Joshua Kosman, coconstructor (with Henri Picciotto) of the delightful cryptics at The Nation, was kind enough to interview me for their Word Salad blog. (See if you can guess which question I added to the list Joshua had emailed me.)
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The Uncommon People”
Breezy puzzle from Merl this week, with a neat theme. 114a. [Some film credits, and the idea behind the eight theme answers in this puzzle] clues END TITLES, and titles for nobles (duke, earl, lady, queen, baron, king, lord, count) are hidden at the end of longer words:
- 23a. [Comic-strip canine], MARMADUKE.
- 25a. [“How-DEEE!” comedienne], MINNIE PEARL. I reckon she’s the only Hee Haw person I can identify. Buck Owens? I’m out.
- 38a. [Persistent problem of a sort], CHRONIC MALADY. Not as much a lexical chunk as the other theme answers.
- 54a. [Director of “12 Years a Slave”], STEVE MCQUEEN.
- 66a. [Car that George buys, thinking it was once owned by Jon Voight, on “Seinfeld”], CHRYSLER LEBARON. Turns out it was the dentist John Voight or something like that.
- 81a. [Like crossword words], INTERLOCKING.
- 92a. [Media billionaire who once owned the Grand Ole Opry and TV’s “Hee Haw”], EDWARD GAYLORD. Who??
- 111a. [For less], AT A DISCOUNT.
Solid theme, executed quite well as long as you don’t mind your pop culture extending to 1970’s rural TV craze.
Five more things:
- 52a. [Mr. Monella?], SAL. When I was a kid, my grandparents had these friends, a couple named Sam and Della. How badly did we wish she were named Ella, I ask you?
- 57a. [Sources of tweets], WRENS. Technically, @wrens is just one person on Twitter.
- 64a. [Oafish], CLODDY. I’ve seen cloddish but never CLODDY. Not every dictionary includes it but some mainline ones do.
- 53d. [Exhortation in a jailhouse song], LET’S ROCK. My favorite answer in this puzzle.
- 17d. [Breathing passages], NARES. Nostrils, in crossword lingo.
Quick and smooth puzzle, good theme. Four stars from me.
Pawel Fludzinski’s New York Times crossword, “Inner Workings”
Pretty sure we’ve seen this sort of theme before, but that doesn’t preclude it from making another appearance. Although … three of the theme answers appeared in a Thursday NYT less than three years ago, and it would have been wise not to accept both of these puzzles for the same venue. Many solvers have short memories, yes, but it looks funny. (And no, nobody thinks it’s plagiarism. Wordplay people think alike.)
“[X] in a [Y]” phrases are interpreted visually by putting the X word(s) between the two parts of Y (which can be a compound word or a two-word phrase):
- 23a. [Leading indicator?], COAL (CANARY) MINE.
- 31a. [Misfit], ROUND (SQUARE PEG) HOLE.
- 49a. [One who’s enthralled, metaphorically], CANDY (KID) STORE. Yes, please. And scrap this “metaphorically” nonsense.
- 66a. [Never], MILLION (NOT) YEARS.
- 84a. [Much ado about nothing], TEA (TEMPEST) POT.
- 97a. [Deteriorate rapidly], HAND (GO TO HELL) BASKET.
- 112a. [It’s hard to find], HAY (NEEDLE) STACK.
Solid grid with a good smattering of 6- to 9-letter entries (over 30 of ’em!) to liven up the enterprise. The theme is well executed regardless of the seen-it-before factor.
Six more things:
- 28a. [Bacalao and boquerones], TAPAS. Don’t know the latter clue word but I am all over the Spanish salt cod vocabulary this weekend.
- RE-word that! Grid has 42a RELIT, 95d REDYED, and 51d REWON. I like RELIT (as in a pilot light—[Like a pilot that’s working again] is indeed a good clue) but could have done without the others.
- 89a. [“I wouldn’t bet on it!”], FAT CHANCE. Favorite entry.
