Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword, “Best Picture Adaptations”—Amy’s write-up
Okay, when your theme is “Best Picture Adaptations” and there are at least dozens of ways to clue HER, maybe you don’t drop [2013 Best Picture nominee in which a main character isn’t human] into the mix as the 1-Across clue. Distracting! (And by “you,” I refer to the editors also and not just the constructor.) It had me thinking the whole theme was going to involve the 2013 Best Picture nominees and that the puzzle had been sitting around for years. But no. Each theme answer is an acclaimed movie’s title with one letter changed, and clued accordingly:
- 21a. [Best Picture adaptation about … a search for the perfect brew, with “The”?], BEER HUNTER. (Deer.)
- 24a. [… inaudible metrical poetry, with “The”?], SILENCE OF THE IAMBS. (Lambs.) Awkward to have with “The” in the clue when there’s another THE in the answer.
- 37a. [… a fat Eastern monarch?], THE VAST EMPEROR. (Last.) So after two with “The” titles, now there’s one that includes its THE.
- 50a. [… fools accompanying a pack of wild animals?], DUNCES WITH WOLVES. (Dances.)
- 67a. [… a reed and percussion duet?], GONG WITH THE WIND. (Gone.)
- 84a. [… an éclair or crème brûlée, with “The”?], FRENCH CONFECTION. (Connection.) And the THE goes away again.
- 99a. [… gorgeous fur?], A BEAUTIFUL MINK. (Mind.) Would have preferred a “gorgeous mustelid” or “gorgeous small mammal” instead of the pelt stripped from its flesh.
- 113a. [… cooties from hugs and kisses?], GERMS OF ENDEARMENT. (Terms.)
- 122a. [… a salon woman I go to?], MY HAIR LADY. (Fair.) “Salon woman” feels very much not in the language. Stylist, colorist, or old-fashioned beautician?
A modestly amusing theme. Did anyone else start with HER and then work the crossings, and drop in RAVING BULL for 3d. [* * * *]? No? Just me? (Answer is RAVE REVIEW.)
Fill I liked: QUIT IT, RAN LIKE MAD, MONGOLIA … that’s all that’s jumping out at me. Nine theme answers, with the top and bottom pairs stacked in Reaglesque fashion, puts some strictures on the grid, and we have lots of fill like BEL, HAP, ANA clued as [Set of anecdotes], -ENT, ORA, ERLE, EBON, ALEROS, OEO, and so forth.
Favorite clue: 47d. [Attempt at a dunk tank] for THROW. Colorful!
Three more things:
- 91a. [Spork part], TINE. Yeah? Are those little-bitty pointy parts on a spork long enough to meet the criteria for tines?
- 53d. [Peeping Tom’s spot], SPYHOLE. Not keen on the “peeping Tom” term, as it sounds so innocuous. How about “creepy voyeur’s spot”?
- 66d. [Main ingredient in queso relleno], EDAM. Say what?? Dutch cheese in a Mexican recipe? Yes, indeed. If you’d like to see masked women making this complicated dish (you have to hollow out your ball of cheese), here’s a video.
3.9 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “I’m With the Band” – Jenni’s writeup
I think I got the whole theme all by myself for this one, although recent history would suggest that may not be true.
Each theme entry consists of a band name with IM inserted somewhere to make a wacky new phrase – hence IM with the band.
- 23a [Temperamentally glum computer game character?] = THE MOODY BLUE SIM (The Moody Blues.)
- 40a [Pooped citrus fruits?] = THE BEAT LIMES (The Beatles.)
- 56a [Hardly reserved quiet person?] = IMMODEST MOUSE (Modest Mouse.) The entry is fine. The clue – hmm. “Quiet person” is “reserved.’ That’s sort of the definition, isn’t it? And “immodest” doesn’t mean “not reserved.” I suppose [Egomaniacal quiet person] might have give it away too easily, though.
