Timothy Polin’s New York Times Crossword, “Court Jesters” — Matt’s review
Matt here, filling in for Amy. Today we get basketball puns from April 2015 Crossword of the Month winner Timothy Polin. He shoots, he scores — or airball? Let’s take a look:
23-A: [Fly swatter?] = BUZZER-BEATER.
34-A: [Drool from both sides of the mouth?] = DOUBLE DRIBBLE. Gnarly.
51-A: [Tip of an épée?] = POINT GUARD. Points for using epee in the clues instead of the grid.
58-A: [Busted timer?] = SHOT CLOCK.
66-A: [Desi Arnaz?] = BALL HANDLER.
79-A: [Winning an Oscar for “Norma Rae”?] = FIELD GOAL. You like this pun, you really really like it.
88-A: [Acrophobe’s term for a route through the mountains?] = NO-LOOK PASS.
101-A: [Lament from an unlucky shrimper?] = NOTHING BUT NET. The best of the set, so yeah — that’s a swish.
116-A: [Writing “30 and single” when it’s really “50 and married,” e.g.?] = PERSONAL FOUL. As in a personal ad. Second best of the set.
16-D: [Violation of Yom Kippur?] = FAST BREAK.
79-D: [Rug dealer’s special?] = FREE THROW.
A reasonable set of puns, though I bet Merl would’ve funnied them up a little with, say, a vodka reference on 58-A. The main problem here is that sports terms tend to be comprised of common words with many meanings (field, fast, break, throw, point, ball) so it’s hard to introduce much of a laugh factor. DOUBLE DRIBBLE was the only one you laughed at, since DRIBBLE is an inherently funny word. But still it’s an OK theme, so we’ll say the shot went in after dinking around the rim and backboard a little bit.
I spent 30 seconds at the end trying to puzzle out my two blank letters, Card table cloth] for ?AIZE and [Piece corps, for short?] for ?RA both crossing ?A?S for [Some school edicts]. Those were BAIZE (which I’ve never heard of) and NRA (which I should’ve sussed out) and BANS, which seems a little meanly clued crossing that BAIZE. Anyone else miss up there? I wound up guessing MAIZE / MABS (??) and BRA.
Let’s search for the top dozen pieces of fill: POWWOW and WAR BOW intersecting it; BAWL OUT, GOT EVEN, MARS BARS, CUZCO, NAME DROP, I DARESAY, IN A SLUMP, PIANO, WON’T DO, CHASM, and NOT SO BAD.
Mystery fill: ALECTO and GIMBAL. Needed every letter, but that’s crosswords.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times – “Putting in Overtime” – Jenni’s writeup
A Sunday grid is way more crossword real estate than I usually have to write about. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
The title give us instructions. We’re supposed to put in overtime or, as the sporty ones call it, OT. So we add OT to recognizable phrases to get the theme entries.
- Cold weather moisturizer? – THE LOTION IN WINTER (The Lion in Winter)
- Moor’s money pool? – OTHELLO KITTY (Hello, Kitty and the oddest juxtaposition in the puzzle)
- Best Western fishing amenties? – MOTEL BROOKS (Mel Brooks)
- Business where lines are discouraged? – BOTOX OFFICE (box office)
- Child-friendly? – SUITED TO A TOT (suited to a T)
- Queen’s body double? – OTHER ROYAL MAJESTY (Her Royal Majesty)
- Did away with voting? – DROPPED THE BALLOT (dropped the ball)
- Spoils at your neighbor’s house? – THE BOOTY NEXT DOOR (the boy next door. No, not that kind of booty)
Six across themers, two downs – lots of theme entries. The gimmick was evident in the very first one. My favorite lotion, summer and winter, is Lubriderm fragrance-free Daily Moisture. Eucerin isn’t bad, either, although it’s a big greasier. Look, I wash my hands a lot. I take lotion very seriously.
OK, back to the puzzle. As I said, the gimmick was evident early on and the puzzle fell smoothly and easily. I was surprised to see how long it took me – it felt faster than that.
A few non-random things I noticed:
- Old TV shoutout with IRONSIDE (which I always think was IRONSIDES, but that was the ship, not the detective). That was his name, not a reference to the character’s wheelchair.
- Old restaurant shoutout with AUTOMAT. My grandmother took me to the Automat on 42nd St when I was about six or seven. I was surprised to learn that it stayed open until 1991.
- Old performer shoutout with USO SHOWS, clued as “Hope venues for 50 yrs”. Bob Hope, of course.
- Old sex symbol shoutout with FABIO. By Bob Hope standards, he’s contemporary; still, he had a brief heyday and it was 30 years ago.
- Old Testament shoutout with SINAI.
Something I didn’t know before I did this crossword: that there is a subspecies called the ASIATIC lion, all of whom are found in a preserve in India. Their range used to include much of Asia and Eastern Europe. In 2010, there were 411 individuals, and according the Wikipedia that means they were back from “the brink of extinction”. 411 still sounds like the brink to me.
I leave you with this.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Side Splitters” — pannonica’s write-up
Words paired to create phrases, with the gimmick that the first and last letters of the preceding element are shorn to ‘create’ the following one. In cryptic crosswords such lopping operations are—or were (I haven’t kept current)— respectively called beheadment and curtailment. For the current purposes they are adequately presented as either side of a word splitting away.
