Bonus puzzle! Prolific themeless constructor Brad Wilber has started a blog at which he’ll occasionally post crosswords. The first one’s up now, right here. There are two versions of the puzzle, both PDFs, with crunchy (tough) and smooth (easier) clues. I opted for crunchy, of course. Had one short answer I was so sure of, but the clue turned out to be tricky; it totally impeded my progress in that section. One of the long answers was unknown to me, but I Googled it and it makes sense now. Keep the puzzles coming, Brad, and don’t be shy about the crunchiness. This one took me 10:13, and I do love a solid crossword challenge.
John Dunn’s New York Times crossword
Today’s mini-theme—the two related 15s that cross in the middle—feels timely. 31a: JACQUES COUSTEAU‘s descendants Jean-Michel and Philippe Cousteau have been in the news of late, continuing Jacques’ mission. Son Jean-Michel is making a documentary about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and grandson Philippe Jr. has reported his findings after diving in the gulf. It’s explicitly timely too because this is a 100th birthday puzzle: the eldest Cousteau was an [Explorer born 6/11/1910]. At 8d, [31-Across, for one] clues MARINE ECOLOGIST.
What else of note is in this 70-worder? This:
- 1a. Your UNDERARM is a [Secret target] if you use Secret antiperspirant.
- 20a. [They have torches on their backs] sounds mystifying. It’s just DIMES.
- 29a. [It's never right] clues ACUTE. Remember your geometry? Right angles are smack-dab between acute and obtuse angles.
- 48a. Nobody loves an answer like TOILER, an -ER word we seldom encounter in the wild. The clue is [Serf, e.g.].
- 53a. I’m not up on my reggae, because I needed a zillion crossings to get STIR IT UP, the [Classic Bob Marley song that was a 1973 hit for Johnny Nash].
- 13d. Random trivia: SARASOTA is the [Site of Florida's first golf course].
- 14d. Cute clue for “THANK YOU“: [Phrase an overseas traveler should know how to translate]. The World Cup refs are boning up on foreign swear words so they can tell which players are sassing them too much. I’m thinking “thank you” is something they don’t hear too much.
- 29d. [Pharmaceutical liquids] are AQUAS. You know what sort of liquids? Water.
- 34d. ONE TENTH is the [Part given by the pious?] who tithe a tenth of their income to a church.
- 39d. [Kiwi, e.g.] is a RATITE. This is the bird sort of Kiwi, not the charming New Zealand-born wife of Rex Parker sort of Kiwi. Ratites can’t fly. The include the ostrich, emu, rhea, and cassowary, plus the extinct moa and elephant bird.
- 40d. Consider a MURMUR of dissatisfaction passing through a crowd. [Complain, in a way], is what those people are doing.
Nina Rulon-Miller’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Play’s the Thing”
- 17a. [19th-century English actor who played Hamlet at Drury Lane] is EDMUND KEAN.
- 27a. [Director and star of the first unabridged film version of “Hamlet”] is KENNETH BRANAGH.
- 34a. [Actor who played Hamlet in a 1964 production deliberately staged to look like a rehearsal] is RICHARD BURTON.
- 42a. [Female actress who played Hamlet in 1899 at London’s Adelphi Theatre] is SARAH BERNHARDT. Hey, I did not know that. Cool. Call me crazy, but I think the clue would work without the word female in there.
- 60a. [Actor who played Hamlet for 100 consecutive nights in 1864-65] is EDWIN BOOTH.
- 30d. And going Down in the center of the grid is [“Blades of Glory” actor Jon] HEDER, star of Napoleon Dynamite and star of the upcoming Michael Bay action movie of Hamlet.
- 65a. A TENT is [One that’s pitched out?]. You pitch a tent in the outdoors.
- 13d. SLEUTHS are [Mystery men?].
- 34d. [Fits on a hard drive?] has nothing to do with computer storage capacity. It’s fits of ROAD RAGE during a difficult drive. Brilliant clue! One of the best this year.
- 40d. [Believer in government where everyone enjoys equal political power] is an ISOCRAT, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered that word before. Iso- = same, -crat = supporter of a form of government. So the word parts add up, but the sum is an unfamiliar word.
- 37d. I think of Tyler Hinman when I see HAHA clued as a [Landscaper’s turfed trench]. Four years ago, he clued HAHA as [Ditch with a retaining wall used to divide land] in an NYT crossword. I wouldn’t know a HAHA if I tripped into one, but at least I recognize it as a ditch-related word I may encounter in crosswords.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Here’s the theme:
- 20a. [Cheese records?] clues ROQUEFORT FILES, playing on the ’70s detective show The Rockford Files. Oh, how I love that show’s theme music.
