Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Second Shift”
The theme answers swap the second and and third letters of familiar phrases:
- 23a. [Paintball gun?], BLOT-ACTION RIFLE.
- 28a. [Device that can tell if someone’s recently vacationed in Hawaii?], LEI DETECTOR.
- 33a. [Narrow shaft in a mountain?], SLIVER MINE.
- 44a. [Item from the Victoria’s Sweetness catalog?], BRA OF CHOCOLATE. “Bar of chocolate” feels a little ooky to me. “Chocolate bar” here.
- 57a. [Anne Frank, e.g.?], DIARY MAID.
- 73a. [“Hee Haw” heyday, say?], ERA OF CORN. Good one.
- 89a. [Novelist Danielle without her glossy dress?], SATINLESS STEEL.
- 95a. [Honey Bunches of Oafs, e.g.?], CLOD CEREAL.
- 101a. [Soup after it’s been taken off the burner?], CALM CHOWDER.
- 113a. [What might determine if the moon hitting your eye like a big pizza pie is truly amore?], CROONER’S INQUEST. Ha! Worth the price of admission.
I like how the title is interpreted to inspire the theme, and I’m glad that each resulting phrase (and each base phrase) is a noun phrase.
- 36d. [Bugs that weigh tons], VWS. Nope. Beetles are small cars. The old ones were under 2,000 lb and the current ones are about 3,00o lb. I don’t consider “tons” in the plural to mean “more than 1 but less than 2.” If you have 1.5 of anything, it’s hard to embrace the plural. A SMALL CAR (70a. [One in a tight space, perhaps]) doesn’t weigh tons.
- 50a. [Collective effort], TEAM PLAY. Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League team is the best in the country! They won their Saturday playoff game and move on to the global finals tomorrow against South Korea. Not that I generally follow Little League, but this win moved me. Balm for the Ferguson-beaten soul.
- 64a. [Some credit card rewards], MILES. I swear by the Southwest Rapid Rewards card. Have cashed in miles for eight round-trip flights in the last few years. Whereas I’d had the United Mileage Plus credit card for many years, and I don’t think I ever earned a free flight. Did cash out my miles for a mixer and an iPod, though… I think 16 flights are worth more than those.
- 83a. [Figure skater Mao], ASADA. New to me. [Carne ___] is my go-to ASADA.
- 120a. [Cells displaced them], PAGERS. Some folks in health care still carry pagers.
- 1d. [Pen name of columnist Pauline Phillips], ABBY. She’s on my “no” list these days but I can’t remember what outrageously obtuse advice she gave that bugged me.
- 6d. [“Lolita” subject], LECHERY. Yes. Exactly so. Not “temptress,” LECHERY, and of a pedophilic nature.
- 92d. [“It’s true whether or not you believe in it,” per Neil deGrasse Tyson], SCIENCE. Great quote!
- 43a. [Big name in trucking], CONWAY. Say what? No idea. Needed all the crossings. Tim Conway, call your publicist.
- 58d. [“Joseph Anton: A Memoir” autobiographer], RUSHDIE. Really? I missed hearing about this 2012 title entirely. Apparently Joseph Anton was a pseudonym Rushdie used when in hiding during the fatwa years.
Four stars. Aside from the factual error in the VWS clue, there’s not much to disappoint here, but there also wasn’t much to delight me into a supra-4-star rating.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Mad Movie Mania”
Merl appreciates the titles of Mad magazine’s various movie spoofs, and here he shares a sampling of them:
- 23a. [Mad spoof of a Tippi Hedren film?], FOR THE BIRDS. The Birds.
- 30a. [Mad spoof of a Harrison Ford film?], THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT. … Back.
- 41a. [Mad spoof of a Robert Redford film?], THE GREAT GASBAG. … Gatsby.
- 52a. [Mad spoof of a Clint Eastwood film?], IN LINE TO BE FIRED. In the Line of Fire.
- 62a. [Mad spoof of a Sharon Stone film?], BASICALLY IT STINKS. Basic Instinct.
- 71a. [Mad spoof of a Kevin Costner film?], THE UNWATCHABLES. The Untouchables.
- 82a. [Mad spoof of a Warren Beatty film?], HEAVING CAN WAIT. Heaven Can Wait.
- 93a. [Mad spoof of a Charlton Heston film?], THE AGONY AND THE AGONY. The Agony and the Ecstasy.
- 105a.[ Mad spoof of a Tom Hanks film?], APPALLING 13. Apollo 13.
Fair enough puns, but there wasn’t anything that really captivated me.
Lots of unusual fill/clues in the interstitial spaces:
- 20a. [TV theme composer Hagen (he’s also the one whistling at the start of “The Andy Griffith Show”)], EARLE. Jackie Earle Haley, Steve Earle, some old Earle of football—those are the EARLEs I know.
- 21a. [Phony’s intro], CACO-. Not a very common prefix.
