Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “Take It From the Top” — pannonica’s review
I’m not able to relate the puzzle’s title to the theme, but I understand how the theme entries—all downs, is that relevant?—work. Each is a phrase beginning with a verb in the indicative mood, its meaning twisted and clued in the new sense.
- 3d. [Gets up for the debate?] STANDS TO REASON.
- 7d. [Beats it and won’t explain why?] GOES WITHOUT SAYING. If the crossword was in a different venue, this one may have been clued more along the lines of…
- 8d. [Proof that a “Jersey Shore” character has an incontinence problem?] DEPENDS ON THE SITUATION. Here the verb has been repurposed as a noun. Please, oh please, tell me that those people are fictional characters.
- 13d. [Arrests an entire crime syndicate?] RUNS IN THE FAMILY.
- 33d. [Eschews Mensa material when going to parties?] DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS.
- 42d. [Contents of Lenin’s Tomb, e.g.?] REMAINS TO BE SEEN. Verb to noun again.
- 50d. [Merits at least a 20% tip?] SERVES YOU RIGHT.
Quite a bit of cleverness and elicited smiles from the themers. Was it just me, or did the cluing seem pitched a little tougher than usual for a Sunday? More equivalent, say, to a Friday rather than a Thursday? My solving time reinforces the feeling.
Plenty of long non-theme answers in the grid. 24a OPENING NOTES, 26a SENT MESSAGE (see also 29-across, two clues later), 32a ED GRIMLEY (unwelcome blast from the past), 100a PEACE SIGN (“V” in clue reminded me of 22a X-MAS TREE), 107aTURN ON A DIME, 110a AS SWEET AS PIE (not an expression I was familiar with).
- Liked the symmetrical pair of RUSTY and RASPY at 42a & 91a.
- Some UK action: 70d [Flat flooring] LINO, 97a NON-U.
- UAE and OAS in the same puzzle? Hm. 118a & 92a.
- I think I’ve seen this connection before in puzzles, and it’s never sat well: 9d [Heady stuff] ALE, 120A [9-Down holder] STEIN. I think of ales as historically British, served in pint glasses or tankards, while Germany, where steins originate, is primarily known for lagers, pilsners, and weissbiers. Any readers authoritatively knowledgeable on the subject?
- nb: 99a [ __ Park, classic Coney Island amusement locale]. The original LUNA Park was in operation from 1903 to 1944, but a new one was opened last year as part of the ongoing renovation and supposed rehabilitation of the area.
- USSR and TASS. 37d & 1d.
- The aforementioned difficulty level of the clues includes some relatively obscure but edifying facts and some well done crossword wordplay and the artfully ambiguous. A few examples:
- 15a ATTILA slayed his brother Bleda.
- [Queen City of the Rockies] HELENA / [Queen’s land] SHEBA. 20a & 95a.
- 69a [Plant known as “seer’s sage” because of its hallucinogenic effect] SALVIA.
- 55a [Times __ ] ROMAN.
- 79a [An instant] SANKA.
- 121a [Pickup line?] GET IN.
- Trio of odd four-letter names: RAZR, EHLE, HOGE. 91d, 119a, 20d.
And with that, this write-up, much as 67a [How some cars screech], comes TO A HALT.
p.s. Good puzzle.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Another Lovin’ Spooner-ful”
This week’s offering has a fun spoonerism theme (spoonerisms being those sound swaps like “Claudia’s a great bed-breaker” when “Claudia’s a great bread-baker” was meant):
- 23a. [Good day’s work for a termite?] = CHEWING THE DOORS. (Doing the chores.)
- 36a. [Where Mr. Stein does his calculations?] = BEN’S MATH ROOM. (Men’s bathroom.) Would rather have used a different Ben—Affleck, Franklin, Bernanke, Vereen—since Ben Stein turned so awful (comparing Darwinists to genocidal Nazis in his documentary about “intelligent design”).
- 42a. [Soup kitchen snoop?] = NOSY LITTLE COOK. (Cozy little nook.)
- 61a. [Your one-stop sinus shop?] = NASAL HUT. (Hazelnut.) I love it!
