Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Irregular Plurals”—Jim P’s review
Slow going for me today, mainly in the SW, and mainly due to challenging cluing, not to any unfairness in the puzzle, MITA crossing TITUSS notwithstanding.
The theme is nice! Take a well-known two-word phrase where the second word is a singular noun. Pluralize that noun and replace it with a homophone to create wackiness.
- 22a [Trip aboard the Flying Dutchman?] SKELETON CRUISE. Crew. Nice start!
- 27a [Pretense of being pugnacious?] TOUGH GUISE. Guy. Another good one.
- 44a [Ginormous bump at the poker table?] COSMIC RAISE. Ray.
- 57a [Contents of a Borg biography?] TENNIS PROSE. Pro. My only question is…why Borg? Is it to distract Trekkers into considering the Star Trek villains as an option? That seems unlikely. Then why not reference any of today’s current tennis stars?
- 69a [Ornate architectural band?] FANCY FRIEZE. Free. I like this entry a lot, but it’s inconsistent with the others. The “free” in the original phrase is not a noun, therefore can’t be pluralized.
- 81a [Cat on a “Have you seen…” poster?] MISSING LYNX. Link. Also, a 2008 animated movie out of Spain. Produced by Antonio Banderas himself!
- 98a [Result of bumping into a coffee table?] HOME BRUISE. Brew. Good one.
- 106a [Product of different varieties of salmon?] COMBINATION LOX. Lock.
A strong set—maybe not HAHA-funny, but definitely crossword-worthy.
Strong fill as well throughout the grid. Faves: PHENOMENONS, UNDUE HASTE, MIGRANT, ISOBAR, MAKE THE CUT,
LEMONY ELLOW LEMON YELLOW, PONY UP, COURTESY.
Names to know:
- ANNIKA [Sorenstam with 72 LPGA Tour wins]. Is it one N or two? A C or a K?
- MORANE [Last name of French aviation pioneers Robert and Leon]. Needed every cross. I expected it to be something I recognized as an eponym, but…nuh uh. Maybe if I was up on my 1930s French fighter aircraft.
- EDNA BEST [Mrs. Robinson’s portrayer in 1940’s “Swiss Family Robinson”]. This is digging too deep if you ask me. I hope I won’t have to know her in the future.
- TITUSS [Burgess of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”]. This name, at least, has currency and is crossword-worthy. I just wish I knew it and the spelling.
- MARON [Comedian Marc]. He appeared more than 40 times on CONAN O’Brien’s old show, more than any other comic.
- FRANCO [Self-proclaimed caudillo of Spain], where “caudillo” means “A leader or chief, especially a military dictator.”
Clues of note:
- 86a [The big house?]. SENATE. The House is bigger than the SENATE, so how does this clue make sense?
- 103a [Dated letter opener]. SIRS. Now this is a good clue. At first you think it might be referring to an old-time physical object used for slicing open the mail. But then you realize it’s putting this salutation in its place: in the past as an antiquated relic from a more sexist era. (Not that we’re where we need to be yet, but this is on the right path.)
- 105a [1965 Nobel Peace Prize recipient]. UNICEF. Tough for me to see at first because I put in UNESCO and didn’t want to change it. I also briefly considered UNISOM and UNOCAL (but thought better of it).
- 112a [Department nicknamed “Foggy Bottom”]. STATE. Love that evocative nickname and the clue.
- 34d [Jake Arrieta’s alma mater]. TCU. Who? I question why I should have to know this. Especially when, as an initialism, there are so many possibilities.
- 52d [___ tea (preference)]. CUP OF. I so wanted this to be CUPPA, as in, “Fancy a CUPPA?”
- 86d [Is on the board, in a way]. SURFS. Favorite clue. Of course I wanted SCORES there, but this was funner.
- 90d [Beyond beefy]. OBESE. Hmm. “Beefy” to me means muscular. “Beyond beefy” to me would mean “overly muscular”. And the jocular nature of this clue is not appealing. Probably my least favorite one.
Didn’t mean to end on a down note there because I quite liked this grid. 3.8 stars from me.
Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Yep, feels like a Trabucco grid, with fresh and zippy fill. You’ve got your SPAMBOTS, “OH, I GET IT!”, SGT. PEPPER, “AH, THIS IS THE LIFE!” (if only there were also an “Uh…” phrase in the grid!), CAT TREATS (casual, in the language, yet not remotely a common crossword answer—though the singular popped up last month in a Haight), TOP FORTY, mosquitoesque ATE ALIVE (mosquitoes don’t bother me or my mother), “BEER ME,” NERDFEST on the same weekend as the big Comic-Con in San Diego, PHONE CASE, MEGADETH, SETTLERS OF CATAN (good game), LONE WOLF, and MADE A STINK. Good stuff.
- 15a. [Fix without doctoring], HOME CURE. Is that a thing? Home treatment, sure. HOME CURE doesn’t ring a bell to me. Maybe for curing meats?
- 42a. [Of very poor quality, in modern slang], JANK. Wait! I don’t know this one. Janky, sure. Do I need to update my slang?
- 25a. [Go with the wind?], SAIL. Well, SHART didn’t fit.
- 45a. [Blues group?: Abbr.], DNC. Democratic National Committee, as in blue states.
- 5d. [Dating letters], BCE. Before Common Era, not bisexual Christian eunuch on a dating site.
- 7d. [Class in which kids may learn about sin?], TRIG. Ha!
- 13d. [Kir and Campari, for two], APERITIFS. I have never quite understood what an aperitif is, and when I was a kid, I assumed it related to appetizers somehow.
