Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword
Gareth’s got a two-fer today, with both the NYT and LAT bylines. Congrats, buddy!
The boppy, light, fresh NYT theme is six songs with nonsensical titles:
- 17a. [1964 hit for Manfred Mann], DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY. Very catchy. Have a listen (and enjoy watching the singer shaking his maracas).
- 26a. [1968 song from the Beatles’ “White Album”], OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA. Wasn’t released as a single in the US until 8 years later, and didn’t crack the top 40.
- 37a. [1965 hit for the Dixie Cups], IKO IKO. A New Orleans classic.
- 39a. [1954 hit for the Chords] SH-BOOM. Here’s the song.
- 46a. [1994 hit for the Crash Test Dummies], MMM MMM MMM MMM. One-hit wonder, yeah?
- 60a. [1973 song by the Rolling Stones subtitled “Heartbreaker”], DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO. Here’s a live performance at MSG from 2003. It’s not ringing a bell for me at all.
I suspect that more recent pop songs have included plenty of nonsense words in their titles, but Gareth is an old soul musically, despite being in his 20s. It doesn’t surprise me at all that the average age of these songs is 44 years. If you want to know about American labor protest songs of the mid-20th century, Gareth knows far more about those than I do.
Answers I’m pleasantly surprised to see in a newspaper puzzle:
- 6d. [Bollywood star Aishwarya ___], RAI. She first came to my notice when Roger Ebert described her as “not only the first but also the second most beautiful woman in the world.” Damn, I miss Roger’s writing and reviews. The previous NYT clues for RAI are dreadful. An Italian TV channel, a trumped-up name for a Thor Heyerdahl boat (he had Ra and Ra II)? Dreck.
- 18d. [Modern acronym meaning “carpe diem”], YOLO. “You only live once,” abbreviated thus in Drake’s 2011 hit “The Motto.” Made its NYT debut in a Joel Fagliano puzzle this fall.
I like RED HAIR, MOROSE, AM RADIO, and CIALIS. Actually, that’s a lie—I don’t really like AM radio and Cialis, but they’re solid as crossword fill. Less pleased with HOR, OATER, ISMS, LAO, -IDE, ONT, OTT, DEO, and SIM (unless you clue it via, say, Sim City).
I wonder if the constructor’s original clue for 13d. STYX was a reference to the ’80s band rather than [River ferried by Charon].
3.75 stars from me.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Happy Double Gareth Day! So how about a baseball reference Gareth’s probably never heard: “Let’s play two!” A nice Wednesdayish theme in the LA Times: breakfast food, Caesar-style.
- 20a. [*”The Sound of Music” heroine], MARIA VON TRAPP. When I was a kid, this movie seemed to be on TV every couple of months. I watched it in bits and pieces, but there are probably a few scenes I missed.
- 33a. [*Common Italian restaurant feature], PIZZA OVEN. Love it.
- 44a. [*Completely in vain], TO NO AVAIL. Not the most exciting entry, but your options are limited when you’re looking for an OAV string.
- 44a. [Breakfast serving, and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters], SCRAMBLED EGGS. Note the anagrammed OVAs in the theme entries. Clever. I like that Gareth didn’t simply scramble EGGs (BONDAGE GEAR?) but kicked the theme up a notch.
Gareth gave us a theme-heavy grid in today’s NY Times. (Cool puzzle, BTW.) Not as much theme in his LA Times puzzle, so he was able to fit in plenty of fun long Downs: BAR MITZVAH, BALAAM’S ASS, POSTDOC, THE MASK. Good stuff.
- 5d. [“Miniver Cheevy” poet Edwin Arlington __], ROBINSON. If I was asked to make a list of famous Robinsons, this guy wouldn’t be on it. That’s not a knock on the clue. But poets are waaay outside of my wheel house. Maybe I’ll remember this guy when he shows up in a Famous Robinsons Sporcle quiz.
- 67a. [Hockey great Phil, familiarly], ESPO. / 11d. [Nadal of tennis, familiarly], RAFA. Good old ESPO has been a grid staple for years, and RAFA‘s the new kid in crossword town. It’s fun to see him in the grid, but you’ll get sick of him soon enough. Just like those stupid ACAI berries.
- 57d. [Sausage serving], LINK. This crosses SCRAMBLED EGGS. Now I’m hungry. And all I’ve got is a bowlful of Kit Kats left over from Halloween. Score!
