Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword, “Celebrity Spoonerisms”
This one’s a little on the tough side, no? The theme is “Celebrity Spoonerisms,” with familiar phrases or compound words spoonerized to create a nonsensical (but still clueable) phrase that starts with a celebrity surname:
- 26a. [Actor Michael’s means of support?], CAINE PILLAR. Painkiller.
- 28a. [Comic Tina recovered from her wound?], FEY HEALED. Hayfield.
- 42a. [Heir of martial artist Bruce?], LEE SCION. Sea lion.
- 52a. [Annoyance for actor Colin?], FIRTH BOTHER. Birth father.
- 68a. [Thunderstruck critic’s review for actor Richard?], GERE BOGGLES. Beer goggles. Good one!
- 88a. [What actor Martin calls his athletic footwear?], SHEEN CLEATS. Clean sheets.
- 97a. [Urban legend about rapper Kanye?], WEST MYTH. Messed with.
- 114a. [Musician David’s equestrian accouterments?], BYRNE TACK. Turn back.
- 117a. [Tart cocktail named for comic Amy?], POEHLER SOUR. Solar power.
Not one of these came to me quickly. I had to work the crossings and start sounding things out, trying to come up with a second word that worked.
Favorite clue: 16d. [Partridge family member], PHEASANT? I was thinking of Danny and Laurie and the capital-F Patridge Family. D’oh! Details count.
The top and bottom sections are all fairly wide open, but not packed with iffy junk.
Ten more things:
- 1a. [Sissy who’s not a sissy], SPACEK. Oscar-winning actress. Tricky masked capital letter!
- 24a. [Something given when someone has been taken], EULOGY. Pairs well with 25a. [Tranquil], AT PEACE. I attended a lovely funeral today with touching and funny eulogies, and wasn’t expecting to find the Saturday funeral vibe carried into the Sunday puzzle.
- 38a. [Positive signs of life in outer space?], A-OKS. From an astronaut affirming that he or she is all right.
- 58a. [2007 3x platinum Alicia Keys album], AS I AM. There aren’t a ton of solid three-word answers with only 5 letters.
- 75a. [Ball club position], SCOUT. Scouting out new talent. I was thinking of golf clubs and golf ball positions and whatnot and wasn’t seeing this answer.
- 108a. [Cleaning aid since 1889], LYSOL. Sold, via coded language, as birth control! It was, however, both dangerous and ineffective as a contraceptive.
- 120a. [Philippine province with a repetitive name], ILOILO. I know what you may be thinking: “This is so obscure!” The province has a population of 2.2 million, though, and we’ve certainly seen plenty of crossword answers that are far teenier. TRURO, Mass. (2,000 people). NATICK, Mass. (33,000 people). XENIA, Ohio (26,000). OJAI, Calif. (under 8,000). OTARU, Japan (not among the country’s 110 cities). ENID, Okla. (the state’s 9th largest city, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard of at least three of the bigger cities with longer names).
- 3d. [Rural block], ANVIL. Rural? Because farriers working on horseshoes use them? Not sure what percentage of anvils reside in the countryside. Can’t say I run into any in my urban area. (Go learn about anvils!)
- 40d. [German city on the Baltic], KIEL. Population 241,000! Richard Kiel, the over-7′ actor who played Jaws in the James Bond movies, passed away this Wednesday.
- 96d. [Noted hint giver], HELOISE. When I was a kid, my mom had a couple “Hints From Heloise” paperbacks, chock-full of tips for things like stain removal. I suspect these books are entirely unknown to people under, say, 35. If you’re in that age group, do you know of this Heloise from outside of crosswords?
A few dry spots in the grid (STEROL!), as you see in nearly any 21×21 puzzle, but no unsightly pile-ups of blah fill. Four stars from me. I appreciated having a theme I had to work for.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 232”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Last week’s Post Puzzler from Frank Longo was a 70/29 freestyle. This week’s Post Puzzler from Trip Payne is also a 70/29 freestyle, though the 29 black squares are arranged differently. Last week I compared the solving experience to completing a sneaky-tough workout. This week I’ll compare it to the regular workout that gets a little tougher at the end when you’re running on fumes.
