If you’re looking for reputable charities to donate to on behalf of the Haitian earthquake survivors, here are three that come highly recommended:
- Red Cross
- Doctors Without Borders
- Partners in Health (PIH)
- Americans for UNFPA (obstetrics, protection of women)
Cathy Allis’s New York Times crossword, “Subtleties”
The “subtle Ts” in the theme are the initial Ts in words that follow a final T in the preceding word. Here, Cathy has jettisoned the first T in the final word in each of nine phrases, and clued the resulting goofy phrases accordingly:
- 23A. GOD’S HONEST RUTH (truth) is [Dr. Westheimer telling it like it is?].
- 31A. [All you need to brew a lot of coffee?] is the RIGHT URN ONLY (turn). Maybe a little awkward/stilted, as you wouldn’t say “he just needs to find the right woman only.” The “only” is extraneous.
- 49A. Eww! TOILET RAINING (training) is the [Result of a plumbing disaster in the apartment above?]. This is just one of several answers that evoke breakfast-test violations. We also have a SEWER/[Waste line], INNARDS/[Viscera], and the two exterminator clues for SPRAYER and PEST.
- 65A. The base phrase here is unfamiliar to me. The Book of Lost Tales is apparently a Tolkien reference. THE BOOK OF LOST ALES is a [Tome that makes a pub owner feel nostalgic?].
- 84A. [Where to find a best-selling CD?] is ON THE FAST RACK (track).
- 99A. [Something kids might very well tune out?] is THE PARENT RAP (The Parent Trap). (Note: Not the same sort of rap referenced in [Rapper's retinue]/POSSE.)
- 112A. [Advice to Tin Man costume designers?] is DON’T RUST ANYONE (trust).
- 19D. WAR AGAINST ERROR (terror) is clued as a [Debugger's mission?]. I’d rather think of it as a mission for the EDS./[Mag. team] who edit and PROOFREAD/[Scan for slips]. War against error? Absolutely my line of work. It’s surprisingly violent, slashing “whiches” and replacing them with “thats.”
- 40D. SOFT ISSUE INJURY (tissue) might be [Damage to a paperback edition?]. If you collect vintage paperbacks, check out Rex Parker’s Pop Sensation blog.
Tight theme structure, and overall a smooth puzzle with solid fill. The weirdest entry for me is the ROOF RAT at 92D, an [Attic scurrier]. That’s a thing? Should I be glad not to have an attic? Dictionary explains that it’s another term for black rat, which is most common in the tropics and is a host for the flea that transmits the plague. Yeesh.
Here’s a handful of favorite clues:
- 80A. [1977 Sex Pistols song...or the first record label] clues EMI. Always a nice touch to work the Pistols into the crossword.
- 49D. TREE goes super-current in pop culture: [__ of Souls, Na'vi temple in "Avatar"].
- 52D. NORSE is the [Language from which "sky" and "egg" are derived].
- 90A. A [Cabbage batch?] is a WAD of money, slangily.
- 78D. [Its crown is in your head] clues a TOOTH.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Crossings”
Remember that NYT Sunday puzzle last week, “Cross Words”? Emily and Henry use the same theme idea here: two-word phrases that intersect in their shared middle letter. There’s more consistency here, as all nine phrases have 7/7 letter counts. (Last week’s had 7/7, 5/5, and 7/9 answers.)
The theme answers here are a good bit livelier. We get three people’s full names (ORNETTE COLEMAN, LILLIAN HELLMAN, and GIACOMO PUCCINI), one literary character (the ANCIENT MARINER), two concrete objects (WASHING MACHINE, CHANNEL CHANGER), and three less concrete nouns (the FEDERAL RESERVE, a NATURAL IMPULSE, and CENTRAL HEATING).
