Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword, “The In Crowd”
The puzzle’s title puts me in mind of the 1982 Clash song, “Rock the Casbah.” “The in crowd say it’s cool to dig this chanting thing” is one of the lyrics. And 1982 fits squarely in the midst of many of this puzzle’s references. AL HAIG (’80s), IT‘S PAT (’94), TRON (’82), AL CAPP (’30s-’70s), “Voulez VOUS” (clued by way of Mamma Mia! but it’s a 1979 song), LARAINE Newman (’70s), Ben VEREEN in Pippin (’72-’74), Bernhard GOETZ (’84) … Basically, 1985 called and it wants its puzzle back. JENNERS would have been [Olympian Bruce and family] back then, now it’s [Longtime reality TV family on the E! channel], the Jenner-Kardashians.
Least explicable bit: 98a. [Play ___ with (harm)], HOB. Dictionary tells me “play (or raise) hob” means “make mischief. This is a usage I’ve never encountered, and I wager it will be unfamiliar to most other solvers as well. Hobnail is much more familiar, but it’s not a two-word entity whose HOB can stand alone.
No, wait! There is another strong contender: 3d. [Live in squalor, informally], for PIG IT. “You’re really pigging it now!” Um, I’m not convinced that this is a phrase anyone anywhere actually uses.
68d. [Cheap smoke, in slang] clues EL ROPO. EL ROPO is cigar slang that dates back to the ’40s. I have seen EL ROPO before, only in crosswords, and I was piecing it together from the crossings, nearly stumped when I had E*R*PO. The blanks were in two proper-noun crossings: 76a. [Sally ___ (sweet bun)], LUNN, and 85a. [Sch. in Norfolk, Va.], ODU, whose abbreviation I’ve never seen (Old Dominion University). Good gravy!
The theme splits an IN- prefix in various phrases into a two-word thing: FIGHT IN JUSTICE, GENERAL IN FORMATION (can one person be in formation, or does that require a group?), BRAIN IN JURY (see also: BRA IN INJURY), the awkward COURT IN JUNCTION (can anything be in a junction, or is it at the junction?), SISTER IN LAW (inconsistent with the rest of the theme, as INLAW isn’t a word split in two and losing its prefix, and SISTER-IN-LAW is fully hyphenated), PRIVATE IN VESTMENTS (dull), and CRIMINAL IN TENT. Four theme entries pertain to the legal system in some way, two relate to the military, and one is just inconsistent all the way through.
The fill was dried out a bit by the preponderance of phrases with prepositions: ON PAPER, SLIP-ON, EQUAL TO, TOOK TO, IN A CAN, RENEGE ON, SICK OF, TROT OUT, CUSS AT, AT NOON. I was also feeling that 95d. [What many English do in the afternoon], SIP TEA had too much arbitrariness to it, too much “random verb + noun.” My family feels it’s more a thing than EAT FRIES or GREEN SHIRT but I’m not so sure.
Too much 1d: OFFAL in the grid for my taste. 2.4 stars from me.
Melanie Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “In It To Win It”—Andy’s review
The most clever part of this one was the title. Phrase + W = new phrase + hilarity:
- 29a, WRITE OF PASSAGE [Chronicle one’s travels?].
- 44a, TAKE THE WRAP [Pilfer Christmas supplies?].
- 56a, WILL AT EASE [Smith kicking back?].
- 82a, MIDDLE WEAR [Belt or cummerbund?].
- 91a, PERSONAL WAD [Roll in one’s pocket?].
- 108a, SEVEN YEAR WITCH [Spell caster seen infrequently?].
- 4d, WALL YOU CAN EAT [Gingerbread house feature?].
- 59d, LOSE ONE’S WEDGE [Experience a links mishap?].
There’s really not a lot to say about this puzzle. Some of the W additions are silent Ws; others aren’t. Some change the pronunciation of the following vowel; others don’t. E-NOTES was by far the worst thing in the grid for me. I didn’t love SECS either, and it could have easily been refilled with SEES if DECK became SEEK.
Otherwise, the fill was of generally high quality, as is often true LAT Sundays. Not many standout entries, but nothing to induce too great a scowl either. DEFLEA was new to me, but maybe pet owners will know it better. Liked having a TRAVOLTA reference, but I wish it had been more recent than “Primary Colors.” Maybe it’s just more comforting to imagine 1998 Travolta than 2015 Travolta. I get that the clue for CORSETS [Waist management aids] was possibly trying to do a waist/waste management pun, but I didn’t love it. It felt a little flip, like calling a tapeworm a “waist management aid.” Neither is a healthy way to go about that. Wikipedia has a very detailed article on “corset controversy.”
