Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s a bit nutty in that it’s got three answers that I’ve just plain never seen before, and I could scarcely believe they were right despite what the crossing answers suggested:
- 28a. OOFY? [Rich, in slang]? Cursory Googling suggests this is British or Wodehouse-influence. Have you ever seen this word before?
- 29a. There’s a Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club in my neighborhood, and that and the Kit Kat candy bar with two K’s just look so much righter than KIT-CAT CLUB. That’s an [18th-century London political/literary establishment].
- 27d. KLABERJASS?? A [Trick-taking game]? I read a little about the card game here. In a 1990 klaberjass tournament, the players’ registration money “was used to buy various large hams and sausages for prizes for the winners.” Are you listening, Will Shortz? The ACPT could be a total sausagefest!
I can’t say I knew that CLAM BROTH existed, really, nor that there’s an EVIE Wilcox in Howards End, but at least their spellings were familiar.
Favorite answers in this 66-worder include three full names: LANCE ITO and HERB ALPERT (a classic album cover with the whipped cream outfit! Did my dad have that album when I was little?) and AL UNSER. BAD LOSER, HANG LOOSE, and “BE THERE!” are fun. The book ANIMAL FARM, a classic.
I like the clue for 18a: RESINS, [Two of the three gifts of the Magi], because this afternoon I wrote a similar RESIN: [Frankincense and myrrh, but not gold].
Not wild about a bunch of the short fill (-ICS, ETDS, ESSE, SRS, ANA) but it wasn’t getting in the way of solving the long stuff, nor was it making me frown. (That was OOFY and KLABERJASS’s job, to so perplex me that I was honestly surprised that my first submission was correct.)
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Solid themeless puzzle with a lots of decent fill (though not much in the “wow!” category) and only a couple answers in the “bleh” family.
- 32a. [Chubby Checker’s real first name] is ERNEST. I dunno, I would’ve stuck with Ernest if I were him.
- 38a. [Its motto is Latin for “Always prepared”: Abbr.] clues the USCG, or Coast Guard. I wonder how many Boy Scouts gravitate toward the Coast Guard.
- 61a. [Five-time 1970s Phillies All-Star shortstop] is BOWA. Bleh. Sure, Barry’s a Phillies fan. But I’m not! And I paid zero attention to baseball when I was growing up; that’s how my dad raised me.
- 65a. [Singer/actress discovered by Mahalia Jackson] is DELLA REESE. Nice piece of trivia.
- 1d. [Joe Lieberman’s middle name] is ISADORE. Wasn’t sure if it was spelled that way or as ISIDORE.
- 2d. “C.C. RIDER” is a [1957 Chuck Willis hit]. I kinda think I don’t know this song.
- 6d. [Roxy Music alum] clues BRYAN FERRY, except that he doesn’t fit into three boxes so it’s his bandmate Brian ENO.
Top three answers:
- 15a. [Online identification] is a SCREEN NAME. I used to go by Orange.
- 10d. RETINAL SCAN is a [Biometric identification technique]. Never tried that out. I hear cellphones might be heading that way but what if you’re trying to be incognito in dark sunglasses?
- 24d. I haven’t seen HOTEL RWANDA, the [2004 historical film set in Africa]. I love that the movie’s star, Don Cheadle, appeared in another “Hotel” movie five years later, the family film Hotel for Dogs. It’d be a shame to put the wrong one in your Netflix queue.
Question for solvers, spurred by 12d: RAMADAN ([Fast time for many])—do you know about Eid, the Muslim holiday/feast that marks the end of the month of Ramadan? There was a big to-do on the Cruciverb-L mailing list about whether Americans generally do know (or should know) what Eid is. There are two Eid festivals on the calendar, and a U.S. postage stamp (available in 44¢ and “forever” denominations) for both holidays.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What Are the Odds?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s a nice number-progression theme from Patrick Blindauer. The five theme entries each contain an odd number, and they’re presented in order from top to bottom:
- 17-Across: ONE-LINERS are [Jokes like Henny Youngman’s]. I heard a great one the other day from Groucho Marx: “I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”
- 24-Across: THE THREE STOOGES are the [Stars of “Have Rocket, Will Travel”]. Is this where I confess that I’ve never really liked the Stooges? No, I don’t think it’s time to go public with that just yet.
