Darin McDaniel’s New York Times crossword, “Hey, Mister!”
I know what you’re thinking. “Darin McDaniel? Isn’t he the guy from Run-D.M.C.?” But that’s Darryl McDaniels you’re thinking of.
The theme entries have an extra “mister”—MAN—squeezed into familiar phrases:
- 23a. I NEED MY SPACEMAN puts me in mind of Dr. Spaceman (pronounced “spuh-CHAY-mun”) of 30 Rock, and the base phrase is a terrific one.
- 37a. BATMAN’S IN THE BELFRY adds an apostrophe along with the MAN.
- 47a. OPEN DOORMAN POLICY reads a little weird with its clue.
- 66a. While I commend South Park incursions into the Gray Lady’s crossword, CARTMAN BEFORE THE HORSE feels incomplete without a prefatory PUTTING THE, which would ruin the theme answer because Cartman doesn’t take an article.
- 80a. Dustin Hoffman can TAKE A RAINMAN CHECK.
- 92a. Hugh Jackman figures into JACKMAN OF ALL TRADES. If you’re a big fan of him, don’t miss the Google image search results for Hugh Jackman shirtless.
- 111a. We had another recent Sunday puzzle in which the final theme entry was a two-fer, like this one. GOODMAN AS NEWMAN evokes John Goodman and Newman the choleric mail carrier.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “In and Out” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This is a variation on the “reverse” theme where the clues are the entries and the entries are the clues. (In a Sunday NYT puzzle from 1997, for example, all of the theme clues are GREEN and the theme entries are terms like GO SIGNAL and COLOR OF ENVY.) Here, the six theme clues are words that can precede both “in” and “out” to make common phrases. The corresponding grid entries, then, are consecutive definitions of the “___-in” and “___-out” phrases. Check it out:
- [SIT] clues PROTEST / DECLINE TO DANCE. A “sit-in” is a kind of protest, and to “sit out” is to decline to dance. All but the last word came easily, as one could also decline to play, participate, and, I’m sure, a whole host of other verbs.
- [SHUT] clues CONFINED / KEEP SCORELESS, as a “shut-in” is confined to staying indoors and to “shut out” one’s opponents in sports is keep them scoreless.
- [FALLING] clues FORMING RANKS / SQUABBLE. “Falling in” is the term for forming ranks, and a “falling out” is a squabble. Squabble is a great word, and there’s no arguing it.
- [TAKE] clues PUT ONE OVER ON / FOOD TO GO, because to “take in” someone is to put one over on that person, and “take out” is, of course, food ordered “to go.”
- [DUG] clues STARTED TO EAT / CANOE TYPE, as one who “dug in” started to eat and a “dugout” is a hollowed-out tree trunk that serves as a canoe.
- Finally, [DROPS] clues PAYS A VISIT / QUITS SCHOOL. One who “drops in” pays a visit to someone, and one who “drops out” leaves school early.
I like the twist on the reverse theme, but I wonder if this could be taken a step further by having theme entries like TAKE IN THE TAKE OUT (clued as [Put one over on the to-go order?]) or DROP IN ON THE DROP OUT (clued as [Pay a visit to the teen who ditched school?]). On second thought, that might be a tad too easy for a Sunday puzzle.
Yes, there are only six theme entries, but four of them span the full 21-letter reach of the grid, and the other two are 20 letters long, so there’s plenty of theme density here. There are some impressive long Down entries here, like MY PLACE, UNDEAD, IN A WINK, FOUL UP, STOP UP, BY BLOOD, AT FAULT, and OFFING. With the exception of ARF ARF and I SEE IT, the Across entries serve as glue to make the Down entries work. As explained below, I wasn’t a big fan of ICEL and CIS in the northern section of the grid, but otherwise the fill is devoid of clunkers.
This week’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? sports a table for six, and if they are as foreign to each other as they are to me, fully half of the meal will be spent on introductions. First there’s ELKA, [Betty’s “Hot in Cleveland” role]. Of course I know Betty White, and like the rest of America I adore her. But my cable package does not include TVLand, so I don’t get her new sitcom (literally). We can seat ELKA next to [Actress Taina] ELG. Good grief! Is there a better name for crosswords than Taina Elg? (Yes, and it’s Yoko Ono.) Still, one must be relatively famous to be in crosswords, and I’m not sure Ms. Elg has the credentials—it doesn’t help that one of her most notable accomplishments is being nominated in 1958 for a “Golden Laurel.” Nominated. For a prize that no longer exists. And which only existed for 11 years.
