Louis Hildebrand’s New York Times crossword
It’s an unusual grid design, isn’t it? We’ve got those 9s and 13s criss-crossing in the center, with all those 6s and 7s radiating out like a four-petaled flower. The word count is on the lowish side, 66 entries, but the puzzle doesn’t much feel like a low-word-count crossword. (That’s a good thing.)
Let’s sashay through some clues:
- 16A. [Brutal force] sounds generic but specifically clues the GESTAPO. (Breakfast test issues for anyone?)
- Hot or not? 18A: FAD is clued with [It's not hot for long], while 19A: [They're not hot] clues WINTERS. Northern winters are hot in the Southern hemisphere, but they call December a summer month down there.
- 25A: Monthly RENTS are signaled by this description: [People may be put out if they're not put up]. Are we being deliberately led to putting up TENTS and wondering who pouts if TENTS are not erected?
- 30A. Put your astronomy glossary down. The [Figure seen on the lunar surface] is none other than Mr. NEIL ARMSTRONG. You know, his fellow ex-astronaut Buzz Aldrin is going on Dancing With the Stars, I hear.
- 38A. Did you think of in vitro fertilization and wonder how to make it 5 letters long? The informal word THUNK is clued [Conceived in a nonstandard way]. No question mark for this clue?
- 47A. Crazy HANS ARP is Jean Arp half the time. He was a [Worker in the medium of torn and pasted paper]. Speaking of legendary 20th century artists, 9D: ART is ["A lie that makes us realize the truth," per Picasso]. Good quote. See, that’s where I like quotes in crosswords—in the clues, lending flavor and enlightenment.
- 50A. SIDEARM is clued as [Sword or dagger]. Whoa. I never knew that sidearms were blades rather than guns.
- 14D. I kinda figured [Early flag warning] had to do with football refs or sailing, but no: It’s the “DON’T TREAD ON ME” motto on an early flag. Which early flag? Two nerd points to the first commenter to answer without looking it up.
- 15D. [West Jordan is near it] clues the GREAT SALT LAKE in Utah. West Jordan is a suburb of Salt Lake City, and I spent a few nights there in 2006 when attending the Sundance film festival.
- 20D. TEAMSTERS are [Semi professionals] in that they’re professionals who sometimes drive semis.
- 26D. [They were brought down by Olympians] clues the TITANS. I (re-)learned this piece of mythology quite recently from a book I bought for my son. The highlights of the Greek deities for a nine-year-old, of course, revolve around Uranus.
- 29D. Regular viewers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood may have had a leg up on the clue [Members of the genus Troglodytes]. Troglodytes aedon is the house WREN.
Gary Whitehead’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Here we’ve got a fairly easy puzzle with a fun theme, plus fairly smooth fill with some sparkle to it. The theme entries add one pen stroke to the letter N at the end of familiar phrases to turn it into an M:
- 17A. [Suggestion to singer Lennox after a garlicky meal?] is “ANNIE, GET YOUR GUM.” Annie Lennox was great in the early ’80s as part of Eurythmics and she remains great today.
- 24A. We’re still in the musical arena when the Wings tune “Band on the Run” becomes BAND ON THE RUM, or [Jamaican group winding down after a gig?]. “On the rum”…that doesn’t quite work for me. One isn’t “on” alcohol the way one is “on drugs.” And the RUM part really doesn’t work for me, from a taste standpoint. A couple of the Jacques Torres chocolates I brought back from NYC were liquid caramel with rum inside milk chocolate, and…eww. Yuck. Caramel ruined, chocolate ruined.
- 45A. Leaving the music world, we encounter a [Moocher at McDonald's?], a HAMBURGER BUM. It took me a while to see this answer because the Hamburglar was intruding on my thoughts.
- 58A. It’s tax season, so the [Feared words from an accountant?] of HERE COMES THE SUM can apply to a hefty tax bill. Or a refund! Maybe they’re welcomed words.
Two theme entries evoke Paul McCartney, one mentions Annie Lennox…and one is based on hamburger buns?
Apparently there are no famous women named LARISSA because that’s clued as a [City in Thessaly]. That’s in Greece, and Larissa or Larisa has about 113,000 people.
Today’s crosswordese heraldry word is 52A: ORLE, the [Outer area of an escutcheon].
- 13A: [Lincoln feature]/BEARD crosses 2D: [Tiny amount]/CENT. Ah, yes, the bearded Lincoln penny.
- 1D. Trap! ["__ le roi!": French Revolution cry] should have tipped me off that it was the anti-king A BAS rather than the pro-king VIVE…and yet I went awry here.
