Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Hey, look who’s playing around with 15s. Most of Patrick Berry’s themeless grids aren’t built around 15-letter answers, but this one’s got a central triple stack crossed by two Down 15s that in turn intersect two more Across 15s. Those long ones are:
- 17a. EASTERN PROMISES, a 2007 movie with Viggo Mortenson that is best remembered (by me, anyway) as the one in which he’s nekkid in a Russian bathhouse and there’s this climactic fight scene. Did I mention Viggo had no clothes on?
- 32a. AFTER-DINNER MINT. Make mine a peppermint Tums.
- 37a. CREATION “SCIENCE” really needs the scare quotes there, doesn’t it?
- 38a. Thought the clue was looking for a more general term, but HERMIONE GRANGER is pretty specific.
- 53a. POLICE SERGEANTS.
- 7d. SENSATIONALISTS.
- 8d. SURGEONS GENERAL tricked me. I filled in an S at the very end and then solved the southeast corner, wondering what these SAGOONS are that people swim in. LAGOONS! 8d’s plural S lurks in the middle.
- 1a. Author P.D. JAMES has a great name for crosswords. Didn’t know she wrote The Children of Men. Did you see that movie? Clive Owen was in that but did not, as I recall, have a nude fight scene.
- 34d. Interesting term, TERRA ALBA, “white earth.” A [Clay used by potters], but not one I learned about in ceramics class.
- 46d. RONCO! The [“But wait, there’s more!” company]!
Outside of the 15s, hmm, not a lot of answers caught my eye. Instead of having a grid packed with 6s and 7s and longer entries, we get a bunch of interstitial 3s and 4s and 5s supporting the 15s.
Standard Friday NYT difficulty. I’m giving this one a lukewarm 4 stars. It’s smooth enough to be better than a 3, but all the ordinary short stuff is not so thrilling.
James Sajdak’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Her Honor” — pannonica’s review
Very straightforward theme this time around. Four theme entries are, as denoted in a fifth, which spans the grid in the center at 38a, women who are NOBEL PEACE PRIZE laureates. For this solver, at least, the puzzle fulfilled the CHE’s tacit pedagogical mission; only one of the four was well-known to me, another was vaguely familiar, and the other two were completely new. In an iconoclastic gambit, I am not linking each to her wikipedia page. Nyeh.
- 17a. ALVA MYRDAL (1982) was a [Politician who championed Scandinavian social welfare]
- 23a. MOTHER TERESA (1979), a.k.a. Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, […founded the Missionaries of Charity]
- 49a. JODY WILLIAMS (1997) is the [Activist who helped found the International Campaign to Ban Landmines]
- 61a. JANE ADDAMS (1931) was a [Sociologist who established Chicago’s Hull House]
Not in this puzzle, but also sharing the honor, are Bertha von Suttner (1905), Emily Greene Balch (1946), Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan (1976), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992), Shirin Ebadi (2003), and Wangari Muta Maathai (2004). Betty Williams and Aung San Suu Kyi could have functioned as a 13-letter pair, but then the “Williams” would have been repeated, so the four who appear are really the only ones that can work for the grid.
Two long down answers are the nicely knotty REYKJAVIK (35d), which I have yet to grow tired of seeing in puzzles (Eyjafjallajökull, not so much); in contrast is the [Unwelcome “Wheel of Fortune” spin] (10d), LOSE A TURN, which caused me to wonder if Sajdak is playing favorites.
For the Higher Education™ feel, we get Oxford’s motto (27a), Dominus illuminatio MEA, some Faulkner (“As I LAY Dying”) at 42a, an honor society (ETA Sigma Phi) at 8d, and (6d) ERRATA, because learning is all about making mistakes along the way.
- 12d/32a/64a/48d: DALI/SHERI/UGLI/ALKALI. A welcome respite from iPods, iMacs, iPhones, iTunes, iHop and iCeland. There’s a nap for that.
- Fortuitous perpendicular neighbors: 47a & 53d make for the cloned actor SAL MIMEO, while 55d & 64a team up for FLUG UGLI, which put me in mind of “plug-ugly.”
