Announcement! Dan Feyer is helping organize a small crossword tournament/puzzle fest in Napa, California, on Saturday, June 30. He’ll be moderating a panel discussion with such Northern California crossword luminaries as Tyler Hinman, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Jeremy Horwitz. Check out the Napa City-County Library website for more details. Looks to be a fun day.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Have we got any Pinoys and Pinays in the house? Represent! The Philippines corners two spots in the grid:
- 10d. PHILIPPINE EAGLE, [Southeast Asian soarer]. I asked my husband (who’s Filipino) to tell me about the Philippine eagle. He told me it’s not really an eagle but a vulture. And when I asked if he was just making stuff up for sport, he said yes. Neither of us has ever heard of the bird, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. It is also known as the monkey-eating eagle! I am not making this up.
- 46d. ISLA, [Luzon, e.g.]. What? Why? Why Spanish? The Tagalog is pulo. It nearly came to fisticuffs when a relative of mine informed me that my husband was not Asian but “Hispanic” and refused to believe me that the Filipinos haven’t been so big on speaking Spanish since they booted the Spaniards out around 1898. My in-laws, born in the Philippines in the 1930s, speak assorted Filipino languages and English. I bet they’re typical.
I am waiting for 1a: REBA to go back to being clued as the country music star she’s been for 30 years rather than with reference to a 2001-2007 sitcom on the WB and CW networds. Of course, she’s got a new ABC sitcom premiering this fall, Malibu Country, so maybe she’ll get two-fisted sitcom clues instead.
What I liked:
- AIR CONDITIONERS clued as [Runners in windows]. Most of the condos and apartments on my block have window ACs, not central air.
- BINOCULAR VISION is indeed an [Aid in judging distances]. I have binocular vision, but my eyeballs are out of alignment (I blame the eye surgery when I was a year old) so I have never been able to see those “Magic Eye” 3-D pictures. I do OK with 3-D movies but I’d just as soon stick with 2-D.
- NEHI is the [Beverage once sold “in all popular flavors”]. Licorice? Nope, not popular. NEHI is sort of old, stale fill but this clue elevates it.
- Ha! This LORI/[Singer learning a script] combo made me laugh. Per IMDb, Lori Singer’s only acting gig since a ’90s TV series and a short film in 2005 is a 2011 episode of Law & Order: SVU. I don’t know that she’s got many scripts to learn. Too bad the baby name LORI fell out of fashion—we’re not likely to get a new famous LORI for our crosswords in the foreseeable future.
- [Rose family member] is that beautiful flower, the PETÉ. It’s French, obviously, and the source of the word petal. Or else Pete Rose came from a family. Does a Pete Rose by any other name smell as sweet?
What I didn’t like:
- Things get a little compromised in the neighborhood of the big H of 15-letter answers (three Acrosses in the middle supported by pairs of vertical 15s) and their stacked 10-letter brackets. RED A, ADES, IIII, ELIAN, ATTA, A TOE, EDNAS, ESTO/SERT/ESSO, EURE, and the RHEE/ESME/LENE name trio (RHEE is probably in crosswords less than in history books, whereas I bet Salinger’s ESME and LENE Lovich are more crossword-famous than regular-famous at this point).
- No idea what TRACTION ENGINES are, and the [Road locomotives] clue didn’t help me understand it. Googling…okay, per Wikipedia, they’re steam engines on regular wheels rather than train wheels, and they’ve been large historical curios since before I was born. No wonder I didn’t know the term. A Jeopardy! category of “Historical Agricultural Vehicles” wouldn’t be one I’d run.
- Question-marked clue without clever payoff—[Cell division?] clues ANODE, part of a battery cell.
Suzanne Hudson’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Department of Redundancy Dept.” — pannonica’s review
The theme became obviously evident rather early on as I was beginning to solve this crossword puzzle, but was pleased me was the revealer at 61a, which repeated the term I smugly had in my head as I was working through the grid: [Redundant phrases such as 17, 25, 37, and 49 across] PLEONASM (specifically, the semantic variety). It comes from Late Latin pleonasmus, from Greek pleonasmos, from pleonazein to be excessive, from pleiōn, pleōn more — more at plus. The Greek pleōn is of course also the origin of “pile on” (the common noun and verb pile is a back formation).
- 17a. [Shelter] SAFE HAVEN.
- 25a. [Bonus] FREE GIFT.
- 37a. [Ability to transfer thoughts] MENTAL TELEPATHY.
- 49a. [Hill in the desert] SAND DUNE.
Nice compact, straightforward theme. No shockers, but it’s well-worn territory. I wish all of them had been conducive to single-word clues, as the first two; such economy makes for a nice contrast. I also like how the 15-letter central spanner in the middle serves as counterbalance to the shorter themers, and the revealer as well. 25d [Emulate Cassandra] FORESEE evokes another word, forewarn, which is arguably pleonastic. Is there such a thing as an autopleonasm?
