Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
I liked learning new things about two plant products: the PASSION FRUIT is also called the “maypop,” a term I’ve never heard, and delightful PUSSY WILLOWS play a role in Russian Orthodox Palm Sunday. Are you kidding me? A church with Pussy Willow Sunday is a church I might get on board with. PIERRE L’ENFANT and BUTTERFLY KISSES round out the selection of long answers.
- 17a. The Indian city of VARANASI used to be called Benares, with the R and N sounds switching places. Isn’t that odd? The V/B switch is natural enough.
- 18a. STAINS are [Reasons to presoak] or, if you’re me, pre-scrub with soap when you get home. (Dark chocolate gelato, d’oh!)
- 1d. Madame BOVARY provides the [Literary adulteress’s surname]. I bet a lot of folks said, “Psh, that’s easy. PRYNNE!”
- 4d. Hang on. THANX is a smidge too long for text messages. THX is better.
- 26d. A [Case load?] is BEERS, generally 24 of them.
- 31d. BARBADOS is the [Island nation with a trident on its flag]. You like geography? Good:
- 39d. The GAMBIA (it takes a definite article, like Ohio State wants to) is the [Smallest republic on the African mainland]. It’s the skinny finger poking into Senegal like an overly aggressive person assaulting the Pillsbury Dough Boy. There, I gave you two answers for the Sporcle map quiz on countries of Africa.
- 44d. Why clue BAMBI with reference to his aunt Ena when there’s a “Bambi Meets Godzilla” cartoon to cite? I have not seen said cartoon. Is it any good? Does Bambi emerge victorious?
You know what? This puzzle’s easier than yesterday’s, isn’t it? I don’t see my NYT time on this blog anymore. Jeez, where did it go? Gremlins, I tell you. Gremlins everywhere.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “P.O. Boxes”—Janie’s review
Behold how yesterday’s “Special OP’s” morph to today’s “P.O. Boxes.” But this is no paean to “post office boxes,” rather it’s an opportunity for Tony to entertain us with four two-word theme phrases whose first word begins with the letter “P” and whose second begins with “O.” And look at the vibrant phrases that fill the bill:
20A. POPULAR OPINION [Majority view]. I confess that this one temporarily misled me. Would all of the phrases do the (initial) “PO”/“OP” switcheroo? That’d be some coup. Or did that starting “PO” correspond to the “P.O.” in the title? I’d soon find out.
25A. PACIFIC OCEAN [Body of water that covers about 30% of the Earth’s surface]. I thought perhaps that frozen water might qualify, so my first attempt here was POLAR ICECAPS. Just wrong on so many levels…
48A. PECKING ORDER [Hierarchy within a group]. Aha. This one confirms the term of the theme fill. Which is a good thing, because look at the beauty it then allows for—
57A. PRIMORDIAL OOZE [Stuff from which life on Earth might have emerged]. Is that gorgeous fill or what? And look at the snazzy way Tony’s crossed that “Z”—with none other than ZZ-TOP [Big-bearded “Legs” band]. (The now-classic DEVO also gets a shout-out as the [“Whip It” band].)
Other gorgeous non-theme fill includes the HIBISCUS, that [Showy flower] and “MAKE IT UP” [“Improvise something”]. Anyone who’s ever done any performing knows that the greatest leap of faith an actor takes is when s/he follows the direction to “just improvise.” The 7/5/10 issue of The New Yorker has a profile of Steve Carrell who speaks about the extent of improvising that is part of the movies he and a handful of other actor-comedians make. Director Mike Leigh is known, too, for the improv sessions that go into making his (mostly) dramatic films.
LIVID [Fuming mad] finds a partner-in-temperament in the less irate TESTY [Short-tempered]. And we get a pasta pair with clues [Al dente] and [One might be cooked al dente] for FIRM and NOODLE. But it’s hard to imagine boiling up one noodle…
And let me call out some of my fave clue/fill combos today, too:
Because I’d never heard of it and it’s a great title-of-show, enjoyed the fitb [Old Saturday morning cartoon “] HONG [Kong Phooey”].
Loved, too, the homophonic connection between [Persian sound] and PURR (since this Persian is of the long-haired, 4-footed variety).
The assonance of [Doozy] and LULU is smile-making as is the quaint [Hidey hole] for NOOK and hipper [Joe vessel] for CUP. (I also like the way nook shares its final “K” with the almost sound-alike KUKLA [Friend of Fran and Ollie]).
And if you noticed a number of words with high-scorin’ Scrabble letters (EQUIP, X-OUT, RIOJA…), you may have guessed that this one’s a pangram—and you’d be right. Yep, every letter of the alphabet get its “15 minutes of fame” today!
