Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, “Timber!”
Sam’s theme answers are phrases that contain a hidden tree type, and what happens after the lumberjack shouts “Timber!” The tree falls. And so the tree falls down while the start and finish of each theme answer run across. The full thing is clued at the start and the Down portion is clued [TREE], while the end gets no clue. And! The bendy answers appear in symmetrical places in the grid.
- 10a. [William Henry Harrison’s nickname], TIPPECANOE with a PECAN tree.
- 27a. [Lucy Ricardo’s friend], ETHEL MERTZ, ELM.
- 58a. [Cavorted], PRANCED AROUND, CEDAR.
- 60a. [Like many a stain before washing], PRESOAKED, OAK.
- 68a. [Sick bay], INFIRMARY, FIR.
- 103a. [Old roadside advertiser], BURMA SHAVE, ASH.
- 106a. [Accusing of misconduct], IMPEACHING, PEACH. Best peach I ever had was in the guest gift bag for Sam’s Atlanta wedding.
There’s some sparkling long fill to populate the rest of the grid—AS EASY AS ABC, SANSKRIT, FULL TILT, C STUDENTS, ONION RINGS, full name for SAL MINEO, mind like a STEEL TRAP, WHIZBANG, ITALIAN STALLION, and YOU’RE NOT KIDDING. We don’t see a lot of nonthematic 15s outside of themeless grids, that’s for sure.
Six more things:
- 7d. [Amethyst or citrine], QUARTZ. I had been putting RIBALD at 4a, but it had to be RISQUE to fit with QUARTZ.
- 108a. [Philosopher Mo-___], TZE. Crossings! I needed ’em.
- 116a. [Fine fabric], BATISTE? I was working some of those crossings. I have no batiste.
- 120a. [“Middlemarch” author], ELIOT. Michael Sharp (aka Rex Parker) ran a virtual book group this summer, and we all read Middlemarch. It’s an 800-page soap opera, only with funnier writing than TV soaps ever have. I enjoyed it thoroughly (except for a chapter or two about characters I didn’t yet realize were going to get the full soapy treatment and have plenty of drama).
- 2d. [Source of the words “mamba” and “chimpanzee”], BANTU. And “mantra” comes from SANSKRIT.
- 35d. [Flower that symbolizes paradise on earth], TULIP. You don’t say. Tulips are my favorite.
The puzzle was marred a bit by clunky shorter fill—STEN GUN, RIA/ENYO/URSI, PDAS, OZMA, partials, DSO/R-LESS, AD FEE, OMN, that sort of stuff.
3.9 stars from me, as the ughers protruded into my consciousness more than I’d like.
Merl Reagle’s crossword, “Oh, It’s You Again”
The puzzle’s title hints at the theme, which is “O (oh) and U (you) twice” in various words and phrases:
- 18a. [Dolby, DTS or Sony option], SURROUND SOUND. This is stacked atop the next themer.
- 22a. [Mental bloc?], ENCOUNTER GROUP. No idea what that means. My folks went to Marriage Encounter weekends when I was a kid. Same thing? Or is this a Mensa thing, maybe?
- 38a. [Wilderness-skills organization], OUTWARD BOUND.
- 49a. [L.A. nightclub where many future stars got their start], THE TROUBADOUR. Never heard of it. Did your band ever play there, Merl?
- 66a. [Words of regret], “COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA.”
- 89a. [Family member, perhaps], COUNTRY COUSIN.
- 96a. [Words of rejection in a famous “Seinfeld” episode], “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” My favorite.
- 119a. [The Skipper’s plan, on paper], A THREE-HOUR TOUR. A three-hour tour.
- 123a. [Disappear intentionally], GO UNDERGROUND. The only one where an OU is split across words.
- 14d. [Pasta alternative], COUSCOUS.
- 88d. [Affected elegance], FROU-FROU. These last two each cross an Across themer.
Solidly wrought, but straight-up factual for the most part (the TV facts are a livelier breed).
Five more things:
- 12a. [The R of TRMS on MSNBC], RACHEL. Never knew anyone abbreviated The Rachel Maddow Show.
- 47a. [Host of a Wild Ride at Disneyland], MR. TOAD. You could complain that the “Mr.” is duped by Mr. Peanut in the MONOCLE clue, but it would be churlish of you because these are fun.
