Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword
Okay, so it’s a crazy-wide grid, there’s a rebus (a bunch of “iron” squares with FE in them), there’s a TITANIC theme, the grid has top/bottom symmetry, and … I don’t quite know what all else is involved. Deb Amlen told me the circled squares (which do not spell anything) are the big boat’s smokestacks, and the FE squares make a connect-the-dots long, skinny ship. (My FE in square 50 turned into a regular F.) I’ve got a headache and I have no patience for tracking down the “reflection” of the rebus squares. Deb said Kevin got most of the cast into the puzzle, but all I’m remembering is WINSLET and DICAPRIO. I do not care what 12-letter term is another name for the boat.
You know what I did care about? All the terrible little pieces of ugly fill in this puzzle that were not hiding. LEFT ARM is rather arbitrary. C-TEAM is … is that a thing? ENE as a suffik for alk- is ick. IS I, DOOS (which is a vulgar word in Afrikaans/Dutch), so, so many 3s in general. STOL, EASER, RASA, EDER, OTT, OTO, STR, IND, YRS, SRS—
And then there are two irksome clues for short answers. EEG at 86a is clued as a [Hosp. scan]. Paging Will Shortz: Stop calling it a “scan”! It’s not a scan. Scanners send beams through the body, they do not record electrical signals via electrodes on the skin. How many times must a medical editor kvetch about this on a crossword blog before people quit publishing “scan” clues for E_G tests? OLAY at 2d is clued as [Oil producer]. No! Again, paging Will Shortz: “Oil of Olay” ceased to be a product name in the US some years ago. Olay sells a ton of lotions, moisturizers, soap, anti-wrinkle products. Not oil. Maybe if we had more female crossword editors in charge, the clueless OLAY cluing would cease. (Two pet peeves in one puzzle. What luck!)
I do like seeing Celine Dion title words smushed together in the grid. MY HEART / WILL GOON. Goon on, crazy heart! Man, I cannot abide that song. It needs more goon.
So I had a two-star experience, but I suppose many of you were knocked out by a five-star experience. Go ahead and tell me what the reflection squares spell out and what made you love this puzzle. Tell me how all the clunky short fill wasn’t even noticeable because you were having a blast while solving.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “K-2″—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Two word phrases, the first word ending in K and the second word beginning with K. The full names of my father (Jack) and brother (Mark) would both be valid theme answers.
- 23A. [Geisha wear] – SILK KIMONO
- 35A. [Oven seen at Colonial Williamsburg] – BRICK KILN
- 43A. [Be complimentary (of)] – SPEAK KINDLY
- 72A. [Form of bank fraud] – CHECK KITING
- 92A. [Warehouse worker] – STOCK KEEPER
- 105A. [Friendly greeting] – CHEEK KISS. This clue should have been changed: 67A [Cheeky] – BOLD
- 119A. [Prepare a seder, say] – COOK KOSHER
- 14D. [Football surprise] – QUICK KICK This play makes more sense in Canadian football, where the kicker or anyone behind the kicker is onside and can recover the kick.
- 80D. [He debuted in Action Comics in 1938] – CLARK KENT
Quiz time: For each, tell me if I am describing Jack Krasnick or William Shatner:
- 1) Born in Montreal.
2) Lived in Cote St Luc, Quebec.
3) Parents were Jewish immigrants.
4) Attended Baron Byng High School.
5) Obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
Answer in all cases is both.
- 41A. [Shatner’s “__War”] – TEK.
- 37D. [Hard on the eyes, in a way] – LOUD. “Hard on the ears” could have the same answer.
- 60D. [Language in which “Shazbot!” is a profanity] – ORKAN. Do people even remember Mork and Mindy anymore?
- 22A. [One-time TV medical expert Art] – ULENE. Who? Is he no longer an expert?
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The centerpiece of today’s 66/32 freestyle “Sunday Challenge” crossword is, well, the center piece. Two triple-15 stacks meet in the middle, each held in place by off-shooting paired 10s. That makes for six 15s and eight 10s in the same grid–impressive.
Is this what’s called “90-degree rotational symmetry?” Normally crossword grids look the same when turned upside-down. This one looks the same with every 90-degree turn.
Here were my favorites of the longer entries:
- BORIS AND NATASHA are [Bullwinkle’s nemeses]. And now, here are some entries we think you’ll really like.
