Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “Special Features” — pannonica’s write-up
Were you looking for the revealer? It’s right there, at 115-across: [Hidden DVD feature … which can be found, literally, in the answers to the starred clues] EASTER EGG. So named because they are “hidden”, just like those colorful ovoids at this time of year.
The nine letters of that phrase have been inserted into the titles of nine films, spelling it out. I’ve circled the squares (easier than squaring the circles, or so I’m told) to facilitate matters. Please note that the inserted letter is always the first instance of that letter in the new, converted phrase; it’s a subtle but elegant touch.
- 23a. [*Movie about … an intense blinking contest?] STAR(E) WARS. Non-blinking, technically.
- 28a. [* … a housecleaner?] NE(A)TWORK.
- 30a. [* … a sled racer?] (S)NOW VOYAGER.
- 44a. [* … a bee during a downpour?] S(T)INGIN’ IN THE RAIN.
- 56a. [* … actor Jason’s fan club?] BAT(E)MAN FOREVER.
- 80a. [* … Jerry Garcia’s band’s portraits?] D(R)AWN OF THE DEAD. Little awkward, that phrasing.
- 88a. [* … a parent’s edicts?] T(E)EN COMMANDMENTS. I decree that this one needs a “with ‘The'” specification.
- 100a. [* … a king’s brilliance?] RE(G)AL GENIUS.
- 108a. [* … a harvester?] (G)RAIN MAN.
Cute, lateral way to provide a timely theme.
The complementary, nearly de rigueur long downs are very impressive: DEATH METAL (I had BLACK METAL first, as I’m not exactly familiar with bands such as Possessed and Deicide), LADIES’ NIGHT, CUT CORNERS, CAROL KANE, CHEWBACCA (with the brilliant clue, [Solo companion]), and LOST WEEKEND, based on Charles Jackson’s novel. That last one’s a teensy unnerving as it’s a film title and can be seen to infringe on the theme entries.
Another film title is at 13a [1983 film debut of Bill Maher] DC CAB, but I seem to recall he was in 1977’s The Kentucky Fried Movie… annnnnd … ooh! I was apparently thinking of 1989’s Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, which I’ve … erm … seen.
Well. Moving on. Yes, let’s move on, shall we?
- 21a/22a ERASE / ABASE.
- 86a [It’s west of the International Date Line] ASIA. Strange clue.
- 94a [Certain extraction] ORE, which is what I’d filled in for 24d [Smelt __ ] which turned out to be ROE. Hey! They’re anagrams.
- Didn’t care for the vague blank clue nor the answer at 84a [ __ water] IN HOT; liked them even less when I saw the clue for 112a ENRAGE [Get hot].
- Oh wait, another film title, JAWS (9d). But it’s clued elsewise, [Vise parts].
- ASTR., EMER,, Not to mention ATF, IMF, CDC, MCM, et al. Plus a seeming [Slew] TON of prepositional phrase quasi-partials.
- 117a [City south of Brigham City] OGDEN, 89d [City SSE of 117-Across] OREM. Ooh, a geographical crosswordese twofer! Shows gumption to highlight it that way, so I approve. Though the gambit does undermine the less conventional cluing of 76d [CITE] as [Île de la __ ].
Interesting theme but ultimately a less-than-satisfying puzzle. I sense it was more gratifying to construct than to solve
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s 66/38 freestyle Sunday Challenge features a wide-open midsection with lots of terrific answers, like ASKING PRICE, the [Sticker figure], POMEGRANATE, the [Fruit whose name means “seedy apple”], SAYING GRACE, clued as [Preparing to eat, in a way], and SEMI-PRIVATE, [Like two-bed hospital rooms]. That these long entries can intersect without any junk connecting them is just amazing.
Was I the only one who noticed some of the little echoes scattered throughout this grid:
- SACRAMENTAL, [Like some wine], shares an intellectual connection to DETRIMENTAL, clued as [Bad]. Or am I just going mental?
- Same goes for POSING AS, [Pretending to be], and SAVE AS, [File menu option].
- An even better example is RHETT, [Butler of film], and BRETT, [Butler or Favre].
- There’s less of a connection between CAN DO, the [Unofficial Seabees’ motto], and CANSO, the [Nova Scotia cape], but their likeness stands out given they intersect in this grid.
I lost about a minute of solving time to the southwest corner, as I let the [Bottom line, briefly] stump me for far too long. It didn’t help that I held on to YES-NO as [Some questionnaire answers] when the answer was instead YESES, because that kept me from trying the obvious answer for [Cinematic pig], BABE. I was trying to think of a pig with a name ending in N, and that’s a hard task.
Favorite entry = LAST GASP, or [Desperate]. Favorite clue = [Tumbler of rhyme] for Jack’s companion, JILL.
Mike Nothnagel’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 156”
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Great puzzle by the great Mike Nothnagel. Those first three Across entries seem to form a mini-theme of sorts: BAR SOAP, PINE-SOL, and ACETONE. With that combo, I could clean most anything.
