Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword
You know, I just bought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but I still haven’t read it. That’s scarcely an impediment to solving this puzzle, though, as LEWIS CARROLL’s poem “Jabberwocky” (from Carroll’s follow-up, Through the Looking-Glass) is part of the cultural literacy of anyone who’s addicted to wordplay. The answers to the starred clues are words from “Jabberwocky,” and the clues give the meanings of those coinages. Really? Those words have specific meanings? Now, that I did not know. Here’s the set:
- 1A. BRILLIG means [4:00 in the afternoon].
- 8A. GIMBLE means [To make holes], as with a gimlet (not the cocktail version).
- 19A. GYRE means [To go round and round].
- 24A. The BANDERSNATCH is a [Fearsome, swift-moving creature with snapping jaws].
- 52A. WABE is a [Grass plot around a sundial].
- 64A. The portmanteau SLITHY means [Lithe and slimy]. How come EEL isn’t clued as [Slithy swimmer]?
- 65A. BEAMISH means [Smiling radiantly], and apparently this word had been used for centuries before Carroll.
Assorted Alice-related answers pepper the grid:
- 47A. CAKE (with “Eat Me” written on it) is a [Wonderland food for Alice]. And a food for me, please and thank you.
- 20D. The MAD [___ Hatter] is a key character.
- 29D. [“Curiouser and curiouser!,” e.g.] is a vocal CRY. Now, why is 53D: AHOY clued as [Stern cry?]?
Cool theme there, and timely because the Tim Burton movie is out now. (Not so timely that it comes off as a product placement promoting the movie, fortunately.) All righty, what else of note is in this puzzle? This:
- Tough crossing with 46D: REALIA, or [Objects employed to show everyday life], if you weren’t sure about BEAMISH or the 61A: [Variety of grape], SULTANA.
- 14A. Ah, yes. The [Form of writing of ancient Crete]. I filled in the LINEAR part promptly but waited for 7D to tell me if it was LINEAR A (yes) or LINEAR B (no).
- 30A. That ratio is wack. Who wants the OREO to be [It’s 71% cookie, 29% creme]? I say 50/50 would be an improvement.
- 31A. [Chucklehead] is a great word, and IGNORAMUS is right behind it.
- The 6-letter city names! C’mon, who doesn’t love those? We have LAHORE (5D: [Pakistan’s so-called “Garden of Mughals”]), its rhyme MYSORE (38A: [Indian tourist city]), and also LISBON (40D; [Departure point for explorer Vasco da Gama]).
- 39A. YARD SALES gets a good clue: [Means of unloading?]. Admit it: You were worried the answer was going to be LAXATIVES, weren’t you?
- 59A. The ARAPAHO were [Some buffalo hunters of old].
- 9D. Move over, “Dies Irae,” there’s a new IRAE in town! It’s [___ caelestes (divine wrath: Lat.)], for a change.
- 11D. B-GIRL is clued as [Old-time floozie]. Now, I looked up the definitions of both words and I don’t think they’re equivalent.
- 15D. [Browner] is a thing you use to brown food, a FRY PAN. Meh, I don’t care for the clue.
- 34D. “Does a bear s— in the woods?” You better believe it! [Bears do it] clues S…ELL. As in bears and bulls, the stock market pessimists and optimists.
Jascha Smilack’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I think this marks the constructor’s debut, for two reasons: (1) I don’t recognize the distinctive name, and (2) I had no idea where the clueing wavelength was, whereas I can recognize the characteristic touches of a Donna Levin or a Dan Naddor. The theme-revealer was way down at the end: 67A: [Word to add to 20-, 37- and 54-Across to make sense of the answers] is HORSE. Actually, the three 15-letter theme answers make perfect sense without HORSE—it’s the theme clues that mystify. Like so:
- 20A. DODGING THE DRAFT (horse) is clued [Uneasy about a farm team member?].
- 37A. AFRAID OF THE DARK (horse) gets [Uneasy about a long shot?] for its clue.
- 54A. [Uneasy about an aquarium fish?] clues CHICKEN OF THE SEA(horse).
I like the theme entries’ commonality: all three phrases begin with words that relate to uneasiness, and each one’s last word can combine with HORSE to make a familiar term.
Where did this puzzle slow me down more than usual for an LAT puzzle? I had TINTED instead of TINGED for 4D: [Colored a bit], which kept me from seeing 20A for too long. I don’t know 6A: [“Iron Chef America” ched Cat ___] CORA at all. 44A: [“Flowers for Algernon” author Daniel] KEYES’ last name didn’t come readily to mind. I didn’t have 67A when I reached 50A: [Where Caligula repeatedly tried to seat his 67-Across]. Caligula wanted his HORSE in the SENATE? That’s nuts. 1D: [Call before the game] is HEADS, as in “Heads or tails?” for the coin toss. 27D: AD FEE also didn’t come to mind for [Newspaper revenue component]; feels stilted. At 53D, [Bogart’s “High Sierra” role] is apparently EARLE. Usually an LAT crossword progresses on automatic, but I actually had to do more back-and-forth work with the crossings.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 11”
No big stacks of long answers this time. Instead, there are three 15s linked together by SOVEREIGNTY (my son just informed me the other day that Illinois’s state motto is “State sovereignty, …” uh, I forget the other half. Federal union? “National union,” that’s the other part. No, Illinois’s governor has not proclaimed April to be Confederacy Rah-Rah Month.
