Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Double Quote” — Amy’s write-up
The 114a. [Speaker of this puzzle’s “double quote”] is YOGI BERRA, and there are 28 pairs of double letters circled in the grid. Read in order from top to bottom, left to right, the letters that get doubled spell out A NICKEL AIN’T WORTH A DIME ANYMORE. It’s a nice touch that the circles are coin-shaped, and two nickels are worth a dime but a single nickel ain’t worth a dime.
Aside from 114a, there aren’t any thematic answers other than the unrelated words and phrases that contain the double letters, so it sort of plays like a themeless puzzle, albeit not one with stacks of fabulous, zippy fill. I mean, the fill is pretty good, but it’s not like, say, a Wentz themeless in terms of the answers. Korean UNIFICATION, THE NANNY, TOM RIDGE, BY YOUR LEAVE, Carl HIAASEN, SAME HERE, and SCAPEGOAT are pretty good, but overall, there are tradeoffs (not fatal) for having 27 (!) entries with well over 150 squares working on behalf of the theme.
A fine puzzle with a neat idea, and not an easy one to construct, but overall there wasn’t much of the typical Sunday-puzzle entertainment in terms of monkeying around with wordplay, working to suss out the theme, etc. Not a whole lot of stuff in the puzzle that made me say “Ooh, I want to talk about this on the blog.” 3.75 stars from me, I guess?
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “The Canines Film Festival” — pannonica’s write-up
Simply put: film titles punned doggy-style, some shaggier than others. And it starts right away, with a short five-letter entry.
- 1a. [Film of the Beagles?] WHELP (Help!, featuring the Beatles).
- 24a. [Tale of dogs in DeLoreans?] BARK TO THE FUTURE (Back to the Future).
- 36a. [Pic about a singing pack?] POOCH PERFECT (Pitch Perfect).
- 49a. [Movie of a hound’s young years?] BORZOI HOOD (Boyhood). While solving, I thought this was meant to reference Boys in the Hood, but I see that the clue is straddling the original and the punned. In fact, this is true of most (all?) of the clues, but was somehow more obscure here.
- 61a. [Swashbuckler of a sea dog?] MASTER AND KOMONDOR (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).
- 77a. [Romp about a happy-go-lucky pup?] COLLIE-ANNA (Pollyanna).
- 89a. [Flick about a dog’s feeder?] THE KIBBLE GUY (The Cable Guy).
- 100a. [Adventures of a Russian watchdog?] THE BIG BOW-WOWSKI (The Big Lebowski).
- 114a. [“Twin __: A Tale of Two Dogs”?] PEKES (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me). The clue successfully implicates the film based on the television show, but it’s also glaringly the only fill-in-the-blank. I’m sure the short length limited the theme possibilities here.
As far as the title goes, the pun is more orthographic than aural. Somehow 3d [“I” not in “team”] EGO makes this more clear.
- 10d [“Eyes Wide __”] SHUT. Definitely would have preferred no film titles among the ballast fill. Especially not gratuitously, as it is here. There are a couple of songs with this title, both appearing well after the Kubrick film. The Austrian novella that it’s based on had a different title: Traumnovelle (“Dream Story”). But speaking of gratuitousness, let me proffer my opinion of the film (though I haven’t reëvaluated it since it was released): I thought it was lousy, with a goofy story and bad acting, but was captivated by Jocelyn POOK’s score. Also, dupe with 94a [Optometry] EYE CARE.
- Another variety of incursion: dog-related clues/answers in the non-theme material: 30a [Pup bunch] LITTER. Again, easily avoidable. Some representative instances where opportunities were not seized upon and shaken violently: 16d [Pugilistic affair] BOUT, 28d [Do better than] TOP, 70d [Coin-in-air call] TAILS, 101d [Say “Pretty please”] BEG.
- 9d [Purple-berried plants] POKEWEEDS. Phytolacca americana, aka pokeberry, aka poke root, aka inkberry, and more.
