Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
What a beaut! This 72-worder is packed with entertainingly fresh fill and Scrabbly letters. The grid is similar to the seven-heavy ones I typically grumble about, but there are some black squares giving each corner four or five 7s instead of six 7s. Does that loosen things up and facilitate the inclusion of cooler answers? If so, then I’m all for black squares.
Tons of highlights tonight. In the “letters pronounced as letters” category, we have the following notable entries:
- 1A: T-BONES are [Hearty cuts] of steak.
- 55A: AVENUE Q crosses 39D: SUSIE Q. The former is a [Musical with the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"] and the latter’s the [Final track on the Rolling Stones' "12 X 5"], which I’ve never heard of.
- 23D: AFL-CIO, with six pronounced letters, is an [Org. with a handshake in its logo]. Click that link to see it.
In the colloquial and contemporary zone are the following:
- 7A: “YOU RANG?” is a [Response of mock subservience]. Not always mock. Sometimes one really just wants to be helpful, and yet is not a butler. Speaking of butlers, if you like doing crosswords with Across Lite or Black Ink but find it a hassle to track down .puz files for your favorite puzzles every day, check out Alex Boisvert’s Crossword Butler. This tool is so genius, it can even convert a puzzle from a web-only interface into Across Lite. Of course, just because you can get USA Today puzzles in .puz form this way doesn’t mean you should start doing ‘em.
- 33A: SOBE is the [Lizard Fuel beverage maker]. Attention, product and company namers: Pick a name that’s short, is 50% or 60% vowels, alternates consonants and vowels, and isn’t already a word, and it’ll be crossword gold. Free publicity!
- 36A: HUGO BOSS is a [Giant in fashion]. Now, is “giant” in the clue because Hugo and huge differ by only one letter, or because Hugo Boss is really all that?
- 13D: My favorite answer in the grid is GAYDAR, a [Sense of orientation]. Would you believe me if I told you that during my adolescence, the people across the street were the Gaydars? True story.
- 33D: Second-favorite answer: SUPERBAD, the [2007 hit comedy with a character who dubbed himself "McLovin'"]. Turned out to be a sweet movie. One of the stars is Michael Cera, who was essentially the same character in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Juno, Arrested Development and, going caveman, Year One. It seems to work.
- 40D: The TIP JAR is a [Place for extra notes on a piano?]. I have never approached a piano tip jar, but at cafés and whatnot, sure.
- 50D: [Dawg] and BRO are synonymous, at least if you’re Randy Jackson of American Idol. Wait, does he ever say BRO?
And now, highlights in categories other than those two:
- 17A: GERMANY is a [Bad setting] in that places called Bad [Something] are German. Bad means “bath.” This clue has zero overlap with SUPERBAD…but now I am pondering the awesomeness that a superbath could offer.
- 22A: Lame answer, this COR, but the clue, [Prefix with relation] had me stumped. I like to be stumped a little. Cor-, like co-, means “together.”
- 29A: [Blanche DuBois's "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," e.g.] is an EXIT LINE. I had LAST LINE.
- 34A: MR. BIG leaves the Sex and the City world to be a generic [Top banana]. Who is Mr. Big in the crossword world? And who is Ms. Big?
- 49A: JO’S BOYS is the [1886 Alcott sequel]. To…Little Women?
- 51A. I don’t know a damn thing about BEZIQUE except that I think it was in another themeless or two several years ago. The Z, the Q? Yay! [Favorite card game of Winston Churchill], in case you were wondering.
- 57A: Tough clue. DANCES are [Boston and Charleston], but I hesitated to put down DANCES because I’ve never heard of the Boston.
- 1D: Paul THEROUX, ["The Great Railway Bazaar" travel writer], is also a novelist. I’ve read The Mosquito Coast.
- 12D: I have to mention NINE-PIN, [One standing in the back of an alley], because my husband chanced on NCAA women’s bowling on an ESPN channel tonight, and one wonders how much scholarship money there is in bowling.
Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Iggy Noramus, Lab Partner”
Clever theme—a scientific research topic is misconstrued by Iggy Noramus, not the top student. It took me a long time to untangle the puzzle owing to the length of the theme clues and the non-theme clues I just wasn’t getting too quickly. Maybe it’s past my bedtime?
