Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Good flow through the center diagonal swath of the puzzle, but those NE and SE corners are fairly cut off from the rest of the party. I got through the NE okay, thanks to correctly guessing just off the K that the [“Stovepipe” of W.W. II] would be a BAZOOKA. Two K’s in DICK CLARK reminded me that Barry likes to go Scrabbly, and a Z/K word is right up his alley.
I know what you’re thinking. “What on earth is a TITFER?”, right? The clue—49d. [Bit of headwear, in British lingo]—doesn’t really help me at all. To the dictionary! “Brit. informal, a hat. Abbreviation of rhyming slang tit for tat.” Good lord, is it a Cockney thing?
Hits: The PANAMA HAT/IRON CROSS/GETS A GRIP stack is solid, though I didn’t know the 15a. [Classic symbol of rebellion] bit for IRON CROSS. TOPAZ is a cool stone of many colors. DICK CLARK, PHOTOBOMB, the weird FRYOLATOR, a set of PIGLETS, a REPO MAN, BLU-RAY, and that BAZOOKA.
Misses: ABAFT and ALERO are pretty snoozy, and there are about eight abbreviations. PART B, NONS…
- 16a. [“Bluebeard’s Castle,” e.g.], OPERA. Sounded more like an ’80s video game to me, but I gambled on OPERA. For those who were stuck in that section, 53a. [“Bluebeard’s Castle” librettist Balázs], BELA, provided a little hint.
- 6d. [City that rivaled ancient Sparta], ARGOS. My classics education was spotty so I leaned on the crossings here.
- 39d. [Some cookies], SPYWARE. Have you got a good recipe for those?
- 40d. [Holder of many a diorama], SHOEBOX. Yes! Just threw one out in the 40 Bags in 40 Days purge that’s going on here.
- 41d. [Musical embellishment], ROULADE. That’s a musical term? Here, have a recipe for food.
3.8 stars from me.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Second Silk of the day, and this one was tougher. There are some zippy entries in there, but also some snoozy noun phrases—that ANVIL BLOCK ([Metal-bending aid]) delivered me to SPONGE BATH, BOX CAMERA, and IN-HOME CARE. ANVIL BLOCK! Is that just a redundant synonym for anvil, which has “block” in its definition? It’s not a term I’d seen before, and not one that I feel is enhancing my life to know.
I did like seeing ON THE MONEY, ZAGREB, TENTACLES (Did you know an octopus has a “mating arm”? True story. “The male will extend his arm as long as he can and try to accomplish the copulation from as far away as he can,” in some species; in others, the mating arm is detachable), Tippi HEDREN (grandmother of Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades star), MOCK-UP, DOUBLE CLICK, and Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN.
The puzzle’s got a lot of proper nouns—people, brand names, titles. If you don’t know things like Garibaldi’s wife ANITA (huh?), dated YAKOV Smirnoff and CLEO Laine, and Thomas ARNE clued atypically as [“A-Hunting We Will Go” songwriter], this puzzle may have felt like a bit of a slog. Plural SALLYS, oh my!
- 22a. [Battery, e.g.], TORT. When I solved this puzzle last night, I was utterly lost on this one. Now it’s obvious: assault and battery, that sort of battery.
- 35a. [__ Raven: Baltimore neighborhood], LOCH. Does Bawlmer have a lot of Scottish place names or something?
- 56a. [What “D” may mean, monetarily], DENVER MINT. Such as on a coin.
- 4d. [Bk. about the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls], NEH. May I just say that abbreviated books of the Bible are one of my long-time unfavoritest types of fill? YMMV.
- 9d. [Marne modifier], TRES. This top stack took me a while to assemble, and this clue wasn’t helping. Marne is a French city, but “modifier” is awfully vague.
- 27d. [Barking horse relative], ZEBRA. I read this as “relative of a barking horse” and wondered what a barking horse is. [Barking relative of a horse] would have been a skosh clearer.
- 41d. [Charged], HAD AT. What? No. Crosswords have taught us that it’s always RAN AT. “Have at it” is familiar, but HAD AT just feels like too much of a stretch. COAXED INTO isn’t sparkly enough to make that corner worthwhile. DONA, ACT I, -THON, ENOCH? Meh.
3.33 stars from me.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Strike Up the Band”—Ade’s write-up
Hey everybody! Hope your weekend is getting off to a good start. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, involves multiple-word terms in which the first word also happens to be a synonym to the word “strike,” and all of the entries have a musical tie. Also, the word “strike” is something I rarely have achieved at the bowling alley in all of my experiences at the lanes!
- HIT PARADE (17A: [Top 40 tunes]) – Sorry. I don’t listen to a lot of Top 40 music these days.
- RAP GROUP (25A: [Wu-Tang Clan or A Tribe Called Quest]) Now these two rap groups, I definitely have listened to. “I left my wallet in El, Segundo, left my wallet in El Segundo…I gotta get, I got, got to get it!” (Kudos to those who are familiar with those lyrics, as well as the song.)
- BEAT BOX (48A: [Rhythmic accompaniment in some a capella bands]) Another music artist I’ve listened to over the years: Doug E. Fresh, a.k.a. The Human Beat Box.
- KICK DRUM (62A: [Instrument played with the foot])
- CLUB MUSIC (62A: [Stuff played at the disco])
Again, my lack of seafood eating definitely won’t come in handy if and when I ever go to RED LOBSTER (11D: [Chain with the slogan “Sea Food Differently”]). My mother is all about going to Red Lobster one of these days, so I’ll have to take her…and hope that they serve steak! Also liked the entry symmetrical to Red Lobster, COSMIC DUST (29D: [Fine filler of space]). Once again, we get to play one of our favorite games while doing crosswords, “Which Jessica are you?,” and, for today, ALBA is the winner (23A: [Actress Jessica of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For]). You’ll just have to wait until next time, Jessica Biel. I’m not sure if I ever talked about the late IRABU at length in the sports section or not (12D: [Former Yankee pitcher Hideki]). Even if I have, it’s never a bad time to mention one of the best “nicknames” in sports history, the name that former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave Irabu after not covering first base during an preseason game: “Fat, p**** toad.” In the end, it was sad to hear a few years back that he had passed away at 42.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SKATER (47D: [Evgeni Plushenko or Elvis Stojko]) – These two aren’t just SKATERs, but very successful ones at that. Plushenko won the gold medal in the singles competition in Torino in 2006 and won silver in the 2002 and 2010 Olympics, representing Russia Stojko, whose parents named him Elvis because they were fans of the singer, won silver in the singles competition in both the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer and the 1998 Olympics in Nagano representing Canada.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge.