Yep, I’ve got some catch-up to do here. The Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle page finally posted last week’s crossword today, as well as this week’s puzzle. And I never got around to doing the Spiral over the weekend.
Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
I thought I had a leg up since I had done the Tuesday puzzle already for the Chicago Crossword Tournament. But ho! The Tuesday puzzle at the tournament is actually next Tuesday’s crossword. I opened up the current puzzle in the applet and was surprised to discover Paula’s byline…and that the time I’d spent writing about Oliver Hill’s puzzle hadn’t put me ahead of the game tonight. Drat!
So. Paula’s puzzle, not Oliver’s. Rewind to the beginning. The theme is different spellings of the “Maine” sound:
- 17A. CHARLEMAGNE is the [King who was the son of Pepin the Short].
- 23A. PUBLIC DOMAIN is the [Post-copyright status] for works no longer covered by copyright.
- 37A. CHICKEN CHOW MEIN looks great across the middle of the menu grid. It’s a [La Choy product], and I can’t remember the last time a La Choy product was in my house.
- 49A. Geo trivia! The [Easternmost U.S. capital] is AUGUSTA, MAINE.
- 60A. Is BRAIDED MANE an actual, in-the-language thing? Clued as [Fancy equine coif].
The two long Down answers are great:
- 11D. PRIVATE EYE is clued with two examples: [Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade].
- 28D. The SPICE GIRLS are/were Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty. My favorite was always Scary. How about you?
Among the tougher and/or more interesting clues were these ones:
- 1A. ["What did Delaware?" "I don't know, but ___" (old joke)] clues ALASKA. Go press the red button at instantrimshot.com.
- 14A. TART UP is clued [Decorate flamboyantly, in slang]. I use that term every December when I see houses bedecked in holiday lights.
- 21A. Ah, I like this one. The OHIO is a [River that ends at Cairo]. Is it Cairo, Illinois? (That’s pronounced kay-ro, you know.)
- 1D. ATCO is the [Classic record label for the Bee Gees and Cream]. I keep seeing this one in crosswords. If you didn’t know it, make a mental note of the name.
- 5A. Whoa, high-end German. KULTUR is [Civilization, to Freud].
- 7D. Yesterday, SAPPORO was an Olympic city. Today, it’s a beer. [Sapporo competitor] clues ASAHI.
- 18D. I like a good [Crown ___] MOLDING. Are they still called crown moldings if they’re a foot and a half below the ceiling, or do they morph into picture rails?
- 32A. MCM, or 1900, is the [Year McKinley was elected to a second term].
- 39D. [Kit ___ (candy bars)] clues KATS. This one ain’t hard, it’s just delicious.
- 45D. [Excessively fast] clues STARVE, though the wording is unnecessarily and weirdly deceptive. I don’t think one can “fast excessively,” and “excessively undereat” is not the way anyone would phrase that concept.
- 47D. UNADON is not Italian for “one godfather.” It’s a [Japanese eel and rice dish].
- 57D. Good ol’ [Jug handle, in archaeology], the ANSA of eld.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Burn After Reading: it’s what remains”
I’m a tad surprised that 34A: ASHEN ([White from fright]) wasn’t clued as being a hint to theme, but then again, Jonesin’ puzzles do have titles that provide the hint. Each theme entry incorporates some extra ASH at the end, so the theme could be more about the end of a cigarette than about Eyjafjallajokull’s spewing of ash. Here are the ASHed phrases:
- 20A. [Loretta Swit's nickname, with "The"?] could have been THE DIVINE MISS M*A*S*H, as she played Major Houlihan on the TV series M*A*S*H. The Divine Miss M, of course, is Bette Midler.
- 25A. [Tried to buzz off of a fertilizer ingredient?] clues GOT HIGH ON POTASH. I’m a sucker for any mention of potash. Why? Because potassium is named after pot-ashes, and how many Latinate element names have such homely roots? Now, the roots of the theme entry are another story. “Got high on pot” seems a little redundant. As opposed to “got high on life”?
- 43A. PREPARATION HASH is a [Meat-and-potatoes dish used to hone your culinary skills?]. Gotta love a linkage between Preparation H and food.
- 48A. This one splits its ASHed word in two. [Scary creatures that can't be bought with plastic?] are MONSTERS IN CASH, breaking up Monsters, Inc. into IN CASH.
Nice assortment of base phrases—a nickname, a verb phrase, an ointment that people joke about, and a Pixar movie.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Six Pack”—Janie’s review
This was yet another puzzle for which I gave myself the “D’oh!” prize. I thought at first that the theme might be related to slang terms for parts of the human anatomy, or then to thirst-quenching alcoholic beverages. Wrong both times, of course. As things play out, the last word of each theme phrase can be paired with the word “pack.” That’s direct enough and kinda fun. But I was baffled by the title as I’d seen only four theme answers–so why was it called “Six Pack”? Oho. There are two more. “O, me of little faith”…
Gail’s “six pack” is comprised of vacuum pack, cold pack, wolf pack, Rat Pack, hot pack and power pack as delivered by:
- 17A. HAND VACUUM [Dirt Devil, e.g.].
