What a lovely day my bloggiversary turned out to be! It was so gratifying to hear your kind words, and Will Shortz happened to schedule a brilliantly inventive crossword for the occasion. Sure, it was nominally about Flag Day, but come on. Geography trivia plus a rebus? It was practically gift-wrapped. And then the inimitable Liz Gorski wrote the most generous encomium I have ever been blessed with. Thank you all so much.
Mark Feldman’s New York Times crossword
The negative connection between the last theme entry and the three things it ties together feels a little backwards, but the apt ONE-WAY TICKET doesn’t fit the symmetry of the theme. Here’s how it unfolds:
- 17a. HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN was a [1980s TV series starring Michael Landon].
- 27a. [2002 Tom Hanks/Paul Newman film] is ROAD TO PERDITION. One TV show and one movie, with opposite afterlife options. What’s next?
- 48a. [Onetime Alaska boondoggle] is the BRIDGE TO NOWHERE. Hey! That’s not pop culture, it’s politics/news. And NOWHERE isn’t a religious afterlife, at least not in the main-line faiths.
- 65a. [Traveler's option…or what you won't get on a 17-, 27- or 48-Across?] is a ROUND-TRIP TICKET. Hmm. I already mentioned the negating aspect here. Another concern is the fact that travelers don’t buy tickets for highways, roads, or bridges. Tolls, maybe, but not tickets. This doesn’t quite cohere for me.
On the plus side, the first three theme entries do evoke travel and they’re all so colorful, especially for a Monday puzzle.
Five bullet points:
- 39a. Whoa. The [Japanese port] OTARU is a surprise in a Monday grid. This one will hinge on the crossing for newer solvers who don’t know their Japanese ports (this one’s main export: crosswordese). A RHOMB is an [Oblique-angled, four-sided figure]; I prefer to call it a rhombus. A [Western, in slang], referring to a Western movie, is called an OATER in crosswords; the cowboys’ horses, they sure like oats. AMATI, the [Classic violin maker], could have any vowel in the middle if you don’t know this name or OTARU; dangerous crossing for newbies. The other two crossings are more obvious.
- 38a, 43a. Cute stacking of MENSA on a BRAIN. One’s an [Organization for geniuses]; the other represents [Cranium contents].
- 73a. OSSA is the plural of os and means [Bones, anatomically]. The word’s from Latin. Maybe med students pick this word up, but I never see it in my medical editing. Then again, the docs I edit work on lungs, not bones.
- 3d. [Computer capacity, in brief] clues MEGS. The clue feels obsolete to me. Isn’t everything measured in gigabytes now? Hell, my Droid phone has gigs of memory.
- 34d. Hang on a minute. A third instance of crosswordese starting with the letter O? OSIER is a [Willow whose twigs are used in basketry].
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This theme, in which the four phrases ends with words that are synonymous when read as verbs (drops, sinks, falls, dips) instead of nouns. The tetrad feels a little inconsistent to me. Is it, or am I just in an anti-Monday-themes mood today?
- 17a. [Cold sufferer's decongestant] clues NOSE DROPS. Do these exist? I feel like ear drops and eye drops are utterly familiar but that nasal spray outdraws NOSE DROPS 100 to 1. “Nasal spray” Googles up 2,070,000 results, versus 146,000 for “nose drops.” Dang, I lost that bet. It’s more like 15 to 1, and the image results show some familiar-looking brands (that I’ve never bought).
- 28a. 18d is DISH, so [18-Down washing places] are KITCHEN SINKS. It’s odd that multiple sinks are used to wash a single dish.
- 47a. [Honeymoon mecca] is, of course, NIAGARA FALLS. Can’t argue with this one.
- 64a. [Creamy bowlfuls for chips] clues PARTY DIPS, which sounds awkward to me but Googles up as respectably as “nose drops.” I want a recipe for something called Creamy Bowlfuls. Don’t you?
- 32a. [Breakfast area] is a kitchen NOOK, and NOOK is parked right beside KITCHEN. Nice juxtaposition.
- 58a. AGENAS are [Gemini rockets]. This is one of those words I’ve been seeing occasionally in crosswords since back in the day.
- 4d. A TIEBACK is a [Curtain restraint]. Yep, I’ve got tiebacks.
