Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword, “A River Puns Through It”
Super-tight batch of puns, and they’re unified by geography nerddom so I like ’em. Not to mention that many of us probably know some of the rivers in question because they’ve appeared in so many crosswords—so the puzzle’s a little reward for long-time solvers. Each theme entry sounds sort of like a familiar phrase, but a river name has been substituted for another word:
- 23a, 24a. MISSOURI / LOVES COMPANY. That should totally be the Missouri tourism board’s slogan! (Misery.)
- 35a. The [Fop who makes idle sketches on a Chinese river?] is a YANGTZE DOODLE DANDY.
- 48a. The James Bond title Tomorrow Never Dies turns into TOMORROW, NEVA DIES.
- 66a. Yellowjacket turns into YALU JACKET. Like the Neva, the Yalu is a river I learned from crosswords.
- 71a. And so, too, the Oder. ODER EATERS might be [Piranhas in a German border river?].
- 92a. YUKON, GO HOME AGAIN? I dunno. The original phrase is “You can’t go home again,” right? And YUKON sounds more like “you can.”
- 100a. I love THAMES FIGHTIN’ WORDS, clued as [Aggressive posturin’ on an English river?].
- 120a, 123a. WE’RE ALL INDUS (in this)/ TOGETHER.
Highlights in the fill and clues include:
- 8a. The Pepperidge Farm MILANO, a [Cookie with a geographical name]. Had a few Milanos on vacation; have been yearning for them ever since. The chocolate, the double chocolate, the mint, the fruit/chocolate—they’re all good.
- 29a. [Popular Ford] isn’t a car, it’s a person: HARRISON Ford.
- 30a. SNARF means to [Devour, with “up” or “down”]. My snarfing is in the downward direction.
- 85a. Aha! [Stand-up guy?] who stands you up on a date is a NO-SHOW.
- 20d. NIGHT OWL is a great entry.
- 34d. By far the best synonym for TOADY is [Lickspittle]. Vivid, no? Much more visual and auditory than “yes-man.”
- 86d. Who doesn’t like HOGWARTS? Well, maybe not a farmer’s veterinarian.
- 88d. To [Rock, in modern lingo], is to WEAR something well. “At the ACPT, Tyler Hinman rocks his trademark Trogdor t-shirt.” “I am rocking these shearling slippers.”
- 91d. “WE MADE IT!” Would be even better as the final answer in the grid.
Yeah, there are shorter answers that are likely to be less familiar to a lot of solvers. I’ve done a zillion crosswords so I’ve encountered these all before, but they vexed me the first time I saw them in a puzzle. I speak here of OSIER, IPSE, ENO, STOL, NOHO, ORLE, EWER, OMOO, RIAS, and that horrible Phantom of the Opera name, Christine DAAE.
Overall, big thumbs up for Joon’s puzzle.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 41”
Frank Longo’s famous for his Word List of Magnificence, which generates all sorts of interesting possibilities for fill when he’s making a puzzle. Hey, anyone know if Patrick Berry relies heavily on computing power to craft his marvels, as Frank does, or if he belongs to the guild of Those Who Make Puzzles by Hand? (We learned in Matt Gaffney’s book Gridlock that Matt and Byron Walden are notable by-hand constructors, while Frank and Peter Gordon are masters of database massage.)
Anyway, no matter which approach you prefer, you can’t dispute that Frank gets good results with his method. Look at these showpieces:
- 5a. The MAZDA MIATA is a [Sports car introduced in 1989]. MIATA gets into the grid a lot; the full make and model, not so much.
- 16a. ARI(stotle) ONASSIS, [Founder of Olympic Airways]. Lots of ARI in the puzzle, not the full(ish) name.
- 17a. DIFF’RENT STROKES was the [Show featuring the Jackson brothers], Arnold and Willis, played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges.
- 22a. “SPREAD ‘EM!” That’s a [Frisking order].
- 30a. RAIN OR SHINE is clued with [Even if it’s not fair].
- 37a. The RESCUE SQUAD is a [Lifesaver, frequently].
- 3d. OFF LIMITS = [Taboo].
- 31d. Ice skater ILIA KULIK, [Elvis Stojko’s rival at Nagano]. Again, lots of ILIA in other puzzles, rarely if ever his full name.
- 27a. [Tore into, in a way] for SWORE AT. Not the first sense of “tore into” I thought of.
- 45a. SIKHS are [Believers unlikely to get haircuts].
- 46a. [Wednesday was his idea] clues CHAS Addams, creator of The Addams Family.