- 7d. [___ Peace Prize (award discontinued in 1990)], LENIN. Because Communists were hardly ever being recognized by the Nobel folks? If you noted that MALALA YOUSAFZAI has exactly 15 letters, you’re not alone—in fact, Peter Gordon’s Fireball Newsflash crossword the other day had that entry in it, complete with a shiny new Peace Prize clue.
- 9d. [Girl’s name that becomes a different girl’s name if you switch the first two letters], AMY. That means transpose those two letters to get “May,” not switch those letters to any other letters to get, say, “Joy.”
- 61d. [Viennese one], EIN. Again? Eins is one, and ein is an inflectable “a” or “an.” Yes, you can say “one girl” is ein Mädchen as a subject of a sentence, but how hard would it be to just clue the verflucht word as the indefinite article rather than as a number?
Four stars from me.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 236”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s Post Puzzler, a 68/31 treat from Doug Peterson, had a nice mix of gimmes, complete unknowns, and entries that solicited a few lucky guesses. It allowed me to feel like I was making steady progress even though no section of the puzzle fell easily.
The easiest section may have been the southeast. I plunked down Gene RAYBURN as the [Longtime “Match Game” host], and that gave me the starting N for [Cowboys’ gp.], which just had to be the NFC EAST. Normally it’s a bit rough to solve from the last letters instead of the first letters, but I knew TLC was [Discovery’s sister station] and I’ve done enough crosswords to get REINA as the [Female monarca]. So even though I didn’t know OLLIE as a [Skateboard park maneuver] or that PRALINES are [Sweets named for a French soldier whose cook was the inventor], the answers did not put up too much of a fight.
The northeast was my next stop. It sure didn’t help that I paid little attention to the number in the clue [1992 gold medalist who was a “Dancing With the Stars” champion], so for a while there I had APOLO OHNO as the answer. It fit! But OH NO, it was Kristi YAMAGUCHI. But even if I had realized the mistake sooner, that section still would have vexed me. I had no idea about MARZEN, the [Type of lager named for a German month], and EMAIL ADDRESSES just felt like it couldn’t be the right answer to [They may be spoofed]. Spammed, sure, but spoofed? The internet tells me “spoofing” is “the creation of email messages with a forged sender address.” So there you have it.
Over in the southwest, I really wanted UTILITIES as the answer to [Power houses?], but it proved to be WINDMILLS. Didn’t help that it was sandwiched between two food and beverage items with which I am unfamiliar: ORANGEADE, the [Snapple offering] I just knew had to contain the word TEA, and SEED CAKE, the [Dessert with caraways].
The northwest was the final battleground. I had no clue about the [Site of Burgoyne’s surrender]. Well, I guess I did, since that was the clue. But I had to piece SARATOGA from the crossings. Alas, only K-MART, the [Chain with a Sofia Vergara line], and UNOS, meaning [A few, south of the border], came easily. It helped when I took a lucky flier on MARION as [Indianapolis’s county] (I grew up adjacent to a Marion County, but it wasn’t in Indiana).
There’s lots of other stuff worth mention:
- [Enterprise acquision] just has to relate to Star Trek or rental cars, but which one? Turns out it was rental cars, because the answer was former rival ALAMO.
- I know ORATORIES as persuasive speeches, but here they are [Small private chapels]. The common thread, I suppose, is the shared intent to influence.
- Never heard of [French socialist philosopher Georges] SOREL. He was less famous than George Morel, whose writings really mushroomed.
- [Letter’s need] refers not to POSTAGE or STAMP or ENVELOPE because it’s referring to a landlord or lessor. Thus the answer is TENANT. Great clue!
- I also loved the insider clue for ITCHY, the [Cartoon character inspired by Jerry Mouse] that appears on The Krusty the Clown Show. You know a TV show has penetrated pop culture when the clue doesn’t even mention the show to which the clue relates. (In this case, of course, it’s The Simpsons.)
- I kinda wanted CONFAB as the answer to [Powwow], but it proved to be HUDDLE. ‘Tis the season for many a huddle now, so the clue feels especially timely.