Next comes [Violinist Mischa] ELMAN. According to Wikipedia, he was noted for “his passionate style and beautiful tone.” Mrs. Elman was one lucky lady. Seated next to our zombie violinist is the living violinist, [Maestro Andre] RIEU, and DEANNA [Durbin of old Hollywood]. Rounding out the table is the [“NYPD Blue” Emmy winner], Gordon CLAPP. (SMITS was my first guess there. Then FRANZ.)
Time now for Puzzle Chat (patent pending), the segment that analyzes some design aspect of the puzzle. I sometimes get irked when bloggers and commenters cry foul at an ugly partial or abbreviation. For all we know, the constructor may have had no choice but to use an ugly entry to preserve two or three (or maybe more) really beautiful ones. On a few occasions I think to myself, “What would you have done to make it better?” Well, this week I was a little bugged by ICEL, an abbreviation clued as [Reykjavik is its cap.]. But it sits next to UNDEAD, a great entry, and intersects ACQUIT, a fine entry with that rare gem, the Q. Does the ugliness of ICEL outweigh the beauty of those entries? Was this Hook’s only choice?
I decided to try my hand at coming up with a better fill that would preserve the UNDEAD while keeping the theme entries and the black squares constant. (I was less enamored with keeping ACQUIT or forcing any entry to have a Q. Though it’s a great entry, I share the opinion of Liz Gorski and others that bending the rest of the fill just to include a rare letter or to achieve a pangram is not worth the payoff.) My two favorite alternatives are pasted to the right, but I’m not sure that either one beats the option Hook chose.
The first one uses the abbreviation STES at 4-Down, so I’m trading one abbreviation for another. (There’s also the problem that STE appears later in the grid at 110-Down, so I would have to see if I could change that section too.) I personally think STES is a lot less awkward than ICEL, though, and for reasons I can’t really articulate I find SALUKI and THE NET more interesting that ACQUIT and BIANCA. But my first revision also uses the ugly EPHA, clued in the Cruciverb database most commonly as [Biblical bushel]. Meh.
The second one I like better. CARNIE Wilson is probably just as famous as BIANCA Jagger, and the only relatively unfamiliar term in the grid is the Italian ESSA at 38-Across. But I can’t really say that this option is head-and-shoulders better than Hook’s choice. Is TACKIER (from the original grid) that much more interesting than DECRIES? Do solvers like rarities like QAT and CIS, or do they prefer the smoother (if more common) WAS and ORT? I’m interested in hearing which version you prefer and why. Likewise, if you have an even better idea, feel free to offer it.
It’s a fun exercise to try to improve a particular section of a given grid, but the main point here should not be lost: try not to get too rankled by one ugly entry. In an effort to make other entries in the grid sparkle that much more, the constructor may have had no other choice. If the surrounding words are lifeless, the ugly entry merits criticism. But if the nearby words are colorful, consider the one blemish a small price to pay and get over it.
Final thought: BAZOOS are [Mouths, slangily]? I have never heard this. Is it a regional thing? Does it usually appear in a phrase, like “shut your bazoo” or “put a lid on your bazoo” or “have you been to the bazoo of the Mississippi?”
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 38” – Jeffrey’s review
I said themeless.
One-line review for those in a hurry: Smoothest 64-word puzzle you will ever see. Near perfection.
- 1A. [Cause of some quaking] – PANIC ATTACK. When 1-Across is “PANIC ATTACK” you should be a little scared and a lot happy.
- 12A. [Private practice] – BASIC TRAINING
- 14A. [Operators of weaving machines?] – RECKLESS DRIVERS. Great clue.
- 16A. [Higher on the repulsiveness scale] – ICKIER. Self-referential.
- 26A. [“___ Come for You All” (Anthrax album)] – WE’VE
- 28A. [Tide, for one] – BRAND LEADER. Good use of “ER”
- 30A. [More refined] – COURTLIER. Worser use of “ER”
- 31A. [Awful] – REVERENTIAL. I just got it. Full of awe – awful. Awww!
