Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Twist Ending”
The last two letters in familiar phrases are transposed, changing the meaning:
- 23a. [“Those wreaths all look the same to me!”?], I CANNOT TELL A LEI. Do you use “I cannot tell” like that? “I cannot tell a lei from a wreath,” “I cannot tell the difference among those leis,” those sentences work better for me.
- 39a. [Start of an oral listing of African nations, perhaps?], YOU’VE GOT MALI. I assume your listing is specifically of African countries that continue to have official connections to France, because otherwise it is weird to start with Mali.
- 53a. [Showing less cleavage?], RAISING THE BRA. Um, that’s not how bras work, gentlemen. You raise those cups a bit and you’re likely to get more cleavage, not less.
- 84a. [Cheap roadside assistance?], A QUARTER TO TOW. The clue isn’t quite working for me with the TO in the answer. The TOW is the roadside assistance, but the primary noun in the answer is the QUARTER.
- 99a. [Knockoff dress labeled “Armani,” say?], ILLEGAL A-LINE. Yes, Armani does make A-line dresses.
- 116a. [Caution to an orphan girl not to leave her wildebeest behind?], ANNIE GET YOUR GNU. Now, that should have been part of the recent Annie remake, trading in the horrible arfing dog Sandy for a gnu.
- 3d. [Group of actors who all have stage fright?], SCAREDY CAST. Not sure that SCAREDY can pair with anything but -cat, as it isn’t a word unto itself.
- 70d. [Lovely but stupid person?], OBTUSE ANGEL. We’ve all known one or two such people, right?
So the theme wasn’t all that much to my liking. There were also things in the fill I found a bit jarring:
- 74d. [Reach the Mediterranean, say?], PASS GO. No, no, no. The space on the Monopoly board is not “the Mediterranean.” You can be cutesy in your clues but if you don’t talk the way people actually talk, the effect is ruined.
- Lots of short fill amid the theme entries—ETES, EER, CIERA, CCL, SRA, AT ‘EM, DPS, EMS, ELOI, EPI, AS IT, AGIN, ODO, ILLY. Felt like more of these than usual. And THEDA Bara!
- 7d. [Attentive dog owner], PETTER. PETTER?? Other odd inflected words: LINDIED, PILLARED, SCORERS, RECANE, UNDYED, plural ANISES.
- Dupe that the NYT editor doesn’t care about but that a number of solvers do: OPEN SEA crossing URAL with a [Caspian Sea feeder] clue.
I did like MAPLE TREE, DOODLED, and DUDE RANCH. 3.33 stars from me. The theme concept is fine but the execution was a bit short of the mark.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Accent on Australia”
This was a fun, light pronunciation theme. You know how words Americans pronounce with a long A sound end up with a long I sound when spoken by Aussies? Merl respells familiar phrases to reflect the Aussie pronunciation and clues the resulting goofy phrases in plausible ways:
- 23a. [Flashy part of an Aussie rock concert?], THE LIGHT SHOW. The Late Show.
- 25a. [Motto of an Aussie surveillance company?], LET US PRY. Pray.
- 39a. [Aussie stopover infamous for its bedbugs?], THE BITES MOTEL. Bates, of Psycho.
- 43a. [Aussie women who wear the pants in the family?], ALPHA WIVES. Alpha waves are something scientifical.
- 57a. [Rare occurrences in Aussie courtrooms?], HAPPY TRIALS. Trails.
- 68a. [The other problem at 39 Across?], ROOM MITES. Roommates.
- 77a. [Twin Aussie babies?], DOUBLE TYKES. Takes.
- 92a. [Scornful feeling among Aussies?], SOUR GRIPES. Grapes.
- 94a. [Query to Mr. and Mrs. Pig after an Aussie vacation?], HOW WAS YOUR STY? “It was full of mites, actually.”
- 113a. [What Aussies use to order holiday desserts?], PIE PHONE. Payphone. I would make that call.
- 115a. [What Aussies always order at the NASA Diner?], SPICE RICE. A two-fer, from space race.
Fun idea, consistently executed, entertaining to read aloud in your head (…what? you can too read aloud in your head) if you’re a yahoo like me.
The puzzle went fast for me—no trouble spots of awkward fill.
Five more things:
- 16d. [Truth unit?], KERNEL. When there’s a kernel of truth, is it implied that this kernel of truth is partnered with an entire ear of lie kernels?
- 101d. [Dried coconut meat], COPRA. Hey! Crosswordese tropical food includes this, POI, and TARO.
- 86a. [Burnett-skit regular], KORMAN. I had the K from THE MASK so the rest was easy. Without the crossings, you might opt for Tim CONWAY rather than Harvey KORMAN. And if you are too young to get Carol Burnett Show references, I pity you.
- 10d. [Monkey-bread tree], BAOBAB. My all-time favorite tree name.
