Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
The theme is described as THINGS THAT SWING, and there are four of them here:
- 17a. BASEBALL BATTERS? [They’re up].
- 31a. [Some Wall Street Journal charts] clues STOCK PRICES. But those aren’t the prices themselves, they’re graphs or tables of the prices. Yes? No?
- 35a. I am seldom among the UNDECIDED VOTERS. [They’re waiting to be persuaded], you know. Just learned today that my alderman is not running for reelection despite having had a lock on her seat since 1987. I am decidedly undecided as to which of the candidates (four so far, and the election’s not until 2011) to support.
- 43a. [Western entrances] that swing are SALOON DOORS. When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle’s house had awesome saloon doors to the kitchen. What kid doesn’t love those?
Is it just me, or is this a Wednesday-difficulty puzzle showing up a day early? I’m undercaffeinated today, so it could be me. Would you believe me if I told you I had a headache?
- 14a. TENNESSEE is an [Orange Monopoly avenue].
- 50a. My mom planted the [“Sweet” bloomer] sweet ALYSSUM in our garden when I was a kid. Loved it at the time, but find the scent too cloying now. (I also turned against hyacinths, and lilacs’ status is threatened.)
- 8d. DEBUNK is clued with [Attack, as false science]. I love a good debunking.
- 24d. I like the clue [Turned up] because it led me completely astray. I thought it meant “became visible,” as when your misplaced keys turn up, or maybe had to do with upturned noses. If you turn up the volume, it gets LOUD.
- 36d. [NPR host Conan] is NEAL Conan of All Things Considered. He and Merl Reagle do the color commentary during the A and B finals at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Amiable guy. Did you know he’s married to Liane Hansen, who has Will Shortz on her NPR show each Sunday morning?
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Damage Is Done”
- 17a. [Injury from Fluffy, perhaps] is a CAT SCRATCH.
- 36a. [Pop-Tarts flavor released in the 2000s] is CHOCOLATE CHIP. Did you know those Nestlé semisweet chocolate morsels bastards have put out a shaker can filled with mini-morsels? Now you can shake chocolate chips onto anything as easily as shaking a little parmesan or salt. Progress!
- 44a. [1961 album showing Sinatra straightening his tie] is called RING-A-DING-DING! That’s two bits of damage there.
- 65a. [Two-Face’s alter ego, in the “Batman” series] is HARVEY DENT.
You know what? I almost welcome the first little scratch, chip, ding, or dent in my new car. Once there’s a little something, I can live without fear of The First Scratch. You know it’s just a matter of time.
Matt has provided four more long answers that aren’t part of the theme, just for kicks. There’s 21a: YEAR-ROUND, [During every season]; 55a: “THAT’S THAT,” [“I’ve got nothing else to say”]; 11d: AMOUNT PAID, [Invoice phrase], and 29d: SOUR GRAPES, [Rationalizing from the inept]. Well-played, Jones.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Here Ye”—Janie’s review
- 17A. BAYER GRAPH [Pictorial results of an aspirin study?]. This one’s a groaner—though I do imagine the finance folks at Bayer have used more than their share of bar graphs in making their presentations before sales reps and stock holders.
- 27A. DOUBLE LAYETTES [What new moms of twins need?]. On some says, probably those double lattes, too…
- 43A. OF MICE AND YEMEN [Book about Mickey clones in the Middle East?]. Oh, but I love this one. Am wondering if this was the entry that triggered the theme as a whole. Steinbeck’s work began as novella and has been adapted as a play, a screen play (he did the work on both of these) and an opera (by Carlisle Floyd, which was written after Steinbeck’s death. (Oh, and with reference to the Middle East, the puzzle also yields ARAB [Palestinian, probably] and -ITE [Suffix for Canaan or Israel].)
- 57A. “BYE-BYE GUNS!” [Taunt to the NRA?]. Ooh, look—a double header—and one cheeky way to round out this most successful theme set. This “taunt” ties in nicely, too, with [Goading words from a challenger], “I DARE YOU!”
There’s lots of lively non-theme fill as well in the grid. It’s August and still a time for an INSECT BITE [Mosquito bestowal] or two—also some [Frosty summer treats] ICES. ON PARADE [Marching, probably], SERENE [Placid] and DABBLE [Participate casually (in)] spruce things up, as does a clue like [Mass producer?] for POPE. My faves though: the placement of OPEN-MINDED [Receptive to new possibilities] right beside IDEALS [Notions of perfection]. Notions of imperfection can be seen in SNAFU [Bureaucratic bungle].
An IDLER is a [Slugabed], and (more’s the pity) probably not someone inclined to enjoy either a RUMBA [Cuban dance] or a VALSE [Lively ballroom dance, French-style]—let alone the products of those two pre-Columbian civilizations that get shout-outs today: MAYA [Builder of Chichen Itza] and INCA [Builder of Machu Picchu].
Gary Whitehead’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We’re accustomed to seeing a single short answer in the bottom row that unifies the theme entries. This puzzle expands that to two words in the bottom row: 64a/65a TRACK / BETS are clued […what the starts of 20-, 36- and 53-Across are], and WIN, PLACE, and SHOW can be extracted from longer words in those three entries.
- 20a. [Cellarmaster’s vessel] is a WINE DECANTER.
- 36a. [Response to sugar pills, perhaps] is the PLACEBO EFFECT.
- 53a. [It might have a massage setting] clues a SHOWER NOZZLE.
Five more clues:
- Anyone else go straight for SORE LOSER at 10d ([Bad sport]) instead of POOR LOSER? SORE LOSER is a better answer, more idiomatic, but hey, it doesn’t work with the crossings.
- I’ve learned of EGBERT, 9d: [__ Sousé, W.C. Fields’s “The Bank Dick” role], from crosswords. You like the fake Frenching of the word “souse” to make that surname? W.C.’s characters were pretty much always soused.
- 30d. [Wealthy Londoners] are NOBS. The word is originally Scots, knab, and is of unknown origin, so don’t hurt your brain trying to figure out what NOB is short for.
- 33a. With *IF**D in place for [Like many wallets], I feared the constructor lived in a crime-ridden world in which many wallets are LIFTED. Luckily, they’re just BIFOLD.
- 7d. [Medieval Spanish chest] is an ARCA. Arca is also the NYSE’s electronic trading platform.