- 65a [Rulers depicted in a marble sculpture?] = QUEENS OF THE STONE IMAGE (Queens of the Stone Age.) I wonder if this was the seed entry for the puzzle, since it spans the grid.
- 80a [Sensible fabric for needlefish?] SOUND GAR DENIM (Soundgarden.) This was my favorite theme entry. It’s so delightfully wacky.
- 95a [Music booster that’s in really great shape?] = SUPER TRIM AMP (Supertramp.)
- 117a [Choice chicken pieces?] = THE PRIME TENDERS (The Pretenders.)
Good, solid theme, with a nice mix of music eras. All the band names were familiar to me; I suspect this would have been a much more challenging puzzle for me if they were the bands that usually populate BEQ’s website puzzles.
A few more things:
- I stared blankly at 5a [Non-alcoholic mixed drinks] until I got a few of the crosses filled in. The answer is SHAKES, which are yummy but not necessarily non-alcoholic. I’m just saying.
- I recently learned that EPONYM [Tesla or Volta, e.g. – 16a] goes both ways – it indicates both the item named (in this case units of measurement) and the person the item is named after. See also “namesake.”
- If I want to get faster at puzzles by the younger set of constructors, I think I need to read Lord of the Rings, watch The Simpsons and play video games. This time it was LotR – 32a is [Gimli’s weapon]. Apparently he? she? it? wields an AXE.
- Cute intersection at 73a [Fruit named for its 66d appearance] and 66d – UGLI and UGLY, respectively. I expect some people will turn up their noses at this because it’s a near-dupe; I think the cross-reference saves it and makes it amusing.
- For once we get TRON clued without reference to its year of release. If I see “1982” in a clue for a four-letter movie, I drop that in without thinking twice. This time, at 105a, we get [Sci-fi film with a Master Control Program.]
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that anyone ever said DUDES UP for “dresses fancily.”
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle and Challenge was brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, and, finally, I get to somewhat rant about the usage of APPLE CARTS (49A: [They can be upset]). I have to admit that when I’ve been on the air (either on radio or on camera), I have said something along the lines of “don’t upset/upset the apple cart” and always wondered the origin of that phrase, and whether there’s more to it than just someone knocking over an outdoor vendor’s cart of apples. And always, I’ve forgotten to look it up. Until now. Apparently, what I laid out is the basic understanding of the terminology, but other possibilities of its origin come from a reference by author Jeremy Belknap in a volume of the History of New Hampshire. Also came across an explanation that “apple cart” was slang that wrestlers used in the 1800s for a man’s body, and that upsetting the apple cart meant to throw a man to the ground. Whatever the case may be, at least it’s been interesting looking it up!
Outside of that, there’s a lot more good, long fill in today’s grid, and the solving experience was as smooth as I’ve had on any Sunday Challenge. Had to convince myself that WASTREL was a word, and, once I did, didn’t really look back (37D: [Profligate spender]). Had to dust off from the recesses of my brain that “feller,” outside of slang for fellow and/or a Hall of Fame pitcher, is also a word to describe a lumberjack, which made AXE make sense (47A: [Good feller?]). Actually, this grid made me think of a special person who I want to give a shout out to. In 2003, I met Mary Morin Carlin, who was a graduate student at Syracuse University’s journalism school while I was an undergrad. She was one of the nicest people I ever got to meet, and, although not a former MISS TENNESSEE, Mary was the 2002 Miss New Hampshire, eventually competing in the Miss America Pageant (34A: [Certain tiara wearer from the South]). Early in 2015, Mary was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. After rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a double mastectomy, she’s been fighting the good fight, and then some! At last check, she just finished undergoing her third surgery this past week in New York City. Definitely wanted to let you know about such a special person. She also has a blog called Fighting Fabulously, an online community for women who are fighting breast cancer to support each other.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TED (33A: [Danson of “Cheers”]) – Who can forget that our favorite television bar owner/womanizer, Sam Malone, played by TED Danson in the sitcom Cheers, was also portrayed as a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. I didn’t watch the show that much (don’t hurt me), but I know for sure that one episode had real-life Red Sox superstar Wade Boggs appear in the bar. Here’s Sam (Ted) and Carla (Rhea Perlman) together, with Sam donning the Red Sox garb…
Have a great rest of your Sunday, and thank you for your time!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “W Too” — pannonica’s write-up
The morning got away from me and now there are afternoon obligations piling up, so this’ll be a brief recap of the crossword.
