Will Shortz finally made it into the editorial content of The Onion. Hah!
Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
- 9a. [It's all ivory and no ebony] clues C MAJOR. Piano note or key or something. All crossings for me, baby. Musical terminology and I, we’ve never gotten along.
- 15a. [NyQuil ingredient?] is a CAPITAL Q.
- 17a. ["Speak of the devil"] clues a sort of awkward “OH, IT’S YOU.”
- 30a. Say what? OSMIC [___ acid (microscopic staining compound)] is unknown to this medical editor. Gimme your hematoxylin-eosin, sure, but I don’t know OSMIC acid.
- 31a. “HOW D’ YE DO?” is clued as a [Hayseed's greeting], but I think “howdy-do” and “how d’ya do” sound more hayseedy.
- 41a. Wha? “BIG POPPA” is a [1995 platinum rap hit that starts "To all the ladies in the place with style and grace"]. It’s by the late Notorious B.I.G. and no, I don’t know the song.
- 52a. This is bogus. ZALE isn’t a [Big name in retail jewelry], Zales (no apostrophe) is. Zales is owned by the Zale Corporation, but that is not remotely a household name.
- 65a. The instrument called a DULCIMER means [Literally, "sweet song"].
- 8d. SQUISHY! Great word, fun clue: [Like a wet Nerf ball].
- 12d. Whoa. MARLBORO in a puzzle a day or two ago, and now JOE CAMEL, the [Much-maligned mascot]. Cigarettes are busting out all over. Could you open a window, please?
- 14d. I’m pretty sure some people will find REDNECKS ([Hillbillies' cousins]) to be offensive.
- 33d. [Fist bump] is my preferred clue for DAP.
- 37d. COOL KIDS might be a [Nerd-rejecting high-school group]. I like to think that those jocks end up reporting to the nerds at work.
- 42d. [Victorian's greeting] means “greeting from a person in the Australian state of Victoria,” or “G’DAY.” Other spoken-word answers in the grid include OY VEY and HA HA HA.
- 44d. An OBSEQUY is a [Funeral rite]. Dictionary says the singular is obsolete, replaced by plural obsequies.
- 51d. [Orange dwarfs] are K-STARS. If you don’t know how to spell Salma HAYEK’s last name, you might be stuck on what letter goes with this star.
- 60d. I don’t get why GET is the answer to [Confound]. Is it supposed to be something like “you really got me there” = “you really confounded me there”? That seems like a reach. Anyone?
Clive Probert’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Still Science Fiction (For Now)”
Five staples of sci-fi that science has not (yet) realized are the theme entries in this week’s uncommonly easy CHE puzzle:
- 17a. [Unrepeatable experiment of 1989] clues COLD FUSION. I have no idea what the “1989″ reference is about. Did real scientists attempt cold fusion in ’89?
- 19a. MIND CONTROL is the [Government’s power in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”].
- 33a. [Process that went wrong in “The Fly”] is TELEPORTATION. If my son could pick one superpower to have, this is it. Me, I want to fly.
- 51a. ANTIGRAVITY is apparently an [Ideal spacecraft-propulsion method].
- 54a. [The grandfather paradox implies that it’s impossible] clues TIME TRAVEL. The what paradox? This. Click the link if this interests you.
I was recently asked about editing some crosswords aimed at a sci-fi audience. Alas, I am out of my league when it comes to the arcana of science fiction. I read sci-fi in junior high and high school but didn’t stick with it. Luckily, Probert’s theme doesn’t demand much sci-fi knowledge, as the crossings are so much easier than usual.
Highlights elsewhere in the puzzle:
- 14a. [Bacon, lettuce, and tomato, e.g.] are foods. They are sandwich fixin’s. And they are NOUNS. No matter how much some people would like it, bacon simply isn’t a verb.
- 29a. [Bad at enduring hardship] is an interesting clue for SOFT. Now, that answer word is duplicated in the clue for 28d: [Soft & ___ (deodorant brand)], but if SOFT and DRI were cross-referenced, it would be…boring.
- 11d. Some SCOTSMEN are [Kilt wearers]. You know what I want to know? What percentage of men in kilts are wearing underwear beneath the kilt.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I may have been abducted by aliens while solving this puzzle. Really? A solving time nearly double that of the CHE puzzle? That can’t be right! But I had trouble putting the theme entries together even though the first theme answer gave away the trick, and I had a few wrong turns that derailed me. (Yes, I know trains don’t make turns and vehicles that do make turns don’t get derailed.) Each theme entry contains a word—the first word, in fact—that has lost its final -EY and thus picked up a new meaning:
- 20a. [Faultfinding brother?] is a MONK ON ONE’S BACK.
