I like a calendar date that counts off in order, and that looks like a panel of judges’ scores for a performance. I’m thinking The Gong Show. Let’s see if all of Monday’s blogged crosswords hit those marks.
I spent the afternoon at a neighborhood street fair today. There was a New York Times booth giving away travel coffee cups to people who signed up for delivery. One of the cups had a crossword grid adorning it—but while it was a 15×15, it had no long entries! It looked to be a legitimate, rules-following grid, but no long theme answers? Pfft. Also? No clues. Useless! (Except for holding coffee.)
David Poole’s New York Times crossword
The judges have watched this puzzle’s performance, and they’re holding up placards with their ratings…are you ready? 8/9/10! A very good Monday puzzle, not 100% stellar but it gets the job done and provides an absolutely terrific theme. The theme involves the path through the digestive tract, and yet it passes the breakfast test! Four verb phrases that aren’t about eating at all begin with this series of words: BITE, CHEW, SWALLOW, and DIGEST.
- 20a. To BITE THE BULLET is to [Accept an inevitable hardship].
- 27a. To [Ham it up] on stage is to CHEW THE SCENERY.
- 43a. To [Fall for a flimflam] is to SWALLOW THE BAIT.
- 51a. To [Understand what's happening] is to DIGEST THE NEWS. This answer’s a bit less familiar than the others, but it does its job of rounding out the digestive process. Better than using a phrase like SH*T BRICKS, right?
I like how the theme answers follow a logical order, which makes the theme tighter but also makes the gridding less flexible. Even so, we get those 6/6/6/5 corners and the pair of 8-letter Down answers.
My least favorite clue is 55d: [Cry made while cracking a whip, maybe] for “WORK!” Crikey! That’s rather grim.
More enjoyable are the women of this crossword:
- 5a. Young ["Hannah Montana" star Miley] CYRUS is the most Monday-friendly Cyrus we have. Cyrus the Great of ancient Persia, or Miley’s dad Billy Ray? Less household-namey than Miley.
- 6d. YVETTE, [Actress Mimieux of "The Time Machine"], has been all over crosswords lately. This is the third or fourth time I’ve encountered her in the last week or two.
- 7d. “Babe” is gendered language, but I like the mention of that [Babe with a bat], pretty RUTH McGillicuddy of 1930s baseball fame.
- 30d. The CIA is clued as ["Alias" org.]. That show starred Jennifer Garner as a cool spy.
- 37d. [Society girl, for short] clues DEB, as in the hilarious Deb Amlen. Is that short for Deborah or Debra?
- 38d. We get her first name (3/5ths vowels) and we get her last name (3-letter word, common letters) a lot, but we don’t get the full name ANAIS NIN in the puzzle too often. She’s clued here as ["Delta of Venus" author]. That’s one of Nin’s collections of short-story erotica.
- 46d. THELMA ["___ & Louise," 1991 film]. Almost 20 years ago? Sheesh.
Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Well, I suppose the annulus of Zion isn’t familiar enough to make the grade in this theme, so we will have to make do with four two-word phrases that start with __ULUS words:
- 17a. [Economy-boosting government program] is the STIMULUS PACKAGE, which actually sounds pretty LEWD (37d: [Ribald]) if you think about it. My misfire here was going with STIMULUS PROGRAM first. Yes, I see the word “program” already sitting there in the clue.
- 28a. [Exam with derivatives and integrals] is a CALCULUS TEST. I was superb at math right up until I reached calculus.
- 49a. [Puffy sky feature] is a CUMULUS CLOUD.
- 64a. ROMULUS AND REMUS are [Rome's twin founders, traditionally].
Without further ado, several more things:
- 34a. [Gold or silver, e.g.] drove me nuts! I had METAL, but that was making 35d: [Knucklehead] look like…TODD? TO-DO? No, no, no. It’s an Olympic MEDAL and a DODO.
- 53a. I don’t really know this [Hall of Fame Celtic whose initials are his given name]. K.C. JONES? The name is faintly familiar.
- 6d. [One with a grumpy scowl] is a SOURPUSS. Great answer!
- Then the puzzle goes nuts. 39d: COCONUTS are [Hard-shelled palm fruits] and 41d: DOUGHNUT is a [Dunked morning snack].
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords puzzle, “High-Strung Personality”
Fireball #32 came out only a couple days after #31. “Wait,” you say. “I thought this was a weekly deal. What gives?” Peter had an August 7 puzzle planned for 8/7/09, the 35th anniversary of an event. But that darned N.Y. Sun folded, so instead we got the puzzle on 8/7/10. The theme’s a quote by Philippe Petit, the Frenchman who walked a wire between the World Trade Center towers: “If I see / three / oranges, I have / to juggle, and if I / see two towers, / I have / to walk.” (Well, that explains that.)
