Another Thursday night, blogging the Friday puzzle, looking at the lineup of other puzzles yet to solve and blog about…one gets burned out. I’m nearing the fifth anniversary of Diary of a Crossword Fiend, and I’ve said all I have to say. So in a day I’ll be turning over the reins to Jeffrey, a.k.a. Crosscan. The site should remain largely the same, but Jeffrey will write about his “favourites” and when he uses the word “about,” it will sound like “aboot.” (He’s Canadian, you know.) So give a warm Nourth American welcome to your new bloug houst. So long, folks. It’s been a gas.
Alan Olschwang’s New York Times crossword
Either the long day of margaritas and alligator watching has dulled my senses or this puzzle felt kinda flat. I know people say MENTAL TELEPATHY (17A; [Special communication]), but it’s a redundant phrase, is it not? Is there some other kind of telepathy that isn’t mental? There were a couple oddball plurals—32A: [King-high games]/ECARTES and 60A: [“Funeral Blues” poet and family]/AUDENS. Can we pluralize a card game like that? OSSE, RANEE, Spanish partial ES SU, the SLA, and ASEA left me cold too. And musicals! Two Best Musical Tony winners, plus the star of a movie version of one of those musicals is Too Much Broadway for Amy. (At least AVENUE Q and LES MIZ are relatively contemporary and I wasn’t being asked for ’50s and ’60s Broadway tidbits.)
I did like these things:
- The Q-without-U in 1A: COQ AU VIN ([Certain fricassee]).
- The 9A clue, [Around-the-world race]. I went ahead and filled in LE MANS, which worked with most of the crossings, but it’s the race of HUMANS. Good mislead.
- 47A. ROPE-A-DOPE is Muhammad Ali’s [Rumble in the Jungle strategy].
- 61A. SQUEEZED puts a Q and a Z in the bottom row! The clue’s [In a tight spot financially].
- 49D. Omigod, did I read that? I didn’t know BETTE was the name of the [Greene who wrote “Summer of My German Soldier”], but I think my sister and I read that book when we were about 13. Ah, yes, here it is. We might have just seen the ’78 made-for-TV movie adaptation. The cute German POW, Anton, turns out to have been played by Bruce Davison, and the young actress I wanted to be at the time, Kristy McNichol, co-starred. That’s a weird way to clue BETTE, but I like the blast from the past.
Oh, my. OMEI is utterly unfamiliar to me. The clue is 21A: [Sacred Buddhist mountain]. Wikipedia redirects to Mount Emei.
I did learn the word EPACTS just recently. These are [Periods added to harmonize the lunar and solar calendars] (43D). It’s timely because EPACTS are used to calculate the dates for Easter. Sure, it’d be easier to just stick with something like “the first Sunday in April,” but nobody asked me for my advice on the ecclesiastical calendar. But really, pegging it to a certain week like Mother’s Day or Election Day seems so practical.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Side Splitting”—Janie’s review
No, the title does not describe a level of hilarity, but is instead a cryptic way of telling us that the theme fill will “split” the word “side”–and that it does, so that each of the phrases begins with the letters “SI” and ends with the letters “DE.” Martin does this in three phrases (a mere 37 theme squares), but each one–as the saying goes–is “cherce.”
- 17A. SILVER LODE [Valuable deposit].
- 37A. SIMPSONS EPISODE [“Homer’s Odyssey,” for one]. This show actually does tend to be side-splitting–and I was very happy about the clue’s misdirection. [Cartoon bad boy] BART was in yesterday’s puzzle, so it was nice to see [Maggie’s sister] and LISA show up today.
- 60A. SIXTH GRADE [School year for students who are usually 11-12 years old]. Or, [Humor-level of no small part of a Simpsons episode]…
Martin has woven his fill into a grid whose open corners house lovely triple columns, for 6-letter words in the NW and SE, and for 8-letter words in the NE and SW. This is how we get such strong fill as AXIOMS [Saws], CALL UP [Summon for service], SALAMI [Deli offering], IMITATOR [Parrot] and MONOTONE [Boring drone]. Of the 7-letter variety, SPLOTCH [Big stain] and SPREADS [Cracker toppers] ain’t too shabby neither. (I sorta wish the latter had been clued in connection with real estate, however. I was reminded of that usage seeing ELVIS clued as [Graceland name]. Have never been there, but I’m told that for fans–of the man, and of that period of pop culture and music–it’s definitely worth the price of admission.)