- 58a. The verb [Pervert] can mean SKEW.
- 4d. [Mass quantity?] clues communion WAFERS.
- 9d. An ANT is a [Small six-footer?].
- 28d. [Flip in heels] is comedian Flip WILSON, whose heyday was in the ’70s. He wore drag for his Geraldine character.
- 38d. [Having a bite] clues the adjective CAUSTIC. Did you go for NOSHING or GRAZING or SUPPING first?
- 1a. [Sand transporter] clues SCOW. Usually scows are clued as garbage haulers but they’re also used in dredging.
- 15a. [Soviet attack sub] clues ALFA.
- 35a. [Person to whom another is bound by contract] clues OBLIGEE, my nominee for dullest word in the puzzle.
- 49a. [Composition of some orange balls] clues CANTALOUPE MELON. Who the heck includes the word melon when they say cantaloupe?
- 57a. [Regions of heavy, sticky soil covering large areas in Texas] clues BLACKLANDS. Never heard of this. The Dakotas have the Black Hills and the Badlands, which are not Blacklands.
- 5d. [Actresses Murray and Questel] are MAES. Know Questel from crosswords, but not Murray.
- 11d. [Connector of equal ocean depths] is an ISOBATH.
- 13d. [River through São Paulo] clues TIETE. Hmm, not ringing a bell.
- 14d. [State whose capital is Dispur] clues ASSAM, which is far more familiar to me than its capital.
- 22d. [One-named singer with the 2000 Top 10 hit “It Feels So Good”] is SONIQUE, whom I’ve never heard of. With the S in place, I tried SHAKIRA.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Spoonerism Anthology”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: A spoonerism is a…deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants…are switched. Anthology is a collection. So we have a Spoonerism Anthology. (Amy says: And not a Spoon River Anthology.)
Theme answers, with patented Ha ratings:
One-line review for hose in a thurry: Rome Hun from Merl!!!
- 1A. [Gordon of space] – FLASH. No, not Peter.
- 6A. [Cross words?] – SPAT. Did anyone else put INRI?
- 19A. [“I’ll have a venti half-caff skinny peppermint mocha ___, please”] – LATTE. Very Starbuckian.
- 20A. [Fiend’s intro] – ARCH. I wonder what Amy wrote in today’s ARCH.
- 28A/59A. [A kitchen assistant] – SOUS CHEF. I’m picturing Andrea Carla Michaels in Dinner Impossible.
- 29A. [Like some personalities] – DUAL. Disguised as a mild manner contractor, PLASTER MAN fights the evil Wall Rot!
- 36A. [Colorado city] – DURANGO. I dream of riding the DURANGO and Silverton Railroad one day.
- 41A. [“File not found,” e.g.] – ERROR. Aaarrrrgh! Now I have to redo this entire post. PLASTER MAN, help me!
- 45A. [Bill’s 1996 foe] – BOB. Clinton/Dole.
- 48A. [Cattle raisers of Kenya] – MASAI. Oh, it starts with an M! Oops.
- 57A. [2010 film, “Black ___”] – SWAN. Your most recentest clue.
- 67A. [“Pleased ___ you”] – TO MEET. I’m PLASTER MAN! Meet my colleague, PIPE BOY, clog fighter supreme!
- 73A. [Music hall great] – PIAF
- 81A. [Country music guitar] – DOBRO
- 113A. [Intro to -ene, or a Ukrainian river] – STYR. I wanted to write TYRS, but Anagram Woman saved me.
- 114A. [Hefty TV son] – HOSS. Bonanza. Your most unrecentest clue.
- 115A. [Fabric meas.] – SQ YDS. Square yards. In metric land, we call it “bubba.”
- 9D. [“Clear ___!”] – THE DECKS. PLASTER MAN is on his way!
- 14D. [Big cheese on TV] – ROMANO. Everybody Loves Cheese.
- 37D. [Home of Labyrinth Canyon] – UTAH. UTAH is the land of unknown canyons.
- 39D. [Orville or Wilbur, e.g.] – OHIOAN. I’m half Ohioan.
- 43D. [“Of Thee” follower] – I SING
- 45D. [Actress Beulah] – BONDI. Okay, maybe even more unrecenter.
- 50D. [Christmas song parson] – BROWN. Who? Oh, the “Winter Wonderland” guy. And, perhaps the secret identity of PLASTER MAN.
- 66D. [Mary Pickford’s real name] – GLADYS. Did you know she was Canadian?
