Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “Change of Program”
The name of the game is puns on TV show titles, with one word swapped out for a homophone:
- 23a. [Stoners’ memoirs?], DAZE OF OUR LIVES. Days.
- 28a. [Leverage in divorce negotiations?], THE EX FILES. X-Files.
- 46a. [Dumbstruck duo?], THE AWED COUPLE. I checked two dictionaries and both concur with me: “Odd” has an “ah” vowel and “awed” has an “aw” sound. They do not sound the same. (Just like “cot” and “caught” are different, per both of these dictionaries. Yes, I know there are regions where people pronounce them the same. Pretty sure those people are all simply wrong.)
- 62a. [Tale of metropolitan religious diversity?], SECTS AND THE CITY. Sex.
- 85a. [Grant Wood portrayal?], AMERICAN IDYLL. Idol. See also: 115a ERIC IDLE.
- 99a. [Having trouble slowing down?], BRAKING BAD. Breaking.
- 110a. [Cobbler’s heirloom?], AWL IN THE FAMILY. All.
- 15d. [Double takes?], TWIN PEEKS. Peaks.
- 76d. [Tight spot in South Florida?], MIAMI VISE. Vice. This one pains me because of how often I see “in a vice grip” and feel like Incredible Spelling Hulk cast into a rage.
Solid theme except for that Odd/AWED mismatch.
Three more things, in brief:
- 84d. [Relatives of turtles], PRALINES. Pecans in a butter/cream matrix = pralines, pecans in a butter/cream matrix (of the caramel type) topped with chocolate = turtles. No reptiles here, just sweets.
- 9d. [Legal hearing], OYER. Been a while since I’ve seen this one in a crossword and I can’t say I missed it.
- 45d. [“The Rapture of Canaan” author Reynolds], SHERI. Never heard of it, or her. 1997 novel chosen for the Oprah Book Club, apparently. Strange to have Cheri-with-a-C OTERI right there at 60d.
- 36d. [Stylist’s goop], GELEE. This is rather uncommon, if you’re talking about hair gel. If you Google the term, the first hits are for dessert recipes. If you look hard enough, you can find a handful of “gelée” hair gels in English.
Didn’t admire the fill, didn’t hate the fill. 3.33 stars from me.
The Post Puzzler No. 216 by Karen M. Tracey – Gareth’s review
It’s a Karen M. Tracey puzzle. That means there will be lots of ZQJXK action. Here, they’re found in JOHNSCALZI and SUZEORMAN, two full names one of which I’d never heard of, and the other only from crosswords. SUZE is crossed by SZECHWAN cuisine. There’s also ORTIZ/ZIPIT and EXCLUSIVE/EXULTED. There weren’t that many weak answers, TRI/OMNI/INSP/ISP is probably a touch too much for one corner, but all of those are common enough abbrs./prefixes.
I did struggle with some of the names today, however. Possibly, that’s just a cultural frame of reference issue. In particular I finished in the top-right, where I was stymied until I finally dredged up RAISINETS. LECREUSET is just letters to me and [Gimbel] wasn’t useful for me to get to SAKS. Elsewhere, PEACHPIT as clued was meaningless to me: probably if you were female and born in the 60’s/70’s, it was a slam dunk though.
I liked the clecho of [Effort, in Arabic] and [Submission, in Arabic] for JIHAD and ISLAM. HONDURAS as the country with the highest murder rate in the world was surprising to me. The UN stats I’ve seen said Colombia then South Africa (with USA @ 9 or 10). That seems to be about ten years out of date.
No real wow answers for me, but pretty solid with interesting clues: 3.5 Stars
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, and a happy Sunday to you all. It’s a great Sunday for me so far, since I’m up in the morning and watching the French Open! Waking up to tennis being played across the pond = paradise!
