Michael Sharp’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle marks the debut of Michael Sharp, a.k.a. Rex Parker. He told me a couple weeks ago that his crossword was coming out Tuesday, August 17, but that he had submitted it as a Wednesday. Hey! I will agree with Michael that this is more appropriate for Wednesday, given the overall difficulty and the non-Tuesdayishness of much of the fill.
The theme is 37a: SOS—four phrases with S.O.S. initials. Here they are:
- 17a. SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN is a [Weapon for Clyde Barrow] of Bonnie and Clyde fame.
- 27a. [Loafers, e.g.] are SLIP-ON SHOES.
- 42a. [Tired routine, colloquially] is SAME OLD…wait, how colloquial are we going here? Because SAME OLD SONG isn’t at all what I was thinking. I quizzed my husband and he had the same idea I did.
- 53a. Ah, SOUNDS OF SILENCE, the [1966 album that concludes with "I Am a Rock"].
In the “Wait, are you sure it’s Tuesday?” category or in the “Really?” classification, we have these:
- 1a. Good gravy, GALOPS? [Some Strauss compositions] are “lively ballroom dances in duple time, popular in the 18th century,” called GALOPS. See? Not a Tuesdayish way to start the puzzle.
- 11a. [Thanksgiving side dish] is one lonely YAM. I guess it’s Thanksgiving for one.
- 22a. “IT’S LATE” is apparently a [1959 top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson]. Briefly considered AM I LATE and TOO LATE because I don’t know the song.
- 35a. Wasn’t expecting a non-Q.E.D. clue like ["In principio ___ Verbum" (words from John 1:1)] for ERAT. (On Tuesday??) Pretty sure the bible wasn’t originally written in Latin. I read the clue as being a quote from a pope named John (whoops).
- 39a. GROT is a [Small cave, poetically]. See, now that could have been changed to TROT, making the crossing IN RATS, or [How a cat or snake is willing to accept payment].
- 42a. REMAP means to [Chart again]. Re-meh. You know what needs remapping? The American Museum of Natural History in New York. Horrible layout and signage. I was both bored and annoyed there.
- 18d. [Independent, in Ingolstadt] uses an obscure German I-town for purposes of alliteration, which doesn’t make it any easier to get FREI if you don’t know it already. Apparently automaker Audi abides in Ingolstadt.
- 48d. APEAK means [Vertically, to a sailor]. I give BOOS to nauticalese.
- 54d. French OIE is clued via [Confit d'___ (potted goose)]. Oie vey!
- 14a. “I DO NOT!” is indeed a [Defensive statement] someone might say. Worlds better than a “playground retort” entry.
- 12a. Love the word WRAITH—a [Specter].
- 62a. I absolutely was stumped by the DYES clue: [They make the highlights in highlights]. I thought of Highlights for Children and of headlights rather than my last trip to the hair salon.
- 5d, PODCASTS are [Some iTunes downloads]. I’m a week or two behind on Ryan-and-Brian-of-Lollapuzzoola-fame’s crossword podcast, “Fill Me In.” It’s good stuff. If you write to them, you may hear your words on the next podcast.
- 9d. SCHWINN has been a [Bicycle maker since 1895]. By the way, there are 26 fill answers in the 6- to 8-letter range. That’s a lot. Same lowish word count (74) as the Monday L.A. Times crossword.
- 33d. “LET ‘EM IN” is Paul McCartney’s [1976 hit that begins "Someone's knockin' at the door"]. Sister Susie, Martin Luther, brother John? The year is 1517, and Martin L. wasn’t knockin’ at the door, he was nailin’ 95 theses on the door. Common misconception.
- 38d. HOG CALLS are [Noises from a county fair contest]. I believe it has been a long, long time since Cook County, Ill., had a county fair. My favorite hog call is “sister soooooey!”
- 51d. [Ornery sort] clues CUSS. You know who can be an ornery cuss sometimes? That Rex Parker fella, that’s who.
- 55d. NMI, short for “no middle initial,” is clued with [It indicates a void in some govt. records]. I like this because I learned it from one of my editorial board members back in the ’90s, whereas when it showed up in an NYT crossword a couple years ago, Rex had a classic rant about it being crappy fill because he and his wife didn’t know it. I reckon he included it here with a massive wink.
Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The day’s other debut crossword is right here, and I was tipped off by the constructor himself at Lollapuzzoola 3 on Saturday. Steve said, “Please be nice.” I dunno. I heard he offered to buy a drink for PuzzleGirl of L.A. Crossword Confidential, but there was no such bribe offered to me. And what’s crazy is that a little palm-greasing with Presidents Jackson or Grant would have been surprisingly apt, given the theme of singers with presidential surnames:
- 17a. ["Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" singer] is BRYAN ADAMS. I was fond of Mr. Canadian-Not-an-American-President Adams in the early ’80s, but have never heard of this song.
- 29a. ["How Glad I Am" Grammy winner, 1964] clues jazz singer NANCY WILSON. Not to be confused with the Nancy Wilson of the rock band Heart.
- 45a. ["Total Eclipse of the Heart" singer] is BONNIE TYLER. That song? It’s dreadful. Simply dreadful. The “literal version” of the music video is savagely funny, though.
- 61a. ISAAC HAYES is the [1971 Oscar winner for "Theme from 'Shaft'"]. He later expanded his fame as the voice of Chef on South Park.