- 12d. [Hi-rise higher-up], EXEC. I never see buildings called “hi-rises,” just high-rises. Odd.
4.2 stars from me. I enjoyed the puzzle.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “4-G Network”—Andy’s review
Frequent LAT contributor (she had Wednesday’s LAT) and even-more-frequent LAT blogger C.C. “2-C” Burnikel brings us this puzzle, “4-G Network,” in which we encounter some phrases that contain exactly 4 Gs:
- 23a, BRAGGING RIGHTS [What winners earn]. ETERNAL GGGGLORY didn’t quite fit.
- 41a, GOOGLE SUGGEST [Search feature that tries to finish your thought]. I always forget this feature has a name. Nice entry.
- 60a, GAGGLE OF GEESE [Grounded V-formation fliers]. At first, I had no idea why “grounded” was necessary in this clue, but I learned (from Wikipedia) that “[t]he collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.”
- 83a, BAG AND BAGGAGE [Completely]. The clue doesn’t quite capture the usage of this idiom for me. To “leave bag and baggage,” as you might suspect, means to take absolutely everything you own with you.
- 96a, GUEST BLOGGING [Way to generate fresh website content]. Amen!
- 120a, GORGEOUS GEORGE [Flamboyant ’40s-’50s wrestler]. See image below. ‘Nuff said.
- 40d, L’EGGO MY EGGO [Kellogg’s product slogan]. Love this phrase. I can never remember whether it takes an apostrophe, but the Eggo website says it does.
- 44d, GOG AND MAGOG [Revelation nations].
This is a fairly common theme type, but I liked this puzzle just fine for two reasons: (1) the theme phrases are largely very lively, and (2) the puzzle was not a chore to fill. For puzzles with this kind of an easy theme, the latter can especially be a problem, but this one was so breezy that there simply wasn’t time to get bored.
High word count (144) and high block count (74) meant that the ballast fill was mostly short and mostly pretty good. Nothing that I’ll remember 3 weeks from now, but some nice stuff like TUSKEGEE, LAS VEGAS, STONEHENGE, ALL THE RAGE, SNUGLI (YMMV). If there’s a crossing that could trip people up, it’s SNUGLI/PELLA, but otherwise smooth all the way through, with a smattering of crosswordese (none of it offensive) to hold the puzzle together. I’ll take this over a 136/68 puzzle with ugly fill any day. Nice work, C.C.!
3.75 stars. Until next week!
Lynn Lempel’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
It’s another Sunday fun day! Hope you all are doing great.
We had a very nice Sunday Challenge on our hands today, which was brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel. To begin my review, I’ll take you to where I completed the puzzle, a.k.a. the intersection of evil, with the alternate spelling of bogey, BOGY (5D: [Evil spirit]), and SVENGALI (17A: [Epitome of an evil manipulator]). Was immediately onto FIST BUMP right away, as that got me off to a good start (1A: [Healthier alternative to a hand shake]). I’m glad fist bumps are now pretty accepted exchanges amongst people…except for when I put out an open palm while someone else puts out a fist, only for me to ball my hand into a fist at the same time the other people opens his hand, making for a real awkward moment. That actually just happened with me and Villanova University’s men’s basketball head coach, Jay Wright, when I met up with him again after a game earlier this month. We laughed off that embarrassment moment, thank goodness! Ok, back to the puzzle. I didn’t complete the Northwest until (much) later, as I then built upon PRIOR TO, and then worked my way into the Northeast portion and the middle part of the grid (8D: [Before]). Immediately got DOG PADDLE after that, and that immediately reminded me of the time where I was deathly afraid of dog paddling when learning to swim in fifth grade because the person holding me up by my midsection while I dog paddled happened to be the smallest and lightest person in the class (20A: [Beginner’s effort in the pool]). To this day, I still have that image in my head as I continue to go day after day without knowing/learning how to swim. Le sigh.
As I got to the bottom of the grid, that’s where I really made up some time, as the long answers were just falling for me, especially the down ones like LBJ RANCH (32D: [Presidential retreat now part of a US historic national park]) and CASCADES (34D: [Mount Rainier’s mountain range]). Also was on to IRISHMEN pretty quickly after reading its clue (59A: [Peter O’Toole and Bono]). By the way, how come Jack Kirby can’t get any love when STAN LEE is an entry in a grid and the clue refers to being one of the co-creators of a fill-in-the-blank Marvel Comics character (36A: [Co-creator of the Hulk])?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HESTER (60A: [Fiction’s Ms. Prynne])– How about a Super Bowl factoid one week before the actual Super Bowl? Former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin HESTER was once the man responsible for the quickest ever score to start a Super Bowl, as he returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl XLI 92 yards to give the Chicago Bears the lead over the Indianapolis Colts after only 14 seconds of play. (The Bears would end up losing the game.) The record for quickest Super Bowl score was broken in last year’s Big Game, when the Seattle Seahawks recorded a safety only 12 seconds into the game against the Denver Broncos.
