Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Felt a little tougher than my solving time indicates, a more rigorous challenge than we usually see on a Friday.
Big open patch in the center of this 68-word grid, with the long answers pinwheeling out to anchor the four corners. None of the fill particularly grabbed me, so this will be a short post.
- 23a. [They’re often underfoot], SHOES. Well, typically both under- and overfoot.
- 27a. [Vessels of the Napoleonic Wars], SLOOPS. I’d have thought sloops were too small for war.
- 51a. [Operation Neptune Spear group], NAVY SEALS. Very good entry.
- 55a. [Stand-up guy Dave], CHAPPELLE. Stand-up comedian extraordinaire.
- 2d. [Game played by British schoolkids], CONKERS. No idea what this is. Googling … You drill a hole in a horse chestnut and attach it to a string, and two players hit the other’s horse chestnut with their own. The game continues until one chestnut breaks, and I can’t help wondering if the game is interminably dull.
- 23d. [Psychology or sociology], SOFT SCIENCE. Is there a Mohs scale for scientific hardness?
- 24d. [Web-based service succeeded by Outlook in 2013], HOTMAIL. I don’t encounter many Hotmail addresses anymore.
- 27d. [Acronymic weapon name], STEN. Blech, weapon crosswordese. Would almost have preferred B-TEN meets BLOOPS.
- 28d. [Winter underwear, informally], LONGIES. Never heard long johns called that before.
- 29d. [Ingredient in Marie Rose sauce], MAYO. The main ingredients are ketchup and mayo. Fancy.
Four stars, or maybe 3.8.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Boxing Day” — pannonica’s write-up
Though it’s a secular holiday, Boxing Day is paired with an ostensibly religious one–it’s always the day after Christmas. Much like the actual holiday, in which boxes containing gifts are distributed (from employers to employees), this puzzle serves up something special. The letters K-O are introduced to crossword squares–boxes, if you will–sending the original phrases for a loop. “KO”, of course, stands for knock-out in the sport of boxing, so there’s a punning element as well.
- 22a. [Pillow for a McCarthy-era leftist?] PINKO CUSHION (pin cushion).
- 27a. [Russian coin used in place of blush?] KOPECK ON THE CHEEK (peck on the cheek).
- 38a. [Number entered by a parent on a Seoul census form?] THE AGE OF KOREA SON (the Age of Reason).
- 61a. [Con game involving pancake syrup?] STICKY BUNKO (sticky bun).
- 68a. [The chi in a “Merry Xmas” greeting?] GREEK ON CARD (green card).
- 88a. [Ruler of the Aussie marsupials who’s got a yellow streak?] CHICKEN KOALA KING (chicken à la king).
- 105a. [Suitable spot for Jewish bark beetles?] KOSHER WOOD FOREST (Sherwood Forest).
- 112a. [Feature of the Black Hills gold rush?] DAKOTA MINING (data mining).
Can’t say I’m impressed by the new versions. For the most part they’re quite inane. On the other hand, they are quite inventive, and the gimmick is interesting enough. To my mind, the best are 68a & 112a, while the least pleasing is 38a, followed closely by 27a.
Hewing to the pugilistic side of the theme, there’s 26a [Boxing legend] Muhammad ALI (daughter LAILA is not as legendary). Perhaps a missed opportunity in cluing 121a SLY as [Knowing] rather than a reference to Sylvester ‘SLY’ Stallone, of Rocky fame. Then again, I’m sure a lot of the clues here could be beaten and battered to give them such a flavor.
Favorite fill: 48a [Unceremonious ouster] HEAVE-HO. Favorite clues: 49a [Good combatant] EVIL, for its effortless misdirection; 67a [Most likely to cause horripilation] EERIEST, for its use of Latin (horrere stand on end + pilus hair; see also cutis anserina = ‘gooselike skin’); 81a [Bear with a hard chair] PAPA, for its rhyming and for its efficient evocation.
Least favorites: IPADS and NANOS in the same puzzle (82a, 9d): two Apple nods is at least one too many. 119a [Scholarly book] TOME: would have preferred a ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’ qualifier, though it isn’t strictly necessary.
Trickiest clue: 79a [Hefty item] BAG.