For the second consecutive week, we have a Sunday special from Mr. Bob Klahn, and again, felt more at ease with the tough cluing, so the experience was fairly smooth (albeit slow). Where I got my first foothold in the grid has to be credited to my time in Nashville in March, when I first produced a blog for Fiend. While there, a couple of friends and I went to The Hermitage, the now historical landmark that was the home of Andrew Jackson, and during our tour, we saw some cows with a distinct color: black, but with a wide white ring of hair all around the middle of their bodies. One of my friends, who should be a zoologist if she wasn’t a teacher and part-time sports writer, immediately exclaimed, “Look at the Oreo cows!” I had never heard of them before then, and two months later, here I am answering OREOS in a grid in relation to those majestic beasts (23D: [Belted Galloway cows, informally]). From there, getting OPIE was a cinch (23A: [Shock jock Gregg Hughes, on XM Radio]), with Opie & Anthony being such a staple in the New York City talk radio scene for a while before their jump to XM. Again, knowing sports bailed me out of a jam, as I knew immediately that a world record, in terms of distance, that is stated at 70+ feet has to be in the SHOTPUT (22A: [The world record for this is just over 75 feet]). And crossing it is a word that I wish not to remember, especially when I unwittingly watch those DirecTV commercials with the MARIONETTE wife (3D: [It comes with strings attached]). If DirecTV left its “no more ugly wires” campaign with the marionette son that gets its strings caught up in the ceiling fan, I could have stomached that. Hokey, but no problem. The wife, serving drinks in one commercial and dressed in a nightie in a follow-up, just takes it up to a whole new level of creepiness for me! UGH!
Any puzzle gets an extra brownie point from me when including something related to my birth month, September, and seeing the month’s birthstone, SAPPHIRE, was nice (49A: [Modern or traditional 45th anniversary gift]). A couple of answers (and its cluing) that I really liked were stacked on top of each other, with CAREER MOVE (50A: [What a LinkedIn link may lead to]) and OPEN SEASON (53A: [Sadly, election year for all candidates]). The career move entry is made even better with the presence of HEADHUNT (35D: [Recruit, in a way]). A couple of entries/clues that had me lost at sea included ORESTEIA (4D: [Aeschylus opus]) and WEASEL WORD (55A: [“Pop,” for example]). Oresteia definitely was over my head, while after I got the “weasel” part of the answer, I said, “what’s the other part of the answer?” Weasel sound? Weasel fate? I guess the weasel spoke a word when it went “pop.”
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TORRES (11D: [Only US swimmer to compete in five Olympics])– What’s so amazing about 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres – outside of competing in the Olympics and winning three Olympic silver medals at age 41 – is that she could have been a seven-time Olympian! Her first Olympic games came in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, and after competing in the 1988 and 1992 events, she sat out both the 1996 and 2000 Summer Games. Torres’ speciality was freestyle swimming, both individually and on relay teams, though she did win a bronze medal in the 2000 Games in Sydney in the 100-meter butterfly.
The sun is shining bright here (and right on my basil and rosemary plants that were donated to me by my old high school science teacher the other day). Enjoy the rest of your day wherever you are, and will see you on here on Memorial Day, which is tomorrow.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Change Partners” — pannonica’s write-up
Well. I certainly would have made headway sooner into the fugaciously mystifying theme answers had I looked at the title. The concept is simple but potentially fiendish: base phrases in which one element is in another context part of a famous duo; replace that element with the partner; retain clue for original phrase, but add question mark.
- 17a. [Bunny house?] RABBIT STARSKY (rabbit hutch, ‘Starsky & Hutch’).
- 22a. [Officers in charge of provisions?] QUARTERJOHNSON (quartermasters, Masters and Johnson).
- 61a. [Righteous Brothers hit?] KANDER TIDE (‘Ebb Tide’, Kander and Ebb). This one was tough for me as (1) I’d always thought the musical writing partnership was Cantor and Ebb, (2) though I recognize the title I didn’t know the song was a Righteous Brothers hit. Partly as a consequence, I concentrated on the phrase “time and tide”, not yet realizing that the pairings are exclusively proper names—people, in fact. Also that the swapped element need not be the final one.