Updated Saturday afternoon:
Oh, look, the morning has come and gone. Didn’t blog the LAT and WSJ last night because my husband and I watched The Time-Traveler’s Wife instead, and then I slept in this morning, took my kid out for flu vaccine, did some laundry, spent an hour on the phone with my mom having the best conversation ever, and boom, noon is here. Cursory blogging time!
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Favorite entries: not-Sandra-Bullock’s-ex JESSE JAMES, JOSHUA TREE (just did a Sporcle quiz the other day in which this, the title of a U2 album, was an answer), TIGER WOODS, ISOMETRICS, ZERO MOSTEL, pretty JONQUIL.
Barry’s favorite entry: Gotta be his beloved PHILLIES.
The bottom of this puzzle was tough for me. SHARED FILE wasn’t coming to me. The willfully obscurantist clue for PINE NEEDLE kept me at bay for too long. (Mind you, I applaud willfully obscurantist clues like this one.) SPY STORIES was not so obvious; doesn’t feel like a phrase in my vocabulary. These three 10s were crossed by the obscure ERODENT and STOLLE.
I dunno about the validity of USE FINESSE as a crossword answer. Does this rise above verb+object to become a discrete unit of meaning? STENO NOTES feels a little out-there too, but reaps the benefit of being made of two words that are anagrams of one another.
Patrick Berry’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Rows Garden”
I really didn’t remember JAMES SPADER winning Emmys for Boston Legal and mucked up that row by putting WILLIAM SHATNER in first.
Liveliest Rows answers: THE LORD’S PRAYER, LOCK AND LOAD, INDUSTRIAL ARTS (great clue: [More pretentious name for “shop”] had me thinking “emporium” instead), CHATTY CATHY, EXTRA CREDIT, ROGER FEDERER, and tasty RED RASBPERRIES.
Favorite clue: [One raised by Mr. Spock?] for a Vulcan EYEBROW. Not a child raised by Dr. Spock.
Most confusing clue: [Battle of the Atlantic menaces] for U-BOATS. Hard to parse the clue. I guess it’s “[menaces] from [the Battle of the Atlantic]” rather than “[Battle] of the [Atlantic menaces],” which was how I read it first. I was thinking SEA-WAR.
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Tough puzzle—tons of those oblique Newsday-style clues to wrestle with.
Without further ado, some remarks on clues and answers:
- 1a. Sally [Field pair] are the two OSCARS she’s won. No oxen here.
- 17a. She who [Plots] the future MAPS OUT a plan. This is a good prepositional verb phrase, as is TEAM UP (48a. [Form an alliance]).
- 19a. [White Monopoly item] is the ONE-dollar bill. I tried DIE first. And you?
- 27a. [Mauna ___] takes a break in favor of a new LOA clue, [“Aloha nui __” (Hilo signoff)].
- 32a. [Site for some seasonal recitals] is SANTA’S LAP, where kids recite their wish lists. “Santa Slap” is not a site of any kind, but could make for an entertaining substitute for Whac-a-Mole.
- 36a. [Privy to] often clues IN ON, but not today. Here, it’s the two-word UP ON.
- 41a. [Some Strauss works] are TONE POEMS, and some are not.
- 54a. There’s no science in [Avalanche counterforce]. It’s the Edmonton OILERS, who play against the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado? Is that correct?
- 57a. [Banquet appetizer] is a weird clue for RAVIOLI. Chicago’s not a big town for ravioli as an appetizer. Make mine an entree, please, and fill it with pumpkin or butternut squash and douse it with a crispy sage butter sauce with pine nuts.
- 3d. [“The Wreck of the Hesperus” setting] is CAPE ANN? I was thinking the Aegean or the Ionian Sea. Huh.
- 7d. My favorite answer today is VISUAL PUN, clued as [“The Far Side” staple].
- 13d. PEP TALK’s a great answer, too. Clued as [Locker-room delivery].
- 21d. Geologically, a MESA is the [Result of differential erosion]. The rock that forms the mesa doesn’t erode as quickly as the surrounding ground.
- 31d. [Popular ornamental] strikes me as a weird clue for PIN OAK. I grew up with a pin oak in the back year, and it was…just a tree. A tree that eventually got sick and had to be cut down. Not sure why it’s “ornamental.”
- 33d. Your [Circumstances] are your LOT IN LIFE. Terrific entry, that.
- 34d. I had to play the alphabet game to figure out the first letter for [Stays down]. COPES, DOPES, HOPES, LOPES? No x4. MOPES!
- 51d. [Armand’s arms] are BRAS, which is French for “arm” and, apparently, also the plural “arms.”
- 61d. [Entree planner] is a DEB, or debutante, planning her entree into society. What a weird tradition.