Elizabeth Long’s New York Times crossword
The deporned movie adaptation of the porny and poorly written (or so I’m told) novel Fifty Shades of Grey came out this month, and here’s a [Shades of Grey?] theme. Three famous people who share that last name have their first name paired with a synonym of “shades”:
- 20a. [Shades of Grey?], EARL’S SUNGLASSES. Okay, so his name isn’t Earl, that’s his hereditary title.
- 36a. [Shades of Grey?], LADY JANE’S BLINDS. Okay, so Lady Jane combines a title with a first name.
- 52a. [Shades of Grey?], ZANE’S LAMP COVERS. His real first name was Pearl! Which is great because pearl grey is a color. “LAMP COVERS,” however, is awkward as hell.
I am generally not fond of themes where the same thing clues a bunch of phrases that are not the sort of thing that would typically appear in a crossword. Letter-change themes are one thing, but anything-LAMP COVERS is in a whole different category.
Six more things:
- 38d. [Able to walk], AMBULANT. Dictionary says it’s a medical word but you know what word I wager doctors use a lot more often for this? Ambulatory.
- 8d. [Element between chromium and iron on the periodic table], MANGANESE. Looks like it should be the language spoken in manga comics, am I right? Apparently the word’s origin is an “unexplained alteration of medieval Latin magnesia.”
- Having BLASS on top of a LANCE makes me think of Lance Bass. Hey! If you say that five times fast, do you start saying “Lance Blass”?
- Having ENDUE beside UNDUE just makes ENDUE look even worse.
- 23a. [Resembling a quiche], PIE-LIKE. No! Really? This is a thing, this term?
- LENO’S ESSES YESES in the southeast corner makes me wonder if a pair of cheater squares would have perked up the fill in the SE and NW.
3.2 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “O No!”
Phrases in which both words end in an O lose those final O’s and get clued accordingly:
- 17a. [“AOL’s line was ‘You’ve Got Mail’,” for example?], IPS FACT. Urgh, I call AOL an ISP, internet service provider. There are IP addresses, internet protocol. Is this IPS or IP’S?
- 25a. [Music show all about the sun?], SOL CONCERT.
- 38a. [Money stashed away for big-time sport fishermen?], BASS PRO FUND. Loved this one! My dad loved smallmouth bass fishing (catch and release) and always got the Bass Pro Shop catalog, so this riff on basso profundo amused me. (Added fish value with crossing COHO.)
- 55a. [Result of losing equipment during Woodland Frisbee?], DISC IN FERN. Anytime you can riff on “Disco Inferno” is fine by me … although the “in fern” phrasing is clunky.
- 65a. [Cookie Monster’s attempt at concealing his excessive munching?], HIDE NOM. The other themers played on words of Italian or Latin origin, but here we have Japanese ballplayer Hideo Nomo for the steal. I like it.
Overall I give the theme an 87. (Should I randomize the scales I use for rating puzzles? I say yes.)
Likes: GRAB BAG, PHOENIX, tasty PEPITA and FRESCA, ALFA ROMEO in the grid instead of just ALFA, and SCHEER, 47d. [Paul of “Fresh Off the Boat”] (he plays the white guy who works at the dad’s restaurant), just because I once saw a live comedy performance by Jack McBrayer and Paul Scheer and those two were hilarious.
Dislikes: LEB, SFO, OTO-, AS A, REA, PDA, AFT, GAI, RINSO, ACU-. Would you trade away the interesting longer fill to cut back on the short blah stuff? Sometimes I would.
3.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 195), “Swap Meet”—Janie’s review
Aah—a most amusing puzzle in homage to the Reverend Spooner—he of the sounds transposed at the beginning of words that are nearby and in the same phrase, producing humorous reconfigurations (and, sometimes, embarrassment). Liz gives us four examples today, all of which follow the pattern “X of Y.” Let’s meet the swapped (and the base) phrases.
- 16A. [Pizza shortage?] LACK OF PIES, from pack of lies. Pretty cute. And from the moment I’d solved it, I was onto—and into— the game.