- 32d, SNIT, made for my favorite clue, [Pique condition?].
Things I Learned (aside from the themers):
- 47a. [Barge puller of song] – SAL. The song turns out to be The Erie Canal Song, and Sal is a mule. Towpath! Towpath! Towpath! The most famous Sal song I know is My Gal Sal, from the 1942 movie of the same name, which starred Rita Hayworth and Victor Mature.
- 68a. [New York Dance and Performance award, familiarly] – BESSIE, Named for Bessie Shonberg. An honor, but perhaps not as estimable as a Nobel.
Only two abbr’d answers, CDC [=Center for Disease Control] up front and left at 1a, and the TV show “The PTL Club” [=”Praise the Lord,” or more accurately, “Pass the Loot”]. Similarly low counts of partials, crosswordese, apple cores, and old Chinese newspapers.
Mike Shenk/Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Joint Filing”
Gotta love a puzzle whose title suggests “oh, lordy, another tax-return theme concept,” but it turns out to be bone joints that have been filed into each theme answer. The joint naturally partners with one of the two original words:
- 22a. Stick a knee into launch pads and you can LAUNCH KNEE PADS, or [Introduce a new line of accessories for skateboarders?].
- 31a. BRASS KNUCKLE BAND is a [Nickname for a gang of hired goons?].
- 50a. [Item with glow-in-the-dark numerals?] is a NIGHT WRISTWATCH. The Timex Indiglo light is a better bet than painting your watch with radium.
- 68a. We just had TABLE-HOP in another puzzle, and now there’s TABLE HIP-HOP, or [Postpone consideration of rap music?].
- 86a. [Contest to see who can be more unfriendly?] is a COLD SHOULDER WAR. Very Mean Girls, that.
- 105a. [Device for tracking criminals in cribs?] clues BABY ANKLE MONITOR. The crime? Excessive cuteness.
- 118a. [Standard amount of space to work in?] is the STOCK ELBOW ROOM.
- 1a. [Galena, for one], at 1-Across, boring, it’s always IRON ORE. Except when it’s not! Today, it’s a MINERAL and, at 121d, a generic ORE. I like it when rote-recall crossword clues mix it up a little and throw me a curveball.
- 11d. [Became uncomfortable, in a way] clues RODE UP, as in what underwear or tights may do. You know who didn’t have to worry about that? Viggo Mortenson in that nude fight scene.
- 16d. [Hero assisted by Alfred Pennyworth] is not your usual clue for BATMAN.
- 20d. Who doesn’t love SEA SLUGS? They’re [Colorful marine gastropods].
- 48d. [Ciudad Bolivar’s river] is the ORINOCO, a river I know mainly from crosswords, specifically with a clue like [1988 Enya song, “__ Flow”]. I appreciate having a geographic clue that gently suggests South America without going obvious with a country name. Turns out Ciudad Bolivar is in Venezuela and used to be called Angostura before the residents became embittered about that name and opted to honor Simon Bolivar instead.
- 91d. A golf [Round number?] is PAR.
- 120d. [He wears very little clothing] clues KEN, as in actor Ken Olin, who was Viggo Mortenson’s nude understudy in the movie in the NYT puzzle. No, actually, it’s a Ken doll wearing tiny apparel.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Absolution”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy Tax Day, everyone! Some celebrate by making a dependent, hopefully in time to claim him or her on next year’s return. Others gather with friends and family to share loving memories of the income they forked over the Uncle Sam (no relation) to provide the basic services and protections we demand. In whatever way it is you choose to celebrate the Ides of April, may it be happy, healthy, and tax-free!
Oh, right—the puzzle! Ross takes four common two-word phrases and inserts “AB” before one of the two words to make new, wacky phrases that amuse the funny bone:
- 17-Across: “Rocky road” ice cream, the fourth best flavor of ice cream (behind, in order, Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, cookies and cream, and chocolate chip mint), becomes ROCKY ABROAD, with the clue [Boxer Balboa overseas?]. Using “Boxer Balboa” instead of “Bullwinkle’s sidekick” led this one to fall much more easily.
