Richard Silvestri’s New York Times crossword
The theme involves inserting a RAT into three familiar phrases. Now, that RAT is clued as 58d: [Chinese calendar animal ... or the key to this puzzle's theme]. It’s not the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rat was back in 2008, so it’s odd timing for the clue. The altered phrases are as follows:
- 20A. [One who plunders boatloads of jack-o'-lanterns?] clues PUMPKIN PIRATE.
- 37A. [First-rate chastisement?] is a SUPREME BERATING.
- 48A. [Nickname for an unpredictable Communist?] clues ERRATIC THE RED. This one clanks a bit because a nickname for someone who’s unpredictable would be “[Blank] the Erratic,” not “Erratic the [Blank].”
I like 9A: [Was in the arms of Morpheus] for SLEPT. Remember Morpheus in The Matrix? Laurence Fishburne? Remember him as Cowboy Curtis on Pee-wee’s Playhouse?
46A: PEN is clued with a quote: ["The tongue of the mind": Cervantes].
5D: JACKAL is clued as [Follower who does the dirty work]. I need me some jackals. Any volunteers?
13D: TAG is clued as [It's game], but the possessive of “it” is “its,” without an apostrophe. If you’re capitalizing it as It, does it become a different word that takes an apostrophe for the possessive?
45D: TEHRAN, Iran, is [Home of the Azadi Tower], which is not a structure I’ve heard of before. Here’s the Wikipedia article. Dang, that tower looks like a pair of bell-bottoms.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Can I tell you how much I enjoyed this puzzle? It’s a winner on all counts. The Masters golf tournament is this week, and it’s been much in the news since Tiger Woods is playing—so it’s a timely crossword. The theme entries don’t seem related at first, but they’re all great. And the clues sparkle. This is everything an easy-to-medium crossword should be.
- 16A: [Extremely defensive state of mind] (BUNKER MENTALITY). Great phrase. A bunker in golf is a deep sand trap.
- 30A: [Physical play] (ROUGHHOUSE). You don’t see a ton of double-H answers. The rough is the deeper grass off to the sides of the fairway.
- 39A: [Abstinent one] (TEETOTALER). The tee is that little doodad you put the ball on, the better to thwack it.
- 54A: [Sam-I-Am's story] (GREEN EGGS AND HAM). Dr. Seuss! The green is the area near the hole with super-short grass around it. I can’t embed the video clip, but have you seen Jesse Jackson reading this story on Saturday Night Live? Check it out.
- 60A: This puzzle’s theme—according to Twain, it’s “a good walk spoiled” (GOLF). Nice use of a humorous quote to enhance the theme-revealing answer.
Amy’s Top Ten(ish) Answers/Clues:
- 14A: ["La __ è mobile": "Rigoletto" aria] clues DONNA. Way to sneak your name in there, Donna! See also 33D: [La Scala production], or OPERA.
- 21A: [Spats spots] are ANKLES, as in the spats Mr. Peanut wears over his shoes. You know—to keep the mud off his peanutty ankles. Good alliteration; took me a while to make sense of the clue.
- 34A: One [Joint problem] is GOUT. Please tell me I will never be afflicted with this again. I’m too young, dammit!
- 35A: [Pig Latin refusal] turns “nix” into IXNAY. Speaking of Latin, the language of ancient Rome, there’s also 5D: [Like I, in some cases], clueing ROMAN—I doubles as the Roman numeral for 1.
- 36A: [Precipitous start?] clues PEE. As in the letter P’s spelled-out name, not pee-pee.
- 43A: [Channel where Susan Lucci hawks her jewelry line] is HSN. Terrific, zippy clue for a usually-boring answer. Does anyone ever fill in HSN or QVC right away without checking the crossings because they know for a fact that X product is sold on that specific cable channel?
- 14D: [Diminutive celeb sexologist] clues DR. RUTH. The clue made me smile. You think Dr. Ruth has ever been described in exactly those words before?
- So much negativity: Those who are opposed are 18D: [Not behind]/ANTI and 52D: [Not fer]/AGIN’, the latter meaning “against” in hick-speak.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Coat of Many Colors”—Janie’s review
Boy, I liked this puzzle. A smooth solve with a theme that surprised and delighted as I came to see that it wasn’t merely the first half of the theme phrase that related to the title, but the second half as well. Smartly done. So. In her four theme phrases, Lynn builds us a “coat of many colors,” and here’s how she does it. It has (a):
17A. BLUE COLLAR [Like plumbing or carpentry jobs].
28A. SILVER LINING [Sign of hope amid the gloom]. (For better or worse, sometimes, something I’m a firm believer in…)
48A. GREENSLEEVES [Still-popular Elizabethan ballad]. Because it has one beautiful melody.
64A. RED BUTTONS [Best Actor winner for "Sayonara"].
I’m just wondering if all the component parts (the blue collar, the silver lining, the green sleeves, the red buttons) perhaps finish an otherwise yellow jacket… Regardless, that’s one colorful if (potentially) garish garment!
“I SEE” ["OK, you've made it clear"] I hear you saying. Still I gotta point out that not only did we see ARIA just yesterday, but RHEA [Actress Perlman with an ostrich-like namesake] is back already after three visits just last week. She’s appeared with a different clue each time, but there’s gotta be some way to head off this kind of repetition, no? Please!
