Two things: (1) Horrid theme contest! See the post just before this one for details. (2) Our charming webmaster Dave cooked up a doodad whereby you can click a link for a specific puzzle up top, and it’ll jump you right to that part of the write-up. Less scrolling, more immediate gratification. What’s not to like?
Karen Tracey’s New York Times crossword
Hot puzzle! Wouldja get a load of all the juicy fill in this one? Cool clues, too. I think Karen’s had about two crosswords I wasn’t crazy about, and dozens more than I adore. Put this one in the “adore” column.
Top 10 entries:
- 12D. BRIDEZILLA! She’s a [Hard-to-please wedding participant].
- 28A. She crosses VELAZQUEZ, with two Zs and a Q. He’s the [17th-century painter of "Lady With a Fan"].
- 20A. The FLIP SIDE’s the [Opposite].
- 26D. [Some hustlers] are POOL SHARKS.
- 29D. ZACH BRAFF has been a ["Scrubs" Emmy nominee]. Anyone still watching that show? I used to love it.
- 42A. STEADY JOB is completely “in the language.” The clue, [Daily bread supplier?], almost made me consider BAKERY JOB, which is markedly less “i.t.l.”
- 11D. ACTIVE DUTY is another terrific entry. The clue is [Reserves are not on it], which is simple enough.
- 36D. COPULA means [Linking verb]. Hey, how many other cognates does “copulate” have?
- 41A. I’m a sucker for a good etymology clue. SHTETLS is clued [Literally, "little towns"].
- 56A. [Historical transition point] is the END OF AN ERA. How refreshing to have the longer phrase rather than the quasi-crosswordese partial, [End of ___] AN ERA.
I don’t quite get [Tip end: Prefix] for ACRO-. Just a straight-up literal definition of the prefix? Poking around the dictionary, I see that acrophobia’s root is akron (“summit”), while acromegaly’s is akron (“tip, extremity”). Would someone who’s studied Greek please let me know whether these akrons are the same?
At 17A, a [Minor employment need?] is a youth WORK PERMIT. Hmm, maybe TROWEL, right below it, ought to have a clue other than [Plaster worker]. Cute clue for CHARM, tno? 46A: [Third time, say]. Less cute is the evocation of that early-’80s fashion woe, culottes; CAPRIS are a cuter [Alternative to culottes]. I’ve been waiting decades for someone to tell me if culottes and gauchos, popular at the same time, are in fact the same garment. 1D: AT. WT. is a blah answer, but I like its clue: [Bit of elementary knowledge?: Abbr.], as in data on the periodic table of elements. BEL AMI is a cute little French phrase, but I didn’t know it was a 31D: [Guy de Maupassant novel].
Grossest clue: 13D: [They often get dressed] for SORES, as in open wounds getting surgical dressings. Eww.
Answer I was most pleased to spell right: 40D: MYCENAE, or [Agamemnon's domain].
William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Q’s Cruise”–Janie’s review
What a terrific themed puzzle to close out the week with. Will gives us a nice “substitution” gimmick that pays off beautifully with fresh fill and smiles all around. “CR” now begins the well-known phrases that used to begin with “Q’s,”–or, to spell it out–”Q’s” (“queues”) → CRuise… Here’s how it plays out:
- 17A. Quick study → CRICK STUDY [Research project on neck pain?]. This might also have been clued [Research project on DNA] in a shout-out to Francis Crick…
- 27A. “Don’t be a quitter” → “DON’T BE A CRITTER” ["Stop acting like such an animal"?]. Love this clue/fill pair a lot. Ditto this next one, in which
- 43A. Quack like a duck → CRACK LIKE A DUCK [Yield under pressure, as Daffy might?]. This one gives us a strong visual (and aural) image, which is always a plus. Re: that base phrase, “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.” I can’t confirm it was first used/coined by Douglas Adams (of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame), but that particular sentence did appear in his 1987 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
- 58A. Jonny Quest → JONNY CREST [Sci-fi boy with very clean teeth?]. Very funny clue, imoo, with a silly concept that just delights.
Other goodies in the grid? There’re the alliterative and lively JELLY JAR and BAYBERRY. Then, those “K”-containin’ words: PAPRIKA, ANKLETS, CD RACKS, KAFKA–with his lengthy, factoid-filled clue [Bohemian writer whose last request was that all his manuscripts be "burned unread"]. Fortunately for us, Max Brod–the friend who promised to carry out Kafka’s wish–opted out and preserved them for others to publish/put into safe-keeping. This is a really interesting story. Read all about it.
