Charles Deber’s New York Times crossword, “State Annexation”
It finally happened. The Scowl-o-Meter went off too much and my face stuck that way.
The theme entries all have cross-referenced clues, sending you on a wild goose chase to some small answer on the other side of the grid. Take the two-letter postal abbreviation for the state whose capital is given in the theme clue, and add it to that short word over yonder; the theme answer provides a definition of that new combo word. EXCITEMENT is HOOP+LA. GARDEN TOOL is SPA+DE. OPERA SINGER is TEN+OR. CONCENTRATE is EXTRA+CT. SPLIT-SECOND is RAP+ID. PODDED PLANT (yes, PODDED; do not adjust your TV set) is LENT+IL. BIRTHSTONE has a nonspecific, one-of-about-20-stones connection to TOP+AZ. MORAL TENET is DOG+MA. SMOOTH FABRIC is SAT+IN. And EASTER ANIMAL (yes, really) is BUN+NY. I’m rarely a fan of themes in which the theme answers are the sorts of phrases that generally belong in the clues column.
Sheesh, I need some Botox. I keep going all frowny. There were a number of off-putting answers in the non-theme fill that made me GROUSE. For example, AS TO COST, clued as [Regarding the price]. No, no, no. Not in the language as a stand-alone phrase. LED PAST feels a bit random verb + prepositiony. ISELIN, the [New Jersey town bordering Rahway]? I daresay Natick, Massachusetts, is more broadly famous. AS A MAN? Both UNHEALED and UNTASTED? Italian POETI? GUN STAND? An ELOPER? The only entry of 7+ letters that I actually liked was RASPUTIN.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “A Month To Remember”
Easy puzzle, but not an easy theme to figure out. I read and reread the theme answers and could not see what they had in common. I read the puzzle’s title again, looked back at the theme entries, and still didn’t see what was going on. CHINESE CLEAVER stuck out. Who ever talks about a “Chinese cleaver”? “Month to remember”… that took me to remembering ’50s TV shows and Beaver Cleaver, and then it finally clicked. Last names! Each theme entry includes the last name of an important figure in American history who might be spotlighted during Black History Month (which is now—the shortest month of the year). A-ha!
- 20a. [Certain slicer] = CHINESE CLEAVER. Click through if you want to learn more about Eldridge Cleaver, author of Soul on Ice.
- 35a. [Halloween artist] = PUMPKIN CARVER. George Washington Carver, Hall of Fame inventor. Can you think of 325 uses for peanuts? He did.
- 51a. [Attractive one] = HEAD-TURNER. Nat Turner‘s Rebellion.
- 72a. [Arroyo filler] = FLASH FLOOD. Okay, I confess my ignorance. Who’s this one? Grandmaster Flash?
- 86a. [Stirs embers, perhaps] = STOKES THE FIRE. Carl Stokes, first African-American mayor of a big U.S. city?
- 105a. [Coaster settings] = AMUSEMENT PARKS. Rosa Parks did more than just keep her seat on that bus, you know.
- 15d. [Vacation in name only] = BUSMAN’S HOLIDAY. The great singer Billie Holiday.
- 45d. [“Titanic” director Cameron’s self-description on Oscar Night] = KING OF THE WORLD. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Merl used to include any necessary hints in an Across Lite notepad but instead makes use of the first and last clues here. After 1-Across’s clue, it says “NOTE: This puzzle’s theme is explained after the last Down clue.” And after 107-Down, Merl says, “February is Black History Month.”
3.5 stars. Not much to talk about outside the “Wait, what’s happening here?” theme.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Oof. Once again, I made this puzzle a lot more difficult than it had to be. Let’s recap the three categories of clues found in this crossword–the tricky, the ones I made tricky, and the ones that just deserve mention.
First up, the tricky ones. I’ll offer these:
- Anytime you have to offer an anagram to help a solver out, you know either the word or the clue is tricky. So [Convocation of witches] had me thinking COVEN until I saw the rest of the clue, [(anagram of a Hitchcock hotel)]. Well, that’s the BATES Hotel from Psycho. But what’s the anagram? ESTAB? TABES? BETAS? SETAB? Nope, it’s ESBAT. Of course.
- A [White-crested diving duck] is a SMEW? Who knew? I got it through crossings. Phew!
