Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Zap!”
Matt’s theme involves zapping the commercials when playing back a recorded TV show. Each theme answer is a familiar phrase whose rebused AD bit can be removed, leaving a goofy phrase that’s what the clue hints at. (The AD is still needed in the Down crossings, though.)
- 19a. [Focused on one’s fellow fraternity members?], BRO-MINDED, from BROAD-MINDED.
- 24a. [Dublin dance?], IRISH BALL, from IRISH BALLAD.
- 36a. [What Clark Kent needs to become Superman?], CHANGE OF DRESS, from CHANGE OF ADDRESS.
- 45a. [Somewhat bashful?], ON THE SHY SIDE. This “ON THE SHADY SIDE” isn’t feeling like a familiar construction, though. Google tells me it’s used in reference to age—as in “he’s on the shady side of 50,” meaning older than 50.
- 63a. [Local afternoon newscast?], FIVE O’CLOCK SHOW, from FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW. Good one.
- 83a. [Business offering the right to buy and sell securities?], OPTION AGENCY, from ADOPTION AGENCY.
- 93a. [How to find what a creep is looking at?], FOLLOW THE LEER, from FOLLOW THE LEADER.
- 109a. [Says “I didn’t do it!” before fessing up?], LIES FIRST, from LADIES FIRST.
- 115a. [Cigarettes or booze?], LEGAL VICE, from LEGAL ADVICE. Another good one.
I wish the puzzle didn’t have regular ADs in 68d: ADANO (which is crosswordese anyway) or right up top at 1-Across, in ADDS.
Least familiar fill:
- 25d. [Armored, as a horse], BARDED. I’ve never, uh, armored a horse.
- 72d. [Singer whose “I Get Ideas” was on the charts for 30 weeks], TONY MARTIN. This was in 1951. He predated rock music. 106a could be RNA or DNA, and I was working all of TONY MARTIN’s crossings so 106a and 110a: CANNA were really not appreciated.
Plurals I could do without:
- 15a. [Certain servers], IBMS.
- 56a. [Fine wool sources], MERINOS. It’s dictionary-legit, but I don’t travel in the circles where people discuss these sheep in multiples.
- 81d. [Some oxygen molecules], OZONES. Questionable?
- 100d. [Chewed stimulants], COCAS. Maybe the shrubs are cocas but I think the stimulant is just coca, a mass noun rather than a pluralizable count noun.
Singular I could do without:
- 49a. [Article of papal attire], RED SHOE. Terrible entry. It’s like GREEN SHIRT, just random adjective + noun that can appear together but aren’t a discrete lexical chunk.
Crosswordese on parade: TSETSE, SERE, TASS, OPA-Locka, ADANO, OSO, EDESSA, STENS. Granted, we’ve seen longer parades in much smaller daily puzzles.
Top fill: DO NOT ENTER, MUST-SEE, ROYAL PAINS, snippy “BE LIKE THAT.”
3.5 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Advanced Placement Test”
We’ve seen this sort of wordplay theme before—the preposition in various phrases is replaced by word positioning. It’s always a neat gambit:
- 21a. [Wag’s comment about who should go first], AGE BEAUTY. That’s “age before beauty.”
- 29a. [Remain in class as punishment], SCHOOL STAY. Stay after school.
- 64a. [Understands what’s implied], THE READS LINES. Reads between the lines.
- 94a. [Immature], THE EARS WET. Wet behind the ears.
- 108a. [English-class mnemonic], I E C EXCEPT. A two-fer: I before E except after C.
- 9d. [Breaks a ring rule], THE BELT HITS. Hits below the belt.
- 14d. [Happy as a clam], SITTING THE WORLD. Sitting on top of the world.
- 20d. [Breakfast order], TWO EGGS EASY. Two eggs over easy.
- 42d. [Cole Porter classic], MY SKIN I’VE GOT YOU. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
- 60d. [Guns it], STEPS THE GAS. Steps on the gas.
- 65d. [No. 1 by a small margin], A CUT THE REST. A cut above the rest.
I like how there’s no hint in the clues that anything is amiss, no explanatory puzzle notes. If you haven’t seen crosswords with this sort of theme before, you might have been tearing your hair out trying to figure out why none of the phrases would fit into their allotted spaces.
