David Liben-Nowell’s New York Times crossword
Hey, good puzzle. The theme’s built around famous people whose last names are adjectives with opposites:
- 17a. Martin Short inspires SHORT IS TALL. He’s not a tall guy, so he has to stand “next to a peewee” to look statuesque.
- 26a. I like this one, BLACK IS WHITE, because there’s a famous Jack White as well as actor Jack Black.
- 43a. [Comment about well-dressed pop singer James?] clues BLUNT IS SHARP. Not sure I’ve actually heard any James Blunt songs, but I know the name. Sharp is a last name too; Michael, do you have a cousin named James?
- 47a. Rich LITTLE IS BIG. No! He’s not big anymore! He was big in the ’70s but he keeps getting all that crossword action for his APING skills.
Lori Petty, Charlie Rich, Juliette Gordon Low, and Matthew Sweet are sad to be missing out on the theme action.
- 24a. [Campus area] is QUAD. This answer is wrong. Professor Liben-Nowell and I both know a rectangular campus area is properly termed The Bald Spot. (He teaches at Carleton, where I went.)
- 55a. Because I was such a big fan of Duran Duran’s album Rio in the ’80s, I have to love DURAN clued as the band “when doubled.”
- 61a. [Green, purple or red food] clues ONION. What, no love for the humble yellow onion?
- 64a. A SECRET is [Nothing to write home about?]. Indeed. A secret is something to hold a press conference about.
- I like all four 8s: SCRABBLE, OIL CRISIS, IN SUMMARY, and RAP MUSIC.
- 28d. SEURAT! I just saw his giant famous painting at the Art Institute. My kid couldn’t be bothered to enjoy the art but dammit, it’s time he became conversant on the topic of Claude Monet.
- 53d. I like [Glimmering] as a clue for IDEA. I was thinking shiny adjective and appreciated the misdirect.
- 25d. Who’s gonna use the word TWINER? And who’s gonna think of a [Hair braider, e.g.] as someone engaged in twining?
- 8d. CLAM DIP is a great crossword entry but seeing the term in the puzzle grossed me out. Breakfast test!
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Quick write-up because it’s late—how could I not watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s shows tonight? (The puzzle demanded it. LAWMAKER, LIARS, WOMEN, AMOUR, and HARD [G]? I’m AGOG!)
The theme is SPLIT PEAS, and the word PEA is split across two words in each of four theme entries:
- 17a. ROPE-A-DOPE
- 23a. SPACESHIP EARTH
- 37a. LANDSCAPE ARTIST
- 50a. GIVING UP EASILY
Two PE/A and two P/EA splits, and two two-word and two three-word answers. If you can’t do 100% consistency, 50/50 is the next best thing. Nobody likes to play “One of these things is not like the other” outside of Sesame Street. Didn’t notice earlier that there were three nouns and one verb phrase; four nouns or two of each would be a tad preferable, no? Granted, the majority of solvers out there aren’t going to brood about any of this.
The worst part of the fill is probably the word STYE, but nothing else really jumped out as “wow” or “eww” fill.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Big Bang Theory” – Sam Donaldson’s review
If a crossword can be “explosive,” then I suppose this one fits the bill. I’m sure it will give Boomers a thrill and ignite controversy among others. Handle with care, as Hartman gives us a grid containing TNT, clued at 65-Across as an [Explosive compound (and a hint to 20-, 37-, and 52-Across)]. That’s right, each theme entry is a three-word expression with the initials T. N. T. See for yourself:
- 20-Across: THERE’S NO TIME! Clued [“We have to act now!”], this starter entry has a great in-the-language feel. The clue works well too, though [“I see Newsweek, I see U.S. News, but where’s the other major weekly news magazine?”] is just as good, no?
- 37-Across: The [Gospels’ place] is THE NEW TESTAMENT. Not as zippy as the others, in my view, but perfectly legitimate. (By “the others,” I’m referring to the other theme entries and not to other testaments or religious texts. Calm down; no reason to start making analogies to Hitler in the comments.)
- 52-Across: THAT’S NOT TRUE! (That’s the final theme entry, not a rebuttal to the prior paragraph.) This one is clued [“It’s a lie!”]. I’m not sure it was best to go with another conversationally-toned clue here–now the straightforward clue for THE NEW TESTAMENT looks to be the odd one out. [Emphatic denial] is lackluster, perhaps, but pairing two conversational clues with one regular clue looks a lot more odd than pairing two regular clues with a conversational one.
It feels like there should be a fourth theme entry here, but I cannot come up with a good 15-letter one to pair with THE NEW TESTAMENT. I can’t use THERE’S NO TELLING because of the duplicate “there’s no.” TELL NO TALES (what dead men do, you know, besides rot) would be okay, but it’s not 15 letters long. So maybe this is the best we can expect.
Luckily, there are many gems in the fill-and-clues department. Here are some notable ones:
- I like SHOT GLASS, and the clue, [Whiskey holder, at times], feels very evocative to me.
- [Desire, for one] had me thinking of sins and other lewd activities (then again, it doesn’t take much to trigger that response). Instead, it’s a great clue for the other long Down entry, STREETCAR. Don’t you think, Stella? Stella? HEY, STELLA!!
- [Strip poker player in the buff, e.g.] is an edgy clue for LOSER. I like it.
- Having successfully cracked all the crossings, I didn’t see the clue for 32-Down. As I started this review, I wondered whether ST. OLE was a Norwegian saint or a Spanish saint. Um, that would be neither, as the answer is STOLE, clued [Ripped off].
- I liked [Split to unite] as a clue for ELOPE. I fell into what I’m sure was the intended trap for a few seconds, trying to recall cellular mitosis and miosis.
