Robert Cirillo’s New York Times crossword
I think this is Cirillo’s debut puzzle. If so, congrats!
With the first theme entry, I got my hopes up that the whole theme would play with place names, but no, this is not a crossword for the geography enthusiast. The theme entries mate 6-letter words that consist of a 3-letter chunk doubled with another word that ends with those 3 letters:
- 20A. [Chocolate candy from Portugal?] might be a LISBON BONBON.
- 32A. [African nomad who hasn't had a thing to drink?] would be a SOBER BERBER.
- 41A. [Lively Indian dance?] had me thinking of places in India, and then American Indian tribes. Further south, we get the INCAN CANCAN.
- 54A. The [Drum that's under all the others?] is the BOTTOM TOM-TOM.
1D: PHILE is clued as [Lover: suffix]. I learned today that -PHILE is not truly a suffix, but rather a combining form. Who knew? Linguists did. Mind you, I’m not complaining about the clue. It is, as they say, close enough for government work. Just figured you logophiles might appreciate the link.
57A made me laugh. LT. GOV.! Not every state has this [No. 2 in the statehouse] position, but Illinois does. Apparently none of the other five candidates had the budget or sense to do any opposition research on the guy who beat them in the Democratic primary last week, the millionaire pawnbroker who withdrew five days after winning the nomination thanks to his history of alleged domestic violence, anabolic steroid use, and nonpayment of child support. Gotta love Illinois politics.
26D also makes me laugh. Over the holidays, my father-in-law said my husband had Prince Valiant hair. So I dubbed myself ALETA, [Prince Valiant's wife]. We’re wishing we’d named our son Arn, that’s for sure.
Did you realize that 4D: TIMBERED is in fact an adjective with a main entry in the dictionary? It means [Filled with trees] or made of timber/paneled with wood.
I’d never heard of 8D: A SON ["___ of the Sun" (Jack London novel)]. I like to call him Jacques Londres.
Gotta like the clue ["___ milk?"] for 59D: GOT.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “From Milk—we derive these new phrases”
- 16A. “Hambone” becomes GOTHAM BONE, a [Chew toy on Batman's utility belt?].
- 32A. “Ta ta for now” turns into GOTTA T.A. FOR NOW, or [Prof's admission that someone's helping him temporarily]. My personal aesthetic reserves “gotta” for slangified “got to,” keeping “got a” as “got a” because there’s no real point to adding that extra T. Am I alone in this?
- 40A. Ha! H. Ross Perot is transformed beautifully into GOTH ROSS PEROT, a [Halloween costume that includes big ears, dark clothing and a bunch of charts]. Tongue piercing optional.
- 57A. [Visit Vancouver, say] clues GO TO CANADA, which is GOT + the national anthem, “O Canada.”
Favorite fill and clever clues:
- Am I the only one who never heard this joke before? 8D: [Answer to the riddle, "What's brown and sounds like a bell?"], DUNG. Did Matt make this up, or is this a grade school riddle I missed out on?
- 10D. [Spoke indirectly] clues MINCED WORDS. Solidly in-the-language phrase.
- 12D. The [Voice box] is your LARYNX. I will never understand those who pronounce this “larnix.”
- 27D. Why couldn’t I see ITCHED for [Tended to a scratch] without a lot of crossings? Is the clue misleading or am I just off?
- 42D. PSY WARS is an interesting term. These are [Uses of mentally based propaganda, in CIA-speak].
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I was wending my way through this puzzle, thinking, “OK, so the theme entries are A.E. phrases? That’s lame and arbitrary. ‘A.E.’? That means nothing.” Eventually I reached A AND E at 61A, clued as ["Dog the Bounty Hunter" network, and a hint to theme in this puzzle's four longest answers]. Oh! Well, that makes perfect sense, then. There’s your rationale for grouping these four solid answers together:
- 17A. [Using a treadmill, e.g.] is AEROBIC EXERCISE. Ugh! I hate any sort of cardio exercise. Sign me up for the weight training instead.