- 37A. [“90210” character Silver played by Jessica Stroup] – ERIN. Please go back to ERIN Moran so I can get these.
- 39A. [Cardinal septet] – SINS. Sloth, pride, sleepy, dasher, Pacific, Marcia and Mrs. Howell.
- 46A. [Game in which the jack is the target] – BOCCIE. What’s that I doing there? There’s no “I” in Bocce!
- 47A. [Writer who sometimes used the pen name A.M. Barnard] – LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
- 51A. [“Tonight” show] – WEST SIDE STORY. Straightforward clue, yet not.
- 52A. [Commits a risky diamond theft?] – STEALS THIRD
- 1D. [“Hoarders” subject] – PACK RAT
- 3D. [Skokie neighbor] – NILES. No, Niles is the brother. Kramer is the neighbour.
- 10D. [Union action] – CIVIL WAR. I hear Shelby is an authority.
- 19D. [“Annie” lyricist Martin] – CHARNIN. Encore!
- 20D. [Caffeine-free drink] – MINT TEA
- 24D. [Eighth Amendment word] – CRUEL. Unusual clue.
- 33D. [Cardinal quartet] – VIRTUES. Love, Aramis, Dewey, Bashful and Rudolph.
- 34D. [Thing used to prevent you from dropping dead?] – RIP CORD. Ouch!
- 43D. [Conductor who died the same day as Mother Teresa] – SOLTI.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Gift Boxes, Bizarro-Style” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Hidden presents, as described in the note:
- NOTE: In this puzzle, instead of gifts being inside boxes, the boxes are inside the gifts. In other words, each gift “straddles” a single black square, like so: RAG*DOLL Can you find all eight hidden presents?
- 21A. [Holy day] – SABBATH/22A. [Peary of the Arctic] – ROBERT – BATH ROBE
- 25A. [Part of A.D.] – DOMINI/26A. [Available room] – VACANCY – MINIVAC
- 40a. [“Dido and Aeneas” composer] – PURCELL/44a. [Speech unit] – PHONEME – CELL PHONE
- 61A. [London airport] – HEATHROW/64A. [Tough] – RUGGED – THROW RUG
- 74A. [Kirk’s successor] – PICARD/78A. [Dramatic scenes] – TABLEAUX – CARD TABLE
- 95A. [Greek dessert] – BAKLAVA/98A. [Eel-like fish] – LAMPREY – LAVA LAMP
- 116A. [Pygmalion’s “statuesque” maiden] – GALATEA/119A. [Commotion] – POTHER – TEA POT
- 123A. [Overload] – STRAIN/124A. [Homesteader] – SETTLER – TRAIN SET
And one other “boxing” present request in the fifth row: GET ME MELEE, ALI SAYS
Is it me, or, besides TRAIN SET, are these not the greatest gifts to receive? My brother and I once got our Mom a vacuum for Mother’s Day – bad move.
One-line review for those in a hurry: An apt puzzle for Boxing Day.
- 1A. [Half an African capital] – ABABA. The other half is Cairo.
- 6A. [MC 2?] – CO-HOST. Wanted cohort.
- 18A. [Family that Harriet married into, the ___] – STOWES. I tried NELSON.
- 23A. [Leslie Nielsen’s Canadian birthplace] – REGINA. He grew up in the Yukon so I tried to fit Whitehorse.
- 34A. [“Avoid ___ like the plague”] – CLICHES.
- 37A. [Police-jacket inits.] – SWAT
- 40A. [“Dido and Aeneas” composer] – PURCELL
- 44A. [Speech unit] – PHONEME. Origin of PHONE ME? Call me and let me know.
- 49A. [Promoter of green eggs] – SAM I AM. Are green eggs kosher? Not with ham.
- 51A. [Hoo preceder] – YOO. BOO!
- 55A. [First word of “Nowhere Man”] – HE’S
- 72A. [Sure target] – ODOR/81A. [Bakery emanations] – AROMAS. Smelly combo.
- 87A. [Space aliens, humorously: abbr.] – LGM. Little Green Men.
- 91A. [Water-dwelling rodent] – NUTRIA. Nu to me-a.
- 100A. [“Heaven, ___ heaven …”] – I’M IN
- 103A. [___ nova] – BOSSA
- 112A. [Ghana’s first president, ___ Nkrumah] – KWAME. Middle name is “use the crossings.”
