Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
This theme put me in mind of Buster Poindexter’s woefully addictive song, “Hot Hot Hot,” but no, I’m not gonna watch that YouTube video. Each of the theme entries is HOT (38A) in a different way. There’s a STOLEN CAR, BOILING WATER, TABASCO SAUCE, THIRD RAIL, and a split-in-half SEXY /BODY. Gotta love the English language and all its multitudes of meaning.
The toughest part of this puzzle was when I blanked on the [Capital of England, to Parisians]—but then I remembered LONDRES (45D).
Ugliest answer: 24D: LGTH, or [Width's opposite: Abbr.]. Plus, length and width are not remotely opposite entities, are they?
Most entertaining pair of sequential answers: reading down 2D and 28D and seeing BUTT OGRE. And is it mere coincidence that 40A and 41A follow one another—SUCK and SENATE?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gorp”—Janie’s review
As anyone who does any hiking–or simply chooses to go “back to nature” with their snacking (sorta…)–knows, “gorp” is the tasty combo of peanuts, raisins and M&Ms (protein and carbs) that can help sustain your energy. Low in calories? Nah. So moderation is advised. As 63A confirms, [Gorp, and a clue to the beginnings of 17-, 28- and 46-Across] is also known as TRAIL MIX.
Now, as you know, I’m Ms. Untimed. Sharing my times on most Klahn puzzles is a humiliation I feel no compunction to subject myself to (I leave that to the ACPT….). That said–this was as smooth a Klahn-solve as I’ve ever had. Because the theme fill is so good (and because I had an actual solving rhythm going…), I didn’t fully catch on until I had the “aha” at 63A. As you’ve probably already discovered, the first five letters of the remaining theme phrases are anagrams (a mix if you will) of the word trail. Sweet. The first two (because they span two words to do so) are especially effective. We’ve got:
- 17A. RAIL THIN [Bony]. Have a little trail mix…
- 28A. ART LINKLETTER [97-year-old entertainment personality who wrote "Old Age is Not for Sissies"]. Bette Davis quipped something in a similar vein, but I still identify Linkletter most strongly with “Kids Say the Darndest Things” and his regular interview ploy of asking the tykes-of-the-day, “What did your mommy tell you not to tell me?” Embarrassing results almost always ensued.
- 46A. TRIAL AND ERROR [Tough way to learn]. And the way many of the puzzles I attempt get solved…
Lively cluing and fill add to this puzzle’s delights and to the cohesion factor as well. Highlights include:
- [It's blown in the wind] “The answer my friends…” is OBOE. This clue relates nicely to [Blows away] for WOWS.
- [Get altared?] WED
- [Bit of a blizzard] FLAKE (“bit” is a noun here), and [Pose posers] ASK (where “pose” is a verb and not a noun).
- Adjacent paired clues that keep things peppy include [Shrink's libido] and [Shrink rap] for EROS and “I SEE”; [Where the Skunk flows] and [Drunk as a skunk] for IOWA and STONED; and [Converse, for one] and [Converse] for SHOE (noun) and TALK (verb).
- [Flue fleck] for ASH, [Greenery grid] for TRELLIS, [Computer's color collection] for PALETTE; and [Keats feats] for ODES.
- [Understood] and ["Understood"] for KNOWN and “ROGER.”
- [Move at a worm's pace] INCH. Remember Frank Loesser’s “Inchworm Song” from Hans Christian Andersen?
- [Do a crewel thing] SEW sits above its eye-rhyme YEW [Its boughs might make bows].
- [Comic theme] is SHTICK and [Trick stick] is WAND.
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What does it mean to “shoot”? Three SHOOTING STARS are included in this theme, but not one of ‘em is a photographer. One shoots pool (MINNESOTA FATS/[Pool legend portrayed by Jackie Gleason in "The Hustler"]). One shoots baskets in basketball (MOSES MALONE/[NBA center who was a three-time MVP]). And one shoots bullets (ANNIE OAKLEY/[Wild West show markswoman]). Now, there are dozens of other NBA legends who could be considered “shooting stars,” but they don’t all have 11-letter names, and this particular combination and placement of theme entries led to a fairly smooth fill and very easy Monday solve.
I’ll dock the constructor a few points for the AGNEWS plural, but that’s offset by the NEW MEXICAN crossing MINNESOTA, “OPEN SESAME,” and COLE SLAW.
Crosswordese “O” words for newer solvers to commit to memory:
- 63A. [Hops drier] is an OAST, an oven that’s used to dry the hops used in beer.
- 57D. ORAN is an [Algerian port]. The clues may sometimes mention Albert Camus.
- 47A. Back when the U.S. had a military draft, the [Top draft status] was 1-A, which is spelled out as ONEA in crosswords.
- 34A. [Big name in elevators] is OTIS.
- 10D. If the clue’s looking for a Norwegian king or saint, you need OLAF—but sometimes it’s spelled OLAV, so check the crossing for the last letter. [Name of several Norwegian kings] is a typical sort of clue.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Ooh, I did not care for this puzzle. Who the hell is JOA ELLIOTT? That’s a mistake in the grid; should be JOE, but Obama’s mom was named Stanley ANN Dunham, not ENN. MASSAGIST, which had a plural clue, isn’t a word anyone much uses these days for masseurs, masseuses, and massage therapists. I got irretrievably stuck in the bottom left corner, where I couldn’t get PDQ for ["What are you waiting for?"], which sounds more like “c’mon, let’s go, go ahead.” PDQ corresponds to ASAP, not “What are you waiting for?” Maybe Brendan says “PDQ” to hurry someone up; I dunno. No idea if it was QBS or RBS who would be the SB MVPs; don’t care. And the payoff for figuring out this corner is four not-plain-words and only one regular word, RIB (which could’ve been a COB or EAR of corn, too)? Feh. And fie.
Apparently Brendan quickly replaced the puzzle file with a corrected one but dammit, I did this version and it put me out of sorts. The EPINAL/POTION stack also grieved me. POTION’s an ordinary word, but how many people actually got it right away from the clue? And [Couple coffees] is too specific a clue for LARGES. And then the other plurals: ENLS, RNAS, HICS? Mehs.
None of the long answers spoke to me, other than ’70s/’80s reference VICKI LAWRENCE, who I get halfway mixed up with VIKKI CARR, who was in a recent NYT puzzle. Usually, Brendan’s themelesses have a handful of sparkly long answers, but I don’t happen to give a damn about THE SOURCE or JOE ELLIOTT, so…the whole thing left me feeling uncharacteristically dyspeptic. I will go take it out on the crosswords I have to edit this morning.