Loren Muse Smith and Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
It’s fashionable in these pages to decry an amount of insensitivity to the perspectives of women and minorities, so in seeming response today’s crossword is provided unto us. Constructed by a duo of women, the theme is: types of brassieres. Here’s your revealer: 58a [Dangers for the unwary … or a hint to the starts of 17-, 23- and 47-Across?] BOOBY TRAPS. I guess that’s a bit risqué for the Times.
- 17a. [Place to put someone who might hurt himself] PADDED CELL.
- 23a. [1962 film about Helen Keller, with “The”] MIRACLE WORKER.
- 49a. [Be dead and buried, in slang] PUSH UP DAISIES. Unusual conjugation of the phrase requires an equally awkward clue.
So. Two styles, and one trademarked variety, which is admittedly probably the most famous branded type of all [edit: or perhaps the Wonder Bra is more famous?], but there are many other generic designs and designations to choose from. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised that BUST magazine ran a crossword with a similar theme.
Honestly, without looking at the byline I would have assumed that this was the handiwork of a male constructor. From the dubious fratboy-style revealer to man’s man CLINT Eastwood occupying pride of place as the central across entry.
Eyeballing—not quantifying—the fill, it seems there’s a marginally higher ratio of women to men than is typically seen in crosswords, so that’s a topical plus.
- Long downs are ODDSMAKER and NECESSARY. Those are all right.
- 28d [Prefix with pathetic] SYM-. That’s, uh, pathetic.
- 25d [Country singer Williams] LUCINDA. Barely. I don’t understand the compulsion to label artists such as her and—notably in crosswords—Steve EARLE as country when that’s such a minor aspect of their music, and typical of almost none of their airplay or audience. A drawled delivery and a cowboy hat does not necessarily oblige one to make country music. Just ask Bo Diddley.
- 29d [Clip-clop sound producer] HOOF. Or hooves, or coconut halves.
Peter Collins’ Fireball crossword, “Inner Self”—Jenni’s write-up
This puzzle is an odd size – 17 x 21 – I presume to accommodate the 17-letter theme answer at 19A. 17 is my lucky number. Didn’t help.
This is a contest puzzle; we were asked to figure out which Oscar-nominated actress could have been an 8th theme answer. The seven that made it in the grid:
- Oscar nominee for “In the Name of the Father” – PETE POSTLETHWHAITE
- Times 2009 Person of the year – BEN BERNANKE
- 2011 Masters Champion – CHARL SCHSARTZEL
- Eric Weiss portrayer on ALIAS – GREG GRUNBERG
- Original Betty Rubble voicer – BEA BENADARET
- Political cartoonist who often includes a penguin named Punk in the corner of his drawings – PAT OLIPHANT
- Creator of fireman Guy Montag – RAY BRADBURY
What do all those people have in common? The letters in their first names are found, in correct order, within their last names. I figured that out and then considered the contest. “Oscar-nominated” means every woman nominated in either the lead or supporting category who didn’t win. There have been 87 Academy Award ceremonies since 1929; Supporting Actress was added for the 9th version in 1936, so there are only 78 of those. 5 nominees each year – 1 winner = 4. (87×4) + (78×4) =660. Of course, some women were nominated for multiple awards – but still, we’re talking about several hundred unique names. Since I generally don’t pay any attention to the Oscars, I felt overwhelmed. Luckily, I know where to find Wikipedia and I read quickly. I didn’t find anyone on the Best Actress list that fit the bill, so I scanned the Supporting list and there she was – UMA THURMAN, nominated in 1994 for “Pulp Fiction”.
I was not particularly impressed with the theme or the contest; I don’t like solving that requires brute force. If I hadn’t promised to blog the puzzle, I wouldn’t have bothered to solve the contest at all. There’s no way to make this theme consistent, so we have men and women from various walks of life – several actors, a Fed chairman, an author and a golfer. I wonder if CHARL SCHWARTZEL was the seed entry. I don’t follow golf. I confidently filled in CHARLES for the first name, which bollixed me up for quite some time, and then stared at 78 D (Meaning of the Latin word that’s the root of the language name Esperanto) for a while before SPERO jumped out at me. Then I double- checked and realized I’d parsed it wrong – I thought he was CHARLS CHWARTZEL. A very challenging collection of letters, like POSTLETHWAITE. I know I’ve said it before – I admire the construction and the sheer breadth of knowledge required to make this puzzle. I didn’t enjoy it much.
Other random thoughts:
- I didn’t know Ione Skye was Donovan’s daughter.
- Loved the clue for AUTOTUNE – It can stop you from being pitchy. I thought about pine pitch and boats pitching before I figured it out.
- 42A, TEEN BEAT, takes me back to my youth – Donny and Marie! John Travolta!
- Is ZEROTH a term that’s actually used in mathematics?
- 27D was a gimme for me. Medical knowledge FTW. “Ageusia” is the inability to taste. It’s usually not due to malfunctioning tastebuds, but to nerve damage.
- Bea Benaderet was familiar to me and I have no idea who voiced any of the Flintstones. Turns out that she played the mother on “Petticoat Junction”. I should not remember that, and yet I do.
3 stars for me.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Yet another X-can-precede/follow-(A, B, C …) themes. This time, it actually is an X. 62-across lays it out thus: [Hard-to-believe element, or a hint to what can precede each last word in answers to starred clues] THE X FACTOR.
- 17a. [*Guys’ hair coloring product] JUST FOR MEN (X-Men).
- 39a. [*Radioactive emission] BETA RAY (x-ray).
- 11d. [*Root source for a database] MASTER FILE (X-file, as in the television series). Bit geeky clue and answer.
- 29d. [*Big place to play online] YAHOO GAMES (X Games).
Not a big theme in idea or scope, but pretty much what’s expected of a Monday offering.
Two pairs of sevens (rows 6 and 10) gird the central section of the grid: TOYS Я US, AIRTRAN, STOOLIE, POLLENS. Apparently the proper way to type the name of the [Chain with headquarters at One Geoffrey Way, Wayne, N.J.] is Toys “R” Us. You know, maybe it’s time for the dyslexic vibe to be retired. It takes effort to overcome the condition, or at least come to terms with it, and there really isn’t much that’s cute about it in a major corporate logo.
Another foursome of seven-letter entries—this time verticals in columns 4 and 11—lunge to the grid’s midline: GET LOST, CHIANTI, MORMONS, FLEECES. Plus, there are two more, straddling the center in columns 6 and 10: TUNES IN and DISAVOW. All these midlength entries help to keep the fill interconnected and the grid tightly knit.
Fill’s clean, and my only quibbles are a couple of minor clue aspects. 39-down [Nearly excellent grade] B-PLUS; an A-plus is excellent, and there are A and A-minus between that and B-PLUS. 66-across [Danish shoe brand] ECCO directly above 69a [Like plow horses] SHOD.
John Lampkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s Elementary — Jim’s write-up
We’re going back to the basics with John Lampkin’s WSJ puzzle today — all the way back to before the Periodic Table of Elements — back to when humans first began to look at the world around them and tried to describe and quantify it. Each of our four theme answers ends with one of the classical elements.
- 17A [Pipe dreams] CASTLES IN THE AIR. I kept thinking of Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky or Les Miz’s Castle on a Cloud.
- 27A [Ongoing projects] IRONS IN THE FIRE
- 46A [Society’s best folks] SALT OF THE EARTH. I mistakenly took the clue to mean “upper class people”.
- 60A [Deep Purple’s best-selling single] SMOKE ON THE WATER. There’s no mistaking that intro riff.
This theme has no doubt been done before, but here, each one is consistently presented in the following form: (noun) (preposition) THE (element). (The only inconsistency is the repetition of the preposition IN, but that’s a minor nit.) So that ups the elegance of the theme as does the fact that each phrase is idiomatic or well-known.
Did you know that these same four elements have appeared in multiple ancient philosophies around the world? The Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Japanese have all used these same four elements, sometimes added by a fifth “aether” element, to describe the world around them.
But back to the puzzle. There are a few things I could do without: EERO, ETO, ATTS, and OF ME, but these were relatively few. Non-theme highlights include: ANTENNA, JANUARY, SCHNOZ crossing BIZARRE, and the un-breakfasty EARWAX with its clue [Canal clogger]. Good stuff!
So, a basic theme, but made elegant by the choice of consistent themers and a relatively clean grid. Four stars from me.
Wondering where you fit in? Find out if you’re Earth, Air, Fire, or Water.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”—Amy’s write-up
Despite having four unfamiliar entries, this 68-word puzzle fell in an ordinary (or a little bit faster than usual) amount of time. Here were the new-to-me bits:
- 18a. [Thick and savory dish made with milk, onions, and its namesake ingredient], BREAD SAUCE. Is this an English thing? It sounds dreadful.
- 35a. [Singer Potter whose backing band is the Nocturnals], GRACE. I wonder if Brendan saw her Boston show the other day.
- 37a. [Drawing tool for engineers], SET SQUARE. I know T-squares but not this square.
- 30d. [Hyperlinks in a word processing program], SMART TAGS.
48a. [Muscular power], THEW—that was ever so faintly familiar. Still needed many crossings.
Likes: The mostly smooth crossings of the corner stacks. IMPECCABLE. The UP AND ABOUT/NEW BALANCE/GRAY MATTER stack. The word QUONDAM. The shout-out to 31d: HENRY HOOK. The tricky clue for the ESCAPE KEY, 32d. [Window shutter?] (and how unusual to see ESCAPE KEY instead of ESC in a crossword!). The PREY clue, 7d. [Moving game pieces?].
