Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword
English is full of words that can play multiple parts of speech. The theme answers take noun phrases and reinterpret them as if the first word is a verb:
- 20a. [What gossip columnists do?], TRADE SECRETS. If they’re trading them, they won’t have any exclusives to offer!
- 36a. [What mathematicians do?], PLOT POINTS. Perhaps algebra students do this more than mathematicians.
- 42a. [What bouncers do?], HANDLE BARS.
- 56a. [What literary critics do?], COVER STORIES.
Favorite fill: The long Downs, BANDSTANDS and HIT THE ROOF. And also SUBTEXT (44d. [What lies between the lines]), solely because of this Scrabble Gram puzzle that made many people jump to a funny wrong answer anagram of EUTTSBX.
- 47a. [Squeeze, informally], SMUSH. Dictionary attests an origin in the early 1800s.
- 62a. [“The Gentleman Is ___” (Rodgers and Hammerstein song)], A DOPE. Heckuva partial. Is this familiar to the rest of you?
- 63a. [Soul singer Redding], OTIS.
- 64a, 67a. [With 67-Across, coastal Maine], DOWN / EAST. Had no idea it referred to the coast. Down, elevation-wise? East, by the Atlantic?
- 6d. [Gleeful giggle], HEHE. May I just say how much I loathe “he he” or “hehe”? People! Try a double-E. “Hee-hee” looks so much better. “He” is not a laugh, it’s a male pronoun.
3.5 stars from me. Other than HEHE, nothing too offensive in the puzzle, but also not a lot of excitement, either. It’s a Tuesday puzzle. It’s almost as if they’re calculated to underwhelm.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 176), “Grin and Bear It”—Janie’s review
“Grin and Bear It.” Sounds a bit burdensome, no? Nupe. Not today. Theme, theme execution, the marquee non-theme fill, cluing: this is our constructor at the top of her game. Let’s start with that theme-and-execution part. Today we have a word ladder that moves from the NW corner to the SE corner—whose first clue is [:-(], whose final one is [:-)]. You’ll recognize those emoticons as symbols for FROWN and SMILE. Not only do we get from one extreme to the other through eight additional five-letter words, but the grid-spanning reveal at center gleefully amps up the journey suggested by the title, inviting us to “PUT ON A HAPPY FACE” [“Bye Bye Birdie” hit…or a hint to the word ladder formed by the answers to the starred clues]. That final emoticon is sometimes even called a “happy face.” Let’s see how ya get from here to there.
- *1A. FROWN [:-(]
- *6A. FLOWN [Left the coop]
- *21A. FLOWS [Moves like lava]. First thought was OOZES. No.
- *24A. SLOWS [Obeys yellow]
- *27A. SLOTS [Openings at the post office]. Took me a while to grok that one…
- *43A. SPOTS [Ladybug features]. Sweet.
- *44A. SPITS [They rotate at cookouts]
- *50A. SPITE [Petty ill will]
- *64A. SMITE [Smack down, old style]
- *45A. SMILE [[:-)]
And then…there’s some mighty strong long fill to further bolster the grid: OBAMACARE and INITIATOR for the politically inclined perhaps, TRENDIEST for the fashionistas, GO BANANAS for the more tightly wound (maybe at the post office…). Last week’s snarky pea-brain in the fill makes a pluralized appearance as a clue today, describing MEATHEADS. If the latter—or any of us—are taking too many [Sarcastic taunts] GIBES (from some spite-filled bully, say), the puzzle reminds us we don’t have to smite the enemy, but can [Ignore…] the insult and RISE ABOVE. NO-SHOW [Reservation reneger] and PIANOS [Grand or upright instruments] are welcome additions to the grid as well.
And then…we get examples of the kind of cluing that sheds new light on some familiar or more functional fill and makes those entries shine in the process. My faves today:
- [Limerick language] for ERSE. Limerick is not only a form of light verse, but it’s also a city in Ireland, where the native language is Irish a/k/a Erse. We’re talkin’ the latter idea here. Though it’s nice being reminded of the former, too.
- [Improve, as scotch] for AGE. My brother turns 70 next month and for about five minutes I thought I’d try to find him a bottle of 70-year-old scotch. Whoops. Not on my Fiend salary!
- [Revolutionary path] for ORBIT. What the planets follow; not what Che Guevara took.
- [Race car driver?] for MOTOR. Not “who” but “what” drives (impels) the car.
- [Rolls around a hayfield] for BALES. You know that anything that conjures up Young Frankenstein has gotta be happy-making. (And here’s what Mel Brooks did with that snippet for the Broadway production.)
- [Hell of a guy?] for SATAN. You can figger this one out!
Wish there were some wonderful way to clue CORM, but it’s one of those words that is what it is [Bulblike plant stem], more functional than fun. And BAST is another word that ya don’t meet every day of the week—to the extent that Liz gave us all the help she could in that clue, with a definition and the letters to anagram it [Tough, woody fiber (STAB anagram)]. This word shares the “t” of the theme-locked smite, so her choices were limited. I thought about the character SMIKE from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickelby (which would change bast to the more accessible BASK), but also thought that 1) it’s a proper name and thus lazily inconsistent with the rest of the word ladder and 2) although Smike’s right at the heart of the story, Nicholas Nickelby (and its veritable panoply of colorfully named characters) is probably not the novel by which most solvers know Mr. Dickens. (Full disclosure: I’ve never read it but was fortunate enough to see the RSC’s breathtaking production on Broadway back in the early ’80s…) Better bast and smite!
