Pete Muller’s New York Times crossword
I don’t know what broke the applet tonight, because we’ve had puzzles with circles that have worked fine in the NYT’s applet, and we’ve had 16×15 puzzles too. I went to open up the puzzle there, and I got a blank space and a clock that had started running 10 minutes before I even went to the puzzle page. Weird.
The theme is summed up by the central answer, JACK-IN-THE-BOXES. There are six of them, and they don’t pop up and scare you. No, they just sit there quietly waiting for you to notice them. The Jacks are surnames of famous men named Jack, coiled in each batch of circled squares. There’s movie star Jack NICHOLSON, the nursery rhyme’s Little Jack HORNER, TV actor Jack WEBB, Tonight Show pioneer Jack PAAR, author Jack LONDON, and golfer Jack NICKLAUS. The fill crossing these names is not the most amazing fill, no, but it’s certainly not out of the ordinary, and that’s no mean feat when it comes to triple-checked squares. I like the consistency of the Jacks’ layout—each name spins clockwise from the upper left.
A dozen or so clues of note:
- 24a. [Some footnotes, for short] are OP. CIT.S. All right, fess up if you’ve ever pluralized op. cit.
- 26a. I had a hard time getting this one, but I love the answer. Your EVIL TWIN is a [Person on your bad side?].
- 49a. [Woman in Sartre's "No Exit"] is ESTELLE. With the EL part in place, I took a STAB (20a: [Attempt]) at GISELLE, which is wrong but rhymes nicely with gazelle, which is an African antelope, as is the REEBOK (60a: [Shoe brand named for an antelope]).
- 66a. ODILE is [Tchaikovsky's black swan]. Is Odette a white swan?
- 4d. I thought [In the know, old-style] was hinting at a word from Shakespeare’s day. Somehow, I doubt that HEP was hip in Elizabethan times. So, tell me. Which era does HEP date back to?
- 6d. [1915 Literature Nobelist ___ Rolland] is ROMAIN. Okay, so the iffiest fill is beside a Jack box.
- 25d. [Where trays may be stacked] is in the ICEBOX. The BOX part crosses the central theme entry at the BOXES part, but not, oddly enough, at the X. More BOXing action at 13d: [Tate and Bowe were once champions of it: Abbr.] clues the WBA, in which B = boxing.
- 34d. Okay, I love this clue. [Bris parties] refers to MOHELS who are key figures at a bris, not to the attendant spread of bagels and party food for the guests to nosh on afterwards.
- 42d. [What a record may have] is an ASTERISK, if you’re an athlete who broke records thanks to doping or steroids.
- 51d. [Subwoofer's zone] is the LOW END of sound.
- 57d. [They did it] clues PERPS. PERP was in yesterday’s puzzle, which launched a lengthy thread at the Fiend forum about when a “suspect” can rightly be called a “perp.”
David Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This one took me 3:36, which means it was a little tougher than the typical mid-week L.A. Times crossword. Weirdly, at least one newspaper printed this puzzle on Tuesday. This sentence is also a non sequitur. That word looks weird. What else ends with -tur but is still an English word?
- 17a. This [ACE] means FLAWLESS SERVICE in tennis.
- 28a. VENTURA IN FILMS refers to the Jim Carrey character Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.
- 45a. BANDAGE ACRONYM—really?? I had no idea. I figured it was just a random brand name. The 3M website tells us ACE is short for “All Cotton Elastic,” and that the ACE bandage has been around since 1914. One of my college roommates used ACE bandages a lot. She strapped her bosom down before heading to wrestling practice with the guys.
- 59a. The ACE is one HALF OF BLACKJACK. The other half is a ten, jack, queen, or king.
Let’s tiptoe through the grid, shall we?
- 1a. [Pest control target] is a ROACH. Icky start to the puzzle!
- 6a. [Get down the road?] is a tricky clue for PAVE. I don’t like this repurposing of “get down.” “Get down the road” means “go down the road.” “Get the road down” could be loosely interpreted as “pave it by laying down the asphalt.” We don’t say “get down the ___” for putting anything down.
- 10a. [Hired soldier, briefly] clues MERC, short for “mercenary.” You know anyone who uses this abbreviation? Me neither. Or if they do use it, it’s short for Mercury, the car make.
- 22a. ["Gerontion" poet's monogram] is TSE, for T.S. Eliot. I majored in English but never heard of this poem. No matter—the top poet’s monogram in crosswords is TSE. EAP (Edgar Allan Poe) was also a poet.
