Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “Non-Starters”
Familiar phrases lose their first letter and get clued accordingly:
- 23a. [Arctic hideaway?], A NOOK OF THE NORTH. Nanook.
- 34a. [Neck-stretching yoga position?], EAR TO ONE’S HEART. Near? Dear? Oh! The other ones all lose an N, so it has to be “near to one’s heart.”
- 45a. [Big win for a prominent TV financial adviser?], ORMAN CONQUEST. Suze Orman meets the Norman Conquest. This one tipped me off to the theme.
- 65a. [Like makers of one-way street signs?], ARROW-MINDED. Narrow.
- 85a. [Environmentalists’ concern in northern France?], OISE POLLUTION. Noise meets a crosswordese river/department of Europe.
- 96a. [Igloo, e.g.?], ICE PIECE OF WORK. Nice. Awkward resulting phrase.
- 111a. [One sending money from France or Germany?], EUROTRANSMITTER. Neuro-.
Six more things:
- 18a. [New York Giants founder who’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame], TIM MARA. Related to Wellington Mara, I’m guessing? Never heard of TIM MARA, and didn’t know if I was piecing together a surname or a full name here.
- 51a. [Where Bill and Hillary Clinton met, briefly], YALE U. Does anyone call it that?
- 115a. [Winter vehicle], SNOWCAT. Knew there was a brand-name Sno-Cat but not the generic snowcat.
- 11d. [Herr’s heirs?], SOHNE. That’s German for “sons,” not common crossword fill. What, the Töchter can’t be heirs?
- 66d. [Island that may have an apostrophe in its name], OAHU. Sure, if you want to present the word incorrectly. The okina, or Hawaiian glottal stop, is represented by pretty much the reverse of an apostrophe.
- 83d. [Hessian river], EDER. “Hessian”! Yeah, that helps.
Solved with a headache, so there’s a good chance the puzzle isn’t as comparatively tough as my solving time suggests. Didn’t particularly enjoy the crossword—is that the puzzle’s fault or the headache’s? 3.5 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Foreign Expressions for Dogs”–Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s theme makes canine puns out of foreign terms. If you know your languages and your dogs, this one was probably a breeze. Otherwise, it was pretty ruff. Let’s unleash the theme entries, shall we? Warning: some of the puns are a little far-fetched:
- “Mazel tov” becomes MUZZLE TOV, clued as [“Good luck keeping your dog from biting”?].
- The [Comment when giving ribs to a dog?] is BONE APPETIT, a play on “bon appetit.”
- “Feliz Navidad” is re-purposed into FLEAS NAVIDAD, the [Infestation that occurs only during holidays?].
- Something [Strictly prohibited, as shaving a dog?], is FURBOTEN, a play on “verboten.”
- The French Riviera, or the Cote d’Azur, turns into COAT D’AZUR, or [Bluish hair on dogs?].
- “Se habla espanol” becomes SE HABLA E-SPANIEL, or [“We speak your dog’s language”?]. Note that’s not any Spaniel but an E-Spaniel, one available exclusively online. At least this isn’t the only theme entry that contains an extra letter in the dog pun….
- We also have ET SETTER-A, a play on “et cetera” clued as [“And other hunting dogs too numerous to mention”?].
- My dictionary defines “schmutz” as “dirt; filth; garbage.” That’s why SCHMUTTS is clued as [Dirt tracked in by dogs?].
- A foreign love affair, or “affaire de coeur,” becomes AFFAIRE DE CUR, or [A Lady-and-the-Tramp type of relationship?].
- “A fait accompli,” meaning an action that cannot be undone, becomes FED ACCOMPLI, or [“The dog is no longer hungry”?]. Meh, “fed” isn’t a uniquely canine term, but I suppose the same can be said for “fur’ and “coat.”
- A fictional “nom de guerre” turns into a NOM DE GRRR, clued as [Any moniker like Spike or Bruiser, indicating a dog that shouldn’t be messed with?].
- Finally, the “pas de deux” from dance becomes a PAW DE DEUX, a [Trick in which a dog dances on two legs?]
