J.R. Leopold’s New York Times crossword, “Any Pun for Tennis?”
The theme entries/clues didn’t feel very punny to me, but I suppose these fall under the category of homonymic puns. I generally prefer puns with more whimsy, but people who loathe puns probably don’t mind this set as much, as real phrases are redefined with tennis applications because one word in each has a tennis meaning.
- 23a. [Tennis clinic focusing on drop shot skills?], NETWORKING EVENT.
- 38a. [Coaches who help you use your wrist in shots?], SPIN DOCTORS.
- 49a. [Tennis players who clown around?], COURT JESTERS.
- 67a. [“For a righty, you hit the ball pretty well on your left side,” and others?], BACK-HANDED COMPLIMENTS.
- 88a. [Line judge’s mission?], FAULT FINDING.
- 96a. [“Nothing” and “aught”?], LOVE HANDLES. Handles = names, love = zero in tennis.
- 116a. [Luke Skywalker’s volley?], RETURN OF THE JEDI.
- 17d. [Mistakenly hitting into the doubles area during a singles match?], ALLEY OOPS. I don’t think I knew “alley” as a tennis term.
- 78d. [Start of a tennis game?], SERVE TIME. Turns a prison verb phrase into a noun phrase.
The rest of the puzzle was, as in so many Sunday puzzles, just sort of there. Nothing particularly wonderful or terrible. Ten things I wanted to comment on:
- 70d. [“Singin’ in the Rain” composer ___ Herb Brown], NACIO. Whoa! Who?? Thank you for having five crossings in plain, unconfusable English. This is how you put oddball proper nouns or foreign words in the puzzle—with unambiguous crossings.
- 52d. [Barely remembered days of old], DIM PAST. Is that a “thing”?
- 124a. [Broad-minded], TOLERANT. Well, technically, you can be tolerant and tolerate things you don’t like, but it doesn’t make you broad-minded. It’s acceptance that goes with a broad mind.
- 64a. [Photo developing compound], AMIDOL. Second puzzle to have this word in recent weeks. Maybe the third time, I’ll remember the spelling?
- 112a. [Author of a 1719 literary sensation], DEFOE. The book is I Am Willem and I Come From 300 Years in the Future. No, wait, he’s spelled Dafoe. The clue is about Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.
- 114a. [Planchette holder], OUIJA. A planchette is a small board with casters used for automatic writing and seances. A dictionary is telling me that a Ouija board is a board that a planchette or movable indicator points to. I’m confused. Oh! I get it. The planchette is the little elevated arrow doodad on the board. Board on a board. Got it. Still don’t like OUIJA as the answer instead of OUIJA BOARD, though.
- 119a. [Hit single-player game of the 1980s], SIMON. I tell ya, I preferred Merlin. More game-play options.
- 16d. [Barbie’s last name], ROBERTS. Coincidentally, the last name of our Chief Justice. …Or is it a coincidence? Is his middle name Millicent?
- 51d. [White Castle offerings], SLIDERS. Great clue/answer combo. Are non-brand-name bar-food “sliders” on menus nationwide now? Or are little mini-burgers only called sliders in White Castle territory?
- 66d. [Part of a requiem Mass], both words of DIES IRAE. As an old-school Catholicism bonus, we also have ORANT and CENSE.
How’d you like the subtlety and non-groaniness of today’s puns? I won’t make any more racket in giving this puzzle 3.5 stars.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Stooge-Struck”
I don’t always love Merl’s extended narrative themes (they’re one of his trademarks, along with pun themes and long theme answers stacked together), but this one’s a hoot. It’s packed with language that has an alternate violent meaning, making the Three Stooges setting perfect:
- (22a) “I have this dream where I’m a kid delivering donuts to the Three Stooges. I’m in their office setting up (and listening) and Moe says to Larry, ‘Hey, porcupine! Does this new script seem SLAPPED TOGETHER?’ (27a) Larry says, ‘Nah, it just needs PUNCHING UP.’ (36a) Then Curly POKES HIS NOSE in and says, ‘Do I smell donuts?’ (48a) And Moe says, ‘Well, you can come in, but with two conditions–one, that you don’t start SMACKING YOUR LIPS (64a) and two, that we can BOUNCE A FEW THINGS OFF ya.’ (81a) Curly replies, ‘KNOCK YOURSELF OUT.’ (94a) Then Larry starts begging to play Moe’s role for a change, and Curly says to LET HIM HAVE IT, so Moe happily obliges. (103a) Then Moe says, ‘Hey kid, you wanna type this up for us?’ And I say, ‘TWIST MY ARM! I mean, just kidding!’ (109a) And that’s how it always ends, with me typing up a script for the Three Stooges! SOMEBODY PINCH ME! Just kidding.”