- 37-Across: GIMME FIVE! Those might be [Words from the slap-happy?]. (Nice clue!)
- 55-Across: THE SEVEN SAMURAI is the [Kurosawa classic]. Like Kurosawa, I make mad films. Okay, I don’t make films. But if I did, they’d have Samurai.
- 64-Across: NINE LIVES are [What cats supposedly have]. Do not test this hypothesis with your own cat.
You know the theme is well executed when it feels that no corners were cut in the construction. The expressions feel natural and the surrounding fill has pings only the most sensitive and hyper-critical Scowl-O-Meter. And yet the numbers appear in order, there’s 57 theme squares, and there’s two triple-7s in the corners. Toss in goodies like PUNCH IN, ON TV, SMELLY, and SEWN UP, and you have a great all-around puzzle.
Stuff that would ping overly-sensitive Scowl-O-Meters? AER, THU, SCI, IWO, and DVI, none of which detracted at all from my solving. What got me were some of the traps deliberately set for me to spring. I had PROCEED instead of PUNCH IN for [Begin work, perhaps], and the crossing [Bronze, e.g.] was supposed to be ORE, not HUE. Oops. EMIGREE looked like the right answer for [Ellis Island arrival, once], but it turned out to be REFUGEE. And it didn’t help that I went all scatological when I saw the clue [No. twos]. That was just the innocent V.P.S, as in Vice-Presidents.
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
It took Doug Peterson hinting at his involvement for me to figure out the anagrammed byline. The letters in really appear in “Lars G. Doubleday,” but that turned out to be a dead end (Sally R. Stein = “it’s really S.N.,” Lila Cherry = “really Rich” Norris). Doug and Brad Wilber, both regular Stumper…ers on their own, have teamed up to make this puzzle, but I guess Newsday can’t accommodate a two-person byline beyond a certain length, so Lars G. Doubleday (anagram of Douglas + Bradley) was born. This circumvents the problem of who comes first in “Douglas Bradley” or “Bradley Douglas,” which are plausible names.
I liked this puzzle a lot, which isn’t surprising considering that I’m a fan of both constructors’ solo work. Highlights:
- 15a. Trivia! ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, is a [World capital built in the 1960s]. Didn’t know that.
- 17a. Did everyone in my generation read this creepy Gothic *SPOILER ALERT* sibling-incest series? V.C. ANDREWS is the [“Flowers in the Attic” novelist].
- 31a. Great entry! The GOOGLE DOODLE is a [Globally viewed birthday tribute, often]. On Thursday, the U.S. got an interactive turkey doodle, while other countries had a tribute to writer Stanislaw Lem, author of sci-fi classic Solaris—an interactive 5-minute cartoon.
- 38a. Pretty sure anyone without those crossings in place filled in BEAN BAG CHAIR for the [Furniture fad of the ’70s], right? I had a PAPASAN CHAIR from Pier One, but I didn’t get it until well into the ’80s.
- 57a, 62a. Same clue pulls double duty: [Someone following a beat may display it] gets you to both a DANCE STEP and a PRESS PASS. And here I wanted BILLY CLUB, for a cop on the beat.
- 13d. I was tickled by this one because I had the last letters in place before I read the clue. ***IEELS? MINI-EELS? And then it was ERNIE ELS, who is no eel.
Clue that confused me the longest: 39d: [Flamboyant boarder] for CORSAIR. That’s a pirate ship, or a pirate who might board a ship to take it captive. Apparently they were loud dressers?
Math mislead: 60a: [A little over 1%] means a little over 1/100th. NINETIETH fits the space, and fits the clue better, than EIGHTIETH.
No real grumbles. Four stars.