That’s twelve(!) theme entries ranging from 8 to 15 letters in length. You can’t say this puzzle is all bark and no bite. Given the theme density, the open corners in the northeast and southwest are an added treat. I liked GIZMO, ONE PINT, MA AND PA, THE OMEN, ‘TIL NOW, HERE ‘TIS, and even the partial IT GLOWS ([What Rudolph’s nose does, according to the song]).
Did you notice all the dog-related fill and clues? ROVER, [Pluto and others] as the clue for GODS, In A CIRCLE clued as [How dogs may chase their tails], and [Canine, or canine part] for FANG? Too bad the clue for YOGA didn’t reference a “downward dog.”
Time for this week’s countdown of the trickiest entries in the puzzle. How does your list compare?
- 5. BOFA looks weird, but when you parse it as B OF A, you realize it stands for Bank of America, a [Major wealth mgmt. corp.].
- 4. As I wrote in PAUL for the answer to [Indiana’s De___ University], I thought, Huh, I thought DePaul was in Chicago. Should have listened to myself, because the answer is DePAUW. DePauw is in the same league with DeSiss and DeBoom.
- 3. It sound like the start of a limerick, but it’s true: There once was a [Director Vittorio De] SICA. He won two Best Foreign Film Oscars and honorary Oscars for two other films, so I suppose he’s not too obscure. But I’ll bet some solvers struggled with his name.
- 2. We have a crossing at 53-Down and 79-Across (hi, mickey!) that gives us the top two spots on our list. First is [“Love Me or Leave Me” singer Ruth] ETTING. I’m betting many don’t know Etting.
- 1. And then there’s EALING, the [British studio that made “The Lavender Hill Mob”]. In fairness, The Ladykillers is probably its better-known film, especially after the 2004 remake. Ealing and Etting? Looks like they’re both missing their initial Ps (or Ss).
Favorite entry = CHEM LAB, [Beaker setting, briefly]. Favorite clue = [Whitman sampler?] for POEM.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “From Beginning to End”—Andy’s review
I feel like I’ve seen this theme before, but I liked it just fine anyway. In this puzzle, Gail Grabowski takes words with prefixes, chops off the prefix, and moves it to the end to make a new two-word phrase. Hilarity ensued:
- 27a, STAR SUPER [Outstanding building manager?]. Superstar. Funny enough, MODEL SUPER works for this clue/theme as well.
- 29a, FINAL SEMI [Truck at the end of the convoy?]. Semifinal.
- 43a, STANDARD SUB [Ordinary hero?]. Substandard. I liked this clue. It’s tough to cleverly work in misdirection in wacky clues like these.
- 67a, SIGN COUNTER [One auditing highway department supplies?]. Countersign.
- 87a, CREATIVE PRO [Golfer with an array of trick shots?]. Procreative. Here are some golf trick shots for you to enjoy, by the Bryan Brothers of golf (not to be confused with the Bryan Brothers of tennis).
- 103a, GRADE DOWN [Rate goose feathers? ] Downgrade.
- 105a, FLUENT CON [Well-rehearsed swindle?]. Confluent. This one was my least favorite.
- 39d, LOGICAL BIO [Spock’s memoir?] A memoir and a bio(graphy) aren’t really the same thing, but I’m prepared to give it a pass.
- 47d, MASTER POST [Chess champion’s blog entry?] Postmaster.
Because the theme answers are all so short, there are more of them as usual. Plus, there’s more 6- to 8-letter fill holding up the rest of the puzzle, a lot of which I liked: OVERDONE, GET A JOB (probably originally clued as the Silhouettes song), EXIT RAMP, STOOD PAT, DEAR ME, PARTY BUS, and SCREW TOP.
Since the theme was fairly simple, it seemed to me like the entries were purposely underclued in this one (like in a Saturday Stumper) to ratchet up the difficulty a bit. Looking at the upper right corner, for example, the only toehold I had at first was [Composer Igor]. Maybe the cluing is a product of the fact that Gail Grabowski does a lot of the Newsday puzzles, whose cluing style tends to be like this.
The one crossing that I wasn’t totally certain of was MGB [’60s-’80s British sports car] crossing GORME [Lawrence’s partner]. I knew Eydie GORME was a person, though I wouldn’t have been able to say who her partner was without the prompt. I’ve probably seen MGB, but automotive acronyms/initialisms just tend not to stick in my brain.
I thought the theme was fine, if not awe-inspiring, and the fill was very, very good. 3.66 stars. Until next time!
Tony Orbach’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Welcome to the first Sunday in May, everyone! Hope all is well, and hope you enjoyed today’s Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach. I definitely did, even though I took longer to finish than I should have once I digested the completed puzzle. Was able to get BALDERDASH early, and that made the Northwest part of the grid fairly easy to fill in (17A: [“Hogwash!”]). After that, I thought about the board game of the same name. Have never played it. Love the trivia, of sorts, with the clue for MISQUOTED (36A: [Said “Play it again, Sam,” say]). I knew that line, without “again,” was in Casablanca, but had never made that link. Guess that’s because I don’t I ever remember using the line “Play it again, Sam” at any point in my life. We also see a reversal of a popular crossword entry, as we see METERMAID as fill instead of the more common fill referring to that, Rita (29D: [The Beatles’ Rita, for one]). I overthought the clue to LIP BALM, as I was thinking about poker and other sports for a long time before coming to my senses, as well as getting help from its crossings (47A: [Pot in a purse, perhaps]). Also in the Southwest portion of the grid, I put myself in a bind when I put in “ONE A” instead of ONE B (51A: [Ground floor apartment number, perhaps]). That clue sets up perfectly to put in “one a,”especially with that being such a go-to entry for crossword constructors. Getting ‘misquoted’ allowed me to see QUIBBLE, and that finally got me out of that one a/one b mess (37D: [Nitpick]). Oh, and who didn’t have an earworm creep inside their system with the clue to N SYNC (46D: [“Bye Bye Bye” band]). If you say that the tune isn’t in your head as you’re reading this, you’re lying!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ARTUR (39A: [Pianist Rubinstein])– Polish soccer player ARTUR Boruc is currently the goalkeeper for the English soccer team Bournemouth FC, which will be playing in the Barclays Premier League after winning the SkyBet Championship, the league below the Premier League in the British soccer hierarchy. Boruc has made 59 appearances for Poland in international play, and was the starting keeper for Poland during their campaigns in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the European Championships of 2008.
Have a good rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you tomorrow for a new week of crossword goodness!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Get Lucky”—Andy’s review
I had to do a double-take when I saw how long this puzzle took me. You might remember than last week’s CRooked crossword took me roughly 14 minutes. I did this one in under 4 minutes.
This puzzle has almost no long fill, yet it’s still only 140 words (and 87 blocks). The theme is extremely thin: “things relating to luck.” No hilarity ensued. To make up for that, the puzzle is jam-packed with theme material:
- 1a, FATE [Fortune]
- 5a, CHARM [Bringer of luck]
- 24a, FOUR LEAVES [Lucky clover feature]
- 26a, SERENDIPITY [Good luck]
- 45a, BREAK A LEG [“Good luck!”]
- 59a, DRAW [Luck of the ___]
- 78a, MIGHT [Will, with luck?]
- 89a, COIN [Lucky penny, for one]
- 91a, HORSESHOE [U-shaped 5-Across]
- 94a, WOE IS ME [“I’m so unlucky!”]
- 107a, KNOCK ON WOOD [Bring luck, in a way]
- 111a, RED LANTERN [Asian good luck symbol]
- 123a, JINX [Luck repellent?]
- 124a, SEVEN [Lucky number]
- 2d, ARE SO [“You ___ lucky!” (sore loser’s remark)]
- 10d, IFFY [Up to chance]
- 21d, RABBIT’S FOOT [Lucky talisman]
- 40d/62d, CROSSED/FINGERS [With 62-Down, made a good-luck sign]
- 60d, WISHING WELL [Luck-seeker’s place]
- 76d, KENO [Game of luck]
- 117d, WEE [Like a leprechaun]
I don’t know exactly how many of these were intended as thematic fill. There were a few other entries you could argue were also clued in such a way to try to link them to the theme [TIKI, BIJOU, NEWT, ALTAR], but you get the point.
I did not find this enjoyable. There was nothing for the solver to discover, no “aha moment.” Just, “look, another ‘lucky’ thing.” The one bright spot — and I’m assuming this was intentional — is that the four sections coming directly out of the center vaguely resemble a four-leaf clover. They’re also filled quite nicely.
2.75 stars. Until next time!