Lisa Loeb & Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
We’ve got two special treats today: A puzzle co-constructed by a celebrity and an interview with said celebrity (). First up, let’s talk about Lisa and Doug’s puzzle.
The theme takes one-word titles of hit songs and reimagines each as part of a familiar phrase. (Click the song title if you want to see its YouTube video.)
- 20a. [Regulation regarding a 2007 #1 Rihanna hit?], “UMBRELLA” POLICY.
- 33a. [Special observances for a 2014 #1 Pharrell Williams hit?], “HAPPY” HOLIDAYS.
- 41a. [1994 #1 Lisa Loeb hit played at a potluck?], “STAY” FOR DINNER. My personal trainer encountered this song and Lisa Loeb’s videos in his formative years and has had a thing for smart brunettes with glasses ever since.
- 53a. [1979 #1 Styx hit played for Little Red Riding Hood?], “BABE” IN THE WOODS.
I know what you’re thinking: “How come we have the ’70s, ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s, but no ’80s?” Well, Styx is practically a two-fer since “Babe” hit #1 for two weeks in December 1979 and was still on the radio the next month.
Cute theme, and apt for a singer-songwriter to devise. You might quibble that the phrases don’t all have the same number of words, but 2/2/3/4 isn’t so off-kilter, and it’s not as if 2/3/4/5 is likely to work—how many five-word phrases with 14 letters can you think of—where the first word is a #1 song?
Three more things from the puzzle:
- 66a. [Hit home?], SIDE A. Okay, I was just saying the other day that records have an A-side and B-side rather than side A and side B. I wonder if this was Lisa’s fill or Doug’s. If someone who’s released records uses “side A,” I’ll retract my objection.
- 5d. [Adam’s family member], ABEL. Loved this clue! The Bible could use a little more Addams Family panache, no?
- 29d. [Foster child in “Freaky Friday”], JODIE. The child in the Foster family who was a young actress in that movie was JODIE, of course. A bit trickier, this clue and 5d’s, than you typically see on a Tuesday.
My fave fill includes AZIZ Ansari, BOBBLEHEAD, “FAIR ENOUGH,” and UPROARIOUS.
Lisa Loeb started a two-week residency tonight at the Carlyle in Manhattan (she talks about it in People magazine here), so hey, she’ll probably have some audience members who’ve done her debut crossword. Say what you will about Paul McCartney, but I don’t think his audiences have ever done a crossword puzzle by him. (He does liken the process of songwriting to solving a crossword puzzle, though!) When I spoke with Lisa on May 15, she said making this crossword felt a lot like writing a song—song—working around the structure, as well as the poetic angle of crafting the theme.
I didn’t record our phone call, so the direct quotes I jotted down are on the short side. Lisa’s answers are my paraphrases unless they’re enclosed in quotes.
DoaCF: Do you hate 1920s murder duo Leopold & Loeb for hogging so many of the LOEB clues?
LL: “I do. I get a not-so-secret thrill when” LOEB or LISA is clued via her.
DoACF: What’s your crossword routine?
LL: “Lately I do mostly Sundays. I’m sort of a Monday through Thursday person, plus the Sundays.” She also enjoys the crosswords in the Southwest Airlines magazine, Spirit (constructed by Doug).
DoaCF: Do you solve with pen, pencil, mobile app, keyboard, or what?
LL: “I prefer doing it on paper, in the magazine.” She also prints out other days of NYT crosswords. Like many a crossword junkie, Loeb is particular about the writing utensils she uses to solve crosswords. Her solving tools of choice are Uniball pens and “sparkly gel pens I get in Japan.” When a puzzle takes multiple sessions to complete, she uses a different color ink for each round, so the resulting grid is “pretty.”
DoaCF: What word(s) do you wish to never see again in crosswords?
LL: EKE, Mauna LOA/KEA, Greek and Norse gods. (Ed. note: This puzzle contains LOKI! Let’s blame Doug.) However, “I love seeing CHER.” When constructing with Doug, “We put our personal favorites in there.” There are about a dozen names from pop culture in the grid—no idea which of these get the full Lisa Loeb imprimatur!
DoaCF: What’s your favorite kind of crossword—themed vs themeless, straightforward vs tricky, hard vs easy?
LL: “I looove the tricky ones!” She recounts sometimes struggling with the long theme answers, filling in the surrounding short fill, and then “bam bam bam, all the dominoes start falling.”