- 57a TEARER crosses 58d ABATER, not too far from 81a ICER. Meh times three.
- 102a. [Become ex-exes], REUNITE. Cute clue!
- 109a. [Astaire or Rogers] makes you think of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but Ginger is left out of this dance in favor of FRED Rogers of Neighborhood fame.
- 98d. [Lucky Frenchman], PIERRE. Lucky Pierre? What does that mean? Not familiar to me.
- 30d. [Lamb, in La Mancha], CORDERO. I needed all the crossings … to uncover the former last name of one of my COUNTRY COUSINs.
- 42d. [Fancy ___ (snappy dressers)], DANS. I thought they were dapper Dans and not fancy ones.
3.75 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Intelligence Test” — pannonica’s write-up
Had I noticed the title, it wouldn’t have been necessary for me to leave the revealer—situated vertically above and to the left of the center—partially filled for so long, despite having noticed the preponderance of Qs in the theme answers. My shortcoming was failing to recognize that each of those Qs was preceded by an I. 38d [Attribute of this puzzle?] HIGH IQ.
So each one features a mash-up of two words, each containing IQ in sequence, for a wacky-type phrase. In truth, though, they aren’t so fantastical.
- 23a. [Spicy cocktail?] PIQUANT DAIQUIRI.
- 42a. [Dos and don’ts in a bar?] LIQUOR ETIQUETTE.
- 60a. [Old-school aura?] ANTIQUE MYSTIQUE.
- 79a. [Body type with a bias?] OBLIQUE PHYSIQUE.
- 101a. [Nickname like no other?] UNIQUE SOBRIQUET.
That’s right. Only five in the 21×21 grid, all acrosses. However, they’re all really good, and it should be acknowledged how limiting the theme is, especially as there aren’t any duplications and each of those Qs necessitates a crossing Q-word. That’s 20 unique Q answers in all. For the record, the other ten are: FAQS, QUESO, TOQUE, IRAQ, HIGH IQ, MAQUIS, QUETZAL, NUQUE [Scruff, on a “chat”], PIQUE, and BARBEQUE. Not bad at all.
- Not a fan of clues such as 66a [POTUS] PRES, in which an element of the acronym (or initialism) essentially duplicates the answer. Don’t like it much, either, when a clue employs a foreign word that’s an obvious cognate of the answer, such as 25d [“Con ___ (with cheese)] QUESO; wouldn’t [Chile con __ ] be a better clue, despite it being significantly less common than chile con carne?
- Speaking of dupes, here’s a rather egregious and completely unnecessary one: 26a [Aviary denizens] BIRDS, 92d [Jazz genre for Bird] BEBOP.
- New to me: 42d [Early tennis champ Dod] LOTTIE. Dod, did you say? Duly noted.
- 87d [Wear __ (dress warmly)] A COAT. Meh, weak sauce.
- Clever clues: 37d [Flapper with long legs] HERON, 75a [Advance of a shark] LOAN.
Jeffrey Harris’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 235”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Late last week I was speaking at an event for estate planning professionals in Columbus, Georgia. When the emcee introduced me, he mentioned that I occasionally publish crosswords in various outlets. This is not unusual–more than once, emcees have said this is “the most interesting thing” about me. (Just once, can’t it be my sex appeal?) Anyway, I didn’t think much about it.
After waxing eloquently for 90 minutes on recent developments in federal tax laws, an attendee came rushing up to the podium. I assumed he had some questions about my remarks or wanted to bounce some ideas off of me about a particular client matter–again, not anything unusual. But instead he started with, “Do you know my grandson?”
You’ve probably figured it out: it was Jeffrey Harris’s grandfather! He probably wasn’t expecting me to turn into a fan boy all of a sudden. “Sure, everyone in crosswords knows him!” I gushed. “He’s great!” Looking back, I was so effusive in my comments that the man probably thought I was insincere. And yet here I am, just a few days removed from that encounter, and I’m about to drop a lot of happy on this week’s Post Puzzler, a 72/28 freestyle from Jeffrey.