- 64a. [Place to do homework?] STUDY OATES (study hall, Hall and Oates). Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I believe.
- 109a. [U.K., Ireland, etc.] BRITISH RIZZOLI (British Isles, ‘Rizzoli & Isles’). Had not heard of the television program.
- 113a. [Multipurpose opener?] SKELETON PEELE (skeleton key, Key and Peele). Vaguely aware of comedy duo, but wasn’t sure if the spelling was Peale or Peele.
- 32d. [Raconteur?] PENN OF TALES (teller of tales, Penn and Teller). “Teller of tales”, though familiar, feels ever so slightly less substantial than the other base phrases in the puzzle. Penn (Jillette) is the only partner element that isn’t a surname; (Raymond) Teller goes by the one name professionally, but it is his surname. However, that’s how the act is known.
- 41d. [Drives very fast?] ALLEN RUBBER (burns rubber, Burns and Allen).
So there are few inconsistencies such as the single-word quartermasters, first versus last word distribution, but there’s no need to be clinical about it here. May as well criticize the first name Penn, or the fictional characters : real persons ratio. Bottom line is that the theme is clever and enjoyable, as is the crossword in toto.
More to like: heavy-duty stacking of the first and last two across themers, flashy long non-theme fill (especially EPHEMERAL, XENOPHOBE, and EXCITING), Scrabbly fill that doesn’t distract unduly (e.g., FAZE, YNEZ, LA PAZ, SQUID, QUESO, QUIRK, KOJAK, CYNIC).
Somewhat obscure are 18d [Sodium-rich mineral] TRONA, 104d [Nonmoving part] STATOR, 116a [Biblical handwriting word] TEKEL, 2d [Maestro Edo de __ ] WAART, 4d [Composer Franz] ABT, possibly 75d [Next-to-last syllable] PENULT, 91a [Director of “Rififi” and “Topkapi”] Jules (né Julius, American) DASSIN, and 27d [Latin lands] TERRAE. But none of these have unfair crossings. Least favorite fill: 105d [Book between Lam. and Dam.] EZEK., and 80d [Toss Across loser] XOO. Cognate duplication with 20d [Santa __ Valley] YNEZ and 71a [Wholly holy one] SAINT; incidentally, TRONA, California is in crossword-friendly INYO county.
11a [Munch depiction] SCREAM; 51a [Peace Prize city] OSLO. 6a [Caliph’s faith] ISLAM; 57a [Center of group activity] MECCA. Favorite clue: 9d [Florentine flower] ARNO.
Fine, entertaining crossword.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “We’ve Got Company”
Well, this is disappointing. The theme doesn’t consist of the long answers. The theme, as explained by the notepad hint, is “Each hidden company name reads across, straddles at least two adjacent words, and is five or six letters long. Can you find all 10?” I have always been good at word search puzzles, at spotting words hidden amid chaff, and I’ve gone through every Across row in this puzzle twice and have not found a single company name. YAASSA, ETLID, SMANT? These are not company names, and I couldn’t find anything good in the other rows. AGWOO! ABSEA! MUTOSE! What gives? Did you folks all find each of the 10 company names?
Okay, wait. I was reading “straddles at least two adjacent words” as meaning “straddles two adjacent entries.” Let’s look within the long answers. Hey! There are the hidden answers. I think the notepad entry could have been worded more clearly.
- 23a. [1960s comedy hour co-host], DICK MARTIN. Kmart.
- 25a. [Certain music teacher], VOCAL COACH. Alcoa.
- 33a. [Only solo artist to win back-to-back Record of the Year Grammys], ROBERTA FLACK. Aflac.
- 41a. [“It’s almost impossible to know …”], “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.” Canon.
- 65a. [Horn piece], TRUMPET CONCERTO. Petco.
- 75a. [Fajita ingredient, often], BONELESS CHICKEN. Schick.