- 21d. [Singer in 1977’s Best Picture] – ALVY. Alvy Singer from Annie Hall. Love this clue! And I’m not even a big Woody Allen fan.
- 52a. [Sch. that represents one of its initials in its logo with a pickax] – UTEP. How original! I thought I’d solved and/or used every UTEP clue in existence.
- 33d. [Participants in sting operations?] – WASPS. I knew this was going to have something to do with bees. OK, wasps aren’t actually bees, but close enough. I hate bees, and I really hate wasps. And Wikipedia tells me there are over 100,000 species of wasps. How is that even possible? Horrifying.
- 29d. [1977 David Bowie album whose cover was altered for his 2013 album “The Next Day”] – HEROES. A gimme for Brendan Emmett Quigley, I’m sure.
- 6d. [Wordsmith.org founder ___ Garg] – ANU. I used to subscribe to his “A Word A Day” email, so I recognized the name.
Other good stuffz: ZEPPO MARX, ZOUNDS, PLOTZ, ORGANZA.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Moving Parts” — pannonica’s write-up
In which the letter sequence PART is removed from some theme entries and inserted into others, always creating new wackdoodle phrases.
- 26a. [Shepherds’ claim?] O’ER THE RAM•S WE WATCHED.
- 31a. [Entertaining at Dollywood?] (PART)ON PURPOSE.
- 62a. [Shopping for Valentine’s Day?] THE DEAR DE•ED. My favorite, both because the resulting phrase is quite sensical and because the implied original DEPART has a meta aspect.
- 71a. [Workout venue for Romney and Boehner?] REPUBLICAN •Y.
- 101a. [“You must acquit” et al?] GLOVE COM•MENTS.
- 107a. [Top chef’s creation?] MEAL FIT FOR (PART)AKING ( … a king). This entry (entrée?) included the square last to fall for me. As I wasn’t seeing the original phrase, I filled the mystery letter at the end of 96d [Gastric acid component (abbr.)] as a T, forming HCT and MEAT… HCL is of course one of the cholesterols (‘good’ and ‘bad’) that are commonly found in the alimentary canal, as well as crossword grids.
- 3d. [Luxury-shunning quarterback?] S(PART)AN MARINO.
- 57d. [Sad game bird?] BLUE (PART)RIDGE. Hmm.
As there are eight theme answers—half that lose PART and half that gain it—the four quartets can be seen as simply being transferred from one set to the other: literally moving PARTs.
- The second-most vexing square for me to fill was at the intersection of 18a [Roman dictator, 82–79 B.C.] and 5d [Torso armor]. It didn’t help that I wasn’t sure if the abbreviation for the Canadian province Alberta at 6-down was ABTA or ALTA. The necessary letter was U, for SULLA and CUIRASS.
- 114a ARTIC, which looks like an illiterate rendering of arctic, is short for articulated lorry, which is apparently what ‘Brits’ call an 18-wheeler. In this country we also call it a tractor-trailer, a tractor-semitrailer, or simply shorten that to SEMI, which is another crossword mainstay. Of course, in the UK semi is short for semidetached house.
- If you’re going to put a partial in a crossword, may as well gussy it up with Shakespeare. 49a [“___ is out of joint.” : Hamlet] THE TIME. Yet another of the bard’s phrases that have inspired book titles, in this case (1) a science fiction novel by Philip K Dick, (2) a memoir of leaving Nazi Germany for Britain, (3) a catalog of a recent show at the Whitney Museum of Art, and (4) an analysis of Shakespeare himself as a “philosopher of history.”Alas, there’s no help for 82a GOT FROM.
- 118a [Necrophobe’s fear] DEATH. My sense is that necro- more precisely refers to dead bodies, whereas thanato- references death as a concept, and that thanatophobia is the more prevalent term. A little digging shows that I’m both right and wrong; necro- does indeed suggest corpses, but its meaning has grown to encompass death in general. A Google Ngram search shows that “thanatophobia” has historically been more common than “necrophobia” but also that the two have been converging in recent years. And anyway, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
- The list you’ve been dying for: ORAN; ST LO; -ERN; AH, ME; SHOR; ANIL; HAD A; LDS; SOO; URU; OR I; ’EAD; SYN; HCL; AT AN.
- PLUMPISH is a fun word. (7d)
- Favorite clue, with the merest of reservations: 27d [Woman with will power?] HEIRESS. Wouldn’t executrix be more accurate? Nevertheless, I can see how an heiress can be empowered by a will, hence my qualification.
- Last, 13d Without A PEEP is how I’m gladly experiencing this Easter.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Real-World Palindromes”
This week’s theme is palindromes:
- 23a. [Retracted, perhaps], DRAWN INWARD. I am more fond of drawing pupil’s lip upward.
- 25a. [A few notes], SOME MEMOS.
