(Reagle, original write-up from 13 Dec 2009)
Tracy Gray and Andrea Carla Michaels’ New York Times crossword, “Bands Together”—Amy’s write-up
Combine two rock/pop groups into a plausible or semi-plausible phrase, clue accordingly:
- 22a. [Elevated sight in the Windy City], CHICAGO TRAIN. “Chicago train” is not itself a crossword-grade phrase, but it doesn’t need to be. Just two band names sandwiched together.
- 36a. [All the cars going the same way], ONE DIRECTION TRAFFIC. People call One Direction a “boy band,” but I’m not sure the boys play any instruments in concert. They just sing. “Girl group” gets used for groups of female vocalists. Alliteration, shmalliteration—I see sexism in the language. (Great theme entry, though!)
- 55a. [“Absolutely!”], YES, NO DOUBT. Another terrific themer.
- 62a. [They’re seen spread on the back of a quarter], EAGLES’ WINGS.
- 72a. [Kind of pie or doughnut], BOSTON CREAM.
- 78a. [Like child-safe cleaning products], POISON FREE. Free?? Wait. To the Google Machine! Ah, yes. Approximately a one-hit wonder, but that one 1970 hit, “All Right Now,” is a classic. (Watch the video for authentic 1970 rock-star tight pants.)
- 95a. [Lark for a Halloween hooligan], FUN SMASHING PUMPKINS. Sometimes styled as fun. with a period and a lowercase F.
- 117a. [What many Black Friday shoppers do at midnight], RUSH THE DOORS. Ooh, this is a good theme answer, too.
POISON FREE feels a little stilted, and One Direction isn’t a band per se, but overall I enjoyed the theme a lot. It’s the kind you can use to quiz someone (I just quizzed my husband on these, in fact).
Favorite fill: STALWART, ISAAC NEWTON, PRIMROSES (though I don’t know if those are spring flowers around Chicago), and REASON OUT.
Least familiar vocab: 17d. [Peacock’s “eyes”], OCELLI.
Most crosswordese-infected: EDY without the brand’s apostrophe-S, OGEE, OAST, sport-UTE, ESSO (here clued as [He, in Italian] rather than the no-longer-in-America gas station), AGTS, UKASE, REMAIL, and EDA. A little Scowl-o-Meter action, but that’s not terrible for a 21×21 grid.
- 35a. [Key state geographically or electorally?: Abbr.], FLA. Florida Keys plus the adjective key.
- 37d. [No de Cologne?], NEIN. That “de” is French, but Cologne is Köln, in Germany. EAU is in the puzzle at 91a.
Four stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Crooked crossword, “Opera Review” — pannonica’s write-up
A significant postscript accompanying this week’s offering:
“We’re deeply saddened to report that our longtime partner-in-crime, Henry Hook, passed away recently. We’ll continue to send a weekly crossword written by us or a guest author for the time being, while we explore our options for keeping solvers well-supplied with puzzles of a CRooked nature. We’d be happy to hear from solvers about their preferences! Thanks, EC & HR “
(This is not new news, of course, and I can’t guarantee that earlier mailings haven’t mentioned it, but I’m including it now in case it signifies the end of the Henry Hook puzzles that were in the pipeline.)
It seemed like there was a lot of baseball in this crossword, not to mention perhaps more than the usual amount of opera-related ones. Perhaps this was intentional, as the theme is a quote by a baseball player about such an event?
More on that later. At eight-down, appropriately, is [Yankee who wore an 8] YOGI BERRA. 27-, 50-, and 64-across together comprise [When 8-Down gave a review …] AFTER GOING TO LA SCALA | FOR A PERFORMANCE | OF TOSCA.
And what did he say? In two parts (84a, 102a), we have [8-Down’s review …] IT WAS PRETTY GOOD | EVEN THE MUSIC WAS NICE. This is the version of the quote printed by the New York Times upon his death.
This doesn’t strike me as a classic Yogism, because it’s well-known that some people attend opera for the spectacle and not the music. Nevertheless, the natural phrasing and breaks of the scene-setting introduction—symmetrical with the quote itself—are deft.
- 26a [MLB ex-commish Bud] SELIG. 32a [Ruth in the Hall] BABE. 38a [Sox great Luis] TIANT (Boston!). 99a [Homecomings?] RUNS. 100a [Arms-out-like-wings call] SAFE (Is that an accurate description? Isn’t the motion itself the critical element?). 115a [Goals for starters] WINS. 14d [Dugout-top dancer, sometimes] MASCOT. 47d [San Diego nine] PADRES. 82d [Baseballer who wrote “Catcher in the Wry”] BOB UECKER. 108d [Sox’s A.L. division] EAST (Boston!).
