Barry “Where’s My Middle Initial?” Silk’s New York Times crossword
Hmm, this is the second recent puzzle byline that dropped a constructor’s customary middle name/initial. Who is messing with puzzle-makers’ brand identities? People are quite attached to their preferred name, you know.
I’m sleepy so I’m going to go random here:
FORT MCHENRY is star-shaped? NO-TELL MOTEL is great. The word SKULKS is great—with the SK-, I figured it had Scandinavian roots, but what I did not know is that the word has been with us since the Middle English era. Surprised that Cicero’s servant TIRO is so unfamiliar to me; with letters like that, he’d be in crosswords all the time if he were more famous. “I AM WOMAN,” hear me roar, and don’t mess with me. NEAPS is not a pretty plural, is it? Who was just complaining about PC LAB being an outmoded term? I wanted [Natal setting] to be something uterine or vaginal or nursery-related, but it’s SOUTH AFRICA.
Moving from Acrosses to Downs, I love a good RAT FINK. This household does enjoy The Deadliest Catch, but I needed some crossings to narrow down the type of crab to SNOW CRAB. SENARY?!? That’s a word? Meaning [Based on the number six]?? It’s new to me. Good gravy, it’s an unhelpful “Olaf clue”: [King surnamed Tryggvason] clues OLAF I. Just say [Norwegian king] and we’ll know it’s OLAF or OLAV (check your crossings, people), with an optional Roman numeral tacked on if it’s more than a 4-letter entry.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Who doesn’t like growing puns in an herb garden? Gareth reworks four phrases by swapping in sound-alike (or sound-similar) herb names for other words:
- 17a. [Means of turning an herb into energy?] is BASIL METABOLISM. A pun based on basal metabolism? Gareth is unrepentantly sciency.
- 29a. [Herb lovers’ chat organized by Sarah Palin?] is folksy CHIVE TALKIN’. That’s as good a way as any to signal the -in’ ending found in “Jive Talkin’.” Fox News commentator + Bee Gees = win. The clue should’ve omitted Palin’s first name, though, as SARAH is in the grid as 27d.
- 47a. [Herb eaten with a nightcap?] is THYME FOR BED. Wow, Google tells me there are a lot of B&B’s and inns that play on the thyme/time thing.
- 63a. [Remark on another encounter with an herb?] is “DILL, WE MEET AGAIN.” Like jive -> CHIVE, this one gently alters the initial consonant sound.
I don’t know who 2d: SIAN [Phillips of “I, Claudius”] is, but I’ve seen that first name spelling before. I might’ve guessed it was a male name, but Siân Phillips is a Welsh actress. She and her ex, actor Peter O’Toole, have two grown kids.
- 9d. Favorite clue: A [Single white male who likes the cold?] is a SNOWMAN.
- 1d. Second favorite clue: [They may be chocolate] for LABS, the dogs.
- Three cool entries, starting with 35a. [“The Gods Must Be Crazy” setting] is the KALAHARI Desert. Have you been there, Gareth? Have you neutered a rhinoceros there?
- 4d. [Discuss business, in a way] clues DO LUNCH. I much prefer a social DOing of LUNCH, but I’ll take it in the crossword any way.
- 46d. [Flake] clues ODDBALL.
- And I like the adjacent goddesses: 10d: HEL, the [Norse underworld goddess], and 11d: ISIS, the Egyptian [Goddess with cow’s horns]. HEL by herself in the grid = meh. As part of a gathering of goddesses, much cooler.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Revolving Bodies” – Sam Donaldson’s review
AS THE WORLD TURNS, the [Soap opera that ran for 54 years], may be gone but it is not forgotten. Today, Hartman uses the soap’s title as [a hint to 17-, 25-, and 43-Across]. That’s because each of those entries turns (anagrams) a synonym for world, with wacky clues to match:
- 17-Across: The [Typewriter roller for gorillas?] is PLATEN OF THE APES, a play on the sci-fi classic, Planet of the Apes, that rearranges the letters in PLANET to form PLATEN. Here’s where my days as a typing teacher for a community education program really pay off. Yes, I’m that old.