If you picture various Stooges doing the capitalized things—Moe slapping Curly and Larry’s heads together, a vigorous poke in the nose, hard objects being bounced off of heads, Stooges being knocked out cold, and so on—well, that sort of slapstick has its charm, and the theme hit my funny bone. Merl’s narrative holds together pretty well, too (though the donut thread is left dangling—is the donut a McGuffin? Discuss.).
Five more things:
- 11d. [Harmonica maker], HOHNER? I needed every crossing.
- 89a. [Pres. Monroe, briefly], JAS., short for James. The phone book used to list my dad as “Jas.” and a neighbor assumed he went by Jim because he didn’t care for Jasper. I misunderstood the clue here and thought we needed a position Monroe held briefly rather than a brief way of referring to him. And I have done how many hundreds of crosswords where “briefly” means one thing and one thing only, “for short”? Sigh.
- 70a. [Recommending words], WE LIKE. Oddball crossword entry. WE LIKE New Orleans, my family. And we cannot urge you strongly enough to never go to Orlando theme parks during spring break.
- 2d. [Grass garment], HULA SKIRT. What a great answer to find in a crossword.
- 82d. [___ shoppers], KMART. Surprised to see this without a prefatory “Attention…”? Me, too.
Four stars from me. So few crosswords actually try to make you giggle. It’s a treat when a theme leaves you smiling. Bonus points for the title, “Stooge-Struck”—a play on “stage-struck” that evokes the “thwack” meaning of “struck.”
Alan Arbesfeld’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Disorderly Conduct”
Wow, it took me a long time to understand this theme. Even when I’d grasped that it made sense to swap the initial sounds of the non-THE words, I wasn’t hearing the words, I was seeing them—and thus missing the spelling changes that are needed to convert to the original phrases. The presence of eight 10-letter entries that aren’t theme answers may also have slowed my recognition.
- 23a. [Avoid caviar?], SHUN THE ROE. Run the show.
- 28a. [Rouse a duck?], WAKE THE TEAL. Take the wheel.
- 34a. [Back beachgoers?], STAKE THE TANNED. Take the stand. (Aww, no Buffy the Vampire Slayer style of staking the beachgoers? The vampires wouldn’t be tan, anyway.)
- 51a. [Strongly desire daredevils?], CRAVE THE BOLD. Brave the cold (not “bave the crolled”—this is the only instance where a consonant cluster is broken up).
- 61a. [Respond to a face-licking?], KISS THE MUTT. Miss the cut.
- 77a. [Work for nothing?], WAIVE THE PAY. Pave the way.
- 88a. [Forgo long stories?] SKIP THE TALES. Tip the scales.
- 102a. [Select one’s jousting weapon?], CHOOSE THE LANCE. Lose the chance.
- 111a. [Apportion a side dish?], DOLE THE RICE. Roll the dice.
- 121a. [Bench a cab company softball team player?], SIT THE HACK. Hit the sack.
The results aren’t particularly amusing, but the theme provided a solid mental workout. The title, “Disorderly Conduct,” touches on the disordered initial sounds and the “conduct” inherent in all these verb phrases.
Let’s take a gander at 10 more things:
- 60a. [Word on a dollar], ORDO. The other 4-letter words on the buck are UNUM and SEAL.
- 91a. [__ Fáil: Irish coronation stone], LIA. I always want it to be FIA because of the party Fianna Fáil.
- 110a. [Massachusetts Bay city], LYNN. Is this more familiar than actress Lynn Redgrave, football player Lynn Swann, or singer Loretta Lynn?
- 125a. [Pasta that doesn’t sound very appetizing], VERMICELLI. “Little worms.” Compare this to “angel hair pasta.” Marketing!
- 3d. [Parental settings], BOUNDARIES. I don’t quite see the connection here. Anyone? Parents “set limits.”