- To [Stay informed] is to REMAIN IN THE LOOP. I’m often outside of it.
- THREE MEN IN A BOAT is [Jerome K. Jerome comedy novel of 1889]. The middle initial stands for “K-Jerome.”
- BIOLUMINESCENCE is the [Natural glow?] that can make a fish look like it swallowed a light bulb.
- LIVED IN SIN refers to having [Cohabited while unwed, idiomatically]. In my early years of teaching, I got in trouble for using the expressions “living in sin” and “shacked up” jokingly when discussing a particular case study involving unmarried cohabitants. A student actually reported me to the associate dean and asked that I be reprimanded for making such a disparaging remark. It was not the last time I got reported to the associate dean. I guess I’m a poor judge of assessing student sensitivities.
- AISLE SEATS are [Fliers’ requests, at times]. I used to be all about the aisle seat when I flew, but lately I’ve been coveting window seats. Fewer people bump into you when you’re in the window seat, and it’s easier to get a little shut-eye because you can lean over a tad without resting atop a stranger’s shoulder or suffering a concussion from the beverage cart. I don’t think I’ll ever prefer a middle seat, though. One day, I hope, someone will make a fuel-efficient airplane with a 2x2x2 coach class configuration instead of the standard 3×3 layout.
EGOCENTRICITIES feels more like a portmanteau of “ego” and “eccentricities” than a real word. GLOBE-TROTS also felt clunky to my ear, as “globetrotter” and “globetrotting” feel more natural than simply “globe-trot.” But Martin’s dictionary is bigger than mine (it takes a secure man to say that), so I’m sure these are both legit.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Hunger Games”
This week’s theme is words that mean “eat” hidden inside longer phrases:
- 23a. MUNCHKINS, [Lollipop Guild members]
- 25a. MARS ORBITER, [NASA launched one on December 11, 1998]
- 35a. LANDOWNERS, [Property-tax payers]
- 40a. SIGN A WAIVER, [Let a franchise off the hook, perhaps]. Is this pertaining to professional athletes? My first impulse is “franchise” = fast-food restaurant.
- 52a. A WORD IN EDGEWISE, [It may be hard to get this at a debate]. This is a 15-letter partial in a puzzle filled with partials.
- 65a, 70a. THE WITCHES / OF EASTWICK, [1987 film from a John Updike novel]
- 83a. GO AT A STEADY PACE, [Do 60 the whole way, e.g.]
- 96a. HAVE NO SHAME, [Lack the decency to be embarrassed]
- 98a. WINNINGEST, [Most successful, as a team]
- 113a. MUSTACHE WAX, [Facial-hair goo]
- 118a. COMES UP TO, [Approaches]
I liked the theme okay, but the rest of the grid lost me. A bunch of partials and one deadly crossing—the latter sitting in square 76. 65d: [“Perry Mason” lieutenant] TR*GG meets 76a: [Simple chord, briefly] * MIN. I guessed TREGG and E MIN, because the only Perry Mason characters I know of are Perry Mason and Della Street, and because if it were TRAGG and A MIN, the latter could be clued as Idi AMIN or the partial AM IN (though that would duplicate 19a: I’M IN). I don’t know music, but my husband reports that it is easier to play an E minor chord on a guitar than an A minor. And yet the answers were indeed TRAGG and A MIN. Boo, hiss. Am I the only one who doesn’t know the name of this fictional lieutenant?
As for the partials, oy. From left to right, we start with 98d: [“Try as ___ …”] WE MAY. 41d: [Cagney film, “Each Dawn ___”] I DIE. Never heard of it. 99d: [“Made ___”] IN USA. 24d: [Half a lover’s quarrel?], HE SAID. 42d: [Solid followup?], AS A ROCK. 53d: [Part of SWAK], WITH A. 74d: [“History is ___ that men agree to believe” (Napoleon)], A MYTH. 10d: [“For want of ___ …”] A NAIL. 47d: ONE OF [___ a kind]. And 17d: [“Rumor has it …”], I HEAR feels like it’s knocking at the door of this category. It’s not that any of these is so terrible on its own, just that there are so very many of them. Right? I’m not imagining that this is more partials than we see in a typical Sunday crossword?
