Jim Peredo’s New York Times crossword, “Well, Golly!”
Luckily, despite the title, the theme is not All Things Gomer Pyle. It’s “add a ‘gee’ but spell it any which way”:
- 23a. [Religious rituals for cats?], KITTY LITURGY. So accidentally timely, as Pope Francis just declared that companion animals can go to heaven. (Not sure if this means horrible pets go to hell. Can I get a ruling?) Original phrase is kitty litter here.
- 42a. [Master of Japanese writing?], KANJI ARTIST. From con artist.
- 52a. [Strange pond scum?], WEIRD ALGAE. Weird Al Yankovic meets pond scum.
- 67a. [“Grant your own damn wishes,” e.g.?], GENIE JERK REACTION. Knee-jerk reaction.
- 87a. [“How deep is your love?” or “You should be dancing”?], BEE GEE LINE. Beeline. The Bee Gees, the original three tenors. Are you instantly plunged into Bee Gees earworm territory? If not, please have a listen to “How Deep Is Your Love.”
- 93a. [Comment from a driver who finally reached his destination?], GPS, I LOVE YOU. “P.S. I Love You.”
- 115a. [Surprised comment upon rummaging through a tea chest?], “OH, DARJEELING!” “Oh, darling.” Base phrase may be slightly contrived but I liked the tea surprise.
Loved the way the “gee” addition was spelled seven different ways, adding to the challenge and keeping things lively. Less consistent was the way the surrounding syllables sometimes changed spelling (litter/LITUR, con/KAN, knee/NIE) but more often didn’t. Not that this inconsistency bothered me in the least while I was solving. The base phrases were largely a zippy bunch as well.
Toughest intersections for me: Where ZOLTAN (26d. [Korda who directed “Sahara”]—who??) met DANTE (51a. [Poet who wrote “Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on”]—not among the most famous couple of Inferno lines), which in turn crossed tough-clued STOOP (45d. [Keep a low profile?]). I considered SCOOP and SNOOP, which both seemed slightly allied with that clue. And I considered DONNE for the poet. Which gave me the is-that-a-name ZOLTON, but it’s not as if Zoltan Korda is a household name. A straightforward clue for STOOP and an easy DANTE clue would have made this spot a breeze.
Five more things:
- 123a. [Literary prefaces], PROEMS. Not such a familiar word. Better nail the M in 81d. [Any four-letter word], TETRAGRAM.
- 100d. [“Heaven forbid!”], “GOD, NO!” Not sure I’ve seen this much in crosswords but I like it.
- Lots of longer fill peppered throughout the grid. Highlights include PATTI PAGE‘s full name, MAIL ORDER, DIAL-A-RIDE (is that still a service for the disabled, though?), and WHITE GLOVES. The WEIRD ALGAE and BEE GEE LINE sections are pretty open and yet not packed with lousy fill.
- 31d. [Chemical compound often labeled “S”], NACL. NaCl is salt and salt and pepper shakers are sometimes marked “S” and “P.”
- 43d. [Veracruz’s capital], JALAPA. Entirely unfamiliar to me. Also spelled with an X instead of J. There is also a Jalapa that’s the capital of Jalapa in Guatemala, and Wikipedia informs us that the population was 3,500 … in 1850. Spanish-language Wikipedia has more recent figures (122,500)
4.25 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “It’s Always Christmas in L.A”
Seasonally appropriate and clever theme—things (sometimes loosely) associated with the Los Angeles area that involve Christmassy words.
- 23a. [Christmasy L.A. freeway], SANTA MONICA. I knew it was a town and a boulevard but not a freeway. SANTA Claus.
- 25a. [Christmasy area of L.A.], HOLLYWOOD. HOLLY leaves and berries are Xmas decorations.
- 32a. [Christmasy L.A. catchphrase], LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION. LIGHTS on a Christmas tree.
- 54a. [Christmasy nickname of 25 Across], TINSELTOWN. TINSEL on the tree. I wonder if this was the genesis for the theme?
- 70a. [Christmasy L.A. nickname], THE CITY OF ANGELS. ANGEL tree-toppers.
- 89a. [Christmasy L.A. denizens], MOVIE STARS. Or STAR tree-toppers.
