(Reagle, original write-up from 15 Nov 2009)
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “Having Aspirations”—Amy’s write-up
The theme takes familiar phrases that include a word starting with W, swaps in a homophone that starts with WH, and lets the title remind you that many people are still pronouncing those WH words with an aspirated “w” (which is essentially the Old English “hw” that many of these words used to start with—that or the Old Norse “hv,” as in “whirl”—Language Log can explain more). Many people, though, have dropped the aspiration entirely.
- 23a. [“So You Think You Can Dance,” say?], THE WHIRLED SERIES. Theme entry doesn’t quite work. The contests may whirl and be whirled, but the show itself is not whirled. (Play on World Series.)
- 41a. [Roller coaster shout from Queen Elizabeth?], THE ROYAL “WHEE.” (The royal “we.”)
- 68a. [“Did you mean Doom or Dolittle?”?], “WHICH DOCTOR?” (Witch doctor.)
- 89a. [Mob Boss Hall of Fame?], WHACKS MUSEUM. (Wax museum.) What, no Hit Man Hall of Fame here? Also! Did anyone see that old Joe Pesci appearance on Saturday Night Live, in which his character says, “Sometimes Santa Claus gotta get whacked”?
- 113a. [Making a complaint at a restaurant?], WHINING AND DINING. (Wining and dining.)
- 17d. [“That milky liquid belongs to me!”?], “GET OUT OF MY WHEY!” (“Get out of my way.”) Gross clue.
- 48d. [One in line to rule the ocean?], PRINCE OF WHALES. (Prince of Wales.) Now, whales really don’t dominate the seas. When I had the PRINCE part filled in and hadn’t figured out any other theme answers yet, I wanted PRINCE OF TIDES to fit. Come on, that’s perfect!
The theme is slightly inconsistent in that five of the seven answers change the spelling beyond just adding an H, and two (113a, 48d) do not.
Favorite fill: PAPRIKA, THIS WEEK, THE EDGE, HOLY COW, the song CECILIA.
Unfavorite fill: A bunch of things seen in crosswords out of proportion to their use in real life—STENOS, IT IS I, OCH, T.S.E., KEN’L-Ration, one-O-CAT crossing IMARI (!), OGEES crossing ENSE (!), INRI … assorted verb phrases with prepositions. Felt rather flat. And ARMERS? Who uses that?
GUARE crossing ERDOS is likely a tough spot for those not up on their playwrights and/or mathematicians.
Favorite clue: 93a. [Like some jeans and apartment buildings], LOW-RISE. I pondered stone-washed apartment buildings here. Boot-cut! Skinny. Relaxed fit.
3 stars from me.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Going on a Bender”—Andy’s review
This is the hardest theme I can remember the LAT running on a Sunday (or at least in the recent past), and I really appreciated it. Once you look at the grid and realize there’s almost nothing longer than 7 letters, you get the sense that something unusual is brewing.
And in fact, it is. At eight places in the puzzle, a directional (writ loosely) phrase takes a 90-degree turn — so in order to solve the puzzle, you have to TURN A PHRASE eight times. Cleverly, the direction in the phrase roughly corresponds to the direction the phrase turns (four of them go down, and four go across to the right):
- 1a/6d, TAKES/T/HEPLUNGE [Gets hitched].
- 7a/12d, DEBBIE/D/OWNER [Unpopular party gal]. For what it’s worth, I use “Debbie Downer” to refer to party poopers of all genders. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this entry was the inspiration for the puzzle.
- 13a/17d, HITS/A/SLUMP [Goes 0 for 20, say]. When does a slump officially start being a slump? I guess it varies by sport/endeavor, but I certainly can’t think of anything where 0-20 isn’t a slump.
- 43d/65a, PRESS/F/ORWARD [Keep battling]. The first of the across-turning phrases.
- 48d/51a, OVERTH/E/FALLS [How some Niagara stunts are done]. Is this a phrase? Felt a bit manufactured to me, but I didn’t mind while I was solving. This was the last of the down-turning phrases.
- 68d/101a, COMINGOU/T/AHEAD [More than breaking even]. Clear that a couple of these had to be given an -ing/-ed/-s to make the symmetry work, but again, for a concept like this I don’t mind that at all.
- 74d/100a, PUTONE/A/CROSS [Play a trick on]. As you’ll see below, this gave me fits. Totally legit entry, but I wanted the answer to be “put one over on.” This was the first theme answer I figured out, so it was unfortunate that it also happened to be a phrase I hadn’t heard before.
- 76d/99a, HANGA/R/IGHT [Passenger’s direction at the corner].
I decided to record video of my solve this week (no audio, just a screen capture). If that kind of thing interests you, great; if not, also great. Watching it back, it helped me see which points were stumbling blocks/traps and which sections were easier.
If I have one complaint about this puzzle (and since we’re nitpicking, I do), it’s that some of the “turns” happen on the final letter of the first word, while others happen on the first letter of the last word. There’s really no rhyme or reason for why this happens, except that sometimes it suits the symmetry to do it one way versus the other. In my ideal world, the phrases would all turn such that the “turn” word was an entry unto itself every time (e.g., DEBBIED/DOWNER rather than DEBBIE/EDOWNER). But like I said, this is a minor quibble.
Since almost all the theme action in this grid takes place over two medium-length entries, this grid is heavy on medium-length words (almost nothing under 4 or over 7 letters long). That means the fill should be pretty clean, especially given that almost no theme material (except the revealer) occupies the middle of the grid. And for the most part, it was pretty clean. Plus, Bruce squeezed every possible Q into the grid (I count 5!), highlighted by QUIET PLEASE. A few fun non-Q things too, like A.A. MILNE, TRY IT ON, SUITS ME, BACARDI, and QUARK, and little in the way of junk (AYLA, LIA, and IER didn’t tickle me, and QOM crossing POTTS maybe wasn’t ideal).