- 65d [Bonkers for knights] turned out to be a great and tricky clue, by virtue of being next to 66d [Go mad for] ADORE. Answer: MACES. That’s some quality cruciverbalizing.
- 112a [“Rubber Soul” song] GIRL. You know what else is a Rubber Soul song? WAIT, here clued as [“Hold on!”] (53a). And 34a [Promiser’s words] I WILL is of course from The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’). Wise not to have gone full-bore Beatles, especially with 1-across already laid down.
- 42a [Tennis court lane] ALLEY. That’s the marginal bit that makes the doubles game wider than the singles. It’s 4½ feet (1.37m) wide, and there’s one on each flank of the playing area.
- 10d [Gone bad] SPOILT. No hint that it’s the (more commonly) British spelling. cf, 1d [Loos] WCS.
- Good sampling of world geography/demography. MAU-MAU, ERIES, TAMIL, MUMBAI, BANTU, TATAR, HOPI. (65a, 29a, 57d, 63d, 47d, 27a, 98d)
- 54a [In a cuddly way] SNUGLY, 86a [In a sane way] SENSIBLY. If only 5d [Too sermonzing] PREACHY were also adverbial, preachily. But! We get—in a clue—50d [Wintrily isolated] ICED IN.
Not enamored of the theme, but the overall craftsmanship is good.
Alex Bajcz’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Volumizing”—Andy’s review
Fun, solid, punny puzzle this week. The title, “Volumizing,” refers to the fact that each theme answer adds BODY to a standard phrase, with hilarity (as always) ensuing:
- 23a, BODY CHECK MATES [Obstruct one’s buddies during a hockey game?]. This mostly refers to British ice hockey, I assume.
- 32a, ALABAMA BODY SLAMMER [Crimson Tide wrestler?]. My favorite entry, genuinely made me smile.
- 52a, BUSYBODY WORK [Snoop’s job?]. Cute clue/answer combination here.
- 69a, PRINCESS AND THE PEABODY [Royal with a broadcasting award?]. Another gem of a themer.
- 88a, BODY SHOP LIFT [Central garage item?].
- 104a, BODY DOUBLE STANDARD [Benchmark for a movie daredevil?]. Ties in nicely with STUNT DOG, which crosses it.
- 119a, ANTIBODY SOCIAL [Immunology-themed gala?].
This is a version of a theme we see a lot (that is, “insert [x] into every phrase to get funny result”), but this theme is a cut above for me. BODY is tricky to work into this many phrases, and most of the results are legitimately humorous. None of theme are clunkers, either. Really solid.
Alex is known for working in fresh and unusual fill, and this puzzle is no exception. A short list of non-theme fill I thought was superlative: ICE COLD BEER, RECONNOITER, STUNT DOG, RACKETEERED, “I SAW IT,” THE EURO (which looks SO weird as THEEURO), TICK AWAY, “I CAN BE”, AP CALC. A grid peppered with entries like this is a lot more fun to solve.
The challenge today came with fill like POCHARD and OBTESTS and OMSK and BRAGA clued as the Portuguese city. Lots of proper nouns in this one, which is 100% my jam but is 0% lots of other people’s jams. I’m sure someone is sitting on their sofa kvetching about the crossings of ASMARA.
Really appreciated the SETA clue [“Go ___ Watchman”: Harper Lee novel]. Hopefully this will cut back on cluing it as [Biological bristle] and similar.
Gotta run. Until next week!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Spoonerism Feeding” – Jenni’s writeup
So late. We dropped Emma off at camp of her trip to Israel today and this weekend featured a lot of last-minute packing and shopping and taking her out for her last American restaurant meals.
A straightforward, highly amusing theme awaits us today. In classic “Spoonerism” fashion, we reverse the initial sounds of the two words in each (very silly) theme answer to get a recognizable (and connected) phrase. Hilarity ensues.