- 9d. STREAKED is clued with [Barely ran?] because streaking is bare-naked running. Have you ever streaked? True confession: I have neither streaked nor skinny-dipped.
- 39d. SNICKERS? The [Candy bar that makes you chuckle?]? Yes, this answer has put me in the mood for a candy bar. Why don’t I have any candy bars?!?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Dat Does It!”
Livin’ in the land of “dese, dems and dozes,” you’d think I’d've taken more of a natural liking to Randy’s theme today. Its strengths are many, and the puzzle as a whole is very well-crafted, but something about it left me a little unsatisfied. Not to worry. There’s still lots to like! The theme works (mostly…) by replacing the “th-” sound at the beginning of familiar phrases with “d-” to create new phrases. Some work beautifully; others less so. The round-up today:
- 17A. [Accumulation of snow?] DRIFT STORE. Yep. That works just fine. And I like how the inclement weather gets a complement in SLEETS [Cold showers?] whose first “E” crosses the final one in the theme fill.
- 24A. [Hoops team with many technical fouls?] DIRTY FIVE. Huh? Is there something I’m missing about the number “thirty-five” that makes it a recognizable base-phrase in its own right? (Why not [Baseball team whose players slide home?] for DIRTY NINE?…) While I like the idea of the theme fill, it doesn’t hold up the way some of the others do. On the subject of “hoops,” however, the puzzle also offers up AIR JORDAN [Big name in Bulls basketball]. Not the timeliest mention, but still nice to see His Airness—placed vertically no less.
- 39A. [Trained at boot camp with background music?] DRILLED TO PIECES. Great base-phrase/new-phrase combo—one about which I’m pretty much thrilled to pieces. And while the music reference in the clue feels like a stretch, I’m happier with it as a whole than I would have been to some reference to dentistry-gone-bad…
- 51A. [Place abuzz with activity] DRONE ROOM. Perfect—whether those are drones of the apian or human variety, too.
- 64A. [Vacation destination for classy ladies?] DAMES RIVER. Um. This is another troubling one. Perhaps Randy is referring to the little river in Connecticut in which the “Th-” at the beginning is sounded as “th-” and whose “a” is pronounced as a long “a.” This Thames does rhyme with dames. But, Wiki write-up not withstanding, is this a river a lot of solvers have heard of? I’m guessing not, but that the river for which it’s named, the River Thames, England’s longest river, is one that the majority of solvers know. I’ve only heard that one pronounced “Temz,” so I’m really not happy about this theme answer either. And so it goes.
I did enjoy seeing LION [MGM symbol] and the clue [Roar from a wild Tiger?] for FORE in the same grid. The latter is terrific all on its own.
Fave clue/fill combo: [Summer at the office]/ADDER. This one gets me almost every time. This is not a reference to the season that begins next week, but to a machine that does calculations. Solver, beware.
And in case anyone was wondering, the spelling of “Kwakwaka’wakw” as in [Kwakwaka'wakw pole] (for TOTEM) is 100% correct!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Tough puzzle today, but not one I particularly enjoyed. The anchor 15 is INTER-FRIEND-TION, which I’ve never seen before and which seems like a not-so-useful coinage. Googling…oh, good lord, it’s a Carrie Bradshaw-in-SATC2 word being applied to Lindsey Lohan, and it gets less than 8,000 Google hits with the hyphens and under 1,000 without. Please let this word not catch on.
Joining that 15 in the “meh” category are SNELLS, the RIFLER and JAPERS, “I ADORE IT,” 6-letter partial KEPT TO, crosswordese ANIL, and grievous EEL-LIKE.
- 16a. “OH, YEAH.” My enjoyment is strongly inflected by Kool-Aid Man.
- 19a. I love ERROL Morris’s documentaries. I think I’ve seen only three or four of them, but they’re so memorable and interesting.
- 41a. Sure, the partial IN MAN looks worse than Admiral INMAN, but the clue is so entertaining and, even if you don’t know the quote (I didn’t), it’s so gettable. Not to mention being a suitable tribute to the late Dennis Hopper.
- 53a. OKEY-DOKE.
- 1d. Fresh DIME BAG.
- 9d. SOFT C with a clue that was making me feel uninformed until the light finally dawned.
- 11d. EYES LEFT.