Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, “The Call Of The Race”
This theme feels a little Reaglesque, as the theme answers fill in the blanks in a story with phrases that relate to horse racing, with apt fake (?) horse names in the clues:
22a. [“And they’re off! Ace Detective has the EARLY LEAD!”] 28a. [“Looks like Setting Sun is FADING FAST!”] 35a. [“It’s Pariah ON THE OUTSIDE!”] 56a. [“Chiropractor heads into the BACK STRETCH!”] 64a. [“Here’s where Mississippi Delta often GAINS GROUND!”] 75a. [“Now Carrier Pigeon takes the TURN FOR HOME!”] 95a. [“But wait! Amex Card MAKES A CHARGE!”] 101a. [“Almost there, and E Pluribus Unum will be IN THE MONEY!”] 114a. [“But the winner is … Inseam BY A LENGTH!”]
It works, it’s cute. But horse racing makes me sad, because it can be so brutal to the animals. The puzzle’s timely, scheduled the day after the Belmont Stakes, when American Pharoah was to vie for the Triple Crown. At this writing, the horses have not yet run but are on the track. (Mid-blogging update: Horse won the Triple Crown.) Poor things. “On average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America. Many are inexpensive horses racing with little regulatory protection in pursuit of bigger and bigger prizes. These deaths often go unexamined, the bodies shipped to rendering plants and landfills rather than to pathologists who might have discovered why the horses broke down.” (New York Times, 3/25/12)
Seven more things:
- 20a. [Band member with a long neck], GUITAR. I don’t think of instruments as being “members” of a band.
- 26a. [Dennis who fronted the 1960s-’70s Classics IV], YOST. Needed all the crossings, have zero idea what “Classics IV” refers to. God help the solver who doesn’t know ISAO Aoki or Dennis YOST, because they’ll be screwed on that O.
- 48a. [Sleep: Prefix], SOMNI-. Raise your hand if you tried HYPNO- first. (HYPNO- is far more common in sleep medicine circles.) SOMNI crossing OISE, ugh.
- 60a. [N.Z. neighbor], AUST. Using the term “neighbor” loosely, as neither country shares a land border with another country.
- 104a. [River islands], AITS crossing 85d. [Ollie’s partner on old children’s TV], KUKLA. If you’re under age 45 and you don’t know your crosswordese generic islands, you’re in trouble here too.
- 41d. [Suit in a Spanish card deck], OROS. Really? Did not know that.
- The Downs include the best fill here. There are two 16s (!), ONE AFTER THE OTHER and TEMPORARY TATTOOS, plus Dirty Harry CALLAHAN, DYSLEXICS, “OYE COMO VA,” DUTCH OVEN, and TRENCHANT.
The tradeoff for the colorful long Down fill astride nine theme answers is that a good bit of the shorter fill felt blah to me. I don’t expect much Scowl-o-Meter action in a puzzle from Sam (who is hilarious), but I found myself frowning at things way too much. 3.4 stars from me.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Computer Glossary”—Andy’s review
This one looked awfully familiar to me. Didn’t C.C. just have an LAT Sunday with this theme?
Sort of. Her 3/22/15 puzzle, titled “Course Catalog,” took golf-related clues and gave them non-golf-related theme answers. This time, we get computer-related clues (in all caps) with non-computer-related theme answers. You heard it here first, folks: I’m predicting a baseball-themed puzzle just like this from C.C. in late September.
- 23a, TRENDY BAR [HOT SPOT].
- 25a, HIDDEN TROVE [CACHE].
- 38a, CANNED MEAT [SPAM].
- 59a, FLU CAUSE [VIRUS].
- 74a, AMATEUR GOLFER [HACKER].
- 91a, BIRD CALL [TWEET].
- 103a, SCRATCH PAD [TABLET].
- 123a, FISHING SPOT [STREAM].
- 126a, LAB ANIMAL [MOUSE].
Last time I called the theme “solid (if unexciting).” Now that I’ve essentially seen it before, I’m gonna call it unexciting (if solid). There were a bunch of long, down, non-theme entries that were kind of exciting, including:
- 4d, GUN CONTROL [Controversial public safety issue]. Some might be more apt to characterize it as a “deprivation of 2nd Amendment liberties” issue, but I suppose therein lies the “controversy” described in the clue.
- 15d, TURNED TAIL [Beat a hasty retreat]. Lovely phrase.
- 40d, NO-BRAINERS [Obvious choices]. Ditto.
- 50d, BUMPER CROP [Farm abundance]. Double ditto.
- 79d, ANDY WARHOL [Interview magazine co-founder]; and 82d, EMO PHILIPS [Falsetto-voiced comedian]. Hard to find a kookier pair of people. Really fun to see both full names in the grid.
Also, notably fun clue: 104d, CHILI’S [“I want my baby back” chain]. If you don’t know what this is all about, then do I have 15 seconds of moderate fun for you!
Seems only fair to give this the same star rating as last time, except this long fill is better than last time, and there’s no SGT. STAR this time! So we can bump it up a bit.
3.5 stars. Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Wedding No-Shows”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Coincidentally, both hurricane season and wedding season are now upon us. This week’s puzzle pays homage to the latter, by removing one letter from nine expressions associated with weddings for wacky effect. To help, the removed letter from each expression is indicated in parentheses following the clue
Here are the nine theme entries:
- “The bridesmaid” loses the last “i” to become THE BRIDE’S MAD, clued as [Not-so-good news for a groom? (I)]. Hmm. “Bridesmaid” can stand by itself as a noun–it doesn’t need an article like “the” in front of it to make it work. Methinks the “the” is there for comedic effect with the theme answer (THE BRIDE’S MAD plays better than just BRIDE’S MAD) and/or for symmetry with the final theme answer.
- Why “throw rice” when you can THROW ICE, [What Eskimos do at weddings? (R)].
- The “brother-in-law” becomes a BOTHER-IN-LAW, a possible [Nickname for an annoying new relative? (R)].
- A “flower arrangement” is trimmed to a LOWER ARRANGEMENT, [What a deep-voiced wedding singer might need? (F)].
- “Your lawful wedded wife,” a phrase containing both misogyny and poor grammar that I doubt has never really been uttered (compared to, say, “lawfully wedded wife”), becomes YOUR AWFUL WEDDED WIFE, a [Priest’s slip of the tongue about the bride? (L)]. You can tell from my tone I didn’t like the theme answer, and a clue that repeats both a word used in another theme entry and the word that’s played upon in yet another theme entry (“bride”) doesn’t help matters.
- “Here comes the bride” (See? “Bride” again!) changes to HERE COMES THE BRIE, or [What to say when the cheese finally arrives? (D)].
- Here’s my favorite one of the bunch: [What German newlyweds do? (O)] is not “exchange vows” but EXCHANGE VWS. Clever!
- The “dance band” from some wedding receptions turns into DANCE BAD, clued as [Be lousy at the foxtrot? (N)].
- Finally, “a lovely couple” transforms into A LOVELY COUPE, [What newlyweds might drive away in? (L)].
I’m not sure why the clue to each theme entry tells us the letter that’s dropped. It’s not like we couldn’t figure out the “no-show” letter without the hint, or that the base phrase from which the letter is removed is somehow a mystery. It would have made more sense if the omitted letters spelled or anagrammed into a wedding-related word or phrase (RILL FROND is the best I can do), but that does not appear to be the case. Overall, then, I like the theme concept, but the execution has me scratching my head.
Time now for this week’s list of the hardest entries in the grid. For the first time since this gimmick debuted, the list consists entirely of proper names (though SETAE, the [Botannical bristles], nearly made the cut). Four of the five happen to be women, so it’s Ladies Night in the Hard Entry Countdown:
- 5. [Singer Jenny] LIND, says Wikipedia, was “a Swedish opera singer, often known as the ‘Swedish Nightingale.'” Don’t sweat it if you don’t remember her; her career peaked from 1838 – 1850 and she retired at age 29.