- 69a. [Best way to deal with life’s frustrations, to a badminton coach?] = GO WHACK ON YOUR BIRD. (Go back on your word.)
- 81a. [Globe Theatre’s nickname?] = BARD HALL. (Hardball.)
- 95a. [Symbols of Jimmy Buffett’s Florida?] = PARROTS AND KEYS. (Carrots and peas.) Ooh, smooth.
- 103a. [Fat Albert?] = THE PAUNCH LAD. (The launch pad.)
- 120a. [“Greet” women, sailor-style?] = HOOT FROM THE SHIP. (Shoot from the hip.) Good one.
Since Merl includes “only” nine theme answers (usually he’s got a lot of thematic content), the grid has some wiggle room for longer answers like SNITCH ON, DEHYDRATE, MANCHURIA, HIERARCHY, and SNIGGERED.
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 81”
Really nice themeless. The 11/13/15 stacks are superb:
- 1a. [Good feature for a letter], or renter, is ample CLOSET SPACE.
- 12a. A CHOCOLATE MALT is a [Parlor purchase]. I prefer a maltless shake.
- 14a. [“Holy Sonnet 10” opener] is John Donne’s DEATH, BE NOT PROUD.
- 50a. [Its regular features include “Hot Plots Preview!”] is not, alas, referring to a cemetery trade journal. It’s SOAP OPERA DIGEST, my favorite crossword answer all week.
- 53a. A PROMENADE DECK on a cruise ship is a [Walk on water?].
- 54a. [“That just proves it!”] = “I REST MY CASE!”
Clues of note:
- 36a. D MINOR is a [Key that’s an anagram of a neighboring answer]. Just above it at 31a, we have NIMROD.
- 18a. [Iron-workers’ guild?: Abbr.] clues the PGA, as golfers can be considered workers who use irons such as the five-iron.
- 20a. [Painter whose style was called “tubism“] is Fernand LEGER. Never heard that term before; apparently it was derisive.
- 23a. [Cave back?] clues CANEM. Cave canem is Latin for “beware of the dog.”
- 34a. A BERET could be considered an [Ingredient in French dressing?], along with the French words for PANTS (45a. [Acts like a hot dog]) and shirt.
- 41a. [Batter after Cooney, Barrows, Flynn and Blake] is CASEY, mighty Casey. Boy, I hope he gets a hit. We really need one. Speaking of ballplayer names, I enjoyed Ben Zimmer’s latest “Word Routes” column about Marc Rzepczynski, Yuniesky Betancourt, and more.
- 2d. LOTTO is a [Game with balls never handled by those who play]. The balls are those randomly sucked out of a machine to serve as the winning lotto numbers.
- 7d. A STONEMAN is a [Mason’s co-worker]. You wanted Perry Mason, didn’t you?
- 28d. [They affect the heights of punts] clues TIDES. Punts are boats.
- 35d. A TANGRAM is this [Seven-part puzzle]. You can play at that pbdkids.org link, making a rabbit out of the triangles, square, and parallelogram.
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Gee Whiz” – Doug’s review
Greetings, crossword fans. Doug here with the good old Sunday LA Times. First, a note on my solving times. I don’t post them because I generally don’t time myself. Amy’s a little faster than me, so add a minute to her time and you’ll come close to mine. I mention this because some of you might be compiling spreadsheets of such information. (Jeffrey?)
I like the constructor’s name today, because if you replace “th” with “m” in her last name, it makes “Umlaut,” and who doesn’t like umlauts? Now you see why I don’t time myself. I’m easily distracted.
The theme today is as basic as it gets. Nuthin’ but a G thang.
- 22a. [Potentially comforted by a bottle of Beefeater?] – GIN CONSOLABLE. It bugs me a little that the base word, INCONSOLABLE, is split into two for the G pun. Well, it’s a funny answer, so I approve.
- 34a. [Place for a complainer?] – GRUMBLE SEAT.