The puzzle ran in print mid-April, so the title and theme spin from the ubiquitous IRS tax form W2: just a simple add-a-letter filing.
- 23a. [Lizzie Borden done by Madame Tussaud?] WAX MURDERER (ax murderer).
- 33a. [What early aviators gave on a test?] WRIGHT ANSWERS (right answers).
- 46a. [Fired George Michael’s band?] CANNED WHAM (canned ham).
- 58a. [What sprays a glass-cleaner?] WINDEX FINGER (index finger).
- 63a. [Matthau costume and makeup?] WALTERATIONS (alterations).
- 79a. [What Homer Simpson rarely leaves?] DONUT WHOLE (donut hole). The reference image is said snack with a conspicuous bite incursion.
- 90a. [Slugger’s attitude at Fenway?] WALL OR NOTHING (all or nothing).
- 103a. [Pay scale?] WAGE BRACKET (age bracket).
The mechanics of the theme are uneven. Sometimes the clue references both the original and wackified phrases, other times there is no DIPLO-resonance (75a), and 63a is sui generis. Strange mix.
Notable during the solve was the inclusion of many women, direct as well as indirect. 1a BABS Streisand, 5a Nellie MELBAS, 21a [… diva], themer 23a, 25a [Cordelia’s …], 26a LPGA, 42a HEIRESSES, 49a Monica SELES, 61a CONDI Rice, 107a EDNA, 108a ADELLE Davis, 109a HERA, 33d [John’s ode to Yoko] WOMAN, 41d Loretta SWIT, 42d HEIDI, 43d ELKE Sommer, 57d KATE Moss, 82d CALISTA Flockhart, 89d Kelly RIPA. And there were quite a few more that could have been clued from that slant (e.g., ERIN, MIA, PALIN, SANDY, KERI, et al.). On the down side: 1d [Elizabethan madam] BAWD, 91d [Like an inane nana] ANILE.
- Long downs: BOX SPRINGS, REPRESSING, LINCOLN LOG, IRON WORKER. (3d, 16d, 65d, 70d)
- Favorite clue/answer: 80d [Pain in the neck] HEADACHE. Runner-up: 78d [Extreme dweeb] UBERGEEK.
- 53d [Stallion-donkey hybrid] HINNY. Compare mule (♂ donkey × ♀ horse (=jack × mare).
- 64d [Out on the main] ASEA, 66d [Back, boatwise] ASTERN. Meh, especially so close.
Mostly clean fill—stuff like ANILE, ADELLE, OSIER, and SAMOS will likely elicit some scowls—solid cluing, and a not-so-exciting theme.
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Pool Party”—Amy’s write-up
Andy and I have swapped some assigned puzzles this week—he’ll cover the Tuesday NYT and I’ve just solved the LAT. The “Pool Party” theme answers all end with words that can precede “pool”: GIVE IT A WHIRL, TROLLEY CAR, OUTBOARD MOTOR, BOX OFFICE, RAW TALENT, RECESSIVE GENE, NO SWIMMING, and DOWN AND DIRTY. The theme works fine, though it’s one of those straightforward themes that doesn’t try to amuse the solver.
Four more things:
- 39a. [Romance novel emotion], LUST. I dunno, folks. Do you consider LUST to be an emotion, or is it more of an urge or desire? Are desires emotions? Discuss.