Better still? Taking my inspiration from the puzzle and being able to close out with this exceptional time-capsule of a YouTube clip. Two lengthy scenes from Bye Bye Birdie, when the show was featured on The Ed Sullivan Show. Although the scenes appear in reverse order in the theatrical production, the first half of the clip features Paul Lynde and includes the meta “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” (a/k/a “Ed Sullivan”); the second (starting at @8:18) features Dick Van Dyke in… “Put on a Happy Face.” From a lower-tech time in Broadway musical history, when choreography was regularly used for story-telling. No helicopters landing, no chandeliers falling, no multiply-cast Spidermen flying overhead. And still a lot to love. Enjoy!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Big Picture”
Where are you, scientifically speaking? Matt lays it out:
- 20a. [You’re part of it, along with being in the Class Mammalia], PHYLUM CHORDATA. Within the kingdom Animalia.
- 37a. [You’re living in it, geologically], CENOZOIC ERA.
- 53a. [You live in it, physically], MILKY WAY GALAXY.
- 78a. [You’re soaking in it, dish-washingly], PALMOLIVE.
Among the fresher bits:
- 1d. [Magazine with a famous crossword], PEOPLE. You can usually find a book of People crosswords near the top of the crossword book sales rankings at Amazon.
- 11d. [Burrito outside], TORTILLA. Are you a corn or flour tortilla person?
- 37d. [He’d love to have you over for dinner], CANNIBAL. Gross.
- 47d. [Talks to online], SKYPES. Yes, this is a verb now.
- 50a. [The shortest month?], MAY. Shortest name, tied for the longest in terms of days.
Did it feel like there was a bit more blah stuff than usual? ENOS RAH ESTAB ADIP HESSE, plural ADOS, LEN and ARLO … and that weird 4d. [Class for intl. students] throwing me for a loop. While ESL (a rather common crossword entry) is English as a Second Language (and really, isn’t it often a third or fourth or fifth language for an immigrant to the the US?), ESOL is English for Speakers of Other Languages. I knew that before but forgot it this morning.
3.66 stars from me.
Jacob Stulberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The name of the game is phrases that contain with words/compound parts that can precede or follow “water”:
- 18a. [Access using force], BREAK OPEN. Breakwater, open water.
- 23a. [Old-time fountain employee], SODA JERK. Soda water, jerkwater.
- 51a. [Like unabridged print dictionaries], HARDBACK. Hard water, backwater.
- 61a. [Being attacked], UNDER FIRE. Underwater, firewater.
- 38a. [1954 Oscar-winning Brando film, or where either half of 18-, 23-, 51- and 61-Across can literally be found], ON THE WATERFRONT.
Three more things:
- 7d. [“Impresario” memoirist Sol], HUROK. This is a name I know only from crosswords. SOL is more often clued as the Spanish word these days, but we have no more famous HUROKs to choose from.
- 28d. [Appliance with a water reservoir], IRON. Really? This word crosses WATERFRONT and it has “water” in its clue? Entirely unnecessary, as there are so many other ways to clue this word.
- 66a. [In base eight], OCTAL. See also: NTH. The category is mathematical terms often found in crosswords but seldom seen otherwise outside of the math world.
3.66 stars from me.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It’s Loud in Here”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again, crossword peeps (and non-crossword peeps)!
It’s riddle time with today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Raymond Hamel. I can say that this is one that I never heard before, but the second I was able to fill in all the entries that made up the question, I correctly guessed (without filling in any letters) that it had to involve something with cold cuts. I’m an expert in questionably funny jokes!
- WHY WOULD YOU KEEP A BANDAGE IN THE FREEZER: (21-, 26-, and 46-Across: [Start of a riddle, center of riddle, end of riddle])
- FOR COLD CUTS: (53A: [Riddle answer]) – Maple honey turkey is my favorite cold cut. Yours?
My first thought about this puzzle is about the love that the land of potatoes got, with the entries of both BOISE (38A: [Pacific Northwest capital]) and IDAHO (62A: [“The Gem State”]). Loved the eponymous clue for CELSIUS (44D: [Swedish temperature scale creator]). The temperatures here in New York are going to hit the mid-seventies for the next few days, so there won’t be any need for any COCOA, unless you’re just a fan of drinking it regardless of the temperatures outside…which indeed in the case as far as I’m concerned (14A: [Winter warmer]). I’m almost certain that if I went back to my parents’ place now, they’ll have a few old phones stored in a closet, all featuring a HANDSET on them (10D: [Part of an old telephone]). I’m pretty sure if I looked hard enough, I would be able to find a couple of rotary phones as well since we’re not so great as a family in throwing things out that we don’t need. If I find it one day, I’ll make sure to put a picture of it on here.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UNION (66A: [Merger]) – One of the newest franchises in Major League Soccer, the Philadelphia UNION joined the league as an expansion team, and started play in the 2010 season.
See you all on Wednesday, and thank you for your time!