- 57a. [Forty-niner after a lucky strike?] – GOLD YELLER. Are you aware that there’s an Old Yeller brand of dog food? Bizarre. Did the marketing department ever see the movie? I buy Aristocats cat food sometimes (another Disney pet food tie-in), but I don’t remember any cats being shot in that film. Maybe in the director’s cut.
- 68a. [Christian path to salvation?] – GRACE TRACK. Clever clue.
- 89a. [Stagehand splitting his sides?] – GRIP ROARING.
- 107a. [Like a baseball player who couldn’t find his way to the field?] – GLOVED AND LOST. Are we allowed to make baseball jokes here? Because this clue can only be referring to Manny Ramirez.
- 16d. [Ineptly prepared mess hall offering?] – GRUB THE WRONG WAY.
- 42d. [Man at the altar yet again?] – GROOM FOR ONE MORE. It would fit the clue better if it were ONE MORE TIME.
A solid, if unremarkable, set of theme entries. A couple of chuckles and no groaners.
- 20a. [Lively Baroque dances] – GIGUES. Huh? I tried GALOPS first, because it’s a kind of dance (I think) and sounds pretty lively. This was toughest the section of the grid for me, because I also drew a blank at 26a with LEILA, the [Rescued orphan in Byron’s “Don Juan”].
- 72a. [Celtic, for one] – CAGER. Did you ever wonder why basketball players are called cagers in crossword puzzles? It’s goes way back to the early days of pro basketball, around the turn of the 20th century. The court was actually surrounded by a cage. Weird, eh? The practice died out in the ’20s and no one remembers it nowadays, so I’m going to propose a new clue for CAGER: [Fan of odd-looking actor Nicolas]. Constructors & editors, take note!
- 17d. [Taxpayer’s crime] – EVASION. If you’re a taxpayer, can you also be a tax evader?
- 51d. [Inquisitor __ de Torquemada] – TOMÁS. British crossword constructors, called setters, are often published under pseudonyms. I knew Torquemada was one of the first, and Wikipedia tells me that “Torquemada (Edward Powys Mathers, 1892–1939) was the first setter to use cryptic clues exclusively and is often credited as the inventor of the cryptic crossword.” That’s an awesome pseudonym, and I’m sure his puzzles delivered the pain. In U.S. crossword circles, Bob Klahn would make a great inquisitor Torquemada.
- 98d. [Rouen remainder] – RESTE. Looks suspiciously like Franglish to me.
- 91d. [Wrestling legend Dan and others] – GABLES. This is a test to see if PuzzleGirl reads this blog.
Today’s puzzle rating: 3.25 stars.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s hard to write about Bob Klahn’s puzzles, especially when he constructs the weekly freestyle that is the CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge. I could recount my plodding through the grid, desperately seeking toe-holds, only to be rebuffed at nearly every turn. I could paste a nearly-empty grid to show you my progress at the eight-minute mark. I could list all of the false starts I made and all the entries I didn’t know (special shout-out to MALLE and ART GUM). I could simply tell you it was hard.
But the problem with writing about Klahn puzzles is that once you’ve finally slayed the dragon, conquered the mountain, or overcome whatever metaphor of choice, you look back and think, “Well, of course that was the answer.” Ultimately, the puzzle isn’t hard–I’m just an idiot.
The first time you confess that to the English-reading world on a blog, by the way, it’s rather liberating. Suddenly it’s not so embarrassing to make mistakes, miss theme entries, fail to grasp the theme, miss-spell words, or commit another of the several crossword blogging sins. You know that regular readers will just shrug and say, “I give him credit for trying, the poor idiot.” Subsequent confessions of ineptitude don’t sting nearly as much.
But back to the point. More than any other constructor, Bob Klahn knows how to vex a solver with tenacious clues that simultaneously offer very little assistance and very great rewards. Yet the blogger is reduced to gushing some variation of “Isn’t that a clever clue” and “Jeebus, that took me a long time to figure out” over and over again, beyond the point of repetition and past the point of redundancy. And therein lies the difficulty in blogging one of these puzzles. How many times can one both damn and praise a clue before it starts to sound like the Solver Who Cried Wolf?