- 110d. [Boy band with an acronymic name], NSYNC. Wait. Acronymic? NKOTB stands for New Kids on the Block, but what is NSYNC short for? To the Wikipedia! “NSYNC received its name after Justin Timberlake’s mother commented on how ‘in sync’ the group’s singing voices were. The group’s name is also a play on the last letter of each of the original members’ names: JustiN, ChriS, JoeY, JasoN, and JC.” Okay, that last letter business is flimsy.
- 77a. [“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s __”: Anthony Bourdain], A START. I can excuse a Reaglesque 6-letter partial when the clue’s this good.
- 3d. [NBC-affiliated announcer in nine different decades], PARDO. Nine decades!! Yowza. I guess he really liked his job.
Lots of stale fill here, such as EROO, ENISLE, EL-HI, OMOO, and ARNEL. I did learn something about Melville’s Omoo that I hadn’t known, though: it’s got a chapter called “What Happened at Hytyhoo.” Hyty, hyty, hyty hoo!
3.2 stars from me.
I usually love Evan’s Washington Post puzzles, but knowing little or nothing about bands, I got no joy from this one. OTOH, I very much enjoyed today’s NYTimes puzzle. I liked almost all the “Best Picture” answers. The only one I’d question is A BEAUTIFUL MINK, since MINK changes both the vowel sound and a consonant sound of MIND and thus doesn’t work so well for me (whereas DUNCES succeeds because it keeps the consonant sounds and rhythm).
GERMS was the one I thought wrong for insects known as body lice, or “cooties”, but I gather this gets used in slang that way… anything icky?
I’d never heard of cooties used that way either, but upon Googling I saw it described as a children’s term.
I had exactly the opposite reaction. I loathed the NYT, while Evan’s puzzle made me smile a lot, even though I hadn’t heard of a couple of the bands. Different strokes and all that ….
A blah NYT, I thought. The funny film titles were, um, not that funny, and some of the clues seemed off to me. Things that GLISTEN are tears or wet paint or oily puddles, but not stars, I would say. OPINES and ‘muses’ have quite different meanings.
I’m not sure what a ‘sponsorship package’ might be, still less why it would be TIERED.
Physicist Nathan ROSEN is pretty darn obscure for a general audience. I knew his name because, among other things, he is the R in EPR, which some of you may have heard of.
Many non-profits (e.g., PBS radio and TV stations, universities, museums, symphonies) offer individual and corporate sponsorship packages that are “tiered.” The more money you contribute, the greater the level of perks and/or recognition you receive.
For my part, I thought the puns were mostly smile-worthy and I generally enjoyed the solve – surprising for me, with a movie-themed puzzle. I’m not much of a movie-goer, but these were all familiar titles – except for the non-themer at 1-A!
Jenni, I thought of IMMODEST in the sense of attire rather than demeanor, so “not reserved” seemed like a reasonable match.
Hmm. Hadn’t occurred to me. Hmm.
re the WASTREL in the CS — there are lots of terms relating to families’ black sheep, such as “remittance man”. It meant a family member who was paid to stay away from the family business, etc. Ours was Great-Uncle Ted, who settled in the Bahamas with a countess and was only rarely a visitor when I was young… Fun to see such old-fashioned words now and then.
It is unfortunate that the WaPo entry at 76A contains an IM. Granted, a minor nit in an otherwise enjoyable grid.
WaPo Birnholz: Was anyone else faced with a new online puzzle format today? It doesn’t work well on my iPad. I like the format where the whole puzzle is presented with clues on the right side.
Interesting that LUST evoked a clue comment from you. I agree that it’s not an emotion. It also wasn’t my clue, or even my answer! I sent in LUMP at 39-Across, crossed by UTICA, MORON and PRAMS. Rich must have substituted the LUST/UTICA/SODOM/TRAMS replacements, but when he sent the file to our market area, he left the old clues in. I heard from someone I know in Colorado Springs who pointed it out, and when I checked the Denver Post hard copy, same thing was true. LUST was clued as [Gravy no-no] and SODOM was clued as [Dumb cluck.]