Terrific news x 2! First, reports of my retirement from blogging were premature. Hey, my Friday post went up on Thursday night, when it was still April Fools’ Day. But everyone had mostly gotten the pranks out of their system by that hour, so a surprising number of people fell for it and wrote me very sweet notes of appreciation. (Man, I should fake-quit more often!) So no, I’m not leaving and Jeffrey’s not taking over. We’d planned weeks ago that he would cover for me April 3 and 4 when I was traveling, and this Loki-the-Trickster opportunity was too good to pass up.
The second item of good news is that we’re getting another themeless puzzle each weekend. Starting this coming weekend (maybe), the Washington Post will add a themeless 15×15 from the Peter Gordon family on top of Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday puzzle. Peter reports that five constructors will appear in rotation: Patrick Berry, Frank Longo, Trip Payne, Mike Shenk, and Karen M. Tracey. Please join me in saying “Wow!” and “Hooray!” and extending congratulations to the team. These constructors are pretty much incapable of crafting a themeless puzzle I dislike, and I look forward to seeing their work much more often now.
Nancy Salomon’s New York Times crossword
All righty, the theme is “[blank] AND [blank]“: TOWN AND GOWN, STARS AND BARS, GLOOM AND DOOM, and WEAR AND TEAR. For that third one, I prefer “doom and gloom,” but both versions are used. It’s a straightforward Monday theme, no trickery or stratagems.
- 3D. [Boast of some shampoos] clues LOW PH. This sounds like something harking back to the ’70s. Are shampoos still advertising a low pH?
- 49D. DOTARD is a [Senile sort]. I love that word.
- 28D. SHOED is clued [Protected, as the feet]. Isn’t it really shod? Is shoed for horses? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary doesn’t specify, but SHOED for feet rather than hooves looks weird to me.
- 48D. [Chicago alternative to O'Hare] is MIDWAY. I’ve flown via Midway twice in recent months and it has much to recommend it. Less of a schlep to get where you’re going because it’s much smaller than O’Hare, and yet it still has a Brioche Dorée French croissant vendor. What’s not to love?
- 18D. [Old-time actress Talbot or Naldi] is NITA. I’m astonished that New York Congresswoman NITA Lowey wasn’t in the clue—isn’t her name worlds more familiar to most Americans than Talbot or Naldi?
Bob Klahn’s crosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Have a Heart”—Janie’s review
- 17A. FAINT PRAISE [Microrave?]. For the purposes of the theme, that’s as in “faint heart never won fair lady.” Here’s a bit of background on the phrase whose use in print is documented back to the 16th century. (Neither did faint praise, I should add… [ever win...].)
- 27A. CANDY-STRIPER [Hospital volunteer named for a red-and-white jumper]. This phrase makes me think of “Cherry Ames” who, before she was a Student Nurse, was a candy-striper. The crime-solving Ms. Ames has been every kind of nurse you can imagine. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of titles (many of which, forgive me, sound like they could make for a porn series…)! And you know what a candy heart is, don’tcha?
- 45A. BROKEN RECORD ["You can say that again" addressee -- not!]. But a dealing with someone who’s a broken record is probably easier than nursing a broken heart. Probably…
- 60A. PURPLE PROSE [Bulwer-Lytton's "It was a dark and stormy night ...," e.g.]. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is an annual event where some very good (and funny writers) do their best to write their worst. Do check out the Lyttony of Grand Prize Winners link. No Purple Heart awarded for surviving the experience, but in some cases, it wouldn’t be altogether inappropriate…
I know you’ll be shocked (shocked!) to hear it, but once again we’re treated to an array of clue/fill combos that positively sing. Or zing. Or sting. And they don’t always belong to the longest fill (which happens to be quite strong), which simply tends to keeps everything lively. To wit:
- [It's a turnoff]/EXIT. An automotive reference and not slang for something that causes lack of interest or distaste.
- [Sharp feller]/AXE. Literally.
- [Handle for oodles of poodles]/FIFI.
- [Ready to be drawn]/ON TAP–which relates to [Strong lager beer]/BOCK, which relates to [Beer barrel]/KEG, which (plus an “S”) can be anagrammed to EKGS [Short reading from the heart].
- ["White Rabbit" girl]/ALICE followed by [Updike's "Rabbit, ___] RUN ["].
- [Letter voiced by a Greek giant?]/PHI. (Think “Phee, phi, pho, phum!”)
- ["The Wizard of Oz" composer Harold]/ARLEN followed by ["]WE’RE [___ off to see the Wizard"].
