Warm birthday greetings to Merl Reagle, who turns 60 on January 5! To fete the man Andrea Carla Michaels calls the “cruciverbalisto di tutti cruciverbalisti,” Andrea and Michael Blake constructed a fun (easy) crossword, “60-Year-Old Chivas Reagle.” You can get the puzzle at the Crossword Fiend forum, in Across Lite and pdf.
C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword
The theme is held together by 25A: [With 46-Across, be angry...or what you can do inside the answers to the six starred clues]. That would be SEE RED, which is half of a “Which one is it this time?” pair of crossword answers—a 6-letter answer to a clue like [Be angry] could be SEETHE or SEE RED, and with the first 3 letters the same, there’s a lot of wait-for-crossings business. But here, it’s straightforward. The RED you can SEE is here:
- 17A. STORE DETECTIVES make up an [Antishoplifting force].
- 26A. SNARE DRUMS are [Marching band percussion].
- 44A. OUTER EDGES are [Rims]. This answer feels a little less solidly “in the language” than the others.
- 52A. TEACHER EDITIONS is the answer to [Textbooks for instructors]. Don’t they usually use either the plural “teachers edition” or possessive “teacher’s edition”?
- 4D. FIRE DRILLS are [School evacuation exercises].
- 30D. [Evel and Robbie Knievel, for two] are DAREDEVILS.
DAREDEVILS is one word, so the REDs aren’t all split across two words. I’m not wild about the pluralization of every theme answer, though at least it’s better to go all plural than have a random mix of singular and plural.
Today’s oldest crosswordese (meaning a word I learned from crosswords long ago and seldom see outside of crosswords) is KEPI, or [Topper for Charles de Gaulle]. In the U.S., these hats are probably more familiar as Civil War hats than as French military headwear. The style is also sported by the Nation of Islam’s security forces.
I thought the clue for 52A: PIC was kinda weird: [E-mail attachment, for short]. The clue suggests an abbreviation for an image file type, as there’s nothing e-mail-specific about a picture.
The most dated term in the puzzle is POETESS, clued as [Anne Bradstreet, for one]. She lived in Puritan/colonial times, the 1600s, so she was likely called a POETESS rather than a poet then. (Clueing POETESS by way of Sylvia Plath would be anachronistic.) Bradstreet, née Dudley, was America’s first notable poet.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Best of the Decade, Part 5—2008 & 2009
Matt’s trip down ’00s memory lane wraps up with the last two years’ pop culture. If you have not seen the BILL O’REILLY meltdown video that went viral, check it out here. Even my kid can shout “I’ll do it live!” with the proper intonation. The dance remix is also pretty cool.
New word for me: SAI, [Raphael's weapon, in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"], is a traditional Okinawan dagger-shaped truncheon. (Click the link to see a photo if that description doesn’t exactly give you a clear idea of what it looks like.)
The other “best of” entries are KANYE WEST, the documentary MAN ON WIRE, and Randy Pausch‘s Oprah-promoted LAST LECTURE. I don’t know about you, but I’d be open to a “worst of the decade’ roundup too—Gigli and Miss South Carolina’s “maps and the Iraq and such as,” the nadirs of reality TV programming (The Swan, anyone?), and books (smart money’s on Mitch Albom and Dan Brown)? Oh, yeah.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17A. LIGHT BULB MOMENT is an [Instant of realization].
- 33A. A [Lyrical lament of lost love] is a TORCH SONG. My favorite torch-songy album is k.d. lang’s All You Can Eat. If you like ballads of yearning and steam, check it out.
- 38A. SUN VALLEY is an [Idaho ski resort]. Today, I explained to someone who took note of the orthopedic boot on my foot: “Skiing, in Florida.”
- 53A. CANDLE IN THE WIND is the [Elton John tribute to Marilyn Monroe], which he later repurposed as a tribute to Princess Diana. What, he couldn’t write a new song on the fly?
MOTHERS is clued with [May honorees] rather than [Famed New Orleans purveyor of biscuits and debris]. Speaking of food, there’s the BABKA, a [Yeast cake highlighted in a "Seinfeld" episode]. “Cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka!” There’s also one BLIN, singular of blini, a [St. Petersburg pancake] from Russia, not Florida; a BEET that’s a [Borscht need], also Russian; KONA, the [Hawaiian coffee-growing district]; REFRY, what you do to pinto beans for Mexican food; ROE, as in [Caviar, e.g.]; and MELON, clued as [Cantaloupe, e.g.].
FORTY is clued as [Two score]. Sixty is three score—did you see the link at the top of today’s post pointing towards the Merl-turns-60 birthday crossword?
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “True-Blue”—Janie’s review
Like the merchant in Aladdin swapping “new lamps for old,” Patrick is also making exchanges–but his are of letters, naturally: “BL” for “TR” (hence the title). While it seems so obvious now, it took me until the third ( and “funnest”) theme phrase to catch on. D’oh… Here’s how the theme plays out:
- 17A. Free trade → FREE BLADE [Sample from Schick?]. Nice ‘n’ straight-forward–but nothing that makes me think twice.
- 28A. Fashion trend → FASHION BLEND [Cotton/polyester, for one?]. Again, pretty straight-forward–but (not seeing the theme yet) I questioned the “fashionability” of a practical sounding cotton/poly blend…
- 47A. State trooper → STATE BLOOPER [Governor's goof?]. Ah–now we’re gettin’ somewhere. The recent past has provided a veritable state blooper-cluster–with the likes of Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blogoyavich and Mark Sanford leading the way. They’ve really raised (lowered?) the bar on this one! After making a state blooper, I suppose the only thing to say is “Oops”… and then trot out Ms. Spears.
- 63A. Round trip → ROUND BLIP [Flying saucer on a radar screen]. This one gives us a nice visual concept and I like that it takes a complete departure from the base phrase.
Active and/or image-making fill and clues are most appealing to me, which is why I responded so well to SQUIRMED/[Wriggled], ["On your feet!"]/”STAND!” and ["Andy Capp" sound effect] for “HIC!”
While the remainder of the fill (mostly four- and five-letter words] is not the “sparkliest” ever, it’s been clue playfully, with an abundance of alliteration, giving us (for example):
- [Crocus cousin]]IRIS
- [Vaults for valuables]/SAFES
- [Stratosphere substance]/OZONE
- [Sweeping story]/EPIC
- [Mannerly man, briefly]/GENT
- [Jocular Joy]/BEHAR
- [Distinctive doctrines]/ISMS
- [Pocatello's place]/IDAHO
- [Permanent prisoner]/LIFER
- [Like a lit lantern]/AGLOW
- [Boot bottom]/SOLE
- [Odin's oldest son]/THOR
["Mamma Mia!" inspiration] made me pause, too, for while I suspected it would be ABBA (it was), for a brief moment I thought, “Did Patrick really manage to get Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell into the grid?!”
And: first CS pangram of the year–of the decade, for that matter. We’re off an runnin’!