Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to a Major League Game” – Erin’s writeup
After last week’s Rickrolling adventure, we’re back this week with a trusty Captain Obvious installment. This time we have literal takes on baseball terms and idioms:
- 23a. [“___, and you’ll be at home”] STEP UP TO THE PLATE
- 39a. [“___ include players, umpires and fans”] BALLPARK FIGURES
- 59a. [“___? Then the batter isn’t safe after that deep drive not to center or right”] OUT IN LEFT FIELD
- 69a. [“___, and there will be new batters”] SWITCH HITTERS
- 80a. [“___, and first, second and third will be protected by a tarp”] COVER YOUR BASES
- 95a. [“___, and first and third will be colorful”] PAINT THE CORNERS. This refers to a pitcher who can throw to the edges of the strike zone, for anyone like me who would need to look this up.
- 118a. [“___, and you won’t see another game for maybe 12 months”] WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR. Did not know this was a Cubs thing, so this fell flat for me.
These are all fine theme entries, but baseball isn’t my forte, so I didn’t love the theme. My local team is the Phillies, so we’ll watch sometimes out of morbid curiosity, but they don’t really inspire me to get into the sport. It’s just as valid to geek out over baseball or sports in general as it is to geek out over crosswords, though, so I’d appreciate hearing what baseball fans thought of the theme.
- Things are a little morbid this week, with NOOSES and wrestler The Undertaker’s HEARSE.
- 111a. [Green Day drummer] TRÉ COOL. Real name Frank Edwin Wright III.
- 106a. [Elderly neighbor of Jon, in “Garfield” comics] REBA. Who?
- 30d. [Saltimbocca seasoning] SAGE. Yum! I had SA__ and was worried for a moment that “salt” had been duplicated. The “salt” in saltimbocca is not related to NaCl; it comes from saltare, “to jump,” and the full name translates to “jump in the mouth.” Much more pleasant sounding than “get in my belly!”
- 79a [Phi ___ Jama (dunking nickname of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler’s college hoops team)] SLAMA. Has this been in a grid before? I love it. The AURICLE crossing might be tricky, but just try saying “Phi Slama Jama” without smiling.
Let’s have TRÉ COOL and his bandmates play us out with Green Day’s instrumental song “Last Ride In.”
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Hi all–this is Andy, swapping in for Amy this week on the Sunday LA Times puzzle.
The title is “Low Flow,” and that illustrates the theme: We’re taking normal phrases and adding an F to the beginning of one of the words, to humorous effect. Like so:
- 22a, COMBINATION FLOCK [Interfaith service attendees?]. Combination lock.
- 28a, FLAME EXCUSE [Arsonist’s alibi?]. Lame excuse. An alibi and an excuse aren’t really the same thing, but constructor’s license and all.
- 56a, CORPORATE FLAW [Cause of business failure?]. Corporate law.
- 62a, GREAT FLAKES [Distinguished screwballs?]. Great Lakes.
- 72a, VICTORY FLAP [Uproar over a controversial win?]. Victory lap.
- 80a, FLIGHT READING [Niche market for airport bookstores?]. Light reading.
- 106a, PACK OF FLIES [Dumpster hoverers?]. Pack of lies.
- 117a, SUBSTANTIAL FLOSS [Hygiene product for very big teeth?]. Substantial loss.
Eight solid theme answers. Some really nice non-theme fill in here, like BAD CROWD, “WATCH ME!”, ANN TAYLOR, and DABBLED IN. Jeffrey also snuck in one of his signature wacky partials: this time, it’s 124a, OR LEAVE IT [End of an ultimatum], as in “Love it ___.” I think we saw just LEAVE IT in an ACPT puzzle (sorry for the spoiler for those who haven’t solved those yet), but OR LEAVE IT is a bridge farther.
That’s all for this week. See you next Thursday!
Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Triple Spoonerisms”—Amy’s write-up
I confess that I didn’t take the time to figure out all the spoonerisms in the theme while I was solving the puzzle, and even if I had, I don’t think it would have sped things up any to actually understand the theme answers as I pieced them together. Lots of working the crossings and making sure the words made sense with the theme clues, not so much grasping the spoonerisms. They are:
- 24a. [What caused the nosebleed on the playground?], BEAK OF LAD STRUCK. Streak of bad luck.
