Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword
You know what’s missing from this puzzle? MAO. Sure, LENIN’s a [Red head?], but there’s no MAO to form ROFLMAO. But the shorter ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) is spelled out at the beginning of the theme entries:
- 17A. A ROLLING BLACKOUT is a [Utility's power-saving stratagem].
- 25A. [How oysters may be served] is ON THE HALF SHELL. (Either ON or ON THE can be deemed part of the theme.)
- 42A. FLOOR TO CEILING is clued as [Fully, in a way].
- 56A. Did you know the [Kookaburra] is called a LAUGHING JACKASS? And have you met the human embodiment of a kookaburra? I’ll bet you have.
My only grumble about the theme is that ROFL, like LOL, over-promises. I’d wager that fewer than 1% of the people who type “ROFL” online have actually been floor-bound with laughter. Even “LOL,” while less hype-filled, is usually a lie. Why “ha” was deemed too much trouble to type, while LOL is ubiquitous, I can’t explain.
Let’s take a gander at some some of the fill here:
- 5A. A HAJI is an [Observant Muslim, at times].
- 9A. MASHA, MASHA, MASHA! She’s [One of the three sisters in Chekhov's "Three Sisters"], along with Olga and Irina.
- 14A. GO BANANAS? Nice! [Wig out] is the clue.
- 37A. SATAN is a [Character in Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered"].
- 62A. [When repeated, capital city of 11,000] is PAGO Pago. Not fond of the half-answer.
- 9D. Oh, dear. a MICROHM is a [Tiny electrical measure]. This is perhaps nobody’s favorite unit of measure. It just looks wrong.
- 10D. Oh, dear. ALKANE is a [Saturated hydrocarbon]. Is that anybody’s favorite hydrocarbon? Squishing two ugly science words together is not optimal.
- 35D, 37D, 38D. SARG SERGEI YUL? They don’t look so hot all in a row. [Puppeteer Tony], [Composer Prokofiev], [Broadway's Brynner].
- 41D. [Subject for Chagall and Cassatt] is LILACS. With the first couple letters in place, I guessed LILIES. Here are his lilacs; here are hers. Oh! Cassatt’s “Lilacs in a Window” is lovely.
- 49D. Liz is a musician, so TUNE makes perfect sense to her for [Get ready to play, say]. I was thinking of sports first.
- Partials, meh. ILL AT, IT NO, AN END, NOT IF, and AS IT present three or four partials too many. (I’m OK with one or two per puzzle.)
My vote for potential quicksand crossing: 41A: [Egypt's Temple of ___] meets 30D: [Pope with a 27-day pontificate]. (I had no idea pontificate was also a noun.) It’s LUXOR and LEO XI, meeting at the X.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 18″
Yay! For the clue that’s crazy-long, Peter provided a little help to Across Lite/Black Ink solvers: the full text of the clue in his e-mail. Mind you, seeing the full clue didn’t help me get the answer in the slightest, but at least I knew what I was dealing with. This ESQUIVALIENCE is a [Fake word in the New Oxford American Dictionary defined as "the willful avoidance of one's official responsibilities; the shirking of duties"; "an unwillingness to work, esp. as part of a group effort"; and "lack of interest or motivation"]—one of those words dictionary editors plant within the tome to nail plagiarists.
Did this puzzle land in the range of a not-so-tough Saturday NYT for you, harder than a Friday NYT?
Favorite answers and clues:
- 17a. [Cool group] is GREEN DAY because Tre Cool’s a member of the band. I know this only because of alt-weekly or BEQ clues for TRE.
- 45a. ARRID EXTRA DRY has been a [Drugstore product since 1967]. I believe it to be the only antiperspirant whose TV ad jingle resides in my brain. Sing it!
- 61a. [When a flip response is warranted?] is a perfect clue for COIN TOSS.
- 64a. Are you paying attention, people? BULGARIA is [Where leva are spent]. Some day in the future, you’ll be doing a crappy puzzle in which LEVA is is clued as Bulgarian currency (because how else are you gonna clue that?), and you’ll dredge it out of your brain. (Leva is the plural of lev. One lev contains 100 stotinki, you know.)
