Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword
Excellent puzzle from Joon. The theme takes familiar phrases ending with J-words and gently modifies the pronunciation to give you Z-words instead:
- 17a. Orange juice becomes ORANGE ZEUS with a “fake tans” clue. Famous orange people outside of Hollywood include Donald Trump, John Boehner, and the Oompa-Loompas.
- 24a. A phone jack becomes “PHONE ZACH.” I am charging the batteries in my shiny new set of cordless phones with Bluetooth capability right now.
- 38a. CONSERVATIVE ZOO plays on Conservative Jew.
- 48a. Blue jeans, BLUE ZINES.
- 59a. Cookie jar, COOKIE CZAR.
See what these all have in common? Crazy spelling shifts. All the J- and Z-words rhyme but are spelled differently. I like the consistent inconstancy.
Lively fill includes the DOBRO guitar, Joon’s BYLINE, the band WEEZER, USAIN Bolt, TIME ZONE (and I don’t know how people in China call the other end of the country on business—do they have 9-to-5 workdays that begin hours before sunrise in one end of China? Or do East and West have staggered start times?), OSTRACIZE, and a land called HONA-LEE.
Never heard of a VESTEE and could certainly do without RELET.
Interesting new tidbit of knowledge: TICO is a colloquial term referring to a native of Costa Rica, clued via analogy to New Zealand/Kiwi. One of my cousins is married to a tico and another is engaged to a tico, and yet I did not know this word.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 41”
I loved this puzzle. Smart, interesting, fresh, and blissfully giving the Scowl-o-Meter a break for the week. Peter even threw an extra row into the grid at no extra charge.
Idiosyncratic listing of highlights:
- REBOOTS with a misleading clue
- CARAVAN with a Brit clue
- N’DJAMENA, my favorite capital with an apostrophe
- The use of “preantepenultimate” in the THOSE “…were the days” clue
- HAY FEVER with a clue word ([Pollenosis]) I’ve never seen before
- MANATEE, because I’ve seen manatees up close
- CROWBAR as a verb
- DENSELY populated cities (like mine)
- Showy can-you-remember-your-French-spelling BOEUF BOURGUIGNON
- I Love Lucy‘s VITAMEATAVEGAMIN followed soon after by JELLO SHOTS
- AVERY FISHER Hall (not Arsenio)
- AHA clued as the ’80s band with, inexplicably, a 2009 album release
- Quaint old word NAPERY
- BONGO, one of the top world-leader names of all time
Rather easier than I was expecting, truth be told, but I had such a good time solving the puzzle that I don’t begrudge it its dechallengification.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
- 20a. [Choir members during the sermon?] – SINGERS WAITING, instead of SINGING WAITERS. The ERS and ING swap positions. Fault! 61d. [Rev.’s speech] is SER., which is right in the theme entry clue. None of that, please.
- 24a. [Grocery employee dealing with a shortage of shelf space?] – STOCKER STUFFING. I like this image. Wait – this time it’s not plural. Double fault – this is not going well for those who expect strict themes.
- 47a. [Top sellers sealing the deal?] – CLOSING PITCHERS. Back to plural.
- 53a. [News-hound’s sign-off?] – ROVER REPORTING. Cute again, but back to singular again, too.
- Richard DYSART, of L.A. Law – not Harry Hamlin (who fit in the grid) or Corbin Bernsen (who didn’t). Looks like he was also in Pale Rider. Not sure if you could clue him any other way.
- Toots SHOR (I kid you not!) is the New York restaurateur with a self-named lounge. It was a celebrity hotspot like the 21 Club. Fun fact: Shor himself once outdrank Jackie Gleason at his establishment.
- YASIR Arafat is the Peace Prize winner, but I bet you’ve heard of him.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “That’s Fine” – Sam Donaldson’s review
If today’s post seems under-researched, it’s either because: (1) they always seem that way; or (2) I’m flying to parts unknown on a plane unexpectedly without WiFi, and by the time I have internet access I’ll be too tired to research the things I don’t know. I’m always a little concerned when an airplane’s WiFi system breaks down. It makes me wonder what other electronic functions are disabled, and that’s not very comforting at 30,000 feet. So with some nervousness and embarrassment, I give you today’s CrosSynergy review.
As the puzzle’s title would suggest, Grabowski gives us a total of four names and expressions ending in particular particulates:
- 17-Across: The [Pseudonym of an 1800s French feminist noted for scandalous behavior] is GEORGE SAND. This was completely new to me, but I suppose it’s safe to say that her work went against the grain.
- 30-Across: To [Fail] is to BITE THE DUST. I’ve always enjoyed this expression, but I’m not entirely sure I understand the metaphor. One who falls might well “bite the dirt,” but in what context is someone or something biting dust?
- 47-Across: To TAKE A POWDER is to [Flee to avoid unpleasantry]. I believe this derives from the expression, “Pardon me, I need to powder my nose.” There’s an apparent correlation between unpleasant situations and the oiliness of one’s nose.