- 52-Across: “Home Alone,” the Daniel Stern vehicle, becomes the funniest theme entry, HOME ABALONE, clued as [Pet shellfish?]. I think I like this one best because it’s always fun to say “abalone” dismissively.
- 11-Down: The [Regulars at the body shop?] are not garage groupies, but ABUSED CARS (from “used cars”). Hmm. I can’t explain why this one feels off to me, but it does. I don’t think it has to do with the unpleasant image of anything that’s “abused,” but maybe it does to some extent and I’m becoming a fogey right before your eyes.
- 27-Down: Then again, maybe I’m not a fogey after all. Anytime you can get an outhouse into a grid, I’m all for it—even if this outhouse becomes ABOUT HOUSE, clued as [Pertaining to Hugh Laurie’s show?]. Bonus point for the reference to “House, M.D.,” but minus two points for having theme entries with “house” and “home.”
One of the neat things about a grid with two Across theme entries and two Down theme entries is the room you have to build a lovely staircase of five-letter entries in the mid-section. Staircases usually help my solving time because I have two of the five letters already filled in thanks to the earlier steps. In this case, though, there was a bit of a hangup at 28-Down, because I couldn’t decipher the clue [Magic, once] correctly. I kept thinking the answer was some early word for “magic,” but all this clue wanted was for me to think of Magic Johnson, who was once a Los Angeles LAKER. Oops.
Other points of interest:
- NIMBI, the [Dark clouds] is a challenging opener at 1-Across. (Well, okay, it was for me anyway.) I kept wanting OMENS, but none of the crossings helped at all. It wasn’t until I got NIMB- that I finally tumbled to the answer. And that helped a lot, because ICY WIND, the [Gale with hail] at 5-Down, was eluding me for a while too.
- I like FREE WILL and MERIT PAY, both on their own and in this grid (notice they abut theme entries and help give the corners an open feel).
- Was it just me or did the clues here have a little more misdirection than we usually expect in a CrosSynergy puzzle? Besides the aforementioned [Magic, once] for LAKER, there’s [Make a basket, e.g.] for SCORE (I wanted WEAVE), and [Soft ball substance] for NERF.
- TOUCH UP and PHOTO OPS are both great fill entries, but it’s especially nice that they’re side-by-side in the grid. The symmetrically opposite pairing, ROAD HOGS and END-RUNS, is also quite nice, even though it lacks a similar “extra” connection.
- I should know WADI, the [African streambed], by now. It has been in enough puzzles that there’s no good excuse not to have it at the ready, along with STOA and OLEO. I could have finished with a much faster solving time if I had remembered it. Maybe I resist learning it because it’s such an awful entry.
- Hey, look who show up at 22-Down! The ETS ([Intergalactic visitors, for short]) from yesterday’s puzzle have assembled en masse. It can’t be good when aliens gang up. Let’s hope there’s not a war of the worlds in tomorrow’s puzzle.
Matt Matera’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’ve got 5 minutes to blog this puzzle. Go!
Cute theme: Take five people famously referred to by first and middle initials plus last name, add third “initial” to give the 3 letters before the last name a new meaning. Clue accordingly, nodding at both the real person and the new identity. Like so:
- 1a. [Fantasy author and forensic pathologist?] = CSI LEWIS
- 22a. [Behaviorist and teen confidant?] = BFF SKINNER
- 33a. [Huckster and school supporter?] = PTA BARNUM
- 49a. [British novelist and medic?] = EMT FORSTER
- 63a. [Children’s author and roadside helper?] = AAA MILNE
Lots of longer (7, 8, 9 letters) fill in the grid. Low word count of 72 explains why the grid looks like it’s for a themeless.
- 48a. [Time, for one] is a DIMENSION beyond 3-D.
- 57a. The BEARCATS are a [University of Cincinnati team].
- 9d. [Creator of a popular six-color puzzle] is a fresh RUBIK clue.
- 11d. [Paid (for)] clues SPRANG, as in “I sprang for our lunch.”
- 40d. ZETA PSI looks crazy in the grid. It’s a [Fraternity founded at New York University in 1847].
- 42d. An AIR BALL is a [Hoops embarrassment].