I also enjoyed the range and blend of other “artistes”: [Engraver Albrecht] DURER and DUMAS (père) ["The Three Musketeers" author], from [Bygone days (YORE); funnymen CHICO [Brother of Harpo] (also Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo) and JERRY [comedian Seinfeld]; and thespians ALFRE [Woodard of "Desperate Housewives"] and SHUE [Actress Elisabeth who narrated "Tuck Everlasting"].
Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
From my L.A. Crossword Confidential write-up:
- 1A: [It provides more details] clues a ZOOM LENS.
- 9A: [Raid target] is a FRIDGE. I was thinking of cockroaches and drug dealers, but a FRIDGE raid is infinitely more pleasant.
- 23A: ['90s-'00s sitcom star] is DREW CAREY. Is he still wearing his hair longer on The Price Is Right? I think the hair makes him look sad.
- 36A: [Gets off suddenly] is the clue for QUITS COLD TURKEY. The clue can be read obscenely, but I don’t think there’s a good way to tie this answer to the ribald version of the clue.
- 57A: EXERCISE is clued with this: [It can involve dumbbells and jerks]. And those, of course, are the gym rats you encounter when getting EXERCISE at the gym.
- 59A: I like ["High Fidelity" star John] (CUSACK). He was decent in 2012. Things blew up, he remained a nice guy. My favorite Cusack movie is The Sure Thing. No, wait. Maybe it’s Grosse Pointe Blank.
- 62A: ["I'll bet!"] clues “YEAH, YEAH.” “Oh, sure.” “Riiight.”
- 8D: ["A Fish Called Wanda," e.g.] is a SCREWBALL COMEDY. I love this movie, too! Glad to have a SCREWBALL COMEDY that I’ve seen rather than a classic ’40s-’50s movie that I might not necessarily know is a screwball comedy.
- 12D: [Bar exchanges, perhaps] are DIRTY JOKES. I started out with CORNY jokes but egads, who wants to hang out a bar listening to corny jokes?
And a lowlight!
- 61A: Giggled (TE-HEED). There must be dictionary support somewhere for the TE-HEE spelling or it wouldn’t appear in so many crosswords. But this word is despondent. It wants to be TEE-HEE. And it wants desperately to be a noun, not a verb.
Barry Silk’s Newsday “Saturday Stumper”
(PDF solution here.)
Favorite answer: 32A. BILL COSBY, ["America's Dad"].
Least favorite answer: 20A. USE A BEEPER, or [Page, perhaps]. No, no, no. What next? USE AN IRON. USE THE PHONE. USE A FORK. The Star Wars line “USE THE FORCE,” on the other hand, would be awesome. It’s familiar and has entered the language, whereas “USE A [insert object here]” is arbitrary and contrived fill.
Most unexpected anagram clue: 33D. [Anagram of East Timor] is ESTIMATOR. Weird clueing approach, no?
Trivia I didn’t know, but that Philly Barry Silk does: 1A. BETSY ROSS is the name of a [Bridge from Philadelphia].
In the “Who?!?” category: 37A. [Supermodel Miller] clues MARISA. Wikipedia tells me she’s best known for underwear and bikini modeling. Feh. This one’s for the drooling males in the solving audience.
Pointless trivia: 57A. An AIREDALE terrier ws [John Wayne's childhood pet]. If you’re under 50, I’ll bet you didn’t know this (and don’t care).
Least rewarding crosswordese: 40A. ESSO was a [Jersey Standard brand].
Coolest crossing: VERBATIM meets VIRTUOSO, or [Copied precisely] and a [Maven].
Toughest square, for me: The final E in 63A: SERE/[Far from saturated] and 42D: SERIES E/['40s war bonds].
Least favorite sort of clue for foreign answers: 55A is an [Overseas article]. Well! That certainly narrows it down, doesn’t it? Happens to be German DER. Can’t you even call it a definite article and make it a tad more specific? Really, it’s just mean to clue a foreign word so vaguely.
Right answer that’s no better than the first wrong answer I had: For 45A, [Watercraft propellers], I was set to grumble at OARERS. Turned out to be OARMEN instead. OARSMEN is much more common than either of those.