Flashback! Here’s the very first post at Diary of a Crossword Fiend, from 12 years ago. Thanks for reading along the way, and huge thanks to everyone who’s ever written for the blog!
Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
By the way, people, you know what I learned when I finally met Lynn at ACPT this spring? The emphasis is on the second syllable in her last name, not the first! I’d been saying it wrong for years. And now you all know.
Lynn’s theme takes things that start with letters that are pronounced alone, expands those letters into their word forms, and then clues the resulting phrases as if they have nothing whatsoever to do with those letters.
- 18a. [Apiarist?], BEE STUDENT.
- 29a. [Invoice from a souvenir shop?], TEE BILL.
- 31a. [Terse put-down of Sandra’s “Gidget” performance?], DEE FLAT.
- 45a. [Where to keep divorce papers?], EX FILES. I like this one.
- 47a. [Signal Ernie’s buddy to step onstage?], CUE BERT.
- 59a. [“Wow, you have violins!”?], “GEE, STRINGS!” Ha.
Cute. I am not a fan of crossword answers clued as spelled-out letters. Nobody talks about a CEE or a VEE. So I like how Lynn reworked those stale bits of crosswordese into something fresh. The 8-letter answers at 20a and 57a are longer than the four 7-letter themers, but it helps that the 7s are paired in rows of the grid. And the fill is pretty smooth with this grid pattern. I don’t love all of the fill, but the bits I don’t care for are ones I hadn’t even seen while solving, because easy Tuesday clues don’t require me to read all the crossing clues. (Note! In a tournament setting, you may want to check the clues for all the crossings.)
Two more things:
- 46d. [Purple things in several van Gogh paintings], IRISES. So many people call the common iris color blue, but I do see them as purple. #vindicated
- 8d. [Worrisome org. for a draft dodger], SSS. I thought the clue was terribly dated since this country hasn’t had a military draft for decades. Did you know, though, that men who fail to register with the SSS when they turn 18 can be penalized by not being able to get federal student loans or, in most states, a driver’s license. These repercussions hit low-income men harder than anyone else, says the Washington Post. I wouldn’t call someone who failed to register a “draft dodger” at this point, though.
4.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 315), “To Catch a Thief”—Janie’s take
Appropriating its title from this Hitchcock gem about a rakish jewelry thief/cat burglar, today’s puzzle delivers the goods with a synonym theme. The first word of each of the four two-word themers is another word for “taking illegally.” And each entry is clued in a similar manner, beginning with a description of a type of thief followed by a fitb for the perp’s offense. The ante is upped in the third and fourth entries where there’s some welcome wordplay (yes… punning) amidst the metaphorical law-breaking offenses. To wit:
- 16A. [The adorable thief was caught ___] STEALING HEARTS. Not unlike Cary Grant vis à vis Grace Kelly in TCaT…
- 26A. [The daredevil thief was caught ___] CHEATING FATE. Not my fave. (Far) more often than not we speak of CHEATING DEATH. Now death is a particular kind of FATE, of course, but still, this one doesn’t land well for me. Otoh…
- 43A. [The thief on Tinder was caught ___] SWIPING RIGHT. Home run. Ditto:
- 56A. [The body-building thief was caught ___] LIFTING WEIGHTS. Again, this is more my speed for a successful themer. Take a look at 37D. for a sec, where we get the [Poached breakfast] EGGS combo. Oh for a theme entry along the lines of [The thief who worked as short-order cook was caught ___] POACHING EGGS… Gonna guess idea this was somewhere on Liz’s list of possibilities. Punning is second nature to her. But… fill constraints do have a way of altering the best laid plans.
My mixed reaction to the theme execution was decidedly offset by the strength (and length) of the remaining fill. For starters, today we get four—yep—four nines (in two vertical columns): FAT WALLET, CHRISTINE, ANTIPASTO and GAS METERS. While the last is more functional than fun, those other three are rich. A non-body-shaming [Plump bill collector?] clues the first; as for the second, reading books by CHRISTINE‘s Stephen King has been a decades-long guilty pleasure of mine; and the third is clued with mouth-watering specificity as that [Starter replete with soppressata, olives and cubed provolone]. Buon appetito! In addition to the ANTIPASTO, there’s more of an Italian thang goin’ on, too, with TRE [Three, in Rome] and ITALICS, those [Slanted letters] that were first used in Renaissance Italy. (And in a nod to middle eastern cuisine, we get a sweet taste of TAHINI [Falafel sandwich sauce].)
A-V enthusiasts were, no doubt, delighted to see the PLASMA TV and STEREO system that gird the grid on either side, just as fans of great film and stage actors likely enjoyed encountering GLENDA Jackson and Rod STEIGER in there. The defensive colloquial expression [“I’m ready for you, buster!”] is well-met with the defiant “BRING IT!” And in a vein that’s a little more bucolic, we get PIGLETS whimsically clued as [Little pen pals?]. Then, just as those [Little pen pals?] do not refer to children who correspond with their peers in faraway places, neither do [Jar heads?] take us to MARINES, but rather to the more literal LIDS.
So, if there was some SO-SO fill in the theme, there was also plenty of sparkle elsewhere in the grid and in the cluing, making for an all-in-all entertaining solve, and one that I didn’t have to TOIL AT. Hope it was smooth and enjoyable for you, too, and (as always) that you’ll keep solving and stop by again!
Aaron L. Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wild Pitches” — Jim’s review
ER is added to various two-word phrases to convert the second word into a type of baseball pitch.
- 17a [Baseball pitch from a DVD fan?] DIRECTOR’S CUTTER. …Cut. Is there such a thing as a “DVD fan?” Also, this is the only type of pitch I never heard of.
