David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “This n’ That”
David’s theme is “X and Y” phrases in which the “and” becomes a schwa + N attached to the first word, with spelling changing as needed. Resulting goofy phrases are clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Content of a demand to attend?], SUMMON SUBSTANCE.
- 32a. [Freaky funeral noise?], COFFIN WHEEZE. “Cough and wheeze” as the basis for a wordplay theme answer? Not sure I like that.
- 49a. [Dive from a fire-breathing creature?], DRAGON DROP.
- 71a. [Venti, vingt or zwanzig?], FOREIGN TWENTY.
- 93a. [Woe for a sunburned sea monster?], KRAKEN PEEL. “Crack and peel” stickers/labels are a thing. Do you know how to use them? Here’s a demonstration video, complete with music soundtrack.
- 110a. [Intel products used at a nuclear facility?], FISSION CHIPS.
- 119a. [Overseeing a work crew, e.g.?], FOREMAN FUNCTION. I like that one.
- 17d. [Feathers, pointy bill, long legs, etc.?], HERON MAKEUP. “Hair and makeup” riff.
- 70d. [Period when rabbits stop fighting?], WARREN PEACE. This one was the first theme answer I got and it helped me understand the theme … though the puzzle still took me a lot longer than the typical Sunday puzzle.
Solid theme, and lots of interesting fill throughout the grid (CAROL ALT, DON IMUS, and DAVID LEAN‘s full names, Lake MARACAIBO, “LET’S NOT,” NECTARINE), but also some stuff I didn’t know:
- 62d. [Skeletal enemy in Mario games], DRYBONES. No clue.
- 21a. [Nymph jilted by Paris], OENONE.
- 79a. [43-Across ball carriers: Abbr.], HBS. Unless it’s QB, I’m going to wait for the crossings to tell me what football position abbreviation I need.
- 94d. [Site of ancient Greek Olympics], ELIS. Seen it before, didn’t recall it without crossings.
Things I did not like:
- 128a. [Beggar’s receptacle], TIN CUP. Either clue this overtly as a retro thing, perhaps Dickensian, or clue it as the Kevin Costner/Rene Russo golf movie Tin Cup. I’ve seen hundreds (at least) homeless people on the streets of Chicago panhandling. You know what I’ve never seen? A tin cup in their hand. The word “beggar” doesn’t sit right with me, either.
- 32d. [Garbage collector, informally?], COON. Okay, so the clue is being playful about raccoons, which are wont to raid garbage cans for food. But you know what? “Garbage collector” makes the solver think of people, first and foremost. And then the answer is COON, which is also a racial slur. This is entirely unnecessary, as you can easily clue this word in a way that doesn’t evoke people. Is it intended to cause offense? No. But can it come off as offensive, make solvers look askance, jar the solver out of the solving flow? It sure can. Why risk offending people when it so easy to avoid it? Sigh.
4.2 stars from me.
Postscript: Don’t miss David’s remembrance of the late crossword constructor Bernice Gordon, who died at age 101 this week. It’s impossibly sweet and you just might cry reading it.
Jeffrey Harris’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 252”–Sam Donaldson’s review
I think I need to surrender my nerd credentials.
Never in a million years (or parsecs) would I have imagined that the last entry to fall in this week’s Post Puzzler, a 70/28 freestyle from Jeffrey “I Never Met a Meta I Couldn’t Crack” Harris, would be THE FORCE AWAKENS, the title for the next, eagerly-anticipated installment of the Star Wars franchise. And yet it was.
When I read the clue, [2015 Ford vehicle, informally?], Harrison “Thank God the Only Thing I Hurt on Set Was My Ankle” Ford was among the furthest things from my mind. I figured there was some cutesy nickname for a new Ford Fusion or something and this became the seed for the puzzle. Alas, some key crossings kept me from parsing the answer.
I’m not familiar with MEET-CUTE, the [Romantic comedy trope] Take it away, Wikipedia: “A meet-cute is a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.” Perhaps the concept was alien because most of my relationships in the past began with a meet-creep. Luckily for purposes of this solve, however, the crossing letter for the Ford vehicle was part of the obvious THE at the front.
A more critical error was choosing DOES for [Common deer]. I just thought the clue was trying to be cute in using a homophone for “commandeer,” and with -OES in place, DOES (some deer, some female deer) came to me immediately. Yet the answer was ROES, a much better fit for the clue.
