Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
Alrighty, I’ve spent the last three hours catching up with an old friend who’s staying over, but I need to get the blog post up! Would you believe we were discussing the very topic of 31a/37a? Seriously. Babies get these wet wipes, and once the kid outgrows diapers, American parents say “Here’s some dry paper, kid, clean yourself up.” It’s crazy. My proposed ECOLAW is to have rooftop cisterns to gather rainwater to supply bidets in every household. By the way, [Chem. assay] is a hilarious clue for ANAL., and I’ve never seen the word ECOLAW.
Speaking of words I’ve never seen before, there’s that [Sorghum variety], DURRA. Are you kidding me? I was thinking LETS GO for 52a rather than LETS UP, and 45d was also throwing me off. Questioned 62a: ROOMERS because maybe 45d needed to end in OFF? Nope, it’s GO POOF, which I might like better if it had a better neighbor to the west.
Likes: OFF THE CLOCK, BIG NAME, and the general concept of I BEFORE / E EXCEPT / AFTER C. But I don’t quite get what the theme is doing with the circled squares. The I BEFORE clue says the “rule” isn’t always followed, so the circled squares yield eight words with EI or IE in varying degrees of connection to the “rule”? Some of those words violate the rule’s second part (“unless sounded as ‘A’ as in neighbor and weigh”)—THEIR, WEIRD. Some obey the C part (CEILING). Some violate the first part (ANCIENT ROME). Some obey the not-applied-to-C part (LIEN, NIECE). It feels like a mishmash of applications of the “I before E” business that, truly, is not so helpful when it comes to spelling quizzes. I tried like hell to come up with spelling mnemonics for my kid back when he struggled with those weekly spelling quizzes, and it just wasn’t possible. English is too crazy.
Dislikes: EX-MATE, heavy pluralizing of sports and art terms (PROAMS, GOLF TOURNAMENTS, NHL TEAMS, STEENS), that weird-looking chess abbreviation KNT. Plus OPTO-. And IGN., is the ignition really an engine part? Because I turn the key in an entirely different compartment of the car. (Cue Martin’s explanation of how the IGN clue is valid, without disputing the ugliness of the answer…)
Time for bed. But first, roo-roo! No, wait. But first, the star rating. I’ll go with 2.75. Was thinking 2.66, but that ANAL HYGIENE focused right on the middle of the grid elevates the rating, frankly. It’s fresh and unexpected!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Car Tunes” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Well, for being weak in both cars and music, I can’t complain about my solving time for this crossword. It’s safe to see this theme is outside my wheelhouse–hit songs with cars in their titles:
- 20-Across: HOT ROD LINCOLN is the [1972 hit for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen]. That’s the perfect name for an early ’70’s band, no?
- 36-Across: LITTLE HONDA is the [1964 hit for the Hondells]. It was a total rip-off of Little Mazda by the Mazdells.
- 44-Across: Finally, a song I know! MERCEDES BOY is the [1988 hit for Pebbles]. (“Do you want to ride in my Mercedes, boy?”) It was her first hit single after breaking up with Bamm-Bamm on the heels of this other hit.
- 60-Across: CADILLAC RANCH is the [1992 hit for Chris LeDoux]. It’s a song about a particularly classy salad dressing.
What’s that? Not enough music for you? How about BARRY Manilow, CCR (the [“Bad Moon Rising” band, familiarly], SHA NA NA, and PERRY COMO for bonus entries? Heck, there’s even RAG RUG. “R-A-G-G, R-U-G-G, Rag Rug!”
Let’s face it, Jeffrey would be the ideal Fiend-ster to blog this puzzle (though WordPress might balk at the number of YouTube links).
Favorite entry = I DON’T KNOW, the [Answer a teacher doesn’t want to hear]. (As a teacher, though, I must protest. I would much rather hear about it when a student isn’t following what we’re doing.) Favorite clue = [It may hang by the neck] for a JOWL.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
There’s nothing too shocking in today’s Los Angeles Times puzzle.
- 16a. [Four-legged comfort animal] – THERAPY DOG. Some university libraries have started checking out dogs to students during exam week. Arf!