Five Across themers and six Downs is a lot. I thought I had all the theme answers listed here and I kept coming across more and adding them to the lineup. I do often grouse about overly dense themes compromising the fill quality, but the fill here is all right. A few ugly little words and partials, but not enough to startle the Scowl-o-Meter.
Seven more things:
- 85d. [“___, yer outta yer mind”], AAH. A grouchy, dismissive “aah.”
- 80d. [Nome knife], ULU. Oof, crosswordese. Handy in Scrabble if you have some U’s to unload, though.
- 24a. [You’re full of it], WATER. Not in its clean, drinkable form, mind you.
- 28a. [Quetzalcoatl worshiper], TOLTEC. Tough one.
- 47a. [Freezing start], CRYO. As in cryogenics, cryotherapy.
- 19a. [The non-repeating part of an ex-U.N. chief’s name], GHALI. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, featured in many a Dave Letterman Top 10 list. Such as this one, with pickup lines such as “It must be fate — you don’t have any Boutroses, and I’ve got one to spare!”
- 23a. [McEntire et al.], REBAS. Wait, how many other people named Reba are there? Not sure why Merl didn’t go with concrete-reinforcing REBAR crossing SIR here.
3.75 stars from me.
Angela Olson Halsted and Erik Agard’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 243”–Sam Donaldson’s review
I don’t know how many submissions Post Puzzler Editor Peter Gordon received for this quarter’s wild card slot, but I have to believe this freestyle from the tag team of Angela Olson Halsted and Erik “Slicks” Agard would have come out on top no matter how many submissions were received.
What shall we call this dynamic tag team? Ergela? Angerik? Halslicks? Ang-gard? Share your favorite in the comments. Whatever their super-couple celebrity name, here’s hoping they’ll find time to continue their partnership.
As drawn, the 70/30 grid gives us three mini-puzzles, all connected by intersecting 15s along the midsection. The northwest and southeast corners are largely cut off from the rest of the fun. The 15s, Harlem Globetrotter MEADOWLARK LEMON ([“Trust Your Next Shot” author]) and WEDNESDAY ADDAMS ([Broadway character who sings “I don’t have a sunny disposition”]), are cute but they’re not the highlights in this puzzle. Instead, you could pick from any of these:
- CHEST BUMP, the [Heart-to-heart meeting?]. Great way to start things off in the northwest corner.
- HUSH MONEY, though I like the clue, [Do-re-mi for a potential singer?], even better than the answer.
- KNOTTY PINE, the [Whorled wood] that just looks classy in the grid.
- FLAVOR FLAV! He’s the [Famous clock tower?] of hip-hop (you gotta read “tower” as rhyming with “grower,” not “power”).
- LEE JEANS, clued as [One source of the blues?]. Talk about a terrific answer-clue pair!
- WOLFPACK, an [NC State team]. Nice mash-up of consonants in the middle there.
And then you have some terrific clues in addition to the ones already identified. Like [“Didn’t we take care of this the last time?!”] for AGAIN. You just feel the exasperation. And how about [Be one over?] for RE-WED? That one stumped me for longer than it should have, but I enjoyed the payoff when I got it. There’s also the nice use of [“___ Meets World”] for both BOY and GIRL.[Small pub?] is also nice for a ZINE, short for “magazine.”
Some will carp at GES, PIS, AMO, that kind of thing. But nobody better lay a finger on OLIOS, the [Miscellanies] of old crosswords. Those who say “you never see OLIO outside of crosswords” did not see the boxes I packed when I moved to Atlanta in 2012. I had 13 boxes. One said “kitchen,” one said “bathroom,” and 11 said “olio.” All were labeled accurately.
Back to the puzzle. I didn’t understand the last part of the clue for SOFA, [Where to find change and changers], even as I started this write-up. But now it occurs to me that “changers” in this context is meant to be synonymous with “remote controls.” Remote : civilized world :: changer : primitive world.
The other part that killed me was trying to think of the name of the [Host of ESPN’s “Around the Horn”]. I’ve seen that show maybe three times, and never all the way through. It’s entirely possible that I don’t fully grok the show’s premise. But it seems to be this: the host, er, TONY REALI, pitches a sports topic to a group of four talking heads (beat writers, ex-athletes-cum-analysts, those sorts). When the host agrees with a comment, he arbitrarily awards points to the talking head. The one with the fewest points at the end of each segment leaves the show. There appears to be no criteria for points other than “this B.J. Novak-looking dude agrees with what’s being said.” It was around this time that my love for ESPN declined precipitously.