[Bangs on the head?] was a cute clue for HAIR. I admit I was fooled by the clue for PEKE, [Toy with long hair, briefly], though there’s the unfortunate replication of the grid entry HAIR in the clue. In a Sunday-sized grid, it’s very difficult to avoid such dupes, and the cleverness of both clues is worth it to me.
Blah theme, fine fill. 3.2 stars. Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Advanced Placement Test 2”–Sam Donaldson’s review
First things first: Happy Birthday to my older sister, Kay, who turns [redacted] today!
Enough of the sap. On with the puzzle! A note accompanying this week’s offering says, “I received quite a bit of positive mail on this idea when I first did it last year, so I thought a sequel would be in order. So to speak.” He’s referring to this puzzle from November, 2014. Here too, the prepositions in common phrases take their positions literally:
- THE CALM THE STORM is “the calm before the storm,” or a [Temporary peace].
- THAT’S THE POINT looks like a legit entry by itself but here it’s “that’s beside the point,” or [“What you just said is irrelevant!”].
- SIDE SIDE is “side by side,” or [Next to each other].
- TIME TIME is “time after time,” or [Repeatedly].
- SCHEDULE FALLS is “falls behind schedule,” or [Misses deadlines].
- THE THE WAR STATES, of course, is “The War Between the States,” an [Oft-chronicled conflict] we know as the Civil War.
- THE TABLE DRINK is not a pitcher of beer but “drink under the table,” an expression meaning [Hold more liquor than]. Interesting that right next door sits HAD ONE, clued as [Imbibed minimally].
- MY WINGS WIND is “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the [Bette Midler Hit].
- ZERO TWENTY is “20 below zero,” or [Frrreeezing]. A little arbitrary, as most any number could work here.
- HELP THE WAY is “help is on the way,” clued as [“I called 911”].
- LO HEAD HEELS VE may look odd, but it’s “head over heels in love,” or [Way more than just smitten].
- NO ONE THE LAW, of course, is “no one is above the law,” clued as [“Rules apply to all citizens”].
That’s 12 theme entries, in case you’re counting. The central entry, WE’VE MET, really looks like it should be a 13th theme entry, but it works as is for the clue [“I was introduced to you once before”]. I keep wanting to parse it as “haven’t we met before,” but given the clue that’s obviously not right. Besides, the answer would have to be along the lines of MET HAVEN’T WE. That might exist on Dagobah, but not in this puzzle.
I’m a sucker for themes that require this kind of thinking, so even though the gimmick has been done before I still found the puzzle very enjoyable. There didn’t seem to be very many compromises in the fill, either, which helped the enjoyment factor.
That’s not to say there weren’t any unusual answers, though. Check out this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid:
- 5. I wonder if I will ever remember that Robert DONAT ([Mr. Chips portrayer]) had the title role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips? I’ve seen this surname in crosswords before, and it feels like each time I promise myself I will remember it henceforth. Now I don’t believe me anymore.
- 4. I really should have known that RHEE was the answer to [Syngman of South Korea]. Seriously. Just two days ago, there was this question in LearnedLeague: “Name the man who was, beginning in 1919, president of the exiled Korean Provisional Government during the Imperial Japanese rule of Korea, and three decades later became the first elected president of South Korea, a position he would hold until his resignation in 1960.” I missed the question then, but I saw the answer, SYNGMAN RHEE. You’d think I could remember the name for a couple of days; but no!
- 3. I don’t hang in high places, so I’ll just take the word of the crossings that PIAGET is a [Luxury watch brand].
- 2. It sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine: “What’s the answer to [Goose genus]?” “ANSER.” :That’s right, I want the answer.” “ANSER.” “Are you deaf, mac? I said I want the answer!” “It’s ANSER!” “Why I oughta…!”
- 1. UPHAM is the answer (not answer) to [Oilman Chet of Texas politics]. He drank many milkshakes.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Nickname in Town” — pannonica’s write-up
Oh hey, look. It’s a crossword puzzle with a baseball theme. A Boston baseball theme. Joy. Well, only nominally, but it’s the thought that counts?
64-across has [Bosox nickname; or three-word theme to this puzzle] PANDA, or P AND A. I’ve cleverly surmised that someone who plays for that team eats, bats and leaves.
So really, the theme is simply two-word phrases with the initials P-A.
Interestingly perhaps, there’s a bimonthly publication called P & A, which stands for Puzzles and Answers, overseen by one Foggy Brume, whom I suspect at least some of you are acquainted with. How about that?