- 63-Across: The [Cosmetic company founder] is MARY KAY ASH. I always assumed Mary Kay was a full name, like pro golfer Luke Donald or “The Simpsons” producer Al Jean. I’m aware that some people don’t like names or trivia in their puzzles, but learning little factoids like this is part of the entertainment I derive from solving crosswords.
I like how the theme entries balance with two names and two colorful expressions. Highlights in the fill include SIDE BET, the [Secondary stake], IPSWICH, the [Massachusetts town famous for its clams], and DIET RITE, the [Soda brand].
On the suboptimal front, SLEEP LAB, the [Site where shuteye is studied], feels a little contrived to me. Two other entries struck me as awkward: my answer to [Like bumper-to-bumper traffic, mostly] would be STOP-AND-GO, not just STOP-GO, and I grew up thinking the [Giggle] was spelled TEE-HEE, not TE-HEE (why short-change the T and not the H?). Finally, I wasn’t a fan of AME, the [Soul, to Sartre]. I get that it’s crossword-friendly with its 2:1 ratio of vowels to consonants, but I can’t imagine anyone finds it very entertaining.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “LBJ”
Matt solving time: 8:03 (with theme foreknowledge, yet Amy will still beat me)
After solving this puzzle you’d probably guess that Brendan had the title first and conjured the theme entries up second. But no! He bounced some theme entries off me yesterday afternoon on Gchat, and then we spent a couple of minutes titlestorming. I was impressed this morning to discover that BEQ had come up with “LBJ,” a title so perfect that it looks like it came first.
The theme is a change-a-letter, that old standby, wherein the theme L’s become J’s (no extraneous non-changing L’s in theme entries, a delicate touch). So we have:
- 19a. [ATV that requires you to say a Hail Mary before starting the engine?] is a JEEP OF FAITH. I used to own a car like that. Lots of dealmaking with the higher power.
- 24a. [What “bupkes” means, literally?] is NOTHING TO JEWS. Excellent.
- 41a. [What stalkers do?] is JERK IN THE SHADOWS. I bet there were less skeezy ways to clue this, but I did laugh.
- 51a. [Two people Rickrolling at the same time?] is HYPERTEXT JINX. Scrabbly.
- 63a. [Overpowered Minute Maid dispenser?] is a JUICE CANNON. Scary image. I’d have phrased it [Way too powerful Minute Maid dispenser?] since “overpowered” has its own meaning.
All these are from good to very good, plus there are five of them, so a thumbs-up on the theme from me.
I was surprised to see the word count and black square count at the limit (78/40), since I’d guessed I was solving a 74-worder. The many theme entries give it a wide-open feel. Brendan is known for his three-pointers (fill with 7, 8 or 9 letters) but in this game he punished relentlessly with 10-footers instead: ADHD, FTW, AD FEE, AJAX, PICNIC and JAPAN are all nice.
Some good clues in there, too. I’ll pick one: [Out-of-style do?] for DOST at 47-a. One more: [Spun wax]for DJED at 35-d.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Music Industry Connections”
This terrific theme plays the “before and after” game with rappers whose names end with a letter pronounced as itself, merging them with familiar phrases that begin with that same letter:
- 17a. [Long Island holiday honoring a famous local MC?] might be CHUCK D DAY, merging Chuck D and D-Day.
- 29a. [Cardigan worn in the video for “Cop Killer”?] is an ICE-T TOP.
- 48a. The A Team joins M.I.A. in M.I.A. TEAM, [Entourage of a British/Tamil rapper?].
- 62a. [Biography of a member of NWA?] clues EAZY-E BOOK. If he released his memoir, surely it would be available for Kindle and Nook.
- 11d. [Snazzy outfit for the singer of “Regulate”?] clues WARREN G SUIT. Never heard of him; apparently his biggest hit was in ’94. Given name Warren Griffin, ergo he did not create his hip-hop name in honor of Warren G. Harding.
- 25d. Combine L.L. Cool J with the Jewish dating site and you get L.L. COOL J DATE, or [Dinner and a movie with the lyricist for “Mama Said Knock You Out”?].
Note that (1) there are six theme entries, (2) all are rappers, and (3) the clues all point you towards the rapper and the phrase. Consistency! Good.
- 1a. [Part of Minnesota’s MOA] is MALL, as in Mall of America. I was there once, but it was before Marbles: The Brain Store had opened up shop.
- 36a. [Private member?] clues WANG. Private privacy levels do tend to vary, don’t they?
- 57a. [Pipsqueaks] are SHRIMPS. The seafood’s plural sounds better without the final S, doesn’t it?
- 30d. [People often file out during them] is a solid clue for movie CREDITS.
- 34d. [Gathering of the Juggalos band, for short] clues ICP. The Juggalos Gather where Insane Clown Posse plays.
4.5 stars for excellent theme execution.