Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle doesn’t break the record for low word count (it’s got 66 entries) or blocks (it’s got 26, not Kevin’s prior record-breaking 18), but it’s noteworthy for its tough-to-achieve quadruple stacks fo 15-letter answers. Has there been another puzzle with two quad stacks and a ninth 15 in the middle? I don’t recall one, but my memory for such feats is not the best.
I’m not sure why Will scheduled this one for Friday. Isn’t it rather Saturdayish overall? None of the 15s was an instant gimme for me, and even with some Downs in place, they didn’t fall boom-boom-boom-boom as one might hope.
My eyeballs are plumb tuckered out from my new glasses, so I’ll just go through some of the fill quickly:
- 17A. Which [Seminal naturalistic work]? Why, THE DESCENT OF MAN, of course. I cannot give you any background on this one.
- 19A. [Main character?] is a TAR, as in a sailor on the bounding main.
- 25A. [Tir a ___ (bow-and-arrow sport: Fr.)] clues L’ARC. Nope, French archery is not in my wheelhouse.
- 33A. I love this one. “YOU KNOW THE DRILL” is a [Routine statement?].
- 41A. [What the ugly duckling really was] usually clues SWAN. This time it’s CYGNET, a young swan.
- 42A. JAR is a [Tipping point?] at places like Starbucks where there’s a tip jar on the counter.
- 53A. TELLS IT LIKE IT IS is a solid phrase; clued with [Doesn't hedge].
- 54A. Good clue for REAL ESTATE AGENT: [A lot may be on one's mind].
- 55A. Simultaneously lively and out-of-nowhere: EDMONTON ESKIMOS. They are [13-time Grey Cup winners]. What is that for, hockey? Is this a curling squad? Fill us in, Crosscan.
- 23D. I would’ve guessed JOULE had a French first name. [Physicist James who contributed to the laws of thermodynamics] was apparently British. Who knew?
- 28D. WALL-E is the [Animated character who likes "Hello, Dolly!" songs]. That Pixar movie was made before Kevin joined the company. I believe he worked on hair and textiles in Up (and my whole family was excited that I know someone whose name was in the credits of a Pixar movie).
- Bowling! 29D: [Lane pain?] is a SPLIT, but 10D: [Spares] is not related to bowling—it’s SETS FREE.
- 31D. [Sci-fi's Chief Chirpa, e.g.] is nothing I know, but with a W in place, EWOK was the obvious choice. (Star Wars saga.)
- 34D. OP ARTIST is a term? I had no idea. It’s a [Creator of some illusions].
You know what’s cool about this quad-stacked grid? Hardly any 3s. Just six 3s going Across, and none going Down.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Warren Piece”—Janie’s review
From that punny title to the most enjoyable execution of the theme, to the quality of the non-theme fill and cluing, today’s puzzle is a treat from start to finish. This “piece” is loaded with synonyms for the creatures who live in breeding grounds known as a “warren.” There’s an interesting history of the word’s usage in that link, btw. Today you’ll find the variation on the theme as the first word in the theme-phrases. And they would be:
- 17A. HAREBRAINED [Idiotic], i.e., “having no more intelligence than a…” I wonder if Bugs would take offense at that…
- 11D. BUNNY SLOPE [Destination for a new skier]. Please wear a helmet, no matter how gentle or innocuous the challenge seems.
- 28D. RABBIT EARS [They used to sit on top of TVs]. But I suppose “all-digital all the time” has put an end to that!
- 53A. CONEY ISLAND [Brooklyn Beach]. Home of the Nathan’s Hotdogs, the Brooklyn Cyclones (a minor league baseball team) and the Cyclone roller coaster. There’s somethin’ for ev’ryone, so c’mon down!
Like any “warren” worth its name, this puzzle is crammed…with vibrant fill and clues. Among my faves today:
- ADELAIDE, a ["Guys and Dolls" gal]. She’s been engaged to Nathan Detroit for 14 years, and lovin’ the lug as she does, is waiting to hear the words “MARRY ME” [Merger proposal?].
- [Call at home] is a STRIKE, since “call” here is a noun and not a verb. The same parts-o’-speech-play applies to [Leaves in hot water] where TEA and not JEOPARDIZES or IMPERILS is the correct fill.
- TENK? What’s a TENK? The crosses told me that the fill was correct, but it all comes down to the parsing. That [Race of a little over 6 mi.] isn’t a TENK, it’s a TEN K…
- [One who didn't want the Yanks to win]… MOI?… Oops, wrong “Yanks.” Correct answer: REB. Back to those other “Yanks,” that [Youngest player to hit 500 HRs, familiarly] is A-ROD (Alex Rodriguez).
- Love the SPATE [Torrent] of “K” words” KENOSHA [Wisconsin city on Lake Michigan], the beautiful BACK-FLIP [Gymnast's move], FAKE [Phony] and HOKUM [Nonsense], which relate so nicely to our pal DEBUNKS [Exposes as untrue] (we had debunked almost two weeks ago).
- It may be time to EVALUATE [Assess] your life if you find yourself IN A RUT [Unhappy with the daily grind]. Or maybe it’s the “grind” of your caffeinated beverage and it’s time to invest in a MR. COFFEE [Brand of home espresso maker]. Is Mr. Coffee still a HOT ITEM [Product that moves fast]? Probably not since the day when the Yankee Clipper was pluggin’ it.
- If you HIT ON [Make a pass at] someone who returns the favor, who knows? It may lead to a TRYST [Secret meeting] or two. Perhaps at a HOTEL, which is not just a [Conventioner's quarters]. (Hmmm… some of those “conventioner”s may be engaging in trysts of their own…..)