So let me try this: two lists, one under the heading of “That was clever” and another entitled “That was tough.” Before doing so, though, let’s pause for a moment to admire the open 70/34 grid. I’m crushing on the big box of white squares in the middle, and the triple-stacked 11s along the west and east borders are just superb (and it’s not like the triple 9s in the northwest and southeast are sub-par, either). It makes for a grid that’s both intimidating and irresistible.
Okay, let’s start with “THAT WAS CLEVER”:
- Did you notice that [Semi liquid] was missing an important hyphen? Me neither, and that’s why I struggled with DIESEL OIL.
- WHAT A MESS is a great entry, and its clue is equally fun, [Sputter re clutter].
- [Take back the lead?] works for ERASE if you know the clue’s last word rhymes with said and red.
- I think we have seen this before, but [Switch positions] is indeed a clever clue for ONS.
And now for “THAT WAS TOUGH”:
- [Land the “prince of harpooners”] still makes no sense to me as the clue for NED. Any help?
- At times I had CIGAR LEAF and SUGAR LEAF as the [Monolith at the mouth of Guanabara Bay] before finally uncovering SUGARLOAF.
- [It helped pick things up] is a great but tough clue for a TV ANTENNA.
- I’m guessing it’s a deep-sea fisher-person that would [Use a fighting chair] in order to ANGLE. Fresh-water anglers wouldn’t need to use a chair for leverage, I wouldn’t think.
- I like trivia clues, so I don’t mind [He was juror #10 in “12 Angry Men”] as the clue for ED BEGLEY. But it was still hard.
- The MONONGAHELA is always a tough spell for a west coast boy like me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Commentary” — pannonica’s review
The delightful, loose and playful theme of this week’s puzzle is turns of conversational turns of phrase that turn out to be self-referential in their new interpretations. Too bad Across Lite rendered them all in straight quotes rather than
turny curly quotes.
- 27a. [“Can anyone unlock this door?’] OPEN QUESTION.
- 30a. [“…o’er the ramparts…”] KEY WORDS. Francis Scott Key.
- 42a. [“Hello, is this Glenn?’] CLOSE CALL. Glenn Close. Telephones induce pronoun trouble.
- 46a. [“Gotcha, you rascal!”] CATCH PHRASE.
- 65a. [“First rise, then balance on two feet”] STANDING ORDER. The clue sounds more like an instruction than an order.
- 73a. [“Captain Hook’s had a bad week”] OFFHAND REMARK. I see what they did there. Smee-hee.
- 94a. [“What goes around comes around”] CIRCULAR SAW.
- 98a. [“I secretly spiked it”] PUNCH LINE .
- 113a. [“Well, I’m stuffed”] FULL TERM. Constitutes a double entendre if you’re in the habit of speaking British English.
- 116a. [“Put your John Hancock right here”] SIGN LANGUAGE.
Very enjoyable, these IDIOMatic entries (124a). Amusing and well-realized. The ballast fill maintains the lighthearted tone, with some fun puns and casual tie-ins.
- 83a. [“Zwei” preceder] EINS is located not far from 79d [‘”Zwei” follower] DREI.
- 10d. O CANADA lies close to the themer at 30-across, whose clue quotes the national anthem of the United States.
- 62a PIRACY is near to the Captain Hook themer.
- The woven intersection of SWAMI, SUMAC, PUMA, AMUSE ME is visually pleasing, although the last entry is a tad troubling in the way its clue [“I need to hear a joke”] mimics those of the themers. See also 21a CHILL, 31d WITH, and 86d DON’T. None of the four needed to be written that way, and it would have made the puzzle that much stronger on the whole if they hadn’t.
- Nifty the way HYMNALS and CAROLER parallel each other at 4d and 15d. Their complements in the lower half of the grid, COLLODI and LEGUMES don’t have a similar relationship, but are very nice nonetheless.
- Not thrilled with ON TAP and ON ICE in the same puzzle. 10a and 29d.
- 52a [Willful?] TESTATE. An old pun, but I still like it.
Overall a fun and breezy crossword.