But Tony Reali be damned, this was a fine puzzle.
Favorite entry = Yeah, I’ll go with LEE JEANS. See above discussion. Favorite clue = [Bullet train?] for LIST. Every good list has bullet points, you know–like a list of the best entries in a freestyle crossword, for example.
Michele Kane’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Résumés”
The theme revealer is 119d. CVS, or [Résumés, briefly, and a hint to this puzzle’s eight longest answers]. A C.V. is a curriculum vitae, which in my experience is used instead of a résumé by academics more than people in business. The eight theme answers have C.V. initials:
- 23a. [Apple product], CIDER VINEGAR. Love the mislead in the clue.
- 42a. [Modern security threat], COMPUTER VIRUS.
- 62a. [What most coupons lack], CASH VALUE.
- 76a. [Election night drama], CLOSE VOTE.
- 94a. [Lustrous fabric], CRUSHED VELVET.
- 119a. [“Glee” song, e.g.], COVER VERSION.
- 17d. [Technique employed on many police shows], CINÉMA VÉRITÉ.
- 62d. [Stand in a bedroom], CLOTHES VALET. My husband has one of these.
I am rarely roused by an initials theme, as it tends to be light on the humor/wordplay front, but I suppose such a theme comes in handy for newbies who could use a helping hand filling in the puzzle.
The very last word I finished entering in the grid was 32a. [Lullaby-like Chopin work], BERCEUSE. Whoa! Not remotely familiar to me. It’s like Betelgeuse, only not. The last square was the C, crossing 34d. [Something to pull off], COUP. “Soup? Doup? Go up? Loup? Oh, COUP!”
Two crossing answers (intersecting that Chopin work) feel like not quite stand-alone phrases: 28a. [Outer space feature], NO AIR? NO AIR isn’t a feature, it’s a lack of one. 28d. [Ski resort refresher?], NEW SNOW? New snow falls, yes, but it feels a hair adjective + noun rather than a crosswordable phrase.
Seven more things:
- 66a. [Firmly fixed], WELL-SET. Feels contrived to me but there it is in the dictionary.
- 75d. [Makes a poor stroke], MISCUES. Is this about shooting pool?
- 4d. [“I’m available”], USE ME. I’ve seen this one in crosswords but I still don’t think people say this.
- 11d. [Title for golf’s Nick Faldo], SIR. I had no idea. Congrats, Sir Nick! He was honored “for his services to golf.”
- 102a. [Draining aid], EAVE. For the rooftop, not a pot of spaghetti.
- 123a. [Fast tempo], VIVACE. The people who nailed BERCEUSE are certainly more familiar with this word than I am.
- 111d. [Former golf announcer Dave], MARR. Who? My go-to MARR is Johnny Marr of the Smiths. Johnny received an honorary doctorate for “changing the face of British guitar music.” Seems like the UK is handing out honors for all sorts of goofball reasons these days.
I like SQUAD CAR and PETE ROSE anchoring the corner 8-stacks. I’m less pleased with 56d. THE DOGS ([Not a good thing to go to]) as a crossword answer. “Go to the dogs” is an established phrase but THE DOGS dangling out there verblessly, not so much.
3.33 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Not-So-Oldies” — pannonica’s write-up
The grid’s chock full of songs and musicians from 2013. Not exactly my cup of tea. Playlist:
- 1a. [2013’s “Treasure” singer Bruno] MARS.
- 15a. [2013 Anna Kendrick hit] CUPS.
- 27a. [2013 Daft Punk & Pharrell hit] GET LUCKY.
- 29a. [2013 Miley Cyrus hit] WRECKING BALL.
- 42a. [2013 Baauer hit] HARLEM SHAKE.
- 52a. [#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs of 2013] THRIFT SHOP. Don’t even know whose song it is.
- 63a. [2013 Ed Sheeran hit “The __”] A-TEAM.
- 74a. [2013 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hit] CAN’T HOLD US.
- 83a. [2013 Imagine Dragons hit] RADIOACTIVE.