Moving on, ODETS was apparently a [Hart contemporary]. Sadly I had filled in AD?TS in the grid, as I misspelled the [Rio sound] of BOSSA NOVA as BASSA NOVA. So that complicated things. And! I couldn’t think of the right Hart. I thought of former senator Gary Hart, cartoonist Johnny Hart, and “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart–but not American playwright Moss Hart, who was indeed a contemporary of Clifford Odets. (If you think I knew any of that stuff after the hyphen until about 20 seconds ago, you’re mistaken. I suppose Moss Hart’s plays were a big hit on the north side.)
It wasn’t until I was done with the puzzle that I finally figured out how AMA is the answer to [Reddit Q&A thread]. I confess to possessing only a marginal familiarity with Reddit, so that’s probably why the acronym for “ask me anything” didn’t occur to me until it was already in the grid. But yeah, that conspired with the other unknowns to hide the Ford vehicle pretty well.
I’m still mad at myself for not seeing it. To make the pain more acute, I’ve been openly gushing about The Force Awakens to the few who will listen to me. As I’ve written here before, I trust J.J. Abrams with anything from my childhood, so I’m beyond excited for this December.
The balance of the puzzle fell neatly and nicely. Let’s review the highlights:
- [Writers of tough crosswords, some say] is a nice self-referential clue for SADISTS. Some constructors consider that a badge of honor.
- I loved the clue for ENCLOSED, [“Check ___” (the two most beautiful words in English, facetiously)], though I don’t think I’ve ever heard that observation before.
- I like both meanings of [It may wrap around you] for BOA, as both the feathered accessory and the snake will do just that. I didn’t notice until just now that the same clue appeared three squares over for OBI. Nice! (That wasn’t the only clue pulling double-duty, as [Range] clued both SPAN and GAMUT.
- I had forgotten that some dude named Jamie Dornan landed the title role in the upcoming film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey, so GREY as the answer to [2015 title role for Dornan] took a while to emerge. But I like the contemporary feel of the clue. It will be interesting to see how well this clue stands the test of time. When one solves the puzzle in ten years, will the clue seem outdated? Or will Christian Grey be Jamie Dornan’s Forrest Gump?
As usual, I fell into nearly every trap set in this puzzle: I had EDIT instead of OMIT for [Replace with ellipses, say], DAB instead of TAT for [Bit of ink], and SUPER instead of SWEET for [“Awesome!”]. And yes, I was thinking of flailing students instead of battery companies when I read the clue, [Maker of a lot of C’s and D’s], the answer to which here was ENERGIZER.
Before we check out, we have to admire those lovely open corners in the northeast and southwest. You have a couple of 6×4 slabs of white squares, half the area of which feeds into triple-9s, and they’re both filled skillfully. Yet one more reason it’s not too early to grieve the pending demise of the Post Puzzler.
Favorite entry = THE FORCE AWAKENS, dammit. Favorite clue = [Candy corn source?] for the corny television skit show from which John Candy rose to fame, SCTV.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning everyone on this first day of February! Hope you all are doing great, as well as staying warm!
Nothing like beginning a Super Sunday with a significantly super challenge of a puzzle, and we definitely got that with Mr. Bob Klahn’s grid. Actually, my solving experience was actually a pretty smooth one (compared to my other experiences with Mr. Klahn’s grids), and it definitely helped that I could actually start off in the Northwest and build from there – something I usually am not able to do in a lot of Klahn grids. Thank goodness I heard enough about the Twilight saga and the big question that many fans had to answer: Are you Team Edward or Team JACOB (1D: [“Twilight” series werewolf]). Speaking of movies, I definitely remember seeing the ads on television for COLLATERAL and just remembered the movie title afterwards (17A: [2004 Cruise/Foxx neo-noir crime thriller]). There are lots of movie titles I can remember just by seeing the ads for them only (and never watching the movie). Again, getting those answers made the rest of the Northwest pretty easy, with just MALLE not being in my wheelhouse (3D: [“Atlantic City” earned him a Best Director Oscar nomination]). The only one of the three 13-letter sandwich in the middle of the grid I was real comfortable in putting down was the bottom slice of bread, RENÉ DESCARTES (35A: [“Everything is self-evident” philosopher]). Actually, that was more of an educated guess, since Descartes was on my mind and then decided to see if it would fit if using his first and last name. And voila! Elsewhere in the grid, how awesome was seeing HELLHOLE (34D: [It’s a very unpleasant place])? The Southwest was a double-edged sword, as I got GHANA (41D: [Ivory Coast neighbor once called the Gold Coast]) and NIXON with ease (42D: [US President who allegedly said “I would have made a good pope”]), and because of those answers, it made me put down “taxi driver” going across. Took some time to untangle that mess and get TAXI DANCER (52A: [Hired hoofer]), with ANTE being the entry that I got which was able to get me out of jail (50D: [Up the ____ (make things more interesting, in a way)]). Actually wasn’t familiar with the nicknamed mentioned in the clue to PELÉ (16A: [Brazil’s “Black Pearl”]). I’m sure he’s (Pelé) been the subject of one of my sports moments in the past, so, with that, here’s our last of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl-themed “sports…smarter” moments.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TYLER (9D: [“Breathing Lessons” Pulitzer winner ])– When the Los Angeles Rams made their Cinderella run to Super Bowl XIV to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, their best offensive weapon was running back Wendell TYLER. Tyler, who played his college ball also in Los Angeles at UCLA, led the Rams with 1,109 yards rushing in the 1979 season, and his 5.1 yards per carry led the league. He led all running backs in Super Bowl XIV with 60 yards on the ground on 17 carries, but it was not enough as the Rams lost to the Steelers, 31-19, cementing the Steelers as the team of the 1970s.
