David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
I payed next to no attention to the circled squares while solving, and filled in the revealer via the crossings and never saw the clue till after I finished the puzzle. 36a HEADS UP is [Warning appropriate for this puzzle?], and the circled words read upwards can appear before “head” to form a word or phrase. OVERhead, the BOWhead whale, EGGhead, insulting AIRhead, ACIDhead (which I think fell out of fashion decades ago), WARhead, DRUMhead, insulting BONEhead and PINhead, POThead, and REDhead. What, no SKINhead crossing NEATNIKS or BEATNIKS?
Other than the revealer, nothing else thematic involves the clues. So putting aside the circled letters, this plays like an unthemed, not-too-hard puzzle. I expect to feel some theme while solving a Tuesday puzzle!
Six more things:
- 1d. [Too sentimental], SOPPY. We all leapt at SAPPY, didn’t we?
- 21a. [2011 World Series champs, informally], CARDS. See photo at right.
- 40d. [“Oh! Susanna” and others], BALLADS. Really? I don’t think of jangly banjo tunes as ballads.
- 34d. [Certain homicide, in police lingo], MURDER ONE. Anyone else watch that ABC show in the ’90s? Didn’t last long.
- 26d. [George ___, longtime maestro of the Cleveland Orchestra], SZELL. Slightly odd that there are two famous conductors with *Z*** surnames (Seiji Ozawa, too). Unusual to have a conductor and three opera answers (ARIA, FIGARO, RENATA) in a single puzzle.
- The dictionary backs up this clue (9d. [Attired, as a judge]), but I think of judges as “robed” and fancy dipped chocolates as ENROBED.
3.75 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Err Guitar” – Derek’s write-up
I didn’t get the theme right away, but after looking at this for a bit, it is actually pretty clever. The title is a homonym of “air guitar,” but you knew that already! I thought that there was a part of a guitar in each entry, and I was going to carp that all but one are the latter part of the entry, but in fact all of the thematic entries are DESCRIBING guitar parts that simply would not work! Here they are:
- 18A [Veteran Marine, in slang] LEATHERNECK
- 27A [Spherical treat that comes from a toroid] DOUGHNUT HOLE
- 43A [Sprays some sticky stuff as a prank] SILLY STRINGS
- 56A [Poopo or Titicaca, e.g.] BODY OF WATER
So a guitar neck made of leather would obviously not work, and so on down the line. Very clever! It took me a second, but that is not a bad thing. An entertaining theme; 3.8 stars today.
A few notes:
- 4A [He came back for a “Big Holiday” in 2016] PEE-WEE – As in Pee-wee Herman, I believe. My kids used to watch his original movie over and over…
- 16A [“A Streetcar Named Desire” director Kazan] ELIA – Just had a discussion with Stan Newman over whether Lee ELIA, the baseball manager, was a decent clue. I think it is; he did not. In either case, this is a much better clue!
- 33A [Hockey Hall of Famer Cam] NEELY – In the same vein, I know this immediately as a sports fan, but if you don’t know hockey, you’re in trouble!
- 61A [“I can’t hear you!”] LA LA LA – This phrase is also a popular song that even my three year old can sing!
- 6D [“Caprica” star Morales] ESAI – Another nominee for the most crossword famous person ever!
- 11D [“Mr. Belvedere” actress Graff] ILENE – Another nominee!
- 34D [Sweetener under recent scrutiny] CORN SYRUP – Which is in virtually everything…
- 45D [Emmy-winning title role for Sally Field] SYBIL – This takes me waaaay back. According to imdb.com, this came out in 1976, when I was a first grader!
Yes, I finished the 4/19 puzzle in 4:19!!
Matt is a pro! Until next week!
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
This eff-ing puzzle has TEN theme entries! I am not swearing; all the thematic pieces are two word phrases with the initials F.F. Here they are:
- 17A [Maximum impact] FULL FORCE
- 21A [Get dizzy] FEEL FAINT
- 34A [Close pal] FAST FRIEND
- 43A [Healthy, with “in”] FINE FETTLE
- 58A [Beach footwear] FLIP FLOPS
- 66A [Achilles’ heel] FATAL FLAW
- 4D [Office cabinet document holder] FILE FOLDER
- 9D [British Invasion nickname] FAB FOUR
- 32D [Six for you, six for me, e.g.] FIFTY-FIFTY
- 44D [On the house] FOR FREE
Very impressive! Here in Indiana, I cannot say I have ever heard someone use the term “in fine fettle,” so that is my only major gripe. You can see from the screen shot that I had an error in that section, as the movie Emil and the Detectives is not familiar to me either. But hey, it’s a DISNEY movie, so of course I wouldn’t know it! High marks for TEN theme entries; slight demerit for one of those being obscure. 4.2 stars altogether!