- 31d. [Mobile home?], PHONE CASE. Ah! Good clue. Welcome to the consumer service portion of this post. You can’t beat a Spigen brand phone case with the shock-resistant border. I’ve had one for nearly three years, and I’ve dropped my phone plenty but have had nary a crack in the screen.
That was eight. You’re welcome.
4.25 stars from me.
Robert E. Lee Morris’s Universal Crossword, “Shore Thing”—Judge Vic’s write-up
WHAT I LEARNED: That band shell and camper shell are in-the-language things.
THEME: 39a [Beachcomber’s display that’s unlikely to include the ends of 17-, 24-, 48- and 62-Across] SHELL COLLECTION. No? Yes, the four other long answers are a collection that the beachcomber doesn’t have.
- 17a [Fellow handling multiple instruments] ONE-MAN BAND
- 24a [Contented sort] HAPPY CAMPER
- 48a [Occupy the passenger side] RIDE SHOTGUN
- 62a [Jeweled Russian treasure] FABERGE EGG
10-11-15-11-10. That’s a dense theme. Other stuff to note:
- 11d [Squad with shields] RIOT POLICE
- 26d [Leave in a hurry] PEEL OUT
- 30d [Hearty, flambeed entree] STEAK DIANE
Good fill. Density of theme, though, will lead to
Of this quality fill, we’d hope for only 3-4 units.
Paolo Pasco & Erik Agard’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Fun puzzle! With Paolo and Erik’s names in the byline, though, I would expect nothing less. For a Saturday challenger with only a 68 word count, this one solved quite easily. That mainly means that there is almost nothing difficult or crosswordese-y in the grid, which is what made it fun. I did learn a thing or two solving this, as I will mention below, but this was an enjoyable experience. I don’t know how many times these two have collaborated before, but they can certainly continue! 4.6 stars from me.
- 1A [Title toon toy-fixer with a magic stethoscope] DOC MCSTUFFINS – I have never seen this show. But, then again, it is on Disney …
- 20A [Texas art patron __ Hogg] IMA – This is a real person, but I always think of Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard when I see her name!
- 31A [Pakistani prime minister __ Khan] IMRAN – This is totally new to me, but the crossings are not too bad.
- 41A [Jewish youth org.] YMHA – Young Mens Hebrew Association? I think that is what this stands for. If I have heard of this before, I don’t remember it. They don’t have this in Indiana, at least that I know of.
- 54A [Track star?] RECORDING ARTIST – Might be the best clue in the puzzle.
- 58A [Action movie cry] “BATTLE STATIONS!” – Also very nice. Evokes quite a mental picture.
- 59A [Audio feedback?] “I LOVE THIS SONG!” – All three of these entries along the bottom are great. I wonder if that is where the grid fill started?
- 1D [Moves in for a short time?] DANCE CRAZE – This also is one of the best, if not THE best, clue in the puzzle.
- 5D [Salad choice] CAESAR – This is easier than it seems: what other salad type is 6 letters?
- 8D [Prosperous times] UPS – I read this as the shipping company, of course, and they are in the news for not having AC in the trucks, and thus putting some drivers in peril. Here in 2019, it seems silly that they don’t, but even just a better vent system would help!
- 28D [Omniscient] ALL-KNOWING – For some reason, it stands out in my mind when I learned this word in grade school many years ago, along with other words with the OMNI- prefix, like omnivore and omnipotent. Not sure why, but this hit a nerve with me!
That is all for now!
Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
I started out great on this one, with over half of the grid filled in about 6 or 7 minutes, and then ground to a near stop. The upper right and lower left gave me almost no resistance, and I was feeling good! Then reality set in, and I really had to hunker down. I succumbed to a grid check, since I had to finish this puzzle before it was too late to blog it, and that was eye-opening. I thought I knew 26A (see below), but it I went down a wrong path, and it turns out my initial hunch WAS correct. I was dead wrong on my guess of 40A (also see below), but the actual answer does make more sense! (Of course it would!) Brad has made another stellar puzzle, and while this was quite challenging, I enjoyed it immensely. 4.6 stars.
A few highlights:
- 16A [The Marilyn Monroe of the ’20s] CLARA BOW – I think I first read about her when I was in grade school, when I would flip through almanacs all the time on the school bus.
- 26A [Org. cofounded by Addams and Keller] ACLU – As mentioned above, I knew this, but I put in SPCA for some reason. Always trust your instincts!
- 32A [Flu, formerly] GRIPPE – I don’t know this word. It does exist, though!
- 40A [Buoyant] CHEERFUL – I put CAREFREE in here at first. It almost works!
- 47A [iPhone feature] LONG I – I was totally stumped by this one.
- 52A [Of Cornwall, e.g.] DUCAL – You mean DUCHY isn’t correct? Oh, it’s this word I have never seen before? In Indiana, we would say “Duke-y!”
- 1D [Blandishments] SMARM – This is tough because I immediately wrote an S in the last spot. Whoops!
- 2D [America’s Cup participant] CATAMARAN – Haven’t followed this since Ted Turner was sailing around in the ’80s, but I have no idea what type of boats these are.
- 6D [One traveling via water jets] OCTOPUS – Best clue in the puzzle. It was in the easier part, so I wasn’t fooled for long, but great clue.
- 40D [Word from the French for ”small hook”] CROCHET – I actually KNEW this!!
- 42D [Dunderheads] CLUCKS – I had ??UCKS, and I so wanted it to be SCHMUCKS.
- 45D [34-time Grand Slam singles finalist] EVERT – She won 18, which means she lost 16 finals. Still an impressive record, and she is a great commentator on ESPN. I wonder how she would have done in her era with modern equipment; I think she played mostly with small wooden racquets!
Have a great weekend!