- 29a. [Debris in the hayloft?] sent me awry. First I thought the initial BA- began the word BALE, and then I thought the final -LE was BALE, but there’s no BALE in it. Then I thought of BARNeys that might be involved, and I thought of the old comic strip character Barney Google, which sent me off into musings on what sort of search engine “Barn Google” would be. Then I remembered the Barney from The Simpsons, Barney Gumble. Finally, The Flintstones‘ Barney Rubble clawed his way to the surface of my brain and BARN RUBBLE made it into the grid. See? That was probably a solid minute lost right there, at 29a.
- 38a. If you’re [Impervious to chutzpah?], you’re GALL-PROOF. Galley proofs are typeset but not laid out in book-size pages yet.
- 50a. [What Michelle Kwan might do in a financial emergency?] is HOCK SKATES at the pawn shop.
- 59a. TURK IN THE STRAW is clued as a [Haystack-hiding Ottoman?].
- 42a. [Jordan was part of it: Abbr.] tricked me. Now, the UAR (United Arab Republic) was Egypt and Syria, not Jordan, but that didn’t stop me from entering UAR in the grid. D’oh. It’s the NBA that Michael Jordan was part of.
- 68a. [Blow without distinction?] is that ordinary fellow, JOE Blow.
- 47d. [One taken in] isn’s someone who’s been arrested or someone who’s been duped—it’s a BOARDER taken in who is renting a room in a house.
- 46a. [Dona __ pacem: grant us peace] clues NOBIS. Now, I know ora pro nobis (“pray for us”), but couldn’t put this NOBIS together without every crossing.
- 58a. [Basso Berberian] clues some dude named ARA. Ara Parseghian and the constellation Ara, I know. I don’t know this Berberian at the gate.
- 54a. [Pretense] clues POSE but I had PLOY or maybe RUSE in mind and had trouble putting POSE here.
- 49d. Given my woes with 54a and 58d, I had a helluva time with [London classic, with "The"]. SEA-WOLF? Okay, then.
- 63d. [Ohio State basketball coach Matta] is named THAD. You know who’s a lot more famous? That Thad-somebody, the Coast Guardy guy the government put in charge of the BP oil spill.
Did this puzzle knock you down, too, or is it just me?
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Who Turned the Lights Out?”—Janie’s review
What’s the opposite of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”? I guess that would have to be the first words of Ray’s hardly colorless theme phrases, which explore the varieties of absence (or serious reduction) of light. Some people have a PHOBIA, an [Irrational fear] of places that aren’t lit up, but from the looks of things, that wouldn’t be Ray, who whistles away and winningly taunts us with:
- 17A. DARK COMEDY [Grimly satiric entertainment]. Think of the original (British) version of Death at a Funeral or The Ruling Class or plays by Joe Orton. The Brits really do excel at this genre. I love the stuff.
- 27A. SHADOW BOXING [Practicing pugilism]. How did shadow boxing come to called that? “It all comes down to the concept of fighting an imaginary opponent.” Thank you, Boxing Forum, for the explanation.
- 44A. BLACK RUSSIAN [Vodka cocktail]. Here’s a little recipe in case you’d like to try this out at home. But since it’s made with a liqueur, isn’t this a little “sweet” for a cocktail (which I think of as a before-dinner drink)? Then again, maybe I’m getting my mixology mixed up. It’s the White Russian that’s the after-dinner variety. The Big Lebowski anyone?
- 59A. NIGHT FEVER [1978 hit for the Bee Gees]. Disco. Yikes. There’s a whole era that I was alive for and totally missed (making it a real pocket-of-vulnerability in my pop-culture puzzle-solving ability). Not much better with the next decade either, so it took me a few passes to correctly fill in “IT’S A SIN” [1987 Pet Shop Boys hit]. (“TSK, madam,” she said, giving herself a [Condescending cluck].)
Love the clue [Drop cloth?] for PARACHUTE, and wonder whether a canvas or plastic drop-cloth has ever substituted as a kind of make-shift parachute. Think I won’t try it myself to find out… In the clue department, I was somewhat asleep to the oft-seen trick of [Tower’s letters]. Of course that’s the tow company’s letters, AAA, and not, say, “Fresno” painted on that city’s beautiful landmark water tower.