I couldn’t ask for an easier start: nothing gets one’s confidence going faster than plunking down the answer to a 15-letter answer to start the solve. Yep, TASTE THE RAINBOW (said in a creepy, “I see dead people” whisper) is the [Slogan for Skittles] that to this day scares me a little. That answer fed TESTIFY, which in turn gave me MIFF and T.S. ELIOT, the [“April is the cruelest month” writer]. (Eliot was a noted tax evader, so April 15 was always a dodgy time for him. Note: the previous sentence is a lie told for comedic effect. I hesitate to call it a “joke” since that assumes it’s funny. But if you thought the statement was true, think about it. He emigrated to England in his 20s, so it’s not like American income taxes would matter much to him. And if he was a tax evader, then certainly a filing deadline wouldn’t cause him much anxiety either.)
From there, the northwest corner and the southwest corner feel fairly easily. Well, I shouldn’t give the impression I made no mistakes there. I originally had ON A TOOT for [Doing South Beach, perhaps], thinking of the party scene there that gets going very late in the evening. But no, the answer was ON A DIET. But otherwise, I had enough crossings in place to help me suss out the stuff I didn’t know immediately, so it felt like I was making good time.
The southeast put up more of a fight. I knew KATIE Holmes as [Suri’s mother], but none of the rest came as easily. I’m ashamed to have forgotten AMANDA as [Spock’s mother], and I mildly kicked myself for not figuring out DIORS as [Some gala gowns] sooner. But eventually it fell too.
My Waterloos, if one can have more than a single Waterloo, were the central and northeast sections. And like Napoleon, my downfall was entirely of my own making. For [Unhealthy stuff that’s cured], I had ??BAC??. I couldn’t get past “BACON” as the end of the word. The mental conversation went along the lines of this: Unhealthy? Check. Cured? Sure, why not. So the answer has to end in -BACON. But what two-letter word would come before BACON? B-B-BACON from Porky Pig? So yeah, I didn’t get TOBACCO for the longest time.
It would have helped if I knew that BENIN was [Dahomey, today] or if I could remember that TINA was the [“Glee” character] (I haven’t watched that show since the second season, long before Finn’s death). And it would have helped to know that [Obdurate] meant STONY. But as always, these flaws are mine, not that of the puzzle. The puzzle had a nice mix of contemporary and classical terms, some interesting vocabulary, some nice wordplay in the clues, and just enough accessible points to make the whole thing solvable. Last week’s workout left me gasping for air. This week’s workout left me feeling energized and ready to tackle my Sunday.
Other items that merit mention:
- The clue for SEEDERS is great. But [Machines that may be in a rut] also seemed to work for FEEDERS, the answer I had in place for far too long.
- I liked my answer to [What may cause buzzkills?], SWARM, more than the correct answer, SWATS. But I concede that mine is less accurate, technically. If it was SWARM, “buzzkill” would have been singular instead of the plural “buzzkills.”
- [Bread-devouring?] was a fun, if not especially challenging clue for PRICY.
- [Where to go in the hospital], an innocent clue for BEDPAN, an entry that, in other hands, might have been clued in a manner befitting a Farrelly Brothers movie.
Favorite entry = GO VIRAL, to [Hit it big, in a way]. Favorite clue = [Blondie, for example], which made me think of the comic strip and the ’80s band long before the DESSERT.
Mattt Skoczen’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword. “You Oughta Be in Pictures”
I like the theme—add a U to a movie title to change the meaning. I hadn’t read the puzzle’s title, but figured out the theme with 37a. [Formal acknowledgment of the end of the calla season?], A FAREWELL TO ARUMS. “A Farewell to” strongly suggests “Arms” and I needed 5 letters, not 4, and callas led me to lilies and ARUMS. Here are the other themers:
- 23a. [Heroic medal whose recipient didn’t feel worthy of it?], THE RUED BADGE OF COURAGE. Didn’t realize it was a movie and not just a novel. A FAREWELL is also far better known as the Hemingway book than as a movie.
- 50a. [Warnings for Rio sailors?], BUOYS FROM BRAZIL.
- 71a. [Not a colorful restaurant list?], MENU IN BLACK.
- 94a. [Midnight distress call?], A SHOUT IN THE DARK.
- 104a. [Clever maneuver by a grade school class?], KINDERGARTEN COUP. Good one!
- 127a. [Classy vehicle for actor Elliott?], THE SOLID GOULD CADILLAC. Never heard of this 1956 movie starring people I don’t know. (Elliott Gould I know. But he’s not in the movie, just the theme answers.)