- Speaking of timely clues, now’s the time to get your faux-bun braids ready if you want to dress for Halloween as Princess LEIA, the [Enslaved royal in a 1983 sci-fi film]. But if your goal is for a really sexy costume, I suggest you watch this segment from The Daily Show.
Favorite entry = YOU’RE ONE TO TALK, clued as [“Take a look in the mirror!”]. Favorite clue = [Teen sensation, perhaps] for ANGST instead of IDOL.
Alan Arbesfeld’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning crossword lovers!
It’s a home game for me today (no reporting from press boxes or on location), and it was fun to just sit down on my own chair and do some casual Sunday solving. This puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, definitely was one that held its tongue, at least as it pertains to foul language, with the entries of DRAT (53A: [“Shucks!”]) and OH, DEAR (47A: [“Shucks!”]). I had never heard of the TARANTELLA before, but if it is indeed a lively jig, then I’m all for learning it one day (2D: [Lively Italian dance]). Or maybe my feet will fall of trying to learn it.
There was one long clue/answer combo that I loved and one that absolutely tripped me up for about five minutes. PENCIL SHARPENER was a great sight and it definitely had a point to prove as being great fill (7D: [It helps to make a point]). As for CONFORMANCE (25D: [Agreement]), I was totally fed up with that answer, especially since a) I initially put in CONCORDANCE – both have 11 letters & share nine -, and b) both conformance and concordance mean the same thing!! Oh, and c) wouldn’t you say conformity instead of conformance under normal circumstances? This is faux anger more than anything, but putting in concordance did cost me a lot of time in the grid, and only when I bullied my way into thinking that SLIP OF THE TONGUE was correct – even with my insistence of concordance being right – was when I finally untangled myself out of that mess (39A: [Oral “oops”]). Also liked the clue to RESERVATION, which I was on from the get-go and didn’t get led the wrong way (9D: [Dinner arrangement?]). Although it’s croswordese, STS was made much more acceptable with the nice clue (62D: [D and C, in D.C.]) along with the fact that it couldn’t have been INIT, which was already in the grid (12D: [Pt. of a monogram]). Of course, 62D couldn’t have been INIT since the entry for it was three letters, and not four. Overall, a nice, relaxing Sunday solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AGEE (56A: [Tommie of the Miracle Mets])– With the Major League Baseball playoffs currently going on, you’ll be able to see which player(s) will become the next World Series hero. In Game 3 of the 1969 Fall Classic between Baltimore and New York (NL), New York Mets center fielder Tommie Agee put on one of the greatest single-game performances in World Series history. Batting first in the order, he led off the game with a home run off of future Hall of Famer pitcher Jim Palmer to give the Mets a 1-0 lead, and that homer happened to be the only run New York would need in a 5-0 victory. More importantly, Agee made two of the most memorable catches ever in the outfield. In the fourth inning, and with the Orioles having runners on first and third and two out, Agee made a diving catch off a fly ball by Elrod Hendricks to save two runs. In the seventh inning, the Orioles had the bases loaded and Paul Blair hit a liner into the right-center field gap. It looked sure to fall in for a bases-clearing extra base hit until Agee swooped in and made the catch to end the half inning. Need proof of this near-Herculean performance at Shea Stadium by Agee? Here you go! It’s a fun watch, trust me!
See you all on Monday, and have a good rest of your Sunday!!
Matt Skoczen and Patti Varol’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Twelve Steps”
It took me a while to figure out what the theme was after I finished the puzzle. The last word in each theme answer can precede the word “step”:
- 23a. [Door holder’s quaint invitation], LADIES FIRST.
- 25a. [“Hurry!”]. COME QUICK.
- 39a. [Native American ritual], RAIN DANCE.
- 41a. [Comic collected in “Cows of Our Planet”], THE FAR SIDE. Love that comic!
- 50a. [Where stars come out], STAGE DOOR. Um, you see the first word in the first theme clue?
- 71a. [Secure door feature], DOUBLE LOCK.
- 73a. [Where many tweens may be seen], JUNIOR HIGH.
- 93a. [“No, No, Nanette” number], TEA FOR TWO.
