Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Start Again”
Take a familiar phrase, repeat the starting syllable, adjust spelling as needed to make the doubled word/phrase into something real, and boom:
- 23a. [Bird involved in French government affairs?], CUCKOO D’ETAT. Coup d’état.
- 28a. [Glittering ballet costume?], TUTU OF DIAMONDS. Two of diamonds playing card.
- 45a. [“La Bohème” song in which Rodolfo regrets saying too much to his lover?], MIMI AND MY BIG MOUTH. “Me and my big mouth.”
- 53a. [“I’ll obey your medical advice!”?], “AYE, AYE, DOCTOR!” Eye doctor.
- 85a. [Lionel trains?], CHOO-CHOO TOYS. Chew toys for dogs.
- 93a. [Group planning a hostile takeover of Swiss Miss?], COCOA CONSPIRATORS. Co-conspirators.
- 107a. [“That’s my last trip to the store, ever!”?], “BYE-BYE, PRODUCTS!” Byproducts.
- 118a. [One who’s pretentious as hell?], CHI-CHI DEVIL. She-devil.
Moderately whimsical results for the doubling, rock-solid consistency with the spelling changes each time (though CUCKOO and COCOA are the only ones that don’t reduplicate the same letter chunks). The theme works and it isn’t stale.
I don’t have a whole helluva lot else to say about this puzzle. The fill is smooth, the clues of standard difficulty.
Five more things:
- 82d. [Western city named after a Shoshone chief], POCATELLO. Trivia I didn’t know.
- 78d. [Ruler entombed in the Great Pyramid], CHEOPS. Odd how that never became a popular baby name here.
- 56d. [Chi-___ (Christian symbol)], RHO. This clue doesn’t quite constitute a dupe with CHI-CHI DEVIL … or does it?
- 38d. [Lobbying org. formed in 1944], AMVETS. Lobbying? Had no idea. I only know that my family donated old clothes to Amvets.
- 47d. [Unwelcome bit of mail], BILL. Who says it’s unwelcome? This clue is editorializing.
Four stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Birds with Friends”–Sam Donaldson’s review
There’s a note accompanying this week’s odd-shaped puzzle (note it’s a 23×19 grid employing left-right symmetry): “The last names of this puzzle’s 9 theme answers can become bird names by changing 1 letter. Arrange these 9 new letters after the F below to spell an alternate two-word title for this puzzle (10 letters in all). F _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. Answer next week.” We’ll talk about the answer below, so if you’ve yet to work through it on your own just let, thar be a spoiler ahead.
The title works especially well here, as each of the theme entries is a name, making them “friends” of the birds that so closely resemble their surnames:
- JIMMY FALLON is the [Host who does “Thank You Notes”], a recurring sketch on The Tonight Show. FALLON, of course, is one letter away from FALCON. (The new letter is highlighted in red–remember, we have to keep track of these.)
- SHELLEY HACK was a [“Charlie’s Angels” star for one season]. You may know it as the “jumped the shark” season. Anyway, HACK can be a HAWK.
- RANDY QUAID is one [“Independence Day” co-star], but I didn’t think of him until after thinking of Judd Hirsch, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Mary McDonnell, and Jeff Goldblum. QUAID is pretty clearly a QUAIL.
- EARTHA KITT is the [“Where Is My Man” singer]. I’m less confident with this one, but I’ll go out on a limb: KITT should become KITE.
- EVA PERON is the [Role for Madonna]. Madonna has had some great material, girl. Anyway, PERON is one off from HERON.
- LEE ELDER is the [Golfer who was the first African-American to play in The Masters]. I remember watching him play from time to time on TV. ELDER can change to EIDER.
- LAURA DERN is the [Oscar nominee for 2014’s “Wild”]. Speaking of being in the wild, a DERN can morph into a TERN, a bird I know only from puzzles.
- LINDAY CROUSE is [
Someone who has never been in my kitchen][Actress in “The Verdict” and “House of Games”]. I hope I’m not the only one who rushed through the clue and thought it read “House of Cards.” (Oh, CROUSE is near a GROUSE.)
- LEONARD MALTIN is the [Film critic-historian] whose name works as a theme entry since MALTIN is one letter off from a MARTIN.
Let’s tackle the “meta” challenge. The added letters (C,W,L,E,H,I,T,G,R)join the given F to comprise the letters of FLIGHTCREW, indeed an apt alternate title for the puzzle. Cool theme, and cool meta!
As an added bonus, the bottom of the grid has THE NEW YORK STORK EXCHANGE, clued as [Per this puzzle’s opening Note, where all of the “trading” in this puzzle normally occurs?]. I see what you did there, Merl.
The funky layout allows for some open stretches that don’t usually crop up in a themed crossword. I liked the trip-7s with an 8 kicker in each of the two lower corners, and that midsection is quite pretty, even with Cuba GOODING, Jr. lying right on top of LAURA DERN. Get a room!
