Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg’s New York Times crossword, “Triple Bonds”
An excellent outing from Oliver and Eliza, whose names now have me thinking of show tunes. (Make it stop!) The theme is clever and while I have a vague feeling that I’ve seen another version of this theme before, I’m quite fond of how it turned out here. Each theme entry combines three words that combine into three distinct pairs. For example, GREEN TEA PARTY goes with the triple clue [Chinese restaurant offering / Wonderland affair / Group on the left?]. The first clue partners with 1+2 GREEN TEA, the second with 2+3 TEA PARTY, and the third with 1+3 GREEN PARTY.
The other answers work equally well, though sometimes the word pairs form a compound or hyphenated word rather than a two-word term. Rounding out the theme are CRAB CAKE WALK, LOW CUT CLASS, AIR CANADA DRY, DIRTY BLONDE JOKE (perhaps the seed for the theme?), HEAD COLD CASE, HONEY POT PIE, CAT FOOD FIGHT, and BLUE STATE BIRD.
The fill is quite smooth, with the exception of the vocabulary expander LANGLAUF (5d: [Cross-country skiing]). Comes from the German for long + run, I believe. Sparkly bits include BON JOVI, SZECHWAN, and MESTIZO—all Scrabbly, all seldom encountered in crosswords.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer “Infomercially Yours ” crossword – Jeffrey’s review
- 13A. [War fare? *] – SPAM (spiced/ham)
- 29A. [2004 Tea Leoni film *] – SPANGLISH (Spanish/English)
- 31A. [“Great!” *] – FANTABULOUS (fantastic/fabulous)
- 37A. [Its rules are “sketchy” *] – PICTIONARY (picture dictionary)
- 56A. [Client-sponsored article *] – ADVERTORIAL (advertisement/editorial)
- 60A. [A steady increase in prices and unemployment *] – STAGFLATION (stagnant/inflation). Shouldn’t this be called Unemflation?
- 70A. [Radio-and-TV event *] – SIMULCAST (simultaneous/broadcast)
- 73A. [Video buy *] – CAMCORDER (camera/recorder)
- 89A. [Middle-of-the-road type? *] – REPUBLICRAT (Republican/Democrat). Make up your mind!
- 92A. [“Sesame Street,” e.g. *] – EDUTAINMENT (education/entertainment)
- 102A. [Lover of Godiva *] – CHOCOHOLIC (chocolate/alcoholic)
- 113A. [Starbucks offering *] – FRAPPUCCINO (frappe/cappuccino)
- 117A. [Cajun dish involving three types of poultry (and pretty high on the list of “worst food names ever”) *] – TURDUCKEN (turkey/duck/chicken). Yeckugh! (Yeck/ugh)
- 127A. [That letdown feeling after the hype *] – ANTICIPOINTMENT (anticipation/disappointment)
- 135A. [EPA concern *] – SMOG (smoke/fog). The climax to the funniest game show episode ever.
- 21A. [Famed Memphis street] – BEALE (beer/ale)
- 25A. [Butz and Scruggs] – EARLS
- 28A. [Auth. who died in Samoa] – RLS. Rupert Luis Sturgeon
- 68A. [Street activity: abbr.] – TRAF. (traffic foney abbreviation)
- 78A. [High-quality salad topping, in Rachael Ray shorthand] – EVOO. Extra virgin Olive Oyl. Not to be confused with NAVBB – not a virgin Betty Boop.
- 79A. [Silent movie star?] – HARPO (harp/player-o)
- 126A. [“___ the loneliest …”] – ONE IS
- 3D. [Versatile Rita] – MORENO
- 49D. [Herbie of jazz] – MANN
- 59D. [Creator of eye-bending designs] – OPARTIST (opera/artist)
- 71D. [Actress Anderson] – LONI (looking/nice)
- 74D. [iPad software] – APPS (Apple/stuff)
- 87D. [Pianist Gilels] – EMIL
- 101D. [Keypad key] – ESC (er/screwed up)
- 110D. [Here ___] – AND NOW (and/now)
- 119D. [Seized vehicle] – REPO (repossessed/auto)
- 122D. [Abbr. on a cereal box] – NTWT (nt/wt)
- 129D. [Hugs, in letters] – OOO (oo/oo)
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Foursquare”
The theme’s got nothing to do with who’s the “mayor” of some place according to the social media doodad Foursquare. Nope, it’s about artist ROBERT INDIANA, whose famous LOVE sculptures and paintings are a classic of pop art. In eight places in the grid, LO appears above VE to mimic Indiana’s big LOVE. To partner with the LOVEfest, we have VALENTINE’S DAY at 32d, though it’s clued as a [Historic time in 1929 Chicago]–historically bloody, what with the gangland massacre on that date.