- 28a [Baseball pitch from a chef?] KITCHEN SINKER. …sink.
- 49a [Baseball pitch from a Woodstock attendee?] MUD SLIDER. …slide. I suppose people over a certain age will know that the Woodstock festival was a muddy affair, but not so much for the younger set. When I think of mudslides, I think of houses giving way to the forces of erosion.
- 59a [Baseball pitch from a backyard cook?] BARBECUE SPITTER. …spit. If the backyard cook at your next barbecue is a spitter, I’d recommend bringing food from home.
I’m not picking up on any significance of adding the letters ER to the base phrases. There doesn’t seem to be any references to Emergency Rooms or verbal pauses. More likely, it’s just that many of baseball’s pitches end in ER.
If you’re really into baseball, you probably liked this puzzle. For me, it was just okay. The theme entries are consistently constructed though I only knew three of the four pitches.
Interestingly, we get left-right symmetry today, probably more to do with the fact that the theme entries wouldn’t fit symmetrically in the “normal” style, being 15-, 13-, 9-, and 15-letters long respectively. But it does result in a happy-faced grid, maybe sending you subliminal messages of warm fuzzies. Or perhaps they’re meant to simulate seams on a baseball?
There are a great many references to baseball and pitches in non-theme clues, and I won’t list them all here, but I found those to be over the top. I could have done without the basebally cluing in words like FORD and LUKE ([Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey] and [Hall of Fame shortstop Appling] respectively). If the solver is not a baseball fan, why belabor the point?
I did like the fake-baseball clue for 50d DECAF: [Less-jolting joe].
But I was most disappointed when I had to erase nice entries NOTABLE and HARD-BOILED and replace them with less interesting NAMABLE and HARD-BITTEN (clued as [Worthy of mention] and [Cynically tough]). Thankfully, EXTRA EXTRA got to remain, so it became my de facto favorite entry in the grid.
Overall, for baseball fans, this puzzle is right over home plate. For everyone else, maybe high and outside.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “All for It” – Derek’s write-up
Three theme answers this week, but one is quite long as really acts as “two” theme answers!
- 20A [Racquetball match, in a way] BATTLE OF WALLS
- 25A & 44A [Exasperated complaint about endless corridors?] AND THE HALLS KEEP ON COMIN’
- 49A [Left like a tossed football?] SPIRALLED AWAY
So the letter IT in three phrases are replaced by the letters ALL, thus the title. This also appears to me to be a difficult brainstorm, especially when you have to find symmetrical lengths. I didn’t figure out the theme idea until I got to the second one, so that is why there is an error in the grid! I forgot to change it when I figured we were changing “battle of wits.” Many always stumps me; but at least no obscure punk rock bands in this one! (A few OTHER obscurities, though!) 4.3 stars today.
Some comments (and some of those obscurities):
- 9A [Wright of 2017’s “Wonder Woman”] ROBIN – I should go see this. I heard it was excellent. And Robin Wright is also in House of Cards, which I am several seasons behind in!
- 15A [Neighborhood near Greenwich Village, slangily] NOHO – I have heard of SoHo, which means “South of Houston St,” but I didn’t know there was a NoHo as well!
- 39A [Part of an M.O.?] MODUS – The Latin phrase modus operandi means a person’s mode of operation, usually for a criminal. I watched a lot of Law and Order in my day!
- 62A [“Orange” drink that’s really black] PEKOE – Tea is more brownish, no? Matt may make his too strong!
- 5D [“Rhapsody __ ] IN BLUE – One of my favorite pieces of music ever.
- 10D [City between Jacksonville and Tampa] OCALA – What else could it be??
- 21D [Andrew Marvell’s “__ Coy Mistress”] TO HIS – I have vaguely heard of this poem before. This is definitely one of those obscurities mentioned above.
- 36D [Phrase before “Move ahead” in “Whip It”] GO FORWARD – To get the song stuck in your head:
That is all for today! Have a great one!
Parikshit S. Bhat’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
So C.C. Burnikel had the Saturday puzzle, but not today’s. This is a constructor I am not familiar with, but I am going to assume by the name that they both are of Asian descent. This is a fine puzzle, with an odd feature of four of the six theme answers going vertically. What goes in the circles? the revealer at 60A explains all:
- 18A [Beverage from China’s Wuyi Mountains] OOLONG TEA
- 3D [Make terrific progress] GO GREAT GUNS – They don’t say this in Indiana!
- 5D [Protective vests, gas masks, etc.] RIOT GEAR
- 28D [Rep seeking promising performers] TALENT AGENT
- 42D [“Stop sweating the small stuff!”] GET A LIFE!
- 60A [Attend a party uninvited … and a literal hint to five sets of circles letters] GATE CRASH
As always, pretend those red letters are circles! Various anagrammed sequences of the word GATE are utilized here. Very nicely done: 4.1 stars for my debut blog for this constructor!
A few more things:
- 14A [Actress Watts of the “Divergent” films] NAOMI – I remember she is about my age. I also remember her in that dreadful remake of King Kong!
- 46A [Movie theater] CINEMA – I cannot honestly remember the last movie I saw in the theater. It was either the latest Star Wars or Sing! Ah, the joys of having a five-year-old who doesn’t sit well at movies!
- 2D [Hawaiian island, or Hawaiian porch] LANAI – I hear Kauai is the prettiest island! One of these days I will research this in person!
- 19D [The first “N” of CNN] NEWS – I try watching the news these days, but it is sooooo depressing!
- 51D [Muse for poets] ERATO – I only know this character from crosswords. Seriously, I rarely see this name anywhere else!
Have a great week everyone!