- 30a. [Tagline in an ad for Elmer’s Glue-Ale?], THE STUCK HOPS BEER. The buck stops here.
- 60a. [Description of a yeti?], PALE HAIRY MASS. Hail Mary pass.
- 67a. Novice parasailer’s fear?], TERROR OF BAD GLIDINGS. Bearer of glad tidings. This one takes the triple spoonerism to a whole new level. (Nole hue Neville? Constructor Fogarty as tan as a Florida State student?)
- 76a. [Containers for electric guitars?], ROCK STAR CASES. Stock car races.
- 106a. [Best place to buy a platter of fruit-flavored sodas?], THE FANTA TRAY SALE. The Santa Fe Trail. Fancy spoonerizing!
- 114a. [Mend fences after Caesar’s civil war?], HEAL FIGHT AT ROME. Feel right at home.
So many of the clues sparked an internal “Ah!” at their cleverness and creativity. And the fill is pretty darned smooth throughout.
- 12a. [Very good, as a job], BANG-UP. Yes, Patrick’s done a bang-up job here. As usual.
- 37a. [Chill in the cooler], DO TIME. The cooler being slang for prison, and not just a container filled with a bag of ice. Another twisty clue in the prison category: 83d. [Rules for forming sentences], PENAL CODE.
- 64d. [Resonator guitar], DOBRO. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I’m sure my husband does. He’s got guitars, but no dobros. Here’s a page of dobros if you’re curious.
4.25 stars from me.
Patrick Berry reminds me of Inspector Clouseau in “A Shot in the Dark” who said something like “I submit, M. Ballon, that you killed her in a writ of fealous jage!”
Yes I remember that well. Still makes me laugh!
NYT: I honestly can’t decide whether I love it or hate- Some of the theme answers are seriously absurd, though TERROR OF BAD GLIDINGS is excellent, and PALE HAIRY MASS is really good. Of course, non-theme parts are beautifully done, in true Berry fashion.
So, am I supposed to respond to this as you do to a pun so terrible that it is admirable?
I know what you mean, and it was a tough theme, early-morning pre-caffeine, to wrap my head around. It’s tough to make the spoonerisms not sound contrived, but I loved PALE HAIRY MASS, and the GLIDINGS pun, too. I had a little trouble in the DOBRO area, and having DEPOse for DEPORT (I’m reading The Wars of the Roses, so I’m stuck in the past) certainly didn’t help.
The fill was excellent, and, SNORT made me laugh out loud. That word always reminds me of the baby bird in Are You My Mother?
I feel like these theme answers fall into the so-bad-they’re-good category.
I have been reading Are You My Mother to my girls and so filled in “snort” right away, but then it ends up being “snore” instead.
Good grief! That explains a lot (I solve on paper). Thanks.
Had never heard of “k-tel”, “bedsit” (Brit English), John Kennedy Toole (obscure writer, anyone recommend him?). After looking them up I was underwhelmed. The spoonerisms were easy to figure out but only once I had all the letters. Hoping the rest of the day goes easier lol
The book was published posthumously (long story), and as far as I know, the author’s only book. I found it unpalatable, but I think I’m in the minority. It won a Pulitzer and I’m sorry the author wasn’t alive to see how well it was received. The high-school students where I taught in the 1990s loved it.
If you read it, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.
I may do just that. I live in the rural South now and will have to see if my library has it. He was from Mississippi so I’m curious. I work as a horticulturist currently and am giving a talk on butterfly gardens in early May so I’m inundating myself with butterfly data/books for now.
I haven’t read “A Confederacy of Dunces,” but I’d definitely heard of it and it was much recommended. I’d forgotten BEDSIT, but it’s definitely a not unfamiliar British usage. I hadn’t heard of K-TEL, but it checks out.
I found the NYT puzzle tough, in no small part because of the theme answers. They’re clever but intricate enough (and not common phrases) that they were mostly my last to fall. I also got off on the wrong track because my first three to fall had the consonants in effect rotating in the same pattern, so looked for more like that. (Oops.)
My only objection is to TERROR and “bearer.” Unless you’ve a Chicago accent, they’re not remotely the same vowel sound (short E vs long A).
Wow. This is interesting. I have never heard anyone pronounce bearer any way other than rhyming with terror. I’m from the south.
I am from Arizona, and have lived in Virginia for quite a while. To me, they rhyme.
