Howard Baker’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Look at that. One of those crossword conventions that bugs the hell out of us (unless we need one of those answers in our own construction) is the use of the Cockney/My Fair Lady elided H-words, like ‘OME and ‘ELP. What Baker does in his debut puzzle is clue four actual words as if they’re Eliza’s elisions, turning something pesky on its head for the furtherance of the crossword arts, and explains it all via the long answers:
- 17a, 27a, 49a, 63a. [With 27-, 49- and 63-Across, the story behind 5-, 36-, 39- and 70-Across] clues MR. ‘IGGINS AND MISS / DOOLITTLE / ATTEMPT TO / SOLVE A CROSSWORD. He reads the clues, she says an answer; here’s how that plays out:
- 5a. [Professor says "Stocking stocker," pupil suggests…] ‘OSIER. HOSIER would be a regular answer, OSIER is a crosswordese willow, and ‘OSIER would be how Eliza Doolittle says it before Professor Henry Higgins teaches her to enunciate better.
- 36a. [Professor says "Qualifying races," pupil suggests…] ‘EATS (heats).
- 39a. [Professor says "Ax wielder," pupil suggests…] ‘EWER (hewer).
- 70a. [Professor says "Equine restraint," pupil suggests…] ‘ALTER (halter).
I do like themes that are inside jokes for regular solvers, that repurpose something flimsy and build it up in a creative way.
Eight more clues:
- 34a. Is WEE LASS solidly “in the language”? I think maybe yes. Clue is [Bonny young girl].
- 38a. ARTIS is clued as a Latin word, [MGM motto ender]. “Ars gratia artis,” art for the sake of art. Artis Gilmore, tell your publicist to work harder.
- 68a. -ETTE is an [Un-P.C. suffix, to many]. Right up there with its cousins -enne, -trix, and -ess.
- 4d. To SIGNAL with your turn signal is to [Prepare to turn].
- 9d. ["Amazing" magician] is RANDI. James Randi is also a prominent skeptic dedicated to debunking “the paranormal, pseudoscientific, and the supernatural.” Here’s his educational foundation’s website.
- 40d. Heh. WET SPOTS. It’s clued as [Signs of leaks]. Um, I think this answer is properly “in the language” only if clued as [What lovers try to avoid sleeping on].
- 46d. ["Speaking machine" developer] is Thomas EDISON. That’s better known as a phonograph.
- 48d. The DAHLIA is [Mexico's national flower].
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “But Wait – There’s More!”—Janie’s review
The last word of the title tips us off to today’s theme, where each of the four theme phrases begins with a synonym for the word “more.” The puzzle is very much a wysiwyg creation, with straightforward cluing at almost every stretch of the way. Here we go:
- 17A. BONUS ROUND [Game show portion]. A little something like this.
- 27A. SURPLUS STORE [Outlet for leftover merchandise]. Before outlet stores (and outlet malls…) became all the rage, the surplus store was very handy for a [Market overrun], or GLUT. They’re out of business now (for about two years), but in Baltimore (my hometown…) Sunny’s Surplus was a major retail fixture for almost 60 years, starting out as a place to purchase WWII surplus goods. The BIN [Retail container] was very much in evidence there.
- 44A. SPARE BEDROOM [Where guests may sleep]. This took me back to the days when my brother and I would spend the night at our grandparents’ in “the spare room.”
- 60A. EXTRA POINT [Football score]. Odd clue, that. To my ear anyway. “What’s the score?” “Extra point.” Really? I’d'a been happier with a clue like [Football scoring opportunity]—or something along those lines, though I can sorta make sense of it when I read it as a pun on the idea of securing an advantage.
There’s some nice longer fill in the grid, including CABARETS [Musical venues] and RED ROSES [Valentine's Day purchase] and DORMOUSE, that [Sleeper at a tea party]. And that would be the tea party in Alice in Wonderland.
I learned from the [Some lakeshore features]/DUNES combo that lakeshores can even have dunes. I so associate dunes with the sea coast that I’d failed to think beyond what I knew. But you’ll find ‘em by Lake Michigan and Michigan’s Silver Lake, among others (I now presume…).