I instantly paused the timer after I opened the puzzle just so I could look at the grid’s design. You see triple-stacked 11s fairly regularly, but that nearly-boxed-off stack of 7s in the center really catches the eye. As much as I wanted to start there, when I clicked the timer back on I started perusing the clues for any entry point. Go figure, my first answer was MET, the [Subway Series player] that sat directly atop the box-o’-sevens. I took that as a sign to keep working around there. None of the crossings fell after the first read, but just underneath MET was ESCAPE, the [Criss Angel feat]. Anyone with basic cable and a comfortable couch probably knows magician Criss Angel, so for me this was a gimme.
With that much of the center section in place, the rest fell easily. I liked [Song before a face-off] for O CANADA and [Starters who are stoppers] for ACES. Normally Inner Beavis would have been all over the clue for G-STRING, [It doesn’t provide much coverage], but I never actually read the clue until writing this post–with GST???? in place it wasn’t like there were many other options.
The center section fed nicely into the south. As only an occasional consumer of Indian food, I didn’t give myself a chance to suss out [Indian cuisine staple], as I assumed it would be some kind of funky spice or sauce that I just don’t know. So when it turned out to be good ol’ BASMATI RICE, I was a little embarrassed. Luckily, the [Character with the catchphrase “Get out!”], ELAINE BENES from Seinfeld, was a gimme. And with mostly straightforward crossings I got TESLA MOTORS, the [Company that owns Supercharger stations]. So that section was finished in short order.
With the last few letters of 12-Down in place, I read the clue [Fictional attendee of James Buchanan High] and plunked down the remaining letters for VINNIE BARBARINO, John Travolta’s character in Welcome Back, Kotter, a sitcom I loved as a child. When I saw some reruns a few years back, however, I realized the show didn’t really stand the test of time. Or maybe my tastes have changed. Either way, I had my segue to the northeast, which also fell in short order. Inner Bill Maher would make some crack about BSA being directly atop ASS, but Inner Bill doesn’t get out much so it’s fairly easy to resist the temptation.
The hardest quadrant for me was the northwest. I entered via MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, the Judy [Garland classic], but the long Acrosses there didn’t cede after one clue reading. I took a flier on EXTRAS as [Spares], and that led me to try ALEXANDER-something as the [Pope who was Cesare Borgia’s father]. Happily the back-to-back guesses paid off (it was ALEXANDER VI, btw). With the unknown-to-me DIRK as the [Stiletto relative], I was done. All in all, a smooth and very satisfying solve.
Here are the nominees for Favorite Clue (I like that there are so many from which to pick!):
- [Bottom halves of tickets, briefly] for VPS, or Vice Presidents. I kept thinking I was supposed to know a short term for “stubs.”
- [Something that may have two hips?] for CHEER, as in “hip hip hooray.”
- [Eggs on toast, maybe] for ROE, since caviar is often served on small little pieces of toast.
- [Hammer home?] for EAR, though when I first read the clue and had no idea of the answer’s length, I was really wanting OAKLAND. I might save that clue for later use. Dibs!
- [Jack’s predecessor?] for the TEN card in a deck of cards.
- [Provide immoral support?] for ABET. Always nice to see a fun clue for a common crossword answer.
Favorite entry = PROGRESSO, the [Brand with the slogan “Keep it simple”]. Favorite clue = [Don John] for GOTTI. What can I say, it made me smile. As did much of this puzzle.
Jake Braun’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Say Ah”
The title’s not quite on target, as the “ah” sound isn’t being inserted every time—sometimes it’s a schwa. But the results are pretty good, and the base phrases are a nice batch too:
- 23a. [Haggling over a parrot purchase?], POLLY BARGAINING. From “plea bargaining.”
- 48a. [Hug in the pool?], WATER CARESS. Watercress plus a schwa.
- 73a. [Excitement about boxing practice?], SPARRING FEVER. Spring fever.
- 97a. [Venue for unwise investments?], FOLLY MARKET. Flea market.
- 126a. [Post-Renaissance gal pals?], TWO BAROQUE GIRLS. Sitcom 2 Broke Girls.
- 16d. [Walden Pond headrest?], THOREAU PILLOW. Throw pillow.
- 60d. [Cold spell in Manama?], BAHRAIN FREEZE. Brain freeze. This one’s my favorite.
The sound changes aren’t super-consistent—sometimes the first syllable of the changed word is stressed, and sometimes the second syllable is. But I don’t know that many solvers will care about that particularity.