Enjoy the Super Bowl, Puppy Bowl or whatever choice of recreation you decide on between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 PM Eastern this evening. See you all tomorrow!
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “You Must Be Joking”—Andy’s review
Frequent Newsday contributor Gail Grabowski brings us this puzzle, “You Must Be Joking,” in which we encounter some phrases in which an A has been replaced with a U. I’m not entirely sure what the title has to do with the theme, other than the you/U pun, so any explanation from U, dear readers, would be appreciated. Theme answers:
- 27a, DOGGIE BUG [Flea?]. DOGGIE BAG. Here, Gail shows that when cluing, sometimes less really is more.
- 29a, SMOKING BUN [Sign of a barbecuer’s inattention?]. At first this made me think of SMOKING GUN, but it’s a play on SMOKING BAN. If the bun caught on fire, Gail might call the barbecuer a BURN RAISER.
- 48a, TRUCK RECORD [Most miles logged in a pickup, say?]. TRACK RECORD.
- 64a, SNOW FLUKE [Blizzard in Birmingham?]. SNOW FLAKE. I’m assuming Gail means Birmingham, Alabama, since a blizzard in England seems entirely possible.
- 81a, THINKING CUP [Vessel that inspires ideas?]. THINKING CAP.
- 99a, TIN FOIL HUT [Shack made of aluminum wrap?]. TIN FOIL HAT.
- 102a, YELLOW CUB [Cowardly lion, once?]. YELLOW CAB. Cute clue.
- 36d, MULE BONDING [Prospector’s close attachment to his helper?]. MALE BONDING. This one was the toughest for me. Seems to me that MULE BONDING would be two mules bonding with each other. But what do I know?
- 40d, BUNK DEPOSIT [Reservation for an upper berth?]. BANK DEPOSIT.
A very simple theme, very well executed. In all nine theme entries, there’s only one A in the base phrase, and it’s always changed to a U. Plus, there are nine theme entries, which is a nice high number for an LAT Sunday. I found a couple of these legitimately funny (SMOKING BUN, YELLOW CUB), and that was largely due to some really nice cluing.
The fill was completely forgettable, but that’s not always the worst thing in a Sunday puzzle (it’s certainly better than being memorable for the wrong reasons). Stuff I liked: A WEE BIT, LAB FEES, CHIA PET, HANGTIME, ARROW KEY. Stuff that stuck with me as less good: IS DONE, A RUT, ISERE, AWEEK.
I really truly thought NETZERO was out of business, but the Internet says otherwise. How about that? I’m still undecided about whether I like NEW IDEA or not. It feels ever so slightly roll-your-own-phrase-y, but the clue [Fresh bean sprout?] was funny, so I let it slide… this time.
Not much else to say about this one. 3.5 stars. Until next week!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Four Little Words”
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Merl’s theme this week is four-word phrases that are rhyme A + preposition + article/pronoun + rhyme B:
- 23a. [Shell-shocked, in WWII slang], NERVOUS FROM THE SERVICE.
- 30a. [Milestone 1950s recording], ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK.
- 53a. [Has it ___], MADE IN THE SHADE. I haven’t tried cluing this without the FITB approach. [All set] or [Sitting pretty] don’t quite work, as you’re not made in the shade, you’ve got it made in the shade.
- 64a. [Spend with abandon], SHOP TILL YOU DROP.
- 71a. [A case of the jitters], ANTS IN YOUR PANTS. May I just say how refreshing it is to see this with YOUR instead of ONE’S?