The single regatta oar of two days ago has a gained a mate, and the word appears as OARS [Crew equipment] today; and ESP [Meeting of the minds?] was in yesterday’s puzzle. Happily this pair of repeaters is offset by a pair of footwear clues: [Oxford ties?] and [Oxford preserver] for LACES and SHOETREE. The first clue aims to get you thinking of Oxford University-related neckwear. Cagey. (Hmm. Don’t a lot of students from [Harrow rival] ETON end up attending Oxford?)
I also like the formal RECANT [Take back] and the slangy [Hot] for STOLEN. And for reasons I’ll never understand, my favorite clue/fill today would be (the not so calm) [“Calm down!”] “COOL IT!” pair. I’m thinking it kind of summons up the moment in Moonstruck when Cher slaps a besotted Nicolas Cage and exhorts her younger suitor to “Snap out of it!!”
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20A. [Caucus member changing his mind about a candidate?] is a DE-NOMINATOR. You can trace “denominate” back to a Latin word formed with the de- prefix, meaning “away, formally” rather than “not.”
- 30A. ANTI-PHONY is clued [For the real thing?]. Antiphony means “antiphonal singing, playing, or chanting.” Great, dictionary, you’re a real help! Antiphonal means “sung, recited, or played alternately by two groups.” The Latin/Greek roots of the word do include the anti- prefix, but meaning “in return” rather than “against.”
- 49A. UNRELATED is clued as [Took back one’s story?]. The root of “relate” is the Latin relat-, “brought back.” So if relating a story is bringing it back and you undo that…where does the story go?
- 58A. [Downsizing result?] is DISPOSITION, when you are deprived of your position. I am tired of looking at etymologies now.
Some of the fill is tough, hence this puzzle being slated to run on a Friday. REGNANT means [Ruling], as a queen. LEONORA is a [Name associated with three Beethoven overtures], and I don’t know that at all. Maybe there’s antiphony involved, as I know nothing about that either. There’s quite a bit of other music in this crossword, too: A MAJOR, DORATI, JUSTIN Timberlake, ALLEGRO, OFF-KEY, and AMATI. Uncle!
Nina Rulon-Miller’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Say G’s”
The theme is two-word phrases in which both words start with G. GERMAINE GREER, GOLLY GEE, the Jolly GREEN GIANT, GENERATION GAP, AND GOLD’S GYM are all familiar to me, but the [Loose black clerical vestment] called a GENEVA GOWN? Never heard of it. I am just not up on my clerical vestment vocabulary outside of the ALB.
In the contest for the least familiar non-theme entry, it’s a tie! I didn’t know that the Magi had an adjectival form: MAGIAN, or [Like some Nativity-scene figures]. And H.R. GIGER, the [Swiss surrealist who did set design on “Alien”], was a need-every-crossing answer.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
I call foul on the clue for RAZE: [Level flats flat]. If you’re calling ’em “flats,” that signals the British spelling RASE. Speak American, Quigley! They’re apartments!
Top entries: CHUTZPAH, cheesy A NEW HOPE, [Southern ___] GOTHIC, HOOTIE, EX-PATS, DIWALI, and DOLOR. (I like those -or nouns. Terror, rigor, horror, splendor, turgor, dolor.)
Low spots: I hit EASERS right off the bat at 1D. And a non-Saarinen EERO? Make a note of this, people: EERO Koivistoinen is a Finnish jazz musician.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Changing Temperatures”
Fahrenheit? Celsius? They’re interchangeable in this puzzle—just swap out a C for an F or vice versa. [Movement advocating itchy heads?] is the RIGHT TO LICE movement. Power cable becomes POWER FABLE, or [Moral lesson about the dangers of electricity?]. There’s also the canine ARF DE TRIOPMHE, the feline CAT TUESDAY, and the potatoesque RALLYING FRY.
Best clue ever for ED AMES: [Crooner/actor whose albums are widely available in moldy garage sale bins].
Freshest fill: OWN GOAL is a [Soccer boner], or mistake. Do not kick or bump the ball into your own goal net, as it gives the other team a point. A’IIGHT…well, this might have one more I than it needs, unless it’s especially drawn out.