- 95a. [2013 hit spoofed by Weird Al as “Word Crimes”] BLURRED LINES. I know it as the song that sampled (lifted? copied?) Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”.
- 98a. [2013 Avicii hit] WAKE ME UP.
- 103a. [2013 hit “Safe and __”] SOUND. Again, no idea of the artist’s identity.
- 111a. [2013 Phillip Phillips hit] HOME.
- 114a. [Rihanna & Mikky Ekko hit] STAY.
- 37d. [2013 Timberlake & Jay Z hit] SUIT AND TIE.
- 44d. [2013 Keys & Minaj hit] GIRL ON FIRE.
- 83d. [2013 Katy Perry hit] ROAR.
Okay, a bunch of songs and artists I admittedly have no interest in, situated mostly but not entirely in symmetrically paired locations of the grid.
- 26a [Rock’s partner] ROLL; 87a [Song line] LYRIC; 94a [Lady of “Applause”] GAGA; 106a [Lennon’s “__ Tired”] I’M SO; 6d [Features of hit songs] HOOKS; 69d [Icona Pop’s “__ It”] I LOVE (from 2012).
- 34a [Justice since 2006] ALITO; 70d [Justice Sotomayor] SONIA.
- 58a [What Old Glory became on 8/21/59?] STARRIER; 77a [“Les Etats-__”] UNIS (104a [Make one] UNITE).
- 10d [Vatican reign] POPEDOM (?) crossing 25a [Vatican statue] PIETA.
- 16d [Wolf pack ship] U-BOAT; 39d [Fleet components] SHIPS.
- 48d [Silvers or Collins] PHIL; 64a [Besieged mission] ALAMO. Did you know?
- 33a [What an elm casts] SHADE; 81a [Needle dropper] PINE, not DJ or DEE-J; 40d [Acorn maker] OAK.
- 75d [Like Mary’s lamb] OVINE. Mystified by the clue. Why hers in particular? And without even an e.g. Odd.
- 88d [Red as a cherry] CERISE. Strict cognate, meh.
Would never have guessed this to be a hex puzzle. Pedestrian theme, kind of sloppy editing, dearth of clever and witty clues.
Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Welcome to the last day in November, as well as welcome to another Sunday Challenge!
WORD ON THE STREET is that today’s offering from Mr. Bruce Venzke brought a lot to the table in terms of quality fill (35A: [Info from those “who know what’s happening”]). The grid provided a good earworm for the day with SCAGGS (9A: [“Lido Shuffle” singer Boz]). For some reason, I spelled his name with a K instead of a C for the second letter for a bit. I have never, never ever understood DRESSAGE every time I’ve seen it during the Olympics (28A: [Equestrian sport]). Essentially, it’s parading a horse around without having to do much in terms of directing it while having the horse look and prance like a ballet dancer. Maybe I’m just being IMPOLITE and not giving the sport its due (56A: [Blunt, maybe]). For FACE CARD, initially thought the clue was referring to an insect, but quickly sussed it out and then thought about playing card (4D: [Queen, e.g.]). The fill, like almost in all Sunday Challenges, was great to see, and my persona favorite was SCATTERSHOT, and didn’t need more than a couple of letters to get that filled in (9D: [Broad and unorganized]). Maybe because scattershot is the perfect description of how my thought processes are on a regular basis. Was confused a little bit by the clue to HOLLER, as I thought I would have to find a term that’s equivalent to “my bad” or “I’m sorry” (59A: [Whoop’s kin]). But didn’t see that apostrophe there and thought I was seeing “whoops” instead of whoop’s,” which made me have that train of the thought beforehand. I thought out of the box way too much when initially reading the clue for USHERETTE, and believe me, you don’t want to know those things that popped into my head (48A: [Female seating guide]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RANDOLPH (38D: [Texas Air Force base known as “The Taj”])– Willie RANDOLPH was a six-time All Star shortstop in Major League Baseball from 1975-1992, with most of his playing career coming with the New York Yankees. While with the Yankees, Randolph won back-to-back World Series titles, in 1977 and 1978. Randolph also has had the honor of being captain of the New York Yankees, having that title from 1986-88. Randolph went on to a managerial career after his playing days, and in 2006, managed the New York Mets to the best record in the Majors (97-65).
Another week in the books! See you Monday, and thank you so much for the time!