There are some nice tie-ins to be found among the clues and fill, like the humorously clued, non-business related [Japanese middle managers?] for OBIS and then (even though they go around different part of the body) SASHES, clued today as [Beauty pageant bands] (for what are obis if not sashes?). Ray gets a bit literary, including IAMB, a most basic [Sonnet part] and [Sonnets and such] for POESY. And we also go a little Nordic, with both IKEA, that [Scandinavian chain] from Sweden, and OSLO (Norway) [Scandinavian capital].
In addition to the examples above, the two “X”s of TEX-MEX brighten things up as does TIME LIMIT and the rhyme-y [One who’s back in the pack] for ALSO RAN. Not bad for a puzzle that promised a dark experience!
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Put Options”
(Jeffrey’s on vacation this week and next, so I’m blogging the WSJ myself for two weeks.) Put options are a thing in stock trading, but here the financial term is reworked in service of the theme. You have to put an option word, OR, inside various phrases (and inside words) to create new phrases with altered meanings:
- 23a. CRITICAL MORASS is an [Unmanageable muddle of reviews?]. This one’s tied for my favorite theme entry. I like the shift from “critical mass” to a MORASS.
- 34a. [Mythical mutant who looses evils?] clues GIANT PANDORA. Yeah, I like this one a lot too. I’m picturing a giant Pandora who looks a lot like a giant panda.
- 48a. To [Drive out evil tariffs?] is to EXORCISE TAXES. This is part of the Republican plank, of course. I like this entry.
- 61a. [Guild of African poachers?] might be the IVORY LEAGUE. Better for academics than sports, right? Good wordplay action here.
- 71a. [Statue of Liberty's crown?] is a PANORAMA HAT. I like this one too.
- 84a. “Spring fever” is a great base phrase. [Prequel to "The Endless Summer"?] is SPRING FOREVER.
- 96a. [Like florists by the end of Valentine's Day?] is BORED OF ROSES.
- 113a. A STORAGE MANAGER might be a [Warehouse foreman?]
Can you tell I really liked the execution of this theme? The “put options” thing is a sop to the captains of finance who read the WSJ, and doesn’t excite me as a rationale for the theme. But the before-and-after phrases are generally lively, and some amusement is to be found in the “aha” moments. The three-stacks of 8-letter answers in the corners are cool, too.
Fifteen more clues:
- 1a. [Info-gathering reporter] is a LEGMAN. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass regularly mentions his legmen (and legwomen), as seen here, but he gives them code names like Wings and Spartacus. Gee, my bosses never gave me nicknames.
- 7a. I was briefly vexed when [Man of many words] demanded a 7-letter name and not ROGET. It’s Noah WEBSTER.
- 87a. HENRY is clued as a [Bald boy of the comics]. Old comics.
- 121a. If red-headed means “having red hair,” then sure, [Lightheaded?] can work for BLONDE. Cute clue.
- 14d. [Macedonian, for one] is a BALKAN. So are Montenegrins, Albanians, Greeks, and Bulgarians, among others.
- 19d. [Errol Flynn's birthplace] is TASMANIA?!? I had no idea.
- 29d. A SPIN DRYER is a [Load-bearing device?] in that it bears loads of laundry.
- 62d. [Result of replacing the goalie with a forward] is an OPEN NET in hockey. Now, Canadian Jeffrey would’ve known that one. I had to work the crossings.
- 63d. [Protester on horseback] isn’t a generic term (“We’re having a ride-in! Wear your protest Stetson.”). It’s Lady GODIVA.
- 79d. [Halter feature] refers to the NOOSE that’s part of rope used to lead a horse. It’s not, luckily, part of a halter top.
- 80d. [1963 film set in Bodega Bay] is THE BIRDS. I don’t know where Bodega Bay is, and you know what else? I can’t ever watch that Hitchcock film again. It creeped me out too much.
- Three oddball clues/answers in a row: 81d. [Dirigible pilot]/AERONAUT, 82d. [Hogarth, for one]/ENGRAVER, and 84d. [Kelp bed inhabitant]/SEA OTTER.
- 100d. [It may have locks on it] clues a CANAL. Locks are used to facilitate the movement of a boat between two water systems with different heights.