Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Wisecracks”
The title is “Wisecracks” because the theme entries are made by cracking the Y’s (“wise”) out of familiar phrases. I like the chocolat TREAT OF VERSAILLES and A STUD IN SCARLET. GOOD AND READ is okay. BEER BELL and PART ANIMAL fall flat. BILL THE KID ([“Don’t let that youngster get off without paying!”?]) is cute as clued. FAIR TALE and LIVER STABLE are flat. BRAND ALEXANDER is okay, but I had my first Brandy Alexander last year and omigod, yum. Like dessert in a cocktail glass. Perfect cluing for the final theme answer: [Two reasons to avoid a dog kennel?] are THE SOUND AND THE FUR. If you need a third, let’s go with the smells.
New to me:
- 101d. The Hebrew letter HETH is [The first “H” in Hanukkah].
- 60a. [Hall-of-Fame pitcher Joss] clues ADDIE. Super early in baseball history–he died in 1911, before my grandmothers were born and thus well before my time. Wikipedia tells me he died at 31 of tuberculous meningitis. May I just say: Yay, antibiotics and modern medicine!
I kind of like the longer fill on the left and right sides of the grid, plus the WHIZ KID that is lucky to have that unambiguous K given the 33a crossing IKO ([When repeated, an old New Orleans tune]). But overall the interstitial spaces of the puzzle weren’t a ton of fun, with the AIN and NOL and ATRI and ORLE and ODO and that ilk.
Will Nediger and Andy Kravis’ Los Angeles Times crossword, “Insertable” – Jeffrey’s review
So I’m back. I couldn’t blog about Los Angeles crossword puzzles because I was in Los Angeles solving crossword puzzles. It’s like rain on your wedding day. The Fiend had a quad-stack presence at CrosswordsLA with Doug “You Can Call Me Al” Peterson being one blank square away from winning the whole darn thing, Sam hidden in some judging room, PuzzleGirl attending to her many fans and me eating only-in-the-USA mint Oreos. Lunch and a puzzle square cupcake included. Thanks Elissa!
- 22A. [Where peasants work?] – NOBLEMAN’S LAND (No Man’s Land)
- 45A. [Fight organizer?] – RUMBLE RUNNER (Rum runner)
- 67A. [Telescope protector?] – HUBBLE CAP(Hub cap)
- 94A. [Commercial jingle segments?] – PRICE WARBLES (Price wars)
- 119A. [One tending a brush fire?] – BRAMBLE STOKER (Bram Stoker)
- 16D. [Doesn’t speak clearly?] – MUMBLES THE WORD (Mums the word)
- 50D. [Aimless walks around the Gateway Arch?] – ST LOUIS RAMBLES (St Louis Rams)
Another in the long line of add-letters-to-ordinary-phrases-for-hopefully-funny-results theme. I liked five out of seven, so that’s a good average. No, I am not saying which ones I liked. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of the other two.
- 7A. [“Apostrophe (‘)” album maker] – ZAPPA
- 30A. [Senior attachment?] – ITIS. It is?
- 35A. [Where Jefferson can be seen] – NICKEL. I look at a NICKEL and see a beaver and the Queen of Canada.
- 47A. [“Thong Song” singer] – SISQO
- 125A. [Australian brew] – FOSTERS/126A. [Australian gems] – OPALS. Two Australian down under at the bottom row.
- 5D. [“The Jack Pine” Canadian painter with an echoic name] – TOM THOMSON. Yes I have heard of him.
- 10D. [Treaty-signing memento] – PEN.The elite treaty signers all use pencil. Pentel Twist-Erase Click 0.9 for your major pacts.
- 78D. [One with a long commute, perhaps] – EARLY RISER. Perhaps. Or perhaps you have a short commute like me and still get up early.
- 109D. [Sec] – JIF. I almost wrote Jef (sic).
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
My only disappointment in this 68/27 freestyle is that it didn’t last longer. Everything interwove so smoothly–one correct answer just set the table for the next one–that nothing remained a mystery for very long.
Are the four 15s the jazziest ever? No. EMPLOYEE RETREAT sounds peculiar to me ear. I’ve heard of a “company retreat” and even a “staff retreat,” but not an “employee retreat.” THEME RESTAURANT and ANCHORAGE, ALASKA are perfectly suitable, but neither leaps off the grid. My favorite of the four was SCHOOL NEWSPAPER, but that may have had much to do with the clue, [Provider of campus coverage].
Normally the 15s in a freestyle puzzle are the anchors around which the rest of the puzzle is built. But I’ll argue that, in this case, the four 15s serve to facilitate the surrounding fill, of which there are many highlights. Consider that great string of MAMA CASS, IN A PINCH, and GAZPACHO in the southwest–all of them are great, and even the crosses like ANACIN, MIGRANT, MAZES, and SHOPS AT are interesting. The opposite corner isn’t as top-to-bottom sparkly (*cough* RE-ADAPTS *cough*), but it does have AT THE ZOO. Elsewhere, there’s I’M HERE, SEES PAST, and PEDANT. (Really? It had to be “pedant” and not something incrementally better?)
I loved how this freestyle had both an open feel (lots of white space) and yet remained accessible. The number of obscure entries was happily minimal. I didn’t know LOPEZ as the end to [Ruy ___ (chess opening)], I was embarrassed to forget [“With Justice for None” author Gerry] SPENCE, and, Coke Zero aficionado that I am, [Stella ___] ARTOIS was a mystery (since solved: it’s a Belgian beer).
