Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller’s New York Times crossword, “That’s Amore”
What’s amore? That’s love, in Italian. WHAT IS LOVE? That’s 23-Across. The beginning of the clue was not remotely revealing to me. [1993 dance hit, and a question answered seven times in this puzzle]. What dance hit? I do not care. The seven answers to that question are:
- 10A. Love is BLIND, [23-Across...according to Shakespeare].
- 32A. FRIENDSHIP SET TO MUSIC, [...according to Joseph Campbell]. Isn’t that lovely? I thought there’d be a mythological bent to this answer, but no.
- 36A. MEAT PIE, the [Secret dish in "Sweeney Todd"]. What? You don’t think that’s a thematic definition of love?
- 52A. THE BEAUTY OF THE SOUL, [...according to St. Augustine]. That kinda sounds trite to me.
- 78A. SHARING YOUR POPCORN, [...according to Charles Schulz]. Yes. Exactly. (Insert Diner/Mickey Rourke caveat here.)
- 102A. A MANY-SPLENDORED THING, [...according to Frank Sinatra]. Did someone else write those words?
- 114A. ALL YOU NEED, [...according to the Beatles]. All you need is love and, coincidentally, love is all you need. Do logicians study these lyrics?
- 123A. A ROSE, [...according to Neil Young]. Say what? My husband and I don’t think we know this song.
Did you guys see the heart depicted in the grid, too? I think there’s been some tearing of the cardiac muscle, and the valves between the various chambers are blown out, but I definitely see a heart there.
(No, I don’t.)
Okay, I wandered away from this post for a half hour and I’ve lost my focus. What else is in this puzzle that I might’ve wanted to comment on? Let me see. Nothing much jumped out at me, which means (a) the fill’s pretty smooth and junk-free, and (b) the fill didn’t blow me away. Ten things:
- 42D. WOOL SHOP is an [Edinburgh tourist attraction]. Is this a specific place, or just generic places to buy Scottish woolens?
- 84D. Apparently [Heros] is the accepted plural of “hero sandwich,” while heroes is the plural of a heroic hero? This is the second time I’ve seen “heros” in a week. No, sir, I don’t like it. One dictionary doesn’t either, but Shortz’s preferred Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary specifies a “heros” plural for the sandwich meaning. So there you go. The answer? Oh, yes: GRINDERS.
- 84A. [Rep center?] is the GYM, the place you do reps of various weight training exercises.
- 65A. [Literally, "barley"] clues ORZO, the little rice-shaped pasta. I guess it’s more barley-shaped?
- 3D. HEAT RAYS are the [Weapons in Wells's "The War of the Worlds"].
- 8D. Who knew there was an [Old cruise missile] called the NAVAHO?
- 15D. HOOKUPS! These are [Assignations, slangily]. Or trysts. Or booty calls. Or flings.
- 87D. VAMOOSE! ["Scram!"] I like this one.
- 25A, 120A. The movie ["E.T.," e.g.] is a piece of SCI-FI. The character [E.T., e.g.] is an ALIEN.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Pun Clearance (2)”
Merl’s an inveterate wordplayer who can’t help formulating puns and anagramming phrases as he goes through the day. Not every pun lends itself to being spun off into a complete crossword theme, but Merl is a proud papa who wants to share his finest puns with the world. So in a “Pun Clearance” crossword, you get a mishmash of assorted puns:
- 23A. Mystery writer Sue Grafton is much beloved by crossword makers for her alphabetical series of “A Is…” book titles. [What goes on in Sue's new book?] is GRAFTON CORRUPTION, a pun on “graft and corruption.” The base phrase doesn’t pack much punch.
- 28A. Pachelbel’s Canon becomes TACO BELL’S CANON, a [Classical piece in which "hot sauce" is sung repeatedly]. Ha! I like the minor sound change that provides a huge change in meaning and spelling.
- 43A. [Falling asleep at one's post?] is THE CRIME OF THE SENTRY (…century).
- 53A. Ha! HALIBUTOSIS blends halibut and halitosis for [Fish breath?].
- 67A. “Peace and quiet” becomes PISAN QUIET, or [What the locals enjoy when all the Leaning Tower tourists leave?].
- 71A. It took me a bit to understand EVEL KNAVEL, which is clued as [Daredevil belly-flopper?]. Knievel –> K + navel. Eh. Not the best pun in the bunch.
- 82A. A SHOW OF HAMS (…hands) is a [Sitcom on which everyone overacts?]. I like the change in what “show” means here.
- 90A. [What the dishonest candidate called himself?] is A BUYABLE CANDIDATE (…viable…). Who’s to say he’s dishonest? If he makes no secret of the fact that his allegiance can be bought, he’s venal but honest.
- 112A/119A. Ha! I like this one too. [Car dealership's February ad slogan?] is the Shakespearean “NOW IS THE WINTER / OF OUR DISCOUNT TENT” (…discontent).