- 10d. [Looped handle], ANSA. My first answer in the grid! “My name is Amy and I’m a cruciverbaholic.” When musty old crosswordese offers your first step into the grid, you know you have a problem. 40d: [Nita of silents] NALDI and 63d: [Fancy marble] TAWwere also flat-out gimmes.
- 20d. [Grow dramatically], SHOOT UP. “Grow dramatically” is, of course, slang for “inject heroin.”
- 28d. [Baseball Hall of Famer Paul or Lloyd], WANER. Not the first time I’ve seen them in a crossword and not the first time I have leaned on all five crossings.
- 49d. [Big Apple locale?], DESKTOP. Yes, the top of a desk is a common place to put an iMac.
- 70d. [Use MC or Amex], CHG. I don’t care for the abbrev being applied to a verb.
All right, it’s time for me to sit the hack. 3.8 stars from me.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 154” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here, still suffering ACPT withdrawal. This was a fun puzzle to solve. Great stuff tucked away in every section of the grid.
- 9d. [Location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World] – PHAROS. This is the entry that gave me the most trouble. I got 15a PLETHORA (Overabundance) right away, and then confidently filled in RHODES for 9-Down. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the rest of that corner, because I so sure of RHODES. Well played, Mr. Payne.
- 7d. [Baseball Hall of Famers Lyons and Williams] – TEDS. Another tricky clue in that same corner. Putting Ted Lyons (who?) before Ted Williams made the clue significantly harder for me. The only baseball Lyons I could think of was Steve Lyons, and he’s not exactly Hall of Fame material. Anyway, I’ve learned that Ted Lyons pitched for the White Sox for 21 years and won a lot of games.
- 43a. [“The aristocrat of pears”] – BOSC. This clue made me laugh. Are D’Anjous the peasants of the pear world?
- 52a. [Bertie Wooster exclamation] – EGAD. I love Jeeves and Wooster, and I was sure this was going to be I SAY.
- 14d. [Bertie Wooster exclamation] – GOSH. See previous comment.
- 55a. [Video game featuring Gloom-shrooms, Melon-pults and Cherry Bombs] – PLANTS VS ZOMBIES. Great entry. Great clue.
- 59a. [Ice cream eater’s cone, perhaps] – PARTY HAT. Clue of the day.
- 3d. [Character in “The Phantom of the Opera”] – CARLOTTA. I’m not terribly familiar with The Phantom of the Opera. I know the title character wears a half-mask, and I think he lives in the sewer. But I’ll never forget the last name of the Phantom’s love, Christine Daaé. The first time I saw DAAE in a crossword, I was positive it was wrong. That’s one of the weirdest looking entries I’ve ever seen.
- 30d. [Order liver] – MONK. Something I would never do. That stuff’s gross. But seriously, that is one devious clue!
Other good stuff: BOPPER, SLIM DOWN, PIGSTY, SHAMWOW, MWAH.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I’ve noticed a consistent pattern of late when solving a Bob Klahn puzzle: one corner (occasionally two) will fall into place fairly quickly, deluding me into thinking this will be the one time I ace one of his puzzles in normal CS time (between four and seven minutes, if you’re new here). But then I hit a wall and everything starts falling in slow motion–one three-letter answer in one corner, a five-letter answer in a different corner, and… not much else.
The pattern continued today. To the right I’ve posted my progress at the six-minute mark. Obviously I felt pretty good about the northwest corner, but I was having a hard time making progress elsewhere. I broke in with OCTOPUS, the [Well-armed predator?], a clue I saw through right away, I think in part because Matt Gaffney’s book, Gridlock, had some discussion of cluing OCTOPUS or OCTOPI with “army.” I read that book years ago, and I’m not sure why that stuck with me, but it did. Thankfully!
By the time I hit the 12-minute mark, I realized that BARACK was the [Presidential name from the Swahili for “blessed”], and that led me to get DUCKS despite the devilish clue, [They wear down]. But the rest of the northeast wasn’t giving, so I continued down the center. It helped a lot when I realized that VODKA was the [Tartar sauce?], as that let me see PIPE DREAM, the [Castle in the air]. My main vexation at the time of this screenshot was trying to figure out Peter [Lorre’s role in “Casablanca”], a film I just watched not more than three weeks ago. That G for the second letter just looked wrong, though I was sure the crossing EPILOG, [Last words], was right. (It turned out to be UGARTE, and yet that still just looks wrong.) I was also stewing over the answer to [Unorthodox]. Based on how the grid looked at this point, LIMERICK was the only thing I could think of that would fit. So I thought I’d venture into the white spaces down south to see if anything would give way.
