Amy says: I won’t be home until later Saturday evening, so I won’t be able to blog anything by the usual time. Any other Fiendsters who want to pull the NYT out from under my feet are welcome to do so and would receive exuberant thanks and praise. Commenters, do feel free to talk about the puzzles in the downstairs lounge.
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Myth-Labeled”
The theme here is mythological things as clued by warning labels that make a certain amount of sense. I don’t know about you, but I basically played the theme like this: (1) Work the crossings until some sort of mythological term starts to take shape. (2) Go back to see how the clue makes sense. (3) Move on despite not always seeing it. Granted, it’s late and I’m tired, but I wasn’t really encountering anything in this puzzle that was funny or a nice “aha” moment.
It’s jarring that a few of the theme answers aren’t from classical Greek/Roman mythology.
- 23a. SWORD OF DAMOCLES, fine.
- 29a. TROJAN HORSE, not from the same vein of classical gods.
- 50a. CUPID’S ARROW, fine.
- 75a. GORDIAN KNOT, legend from Alexander the Great’s time rather than a Mount Olympus myth.
- 96a. PANDORA’S BOX, fine.
- 103a. FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH, other side of the world. Caribbean/Florida, Ponce de Leon.
- 4d. FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Adam and Eve in the Bible. A number of solvers may quibble at calling this “myth.”
- 54d. APPLE OF DISCORD, fine. With the first two letters blank in that last one, I kinda wanted MAPLE OF DISCORD. See? I told you I was tired.
The fill is fairly smooth but unexciting. I like the HOMOPHONE/ALAN ARKIN pair but aside from that, nothing too memorable. Three stars?
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 113” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Sweet grid today from Frank Longo. I love that chunk in the center. Not exactly a six-sided ring (See clue for 38a: BENZENE), but still very cool. The seven-letter words are all solid, and I like the way the four fifteen-letter entries cut through the ring.
We were treated to a plethora of clever clues today. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
- 1a. [Gear for many gear changers] – BIKE HELMETS. Good entry; great clue. That’s how you start off a puzzle.
- 35a. [Beetle with a weathered shell, maybe] – USED CAR. For those of you keeping track at home, this is the Clue of the Day.
- 62a. [Sleek runway model] – JET AIRLINER. Another nice one.
- 24d. [Makeup of most of the upper crust] – IGNEOUS ROCK. Tricky, tricky.
- 26d. [One motivated by a score] – AVENGER. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get a Captain America or Hulk reference, but I still liked the clue.
A quartet of mysterious names…
- 3d. [Canada’s Campbell] – KIM. Let’s go to Wikipedia. Kim Campbell “served as the 19th Prime Minister of Canada, from June 25, 1993 to November 4, 1993. Campbell was the first and to date the only female Prime Minister of Canada, the first baby boomer to hold that office, and the only PM to have been born in British Columbia.” I wonder if Jeffrey knows her. Probably. There can’t be that many people in British Columbia.
- 22a. [“Mourning Becomes Electra” son] – ORIN. I’m sure I’ve seen this before.
- 54a. [He played Earvin Rodman on “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”] – OMAR GOODING. Younger brother of Cuba Gooding, Jr. He has fewer Twitter followers than Rex Parker.
- 59d. [Sula’s friend in “Sula”] – NEL. If Orin & Nel got married, I wonder what they’d name their kids. They couldn’t come up with anything weirder than SURI (49d: TomKat’s kid).
Have a nice Sunday. I’m outta here.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Letter of Introduction” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Add a letter in front of one of the words to tickle your 42 Down.
- 27A. [Packrat’s moving need?] – LONG U-HAUL
- 29A. [Scan on a bulb?] – X-RAY OF LIGHT
- 46A. [Stripper’s scrapbook item?] – FIRST G-STRING
- 65A. [Topnotch Carnival vessel?] – A-ONE LINER. You will never see me use one liners.
- 86A. [Spot for digital greeting displays?] – E-CARD COUNTER
- 106A. [Moisture-resistant pullover?] – RUBBER V-NECK
- 110A. [Touchscreen device with a strap?] – WRIST I-PAD. That would hurt.
- 37D. [Profit from a swab?] – Q-TIP INCOME
- 42D. [Silly-looking steak?] – FUNNY T-BONE
If this were the Onion, the clues could be so different for all of these. Make up your own risque jokes.
- 10A. [Name of four Holy Roman emperors] – OTTO. OTTO I, OTTO II, OTTO III and BRUCE.
- 36A. [Like Handel’s music] – BAROQUE
- 44A. [Holiday landing site] – HOUSETOP. Hang a mezuzah on your door and Santa won’t land on your roof.
- 45A. [Writer Santha Rama __] – RAU. Neither will Santha.
- 55A. [Cry of exasperation] – AARGH. I wanted AAAAAAAARGH!!!
- 59A. [Jackie’s predecessor] – MAMIE. I wanted Marilyn.
- 64A. [Self-titled 1990s band album] – *NSYNC
- 77A. [Consumer protection org.] – BBB. Just checked the Better Business Bureau site earlier. I am looking for a garage door fixer. My garage door is now haunted. It goes up, down, stops halfway, reverses and otherwise acts randomly. [Instant update – A magic garage door person came and everything is fine. Your donations to the Buy-Jeffrey-A-New-Garage-Door fund are no longer required.]