- 1A. JUGHEAD! I see this [Moose pal] from the Archie comics every time I go to the post office. Scroll down here to see the slaughterhouse sledgehammer guy in the WPA mural—he’s wearing a Jughead-style cap, which seems incongruous as he’s poised to whack some cattle.
- 37A. We see ORCA in the puzzle plenty often, but seldom clued as the [1977 film with the tagline “Terror just beneath the surface”]. I saw that movie in the theater! Mm-hmm, can’t be surprised about Sea World tragedies after that.
- 38A. This one’s my favorite. [Like the clue to 38-Across] clues SELF-REFERENTIAL.
- 26D. A quinquennium is five years, so [Two quinquennia] make a DECADE.
- 30D. WILLIE MAYS looks good in the grid. He’s [Barry Bonds’s godfather].
- 47D. SEDONA is a resort town in Arizona as well as the [Kia minivan] my sister drives. Their license plate is their last name backwards, so of course I think of the van as their ANODES.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “E.T.”—Janie’s review
What a mixed ride I had with this one. The theme is easy enough to discern, though it has nothing to do with aliens. It’s simply four phrases in which the first word begins with “E” and the second with “T.” But for those initials, there’s nothing the phrases have in common; nor, as a group, do they have any particular zing (although one has a “Z” and three have an “X”). Not IMHO [Cyberspace “It seems to me”] (or “in my humble opinion”…). No, (with the exception of one particular pair of words) the gold in today’s puzzle is in the non-theme fill.
Okay, so first the theme fill:
- 17A. ELIZABETH TAYLOR [She played Rebecca in the 1952 “Ivanhoe”].
- 27A. EXPRESS TRAIN [Commuting option].
- 49A. ESTIMATED TAX [Predicted payment base on probable profit]. Uh, is this Patrick’s way of reminding us that April 15th is but one week away?…
- 63A. EXPERT TESTIMONY [Courtroom presentation from a pro]. I think this is my fave of the theme fill.
But look at some of the really good pop-culture-based stuff Patrick’s filled his grid with:
- HAIRSPRAY [John Waters film of 1988]. The musical of the Broadway production is pretty darned good, but this is the real McCoy.
- BETTY BOOP [Grim Natwick‘s cartoon creation]. Not sure who has the cooler name–Ms. Boop or Mr. Natwick. “Grim.” Wow.
- LEHRER [Songwriter Tom or newscaster Jim]. Each represents the best in his field.
- FIONA [“Paper Bag” singer Apple]. Holy moly. She sang this on the Today Show. At holiday time. Ho-ho-ho. Not. She’s an original though, and I like that. Her sister is vocalist Maude Maggert, who tends to sing from the American songbook. Her voice makes her a bit of an original as well.
- KARL [Malden of “Patton”].
There are also some nice, tricky clue/fill combos, such as [Give a wave?] for PERM, [Sight seer?] for EYE and [People providing arms?] for ESCORTS.
But I was made a bit uncomfortable by the inclusion (and crossing no less) of POLIO and SPASTIC. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive; or shallow and too caught up with the concept that [“Life] IS A [cabaret, old chum…”] (or certainly the solving of a CS puzzle…). There’s no DISHONOR [Shame] intended and I’ve no expectation that every bit of the puzzle will be MERRY [Full of good cheer] and project a [Radiant glow] AURA. With darker fill, I’m just more at ease with combos like STYX [Rock group with the same name as a mythical river] (associated with death…) and [“Dies] IRAE [” (hymn)] (that’s part of many masses). Or the geopolitical-linguistic KGB [Cold war org.] and [Da’s opposite] NYET together. Or both “NAE!” [Highlands “Hardly!”] and SAY “YES” [Consent]. But, of course, that’s all imoo (in my obnoxious opinion)…
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Zee Change”
- 17A. [Warning sign when sea levels are high?] clues CAYS CLOSED. This one plays on “case closed.” I pronounce CAYS like the word “keys,” but “kays” is also an attested pronunciation.
- 25A. [Female deer with venomous bits?] are LETHAL DOES (lethal dose).
- 35A. I have a lot of fleece jackets. FLEAS JACKETS would be an [Itchy way to keep warm?].
- 49A. Scary Spice of the Spice Girls turns into SCARY SPIES, or [Agents who hardly manage to make themselves inconspicuous?].
- 60A. [People chosen to get plenty of vitamin A?] are those chosen people, the CARROT JEWS (carrot juice).
Favorite clues and answers:
- 34A. PHD is the [Graduate degree held by boxer Wladimir Klitschko]. Who knew?
- 28A. LOOFA is the [Shower object at the center of Bill O’Reilly’s 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit]. Also known in this setting as “falafel.” (See also 36D: FAVA BEAN, [Alternative to a chickpea, in some falafels].)
- 11D. MARMOSET is fun to say. It’s a [Certain New World monkey].