Byron Walden & Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword, “Portmanfaux”—Amy’s write-up
At first I thought the theme was going to be Brangelina-style name portmanteau words involving two men, but no. The concept is fake etymology for real portmanteau words:
- 22a. [Satchel for a homicide detective?], MURDER CASE MURSE. Murse is actually condensed from man + purse. If you guys don’t get why women typically carry bags, try putting your hand into the front pocket of a pair of women’s pants. (Do this at a clothing store, not with occupied pants.) There’s also the matter of sometimes needing to carry a supply of tampons and whatnot, which is a bit much to expect pants pockets to hold.
- 31a. [Unseasonal wear on a winter vacation?], SKI RESORT SKORT. SKIRT would also fit here, except that it isn’t a portmanteau.
- 52a. [Late-morning meal for a TV family?], BRADY BUNCH BRUNCH. Count me in!
- 64a. [One way to buy mustard cheaply?], GREY POUPON GROUPON. I suspect this one or 52a was the seed for the theme.
- 71a. [Emails such as “Click this link to become an Apollo astronaut”?], SPACE PROGRAM SPAM.
- 93a. [Collection of Yule-centric posts?], BURNING LOG BLOG.
- 107a. [Utensil for eating some cured meat?], SALTED PORK SPORK. Too much semantic overlap with SPAM!
Fair enough. Fresh idea for a theme.
Four more things before I grab a bite and a shower and hit the road:
- 23d. [“For heaven ___”], SAKES?? Really? This is weird. The standard phrase is “for heaven’s sake,” with the possessive and no plural of sake.
- 39d. [Delmonico steak cuts], RIBEYES / 39a. [Baseball stats sometimes called 39-Down], RBIS. Did not know that! I did know that since RBI = runs batted in, there are those who grouse when RBIS appears with that S. (Not me. I don’t get worked up about sports stats.)
- 57d. [Hightail it, saltily], HAUL ASS. Rhymes with hall pass. Lively entry! But when you’ve got a SALTED PORK themer nearby, maybe don’t use “saltily” in the clue.
- 40d. [Document listing technical specifications], BLUE PAPER. This is not a term I know or use. Is this an engineering thing? Software? Architecture?
Other interesting fill: Mathy RISE OVER RUN, OSCAR ARIAS, NATO SUMMIT, GOJI BERRIES, DARK AGES.
4.2 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes Camping” — pannonica’s write-up
The latest in the irregular Captain Obvious oeuvre, wherein idioms are gently misconstrued a bit too literally.
Let’s bivvy up.
- 23a. [“___, and our tent won’t be as secure”] RAISE THE STAKES.
- 32a. [“___? Then you can sharpen it for chopping logs”] HAVE AN AX TO GRIND.
- 51a. [“___ is a sign that your dog doesn’t know which elm that squirrel climbed”] BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE.
- 70a. [“___, and you’ll get to walk outdoors”] TAKE A HIKE.
- 90a. [“___? Take some out and there will be fewer burning metal rods”] TOO MANY IRONS IN THE FIRE.
- 104a. [“___ unless you want to jab that grizzly”] DON’T POKE THE BEAR.
- 119a. [“___? Then we’ll find Mr. Ruth at our campsite”] BABE IN THE WOODS.
Hit and/or miss, as per usual. So… thanks, Captain Obvious?
- 4a [Post-exercising woe] ACHE, 44d [Like strenuous exercise] TIRING. 37a [“Lord of the Rings” character] ORC, 38a [“Lord of the Rings” character?] RUNE.
- 57a [Staples of political ads] SMEARS. Sadly.
- 112a [Appendage used in locomotion] TAIL. Weird to me that there’s no modifier such as ‘often’.
- 29d [Dug into one’s repast] ATE – [“That’s pretty cute”] HEH (6d).
- 54d [Shape of a soccer ball?] HEXAGON. To wit, 2o white hexagons (and 12 black pentagons), forming a truncated icosahedron. 61a [Frequent soccer results] TIES, 24d [Stat for a goalie or pitcher] SAVE.
- 84d [Lundgren who played He-Man] DOLPH. There’s a new She-Ra reboot that people seem to be talking about.
- 107d [Krav maga striker] ELBOW. This turns out to be a fighting system developed for the Israeli Defense Forces; Hebrew for ‘contact-combat’.
- … um …
- Some phrases? 3d [“Like that matters at all to me”] AS IF I CARE, 96a [“That would be awful”] I HOPE NOT.
- … hmm …
- If only Van de Kamp’s offered 1a [Salmon __ plancha (fish dish cooked on a griddle] A LA, because then I’d have a graceful exit from this write-up. As it is, I’ll use that awkward plaint to segue over to …
78a [It may stick to your sole] GUM.
CC Burnikel’s LA Times crossword, “Bro Hug” – Jenni’s write-up
Not my favorite Burnikel crossword. Each theme answer has circles at the beginning and end showing us a word that could be used for “bro,” which is “hugging” the answer.