- I’ll argue that [Game piece?] is a tricky clue for SECOND HALF, even though I’m sure many of you had no problem with it. The question mark had me thinking that the wordplay centered on “game,” so I was thinking of things like ANTLERS and CALVES. But I couldn’t get anything long enough to fill all the squares. Maybe that’s because the wordplay involved “piece.” I was supposed to think of a piece of a game, like the SECOND HALF of a football game. I wonder if there’s any football on TV today….
- Okay, I can’t be the only one who fell for the misdirection in [Outburst that the teens provoke?]. Sure, I wondered why the clue referred to “the teens” instead of just “teens,” but I guess I should have wondered a little more thoroughly. The teens here are low temperatures, not adolescents. That’s why BRR makes sense. The outburst my own stupidity provoked needed four squares instead of three.
- This last one is nothing short of devious, but it was my favorite clue of the puzzle: [Illustration, for example] is a Clue of the Year nominee for SYNONYM (“illustration” is a synonym for “example”).
Then there are the clues that were not especially tricky but which proved hard for me:
- A [Gullywasher] is a TORRENT. “Gullywasher” is a word I’ve heard, but I guess I’ve never considered its meaning until now.
- I just couldn’t accept STRAW VOTE as a [Caucus tally]. I read the “tally” as being more formal and final than just a straw vote. This might have something to do with the fact that I have only lived in states that conduct primary elections instead of caucuses. (Cauci? Caucci? Cock-eye?)
- I soooo wanted the answer to [Strand at the lodge, perhaps] to be ICICLE. But there were only five squares, not six. That lead me to think the answer had nothing to do with ice or snow. It didn’t help that ROC, the [Enormous elephant eater of myth], was just not coming to me. I had to work my way backward to get ICE IN as the lodge stranding. I still want the answer to be ICICLE.
- Turns out the [“Eternally nameless” Eastern concept] is TAO and not ZEN. Oops.
- It took way too long to think of an OPTICIAN as the [Person who works on specs]. Naturally, I fell into the trap of reading “specs” as “speculation projects.” Given all the traps I sprung during this solve, I’m surprised I have no bruises.
- Turn around! Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and I can’t think of the artist for a particular song. Turn around! Every now and then I get a little tired of having a song stick in my mind when I don’t remember who’s singing it. Turn around! Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that I can remember lyrics but not artists. Turn around! Every now and then I get a little bit terrified that even with two of the five letters in place, a surname I should know will just elude me. Like forgetting Bonnie TYLER as the [“Total Eclipse of the Heart” singer].
- I don’t know the MAKO, the [High-leaping shark], but Wikipedia says they are real: “The shortfin mako’s speed has been recorded at 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph) with bursts of up to 74 kilometres per hour (46 mph). They can leap approximate[ly] 9 metres (30 ft) high or higher in the air.”
- I know a “hornet’s nests” and a “bird’s nest,” but MARE’S NEST is much, much less familiar to me. You’d need a lot of straw to build a nest for a mare, no?
- Today on Gag Reflex, the cooking show that tests your limits, we’ll make Welsh RAREBIT, a variation on “Welsh rabbit,” which my dictionary defines as “A dish made of melted cheese, milk or cream, seasonings, and sometimes ale, served hot over toast or crackers.” That makes the clue [Cheesy dish with ale] perfectly legit, but…ugh. Just ugh. Here come the dry heaves now…
Finally, the clues that are too good not to mention:
- I liked [Last call?] for TAPS. Not the happiest of images, perhaps, but it struck me as clever.
- [It’s in the middle of Venezuela] clues the letter ZEE found right in the middle of the word “Venezuela.” We see this kind of clue all the time, but it continues to amuse me. I’m like the infant that laughs at the same stupid pratfall or funny noise, even the twelfth and thirteenth time.
- [You’re either up to it or out of it] is a fun clue for DATE. Now that I’m engaged, I’m certainly not up to date (anyone else). So I guess I’m out of date.
- [Where you might find the time] is a great clue for your WRIST.
- As is [Have trouble with one’s balance] for OVER-DRAW.
When it takes you longer to solve a puzzle than to write a blog post about it, you know it’s just not your day. Better luck tomorrow, I hope!