- 22a. Lisa LORING. Who?
- 28d. [Ancient lyre] = ASOR. This is probably old-school crosswordese that I have encountered but obliterated from my memory. ASOR, you are no REBEC.
- 49d. [1956 book, “The Search for __ Murphy”] = BRIDEY. Who? What?
- 55d. ODELET. What?
Cute combo: The nun’s WIMPLE meets the Army’s HUMVEE.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What happened to Sam? He was funny!” Well, the funny is over! Sorry. But no, actually, the funny is moving from Sundays to…Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. You won’t be able to find a single day that’s Samless once he starts blogging the CrosSynergy puzzle tomorrow morning. Are you ready?
Updated Sunday morning:
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Sam Donaldson’s review
My junior high science teacher was big on “pre-tests.” Every week or so, before teaching a new unit, she gave the class a 20-question multiple choice quiz on the subjects to be discussed. I suppose she did this to get some sense of our baseline knowledge. Or maybe she just liked to see us suffer. Anyway, once we finished the unit, she gave us the very same quiz as a “post-test” to assess our mastery of the material.
As teaching techniques go, that’s all well and good, I suppose. But there was a major flaw in how she used these scores: she actually based a student’s grade on the amount of improvement from the pre-test score to the post-test score. I soon realized it was foolish to try hard on the pre-test. Sure, 15 out of 20 is good when you haven’t even learned the underlying material yet (most of the time you can figure out the correct answer to a multiple choice question just from the phrasing of the question, especially in junior high)—but even a perfect score on the post-test represents a mere 5-point improvement.
Not surprisingly, then, I started bombing the pre-tests on purpose so that when I did well on the post-test I was assured of a high grade. And I could bomb a test like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, a monkey with a crayon will, on average, get five out of 20 multiple choice questions correct just by randomly guessing A, B, C, or D. (No offense, crayon-toting monkeys.) And yet I would get two right. By accident. It was such an easy system to beat.
Why the extended trip down memory lane? Because I’m sure that some will look at my over-22-minute solving time for today’s puzzle—my first at the helm of the CrosSynergy coverage here since stepping into the (metaphorically) large shoes of Janie and Evad—and think that I’m deliberately trying to set a bad time so that I’ll show significant improvement over the course of the next year. You know, like the guy who scarfs down a hoagie and a bucket of potato salad the day before he takes the “before” picture for his new diet plan. (Wait, I’m the only one who did that?) Look, I swear on all that’s sacred and holy (which, by the way, includes hoagies and potato salad) that it’s not the case. I solved this crossword as fast as I could—which is to say, not very fast all.
This 70-word, 28-black-square freestyle puzzle from Clue Guru Bob Klahn features a ton of stuff well beyond even the horizon of my wheelhouse. How much did I not know? Let me count just a few of the ways:
- We might as well start with DEMOSTHENES, the [Attic orator]. I was way off on this one from the get-go. After I read the clue, I first tried BARN OWL—but that left me four letters shy. It didn’t get much better after that. Of course, I see now that “Attic” refers to the Attica region of Greece. Regarding Demosthenes, Wikipedia says that “Cicero acclaimed him as ‘the perfect orator’ who lacked nothing, and Quintilian extolled him as lex orandi (“the standard of oratory”) and that inter omnes unus excellat (‘he stands alone among all the orators’).” As a former member of the National Forensic League, believe me, I appreciate a good orator as much as the next person. But this guy was completely new to me. That’s him over there on the right. (Looks like he has a heckuva poker face.)
- CARIOCA is the [Latin dance with dips], while I’m the dip who dances. I think I’d be better at karaoke than carioca. Then there’s HABANERA, the [Music with a tango-like rhythm]. Eat a habanero (pepper) and you’ll want to dance to some habanera music.