Here’s the theme:
- 17a. [“Iggy, these biographies of Stokowski and Toscanini don’t really apply to our project on ...”] SUPERCONDUCTORS. Ha!
- 25a. [“Iggy, your stirring Duncan Hines batter has no relevance to our experiment on ...”] BROWNIAN MOTION. Now, this one did not fall quickly because I think of Duncan Hines as a cake mix brand. If you’re making brownies from a mix, for heaven’s sake, go with Ghirardelli.
- 41a. [“Iggy, this picture you doctored to make us look like a prom couple is of no use to our study on ...”] PHOTOSYNTHESIS.
- 55a. [“The good news is, I told the professor about your lab contributions and she gave us an A for our assignment on ...”] RELATIVE DENSITY: Iggy is relatively denser than his or her lab partner.
- 20a. [Vesta’s place] is the HEARTH. I should’ve bought this book yesterday at the Scholastic Book Fair: She’s All That!: A Look-it-Up Guide to the Goddesses of Mythology.
- 32a. [Comedian ___ William Scott] clues SEANN. I don’t consider him a comedian. He’s an actor who does a lot of comedies. He doesn’t do standup, does he?
- 4d. [Frat-party tabletop game] is BEER PONG. Well, the Chronicle is an academic publication.
- 39d. I got TOAST for [Club level?] via the crossings and didn’t understand it until just now. Toasted bread is a level in a club sandwich. See, I never order the club sandwich on account of the bacon.
- 48d. [Slimy scoopful] clues GLOP. Gross.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “CD Changer”—Janie’s review
- crab grass → DRAB GRASS at 17A. [Lackluster lawn]. Note how the last two letters sit atop the first two of the next theme fill as
- pub crawl → PUB DRAWL at 21A. [Speech at a southern saloon?]. That’s funny, y’all.
- shopping cart → SHOPPING DART at 33A. [Evasive maneuver at the mall?]. This one takes some thinking about. Go for the visual. I’m seeing the “Serpentine!” moment with Alan Arkin and Peter Falk from “The In-Laws.”
- cave painting → DAVE PAINTING at 43A. [Name of Letterman's watercolor segment]. I think this one’s my fave. There’s something very silly and not-at-all out of the realm of possibility about it. (If there’s anyone from CBS lurking… ya read it here first!)
- wine cork → WINE DORK at 55A. [Oenophile?]. Perfect. Hmm. Sounds like it could be yet another subtitle for Lettie Teague’s book Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert. Once again, note how the last two letters sit atop the first two of the next theme fill as
- craft fair → DRAFT FAIR at 61A. [Oktoberfest?]. What with pub drawl and wine dork, it feels like there’s a bit of an alcoholic beverage mini-theme here.
The fun begun in the theme fill continues with the likes of ["Monty Python's ] SPAMALOT [" (Best Musical of 2005)] (you know, the one whose CAST [Curtain call crew] was the outrageous troupe of knights ERRANT [Straying]), and PEEWEE [Shortstop Reese]; and a raft of peppy clue/fill combos. My picks today would have to include:
- [Dieter's snack]/RICE CAKE followed by [The skinny]/INFO;
- the alphabetic [A, B and C (abbr.)]/LTRS followed by [A, B or C, say (abbr.)]/ANS;
- [Like "The Twilight Zone"] for EERIE, and the assonant WEIRDO clued as [Creep]. So “creep” is an adjective here and not a verb, as it is in [Creep like a crab], for SIDLE;
- the pair that recall’s Monday’s “Off to Sleep…” theme, [Drops off]/SAGS and [Exhaust]/DRAIN; and finally
- the rhymed shout-out to psychedelia’s granddaddy with [What made Leary bleary], and that would be LSD. Groovy.
A couple comments from Amy: SONNY (68A) is clued as [James Caan's role in "The Godfather"]. See? That’s iconic. That recent puzzle in which TESS was clued not as Nastassja Kinski’s title character but as Jamie Lee Curtis’s Freaky Friday character—that didn’t work because the character’s utterly non-iconic. Patrick clues RNS (69A) as [Health care pros], and my oh my, that’s a fine clue.