- 101a. [Birds Eye rival], GREEN GIANT.
- 103a. [1974 #1 hit for Helen Reddy], ANGIE BABY.
- 123a. [Prepare for the ring], SHADOW-BOX.
- 126a. [Like some test questions], TRUE OR FALSE.
Given the quick solve without even knowing the theme, this one played like an unthemed puzzle. Themes without any real wordplay often feel dry, don’t they? The title is the cleverest part of the theme, but one likes to have the highlights inside the actual puzzle.
A couple old-school crosswordese words popped up here, but rarely appear in puzzles these days:
- 52d. Aborigine of Japan], AINU.
- 85d. Mountain lakes], TARNS.
And 106d. [Cochise player of ’50s TV], Michael ANSARA, is also one of those “used to see this in puzzles a bit more” names. What’s bogus is that he’s Syrian. I like Syrian people, I do, but it’s so reductive to cast across racial lines in that way. (See also: Laurence Olivier as Othello, John Wayne as Genghis Khan, Swedish Warner Oland as Charlie Chan…)
Not much in the way of longer fill in this grid. TUG OF WAR and ROAD TEST are nice, but there’s not a whole lot of zip elsewhere.
3.33 stars from me.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “It Speaks Volumes” — pannonica’s write-up
A little joke, in six short chapters:
- 21a. [“So, the other day I’m in my __ …”] LOCAL BOOKSTORE
- 36a. [“… and I see a __ …”] TABLE FULL OF BOOKS
- 50a. [“… with a sign that says ‘__’, …”] OUR TOP BESTSELLERS
- 71a. [“… and I think, ‘Why are there __?’…”] STILL SO MANY COPIES
- [83a. [“… Wouldn’t that sign __ …”] BE MORE IMPRESSIVE
- 103a. [“… __?”] ON AN EMPTY TABLE.
I didn’t find this particularly funny, and it would be even more tedious to explain why. It’s nice that the entries are quite lengthy, and of course impressive that they’re in pairs of symmetrical length (as per convention), but there’s also a lot of syntactical flexibility engendered by the connecting phrases through the clues, so I wonder how difficult the task was.
What did I see (refers to jottings)?
- 49a [Twice “quatre”] HUIT, complemented nicely by 96a [Half of “acht”] VIER.
- 97d [Fertility goddess] ISIS. In the news, nominally.
- 57a [Union’s foes] SCABS. Not the real foes, certainly not the primary ones.
- Was doubting my crossings with the first four letters of 20a [Insect with eyespots] IO MOTH. IOMO… looks odd indeed.
- 1a [Ides assassin] CASCA, 96d [Start of a Caesar quote] VENI; 5d [Hardly a partygoer] ASOCIAL, 94a [Retiring] SHY; 87a [Evade] DUCK, 82d [Dodged] AVERTED.
- Had to guess on the crossing of 107a [Hargitay’s longtime costar] MELONI and 79d [1941 Jimmy Dorsey hit] AMAPOLA.
- 77a [Trumpeter who co-founded A&M Records] Herb ALPERT. Wonder if any solvers were tricked by conditioning into thinking it was AL HIRT. Similarly wonder if 105d [Bering Sea bird] was misconstrued by some as ERN rather than AUK. I didn’t fall for either, this time.
- Continuing on the jazziness line: 111a [Gershwins musical of 1926–27] OH, KAY! It dupes 90d [Kay of Big Band fame] KYSER.
- And on the subject of dupes, there’s 35d [Long shot’s opposite] BEST BET crossing the themer … OUR TOP BESTSELLERS …
- Favorite clue/answer (even though it’s a partial): 67d [” __ children learning?” G.W. Bush] IS OUR. The rest are workmanlike, with a few that make a stab at cleverness, or feature some alliteration.
- And finally, the tastiest for last: 1d [17-year locust] CICADA. Why don’t I just link to the needlefish/gar comment thread on 2 October—starting at 6:02am et seq—and you all can take it from there? mmkay? Incidentally, there are some scintillating recipes out there.
About average puzzle, but it elicited minimal pleasure from me.