3d: [In sports, it often comes down to this] clues FINAL GAME. Now, in any tournament/playoff setting, and in tennis, doesn’t it always come down to the FINAL GAME? Like, if it doesn’t go to game seven, the round is decided after game five, then game five is the FINAL GAME.
5d: [Try again, on the set] clues TAKE TWO. I’ve always viewed “take 2” as a noun phrase, i.e., “this is the second take.” Is it in fact a verb phrase, as the clue suggests?
11d: [Nora portrayer] for MYRNA suggests that the intended audience used to watch “Perry Mason” and enjoyed all the Nick and Nora stories in movies and on radio and TV (Wikipedia: “The characters were later adapted for film in a series of movies between 1934 and 1947; for radio from 1941 to 1950; for television from 1957 through 1959”), is on a first-name, household-name basis with Myrna Loy. [Nora Charles portrayer ___ Loy] would be more of a sop to solvers under 60.
2.75 stars from me. The deadly crossing and the abundant partials knock this one down.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 106” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I’ve been taken off the Sunday LA Times beat after last week’s unfortunate joke at the expense of Tom Cruise. In case you missed it, I basically implied that he’s a creepy little dude. A few of Mr. Cruise’s people dropped by Fiend HQ earlier this week and “suggested” that I be reassigned. So now I’ll be blogging the Post Puzzler on Sundays. To quote a stale year-old catchphrase: “Winning!” The Post Puzzler is often my favorite puzzle of the week, and I’m not just saying that because Peter Gordon’s people are bigger and meaner than Tom Cruise’s people.
So I’m blogging my own puzzle today. Is that legal? I don’t recall having a particular seed entry in mind for this one. I started by trying to find two 14-letter answers that would work well together in the center of the grid. I’ve been working with 14-letter words in some of my recent themelesses because they’re a largely untapped resource. According to the online databases, neither MICROBREWERIES nor MISSILE COMMAND has appeared in a puzzle before. And I was able to sandwich XANADU in between those two, so I knew I was in business.
- 34a. [1980 film with No. 1 hit “Magic”] – XANADU. Sometimes people ask me how long it takes to construct a puzzle. It varies, but I remember this clue took me at least an hour to write, because I got trapped on YouTube watching Olivia Newton-John videos. It was totally worth it.
- 36a. [Game that’s played until the batteries are depleted] – MISSILE COMMAND. The three missile batteries. Once you use all your missiles, you’re toast. I was usually toast long before my missiles ran out. I sucked, and continue to suck, at any video game that requires hand-eye coordination.
- 45d. [Her “Ulysses” counterpart runs a brothel] – CIRCE. I liked this one because it’s not obvious, but it’s figure-out-able even if you’ve never read Ulysses. (I haven’t.)
It’s April 15th, and I’ve got taxes to do, so I’m leaving a little early today. I hope you enjoyed the puzzle. If not, feel free to unload in the comments.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Once is Enough” — pannonica’s review
Economize! Names and phrases beginning with a repeated word drop one of the duplicates for the mers. Sorry, I meant “the themers.”
- 21a. [*Normality of a sort] TWENTY VISION (twenty-twenty).
- 35a. [*Musical set in Sweet Apple, Ohio] BYE BIRDIE (Bye Bye).
- 67a. [*Home of Whitman College] WALLA WASHINGTON (Walla Walla,).
- 101a. [*1951 Hank Williams hit] COLD HEART (Cold, Cold).
- 120a. [*”You can come out now] OLLY OXEN FREE (olly(-)olly). I hew to the theory that the phrase derives from German “alle, alle, auch sind frei” (“everyone, everyone is also free”).
- 9d. [*”Tea for Two” show] NO NANETTE (No, No,).
- 13d. [*Oft-wed actress] ZSA GABOR (Zsa Zsa). AKA Sári Gábor.
- 14d. [*Best song of 1964 Oscar] CHIM CHE-REE (Chim Chim).
- 72d. [*Hudson facility] SING PRISON (Sing Sing). Technically, a “correctional facility.”
- 80d. [*Pun, often] KNOCK JOKE (knock-knock)
- 84d. [*Caged entertainer] GO DANCER (go-go). Oft-caged?
If anyone is like me and is keen on keeping useless, trivial tallies, the breakdown is: 3 ( or 4) hyphenated, 5 (or 6) unadorned, and 2 with commas. Total: eleven theme entries—5 acrosses and 6 downs—for a nice mix.
