Robert Wolfe’s New York Times crossword
You know what word I haven’t been using much lately? “Scowl-o-Meter.” Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to our old friend, the Scowl-o-Meter! I had too many of those “That’s a word?”/”Is that really a lexical chunk?”/”Ack, not both of those?”/”Wow, I don’t know that I’ve seen that Latin partial before”/”Yuck” moments. By category, here are the scowl inducers:
- NOT EASY, CHANCE OF SUCCESS, INTEND TO
- HESSE and ESSEN. Who among us doesn’t think of ESSEN when we find HESSE clued as a German place name rather than the German writer?
- IN HOC
- -IEST, IMRE, INRI, TORS
I do like I’M NOT INTERESTED, and the TOWER OF LONDON is great (forgot it was the [Traitors’ Gate locale] but I urge any of you who are planning your first visit to London to spend a few hours touring the Tower). My favorite clue is the one for the sport of LACROSSE, [The Cherokee deemed it good training for war]. The most perplexing clue for me was 13d: [Fat part] for LEAD; eventually I figured out that the LEAD role is a fat, meaty part in a play or movie. Classics answer I didn’t know, but many of you probably leapt on as a flat-out gimme: AENEAS, the [Heroic son of Prince Anchises].
I really wanted HAVE A GOOD MIND TO to be HAVE HALF A MIND TO. Would you rather have a good mind or half a mind to do something?
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “3-D Movies” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features four movies with 15-letter titles where three of the 15 letters are D’s:
- 17-Across: CROCODILE DUNDEE is the [1986 comedy with the tagline “The Wizard of Auz hits The Big Apple!”]. Crikey, that’s some strained wordplay.
- 32-Across: DUMB AND DUMBERER is the [2003 comedy whose subtitle is “When Harry Met Lloyd”]. I didn’t see the first one, so I passed on this one too. But this has to be the best title for a sequel ever.
- 38-Across: STAND AND DELIVER is the [1987 drama based on the true story of teacher Jaime Escalante]. I still remember the chant from that movie: A negative times a negative equals a positive. A negative times a negative equals a positive.
- 59-Across: INDEPENDENCE DAY is the [1996 sci-fi movie that won the Oscar for Visual Effects]. Have a giant spaceship blow up the White House and you’ve pretty much sewn up the Oscar.
I suppose it would be thematically consistent to give this puzzle a D. But to me it’s a solid A (and I’m not one of those teachers into the “grade inflation” thing). Look at those nice, open corners formed by having only one finger of black squares (a thumb, really) poking in through the top and bottom instead of the usual two.
Is the fill especially sparkly? No (though I’m kinda partial to TWEENER, VOTED IN, and SIT UP). But the fill’s as clean as a whistle. ALB, NEU, and NYS are the only compromises, and they’re not very noticeable. It’s the clues that really give the puzzle some oomph. My favorite were [Legendary book?] for ATLAS, [Used cars?] for RODE, [Sub station?] for DELI, [Bolivian capital that isn’t La Paz] for SUCRE, and [Hangouts for quarter masters?] for ARCADES.
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Decent puzzle with a smattering of fun stuff, such as:
- The Scrabbly SQUABBLE, QUICKEN, TERIYAKI, TEQUILA ([fun clue: 40d. [Only word heard in a 1958 song of the same name]), and LAMAZE. (Combine all five of these things for a really fun day—fight while doing the budget, make up over Japanese food and margaritas, and then head to Lamaze class.)
- The “wait, *IAA**** can’t be right” CIA AGENT.
- HEE-HAW, DOO-WOP, and MULLETS take us back a few decades.
- 30a. [Upright citizen?] is a playful clue for a PIANIST.
Raise your hand if you read 61a: [City near the Khyber Pass] when you had the final -AR in place and confidently entered KANDAHAR before having to change it to PESHAWAR. Peshawar is in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, in a strategic location. Kandahar is in Afghanistan and maybe the U.S. has military operations based there?
I confess I did not blast through the 1-Across corner, with all its scholarliness:
- 1a. PSYCHE, [Human mind]. Didn’t come to me until I had the S and H.
- 1d. PHILIPPI, [City where a Pauline letter was received]. The bible is one of my worst trivia topics.
- 3d. YEATSIAN, [Reminiscent of the 1919 poem “The Second Coming”]. I don’t know my poetry so at first I wondered is ELIOTIAN was a word.
- 22a. IPSO [__ jure]. Legalese? I know my IPSO facto but not IPSO jure.
Crosswordese (and words that are less familiar in daily discourse) watch: PINNA clued as a [Frond part] rather than, say, the outer ear; RILL; OCALA; UTA; REMOP (really?); and fragment LER (58d. [The Once-__: “The Lorax” character]).
Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (really by Stan Newman)
I had a little help on this one because the Crosswords by PuzzleSocial posted a clue on Facebook this morning—55a. [They’re hidden in some L.A. buildings], _I_R_G_—and I was so stumped by it I commented that it had to be from the Stumper. So “–Dan” Chall gave me a link that gives away the answer: Cracked.com has an article about hidden secret operations, with photos of various vaguely phallic buildings in L.A. that are actually structures built to hide OIL RIGS. Neat to know. Without that spoiler, the puzzle probably would have taken me over 7 minutes. Am I just running slow today? I expected this and the last Les(s) Ruff puzzle to take 4:30 to 5:30 rather than 6-plus.
Another 16 clues to look at:
- 1a. SAMPLER, [Product promotion package]. Please make it a chocolate sampler, okay?
- 26a, 44a. AGE and ERAS, [Major span] and [Major spans]. That’s AGE as in, I dunno, the Ice Age and the Bronze Age and a dog’s age.
- 36a. TACTILE, [In a sense?]. Cute. Touch is one of the five senses.
- 49a. SECRET CODES, [Results of some substitutions]. As in cryptograms.
- 57a. PARADER, [Patriot on the move]. Not sure if this means the New England Patriots and a Super Bowl championship celebration parade, some mysterious missile-related terminology, a Fourth of July parade reference, or what.
- 60a. EXOTISM, [Tendency toward the unusual]. Don’t think I’ve seen that word before.
- 61a. SETTEES, [Bowling-center fixtures]. Meaning the little couches or rows of seats for people waiting their turn to bowl? I bet a lot of you did what I did and had pin SETTERS first. Either word is quite at home in the bottom row of a crossword, where we find so many letters in the RSTLNDE family.
- 1d. SET PLAN, [Something fixed by the meticulous]. “Set plan” doesn’t feel super lexical-chunky to me.
- 9d. ADELIE COAST, [Penguin habitat]. I know the Adelie penguins but needed crossings to point me towards the COAST bit.
- 13d. LOUVRED, [Shuttered, in Sheffield]. As in a window with shutters, I gather, and not shuttered = closed.
- 14d, 24d. Polysemy! (That’s words having multiple meanings—something crossword constructors like to toy with.) Dinner [Course selections] are ENTREES while golf [Course rarities] are DOUBLE EAGLES.
- 28d. SERB, [UN delegate since 2000]. The wording threw me off and I was thinking it was more specific (a person’s name) rather than general (any old Serbian person who serves in that position, since the year 2000 when Serbia became a UN-recognized nation, I presume).
- 31d. OBI, [Paper strip around Japanese books]. Neat! Crosswordese OBI is more than just a sash around a kimono.
- 38d. CAPELET, [Fashionable outerwear]. I decided that “outerwear” meant any clothes that aren’t underwear (rather than coats/jackets/etc.) and tried COUTURE first. I…do not own a capelet.
- 49d. SPICE, [Zesty element]. Its chemical symbol is Hot.
The Stumper always gives us so many clues to bend our brains around, clues that are far more oblique than “here’s a fact, do you know it?”
Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Smartypants Saturday”
This one is not remotely my wheelhouse. Broadway musicals? Nope, not my cup of tea. Not even when the particular composer is famous cryptic crossword champion/constructor Stephen Sondheim. So I had to work the crossings heavily to get through this theme:
- 16/18a. STEPHEN SONDHEIM, [Composer/lyricist who has won eight Tonys]
- 23a. SUNDAY [“__ in the Park With George” (1984 Broadway musical by 16-/18-Across]
- 28a. OSCAR, [16-/18-Across won it for a song in the film “Dick Tracy”]
- 34a. AWARD. [Grammy, for example (something 16-/18-Across has won eight times)]
- 35a. ANYONE [“__ Can Whistle” (1964 Broadway musical by 16-/18-Across]
- 2d/42a. INTO THE WOODS, [1987 Broadway musical by 16-/18-Across]
- 48a. FOLLIES, [1971 Broadway musical by 16-/18-Across]
- 52a. ME A, [“Marry ___ Little” (1980 musical by 16-/18-Across)]
- 56a. STORY, [“West Side ___” (musical by Leonard Bernstein and 16-/18-Across)]
- 40d. TODD, [“Sweeney ___” (musical by 16-/18-Across)]
That is an awful lot of Sondheimiana for someone who had heard of only the musicals 23a (though I thought it was Sundays in the plural), 56a, and 40d. Hope you fared better than I did!