- 11D. CATCH COLD [Get the sniffles].
- 27A. LONE WOLF [Solitary sort]. This was one of the two that eluded me for so long…
- 34D. SMELL A RAT [Suspect something fishy]. Hmm. Never thought about the variety of species that are maligned when it comes to idioms of questionability. “Gamy” is another word that sorta fits, too. Others?
- 46A. NOT SO HOT [Less than wonderful]. The other “pack” that (almost) got away. I’m less familiar with hot packs per se, but they’re more than legit–and handy not only for spot application, but for keeping your hands warm if you have to be outside in cold weather for any length of time.
- 59A. WORLD POWER [United States of America, e.g.].
I’m wondering if CORPORATE JET is one of those theme ideas that was left on the cutting room floor.
Among the non-theme fill, I like the grid-balanced pair of compounds PEA POD (imaginatively clued as [Vegetable vessel]) and ICE CAP [Polar sight]. CD CASE, COCKPIT and MOVES ON are other livelier entries. I’m always more energized by a puzzle with cluing that’s a bit twisty, so I was grateful at least for ["Liquid diet" drinkers]. This leads us not to the ENSURE SET, but to SOTS.
Pete Collins’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Poetic License”
Let’s be brief here, because there’s a short stack of IHOP buttermilk pancakes with my name on it out there.
Theme: I didn’t notice the theme last night when I solved this puzzle. Like it says in the theme entries, which are essentially unclued: EACH PAIR OF CLUES / CREATES A RHYME / IT SEEMS I’VE GOT / TOO MUCH FREE TIME. Indeed, each pair of clues rhymes. Mind you, 42A: [Puts into the pot] / 44A: [Word following "dot"] makes for lousy, meaningless poetry. It’s a testament to constructor Pete and editor Patrick Berry’s skills that I didn’t go through the puzzle grumbling at awkward clues—I didn’t notice a thing. It’s more fun to read the clues aloud, Dr. Seuss–style, than to ponder the fill.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This theme is all [RIGHT] with me. That word is three things: a SYNONYM FOR “JUST,” a HOMONYM FOR “WRITE,” and an ANTONYM FOR “LEFT.” If I’ve seen a theme along these lines before, it was ages ago—it feels fresh and interesting.
In the fill, I like COMIC STRIP, WEAK LINK, and AT GUNPOINT, but I wouldn’t have called [Ramada, for one] a MOTOR INN any time in the last 30 years. Does Ramada still use the term? And how come I’ve never seen “motelier”? That should be a word.
Solid Tuesday offering here, with a mix of familiar words and more crosswordese-ish fill (SROS, ADEN, EDAM). Solvers only comfortable with the easier spectrum of crosswords need to learn those words to advance in their hobby, so I think it’s completely fair to include a handful of those in any easy newspaper puzzle.
Will Shortz’s 4/18 second Sunday puzzle in the New York Times, “Spiral”
I never timed myself on a Spiral puzzle before, though I’ve been doing them for years and years in Games magazine. They always seemed quick and disposable, and my recorded solving time confirms that yep, they’re quick puzzles.
I just saw a photo of 15-18: [Former New York Times crossword editor Will] WENG on Saturday. Bob Petitto brought a bunch of his crossword memorabilia (old books, etc.) to the Chicago Crossword Tournament, and among the items was a snapshot of Bob with the two Wills, Weng and Shortz. Bob and Will S. looked like babies; couldn’t have been much more than 30.
I used to be a dental editor, and I can’t say I’ve ever encountered the word FORETOOTH (33-25: [Incisor]). Gareth, is this a veterinary term?
I am starting yet another paragraph with the word “I.” I’m on a roll!
I can’t say I’m familiar with the phrase TO DO GRACE (100-92: [Reflect credit upon, in the words of Shakespeare]). I trust someone more literary than I can educate us as to which play(s) this is in. Does anyone still use this? “You do me grace”?
I don’t care for the answer to 69-59: [Who wrote "Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." (2 wds.)]. DOCTOR SEUSS looks all kinds of wrong. I have it on good authority that Doctor Who is never to be abbreviated as Dr. Who (“The Doctor” is not named Who), and that the old TV show Mr. Ed oughtn’t be expanded to MISTER ED in crosswords. Similarly, I’ve never seen Doctor Seuss spelled out like that. He’s Dr. Seuss.