- 122A. [Actress Silverstone] – ALICIA. Used to be famous.
- 126A. [Labored] – TOILED. TOILET TOILED is the start of a theme for an entirely different puzzle.
- 2D. [Howdy Doody’s pal or Wolfman Jack’s real name] – BOB SMITH
- 6D. [Yule song] – CAROL
- 7D. [Yule song’s start] – O COME
- 8D. [Mouse pals in Warner Bros. cartoons, ___ and Bertie] – HUBIE
- 14D. [Celebrity chef] – LAGASSE. Bam!
- 15D. [Singer Turner’s autobiography] – I TINA
- 16D. [Reagan or Wilson] – NANCY
- 18D. [12/26 event] – SALE. Funny. Many stores are still closed today in Canada and the Boxing Day sales start tomorrow.
- 34D. [Trolley sound] – CLANG
- 38D. [Like the Magi] – WISE. Were they in Mensa?
- 45D. [Palindromic language related to Tamil] – MALAYALAM. Second time this week I saw this.
- 46D. [Grammer award] – EMMY. Kelsey for Frasier.
- 71D. [555 + IV] – DLIX. Mixed math madness! 555+ 4 = 559.
- 90D. [1996 Madonna film] – EVITA
- 94D. [Longfellow fellow] – HIAWATHA. Don’t Cry For Me, Hiawatha.
- 96D. [Pakistan’s largest city] – KARACHI. 18,000,000, which is more than half the population of Canada. I’m guessing we have more empty space.
- 102D. [Tea man Thomas] – LIPTON. This crosses the POT of TEA POT. It that cool or wrong? I can’t decide.
- 105D. [“It’s only ___”] – A GAME
Kathleen Fay O’Brien’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Many Happy Returns” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Two (mostly) word phrases with the last word reversed to hilarious results.
- 23A. [“Honest, Professor, I studied very hard for this test”?] – ALLEGED PREP (alleged perp). One “ha.”
- 25A. [Visibly shaken king?] – PALE REGAL (pale lager). Two “ha”s.
- 37A. [Rejection at McDonald’s?] – HAMBURGER SNUB (hamburger buns). Two “ha”s.
- 64A. [Error that just got bigger?] – DILATED SLIP-UP (dilated pupils). Three “ha”s.
- 91A. [What Red Riding Hood wisely didn’t do?] – GO WITH THE WOLF (go with the flow). Two “ha”s.
- 109A. [Green poet?] – OLIVE BARD (olive drab). One “ha.”
- 112A. [Effect of Pepé Le Pew battling a romantic rival?] – DOUBLE STINK (double-knits). Four “ha”s.
- 40D. [Quick look across the moat?] – CASTLE PEEK (castle keep). Two “ha”s.
- 45D. [Fowl injustice?] – TURKEY TORT (turkey trot). Four “ha”s.
One-line review for those in a hurry: Keeps you coming back for more.
- 1A. [Hussein : Obama :: __ : Garfield] – ABRAM. Presidential middle name madness.
- 20A. [Dunces] – BOOBS. Safest clue, no doubt.
- 21A. [Informal bid] – ONE NO. Palindromy.
- 26A. [Circus leaper] – FLEA. Do FLEA circuses really exist outside of A Bug’s Life?
- 30A. [Oddly amusing] – DROLL. Apt word for this puzzle.
- 31A. [It affects your take-home pay] – TAX RATE. Love those tax clues.
- 33A. [Civil War authority Shelby] – FOOTE. What made him an authority? Did he write a book on it? Oh. Never mind.
- 40A. [Things used in semi circles?] – CB’S. Do CB radios still exist outside of ’70s songs?
- 43A. [Bucky, in “Get Fuzzy”] – PET CAT. What is “Get Fuzzy”? joon?
- 48A. [Photographing giraffes, perhaps] – ON SAFARI. So my trip to the San Diego Zoo was a safari?
- 68A. [PC panic button] – ESC. It never works. It is like the “Scroll Lock” key. Nobody knows why its there or what it does. I just pressed it. See? Nothing happened. Odd. My garage door is now open.
- 76A. [Unlock the door for] – LET IN. Use the garage. It’s open.