- 106a. [Christmasy sections of L.A. film contracts], PREAPPROVAL CLAUSES. Santa and family are the CLAUSES.
- 120a. [Christmasy L.A. event for cast and crew], WRAP PARTY. Gift WRAP.
- 123a. [Christmasy L.A. guests — oops, I mean, entrees], HOLIDAYS HAMS. This one’s the outlier, and that’s why it appears last. Overactors are HAMS and HOLIDAYS are holidays.
Cute! PREAPPROVAL CLAUSES feels a little weird to me, but then what do I know about movie contracts?
Five more things:
- 6d. [“She’s been like ___ me”], A MOTHER TO. A three-word, 9-letter partial would normally raise an eyebrow, but so many people treasure someone who’s been like a mother to them. Sentimentality exception to the general rule.
- 111d. [TV drama whose title is seen on a license plate in the opening credits], L.A. LAW. Would be better if this entry weren’t plunked in the puzzle given the centrality of “L.A.” in the theme clues.
- 105d. [Drawer of “impossible drawings”], ESCHER. Who doesn’t love a little mind-bending time spent looking at Escher drawings?
- 71d. [Bruce of “King Kong” (1933)], CABOT. Never heard of this CABOT. Renaissance explorers John and Sebastian Cabot would be my go-tos.
- 86a. [Lana Turner was one], IDAHOAN. Trivia I did not know.
Four stars from me.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 245”–Sam Donaldson’s review
I clocked in with a slow time on this 70/28 freestyle from Doug Peterson, largely because I had trouble with two of the three answers in each of the puzzle’s four triple stacks. Let’s start in the southeast and work clockwise. I’m normally good at TV trivia, but I had no idea that CHICAGO HOPE was the [Hospital drama that debuted one day before “ER”]. I knew it couldn’t be ST. ELSEWHERE (even though that fit), but the name just couldn’t come to me. And then it didn’t help that I read the clue for 57-Across, [Like modern tablet technology], as having something to do with iPads and other tablets. Alas, the “tablet” here was a medicine capsule, making the answer TIME-RELEASE. I like the devious clue!
Over in the southwest, I got the last word in the answer to [Seasoned salts] easily enough, but the first part of ABLE SEAMEN eluded me for the longest time. And I kept wanting FLASH DANCE as the answer to [Its male star also performed in “Feet of Flames” and “Celtic Tiger”], though I admit the actual answer, RIVERDANCE, makes much more sense.
Up in the northwest (and here to the left) is PRAIRIE DAWN, the [Blonde muppet girl on “Sesame Street”]. Never met her before. I’m not one to judge, but she might have spent a little too much time in the tanning booth. And boy howdy did I want DEAN CAIN to grow three extra letters so he could work as the [Longtime Teri Hatcher co-star]. When I finally remembered that she was also on “Desperate Housewives,” I had to go through a mental checklist before finally getting EVA LONGORIA. A little embarrassing that this took so long, but it is what it is.
Then there was the northeast. I finally got lucky guessing ERICH SEGAL as the [Author of the 1977 sequel “Oliver’s Story”]. You may remember him from such works as “Love Story” and the screenplay for “Yellow Submarine.” (It helps if you read that last sentence in your best Troy McClure voice.) The real puzzler, for me, was figuring out the answer to [It hangs around bad scenes]. When POLICE TAPE finally fell, I loved it.
Add up all those difficulties in four corners and you get the slow solving time. At least the slow time allowed me to enjoy fully the various highlights from the puzzle. Among them:
- There’s an [Old Kellogg’s cereal brand] called PEP. I wonder if it used to be made with cocaine.
- [Factor in chemistry] isn’t very scientific at all, for the answer is PERSONALITY.
- [Menu warning] really had me flummoxed, but then I realized it was SPICY.
- LOVE AND MARRIAGE was the [Song on the album “This is Sinatra!”]. Had it been clued with reference to “Married…With Children” it would have been a gimme.
- I didn’t know this, but I like that FINN is the [Name of the Goldfish crackers mascot].
- Never heard of the album name (I don’t think), but what else could complete the blank in [“A Salt With a Deadly ___”] but PEPA.
