Roy Leban’s New York Times crossword
Oh, look. Another opening to link to this important NY Times article about the stunning number of race horses who die in this country (as of the reporting in 2012, it was 24 a day). Yes, the champion horses get more TLC than most, but they’re still being used by humans to make money, and they still risk being shot dead if they break a leg. I really wasn’t looking to have two horse racing crosswords in three days.
Nowhere in this puzzle is the Triple Crown mentioned, which seems like a bizarre oversight, especially for a Tuesday (!) puzzle. The theme clues are years in brackets, and then there are the names of five horses who “won” the Triple Crown: CITATION, SEATTLE SLEW, AMERICAN PHAROAH, SECRETARIAT, AFFIRMED. That set is the most recent five; there were three more Triple Crown wins in the ’40s. There’s also NEW YORK thrown in, as 22a. [Home of the Belmont Stakes]. Why on earth wasn’t that clue expanded to include “, the third of horse racing’s Triple Crown events”? Alternatively, it could have been dropped from the puzzle, since it’s opposite nonthematic KEROUAC in the grid.
Five more things:
- 33d. [Events for the police blotter], SHOOTINGS. Thanks for the reminder. Including both fatal and nonfatal shootings, Chicago has passed the 1,000 mark this year. They shoot horses, don’t they? Hey, maybe this was a secret bonus theme answer. Dead people, dead horses—crosswords are relaxing.
- 49a. [Sch. in Terre Haute, Ames or Pocatello], ISU. Indiana, Iowa, and Idaho State University. They should merge with 32d: III and be a tristate IIISU. Hey, doesn’t III duplicate the clue for ONES, [ 1 1 1] (which, ugh)?
- 65a. [88 or 98 of autodom], OLDS. “Autodom” is a word I have probably never used, and that you also have probably never used. If I saw it out of context, I might have guessed it was some BDSM lingo I didn’t know.
- 6d. [“Patriot Games” novelist], TOM CLANCY. Terrific entry.
- A smattering of Scowl-o-Meter entries popped into view, which draws extra scowls on a Monday or Tuesday. ESS, AAS, INGE, NEE clued only as [Formerly] with no hint that it has to do with naming.
2.5 stars of irritation at the continued glorification of the horse racing industry. This is no “sport.”
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 210), “Double Crossers”—Janie’s review
My first thought for the title (since I solved without looking at it beforehand)? “Echo Chambers.” But, oh, that’s only part of the theme concept. Yes, we get eight repeat-word (or repeat-sound) phrases, but in four crossed pairs—or double (word/sound) crossers. This is just a beautemous theme-concept in my book, and as a result, we get:
- 17A. BUDDY-BUDDY [Very friendly] crossing 5D. “BABY BABY” [1991 hit for Amy Grant]. I have approximately zero knowledge of her oeuvre…
- 31A. RAH-RAH [Overtly enthusiastic] (kinda how I am about this puzzle) crossing CRAY-CRAY [Totally whacko] (and so, not unlikely to GO APE [Come undone]).
- 47A. DIN-DIN [Fancy food for Fido] crossing 39D. SING SING [Prison on the Hudson]. Not sure why the former is clued in conjunction with a dog. Din-din stirs memories of 9 Lives (cat food) and their famous ad campaigns with “finicky” eater, rescue-cat Morris.
- 64A. BLING-BLING [Flashy earrings and dazzling chains] crossing 41A. AGAR-AGAR [Ingredient in some Asian desserts]. This last pair is completely new to me. Not agar itself, but calling it agar-agar. But now I know. And here are some recipes it’s a part of.
With 64 squares of theme fill we don’t get lots of additional longer fill to liven up the grid, but NETSCAPE and POINTS AT ain’t too shabby. SBA LOAN is a tad dry but, uh, NIAGARA more than makes up for that… Especially the playful way NIAGARA is clued: [Falls for a newlywed?].
In fact, this puzzle has several more examples of peppy and/or punny cluing that keep the whole endeavor light ‘n’ lively:
- [Keys on the piano?] for ALICIA. Chopin was pretty darned talented on the piano, too, and like Ms. Keys’s, his music was also TONAL.
- [City leader?] for SIN.
- [Type of butterfly] for SOCIAL .
- [Bass line?] for the potable, not musical, ALES.
- [Scientific American?] for NYE (as in “Bill Nye the Science Guy“).
And OMIGOD, it was refreshing to see “alphabet series” KINSEY Millhone in the grid. She’s Sue Grafton‘s detective. Twenty-four cases down, two to go… Millhone’s “Santa Teresa, CA” is a stand-in for Santa Barbara, which is far from YREKA, CA (which sits far north and well inland near the Oregon border)—not to be confused with the coastal Eureka, CA (some 70 miles SW of Yreka, as the crow flies…).
Before I go, three fave fives: MYLAR, NIOBE and BABKA. The first for stirring up memories not of thermal blankets, but of hideous (now—but very hip/mod back in the day) wallpaper; the second for being clued in connection with Florence’s Uffizi Gallery (I visited more than 25 years ago, but had no recollection of the recently re-opened Niobe Room); and the last, because as a [Sweet-and-yeasty Polish cake] it’s such a treat.
Hope the week ahead will be a sweet one for you!