- 3d. In the It’s Not Kosher Sweepstakes, STEAK QUESADILLA is a [Cheeseburger alternative]. My son ordered steak quesadillas last weekend. I know you wanted to hear about that.
- 9d. GOBI DESERT is solid, but I don’t know what the heck ["Flight of the Phoenix" setting] is all about. Google tells me it’s a 1964 novel and a 1965 Jimmy Stewart movie (set in the Sahara) and a 2004 Dennis Quaid movie set in Mongolia, home of the Gobi.
- 11d. [Musophobic cry] is “EEK,” the cry of someone scared of mice. Last night on Wipeout, they used the word coulrophobe—that’s someone afraid of clowns.
- 12d. Don’t let Mao’s appearance in another clue fool you. [Red square] means TRIPLE WORD SCORE in Scrabble—and in Facebook’s Lexulous, where I’ve largely lost my mojo in the last month. Would someone please return my Scrabbly mojo right away?
- 24d. Easy to choose the wrong approach to a clue like [Go after]. GUN FOR is a fresher solution.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Action!”
Hidden within 1-Across (balancing COMICS as the last Across entry) and the four longest entries are various comic book sound effects, and—in the printed version of the puzzle—those hidden words are enclosed by cartoony balloons. The “VROOM” in TV ROOM appears with a speedy plume of the dust you’re being left in. The three jagged-edged words are BANG, WHAM, and BAM. And the gooshy-edged word is SPLAT. In each case, the sound effect word spans two words in the theme entry.
- 11a. The biggest trick is in a little 3-letter word. [Male cat], that’s a TOM, of course. Except that it’s GIB here. If you’re like me, you frowned at the mangling of the three crossings until those clues unwound the GIB.
- 18a. [You suck if you use one] clues, yes, a TEAT.
- 23a. ["It's not ___ truck. It's a series of tubes" (Senator Ted Stevens describing the internet)] clues the partial A BIG. Gotta love the ill-informed and out-of-touch making bold pronouncements in the Senate. “Series of tubes” instantly became a classic description.
- 32a. [Monthly toiletries] for some are PADS. Ben’s a grown man. He’s not afraid of a little menstruation. Have you seen the new Kotex “U” advertising campaign? Although the TV networks won’t let KOTEX use the word “vagina” in a tampon commercial, they’ve boldly put the blue liquid, the white pants, the beach, and riding horseback behind them. The straightforward approach is about 30 years overdue.
- 30d. Ah, the mythical two-word PEN IS, clued with ["The ___ mightier ..."]. Did PENIS really did appear in the NYT crossword before the Shortz era, or is that apocryphal?
- 31d. [Kagan who saved crossword constructors from having to reference a very old actress or a Russian tennis player] or, for that matter, a Russian skater, Spanish princess, or Italian queen, is ELENA Kagan.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 18a. KEY WORDS are defined as [Musician's parlance?]. Because some musical instruments have keys? Or because of Francis Scott Key? I would have gone with a locksmith, personally.
- 24a. [Billiards player's parlance?] is ENGLISH LANGUAGE, owing to the “body English” pool players use.
- 38a. [Mechanic's parlance?] clues IDLE CHATTER. I would have gone with a taxi driver or a bus driver here, as they deal with idling much more than auto mechanics do. Then again, drivers don’t need to speak about neutral gear much, do they?
- 55a. [Remodeler's parlance?] is a PANEL DISCUSSION. Eh…how many remodeling plans involve wood paneling?
- 61a. BACK TALK is [Chiropractor's parlance?].
As you might have guessed, this theme didn’t grab me. The occupational connections feel forced for a few of the theme entries.
Seven’s a lucky number, so here are seven other clues:
- 7a. Ben Franklin was smart. ["There never was a good" one, according to Franklin] clues WAR.
- 3d. To [Right, in a way], a wrong is to AVENGE it.
- 9d. [Lustrous fabric] clues RAYON here, not SATIN. You wanted SATIN here too, didn’t you?
- 10d. I suppose [Fired wildly into, as an oater town] makes for a more palatable clue for SHOT UP than a heroin reference would.
- 26d. LICHENS are unholy [Fungus-alga unions].