All in all, this was a solid puzzle. More challenging than usual, and consequently one of the most enjoyable LAT Sundays in recent memory. Until next time!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Circular File” — pannonica’s write-up
Had I looked at the title, I might have been less inclined to so assuredly plunk in CIRCE at 1-across for [Tempter of Odysseus]. Or perhaps I’d have done so even more quickly. After the incorrect fill was excised, my next trick was to suppose 3d [Like a jungle’s climate] would be HUMID. With a little perseverance, however, affairs were soon sorted, with the generic singular SIREN and RAINY.
After that, it was pretty much off to the races. The theme simply adds an’O’ to an existing word or phrase and clues the wackified result.
- 23a. [Team monitoring a singer?] VOICE SQUAD (vice squad).
- 25a. [Guy owning a sty?] BOARTENDER (bartender).
- 37a. [Stuff to browse when you’re hanging out?] LOITERATURE (literature).
- 41a. [Where cowboys get cuts?] HAIR SALOONS (hair salons). A plural of convenience.
- 61a. [AARP teasers?] SENIOR PROMOS (senior proms). Another plural of convenience. Together they are pluralses of convenienceses.
- 67a. [One tracking a light in the sky?] METEOR READER (meter reader). This after 31a [Azure] SKY BLUE.
- 86a. [Crew of farmers?] SOWING SHIFT (swing shift).
- 89a. [Someone who flies like a jet?] HUMAN BOEING (human being).
- 108a. [Cheesy rhymes, say, to bards?] POET PEEVES (pet peeves).
- 110a. [Secret signals of gloom?] MOROSE CODE (Morse code).
There you have it. Only sometimes do they end up sounding like overly broad Irish accents (restricted to when—but not always—the inserted Os live next to a vowel and create a diphthong). The two single-word themers become portmanteau words, no?
Touring the grid:
- 10d [Occupying a sack] ON BASE. I honestly thought this had to do with army bases and sad sacks, maybe goldbricking? But now I see that, yet again, it’s a baseball thing. Speaking of which, I knew that the subject of 55a [Carlton Fisk’s nickname] PUDGE was a catcher and because this is the CRooked/Boston Globe crossword, I was nearly sure that he would thus have played for the Red Sox (which I’ve just now confirmed).
- 22a [Samurai with no master] RONIN, just below 14a [Cutting edge] BLADE. Was going to watch Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri (1962) last night, but I was too sleepy.
- Favorite clues: 55d [One in plane view?] PILOT, 24d [Room for sweaters] SAUNA, 87d [Fun partner] GAMES.
- 103d [Swoop’s adjective] FELL, which is (mostly) unrelated to the verbs fall and fell (from the Old English fellan, and is also distinct from the noun fell—meaning skin, hide, pelt—which originates from the Latin pellis (see also 80d [Regal wrap] ERMINE). No, the ‘fell swoop’ sense means ‘destructive’ or ‘deadly’ (as well as ‘fierce’, ‘cruel’, ‘deadly’, or ‘sinister’, ‘malevolent’, plus (Scottish) ‘sharp’ or ‘pungent’, and is related to felon (which may in part derive from Old German fel (skin, in the sense of whipping or beating). Etymology GLEANed (100d) from m-w.com
- Least favorite clue: 72d [Painter of “wet watches”] DALÍ. Wet?! What? Wait, whut? Runner-up: 53a [Jurassic critter] DINO – not so much (although there were still many about), and you’d better believe I blame M Crichton. At least there’s no ‘cat’ appellation to be found in the clue for 65a CIVET [Musky mammal]. Least favorite fill (ignoring the crosswordy usual suspects such as A RUN, AS I, CUL, EGAD, ON CD, IBOOK, etc.): 112a [Path opening] HOMEO-. Runner-up: 44d LADLER.
- 58a [Vessel] CRAFT. Hey, you could drink some craft beer out of a schooner, how about that? Possibly a crossword THEME (95d) in there.
- Lexicologically allied trio rounding out the clues: 109d [Driver’s item] TEE, 110d [Driver’s item] MAP, 111d [Driver’s place] CAP.
Doug Peterson’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! I hope you’re doing well, and hope you enjoyed the fun crossword in offer for us today, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson. I want to say that I don’t have too much time to spend talking about the puzzle, but had so much fun that I’ll see how much I can talk while in the middle of the whole “sporps”deal…
There are times when solving crossword puzzles while on the road – and having to blog it later – could cause some challenges, but I definitely don’t mind doing one while enjoying this view…
Honestly, it helps to know your constructor so much, and the grid opened up knowing that the constructor’s love of the Caped Crusader might lead to BRUCE WAYNE being an entry of one of the long entries (25A: [Orphan of fiction]). That, plus knowing BAJA off the bat as well really opened up things up, and turned the solve into a breeze (25A: [“The Pearl” setting, briefly]). All of the long entries were so much fun, and I was onto STAGE NAMES almost immediately after seeing its clue (12D: [Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, e.g.]). Here’s hoping you solved this puzzle with your BUNNY SLIPPERS on while snugly in your robe (15D: [Whimsical loungewear]). Well, have to head out, as this Patriots-Giants game might be a TIME BOMB for one of these teams as the tight game is heading towards the fourth quarter (14A: [Disaster just waiting to happen]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FRIAR (37D: [Tuck, for one])– If you catch some college basketball this season, watch out for Providence FRIAR basketball player Kris Dunn, who was named to the All-America First Team in the preseason before the start of this season. Here’s an interview I did with him, and, at the end of the conversation, we go from having a very serious and topical (basketball) conversation, to what pizza he likes. Yes, this is my interview style for the most part…
See you Monday!