Attention, New York Times crossword solvers! If you have a puzzle by Kevin Der in your newspaper, check last Friday’s post for the review. If you enjoyed an Ian Livengood puzzle last week, that’s the one being released to the online solvers now, and it’s what’s reviewed below.
Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
Fun puzzle. I’m late getting to it because my family just watched Captain Phillips (Talk about your nail-biters!), so I’ll be brief.
Liked the spoken English. Why, there’s even a whole stack of it, with “WHO’S THAT?” and “HOW ARE YA?” atop “AMEN, AMEN!”—all crossing “WHAT THE…?” There’s also an impatient “YES OR NO?” and an irritated “PLEASE GO,” and a lonesome “MISS ME?” I know some of you traditionalists think this stuff is inappropriate crossword fill, but I enjoy it.
Also liked the splashy MILE-HIGH CLUB (26a. [Group that no one on earth has ever joined] because you have to be off the earth’s surface to qualify), 26a. Group that no one on earth has ever joined, the grim RAT POISON, and rockin’ “PROUD MARY.”
I dispute the clue for CHALK LINE, 3d. [Figure out on the street?]. When the police evidence crew traces a body on the street, that’s called a chalk outline. A CHALK LINE is something entirely different, isn’t it?
4.25 stars from me.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Color Me Yellow” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Today’s theme entries all start with a shade of yellow:
- [Slimy mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz] clued BANANA SLUG – hard to believe any college sports organization would choose something as unathletic as a slug as their mascot, but there you have it.
- [Curd-filled pie variety] was LEMON MERINGUE
- [Edible leaves high in vitamins A and K] clued MUSTARD GREENS
- [Place to park the Parkay] was a BUTTER DISH – is Parkay margarine still sold?
I guess I’m a bit confused by this one…now that I go through the entries these aren’t shades of yellow, but yellow food items. In all but BANANA, the theme entry refers to the food item itself, and I guess even BANANA does, since the slug is in the shape of one. Anyway, a bit of French in this one–we had Chacun A SON goût and Je t’AIME. And then the Spanish [Uno y dos] for TRES. I enjoyed seeing the contemporary HULU as well as the longer TRAPDOOR, MEAT MARKET and TRAINED EYE.
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Defective Story” — pannonica’s write-up
No mystery to the theme here, it’s simply puns based on the names of famous fictional detectives.
- 23a. [Gas station detective?] FILL-UP MARLOWE (Philip).
- 34a. [Out-of-this-world detective?] SPACE VENTURA (Ace).
- 53a. [Thai detective?] SIAM SPADE (Sam). Siam would have been the exonym in use during the late 1920s and early ’30s, when Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade stories took place.
- 55a. [Tribeca Film Festival detective?] DENIRO WOLFE (Nero). Robert De Niro is one of the co-founders of the event, as well as owning a residence there.
- 61a. [Lottery-winning detective?] SHEER LUCK HOLMES (Sherlock). Rather fitting that the archetypal—to many—detective is the centerpiece of the grid.
- 74a. [Vegetarian detective?] CELERY QUEEN (Ellery), who was both a fictional character and a pseudonymous author (for a writing team of two, who themselves used modified versions of their names that sounded less Jewish) of said character’s adventures.
- 78a. [Bathroom detective?] LOO ARCHER (Lew). Created by ROSS Macdonald. See also, 26a [Sites of some arches] FEET.
- 91a. [Madison Square Garden detective?] KNICK CHARLES (Nick). NICK, NORA, and ASTA all appear in crosswords, but the dog takes the lion’s share of them. See also 67d [Home of a lion killed by Hercules] NEMEA. Factette: the “thin man” in the début novel was the murderee, not the detective; despite this, five sequels all included that sobriquet, forever confusing viewers and readers alike.
- 109a. [Tiffany’s detective?] JEWELS MAIGRET (Jules). Georges Simenon, the author, was French, as was his commissaire, so the ‘s’ isn’t pronounced, which muddies the answer here.
- 15d. [Museum detectives?] THE ARTY BOYS (Hardy).
- 61d. [Gyroscope-using detective?] SPERRY MASON (Perry). The equipment and electronics manufacturer Sperry Corporation (now a part of Unisys) was founded in 1910 as the Sperry Gyroscope Company.
It’s possible to quibble over the collection in terms of classic-ness, or whether a certain author should have been represented more than once, or whether all the characters should have first appeared in print (rather than, say, a film), or if all the puns should have been limited to single words. But I’m not going to KLATSCH in that QUAG (12a, 76d).