ETAPE, AOKI, and GOEN are the worst of the fill. Given the quad-stacked 9s, that is not a high number of “mehs.”
3.9 stars from me.
David Steinberg’s Buzzfeed crossword, “I’m Jacked Up”—Andy’s review
Week 4 of PuzzFeed. So far on my Monday duty, I’ve seen two Neville Fogarty puzzles and two David Steinberg puzzles. These guys are excellent, but I’m hoping for some variety in the weeks to come.
Straightforward theme this week: you can find an ENERGY DRINK at the end of the three starred answers, plus one hidden inside two symmetrical answers. Namely…
- 16a, GILA MONSTER [Giant poisonous lizard that’s too lazy to pose any real threat to humans]. I know there’s a difference between venomous and poisonous, and I thought gila monsters fell on the venomous side. Confirm/deny in the comments.
- 24a/35a, PARTY LIKE/A ROCKSTAR [With 35-Across, 2007 Shop Boyz hit that’s now stuck in my head]. It’s catchy, you’ve been warned.
- 49a, GUITAR AMP [Sound booster for a sick solo].
- 3d/43d, COLORED / BULLION [Shaded in with crayons, say / Heavy metal bar?]. I was initially wondering why David chose BULLION/DUSK instead of the equally valid BILLION/DISK, but the hidden RED BULL explains it.
Fine theme, well executed. I’m still undecided on whether it was a good idea to squeeze the bonus RED BULL into the grid, but right now I’m leaning in the “yes” direction. This one’s got a bit of a weird, segmented grid (sort of by necessity, given the 9-letter entry in the center of the grid). Lots of 3-letter words (25 by my count), offset by the nice six- and seven-letter entries like ASHANTI, KIT KAT, PEGASUS, AS USUAL, SKIPPER, PAPRIKA, CROAKED, BOGOTA, and OKINAWA. The short fill is actually nice, too.
MARAT next to PEGGY Olson is a fun juxtaposition, and I like the Mr. Robot reference in the HACKER clue. I wonder if Spanish-speakers actually use heladeria (ice cream parlor) in the way we use popsicle stand, as in [“Time to blow this heladeria!”] (ADIOS). And who doesn’t love the ONO clue [“Not activist Yoko!!!”]?
The PuzzFeed cluing really seems to have found a good rhythm. Shorter, fewer lolcat-isms, still snappy and current. A+. If I have one cluing complaint for this puzzle, it’s that I don’t get the “technically” in the clue for ACUTE [Under 90°, technically].
Until next time!
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Breakfast Special”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, crossword fans, and a happy November to you. If I was able to grow a decent mustache to boot, I’d also wish the guys on here a happy Movember, too. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, gets our day started right with five theme answers that all contain words that also, in a different context, deal with what you might have at the breakfast table.
- KEVIN BACON (17A: [Detective portrayer in “Mystic River”])
- TOAST MISTRESS (23A: [Speaker introducer, at times])
- GOOD EGG (37A: [Amiable sort])
- PANCAKE MAKEUP (49A: [Performer’s powder, perhaps])
- SAUSAGE DOG (60A: [Dachshund, jokingly])
Today’s puzzle, once again, proves that the better way to spell HOOKY is the way it’s presented in this grid today (54A: [Truant’s infraction]). Also in the same region of the grid, the clue for EYES has now wigged me out for the rest of this blogging experience, now that I have spiders and their massive amount of peepers in my head (66A: [What most spiders have eight of]). For some reason, I really slowed up in the Northeast portion of the grid. Wasn’t able to get the “mistress” portion of the theme answer quickly, and that caused me to slow down considerably when trying to fill out the Northeast part of the grid. Once I got BLUR (28A: [Hazy memory]), which then allowed me to see BIZARRE from its final two letters, then I was golden from there (10D: [Freaky]). If you’re a fan of Baylor University sports (in crossword-friendly Waco, Texas), you’ll know that supporters chant “SIC EM Bears” to rally their team and cheer them on (7D: [“Go for the jugular!”]). That bit of information could have saved for the next graph, but, instead, I chose…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NORSE (30D: [Vikings, e.g.]) – What does the Bluegrass State have to do with people from Scandinavia? Well, I’m not 100 percent sure, but I do know that the Northern Kentucky University athletic teams are nicknamed the NORSE. The university, located in Highland Heights, KY, was known for its great basketball teams while a member of NCAA Division II. In 1996 and 1997, the men’s team finished as runner-up in the Elite Eight (NCAA Division I equivalent of the Final Four) and the women’s team won the D-II national championship in 2000 and 2008.
Have a good rest of the day, and I’ll see you on Tuesday!