- 28A. [Ratios calculated by “Transparent” actress Judith?] SINES OF LIGHT, from lines of sight. Now the base phrase is something I probably learned in physics class—but retention of what I learned there was never my strong suit… My background is in theatre, where we’re more likely to use the term sight lines—when discussing a theatre’s seating configuration vis-à-vis the on-stage blocking, say. As for Transparent, well, haven’t seen it, but from what I know of it: “Pretty amazin’, Amazon!”
- 46A. [Test score for fashion designer Bill?] GRADE OF BLASS, from blade of grass. Check out the cagey way Blass’s deep-rooted creativity was harnessed during World War II.
- 62A. [Asian holiday for retired racehorses?] TET OF SIRES, from set of tires…
Now, while I caught onto the theme early on, by no means did I find this to be an “easy” puzzle. Not when I messed myself up so much by entering, oh, YAK for YAP and then TACKLE for the crossing TOPPLE; or AID TO instead of USE TO for [Be of ___ (assist)]. And while I knew of Harlem’s Red Rooster, I was in no way aware of its co-creator Marcus Samuelsson or his memoir YES, CHEF—so I was also uncertain whether the first letter would be a Y or an M. It takes the former—for the crossing THEY—but, as clued, [Those folks], it coulda been THEM… Hard to tell from the clue whether we’re lookin’ for a subject or object pronoun here.
Also not easy? IVO Andric, that Nobelist in Literature in 1961. Even scanning the Wiki article did nothing to jar any memory of the man, who died in 1975. This looks to be one of those names that a constructor may have to fall back on when her/his options for filling a tight spot in the grid are limited. It happens. On the topic of literature, I did READ Don DeLillo’s 1985 post-modern novel, however, so at least I grasped the meaning of [Enjoy “White Noise”] quickly enough.
Happy to say that there’s a lot of outstanding fill in this grid, so let me acknowledge how much pleasure I took in filling it in with the likes of: ALPHA GEEK (!), PITA BREAD, EASE OFF, LOBSTER, LEMONY, TOPPLE, ASCRIBE, and the ex-post-Award-Season AIR KISS. Looooove that last one! And we get some tricky/smart cluing with: the non-accessory type of [Beads seen in a sauna] for SWEAT; the punny [Cover of knight?] (not “night”…) for ARMOR, and the literal, non-negotiation use of [Counter offers?] for SALES; and the playful, tone-setting [Tech-savvy leader of the pack] for ALPHA GEEK and [Smooch that doesn’t leave a lipstick mark] for AIR KISS.
And with that, folks: **muah**—and see you next week!
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Here’s a theme for you foodies:
- 18a. [Single proprietor], SOLE OWNER.
- 20a. [The Old Spaghetti Factory alternative], OLIVE GARDEN.
- 38a. [Self-defense option], PEPPER SPRAY.
- 57a. [Fragrant bloomer with typically pink flowers], CABBAGE ROSE.
- 61a. [Comment after a feast … or what the first word of 18-, 20-, 38- and 57-Across would sometimes say–if it could talk], I’M STUFFED. You can find recipes for stuffed sole, cabbage, and peppers, and you can cram a pimento in an olive if you’re into that sort of thing.
Five more things:
- 40a. [Emphatic military reply], “SIR, NO, SIR.” That sir sandwich is stuffed, too.
- 10d. [Cash for fun], PIN MONEY. A quaint older term. I wanted MAD MONEY.
- 28d. [“Burnt” crayon color], SIENNA. In two puzzles today!
- 19d. [Artist with the website imaginepeace.com], ONO. I meant to mention that I was glad Yoko didn’t appear in the Jonesin’ “O No!” puzzle. Here she is!
- ENER and ARA are no fun. Mostly the fill is solid Tuesday-grade stuff, though.