P&A is also a film industry term for ‘Prints and Advertising’, which is fairly self-explanatory. I’d like to leave it at that, but because I’ve aligned the small image to the left, there needs to be more copy here before I start the customary bulleted list of theme entries, otherwise the formatting will be misaligned and 25a [Far from fair] UGLY-looking. Bear with me just a little longer, for another line or so. That translates to two, perhaps three sentences, depending on how long-winded I get, and as you know I sometimes get very long-winded indee—oh look, we’ve arrived!
Oh, but speaking of arrivals, here’s another P&A:
That photo is big enough to occupy the entire blog-column width, so there’s no need for self-referential stalling tactics. Why then are these sentences continuing to engage in such antics? Good question.
- 27a. [Longtime “New Yorker” cartoonist] PETER ARNO.
- 29a. [Hydrogen cyanide solution] PRUSSIC ACID. That’s cheerful.
- 48a. [Item you pay to take out] PERSONAL AD. Cute clue, duped minorly by 82d [Answer a job ad] APPLY.
- 50a. [Creator of hype and hoopla] PRESS AGENT.
- 60a. [Lovers of high times] PARTY ANIMALS.
- 66a. [Fearful fits] PANIC ATTACKS.
- 78a. [Texas Gulf Coast city] PORT ARTHUR. Deftly avoiding duplication is 32a [TV role for Bea] MAUDE. Unfortunately, there’s 76a [Port or pad lead-in] HELI-. But at least that one wasn’t duped by 30d [Devices with earbuds] IPODS, as a PRAWLCAR is unheard of.
- 81a. [2002–2009 “American Idol” judge] PAULA ABDUL.
- 96a. [Little six-legged pests] PHARAOH ANTS. Never heard of them, but it appears that they are pandemic and supercolonial. On the bright side, they’ll get rid of bedbugs.
- 101a. [Low-stakes game] PENNY ANTE.
Solid lineup. Oh yes, there’s more baseball to be had, but only two. 33d [Yankee stadium nickname] A-ROD, 37d [Longtime Yank Jeter] DEREK. Hardly any, considering the 21×21 grid. Nevertheless, I feel it would have been better to employ a different DEREK to avoid a Yankees double play.
- Check out row one: 1a [Nub] GIST, 5a [Hub-to-rim lines] RADII, 10a [Pencil nearing the end] STUB, 14a [Religious factions] SECTS. 14-across, what’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you part of the club?
- 56a [Lash in westerns] LARUE. This guy. I’ve encountered him at least three times in puzzles this week. Blast from the (non-experienced) past.
- 83d [Of the north] BOREALIS. Yes, but in Latin. In English it’s just boreal. Clue should have been more specific. Similarly, 115a [Antelope playmates] for DEER is insufficient, wanting an “in song” or “metaphorically” qualifier.
- New one on me: 11d [Lake trout] TOGUE. Bet it’s familiar to anglers and old-school crossword solvers.
Decent theme, clean fill, average puzzle. Well above .300, anyway.
Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello hello, crossword lovers! Happy Sunday to you, and hope all is well with you!
So I just set a personal best on the Sunday Challenge crossword, and I thank Mr. Bruce Venzke for constructing the crossword that enabled myself to tear through the grid. Obviously, this grid didn’t have as much bite as Sunday Challenges of the past, but, hey, I’ll take it! Started on the Northwest, and was hung up quickly as to whether to put Iams or ALPO for the first answer (1A: [Chow’s chow]). Had been seeing IAMS for a while in different grids, hence the (slight) hesitation. But there was no hesitation with INSTAMATIC, and that opened up everything for me in the entire grid, let alone in the NW (17A: [Point-and-shoot- camera of old]). That answer allowed me to see my favorite answer of the grid, GOT MILK (7D: [Oft-used dairy ad query]). Honestly, that Got Milk? ad campaign has had legs for so many years, and it was that first ad that started it all. What a classic ad that was…
Most, if not all, of the long answers were right up my alley, and that made the solve a breeze. For WACO, I was thinking of an international city for a long while before a couple of crossing in the answer made it obvious (16A: [Siege city of note]). That would have been an easier clue for me if SWEET came to my mind, but that’s a Steinbeck book I have not read yet, so it was unfamiliar (10D: [Steinbeck’s “_____ Thursday”]). Again, pretty easy solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DOM (44A: [A DiMaggio brother])– The youngest of the three DiMaggios to make it into the Major Leagues, Dom was a seven-time All-Star centerfielder who played all 11 of his Major League seasons with the Boston Red Sox. DiMaggio, like many players of his time, missed seasons while serving in World War II, and Dom missed three seasons while serving in the Navy.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everyone!