- 96a. [Get nosed out of first place], SLIP TO NUMBER TWO. Lipton. I raise a dubious eyebrow at the the crossword-worthiness of SLIP TO NUMBER TWO.
- 106a. [“North by Northwest” screenwriter], ERNEST LEHMAN. Nestle.
- 118a. [Cow or pig], FARM ANIMAL. Armani.
- 122a. [Win at last], END UP ON TOP. DuPont.
Favorite clue: 128a. [Jackson Browne’s first name], CLYDE. Pop trivia I didn’t know! Born Clyde Jackson Browne. Could he have ever made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as Clyde Browne?
And now, six more things:
- Two plural first name answers were clued with one familiar last name and one entirely unfamiliar one: 97d. [Anderson and Tiffin], PAMELAS. I don’t know Tiffin. Playboy and European exploitation films? Disappointing. 73a. [Actresses Allgood and Gilbert], SARAS. I don’t know Allgood. Died well before I was born. Gilbert and Anderson are much closer to my age.
- 22a. [Word that appears twice in a governor’s name], CHRIS. Until I had letters from the crossings, this clue mystified me. Chris Christie!
- 30a. [Basketball great-turned-pitchman], O’NEAL. He also does sports commentary and hosts a funny sports clip show. “Pitchman” sounds so sleazy.
- 1d. [Camaro or Camry], MODEL. I was trying to figure out how the more specific COUPE or SEDAN could possibly work for those two cars.
- 6d. [Mattress firm], SERTA. Why don’t we see this clue all the time for the mattress companies? The play on “firm mattress” is fun.
- 7d. [Skewered Thai appetizer], SATAY. I feel like most of our SATAY clues call it Indonesian, which it also is, but there are a zillion more Thai restaurants than Indonesian restaurants in this country. Cruciverb, mind you, does not back up my supposition. Maybe it’s the indie puzzles that are Indonesianing the SATAY/SATE clues?
3.75 stars. MCCAFE and TANGRAM were nice to see in the grid, but STEN and KENO, et al., counteracted them. Overall, I found there was less fun in the grid and clues than Merl usually provides.
C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Intel Inside”
This is far more likable than the typical “3-letter chunk is embedded within unrelated phrases” theme. The title “Intel Inside,” is both a familiar commercial computer-chip slogan and a sort of description of the theme: 123a. NSA is clued as [Intel collector hidden in nine puzzle answers]. That the NSA is lurking inside everything is so apt! Most other embedded words are nowhere near as inherently stealthy and invasive. So the theme’s rationale is apt. Here are the phrases that the NSA has hacked into:
23a. [“When it rains, it pours” brand], MORTON SALT.
29a. [1954 Kurosawa classic], SEVEN SAMURAI.
43a. [Only player to appear in both the Super Bowl and World Series], DEION SANDERS.
52a. [Game with many imitators], SIMON SAYS. I love this clue! (Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post themeless is packed with twisty clues, too.) I was thinking of games that get imitated (consider the Threes app spawning 2048 and countless other imitators) rather than ones played by people imitating.
65a. [Cecilia, to musicians], PATRON SAINT. This may or may not be the Cecilia in the Simon & Garfunkel song.
84a. [Baseball closer’s nightmare], BLOWN SAVE.
91a. [Investment firm founded in 1869], GOLDMAN SACHS.
103a. [Classic sci-fi gesture], VULCAN SALUTE.
113a. [Leafy course], GREEN SALAD.
The theme answers are a good grab bag of things. Familiar corporate names, classic movie, an athlete and a sports term, a childhood game, pop culture, and a couple garden-variety familiar phrases (GREEN SALAD and PATRON SAINT).
In the fill, WHERE’S WALDO, ORSON WELLS, RAN LAPS, SANGRIA, NEATNIK, and NARY A SOUL sparkle. Only RATED A (88d. [Top-notch]) and “prefix” HEMA- irked me. For the latter, hemo- and hemato- are the combining forms for blood terms, not hema-.
4.25 stars. A quick but satisfying solve.