues ASSONANCE, the repetition of vowel sounds.
- 51a. [… using ___: “Mary had a wee lamb — baa! / Its fleece was snowy — whoosh!”] uses two examples of ONOMATOPOEIA. What’s the literary term for “hard to spell”?
- 58a. [… using ___: “Mary had a little lamb / Its fleece was white as chowder (clam)”] serves up an END RHYME.
Seven theme entries in a 15×15 is a lot, and yet none of the fill felt forced. (Alliteration again!). Plenty of literary references in the fill, too. I liked seeing 19a: [Do some banking, say] as the clue for AVIATE—Shenk and Berry are thinking alike this week. Brendan Quigley calls them two of the three “crossword Jesuses” (Frank Longo rounds out the Holy Cruciverbal Trinity).
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword—a contest!—”Georgia on My Mind”
No answers today! It’s a contest puzzle, and you’re on your own.