Thirteen more things:
- 37a. [Last word of Kipling’s “If—”], SON. Interesting clue, and I like the added challenge of not making it a fill-in-the-blank. (I totally used the crossings for all three letters.) Here’s the poem.
- 54a. [Story set to music], BALLAD. The Renaissance definition. There are also romantic songs in a more contemporary meaning.
- 67a. [Does a classroom chore], ERASES. Not sure how many classrooms are still assigning this as a chore. There may be more whiteboards and electronic boards than chalkboards these days.
- 136a. [Movie critic Pauline], KAEL. In Dean Olsher’s book, From Square One, he called me the Pauline Kael of crosswords. Really wanted to be the Roger Ebert of crosswords.
- 2d. [Info provider], STOOLIE. A very particular sort of information, ratting out criminals.
- 3d. [Like many barbershop quartets], ALL-MALE / 4d. Barbershop symbol], POLE / 5d. Barhopping tour], PUB CRAWL. Hard not to read 5d’s clue as “barbershopping tour.” Also, PUB CRAWL’s my favorite answer in this puzzle. Not that I’d ever go on a pub crawl—what’s the point when two drinks is your limit?
- 18d. [Cantilevered window], ORIEL. Crosswordese! This word and OSIER used to show up a lot more often. Grateful that constructors are mostly avoiding those words now.
- 50d. [Chilled soup], SCHAV. Sorrel soup. I’ll pass.
- 59d. [Three-time French Open champ __ Sánchez Vicario], ARANTXA. Thanks to my husband and his sports-mad family, I picked up a familiarity with tennis names. This one’s Basque.
- 75d. [Mate], GUV. To tell you the truth, I have never once called a friend “guv.” (“Mate” connotes Britishness and signals the British GUV.)
- 80d. [Soviet cooperative], ARTEL. One of those words, like ORIEL, that I encounter only in crosswords, and much less than a decade or three ago.
- 98d. [Fools, to Puck], MORTALS. Clue feels off to me. “What fools these mortals be” references a particular set of foolish mortals, no? And [Mortals, to Puck]/FOOLS is a much more sensible ordering of the words.
- 111d. [Dieter’s catchword], LO-FAT. Not really—”lowfat,” yes. Who the hell uses LO-FAT?
3.5 stars from me. I think this puzzle may be a debut, so I suspect Mr. Braun’s subsequent puzzles will have even more polished fill.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody!
Once again, it’s a case of “Tales from the Press Box,” as I’m coming to you from the media room of a professional sporting event. But the fun has already started, and not because of the action on the field, but because of today’s crossword, authored by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith. Had a real easy time of this, relatively speaking, but not because this was an easy grid. But once I got DE TROP from “—-OP,” I knew I was going to be just fine completing this grid faster than normal for a Sunday – and faster than normal for a MAS puzzle (10D: [Excessive]). Didn’t have much more filled in the northwest, so went to the northeast and made some serious hay, with TOSCANINI breaking things open (11D: [Maestro Artuto]). Completed the rest of that area all with the downs, including GARISH, which definitely does not describe my natty attire that I’m donning while sitting in the press box now (23D: [Loud, in a way]). Had so much of an easier time with the long across answers in the southeast than with either the across or down answers in northwest. Favorite answer of the day was YAKETY SAX, and all I could think about as I typed it in was all of the times I heard that play at the end of The Benny Hill Show when I was growing up (30D: [Boots Randolph hit featured on many comedy shows]). Close runner-up to favorite answer in grid was CHATELAINE, once I was able to nail that down after getting enough crosses to support me (15A: [Lady of the castle]). Near the end, I was thinking of every hospital show in my mind, and SCRUBS pretty much came last into my head…and that so happened to be what I needed (1D: [TV series set at Sacred Heart Hospital]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PANAMA (29A: [Canal country])– Yes, PANAMA is the site of a famous canal, but it’s also the birthplace of some of the great athletes in their respective sports. In boxing, a lot of people know Roberto Duran for his great boxing career, but another Panamanian boxer, Panama Al Brown, was the first Hispanic world champion in the history of boxing when he won the Bantamweight title in 1929. Another Panamanian sports great is Rod Carew, one of the great hitters in baseball history and a 1991 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee after a long career with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels. Carew ended his career with 3,053 hits.
See you all on Monday, and have a good rest of your weekend!