More good stuff:
- 19A [Olympic racer since 2008] BMX-ER – As in a motocross bicyclist. I did not know this was an Olympic sport!
- 33A [Lang. of Florence] ITAL – Not my favorite, but it is a nice alternative to abbreviating the slanted print.
- 42A [Food Network’s “Beat Bobby ___”] FLAY – My wife hates this guy, but I like his style. I would LOVE to eat at one of his restaurants. He’s on my Vegas restaurant hit list, along with Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulod!
- 45D [Disney’s “___ and the Detectives”] EMIL – No wonder I don’t know this movie; it is over 50 years old!
Great puzzle for a Tuesday. I’m not sure what the record is for theme entries in a 15×15, but this one impressed me greatly. Until Saturday!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 255), “High Seas Tease”—Janie’s review
Just when I thought the title was punning, telling me this would be a puzzle with themers rich in Cs and/or Ts, I discover the real puns are in the fill itself. That said, the title does provide a clue to the marine-life connection that unifies the (decidedly groan-worthy) groaners we meet today. And if puns are not your thing, Turn Back Now! ;-)
- 17A. [Parisian monument dedicated to a victorious mako?] SHARK DE TRIOMPHE. Arc de Triomphe… This grid-spanner is a five-star groaner in my book. Didn’t take long to suss it out, and doing so put me in sync with the theme and what would be required down the road. Just flashed on the idea of a French version of the implausible, cringe-inducing, goofily cheesey Sharknado franchise, where maybe the sharks win (hence the SHARK DE…). Bad idea bad idea bad idea…
- 35A. [Attention-seeking swimmer who gets the grease?] SQUEAKY EEL. This one takes as its inspiration the old saw that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” I don’t think she does it because she’s actively looking for attention, but long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is known to cover herself in a light layer of grease to help her stay warm in the water…
- 42A. [Sonny’s portrayer in “The Codfather”?] JAMES CONCH. Two-for-the-price-of-one here, since it was JAMES Caan who portrayed Sonny in The Godfather.
- 61A. [The untold story of Moby-Dick] WHALE-KEPT SECRET. Well-kept secret is the base-phrase, and this matching 15er is a perfectly glorious way to wrap up the theme set.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the remainder of the puzzle as I am for the way the “seafood mama” themers play out. PUPPETEERS is terrific fill and well-clued with [Their jobs may have strings attached], but the impact of its grid opposite “IT’S ME AGAIN…” [Repeat caller’s voice mail] is diminished considerably by the [“I ME Mine” (Beatles song)] (repeat) crossing. Yep. That’s ME crossing ME. Oh, and then there’s “AH, ME” in the corner below. [“Such is life”] indeed. But a three-peat (a ME-peat)? No, thank you.
We get four sixes, but only SPIELS “sings” to me. And both [Is because of] and OWES TO fall flat for me, because neither one works well without other language to provide context. Among the fives, “SKOAL!” and WISER make for lovely fill, but please don’t tell me a word like RESEE floats your boat. (I know there’s precedent for it—in crosswords—but who actually uses this word?)
Then there’re all those proper names. Some sixteen of ’em. Thank goodness for (the longer) ARIANNA and (the fresher, more scrabbly) SEIJI, but “YIPES!,“ neither the tennis pair of BORG and ASHE, nor KEN (Burns of Jackie Robinson fame), nor the recently deceased PAT Conroy (The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, etc.), nor TYRA, nor RAES [Charlotte and John], nor old standbys ALAMO and ETNA do anything to add some sparkle. I understand about grid constraints, but I hafta believe that alternate fill coulda been found. “DUNNO…” Many solvers love to see lotso names in a puzzle. Me? I love a good name or two—but I generally prefer fewer (and fresher) names than those we get today. Too many and a puzzle starts to feel DRAB to me. When there’s a strong theme set (like today’s) this lack of lively fill to match comes as a disappointment. As always: your mileage may vary!!