- 25-Across: [Comedian George, in his senior years?] is GOLDEN GOBEL, a play on the Golden Globe award. Okay, I’m old but maybe not that old, because I don’t remember George Gobel having anything but senior years. My memory of him ties almost entirely to his appearances on the Peter Marshall version of the Hollywood Squares. One website credits Gobel with having this snappy answer to the question, True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years: “Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.” That’s comic gold, so to speak.
- 43-Across: [One who despises search engines?] would be a GOOGLE HATER (an anagram of the orbiting orb in Google Earth) and would presumably have something against Bing, Yahoo, and more too.
I like that the two Texas cities in the fill, WACO and EL PASO have parallel clues: [Home of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum] for the former and [Home of the National Border Patrol Museum] for the latter. My favorite clue, though was [Siamese cat?] for a THAI. I dig it, man!
The only really troublesome entries for me were ASIA and RIFF. ASIA was slow to fall because I’ve never heard of the thingie referenced in the clue, [Home of the Kara Kum]. The Kara Kum (also spelled as Karakum on many websites) is a desert in Turkmenistan. For the record, I’ve typed and erased five jokes here, none of which are appropriate for a TV-PG crossword blog. RIFF was a problem because the clue, [Trump], sent me down a number of paths–trump cards, Donald Trump, trumped-out charges, the works. And I confess I still don’t quite understand the clue. Anyone?
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dog Days”
The dog days are typically found in August, though July really gave August a run for the “oh, man, is it hot” money. Mike adds a CUR to the start of seven phrases, thereby changing their focus:
- 22a. [Airship wrapped around its mooring mast?] is a CURLED ZEPPELIN. When’s the last time you saw Led Zeppelin as the base of a little wordplay?
- 32a. [Joining others in swearing sprees?] clues CURSING ALONG. My friend Jodi’s kid just complained that it would be better if people didn’t swear because there are too many curse words to remember. Clearly, the child just needs a set of flash cards.
- 45a. [Only thing that should be on a pitcher’s mind?] is the CURRENT STRIKE. Did you notice that the U crosses 46d: [Decision maker at home], UMPIRE?
- 64a. [TV tryouts that have the fewest lines of dialogue?] are the CURTEST PILOTS.
- 76a. [One with just a touch of mal de mer, say?] is a CURABLE SEAMAN.
- 91a. Tailgates gets split in two for CURTAIL GATES, or [Keep Bill from giving away all of his billions?].
- 104a. [Two favorite things for a dance-party-loving cassis producer?] are CURRANT AND RAVE. I think this one would read a hair better in the plural, CURRANTS AND RAVES. It is hard to love a single wee currant.
I like the general openness of the grid, with a fair amount of white space and tons of flow between sections.
- I like the bulls and bears combo. 41a: [Bear, maybe] is a SELLER on the stock market. (Lotta those this week.) But 65d: [Like some bulls] heads in the PAPAL direction, not to Wall Street.
- HYDROGEN and HELIUM rock the periodic table.. 6d: [First item on a certain table] is the former, 55d: [Contents of party store tanks] the latter.
- 74a. [Musical Mars] is current hitmaker BRUNO Mars. His “Grenade” was inescapable this spring (my son requests the top-40 station in the car). I love the video.
- 1a. [Laugh from Beavis] is “HEH, HEH.” Didn’t I hear that Beavid and Butthead are coming back?
- 54a. [Defect] is a verb here, not the noun I took it as. JUMP SHIP is a terrific entry.
I was mildly surprised to see DOG ACTS (82d. [Performances by barkers]) in the grid when dog is in the puzzle’s title.
4.5 stars. The theme is eminently serviceable and has a cute tie-in with the month of August. Mighty smooth work throughout the grid (as you would expect from the constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley calls one of the “crossword Jesuses”).