Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “It’s Better This Way”
There are a few angles to this Rx theme:
(1) The circled letters in the first and last Across answers take us from SICK to WELL.
(2) 16d, 58d. [With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues], FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION. This phrase … does not sound remotely familiar to me. “Following doctor’s orders,” yes. But not this.
(3) And then a bunch of long answers with an RX embedded within:
- 23a. [*He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae], XERXES I OF PERSIA. Good gravy, that’s a mouthful.
- 31a. [*Off-roader, often], FOUR X FOUR. Read “four by four.” The “X,” mind you, probably only gets used with numerals, as in 4×4. So perhaps a bogus RX here. (This is something the FDA likes to crack down on. V. dangerous.) (See also: 83d: V-SIX with a spelled-out number.)
- 49a. [*Annual draw for snocross fans], THE WINTER X GAMES. It’s not snow-cross? “Snocross” looks so ugly. Like there’s a snot portmanteau happening.
- 65a. [*Iconic feature of comedy], GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE. Wait a minute, this is not an established phrase, is it? Groucho Marx‘s mustache, possibly. Even then, contrived.
- 79a. [*Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters], PROFESSOR XAVIER.
- 97a. [*Frequent problem faced by algebra students], SOLVE FOR X. I like this one! Sucker for algebra, I was.
- 108a. [*Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with “The”], RETURN OF DOCTOR X. A tad inelegant to have one theme answer start with THE and one hide the definite article in the clue.
I’m feeling a little like it’s Festivus and I’m airing grievances. “I got a lot of problems with you, theme!” The theme didn’t quite cohere into a logical unit for me, not with the unfamiliar FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION trying to tie things together. And the RXed answers were a mixed bag, quality-wise.
I pretty much never tune into HGTV, but Deb Amlen turned over the Wordplay reins to an HGTV host named Suzanne Whang. I do encourage you to click over and read Whang’s zippy and personal write-up of today’s puzzle. I liked it better than the puzzle, truth be told.
Top fill: RESCUE ME, R.L. STINE, Leo the MGM LION, GO BROKE, and ROM-COMS.
36a. [Stuff in sacks] clues BURLAP. Is burlap “in” the sack, or is the sack merely made of burlap I recognize that we’re supposed to be tricked into reading “stuff” as a verb, but the phrasing doesn’t work for me here.
Is it really kosher to pluralize “aegis”? At least one dictionary says no. 42d. [Sponsorships] clues AEGISES here. I’m also leery of EX-FED, 98d. [Retired govt. agent]. Not sure it’s kosher to EXify any old noun.
I sure did not know URIM, 66d. [___ and Thummim (sacred Judaic objects)]. Translation, please?
2.75 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Big To-Do”
A grand to-do list for your life goals is called THE BUCKET LIST, and that’s the 121a. [Theme of this puzzle]. The other theme answers end with things that a bucket can be full of:
- 22a. [React nervously], BITE ONE’S NAILS. Never had a bucket of nails, personally. So, I just did a Google image search for jar of nail clippings and found this artwork, a bouquet of flowers made of nail clippings.
- 26a. [Henlike grouse], PRAIRIE CHICKEN. Crazy-looking bird; bucket of fried chicken.
- 42a. [Parties where you don’t know anybody], MASQUERADE BALLS. Bucket of golf balls at the driving range, I presume.
- 59a. [McCain’s predecessor], GOLDWATER. Crikey, Barry Goldwater was an Arizona senator right up till 1987? I kinda thought he’d vanished from the scene by 1970.
- 68a. [Avid readers], BOOKWORMS. Bucket of worms for fishing bait.
- 80a. German composer whose operas influenced Wagner], MEYERBEER. I think a bucket of beer is a pail with, say, six bottles of beer sold at a discounted price.
- 95a. [What life is, in a song], “A CABARET, OLD CHUM.” Bucket of chum to bait fish/sharks. Not crazy about the out-thereness of this theme answer. Feels like a nutty 15-letter partial.
- 113a. [Spectacular flashes], LIGHTNING BOLTS. “Bucket of bolts” means a junky heap of a car, doesn’t it? Or a broken-down appliance?
The grid feels a bit open, with lots of 7-letter answers, but there’s not much calling to me in the “Wow, look at that!” or “Eww, look at that” categories of fill. Favorite answer is HOT SEAT, 62a. [Chair on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”].
Four things from the land of literature:
- 1a. [Snoopy types], BEAGLES. Snoopy from the “Peanuts” comic strip.
- 97d. [Rodent consultant in Scott Adams’s strip], RATBERT. From the “Dilbert” comic strip.
- 91a. [“The Far Side” creator], Gary LARSON.
- 29d. [Kafka’s conclusion?], ESQUE. As in Kafkaesque.
What? You don’t count the comics page as literature? There are book collections of these strips, you know.
Obscure thing I knew: 71a. [Florida’s state tree, the ___ palmetto], SABAL. Have stayed at the Marriott Sabal Palms in Orlando. Word to the wise: If your room overlooks the golf course, prepare to hear lawn mowers at 6 a.m.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Pretty smooth 70-worder with a marquee 15-letter entry running down the middle.