Frank Longo’s Washington Post Puzzler No. 96 – Jeffrey’s review
Hello puzzlers! Yes, it is a Super day today. I’m Jeffrey and I am thrilled to be back! It was totally my idea to return to regular blogging. It had nothing to do with the settlement reached to end the breach-of-contract lawsuit between me and FIEND INC.
Let’s see what Frank Longo and editor Peter Gordon have for us today in this 68-word themeless offering.
Longo’s Long answers:
- 1A. [Heed Checker’s advice] – DO THE TWIST. Part of the settlement says I can only link to 3 music videos per puzzle. Yike, one gone at 1-Across.
- 15A. [“Ash Wednesday” and “The Hottest State” novelist] – ETHAN HAWKE
- 17A. [Potential result of teasing] – FRIZZY HAIR
- 33A. [For nothing] – AT NO CHARGE – hey, that part of the settlement is supposed to be secret!
- 39A. [American bill collector?] – US CONGRESS
- 58A. [Occupation imposition] – MARTIAL LAW
- 61A. [Piper product] – LIGHT PLANE
- 63A. [Swamped by] – KNEE DEEP IN – I’m no expert but that looks like a partial to me. Also needs some hoopla. Video number 2.
- 12D. [Storm water collector] – RAIN BARREL
- 13D. [45°, for 1] – ARC-TANGENT
- 14D. [Kings’ place] – LOS ANGELES
- 25D. [A challenging opponent, say] – NO PUSH OVER
- 26D. [Anchorage setting] – ALASKA TIME
- 27D. [Like some eyebrows] – PENCILED IN
- 20A. [Waterloo’s whereabouts: Abbr.] – ONT. I used to live in London, ONT so you won’t fool me with Southwestern Ontario clues.
- 21A. [Dancer director] – SANTA. If this was a Doug P puzzle, the clue would be “He appeared on the cover of Batman #27”. But it is a Broadway clue instead. The musical “REINDEER” never caught on, despite the tagline “Bigger Than Cats!”
- 22A. [Hypothetical legal cases for discussion] – MOOTS. Which is backward for STOOM. Missed me, didn’t you?
- 29A. [Perkins competitor] – IHOP. Victoria has neither. There is one Denny’s. And a bazillion Tim Hortons.
- 57A. [American League MVP after Boog] – VIDA. Boog Powell, VIDA Blue. I knows my 1970s baseball.
Mysterious people who could be made up for all I know:
- 19A. [Chief Justice Roger who delivered the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case] – TANEY
- 24A. [Hungarian prime minister Viktor] – ORBAN
- 25A. [Mathematician John who invented logarithms] – NAPIER. If this was a Doug P puzzle, the clue would be “Actor Alan who played Batman’s butler Alfred”.
- 36A. [1998 Tour de France winner Marco] – PANTANI
- 41A. [“Asterix” comic book writer Goscinny] – RENE
- 43A. [“Paula’s Best Dishes” host] – DEEN
- 50A. [Colorado county east of Pueblo] – OTERO/37D. [No-no for Olympians] – ANDRO. OTERI/ANDRI is just as good except for being wrong.
- 5D. [Catalytic converter?] – ENZYME/ TANEY – ENZEME/TANEE is much worse but somehow appeared in my solution.
Video number 3, 45d. [Female R&B group with six top 10 hits in the 1990s] – XSCAPE
**** stars. See you soon. Maybe even tomorrow! Same Bat-time, same Bat-blog
Henry Hook’s Sunday Crossword, “Deutsch Treat” — pannonica’s review
This week we get a whirlwind tour of Germany, courtesy of the Punnsylvania Dutch. Yes, I went there. Sorry. But it does bring up a minor gripe: it’s bad enough that Dutch and Deutsch (German for “German”) have long been confused; I wish people who know better wouldn’t perpetuate the misunderstanding, even for the sake of minor cleverness. Aber genug! Weiter…
- 24a. [Bipolar Germans?] MUNICH DEPRESSIVES (manic depressives).
- 32a. [Item in a German well?] OLD AACHEN BUCKET (Old Oaken Bucket). The original phrase seemed a random object to me, but it’s the name of a venerable college football trophy.
- 57a. [“I can’t believe it!” in German?] SAY IT ESSEN SO! (Say it isn’t so). Quibble: since the answer is mostly in English, I think it would have been better if the clue had instead been worded “in Germany.”