I’m from New York, and I cannot imagine “terror” and “bearer” rhyming. They sound nothing alike to me.
Certainly different for a NY accent.
I cannot even imagine a long A in bearer. BAYER-ER? What?
Think BARER, like “with less clothes on.” That’s how this Bostonian pronounces it.
“The streets were now deserted
The gangs had all trudged off home
The lights clicked out in the BEDSITs
Ol’ England was all alone.”
-The Clash, “Something About England” (not on a K-Tel record)
Methinks some fill here was more up the alley of us Gen-X’ers than normal.
I owned “A Confederacy of Dunces” for quite a while. I started it and did not get far. Since it came so highly recommended, I let it sit out for a while in hopes of being inspired to forge ahead… It never happened. Then right after I read the Kondo book on tidying up, I decided it certainly did not spark any joy in me, so I dropped if off in the book exchange bin, in hopes that it will spark joy in someone else…
PS. I always think of it as ” A Conspiracy of Dunces”. I just had to come back and edit how I referred to it.
I read it for a book group a long time ago. Opinions varied. I am hoping that someone who liked it will point out something that I missed. One thing about reading reviews and blogs is that I learn to reconsider my opinions in the light of new information.
I like “A Conspiracy of Dunces”
Took me a long time to figure out the phrases that were being spoonerized. REAL HEIGHT AT FOAM didn’t seem like it could be right…
This strikes me as one of those puzzles that’s admirable for its ingeniousness but not that much fun to solve, for me anyway. I did like PALEHAIRYMASS.
“Bedsit,” incidentally, is a short version of bed-sitting room, i.e. those two rooms combined into one, as in a studio apartment (why is it called a ‘studio’ anyway?)
Spoonerisms tend to come naturally to me; I like making puns and enjoy the old jokes … (“on the one hand, he’s trying to diet, but on the other, he’s dying to try it …”) but the addition of the third word added (for me) a surprisingly large order of magnitude that I’d love to see discussed on an episode of “Hidden Brain”.
LAT: I didn’t bother to count the three-letter answers, but when there is a 21X21 canvas, I’d like to see the constructor use some more long strokes.
Today’s LAT had 34 three-letter words. Per Xwordinfo, the average three-letter count for the last 30 Sunday NYT puzzles was 29.1. Nine of those puzzles had 34 three-letter words or more.
If we’re using the NYT as the standard, then maybe the LAT was a bit above the three-letter average, but it’s not uncommon to have 34. It’s less important to me how many three-letter words there are than whether they’re used well and the puzzle doesn’t suffer for them.
I count 21 three-letter answers in your WaPo puzzle today (can’t swear that I caught all of them, but close enough), and several of them were clued in ways I don’t recall ever seeing before. I don’t expect every constructor to come up to your level of skill and wit, but I thought today’s LAT fell too far short.
If you want to hear a dobro, listen to an Alison Krauss and Union Station tune. Jerry Douglas, a band member, is a great player. Here’s a link:
Nice shout-out to Tony Orbach’s dad in today’s NYT!
My favorite Peter Sellers/Clouseau line is when he encountered a man next to a dog:
“Monsieur, does your dog bite. ” “No” said the man.
Indeed Clouseau got bit when he petted the dog & the inspector admonished the man.
“Monsieur, you said your dog doesn’t bite.”
The man replied “that is not my dog.”
I read A Confederacy of Dunces shortly after it was published in the earliest 1980’s and thought it was terrific. I have forgotten most of it, but I do remember that when the street vendor got hired for some business, he threw away all the mail and bills as they came in. Without realizing why, the boss noticed the efficiency of the operation. While not as laugh out loud funny as Catch 22, the book created its own silly world, which I found to be genuinely funny.
Good grief. I didn’t stop to read the title of the NYT and the triple spoonerisms didn’t occur to me until I saw the title here. It really affected my appreciation of the puzzle as I solved it, unless “WHAT?” and “I DON’T–” can be considered exclamations of admiration. Now I wish I’d taken the few seconds.
29:54 with two bad squares for me
Confederacy of Dunces is whimsical and clever. I first read it when I was 8 and reread from time to time. Nothing made a girl from up north feel the need to see New Orleans like a great book.
Also, growing up in New York, college in Boston, years in New Orleans, now in DC: bearer rhymes with terror everywhere. Can’t even imagine how else they would be pronounced.