- 4. [Actress Felicia] FARR was the second spouse of actor Jack Lemmon. From what I can see, she is not related to Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H.
- 3. Crashing the party is [“Return to Him” singer] Bobby VEE. He appeared on stage after Henry Yu and before Henry’s twin, the Double-Yu.
- 2. ROWENA is [Ivanhoe’s love]. Do you think more people name their baby daughters Rowena or their baby sons Ivanhoe? Turns out it’s not even a contest. One website cites SSA data to show that only 15 boys have been named Ivanhoe…since 1982! Rowena, on the other hand, was the given name for 14 babies in 2014 alone (605 total since 1982).
- 1. WEENA is a [Girl in “The Time Machine”]. By the year 802701, Weena will be a popular name for girls.
Favorite entry = SLANGUAGE, the [Hybrid term for a colorful vocabulary]. Favorite clue = [First name in shoes?] for IMELDA Marcos.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Import-ant” — pannonica’s write-up
A bunch of punned phrases, springboarding from adjectival demonyms. Where the clue is specific—for instance, mentioning a locality within a country rather than a continent where a country is situated—a big part of the the answer is a potential gimme, depending on the solver’s geographical facility.
- 18a. [South American servicewomen?] BRAZILIAN WACS (… wax).
- 21a. [Rhineland rockets?] GERMAN MISSILES (… measles).
- 67a. [Guzzlers from Guangzhou?] CHINESE CHUGGERS (… checkers).
- 120a. [Small flock from Bogota?] COLOMBIAN COVEY (… coffee).
- 124a. [Hitchhiker from Mumbai?] INDIAN THUMBER (… summer). Oddest one out, as all the other phrases are ostensibly based on the nation in question. Here it stems from Native Americans rather than the Asian subcontinent. Admittedly that’s a misnomer referring back to the “proper” place, but it requires an intervening step.
- 15d. [Curly do, in Calais?] FRENCH FRIZ (… fries). Var., thar. (See also, 116d).
- 20d. [Lighthouse north of the border?] CANADIAN BEACON (… bacon).
- 42d. [Riddle in Istanbul?] TURKISH TOUGHIE (… taffy).
- 73d. [Online post from Ede?] DUTCH TWEET (… treat).
Not particularly impressed by any of these, alas. Even the puzzle’s title seems slight, playing on “import” as in importation. And why then do a couple of the clues utilize in rather than from or a geographical adjective?
- 47d [“Ferd’nand” cartoonist] MIK, 93d [Serbian city] NIS, 5d [Old-movie pooch, familiarly] RINTY (for Rin-Tin-Tin), 40d [Campanian language] OSCAN, 96a [In the (Italian)] NEL, 53d [Word to a dentist?] AAAH, 107d [River of Hesse] FULDA. Wow. Wowww.
- Folks skewing old: 1d [Big Band singer Bob] EBERLY, 106d [Presnell of “Paint Your Wagon”] HARVE, 92a [She linked Eugene to Charlie] OONA. Not to say that there aren’t more contemporary personages here, but still.
- 38a [Bill Maher’s employer] HBO, 107a [Cable-guide abbr.] FAM. 69d [Historic periods] ERAS, 125a [History-class info] DATES.
- Favorite entry, right down the center: 45d [Lucy’s fee for psychiatric advice] FIVE CENTS.
- 37d [Platform] ROSTRUM. The original, in the ancient Roman Forum, was adorned with the beaks of captured ships, whence the name. Anatomically, it refers to a structure resembling a bird’s bill. Think swordfish and sawfish, think lobsters, insects. Though I don’t see it mentioned in all dictionaries, it can also be applied to vertebrates in general (as in my experience), for snouts. Further, as the adjective rostral it complements caudal (“of the tail”) as a relative term of location. A similar pairing is anterior and posterior. Don’t get me started on kooky, anomalous human terms.
- 84a [Use jumper cables] RECHARGE. Um, no. Even I know this.
- CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) too high. Just look around the grid and in the clues.
- 114d [ACPT pronouncement] DONE. Cute, but will it prove too obscure for typical solvers?
Underwhelming puzzle today.
Patrick Blindauer’s June website crossword, “Eat Your Peas” — Matt’s review
Only phantom P’s in this grid; their clues reflect their existence, but then in the grid they’re removed, leaving cluable entries in their wake.
The two longest ones are 17-A [Careful thought ahead of time] = RECONSIDERATION (instead of preconsideration) and 67-A [Something settled in advance] = REDETERMINATION (instead of predetermination).
The best ones tend to be missing two P’s, like 42-A [Stamp collectors?] for ASSORTS (that is, “passports) and 58-A [Warm-up track circuit] = ACELA (“pace lap”).
Overall I found the solve to be on the sloggy side. The clever ones were fun to figure out, but the two grid-spanners mentioned above were dull (just (p)re + long, common words) and the short ones were tricky but not always fun. Plus I missed two letters and had to guess at another one because the cluing was tough all around; maybe on a grid like this the constructor could ease up a bit to facilitate the solve. Like I still don’t know who SEED or SPEED is at 49-A, who TRE is at 45-A, or what the letter is I missed in box 55. Love some tough Blindauer clues, but a few fewer on a theme like this would’ve helped.
Also, the resulting P-less words are always cluable, but not always pretty. Like OODLE, SETA, AER, ARON, TYES, and DES (from “deps). And I’m not sure why some that could have been clued with a P weren’t, like SIT OUT which could’ve been SPIT OUT, or ETES could’ve been PETE’S, or ARIL could’ve been APRIL.
***Most elegant P-less transitions: DIMPLY –> DIMLY, MOON PIE –> MOONIE, and double-barreled APPRISE –> ARISE.
***Did Cousin ITT co-star with Bruce Willis in “Twelve Monkeys”? No, it was Brad PITT.
***Party foul with EXILE at 34-D and then in the clue for 38-A. If it’s a common word then so what, but an uncommon one with an X like this it’s better to avoid.
Not my favorite Blindauer, which is like “Yellow Submarine” isn’t my favorite Beatles album. 3.40 stars.
Patrick Jordan’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Hope all are having a pretty good Sunday so far, and enjoying the amazing weather…well, at least if you’re in the New York City area. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Mr. Patrick Jordan provided us with today’s Sunday Challenge, and I was able to do it in one of the fastest times I’ve ever done a Sunday Challenge. For some people reading that, that might mean it wasn’t too much of a meat grinder. But it was fun, and, if anything, having to spell out ZOOEY DESCHANEL had to have been a workout (20A: [“Almost Famous” actress]). Wasn’t familiar with the cast of the movie, but once I saw the “OO” and knew a female was the answer, it was a gimme, even the spelling of her last name. Does anyone have an issue with ESS (13D: [Gender-identifying suffix]) being in the grid, given that there’s another answer that already has that same suffix in its answer, SORCERESS (33D: [Spelling expert])? I didn’t have too much of a problem with it, although I did a double take when putting in “ESS,” given that I had first answered ‘sorceress’ and initially balked at putting in the suffix-only entry. I always like seeing TARPAULIN spelled out, as I think that’s a word that could easily be misspelled if you’re only used to hearing its abbreviation, tarp, over and over (41A: [Ground crew’s rollout]). Ever since I learned about atmospheric layers in elementary school, I always remembered the names of the different layers, so seeing one of them referenced in the clue to LOWERMOST was pretty cool (6D: [Like the troposphere, among atmospheric layers]). That, and it’s an excuse to say the word ionosphere right now. Just because.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SE-RI (49A: [Pak in the World Golf Hall of Fame])– Why is Korean golfer SE-RI Pak, one of the great rivals of fellow golfing great Annika Sorenstam, in the Hall of Fame? Because Pak won five LPGA major championships, including three Women’s PGA Championships. In 1998, she won two major titles and was named the 1998 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. Pam was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everyone!