Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Nothing like starting off with a “What the…?” moment right at 1-Across, am I right? 1a. [Inuit companion] clues ESKIMO DOG. “Is that a thing?” I asked myself. And when I later Googled, I learned that the American Eskimo Dog has ZILCH (10a) to do with the Inuit. There’s also a less-well-known Canadian Inuit Dog, which I think most Canadians would never use the word Eskimo with (it’s deemed offensive in Canada). Had at first assumed the answer would be a malamute or husky of some sort.
- 9d. [Coordinated activity?], GEOCACHING. My brother-in-law and his kids do this.
- 49a. [Alternative to a head slap], FACEPALM. It’s also an alternative to a *headdesk*.
- 10d. [Country with the most official languages (16)], ZIMBABWE.
- 17a. [Starting point of a train trip to Timbuktu, in song], KALAMAZOO. I’m guessing this is that “I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo” song? Googling … nope, it’s a “Kalamazoo to Timbuktu” song from 60+ years ago. My friend’s mom was from Kalamazoo, and the more times I type that and say it in my head, the better it gets.
Five more things:
- Old, old, old: RIN-TIN-TIN beside OLEO. Meh. Plural EEKS, OTOES, AGORA similarly meh.
- 43d. [Donations for life?], OVA. Yes! My friend Tertia runs an egg donation/surrogacy program in South Africa. Nurture has facilitated many happy families thanks to the benevolent egg donors.
- French? French. ICI, NON, DROIT. Here no right.
- 48d. [Crate and barrel wood], RED ELM. This is not among our better known woods.
- 5d. [Quiet parrots], MIMERS. What? No. People who mimic silently are not “mimers,” they’re mimes.
I like the clue for NOISE LEVEL, 28d. [Something to watch in a library]. Was wondering how DVD was going to expand to fit 10 squares.
3.66 stars from me.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Minced Oath”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all are going to have a real good weekend!
Just a quick overview today, as my Friday will consist of taking part in to a conference call for about two hours. Speaking of two hours, it almost took that long (and did span a couple of days) to finish today’s crossword offering, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn. I didn’t think of the alternate meaning of oath when looking at its title, so it really became a bear for me. Anyways, the word “DRAT” is hidden in the middle of each of the three theme answers. At least, that’s what I think the theme is!…ha! If not, then I (eventually) solved a puzzle and didn’t know what was going on…which has happened a few times before!
- FIELD RATIONS (20A: [MREs])
- I’D RATHER GO NAKED (37A: [PETA slogan preference]) – Knew this off the bat. Honestly, I’d rather not go naked, just to spare other people from looking!!
- REDUCED RATES (51A: [Off-season incentives])
Another toughie, and it took me a good while, and a span of two days, to get this one nailed down. It really helped to get the middle theme answer out of the way. Despite that, one of the intersecting answers, SHEKEL, was just way over my head, and the last entry I completed/took a stab at (25D: [Kibbutz coin]). The clues to LOWS (1A: [Cattle calls]) and LOAF misled me (1D: [Shirk work]), but was helped with my knowledge of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team, whose official team colors are WINE and gold (3D: [Reddish purple]). There was a NYT puzzle not too long ago in which the first words of the four theme answers added up to “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which I was not familiar with at all until I looked up and realized it was a novel by John le Carré. I mention it because seeing the clue for MASTER SPY wasn’t as hard as it would have been had I not looked up what Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was (44A: [George Smiley, for one]). Speaking of mysteries…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ALIBI (62A: [It’ll fly if it’s airtight]) – I think this is the perfect word for the “sports…smarter” section, given that the biggest story in sports is “Deflate-gate,” the controversy involving the illegally under-inflated football used by the New England Patriots during the AFC title game. Tom Brady spoke about the issue and his ALIBI was that he had already picked out the footballs he wanted to use before the game, and what happened between then and the beginning of the game, when 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots used were found to be two pounds per square inch below league specifications, he has no knowledge of. Do you believe him?
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Sam Buchbinder’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
The revealer of KINGMIDAS is perhaps a touch (pun not intended, but noted) stretched, but 3/4 of the changes are very impressive. If you haven’t worked it out AU, the symbol for gold, is inserted into the theme answers, with nonsense clues to match the new phrases. Like I said, TABLE to TABLEAU, JUNE to JUNEAU and PLATE to PLATEAU are all inspired as transformations go. K to AUK for starters is kind of cheap as you’re adding to a letter not a word. Secondly, it’s not tacked onto the end like the other 3. And it’s pronounced differently, as John Farmer suggested below. I’m guessing there was some issue with finding matching pairs. Another hint is the JUNEAUBUGS is pluralised. Generally speaking, adding multiple letters tends to make for long theme answers, as in today’s two spanners. Can I do better though? [Persian sponge?] would’ve been useable, but not exactly the most exciting answer. It is a very constrained theme.
In full, the theme is [Striking painting of paddles, net and ball?], PINGPONGTABLEAU; [Extraordinary northern bird?], SPECIALAUK; [Mythological figure who touched 16-, 23-, 46- and 55-Across?], KINGMIDAS; [Alaskan insects?], JUNEAUBUGS; [Overdevelop a high plain?], CROWDTHEPLATEAU (excellent base phrase – pun again not initially intended, but noted.)
