Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Has anyone seen a BILLY theme like this before? I like it. BILLY is clued as [Name associated with the starts of 17-, 27-, 48- and 64-Across], and those four answers begin with the last names of famous guys named Billy:
- 17a. The OCEAN BOTTOM is what they’re talking about when they mention [Davy Jones's locker]. Bily Ocean’s big ’80s hit was “Caribbean Queen.” I went off to YouTube looking for a video to link to here, and boom, it crashed my browser. I never did like that song.
- 27a. [S'more ingredient] is a GRAHAM CRACKER. A new neighborhood restaurant called Hearty has a great s’mores dessert. Homemade chewy graham crackers, roasted marshmallows, and a molten chili chocolate. Num! Billy Graham was an evangelist.
- 48a. CRYSTAL PALACE is the [Site of London's Great Exhibition of 1851]. Billy Crystal acts and tells funny stories.
- 64a. [Veneration of a cult image] is IDOL WORSHIP, and Billy Idol rocked way harder than Billy Ocean. My ’80s music Billy affinities lie firmly in the Idol camp—”White Wedding” and “Dancing With Myself” are damn good songs.
The theme is fun and fresh and it provides a surprising “aha” moment when the seemingly disparate phrases all come together.
- 11d. CINDERELLA, a [Rags-to-riches heroine].
- 29d. ATTACK DOGS, [Responders to "Sic 'em!"].
- 4d. KLATCH, [Coffee ___ (social gathering)].
- 52. And for sheer craziness, ICKYPOO, or [Yucky, in baby talk].
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Grand Openings”—Janie’s review
What we have here is a before-and-after theme, but Bruce has upped the ante not only by giving us four 15-letter phrases but also by choosing really fresh ones at that. Each of the lively theme phrases is very much in the language and each is making its CS debut. “Grand” is the word that can “open” for the first word in each phrase and here’s how:
- 17A. (Grand) JURY OF ONE’S PEERS [Equals at a trial]. Love the phrase but only wish the word jury meant something different in each half. Whether it’s a Grand Jury or a jury of one’s peers, we’re still talking about a group of people who are listening to and making a decision about some case. For my money, Bruce is far more successful with the remaining examples.
- 27A. (Grand) SLAM DUNK CONTEST [NBA All-Star weekend event]. See now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Yes, both usages of slam are sports-related, but both are different. You got your win-all-the-majors tennis grand slam or a bases-loaded home-run baseball grand slam, and then you got your cager-style, vertical leap Slam Dunk contest. Two points.
- 49A. (Grand) TOTAL COMMITMENT [100% effort and devotion]. Another goodie. It’s clear in this example that in the first instance, total is a noun and an adjective in the second. You’ll see the same noun to adjective transition in
- 65A. (Grand) MASTER CRAFTSMAN [Very skillful, accomplished worker]. Didn’t know before checking out the meaning that in addition to referring to the heads of some orders (like the Knights Templar…), Grandmaster is a chess term, a title-for-life awarded to selected world-class players.
There are several clues and clue/fill combos that stand out for me as well:
- [Green feeling that's not good] is not any variety of mal-de-mer but ENVY. As in “Thou SHALT not covet…” (which demonstrates that [Word in many commandments]).
- A [Person of the neighborhood] is the idiomatically-perfect LOCAL.
- [Fictional hero Wolfe] is NERO, of course, and if you remember, yesterday’s puzzle prepared us in a timely way with [Stout detective Nero ___ ]. Btw, not only does “Stout” refer to author Rex Stout, but his character is a man of some serious girth, weighing in at more than 280 pounds.
- [Vulgar] clues COARSE which pairs up nicely with SMUT [Salacious material].
- We get another set of paired clues with [It rises to the top] and [It sinks to the bottom] for CREAM and SILT. (Mmmm. There’s a tasty combo… not.)
- The metaphorical [Place of luxury?], one’s LAP and [A permanent place?], one’s hair SALON.
- And the sports world gets additional representation by way of DAY GAMES [Some of a baseball team's schedule], [Good score for a duffer] or PAR, and a shout out to (mostly) college football [Coach Amos Alonzo] STAGG. This remarkable man coached well into his 70s and lived to be 102!
Fred Piscop’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I don’t quite get the rationale behind this theme. The theme entries are four songs that include numbers in their titles. Two I’ve never heard of. Two start with the number, two end with it. Three of the four are perfect squares. Two of the four are about food and drink. Three of the four are two-word titles. Why these four songs? What brings them together? Is it nothing more than “you can use ‘number’ in the clue because ‘number’ means ‘song’ and these songs have numbers spelled out as words”? Why not “Eight Days a Week,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Take Five”? There are plenty to choose from. What am I missing?
Here are the theme entries:
- 17a. [Temptations number] is CLOUD NINE.
- 64a. [Doris Day number] is TEA FOR TWO.
- 9d. [Josh White number] is ONE MEATBALL. Who is Josh White?
- 24d. [Tennessee Ernie Ford number] is SIXTEEN TONS.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Last Chance, Harvey”
Matt pays tribute to the late Harvey Pekar with a quote that captures the essence of Harvey. The fourth part of the quote deviates from symmetry, but that’s apt—Pekar tended to carve out his own way in life rather than hewing closely to the accepted rules. If you never saw American Splendor, the live-action movie version of Pekar’s autobiographical comics, do track it down.
The quote is “I REALIZE THAT I’M / PRETTY FLAWED / BUT YOU KNOW, / I HAVEN’T / KILLED ANYBODY YET.”
Lots of mystery fill here for me in the bottom middle, so I was working via the crossings more than usual for a Jonesin’ puzzle:
- 56a. ["Mr. Loverman" dancehall singer Ranks] is named SHABBA.
- 42d. ["A little bit of ___ get you up" (Mark Knopfler, "Junkie Doll")] clues THIS’D.
- 39d. [DJ featured on MTV's "The Grind"] is SKRIBBLE.
- 43d. NI HAO came back to me only with three letters already in place. It’s [Hello, in Beijing].
- 54d. ["They go", in Spanish] is VAYAN. I can’t conjugate verbs in Spanish, but “Vaya con Dios” (“Go with God”) helped me out.
It’s apt that this answer is in the middle of the bottom, isn’t it? 57d: ["Terrance and Phillip in Not Without My ___" ("South Park" episode)] clues ANUS. If I recall correctly, the farting Terrance and Phillip were spoofing the Sally Field movie, Not Without My Daughter.