I grumbled last week that placement of the 18 theme words must’ve constrained the fill, because there were oddball entries like STUM and ERODENT. But look! The Globe puzzle has fill that’s really remarkably smooth. Not a ton of zing to it, no—just plenty of ordinary, familiar sorts of fill. So maybe this sort of criss-cross theme offers more flexibility in fill than I suspected.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Just Add Sugar”
- 23A. [Amount of supplement you should take?] is VITAMIN DOSE. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, they say a good dose is 1,000 or 2,000 IU a day.
- 33A. [Literary character who thinks his life is meaningless—except for the bullfighting parts?] may make you think of Hemingway, but it’s T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock who turns into JOSE ALFRED PRUFROCK. I might’ve gone with paella and sangria rather than bullfighting. Ick, bullfighting.
- 47A. This one is my favorite: Ms. Magazine becomes MOSES MAGAZINE, or a [Periodical that Charlton Heston used to read religiously?].
- 63A. This one’s delightfully goofball: THE FOUR-HOSE CLUB is clued as an [Org. for teens who don't want to be farmers per se but do enjoy watering?].
- 78A. SKI NOSE (skin) AND BONES (that’s Dr. McCoy) is a description of the hypothetical [Publicity still from Bob Hope's only appearance on "Star Trek"].
- 93A. “The three R’s” become THE THREE ROSES, a [TV show featuring Charlie, Pete, and Axl that never caught on?]. I wonder if Charlie and Axl have met.
- 104A. [Documentary about pillows and comforters?] is GOOSEDOWN IN HISTORY.
- 122A. [What Bullwinkle says when he jumps?] is GERONIMOOSE.
The two toughest clues for me:
- 9D. [Composer Lateef] is named YUSEF. Jazz: Here’s his “African Song” (1971). You know what instrument he plays? The tenor sax and flute primarily, but also the oboe and bassoon, not to mention the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, arghul, sarewa, and koto. (I give thanks to Wikipedia for the knowledge.)
- 71A. [Italian poet Cavalcanti] is named GUIDO.
- 91A. IN-JOKE is clued weirdly as [Clique wit?], but it’s a great entry.
- 15D. [Obama, slangily] is THE PREZ.
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Hybrids”
In this theme, hybrid vehicles are made by joining two car/minivan/SUV models and cluing the resulting two-word phrases based on their non-automotive meanings. As an aid to solving, the car makes are included in the clues. There are a zillion phrases that could be made from car names (e.g., a RABBIT FOCUS could be clued as a carrot; a FUSION RENEGADE could be a nuclear physicist on the loose), but none of the theme entries are clunkers or lemons that need to be taken to the junkyard, so they’re a solid fleet.
- 23A. [Chutzpah? (Chevy/Saturn)] is CAVALIER OUTLOOK.
- 29A. [Duffer's trip through Scotland? (Volkswagen/Honda)] is GOLF ODYSSEY.
- 36A. [Memorable forest caretaker? (Ford/Acura)] is RANGER LEGEND. This could also have been clued as, say, hockey player Mark Messier.
- 50A. [Speeding, e.g.? (Chevy/Ford)] is CITATION FOCUS.
- 69A. [The feel of Manhattan? (Honda/Saturn)] is CIVIC AURA. I started with CIVIC VIBE, but the Vibe is a Pontiac, isn’t it?
- 87A. [Columbus gone wild? (Nissan/Ford)] is ROGUE EXPLORER. I only know what the Rogue is because of an awkward and heavy-handed product placement in Heroes. “Dad, you got me a Rogue!” As if high-school cheerleaders were clamoring for the Nissan Rogue by name. Pshaw!
- 100A. [Beethoven's 32 for piano, say? (Hyundai/Subaru)] is SONATA LEGACY.
- 108A. [Feature of the queen's English? (Buick/Hyundai)] is REGAL ACCENT.
- 117A. In [Nice plot? (Buick/Oldsmobile)], that’s Nice, France, not lowercase “nice”: RIVIERA INTRIGUE. Prime example: To Catch a Thief.
A handful of clues/answers cry for attention:
- 3D. GIVE AND GO is a [Basketball maneuver] I’ve never heard of.