And while I’m not wild for the fill, I do love the clue in the [Still enjoying womb service?]/UNBORN combo. The puzzle fill speaks of VIM [Robust energy] and SINEW [Muscle]. How I wish the puzzle had more of those qualities and that we’d seen a twistier, more challenging cluing style throughout!
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I did this puzzle last night when I was tired, so I don’t remember it at all. Let’s take a look…ah, yes, PRIME ties everything together at 70a with its [Steak rating, and word that can precede the first words of the answers to starred clues] clue, and the starred clues are as follows:
- 17a. [*Funny story] is a RIB-TICKLER.
- 27a. [*Financial analyst] is a NUMBER CRUNCHER.
- 47a. [*Influential one] is a MOVER AND SHAKER.
- 63a. [*Diversion while waiting] is a TIME-KILLER.
Prime rib = meat, prime number = math, prime mover = cosmological/mechanical term, and prime time = TV. I’d rather the 70A didn’t mention steak since only one of the four theme entries relates to that. There are non-meat, non-math, non-cosmology, non-TV senses of the word prime, after all.
What else have we got today? This:
- 16a. [Strategic Chinese border river] is the YALU, one of the few 4-letter crossword rivers that doesn’t pass through Europe or Russia. (Africa’s UELE is another.)
- 19a. [Stereotypical insomnia cause] is a DRIP. “I can’t sleep. My boyfriend is such a drip.”
- 42a. ["The King" of golf, to fans] is ARNIE, Arnold Palmer. I started out with ERNIE Els before remembering Arnie. He’s called “The King”? Why have I not heard that? If he has Arnie’s Army, why isn’t he The General?
- 67a. [Husband and wife] are MATES. We would also have accepted [Husband and husband], [Wife and wife], [Honeys], and [SSLPs].
- 1d. [Classified ad abbr.] is BDRM., short for bedroom. BR is also short for bedroom.
- 10d. The RYDER CUP is a [Biennial team golf competition]. That’s a great entry. So are 11d: PARAPHRASE/[Put another way], 49d: KEVLAR/[Bulletproof vest material], and 38d: NIELSENS/[Much-followed ratings, with "the"].
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Ha! Fun theme. It takes a lot of concentrated exposure to CHUCK NORRIS badassery humor to tire of it, and Brendan includes only (!) eight of ‘em in his theme. Chuck Norris sleeps with a pillow under his GUN, he’s the reason WALDO is hiding, if you spell his name in SCRABBLE you win forever, he can slam a REVOLVING DOOR, he counted to infinity TWICE, he can win CONNECT FOUR in three moves, he cracks open a chicken to get an EGG, and despite M.C. HAMMER‘s claim that “U Can’t Touch This,” Chuck Norris can indeed touch M.C. Hammer.
Granted, there are hundreds (thousands?) of Chuck Norris Facts available for such a crossword theme, so Brendan had plenty of wiggle room in choosing eight that fit symmetrically, and the FITB clues write themselves. So that part wasn’t so hard, but fitting nine theme entries into the grid isn’t easy. And that is why some of the fill feels so clunky. Like these answers:
- 38a. OLEIN is a [Common triglyceride].
- 47a. OVI is a [Prefix with sac]. See also 54a: EGG.
- 30d. The archaic word AVOUCH means [Affirm].
- 46d. LACT- is a [Dairy prefix].
- Abbreviations and things that feel like abbreviations include N. DAK., NHL, AMC, EDU, RSS, SRS, ANAT, ONT, and UFO.
On the other hand, there’s also some good fill, including JIGGLE, ballers DWIGHT and KOBE, and THE MASK. In between there’s plenty of ordinary fill (your ATTAR, TERI, ALIT stuff). With any luck, you didn’t notice the low points because you were too busy laughing at Chuck Norris jokes.
My error, as you can see in the solution picture, was at the N in NDAK. I went with SDAK, which makes the crossing the lovely CAMEOS instead of what’s clued, which is CAME ON. Yeah, sometimes you gotta read the clues for the crossings, not just make sure the crossings are plausible entries.