- Anaïs NIN is neatly clued as [Palindromic diarist] and that [Vegas opening] has nothing to do with Wayne Newton or Cirque du Soleil, but to the name of the town itself, so the correct fill is LAS. My one NIT, a very [Small complaint] is the repeat of OPENS [Uses a key on] in the fill. I’ll live. This puzzle is beaut. End of story.
Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The first theme entry I filled in was the last one—and the constructing team saved the best for last, but I started there so it was all downhill. The theme takes a phrase with an EE word and changes it to an EA word. Making a Japanese beetle into [Yoko?] the JAPANESE BEATLE is terrific. The other three, STAINLESS STEAL, STOCKING FEAT, and POTATO PEALER, are more of a stretch in meaning. Nobody would call a french fry machine’s alarm a PEALER, would they?
- 1A. [Big theme park star] is SHAMU from Sea World. Yes, it’s more of a theme park than an aquarium. I think. I’ve never been there.
- 2D. HERS is clued [Bierce defines it "His"]. Does this mean what he thinks is his is really HERS, or vice versa?
- 51A. We don’t see BRALESS in the puzzle too often. The clue, [Without means of support?], almost wants to be “without visible means of support,” which is definitely in the language.
Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Washington Square”
The title is a playful wink at the theme: Washington was the U.S.’s first president, a box is a square, and PRESIDENT’S BOX is at the center of the grid. Liz has constructed a president’s box of sorts in the grid itself: the surnames of 12 presidents appear at the edges of the puzzle, and five others make a symmetrical…something in the middle. Do the five in the center have an architectural purpose?
I had a terrific “aha” payoff when I reached the middle of the puzzle and PRESIDENT’S BOX. I’d filled in at least five or six presidents’ names by then, but only OBAMA, the [Port north of Kyoto] at 105D, had jumped out. Knowing the theme then helped with the remaining border answers. I blanked on the Sex and the City costar until I started thinking of 5-letter presidential names and got Cynthia NIXON (19D). And unknown-to-me 1947 NFL player Frank REAGAN (14A) came along with a few crossings. 52D: [Puncture] gets you Franklin PIERCE. 33A: [Wild parts of Australia] gets you either George BUSH. I wanted 111A: [Cross, in a way] to be SORE, but it’s Gerald FORDing a stream. 132A: [DiMaggio's love] is Marilyn “James” MONROE.
The whole puzzle was a delightful solving experience for me. The only “meh” note was 58D: PEAN/[Hymn of praise: Var.], but the rest of the fill was smooth and contained grace notes like The Beatles ROCK BAND, ALTER EGO, PEP TALK, “LET’S NOT,” the RED SOX, and a testy “YES OR NO?” My favorite clues include 120A: [Discriminating type?] for AGEIST; 108A: jewelry [Setting item] for GEM (not a table setting); 20A: [They take a lot of hammering] for ANVILS; 28A: [Ring around the collar?] for a neckTIE; and 39A: [Eve, to Yves] for SOIR, French for “evening.”
Assigned reading: Speaking of Liz Gorski, don’t miss her Crossword City blog post today. She provides a timely discussion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and doesn’t even mention that the needlepoint copy of the speech’s text in the photo is her own work. She uses it as a springboard to explaining why it’s silly to get excited about crossword pangrams. Key point: “If I am faced with the choice of using EXT or EAT in a puzzle (and I knew that the “X” in EXT would make it a pangram), I’d use EAT any day of the week and clue it ‘Take sides?’ EXT is last-resort, painted-in-a-corner fill; it’s an abbreviation that’s uninteresting, static. The ‘X’ isn’t “missing” from my puzzle. I chose not to use it.” Well said, Liz.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Snowpocalypse”
Snow idioms get clued in occupationally specific contexts: Quilters get BLANKETED, a baker is ICED IN, bookies are COVERED, punk rockers get SEVEN INCHES (referring to 7″ records, I think), foot doctors get A COUPLE FEET, the maids get a DUSTING, zombies are BURIED (but probably don’t stay buried), and the sloppy secretaries are WHITED OUT. Cute concept, executed well.
Alan Olschwang’s 2/12 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “First Up”
I don’t know what’s going on with the CHE crossword scheduling. On 1/29, I blogged the puzzle listed on the CHE webpage as the 1/29 puzzle. The next one’s dated 2/1 online, but the Across Lite file says 2/5, and it wasn’t posted by Friday morning last week so I never blogged it. This one says 2/8 on the webpage, 2/12 in Across Lite—and today’s 2/12 so I think this is the current puzzle. Yes? The 2/8 was making me think it was an old puzzle.
Basic trivia theme: The first ___ up in space, x 6. GUS GRISSOM was the first to go up twice. First American, ALAN SHEPARD. First American to orbit the Earth, JOHN GLENN. First American woman, SALLY RIDE. (I screwed myself up by putting SALLY RAND here!) Russian YURI GAGARIN, the first man in space from anywhere. MAE JEMISON, first African-American woman. Who was the first African-American man to go up in space? Guion “Guy” Bluford, following Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo-Mendez, also black. The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova, whose name is too long to fit in a 15×15 puzzle.
I don’t know what QUBO, an unknown-to-me [Children's programming channel], is doing in the grid. It’s not in pursuit of a pangram because there’s no Z in there. Weird.
I had YEOW for the 52A: [Cry of pain] instead of YELP, which gave me all sorts of trouble in that zone. SLUMMY is [Far removed from uptown]? We don’t use that idiom much in Chicago’s Uptown, which is equally affluent and slummy, depending on what block you’re on. Some blocks are both, actually. This section would’ve fallen faster for me if I’d known that PRIDE was ["The possession of fools": Herodotus].