I confess that the title of the puzzle left me hoping for some reference to one of my favorite television shows of the moment. The Big Bang Theory is well worth catching if you haven’t seen it. No need to watch the series from the beginning–jump in anytime and you’ll be up to speed quickly. Enjoy!
Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword scheduled for release on 3 June but which was e-published on 6 June, “Arthur’s Copies” — pannonica’s review
Once lost in the mists of time, an ancient puzzle is uncovered! Unlike another Che, who was executed in Bolivia, this one seems simply to have been idly misplaced in some temporal slipstream. I blame Merlin, of course.
The 15×16 grid takes Arthuriana as its motif, with two 15-letter verticals flanking a 16-letter centerpiece, as well as some shorter thematic fill.
- 5d. [1973 children’s novel based on Arthurian legend] clues THE DARK IS RISING, which I’ve never heard of but was apparently successful enough to support four sequels.
- 7d. [1888 painting based on Arthurian legend] refers to THE LADY OF SHALOTT, specifically the version by John William Waterhouse which hangs in London’s Tate Gallery. The subject has inspired many artists over the years.
- 15d. [19th-century cycle of poems based on Arthurian legend] is Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s IDYLLS OF THE KING.
- 10d. PARSIFAL is an [1882 opera based on Arthurian legend] composed by Richard Wagner. It’s very graily and highly Teutonic.
- 43d. For a more recent work, there is the [2005 musical based on Arthurian legend]: SPAMALOT, “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
I appreciated that the five entries are clued in parallel, all ending with “…based on Arthurian legend.” Also nice is that they are different artistic endeavors—novel, painting, poem, opera, musical—although it can be argued that operas and musicals are not all that different; then again, that could undermine the distinction between prose and verse, so I’ll give it a pass.
A little disconcerting is the knowledge that Tennyson, author of “Idylls of the King” (15d) also wrote the ballad “The Lady of Shalott,” upon which nearly all illustrations and paintings—including Waterhouse’s (7d)—were based. Since the painting(s) are famous in their own right, with lives of their own, I’ll give this one a pass as well.
None of the entries (although it only potentially applies to two of them) drop the definite article to be clued as [with ‘The’]. Very admirable, but perhaps a double-edged sword, since, for instance, T.H. White’s much more well-known The Sword in the Stone could have replaced Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Alas, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon is 16 letters long; “Idylls of the King” is pretty much non-negotiable.
Something I unequivocally disliked was 31a, [Morgan __, Arthur’s sister]. What’s not to like about that? The fact that she’s technically his half-sister? No. The fact that it’s an odd, superfluous entry, not symmetrically counterbalanced by another at 53a. While it’s nice that constructor Brethauer inserted one of the female characters into the puzzle, I’d rather that it was either left out or paired with something else, perhaps UTHER or STONE. As things stand, it’s a distraction.
As for the rest of the fill, it was strong, varied, and mostly dross-free, although I kept wishing it all had a more sympathetically archaic flavor to it. Such is the way with immersive medievalism. The cluing was in general lackluster. Highlights of the fill include FLESHY, SESTINA, NIMBLE, KNELLS, BASALTIC, and the suitably old-sounding HYSSOP. It was a relatively swift solve, and if I’d done it on paper, you wouldn’t have seen my pen draggin’.
Last, I don’t understand the puzzle’s title. Why “copies”? Is there a joke or a reference I’m not seeing? Oh, never mind. I get it now (just before posting the write-up), that it’s a play on “author’s copies.” Meh, I don’t care for it, since there are painters, playwrights, and composers in the mix. I’d rather that ‘authorship’ in the wider sense hadn’t been used for the sake of a tenuous pun.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Crossword of the Decade”
Happy 10th anniversary to Matt’s Jonesin’ crossword! Matt celebrates by putting TEN into each theme answer:
- 18a. [Guy you see to solve your muscle connection problems?] is the TENDON KING, riffing on Don King.
- 20a. [Responses to “Has this been invented before?”] clues PATENT ANSWERS.
- 34a. [Journalist you can’t take seriously ’cause he’s just so gosh darn cute?] clues PRESS KITTEN. Thanks, Matt, for making today’s KITTEN a boy.
- 50a. [Poe poem about getting good reception with the girl of his dreams?] turns “Annabel Lee” into ANTENNABEL LEE. That’s just plain goofy. (I like it.)
- 54a. [Mound that leases out rooms?] clues TENANT HILL.
- 62a. [How old Jonesin’ Crosswords recently turned] is TEN. For a moment I thought this was asking in what manner the old puzzles turned. Left? Right? In a circle? Turned sour?
Who remembered that the BUTTOCKS is [Where Forrest Gump was shot]? I forgot and needed lots of crossings to convince me it wasn’t HAM HOCKS. But(t) once the word was exposed, I could hear Tom Hanks delivering that line in the movie. To JFK, maybe?
I thought 34d: [1987 3-D arcade game sequel] was going to be PACMAN IV but then the crossings told me it was PACMANIA. Don’t recall this game existing at all.
41d. [Main female character in “Swan Lake”] is ODETTE. Would you believe I saw a car whose vanity plate read ODILE last week? Crosswordese on wheels! Should’ve checked to see if it was a KIA, SAAB, or AUDI, the most popular makes in crosswords.
48a. [James in the Watergate scandal] clues MCCORD. Who? I think the Go Fug Yourself fashion blog refers to some young actress as Drunkface McCord. I’m not sure she’s more famous than never-heard-of-him James McCord.
42d. XINHUA is the [Official press agency of China]. Needed lots of crossings to piece it together, but it was recognizably right when all the letters were in place. Just couldn’t remember the name without the crossings!