Robert Doll’s New York Times crossword
The theme: Guinness Book of World Records entries. The HEAVIEST PUMPKIN, LONGEST MUSTACHE, LARGEST MEATBALL, and HIGHEST HIGH DIVE. You know what was on TV the other week? World’s largest dish of hummus. Essentially a swimming pool full—what a lovely way to turn a healthy protein into waste, eh?
Fill’s got a bunch of stuff that won’t be obvious to a lot of solvers:
- 5D. [Adriatic port] is TRIESTE, Italy.
- 24D. ["The Gondoliers" girl] is TESSA. I’ve seen this in a couple other crosswords before.
- 16A. [Bibliophile's suffix] is -ANA, as in, um, I checked Onelook.com and the only literature-related -ANA word listed appears to be Shakespeareana. Are there other -anas out there?
- 65A. Who on earth is ["Navy Blue" singer Renay] DIANE? Is that Diane Renay or Renay Diane? Diane Renay, 1964 hit song, before my time. Anyone under 50 know this one?
- 48D. ERGOT is a [Grain disease] that was in crosswords all the time when I was a kid. Don’t see it much here these days.
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Was this one tougher than usual for a weekday LAT puzzle for you? Or is it just me?
The middle answer, B-TWENTY-NINE doesn’t have a spelled-out number anywhere but crosswords. Its clue reads 39a: [Enola Gay, e.g. (and a hint to this puzzle's unusual feature)], and you’ll note that the clue refers to the puzzle, not to the handful of apparent theme entries. What look like theme entries but are really part of the overall grid-wide theme are these four phrases with B.B. initials:
- 17a. [Trivial Pursuit edition] is BABY BOOMER.
- 27a. [Luxurious soak] is a BUBBLE BATH.
- 53a. [Party recyclable] is a BEER BOTTLE.
- 64a. [Place for low-priority issues] is the BACK BURNER.
The real theme is the sheer number of Bs in the puzzle. The previous record for the most Bs in a 15×15 crossword was 22, according to Barry Haldiman’s page, and Don Gagliardo blew that out of the water. He’s made a habit of that—he also holds the record for most instances of the letter G (21), K (30), and W (15).
All righty, what else is in this crossword, Bs or otherwise?
- 22a. [i follower] clues POD. With Apple’s latest product, the answer could also have been PAD…or MAC, for a less newfangled product.
- 32a. [Très __: very little] clues the French word PEU. I find it works best to hold your thumb and forefinger close together when saying this word. “Un peu.”
- 56a. I’m not crazy about [Tongue trouble] as a clue for SLIP. Yes, “slip of the tongue” is a common phrase, but it’s hardly ever “tongue trouble” that’s responsible. I know, I know—it’s not to be taken literally.
- 59a. [Like many dicts.] is ABR., the abbreviation for “abridged.” In your dict., you may also encounter the abbrev OBS. (10d. [No longer used, as a word: Abbr.]), short for “obsolete.” If you’re lucky, your crossword includes words that are common enough to be found even in an abridged dictionary and not marked “obs.”
- 3d. A BOBCAT is apparently a [Hare-hunting feline].
- 12d. [Beatles song with "Mother Mary"] is “LET IT BE.”
- 13d. And here’s ARETHA [Franklin of soul]. Her voice makes my scalp tingle (in a good way).
- 39d. BAKELITE is [Collectible plastic jewelry]. Any of you own some?
- 54d. ["... for there is nothing / either good __, but thinking makes it so": Hamlet] is completed by the partial phrase OR BAD. Who doesn’t like a little Shakespeare?
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Cool theme: MALCOLM is the 65a: [First name of a civil rights activist who would turn 85 today, and whose adopted last name is a hint to this puzzle's theme]. That last name is X, and the other seven theme entries are made by adding an X to the end of assorted phrases. Despite the uncommonness of the letter X constraining the options for theme crossings—not to mention the inclusion of a commanding 66 theme squares—the fill is decent and even finds room for double Zs (PALAZZI) and Xs (ZAXXON).
The theme plays out like this:
- 1a. A [Souped-up Duncan?] yo-yo is a YO-YO MAX, which builds on cellist Yo-Yo Ma. This one was the toughest for me to figure out. The only Duncans I could think of were Isadora, Sandy, and Tim.