This skinny puzzle is 14×15 squares, but the slightly smaller size doesn’t account for the puzzle being so much easier than the usual Fireball. It’s just that the cluing was, for the most part, not so difficult. Sure, there are six question-marked clues, but they’re not of the wicked variety.
The next Fireball combusts this Wednesday night, and I’m hoping for a gnarly themeless.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pack Pack”–Janie’s review
Hmmm. Had a bit of déjà vu all over again with this one, as Gail Grabowski’s 4/20/10 puzzle (“Six Pack”) covered the same thematic territory. Today, each of the five theme phrases begins with a word that can be followed by the word “pack”; Gail’s phrases ended with a word that could be followed with “pack.” So Bob reaches his goal with a different set of theme phrases, and that pack (of) pack (words) is made up of:
- 20A. [Scant solace] COLD COMFORT. While neither a cold pack nor cold comfort is likely to deliver anything that’s SUB-ZERO, the effect of either may well be [Fr-r-rigid].
- 11D. [Leadership of the power elite] POWER ELITE. Ya know what? I’d always thought a power pack was the somewhat dry/technical this. Am so glad I looked this one up and to learn that a power pack is also the vibrant this. They’ve yet to have their own movie, but they once had their own TV show. And in the vein of “the same only different” today’s puzzle also gives us BART, clued as the [Fourth grade toon] he is.
- 39A. [Unremitting struggle] RAT RACE. Ah, the late ’50s/early ’60s and the Hollywood/Vegas scene, where actor-singer-entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr., ruled as some of the rotating members of the Rat Pack. For those of you in the San Diego/LA area, you can get a feel for the dynamic and the period in the new musical based on the movie Robin and the 7 Hoods now playing at the Old Globe.
- 29A. ['60s stage and screen role for Barbra Streisand] FANNY BRICE. I’m gonna wager that more solvers here are familiar with fanny packs than they are with Fanny Brice, but suffice it to say she was one of vaudeville’s, radio’s and Broadway’s original power packs!
- 55A. [It originated from the General Call made with a boatswain's pipe] WOLF WHISTLE. Wow. What a neat piece o’ knowledge!
To round out today’s write-up, a bouquet of fave clue/fill combos:
- [It meant nothing to Nero] and [Vacuum] for NIHIL and VOID.
- [Good bud] followed by [Bud holder] for BRO and STEM.
- [Buffalo water hole] for ERIE. Talk about understatement! Just to spell this one out some—this is about Buffalo, NY, and the Great Lake (Erie) that comprises its shore line.
- The humor-related LAFF/[Chortle, in Variety] and TE-HEE [Little laugh] might be heard in response to a JOKE (even one that [...might be practical]).
- [3 to a cell?] is not related to prison accomodations but to your wireless-type telephone, whence DEF. And while we’re in alphabet-land, we’re in Greek alphabet-land, so ETA is the [Letter that rhymes with the ones just before and after it] (zeta and theta) and not CEE or DEE…
- The triply alliterative [Boat bottom basher] for REEF.
- [Words before a sour note] END ON. And so as not to, here’s a [Bayou bye], “ADIEU!”
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
This grid pattern facilitates the meander through the puzzle from upper left to lower right, zigzagging down and across. Given the toughness of the clues, though, the solver can be forgiven for leaving blank patches and hopscotching around.
My favorite bits:
- 17a. Chaka Khan’s “I FEEL FOR YOU.” (“Chaka Khan. Chaka Khan.)
- 33a. I have never heard a DIRTY JOKE set in a harem (please don’t share one), but DIRTY JOKE’s a good crossword answer.
- 57a. Brendan’s first answer into the puzzle, KODAK MOMENT, is a great term.
- 2d. I suppose LEFT ARM isn’t really such a crossword-worthy term, but the clue elevates it to pop-culture trivia item. I never thought about which arm the world’s most famous one-armed drummer was missing (and I didn’t know his name either), but the space was too short for RIGHT ARM.
- 11d. I would kill for a slice of good POUND CAKE right now. Maybe with some fresh. sweet berries and whipped cream on top. Who’s with me?
- 30d. I figured [Change location?] was a noun and that the answer was something along the lines of a COIN PURSE, but I already had the initial P so that wouldn’t fly. PIGGY BANK is fun to say and looks great in the grid.
Never, ever heard of the Brenda Lee song at 52a and had to piece it together with crossings. It’s got an odd wording: “ALL ALONE AM I.” Is that Yoda-speak, or is it a question, “All Alone, Am I?”? Wikipedia reveals: Yoda-speak.