Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “The Short Form”
Theme: Familiar phrases that contain abbreviatable words have one key word abbreviated, and the abbreviation doubles as a full word with a different meaning. The new, goofy phrase is what’s clued:
- 23a. [“Belt it out, Adam!”?], FIRST PERSON SING. Singular.
- 38a. [“I forbid you from providing special access”?], DON’T GIVE AN IN. Inch. Two of the crossings (HANG IN THERE, IS IN ON) also include the word IN, which is unfortunate.
- 42a. [Your father’s blockheadedness?], POP DENSITY. Population.
- 66a. [Coin flip with a penny?], TURN OF THE CENT. Century. Century and cent, of course, both derive from the Latin centum, 100, so this one’s markedly less elegant.
- 92a. [Emotional problem that is surprisingly fitting?], APT COMPLEX. Apartment.
- 94a. [Prepared some amazing Mediterranean fruit?], CUT QUITE A FIG. Figure.
- 112a. [Do a bad job as a watchman?], LOOK OUT FOR NO ONE. Number. Ahem. ONE crosses its cousin ONCE and this theme answer also crosses NAME ONE and SNEAK OUT. No, no, no. Don’t do this.
I didn’t enjoy the overall fill here. There were so many phrases containing NO, IN, ONE, ON, UP, or OUT—I count 14, not counting the theme answers. Lends a dry feeling to the venture. A smattering of crosswordese—AMUR, ERNE, OOO—and the awkward BITTERER aren’t helping. Throwing in a SAHIB at 1-Across gave me a sense of grid foreboding that was borne out.
Five more things:
- 64d. [Old frozen dinner brand], LE MENU. Bring on the dreaded IPANA and RINSO if we’re in the Brands of Yore mood. (I am not in a Brands of Yore mood.)
- 3d. [Openly expresses disapproval]. HARRUMPHS. I actually did harrumph at 102d.
- 102d. [Like some characters in “The Hobbit”], ELFIN. Well, except that Tolkien used elven, not elfin.
- 87a. Title parrot in a 1998 film], PAULIE. Not many people saw that movie. Far more people watched The Sopranos and would remember the Paulie Walnuts character, who was a big part of the show for all six seasons.
- 68d. [Piece of the pie], CRUST. As the Jeffersons theme song suggests …
The theme answers didn’t bring the funny, so they weren’t able to do much to offset the blahs I had while working the rest of the fill. A flat three stars from me.
Frank Virzi’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Oh, I Get It!”—Andy’s review
Oh! Didn’t see you there! I was too busy solving this puzzle, in which Frank Virzi has added an “oh” sound to some phrases in order to produce different, less sensical phrases. Hilarity ensues (and I don’t just say that about every letter/sound-addition theme):
- 22a, WINDOW CHILL FACTOR [Glass insulation consideration?]. Wind chill factor.
- 43a, DEPOT DISH APPLE PIE [Dessert served to waiting commuters?]. Deep dish apple pie.
- 98a, PEKOE PERFORMANCES [Skits at teatime?]. Peak performances.
- 122a, PLAY-DOH POST OFFICE [Where clay letters are mailed?]. Played post office, I guess? Is that old-timey sexual innuendo?
- 3d, JUNEAU CLEAVER [Alaskan butcher’s tool?]. June Cleaver (of Leave it to Beaver).
- 59d, BINGO CHERRIES [Fruit used in a numbers game?]. Bing cherries.
And… that’s it? Just six theme entries? I’m not missing something, am I? To give as much credit as possible, the six “oh” sounds are spelled six different ways across the theme entries (“ow,” “ot,” “oe,” “oh,” “eau,” and “o”). But the phrases and clues aren’t particularly humorous, and having only six of them leaves large swaths of this 21×21 grid that are completely unoccupied by theme content. This leaves a lot of room for creative fill: we get PASTA FAZOOL, NOSECONE, PETER PAN, IMHOTEP, USS COLE, POINSETTIAS, ST. OLAF, SHAZAM, GO VIRAL. But for each of those, there’s a RILLE, A MAP, IT I, AHEMS, UNCA, DBLS, HELI-, -ENNE, RINSERS, AT. WT., OR A (clued offputtingly as [“… boy ___ girl?”], ORCH, ORBED, ESHER, ENSEALS… you get the picture. So… yeah. Hopefully you like tomorrow’s LAT puzzle better than I liked this one… because I made it!