- [Count on the piano]/BASIE. Surname here, not verb.
- [It's a cinch in Japan]/OBI.
- [Jailbird]/CON followed by [Big Bird's buddy]/ELMO.
- [Truths we hold to be self-evident]/AXIOMS. “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” Name that document!
- [Got rid of a hero?]/ATE. Does not relate to the Purple Heart…
- [Slugs that leave trails]/TRACERS. Tricky! These. Not these…
- [Parrot or ape]/ECHO. Verb not noun.
- [Fiddler on the reef] (and not the “roof”)/CRAB. This guy.
- [Oop's main squeeze]/OOOLA. This comic strip first appeared in 1933 and, with new graphic artists and writers is still goin’ strong.
- [None too pleased]/UPSET followed by [None too trusting]/LEERY.
- [High-pitched reed]/OBOE followed by [High-pitched hollers]/EEKS.
- [Palindromic punch]/PEP (noun not verb…) and [Pizarro's palindromic pelf]/ORO.
- [Service station?]/PEW. Church service. Love this one.
My nits are two… we saw NEBULA, a wonderful word, just last week. Too good a word to see so soon again, imoo. And then there’s that word AGAIN [Not for the first time] appearing in the clue [Gets gats again] for REARMS. Kosher? I don’t love it, but I gotta let it slide.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Brendan can’t pass up a challenge, so last week when I asked if he wanted to take a stab at filling Matt Jones’s themeless grid, he kept the basic 4×10 stacks feature. But Brendan rejiggered the black squares into a less Jonesy-weird pattern.
Both puzzles have cool stuff and both…have things I don’t love. Some of Brendan’s fill was only faintly familiar to me—in fact, there was a surprising density of such answers. JOINT STOCK, MEL KIPER JR., SLYLOCK FOX, GAME ENGINE, and the wildly unfamiliar DAGAN? Whoa.
And 62A: YLEM is crazy, but I’ve seen that more than the preceding five answers: it’s a [Theoretical substance from which the universe was created].
I like that 1-Across starts with a BANG, clued with [It's good to to start off with one]. And the timely post-Easter clue for 50A is fun—BIT OFF is clued [Removed, as chocolate Easter bunnies' heads]. We have a solid Fannie May choco-bunny who retains her anatomical integrity, but she’ll probably get chomped at after-school snack time today.
Todd McClary’s Los Angeles Times crossword
For whatever reason, today’s puzzle isn’t posted in Across Lite at Cruciverb yet, so I was shunted to the online version of the puzzle. I right-click to change from Across to Down in Across Lite but in Flash? It calls up a menu. (Instead, the space bar changes your direction.) It doesn’t skip over already-filled boxes, so I find myself forgetting and just entering the missing letters, taking me from *PO** to SOF** instead of to SPOOF. Sigh. On a Monday puzzle, the clues are so easy, I go on automatic while navigating through the grid to fill in the answers, but a foreign interface mucks me up and the puzzle takes me twice as long. Do not like. Grumble, grumble.
The theme is summed up by the last theme answer, PHOTO FINISH. The other theme answers—PENALTY SHOT, BIG PICTURE, and GINGERSNAP—end with words that are synonyms for “photo.” It’s a rock-solid Monday theme with lively theme answers.
Highlights in the fill:
- 34A. KAZOO is a [Buzzing instrument].
- In Synthetic Fabric Corner, we have 38A: LYCRA, a [Stretchy synthetic], and 53A: GORE-TEX, a [Waterproof fabric].
- 5D. SYLPH is a [Graceful woman]. I like words with no non-Y vowels: sylph, nymph, rhythm, sly and wry and dry (all good forms of wit), myrrh. But hey! Where is the male equivalent of this word? Those Olympic ski jumpers are slender and sylph-like men.
- 32D. HOOEY is [Balderdash]. Also called malarkey, baloney, hogwash, claptrap, or codswallop.
- 50D. SUDOKU is indeed a [Puzzle with number squares]. Hey, anyone know the schedule for Southwest Airlines’ Spirit Magazine puzzles? Every so often, Eric Berlin links to a collection of terrific variety-grid puzzles in Spirit. Those were in the December issue, I think, but I’d printed them out from Eric’s link before my 12/28 flight. The March and April issues had only a standard daily-sized crossword and a hefty and challenging SUDOKU section.
- 51D. During spring break, I bought a box of Walgreens [Moist towelette]s, or WET NAPs. The product name wasn’t WET NAP, though. No, ma’am. The box was emblazoned Thick Moist Wipes. Really? That’s what they came up with? This could be one of the worst product names ever.