Time now for this week’s roundup of the hardest (non-thematic) entries in the grid:
- 6. Roman numerals aren’t tough (which is part of why I don’t get it when others call them out as bad crossword fill–don’t kill the low-hanging fruit, people!). But when a clue makes you figure out a year, then do some math, and then convert it to Roman numerals, it’s guaranteed to slow you down. Here, [400 years before Ike’s election] requires the solver to correctly guess 1952 as the election year, subtract 400 to get 1552, then convert that to MDLII. Whew!
- 5. You needed to know your Bible here, what with ENOCH, ABRAHAM, and ROMANS all using Biblical clues. So these were either gimmes or brutal gets. So I compromised and put them on the list at Number 5.
- 4. [Powell’s “Dames” co-star] is KEELER. Specifically, that’s Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. You know, from 1934? Okay, I didn’t know it either. But the song from the film, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” is certainly familiar.
- 3. [“Delphine” author Madame de] STAEL was a complete unknown for me. Surprised Merl didn’t give an additional hint like “anagram of LEAST.”
- 2. The answer to [Formation of mountains] is OROGENY. Thus, if you are in the mountains, you are in an orogenous zone.
- 1. The KEA is a [New Zealand parrot]. It drives a Sorento. (Seriously, though, it’s a bit unusual to see a regular bird in this particular grid. You might say the same of NEST, the [Cheep digs?]. I guess I just did.)
Favorite entry = VISCERA, clued as [Guts]. Favorite clue = [Game of throwns?] for DARTS, and at 1-Across to boot!
Brad Wilber’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Well, hello everyone! Glad to be back in New York, and also glad to be doing another Sunday Challenge from Mr. Brad Wilber! It’s also fun when the first few answers in a tough puzzle start falling immediately, and that’s exactly what happened here for me today.
If you give me a long sports clue at the beginning, I’m usually right on it, and that was the case here with GOLF SWING, something I haven’t worked on in ages (1A: [Something practiced on the range]). Initially had put in ‘golf shots,’ but, almost immediately, I thought of the ‘swing’ part and it made more sense. Its intersecting answer, GO SOLO, was also pretty much a lay-up also (1D: [Split off from the band]). Also, LINNEY was a cinch, and that was the clue that made all the downs just come together in the area (22A: [Laura of “The Truman Show”]).
By the way, how can you immediately tell that this puzzle was that of Mr. Wilber’s? The presence of a person that he, as a huge tennis fan, has done extensive research on in terms of results on the tennis court, Chris EVERT (43A: [Pro tennis retiree of 1989]). For some reason, I thought she made it into the 1990s as a player, but nope. Initially blanked on LATE NEWS; I had the news part, but thought it was called ‘fake news’ for some reason (40A: [“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” lead-in, usually]). That’s probably because I’m always so into the “Mean Tweets” segment when it comes by. Honestly, have you ever seen a segment of “Mean Tweets” on his show? It’s hilarious…as long as you have a little thick skin to insensitive comments from empowered losers (a.k.a. faceless Twitter trolls). Here’s one quick segment…
The southeast stack of answers going across were great, especially JUVENILIA, which I honestly didn’t know was a title of an actual genre, but made sense when I had put it in after getting a couple of its intersecting crossings (57A: [The Brontë’s Glass Town Confederacy stories, e.g.]). Probably my hardest part of the grid was getting all of those “P” entries: PIE SAFE (25A: [Cupboard with wire-mesh door panels, often]), PILASTER (31A: [Embedded column]) and PULES (51A: [Whimpers]). Yes, my family never made pies but still trying to figure out how I’d never come across the term ‘pie safe’ before. That might be because I read way too many comics as a kid and was noticing the LANTERN JAW of many of those superheroes to think about pie safes (28D: [Facial feature of many comic book heroes]). Overall, this grid was a great way to start a Sunday!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SORRENTO (14D: [Bay of Naples resort town])– Former Major League baseball Paul SORRENTO played first base and designated hitter for 11 seasons in The Bigs, mostly known for playing with the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners. His first Major League team was the Minnesota Twins, where he played in 26 games in 1991 for the team that won the World Series that season. Sorrento hit at least 10 home runs in each of his last eight seasons in the majors, including a career high 31 in 1997 with the Mariners. Sorrento has the distinction of recording the first hit and first home run in the history of Camden Yards in Baltimore, pulling both off in 1992 while a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you to begin another week of fun tomorrow!
Donna S. Levin and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Th-, Th-, That’s All, Folks”—Andy’s review
Simple theme this week: Add a “th” sound to the ends of common phrases to produce hilarity. An extra-special feature of this theme that I liked was that the “th” sound changed the spelling of the resultant word every time. Some really nice finds in here, so kudos to Donna S. Levin and Bruce Venzke. Themers:
- 23a, CHAIRMAN MOUTH [Unflattering nickname for a boastful corporate bigwig?]. Chairman Mao.
- 46a, SANTA FAITH [Belief at the heart of Miracle on 34th Street?]. Santa Fe. Cute!
- 68a, FAUX FIRTH [Actor Colin’s body double?]. Faux fur. Also cute!