- 92D. [What “there is nothin’ like”] – A DAME
- 99D. [Near-homophone of Seoul’s anagram] – LAOS. Laosy clue.
- 101D. [“Where Is the Life That Late ___?”] – I LED
- 104D. [Cry for help] – SOS! Get PLASTER MAN!!!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Blown Lines” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Thanks to Amy for covering last week’s puzzle. I was at a conference in Orlando and busy with last-minute preparations for a speech. I don’t know whether the audience saw the benefit of this extra prep work, but I can happily report that from my perspective, this was easily the best conference ever.
But that was last week. This week, Cox and Rathvon create imaginary bloopers by changing one letter in five famous movie lines, then they imagine what the actors speaking those lines had on their minds when they goofed:
- [Sidney Poitier thinking he’s in that nun movie?] clues THEY CALL ME SISTER TIBBS, a play on “They call me Mister Tibbs,” Poitier’s famous line from In the Heat of the Night. You can watch it here (just remember to come back!).
- [Ray Bolger thinking he’s in “Von Ryan’s Express”?] clues IF I ONLY HAD A TRAIN. This is a variation of Bolger’s famous song as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz: “If I Only Had a Brain.” Von Ryan’s Express is completely foreign to me, but the trailer looks interesting. Supposedly it was Frank Sinatra’s highest grossing film from the 1960s. Still, it would have been cool if the clue instead linked to Unstoppable, the 2010 Denzel Washington/Chris Pine thriller about a runaway train. The film, based on a true story, is surprisingly suspenseful and well-paced. I’m guessing Unstoppable was not yet in theaters when Cox and Rathvon constructed this puzzle.
- [Charlton Heston thinking he’s not Antony but a nurse?] clues I COME TO BURP CAESAR. I did not know that Heston once played Marc Antony. You can see a brief excerpt of his performance here. If you want to see the oration from which “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” comes, check out this version, featuring Jor-El as Antony.
- [Clint Eastwood thinking he’s Mr. Ed?] clues GO AHEAD, MAKE MY HAY. Of course, of course. In my book, there are two great movie lines from 1983. “Go ahead, make my day,” from Sudden Impact, is one of them. Check it out here in an extended scene (it’s worth it). The other, naturally, is Admiral Akbar’s exclamation from Return of the Jedi: “It’s a trap!“
- Finally, [Kenneth Branagh thinking he’s not Henry V but 5-Down?] clues ONCE MORE INTO THE BLEACH. 5-Down is the [Personified detergent], MR. CLEAN, so if Branagh envisioned himself as the bald he-man of cleanliness, this twist on the speech that begins “Once more unto the breach” could result. Here’s Branagh’s performance. I can’t say that I followed it very well, but the performance is riveting. Branagh’s Henry could give a great pep talk to a football team.
Five theme entries feels a little light, but they’re long and meaty, so the overall theme density (91 squares) is about average. Highlights in the fill included the aforementioned MR. CLEAN, PARTY ON, TOP OUT, LABYRINTH, and GET LOST. Lowlights in the fill were sponsored by the letter “A:” A BAT, A BONE, and A LADY. Even the plural FORA was converted into a partial featuring “A,” clued as [___ song (nerly free)]. It’s kinda surprising ALACK was clued as [Word in a woeful phrase] instead of [“___ of Color” (Death Cab for Cutie song)].
Four random observations: (1) I can’t really explain why, but I really liked the awkward-sounding [Floater of pairs] as a clue for NOAH. (2) I have never heard of Dr. DENTON’S jammies. Heck, I can’t name any pajamas by name. Does this tell you too much about my choice in sleepwear? (3) I tried EAST as the [Bridge position], then WEST when I saw that the second letter was E. Turns out this puzzle wanted HELM. Oh, that bridge. (4) Don’t you think IMA Hogg became a philanthropist because she was self-conscious of her name?
This week’s bonus segment is Thank You, Crosswords, where we appreciate those little nuggets of wisdom that we never would have learned but for this wonderful diversion. Thanks to crosswords, for example, I have managed to drop RIATA, the [Gaucho’s lasso], into an ordinary conversation (though it had the effect of rendering that conversation far from ordinary). And thanks to crosswords, I think of RAMA every time I see the word avatar, as in [Avatar of Vishnu]. Were it not for crosswords, I would one day shuffle off this mortal coil never knowing that LENTO was code for “play this slowly, dammit” on sheet music. And I would only think of Costello instead of a [Monastery VIP] every time someone mentioned ABBOT. Perhaps most importantly, it was crosswords that taught me OBEAH, the [West Indian sorcery]. That word bailed me out of an otherwise unworkable corner on a puzzle I constructed nearly two years ago. So thank you, crosswords, for teaching me all kinds of new stuff that occasionally proves helpful. You rock!
