Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Heads Of State”
It’s American Patriotic Weekend, so we get a presidents-of-Mount-Rushmore theme:
- 15d. [See 18-Down], KEYSTONE, SOUTH DAKOTA. I have never, ever heard this town name. I’ve been there, but nope.
- 18d. [What 15-Down is … or a hint to the answers to the four starred clues in left-to-right order], HOME OF MOUNT RUSHMORE.
- 22d. [*Nickname for George Washington], AMERICAN CINCINNATUS. I … have never heard that term, nor did I know that Cincinnati was based on a Latin word/name. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus? Wikipedia explains: “George Washington was often compared to Cincinnatus for his willingness to give up his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and decline offers of near-monarchical power after the crisis of the American Revolution had passed and victory had been won, instead retiring to his farm at Mount Vernon.”
- 4d. [*Nickname for Thomas Jefferson], THE MAN OF THE PEOPLE. I have never heard this as a nickname for Jefferson. Today’s puzzle is educational!
- 33d. [*Nickname for Theodore Roosevelt], HERO OF SAN JUAN HILL. That “Hero of” part sounds entirely contrived to me, which suggests that my U.S. history textbook in high school was spotty. Or that I skipped too much of the info since I took the condensed 6-week version of the class in the summer.
- 9d. [*Nickname for Abraham Lincoln], THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR. Hey! I know this one.
Now, I don’t think this crossword also contains a connect-the-dots puzzle whereby the solver draws a rudimentary outline of Mount Rushmore’s heads. Tell me if I missed that part.
Five more things:
- Nice to see fill like GROUND CREW, BRITPOP, “YEAH, YOU,” EVANSTON, “HERE WE GO,” and “OKAY, OKAY.” I am definitely partial to the CAMOMILE spelling that includes an H, though.
- 21a. [Art of flower arranging], IKEBANA. Martin H. and his better half study ikebana. It sounds absolutely nuts.
- 81a. [Ball-like], SPHERIC. I’ve seen spherical and hemispheric, but never encountered SPHERIC before. #notageometer
- Could do without fill like EDAMS, OTO, OREM, N-TEST, OBE, ASTA, OGEE, AIRE, AIR I, ARIL, ANIS, and plural TETS and ATRAS.
- 104a. [The person you want to be], EGO IDEAL. I’m not familiar with this term but appreciate learning it.
3.8 stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “R Moving Day”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy Fifth of July! This week’s puzzle is another good example of the Importance of Reading Titles. “R Moving Day” tells you the theme will involve common expressions reconfigured by relocating the R to another position. Here we get nine theme entries, some much better than others:
- Take the R from IT’S GREEK TO ME and place it in the space between TO and ME to get IT’S GEEK TORME, [Mel’s least favorite way to be greeted when he was a kid?]. That’s the perfect clue for this answer–it gives you all of the elements of the answer in a way that let’s you piece it together sensibly: Mel is Mel Torme, a greeting would begin with “It’s,” and “geek” might well be an unwelcome characterization. Notice too that this early theme entry has an important signal–the R does not necessarily get inserted into another word, and the result may cause you to re-parse the original words. That’s important by the time you get to the last theme entry.
- SUCH A PRETTY FACE turns into SUCH A PETTY FARCE, the [Put-down of a broad comedy?].
- The FIRST OF MAY morphs into FIST OF MARY, a [Drink that’s half vodka, half punch?]. We’re obviously playing up the double-meaning of “punch” in the clue. That’s amusing, but it makes the answer much harder to get. Maybe that sort of clue should contain two question marks instead of the usual one.
- BREAST-BEATING, what my dictionary calls a “noisy demonstrative protestation,” becomes BEAST BERATING, clued as [Whacking on a yak?]. Hey! Nice assonance!
- Why GET DOWN TO BRASS TACKS when you can GET DOWN TO BASS TRACKS, or [Dance with the treble turned completely off?]. Great theme entry.
- CONTACT SPORTS like football and wrestling turn into CONTRACT SPOTS, clued as [Come down with measles?]. Good, clean theme entry. Wordplay Tip #1: wacky phrases should make some sense. This one illustrates the concept well.
- RED AS A BEET changes to ED AS A BERET, clued as [Actor Harris in Special Forces attire?]. The clue slightly misses the mark. The answer suggests Ed is acting “as a” beret, not that he “has a” beret or “is sporting” a beret. [Actor Harris portraying Special Forces attire?] would be more consistent with the answer, though it would make things a little too wacky to comply with the aforementioned Wordplay Tip #1.
- TURNED UP THE HEAT becomes TUNED UP THE HEART, clued as [Did cardio workouts?]. Another good example of Wordplay Tip #1.