- 113a. [“The Merry Widow” composer], LEHAR. Am I the only one who encounters this guy pretty much only in crosswords?
- 8d. [“Ragtime” auth.], ELD. E. L. Doctorow.
- 19d. [Smiths, at times], SHOERS.
- 32d. [In the summer, on the Somme], EN ETE. Uncommon-in-crosswords French phrase.
- 35d. [Arabian arroyo], WADI. Learned it from crosswords but have encountered it elsewhere.
- 41d. [Birch of “American Beauty”], THORA. Key supporting role in a movie 15 years ago, hardly anything of note since then aside from Ghost World.
- 71d. [Beach battles], TUGS OF WAR. Unusual plural.
- 72d. [1970s TV western, “___ Ramsey”], HEC. Oof.
- 73d. [Archaic forest], WEALD. New to me, but very, very old to English.
- 77d. [Very, in German], SEHR. If you don’t know German or SMERSH, that H is a crapshoot.
- 86d. [Scientist ___ Ho Lee], WEN. Unfairly targeted by the federal government as a spy.
- 88d. [Olive Oyl, in Popeye’s words], ME GOIL. Really??
Odd stuff, all right.
TELL ME at 91d is followed by TRY ME at 93d.
I kept waiting for something that would engage me, but I didn’t find it. 3.33 stars.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 229” – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle is a typical clean-as-a-whistle Berry. It doesn’t quite have the snap of his absolute best, but it’s still way above the general average!
I’ve not much time so I’m just going to bullet. A lot of the interest for me was in the clues today:
- [Flight gear], GSUITS. Devious 1A!
- Groaner clue: [Things used by the selfie-indulgent?], SMARTPHONES
- [Determined], CHOSE. Not as in “steely”.
- [“Queen Zixi of Ix” author], BAUM. Aren’t we all glad that QUEENZIXIOFIX wasn’t an answer!
- [Styx crossers], SOULS. I wanted HELLS. Isn’t there more than one?
- [Figures in black], NETGAINS. Another tricksy one! The bottom-left was by far the hardest corner for me!
- [Mug shot?], ESPRESSO. Elegant misdirection!
- [Cocktail invented in New Orleans], SAZERAC. Never heard of it, and all crossings. Still it’s an interesting answer.
- [One-foot five?], TOES. Clever clue, but transparent.
- [Unideal environment for discussing policy], ECHOCHAMBER. Dry clue, but that and its symmetrical partner [National animal of India], BENGALTIGER are my favourite answers in the puzzle.
- [Team building], ARENA. Clue perfection!
- [Game in which aces are valuable], TENNIS. I can’t believe I didn’t see through this one earlier!
Gail Grabowski’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “At Present”
The letters AT are “present” in each theme answer in that the bigram has been added to familiar phrases to alter them:
- 23a. [Extra vacation clothes?], SPARE ATTIRE.
- 29a. [Big party for jalopy owners?], BEATER BASH.
- 46a. [Clergyman who works wonders?], MIRACLE CURATE.
- 93a. [Biker’s trail?], RIDING HABITAT.
- 110a. [Volga Region daily?], TATAR PAPER.
- 118a. [Bees battling over nectar?], HONEY COMBAT. Good one.
- 33d. [Swindler at a New York zoo?], BRONX CHEATER.
- 42d. [Gave stars to kippers?], RATED HERRING.
Easy puzzle overall, lots of simple and straightforward clues throughout.
This combo did jump out at me: 60d. [Competition with slashing], PRICE WAR and 17d. [Sets a price of], ASKS. Two prices! Granted, it is hard to weed out all such duplications in a Sunday-size puzzle … but it can be done. Not every editor places a priority on this.
Nine more things:
- 69a. [Rival of Brom in an 1820 novel], ICHABOD Crane. Momentarily confused by Bram Stoker and Dracula. Factual error, though: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a short story and not a novel. I wrote a college paper on Brom Bones for an American lit class in which we read a lot of short stories of the era.
- 57a. [Intimate modern message], SEXT. I love this clue.
- 77a. [Classic pops], NEHIS. Still available in assorted flavors, too. In old-fashioned glass bottles with retro labeling, and in plastic bottles with modern labels.
- 89a. [“Mr. Blue Sky” band, briefly], ELO. Say what? Never heard of the song. It peaked at #35 on the American charts in 1978, but the band’s 2012 compilation album is named after the song.
- 105a. [Didn’t fill yet, as calendar slots], HAS OPEN. Odd sort of entry. Would HAS AVAILABLE pass muster?
- 125a. [Friendly court contest], ONE SET. Not necessarily friendly.
- 34d. [Media mogul with a Presidential Medal of Freedom], OPRAH. See also: 63d. [2001 honor for J.K. Rowling], OBE. “I’ll take Honors for Notable Women for $1,400, Alex.”
