Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword
Not the easiest theme to figure out here. Each one takes a three-part phrase in which two parts are the same and changes the spelling of those two parts to two different homophones, thereby changing the meaning altogether. Like so:
- 17A. [Instruction to an overexcited Frenchman?] clues WEE WHEE MONSIEUR. I know the base phrase is “oui, oui, monsieur,” but I don’t at all understand the WEE and WHEE parts. Oh, wait. “Emit only a wee ‘whee,’ monsieur” is what the request is. I thought WHEE was weirdly modifying MONSIEUR—he is the WHEE MONSIEUR—and he’s being told to WEE, which is pee. Eh, too hard to parse. Two stars.
- 23A. [Really wet grass expected tomorrow?] clues DEEP DEW DUE, as in “deep dew is due,” based on “deep doo-doo.” We don’t get a lot of poop puns in the crossword. Four stars for the element of scatological surprise.
- 34A. A so-and-so turns into SEW AND SOW, or [What quilting farmers do]. Three stars. Not funny, but solid.
- 45A. [Whitecaps next to an underpriced beachfront property?] are WAVES BY BUY, as in “water waves near a real ‘buy.’” “Waves bye-bye” is a precious little base phrase. Three and a half stars.
- 53A. [Simplify things at a ricotta factory?] is WEIGH WHEY EASIER. So, at ricotta factories, they have to weigh out the whey? They use whey? Apparently ricotta isn’t made from milk, it’s made from whey. I had no idea. In this recipe, you just use the amount of whey you have left over from your cheese-making, you don’t weigh it. For industrial ricotta manufacture, I wonder if they weigh it or go by the volume. Two and a half stars for relative obscurity and dearth of humor.
So overall, a three-star theme. From beyond the theme, here are your highlights and your tough nuts:
- 1A. Latin phrase fragment? Not a good way to fill 1-Across. [Archeologists usually find things in this] clues SITU, as in “in situ.” I don’t like breaking that up without going the FITB route.
- 14A. SCHNAUZER! [Asta in the book "The Thin Man, e.g.] looks terrific in the grid.
- 19A. Who are [Bartolommeo and Angelico]? They’re FRAS. Both painters too, though I’ve never heard of Fra B.
- 51A. Not the first time I took a wrong turn for [Put in one's ___]. I go with EAR instead of OAR.
- 60A. Another great long answer, “ONE, PLEASE,” is a common [Box office request]. Though you can’t say that at the multiplex—you have to specify which show.
- 1D. [Missoula-to-Boise dir.] is SSW. Rarely does a “dir.” answer include no E at all.
- 2D. [Seal's resting place, perhaps] is an ICE FLOE. I thought of wax seals on envelopes.
- 3D. THE REDS is a good answer, but the clue didn’t help me much. [Great American Ball Park team]? If you say so.
- 37D. Double V in REVVING, not so common. As in [Gunning] an engine.
- 39D. [Some Amys, Emmas and Mias] are AMELIAS? Eh. Speaking of names, I bombed on this Sporcle quiz, but was amused by the baby names that were popular in 1880 after I gave up and saw the rest of the answers.
- 41D. ENS are [Not the longest dashes]. See? – – –. Em dashes are the longest: — — —. These are little ol’ hyphens: – - -.
- 48D. [London borough containing Wembley Stadium] is BRENT. I tried TRENT first.
Patrick Blindauer’s Fireball crossword, “Jump Starts
Did I like this puzzle? Sir, yes, sir! That’s the format the theme entries take, only the repeated word is left out at the beginning, and there’s an Across clue number for the repeated word. HOME SWEET HOME looks like 17A: SWEET HOME, but there’s no clue for 17A. Instead, the clue is pegged to the number in the H’s square: 18A: [With 17-Across, sampler phrase]. There are six of these oddballs in the theme. I’m partial to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time AFTER TIME,” but my favorite theme entry was “Food, GLORIOUS FOOD,” just for the surprise effect. (Songs from musicals are rarely gimmes for me, so it was a nice “aha” when it came together.)
Mayor Sam YORTY? That last name looks so implausible to me. Who knew?
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Quadraphonic Sounds”—Janie’s review
- 20A. RITE OF SPRING [With "The," Stravinsky ballet]. Because FIREBIRD just wasn’t gonna stretch to 12 letters…
- 28A. WRIGHT BROTHERS [Aviation pioneers]. It was always fascinating to me that American aviation was born of two brothers who made and repaired bicycles. In Ohio. The wheels that must’ve been spinnin’ in their minds!
- 45A. WRITE HOME ABOUT [Comment especially upon]. As in “Wow. Flying machines? That’s really something to write home about!”
- 52A. RIGHT-HAND MAN [Invaluable assistant]. No doubt like Wilbur to Orville. Or vice-versa.