- This last one gave me the most fits: BILL OF RIGHTS undergoes some serious remodeling to become BRILLO FIGHTS, or [What may break out when kids are on pot-scouring duty?]. Not only does the R move but we also have to separate the letters in “of.” I knew BRILLO was in the answer from the “pot-scouring” in the clue, but BILLO made zero sense. Even after I had the answer in the grid, I had to read it two more times just to make sure it was right.
Well, that’s comparatively slow solving times in consecutive weeks. (At what point does the longer solving time just become the new norm?) This week I’ll blame some (shall we say) interesting crossings combined with a couple of silly errors.
Things got off to a somewhat rocky start in the northwest corner. I got [“The Divine ___”] MISS M right away, but none of the five crossings came to me immediately. The first crossing had [John Wesley’s relig.] starting with M. Can’t say that I’ve met Mr. Wesley. Being a child of the ’70s, I’m more familiar with “John Wesley Hardin, a man so mean he once shot a man just for snoring too loud” (thank you, endless commercials for the Time-Life book series, The Old West). So, with a wince, I tried MORM instead of METH. Not the best start. (Side observation: Why was METH clued as an abbreviation? Is our collective breakfast palette really that sensitive?)
The second crossing was even more hopeless: [Sour or bitter, in French]. I’ve said (something similar to) this before on this site and I’ll say it again–I love lots of French things like French fries, French toast, and French kissing. But I’m much happier with very little French in my crosswords. I’m not saying foreign words are bad. Indeed, I can make the case that Spanish words make much more sense in American crosswords than French words. And I get that vowel-laden words are constructing gold. But geez, Louise (and other readers), we really need to tone it down on the French. Oh yeah, the answer was AIGRE. Um, sure.
The third crossing was a theme entry, and I tend to avoid theme entries until I have several crossings in place. Even though the title told me the gimmick, it was too early (I thought) to conquer a theme entry since I didn’t yet know exactly how this puzzle would execute that gimmick. Given that this particular theme entry was the easy-to-parse IT’S GEEK TORME, this strategy backfired.
The fourth crossing was clued as [Are very expensive] and all I had was ??S?????. In the growing panic to get something else entered into the grid, I didn’t take the time to suss out all the possible answers. Maybe COST A LOT would have come to me if I had taken the time. Onward!
The fifth crossing was a five-letter answer to [Irish patriot Robert] with a middle M. Public school failed me, as I can’t recall any lessons devoted to Irish patriots. All I recall was a mild ado over whether we could celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a public school without violating the Establishment Clause. Anyway, there was no way I was getting EMMET without more help.
Luckily the nearby Downs were easy enough to crack, and I started to get enough letters in place to help the rest of the corner fall. But you get the point: my confidence was not exactly soaring from an early point. As for other errors and tough crosses, we can hit most of them in this week’s roundup of the hardest (non-thematic) entries in the grid:
- 5. We begin with a tough crossing, especially for newbies. [Composer Erik] SATIE crossing ADAH, [One of Esau’s wives] at a vowel. That’s hardball.
- 4. I thought I knew my California cities, but UKIAH, the [Home of California’s Mendocino College], was very new to me.
- 3. Here’s where AIGRE came out in the wash. How apt that it left me with such a bitter taste.
- 2. The crossing of NISAN, the [Month associated with SEDERS] (SEDERS was cross-referenced), and SOAVE, the [Italian white wine], again at the vowel. This crossing ranks even more fiendish since at least we see Erik SATIE in puzzles from time to time. NISAN and SOAVE are both blue-moon bits that rarely (if ever before) appear together.
- 1. A LAVABO is an [Ablution vessel]. Of the three bold-print words in that last sentence, I know exactly one.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “All Together Now”—Andy’s review
Today’s puzzle is a vehicle for five puns of the variety [first name] + [synonym, loosely defined, for “concatenation”] = [in-the-language phrase]. Those phrases are the clues, and We The Solvers are meant to figure out a list of 3-4 people with those first names whose last names contain a total of precisely 21 letters. Or, rather, We (The Solvers) are supposed to just enter down answers near the five theme entries until We figure out where to put the famous people we know with those first names. The hilarity is palpable.
- 22a, KELLYRODDENBERRYAUTRY [Gene pool?]. Kelly, Roddenberry, Autry. These are three Genes. A “pool” can be “a group of people available for work when required or considered as a resource,” according to whatever dictionary Google shows when you type a search of “pool definition.”
- 39a, GATESMURRAYCOSBYBLASS [Bills piling up?]. Gates, Murray, Cosby, Blass. This pile-up of Bills caused me a fair amount of gridlock because I was so sure Bill Cosby wasn’t going to be in a crossword puzzle that I didn’t write it into the grid until I had every down entry. (COSBY hasn’t been in a grid since 2013; it’s unclear whether that’s because editors are steering clear of it or because it’s just not a very grid-friendly combination of letters.) It’s not like there’s a shortage of five-letter Bills: NIGHY, HADER, EVANS, MAHER if you want to go political, BIXBY if you really like that -BY ending. My two cents: just as constructors celebrate when someone with a lovely crossword name gets famous (looking at you RETTA), so too should we be conscientious about when someone crossworthy does something so heinous as to merit removal from our word lists.