On the other hand, loved the punny [Emulated King Kong] APED combo (this one sets up many levels of imagery) and the potentially twisty [Really fancy] for ADORE, “fancy” being a verb here and not an adjective. Nice wordplay!
And that’s a wrap, folks. Keep solving, keep coming back, and we’ll do this again next week. And, don’t be shy about speaking out in the comments section. Always useful to have solver/reader feedback!
Debbie Ellerin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “That’s a Different Story” — Jim’s review
Debbie Ellerin has had quite a good year crossword-wise, since her NYT debut about 13 months ago. In that time she’s had three LA Times puzzles (including last Saturday’s which was gorgeous) and three WSJ puzzles (including today’s).
This one’s a beauty, too. A simple but well-executed theme with plenty of yummy non-theme fill. Let’s check it out.
- 17a [Ante up] PAY TO PLAY
- 21a [Smoke-dried pepper] CHIPOTLE
- 36a [Insignificant thing] SMALL POTATOES
- 55a [Network’s election-forecasting aid] EXIT POLL
- And our revealer at 60a [Unexpected turn, and a feature of 17-, 21-, 36- and 55-Across] PLOT TWIST
The letter P, L, O, and T are “twisted” (i.e. scrambled) in the four main themers. Bonus points for having them all twisted in different ways. (Minor demerits for the extra adjacent Ls in two answers, but this is a nit.)
TPOL sounded familiar to me, and I was right. T’POL was a Vulcan character on TV’s Star Trek: Enterprise played by Jolene Blalock. Not to be confused with the Vulcan elder T’Pau from the Classic Trek episode “Amok Time” who officiated at Spock’s wedding (or T’Pau, the Britpop band named after the Star Trek character and which gave us “Heart and Soul” in the ’87). From my work in the communications arena, I know POTL as Plain Old Telephone Line. I tried, but I couldn’t find anything useful for TOPL or LPOT.
For example, we get DVORAK (29a, clued as [New World Symphony composer] and not [Tech writer and podcaster John C.]), POKEMON, INDIANA (22d, [Henry Jones Jr.’s nickname]), the aforementioned EXHIBIT A and DAYDREAM, as well as PAD THAI and PAELLA to go with the CHIPOTLE SMALL POTATOES (see, I told you they were yummy).
I also liked ALPHA next to OLLIE, the JAPE/JUTS crossing, ON TOUR, ARTSIER, and the TEXACO/ARCO connection.
22a EMERITA is also great but it made me pause. The clue is [Part of a retired prof’s title, maybe]. I was thinking, dumbly, that EMERITA was the plural of EMERITUS, and therefore either the clue or the entry was in error. Turns out EMERITA is the feminine form of the Latin word EMERITUS—like ALUMNUS/ALUMNA. Once I figured that out, I liked the clue even better for its lack of gender-specificity.
The RERUN clue (23a, [Any “Seinfeld” episode, now]) seeded my brain with that show, so when I got to 34d [Jerry’s nemesis], I naturally wanted to squeeze NEWMAN into a 3-letter entry. Turns out the answer was TOM. NEWMAN! *shakes fist*
One more clue of note: 40d is SEAN [Audrey’s “Robin and Marian” co-star]. That’s Audrey Hepburn of course and SEAN Connery (who also played Henry Jones Sr. from the clue to 22d). I never knew Connery and Hepburn were in anything together. Sounds like it might be interesting, especially seeing as Robert Shaw (Quint of Jaws) is the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Shaw and Connery also worked together in From Russia with Love, of course.)
Okay! Anyhoo, you can see it was easy to get side-tracked with all the good stuff in the puzzle and I’m still in a good place from it. A very entertaining puzzle!
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A River Runs Through It” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, is a form of progression in which the letters NILE, which appear consecutively in the theme entries, shift further to the right of the grid with each passing theme entry going down (69A: [River that runs through the answers at 17-, 23-, 37-, 54-, and 62-Across])..