- 35a. [Did a little church maintenance], SWEPT PEWS.
- 38a. [First TV appearance], TUBE DEBUT.
- 52a. [Wooden bed of a sort], BIRCH CRIB.
- 56a. [Handfuls for Hollywood nannies], STAR BRATS.
- 70a. [Answer to “Should I use a rubber band?”], NO, TIE IT ON. Harder to parse with the comma your mind’s eye needs to insert there.
- 85a. [Fundraiser sponsored by hospital employees, perhaps], NURSES’ RUN.
- 87a. [Containers for cashews or hard candy, e.g.], SNACK CANS.
- 97a. [Words after “It’s a wand”], NOT A BATON.
- 101a. [Swapped Dalis, e.g.], TRADED ART.
- 116a. [Good name for an Asian airline (possible slogan: “The same great service coming and going”)], AERO KOREA.
- 119a. [Bit of “Perry Mason” dialogue], DELLA CALLED.
- 40d. [Lotion for shoulder pain, perhaps], BURSITIS RUB.
- 44d. [Aerialist’s buy, perhaps], TRAPEZE PART.
Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill crossword theme. Why, you only see this once every seven or so years—I Googled a couple theme answers and found out this puzzle’s a rerun from May 2006. (The person who commented on the puzzle in a palindrome discussion thread praised Merl’s palindromes for being much more plausible phrases than, say, “God! Nate bit a Tibetan dog!”) Obviously, Merl freshened up the clues, as OBAMA hadn’t appointed Justice Kagan back in ’06, and ANG LEE had not directed Life of Pi.
I liked the theme okay, but the overriding vibe I felt was “these are words I learned from crosswords way back when.” OVOLO, TOSSPOT, SENTA, ESSO, URIS/ARI, MOAS, ALAI, EDOM … that doesn’t look like very many entries, but I still felt an ’80s-solving vibe. (Not a horrible Maleska vibe, mind you. I keep hearing about the crossword atrocities that people are discovering in ’70s and ’80s NYT puzzles via the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, and it kills any curiosity I might have had about older puzzles.)
Andrew Ries’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Support Group”
Nice reveal in the center of this puzzle: 69a. [Event where the number 12 is important, and a feature of 12 two-word answers in this puzzle] clues AA MEETING. Each of the 12 “steps” in this theme is a two-word phrase in which the words meet at an A and A.
- 23a. [Tibetan breed], LHASA APSO.
- 24a. [Cinematographer’s concern], CAMERA ANGLE.
- 30a. [First Bond girl], URSULA ANDRESS.
- 45a. [Orange County seat], SANTA ANA. I would’ve guessed one of the bigger/more famous cities in the O.C. was the county seat.
- 47a. [Max Ernst, for one], DADA ARTIST. Slightly less a “thing” than most of the other theme answers.
- 55a. [Crimson Tide’s home], TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA. Mesa, Arizona, you need a new agent.
- 80a. [“The Voice” coach], CHRISTINA AGUILERA.
- 87a. [Interactive website plug-in], JAVA APPLET. I disabled Java in my browsers back when there was that warning about Java vulnerabilities. Any reason to enable Java again?
- 91a. [Unusual thing], RARA AVIS. Hardcore crossworders know this is Latin for “rare bird.”
- 106a. [Its largest hub is in Atlanta], DELTA AIR LINES. Okay, this one is officially three words, so there’s also an RL meeting. (When you go to RL meetings, you have to wear Ralph Lauren or Polo clothes.)
- 113a. [First Japanese car to be produced in the U.S.], HONDA ACCORD.
- 116a. [Mozart highlight], OPERA ARIA. Is this a “thing”? Dictionary says an aria can also be in an oratorio and thus is not exclusively an opera thing.
The grid design means that there are 9-letter answers stacked beside the top and bottom 9-letter theme answers. There are a couple 8-letter theme answers. This didn’t actually discombobulate anyone, did it? I found the puzzle tumbled so fast, I didn’t have time to gaze at ICE SKATER and LHASA APSO and try to find a connection.
Didn’t know 56d. [B.J. or Justin of baseball], UPTON. Is that the last name of model Kate, too?
As for 74d: [’60s defense secretary], Robert MCNAMARA—if you haven’t seen the Errol Morris documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, do make a point of tracking it down. It was fascinating.
70d. [US Open champ between John and Mats] tricked me. Four letters, tennis, starts with I? Gotta be ILIE Nastase. Except, of course, when it’s a little later on and for a more extended run, and it’s IVAN Lendl.
I have never used “turtledove” as a term of endearment, so 109a. [Turtledove] baffled me. DEARIE, term of endearment? Okay, then.
Not so thrilled with fill like PURRER, RIA (although my cousin’s new baby is named Ria, and I want her to become a child star so we have a fresh way to clue RIA), ARME, RIATA, ODA, AAR, and ORT.
Overall rating, 3.33 stars.