2.9 stars. Until next time!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Pun Clearance 3”–Sam Donaldson’s review
The good thing about clearance sales is that you can get some good deals. The bad thing about them is that often the goods available are things no one else wanted. This week we have a “pun clearance”–interesting puns that either couldn’t be paired with others to make a separate theme or were part of another theme but got left on the cutting room floor. The nine puns here generally work well and were easy to suss out, so I liked it just fine.
If puns make you ill, skip to the prose following the bullet points. There. You’ve been warned. Here are the theme entries:
- The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah become SOLOMON GOMORRAH, clued as [King with a wicked sense of fairness?]. Solomon is the fair king, and Gomorrah adds the requisite wickedness. I won’t go all fire and brimstone here; I’ll just say this was my least favorite of the group.
- One who is [Utterly unable to eat breakfast without bread?] might be called LACK-TOAST INTOLERANT (a play on “lactose intolerant”). As a fan of carbs for breakfast, I can relate.
- We need two entries for this one: [The story of a priest?] is A GENTLEMAN / AND HIS COLLAR, a variation of “a gentleman and a scholar,” alas two adjectives rarely used to describe me despite my profession.
- If you feel marginalized, take comfort that you’re not MARTIANALIZED, [What space aliens dislike being in human society?].
- The [Nickname for an extremely unpopular x-ray technician?] is ROENTGEN TROLL, which I believe derives from “rent control.”
- [The Golden Gate Bridge, for example], would be A TENSION SPAN, a play on “attention span” that describes well the basic feature of a suspension bridge.
- The [Most popular car in India?] is the DODGE MAHAL, an ear-ly variant of “Taj Mahal.” Do puns like this leave you Agra-vated?
- [What a certain car insurance company is considering for its next commercial?] is GECKO-ROMAN WRESTLING, a twist on Greco-Roman wrestling featuring the mascot from the Geico TV spots.
- I liked this last one best (which I think is how it’s supposed to work–the last theme entry should always be a punchline of sorts to, you know, leave ’em laughing): The [versatility clause in today’s musician contracts] is that the performer Must be able to STRADDLE VARIOUS instruments. “Straddle various,” of course, sounds very similar to the Stradivarius stringed instruments.
So yeah, other than the fact that they’re all puns, there’s no common thread here. But that’s okay because the title told you not to expect anything especially elegant–just some decent puns to make you grin or groan. Mission accomplished.
Let’s get to this week’s countdown of the hardest entries in the grid. If the items in the countdown don’t seem all that hard, it’s probably because the grid was largely devoid of anything obscure (even stuff like RTE NO and I ROAM were readily guessable). Anyway, here we go:
- 5. [Country singer] TERRI [Gibbs] is best-known for the (mild) hit, Somebody’s Knockin’. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Terri Gibbs:
- 4. The [Private phone channel between offices] is a TIE LINE. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term before. I tried HOTLINE, but that clearly wasn’t right. For a while I settled on TIN LINE, figuring RAISINS was somehow a legit answer for the crossing [Oxeye and others]. It wasn’t until I realized that was DIASIES that TIE LINE finally appeared, meaning I had finally solved the puzzle.
- 3. [Director Mervyn] LeROY was better-known as a producer. The most notable film he directed was probably Gypsy.
- 2. REATA was [The ranch in “Giant”], a film I saw in the theater with my first girlfriend and her mother. All I really remember from the film is surreptitiously holding my girlfriend’s hand during the second act.
- 1. REDAN is a [V-shaped fortification]. Huh? Help me, Wikipedia: “Redan (a French word for ‘projection,’ ‘salient’) is a term related to fortifications. It is a work in a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack. It can be made from earthworks or other material.” Um, okay.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Whodunit?” — pannonica’s write-up
A quote puzzle. This one features a saying that I’m familiar with and appreciate, but that doesn’t elevate by even one iota my low opinion about such puzzles.
99-across [President quoted herein] HARRY TRUMAN. In five parts: IT IS AMAZING | WHAT YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH | IF YOU | DO NOT | CARE WHO GETS THE CREDIT. (22a, 40a, 61a, 62a, 75a)
66a [Simoleons] BUCKS. Yes, Truman also popularized the phrase, “The Buck Stops Here.”