Nothing much to make me frown in the fill. A partial here and an abbreviation there, but the smiley stuff drowned it out. Nice work. Peterson out.
Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Command Lines”
A classic AV Club theme, with content that we’ll likely never see in daily newspaper crosswords. Familiar and sometimes crude phrases double as commands given to dogs, as the phrases include common dog names:
- 17a. [“Take the plane down, boy!”], “LAND, ROVER!”
- 22a. [“Get out on the court, boy!”], “BALL, BUSTER!”
- 40a. [“It’s becoming painfully obvious to everyone; just love whoever you want, boy!”], “OUT, DAMNED SPOT!” But DEB (56d. [One coming out]) should’ve been clued without “out.”
- 55a. [“Install that tile, girl!”], “LAY, LADY, LAY!”
- 63a. [“You seem tense; go get laid, boy!”], “FUCK, BUDDY!”
This theme amuses me extra because my sister has dogs named Lady and Buddy. Even without that little fillip, though, I like the theme and its embrace of contemporary slang.
Seven more things:
- 9a. [“We’re out of ketchup. Thanks, ___!”], OBAMA. That’s a meme sort of thing, people tacking on a “Thanks, Obama!” after mentioning something, anything, unfortunate. “This grid is filled with crosswordese. Thanks, Obama.”
- 15a. [Pandora rival], RDIO. Dn’t knw tht msic srvice.
- 32a. [Chaz Bono’s ex Jennifer], ELIA. Didn’t know the name but it’s nice to see something fresher than an 1800s essayist’s nom de plume or a great film director whose heyday was 50-65 years ago.
- 48a. [Hold oneself back from coming], EDGE. Sexual slang.
- 59a. [It may be cubed or crushed], ICE is duped by the clue for 13d: ALS, [Ice bucket challenge target: Abbr.].
- 72a. [French hat favored by hipsters], BERET. Wait, the current hipsters are sporting berets now? They’ve moved on from fedoras? Is this about lady hipsters? Is this a historical clue?
- CRONUT, ALTOIDS, “BEER ME,” and Inigo MONTOYA are delightful fill. ERSE, six abbrevs, two partials, less so.
4.25 stars from me. The theme was so much fun—actual physical smiles and eyebrow raises from theme answers are all too rare.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Insect-aside”—Ade’s write-up
Welcome to Hump Day, everyone!!
In today’s puzzle, brought to us today by Ms. Gail Grabowski, we have to identify the “fly in the ointment,” specifically, figure out the insect that’s attached to the end of the theme answers that end up altering common terms. Those entries are clued as puns, creating the creative theme answers.
- SISSY BARFLY: (17A: [Tavern regular who orders girly drinks?]) – Read the theme, and knew “barfly” had to be the tail end of the answer. From “sissy bar.”
- GREAT SEALANT: (27A: [“That caulking worked wonders!”?]) – From “Great Seal.”
- YELLOW SEABEE: (44A: [Naval engineer who’s far from fearless?]) – From “Yellow Sea.”
- STOCK UPTICK: (59A: [Slight increase in cattle prices?]) – From “stock up.”
It might be hard to believe, but about a month ago, out of curiosity’s sake, I looked up the cast of Gunsmoke. On a lark. And thank goodness I still have a few of those names in mind, because that made AMANDA not as hard to get as it would have been if I didn’t look up the cast earlier (6D: [Blake of “Gunsmoke”]). I’m not much for NASCAR races (and the recent spate of post-race fights), but definitely I am up for INDY races, especially during the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend (32D: [Annual Memorial Day event since 1911]). I think that SPARTACUS might be the next movie I tell my brother to get on NetFlix, as just typing in the answer made me curious about the film (11D: [1960 historical epic starring Kirk Douglas]). And, of course, if players carrying the football cross the GOAL LINES (34D: [End zone boundaries]), they end up hitting PAYDIRT, right (5D: [The mother lode])?. More on those players scoring during our game RECAP at 11 (1A: [Sports news staple]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REDBIRD (24A: [Scarlet tanager, e.g.]) – A short, straightforward “sports…smarter” moment, as REDBIRD, in sports vernacular, is an alternate nickname for any of the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball players. As a matter-of-fact- the official mascot of the Cardinals is an anthropomorphic bird called Fredbird the Redbird. Isn’t he cute? Somewhat? A little? Maybe? Ummm…..
Have a great day, everyone, and I’ll see you on Thursday!