3.7 stars from me.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Departure Time”—Ade’s write-up
Hey there, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, presented to us by Mr. Raymond Hamel, involves common phrases in which the first word(s) are all synonyms that mean to depart. The answers serve as puns for the clues/questions that accompany the entries.
- EXIT STAGE RIGHT (20A: [Depart like an actor?])
- LEAVE EM’ LAUGHING (40A: [Depart like a comic?])
- GO OUT WITH A BANG (55A: [Depart like a gunslinger?])
First thing I noticed about the completed grid was the doubled-up entries going down the line on the left side, TOM TOM (5D: [“______ the piper’s son…”]) and ETC ETC (41D: [And others too numerous to mention]). Oh, and then there’s the intersection of ON ME (57D: [“You can count ____”]) and AH, ME (66A: [Wistful words]). Initially thought something dinner/food related when first reading the clue for SLEEP (25D: [Prayer follower, sometimes]). Loved the fill of CENTER ICE, and not just because I’m a hockey fan (18A: [Rink region]). There were a few proper nouns/names that dotted the grid that people might not be familiar with, including SARA (6A: [“Brave” singer Bareilles]), MELBA (24D: [Opera star Nellie]) and PABLO (14A: [Nobel -winning poet Neruda]). Was familiar with Pablo, semi-familiar with Melba because of crosswords past. Oh, and let’s welcome our old friend UIES back into a crossword once again (58D: [One-eighties]). We’ve missed you…well, maybe not.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: VIOLA (52D: [Chamber music instrument]) – Frank VIOLA (pronounced VIE-ola) was one of the more dominant Major League Baseball pitchers in the ’80s and early ’90s, known for his time with the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets. As a Twin, Viola, a Long Island native, was a key member on the 1987 World Series champions, winning Game 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals (Viola won World Series MVP). Viola won the American League Cy Young Award the following season, in 1988.
See you all on Hump Day!
Andrew Ries’s American Values Club contest crossword, “Double-Headers”
BY GUM, it’s a contest crossword! There wasn’t much to go on from the e-mail, so I just went ahead and solved the puzzle without thinking too hard about what the meta might be. Luckily, Andrew Ries gave us instructions in one of the clues:
- 54a, FALSE START [Athletic infraction … or what occurs at the beginning of this puzzle’s four theme answers, both across and down].
This gives us some indication that we’re looking for four entries whose beginnings are strange in some way. We’re not explicitly told which four answers are theme answers, but it’s usually a good bet that the answer symmetrical to the revealer is a theme answer. That’s where I checked first, both across and down:
- 18a, SELECTIONS [Results of voting].
- 18d, SALE [Happy hour enticement].
As it happens, you can get rid of the S at the start of both SELECTIONS and SALE and still have valid entries:
- 18a, (S)ELECTIONS [Results of voting].
- 18d, (S)ALE [Happy hour enticement].
And so it goes for three other pairs of entries in the grid:
- 23a, (H)AIRBALL [It’s heaved up and the results aren’t pretty] / 23d, (H)EDGE [Do some landscaping work].
- 36a, (A)STEROID [Scientific object poorly understood until the 20th century] / 36d, (A)EON [A very, very long time].
- 50a, (M)ARIETTA [One featured in a Victor Herbert work] (Herbert composed an operetta called “Naughty Marietta,” which in fact features ariettas) / (M)ORAL [Fabulous finish, of a sort]. A MORAL ends a fable, and I can only assume that “Fabulous finish” is a tongue-in-cheek synonym for “happy ending” vis-a-vis ORAL.
Taking those four eliminable letters in order results in the word SHAM, which has some relation to falsety and which (I hope) is the contest answer.
I know I’ve seen very similar Schrödinger-style gimmicks before, but this one is very well executed. Major degree of difficulty points for having (S)ALE cross (H)AIRBALL, and (M)ORAL cross FALSE START! And, as always, lovely cluing across the board. This meta put up no resistance for me, but I tend to either see metas immediately or not at all, so I’ll be interested to see how difficult it was more generally.
4.75 stars from me. (Did I miss anything?)