(Reagle, original write-up from 18 Oct 2009)
Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “Big Names In E-Tail”—Amy’s write-up
The theme takes familiar phrases, adds an E to the end of the last word to turn it into a famous person’s surname, and clues it accordingly:
- 22a. [Admission of a lack of familiarity with Mr. Hockey?], I DON’T KNOW HOWE. Gordie Howe, I assume? Didn’t know anyone was called “Mr. Hockey.”
- 33a. [Less serious works by the author of “Brighton Rock”?], LIGHT GREENE. Graham Greene … and I don’t know Brighton Rock at all. Guessing I’m not alone in that.
- 52a. [Reason for Brosnan fans to watch 1980s TV?], BUNS OF STEELE. This one uses a fictional TV character, Remington Steele, unlike all the other themers. He was indeed popular with female viewers.
- 65a. [Trying to sell one’s “Au Revoir les Enfants” video?], SHOPPING MALLE. I’d have gotten this faster with My Dinner With Andre in the clue.
- 82a. [Explosive side of a former tennis great?], VOLCANIC ASHE. The legendary Arthur.
- 96a. [Comic’s copy of “The Importance of Being Earnest”?], JOKER’S WILDE. Oscar W.
- 113a. [Assign blame to the singer of “Blurred Lines”?], LAY IT ON THICKE. Oh, yeah. The jury ruled that Robin Thicke and his cowriter owed Marvin Gaye’s estate $7.4 million.
- 4d. [Single copy of “The Bonfire of the Vanities”?], LONE WOLFE. Tom W. I’m not keen on the 9-letter Down themers being joined by four 9- or 10-letter Down answers in the fill. What, seven theme answers wasn’t enough?
- 81d. [Buy into “Common Sense”?], BACK PAINE. Thomas P.
I don’t like the inconsistency of having one fictional character and eight real people, and it would be nice if they weren’t all men (“consistently shoring up the patriarchy” is not the sort of consistency that I value). I’d also have liked it if they were all creative artists (there are two athletes, the character, and a revolutionary, though yes, Paine did write books).
Worst crossing: Where 73a. [Plowmen’s cries], HAWS meets 51d. [Nutrition-related], TROPHIC at the H. Good gravy! I just told my husband about this crossing and he got a little profane. It doesn’t help that this area includes 61a. [Brand name whose middle two letters are linked in its logo], KOOL—with no hint in the clue that you’re looking for a cigarette brand. Oh, and the Star Wars planet NABOO, which I’m sure many people don’t know. And also 61d. [Radio freq.], KHZ. If you’re not sure if it’s kilohertz or megahertz, you’re not getting much help with KOOL. 1.5 stars for this chunk of fill here.
Fill I liked: LETS LOOSE, MGM LION, CHEF’S HAT, “SHOVE IT,” BOW TIES.
Debits: ROSE TEA is near ROSY in the grid, and I’m not sure I’ve seen rose tea. Tea made with rose hips, yes, but not the flowers. CCCVI, SOO, IRT, I IS, plural EHS, AGRO, SCREE, HET, and others that might have been worked out of the grid without those Down themers in the mix.
Nice geo-trivia: 42d. [Modern-day home of the ancient Ashanti empire], GHANA.
3.55 stars overall from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Screen Gem” — pannonica’s write-up
A cute notion is expanded to widescreen crossword proportions as an extended quote theme.
23a/42a/66a/89a/112a. [… comment by a friend with a toddler] APPARENTLY MY SON THINKS | THAT DRIVE-IN MOVIES LET | YOU ACTUALLY | DRIVE IN TO THE MOVIES AND | PLAY WITH THE CHARACTERS.
I’ll have to assume that this is more or less contemporary reportage, and drive-ins are distinct rarity these days, so any actual familiarity is unlikely. Additionally, children imaginatively envisioning things literally is a rich and historic SEAM (10d) of observational humor. Now that I’ve sucked the life out of the comedy, onward!
My first visual association was to a Don Martin cartoon from the 1970s (or possibly early ’80s) in Mad magazine (obviously not located on the web, otherwise it’d be reproduced here): a motorist, his car embedded in the side of a fast-food joint, leans out the window to opine to the order taker that they really should provide a ramp, as he needed to build up a lot of speed to drive through.
The most simpatico example, however, is Buster Keaton’s 1924 masterpiece, Sherlock, Jr. For other notable works, see also Luigi Pirandello’s slightly earlier Absurdist play Six Characters in Search of an Author and Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (produced by ORION (87a) pictures).
To be honest, I’m a little disappointed that there were no such relevant entries lurking in the grid as winking acknowledgment. Seems as if there was adequate room to play with. Nevertheless, we get 38d [Dramatis personae] CAST and 65d [38-Down member] ACTOR (which unfortunately is crossed by the duplicative 76a [Uncredited actor] EXTRA).