LL: She did! When she visited the publisher’s office, she was able to choose some other books to take with her, and picked out some crossword collections. The subject of publishing raised another point—she finds it “terrible” that crossword constructors typically don’t retain any rights to their puzzles and receive no royalties for a puzzle’s use. There are similarities to the bad side of the music business.
4.25 stars from me. How’d you enjoy the cruciverbal and musical stylings of Lisa and Doug?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 314), “Double Duty”—Janie’s take
The title is “Double Duty” because… each of the themers gives us a pair of homophones. If this gimmick is a tad on the corny side, the results put a smile on my face more than once—in part because the question-marked clues are as literal as the fill is playful (and in one case, refreshingly thoughtful); in part because… I’m not corn-averse. Ymmv.
- 17A. [Errand runner for a University of Minnesota athlete?] GOPHER GOFER. Amusing to me 1) because I did graduate work at “the U” and 2) because the GOPHER is also the mascot of Goucher College, where I did my undergrad work. What’re the odds? (And these two institutions couldn’t be more unlike each other if they tried! Well, not before Goucher starting enrolling young men anyway.)
- 11D. [Humdinger from Montana?] BUTTE BEAUT.
- 36A. [Song written by one who’s next in line?] HEIR AIR. When do you suppose Prince Charles composed his? (Homophone bonus: [AER Lingus] sits right next to HEIR AIR in the grid. A bit like an echo chamber, no?)
- 28D. [Op-ed column written by a dove?] PEACE PIECE. Ah, the “thoughtful” one. In these highly adversarial times, this is something that never goes out of date. More than one or three was also written when SPIRO Agnew was veep and “BAN the Bomb” was an oft-heard rallying cry.
- 59A. [Poker pot for tots?] KIDDIE KITTY. My fave. Because sometimes (in American English especially), those middle double-Ds and -Ts end up sounding exactly the same. Am betting this was the seed entry. Always great to leave ’em laughin’, and this one does it, um, “to a T.”
As for the remaining fill, we get nothing as long as the four longest themers, but several strong entries that match our one seven-letter entry. Lookin’ at you VEHICLE (and your alcohol-free clue [One for the road?], BEST BUD, AT HEART, GOES PRO (not to be confused with the GoPro..) and Carlo GAMBINO. No RAMSES [King of ancient Egypt] he, but a don to be reckoned with for sure.
And some other sixes, while I’m at it: SEEKER (with its Harry Potter/Quidditch reference), the healthy LEGUME (give peas a chance?…), the strong RED OAK, the poetic ERRANT (topped only by the poetic BOSOM [Cherished] pairing [where both clue and fill are adjectives]), the BOD-focused TORSOS, the artistic ENRICO Caruso—and his etymological cousin ENRICH.
[“Believe IT OR not!], I don’t have a lot to add. Oh—failed to mention the lively, site-specific / aurally-evocative [Awards dinner cry] “SPEECH!” The image of which may want to make you open a handy [Champagne portion] SPLIT.
And SPLIT is what I’m gonna do now while I wish you a fine week ahead. Such a great time of year with the days getting longer and longer. Keep solvin’—and see you again next week! (“That’s all she WROTE“…)
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Pairs” — Jim’s review
Another fun puzzle from Zhouqin. How does she do it?!
In today’s edition, certain words in certain phrases are pluralized to become articles of clothing you wear on your legs. For consistency’s sake, each word appears at the end of its respective phrase.
- 16a [“Get your pants off the floor!”?] PICK UP THE SLACKS. I love this clue and answer.
- 27a [Nude-colored acrobatic wear?] SKIN TIGHTS. Eww.
- 46a [Gym wear that sells poorly?] FLOP SWEATS. Never heard the term “flop sweat” before. Apparently it means “nervous sweat (as of a performer) caused especially by the fear of failing.”
- 58a [Tennis garb worn in four Grand Slam tournaments?] LONG STORY SHORTS. And I have no idea what this is getting at. Does anyone know what the term “long story” has to do with Grand Slam tennis tournaments?
Despite the fact that I didn’t know what two of the theme answers were, I still enjoyed the theme.