- 39d. Antoine CADILLAC was [Detroit's founder] in 1701. Wow, Detroit’s been Westernized a lot longer than Chicago.
- 47d. [Badger at the park] clues HECKLE. I suppose this is about baseball players, but I associate heckling more with stand-up comedians.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Batter’s Box Office”—Janie’s review
Hello, good readers! In two weeks I’ll be back full-time; for this week and the next, I’ll be sharing the honors with the estimable (and most wonderful!) Evad, whose alacrity in picking up the slack has touched me no end. Thank you warmly and heartily, Dave!!
So—”Batter’s Box Office” gives us a more-bang-for-the-buck “before and after” title telling us not only that the theme is related to baseball, but also to movies about baseball. Comprised of four ’80′s flicks, the theme-fill line-up features:
- 17A. THE NATURAL [1984 baseball movie]. Based on the Bernard Malamud novel, this one starred Robert Redford. Mostly what I remember about it is that I found it to be a “mixed-positive” film, but that a friend who really didn’t care for it at all dubbed it The Unnatural… (Didn’t remember at all that this was directed by Barry Levinson.)
- 28A. MAJOR LEAGUE [1989...]. All I know of this one is what I read on IMDB, which confirmed my recollection that this was a Charlie Sheen vehicle.
- 45A. EIGHT MEN OUT [1988...]. Score another for Charlie Sheen. This is the story of the Black Sox scandal as seen through the lens of John Sayles—who also appears in the film as writer Ring Lardner.
- 61A. BULL DURHAM [1988...]. “Oh, she gets wooly. Young girls they do get wooly…” Thank you, Tim Robbins (by way of screenwriter Ron Shelton), for forever enhancing my enjoyment of “Try a Little Tenderness.”
In addition to these movie references, many of the Down clue/fill combos contribute to the puzzle’s peppy show-biz undercurrent: CAHN is the last name of [Lyricist Sammy]. Did he write “HIGH HOPES” [Oscar-winning song from "A Hole in the Head"]? Sure did. (Composer was Jimmy Van Heusen.) ICE T is the ["New Jack City" star who sounds cool]. Then there’s ORSON [Bean or Welles], the latter of whom narrated the startlingly realistic radio treatment of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. (That author’s novella The Time Machine gets play with ELOI [Race in an H.G. Wells story].)
Steve URKEL is the [Nerdy neighbor on "Family Matters"]. (I never saw the show, but because of all the media attention Jaleel White got at the time, I did know the reference…) From Off-Broadway’s still-running (again) The Fantasticks, there’s the timeless ["Try to] REMEMBER ["]; and there’s classic filmdom’s EMIL [Jannings who won the first Oscar] (in 1929, for his roles in both The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh). Oh, and there’s one in the Across column, too, and that’d be [Critic Rex] REED—because that’s a show biz and not a cruciverbal clue (not to mention that PARKER is two letters too long…).
There’re a bunch of klever klues that deserve a shout-out today, so “say ‘hey’” to:
- [Give a smack, say] for KISS.
- [Winter air?] for CAROL (’cause BOREAS wasn’t gonna happen…).
- [Rice whose characters suck] for ANNE, whose vampires populate both the printed page and the silver screen.
- [Goes downhill, in a way] for SLALOMS. We saw a lot of that with this past winter’s Olympics.
- [Thanksgiving dinner spot, maybe] is KIDS TABLE and not GRAVY STAIN…
- And, for its self-referential silliness, my fave:
[Number of F's in this puzzle's answer grid] for ONE (see 52A or 54D).
Hey, Janie! Welcome back! We missed you.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Faking It”
This puzzle’s theme is fake bands from movies and TV shows. Six bands in all, occupying seven entries. My favorite is DRIVE SHAFT, because I’ve watched Lost much more recently than the other shows/flicks. “You All Everybody” is among the best bad song titles. Plus, bassist Charlie = cinematic hobbit. You can’t go wrong there.
The only fake band I haven’t seen in my personal consumption of pop culture is DETHKLOK. But that’s OK. I’ve learned the name…from crosswords. (Alt-weekly and/or BEQ puzzles, not the daily paper’s crossword.)
With the theme entries occupying so much real estate in the grid, there’s not much else of note.