- 65d. [Suffix with stamp], EDE. What? No. It’s derived from a Spanish word, estampido. It’s not the word root stamp + a morpheme added to form a derivative of the word (this is the definition of a suffix). “Word ending” works but “suffix,” not so much.
- 102d. [One of four singing brothers], ED AMES. Quick! Name the other three, without looking it up.
3.25 stars. A rather flat solving experience for me.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day to you, everyone, and I hope you’re having a good Sunday so far!
The latest Sunday Challenge from Martin Ashwood-Smith was another fun one, and it was fun for both the brothers, with FRATERNIZE (11D: [Hang out]), and the sisters, with SOEUR (24A: [Sister, in Paris]). Probably the best entry in the grid was UV EXPOSURE, with the letters U, V, and X composing three of the first four in the term (25D: [Cause of some burns]). My habit recently is to start somewhere else other than the northwest unless I can knock some of those answers down quickly, and this puzzle was no exception. Started on the northeast, and once I got FLAT (11A: [Like a pancake]), then FRATERNIZE was no problem. The “Z” in FRATERNIZE made it a cinch to look at its crossing and, subsequently, fill in MERTZ (36A: [“I Love Lucy” character Ethel]). The long across answers in the southeast were so much more of a cinch for me, collectively, than the symmetrical ones in the northwest. After the gimmes of TOWER (44D: [Rapunzel’s prison]) and CANINE (38D: [Fanglike tooth]) were in, answers like WINE COOLER were there for the taking (54A: [Fruity adult beverage]). Have never had a wine cooler before, but all I can think about when seeing that answer is all of the commercials for Bartles & Jaymes back in the day! Has anyone ever had Bartles & Jaymes? Is there anyone here that will admit to drinking that once?! Don’t worry, you won’t be made fun of if you fess up…I think!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LAMOTTA (43D: [“Raging Bull” boxer Jake])– Immortalized by Robert DeNiro in his portrayal of him in the 1980 movie Raging Bull, Jake LaMotta was the former middleweight champion of the world in the late 1940s and 1950. Born in The Bronx, LaMotta was know for engaging in six legendary fights with boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson – including handing Sugar Ray his first loss of his career – and for his legendary iron chin, as he was one of the hardest people to knock down. Well, LaMotta is also known for throwing a fight to gain favor of the Mafia and eventually set up a title fight down the road. He earned his nickname, “Raging Bull,” because of his highly aggressive fighting style, as he always stayed close and in punching range of opponents, essentially stalking his opponents around the ring relentlessly to throw his power shots at the sacrifice of being in close striking range for his opponents as well.
I’ll see you on Monday, and, to quote the men in the Bartles and Jaymes ads, “Thank you for your support.”
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Orientation” — pannonica’s write-up
They say it’s all relative, and this crossword sets out to prove just that. Who are “they”, you ask? Well, I suppose it depends on who you know, you know what I mean?
In each case the main themer references the clue of an adjacent, auxiliary theme answer.
- 24a. [Where this answer is?] BEFORE LONG. Naturally it’s followed by 26a [Long] PINE.
- 38a. [Where this is?] RIGHT OF WAY. And… to the left is 36a [Way] AVENUE.
- 54a. [Where this is?] AHEAD OF TIME. 58a [Time] WEEKS, which seems a bit tenuous a clue/answer connection, but apparently it’s a reflection of how the theme works. Compare 66d.
- 74a. [ ″ ] FOLLOWING UP. 72a [Up] ASTIR.
- 87a. [ ″ ] AFTERSHOCK. 86a [Shock] AWE.
- 105a. [ ″ ] NEXT TO LAST. 108a [Last] FINAL. This one is absolute as well as relative, at least as far as the across theme answers are concerned.
- 3d. [ ″ ] OVERWEIGHT. Sitting below it in Column 3 is 66d [Stone] WEIGHT.
- 69d. [ ″ ] UNDERTONES. 42d [Tones] NOTES; anagrams!
[edit: The following paragraph was accidentally dropped from the write-up when I first added it to the main post.]
I know this sort of thing has been done with stacked or parallel fill, but I’m not sure about this orientation, continuing from the termini of words. Is that how best to phrase it? What about “along the same vector”? Anyway, once again it’s a puzzle that plies the same territory as Wacky Wordies, and I’ve already professed my fondness for such visual wordplay, so you know I enjoyed this theme a lot.
Can’t spend too much time on this write-up (busy day), so I’ll highlight just a few other aspects. The funky longish fill: Yuri GAGARIN, NAGASAKI (or is that too upsetting to mention? see also 79a MAUS), FIRE ANTS, SURMOUNT (not part of the theme, nor is SIDELINE), LAKE POET, BUSLOAD. Just a few playful/punny clues, but none wowed me. Also, haven’t seen POTSY (94d) for hopscotch in a long time; the presumably related 90d [Played sardines] for HID, however, is completely new to me.