- 23a [Allergic reaction from the creator of “The Black Cat?”] = POE SNEEZE (snow peas.) I didn’t get this one on the first pass – I don’t know “The Black Cat.”
- 25a [Capo at a bowling alley?] = BANE MOBSTER (Maine lobster.) Mmm. Lobster.
- 36a [What you’d need to record a sextuple-bogey on a par-3 hole in mini-golf?] = NINE PUTTS (pine nuts.) Mmm, pesto.
- 43a [Appear to be annoyed?] = SEEM CROSS (cream sauce.) I sense a pattern.
- 57a [Officers in erotic films?] = PORN COPS (corn pops.) Cereal? Fried corn on a stick?
- 67a [Way of saying “Correct you are! to Colorado Rockies manager Walt] = RIGHT WEISS (white rice.) Just don’t make me eat all these things together, please.
- 70a [Boardroom graphic depicting Crews, QB Bradshaw, author Pratchett, and so on?] = TERRY CHART (cherry tart.)
- 79a [“Blasted hair holder”?] = DAMN CLIP (clam dip.)
- 92a [Drench Han Solo’s Wookiee pal?] = SOP CHEWIE (chop suey.)
- 101a [Place to find a blowhard scuba diver?] = BOAST REEF (roast beef.) Do we no longer put SCUBA in uppercase as an acronym?
- 112a [“Three’s Company” landlord Ralph bawls?] = FURLEY CRIES (curly fries.) This is not the iconic Mr. Roper but rather the character Don Knotts plays at the end of the series. You are forgiven (and perhaps admired) if you did not know this.
- 116a [Hit Hondas back and forth, say?] = BANDY CARS (candy bars.) This was where I finished the puzzle, because I kept trying to make it BAT or RALLY. 117d is one of my least favorite answer types – the abbreviated position for American football, in this case [Some NFL linemen] = DTS. This did not help me.
I always enjoy Spoonerism themes, and the extra helping of theme here was a nice touch. I didn’t realize that all the corrected phrases referred to food until I started writing this review. Nicely done.
A few other things:
- “The People vs O.J. Simpson” has breathed new life into Judge ITO as a crossword answer – or at least given us different ways to clue it. 1a [Lance played by Kenneth Choi on “The People vs O.J. Simpson.]
- I’m not sure that a workaholic’s concern (54d) really is STRESS. I think that might the workaholic’s family’s concern.
- Tricky spelling at 109a [One of the three Andrews Sisters] = MAXENE.
What I didn’t know before doing this puzzle: that a DWARF might speak Khuzdul. I presume this is Lord of the Rings? Again?
Randolph Rosss Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! Here’s hoping you enjoyed a (very) rare themed puzzle for the Sunday Challenge, written for us by Mr. Randolph Ross. Not too much in the way of complexity with the theme, as the answer at the very middle of the grid, THREE BY FIVE CARD, let’s us in on what’s going on (36D: [Common recipe box item whose name hints at an unusual property of this puzzle’s longest answers]).
- SHEET METAL SCREW (14A: [Hinge holder])
- NOBEL PEACE PRIZE (17A: [Honor awarded to four US presidents])
- OBAMA WHITE HOUSE (56A: [Washington Post assignment starting in 2009])
- BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL (59A: [Concern for a hypoglycemic])
Four 15-letter theme entries, not including the reveal. Four theme in which there are three words that are each five letters long. Simple enough, unless I missed something, which is definitely possible. Not the most challenging Sunday compared to other Sundays on here, but a few entries stood out in a good way, particularly DESPERADO, which I love since the etymology of the word essentially (and literally) describes a guy doing bad deeds as desperate (30D: [Outlaw]). Of all of the classic television shows and characters that I watched in syndication when I was much younger, I didn’t catch The BEAV too many team on Leave It To Beaver (22D: [Wally’s little bro on a ’50s sitcom]). Am sure many of you would want harder Sunday Challenges, but definitely hope you were able to sit back and enjoy a softball grid for this Sunday as you were solving much tougher ones today.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DAVIS (39A: [Coveted cup in sports]) – In 1899, Harvard University tennis player Dwight F. Davis was one of four Harvard tennis players who challenged the British to a tennis competition. One year later, in 1900, the first Davis Cup was played as a challenge between the U.S. and Great Britain, with Davis designing the format of the event and purchasing a trophy for it. As of the 2016 field, over 130 nations entered the tournament at various levels, with Great Britain trying to defend their title that they won last year, their first David Cup title since 1936.