- 63a [Falstaff’s princely bud] HAL. 17d [“Vissi d’arte,” for one] ARIA. 37d [Puccini’s day] GIORNO (see also 89a [Caesar’s day] DIEM). 75d [Verdi heroine] AIDA.
Don’t get me wrong, neither of these is oppressive, and there could easily have been more connections generated via cluing (or creative interpretation on my part). For example, 21a [Mavens] PROS, and 40d [Singer’s pride] RANGE. But even so it seems the levels are heightened. Of course, there is also non-baseball sports stuff—60a [Org. including Celts] NBA (Boston!)—and non-opera music material—79a [ZZ Top surname and feature] BEARD.
- 1d [“Master and Commander” milieu] SEA; 15d [1-Down synonym] OCEAN; 62d [1-Down, humorously] POND.
- 83a [What ewes say] BAA; 92d [Lows] MOOS; 116a [Grassy spaces] LEAS.
- Longdowns not previously mentioned: ESCALATORS (see also 69a ASCENDS), SCRIMSHAWS, and REST EASY, ALAN ALDA, GARFIELD, PARTICLE.
- 35d [Brit lout] YOBBO, which makes me think of both Warner Brothers’ Animaniacs (Yakko, Wakko, Dot) and 1971’s Wake in Fright (“New to the Yabba?“).
- 76d [Bluesman Walker] T-BONE, whose nickname derived from his middle name: Thibeaux.
It was pretty good. Even the theme was nice.
Matt McKinley’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Morning Addition”—Andy’s review
Fun stuff this week. Colin Gale had a puzzle with the same theme as recently as last year in the WSJ, but these theme answers are (mostly) new. “AM” is added to normal phrases, hilarity ensues, yada yada yada. Let’s get to it:
- 23a, GRAND AM SLAM [Harsh criticism of an old Pontiac?].
- 27a, AMORAL SURGEON [Unprincipled operator?].
- 57a, AMUSED CAR DEALER [Salesperson who doesn’t take your offer seriously?].
- 66a, CAUTIONARY TAMALES [Mexican dish you were warned not to eat?].
- 76a, APOSTLES CREAMED [“Missionary squad loses big in softball game”?].
- 107a, ODDS AND AMENDS [Memoirs of a penitent bookie?].
- 117a, JUMBO JETSAM [Really large items thrown overboard?].
Seven really nice theme answers in this one. I thought all the puns worked very well, and the clues were fun too. The rest of the puzzle has some nice stuff worked in as well, including the 9-stacks in the NE and SW (TRAUMATIC/TITLE ROLE, FOOTLOOSE/TRUE LOVES), BAT DAY, WAR GAME, MERMAID, ORESTES, GOES APE, BLUE JAY. A couple of notably great clues for PEKOE TEA [If it’s orange, it’s really black] and SOFT G [Magic center?].
Then there was some weird stuff: the somewhat phrase-y DENIES IT, ACES IT, and SEES ALL, the soprano role SENTA, ARTEL, “NOOP.” The initial articles in THE TEAM and A LEG UP looked off to me. And then there was just some straight up crosswordese, as you might expect: DURA next to SMEW, POLA and BOLA, etc.
This isn’t Matt’s debut, but it’s my first time solving one of his puzzles, and I liked this one. Keep it up!
Until next time!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Happy Sunday to you, and I hope you’re having a relaxing time to end the week.
Today’s grid was created by our friend from British Columbia, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, and, in his grid, he gave a shout out to a Canadian province on the whole other side of the country, PEI (57D: [Canadian prov. named for royalty]). There wasn’t a 15-letter triple stack in the grid, but that doesn’t mean the grid wasn’t stacked with long entries, which I really love. The top featured a couple of -ists: SUFFRAGISTS (1A: [Voters’ rights group of the early 20the century]) and NUMEROLOGISTS (12A: [They may try to figure out the future]). Initially wanted to type in IGLU, thinking there might be an alternate spelling to “igloo,” but left it and waited for answers to fall before committing to the answer for good (8D: [Inuit word for “house”]). You usually don’t see two Roman numeral entries, but you do here (kind of) with DVI (23D: [Early sixth-century date]) and LIV (48A: [Woman who’s 54?]). Is Liv Tyler 54? Nope, she’s 38. Took a while to unearth SUNSET BOULEVARD from the recesses of my brain, but glad I remembered after a short while (1D: [Swanson film of 1950]). Of course, I’m pleased with the sports references on the far right with STATISTICIANS (13D: [Figureheads?]) and SPORTSCASTS (14d: [Game shows?]), though I know statisticians can refer to people who don’t work in sports as well. That, and I’ve been a statistician AND a sportscaster in my career. Thanks for the unintended shout out to my profession(s), MAS!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GOAT (7D: [Big kid]) – Sometimes, you’ll hear someone refer to a transcending athlete as a “GOAT,” which actually is an abbreviation of “Greatest of All Time.” That nickname is most associated with Earl “The Goat” Manigault (1944-1998), a legendary New York City street basketball player.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you all tomorrow! Have a great rest of your weekend!