As for the
ballast fill makeweight content (I should have ™ed it when I had the chance, Jared!), it’s a well-rounded bunch, including popular culture, history, geography, science, and manages to impart a good dose of trivia and factettes. The vertical nine-stacks in the northeast and southwest—INANIMATE ([Like sticks and stones]) | FIREFIGHT, and LEN DAWSON | INDOENESIA ([“The Year of Living Dangerously” setting])—are quite nice, although every time I see a construction like that, my greedy self wants to see the marginal partner (where TENET / SYD and EMU /SEALS are) be of equal length.
- Some raciness and suggestiveness, if you want to see it: CLIFT over HENIE, BOOBIES, ASSES, ASSET, PEEP [Make use of a keyhole, perhaps], CABANA.
- The names of Jewish months is something I will apparently never learn, despite their being seemingly essential to the cruciverbal toolbox. This puzzle has NISAN, which is when Passover takes place.
- Favorite clue: the misleading 4d [English exam] A LEVEL. English is toponymic here, not describing a school subject. Runner-up is [Bufotoxin source] for TOAD. Bufo, Bufo!
- [Break bread] is a common clue for the common fill EAT, but my inclination is to ingest the phrase in its metaphorical sense. (40d)
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fatherly Attachments” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Father’s Day is just around the corner, so Alan Arbesfeld pays early tribute with this puzzle. Four common expressions pick up a PA at start of a word to become something different:
- 17-Across: An ordinary “shoelace” becomes a SHOE PALACE, a place [Where you take your tootsies for a treat?]. The place where you take your tootsies for a roll is the candy store.
- 29-Across: A “rental unit” becomes a PARENTAL UNIT, clued here as [Mom or dad?]. This one’s a little jarring, since I’ve heard “parental unit” used to describe a teen’s immediate ancestor. The other theme entries are wacky, but I would submit this one is almost “in the language.” Has anyone else heard this too, or am I imagining things?
- 47-Across: Ooh, this one’s the best: “pitch a tent,” one of my favorite euphemisms from high school, becomes PITCH A PATENT, which describes what happens when you [Try to sell an invention?]. You can see budding entrepreneurs pitch their inventions to affluent investors on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” It’s good television, I’m telling you–especially since Mark Cuban joined the show as a regular “shark.”
- 63-Across: Why just “role play” when you can PAROLE PLAY? Here it’s clued as a noun: [Production on conditional release?].
I like the bonus Z and three Xs in the grid. There are a number of contenders for “favorite entry.” Honorable mentions included TOP BANANA, REVAMP, LED THE WAY, and ZELIG, the [1983 Woody Allen film]. I fell into three big traps, and this impeded my solving time significantly. First was CAD as the perfectly reasonable three-letter-word-beginning-with-C answer for [Scoundrel] (HAN SOLO didn’t fit). But the answer here was CUR. NAAN seemed like an okay answer for [Bread served with baba], but c’mon Sam, it’s PITA–you should know better. And then there was SPASM as the “only possible answer beginning with S” for [Jerk]. Yeah, unless it’s SCHMO. Oops. I feel like such a spasm.
Peter Koetters’ Los Angeles Times crossword
This may be my favorite Friday LAT in a few months. Yes, that ART NOT answer (46a. [Shakespearean playground retort?]) is a total cheat, but I did smile when I filled it in (while shaking my head). The theme doesn’t reach too far—four answers, 54 squares, room for interesting longer fill in the 6/7/10-letter range.
The theme entries have an AX buried in them, changing the meaning of the original phrase:
- 19a. TAXABLE HOPPING, [What the Easter Bunny has to report to the IRS?]. Doesn’t quite work for me, but table-hopping is a great base phrase. I was terrified for a minute that “taxable shopping” was the base phrase in a drop-an-S theme, so this is better.
- 29a. MY THREE SAXONS, [Sitcom about a family of Dresden residents raised by a single parent?]. The Dresden = Saxon link is unknown to me, outside of “well, they’re both German.” Checking … Dresden and Saxony have been intertwined since the 1400s and the city is in the Free State of Saxony today. But! The old classic sitcom My Three Sons is a solid phrase to riff on (might be mysterious to younger solvers).
- 38a. BUFFALO WAXING, [Bison spa service during bikini season?]. It’s a funny visual, and buffalo wing is zesty, especially with that blue cheese dressing.
- 51a. BURY THE HATCHET, [Make peace, and a hint to how 19-, 29- and 38-Across were formed]. Lively phrase on its own, great reveal for why AX is plunked into those other phrases. There may be technical differences between hatchets and axes, but I would only care if I were in the market to buy one but not the other.
Among the non-theme fill, here are my favorite things:
- 16a. ANDY WARHOL, [“Eight Elvises” artist]. Full name? Check.
- 47a. I GOT IT, [Infielder’s claim]. “Mine!”
