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.”
DoaCF: Did you know that Sterling Publishing, which put out your kids’ book Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along (and this one, too), also puts out great puzzle books?
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!
WSJ: “Long story short” is a slang phrase used in conversation. Google it and you’ll see lots of examples and definitions.
Thanks, but you misunderstand my question. What does the phrase have to do with tennis and with Grand Slam tournaments in particular as indicated by the clue. I would have clued LONG STORY SHORTS as [Summery wear for reading “War and Peace,” maybe?]. I’m just not getting a tennis connection.
I guess they just mean that you wear shorts in tennis and that tennis then allows a good excuse (four Grand Slams) for a long story.
I found this one hard, as I didn’t know a lot (besides FLOP SWEATS, GO COMMANDO, SEA HAG, and more). I also was on the wrong track. After LONG … SHORTS and HUMBLE BRAG (new to me but plausible), I figured the long down fills would be theme and that they’d all have apparent contradictions in terms like that. (Oh, TSARS were taken down in a previous revolution, months before the October Revolution.)
I assumed it was a reference to Thelma Long.
Thanks! I was wondering too.
wait, so what’s the STORY part? why four?
She played in the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. I figured those different Grand Slam tournaments were the four, even though there were some dupes. The shorts are part of the recounting of the Thelma Long story.
It made enough sense that I assumed that was it. No guarantees, of course.
I think my answer to “why four?” is not as clear as it could be. There are four Grand Slam tournaments and Long competed in them all.
I also thought C.C.’s WSJ was tremendous fun. I laughed so hard, my brother sneaked behind me and yanked down my jeans, then I was left Pants-ing for breath. So I gave him a pair of Socks in the mouth. Well, he pulled them out, then targeted my butt with some well-placed Boots. Sorry – couldn’t resist. But really, I found this a very innovative and well-executed theme.
Re: FLOP SWEATS—Always makes me think of of Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, when he has to make an emergency appearance to anchor the news: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5xTu6AMxq4. Classic.
At first I didn’t know that Lisa Loeb was a celebrity, and I was going to ask about her, but after I read the review I realized that I had heard of her. On the other hand, I was happy to see a composer of “classical” music at 1d. I use the quotation marks, because I consider “classical music” to be a retronym. Mozart and Schubert and Brahms didn’t write classical music, they wrote music.
I did like the puzzle.
Your comment makes me wonder when the term “classical music” arose. Did Debussy consider Mozart a classical composer, and himself a modernist?
I suppose by the 1920s, if not before, there was a need for some way to distinguish ‘old style’ music from the wild ragtime and jazz etc that the deranged youths were playing and listening to.
I usually use “Classical” to refer to the specific period between Baroque and Romantic. As such, it has historical meaning. The Classical period in music was part of the broader Classicism movement in European art, named because of a return to Greek and Roman inspirations.
Haydn and Mozart wrote Classical music. Beethoven wrote Classical music from which Romantic music burst, like the alien from John Hurt.
As we became less aware of the history of music, “classical” took on a broader meaning in popular language.
Fun interview, Amy! I would say that one or both of us liked every name we included. I found out that Lisa knows Jessica ALBA, which gives me a fabulous idea for my next celebrity collaboration. As for LOKI, we thought he was just a bad guy in the Marvel Comics movies. :) Lisa’s husband loves superheroes. The whole family is awesome is what I’m saying. And we even included a shout out to her mom at 6-Down.
Bruce: I know pop culture isn’t always in your wheel house, so I appreciate that you liked the puzzle.
Speaking of GOLEMs (were we?): two good books involving GOLEMs are the 1997 Caldecott winner “Golem” by David Wisniewski, and the way more grown-up novel “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker. Both are worth reading.
Today’s puzzles are excellent Tuesday fare and I especially liked the NYT and the Jonesin’. Oh, and the WSJ – fave clue of the day was “Witch craft” for BROOM. Nice.
Me too — I enjoyed all the puzzles, especially WSJ with the pairs of pants…
Thanks for the list!
Until you posted the only book I knew that included a GOLEM was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Good puzzles all but I loved the Jonesin puzzle!
But I have to add that silly terms like “man bag” or “man bun” always make me think of this comic strip
I’ll add Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay from the Discworld series. It’s one of the books featuring the Night Watch.
I’ll add Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay from the Discworld series. It’s one of the books featuring the Night Watch.
Yes, Kavalier and Clay! I had totally forgotten that (read a long time ago); thanks for reminding me. And now I will have to read Feet of Clay – love Terry Pratchett and have published a Terry Pratchett tribute geocache called “The Color of Magic”.
Regarding Derek’s writeup on Jonesin’: Wasn’t the group “Booker T and the MGs” solely an instrumental group, not a singing group? I’m a classical guy – in the generic sense – but still remember their one hit “Green Onions”.
Correct. They had some other hits too, but that was probably the biggest.
NYT: CADDIE made me mad.
That is all.