- The ROOMBA is a [Household helper with a random-walk algorithm]. But for the “helper” part, NINE YEAR-OLD BOY would have been a sensible answer too.
- Confused by the answer to [Confucian work]? Wikipedia says “The ANALECTS” “is the collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his contemporaries.” Now you know.
- [Subjects of history] is a great clue for LIEGES.
Favorite entry = POLICE TAPE. Favorite clue = Tie between [Part in a cast] for BROKEN BONE and [Charter?] for HIT (as in a hit song that made the charts).
Paul Hunsberger’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Eureka Moments”
Various inventors are paired with familiar verb phrases that connect to the things they invented:
- 23a. [In inventing his elevator, Otis __] ROSE TO THE OCCASION.
- 31a. [Nervously testing his new invention, the Aqua-Lung, Cousteau __] TOOK A DEEP BREATH.
- 54a. [In inventing the hot air balloon, the Montgolfier brothers __] GOT CARRIED AWAY.
- 89a. [Tired, but pleased to have invented the air conditioner, Carrier __] COOLED HIS HEELS.
- 105a. [Proving his invention of the joy buzzer to be a complete success, Adams __] SHOCKED EVERYONE.
- 118a. [Immediately upon inventing the box camera (but not the lens cap), Eastman __], SNAPPED HIS FINGERS. No idea what the lens cap is doing in the clue. The lens cap doesn’t keep you from taking a picture with your finger in front of the lens—it keeps you from taking any photos at all. Not having a lens cap, you’re just … taking pictures. Probably not with fingers in the way.
- 16d. [After inventing the forerunner to the modern toilet, Harington __] FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. I wish this one started with WAS.
- 39d. [To celebrate inventing his revolutionary engine, Watt __] BLEW OFF SOME STEAM.
The theme is pretty good, but as I worked through the grid, I ran into so many answers that triggered the Scowl-o-Meter. Just in the top half, there’s REBAGS, AGUE, NO-CAL (“calorie-free” or “0 calories,” sure; I just don’t see food described as NO-CAL) crossing A NO-NO, LAO, UNBAR, EDDA crossing ADANO, AIWA, TROI, ULEE, -AROO, and -INA. Further down, we have such gems as COALER, NEINS, IRED, IEOH, CEES, and EBOLI. In the northwest corner, would NAPA/ELAL/ROSE/DESCENT crossing NERD/ALOE/PASS/ALEC be better? (Would then need to change 59d ALEX to ALES/LAS, no biggie.)
There were things I liked in the fill—ACURA MDX is tough fill, but fresh. “KING ME” is playful. ECHINACEA sparkles, as do poison BLOW DARTS and Fat Albert’s “HEY, HEY, HEY” (but eww, evocation of Bill Cosby). And I liked seeing 50d. [Infrequently, to Dickinson], SELDOMLY because yesterday, someone said “seldomly” to me and I asked myself if that was actually a word. Seldom doesn’t need an -ly to become an adverb because it’s already an adverb, but apparently Emily Dickinson tacked the -ly on, possibly because she was a goofball.
Given that the real estate taken up by the blah fill was nearly as sizable as the theme’s real estate, I ended up feeling negative about this puzzle. 4 stars for the theme, no more than 3 stars overall when the fill is factored in. Too many small irritants.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Happy Sunday, everybody!