The breakup of Free lead to the formation of Bad Company, a significantly more well known and commercially successful group.
Yes, shame we didn’t have any BADCOMPANYCARS in the puzzle.
That’s the trouble with my almost total knowledge void in this area. It was easy enough to fill in, but I had no idea that there was a theme, or if so, what it might be. I thought it was just a bunch of random, not very idiomatic phrases, and I couldn’t figure out why anyone thought the puzzle was publication worthy. E.g. “one direction traffic” echoes “one way traffic,” but so what? I guess “One Direction” and “Traffic” are both bands. In retrospect, I have heard of some of the individual bands, but I don’t think there was any entry where I had heard of both of them, except maybe Eagles Wings. But I can see now that on its own terms, it was an interesting puzzle.
Me too, although ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ was kind of a giveaway.
Not a very exciting theme, but I liked that it mixed old and new, as in ONEDIRECTIONTRAFFIC. I have never knowingly heard anything by the former, but the latter can be found on some YouTube videos that are well worth your time, if you care for that sort of thing.
Don’t ask me how I know this, but the name of the band FUN. officially includes a period at the end. And that’s all I know about them.
I don’t suppose you just learned it from my post?
fun.’s singer, Nate Ruess, sort of looks like Dondi.
Subliminally, perhaps! But I did already know it…
Edit: but then I don’t know who Dondi is and Google provided (surprisingly) more than one possibility
NYT: First theme answer is further diminished for me with the knowledge that the original name of the band Chicago was Chicago Transit Authority.
Re: Boston Globe. I hope I’m not saying something I shouldn’t be saying, but do people know that Brendan Quigley has been hired to fill Henry Hook’s turn in the Boston Globe Sunday rotation? Who better than Brendan to replace Henry…plus Brendan’s local as well! Good luck, Brendan!
I knew he had been filling in, and thought it might now be a permanent gig, but then I noticed the postscript. Maybe I just missed it all the other times?
I don’t think he’s had his first “official” Globe puzzle yet.
Not reviewing Evan’s puzzles as the Sunday replacement for Merl? I liked today’s offering. NYT was blah (with the exception of FUN SMASHING PUMPKINS). Evan made me laugh a lot: I’m guessing that SURELY YOU JOUST might have been the seed. I almost felt like Merl was back.
Thanks! You guessed correctly on the original seed. [Source of comedian Billy’s jokes?] was the second one.
LAT again gets a “1” -contrived abbreviations (3), classic Doo Wop was acapella, uncommon spellings (2), and oaky wines certainly do NOT have a vanilla taste (personal opinion – but I’ve never heard it described that way) By the way, RKO owned theaters????
p.s. I’ve counted 17 different crossword “cheat sheets” listed on the internet. Seems like a lot of “cribbing” going on!
“People call One Direction a “boy band,” but I’m not sure the boys play any instruments in concert. They just sing. “Girl group” gets used for groups of female vocalists. Alliteration, shmalliteration—I see sexism in the language.”
Why so angry? Too often your reviews include cynical barbs about social and political ills – it seems that you purposefully look for these sins committed by puzzle authors and editors in their clues and fills. Last I checked, crossword puzzles are supposed to provide us amusing wordplay and some brain exercise. If they aggravate you to the point that your reviews become a vehicle for venting, I wonder why you even bother to do the puzzles. Take a breath, enjoy the puzzles!
You’ve entirely missed my point, TG. I am hoping to sensitize crossword constructors and editors to these language issues so that they will try to avoid furthering sexism by blithely using language that espouses bias.
How on earth you are seeing “so angry” in “alliteration, shmalliteration,” I’ll never know. But if you don’t understand that some people’s amusement will be impeded by sexist language, then I don’t know what to say. Racial or ethnic bias in a crossword clue would certainly alienate solvers of color. Check your privilege.
Agreed, discrimination is inexcusable, but drilling down so deep into our culture that you look to crossword puzzles for evidence of its insidiousness creep is too much, in my opinion. There are far more important occurrences of discrimination that deserve our attention (hiring practices, salaries, lending practices, health equity, social welfare programs, and others come to mind).
I think my point was missed too – along the lines of “not seeing the forest for the trees.” I’ll enjoy a puzzle at its face value. Nothing more, nothing less, than fun brain training. Just to be clear, I enjoy your reviews, but occasionally the commentary overshadows the purpose. Your blog, your privilege. Understood.
That old ruse? “These issues are more important, you’re wasting your time on this one.” Guess what? I can care about *multiple* issues at the same time.