- 81A. [Princess born on Polis Massa] – LEIA. Star Wars gimme!
- 89A. [Like the Finger of Fate on “Laugh-In”] – FICKLE. Groovy answer!
- 97A. [Source of inside info?] – CATS CAN. Cats can what?
- 119A. [One you might not want to meet?] – MAKER. How DROLL.
- 2D. [Italian vintner] – BOLLA. Five random letters to me.
- 3D. [Subject of the book “The Best of Time”] – ROLEX. The biography of Edna ROLEX.
- 6D. [Former bumper car trademark] – DODGEM. Hands up if you have ever seen the phrase “Former bumper car trademark.”
- 8D. [“Ha ha”] – VERY FUNNY. You might even say DROLL.
- 15D. [City on the Guadalquivir River] – CORDOBA. From the Atlas of Unknown Places.
- 32D. [Cries of clarity] – AHAS. Ah.
- 46D. [Key of Bizet’s most popular sym.] – C MAJor. I’ve asked before where you can find a list of these.
- 65D. [St. Clare’s town] – ASSISI. I used to misspell this ASISSI until I parsed it as “ASS IS I”.
- 67D. [__ colada] – PINA. Rupert Holmes! Amy, are you having one yet?
- 79D. [High tech/lowlife sci-fi genre] – CYBER PUNK. An example is…ummm, joon?
- 88D. [“Overnight” surprise for some] – STARDOM. I was shocked.
- 100D. [“Tomorrow” musical] – ANNIE. Gotta go there.
- 101D. [Starkers, across the pond] – NAKED. Yes, the link is SFW, unless you dislike Canadian bands.
- 105D. [Crisscross pattern] – GRID. That would be convenient for word puzzles, don’t you think?
William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Happy Holidays to one and all, hope they were merry and bright! Here, chez Scooby Evad, Santa was very generous, in particular leaving a painting by local atmospheric artist Sean Thomas under the tree. Can’t wait to find the perfect wall to hang it on!
On to today’s CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge” constructed by William I. Johnston. Will is both a constructor and a speedsolver; I seem to remember he is one of the few who has never made a mistake on any American Crossword Puzzle Tournament puzzle since he has been in attendance. (I, on the other hand, have not cleanly solved a MOAH Puzzle Five any year I have gone.) I generally find his CS Sunday themelesses to be on the easier side; today, however, he had me scratching my head:
- Let’s start with “Speculative sci-fi genre with anachronistic technology” which is STEAMPUNK. The M that is shared between this entry and Ed.M.s (“Teachers’ degs.) was a flat-out guess for me; I cycled through the types of advanced degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate) and thought the M was the least strange of the triplet. So what is this genre? It seems to have been most popular in the late 80s and early 90s and involves fiction set in 19th cy. Victorian England, where steam power was still the way to get around. So Will, are you in this picture?
- Right above it was “Uses a phone preset feature” or AUTODIALS. Its annoying cousin, and bane of all who try to eat an evening meal without the phone ringing, is ROBODIALS, which was my first entry. I suppose robodialing software is not available on individual phones, which we should all be grateful for.
- “Plan Zs” had me thinking of when I was taking my next nap, but instead it was LAST RESORTS, or the plan of action you take when you have exhausted all other options. I’ve heard of PLAN A and PLAN B, but how often are there 26 individual plans one considers?
- Interesting personality parade: Fagin (a MISER from Dickens’ Oliver Twist), Kent (a REPORTER from Superman, not to be confused with the brand of cigarettes or another hawker of them, the MARLBORO MAN), and Begin (an ISRAELI).
- Another statesman, Neville Chamberlain, was known as an APPEASER due to his capitulation to Hitler, signing the Munich Agreement in the hope England would be left alone in the growing European conflict. It didn’t work.
- I reintroduced myself to the psychedelic art of PETER MAX. Needed a few crossers for that one to fall.
Three other things I learned:
- AVIATOR cards appeared soon after Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic.
- RISSOLE is a savory minced meat pastry. Sounds like a Shepherd’s Pie. Anyone had one?
- “Cleaning cloth hawked in infomercials” is something called the SHAM WOW!. Wonder if the late Billy Mays did any of the hawking? Billy died last year a few weeks before his 51st birthday of heart disease.
See you tomorrow!