Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword
Assorted exclamations can be read, without the quotation marks and exclamation point, as common words. Here, those pairs clue intersecting answers:
- 1a. [“Holy cow!”], ZOUNDS / 1d. Holy cow], ZEBU. A sacred beast in Hinduism.
- 7a. [“Nuts!”], DAMN / 7d. Nuts], DAFT.
- 11a. [“Great Scott!”], WOW / 11d. Great Scott], WALTER.
- 34a. [“Fudge!”], BLAST / 35d. Fudge], TREAT. The latter’s rather a loose equivalence.
- 43a. [“Rats!”], SHOOT / 26d. Rats], TELLS.
- 69a. [“Man!”], GEE / 48d. Man], HOMBRE.
- 70a. [“Darn it!”], HECK / 57d. Darn it], SOCK.
- 71a. [“Fiddlesticks!”], CURSES / 60d. Fiddlesticks], BOWS, as in violin bows. Never knew that usage.
The thematic Acrosses and Downs occupy strictly symmetrical spots, which I wasn’t expecting for a theme with 16 answers. The untoward result is the inclusion of crosswordese like ALAI, TARO, ECU, IRAE, and AYR, the 66a. [Port on the Firth of Clyde].
Four more things:
- 46a. [Exclamations often made with head-slaps], D’OHS. Would rather not have had any other exclamation in this puzzle, particularly not one with an awkward plural.
- 50a. [One-named singer with four Grammys], ENYA. I blew past the “one-named” part and tried to guess whether this would be ELLA Fitzgerald (she has 13 Grammys) or ETTA James (6 Grammys) since I had the E and A in place.
- 57a. [Jet for the jet set], SST. Zero hint at the outdatedness of the plane?
- 31d. [Boy’s name that means “the king”], ELROY. We would also have accepted LEROY here.
3.9 stars. I like the gimmick and the 8-letter answers in the fill are solid, but there’s some crosswordese that is woefully out of place in a Tuesday puzzle. And my solving time is also out of whack for a Tuesday—just me, or was this harder than you expected?
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sorry, Wrong Letter”
Sorry, Wrong Number is a classic film noir. In this puzzle, familiar phrases and words that contain a component that sounds like a letter of the alphabet switch to having a different sounds-like-a-letter word:
- 17a. [Guy in the crow’s nest (originally with an I)?], SEA WITNESS. Eyewitness.
- 27a. [“Hand that Netflix list over here, will ya?” (originally with a Y)?], QUEUE ME. “Why me?”
- 39a. [Had shoppers wait too long to get oolong?(originally with a B)?], MADE A TEA LINE FOR. Made a beeline for. The FOR in the theme answer is dangling uselessly there.
- 49a. [“Way to ace that IQ test!” (originally with a G)?], YOU WHIZ. “Gee whiz!”
- 59a. [Going down the street with your podmates (originally with a J)?], PEA WALKING. Jaywalking.
Unusual concept, but it mostly works pretty well. The before and after letters don’t combine to spell anything.
Six more things:
- 53a. [Skedaddle], JET. As in “I gotta jet.”
- 58a. [Way for Mario to exit], PIPE. I had no idea. So video-game plumbers escape via pipes?
- 18d. [One who practices wu-wei], TAOIST.
- 41d. [“Zip Drive” maker that merged with Lenovo], IOMEGA. If you were doing desktop publishing in the ’90s and needed to send files that were too big for the email and floppies of the day to handle, you probably know the names Iomega and Zip, and you may have thought about upgrading to a Jaz.
- 50d. [Drug in a den], OPIUM. I think my grandpa tried opium in Shanghai. Said it didn’t do anything much for him (he stuck with liquor). He did have some awesome tattoos from his time in the Navy almost a century ago.
- 62d. [Palindromic woman], NUN. I had one of the N’s and filled in NAN, wishing it would be NUN instead. And then it was!