Fortunately I got LOAN as the answer to [It may be on the house], and I took a flyer on AYE as the [Hearty endorsement?]. That gave me NATION as the [State], which, in turn, helped me see that the last word of [In a row] rhymed with cow and not snow, which meant the answer was GOING AT IT. With that much in place, the rest of the corner fell quickly, though I was very skeptical of the letter connecting MARL, the [Earthy deposit of clay and calcium carbonate], and DANA ELCAR, some actor who [played Agent Polk in “The Sting”]. It wasn’t until the end that I realized what a lucky guess I had made.
Off to the southwest, where I just decided to plunk down some possible answers and see where it got me. I tried NO NO NO as the [Early hit for Destiny’s Child] just because of the ???O?O pattern, then CAN IT as the answer to [“Enough!”] and EDENS as the [Elysian fields]. Whaddya know–all three guesses were right, leading to VINTNER as the [Port authority?] and, finally, MAVERICK as the answer to [Unorthodox]. Progress baby!
From there it was clean-up time in the northeast. ORTHOEPY, the [Study of pronunciation] was completely foreign to me, so I needed every crossing there. (Is it wrong to ask how ORTHOEPY’s pronouned?) I first tried AS MANY for [To the same degree], but that went nowhere fast. Luckily, AS MUCH proved much more successful, leading to PICTURE as the [One taken on vacation] and DEATHLY as the answer to [Like some silences]. A minute or so later and I was finally done. Not my best time ever on a Klahn themeless, but I’ll take it and run.
I’ve already hit on some of the great clues in this puzzle, but let’s highlight three more:
- [You can be in it and out of it at the same time] for COMA. Great way to clue an entry that could otherwise be a downer.
- [Its business is booming] for TNT. That answer occurred to me the first time I read the clue (that and SST). Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t try it sooner.
- [Sat around for years waiting to get drunk] for AGED. Nice!
Favorite entry = ESOTERICA, clued as [It’s meant for a select few]. Favorite clue = [Stag film?] for BAMBI.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Do It Again” — pannonica’s
This puzzle operates by inserting the letters RE into familiar phrases to reinvent them. Although it opens at one across with an unsavory abbrev. [Fam. member] REL., I’m inclined to refrain from reaming it out because it’s reminiscent of the theme itself.
- 21a. [Tell Stoker’s story?] RECOUNT DRACULA.
- 42a. [Some stuff in Nevada?] RENO MATTER. Res?
- 52a. [People holding back tears?] SOB RESISTERS.
- 64a. [Compensation for a bad senior dance?] PROM REDRESS.
- 76a. [One doing an eye-roll?] RETINA TURNER. My favorite, although I don’t think the retina moves.
- 89a. [La Grande Illusion,” e.g.?] FILM RENOIR. Funny way of identifying a Jean Renoir film, but constraints are constraints.
- 1131a. [Business-section writeup?] REPORT OF RECALL. A twofer!
- 14d. [Cobbler’s job?] REPAIR OF SHOES.
- 51d. [Puzzles in a yearbook?] SCHOOL REBUSES.
Hook redoubles down and gives us a wink at 26a [Again and again?] THRICE. Sturdy theme, well executed. My solving time ended up being about two minutes longer than it should have, in my estimation, because I had more than the usual retinue of typos which weren’t revealed until things got very snagged and I had to retroactively resolve them.
- New to me: 11a [Vertigo] MEGRIM, deriving from the French for migraine. 99a [Video game’s RT offshoot] LARP; don’t understand the clue or the answer.
- Favorite fill: 44a [Trinkets] BIBELOTS. Bonus for lying underneath Denis DIDEROT.
- Some clever and playful clues: 70a [Dove bar?] ROOST (see also 116d [Bill’s partner] COO), 17d [Take out of context?] DELETE. 80d [Local supporters?] RAIL.
- Least favorite three-letter answers: REL, SBA (Susan B Anthony), ETO (European Theater of Operations), OSO, LAE, EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity), SOR(ority), GHI (in a grid that already has ABCD).
- Trickiest clue: 56d [Corporation] BELLY.
Good puzzle, neither resplendent nor repulsive.