- 36a. [Dried plum] is the government-authorized term for PRUNE now. People who were embarrassed to have prunes in their kitchen feel much better (and more regular) with their stash of respectable dried plums.
- 52a. [Drink with a string in it, perhaps] clues TEA. My first thoughts were of cocktails and tampons.
- 3d. [Phillips, e.g.: Abbr.] is an ACAD., an elite East Coast prep school. I learned all about it from The Preppy Handbook in the early ’80s. I can’t wait for the sequel, True Prep.
- 25d. [They're often sensitive to allergens] clues SINUSES. Knock on wood—I have had allergies only once in my life, in London one May, and they responded to antihistamines.
- 44d. [Nocturnal noisemaker] is an OWL. No, wait, it’s gotta be a SNORER. No, sorry. It’s a CRICKET. I don’t think of them as nocturnal, but that’s probably a factor of living in a low-cricket urban area.
- 49d. [Mirthful sounds]…HOOTS! No, wait, it’s ZZZZZ. No, of course they’re HA HAS. We’re no longer nocturnal.
- 53d. [New newts] are wee EFTS. New newts is good newts, as everyone knows.
- 62d. [It holds the mayo] looks like it could be trying to trick us into thinking of condiments rather than the Spanish word for the month of May. What’s a 3-letter Spanish word for “calendar”? Oh. It’s a mayonnaise JAR. Our mayo is in a squeeze bottle. Jars are for suckers who want to get mayo on their knuckles.
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Lost is on TV as I write this, but we’re DVRing it and will watch it later. Earlier this evening, I watched Monday night’s How I Met Your Mother episode with Will Shortz on it. I have two comments on that: (1) Aw, I like that Ted character. (2) Omigod, why is redhead Alyson Hannigan using such an orangey shade of self-tanner?
How lucky is it that the character Juliet was killed off at the beginning of the season? Because ROMEO AND JULIET would be a 14, and that would muck up this theme layout. Brendan’s theme is phrases that end with the names of key Lost characters. Except not, you know, Sayid or Jin, whose names don’t lend themselves to such a theme. And we have no I CAN SEE FOR MILES (15) or NORMA DESMOND (12). What we do have is still quite a lot: six theme answers plus LOST. It plays out like this:
- 1a. [Mystery series, characters from which appear at the end of 17- and 62-Across, and 11-, 19-, 24-, and 30-Down] is LOST.
- 17a. [Beatles song whose verses all begin "Little Darling"] is HERE COMES THE SUN. I like that Sun.
- 62a. YOU DON’T KNOW JACK is currently the [2010 HBO movie where Al Pacino plays Dr. Kevorkian]. Back in the late ’90s, it was a fun CD trivia game. These days, it’s part of the Jellyvision games website. If the people at Jellyvision had any sense, they would recruit crossword genius Tyler Hinman to work for them. On Lost, Jack needs to get over himself.
- 11d. [Musical that won the first Tony for Best Musical] is KISS ME KATE. Man, am I glad this is a theme entry. I didn’t want to see Brendan peppering his grids with random Broadway show fill. Is Kate ever going to prison or what?
- 19d. [1981 Rush song] is TOM SAWYER. Ah, Sawyer—he of the nickname generation. Honey, you can call me Freckles any time. My Entertainment Weekly issue has the Sawyer cover, and that’s fine with me.
- 24d. [1960s TV series about a boy and his bear] is GENTLE BEN. I’ve only seen it with German subtitles. Benjamin Linus is the only member of this theme who wasn’t on Oceanic 815.
- 30d. ["Les Misérables" author] clues VICTOR HUGO. Now, I know that Hugo is Hurley’s real name, but almost everyone on the show calls him Hurley. If he’s Hugo, then Sawyer ought to be James in this puzzle.
- 21a. [Cutting-edge, informally] clues POMO, or postmodern.
- 46d. [Almost any Boyz II Men song] is a SLOW JAM. Among the most memorable Bernie Mac lines from his sitcom is this, his request when his sister’s kids moved in to his previously child-free house: “Do not touch my TV, my DVD, my stereo, my dual-deck VCR. Do not touch my old school, my new school, my slow jams, my party jams, my happy rap, and you better not touch… [voice breaks] my James Brown.”