- 23a. [Horse with spangles?] SEQUINED EQUINE.
- 30a. [Actress d’Abo impersonator from Sucre?] BOLIVIAN OLIVIA.
- 64a. [Kind of boring “Animal House” director?] BLANDISH LANDIS. I suppose this unconventional parsing of BLANDISH makes for a more approachable clue.
- 72a. [Giving a five-star review of a California fruit?] PRAISING RAISIN. Funny how ‘California fruit’ easily steers one to RAISIN, relying on a notorious and creepy advertising campaign from decades ago (or is that also an ongoing thing?) and despite the (undehydrated) fruit actually being a grape.
- 104a. [Think about doing a trick play during a kickoff?] CONSIDER ONSIDE.
- 113a. [Inevitable Western state?] FOREGONE OREGON. See also, 46d [“Portlandia” hrs.] PST.
- 15d. Sparkling trash?[ GLITTERY LITTER.
- 49d. [Pulsating after-shower wear?] BATHROBE ATHROB.
Some of these were quite radical and surprising. A great quality to have in a crossword. When it’s done well, that is. And to be clear, it’s done well here.
Running through the clues:
- 4d [Fisherman’s stuff] TACKLE, 61d [Tackle box line] SNELL. 125a [Note taker] PEN, 85d [Pen points] NIBS.
- 29a [Bingo hall call] B TEN. Is this a very common bingo combination? Or does it just appear in crosswords so often because BTEN is a handy letter sequence (and referring to the airplane or vitamin (PABA) with the number spelled out is rightly frowned upon)?
- 36a [Applesauce giant] MOTT’S. Now that’s an amusing image.
- 37a [Keep from escape] HEM IN. Unbelievable that this wasn’t clued as C34H32N4O4FeCl. Simply unbelievable.
- 44a [Stray-spaying aid] CAT TRAP. Uhm, no. Not directly, anyway.
- 55a [Jazz singer Sylvia] SYMS. Not to be confused with the British actress, who is probably more famous.
- Most chutzpadacious fill: 2d [One no longer playing baseball in Chicago] EX-CUB. Most subversive-in-a-mainstream-venue clue: 120a [Whiny punk genre] EMO.
- 6d [Superdry top] TEE. Not a brand familiar to me. Guess I’m coming across as especially non-current today.
- 10d [Nintendo avatar] MII. Presumably to do with the WII system. Better than ROMAN (84a) 1002, eh?
- 11d [Outlaw] BAN. Oh cruel, cruel fate. Putting BAN next to MII when I’m solving near lunchtime??
- Clues I’m happy to see are more technically correct than usual (i.e., pet peeves) 39d [Kilt pattern] TARTAN, 107d [Country rocker Steve] EARLE.
- 95d [Jolly laughs] HOS. Really?
So. Appealing theme, solid fill. A-OK. Oh wait, that’s what Ade says.
Doug Peterson’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Thank you very much for the segue, pannonica! Hello there, everyone! Here’s hoping you’re enjoying the last Sunday of February.
I know that some of the excitement that you might have on this day will be in part due to solving today’s Sunday Challenge, brought to us by Mr. Doug Peterson. Honestly, my biggest thrill of solving the grid was, after placing down the “x” in MAXIM (41D: [Sage saying]), filling in TENNESSEE TUXEDO, as that brought me back a few years (45A: [Cartoon pal of Chumley the Walrus])! Honestly, I had not thought about that cartoon series in ages!! If I remember the voice correctly, Tennessee Tuxedo was voiced by Don Adams. (Looking it up now…and yes, it was Adams.) So who’s a more memorable penguin cartoon character: Tennessee Tuxedo or Chilly Willy, from the Woody Woodpecker franchise? I say Chilly.
This grid had its share of food, with CHIVES (31A: [Pungent soup garnish]), CHUTNEYS (31D: [Relishes often served with cheese plates]) and JALAPENO POPPERS, something I’m almost sure I’ll never have as a starter at a restaurant (17A: [Starters with a kick]). Very interesting bit of information in the clue for CHEROKEE, and I definitely appreciated that (12D: [Language written with an 85-character syllabary]). Outside of his work aon Saturday Night Live, I always remember DON PARDO as the narrator for the opening and closing graphics for “Spanning the World,” a wacky look at sports through the eyes of now former NBC New York sports anchor Len Berman (7D: [Former “SNL” announcer in the Television Hall of Fame]). Always looked forward to that segment at the end of the year when going up. Here’s an example, and you’ll hear Don’s voice in the opening.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BOONE (22D: [Cumberland Gap explorer]) – If the baseball and crossword-popular Alou family isn’t the first family of baseball, that title might well belong to the BOONE family. The patriarch, Ray Boone, was a two-time All-Star infielder who led the American League in RBI in 1955 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. His son, Bob Boone, was one of the best defensive catchers to ever play in the majors, winning seven Gold Gloves and was a member of the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies’ championship team. Bob’s sons, Bret and Aaron, also made the majors, and when Bret made his debut in 1992 for the Seattle Mariners, he became the first third-generation Major League baseball player ever. Oh, and Aaron only hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history, the extra-inning solo homer to win Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox. All four made at least one All-Star Game.
Have a great rest of your weekend!!