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17A: [Stonemason's goal?] is WALL IN A DAY’S WORK.
- 27A: [Flirt's mascara stains?] are WINK BLOTS.
- 48A: [Dermatology class videos?] are WART FILMS.
- 62A: [Inherited wealth?] consists of WILL-GOTTEN GAINS. That’s a good one.
Only one of the three involves a change in the vowel sound in the W word, but that odd man out is my favorite. Art films turning into WART FILMS is such a horrifying and gross change, it made me laugh.
- 15A: [Bobby's informant] suggests Britishisms, and NARK is, I think, the British spelling for NARC.
- 22A: [Contemptible people] are SWINE. Fridays are always good for non-S plurals.
- 34A: ["It's what's hot in pain relief" brand] is BEN-GAY. Didn’t know it but it was gettable because its competitor, Icy Hot, can’t merely focus on the “hot.”
- 39A: [Chain with pieces, briefly] is KFC. Have you seen KFC’s latest promotion, Buckets for the Cure? Pink buckets of fried chicken to raise money for breast cancer. Mm-hmm, because a high-fat diet has been linked to breast cancer, so why not encourage people to eat more buckets? For the cure! Which you will now be more likely to need.
- 42A: [PC program] clues APP. I’ll bet far more people use “app” to mean a smartphone application now than software for computers.
- 46A: [High-tech unit] is a BYTE. Feels quaint, doesn’t it? See also: 42A.
- 52A: [Chiwere speaker] is an OTOE. No relation to actor Chiwetel Ojiofor. Hey, are there any other CHIWE___ words out there for our CHIWE___ theme? No?
- 70A: [Antares or Betelgeuse] is an M-STAR. As usual, I filled in *STAR and waited for the crossing.
- 4D: [Kelso and Funny Cide] are race horses. Their testicular status? GELDINGS.
- 9D: [Something to look up to] is the SKY. I was leaning towards SCY thanks to NARC/NARK.
- It’s Kiddie Time! 10D: [Certain pet, in totspeak] is a BOW WOW; 11D: [Childlike Wells race] is ELOI; and 13D: [Kid] is TYKE.
- 19D: [Flier with a bent nose] is an SST. Or rather, was. No longer do they fly. No birds have bent noses.
- 32D: I miss [Political columnist Molly] IVINS.
- 39D: KRAKATOA! That’s a much-more-pronounceable-than Eyjafjallajokull [Volcano in the Sunda Strait]. Let the record show that I typed that Icelandic name from memory.
- 44D: [Company quorum?] is TWO. Crowd quorum is three.
- 64D: [Pinup's leg] clues GAM. I am hereby opening the floor for suggestions for what we can call an appealingly well-muscled male leg.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Do It Again”
The ACK/ACH choice did me in. I went with ACH, which made the Laura Palmer answer PEAHS PEAKS, and instead of instantly seeing that Twin Peaks should be PEAKS PEAKS, I noted that PEAHS was an anagram of SHAPE and waited for the light to dawn. And not every theme entry’s starting point is so familiar as a phrase that connotes doubling. BRIDGE BRIDGE means what? I know of contract bridge, the London Bridge, but not the tournament card game whose name is “[a word that connotes two] bridge.” Double-timing yields TIMING TIMING, but my brain was messed up by some car engine–related TIMINGS fill in another recent puzzle. ONESELF ONESELF with the “beating a dead horse” clue must be “repeat oneself.” The tie-it-all-together answer is KFC’s DOUBLE DOWN “sandwich,” though “meat glorb” may be a more accurate term than “sandwich.” The DOWN part explains why the doubled theme entries are Down, not Across. (The grid’s also 16 squares high.)
Two most surprising clues:
- 74a. ["For his contributions to jazz, ___ should be smeared with bacon grease, placed in a cage with three underfed Kodiak grizzly bears, and whatever happens, happens." ("Genius Guide to Jazz")] clues KENNY G. Solved the puzzle with basically the first and last five words of the clue, but suspected revealing the full clue would be delicious.
- 55a. [Two cups full of milk?] are, for those who are lactating, a BRA.