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.
Elsewhere, many of the clues felt like they skewed toward the OLDE crowd:
- 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!
Each planet is always aligned with earth if the sun (or another star) is not taken into account! The sun is required in syzygy / planetary alignment talk. It takes three to tangle…
Some might not get that comment is in response to Amy being rankled by the inclusion of the sun. A planetary alignment is when the planets seem to be in a line (or at least in the same quadrant — perfect alignment is not possible because the planets’ orbits are not coplanar) from a vantage point on the sun. In other words, the sun is a critical member of the planetary alignment set. So yes, it does happen every couple of centuries and the sun is part of it.
Cool nerdy theme.
A planetary alignment can also refer to three planets seeming to line up in the sky, as seen from Earth. So the Sun doesn’t have to be part of it.
The fact that the orbits of the planets are not coplanar doesn’t make a perfect alignment impossible, just very unlikely. The planes have to intersect along a line including the Sun, and if two planets happen to be on that line at the same time, then you’ve got an alignment.
There are actually two different meanings of the phrase. The “stricter” one does require the sun’s participation.
And I was referring to a more “complete” alignment, as with the planets in today’s puzzle. More than two planets make a three-dimensional alignment pretty impossible.
The AV Club puzzle surely wasn’t a 4.5 difficulty….I was able to finish it.
Easier than 95% of Friday NYTs for me (3:46).
I thought is was easier than a 4.5/5 but blew it on the last across and downs, with reDSTONES. AIr might come before fire and the u in INU could have been anything to me.
I had RUDSTONES there since I thought the clue [It comes before fire] was something to do with astrology. If I’d thought of MUDSTONES I would’ve figured it all out though.
Nyets bas oho etas psi marsupium alt maus.
I put that into Google translate which returned: not a known language.
I’m not able to download today’s WSJ puzzle in .puz format. I get a “timed out” error message.
Windows upgrade overnight messed up the server. All fixed now. Sorry for the hangup.
Thanks, Martin! Gotta love those Windows updates.
Adirondack chairs have plank seats and backs that might qualify as planks.
Adirondak chairs have slats, and are very popular on porches…
Are those slats, though, or boards? I feel like slats are thinner and support something else, whereas an Adirondack chair doesn’t necessarily need a cushion.
Woodworkers would tend to call them slats. The lumber might start out as boards but the fact that they are arranged to form a “slatted” surface rather than a supporting frame of some sort makes “slats” appropriate.
c.f. “Steel slats.” (Shudder.)
WSJ: Seriously? Casually referring to a tiger as an exotic pet? Irresponsible.
Yes, I’m aware of the very recent news from Texas. For shameful context, see this WWF article from 2014 (and you know things are probably worse now).
Interesting NYT today and fun and since I didn’t comment on yesterday’a here, I’ll just say that it was cute, cute, and fun cute. Thank you to all collaborators.
LAT- Had an old-fashioned ring to it, not the least of which was 33 down, asking for “NHL’s Thrashers” and providing the abbreviated answer ATL (Atlanta).
The Thrashers left Atlanta 8 years ago, in June of 2011, when they moved to Manitoba and became the Winnipeg Jets.
Any current thrashers in Atlanta have no known relationship with the NHL.
We just had a major power outage. Not sure how widespread it is but it seems pretty massive. Power company is swamped (we’re in the middle of a major storm) and they warn it might be a long one.
The UPS on my server is only good for a few hours. So if you can’t get to puzzles (WSJ, CHE, Universal, Jonesin, WaPo) you’ll know we’re on candlelight. At least it will be romantic for Valentine’s Day. And cold (electric heat pumps).
Sorry in advance for any interruptions.
LAT: I doubt that HAVE A SNACK is something a sleep specialist would suggest to help an insomniac and I’m not too sure about TAKE A WALK either, for that matter. While regular exercise (including a vigorous walking) is recommended, you want to do that well before bedtime and not after tossing and turning in a vain attempt induce sleep.
LAT 64A: most cakes do not contain YEAST, but I guess the route was a clue to mis-lead us ( Cake raiser) to think of a stand or tiers.
Suggestion about ratings.
I would find it useful if the reviewer’s rating of a puzzle (if they decide to give one) be listed next to the collective rating. This would be analogous to the Tomatometer and Audience Score at rottentomatoes.com. If desired it could also include ratings by other Fiend writers. As a slower puzzler who doen’t have time to “solve them all” this would be a great help. The ratings are not as useful as they used to be, with some puzzles getting close to the same number of 5s and 4.5s as 1s and 1.5s.
LA Times, 5D: “Misters in old India” –> This shows racist roots since “Sahib” was only used for WHITE misters in old India… implication of the clue being that persons of color would not be considered “misters”.
64A: “Cake raiser”… someone pointed out that most cakes are not raised by yeast (my first response). However, husband noted yeast also comes in cake form so this will get a pass from me.