- 89a. [Transmission type], FOUR ON THE FLOOR. No idea what that means, exactly.
- 106a. [Pushin’ one’s hot buttons, maybe], CRUISIN’ FOR A BRUISIN’.
- 119a. [Perfect party thrower, slangily], HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS. This one feels a hair incomplete without an initial THE. I wonder how many people made it MOSTEST and wondered how NOTES made sense as an answer for 112d. [Attendance count]. (It’s counting NOSES.)
It’s ever so slightly inelegant to have two themers with IN in the second word slot. But the phrases are all fairly lively, and rhyming phrases have an inherent appeal to the mouth and ear.
136 theme squares? Given that the LA Times’ specs call for a minimum of 84 theme squares, I will concede that this puzzle—though it has just 8 (long) theme answers and is not one of those stacked-up Merlstravaganzas with 16 theme entries—has a lot of theme packed in it. That explains all the blah fill, the crosswordese peppered throughout the grid. STENO, EDO, ENDO- in the opening corner. Partial capital ABABA crossing plural AARONS and partial A SHOE. The 93d. [Eskimo knife] called an ULU. That ALIENEE. ASTA and ODA. Plenty of abbrevs and partials. I liked the theme but the interstices of the puzzle were largely stripped of cruciverbal joy for me.
- 84a. [BOLO’s precursor], APB. Guessing that BOLO = “be on the lookout,” but I’ve never encountered it before.
- 86a. [Spoonful, maybe], DOLLOP. Think whipped cream rather than medicine. No DOSAGE here.
- 129a. [Unsmiling], DEADPAN. Apparently pan = face in this word.
- 56d. [Drug-resistant bacterium], SUPERBUG. Did you see the news a few weeks ago about an entirely new sort of antibiotic that’s being developed? This is good news in the superbug era.
- 67d. [Illegal bat goo], PINE TAR. I hope some folks were picturing a flying mammal rather than a wooden club used in sports.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “My TV Set is Possessed” — Pannonica’s write-up
Greetings through your orthocon tube!
Welcome to the write-up of this crossword featuring a line-up of television show titles featuring possessive adjectives/determiners – whatever you care to call them. Reader’s choice.
- 24a. [Silly 1960s sitcom] GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.
- 67a. [PT 73 sitcom] MCHALE’S NAVY.
- 106a. [Law show that debuted in 1981] THE PEOPLE’S COURT. One of those rare times I’d prefer the definite article was omitted from the fill and put in the clue (“, with ‘The'”). That’d keep it consistent with all the other theme answers. I’ll assume that there was no other title available with the same letter count as GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. Also, the only themer employing a common noun.
- 4d. [“Your Show of Shows” offshoot] CAESAR’S HOUR.
- 16d. [1986 show about a crimefighting illusionist] BLACKE’S MAGIC.
- 34d. [W.W. II sitcom] HOGAN’S HEROES.
- 41d. [Seattle-based hospital drama] GREY’S ANATOMY.
- 47d. [1960s Gene Barry drama] BURKE’S LAW.
- 70d. [“Carol Burnett Show” spinoff] MAMA’S FAMILY. Clue is missing the definite article.
Good range, sampling programs from essentially all eras of television. Some weren’t familiar to me, but I’ll mark that as personal ignorance. Impressive distribution throughout the grid, too.
Not part of the theme: 83d [“__ Day” (magazine)] WOMAN’S; 11a [Noah’s passengers] TWOS; 42a [Lamb’s dam] EWE; 50a [Odin’s bailiwick] VALHALLA; 72a [Programmer’s creation] CODE; 95a [Mr. Rogers] FRED (of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood); 110a [New Hampshire’s state flower] LILAC; 117a [Dionne Quints’ dad] OLIVA; 53d [Old chap’s declaration] I SAY; 108d [Tackle’s teammate] END.
- Completely new to me: 56a [Muslim veil] YASHMAK. Turkish.
- Simple clue that completely fooled me: 30a [Empty boxes] UNPACK. Was looking for a noun rather than an adjective. Experienced just the opposite with 77a [Court conformity] LEGALISM.
- 114a [Dickensian clerk] HEEP, more or less duplicates 44d [Resembling (suff.)] -EAN.
- 106d [Summer-weather stat] THI. Temperature-Humidity Index. Meh.
- 14d [“Manga” inspiration] SHINTO. Misunderstood the clue to be suggesting an inspiration for the form itself rather than for some of its characters and plots. Also, the quotes in the clue suggest that the original, print version italicized manga, which I don’t think is necessary; it looks especially inapt with quotation marks.