- It doesn’t look like I’ll be downloading ROSE MADDER, the [1995 Stephen King novel], to my Kindle anytime soon. In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King himself calls Rose Madder and Insomnia “stiff, trying-too-hard novels.” Oh, snap!
- A [Roof with multiple slopes] is a MANSARD (not to be confused with the “man-sierre,” the male support undergarment conceived by Cosmo Kramer and Frank Costanza). One dictionary describes a mansard as having “two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope at a steeper angle than the upper.” “Oh,” I thought, “like a barn.” But no, most barns in the United States are “gambrels,” the kissing cousins of mansards. Ah yes. Of course.
- [“Cry the Beloved County” director Zoltan] is KORDA. (Korda’s the surname.) Not to be confused with Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine that plays a central role in the Tom Hanks vehicle, Big.
- I didn’t know MESCAL as the [Maguey plant intoxicant], but I’ve heard of mescal liquor, so this one fell after only a little resistance.
- The [Costar with Chaplin in many Keystone films] is Mabel NORMAND. Now if you had told me that the answer was Marisa Tomei’s character in the movie Chaplin…well, okay, I still wouldn’t have known it. But at least I knew Marisa Tomei was in that movie. *swoon*
Now that I think about it, it would have been easier to list the stuff I did know. Oh well. I do know that some of the clues here were, as one would expect in a Bob Klahn puzzle, pure gems. Like [Measure of fun] for TON, [Limited support?] for RAIL, [Legendary rubber] for ALADDIN (I guess that’s why he never dated much), and, my favorite, [One apt to have an appt. app] for a PDA. Highlights in the fill included Charles KURALT, legendary muppeteer FRANK OZ, the CLARINET I played for four years, and the IVORY TOWER in which I currently reside.
Doug Peterson’s syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, “The Play’s the Thing”
Whoo, easy puzzle this week! At least if you know your classic American toys, it is. The theme is inductees to the 68a: NATIONAL TOY HALL OF FAME:
- 23a. ALPHABET BLOCKS? [*They’re educational and stackable]. Alpha-Bits cereal is somewhat less stackable and doesn’t display things that start with each letter. However, Alpha-Bits are markedly more filling than blocks, which take way too long to eat.
- 38a. The [*Construction set invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son] is LINCOLN LOGS.
- 47a. [*Street hockey gear] clues ROLLER SKATES. I had ROLLERBLADES first.
- 91a. A CARDBOARD BOX is a [*Shipping container]. This happened to be the last theme entry I filled in, which is great because it’s got the biggest surprise factor. Always fun to save the best for last.
- 98a. [*Dual-knobbed drawing device] is the ETCH-A-SKETCH.
- 119a. CRAYOLA CRAYONS are a [*Kindergartner’s boxful] of waxy delight.
- 15d. CANDYLAND is a [*Board game with color-coded cards].
- 81d. [*Cuddly bedmate] is a TEDDY BEAR. My kid has some bears but has generally preferred the stuffed frog and Komodo dragon.
Cute, light, accessible theme.
- 64a. [Pollution-free power sources] are WIND FARMS. Don’t recall seeing this turbine-related answer in a crossword before.
- 61d. [Leaves home?] is a TEABAG, home to some tea leaves.
- 82d. HARD TACOS are [Crunchy Mexican munchies], and they cross a Mexican place name. The YUCATAN Peninsula is the 104a. [Home of Chichén Itzá].
- 94d. Speaking of peninsulas, the [Peninsula north of Martha’s Vineyard] is CAPE COD.
Mystery answer of the day:
- 9d. [“__ Amours”: 1984 César Award-winning film] clues ANOS. Wha…? Ah, the Césars are France’s equivalent of the Oscars, so the answer is two French words, À NOS Amours.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 52”
Post Puzzler #52? Happy anniversary to editor Peter Gordon and his tribe of stellar themeless constructors, Trip Payne, Karen Tracey, Patrick Berry, Mike Shenk, and Frank Longo! May this venture continue as long as ye all shall live.
Lots of tough clues this week. Let’s talk a walk through the puzzle:
- 5a. [Much of Shakespeare’s output] is BLANK VERSE.