Now that I’ve verbalized my PLEA [It may be open to bargaining] (as in a legal “plea bargain”), let’s look at some more of the puzzle’s many assets. There’s a sports motif underpinning the non-theme fill in quarterback FAVRE [Brett who was Sports Illustrated's 2007 Sportsman of the Year] (who’s really had one amazing career); SKI [Hit the slopes]; and the not-unique-to-one-game GEAR [Equipment] and STAT [Box score figure]. Then there’s the triple-play of baseball references: the real ERNIE [Cubs slugger Banks], the mythic/poem-enshrined CASEY [Mudville's mighty failure at the plate], and RELIEVER, the [Late-inning pitcher, often] both of them probably faced at some time or other.
There’s also a pair of clues/fill that speaks to inflammatory times and events in 20th century American history. First, [Anarchist convicted with Vanzetti in a 1921 murder trial], and that’s SACCO. Maxwell Anderson’s 1935 play Winterset was inspired by Sacco and Vanzetti. Then there’s [Civil rights org. whose leaders included John Lewis and Stokely Carmichael] and that’s SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which changed it’s name in 1969 to the Student National Coordinating Committee, to “reflect the broadening of its strategies” (and not always peaceful means…).
The clue [The whole kit and caboodle] is so nice, Lynn’s used it twice: once for ALL, once for EVERY BIT. Other good clues and/or fill include [Pilot study locations] for TEST SITES (“pilot” here has the sense of “model” and is not related to the occupation in aviation); the specific [11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., perhaps] for LATE SHIFT; LOSE IT [Go bonkers]; and SCARFS, clued not in relation to apparel, but as a slangy verb [Eats greedily, with "down"]. And ya wanna be careful about scarfing your food down lest you be inclined to BELCH [Big no-no at the dinner table].
Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
If Britain’s ex-prime minister John Major had been a mayor instead, MAYOR MAJOR could fit this theme. CHANGE JOBS is defined more broadly as 55A: [Find new work - or what you must do to get the three theme entries' names in this puzzle]. Indeed, one letter in each occupational name is changed to produce the surname of a person with that job:
- 17A. [Mary in "The Maltese Falcon"] clues ACTOR ASTOR. Solid, familiar, classic.
- 27A. [M.C. who drew "Relativity"] is ETCHER ESCHER. Also good.
- 42A. [Kip who released "In the Heart of the Young"] is SINGER WINGER. Say what? Who on earth is Kip Winger? (This guy). Is he really famous enough for theme entry status?
I was zipping through this puzzle with ROGUE as my answer to 15A: ["Going ___" (parody of Sarah Palin's book)]. Whoops, the parody is Going Rouge. Never even looked at the crossings TGT and EUO, which are so obviously wrong.
- 33D. [Beer Obama sent to the Canadian P.M. to settle their bet over the Olympic hockey gold medal game] is YUENGLING. My father-in-law had a case of Yuengling lager in Florida. Decent beer.
- 50A. ["Fuggedaboutit!"] clues “HELL, NO!”
- 11D. [Super-secret spot] is a HIDEY HOLE. See also 36A.
- 44D. TO [Do research on, as someone you met at a party] is to GOOGLE. It’s de rigueur these days.
What is that EVIL RENE ORGY stack doing down there? My husband’s name is René. Matt, what have you heard?
Matt’s real gift lies in hand-crafting tough crosswords with a “meta” or hidden puzzle aspect to them. If you haven’t yet checked out Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest, go sign up now and you’ll get the next contest puzzle via e-mail this Friday. Last week’s puzzle was pretty easy, but they get harder as the month progresses—and Matt promises a much tougher batch of puzzles in May. If you like to grapple with brainy challenges and don’t mind sometimes being completely stymied (I can’t always figure out the meta), this is the puzzle for you.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Fantasy Island”
Tactical error: I went back to Across Lite for this one, and there were a bunch of really long clues I couldn’t view in their entirety. All I could figure out is that there was a Georgia politician who said something ill-informed pertaining to Guam, and I hadn’t heard about it in the news so it was a gaping chasm of a theme for me. All right, to Black Ink to find out what the clues were:
- 62A. The [Georgia congressman who on 3/25/10 was worried that 7-Down was going to 25-Across and 49-Across ... which is hinted at literally in 17- and 39-Across] is HANK JOHNSON. Never heard of him.
- 7D. [See 62-Across] GUAM
- 25A, 49A. [See 62-Across] clues both TIP OVER and CAPSIZE.
- 17A. [Civil War battlefield with the second-highest casualties] is CHICKAMAUGA.
- 39A. ["Of Human Bondage" author] is SOMERSET MAUGHAM. 17A and 39A have a reversed GUAM in their midst.
Okay, that all adds up, but boy, you really need to read the full clues to understand what’s going on here. At least the crossings were straightforward enough that I filled in the whole puzzle correctly without understanding the theme. It’s worth watching the viral video Brendan linked to in his post. The congressman comes off as a tad bit batshit insane.
How fun to have a NAMBY-PAMBY ([Total wuss]) in the fill, just for the hell of it.