Kibbitz on clue bits:
- Northwest corner was the last to coalesce for me, as I had a ration of redherringed fill from the outset that persisted: chiefly 1d [Bit of smoke] WISP, then WAFT, for PUFF; 3d [Liner stop] PORT for ISLE.
- Favorite clue: 16d [Cake for a shower] SOAP.
- 59d [Opera extras, briefly] SUPES, which is short for supernumerary employee.
- 62d [National Board of Review’s best film of 2013] HER. Timely clue, and a relatively quick turnaround time for a major outlet; the announcement was made 4 December 2013.
- Least favorite fill: 48a ATILT. Least favorite clue/fill combo: a tie! 71a [GATT successor] WTO (despite the venue being the financially-oriented Wall Street Journal) and 83d [Pre-med courses] SCIS.
Good theme, slightly unevenly executed, good mix of fill and varied cluing: about average crossword.
Daniel Nierenberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
It’s interesting to see a word ladder running in the LA Times. I don’t remember seeing one before! Unfortunately, the whole theme seems a bit… muddled. GEEKCHIC is a current neologism, and thus crossword theme target. Going from GEEK to CHIC, however, seems a contrived angle from which to approach that word. Then we have the central IFEELPRETTY which doesn’t really tie in well at all. If you’re a GEEK you don’t feel pretty??? Huh? The full ladder is GEEK/PEEK/PEEN/TEEN/THEN/THIN/CHIN/CHIC.
Outside of the theme, we have a lot of very interesting one-word answers today: RAIMENT, PHARAOH, TAPIOCA, GLUTEUS and PARSEC were my faves. There were only a couple of downers – ANILS, ISHE and the bottom-left in general. I assume Mr. Nierenberg desperately wanted to fit in CANWEMEET – unfortunately, I think the surrounding debris made this a poor choice.
Victor Barocas’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “By Design” — pannonica’s write-up
For this offering, design is taken to mean architecture, and each of the four theme entries plays puns, incorporating the surname of a prominent architect. Each of the clues references a significant opus in their oeuvres.
- 17a. [Some woodwinds in Finlandia Hall?] AALTO SAXES (alto). Alvar AALTO (Finnish, 1898–1976). His wife AINO was likewise an architect (as well as a designer), but there isn’t anything architectural singularly as famous attributed solely to her.
- 30a. [Price Tower designer’s area of expertise?] WRIGHT FIELD (right). Frank Lloyd WRIGHT (American, 1867–1959).
- 47a. [Star of a biopic about the designer of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao?] GEHRY PLAYER (Gary). Frank GEHRY (Canadian/American, 1929– ). Gary Player (South African, 1935– ) is a famous golfer.
- 62a. [Louvre Pyramid dedication, say?] PEI TRIBUTE (pay). IM (Ieoh Ming) PEI (Chinese, 1917– ). He may be a naturalized American citizen, not sure.
So: two long dead, one octogenarian, one nonagenarian—all guys. Perhaps the most well-known female architect is Zaha HADID (Iraqi/British, 1950– ), who at 63 is practically a child among this company. But how to spin a pun? To conform, it would have to begin an answer: can’t think of much beyond “Adidas [shoes/sneakers/etc.]”—which wouldn’t work because the name only partially encompasses it, and “a deed in trust”—which has an unnecessary indefinite article. Oh well, a boys’ club it is.
The long downs are quite nice: BODACIOUS (which I didn’t realize was a portmanteau of bold and audacious, though it is rather venerable, cited as far back as 1832); EXERCISES. Dig also the crunchy SQUIRMY, FAUX PAS, and NAHUATL [Language that gave us “coyote”], which I—understandably, I think—at first thought was NAVAHOE (as a variant).
The rest of the fill and cluing are quite strong as well, so although I wasn’t agog at the theme, the puzzle overall rises a bit above average.
[edit: Completely forgot that I’d jotted down some notes when solving this puzzle on Wednesday. Herewith, some quick additions to the commentary: 71a [Feature of “giant”] for SOFT G is pitched quite easy; a trickier version would have been [Giant feature] without the quotation marks. 57d [Mountain-dwelling beast] YETI—call me a stickler, but the clue needs a qualifying adjective]. 38a [“The Ed Sullivan Show” regular Fields] TOTIE. Totie! (nb: Still haven’t found an on-line image of the artifact inscribed TOTI E HORS ESTO.) 63d [Possessive without an apostrophe] ITS; just like 61a [For you and me] OURS. Or his, or hers, or yours, or mine …]