Started off with a good feeling, plunking in PICAS [Typesetting measures] unhesitatingly at one-across. With the exception of a few CAPpy™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) potholes, the benevolent feeling persisted, and there were quite a number of clues and answers that really shined, for cleverness or nostalgia.
The smiles first:
- PICAS at 1a. Yes, I’m repeating myself.
- 24a UNTERSEE [The “U” in “U-boat”]. Yay German! So often a cinch to parse words. Unterseeboot = “undersea boat.”
- 26a GAM as a [School of whales] rather than something along the lines of [Leg, to Betty Grable]. I appreciate that was transferred from gam, meaning “a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers,” which is in turn thought to derive from the obsolete gammon, to talk.
- 30a COMANCHE as a [Bygone Jeep pickup]. I think it was the sister vehicle of the Cherokee, which persists.
- 61a PIEHOLE!
- 74a TONEARM [Phonograph part].
- 123a [Movie-light name] KLIEG. Liked this one because I had just filled in 126a [Popular theater name] ROXY and was misled.
- 30d [Crowning achievement] CAPSTONE.
- ZOG! I can’t help but like ZOG [Albania’s last king] (113a).
- 46a [Prot. branch] EPISC. I couldn’t make any sense of this because “Prot.” was a mystery; all I could think of was Protists. After getting the answer through crossings I understood it was Protestant (and Episcopalian).
- 28a AYR, 31d ORT, 77d OLEO, 105d ENID, 110d ELEA. Just deadly tired of seeing them lately.
- 98a [See 100-Across] INTO, 100a [With 98-Across, take up wholeheartedly] DIVE. Do we really need a cross-referenced pair of clues in reverse order for two common words that can easily be clued individually, even if they are separated by only one clue in the list?
- 112a [Madison or Monroe, for ex.] JAS. Yes, that’s short for James, saving a whopping two letters and looking thoroughly ridiculous. Chas. and Jos. save three letters each, and I realize now that my dividing line (at the moment) is between two and three letters.
- 108d [Turnkey] SCREW. I find zero support for this definition of turnkey (have checked RHUD, m-w, Compact Oxford, American Heritage, Wikichitlán, among others).
- 43d [What to do next?] STEP TWO. Redundant of themer 9d [“”Tea for Two” show]?
- 107a [Monokini’s lack] BRA. Some, especially the “modern” ones, are relatively (I stress relatively) demure, more like one-piece swimsuits with extreme cutouts.
- [Thinks way back?] TROWS. (1) obsolete: believe (2) archaic: think; origin:
Middle English, from Old English trēowan; akin to Old English trēowe faithful, true — more at true; first known use: before 12th century. (m-w.com) Saved because the clew acknowledges the creakiness. Obsolete and archaic!
- Felt too vague: 15d [“__ you!”] SEZ. Ditto, but to a lesser extent: 121d [“__ out!] YER.
- 41d [“”Arrivederci!””] CIAO. Are the double double-quotes necessary? Are they there to counterbalance the theme?
- New definition for me: VESTA [Short wooden match]. I only knew it as the Roman goddess of the hearth. Obviously, there’s a connection.
- 71d [“__ choose to run”] I DO NOT. Uttered by Calvin Coolidge, regarding the 1928 Presidential election.
Good puzzle, would solve again.
“Once is Enough,” by Lyle Lovett (featuring the great Willis Alan Ramsey) in a live 1990 performance.
Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”
Kaboom! Tony gathers some explosive material and blows it up in the backyard:
- 15a. GRENADE, [Bruno Mars “detonatable” song of 2010]
- 28a. FIREWORK, [Katy Perry “detonatable” song of 2010]
- 33a. DYNAMITE, [Taio Cruz “detonatable” song of 2010]
- 45a. EXPLODE, [Appropriate playlist title for the three songs at 15-, 28-, and 33-Across]
I’m not a Katy Perry fan, but I do love “Dynamite” and “Grenade.” Super-catchy tunes, and they might both have escaped my notice if my son hadn’t started devouring top 40 radio in 2010.
Favorite clue: 44d. KIA, [Korean automaker that sells its Soul]. My 70-something uncle has his eye on a Kia Soul, in the “alien green” color you may have seen on the roads.