- [Bark elicitor], SPEAK. I’ve never encountered this command in real life.
- [Powerful dept.?], ENER. Another ans. I’d like feedback on. Is it seen in newspapers etc.?
- [Statistician’s challenge], BIGDATA. It sounds like a phrase used by those brain dead conspiracy theorists. It’s not though. Tip: if you hear someone ranting about big >insert conspirators<, run away fast!
- [“I shall be late!” speaker of fiction], RABBIT. At first, I was wondering why the White Rabbit lost his qualifier, but now I realise it’s the 100 Acre Wood denizen.
- [Uniform material], KHAKI. Pretty sure it’s a colour not a material. My favourite variation is “sharky”, apparently a military colour that’s a mixture of shit and khaki.
- [Top story], ATTIC. The misdirection only works if, like many Americans, you misspell storey.
- [Cab driver?], TRUCKER. Excellent clue!
- [Cops’ org.], PBA. Pro Bowlers’ Association? Apparently Patrolman’s Benefit Association. Thank you google. You all knew that right?
That one theme answer is probably what stands between a good and a great puzzle.
3.5 Stars, Gareth
Mark McClain’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Stalk Character” — pannonica’s write-up
66-across, in the lower right-hand corner area: [Fairy-tale bugaboo who memorably recites the first syllables of 17, 29, 45 and 60 Across] GIANT.
- 17a. [Certain list in a college catalog] FEE SCHEDULE. Before I knew the theme, I wanted so much for this to be LAB SCHEDULE. That’s me, thinking about science and academics rather than money.
- 29a. [Dalmatian’s spot, often] FIRE STATION. Tricksy clue.
- 45a. [Fan accessories] FOAM FINGERS. We’re number one.
- 60a. [Fiasco for 14 Across] FUMBLED SNAP. The referenced clue is [Brett of NFL fame], which I naturally misread as ‘Bart’ and equally naturally filled in as STARR rather than FAVRE. Hey, at least I got the right team. Combined with my LAB misfill (see above), it helped delay my solve exorbitantly. Incidentally, I’ll just take this moment to reiterate that I don’t like theme material mingling with non-theme riff-raff—much like a child who can’t abide different foods touching on the plate.
And the GIANT intones, “Fee-fi-fo-fum (I smell the blood of an Englishman)”. The giant from the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. For the record, apropos of the title, my pronunciations of stalk and stock are very divergent – both the vowel sound and the l-sound. For the latter, I position my tongue appropriately though I don’t know how audible it is to others.
Mix of highlights and lowlights throughout the grid. The excellent TOURISTY [Rife with souvenir shops, say], the quite good SUN LAMPS [Generators of UV radiation] and INFERNAL [Stygian] are among the former, while the latter includes AGI, XES, MOR, TOI, LAE, FFF, NROTC.
Some funky trivia herein: 61d [Edible inspiration for Claes Oldenberg sculpture on display at NYC’s Whitney Museum] BLT; 54a [Anthem whose original lyrics were in French] O CANADA.
Old-timey stuff: 50a [When “Route 66” aired: Abbr.] FRI; 53d [ __ St. John (eye-patch sporter in “Brenda Starr”] BASIL. Not that I care much about either.
Cute misdirections: 38a [Source of schmaltz?] YIDDISH; 65a [Fuji, e.g.] APPLE; to a lesser extent 43d [Something big in rock and roll, perhaps] EGO, 49d [Assumption by an actor?] ROLE.
Average crossword, on balance.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Movie Flops” — pannonica’s write-up
Simple concept: titles of films with one word reversed, or flopped.
- 23a. [Movie flop about a haddock’s greeting?] WHAT’S UP, COD (What’s Up, Doc?, 1972).
- 25a. [Movie flop about a zippy submersible?] DEEPS RACER (Speed Racer, 2008).
- 40a. [… about a dwelling with layers of veneer?] LAMINA HOUSE (Animal House, 1978).
- 51a. [… about a sixty-foot delivery cart?] THE LONGEST DRAY (The Longest Yard, 1974, 2005).
- 68a. [… a water main break in Lower Manhattan?] THE FLOW OF WALL STREET (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013).
- 90a. [… an opinionated Othello?] A MOOR WITH A VIEW (A Room With a View, 1985).
- 97a. [… castoffs from giant bananas?] THE BIG PEELS (The Big Sleep, 1946, 1978).
- 118a. [… a Guitar Hero knockoff?] ROCK OF SEGA (Rock of Ages, 2012).
- 121a. [… pots and pots of honey?] POOH DREAMS (Hoop Dreams, 1994). Or ‘hunny’.
Some genuine chuckles, I liked it.
There’s also an intentional upping of the filmic content among the ballast fill. Not just obligate items like 65a ASTA [Tinseltown terrier], but also 83a [Ziegfeld Follies costume designer] for ERTE and 91d [Movie studio department] for WARDROBE, and 86d [Valentino role] SHEIK. I won’t list them all, but they’re in there. Trust me. Also, it should be noted that the movie free-for-all doesn’t go too far: it’s okay to cite another title in the clue for 82d [“Men in Trees” star] ANNE HECHE, but not to have a title as fill, such as 13d [“Fanfare for the Common Man” composer] Aaron COPLAND, rather than the 1997 film Cop Land.
Good theme, good fill, good cluing. So, good puzzle.