Just one unfamiliar word form lurked in the grid. 62A: [Palindromic Muslims] are IMAMI. I didn’t know that was the plural, but Merl gives it away with the “palindromic” hint. Sometimes he gives anagram hints for obscure words (this one could’ve been tagged “anag. of MIAMI” but how often do you get a palindromic entry that’s more than 5 letters? The bridge ONE NO hardly counts because, well, it’s an interesting entry only to bridge players.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “In Black and White”
The 11 theme entries are all black and white things and creatures: ORCA, SOCCER BALL, GIANT PANDA, HOLSTEIN COW, APPALOOSA, CROSSWORD IN A NEWSPAPER (not exactly a zippy phrase), DALMATIAN, SILENT MOVIE, the JOLLY ROGER flag, a SILHOUETTE, and an OREO cookie. Now, the Holstein doesn’t need COW appended to it any more than we need it to say “Appaloosa horse” or “Dalmatian dog,” does it?
Not quite sure why 97D: JUTS is clued [Beetles as a verb]. One dictionary tells me the verb beetle means “make one’s way hurriedly or with short, quick steps,” which is not about jutting. Anyone familiar with a beetles = juts sense?
Freshest entry: ATM CARDS, which are [Cash-yielding plastic]. Hey, consumer tip: They say you shouldn’t use your ATM card as a debit card at the gas pump owing to the vulnerability of gas pumps to getting PIN-stealing readers in them. So run your ATM card as a credit card at the gas station, y’all.
Updated Sunday morning:
Syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Crazy Love,” by “Natalie Dyvens” (presumably Rich Norris)
I don’t know about the rest of you, but this anagram theme—anagrams of VALENTINE’S DAY (58D)—took a lot of effort for me to get through. Usually I take to anagram themes like an otter to water, but this time it took me a long time to realize that it was an anagram theme (I didn’t chance on 58D until late in the game) and then knowing each theme entry was an anagram didn’t help me assemble those anagrams. Somewhere along the way I realized that the unfamiliar name in the byline was another anagram of VALENTINE’S DAY.
- 24A. [Run-down old Roman truck?] is SEEDY LATIN VAN.
- 32A. [Tax expiration headline?] is LEVY IS AT AN END. The dullest of the theme entries, no?
- 59A. [Out-of-work Baltic natives?] are NEEDY LATVIANS. I like the two-word anagram better. More elegant.
- 80A. [Attack the Falkland Islands' capital?] is INVADE STANLEY. This would work better if more than a teeny fraction of Americans knew the capital of the Falkland Islands. Did you know it? I did not.
- 106A. TINY DALE EVANS is cute. She’s a [Cowgirl in a crib?].
- 118A. LADY VENETIANS might be [Some gondola passengers?].
- 16D. [Shrink everyone wants to be like?] is an ENVIED ANALYST.
My two favorite clues:
- 77D. [Roped, to Pedro] is an ANAGRAM, as alluded in the 58D clue. I was thinking I needed some 7-letter Spanish word I’d never heard of. D’oh!
- 40A. The letter ZED is the [Chelsea zoo opening?]. I loved this because it reminded me of going to the Chelsea Zoo…only that marvelous zoo in England is the Chester Zoo, not Chelsea. Chelsea’s just a London neighborhood where they’d use ZED instead of zee.
There’s plenty of 7- and 8-letter fill to perk things up here—the EVIL-DOER who LIP-SYNCS, RED MEAT, LEONTYNE Price, IN AWE OF, CHEETOS, ATALANTA, NEPOTISM? Good stuff. I muffed 10D: [Concerto's extended solo passage] by following the CA with NTATA instead of the correct CADENZA. I didn’t quite know 90A: [All-time Blue Jays winningest pitcher Dave] STIEB. I’ve seen SEIDEL before—42: [Mug with a hinged lid]. Who doesn’t love a SEIDEL by any name?
Lynn Lempel’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge”
Aww, cute! Four answers are clued in relation to Valentine’s Day—8D and 57A are both [Valentine's Day offerings], RED ROSES and CHOCOLATE KISSES. And 2D: I LOVE YOU is a [Valentine's Day sentiment]. 59A: STS. is a lackluster abbreviation for saints (or streets), but it’s clued as [Valentine, et al.] in honor of the holiday. If you’re part of a couple named ENID (49A: [Oklahoma city that's home to Vance Air Force Base]) and ERNEST (14D: [Jim Varney's alter ego, ___ P. Worrell]), this is your Crossword of Romance. But wait! The plot thickens. There’s also an ELAINE (15A: ["The lily maid of Astolat" in a Tennyson poem]) who may be a rival for someone’s affections.
- 17A. [Just because] clues FOR NO GOOD REASON.
- 34A. This is not a common word. SUSPIRE means [Breathe deeply].
- All’s fair in love and war, and this Valentine’s Day puzzle has some bellicose subject matter too. 7A: DRAW FIRE is [Provoke the enemy to shoot]. 16A: REPEATER is a [Weapon for quick shooters]. And 48A: AT WAR means [Hardly on friendly terms], to say the least.
- 53A. [Sooner or later (abbr.)] clues ADV., short for adverb.
- 23D. [Fell out of step?] clues TRIPPED.
- 29D. The FOVEA is a [Tiny pit in the retina], not to be confused with the UVEA, which we see more often in crosswords.
- 44D. Took me forever to get AND HOW for ["You bet!"]. I wanted it to start with ANY, which got me nowhere.
- 50D. [Like meat fixed according to Islamic law] is HALAL. Kinda like kosher meat, but for a different religion. There’s a KFC in Chicago’s Pakistani neighborhood that uses HALAL chicken.