Seven more things:
- 4d. [Carrier that merged with Meridiana in 2013], AIR ITALY. Never heard of it. It’s no Alitalia, nope. Wikipedia notes, “It operated scheduled services for tour operators within Europe, to Brazil and Kenya, as well as independent short-haul flights. Most flights left from either Naples Airport, Turin Airport, Verona Airport or Milan Malpensa Airport.”
- 24d. [Cabo’s peninsula] is BAJA. Pronounced like BAHA, 76d. [Island band The __ Men]. The Baha Men are from the Bahamas; they’re the “Who Let the Dogs Out?” group.
- 65d. [Lending inst.], LIB. Abbrev for “library.” I was thinking of banks, dang it.
- 59a. [__ historique: opera genre], FAIT. New to me.
- 35d. [Groundbreaking discoveries?], FAULTS. My error was here; I thought people might dig their way to discovering VAULTS (Geraldo Rivera! Howard Carter in Egypt!) and didn’t check the crossing clue. Earthquake faults are groundbreaking, sure, but how often are they “discoveries”? I mean, after the first time. Are we finding new faults all the time? Californians probably know this stuff better than Midwesterners.
- 107d. [A hundred bucks], ONE C. What? No. Who says that? Too contrived.
- 89d. [Alaskan site of the only WWII battle on U.S. soil], ATTU. Crosswordese island.
Overall, there’s more 4-letter unfresh stuff than I like to see (ATTU, ITER, OTOE, TYNE, URAL, and so on), plus AEC and ESSENES, but the Sunday LAT is typically clued easy enough that a long-time solver who knows their crosswordese can fly through it without getting mired. A newbie will have a harder time of it. The theme brings a little fun and it’s well-executed. 3.75 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “A Kinder, Gentler Puzzle”
Merl takes phrases with inherent violence and tweaks them a little with sound-similar words to be kinder and gentler:
- 23a. [Kinder, gentler Sherman tanks?], WARM MACHINES. Not war machines.
- 29a. [Kinder, gentler programming?], VIOLINS ON TV. Not violence.
- 34a. [Kinder, gentler Oliver Stone film?], NATURAL BORN KIDDERS. Not Killers.
- 50a. [Kinder, gentler order from a sheriff?], HAND OVER YOUR GUM. Not gun.
- 65a. [Kinder, gentler James Whitmore vehicle?], GIVE ‘EM HELP, HARRY. Had a mistake in here because looking at EAR* for 53d. [Fonda in a ’46 Ford film], I guessed EARL. Didn’t know Henry Fonda played an EARP or that John Ford directed a Tombstone film. “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry” is the original … but without Googling, EARL seemed plausible enough to me.
- 82a. [Kinder, gentler fate of barroom brawlers?], BUD ON THEIR HANDS. Budweiser, not blood. My favorite of the themers.
- 91a. [Kinder, gentler boxing ploy?], A PINCH IN THE STOMACH. Not punch.
- 102a. [Kinder, gentler words heard inside a B-52?], BONBONS AWAY. Not bombs.
- 112a. [Kinder, gentler sport for George H. W. Bush?], SHOOING QUAIL. Not shooting.
Interesting punny theme, not at all a stale approach here.
Seven more things:
- 1a. [Rodeo bull], BRAHMA. Not the easiest 1-Across, is it?
- 22a. [Like pocket dicts.], ABR. Abridged. I was looking for a Spanish-English dictionary for my son. You wouldn’t believe how many “compact” dictionaries are 900 pages long.
- 43a. [Perspicacity], ACUMEN. Both of these words are delicious to me.
- 72a. [“See how they smile, like pigs in a sty, see how they ___” (line from “I Am the Walrus”)], SNIED. What, what, what? I kept questioning the crosses here, because it seemed so very implausible. I bet people will be Googling 66d. [Smaller, bite-size version] and MENI or MONI, as SNEED and SNOED make as much sense as SNIED/MINI.
- 77a. [It gets into a pickle], BRINE. A literal, tangible pickle, not an abstract one.
- 105d. [Tetragrammaton consonants], YHWH. “Yahweh” with the vowels elided.
- 13d. [“Teacher’s Pet” star], DORIS DAY. I needed lots of crossings for this. 1958 movie that shares its title with a 2004 Disney cartoon and a 2000 horror movie.