- 43d. [Caught one’s breath] clues TOOK TEN.
- 54d. [When Tony sings “Maria”] is a specific but non-Shakespeare clue for ACT I for a change.
Four stars, despite some ugly 3s (TSE!).
Impressed, very, with Patrick Berry’s feat of crossing so many long entries side to side and top to bottom… not huge fun but ’twere well done! Didn’t know JOSEY Wales or the EASTERN PROMISES but the missing S was obvious enough. P D JAMES (Baroness James of Holland Park, as of 20 years ago) is one of my favorite mystery writers, but The Children of Men set in 2021 was an odd departure from her beloved Adam Dalgleish series; I had no idea it was made into a movie! And SILICON brings back a satisfied grin, reminding me of a show-off who did himself in by smugly referring to “Silicone” Valley in the wrong company…
The intricacies of the crossing 15s didn’t register with me until I had already finished; very smooth fill considering the constraints (and I liked GENERALS crossing SERGEANTS in the SW). Usually if there’s a 15-letter movie title it’s the first long answer I get, especially if it’s from the past decade, but Eastern Promises was the last thing I filled in this time. Never got around to seeing it, even though I loved A History of Violence, so it had faded to the back of my mind. I like when themeless puzzles dredge up memories of entertainment and popculture that is recent, but just old enough so that it’s been forgotten.
Got Eastern Promises right away, and I thought I was going to breeze through the rest of the NYT. Aside from initially having PD JAMES as Ruth RENDELL, it all fell smoothly, including the post-positive SURGEONS GENERAL, but I absolutely stalled in the whole center section. I really need a Harry Potter cheat sheet. Is quidditch a kind of nude fight?
Had trouble with the 1a in the WSJ too, believing for some reason galena was the name of an ancient Roman GENERAL.
EASTERN PROMISES was a complete unknown and I needed every cross in it. Didn’t know PD JAMES from the clue either. I’m also kicking myself for forgetting Hermione’s last name, resulting in a typo in a crossing there which made it look really weird, and took me a while to ferret out. If she knew that she’d probably turn me into a ferret, but oh well. ‘Scuse me while I slither under a door.
Pretty cool puzzle though. Really challenging.
@pannonica: Nude quidditch? Sure. “Is that a Nimbus 2000 broom between your legs or are you just happy to see me?”
LOL @ Amy + pannonica—Ladies, you’ve opened up a minefield of innuendo that would cause any self-respecting wizard to blush and, um, conceal his wand.
So, to return hastily from the nude quidditch field to the groves of Academe : TERRA ALBA is also postpositive, pannonica, though one expects that in any Latinate tongue, of course. Latinate tongue? No, I meant Romance language. No, I meant….;-)
Re CS: As I stumbled along with my solve, which would inspire no one, I somehow had M____DAY for 47A, ‘Reward for a job well done’. I hereby declare that MERCYDAY is, from now on, an actual thing, one accruing to CPAs this time of year.
The LA Times theme is original and fun.
ha! amy, i can tell that EASTERN PROMISES left a profound impression on you. at least that one scene, anyway. :) me, i’ve never heard of it, but that was the one blemish on what i thought was an excellent puzzle overall. i mean, if you’re going to stack and interlock 15s, you might as well keep everything squeaky-clean and then put the fun into the clues.
i loved matt matera’s LAT theme. as MG says, original and fun. BFF SKINNER is, like, six different kinds of awesome. EMT FORSTER is actually rather apropos, since he volunteered for the international red cross during WWI.
galena, by the by, is a lead ore (PbS, to be precise). no iron to speak of. but yes, i immediately slapped LEAD ORE into the grid and was somewhat chagrined when none of the crosses worked out.
I didn’t recognize EASTERN PROMISES either. (I have a feeling about four people went to see it.) Also didn’t know the Hogwarts answer. Yet very nice grid indeed, and surprisingly easy given the long answers. My last to fall was the SW with ALBA, SUBPART, and ERASMUS.
I loved seeing HERMIONE GRANGER in the NYT grid!
Matt Matera – awesome job on the LAT. I got it at BFF, which I thought was very funny.