Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
Hey, there seems to be a Wednesday puzzle in the Friday puzzle slot.
This puzzle was operating in the red right from the start, with 1a and 1d being a plural first name and a plural abbreviation (EMMAS, ESQS). You have to work overtime to prove yourself, crossword, when that’s what you open with. ADZE and SIM in the same corner had me fearing a junkapalooza (which AGARS, I MET A, EDSEL/EDEL, ASTA, and SAAR did their best to fulfill).
Overall, though, I landed in the positive zone. The puzzle’s a pangram by virtue of excluding the letters in 36a: BOX, [Enclosure…and an alphabetical listing of letters not appearing elsewhere in this puzzle’s answer], from the rest of the grid, which includes the other 23 letters of the alphabet. I didn’t go through the alphabet finding letters in the grid. Just eyeballed it and figured out which vowel was missing, thought about enclosures that would fit in the BOX, confirmed no X in the grid, and boom.
Highlights: QUIZMASTER, JUST MY LUCK, DEEP-SEA DIVER, ANIMAL FARM, and KITSCH. The medical editor in me likes the two-parter 9/12d: [Lidocaine delivery option], DERMAL PATCH.
Question: PSAT is often clued along the lines of [Ordeal for juniors]. Surely I’m not the only nerd who took the PSAT sophomore year, moving on to the SAT and ACT junior year?
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Granted, most people who solve the L.A. Times crossword don’t also tackle the New York TImes puzzle, so they won’t have seen Liz Gorski’s February 20 Sunday puzzle last year. Same gimmick: Three black squares in a row stand in for the word BAR. In the Gorski, the BAR was sometimes just those letters (as in barTLETTPEARS). Today’s puzzle is better in that the BAR is always a stand-alone word, so you wander around the grid feeling vaguely unfulfilled by vaguely wrong clues until the BAR thing hits you with the “Oh! That’s what’s happening!” moment. Six answers run into the BARs. (The BAR answers are GRANOLA BAR, BAR GRAPH, SALAD BAR, BAR MITZVAH, OXYGEN BAR, and BAR HARBOR.)
Today’s puzzle is also worse in that there are six other three-block black bars in the grid that don’t partake in this game. So you’re thinking “BAR ASIAN? ARAL SEA BAR? What??” But only the zigzag in the middle counts, and three bars hooked together don’t really look like bars anymore. So I’m torn. I like the gimmick to a degree but wish the grid design had excluded other three-block chunks.
Likes: Weird Al YANKOVIC, ON THE WEB, ZEALOUS, and YAHWEH‘s echo (not to be confused with [Danish shoe brand] ECCO) of the BAR MITZVAH.
Note that there’s no mention of a bar in the clue for NO I.D., [Reason for being denied a drink]. Remember when Domino’s Pizza (I think it was Domino’s) had that “avoid the Noid” ad campaign? I’m glad it died a much-needed death. What were they thinking?
Harvey Estes’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “At the Drop of a Hat”
Cute theme—the HAT is dropped from each of the theme entries in the top half of the puzzle, only to land smack-dab in the theme entries in the lower half. Like so:
- 23a. “That Old Black Magic” becomes TOLD BLACK MAGIC, or [Related stories of sorcery?].
- 36a. [Where to find bronze guys?] is MAN TAN ISLAND, a hatless Manhattan Island.
- 54a. “What in the world?” becomes WIN THE WORLD, or [Get everyone on your side?]. A good goal!
- 16d. BURY THE CHET is rather grim, no? [Inter Atkins?], eek. Is he dead? Yes, he is. My husband’s taking a bluegrass flat-picking guitar class right now, so he’s all about the classic country/bluegrass guitar legends and we’re watching this Chet Atkins video. Atkins is phenomenal, but the guy in the sparkly white get-up sticking his butt out is highly distracting.
- 81a. Time to put the HATs back on. [Hyphenated name for Teri and Chaz?] would be HATCHER-BONO. Of course, nobody ever much called Cher “Cher Bono,” did they?