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Announcement” — pannonica’s review
A more pronounced sense of old news this week, as the postponed-for-web puzzle was an April Fool’s surprise. The titular announcement, composed of 23-, 25-, 41-, 60-, 83-, 101-, and 103-across, is DEAR SOLVER | THIS PUZZLE | WILL BE OUR VERY LAST | FROM NOW ON THE CROSSWORD | WILL BE MADE IN CHINA | OH BY THE WAY | APRIL FOOL’S.
Whew. I know I speak for the crossword community when I say that such an announcement, if true, would be devastating. Hex’s unique touch is irreproducible. Not to slight that manufacturing giant, of course. It would be true of any attempted replacement.
Really, a smooth solve. Minimal questionable crosswordese content or awkward constructions. Aside from the theme entries very little in the way of long fill—a quartet of eights, a handful of sevens—and a similarly skimpy offering of threes at the other end of the spectrum. The result is a well-integrated grid that ENLACES (34a) its content in a way that pleases the cruciverbal pastimeur.
Some clue and fill notes:
- 38a [Filler news item] SQUIB.
- 5d [Whale telltale]
FLUKE, SPUME, SPOUT.
- 16d [Down Under GI] ANZAC.
- 42d [Autonomous automoton] ECOBOT. The ecological/autonomous bit refers to their capacity for powering themselves from obtainable and extant sources.
- Partials! AN AX, OR BE, A DEER, TO HOE, plus a few fill-in-the-blanks.
- 78d [Boat bomb of yore] FIRE SHIP.
- 79d [Grim times] DARK DAYS.
- 85d [Low-down prank] HOTFOOT.
- Less common proper nouns and crosswordese rundown: TYPEE, KWAME Nkruma, [Trukish rug] KILIM (crossing Italian FIORI, which may STYMIE (58d) newer solvers),
- Props! 66a [Prop at a rodeo] LARIAT, 110a [Props for driving] TEES. Hmm, I could’ve sworn there were three in the puzzle. Oh well.
- [Prone to eruct] BURPY. (54d TEHEE).
Good puzzle, above average feel, but downpegged for publishing stalenesss (overRIPENESS? (14d)), so an average overall solving experience.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 111” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Nice grid by Patrick Berry. Not too flashy, but solid throughout.
At a glance, you might not realize how difficult it is to construct those 9×4 stacks in the upper left and lower right. As usual, Berry makes it look easy.
- 15a. [Roman princess played by Sophia Loren in “Attila”] – HONORIA. Based on the historical figure Justa Grata Honoria. Sounds like something you’d hear from a stereotypical Italian guy in an old sitcom. “This-a pizza is just-a great-a, Honoria.”
- 20a. [Probable real-life model for Betty Boop] – HELEN KANE. Kane sued Paramount for $250,000 for unfair appropriation of her personality and image. She lost.
- 38a. [Locks up?] – BUN. Clue of the day.
- 10d. [Comparatively useful word?] – THAN. I like this clue too. It’s so hard to come up with a clever clue for THAN. I’ve tried many times.
- 33d. [1983 album promoted by the Serious Moonlight tour] – LET’S DANCE. David Bowie album with the hits “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl,” and “Modern Love.”
- 42d. [“Turn Off the Dark” singer in “Spider-Man” on Broadway] – ARACHNE. I thought I was pretty smart when I wrote in AUNT MAY off the initial A. Who else could it be, right? Even if you know nothing about the play (I sure don’t), you can eventually connect ARACHNE to spider.
- 61d. [Stacy’s “Butterfly” co-star] – PIA. Why did I know this immediately? Must be because I’ve seen more than my share of clues for PIA. Her best role was undoubtedly Girmar in the Christmas classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. She was Girmar, her brother was Bomar, and yes, her mom was named Momar.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Ain’t That Something!”
It is still Sunday! Yes. Not too late to blog Merl’s puzzle, which features a bunch of phrases that can fill in the blank in [“Ain’t that ___!”]. You’ve got A FINE HOW DO YOU DO, THE LIMIT, JUST GREAT, A RELIEF, IRONIC, THE CAT’S PAJAMAS, THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK, A SHAME, TYPICAL, JUST DUCKY, THE TRUTH, and A KICK IN THE PANTS. Isn’t that special.
I liked a lot of the clues for the surrounding fill. They enhanced the overall solving experience:
- 27a. LEO, [It’s a sign]
- 33a. ASH, [Word with tray or tree]. But not with try, trow, or true.
- 46a. HOT, [Ready to serve, maybe]. Not ON TAP or ONE-A, thankfully.
- 98a. SAT, [Took the stand (oddly enough)]
- 123a. BOXER, [Hit man?]
- 6d. LIDS, [They’re on top of things]
- 11d. POOH, [Noted honey lover]
- 81d. “SHUT UP!“, “You’re kidding!”]
- 111d. SHINS, [Brats’ targets]
There’s one clue/answer combo I don’t get at all. 74d [“You wish!”] clues LIKE FUN. Do some people say “Like fun!” the way I say “Like hell!”? Some sort of awkward bowdlerization?
Three mystery items for me:
- 61d. CO-HIT, [Drive-in’s second feature]. I do not believe this is an actual word, but Merl is not one to make things up for crossword expediency.
- 83d. HOEY, [Actor who played Inspector Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone / Sherlock Holmes films, Dennis ___]. Or, as I like to think of him, Dennis Who-ey.
- 110d. “OH, KAY!”, [1926 Gershwin musical]. Don’t recall hearing of this before.
3.5 stars, with part of a star earned by those clues I singled out.