- 16a. [Slim Pickens’s job before acting] was being a RODEO CLOWN. Not to be confused with Slim Whitman, who’s more of an inadvertent singing clown. (Seeing him on K-Tel ads when I was a kid, well, nobody in my gang was much into the yodeling sound.)
- 18a. [Needing reduction] clues OVERPRICED. At first I had OVERWEIGHT and was frowning at the implied judgment, so I was glad when the right answer finally emerged.
- 22a. [Region southwest of Georgia] is ANATOLIA, which is Asia’s westernmost twig in Turkey.
- 27a. [Browning subject] is DUCHESS, as in “That’s my last duchess painted on the wall.”
- 28a. [Shamas holder] is a MENORAH. Shamas is new to me: It means both a synagogue official and the Hanukkah candle used to light the other candles.
- 29a. The fencing event with the EPEE is the [Event in which one might use a flèche]. That last word is a “slender spire, typically over the intersection of the nave and the transept of a Gothic church” or an aggressive offensive move in fencing. Now, it’s one thing to use words with multiple meanings to make clues tricky, but an entirely different thing to use highly specialized words with multiple meanings. 28a and 29a required plenty of crossings before I figured them out. Hmph.
- 31a. [Jamie Lee Curtis, to Jake Gyllenhaal] is a GODMOTHER. Didn’t know that bit of trivia, but I did just see Gyllenhaal in Source Code yesterday. Had to suspend a ton of disbelief for that movie—first of all, a train heading downtown from Glenbrook won’t travel alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway, and secondly, there’s no such place as Glenbrook, just a noted school district/area encompassing both Glenview and Northbrook.
- 48a. [Paul Kruger’s people] are the BOERS. Kruger, krugerrand, South Africa.
- 50a. [“The Great Caruso” star] is MARIO LANZA. I think he’s more famous than Ezio Pinza, but I started to put Pinza in just because his first name is crosswordese.
- 55a. [Giddy] clues IN A TWITTER, which is in the dictionary as a discrete phrase. I wanted the answer to be ALL ATWITTER, which was not in that dictionary. Not even ATWITTER makes it. Apparently my sense of what’s more in the language is topsy-turvy.
- 56a. Sharron [Angle vanquisher in 2010] is Senator Harry REID.
- 57a. [Outraged response] is “NOW SEE HERE…” I like that.
- 58a. EDNA is clued as [2010 New York City Marathon winner Kiplagat]. You might argue that she’s markedly less famous than the other EDNAs out there, but none of them could catch her.
- 1d. [Former address of the Kremlin] is COMRADE. I was thinking of street/plaza/square addresses.
- 6d. [Single-panel comic featuring a nude couple] is LOVE IS…. Deeply troubling, isn’t it? Why don’t they put some clothes on? This is worse than pantsless Donald Duck.
- 8d. [Slashdot reader, according to its slogan] is a NERD.
- 12d. Ooh, sharp clue. [Bush and Rush, e.g.] doesn’t refer to George Bush and Rush Limbaugh, though 11d ([Bush 41 at 21, e.g.], ELI) would have put you in that frame of mind. Bush is an alternative rock band and Rush is a prog rock band, so the answer is ROCKERS.
- 14d. An EN DASH is a [Range indicator, often]. As in “1912–2006.”
- 23d. [Susan Boyle’s hit 2010 follow-up to “I Dreamed a Dream”] is “THE GIFT.” I am not ashamed to tell you that I needed a zillion crossings for this one.
- 30d. [Rebel yells] are “NOS.”
- 35d. [Pot look-alike] isn’t a black kettle, it’s OREGANO. Kids, don’t get caught passing a baggie of oregano at school. You might get suspended. Oregano isn’t so bad, but it’s a gateway herb. Before you know it, you’ll be hitting the marjoram. If you don’t hit rock bottom with the marjoram, you might find yourself doing the hard stuff: bay leaves.
- 36d. Jenny [Cavilleri’s portrayer] in Love Story is Ali MACGRAW.
- 48d. [A half one doesn’t have one] perplexed me. The answer is BATH: a half bath has a toilet and sink, possibly a shower, but no bathtub.
- 51d. [Lead-in to a date?] clues IT’S, as in “it’s a date.”