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Happy NFL divisional playoff weekend! Congratulations to the Steelers and the Packers who have already made it to their respective championship games, I’m hoping Tom Brady and our Patriots join them later this afternoon.
Oh yeah, I’m here to blog today’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post “Sunday Challenge” by constructor Bruce Venzke. The grid was designed to highlight six 15-letter entries:
- “Oslo or Bern, e.g.” was the relatively straightforward EUROPEAN CAPITAL. I guess “Euro” wouldn’t work as a clue for this phrase would it?
- I’ve never heard of a “Contract provision” called an ESCALATOR CLAUSE. It’d be nice if the clue gave us a bit more information about what such a provision entails. If I were to guess, I’d say it’d be something about increasing damages if certain conditions (like a time limit) aren’t met, but, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not a lawyer and only play one on this blog.
- So is HERE’S TO MANY MORE often heard at birthday parties? We’re lucky if we get through the Birthday Song before the candles are blown out. And keeping within the legal arena, this page has a lot of information about the copyright laws around this song, and why you don’t often hear it sung in recent movies.
- If you ever see “Highlands” in a clue, some form of Scotland has to be in the answer; here it’s a SCOTTISH TERRIER. Man, are they cute!
- If something is “Firmly entrenched” it’s also WELL-ESTABLISHED. Check. I seem to want a hyphen there, so I’ll go back and put one in.
- Finally, my favorite of the sextet, “Quip at an entrance” is AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. In my experience, I say this to someone more attractive and generally younger than me out of pure spite and envy. Is there a 12-step program for that?
All in all, these phrases don’t really jump off the page; I’d say only the last phrase seems a bit unusual. I didn’t recognize the name Keiko at first, but then remembered he was the star of Free Willy. I believe we saw a documentary about the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reintroduce him into the open seas, dying off the coast of Norway. So who is this ELTON Brand of Duke and the NBA? He’s either at Duke or playing professional b-ball, not both. I see here, he left Duke in 1999, was acquired by Chicago as the number one draft pick and is currently playing for the 76ers. Guess the name should’ve rang a bell, but the only ELTON that comes to mind has just become a father.
Jonathan Black’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Put Me In, Coach”
I love the theme: There’s a ME put into familiar phrases to change the meaning, sometimes splitting words in two. Half the theme entries run across, half down.
- 23a. [King of workouts?] is HENRY THE FIRMEST.
- 45a. [Belittle Short?] clues DEMEAN MARTIN.
- 96a. A [Rogaine-induced reverie?] might be DREAMED LOCKS. The answer phrase is a little awkward, but I like the clue.
- 119a. HOMELY MATRIMONY is an [Institution for Shrek and Fiona?].
- 64d. [Silent cowboy flick?] clues MIMED WESTERN.
- 48d. Atheist turns into MEAT HEIST, or [Purloined sirloin?]. Took a while for me to get this one. Nice surprise factor with the TH being broken up in the theme answer.
- 51d. [Zoo area for dromedaries?] is the CAMEL ZONE, spinning off from a tasty calzone.
- 15d. [Footballers who draw flags?] are DIRTY LINEMEN, linemen who play dirty.
The fill doesn’t reach the same level as the solid and entertaining theme. Repeaters and crosswordese were peppered throughout the grid. ARIL, ELEMI, ENISLE, ERNS, AMAH, ABAFT, ILIA, and ARAM are all words I’d like to see less of in a crossword; one or two in a puzzle are passable, but having them all together felt like overkill. A question for the construction-minded: Is it easier to get good fill with eight theme entries all running in the same direction? Does the mix of Across and Down theme entries make it tougher to fill the grid?
- 49d. Unfamiliar ARCO clue, [“Giovanna d’__”: Verdi opera]. With the O crossing 65a: TOL/[“My mama done __ me …”: song lyric], you’d better hope one of the music bits is familiar. Hang on. Giovanna d’Arco must be Joan of Arc in Italian, yes? Not familiar with the opera.
- 97d. I forgot [Mutiny] could be a verb and was confused as to how REBEL worked as an answer. D’oh!
- 69d. [PC component] clues CRT. I wonder what percentage of PCs still have fat CRT monitors rather than flat-panel monitors. I don’t think CRT monitors are still sold.