Do I like 58a [“Nothing __!”] DOING directly above theme component DO NOT? I do not.
Something I noticed while assessing the completed grid: fill strongly similar to nearby or similarly positioned fill. Second row: 20a ERNŐ Rubik next to 19a ENRON, bottom row 105a NODE followed by 106a NODS, 59a ABU Dhabi with 85a ABA occupying the same spot five rows below. 103a AT TEN and 104a ANENT. Of course, this sort of thing is practically inevitable in crosswords, but these instances seemed especially salient.
Regarding that AT TEN partial, it comes from a nursery rhyme that I have no recollection of, though I certainly recognize the subject, a ten o’clock scholar:
A DILLER, A DOLLAR
A diller, a dollar,
A ten o’clock scholar,
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o’clock,
And now you come at noon.
- 37d [“__ Daughter” (1970 movie)] RYAN’S. Not to be confused with 1973’s Paper Moon, famously starring Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum.
- 37a [Naturalist Francesco] REDI. Very important figure. Not nearly well-enough known these days.
- 1d [Respiratory woe] CATTARH. Two higher-level groupings of primates are cattarhines and platyrrhines. The former (Greek, down + nose) include Old World monkeys while the latter (flat + nose) are the New World monkeys.
- 86a [Medieval guild] HANSA. As in the Hanseatic League.
- 88a [Velvety fabric] PANNE. Hmm.
- 90a [Dr. McGraw] PHIL above 95a [Leak slowly] OOZE. Now I’m thinking of that other pop-medico as Dr Ooze.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! At the moment, I’m enjoying the day on the sand…well, kind of. Taking in a beach volleyball tournament on the banks of the Hudson River, and wondering how anyone can perform any athletic activities in this much heat! (There is a heat advisory in the boroughs of New York until Monday.)
Speaking of heat, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith brought some heat for today’s Sunday Challenge, though it was one that I handled pretty well! Before talking about the puzzle and my experience, I just want to highlight the best answer in the grid, in my opinion: CASSANDRAS (17A: [Pessimistic seers]). Though my Greek mythology is somewhat limited, I always remember my high school literature teacher recounting the particular take involving Apollo and Cassandra, and explaining that I could call a lady that was, essentially, a Doubting Thomas, a Cassandra. That always stuck with me. Now if only I can come across more ladies that had pessimistic views on things and outcomes so I can use the term more!
As a matter of fact, Cassandras ended up helping me pretty much open everything up for me, since the other quadrants of the grid didn’t give me too much trouble. Initially thought ‘banana’ or something peach related for PECANS (1D: [Georgia crop]). As for its counterpart at No. 1, had the second part of the entry, but getting ‘pajama’ for PAJAMA GAME was pretty much a shot in the dark (1A: [1954 Broadway hit, with “The”]). Has/had anyone heard of that Broadway play before today? Crying Game? Yes. Imitation Game? Sure. Pajama Game? Not so familiar. The middle of the grid was pretty tasty, literally, with PATISSERIES (35A: [Fancy bakeshop items]). I knew this was going to be a cinch of a puzzle when each of the long across answers in the Southeast fell without nary a struggle, including HEIDELBERG, with my time spent in Germany a few years ago (56A: [German university town, and setting for “The Student Prince”]). Can’t stay too long, as I have to start talking about beach volleyball in a few minutes. But we have to continue the streak with the next graph, something that was almost broken with the grid…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HIVE (50D: [Busy place])– I would like to thank Martin for giving me the hardest puzzle I’ve done in terms of trying to derive a sports angle out of one of the clues, especially since I had already done CUJO (nickname of former NHL goaltender Curtis Joseph) in a previous puzzle. But, fortunately, I remembered that the Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise played its first 14 seasons, from 1988 to 2002, at the Charlotte Coliseum, affectionately known as “The HIVE.” Because of the presence of a professional basketball team in a basketball-mad part of the country, as well as the stellar play of future Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning and All-Star Larry Johnson, the Hornets finished first or second in the league in total attendance in each of the franchise’s first 10 seasons. Rumors of the team moving caused attendance to plummet in the next few years before the team moved to New Orleans after the 2002 season.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!