But I really enjoyed the puzzle as a whole. It’s filled with so much good stuff. GO COMMANDO and HUMBLEBRAG are outstanding long Downs. They’re backed up with LUCIFER, ANEMONES, and STETSONS. Even the shorter stuff was fun to discover: VEGAS, BROOM, SEA HAG, MUSIC, GRAMPS, GRUEL, TRIBES, IBIZA, PLIGHT, SWARM, etc.
And for the most part, the cluing was superb. Witness:
- 20a [Witch craft]. BROOM
- 36a [Narcotics unit]. OUNCE
- 38a [Bugs bugs him]. ELMER
- 3d [A way to be underdressed]. GO COMMANDO. (This is an especially great entry in light of the theme.)
- 29d [Claim that your biggest weakness is being a perfectionist, e.g.]. HUMBLEBRAG
- 39d [Alternative facts]. LIES. Tellin’ it like it is.
- 58d [Trial venue?]. LAB
In short, this was an outstandingly fun puzzle, which makes it all the more frustrating that I don’t understand 58a. I’m trusting that it does in fact mean something and that I’m just not in the know. But if the connection is tenuous or weak, I might have to downgrade my glowing review. Anyone want to clue me in?
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “NATO Allies” – Derek’s write-up
How well do you know your NATO alphabet? Today’s Jonesin’ takes some familiar names that end in an initial and has some fun with it:
- 17A [A look inside Mr. Gladwell?] MALCOLM X-RAY
- 68A [The dance of talk show employees] BOOKER TANGO – Booker T. and the MGs were a singing group from the 60s.
- 11D [Award for “Five Easy Pieces” actress Black?] KAREN OSCAR – Karen O is the lead singer of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There’s Matt’s obscure band reference!
- 29D [Weighty river triangle?] HEAVY DELTA – Heavy D and the Boyz had several rap hits in the late 80s-early 90s. Heavy D is dead now; gone way too soon.
A clever idea once you get the hang of it. Surprisingly difficult, at least when I tried, to come up with other instances of people with names like this. Albeit, I am really sleepy now, so I am drawing a huge blank! That’s why Matt is the professional constructor and I am not. 4.4 stars!
A few more notes:
- 11A [Letters on a bucket] KFC – This makes me hungry; we just had Popeye’s chicken the other day!
- 34A [Author Harper] LEE – I read To Kill a Mockingbird in school, but I haven’t tackled Go Set a Watchman yet. One of these days!
- 5D [Automaton of Jewish lore] GOLEM – Isn’t this a charactor from LOTR?
- 18D [God of the Nile] OSIRIS – Speaking of movies, The Mummy with Tom Cruise will be out soon!
- 50D [It may be also called a “murse”] MAN-BAG – Nice entry! I don’t have one of these …
- 61D [“Ed Sullivan Show” character __ Gigio] TOPO – This is a tad before my time, but I remember this name from a Billy Joel video!
It’s finally warm! Until next week!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Quick write up again, as I am going to a Cubs game today! (OK, it’s the South Bend Cubs, but still!) Sometimes the simple themes are the best, especially when there is a clever hook, like the one here at 56A:
- 18A [Lighthouse landmark in Honolulu] ALOHA TOWER
- 23A [Club batting first, in baseball] AWAY TEAM
- 36A [Capital that’s home to Lady Bird Lake] AUSTIN, TEXAS – As in Lady Bird Johnson, LBJ’s First Lady and half of a notable Texan couple!
- 50A [Treaded combat vehicle] ARMY TANK
- 56A [Best place to be, slangily … and, when divided in four parts, what the answert to starred clues are?] WHERE IT’S AT
Or, in four parts, WHERE IT’S A. T., as all of the theme answers have those initials. Super easy puzzle; under 3 minutes for me. No, that was not a complete sentence. Yes, I am in a hurry! 4 stars even.
A few more things:
- 16A [Like some Chardonnay] OAKY – Is this a good thing?
- 30A [Starts of typical workweeks] MONDAYS – Just endured on of those …
- 1D [Sports venues] ARENAS – Gilbert Arenas is a former NBA guard, notable mostly not for his play but for having a loaded gun in the locker room!
- 31D [Feature of Vegas “bandits”] ONE-ARM – I have never been to Las Vegas. I want to go, but for the food!
- 46D [Hanging deli meat] SALAMI – Speaking of food, this is making me hungry! I love salami, but I am not a bologna fan. Go figure!
I said I was in a hurry! See you on Saturday for the LAT Challenger puzzle!