Bernice Gordon’s New York Times crossword
Constructor Bernice Gordon is 96 years old and has had her work published in the NYT for 58 of those years. I suppose it’s reasonable to expect some of the puzzlemakers who began as teens (including Merl Reagle, Will Shortz, Henry Hook, Tyler Hinman a generation or two behind them, and a slew of current high school and college students) to have 80-year crossword careers.
The theme takes a quartet of people whose last names double as adjectives and tacks on a contracted is (apostrophe-S) to make each name into a complete sentence. Actresses Jean Smart and Glenn Close yield JEAN’S SMART and GLENN’S CLOSE. Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship fame is partly responsible for one of the worst rock songs of all time, “We Built This City.” (Bernie Taupin wrote the timeless lyrics.) Anyway, GRACE’S SLICK doesn’t work as well as the other theme entries because with the “S” sound at the end of Grace, I think most of us would pronounce the full “Grace is” rather than “Grace’s.” The fourth name is Blondie cartoonist Chic Young: CHIC’S YOUNG. I won’t dock the puzzle a point for having three women and one man because we have way too many themes that are all male. Not being all female or 50/50 M/F isn’t a mark of inconsistency.
I had a couple early missteps in the top middle. For 5d: [Clobbered], I had BEATEN; for 7d: [Many an e-mail "click here" offer], I had SPAM (though the spam is the email itself, not an offer contained therein). I was pretty sure 15a: the [Capital of Ghana] was not ECPRA, however. BASHED and SCAM, meet ACCRA.
Least Monday-friendly fill: 44a: [Capital of Suffolk, England] is IPSWICH. Luckily, the crossings all look broadly gettable, so this shouldn’t snag too many solvers.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “We’ve Been Railroaded!”—Janie’s review
As anyone who’s ever played “Monopoly” has learned, “R.R.” is the abbreviation for “railroad” (as in B&O, Reading, Pennsylvania and Short Line). Today, it’s the addition of that “RR” abbreviation into well-known phrases that’s at the heart of Bob’s theme. And here’s how it delivers:
- 20A. Soy milk latte → SORRY MILK LATTE [Regrettable 17-Across offering?]. That referenced fill—which sits right above the theme fill—is STARBUCKS [Company that one of its founders wanted to name Pequod]. When they need caffeine, many of my friends simply say they need a cup of Starbucks. Somehow “a cup of Pequod” just doesn’t sound so enticing… The also-ran and the real name, of course, both derive from Moby-Dick.
- 35A. The Bronx Zoo → THE BRONX ZORRO [Masked Big Apple swashbuckler?]. Funny concept here! And provincial me. I’d incorrectly assumed that “the Big Apple” referred to Manhattan only. But darned if I find anything to support that. Rather it refers to New York City in its entirety. All five boroughs. And do you ever stop to think about the full names of designers, thinking they go only by their last names? I know I do and that I’m guilty of narrow thinking. Which is the long way of saying that I was surprised/delighted to see the full name ALDO GUCCI in the puzzle today, wittily clued as [Big bagman?].
- 53A. “Wipe your feet!” → “WIPE YOUR FERRET!” [Directive for owners of not-quite-domesticated polecats?]. Eeew… And, yeah—when ya think about it, that’s pretty funny!
Terrific, too, is the abundant and longer non-theme fill. Two more nines: FBI AGENTS and CAPARISON. That latter was a new word for me and such [Equine trappings] refer to things like, well, a decorative horse blanket. (It’s also something a picador will put on his horse as he encounters EL TORO.) Two 8-columns appear NE and SW with fill such as that tricky [Trap trigger], the TRIP WIRE and the less-likely-to-be-lethal HAY RIDES.
Triple 6-columns fill the NW and SE with such goodies as [Cherry] GARCIA [(Ben & Jerry's offering)] (oh, make mine the frozen yogurt variety—my fave!) and PASSEL [Whole bunch] (love this variation of “parcel”). A passel is quite the opposite of A TAD, whose clue [Little bit] echoes the preceding [Little bitty kiss] for PECK.
I also like the way the pair of eights, CHASTENS and the almost rhyming C-RATIONS, mirror one another in the grid.
Fave clues of the rhymed variety would have to include [Cow or wow] for AWE, [League of intrigue] for CABAL, [Local yokel] for RUBE and [Askew view] for BIAS. Of the non-rhymed variety there’s: [Luck of the draw?] for BYE (think tennis or NCAA brackets), [Child's first name] for (chef…) JULIA (which took me way too long to parse…), and the graphic goody [Di$pen$er] for our old friend ATM.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
What? A double pop-culture collision between current trash TV and a [1979 Frank Zappa rock opera]? If you don’t know either one, MOE’S GARAGE and M-WOWW are equally as plausible as JOE’S GARAGE and J-WOWW.
I don’t like 1-Across. I was just catching up with a couple of Ryan and Brian’s “Fill Me In” podcasts from August (yes, I’m way behind) and Brian mentioned being a “1-Across snob.” Nobody calls the company J AND J. Not ever. It’s Johnson & Johnson or J&J, no? I used to like the ampersandwich answers that use AND instead of &, but no longer. It’s not ampersandless “R and B,” not unless you’re talking about Ryan and Brian rather than rhythm and blues.
Highlights! OLLIE HARDY was tough to get without some good crossings. There’s no reason to be afraid of a UTERUS in your crossword. DON JUAN is great—so much better than the short ROUE/RAKE/CADs we see more often in the grid. Hooray for Brendan running in ROAD RACEs now, letting his inner athlete come out and play. NEROLI oil smells great; what’s not to love about all things Orange? Soccer’s JULIE FOUDY is solid; a third of me thought it might be FOUTY but the D won out. We used to see KIRI in the grid so much more, but Brendan goes with the Kiwi’s last name, TE KANAWA. And who doesn’t love an EVIL TWIN?
Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword (writing as Samantha Wine)
- 20a. [Daydreaming] clues LOST IN THOUGHT.
- 36a. MISSING THE POINT means [Failing to grasp a key element].
- 52a. If you’re [Not expected back at work until tomorrow], you’re GONE FOR THE DAY. Isn’t that an odd phrase, if you think about it? “Gone for the day” should mean “out today, but not yesterday or tomorrow,” rather than “you were here today, but you’ve left.”
Highlights: THE GAP, where some of my kid’s fall wardrobe came from. I’M BUYING, always welcome words. A baby’s DUE DATE. TOGGLE, HUDDLE, FRITZ, and KNISH all sound good spoken aloud.
If you’ve decided to put READE in your grid, it’s best to go playful with something like [Aptly named novelist] than to clue him with reference to something he wrote that practically none of us have ever read.