Have a great rest of your Sunday, everybody!
I’M AOK (45D: [Reassuring response to NASA])
NYT: I really liked it…. not surprisingly since I seem to resonate to PB’s approach.
On a Sunday, I love it when it’s unusual and interesting without being silly and having a ton tiny areas with odd fill. And while quote puzzles are not my favorites, this was a very nifty way of doing a quote. The doubling of the letter was extremely helpful. So, it made for a smooth solve that kept me interested to find out the answer– which was typical Yogi Berra funny.
Wonder how many people have named their dog Asta
I enjoyed the Crooked’s play with canines, even if the linked songs escaped me..
Different strokes, eh?
While I hold HEX in high esteem, a pun puzzle is not a fun puzzle for this solver, especially when the puns are so labored like BORZOI for “boy”.
On the other hand, BIG_BOW_WOWSKIE has some merit.
The NYT was filled with uninspired cluing and dull fill. The gimmick was also dull. Whoopee, another stupid Berra quote… Was it a tough puzzle to construct? Maybe, but, as the solver, not my concern. Why the quotation marks in 114A. Speaker of this puzzle’s “double quote”?
Let’s hope Rich Norris’s LAT holds more enjoyment for me.
CRooked – I really didn’t like the clue for 57a crossing 48d. But I don’t seem to like much about the puzzles this morning. Might be a me thing.
I did enjoy WaPo’s spoonerisms. Especially LANE MOBSTER.
As an English soccer fan, it was nice to see ASTON Villa in NYT. I believe their Tom Hanks’ favorite club. Interesting that PANIC is apparently derived from Pan, who’s referenced in one of the clues. I enjoyed it. The fill wasn’t inspired but also didn’t rely on obscurities & crosswordese.
I’ve no love of step quotes, but this device appealed to me with the constraints it placed on the setter and the help of knowing that a letter one found in crossings would be doubled. Some fill didn’t do much for me either. (I wanted the sitcom to be “The Ninny,” although I realized this was too much to ask.) Two crossings, one with LAYNE and one with, yes, ASHTON almost proved impossible. But done.
Enjoyed the NYT, though it seemed to be a little easy. Might be a function of the theme, which yielded two across letters anytime you got one of the circled letters in a cross.
Did 109-A, DIMMED OUT, strike anyone else as not very much “in the language?” I think of what cities tried to achieve during WWII as a “black out.” While I understand that they probably could never achieve a total black out, does anyone refer to what they did achieve as “dimmed out?”
Without investigating the actual sources, I notice that the Ngram graph for “dimmed out” shows a dramatic peak beginning around 1940 and then tailing off during the 1950s.
Thanks, Jenni, for the helpful review. I noticed what I think is a small error: you wrote BANE MOBSTER but it’s LANE MOBSTER. You had it right in the puzzle, just not in your discussion.
I confess that I had a lot of trouble with this puzzle. I’m much better off with clues involving Edgar Allan Poe than rappers, bands, landlord Ralph, and the Colorado Rockies manager. Oh well….
I loved the NYT puzzle. The quote was amusing. The pairs of the same letter made it easier, but just right for me, balancing the harder entries. However, for the record, the coin-shaped circles disappeared in print. They were just shaded boxes.