- 57a. OMAR SHARIF, [“Lawrence of Arabia” Oscar nominee]. Full name #2? Check.
- 60a. MIRA, [“Check it out, José”]. This is the sort of Spanish I have halfway picked up from TV shows, and I bet a zillion of the L.A. Times’ SoCal solvers know this one. Spanish I did not know: 12d. ALEGRE, [Cheerful, in Chihuahua]. I know that word only from the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, which Wikipedia says means “Merry Harbour.” The musical term allegro means to play briskly; the Italian word means “lively, gay.” (A Spanish-averse crossword would have ___ Sorvino and Porto ___ fill-in-the-blank clues.)
- 4d. ONYX, [Stone seen in Mammoth Cave National Park]. Had no idea, but filled in ONYX as a 4-letter stone also seen in crosswords. Nice to see a clue that’s not the usual (jet-black stone, banded stone, cameo stone, yaaawn).
- 9d. ROLODEX, [Place to find contacts]. I was thinking contact lenses at first.
- 10d. ROBITUSSIN, [Pfizer cough medicine]. Familiar brand name, long enough that it’s rarely ever spotted in crosswords.
- 24d. OYL, [Olive with hardly any fat]. You were thinking actual olives at first too, weren’t you? No?
- 40d. FATHOMS, [Grasps]. Nice word from Old English.
Could have done without PAGO, ENLS, and HAAS, sure, but overall the fill is solid and the cluing fresh. 4.25 stars.
Maryanne Lemot’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “How to Succeed in Business” — pannonica’s review
stepquote!* In seven parts, with two associated accreditations. This being the WSJ, the source and subject are apropos.
- 31a. [Speaker of the quotation] WARREN BUFFETT.
- 99a. [Nickname of the speaker of the quotation] WIZARD OF OMAHA. Convenient that the two names are the same length, no?
- 23a. [Start of a quotation about succeeding] YOU ONLY HAVE
- 25a, 46a, 65a, 87a, 104a, 107a: TO DO A VERY | FEW THINGS | RIGHT IN YOUR LIFE SO LONG | AS YOU DON’T | DO TOO MANY | THINGS WRONG.
Well. To me, that sounds rather trite, glib and not particularly pithy. I’m sure the redoubtable Mr Buffett has said many things more insightful and profound, though how likely are they to be the right length (and sub-lengths) for a cruciverbal stepquote?
Life’s a buffett and most poor suckers are starving to death! — Auntie Mame (paraphrased and misspelled)
Okay, so it doesn’t quite work, but it’s too late now.
Aside from my tepid response to the the theme, I enjoyed this puzzle. So many excellent clues! I never how much to ascribe to the constructor versus Mike Shenk’s editing. Certainly, the editor sets the tone of the puzzles and constructors will shade their submissions to that direction, but the editor is not a passive shepherd.
A rundown of clue highlights:
- 11a [Bass organ?] GILL.
- 22a [“The chief nurse of England’s statesmen”] Interesting trivia for the crossword mainstay ETON (although it’s been used before).
- 48a [Suppliers in a down market] EIDERS. 119a [Dark time for advertisers] NITE. It is the WSJ.
- 54a [Card between dame and as] ROI. Thought it would be much more obscure than it turned out to be.
- 57a [Butterflies in the stomach?] PASTA. That’s what farfalle means. Who wants to eat a bow tie?
- 60a & 72a [Bad places to drive] SAND TRAPS and BIKE LANES.
- 96a [“Dilbert” division] PANEL.
- 101a [Devils’ playground?] RINK.
- 83a & 103a [Onetime JFK lander] SST and TWA. Rescues two tired abbrevs.
- 85a [Boil] subtly suggests SEETHE over SEE RED.
- 121a [You’ll want to get them out of your bed] WEEDS.
- 10d [Oxford openings] EYELETS. Was still REELING (37a) from ETON.
- 31d [Person in the pool] WAGERER.
- 76d [Her playhouse had Secret Service protection] AMY CARTER; feeling smug for getting it from the initial A alone.
- 86d [Saint in many pictures] EVA MARIE.
A grab-bag of abbrevs., partials, affixes, and unknown proper names—which I’m not going to enumerate—but they gave me a subconscious sense of being pushed to the teetering point, though not the tipping point. 83d SAW A SHOW [Made like many New York tourists], which is just blah (and also I wanted it to be something like TROD SLOW, which I suppose is also blah and less of a thing). Not sure about HEH as a [Sound of disbelief] (7d). [Like Grendel] for SLAIN (50d) feels off. 95d [Femur’s upper end] HIP; only partially, in conjunction with the lateral parts of the pelvis.
A couple more good bits:
- Stacked OCARINA | NINEVEH | GONDALA in the lower right center.
- Longfill INNER CORE, RAW TALENT, the two full names already mentioned at 76d and 86d, LOVE FEST.
It’s very difficult to dislike a Shenk-edited puzzle.
*(thanks to Andrew J. Ries for the correction)