- NILES CRANE (17A: [“Frasier” character])
- UNILEVER (23A: [Ben & Jerry’s parent company])
- PENNILESS (37A: [Broke])
- SUNNI-LED (54A: [Like the 2012 Syrian rebellion])
- SO JUVENILE (62A: [Comment from someone observing a food fight, perhaps])
This grid gets an extra star from me just for the presence of The SS MINNOW, something I know I’ve never seen in a grid before (39D: [Shipwrecked ship in “Gilligan’s Island”]). There’s a pretty good chance that, once I get back home, I can find the DISCMAN that I used when I was in high school and in my freshman year of college (40D: [Sony music player introduced in 1984]). Now thinking about it, Im kind of weirded out that I possessed a Discman while I was on college, even though this was before Napster, the MP3 player and/or the release of the Apple iPod. I guess the clue for CENTAUR needed the question mark, but it wasn’t that much of a mislead at all (11D: [Mythological horseman?]). Was the stacking of DEVIL (28A: [Pitchfork wielder]) and CAKE a sign that I should have Devil’s Food Cake as dessert tonight (35A: [Pastry chef’s creation])? If so, then all I have to say is that I don’t need a sign to satisfy my sweet tooth! I’ll get on that in a few hours!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELMIRA (32A: [City where Mark Twain is buried]) – The first African-American player to win the Heisman Trophy, Syracuse University’s Ernie Davis (won the award in 1961), was nicknamed the ELMIRA Express, as he spent his teenage years growing up in the Central New York City. Davis played a key role in Syracuse’s national championship in 1959, as he was he MVP of the Cotton Bowl game (on Jan. 1, 1960) against Texas to cap off their championship season. Though Davis was the No. 1 pick of the 1962 NFL Draft by Washington, he never played in the National Football League, as he passed away in 1963 after being diagnosed with leukemia.
See you all at the top of the hump tomorrow!
SZELL, STILE, MIDDIE, ELL, and REL should have been rewritten. What an awful section!
janie my reader feedback is that your reviews are consistently excellent. warm, fair, always entertaining. thank you!
I often read them and enjoy them even if I have not and don’t plan on doing the puzzle.
to huda and mr. glutton for pun — erm, that wasn’t exactly the kinda feedback i was soliciting, but i can only say thank you — and that “we belong to a mutual admiration society.” ;-) i think the tone here decidedly trends to the fair side — and more often than not is entertaining as well. of course, the fact that i’m looking at only one puzzle a week goes a long way towards making my task a lighter one relative to other members of team fiend, whose stamina — and writing chops! — never fail to impress.
and not to harp on the “mutual admiration society” part, but it don’t hurt neither that the solver/reader feedback is usually so interesting here — bouncing off of some aspect of the puzzle, shedding light on some factlet from some very personal, but very relatable p.o.v. this adds some weight to what can be an otherwise ephemeral experience, and makes the whole “solitary” act of solving interactive.
and in the words of my colleague ade: “thanks for reading”!!
WSJ: Nice review Jim, though I disagree with your demerits on account of extra neighboring L’s–as long as they don’t muddle the P-L-O-T letter run, I think they’re fine. (It’s pretty difficult to do with this letter string, the only counterexample I can think of would be a made-up phrase like HOT POLTERGEIST.)
I agree the adjacent Ls weren’t distracting, and I like the puzzle as is. But ideally, it would be more elegant if they weren’t there, if only to make the letter string stand out more. Unfortunately, your example doesn’t work as well because of the two Ts on either side of POL (plus the adjacent O in HOT).
There are a few TPOL phrases where there are no adjacent letters that are part of the theme string: SECRET POLICE, BATPOLE, TENTPOLE, BLANKET POLICY. The only other LPOT phrase is EELPOTS, but I like SMALL POTATOES better.
Other configurations give some other possibilities: PISTOL PETE, HOTPLATE, SCULPTOR, PILOT PROGRAM, and ETERNAL OPTIMIST.
Unfortunately, your example doesn’t work as well because of the two Ts on either side of POL (plus the adjacent O in HOT).
This was exactly my point: an answer where the PLOT jumble could be TPOL or POLT
Ah! I gotcha now. I’m not always the quickest, but I get there in the end.
Jonesin’: I had trouble with 49 across: Not mine, in bucolic comic strips. Can someone explain? (Answer: Yourn).