Have you done Patrick Blindauer’s monthly puzzle for September yet? Matt’s review will be posted Tuesday night.
Ethan Cooper’s New York Times crossword
54a: COLLEGE EXPENSES are the name of the game, and those are [What tuition and the starts of 17-, 22-, 37-(?) and 47-Across are]:
- 17a. [Perfect illustration], TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE. Good phrase.
- 22a. [Unfulfilled potential], ROOM TO IMPROVE. “Room for improvement” is what I hear more often.
- 37a. [Pub tidbit], BEER NUT. This would be much better in the plural.
- 47a. [Gatherings in which C.E.O.’s are chosen], BOARD MEETINGS. Plural only to balance out 22a.
College expenses include room & board, tuition (left out of this puzzle), textbook(s), and sometimes beer. The singular TEXTBOOK is a little off-kilter here. The theme phrase is good, but college entails so very many TEXTBOOKs that this rubbed me the wrong way.
Ten more things:
- 5a. [Blood component], PLASM. I’d rather see this clued as a familiar-enough suffix. PLASM as a stand-alone word is so much less common than plasma.
- 15a. [Snoop Dogg, for one, since 2012], RASTA. I wonder if he’s still embracing that whole Rasta thing. Snoop just crashed a Hindu wedding here in Chicago, and everyone was delighted as the groom and his mother are big Snoop Dogg fans.
- 16a. [“Let me think … yeah, that’s stupid”], “UM, NO.” Unusual entry.
- 20a. [Fishhook attachment], SNELL. I wager many of you know this word, if at all, pretty much only through crosswords.
- 64a. [Female students, condescendingly], COEDS. If you ask me, it’s worse than condescending. But I’m glad to see the clue isn’t treating the word like any old noun we all use without offense.
- 12d. [Show on which Lennon and McCartney considered reuniting, for short], SNL. Trivia clue!
- 25d. [Late, as a video store rental], OVERDUE. What’s a “video store”?
- 41d. [Batting helmet feature], EARFLAP. I had EARHOLE. Aren’t earflaps flappier than the hard shell of a batting helmet?
- 43d. [Naive young woman], INGENUE. Please suggest a male or gender-neutral equivalent for this.
- 53d. [“To be,” in Latin], ESSE. Tuesday solvers all studied Latin?
3.4 stars from me. Cute theme, but not perfectly executed, and there’s some crosswordese in the fill.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Shake Shake Shake”—Janie’s review
While the title may make you want to “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty),” in fact it’s alerting us to shake, shake, shake (or “anagram”—three times) the same word, word, word in each of the four themers. I like it! Read those goofy clues carefully (literally) and smile at the tongue-twistingly whimsical answers—each involving someone well-known (pop-culturally speaking). [I know… a lotta adverbs in that last sentence!]
- 17A. [Shrink-wraps Ward’s marketing data?] SEALS SELA’S SALES. I’ll spell out this one and leave it to you to parse the others: “shrink-wraps”=SEALS; “Ward’s”=SELA’S; “marketing data”=SALES. Same five letters here and in the last one (four in the next two…), three configurations. Sweet.
- 27A. [Dispute over Sajak’s performance of a twilight melody?] PAT’S “TAPS”-SPAT. Interesting—because the sequence of the fill doesn’t match the way the hints are doled out in the clue. Keeps us on our toes. This is a good thing.
- 46A. [Broadcasts details of Onassis’s Delhi coverup?] AIRS ARI’S SARI. Oho. Now this might be more accurate if we were talking about Onassis’s “coverup design” because, traditionally, it’s only women who wear saris. Fairly recently, The National (from Abu Dahbi) published one viewer’s less-than-happy response to seeing sari-clad men on the fashion runway; and just last year, The New Yorker reported on a sari-wearing male sub-culture (think “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo“—sorta…). Can an Indian adaptation of La Cage aux Folles be far behind?