- 58a [Thrills sporting opposite] AGONY. Requires the solver to mentally supply the subject of each descriptor: victory and defeat. I appreciate a clue that makes you think a little more.
- 104a [Tops in tact] NICEST. Sometimes, perhaps. But it isn’t my inclination to think that way, as in my deep dark heart I mistrustful of niceness and often find it clumsy, to boot. Probably a personality flaw.
- 21a [Bring on board] HIRE, 77a [Signs on] JOINS, 102d [Given the boot] FIRED.
- 41a [Friend in France] AMIE. Interestingly, not specified as feminine.
- A paucity of of self-consciously clever and/or question-mark clues. 79d [Sort of brat?] ARMY is the only one I could find.
- 4d [Fierce fighters] BEARCATS. Ironically, though unsurprisingly, none of the three real animals (one is a bear, none are cats) with that fanciful moniker are known for ferocity.
Kathleen Fay O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Ch-Ching!”—Andy’s review
It struck me earlier today that women have constructed the last three LAT Sunday puzzles. With a bit of research, I noticed that women have had six of the last eight Sunday LATs. Whether it’s the result of a conscious effort to publish more puzzles by women or not, I hope the trend toward equal representation continues.
In this puzzle, a hard “ch” is added to the beginnings of phrases, to humorous effect. In every instance, the “ch” changes the spelling of the base phrase, which is really cool. Themers:
- 23a, CHURNINGS REPORT [Part of a dairy’s financial statement?]. Earnings report.
- 46a, CHEWS AND AAHS [Doesn’t eat with one’s mouth closed?]. Oohs and aahs. I really didn’t love that this crossed the homophone CHOO at 46d, and I also wish it’d been clued as shoe designer Jimmy rather than [Polite sneeze].
- 71a, CHAIR APPARENT [Vacant seat you only thought you saw?]. Heir apparent.
- 95a, CHAPEL BUTTER [Spread for Sunday morning coffee hour?]. Apple butter.
- 122a, CHALKWARD MOMENT [Glance at the backboard?]. Awkward moment. There’s so much about this one that shouldn’t work–the base phrase doesn’t feel terribly phrase-y to me, and it’s gutsy to make up a word–but I found this answer totally charming. I think the clue/answer combo is really fun. Would’ve maybe preferred, say, CHALKWARD SILENCE, but I liked this.
- 16d, CHASE IN THE HOLE [What Alice’s adventures began with?]. Ace in the hole. Another completely charming clue/answer pair.
- 52d, CHEESY PICKINGS [Pizza scraps?]. Easy pickings.
The LAT runs these “add or subtract a letter/sound” themes almost every Sunday nowadays. I liked this one better than most because of the elegance of changing the spelling of every base phrase. I also thought the theme answers and the clues were particularly well chosen.
The surrounding fill wasn’t particularly memorable. Not a lot of long stuff, but STAN LEE, SO I GATHER, ACID ROCK, BRIOCHE, and MR. WILSON were all nice. A bit of crosswordese as well (stuff like OON that you’d rather not see), but nothing we haven’t seen before. 92d, NEOSHO [Arkansas river tributary] was brand new to me, though it’s been in a few puzzles.
Until next time!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! I hope you all are doing well and, more importantly, staying warm, especially if you’re in the East Coast and experiencing the cold snap that’s passing by the Northeast.
This was one of the more enjoyable Sunday Challenges that I got to do, and thanks so much to Mr. Alan Arbesfeld for constructing the puzzle. All of the long entries were enjoyable, and was especially fin filling in EXCOGITATE (17A: [Devise]). Didn’t have too many holdups, though MIKADOS made me do a double take because I wasn’t expecting the entry, when looking at its clue initially, to end with the standard plural ending of “s” (22D: [Old Japanese emperors]). Just a couple of weeks ago, the European Championships soccer qualifying tournament was going on, and I’m always interested in the different cities those games take place in because I always have the feeling that one of those cities will appear in a crossword. With that said, hello there TALLINN (40D: [Capital of Estonia])!! Honestly, there’s no way I would have filled that answer without using any crosses without watching European soccer, even with my knowledge of world capitals. There was really only one answer that made really think about its veracity, and that was RKOS (7D: [Some old theaters]). I knew about the film company (RKO Pictures), but seeing the plural form of it made me pause. I’m guessing there were theaters called RKO that you could go to and watch some movies. Speaking of movies and heading to the movie theaters, I need to do that sometime soon.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REESE (19A: [Ebbets Field star])– Known as “The Little Colonel,” Pee Wee Reese was a shortstop for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers who is best known for his outward support of fellow infielder Jackie Robinson when he became the first black player to play in Major League Baseball. On the field, Reese was a 10-time All-Star and a two-time World Series Champion, winning in 1955 with the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1959, the team’s second season in Los Angeles. Reese was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1984.
Have a great rest of your weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow!!