- 97a. [Guys supporting Gandhi?] are MAHATMA’S BOYS, building on mama’s boys. Love it! Makes the whole theme worthwhile.
- 117a. [Legions promoting intolerance?] are HATRED BRIGADES, not to be confused with the Red Hat Society.
- 65d. [Flirt with tortes?] clues CHAT UP CAKES. Mmm, cupcakes. But not the ones from those cupcake-centric bakeries with an inch of frosting on top. That’s too much frosting.
So, I’m lucky. I was always a fan of Harvey’s themeless puzzles and his humorous touch with cluing. I’ve been editing his puzzles for the Puzzle Pack, so I get to do four of his themelesses every month. (The other constructors in the current rotation include Lynn Lempel, Donna Levin, Ray Hamel, Vic Fleming, Carolyn (C.W.) Stewart, Alan Olschwang, Gayle Dean, and Pancho Harrison.)
Other good stuff in this puzzle includes ON THE ROCKS, NEBBISHES, and GODPARENT. Is anyone else eyeballing that stack and thinking about OBSCENE NEBBISHES tanning themselves ON THE ROCKS? I’m pretty sure they’re all naked. Do you not see the MEMBER at 13a? I also like the northeast, southwest, and central sections with lots of white space.
Anyone else muff the center left? I looked at 63a: [Starbucks order] and plunked in LATTE, which meant 63d: [Department store section] was LADIES. Yes, I know. It has been many years since any department store had a “ladies” department. You’ve got girls, juniors, misses, women’s, and petites, but no “ladies.” It’s MOCHA and MISSES, duh.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “This One’s For the Girls” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Quick recap: I have 5.5 points (of 8 possible) in my five-day mini-game where I guess the puzzle’s theme and constructor without reading the title and byline. I planned to solve this one on an airplane so I printed it out on paper. You never know if the wi-fi service on a plane will work. And besides, I need to get into training for the upcoming ACPT (less than two months!).
Given the bronco-busting ride that the pilot referred to as “light to moderate chop,” I’m pleased with my time. I’m not so sure the completed grid is legible, though. I certainly wouldn’t win the handwriting award!
The theme is easy enough—four common two-word terms in the form of “adjective/woman’s name:”
- 17-Across: The [Dessert similar to cobbler] is a BROWN BETTY.
- 66-Across: A BLOODY MARY is a [Spicy cocktail].
- 10-Down: BIG BERTHA is a [Golf club line]. The first driver I ever owned that wasn’t previously owned was a Big Bertha. Big Bertha had a tendency to hit slices, so she didn’t get much use.
- 36-Down: A [Scrabble-playing aid] is a DICTIONARY, a GOOD VOCABULARY, and, for this puzzle at least, a LAZY SUSAN.
I’m McLovin’ all the multiple-word entries in the fill, like I’M IN, I SEE, IN SYNC, ON TAP, BAY RUM (though I don’t think I have ever heard of this [Aftershave choice]), and LA PAZ. STEPDAD is a good entry with a great clue, [Mike, to Marcia, Jan, and Cindy]. That’s a clue that tells the story…of a man named Brady…who was busy with three boys of his own. NABOKOV is another great entry, even though the clue, [“Pale Fire” author], was of no help to me. And speaking of “no help,” neither [Casus ___] nor BELLI has any significance to me. If, like me, you wondered, “Who’s Casus Belli?,” you may be similarly chagrined to know it’s a Latin expression that, according to me dictionary, means an “act or event that provokes or is used to justify war.” So it’s proper to say that this entry and clue are casus belli.
I nailed the one point for the theme, but I lost the second point for naming the constructor. I went with Randolph Ross because, well, I’ve been guessing him at various points all week and I figured that, like the broken clock twice a day, I eventually had to be right. Alas, it was Raymond Hamel. Had I been given another four or five guesses, I might have nailed it. But I didn’t, so I finished the week with 6.5 points out of 10 total points possible. I had hoped to snag an 8, but maybe 6.5 is a good benchmark to measure against if i decide to play this game some other week. Tomorrow, the first thing I’m doing is reading the puzzle’s title and byline!
