Jim Holland’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Possessive People” — Jim P’s review
Whew! This was rough for me, mostly because of that NE corner. I was not on the constructor’s wavelength, but I got there in the end.
The theme takes famous people’s full names where the last name starts with an S. That S is joined to the first name to create a possessive and the remainder of the last name is re-imagined as its homophone. Easier to see in action.
- 17a [“On the Waterfront” actor’s exotic pet?] ROD’S TIGER. Rod Steiger. I knew Brando was in that film, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes.
- 28a [“Ivanhoe” author’s resting place?] SIR WALTER’S COT. Sir Walter Scott. I had my early-America writers mixed up and thought this was going to be James Fenimore Cooper. Looks like I got Ivanhoe confused with The Last of the Mohicans.
- 49a [“Toxic” singer’s contemporaries?] BRITNEY’S PEERS. Britney Spears. If this theme was just about making the first name possessive but leaving the spelling intact, this entry would have been BRITNEY’S PEARS. Either way is good as long as the puzzle is consistent throughout, and this one is.
- 66a [“Men in Black” star’s surrounding legend?] WILL’S MYTH. Will Smith. This is the first one I uncovered, and for a time, it looked like 61d [Burnable pile] wanted to be PIRE, which I was all ready to object to. I’m glad it sorted itself out.
I enjoyed this theme quite a bit despite my difficulties. (I think my problems stemmed from cluing of the surrounding fill.) I love how consistent it is in that each ending word has its spelling changed to match the homophone.
So, yeah, that NE corner. Some of it was trivia I didn’t know ([Lord high executioner of Titipu] for KOKO, (from The Mikado) and [Oysters Rockefeller ingredient] for SPINACH), some of it was ambiguous cluing ([Chain with a blue and yellow logo] for IKEA, [Station worker] for PORTER, and [Brit’s protein source] for SOYA), some of it was my own stupidity (thinking that [Half of deca-] was going to be SEPTA or HEPTA before realizing it was PENTA), and one was…well, I don’t know what it was ([Padlock holder], a singular clue, asking for HASPS). Why the clue is singular I don’t know. If you do, let us know.
- 1a. [Dodo]. BOOB. I don’t think people use this word in that way much anymore.
- 23a. [In vogue]. HIP. I really wanted HOT here.
- 26a. [They might be clapped]. ERASERS. There are few chalkboards in schools these days, so the act of clapping ERASERS is probably not known to anyone under 30.
- 43a. [Rose’s love in a 1922 play]. ABIE. From Abie’s Irish Rose. This bit of crosswordese comes up from time to time, so it’s best to store it in your easy-access gray cells.
- 71a. [Wally’s pal on “Leave It to Beaver”]. EDDIE. Haskell, that is. This was a gimme for me. Even though it was before my time, I watched many re-runs of this show when I was a kid.
- 47d. [Many DeMille movies]. EPICS.
I’m not complaining, but it was noticeable. There were some newer references as well like to The Incredibles (“No CAPES!”) and…well, two of the theme answers of course.
Top fill: ON THE TABLE, NITWIT, BESTOW, and “WHAT AM I?”
Bottom fill: ERNE and HOR.
Despite having difficulties with many of the clues, I enjoyed this grid with its entertaining theme and some good fill. 3.7 stars.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is PLANETARY / ALIGNMENT, and five Across answers contain things in the solar system in the circled squares, roughly in alignment. SUN in GESUNDHEIT (do we include the sun in planetary alignment, when it’s a star?), VENUS in the iffy phrase NO OVEN USE (is that familiar enough to be a crossword entry? color me skeptical), EARTH in HEARTHS, MARS in MARSUPIUM (!), and SATURN in TAKES A TURN. I leave it to the more astronomically minded to explain whether these five bodies have aligned in the sky in notable fashion. I Googled a little, but I was seeing mention of Jupiter. No idea if this theme is astronomically sound or just riffing on the concept of planetary alignment. But still, the SUN is not a planet! That rankles.