Admirable nonthematic long fill: full name DENIS LEARY; MARINATING (with the mildly odd clue [Task for a kebab maker]; OKINAWAN has a nice vowel-consonant alternation, while its symmetrical partner, LOOSE END, isn’t so exciting per se, but I’ll add it here because I hate leaving [Unsettled detail]s.
General observation: the solving experience was diminished by an aggregation of abbrevs. in the bottom portion of the grid, almost as if the leaden clunkers settled, like dregs. SCI, PRES, COLO, NEG. Not an enormous amount, but enough to make a palpable impression.
Last square filled: crossing of 10a [Sound relative] BA– and 12d [Armenia’s capital] –EREVAN. The across true is a little tricky, and the down seemed so familiar, but I couldn’t easily place it, not even by running through the alphabet. My theory is that the correct letter, a Y, doesn’t change the word’s sound and character as dramatically as most consonants would, so it was more difficult to triangulate. That it comes practically at the end of the alphabet didn’t help either. BAY, YEREVAN.
Good puzzle, but the theme is ultimately a little disappointing.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Boxing Day”—Ade’s write-up
I don’t know about you, but today doesn’t feel like a Friday, given that a holiday occurred yesterday. But a Friday it is regardless, and we’re certainly glad that another weekend is upon us (the last weekend of 2014). The first weekday immediately after Christmas is also Boxing Day in the United Kingdom, and today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Raymond Hamel, pays homage to our British friends by filling today’s crossword grid with four theme answers in which the last would in each theme answer could also precede the word “box.”
- SONIC BOOM: (18A: [Sound caused by shock waves]) – Raise your hand if you still own a boom box or have one lying around in your place? (*Hand raised*)
- STIFF PENALTY: (28A: [More than a slap on the wrist])
- VILLAGE VOICE: (49A: [Magazine with the Pazz and Jop listing, with “The”])
- BAY WINDOW: (64A: [Potbelly])
Struggled more than I should have with the clue to POLO (16A: Game played with a pony]). Thought “pony” was a slang term for some sort of instrument. I guess it is, if you were referring to, well, an actual pony. Don’t see ANDES a whole lot as an entry, though you see it a lot in clues, so a nice little change there (34A: [South American range]). I’m pretty sure I’d be afraid to pick up a kitty by its SCRUFF, as I would think that it might claw the living daylights out of my arm if I did (4D: [Where kittens are lifted]). Totally cost myself some time with APERY, as I thought the clue stated “impersonators,” which made me type in “apers” instead (17A: [Impersonations]). That error made it really hard to see HAYLOFT for a good long while (5D: Barn area]). Loved seeing MANILA in the grid, as it immediately made me think of the third fight of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier trilogy, the Thrilla in Manila, back in 1975 (8D: [Capital on the Pasig River]). As a matter-of-fact, a mall built in the Philippines one year later, in 1976, was named after Ali (Ali Mall). Here’s hoping you enjoyed that bonus “sports…smarter” information with MANILA, as the entry that I really had singled out for that space was…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OTTO (69A: [“Airplane!” automatic pilot]) – One of the great offensive lineman to suit up in professional football, Jim Otto played each of his 15 seasons with the Oakland Raiders at center, from 1960-1974. He was one of the most distinctive players to ever play in the AFL/NFL because of his odd choice of jersey number, 00. Otto was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. Otto also is a poster child for the affects the game of football takes on the human body, as he has had 74 football-related surgeries in his lifetime. (Yes, I said seventy-four!) Here’s Otto talking in 2012 as part of Frontline’s investigation into the NFL concussion case.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you on Saturday!
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Theme answers have English words replaced with their astrological equivalent. There is a bonus HOROSCOPE in the top-right. I’m not sure what the continued existence of astrology says for the world. Anyway, the theme answers are:
- [Certain pickup], ARIES(RAM)TRUCK
- [Gorton’s product], PISCES(FISH)STICKS
- [Stubborn], TAURUS(BULL)HEADED
- [Courageous] LEO(LION)HEARTED
One area gave me a lot of uncertainty: weirdly-spelt American brand RYKRISP crossing DENNY and not-Frasier’s brother NILES. If Denny had been any of racer Hulme or musician Laine or Doherty I’d have been golden too…
In other notes, did anyone wonder if [Do a new parent’s job] would be pUmP instead of BURP. The fact the clue was gender-neutral suggested otherwise, but once seen it could not be unseen.