- 23a. [Budget-friendly fast food offering] – VALUE MEAL
- 37a. [Coming trend] – WAVE OF THE FUTURE
- 49a. [Locker room laundry item] – JOCK STRAP
- 60a. [Seismic phenomenon, and where you might find the starts of 16-, 23-, 37- and 49-Across] – AFTERSHOCK
Well executed theme here, yes? There’s a solid connecting entry, and each of the other four entries looks great. Can’t complain about a thing here.
Leave it to Ms. Levin to save the Z for a neat crossing like AD BIZ/ZAGNUT. Would you rather have RAW MEAT or pink slime crossing your VALUE MEAL?
I had a tricky time with [Domingo, et al.], because I foolishly guessed SENORS… and though most of it was correct, it was one letter off of the right answer, TENORS. Oops! I had know idea what a JETSA could be.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Flip This!”
Simple flapjack theme:
- 20a. BUTTERMILK SKY, [Indicator of a coming storm, supposedly]. No idea what this means. A Google image search shows me what appear to be altocumulus clouds. Wikipedia says, “Towering altocumulus, known as altocumulus castellanus, frequently signals the development of thunderstorms later in the day, as it shows instability and convection in the middle levels of the troposphere, the area where towering cumulus clouds can turn into cumulonimbus. It is therefore one of three warning clouds often recorded by the aviation industry, the other two being towering cumulus and cumulonimbus.” No mention of “buttermilk sky” there, though.
- 36a. BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO, [Musician with the album “Waitin’ for My Ya Ya”]. Is it possible that he and his band played a gig at my small college somewhere in the neighborhood of 1984-1986? I know for sure that we had Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band. Accordion madness!
- 54a. PANCAKE MAKEUP, [Face base, or the first word of 20- or 36-Across?].
The official pancakes of this blog and Rex Parker’s blog are the corn cakes that IHOP stopped selling a few years ago. Apparently all one needs to do is add some cornmeal to a regular pancake recipe and boom, corn cakes. Need to get some cornmeal and assign this task to my husband, the household pancake maker.
Did this puzzle last night, so it’s not fresh in my mind now. I see…lots of Scrabbly action. Top fill: SKI BUM, IDRIS ELBA, GOALPOST clued Stumper style as [Upright], KLUTZY, PHOBIC.
- 5d. [Pet of Hamlet], SNERT. Hamlet is Hagar the Horrible’s son. Honi is his daughter; she sometimes appears in crosswords too.
- 42a. [Die after crossing the German/French border?], LES. Die is the definite article for a feminine noun as well as for plurals, so les is the French equivalent for plurals.
- 55d. [Chinese gooseberry], KIWI fruit. The bird name is a good descriptor for the fruit and it highlights the New Zealand connection, but I kinda wish “Chinese gooseberry” were the grocery store label. The produce section needs more geese.
Didn’t know MYLES, took a gamble on KNOX, didn’t know the erotica writer was an ERIKA. How nice of her to provide an alternative to the lesser-known Erikas crossword constructors have had to lean on until now.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “The Hangover” (plus contest wrap-up)—Matt Gaffney’s review
Before we get to today’s (very nice) BEQ, let’s take a quick look at his contest puzzle from last week. Brendan asked us to find the missing member of his puzzle’s theme set, and the theme was a rebus with six Jekyll-and-Hyde rebus squares. Across and down they took the form of two different playing cards; solution grid at right (stolen from Brendan’s site), but in full they were:
BUR(N IN E)FFIGY / ST. (SIX)TUS
DRAQ (QUEEN) / (ACE)TONE
NEW(S EVEN)TS / ANDREW (JACK)SON
(FOUR)IER / FLYW(EIGHT) BOXER
SPIRI(T WO)RLD / THE (THREE) R’S
MAR(KING)S / EA(TEN)
The only missing card is the 5, making that the contest answer. Very nice; see here for Brendan’s writeup.
Speaking of very nice, let’s look at Brendan’s blog puzzle for today, entitled “The Hangover.” Brendan excises HANG from three long theme entries and re-situates it over those entries in a relevant place. See solution diagram; they are:
- 20-a [What well-intentioned, but inevitably incompetent people end up doing, often] = MORE HARM T(HANG)OOD
- 37-a [Event where one might ask, “Is it just me, or is it getting hotter?] = CLIMATE C(HANG)E DEBATE
- 52-a [1992 #3 hit by Dr. Dre] = NUTHIN’ BUT A G T(HANG)
The three HANG entries are just clued [-], so you can’t help but eventually get the hang of this theme.