For those who want Sunday puzzles with a whole lot of bite, along with some great fill, this grid, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, should be right up your alley. As usual, very dense fill and some answers that just leave you scratching your head, like DAEDAL, which I convinced myself couldn’t be right for about 15 minutes (23A: [Cleverly intricate]). My absolute favorite clue was for ERNEST, and I can honestly tell you I watched all those movies on VHS because my father was a huge fan of Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) and his antics (27D: [He went to camp in 1987, to jail in 1990, to school in 1994, and to Africa in 1997]). Let’s not forget, especially this time of year, that he also saved Christmas during that time as well. A foodie who might have done this puzzle will have loved the middle of the grid, with both CINNAMON STICK (34A: [Flavorer that begins as tree bark]) and BARBECUE SAUCE, which, every time I go to Texas, I always try to being some of that sauce from the Lone Star State home with me (30A: [Condiment often vinegar- and mustard-based]). Another food reference in the grid was DONUT, though I was thrown for a serious loop with its clue/slang (58A: [Sinker]). As of right now, I’m watching German soccer, so definitely have to mention DER SPIEGEL, and I brought a copy of one home after my short time in Hamburg in 2006 (20A: [Influential German newsmagazine]). Yes, I’m watching German soccer now. Don’t you spend your Sundays doing that as well?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SHULA (41D: [NFL coach with the most career wins])– Yes, most sports fans know about Don Shula’s time as head coach with the Miami Dolphins, and most know that his 328 regular-season wins and 347 all-time coaching wins ranks him first in NFL history. But did you also know that Shula was the head coach of the Baltimore Colts during Super Bowl III, the game in which New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed victory for his AFL squad before taking on the Colts and guiding the Jets to the greatest upset in NFL history? His record as head coach of the Baltimore Colts was a staggering 71-23-4.
See you all on Monday, and thank you for another week of crossword talk!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Silly Saints” — pannonica’s write-up
In which silly hagiographic puns are invented, taking the form [alleged saint name] of [not place name but a noun to complete the punning phrase].
- 23a. [Optometrist’s patron saint?] PIERRE OF GLASSES (pair of …).
- 35a. [Officers’ patron saint?] JANE OF COMMAND (chain of …).
- 55a. [Kite-lover’s patron saint?] GUS OF WIND (gust of …).
- 61a. [Patron saint of the ordinary?] RON OF THE MILL (run of …).
- 67a. [Patron saint of the insignificant?] GAWAIN OF SAND (grain of …).
- 78a. [Judges’ patron saint?] CURT OF LAW (court of … ).
- 91a. [Despots’ patron saint?] WAYNE OF TERROR (reign of …). Hmm, I think two rhotacism puns might be piling it on too much. And incidentally, why is it that the names of speech impediments seem to be designed so that sufferers of such sound disorders will have difficulty pronouncing them? Rhotacism, sigmatism/lisp, et al.
- 111a. [Audiologist’s patron saint?] HOWARD OF HEARING (hard of …).
- 15d. [Fortunetellers’ patrons saint?] RITA OF PALMS (reader of …). According to Google Ngram, reader of palms has low popularity compared to palmreader, palm-reader, and especially palm reader.
- 64d. [Campers’ patron saint?] CAL OF NATURE (call of …).
So there you have it. Puns. Your mileage may vary. Incidentally, I’m aware that saints are available for patronage retcon to all sorts of modern professions, niche positions, medical diagnoses, et cetera, so I’m quite confident that all of these—yes, even the despots—could be assessed. For instance, the actual patron saint of opticians (yes, I know the clue specifies optometrists) is St Hubert of Liège.
- 27a [Snaky tuba ancestor] SERPENT. Oh, of course the national organization for musicians of the instrument has the acronym ASP (American Serpent Players).
- 29a [Old car horn] KLAXON, 95a [Nervous conductors] AXONS. The latter was my favorite clue in the puzzle.
- 105a [Popular farmed fish] TILAPIA. Like chicken, only with practically zero flavor. No wonder it’s so popular. Eat real fish, people!
- Too much baseball, as is so common in crosswords. 117a [Home run, slangily] TATER; 4d [Rain delay cover] TARP; 42d [Hunter of diamonds] TORII, who?; 88a [Satchel of fame] PAIGE; and what the hell, 9d [What plate is, to petal] ANAGRAM.
- 87d [“Mea culpa”] MY ERROR, but of course I went with MY FAULT first,
- Prefixes! 58d [Iron-indicating prefix] FERRO-, 52d [Cloud-related prefix] CIRRO-, 40d [Prefix meaning “back”] DORSO-.
- A swarm of bees: 92a/93a/94d/96d/99d – [Be the pilot] AVIATE / [Be the sire of] FATHER / [Be a robber] THIEVE / [Be like a geyser] SPOUT / [Be like a lecher] LUST.
Solid cruciverbal offering. No, I don’t know who the patron saint of crosswords is. Or puzzles. Or cryptographers. Or BLOG (120a) writers.