- 97A. [Tender cockerel] clues CAPON. Cockerel means “a young domestic cock.” Doggerel, however, does not mean “pet puppy.” Go figure.
- 84D. [Shoots for dinner] are ASPARAGUS. Can a botanist tell me if “shoots” is an accurate descriptor of asparagus spears?
- 62A. Is AB TONER a specific thing or a general sort of term? It’s a [Bit of exercise room equipment].
- 90D. [Asphalt layer, perhaps] is a ROAD BASE. The road part was easy, but I needed the crossings to finish the answer.
- 75D. I have done so many crosswords over the years that [19th century soprano ___ Patti] was a gimme: ADELINA.
- 74A. PAY CASH is clued [Choose paper over plastic?]. If you make a one-key-over typo on the Y, you get tennis player PAT CASH.
- 10D. [Italian soccer great Rossi] is named PAOLO. Never heard of him. Wikipedia tells me that in Italy’s 1982 World Cup victory, he was awarded both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball. These are honors I’ve never heard of.
Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”
I don’t understand the appeal of making a 64-worder with pained fill. To show that you can? But if the fill doesn’t sparkle, what makes the low word count worthwhile? Sure, there’s some decent fill here, particularly the 15s, but there’s so much “meh” to offset it. First, the good stuff:
- 17A. TOTAL ABSTINENCE is the ["There's no such thing as safe sex" policy].
- 19A. ANONYMOUS DONORS are clued [They don't want to be known for their gifts].
- 49A. RESISTING ARREST is a phrase loaded with ordinary, blah letters, but it’s a solid term to be sure. [Unwilling to be carted off, in a way] clues it.
- 56A. [Richard Harris film of 1970] is A MAN CALLED HORSE.
- 27A. I needed lots of crossings for Barry MANILOW because the clue, [Las Vegas Hilton headliner], gave me no help. I’m not up on my Vegas shows.
- 8D. I had my first SATSUMA at puzzler Katje Sabin’s house before Christmas. Sweet, mild, delicious. It’s a [Seedless mandarin orange] that’s apparently hard to come by in Chicago stores. It’s also the fragrance of my favorite Body Shop soap.
Alas, the grid felt compromised with fill like this:
- Odd jobs: 41D: CLASSER/[One who categorizes]; 8A: SALTERS/[Chefs, at times]; 15A: TENONER/[Joiner of wood, in a way]. I’m not sure why 23A: [Madame Defarge, often] is a KNITTER, but KNITTER is a common enough noun that it doesn’t qualify as an “odd job.”
- Slangy weirdness: 45A: OKE is [All right, slangily]? Who says “oke”? “Okey-doke,” sure, but “oke”? Dictionary lists OKE as an alternate spelling of “oka,” the Egyptian and former Turkish unit of weight and volume.
- Unfortunate plurals: 42D: EASTERS/[Spring holidays]; 55D: RONS/[Paul and Howard]; 28D: ANDYS/[Richter and Rooney].
- Not-famous place name: 1A: ALAMOSA/[City that grew up around the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad]. Population 8,682.
- Lame verbs: 38D: ENSILED/[Stored, on the farm]; 58A: REINTER/[Put into the earth again].
- Incomplete prefix: 54D: RHIN-/[Nasal prefix]. Yes, it’s been in crosswords before, but it’s clunky. The combining form’s really rhino-, no, even if the O gets lopped off in words like “rhinitis”?
- Partials: A LID, A-DEE, TO BAT.
- Variants/foreign: British ARBOURS/7D: [Shady spots, in Sheffield]; French SUR/18D: [On, in French place names]; Latin DEO/34A: [___ volente].
It’s accepted to use a few such words to pave the way for greater heights in crossword fill (pardon the metaphor mixing), but when you add in the abbreviations, you get two dozen “meh” answers. Too many!
I have evoked the Patrick Berry guideline before: If you’re not Patrick Berry, tread very, very carefully in making low-word-count puzzles. The fill’s got to be smooth for the construction feat to be truly worthwhile for the solver looking to be entertained. (Sigh.)