- 26A. AMERICAN EAGLE is a [Regional air travel brand since 1984].
- 43A. AMELIA EARHART is the [Aviator who said "the lure of flying is the lure of beauty"].
- 56A. [Movie DVD special feature, perhaps] is an ALTERNATE ENDING.
Highlights in the grid:
- 49A. A [Beer unit] is a SIX-PACK.
- 63A. [Game with six colorful characters] is CLUE—Miss Scarlet, Mrs. White, Professor Plum, et al. Great clue for CLUE.
- 5D. The three-word RUB IT IN is clued as [Add insult to injury].
- 11D. Ah! [Leaves for the holidays?] clues a noun, not a verb: POINSETTIA. My favorite clue in the whole puzzle. The red parts aren’t flower petals—they’re bracts, which are leaves. The itty-bitty yellow parts in the middle of the bracts are the flowers.
- 24D. SNOWMAN! This [Kids' outdoor winter project] may be something to work on tomorrow in Chicago. They claim that once it finally starts snowing tonight, it’ll keep snowing for 35 to 40 hours. And yet—take that, D.C. suckers!—we won’t get more than 14″ of fluffy snow. None of that ridiculous 2′ at a time, twice a week malarkey.
- 28D. “EXTRA, EXTRA! Read all about it.” That’s an [Old-time breaking news cry].
Bruce Venzke & Stella Daily’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gimme an E!”—Janie’s review
Actually, that should be “Gimme a silent ‘E’!” because that’s what our Bruce and Stella want us to do today. Each of the theme phrases is built on two words. Add the letter “E” to the first one (that ends in an “S”) and you’ll have the second one. This mostly works. There’s consistency in the appearance of all the theme fill, but only two answers produce homophones–one with a final “ess” sound, one with a final “zee” sound. The other two use both final sounds, in a “zee”/”ess” combo. This’ll be clearer when you say the phrases out loud. On paper, they’re:
- 17A. LEAS LEASE [Rental agreement for the meadows?]. And you know who might be in one of those meadows? ELSIE the [Borden spokescow]. You’re likely to hear COWBELLS, too–and not only as [Noisemakers at Tampa Bay Rays games]. Let’s hope no BRONC [Buckin' steed] comes by to shatter the tranquility. (“zee”/”ess”)
- 10D. PROS PROSE [Writing by non-tyros?]. Why do I keep reading this clue as “non-typos”?… (homophone “zee”)
- 35D. COPS COPSE [Woodland area for police officers?]. This clue/fill combo feels the most natural to me. (homophone “ess”)
- 61A. CURS CURSE [Hex on mangy mutts?]. I guess these aren’t the ones who give you [Playful bites] NIPS. Or if they do, be very careful! (“zee”/”ess”)
It seems to me that the idea for the theme is livelier than the fill it’s produced. Still, PROPS [Kudos, slangily] for the innovative approach.
Appreciated the fruity mini-theme as PEARS [Bigger on the bottom fruits], PRUNE [Wrinkly snack] and CORE [Apple eater's throwaway] found their way into the grid. Also learned that the EURO is the [Currency established by the Maastricht Treaty]. Had never heard of the treaty, nor the town in the Netherlands that lends its name, but this goes back to the early 1990s.
If we haven’t seen [Little sweater?] as a clue for PORE, we’ve seen clues like it, but it’s funny and brain tease-y and welcome. I also really liked seeing STEEP clued as [Not gentle, as a hill].
LALO [“Le Roi d’Ys” composer] was fortunate not to have [What the unmusical have], which is NO EAR. But tell me, is it live or is it MEMOREX [Big name in cassette tapes]? And in this digital age of dvds and downloads and iPods, is Memorex still out there? My dual cassette deck is lookin’ might quaint these days. And dusty, too…