- 28a. [Cheese from the deep?] clues SEA MUENSTER. Why, I bought Muenster and Cheddar for my Memorial Day weekend sammich fixin’s. The base phrase is “sea monster.”
- 44a. [Cheese no one is eating?] clues IDLE CHEDDAR, which doesn’t feel like a smooth pun on “idle chatter.”
- 51a. [Cheese and beef concoction for humorist Mort?] clues SAHL’S BRIE STEAK. Wait, what? Now we’re changing a word into name + cheese, not just cheese? Why? I suspect this was the germ of the theme, but it’s built differently from the other puns.
My favorite clues:
- 14a. [Stale Italian bread?] is LIRA, the former currency.
- 17a. [Red, in Mongolian] looks impossible, but it’s ULAN, as in Ulan Bator (now Ulaanbaatar, which is well nigh useless to crossword constructors).
- 21d. ["Calm down!"] clues the exhortation, “EASY!“
- 39d. KOHL’S is the [Department store chain that began in Wisconsin]. You know Senator Herb Kohl? Same family.
- 50d. A regular ol’ printed ATLAS is a [MapQuest predecessor?].
- 56d. [1 for H, e.g.] looked like some sort of substitution cipher, but it’s atomic number, abbreviated AT. NO. Not a great answer, but the clue was great.
- 58d. Sheep don’t really trill when they BAA, but [Sheep trill] sounds like “cheap thrill.”
- 4d. MAN UP means [Show some backbone, slangily].
- 11d. BLUE STATES are [Left-leaning ones]. Not crazy about “ones” standing in for STATES, but I like the entry.
- 12d. The YIPS are [Golfer's nervousness during putting, with "the"]. I learned this from crosswords, but it’s such a great word. I think ACPT yips exist, too.
- 27d. The TIDAL BASIN is a [Potomac River feature]. What does that mean, anyway?
- 35d. “TAKE A HIKE!” ["Get lost!"]
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, ” Board Meetings”—Janie’s review
When both words of a two-word phrase can be followed by the word “board,” you get the “board meetings” of the title. You also get some pretty humorous/improbable (but not impossible) theme phrases—and that’s the fun of this puzzle. When two of the four theme phrases are also 15s (and the non-theme fill is as lively as it is today)—well, my hat’s off to Doug. Look at the silliness he’s come up with for us:
- 17A. IRONING BULLETIN [News flash from a laundry room?]. Just to spell it out: that’s a grid-meeting of ironing board and bulletin board. (The rest’re up to you.)
- 27A. BOOGIE CHECKER [Judge at a dance contest?]. Good one! Boogieboarding really looks like fun—and about as close to surfing (the ocean…) as I’m likely to get.
- 47A. BREAD MONOPOLY [Unscrupulous bakery's goal?]. Sounds sinister, no?
- 62A. SANDWICH CIRCUIT [Itinerary for a Subway inspector?]. The whole concept here delights me.
Now I’d swear I’d seen a puzzle similar to this in the last few years (using the word “board” as the common bond), but darned if I can find it or if I care. It works. And beautifully. Then, take a look at some of the other fresh fill and fill/clue combos that show up in the grid:
- BREWSKI [Cold one]. This is making its first appearance in a CS puzzle. Nice. Also in the thirst-quencher department today, NEHI [Classic beverage brand] and SOBE [Energy drink maker] (or SoBe; or South Beach…).
- POOL CUE ["The Hustler" prop].
- WEEKDAY [Follower of a school night]. Just the phrase “school night” brings back a flood of memories—of all those things one wanted to do that would put “studying” on the back burner, and the (parental, then later, self-) admonition to refrain from participation: “Not on a school night!”
- A TRIFLE [Slightly]. Not A TAD or A BIT or SOME. This one makes for a very nice change indeed, and an apt complement to LOTS [Quite a bit].
- SOUS CHEF [Second banana in the kitchen]. Sous chef?! Fabulous—and another CS first-timer.
- ROMANCED [Tried to win over]. See above.
- An ODOR is a [Not-so-sweet smell] you detect with your NOSE (though today this feature is clued as [Rudolph's asset]).
- Someone who was [Ahead of the] CURVE [(trendy)] several years ago may have gotten him-/herself a SPIKY do [Like some short hair styles]. I kinda like a spiky cut (sometimes…) and would love to have the kind of hair that made it an option. But even with a ton of product, I feel certain the consensus would be “OH, NO!” ["This is horrible!"]. Yes, it’d always grow out, but I’ll stick to my bob for a bit!