Michael Ashley’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Animal Pens” — pannonica’s review
Punny take-offs of well-known book titles, incorporating animal sounds. The clues share a common construction. Like so:
- 17a. [Updike book rewritten by frogs?] RIBBIT REDUX (Rabbit Redux).
- 23a. [Huxley book rewritten by cows?] BRAVE MOO WORLD (Brave New World).
- 40a. [London book rewritten by crows?] THE CAW OF THE WILD (The Call of the Wild).
- 51a. [Milne book rewritten by horses?] WHINNY THE POOH (Winnie-the-Pooh). Factette: The protagonistic bear was ultimately named for Winnipeg, Manitoba.
- 63a. [Gilbert book rewritten by donkeys?] EAT, BRAY, LOVE (Eat, Pray, Love).
It’s a cute theme with some nice highlights but of course I feel obligated to point out some inconsistencies or deficiencies as well. (“Did you ever notice how pannonica always points out shortcomings?”)
- First, it’s good to have a variety of creatures: one amphibian, one bird, and three mammals. Not the greatest variety, and two of the mammals are very closely related, but good enough, especially considering we don’t have too many words for the sounds of fish or invertebrates. But there definitely could have been some reptilian action with HISS/KISS (Hiss of the Spider Woman, A Hiss Before Dying, etc.) Perhaps something with an insect CHIRP or BUZZ?
- I’m very torn on the last themer. In the plus column, it’s a good pun and involves the only female author. In the negative column, it’s the only nonfiction work; it’s too new to determine if it has the staying power of the others, which are acknowledged classics; and, as mentioned above, it involves another equine sound, like its immediate predecessor in the grid.
- Last, it would have been better if all other words imitative of animal sounds were excluded from the grid. As it is, we see BARK and YELP as the first and last down answers. True, BARK is clued via trees and YELP, though clued as a sound, does not specify an animal and could be considered a human noise (not that humans aren’t animals). In fact, with SOUND appearing as the down answer in the northeast corner, I wondered if they all constituted supplemental theme content, but since the potential fourth and final member of the troupe is WELSH, I dismissed that idea. Also in the grid is GRR—similarly clued without an animal referent—which (unfortunately) made me think of The Grr With The Dragon Tattoo.
As an aside, it’s fascinating how other languages have decided to transcribe such utterances. A classic example is the cry of a rooster: cock-a-doodle-doo (English), kikeriki (German), quiquiriquí (Spanish), cocorico (French), ko-ke-kok-ko-o (Japanese), and u uru uuu (Turkish). In school I was told that such knowledge was once used in attempts to uncover spies during wartime, since such vocabulary was typically learned early in life and may not have been covered by more formal education. Here’s a table that gathers a number of imitative sounds from various languages. My all-time favorite is still Aristophanes’ idea of what frogs say: brekekekéx-koáx-koáx (βρεκεκεκέξ κοάξ κοάξ)!
There’s a lot of theme content, so not much long stuff in the ballast fill, aside from the fun BABY BLUES (the initially cryptic [Fetching peepers]) and BIATHLONS.
- Row One looks like an esoteric rhyme scheme BABA – AT BATS – ABS. Well, a little. To me.
- [Glastonbury __ (English landmark)] for TOR is new to me, and I’m not sure its obscurity (?) is worth the cluing novelty for this hoary ort of crosswordese.
- Other literature-flavored bits: ARAM Samoyan, Gay [Talese’s“__ Neighbor’s Wife”] THY, Horatio ALGER, ISAK Denisen, the river ALPH from Coleridge’s poem, Bernard [Malamud protagonist Roy] HOBBS.
- 31a [Debtor’s papers] IOUS. Also functions as the suffix in penurious and impecunious. Also a tasty sandwich spread and floor wax.
- [Card-game expert John] SCARNE was completely new to me.