Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
As soon as I told my husband “Puzzle time,” he turned the TV on and resumed watching the Scripps spelling bee. Well! I don’t have to tell you how distracting that can be, when the eyeballs looking at the computer screen can also behold the 50″ screen with a spelling bee on it. I mean, who can focus on the crossword under those conditions? That’s my excuse for why the puzzle kicked my butt.
And the bee is still on! It took forever to go from five finalists to four. These kids are insanely good at spelling. I’m still watching, so I won’t really be blogging the puzzle too much.
Loved BATES MOTEL, NEMATODE, ZOETROPE, and ESTRAGON. Don’t know who WALLY COX is. Liked the puzzle just fine and didn’t find anything to be unfair or trumped up. Scores a zero on the Scowl-o-Meter!
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Indeed, it appears that the Friday LAT puzzle has returned to its old difficulty level. I got used to it being easier so I find myself feeling a tad dumb when I struggle with the Friday puzzle. It’s not just me, right? The puzzles are tougher now? (Please say yes.)
Took me a while to cotton onto Pancho’s theme. Two-word terms that start with a word that rhymes with “eight” change the end of that first word to a /d/ sound:
- 17a. [Family member whose age is showing?] is a GRAYED UNCLE instead of a great uncle. Eh, “grayed uncle” isn’t really funny.
- 27a. [Horse-cavalry soldier who’s hardly capricious?] clues STAID TROOPER (state trooper). Wait, trooper = “horse-cavalry soldier”? I’m guessing that definition is on the antiquated side.
- 46a. [Aggressive drug enforcement strategy?] is a RAID INCREASE (rate increase). Hasn’t this clue heard the news? The War on Drugs is a failure.
- 61a. [Bride’s unraveling problem?] is a FRAYED TRAIN (freight train).
Hmm, none of these theme answers is particularly funny or surprising. It’s a bit of a letdown when that happens.
Lots of Googleable answers today (i.e., things that a great many people won’t know off the top of their head and that they’ll be tempted to look up). THAIS = [Massenet opera], [Tivoli’s Villa d’__] ESTE, STEROL = [Solid alcohol], ECCE = [Behold, to Livy], DR. LAO = [Traveling circus organizer in a 1964 film], OTHO = [First century Roman emperor], ELSA = [“Lohengrin” soprano], ANSE = [“As I Lay Dying” father]? These are all things I know from crosswords and crosswords alone. (Did you know the opera ones because you’re more cultured than I? Congratulations!) This is…not the sort of fill I look forward to finding in a crossword. The Scowl-o-Meter was going crazy today.
The highlights are to be found in the cluing:
- 37a. Water POLO or (Marco POLO) is a [Pool game, perhaps].
- 2d. [Knack attachment?] clues WURST, as in knackwurst. Totally had me stumped, I admit it.
- 11d. [Unsportsmanlike conduct] has a great answer, DIRTY POOL. Not the kind of pool as in 37a. (Unfortunate word dupe.)
- 26d. Horrible suffix answer, this –ERY, but the [Hatch back?] clue had me thinking hard.
- 29d. [Where some pairs are separated] is in the clothes DRYER. I have a reservoir of socks at the stag party in a laundry basket. Where did the other ones go??
3.3 stars. Those clues saved the puzzle from dipping into the high 2s.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Intoxicating Melodies” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Despite the heavy alcohol content in today’s puzzle, I think I finished this on paper in under five minutes, which for me would be a record. I can’t claim the record officially because I didn’t use a timer, but I found this to be very smooth, like a good scotch. The three theme entries are song titles that start with a potent potable:
- 20-Across: The [Subtitle of a 1979 Rupert Holmes hit (with “The“)] is PINA COLADA SONG. If you like pina coladas and gettin’ lost in the rain, if you’re not into yoga–heck, if you have half a brain–then this one was probably a gimme for you too.
- 38-Across: The [1939 Andrews Sisters hit] is the BEER BARREL POLKA. Roll out the barrel and enjoy!
- 56-Across: The [2004 Brad Paisley/Alison Krauss hit] is WHISKEY LULLABY. It probably helped that I’m a big Brad Paisley fan. His songs are often funny (check out “Me Neither,” “Online,” and “I’m Gonna Miss Her“) but this one is mega-sad even by country music standards.
Earlier this week, Amy observed that sometimes all you need are three good, straightforward theme entries and some juicy fill. This one fits the bill nicely. The theme is super-simple, and with only 43 theme squares in play, Peterson has room to flex his considerable skills in grid construction. Notice the unforced incorporation of three Xs and a J, along with great entries like FEEDBAG, IT’S A DEAL, OLD FLAME, FLEA COLLAR, TAPAS BAR, and TOM JOAD. The ALASKANS, those whose [flag features the Big Dipper], can see STALINGRAD, the [WWII battle site in southwestern Russia], from right next door, and how fitting that [Beyond tipsy] is the clue for JUICED. Another great Peterson puzzle!
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Elmer Fudd’s Business Dictionary”
You’d think a theme of Elmer Fudd pronunciations would be easy, but I had to work for this one. Part of it is that the first one didn’t use a W—while most of theme answers have a W or WH word, 23a starts with ONE. Here’s the theme:
- 23a. ONE (run) ON THE BANKS = [Solitary fisherman?]. Well, you’d never really talk about “a person on the banks,” would you? You can only be on one riverbank at a time unless your legs are long enough to straddle the river.
- 31a. WEEDING (leading) EDGE = [Sharpest part of a hoe?].