Highlights for this solver:
- I got the 15-letter [Speaks one’s mind] or TELLS IT LIKE IT IS just from the first L. Shazam!
- [Worldwide database source for police] was INTERPOL – I wonder if more airlines will now start using their database of stolen passports after discovering at least 2 passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 were flying on them. I’d prefer not to see the word “police” in the clue here, since the POL of INTERPOL is from that word as well.
- Loved the long intersecting ACROBATIC, OVERHAULED and HAYMAKER.
- Other nice long entries were SOCIALITE above ELONGATED and UPTIGHT next to its semi-antonym PERMISSIVE.
- Finally, I found it interesting that the 13th century Italian explorer MARCO POLO was clued to a children’s pool game instead. The only use of his name in a game I know of is when you are looking for someone in hide-and-seek and call out “Marco” the prey is supposed to yell back “Polo” so you have some idea of where he/she is hiding. That doesn’t work so well in a pool, though.
Some entries that didn’t work as well for me:
- I was about to yell foul on [Small flap on a garment] as a variant spelling of LAPPEL but it’s a LAPPET instead. Who knew? I think I’d rather see a clue like [My cat at this moment, say]. (This is actually true, he is here in my lap as I write this.)
- Is there just a SAMOA? I know of Western Samoa and American Samoa, but is the whole thing now just Samoa? Obviously, I need Samoa info on this one.
- Maybe I have a faint memory of hearing about the (now-closed) French restaurant LUTÈCE in Manhattan, but never knew how it was spelled. Too bad it wasn’t open for the recent Fiend dinner paid for by your very generous contributions to this site.
- So I’m sure I’m due a head-slap for the clue [Big name in tin?] for HALEY, but all I can think of is Alex Haley of Roots fame, as I believe the eponymous comet has two L’s in it (and probably not much tin, though I don’t know what metals typically make up a comet.) Oh, and there’s Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense, as well, but still no connection to tin that I can think of. Now, I have it!!
- Finally, is TOBY Belch a character in Twelfth Night? Indeed he is. So [Belch heard during “Twelfth Night”] wasn’t a play-goer with indigestion, then?
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 206”- Sam Donaldson’s review
As a 17-year resident of the 2-0-6, I’m honored to cover The Post Puzzler No. 206, a crackerjack 66/30 freestyle from The Chosen One (nee Patrick Berry). Patrick is one of maybe a handful of constructors who can regularly make a 66-word crossword so ridiculously smooth it feels like a 72-word puzzle.
The only hint you get while solving that this puzzle has a low word-count is that wide-open swath of white squares in the middle. Oddly, that midsection didn’t prove to be the THORNIEST [Most difficult, as a problem] section of the grid. For me, that was the southwest, where I held on to EURASIA as [Big Brother’s land] before tumbling to OCEANIA. Luckily I left EASTASIA out of the picture entirely, or else I might still be working on that corner.
Looking back, of course, it doesn’t seem all that hard. I mean, of course [Fishfinder units] are FATHOMS and [They hope you’ve learned your lesson] can only be teachers. And it goes without saying that a MINT is a [Postprandial tidbit]. Duh! Umm, wait. Maybe that last one isn’t so obvious. Whatevs.
Answers and clues of note:
- Anyone else have CATCHPHRASE instead of STOCK PHRASE as the [Signature line]? That error really slowed my solving time.
- Took me a while to suss out I WANT CANDY as the [1982 Bow Wow Wow song], and now I can’t get the cursed thing out of my head. Wanna know my personal hell right now? Click here and enjoy.
- The middle 10s have a mini-theme, what with a ROAD-TESTED FOREIGN CAR. Those are cool entries, but notice how the crossings here are so smooth. There’s no evidence of compromise anywhere. This is a thing of beauty.
- Things I did not know: DERRY is [Northern Ireland’s second-largest city, after Belfast]; a PETUNIA is a [Flower whose name means “tobacco”]; there were characters named Guy Caballero and Edith Prickley on SCTV; and how [Have bad B.O.?] relates to TANK. This last one still eludes me. In this context, does B.O. mean something other than body odor? Back orders, maybe? Here’s your chance to prove my idiocy once and for all: please explain the clue in the comments.
Favorite entry = LAY SISTERS, clued as [Manual laborers in a nunnery]. Like where the elder nuns shout to the lay sister, Pick up my dishes, rookie! Favorite clue = [Cow with an intent look] for STARE DOWN. Note to self: anytime you see “cow” in the clue for a hard puzzle, it’s probably the verb (meaning “to make someone fearful of acting”) and not the noun–but if the answer is 6 letters and starts with O, it is indeed referring to a legendary pyromaniac bovine.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Ger-mane” — pannonica’s write-up
Base phrases get the letters GER affixed to their ends, the spelling (but not pronunciation, hopefully) is changed as necessary to create crossword-grade wacky phrases.