- The theme is continued with the not symmetrical and not-at-the-bottom-of-the-puzzle 12d/36d, […patriotic song that's a hint to this puzzle's theme], HAIL TO / THE CHIEF. I always enjoy a reference to that song thanks to the Kevin Kline movie Dave, in which Dave is showering at the White House and sings, “Hail to the Chief, he’s the one they all say ‘hail’ to. We all say hail ’cause he keeps himself so clean. He’s got the power, that’s why he’s in the shower.”
Rita Coolidge, Kate Bush, Janet and Mahalia and Joe and Michael Jackson, George Harrison, James Taylor, Amy Grant, Lita Ford, Aaron Carter, and George Clinton are all presumably off pouting that they weren’t included. If there’s a particular reason these four theme entries made the cut and all those other singers didn’t, it escapes me. Anyone?
Solid fill overall, Steve. Congrats on your debut!
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “In the Can”—Janie’s review
This was one of those puzzles for which I was slow in drawing the title/theme connection. At center, vertically, I saw that MGM LION [Studio mascot that starts movies off with a roar] and putting it together with the first two (actual) theme answers thought there was a “movie” theme here—since “in the can” is movie-talk for a film that’s finished shooting. But no. “The can” here is not the container for the reel, nor “the terlit,” but another word for the pokey, the stir, the clink, the calaboose. Jail. And the last word of each of the four theme phases is one that names something or someone you will find there. So, there’s:
17A. JACK WARDEN [Actor who played trainer Max Corkle in "Heaven Can Wait"]. One of the film industry’s great character men was Mr. Warden (in this re-make/update of Here Comes Mr. Jordan—and in many, many other films).
27A. THE LONGEST YARD [1974 football film starring Burt Reynolds]. This one actually takes place in a prison yard… Coincidentally (perhaps), the protagonist of Heaven Can Wait is a football player, too.
43A. WHITE BLOOD CELL [Leukocyte]. ‘Tis what ’tis.
58A. RIGHT GUARD [Antiperspirant that comes in "Fresh Blast" and "Fast Break" scents]. I can sort of imagine the first one, but the second? Go figure. But I bet a lot of aspiring basketball players use it…
And there’s a sort of bonus, too. If this particular can were, say, San Quentin, it’s possible that [Dirty Harry's employer (abbr.)], someone from the SFPD, may have been the prisoner’s arresting officer.
Lotso good fill and cluing of the non-theme variety as well. There’s a scrabbly cross at the top of KEN KESEY [Nurse Ratched's creator] and “K-K-K-KATY” [The "only g-g-g-girl that I adore," according to a WWI-era song]. And I do so like the way that EEE, the [Very wide shoe width] sits below K-K-K. LOW BALL [Make a chintzy offer] is a great phrase and clue, no? It’s also a phrase that seems never to have appeared before in a CS puzzle.
A LEI is that [Garland often made of plumerias] (which are in the oleander family). But it can also include flowers of the ORCHID family [Phalaenopsis or dendrobium, e.g.]. And had you ever heard of a PSEC [Infinitesimal fraction of a min.]? Stands for picosecond. How infinitesimal? From Wiki: “A picosecond is to one second as one second is to 31,700 years.” Yep. That’s pretty infinitesimal.
Wrapping up, [Gets ready for a drive] has nothing to do with automotive endeavors, but takes us to the golf course for TEES UP. Donna’s best clue today? That’d be the punny and funny [That's a moray!] for EEL. Cute!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The Bleat Goes On”
- 20a. ["East vs. West" sports event] is the NBA ALL-STAR GAME.
- 26a. BABA AU RHUM is a [Liqueur-saturated dessert].
- 34a. [Hip hop-pioneering DJ] clues AFRIKA BAMBAATAA.
- 43a. The BAATH PARTY used to be [Saddam Hussein's group]
- 53a. Meerkat and warthog TIMON AND PUMBAA are your [Duo from "The Lion King"].
Two BAAs split across words, three intact BAAs—that’ll work. A 3/2 theme division is almost always better than a 4/1 discordance.
Hello! Did you notice that the sixth column of this grid takes the female superior position?
- 21d. LABIA is a [Word before majora or minora]. So…if there were multiple Ursa Minor and Ursa Major constellations, those would be Ursae Minora and Ursae Majora? With the final A, the adjectives are pluralized?
- 44d. [Like some implants] clues PENILE.
And now, eight not-at-all-lewd clues:
- 51a. [Let out, like a fire hose] clues UNREEL. Have you ever been in a firehouse when they’ve got the hoses hanging up to drip dry before they get coiled up again? The world’s tallest clotheslines, I tell you. Hoses up to the ceiling, down into the basement.
- 59a. [1970s Lincoln Continental] is the MARK V. Forgot that one existed. It was confusing for a kid in the ’70s. “Mark Vee,” not “Mark Five”—we weren’t yet hip to Roman numerals.
- 60a. [Augustana's record label] is EPIC. Wha?? It’s a band (roots rock) and yes, it’s sort of named after Illinois’s Augustana College.
- 4d. [Musician's practice with four sharps] is E SCALE. I don’t get “scales” at all unless you’re talking about fish or weights.
- 9d. SMYRNA is an [Atlanta suburb named for an ancient Greek city]. Do you think there’s anyone named Myrna in Smyrna?
- 10d. [The toe of Italy's boot] is the CALABRIA region.
- 37d. [Common relationship fear] clues INTIMACY. Wait, just how “common” is this fear?
- 52d. [Gary who sang "It's the only way to live in cars"] is Gary NUMAN, one of the first stars of New Wave music. Kind of a one-hit wonder. Raise your hand if you love synthesizer pop!
- 55d. [Munches on, like an LOLcat] clues NOMS. As in “nom, nom, nom.”