Have a great rest of your weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Mystery Guest” — pannonica’s write-up
[Our mystery guest] is DAVID ORTIZ, as per 117-across, but that isn’t what the charadic letters in the other theme answers spell out.
- 23a. [First letter of our mystery guest] BAND LEADER. Inotherwords, B.
- 34a. [Letter 2 of our mystery guest] SECOND IN LINE. Idest, I.
- 49a. [Letter 3 … ] MIDDLE AGE. Thatis, G.
- 64a. [ … 4 … ] PIECE OF PAPER. Specifically, P.
- 70a. [ … 5 … ] ALGEBRA FINAL. Quoderatdemonstrandum, A.
- 88a. [ … 6 … ] APPLE CORE. Towit, P.
- 100a. [ … 7 … ] UNLIMITED OIL. Nonterminously, I.
Together these spell BIG PAPI, which is the nickname of the large fellow (6′4″, 230 lbs / 1.93m, 104.3kg) who plays for the Boston Red Sox. Remember, this crossword originates with the Boston Globe newspaper, so this sort of thing is bound to happen onceinawhile. Obviously, I’m not ecstatic about the EVENTUAL (45a) result of the theme, but most definitely appreciate the phrases gathered to indicate the necessary letters in service of it. In retrospect, there’s a potential overstepping of bounds at 64-across, as PIECE OF PAPER could be the P-A-P of PAPI, but that’s only illusory, as my reproduction of the clue ELIDES (99d) the part that specifies—like all the others—that a single letter is required.
- Bores! When a river flows upstream, kind of. 39d [Sort of a bore] TIDAL.
- Italia! 10a [Po land] ITALY; 5d [3/15/44 BC victim] CAESAR; 11d [Venus de Milo, mostly] TORSO (though the island of Milos is of course Greek); 60d [“Dear,” if you’re Italian] CARA (duplication with 10a); 70d [Roman love god] AMOR; 89d [Fermi or Caruso] ENRICO. Oh and what the hell, how about 43a [Prospero’s sprite] ARIEL – all the (non-supernatural) characters in The Tempest are Italian.
- [Get tight] TAUTEN, 106a. Diphyletic etymologies, taut and tight. The former from the same place as tough, the latter from thick and dense. Neither derives from Latin.
- [Perrin of comic novels] REGINALD. In contrast to the Roman empire (see CAESAR, above, et al.) as per Edward Gibbon, David Nobbs’ hapless protagonist experiences first a fall and then a rise.
- Another typo in the translation to .puz this week: 102d [Lake tabloid shockers] LURID. Were you thinking that maybe Nessie was related to electric eels?
- Perhaps surprisingly, relatively little extra baseball or Boston material in the ballast fill. 1d [Ruth or a pig] BABE; 15d [A’s hue in a tale] SCARLET; 24d [Town on the Merrimack] LOWELL; and plausibly 19a [Home’s opposite] AWAY. Note that when I say Boston, I take the liberty of expanding it to things Massachusettsian.
- Interestingly, Van Gogh didn’t seem to have much interest in that most Dutch of flowers, the TULIP (104a). Must have been all the time he spent in ARLES (25a [Van Gogh setting]).
Fine crossword, but not exactly a home run for this solver.
The Post Puzzler No. 251 by Byron Walden – Gareth’s review
The top-right is quite daring, with VSNAIPAUL (name not familiar, but he won the 2001 Nobel prize for literature, it seems) an unlikely top-right answer. Mr. Walden crosses this with PLASAMTV (they were discontinued?). Also notable in this corner are TWOCHINA, LEGWORK, XANADU and AUNATUREL (which looked so wrong as it emerged!). This corner was also the toughest for me: apart from Mr. NAIPAUL, ANTIRADAR and TEENBRIDE were also tough to tease out. The FITB clue for PHATTER rescued it from seeming a bit silly!
The top-left is more staid with old standard MOODINDIGO and an ANTIPASTO. Is PORCS a valid French plural? WOODSTORK looks like it wants to be WOODSTOCK. Loved its factual clue! I’m sure we were all thinking crocodilians and box turtles, right?
Flowing into the bottom-right we have WRISTSLAP, and the somewhat crossword-esey OENOPHILE – rescued by the delightful cab-hailing clue. ALLEITER is an implausible looking name, but there he is. Is SHINEDAT acceptable? I’d have thought SHONEAT, surely? AIRACES and ULSTERS are a pair of dated answers.
I think that the surprise ending in the SILENTF clue refers to the fact that many people, myself included are not aware Roman a clef has a SILENTF, but the surprise seems a tad extraneous. MATTSTONE is our full name (I suppose actually he’s one of two, along with LIBERACE) and it’s a nice touch that Mr. Walden refers to his work in another clue too.