John Farmer’s New York Times crossword
The word count of 68 partners with a black square count of 41 in an unusual layout. There are four 15s that mostly intersect with shortish answers, which perhaps made it a little less difficult to fill the grid. The 15s have a ton of sparkle, with Scrabbly letters in all four:
- 14a. DIAMOND JIM BRADY brings home the J. He was a [Gilded Age tycoon with a legendary appetite].
- 52a. The Z is in ON THE RAZOR’S EDGE, meaning [In a precarious position].
- 1d. [Christ's visitor in a tale from "The Brothers Karamazov"] is THE GRAND INQUISITOR. The “The” belongs there.
- 10d. The BLACK SOX SCANDAL is the [Subject of "Eight Men Out"].
- 28a. [Wasn't off one's rocker?] is a clever clue for SAT—as in SAT in one’s rocking chair.
- 33a. [Sporcle.com feature] is a QUIZ. Ooh, have they got quizzes. Probably hundreds and hundreds of trivia quizzes. Geography, pop culture, sports, science, literature, math, vocabulary, wordplay—what more do you want?
- Ancient peoples of Europe! You’ve got the TEUTONS at 31a ([Whom the Romans defeated at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, 102 B.C.]) and a NORMAN at 58a ([See 48-Across], which is ROIS/[58-Across leaders]).
- 35a. I love the word SOUPÇON. It’s a [Hint] or teeny amount of something.
- 46a. The clue [People born on February 29, colloquially] is a good way to salvage an entry like LEAPERS.
- 57a. A DO-OVER is a golf [Mulligan, e.g.].
- 5d. Colorful old sports name: REDLEGS is [Ted Kluszewski's team when he won the 1954 N.L. home run title]. This is what the Cincinnati Reds called themselves during the Red Scare/McCarthy era of anti-Communist paranoia.
- 11d. The snarky Ambrose BIERCE was the [Writer of "Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another"].
- 9d. NARA was the [First capital of Japan].
- 15d. [Frank Zappa rock opera "___ Garage"] is completed by JOE’S.
- 32d. [Male sheep] isn’t just a RAM, it’s also a TUP. ‘Tup, bro?
- 37d. [Metaphor for a flood of tears] is NIAGARA. I went with the saltiness of tears and the DEAD SEA. Whoops.
- 53d. EVA [___ Air (carrier to Taiwan)] is not an airline I’ve ever heard of. Maybe those of you who travel to Taiwan more often than I do are hep to Eva Air.
Most likely to be questioned:
- 43a. ["I'm such a ___!" (klutz's comment)] clues SPAZ. Apparently the word derives, offensively, from “spastic.” Most people in my generation, I believe, have used the word more innocuously to describe someone who behaves like a dork or freaks out easily, and have never linked the word to people with spastic muscle conditions. I’m betting that Will Shortz will be getting some angry mail about this one.
The one I recently learned a mnemonic for:
- 35d. SPIRO Agnew was the [Two-time running mate of Richard] Nixon. Do you have trouble remembering how to spell “Spiro”? SPIRO AGNEW anagrams to GROW A PENIS. (Thanks, Penny!)
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoo, I must be tireder than I thought, because I went ahead and left an only faintly plausible answer in place and didn’t check the crossings, but two squares were straight-up wrong. For 58a: [Tidings], I had NODS crossing, yes, OLOO and WODS. NEWS! And OLEO and WOWS! Yes, that makes a lot more sense.
The theme is hat puns with assorted consonant and vowel changes, and they’re…not funny. This one left me cold. Here are the four puns:
- 20a. Playing on “close encounter,” CLOCHE ENCOUNTER is an [Opportunity to examine some headwear?]. The base phrase ties into the “examine” bit, and the specific CLOCHE seems to have no real purpose here aside from sounding vaguely like “close.”
- 33a. [Call-in broadcasting for chefs?] clues TOQUE RADIO, playing on “talk radio” with the chef’s hat, a TOQUE. Mind you, there’s no reason that a chefs’ radio show would be named after the hat they wear.