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Beetles Medley”—Janie’s review
Oh, boy–puzzle love. Two days ago, Bob Klahn playfully wrote [Bugs on the road] to clue VWS; today Randy delivers six of ‘em by way of his two-word theme phrases (four are placed vertically in the grid; two horizontally). In each, the first word befins with “V” and the second with “W.” Comme ça:
- 17A. VIETNAM WAR ["Platoon" setting].
- 11D. VICHY WATER [Sparkling beverage]. Before there were chi-chi designer beverages, there was always Vichy with its sparkling mineral water and therapeutic spas.
- 23D. VERA WANG [Bridal gown designer]. And then some. Did you know she had been a championship figure skater? News to me!
- 24D. “VERY WELL” [One answer to "How are you?"].
- 28D. VIRGIN WOOL [Sweater material]. This is wool that’s been spun for the first time.
- 57A. VANNA WHITE [Woman of letters?]. In her way… As a “Wheel of Fortune” fixture, however, not in a way equivalent to the (young) men of letters produced by, say, ETON [James Bond's old school].
If we see no Beatles amongst the Beetles, we do get a hit of musical fill from LOU RAWLS ["A Natural Man" singer] and ["]JIVE [Talkin'" (Bee Gees hit)]. And when the Bee Gees toured, you can be sure their roadies set up those [Band boxes?] AMPS countless times, and made certain the boys had massive amounts of JUICE [Electrical power].
In the “brrr” department: when it’s warm out, you may want to cool off with a [Slurpee sibling], an ICEE, though you may not want to share it with someone whose manner is ICIER [Less friendly] than you’re comfortable with. When it’s really cold out and the temperature falls [Below zero (abbr.)] into NEG territory, that’s a sure indication it’s time for a [Winter delivery] of OIL. (But let’s not think about that until next year, okay?)
We get more x-word glue while RIANT [Laughing], not only with the recollection of a great screwball comedy like, say, Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve–and which we’re entitled to recall via SCREW [Word before ball or driver]–but of something ZANY as well [Like the Marx brothers]. Duck Soup or The Cocoanuts, anyone?
While it looks like there’s a near-repeat in the fill, fear not: a MEOW is a [Cat call]; a MEWS is a [Small street with converted stables]. Here’s a pic and backgrounder of Greenwich Mews, one of the Village’s most charming enclaves. We also get a trio of clues invoking the guy who’s the subject of easy ridicule. Two are clued identically [Jerk] for the derogatory NINNY and DODO; one in relation to his work behind the counter [What you can get from a jerk], which is SODA. All three clues appear sequentially.
["Once bitten" follower] “TWICE SHY” made me recall wistfully the times I’d demonstrated that I’d learned the meaning of the phrase. Or ignored it, at my peril… [Knight wear] ARMOR put a smile on my face.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “We Don’t Need No Education”
What we have here is a basic trivia collection theme: Six famous people who dropped out of college are included. Computer geniuses BILL GATES and STEVE JOBS managed to make something of themselves. I knew HARRISON FORD dropped out (he went to Wisconsin’s teeny Ripon College, where a dear friend of mine also dropped out, but she picked up a couple degrees elsewhere), but not TOM HANKS. LADY GAGA should have stayed in college. I think an art history or studio art degree would suit her. Director JAMES CAMERON is our final dropout who done made good.
- Scrabbly fill, with UZBEK, EXODUS, and NO-DOZ.
- Shiny new word GLEEK: 67a. [Superfan of a TV musical/comedy, in slang]. It describes someone who geeks out about Glee.
- 17a. I reckon this is [Obama U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena] KAGAN’s first appearance in a crossword.
- 62a. [Joint used while playing hacky sack] is your KNEE, not a doobie.
- 12d. The [Opposite of "sans"] is AVEC, which is a word that has amused me since 1989. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were shopping for a shower curtain liner. One brand promised to have antimicrobial properties. “This one is ‘with Avec,’” he pointed out. (Actually, it was “with/avec C24,” something like that. Bilingual “ve haf chemicals.”) Ever since, I always look for products made with Avec. The best part? French is the language he took. Even spent a summer in Paris.
- 32d. [Crossword blogger Hecht] is named RYAN. Hi, Ryan!
- 52d. [Eminem, Snoop Dogg, or Will Smith], hmm, they’re all rappers with movie or TV experience. Also? Each one is a LIBRA. Who knew?
- 56d. [It might be trapped in the closet] is about a MOTH, not R. Kelly or certain anti-gay crusaders.