Nice clean puzzle. The entry at 37A [Both sides of an argument … and what can literally precede the starts of 18-, 24-, 53-, and 60-Across] explains the theme. The answer is PROS AND CONS. I didn’t realize there were so many words that could take the both the PRO and CON prefixes.
- 18A [Daniel Boone portrayer] FESS PARKER
- 24A [Cookie-cutter abode] TRACT HOME
- 53A [New car trial run] TEST DRIVE
- 60A [Unexpected source of cash] FOUND MONEY
Nice and clean. I’m sure the Scrabble-heads out there can generate many more words that take both a PRO and CON hook at the beginning, but these are all common, everyday, non-obscure finds. Quite smooth.
- 1A [Lioness in “Born Free”] ELSA – Still my preferred way to clue this; no more “Frozen” refs!!
- 3D [Tortilla chip topper] SALSA DIP & 40D [Wine-and-soda drink] SPRITZER – These to longish down entries sound like the start of a party!
- 11D [Printer choice] INKJET – Not MY choice; laser all the way. Primary printer use? Printing puzzles, of course!
- 24D [Noticed, to Tweety] TAW – A simple change of clueing changes this from crosswordese [Shooter marble(?)] to a lively piece of pop culture. Who doesn’t know Tweety Bird??
- 31D [Big ___: fast-food but] MAC – With my new MacBook Pro, and with a new Apple vid out today, I have Apple Mac on the brain. Even though Mickey D’s is not the healthiest option, now I want a Big Mac…
Nice puzzle. A clean 3.5 stars.
A nice themeless entry from Matt this week. I’m always amazed when prolific constructors continue to crank out quality puzzles week after week with such high quality. I know Matt, along with many others, has a heavy heart this week, making it all the more amazing, and the theme “Sweet Freedom” all the more poignant.
- 14A [Savory bakery appetizers] ONION TARTS – This does NOT sound appetizing…
- 27A [Target for some vacuum attachments] PET HAIR – One of several reasons I choose to be pet-less.
- 31A [“Deliverance” piece] DUELING BANJOS – If you’ve never heard this or seen the movie, you’re missing out. Enjoy!
- 48A [Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy] BENNETT – Ashamed to say I put ORLANDO in there first! He doesn’t even have “1” Grammy!
- 3D [Workday start, for some] NINE AM – I had FIVE AM in here. Apparently I’m attributing too much ambition to “some.”
- 12D [“Whoa, look at the time …”] I GOTTA GO – Effortless and smooth. Love this one.
- 34D [LIke 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12] NON-PRIME – Another great clue and entry. Not gettable without a few crosses, then a nice a-ha moment.
- 54D [“Now I understand!”] OHH – The only entry I have a complaint with. I have never listened to 57A [NPR show covering journalism] ON THE MEDIA, so I had OOH in there, and that’s after having AHA and OHO. OHH seems contrived but if that’s the only negative I can find, we won’t quibble. The ten-letter crossing entries are all great.
Solid 4 stars. Enjoyable solve.
Ian Livengood’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Family-Friendly Finishes”—Ade’s write-up
Ladies and gentleman, let’s welcome Mr. Ian Livengood to the mix of great crossword constructors contributing puzzles for our solving pleasure! Today’s grid was one that the whole family could enjoy, as each of the four theme answers become puns when the usual phrase is altered by changing the last letter, which usually is an “X” into a “G.” Because we don’t want our puzzles to be X-rated, now don’t we?!
- CHICKEN POG (15A: [Fraidy-cat’s faddish ’90s game disc?]) – From “chicken pox.”
- CORPORATE BOG (22A: [Cranberry-growing site full of executives?]) – From “corporate box.” Just think of luxury suite seating at a sporting event if you’re not familiar with the term.
- BRAZILIAN WAG (44A: [Rio-based comedian?]) – From “Brazilian wax.” I know all you ladies have had a Brazilian wax done before, right?!?!? Maybe some of you guys?!?!?!?!?
- BROWNIE MIG (55A: [Russian fighter jet piloted by a cookie salesgirl]) – From “brownie mix.”
For some reason, when I filled in ZED, I thought of the character of the same name in the Police Academy movies, played by Bobcat Goldthwait (6A: [British “Z”]). One of these days, that entry has to be clued as “Sweetchuck’s partner.” Yes, I watched way too much Police Academy. Didn’t know about the birthplace of ASTOR, so that was nice trivia to come across (12A: [Early trading tycoon born in Germany]). I got to familiarize myself with OZARK for a little bit in my (very) brief time being in Springfield, Mo., and have to say that it was very scenic, even with being such a city slicker at heart (42D: [_____ Mountains (Arkansas and Missouri range)]). Nice to have some media sprinkled in to the grid as well, with both RADIO (45D: [“All Things Considered” medium]) and VIDEO (10D: [YouTube offering]). By the way, if readers would like for me to rate the puzzle (instead of writing this sentence in this space), let me know. I try to end this puzzle-review portion of the blog with a flourish as much as possible, but I can easily do the rating, as most other bloggers on here do.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WATT (33D: [Lightbulb measure]) – Although playing in only four NFL seasons so far, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. WATT already has won the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year twice, including last season, when he recorded 20.5 sacks. (He also recorded that number in 2012.) Watt, originally a tight end coming out of high school, also scored three offensive touchdowns last season. In last season’s MVP voting, he became the first defensive player to earn votes for the award since 2008. All in all, he’s really good!
Thank you for your time and I’ll see you on Hump Day!