- 52a. WIFE (life) SAVINGS = [Rescues performed by brave husbands?]. A friend of mine and his husband are taking civil union vows today with 40 other couples at the Chicago History Museum. My best friend and her wife are waiting until the anniversary of their first date in July to enter into their civil union.
- 65a. WHISK (risk) MANAGEMENT = [Chef’s organization of beating utensils?].
- 82a. James BOND WAITING (rating) = [Sight you might see outside of M’s office?].
- 98a. BOTTOM WHINE (line) = [“Why am I always the base of hte human pyramid!”?].
- 112a. This one’s a twofer. WAGS TO WITCHES (rags to riches) = [Jesters, sorceresses, and everything between?].
Tight theme: All business lingo for the base phrases, with every L or R sound changed to a W sound. The results of the wordplay aren’t too funny, aside fwom making you pwonounce things wike Elmer Fudd.
Decent fill. I liked the ALPACA/LLAMA combo and SANTA ANA with ARTICLE V. Could’ve done with fewer “I” statements (I’M ON IT, I’M OKAY, I SEE IT) and without ATE LUNCH.
Wally Cox was the bespectacled nasal-voiced everyman of 50’s and 60’s TV. I remember him from the Hollywood Squares with his deadpan answers—what was that 50’s show he was in? Mr. Something-or-other… Difficult puzzle but fair with some wonderful misdirection (tho I have to say I’m not a fan of the singular DORITO) and three full names…
“…what was that 50′s show he was in?”
Very slow getting a foothold in the NYT but finally got the SE corner– then worked up and out from there. More names and clues-with-question-marks than I would prefer, but a good, tough puzzle overall.
I should have had Wally Cox, since I already had the X, but was thinking that Don Adams had been the voice of Underdog, and they have the same number of letters. Don Adams was the voice of Inspector Gadget, which my kids watched more recently than I’ve seen Underdog. Great puzzle – kicked me around in every corner!
And Scatman Crothers was the voice of Hong Kong Phooey, that other animated dog superhero.
CS: Not only are they song titles that start with a “potent potable,” but the titles also include a type of melody: song, polka, lullaby.
Don’t know Wally Cox? Someone grew up without watching daytime game shows! I had trouble with the NW corner of the Times. I never heard of PLEBS and I’m still not sure why OAT is a kind of milk, or did I misread it and it said meal? I’l have to go back and check.
Peedee, I watched a ton of daytime game shows when I was a kid. However! Cox died when I was 6 so he was largely before my time. No idea what OAT milk is. I had SOY and eventually changed it via crossings, and never saw that the answer was OAT. Perhaps Wally Cox liked oat milk?
Fabulous Friday NYT, though it took up more of my morning than planned! One more, I kept muttering, and then I might cheat! Made it all the way home though, with my last fill at SPACE AGE and EYES. Why eyes? Aha! Does that mean at both sides of nose bridges? LOL, I wanted something nautical like TYES. Twisty treat, DEEMED worthy OPPONENT!
Had Don Adams for Underdog like Jan before switching to Wally Cox, now am reminded by internet that he was on a segment of the same show as the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo.
NYT: The clues mostly bugged me, though I loved those for PSST, METRIC, OOZES and especially BATESMOTEL. Answer-wise NEMATODE was also a smile for me, who doesn’t love parasitic worms in their puzzles! No, really! [Aside, have you seen the teeth on Ancylostoma braziliense?] No idea about WALLYCOX either. Ditto RICHLITTLE (complete with clue that gave me hope that it was just a word, which I might know).
wally cox and marlin brando shared an apartment in their younger days.
oops! is’t marlon brando; not marlin like the fish.
How does a puzzle with things I know like WALLY COX, RICH LITTLE, ALOUETTE and
METRIC become my longest solve of the year? It’s all in the cluing.
I agree, Jeffrey. Rich Little is not the first thought across my mind when I see the words “great ape.” But it is accurate.
A bunch of French writers in the Oulipo group took the language of the Great Apes from the Tarzan books and used it to write poems and word games. The idea of something related to that being in the grid was flooding my brain until I remembered the advice of the cryptic crossword book to Ignore The Scenario.
I thought I’d never get a foothold in the NW, and I have to admit that with ACT and EXERTED, I leapt somehw or other to WALLY COX or never would have done it. Still, the crossing of OAT milk and the athlete doesn’t seem fair to me. I considered OAK, but neither made the least sense.
@Gareth: Re:(Aside, have you seen the teeth on Ancylostoma braziliense?) Ye gods! Not until now. Thanks, I have a newfound respect for our roundwormy friends.
Not as upsetting to me as Petromyzon !
Amy, I saw you were circulating the new Nation puzzle by email. Is there a URL?
John Haber: The Nation puzzle no. 3197
I understand the print-out from there might be bloaty, which is why Amy forwarded a one-page jpg. Should it be posted in (on?) the Island of Lost Puzzles?
Thanks so much. I wonder if we can nudge them toward a simple format for printing, such as Across Lite. Maybe unfair to ask, but you never know.
I don’t dare post a puzzle without permission of the copyright holder.
All they need to do is post a PDF that looks like the magazine page. If The Nation gets ad revenue based on page clicks on their website, you’d think they’d appreciate interest from nonsubscriber eyeballs.
I thought something like that might be a factor, which is why I didn’t do it, only asked! Whew. Should have been more explicit with a “could.”
I agree about the wsj.com grid. How can an Elmer Fudd-themed puzzle not be funny? To be fair, it must take some effort to not even elicit a smirk. This will be the first time in a while that I feel confident that NYT’s Sunday puzzle will trump WSJ’s weekend one.