- 66a. [German hero of the Old West?] COLOGNE RANGER (The Lone Ranger).
- 77a. [How successful Germans make money?] HANNOVER FIST [hand-over-fist]. Also the name of an erstwhile professional wrestler.
- 99a. [Like German brides?] ALL DRESDEN WHITE (all dressed in white).
- 112a. [How Germans decorate at Christmas?] WITH BOUGHS OF HALLE (…of holly).
- 3d. [Sweet German treat?] HONEY BONN (honey bun).
- 82d. [What the German sentry did?] STUTTGART (stood guard).
I don’t begrudge that in all cases the anglicized names of the cities are used (vs. München and Köln, specifically); although less snobby, they’re still the better-known versions among English speakers. My favorites among the themers are HANNOVER, DRESDEN, and—with a caveat—STUTTGART. A caveat because, despite its cleverness, it’s distinct from the others because (1) the place name is in its entirety the entry, and (2) the base phrase is significantly less of a stand-alone “thing” than the others: it’s just a verb phrase.
- In the same perpetuation-of-falsehood vein, I take issue with 4a [17-year locust, e.g.] CICADA. Although both are insects, they’re from completely different orders, Orthoptera and Hemiptera. Factette: while the sound made by locusts and their allies has a specific name, stridulation, that of cicadas (which is produced in a completely different manner) does not, as far as I know. My preferred poetic term for that particular phenomenon is crepitance.
- Favorite clues:
- 21a [Refrain from farming?] EIEIO. Almost one of those “classic clues” (cf. 29a [Time to give up?] LENT), but this seems to be slightly reworded, and fresh.
- 39a [What a grouch is out of] SORTS.
- 1d [I will often follow this] AITCH. Letters!
- 8d [Happy companion]. DOC. I was misdirected, thinking of wealthy, wise, go-lucky, etc. Dwarfs!
- I also appreciated these minimalist clues: 10d [Sounding] DEPTH and 55a [It’s all the same] MONOTONY.
- Names! First, a rogues gallery of crossword regulars: NIN, ROALD, ELIAS, RAISA, ASWAN, SPIRO, BAEZ. Honorable mention to lesser-seen lights DREBIN, DUNNE, LUIGI. Also, kind of nice to see the relatively rare two-R GARRY [Trudeau or Kasparov].
- Prefixes! Suffixes! Partials! XYLO-, TACHO-; -ISH, -ERN; A RAIL, A LOON, IN TOO, E IS*, I WERE, A DEATH. All in all, not too bad, if a little heavy on the partials. *I hereby call for a moratorium on all Sue Grafton titles—especially partials—in crosswords.
- Explanations! 27a [Sales pitch!] for CREAM PIE might be mysterious, until you realize it’s a reference to Soupy Sales. 14d [Emmy actress?] ROSSUM (Emmanuelle Grey Rossum, b. 1986). 91d [Lumber mill fodder] SAWLOG, which I didn’t know was a word; unsurprisingly, it’s defined as “a log of suitable size for sawing into lumber” (m-w).
- Did not like: RNAS, plural. DTH (DTh, Doctor of Theology). MEANEST and LOOSEST in the same puzzle, especially since they lie along each other (at 76d and 94d); despite being a 21×21 puzzle and the clues using different superlatives (most and least), I feel as there should no more than one of these in any grid. Can’t really justify why.
- (Relative) obscuriana! These were my last fill-ins, these crossings: CANIO/OMAROSA/ASHLARS, and ROENTGEN/EOLIA. Similarly, these two were tough, but the crossing fill made them easy: ALENCON, EWART. nb: No etymological repetition between 9d ASHLARS and 1a ASH, as the former derives from the Latin axis. and the latter from the Old English asce, for arid.
Mark Bickham’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Undercover Copse” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Today’s theme is trees, lots of trees. Twelve trees to be exact. Isn’t that one of the plantations in Gone With the Wind… Nope, I just checked, and the Wilkes plantation is called Twelve Oaks. Remember that, because it shows up every once in a while in a clue for OAKS. I’ve seen bits and pieces of Gone With the Wind over the years, but never the whole movie. I figure it’s about ten hours long, judging by the various scenes I’ve seen. Anyway, back to the trees. Twelve theme entries + a TREES entry is impressive. And four pairs of theme entries intersect. Very nice.
