I’m heading out to the distant suburbs for a birthday party soon, so I won’t be home to write about the Monday NYT puzzle until late tonight or possibly Monday morning. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. And if you have the keys to the place—you know who you are—feel free (but certainly not obligated) to toss up a grid and brief write-up.
Adam Cohen’s New York Times crossword
- CAN I BUY A VOWEL comes from “Wheel of Fortune.” Pat and Vanna were recently here in Boston; Vanna shot a segment out by the Paul Revere monument in the North End, just steps from where I live. (It must’ve been taped, as there was no snow on the ground in the shot.)
- SURVEY SAYS is from “Family Feud.” When I last saw this show, Richard Dawson was the host; I have no idea who hosts the show currently (or if it’s only in syndication).
- COME ON DOWN is from “The Price is Right.” This I do know is no longer hosted by Bob Barker, but instead by Drew Carey.
- THE PASSWORD IS is from (wait for it) “Password.” Again, I remember only Allen Ludden hosting this (husband of Betty White, who was a frequent guest on the show). I seem to remember this being revived briefly with Regis Philbin as its new host. No idea if it’s still on. I remember this phrase being whispered by the announcer as if the contestants could actually hear him if he spoke any louder.
Other notable fill:
- BUDWEISER, something unlikely to be advertised during one of these shows
- THREE-D, which seems to be making something of a comeback from the “stereoscopic” features of the ’50s
- Early NY governor, DEWITT Clinton. Given the theme, Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company may have been a more appropriate choice.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Top of the Charts”—Janie’s review
I sure liked this puzzle, but boy, did I ever feel like the VAPID [Dull] one after solving it. Yes, I saw the title, but no–I had no idea how it applied to the theme fill. And no, those “charts” had nothing to do with music. All I saw was this beautiful theme fill–four phrases and their fine clues. Look at ‘em:
- 17A. BAR MITZVAH [Certain initiation ceremony]. This brings to mind an appropriate verse:
Today I am a
Man. Tomorrow I return
To the seventh grade.
- 11D. COLOR BLIND [Spectrally challenged]. Love that clue/fill combo!
- 27D. PIE À LA MODE [Two desserts in one]. Yum. Pie and ice-cream.
- 64A. EYEWITNESS [Person on the scene]. Like the ABC affiliates and their “Eyewitness News”…
So what do these phrases (and compound word) have to do with the theme? Well, the first word in each is a word that can precede (be at the “top of”) the word “charts.” D’oh! So we get bar charts, color charts, pie charts and eye charts. Nice, huh?
We also get lively, scrabbly fill in the likes of such strong grid-fillers as WIZENED [Shriveled], JET BLUE [Carrier out of Kennedy], and DIXIE CUP (!) [Disposable vessel] (hadn’t thought about Dixie cups in ages and loved seeing ‘em in the grid). I like the slangy/colloquial FLIP OUT for [Go nuts], “TAKE IT!” for ["Here!"], “KIDDO” for ["Buddy"], and seeing [Hocked] give way to PAWNED.
A [Book of maps] is an ATLAS of course, and most do not include one of ATLANTIS the [Mythical sunken island]–but that’s not to say you can’t find maps of it. The really sneaky geography clue today came by way of [Bolivian capital]. LA PAZ, right? Not. Or not today at any rate. While La Paz is the seat of government, SUCRE is its constitutional (legal) capital. Making matters worse for me, though, when I saw _UCRE, I made it LUCRE, thinking of “capital” in the sense of monetary “currency.” Wrong again. In Bolivia, that would be centavos or Bolivianos…
Another tricky clue comes with [Crash or ride in a drum kit]. Well, that’s CYMBAL, but until I looked up “drum kit” in our friend Wiki, I was completely in the dark as to how “ride” fit in the picture. It’s a relative of the high-hat cymbal, btw.
Two mythic types–one dark, one enlightened–get mentioned today, too: DRACULA [Van Helsing's nemesis] and OBI-WAN [Luke's mentor]. Echoing the first part of that latter name, it’s nice that OBI [Sapporo sash] is also there; and then, since we’re already in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” SUMO [Japanese wrestling] makes an appearance.
I don’t know that TEPEE is best described as ["Little Big Man" prop]. A “prop” is ordinarily something hand-held. Unless this tepee were miniaturized, “set piece” might be more on point. Other clue/fill pairs that were more satisfying include [Alter iteration]/”I DO,” [Garage activities]/SALES (and not LUBES…), [Young St. Bernard] for PUP and [Spoonbill relative] for our pal IBIS.
Finally, I love the balance at the top of D-CON [Pest control brand], whose logo actually features a little “d,” and “BIG D” or [Dallas, familiarly], which Frank Loesser famously musicalized in The Most Happy Fella.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Sajdak’s theme is simply darling: Phrases that begin with terms of endearment. Like so:
- 20A. ["The Nutcracker" dancer] is a SUGARPLUM FAIRY. Not sure if sugar or sugarplum is the intended theme component. Either works, right?
- 32A. [Piano bar piano, often] is a BABY GRAND, baby.
- 45A. Winnie the [Pooh's food source] is called the HONEY TREE, honey.
- 58A. [Executive's golden parachute, e.g.] is an example of a SWEETHEART DEAL.
Perfect Monday theme, simple and pleasant. Newer solvers might be thrown by the crosswordese more seasoned solvers take for granted: ECCE/[Behold, in old Rome]; EMIR/[Mideast chieftain]; AGAR/[Bio lab gelatin]; TARO/[South Seas edible root]; and EWER/[Washstand pitcher].
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Lowlights: Old-fashioned MUSSY (speaking of old-fashioned, I don’t know this ICEBOX CAKE); uncommon BERCEUSE; lots of the short fill in the 3- to 5-letter range; RESET/REABSORB/JEERERS; and the OCTETS clue [Nadya Suleman's kids]—the octuplets are a single OCTET.
Somewhere in between: The “timely now but unlikely to last long” CARTOON YOURSELF ads on Facebook; Jets player D’BRICKASHAW Ferguson, who maybe will be famous to people who aren’t big football fans but maybe will quickly return to being nobody we’d be expected to recognize.