- 68a, GARFUNKELMONKBUCHWALD [Art gallery?]. Garfunkel, Monk, Buchwald.
- 92a, QUIVERSTUNNEYWILLIAMS [Robins’ nest?]. Quivers, Tunney, Williams. I don’t find “robins’ nest” to be as phrase-y as the other four theme clues. My last square in this grid was the crossing of Robin TUNNEY (of, most recently, “The Mentalist”) and Susan ANSPACH (of “Five Easy Pieces”) at the the second N of TUNNEY. Thankfully, I have some Mentalist fans in my life, so the former name came to me eventually, but I’d call this a tough crossing. It’s not really a pure Natick, since these are both Actresses of Some Note, and the letter isn’t totally unguessable. All I’m saying is that I wouldn’t blame someone for putting an L there.
- 113a, RICHEBSENHACKETTHOLLY [Buddy list?]. Rich, Ebsen, Hackett, Holly. Buddy Holly was born in 1936; all the others were born over 90 years ago. I’m guessing Buddy isn’t as common a name as it was prior to the Great Depression.
If you couldn’t tell by my tone, I was not particularly whelmed by this theme. I do think the idea/puns are mostly clever (4 out of 5 of them hit my sweet spot), but I don’t think the five strings of names are fun/substantial enough to hold up a Sunday-sized grid. It would’ve worked much better as an early-week puzzle if the clues and entries had been reversed (e.g., [Rich, Guy, Holly, Hackett, Ebsen?] clues BUDDY LIST]). STACK OF BILLS (12), GENE SEQUENCE (12), ART GALLERY (10), ROBINS’ NEST (10), and BUDDY LIST (9) make a fine enough group of five. I’d rather have DAISY CHAIN (10) instead of ROBINS’ NEST, but if we’re limiting ourselves to real people rather than fictional characters, it might be hard to find enough famous people named Daisy. Maybe you could get JOE SIX-PACK (11) or QUEEN SET (8) in there somehow by changing the second half of ART GALLERY. That’s with 5 minutes of brainstorming, tops. For me, that version of the puzzle would be much more fun to solve.
From what I remember from my old gig reviewing the Saturday LAT, Mark usually constructs rather Scrabbly themelesses, which require no small amount of chops where fill is concerned. The non-theme part of this puzzle mostly holds up. In the crosswordese & partials department, we got BLO, TYE on ADZE, UNC next to ESAI, REYS, ANDS, DEY (but the Nelly clue was a nice change of pace from [Susan of “L.A. Law”]), A BUG, and OF IT. Oh yeah, and DEPECHE, but I’m giving that a pass because people are people. I think I liked RARE TREAT. I liked QUARTO until I realized it wasn’t Suzi QUATRO. HOW R U [Texter’s greeting] is exactly how my dad — and nobody else I know — texts me. For what that’s worth.
How many of you say ICE TEA instead of “iced tea”? Is it enough that I shouldn’t feel bad about putting it in my grids? Serious replies only, thx.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “I Demand a Raise” — pannonica’s write-up
Clever notion for this one. The theme answers are phrases all contain words that, in other idioms, are raised in one way or another. Here, all the themers appear vertically and the key word in each is reversed, so it’s literally going up—being raised.
- 2d. [Just because] FOR THE LLEH OF IT (raise hell).
- 3d. [They have a “detailed” story] THREE DNILB MICE (≈ blinds can be raised). “De-tailed” at the hand (and carving knife) of the farmer’s wife. The cleverness in the clue is gratuitous; not sure if I should dock points for that.
Interrupting the list to mention the bravura feat of pair-stacking 14-letter themers here (and. symmetrically, at the finish in the lower right).
- 7d. [1986 Hanks/Long movie] THE YENOM PIT (raise money).
- 8d. [Show anger] HIT THE FOOR (raise the roof [to add a new level to a structure]).
- 11d. [NYC-based tabloid] VILLAGE ECIOV (raise one’s voice). Two notes: (1) clue needs a “with ‘The’ qualifier, (2) although tabloid has a derogatory connotation, it primarily refers to the dimensions of the paper a periodical is printed on. Another common size is broadsheet, which is what ‘serious’ newspapers typically conform to.
- 51d. [Pastime for dummies?] CONTRACT EGDIRB (≈ some bridges can be raised). Another clever overlay. I think this refers to the ___ for Dummies series of instructional books.