ROOTY TOOTY, AARON BURR, and BARISTA are my fave fill here.
Three more things:
- 26a. [Outer thigh stabilizers, in brief], IT BANDS. Short for iliotibial bands. Runners know they have these, and probably other athletes do, too. Not sure how familiar the term is among non-jocks who aren’t doctors, physical therapists, etc.
- 66a. [Parts of porch chairs], SLATS. My porch chairs do not have slats. Which chairs, exactly, do have them?
- 4d. [___ Maduro, successor to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez], NICOLAS. Not clear on what the current situation is in Venezuela. I could go ask at the corner bakery, which is run by Venezuelans. I like their casual version of the chocolate dessert called marquesa. Basically some thin cookies (Maria biscuits) layered in a chocolate cream or pudding. Yum!
3.4 stars from me.
C.C. Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “Relatively Speaking” – Jim Q’s writeup
THEME: Well known “uncles” are embedded within familiar phrases.
- 17A [*”Later, Jose!”] ADIOS AMIGO
- 23A [*”Mona Lisa” locale] LOUVRE MUSEUM
- 37A [*Distribute] DOLE OUT
- 49A [*Nursery rhyme with a candlestick} JACK BE NIMBLE
- 60A [Succeeds (or fails) at finding the names hidden in the starred answers?] CRIES UNCLE
These are all great finds as both the base answers and the embedded uncles are very familiar. I suppose (my favorite of the bunch) Uncle LEO may have non-Seinfeld fans scratching their heads, but in my book he belongs in the canon of famous uncles!
Clean all around with LIME JUICE and THIN MINTS adding some zest to the puzzle, and a fun clue for the revealer.
One of those puzzles that I didn’t see the theme until after it was completed, but still enjoyable from start to finish.
Blake Slonecker’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The puzzle’s title is the central [Insomniac’s lament], ICANTGETTOSLEEP. I only recall having heard READABOOK and COUNTSHEEP as stereotypical advice. Maybe someone somewhere suggests HAVEASNACK / TAKEAWALK? The second layer of the theme is to tie them to specific vocations: cook, librarian and trainer felt apt, though I’d have gone with shepherd not auditor for COUNTSHEEP.
- [Dr. Reid in “Criminal Minds,” familiarly], SPENCE. Awfully specific clue. Maybe it only seems that way because I’ve never watched Criminal Minds and so have never heard of the character?
- [Canadian singer DeMarco], MAC. That seems like another deep cut. A current singer, who may have a sold 50,000 of his last album (that is 1/20 of a platinum album.) Quite a niche clue that.
- [Photographer Alda married to Alan], ARLENE. Another not particularly famous name choice. Seems to be going out of its way to avoid Francis, Dahl or the Garfield character.
- [Some exercise tops], SPORTSBRAS and [Torts enrollee], LAWSTUDENT are one long down pair, and both add a splash of colour to the grid.
The other is the scrabbly [Meditation setting with rocks and gravel], ZENGARDEN with EGOMANIAC a more prosaic entry.
[Like Times Square on New Year’s Eve], AROAR. Today’s “vocabulary not accepted in Spelling Bee.”
I better quit now because I’m about to be loadshed. The thrill.
Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #36” — Ben’s Review
It’s themeless week at the AVCX, with a puzzle from KAC. Let’s dig in:
- Lots of great long fill in this grid, with HOOKAH BARS, ANTIBIOTIC, RAISE TAXES, and NINA SIMONE (the “high priestess of soul”) holding down the fort for the acrosses and CHINESE LANTERN and SCARED SHITLESS anchoring the vertical.
- Also running vertically: FORM A LINE, POLEDANCE, DRONE BEES, APPLETINI, SOLAR OVEN, and TRANSCEND all provide nice structure
- As usual, the grid itself, unfilled, is pretty to look at. I like that quality of Kam’s puzzles.
I leave you with some Bon Iver – good winter, all!