- 61A. [Guthrie’s grad school tests on clean energy?] ARLO’S SOLAR-ORALS. And like the first example, not only the same five letters, but a grid-spanner to boot.
Other clue and/or fill highlights would have to include:
- [Bank withdrawals?] and HOLD-UPS. Cue up Take the Money and Run. Here’s Woody with his prison-made gub [sic].
- [Blue-eyed cat] is not a Righteous Brother or any one of a number of singers in the “blue-eyed soul” genre, but a beautiful, sleek SIAMESE. I remember, as a kid, watching (and being totally fascinated by) a television program showing how Peggy Lee, who wrote the lyrics, over-dubbed her own voice to sing this duet with herself.
- [Time for thermal underwear] COLD SPELL. Not right now in Manhattan, at any rate. Summer heat and humidity are back—and we’ve got ’em!
- [Showy flower with red-and-white blooms] AMARYLLIS. Also the name of the departed in that chart-topping 16th-century madrigal, “Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis.”
- Thank you to the chemist who discovered the ISOTOPE that allowed for OIL-FREE makeup. Teen girls (and even a lotta adult women) everywhere are in your debt.
- And as many are returning to work after the long Labor Day weekend, “CAN DO!” those [Two words your boss loves to hear] will probably be a most welcome sound.
Me, I’m just back from Eastport, Maine, which is at the lower end of the Bay of Fundy, home of the world’s highest, most impressive TIDES. Tied in to those tides, there on the Passamaquoddy Bay just off of Deer Isle (NB), is the Western Hemisphere’s largest whirlpool, affectionately known as “Old SOW.” So you know I love how sow and tides sit right next to each other there in the center of the grid; and… those little eddies swirling around the main event? They’re known as “piglets.” No kidding. (Use link below for a better explanation of and piglet-free, more dramatic pic of this phenom.)
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Care Packages”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again, everyone! Today’s puzzle, provided to us today by the inimitable Mr. Bob Klahn, was one we needed to handle with care, for each of the theme answers ended up separating the word “care,” with each of the entries starting with the letters “CAR” and ending with the letter “E.”
- CARGO PLANE: ([18A: C-5 that’s not a Battleship strike])
- CARVING KNIFE: ([26A: Nursery rhyme detailer]) – Now why did the farmer’s wife have to do such an egregious thing to those three blind mice? No eyesight AND no tails to boot?
- CARTE BLANCHE: ([44A: Free rein])
- CARROT CAKE: ([57A: Dessert with roots going back to medieval times])
As per usual, a entertaining Klahn puzzle with some seriously tough clues. Fortunately for me, I was definitely on his wavelength today, especially at the very beginning with SWAM (1A: [Took part in a school activity?]) and also with ONE CENT (24A: [Phrase under the Lincoln Memorial]). Thank goodness I’m a watcher of all those poker and billiards shows, and I distinctly remember one of the trick shot pool shows that I watched years back was when I first heard of the term BAIZE to describe the covering of pool and poker tables (5A: [It may seem to be felt]). About a couple months back, I mentioned that any grid that references Looney Tunes characters immediately becomes one of my favorites, but this one has a reference to The Muppet Show, BEAKER, and that’s just as awesome (45D: [Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s lab assistant on “The Muppet Show”]). Favorite fill of the grid was CAT’S MEOW, especially since it wasn’t “cat’s pajamas.” (53A: [Something else, with “the]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROYAL (38A: [Blue hue]) – The last time a Kansas City ROYAL took part in the baseball postseason as a member of the Royals was all the way back in 1985, when Kansas City won the Fall Classic (World Series), and that near 30-year playoff dry spell is the longest current playoff drought of any team in Major League Baseball. But it might come to an end this season, as the Royals are currently a half-game ahead of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central with just a month left in the regular season. Being that I predicted Kansas City to make the postseason in 2014 before this season started, I’m absolutely rooting for them now so they can make me look like a genius…which doesn’t happen too many times!
Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll see you on Wed-Nes-Day!
Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is couples, or phrases that begin with words that denote two of something:
- 17a. [1971 road film co-starring James Taylor], TWO-LANE BLACKTOP. Faintly familiar. Not sure if TWO or TWO-LANE is meant to be the thematic part.
- 26a. [Treachery], DOUBLE-DEALING.
- 41a. [Spectacles], PAIR OF GLASSES.
- 53a. [Status of a multiple passport holder], DUAL CITIZENSHIP.
It’s not too common to have an early-week theme that counts on the solver to identify the common thread in the long answers. The constructors give us credit for being able to pick up on that—though surely there are many solvers out there who pay no mind to themes at all. The theme feels a little dry, as there’s no wordplay or humor involved, just straight-up definitions. DOUBLE-DEALING, at least, is zippy.
Italian crosswordese place names (see also: ETNA, ENNA, BARI):
- 1d. [Piedmont wine region], ASTI.
- 57a. [Longfellow’s bell town], ATRI. Both are in 42d: ITALIA.
Five more things:
- 24a. [Prefix meaning “loving”], PHILO-. Love of wisdom, philosophy. Love of human beings, philanthropy.
- 31a. [Two-masted vessel], YAWL. Do y’all know this word mostly from crosswords as I do? I don’t read a lot of nautical fiction or whatnot.
- 39d. [Getting gradually louder, in mus.], CRESC. Hey! Musical terminology and nautical terminology are two things I know mainly via crosswords. And don’t give me any guff about the chronic musical ignorance. You try growing up hard of hearing and tell me how much musical study you undertake.
- 11d. [Company that’s “on your side”], NATIONWIDE. Insurance company (car insurance, renters’ and homeowners’ insurance, that sort of thing). Didn’t know the slogan.
- 40d. [With suspicion], ASKANCE. I love this word. Origin unknown! But the word’s been in the English language since the late 1400s.
3.4 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Down to the Wry”
Phrases that contain words that rhyme with “hire” see those words changed to words that end with -RY (with an -ire or -yre changing to -ry):
- 17a. [Request before smoking a potato?], LIGHT MY FRY. “Light My Fire.” Although potato ≠ FRY. A fry is a slender portion of a spud.
- 61a. [Drought-stricken waterways?], DRY STRAITS. Dire Straits/dire straits.
- 11d. [“So, when’s the wake scheduled, hmm?” for instance?], FUNERAL PRY. Funeral pyre. Ick, “pry” is not a noun.
- 30d. [Start using an old scale?], TRY BALANCE. The “an” in the clue suggests that BALANCE without an article is off base here. “Tire balance” is not such a familiar phrase to me.
This theme doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I don’t see any rationale for the word changes (it’s not a simple sound change—or it is, but not an obvious change to make), and three of the theme answers don’t quite work for me.
There are a number of lively long answers in the fill (one 9 ends with a Y, which led me to think 34a and 41a were also part of the theme):
- 28a. [Departure and arrival, e.g.], ANTONYMS. How nice to have those concepts in the clue for an answer that isn’t ETA, ETAS, ETD, or ETDS.
- 41a. [Gossip peddler], TABLOID TV.
- 6d. [Query to an interrupter], “DO YOU MIND?” My favorite answer.
- 44d. [Big name in ’80s hair metal], SKID ROW.
- 35d. [Places for romantic getaways], LOVE NESTS.
I had some concerns beyond the theme. There’s an “eat” duplication, with 5d. [Prepares to be eaten], FATTENS, and 45d. [“Mangia!”], “EAT!” The 49a. [Deli staple] should be the plural noun cold cuts, not this weird singular COLD CUT. Despite a bird book being my favorite book in the preschool years, I know the SERIN, 44a. [Canary relative], only from crosswords. And YO-YO DIET, clued as 9d. [Plan with a lot of fluctuation], isn’t a thing. Yo-yo dieting is weight fluctuations before and after being on a diet; there is no diet plan called the “yo-yo diet.”
2.75 stars from me. Most of Matt’s themes are markedly better crafted than this one.