Five things, in honor of last week’s BEQ contest answer:
- He makes it look easy, doesn’t he? BO PEEP, BATH TIME, FARM TEAM, SCHLEP, WNBA (that whole upper-middle is elegant), STYX, CATBOX, SNAFU.
- I had SHIH TZU instead of SHARPEI at 29-d for a long time. I bet you did, too!
- Upper-right is a little knotty, with TEA OR next to OR NOT. But considering the HANG nearby we’ll let it slide.
- At 45a I bet I can guess the movies Kevin COSTNER won for: “Dances With Wolves” and “Waterworld.” Amirite?
- I had BONG at 6-across. Intentional misdirect or serendipity? Either way, it worked.
Brendan opened his tip jar this week (as he does every six months), so contemplate chipping in some dough here. If you tip $10 or more you’ll receive a copy of his new 21×21 freestyle puzzle, which I’m looking forward to solving this evening. His twice-weekly blog puzzles are a major highlight of the Crucisphere, and the level of quality he maintains every week is ridiculous.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Heads of Planning”
I very much enjoyed this puzzle. The theme is contraception, so the “Heads of Planning” title refers to family planning methods found at the head of each theme answer:
- 18a. PILLBOX HAT, [Jackie O specialty].
- 23a. SHOT GLASS, [Bar vessel that holds 1.5 ounces]. As in the Depo-Provera injection, given quarterly.
- 35a. RING TONES, [Significant music industry market, nowadays]. As in the NuvaRing vaginal ring.
- 51a. SPONGEBOB, [Animated Bikini Bottom resident]. This is the nonhormonal barrier method of birth control you may remember from Seinfeld, when the Sponge was temporarily off the market and Elaine had to decide if a man was truly “spongeworthy.” Friend of mine found out the hard way (no toxic shock syndrome, though!) that you don’t want to forget to take the Sponge out after.
- 57a. PATCH ADAMS, [Doctor played by Robin Williams]. The OrthoEvra patch is worn on the skin and replaced weekly.
See? Crosswords can be pretty educational. I’ll bet some of you didn’t know that the pill (plus condoms, the diaphragm, and the IUD, which did not have phrases that let them fit into this theme) had so many rivals.
Three solid corners of stacked 7s, plus the less polished corner with SOBBERS crossing ALB, ESSE, and BIER. I like the “Why are you snickering? Grow up already!” trio of COMES AT, URETHRA (2d. [Leaking tube?]), and PEACOCK (3d. [Fancy-ass bird?]), plus the freshness of TOTAL B.S. at 13d and the clue for 38d: MOSH PIT, [Site for displaced homoerotic affection, at metal shows].
Crossword Highlights, Special Video Edition:
- 5a. I.O.U.S.A., [2008 documentary about American debt]. I always like it when the work of someone I know makes it into the puzzle. Wordplay director Patrick Creadon also made this one, which came out moments before the housing market and economy crashed and Paul Krugman argued that this was exactly the time to take a break from being focused on lowering the national debt. You can watch the movie here.
- 31a. DUB, [Word before reggae or step]. If you’ve never seen that viral dubstep video featuring Marquese Scott, prepare to have your socks knocked clean off.
- 55a. RAE, [“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly ___ Jepsen]. At last! A new RAE-named person taking the pop music world by storm! Crossword constructors have needed her ever since Charlotte Rae and Rae Dawn Chong’s ’80s heydays. This 26-year-old has the approval of her fellow Canadian, Justin Bieber. My kid knows a song or two by this Jepsen character, so I figured I’d check her out while I was on YouTube. Here’s “Call Me Maybe,” which made me cackle at the end. Some of you will see the ending coming long before I did, and some of you will be surprised.
- 62a. [R&B singer Janelle] MONAE. Her 2010 song “Tightrope” (feat. Big Boi) is ultra-catchy and the video is kinda trippy.