- 99A. [Darth’s daughter] – LEIA. I am not the type to play a Star Wars clip everytime it is referenced.
- 114A. [Rivera of Broadway’s “West Side Story”] – CHITA. Perfect opportunity to play the Les Misérables trailer.
- 7D. [1964 Mary Wells hit] – MY GUY. Nothing I can say.
- 30D. [Filled (with)] – FRAUGHT. I always thought FRAUGHT was a GOOD WORD.
- 32D. [Good word] – PLUG. I always thought FRAUGHT was a PLUG.
- 85D. [Ringo Starr predecessor] – PETE BEST. Perfect opportunity to play Laura Branigan.
- 89D. [“Luck of the Draw” vocalist] – RAITT Perfect opportunity to play Bonnie Tyler.
- 97D. [Hoops gp.] – THE NBA
- 98D. [Game played with sticks] – HOCKEY. In Canada we call it The HOCKEY eh.
- 114D. [Half a dance] – CHA. Full name is CHA Doble.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This was a fun 70/32 freestyle puzzle from Patrick Jordan. A number of entries gave it a military feel, like SERGEANTS, the [Rousing World War I tune] OVER THERE, REVOLTS, MARINES, SHEATHE, and a reference to a former general in the clue for DOLS, [’70s coins featuring DDE].(Let’s be clear, guys, DOLS is not a terrific entry.)
To some extent, these were offset by more benign entries like BO PEEP, ROSY, and SEDATE. But still there’s a very macho, aggressive vibe to this grid.
Okay, it’s random observation time:
- E-NOTE, the [High-tech memo] really falls flat for me. Does anyone, EVEN ONE person, ever say “Hey, I’ll send you an e-note.” I feel like the “e-” prefix is facilitating some iffy entries in crosswords these days, and this is a prime example of that.
- In music, is the BASS LINE the baseline?
- With only the Y from HARD COPY in place as a crossing, I felt reasonably good about STAY OUT as the answer for [Keep out of the landfill]. Sometimes it really shows that I went to law school. The answer was RECYCLE. (HARD COPY is a great entry, by the way.)
- To my ear, GEED is more of a sound effect than a word. But apparently it means [Turned right]. Geez!
- Whaddya know, the [Number-covering game] isn’t BINGO but BEANO. I confess the only BEAN-O I know covers odors, not numbers.
- I like DIAL-A-JOKE far more than I liked the clue, [Source of mirth in some cities]. People in rural areas can call a Dial-A-Joke line, too! That’s not to say the entry itself is super-fresh–a concept like “dial-a-joke” feels about 15-20 years behind the times. On the other hand, SHREDDERS, clued as [They help prevent identity theft], feels very fresh.
- Speaking of 15-20 years ago (or, *cough* more) I loved [Chuck E. Cheese’s purchases] as the clue for TOKENS.
- This is not the first puzzle to clue SOP as a [Conciliatory gesture], but let’s just say it’s not standard operating procedure to do so.
- Other cool entries included NO WORSE and REINED IN.
Favorite entry, hands down = ICK FACTOR, the [Repellent aspect, slangily]. Favorite clue = [Southern side] for GRITS. I like it because I fell for the trap–my mind kept wondering what word is used to describe the southern side of a building or a boat. Maybe we should just call it the “grits” side.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Cliché Couples”
Certain pairs of words are fellow travelers, and substituting a synonym for either of the two just sounds wrong to native speakers. FREAK ACCIDENT and SHADY CHARACTER, sure. “Freak mishap” and “seamy character” sound weird. CHECKERED PAST, never a striped one nor ever a checkered future (although the latter is a neat idea, and plenty of people have a checkered present). Tell a BALD-FACED LIE, offer a HANDSOME REWARD, hand down a STIFF SENTENCE. I’m not as convinced about the other two theme answers. When I had —— ALIBI, I went straight for AIRTIGHT ALIBI. Hello! The answer is IRONCLAD ALIBI, and AIRTIGHT CASE is there too but sounds off-kilter to me. Apparently various adjectives float around for such legal terms, and none wins the race in all jurisdictions, this discussion thread suggests.
I can’t remember the term Language Log or Ben Zimmer has put forth for these “cliché couple” word pairs. Anyone??
I see what Merl was going for with 56a: [Africa’s smallest country], but The GAMBIA is merely Africa’s smallest contiguous country. There are, as any Sporcle.com geography quiz addict knows, several small island nations that are bundled with Africa and are smaller than GAMBIA: Seychelles, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mauritius, Comoros, and Cape Verde (look for these in the Olympics parade of nations this summer, with not-very-big contingents).
42d: [Sunscreen letters] clues PABA. I think it’s time that either this entry is jettisoned from constructors’ word lists or its clues quit pretending it’s current. I suppose some shoddy off-brand sunscreens may still contain PABA, but mainline sunscreen products don’t. Too many allergic customers, too much staining.
45d: [Messianic Muslim leader] is MAHDI. I would never have gotten this one were it not for a Facebook thread this week.
117d: [Rhyme for “Jed” in a hillbilly tune], “um, something-E-D?” Crossings say FED. This isn’t ringing a bell for me, as I am terrible at hearing lyrics.
The theme doesn’t box Merl in, so the fill isn’t constrained to the point of making me scowl. Four stars.