- 52d. [Outdoor team game] CAPTURE THE GALF (≈ flags can be raised). See also 96a [Spirit of ’76 prop] FIFE, for which I’d first filled FLAG.
- 61d. [Job-inequality barrier] SSALG CEILING (raise a glass [in a toast]). CEILING echoes ROOF in 8-down, which is distracting. But I like this clue/answer combo.
- 69d. [Recycled raiments] DNAH-ME-DOWNS (raise one’s hand). Oblique duplication in 88a [Handheld organizer] PDA.
- 73d. [TV’s French chef] JULIA DLIHC (raise a child). This was the first word-reversal I perceived. So I guess you could say I worked the theme from bottom to top.
Excellent, dense theme, deftly executed.
Unfortunately, with theme density much more often than not come compromises. And there are quite a few here. 59a [Football pos.] LHB – that’s left halfback. In soccer. 100a [“The Terminator” actor Michael] BIEHN. 76a [Small computers] MICROS. 17a [Spinachlike plant] ORACH. 99d [It comes before ar] KUE. 89a [LVI doubled] CXII. 64d [Toll rd.] TNPK. 110d [Grps. of battalions] RGTS. 87d [More ordinary] BEIGER. Dreadful stuff, Oh, and make no mistake, there is more—much more—but let’s abandon this particular litany here.
- 117a [Robot part] SERVO; see also 75a [Capek drama] RUR.
- Alas, the ‘see also’ mentality led me to complete the crossing of 39d [Star in Perseus] ALGO– and 62a [Abbr. in an atlas] IS– as ALGOR and ISR. Took seemingly forever to uncover that error. I blame 112a [Red Sea peninsula] SINAI. And Al Gore, of course. But it’s ALGOL (رأس الغول ) and ISL (island).
- 73a [It follows “decembre”] JANVIER. A break from the crossword oppression of ENERO.
- 54a/55a [Solidify] GEL | SET.
- Favorite clue: 90a [Viking’s destination] MARS. Favorite fill: 22a ARRIVISTE.
- 56a [Pick-me-up pill] PROZAC. Too-glib clue for a serious circumstance. Also, it implies that such heavy medication is used situationally.
- New to me: 77d [Elk’s cousin?] ODDFELLOW.
- 45a [Felon’s flight] LAM, 47a [Calculus abbr.] LIM (limit), 40a [Frequent Sellers costar] Herbert LOM. So, where’s Stanislaw LEM and the Lao LUM people? The Lyndon LaRouche Youth Movement? See also AAA, ADA, À LA, ANA, AS A. (115d, 72a, 29a, 1d, 113d)
- 36d [Piece of trivia] FACTOID. Not a word you’ll see me use.
Great theme, and despite the ballast being overladen with diomedean encumbrance, the crossword comes out as well above average in quality and enjoyment.
Tony Orbach’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Most summer days, I’m blogging while in my air-conditioned room at home or an air-conditioned office. At this moment, I’m blogging while standing in 100-degree heat in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. But, honestly, what else would you rather be doing than helping out teenage students from low-income families and preparing them for standardized test preparation and teaching them a variety of life skills while also coaching them on the football field? If you want to know more about our organization, just go to 4thand1.org.
How fun was today’s Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach? Well, if you don’t know, then I’ll tell you that it was a whole lot. The first answer of the entire grid, THE DOCKS, ended up confusing me a little bit, especially with ‘the’ as the beginning (1A: [Longshoreman’s locale]). The tribute to those work on the shores continued with LEAVE also (20D: [Shore time, perhaps]). Was all over the CALVIN KLEIN clue and didn’t even bat an eye in putting that in without any of the crossings (9D: [Obsession promoter]). Very good trivia about THUMB, and, although I love dogs and being around them, I didn’t know that fact about one of its digits (1D: [Thing that points downward for a dog]). Here’s a perfect example at the generation gap that I’m dealing with at the football camp that I’m at: I had absolutely no idea at all about the term LITTLE MONSTERS, and when I turned to a couple of the student-athletes who were sitting next to me when solving my puzzle, one said to me, “You never heard of that?!?!” (50A: [Gaga fans]). But, I had the last laugh! Had they ever heard of BLACK NARCISSUS (23A: [1947 film with Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons set in a converted Himalayan seraglio]). Game. Set. Match!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NAGA JOLOKIA (25A: [One of the world’s hottest chili peppers (over 900 times hotter than Tabasco sauce), aka “ghost pepper”])– Current FOX Sports soccer and college basketball host Rob Stone, while reporting before a Nevada-New Mexico State football game as an employee of ESPN in 2003, decided that he was going to take a couple of bites of the NAGA JOLOKIA (or bhut jolokia) while visiting The Chili Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, N. M. What happened next wass just absolute hilarity. And yes, there’s video!
Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!