- 23a [Corporate criminal’s undoing] is a PAPER TRAIL (pal).
- 25a [Orbit, e.g.] is CHEWING GUM (chum).
- 38d [“10” co-star] is DUDLEY MOORE (dude).
- 39a [Sparty’s school] is MICHIGAN STATE (mate). Why “Sparty?”
- 43d [Puff, e.g.] is MAGIC DRAGON (man).
- 68a [Football helmet part] is CHINSTRAP (chap).
- 97a [1898 battle site] is GUANTANAMO BAY (guy).
- 116a [“Miracle on Ice” setting] is LAKE PLACID (lad). “Do you believe in miracles?”
- 118a [Bit of thrill-seeking equipment] is a BUNGEE CORD (bud).
There’s an egregious dupe in the clue for 38d and the answer to 108a [Is pure perfection, scorewise] – RATES A TEN. There are a lot of other Dudley Moore movies that could have been used. My personal favorite is “Foul Play,” and there’s always “Arthur.” There’s absolutely no reason for that dupe – and before you tell me that “ten” is a common word, I’ll remind you that the movie “10” is about a woman who RATES A TEN. And no, I’m not going to rant about objectification. I’m too tired.
As I said, not my favorite puzzle. There was nothing to figure out about the theme and nothing funny. It was just “oh, look, there are words that mean the same thing.” Um, OK.
Worth noting: 54a. [Elle Girl rival] Teen Vogue. This is an awesome magazine with article that challenge the status quo about politics, sex, gender, and the world in general. I never thought I’d buy my kid a subscription to a fashion magazine. She was astonished when she got the first issue.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that GUANTANAMO BAY was a battle site of the Spanish-American War.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “That Is to Say”—Judge Vic’s write-up
On seeing the title of this puzzle, I went immediately to id est in my mind. Then, when 23a [Little Girl Scout’s teddies?] panned out to be BROWNIE BEARS, I got the theme and knew I was in for a treat. So, we have a most entertaining layout here:
- 23a [Little Girl Scout’s teddies?] BROWNIE BEARS–Great visual, this.
- 33a [Two wood’s stripe?] BRASSIE BAND
- 37a [Playthings for Han’s buddy?] CHEWIE TOYS—The brilliant clue here keeps this answer from seeming too much like its antecedent (i.e., but for BEQ’s invoking Chewbacca, I’d visualize a chewie toy being the same as a chew toy).
- 61a [Riverdale High bully?] ARCHIE NEMESIS
- 84a [Where Oreos get shipwrecked?] COOKIE ISLANDS—I found this to be quite entertaining on two levels: (1) Being unfamiliar with the Cook Islands, I learned a little geography. (2) The visual of a bunch of animated Oreos being on a desert island was simply charming.
- 108a [Telegram from a doll?] BARBIE WIRE
- 110a [Spot for a Ziggy Stardust mannequin?] BOWIE WINDOW—If I knew the term bow window before, I’d forgotten it.
- 127a [Music to listen to while having a fruit drink?] SMOOTHIE JAZZ—I didn’t realize smooth jazz was an ILSA (in-the-language stand-alone), but holy cow, it has its own Wiki page.
Other items of interest include:
- 22a [Tar’s chart] OCEAN MAP
- 45a [Do nothing] VEG OUT–Are there any three-letter words other than veg that end in g with the soft g sound?
- 88a [Gets gas] FUELS UP
- 102a [Stir-fry’s need] NUT OIL—While I’ve never heard anyone say this phrase, both M-W and Oxford have it in their dictionaries.
- 131a [Article postscripts] ENDNOTES—One compound word, endnotes. Lot of folks think it’s two. But all the dictionary writers seem to agree.
- 15d [Bullet train type] MAGLEV—This was new to me, but it’s right there in the dictionaries.
- 24d [Summing up] IN REVIEW
- 36d [“Ditto]” I AGREE
- 49d [“Let’s do this”] IT’S ON
- 53d [When Hamlet sees the ghost, in Act I] SCENE IV
- 79d [Do a vet’s job] DECLAW—I’ll never forget Merl Reagle telling me in 2005 or 2006 that he used this term in one of his puzzles and was besieged by complaints from cat lovers. I’ll be curious to know if Brendan’s experience is similar.
- 83d [Lawyer Vincent] BUGLIOSI—Manson’s prosecutor, huh? Not a name I remember. Appears to be an entry of first impression.
- 99d [“Make contingency plans”] IF I CAN’T—If it were not for this entry having been used once before (Ben Tausig clued it [50 Cent single from 2003], I’d prolly crack that green paint had spilled on me when solving for it. But maybe not. It’s a phrase that people say and then pause before finishing. But “Make contingency plans” seems more likely to follow “If I can’t” than substitute for it. Your thoughts on this?
A fun puzzle all the way around, nits and all. Took me right at 30 minutes to solve on the laptop.
4.0 stars = a solid A, right?