The fill’s fairly smooth, but there’s not a ton of zip to it (only 10 entries that are longer than 6 letters, for example). 3.75 stars from me.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day everyone! Hope your Sunday is going great!
Deepest apologies to you, as I can’t provide a real in-depth review of the puzzle, as I’ve been all around the state of New Jersey covering sporting events back-to-back-to-back (it’s that time of year again). This was a Bob Klahn puzzle that absolutely got the best of me. BTFSPLK (41D: [Joe ______ (“L’il Abner” character under a rain cloud)])????? No way I was getting that in a million years, even if I believed every crossing was right (which I couldn’t be too sure of). Highlights, for me and my successes in the grid, included FOZZIE BEAR (51A: [He often wears a brown porkpie and a red-and-white-polka-dot necktie]) and NATIVE SON (16A: [Hometown favorite]). In my whacked out mind, I’m sure that Mr. Klahn knew it was my birthday today, so he made this puzzle extra, extra devious for me. Great grid, but I wasn’t up to the challenge today…might be too much birthday cake!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RIVER RATS (3D: [Regular rafters])– The Albany River Rats were a minor league ice hockey team in the American Hockey League that was long an affiliate of the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League. The team was based in Albany from 1993 until 2010, when the team then moved to Charlotte.
Thanks so much for another week of crosswords, and I’ll see you on Monday!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Parting Words” — pannonica’s belated & brief write-up
- 21a. [With 26-Across, political slogan from c. 1888) AS MAINE GOES | SO GOES THE NATION. This is because Maine includes the easternmost point of the contiguous United States, and the Earth rotates from west to east. Nothing more to see here than basic geography, folks … move along.
- 51a. [Song from Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along”] GOOD THING GOING. As in, “We have …”, which quickly dissipates to “We had …” and repeat.
- 63a. [Wham! hit] WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO-GO. No comment.
- 80a. [Spendthrift’s motto] EASY COME, EASY GO.
- 102a. [2002 “remake” of a 1936 novel] THE WIND DONE GONE. Not sure if you can call a novel a “remake”, even in “quotation marks”.
- 110a. [“Rocky” theme] GONNA FLY NOW. Parsed of course as “going to” et cetera.
So, therefore and so on, the theme is conjugations and forms of the infinitive “to go”. Trinidad, I’m told, is not happy about this.
Seems rather a flimsy theme to my mind. But you know what irked me more than that? 82d [Kid] YOUNG ONE—that’s YOUNGONE—crossing the GONE of the theme answer at 102-across. All right, perhaps—as you might protest—that I’m being overly critical, as that’s only a visual overlap. Fair enough. So you know what irked me more even than that? NINETY-ONE ACROSS: 91a [Experience] UNDERGO. Oh, come on. It’s an across answer, just like the themers. Admittedly, it’s a compound word, but it ends in GO, in the same sense as the theme. No, no, no. Just, no. Bad experience. I guess it proves that HH has feet of clay, like a GOLEM (68d [Automaton].
- Since it’s a bugbear of mine when “odor” is overwhelmingly clued in a pejorative sense, I’m going to try to highlight nonjudgmental occurrences. 100d [Bloodhound’s guides] ODORS.
- 37a [Became running mates?] Great clue for ELOPED. See also 61a [Partner] MATE >
bzzzt!<and 53d [Prepare] GROOM.
- 14d [Places in the heart] ATRIA. Never seen the film, but it’s supposed to be very good.
- 33a [Eightsome] OGDOAD. Whoa! Wasn’t expecting that! Here are three links.
- 109a [1-Across, earlier] GIRL, which reminds me that I haven’t yet read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and the damn Fincher film is going to come out early next month. Oh, one-across is WOMAN, clued in reference to the 19th Amendment. Suffrage, you know.
- Oh hey! You know what else I didn’t care for? The crossing of 10d and 23a. 10d [Greenland outpost] ETAH; you know what I have to say to that? Eegah! The crossing answer? Glad you asked. It’s 23a [James who co-wrote “Hair!”] RADO. Eegah! Seriously, I would have been much more pleased if the two were EtOH (ethyl alcohol, which everyone should know about) and the sculptor Auguste de Niederhäusern, aka RODO, who may be rather obscure, but no more obscure than James RADO (plus ETAH, have I mentioned ETAH?).
Modestly annoying crossword.