In addition to the quartet of theme-fill sound-alikes, there’s a quartet of culinary clues and fill which make for a tasty mini-theme. There’s PEANUT, which is a [Cooking oil] and which I’m going to bet you won’t find much of at IHOP [Restaurant chain acronym] (given its health benefits…). I suspect you might find someone wearing a CHEF’S HAT [Toque in the kitchen] there, however–though I wonder if legendary home-cook IRMA ["Joy of Cooking" author Rombauer] ever did (and somehow suspect she didn’t).
My copy of the Rombauer classic was published by Bobbs-Merrill (mid-’60s…) and not by FARRAR [, Straus and Giroux (book publishers)]. I like the rhyminess of Farrar and T-BAR [Aid to skiers]. Fill that looks like it should rhyme but doesn’t exists in the SE corner at the juncture of WEAR [Tear's partner] and NEAR [Warm, so to speak]. Such are the inconsistencies of the English language. Just when ya think ya know what to expect, bam! The rules change.
Odds ‘n’ ends:
- I expected that the fill for ["Later"] would be “SEE YA,” but the sixth square told me otherwise… It’s the not quite as casual “SEE YOU.” I was happy for the slangier take on the pronoun though with ["]YER [out!" (ump's call)].
- The term WEB ART [Graphics on the internet] sounded made up to my ear, but it does get some 455,000 Google hits. “Computer graphics” (with some 6,850,000 hits…) is a term I know however.
- BSA (Boy Scouts of America) is a [Troop gp.] and thus likely make suspects for a HIKE [Scouting outing].
- Yesterday we had a variety of “jerks” in the fill. Today we get the [Clods] OAFS. Ah, these poor saps–all of ‘em!
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17A: [Demonstrates sincere intentions] is what ACTS IN GOOD FAITH means.
- 28A: A [Wonderful thing, in old slang] is the CAT’S PAJAMAS.
- 46A: [Jazzy vocal style] clues SCAT SINGING. I feel like “scatting” is a more familiar wording than “scat singing,” but then, I’m no jazz expert.
- 57A: [Stereotypical movie epic feature] is a CAST OF THOUSANDS. Like CAT’S PAJAMAS, a colorful and lively entry.
- 21a. [At no time, to Bernhard] clues the German word for “never,” NIE. When I see the name Bernhard, I think of comedian Sandra Bernhard and classical actress Sarah Bernhardt rather than generic Teutonic men.
- 34a. [Prefix with musicology] clues ETHNO-. Crossword maker and editor Ben Tausig is studying ethnomusicology, you know. He’s in Asia this year.
- 37a. Oh, a SWEATER? [Cosby often wore one on his show]. I use “Cosby sweater” as the descriptor for any hideous sweater with a wild pattern.
- 67a. For [Put on the canvas], I was thinking of DAUBing paint. But it’s KAYO, as in K.O., as in knock out, as in knock to the canvas mat in boxing.
- 2d. [Black-and-white swimmer]…hmm. “OREO! Swimming in milk!” (It’s the ORCA.)
- 3d. ["Shake!"] feels incomplete as a clue for “PUT IT THERE.” But “Shake on it!” repeats the answer’s IT, so that’s out.
- I kinda liked the crossword repeater word ladder lurking in the puzzle. Leon URIS to an IRIS to ISIS. It’s okay that the ladder stops there. We didn’t want UZIS and AS IS too, did we?
- 31d. [Senegal neighbor] is MAURITANIA, up on the Westernmost bulge of Africa. I’ll bet Gareth (who’s South African) is better at African geography than most Americans who are good at geography.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Planting Seeds”
I learned something new from this puzzle. I always knew that plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries were drupes (fruit with a fleshy outside enclosing a hard pit). I didn’t know that the drupe designation applied to fruits other than those members of the Prunus genus. It turns out that mangoes, olives, and dates are also drupy. Four pitted fruits are hidden inside theme answers:
- 41a. [Feature of a class of fruit called drupes, which can be found inside 17-, 27-, 53-, and 63-Across] is a PIT.
- 17a. [Jupiter and Mars, e.g.] are ROMAN GODS.
- 27a. [Hip-hop duo arrested on obscenity charges in 1990] is TWO LIVE CREW.
- 53a. [Material for a DIY project, perhaps] is SCRAP LUMBER.
- 63a. [Mourn, in a way] is SHED A TEAR.
The OSAGE ORANGE (26d. [Inedible fruit that looks like a brain]) is not a drupe, nor is it a citrus fruit.
For 25d: ["Precious" actress], I was tempted to put GABBY SIDIBE, but the answer’s MARIAH CAREY. I’m still afraid to see the movie.
Favorite entries: WIKIS, ZZ TOP, MISTER MAGOO (though I think he should really be MR. MAGOO), and TV-MA.