- 91a, AARON BIRTH [Momentous event in baseball history?]. Aaron Burr. This one’s a bit awkward, but not distractingly so.
- 112a, WISHING WEALTH [Hoping for a winning lottery ticket?]. The clue suggests “wishing for wealth,” not “wishing wealth.” I might have gone with [Hoping that a friend stumbles into a fortune?], for the WISHING WEALTH (upon X person) sense.
- 15d, COLE SLOTH [Old king’s slow-moving pet?]. Cole slaw. I find the vowel sounds in “slaw” and “sloth” to be ever-so-slightly different. Anyone else agree?
- 31d, MUSICAL KEITH [Olbermann at a karaoke bar?]. Musical key. This isn’t a phrase I find that many people say. This clue could’ve just been the enigmatic [Toby?].
- 42d, GIVE ‘EM HEALTH [AMA motto?]. Give ’em hell. Nice one.
- 78d, BEAR CLOTH [Smokey’s trouser material?]. Bear claw. As with slaw –> sloth, I accept claw –> cloth, but the vowel is slightly different to me. This might just be a midwestern thing. #notallmidwesterners
Nine whole themers is great, and the quality is relatively high throughout. The clues weren’t my all-time favorites, but they got the punny job done. The fill was fine, skewing toward good. I liked the idea of the 4×8 corners in the NE and SW, and there was some good stuff in both corners (T.S. ELIOT, OMIGOSH, BOLO TIE, SHOULDA), but there was also a bit of ugliness in each corner (ALII next to IDEO-, and BRASHER felt like a bit of a stretch). Net positive for me. ZZ TOP is always nice to see in a grid. Disliked LEAPED UP (strongly prefer “leapt up” in my lexicon). PFIZER, FELIX, BEHAR, ASEXUAL, MAHLER, SCUFFLE, PROHIBIT. Not stuff you see every day, all of which made the grid a little better IMO. In sum, I liked it!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Weather Wise” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme is simply phrases alluding to meteorological goings-on. A pair of central, crossing 21-letter entries buttress the affair: 60a [Live recklessly] THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND, 10d [Ominous lull] THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. Two more verticals augment: 32d [Overwhelmed, as with chores] SNOWED UNDER, 43d [Whatever the weather] RAIN OR SHINE, while a quartet of more loosely affiliated acrosses rounds out the proceedings: 23a [Get a social start] BREAK THE ICE, 25a [Wisher’s glimmer] RAY OF HOPE, 99a [Clueless] IN THE DARK, and 101a [Elated] ON CLOUD NINE; at least I think they’re part of the theme.
The ease with which these familiar entries presented hemselves made for a very fluid solve. Some of these metaphorical phrases are parts of 48a [Old 69-Acrosses] SAWS. 69-across [Wise saying] ADAGE unfortunately duplicates a word from the puzzle’s title.
Some more salient dupes: 17d [Criminal affair] CAPER / 55a [Non-paying pursuit?] CRIME, 58a [Wood flautist] FAUN crossed by 42d [Deep-fried tortilla dish] FLAUTA (a cognate named for the instrument that it resembles); and guess what? Both Merriam-Webster and American Heritage suggest that the origin of 26d [Openly defy] FLOUT shares the same etymology.
- 27a [Ignite, with “to”] SET FIRE atop 31a [Glue label] ELMER’S typographically puts me in mind of the climatic phenomenon of St Elmo’s fire.
- 1d [PD alerts] APBS. A related acronym I learned recently is BOLO – “be on the look-out” (for).
- 19a [Cuts the skin off] PARES. Because FLENSES didn’t fit.
- 20a [Screen icon] TRASH. Clue seems off; the icon is of a trash (or recycle) bin, which is often referred to simply as ‘trash’. For many years I’ve consistently renamed my computers’ as either Slag Heap or Dirty Laundry.
- 42a [Slot machine pic] FRUIT. In the UK (and other Commonwealth nations?] they call it a fruit machine.
No favorite clues. The crossword is very smooth and well-constructed. A gentle breeze of a puzzle.
It’s Never Fair Weather, OGDEN Nash
I do not like the winter wind
That whistles from the North.
My upper teeth and those beneath,
They jitter abck and forth.
Oh, some are hanged, and some are skinned,
And others face the winter wind.
I do not like the summer sun
That scorches the horizon.
Though some delight in Fahrenheit,
To me it’s deadly poison.
I think that life would be more fun
Without the simmering summer sun.
I do not like the signs of spring,
The fever and the chills,
The icy mud, the puny bud,
The frozen daffodils.
Let other poets gaily sing;
I do not like the signs of spring.
I do not like the foggy fall
That strips the maples bare;
The radiator’s mating call,
The dank, rheumatic air;
I fear that taken in all,
I do not like the foggy fall.
The winter’s sun, of course, is kind,
And summer’s wind is a savior,
And I’ll merrily sing of fall and spring
When they’re on their good behavior.
But otherwise I see no reason
To speak in praise of any season.