- 27a. [Trebek after seeing a ghost?] is a PALE ALEX (pale ale).
- 47a. [Drink-mixing tome?] is the BAR CODEX (bar code).
- 9d. To [Massage a condom?] is to WORK LATEX (work late).
- 11d. [Tailless cat that don't got no place to call home?] is a RAMBLIN’ MANX (“Ramblin’ Man”).
- 25d. [Fancy watch that only comes in pink or blue?] might be a GENDER ROLEX (gender role).
- 32d. [Summit for clothes-free climbers?] is the NAKED APEX (naked ape). Yo, don’t forget the sunscreen. I hear the sun’s rays are stronger up where the air is thin.
Isn’t that a great batch of theme entries? Especially because the original X-less phrases are themselves lively language. That’s the goal in a theme like this—for the base phrases to sparkle and for the modified theme answers to be both plausible and entertaining. This puzzle passes the test in flying colors.
Answers that made me work for them:
- 14a. ["Well, sir, it's this rug I have - it really tied the room together" speaker] is THE DUDE. I hear he abides, but I’ve never seen The Big Lebowski.
- 44a. [Fireweed] is ROSEBAY. This is, the dictionary tells me, a chiefly British term for a pink-flowered willow herb, Epilobium angustifolium, that is a common fireweed. My next question is “What’s a fireweed?” The dictionary comes to the rescue once again: it’s a plant that sprouts on burned land, particularly this pink-blossomed Epilobium.
- 30a. [Fancy Italian structures] are PALAZZI, plural of “palazzo.”
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “With Pencil in Hand”—Evad’s review
- “Unique identifier for dogs” is a NOSE PRINT. Not a paw print? I’m curious how a vet might actually take one of these.
- “Patriotic American song” is not “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but YANKEE DOODLE. Some interesting etymology of the terms in that song courtesy of our friends at wikipedia:
As a term Doodle first appeared in the early seventeenth century, and is thought to derive from the Low German dudel or dödel, meaning “fool” or “simpleton”. The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the 1770s and became contemporary slang for foppishness. The implication of the verse was therefore probably that the Yankees were so unsophisticated that they thought simply sticking a feather in a cap would make them the height of fashion.
- COMEDY SKETCH is an “Improv piece.”
- QUICK DRAW is a “Gunfighter’s talent.” Seems like the duels of the Wild West and Tolstoy are a thing of the past; hopefully now a quick wit is the preferred way of settling a dispute.
So pretty tight theme, and also my fastest solve of the CS puzzles so far this week. Let’s look at some of the far from SHODDY (“Not built very well”) fill:
- The French import CONSOMMÉ is related to our words CONSUME and CONSUMMATE, or to finish off. In this case, one finishes leftovers to create a “clear broth.”
- Who knew “Indy winner” ARIE Luyendyk? Pas moi. Apparently the wins by this Dutchman are pretty recent–1990 and 1997. I’d prefer a reference to India.Arie, only because I love that period in between her first and last name.
- Oh, so close to getting our blog hostess in, missing ORANGE by one letter with ORANGS (“Great apes, briefly”). The other 3 groups of great apes are chimps, gorillas and us puzzle solvers.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Wednesday”
Turns out there’s a mini-theme in this puzzle, plus two allied entries. All I saw was the impetus for the puzzle, RONNIE JAMES DIO, the metal legend who died the other day at 67. His band, BLACK SABBATH, occupies two entries. And the Greenpeace ship the RAINBOW WARRIOR apparently has something to do with Dio, but I have no idea what.
In other rock news, BRIAN JONES is also in the fill.
Not crazy about the fill here, I’m afraid. The first corner is stuffed with INURN, EENIE, CIERA, ANEAR, ARCSEC, and RUNIC, none of which do anything for the puzzle besides work with that RAINBOW WARRIOR entry. Elsewhere in the puzzle ERNE and ORIEL and ONER and ENIAC and APSE feel like a crosswordese parade. Sure, CBS NEWS and TUXEDOS and JANE DOE are great, as is the thematic material. And VEX! I always like a little vexation. But overall, meh.
Time to go to school and do arts and crafts with the fourth graders now!