Four stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 183), “Bottoms Up!”—Janie’s review
What a cheerful toast to usher in the last month of the year! It entreats us to look at the vertically placed theme fill in a particular way. Each two-word base-phrase receives special treatment. The first word appears as it ordinarily occurs; the second needs to be read in reverse—from the “bottom” and then “up“—in order to complete the familiar phrase. But lo and behold—these same letters form a different word when read from the top down. These inversions and the altered phrases they create are the whimsical stuff of today’s puzzle. There are six of ’em and while they make for a darned strong theme set, for my money, they also work with varying degrees of success. That is, because of the cluing, some are understood (and thus appreciated) far more easily than others. Let’s take a look.
- 3D. [Search for canned ham?] GOOGLE “SPAM” (Google Maps). Hadn’t been aware of Spam’s near-worldwide presence. Google Maps can probably give you a visual of some sort.
- 39D. [Shopping center celebrity?] MALL STAR (mall rats). At this time of year, that star might even be Santa… Note, too, how the first three letters of this fill abut the last three of the first themer. As discussed last week, these adjacent, fixed-letter patterns up the ante for the constructor. And, of course, there’s a matching set on the grid’s east side.
- 6D. [Make-up artist who’s on base?] THIRD LIAR (third rail). Wow. Really had trouble making sense of this one. Love what it’s trying to do with that great base-phrase, and get the sly “make-up artist”/liar wordplay, but getting from third to being “on base” feels like almost too much of a stretch. Not to mention the concept of being a liar who’s also on third base… [Make-up artist after Senior and Junior?]? Just feel this one would benefit from more direct cluing. Had a little trouble with the next one, too, but that one ultimately delivers a cleaner “aha.”
- 36D. [Pass by a cake-obsessed football center?] BUNDT SNAP (bundt pans). Not only do we have the thematic wordplay at work here, but there’s also the process of understanding what’s meant by “pass by,” which turns out to be the combination of a noun and a preposition and not a prepositional phrase. That’s tricky—and you can read that as a compliment. I also think it conjures up a very funny image of this bundt cake being put into play on the gridiron. I mean, think about it…
- 9D. [Depravity caused by a Microsoft game console?] XBOX EVIL (Xbox Live). This is such a good themer on so many levels. While I suspect that there are some who would argue that Xbox is evil, I’m lovin’ the phrase for its scrabbliness and for the way its clue and fill tie into other fill in the grid. Look, there’s LUST [Deadly sin] peeling off of the final “L” of evil—and SEXPOT [A twerking Miley Cyrus, for example] crossing the themer’s first “X.” And while we’re looking at smouldery [sic] fill, do note the EROTICA [Racy literature] in the SW corner. Why even “MADAME X” right below, that [John Singer Sargent portrait of a woman in black] was decried for its erotic overtones. (It was sold to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, but as a work of art, should not be included in [Works at the Metropolitan?] which refers not even to employment there, but to the OPERAS produced by Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera.)
- 31D. [Gumbo gumshoes?] SOUP SNOOPS (soup spoons). Never hurts to leave us laughin’. Love this one for its silliness. And for the way its first three letters stand adjacent to the last three of the previous themer.
Beyond those 54 squares of theme fill (and the already-mentioned non-theme fill), other highlights today would have to include the bookish BOOKISH, the colloquial “IT’S OPEN!” and NOT GOOD, the classical LYRIST opposite the contemporary DES’REE, and [“The Metamorphosis” character Gregor SAMSA]—because how often is it that we’re reminded of the almost benign way we’re introduced to him: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”? Whoops. Guess it ain’t gonna be a day like any other for him…
Fave clue/fill pair today? [Remote target in a gym?] TV SET. So no, not a reference to yer adductor magnus or yer gluteus minimus. Perhaps with arm outstretched (and retracted…multiple times…), though, there might be some residual benefit for those biceps. If maybe the remote weighed ten pounds?
Dream on, Jane (but don’t wake up as a cockroach!).
Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Four theme answers fit the *UMBLE**** pattern:
- 17a. [Modest abode], HUMBLE HOME. Wait, what? “My humble abode” is the familiar phrase. HUMBLE HOME feels like random adjective + noun, like GREEN SHIRT (except that the latter is the title of an Elvis Costello song).
- 53a. [Windblown desert plant], TUMBLEWEED.
- 11d. [Folding feature of an old roadster], RUMBLE SEAT.
- 28d. [Hogwarts headmaster], DUMBLEDORE.
The film genre MUMBLECORE could have replaced HUMBLE HOME and pleased me.
Word form I’ve never seen before, Part I: 25a. [Defendant in a defamation case], LIBELEE. Isn’t that backwards, too? The defendant would be the libeler who’s been charged with libel. The libelee would be the plaintiff bringing the lawsuit, or the victim in a criminal case.
Part II: 5d. [In any way], SOEVER. Dictionary lists it as “archaic or literary.”
Not keen on the crossing of close cousins MA’AM (39d. [Respectful address]) and MADAME (47a. [Title for Bovary and Butterfly]).
I’ve fruitlessly scanned the grid for zippy fill outside of the theme answers and come up holding the likes of EDAM, LEB, MEESE, ALIT, ARAL, SLOES, ILIE, AM SO, and ANTH instead.
3.25 stars from me because of that HUMBLE HOME and the overall flatness of the fill and clues. No joyful surprises lurking, alas.
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Shakespearean Conclusion”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there once again, everyone!
Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, gets us in touch with Shakespeare, specifically, the play All’s Well That Ends Well. Each of the five theme answers end with the letters that make up each of the words in the play’s title, though the letters are only part of the word and don’t stand alone individually. Umm, yeah, something like that.
- ATOMIC FIREBALLS: (17A: [Spicy jawbreakers]) – I’ve had a few Atomic Fireballs back in the day, and they definitely did a number on my taste buds!
- GROUNDSWELL: (31A: [Surge of support]) – I have definitely caught myself using this word a whole lot lately. And I don’t mind that at all.
- FELT HAT: (39A: Soft porkpie, e.g.])
- MAKES AMENDS: (47A: [Rights wrongs])
- MALCOLM GLADWELL: (63A: [“The Tipping Point” and “Outliers” author])
Nope, I’m not having YMCA creep into my mind at all (55D: [Village people hit]). Not gonna let it happen!! Interesting to see both JAPAN (9A: [Land of sake and Sasuke]) and YEN in the same grid (55A: [Asian capital]). Japan is also the land of Ninja Warrior, one of my favorite TV shows/athletic competitions! Ever heard of it? Initially spelled PAAR as Parr, so that slowed me up for a bit to start (1A: [Former “Tonight Show” host]). Loved the clue for CHICKEN LEG, and not because I’m thinking of having one for dinner tonight (30D: [One supporting a brooder?]). Another long fill that was pretty sightly was PALM READER, and, for some reason, I had a street palm reader in Times Square read my palm once when I was in high school (11D: [One interpreting lines]). Sadly (or not sadly), I don’t remember what she said. Maybe it was the real thick accent she had that I could not parse when I was a teenager. I’m sure she said something along the lines of, “You’ll be blogging about crossword puzzles on this thing called the Internet in the future.”
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MOE (22A: [Scowling Stooge]) – Brooklyn born Doug MOE was a former head coach in the NBA, mostly known for his time with the Denver Nuggets in the 1980s. Moe’s teams, especially in Denver, routinely led the NBA in scoring as his up-tempo, passing-and-cutting philosophy led to some of the highest-scoring games in NBA history, including the highest-scoring game in league history, when his Nuggets lost to the Detroit Pistons 186-184 in three overtimes on Dec. 19, 1983. Moe won 50 games in season twice, including in 1985, when the Nuggets made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
See you all at the hump that is called Wednesday!