- 40a. [Northerners who dress with Scottish flair?] clues TAM YANKEES (“Damn Yankees”). Except nobody would use TAM as an attributive adjective describing people in Scottish attire.
- 47a. Bowlers are hard and rounded? I guess so. So [Hats that are soft and angular?] are BOWLER OPPOSITES, playing on “polar opposites.”
A dozen more clues:
- 14a. A COOP is a [Multilayer farm site?] in that it has multiple hens laying eggs.
- 19a. [Pachacuti, for one] was an INCA.
- 38a. [Idol whose fans are known as Claymates] is Clay AIKEN. Wait. He still has fans?
- 45a. [Mendicant title] clues FRA. Usually the word “mendicant” in a clue sends us to FAKIR, which is a Muslim or Hindu ascetic who lives on alms. Friars, whose title of address is/was FRA, traditionally also lived on donations.
- 4d. [Garb for Apollo] is a SPACE SUIT for a moon mission. This is not about Greek gods and what they wore.
- 28d. ADAM’S is [Apple or ale lead-in]. Adam’s apple is that laryngeal cartilage lump in the front of a man’s throat. Adam’s ale is a “dated humorous” term for water.
- 29d. [Pierre, e.g.] is a CITY in South Dakota.
- 32d. Ooh, I don’t think I knew this! PANSY is a [Flower name derived from the French for "thought"], or pensée.
- 35d. Here’s a cool entry. BIKINI TOP is a [Halter, perhaps].
- 40d. [Lady Hillingdon is a cultivar of one] clues a TEA ROSE.
- 51d. The PEAR is a [Fruit with a "check the neck" ripeness test] that nobody ever told me about.
- 53d. Ooh! Tricky clue! [Slovenia capital] should be LJUBLJANA, but there are only four squares. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and uses the EURO as currency, so “capital” means money here.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Growing Boys”—Janie’s review
If there were a prize for the greenest theme, this puzzle would surely be a contender. The last names of each of the five “boys” who make up today’s theme fill combine to make a veritable botanic garden (of earthly delights). And a very “cool” kind of place to contemplate. The gents in question:
- 17A. ROBERT PLANT [Lead singer of Led Zeppelin]. While Led Zeppelin was very much around in my college years, I was never much aware of the group. I know—I need to go back and fill in the gaps. Now, Mick and the Stones on the other hand… Enjoyed being reminded of them with ["I] SEE A [red door and I want it painted black" (Rolling Stones lyric)]. For the record, however (well, last year’s at any rate), Robert Plant took the top spot in a poll of greatest rock voices. Sir Mick took ninth…
- 23A. GEORGE H.W. BUSH [President who was also Director of the CIA].
- 37A. ART FERN [Johnny Carson character who hosted "The Tea Time Movie"]. OMG. Such a throwback. Had forgotten how jaw-droppingly politically incorrect Carson could be. And how late-night audiences lapped it up.
- 47A. STIRLING MOSS [English racer with a car named after him]. A Mercedes-Benz no less—a classic auto-manufacturer if not a [Classic car] REO.
- 56A. GÜNTER GRASS ["The Tin Drum" author]. And Nobelist.
And if all this greenery presents just too lush a picture for you, Randy has also included an arid and “un-green” bonus by way of the SAHARA [Egyptian expanse].
There’s some terrific long, strong fill in the mix today—four 10s running vertically as paired columns in the SW and NE and yielding EVEN STEVEN clued colloquially as [Square], SOLICITORS [Unwelcome doorbell ringers, often], “MISS SAIGON” [Modern adaptation of "Madame Butterfly"] and the feisty IN YOUR FACE [Defiant]. Appropriately, FIT [Temper tantrum] emerges from that “F” in face.
For sports lovers, Randy comes through with AT BAT [Facing a reliever] (top-ranked Mariano Rivera is also the closer to catch), NBA [Org. of Raptors and Hawks] (and not the NAS), SLO-MO [NFL review technique] and BEARS, clued as [Windy City gridders]. And I thought that one might have a cruciverbal twist. Dang.