- 26a. [*Supercorporation’s revenues] – GLOBAL SALES.
- 32a. [*Lithium or sodium, e.g.] – ALKALI METAL.
- 45a. [*House arrestee’s device] – ANKLE MONITOR. As part of his plea deal with FIEND, Inc., Jeffrey has to wear one of these now. It’s one of the new 50,000-volt models. Very stylish.
- 55a. [*One blowing off steam] – TEAKETTLE.
- 79a. [*Having one Corkonian parent, maybe] – HALF-IRISH.
- 90a. [*Liable to spontaneously combust] – SELF-IGNITING.
- 101a. [*”Gypsy” star] – ETHEL MERMAN. Another movie/play I haven’t seen. Isn’t Gypsy a stripper? Ethel Merman as a stripper? Sorry I missed that.
- 108a. [*Freud essay based on a mythical monster] – MEDUSA’S HEAD. Is that the one where you fall in love with your mom while she’s having a really bad hair day?
- 3d. [*Cereal pitched by a trio] – COCOA KRISPIES. This confused me, because I thought the Cocoa Krispies mascot was an elephant. Fortunately Wikipedia has an extensive section on the various Cocoa Krispies mascots. And it has more details than the Medusa’s Head article.
- 16d. [*Popular music magazine VIP] – SPIN EDITOR. This is the only theme entry that I found to be iffy. But it’s not awful, and I can’t think of anything else that’s 10 letters long and can cross 32-Across.
- 60d. [*Place to go to launch in Florida] – CAPE CANAVERAL.
- 74d. [*”Dallas” character who died in Pam’s season-long dream] – BOBBY EWING.
- 69a. [Different ones are hidden in 12 starred answers] – TREES.
A few more entries that caught my eye.
- 7a. [Eponymous German aeronaut] – ZEPPELIN. The theme entries take up a lot of real estate, but Mr. Bickham still found room for a zeppelin. I like that it’s floating at the top of the grid.
- 66a. [“The Story of Civilization” co-author Ariel or Will] – DURANT. Ariel & Will, there’s a new Durant in crossword town. Make way for NBA stud Kevin Durant.
- 9d. [Toon Le Pew] – PEPE. Which Looney Tunes cartoons were worse? The ones with Pepe Le Pew or the ones with the boxing kangaroo that everyone thinks is a mouse? Young Doug was always very disappointed when either of those came on.
- 112d. [Marble not used as a shooter] – MIB. Huh? I’m not up on my marble terminology.
- 120d. [Little biter] – NIBBLERS. Oh man, too bad this isn’t the singular NIBBLER. Then they could have used a Futurama-inspired clue: [Cute little pet whose feces are used as starship fuel]. That passes the breakfast test, right? I could post a video, but I’m afraid Jeffrey has reached our video quota for the day. And I’m already pushing my luck with two pictures. I don’t want to be fitted for a new ankle monitor next week. The color might clash with the one I’m wearing now.
Mike Nothnagel’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”
Doug just asked when Arbor Day is (see two sentences above this one). Mike’s puzzle tells you the [Month when Earth Day is celebrated: Abbr.], and that’s APR. Guess what? Arbor Day is close by. Earth Day is April 22, and Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, which is the 27th this year. Shouldn’t these days be separated by more space so people don’t forget the trees? Who’s going to remember the trees a few days after Earth Day?
Mike’s theme is cartoon babies:
- 15a. STEWIE GRIFFIN is the megalomaniacal [Baby son on “Family Guy”: 2 wds.]. Meg is the teenage sister. There’s a middle boy, but I forget his name. Brian’s the dog.
- 32a. MAGGIE SIMPSON is the [Baby daughter of Marge and Homer: 2 wds.], Bart and Lisa’s little sister.
- 47a. IKE BROFLOVSKI is the [Baby son of Sheila and Gerald on “South Park“: 2 wds.]. He’s Kyle’s little brother.
Favorite answers: Slangy SORTA, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-TIP, G.I. JOE (just saw a preview for the upcoming G.I. Joe movie, with Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, ninjas, and maybe robots or aliens, I’m not clear on that), KOOL clued as [“With it,” in many rappers’ names] (though I can only think of Kool & the Gang and Kool Moe Dee at the moment), THEO freshly clued as [Chicago Cubs exec Epstein], and the generally mockable K-FED.