- 23a. [Imperfect signature?] THE SIGN OF FORGER (“The Sign of Four”). The Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story was titled The Sign of the Four, but all the many film and television adaptations have dropped the definite article.
- 38a. [Maine creche item?] BANGOR MANGER (Bangor, Maine). “Maine” clues the pre-op “Maine” in the answer? Boo, hiss.
- 89a. [In which a CPA writes tentatively?] PENCIL LEDGER (pencil lead).
- 109a. [St. Peter?] HEAVENLY MANAGER (heavenly manna). I think of him more like a bouncer. Google Ngram indicates that “heavenly manna” and “manna from heaven” tracked more or less equally until the early 1920s, at which point the former’s fortunes plummeted and the latter’s rose disproportionately.
- 3d. [Watch someone unknown?] EYE STRANGER (eyestrain).
- 15d. [Park employee at tea?] POURING RANGER (pouring rain).
- 34d. [Don’t leave the beeper at work?] TAKE HOME PAGER (take-home pay).
- 56d. [Geezer in a Superman suit?] OLD CAPE CODGER (Old Cape Cod). Not a historic district but the title of a pop song first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page. One could conceivably say the answer would read better as OLD CAPED CODGER, but it’s workable—or at least defensible—as it is, even if the predominating image is that of a threadbare, tattered cape.
- 67d. [Bet in Rome?] APPIAN WAGER (Appian Way). By far my favorite theme answer.
Decent theme with a lot of long entries, both across and down. Adequate variation in the subjects and mechanisms of the answers, including a notable single-word answer. However, on the whole the theme and execution didn’t thrill me much.
Reinforcing that sense, the rest of the puzzle failed to engage or charm me. There was simply too much material that rubbed me the wrong way or seemed surly. I’ll list some of them here: partial AS YE; E TILE (from Scrabble); biblical ORPAH; ALAVA, Spain; partial I ERE; partial A SHOE; split, cross-referenced plural EGG | NOGS; partial OFF OF; Italian pronoun EGLI; plural abbr. ABMS; someone named Jeannie MAI; abbrev. CLAR(inet). There were also some other relatively obscure business-related answers that I’ll excuse, acknowledging that this puzzle appears in the Wall Street Journal.
- Poor crossing (and the last square I filled): 32d [Taro root] EDDO and 50a [Degas contemporary] MONET. Since EDDO is obscure and both Édouard MANET and Claude MONET were contemporaries of Edgar Degas, it would have been immeasurably better to be more specific in cluing the painter—mentioning a particular work, say. Or his cataracts. Most veteran solvers will be familiar with the Scandinavian EDDA, but that’s cold comfort.
- Clever clues that didn’t work for me: 66d [Bed cover?] CONDOM. 30d [Women of the knight?] DAMES.
- This one was probably difficult for non-NYCers: 60a [NYC archbishop, 1939–1967] SPELLMAN. I knew it only because of Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, a name I remember hearing every now and then.
- Similarly, how many are familiar with Honoré de Balzac’s
LaLe PÈRE | GORIOT, which is split over two entries? I don’t dislike it per se, but it’s bound to be difficult for many.
- Liked the modest vignette of 13d [Supproting] FOR and 16d [Con] ANTI. Also liked 88d [Beverage for the blindly faithful] KOOL-AID, but would have further appreciated a “metaphorical” modifier.
C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Foresees”
It’s apt that a Clever Crossword ConstruCtor who uses a C.C. moniker would Choose to ConCoCt a theme made of phrases with four C’s (“Foresees”) in them:
- 23a. [South Temperate Zone border], ANTARCTIC CIRCLE.
- 34a. [Pope’s realm], CATHOLIC CHURCH.
- 50a. [NFL wide receiver who once changed his name to match his uniform number], CHAD OCHOCINCO. Number 85.
- 73a. [Challenge for Henry Higgins], COCKNEY ACCENT.
- 93a. [Proof of payment], CANCELED CHECK.
- 111a. [It’s barely legible], CHICKEN SCRATCH.
- 124a. [Current path], ELECTRIC CIRCUIT.
One could quibble gently that CHAD OCHOCINCO diverges from the “two C’s in each word” pattern the other theme answers follow, but the theme is merely “four C’s in the whole thing” and CHAD OCHOCINCO is so delightful, I wouldn’t want to give it up for an arbitrary adherence to structural consistency.
Zhouqin (which, I recently learned from C.C., is pronounced “jo-chin,” and both Zhou and Qin are names of Chinese dynasties) has put together a smooth and easy puzzle. Given the smoothness of this 21×21 grid, I’d like to see what she could put together for a themeless puzzle—though C.C. herself says she lacks the knack for picking the sparkly marquee answers that we love to see in themelesses.
NO TRESPASSING and MISSPENT YOUTH halfway look like they’re thematic by their sheer length, but they have zero C’s. Both phrases are welcome additions to any crossword, though. MISSPENT YOUTH is particularly zippy, and how many people have squandered their early years by getting caught trespassing?
I usually enjoy a Sunday-sized puzzle that I can fly through without hitting the brakes, and I did enjoy this one. Four stars.