- 20A. [Half of the Brady bunch, to Carol] are STEPSONS.
- 36D: [Ticket order?]/ADMIT ONE might have you thinking that 32D: [You might get one right after being seated] has something to do with people seated by an usher at the theater, but no—you get a MENU after being seated at a restaurant. You might also sit there for awhile before anyone brings menus—isn’t that annoying?
- 51D. [Carpenter with a soothing voice] is KAREN Carpenter. I hear she played a mean set of drums, too. I don’t suppose today’s schoolchildren still sing “Sing, Sing a Song” or “Top of the World” like we had to in grade-school music class in the ’70s? I wonder what the equivalent is today.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Tin Canned”—Janie’s review
Doug’s given us a puzzle with one of my fave themes–the kind that involves adding letters to a familiar phrase or a name to produce a new one. The added letters form the word “tin.” The “tin” is “canned” because it appears within the base phrase. Mostly. I’m confused about one of the choices (41A…), but I’ll get to that. Let’s look at the theme fill.
- 20A. Garage sale + “tin” = GARAGE SALTINE [Mechanic's light snack?]. This is just goofy and I love it. First of all, I don’t think of mechanics indulging in “light” snacks. Sandwiches or doughnuts maybe. But a single saltine? Did the mechanic wash his hands first? And yes, I’m assuming the mechanic is a man. Could be a woman. But not the way I imagine the scenario. Like I said, goofy.
- 32A. Sky diving + “tin” = STINKY DIVING [Snorkeling near a garbage scow?]. Now this one is just brilliant in my book. Laugh-out-loud funny for the strong visual it creates. Not to mention the olfactory factor.
- 41A. Ted Turner + “tin” = TINTED TURNER [Actress Lana after a salon job?]. Huh? What happened to the “canned” component? Front-loading the base phrase is its own gimmick, no? I’m not sure how this one got in here, but I don’t think it’s the theme’s friend…
- 55A. Prairie dog + “tin” = PRAIRIE DOTING [Affection in a covered wagon?]. See–this one is just sweet. And once again, there’s a strong visual before and after.
The remainder of the puzzle has some more fill that’s been RE-RUN from this week’s puzzles (CARL and SODA and PEST)… but it also has LINGERIE [Victoria's Secret merchandise], which (who knows?) could be made of LACE, because it isn’t just [Doily material]. For baseball fans, there’s UMPIRED [Officiated on a diamond]; for football fans, NY GIANT [Super Bowl XLII champ, briefly]; for links lovers, [Golfer Nick] FALDO. I never seem to remember him , but this wiki piece should help. Reading it also makes me wonder how much Tiger learned from him…
Among my favorite clue/fill pairs today: the side-by-side “classical” pair of the SIREN [Mythical temptress] (from Greece) and OVID [Poet of ancient Rome]. Then there’s the porcine pair: [Piglet's cry], which is “OINK!” and [Toddler's "piggies"], which are TOES. Finally, we have [Start of a poker hand] which is the DEAL; and [Leader of the pack?] (of cards…) which is the ACE. That’s one nice clue!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Hooha”
I had to e-mail Brendan to understand the theme. I saw that the theme entries began with the words SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY, but…who is Brendan seeing next Tuesday, and why should I care? He told me to Google it, and here’s the explanation. London slang! Live and learn. Aren’t crosswords educational? (The puzzle’s title, “Hooha,” is also slang for the female genitalia, but not in the insulting way of “see you next Tuesday.”)
Brendan says all the pregnancy-related fill is a red herring. But look at it all! AUG. is clued as [When a May baby is conceived: Abbr.]. There’s the LABOR focused on in Lamaze class. There’s a PREMIE (variant of “preemie”) who, if born in May, was probably conceived somewhere between SEPT and DEC. And then there’s the Russian author, [First Russian Literature Nobelist Ivan] BUNIN or, as I like to call him, “Ivan Bunin the Oven.”
Brendan Quigley’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Film Series”
Yes, it’s a movie theme, but no, it shouldn’t run in Oscar week, not when March 14 is a week after the Oscars! The theme is π, and the movie American Pie is remade into AMERICAN PI. The math nerds like to celebrate Pi Day on 3/14.
The other theme entries are movie titles that begin with THREE, POINT, ONE, FOUR. Can’t say I’ve seen (or even heard of) ONE MISSED CALL, but then the mere description of most Japanese horror films scares me enough. Don’t want to watch ‘em!