Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword
Hang on a second. I just counted and the word count is a mere 62 words? Dang! Color me impressed. Four intersecting 15s plus pairs of 13s, 11s, and 9s and assorted 7s? Some of these long entries are stone-cold great, and the fill’s smooth enough that I made it through the grid in an easy-Friday amount of time. Well played, Mark Diehl.
- 12d. [David of "St. Elsewhere"] is BIRNEY. He’s not too familiar these days, and in fact his name was never too big. I believe he was once married to Meredith Baxter, who first came to fame as Meredith Baxter-Birney. Didn’t she out herself recently?
- 20a. Wait, the instrument is also a verb? LUTED is clued as [Performed as a minstrel, maybe]. Probably more inferrable than the unquestionably-correct-as-a-verb LUTED that has to do with cementing. Ask your dentist when’s the last time she luted something, and she’ll tell you about the latest luting agents she’s using.
- 50a. GOOGLE DIRECTORY is clued [Aid to researching 35-Downs by topic]. Google has a directory? I had no idea. 35d is WEBSITE, a [Free cookie distributor] that deposits cookies on your hard drive.
- 49d. [Credits date for "Cinderella" and "All About Eve"] is MCML, or 1950. Did you use the trivia clue to narrow down the date, or wait for the crossings to give you the Roman numeral? I’m in group B.
- 1a. I like REDUCE SPEED, the [Construction zone sign], but only in a crossword puzzle. I don’t want to hit a construction zone when driving.
- 14a. WIDE SARGASSO SEA is a [Jean Rhys opus]. Do you know this reference mainly from crosswords?
- 25a. The EYE is a [Ball in a socket]. Ha! Love it.
- 52a. [Ganging up on, in basketball] clues TRIPLE TEAMING. I started with DOUBLE TEAMING but that B wasn’t looking good in 44d.
- 5d. CORPORATE RAIDER is clued by example: [Carl Icahn or T. Boone Pickens].
- 7d. [September happenings, often] are television SEASON PREMIERES. I hope my DVR recorded 30 Rock tonight. And when does Modern Family start up?
- 8d. I was lost with *SS* in place. [Tip preceder, maybe]? The crossings gave me “PSST…” Good stuff.
- 10d. Great clue: The bible book EXODUS is clued as [Escapist reading?].
- 36d. [They sometimes create a scene] clues WALK-ONS, i.e., extras on a film set.
Kelsey Blakley’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’ve always been a fan of SPOONERISMs, but I’m less enthusiastic about this two-pronged theme than you might think, what with a couple distracting irregularities. Here are the theme entries, all spoonerisms that end with ___ KNIVES:
- 17a. [Choose deli platter items?] flips chickpeas into PICK CHEESE, which is an awkward little phrase. I may have a small cheese knife of some sort in my utensil drawer.
- 25a. [Beef marinated in Jim's bourbon?] clues BEAM STEAK, which is mildly plausible as a restaurant item, though the “Jim” would be in the name. It’s a spoonerism of…what? Is steam-bake a cooking term? STEAMY crosses this, but I don’t see de-spoonerized words crossing the other theme entries. I have steak knives in my kitchen, but no steam-baking goes on in there.
- 34a. [Rooster's spread?] clues COCK’S BUTTER, and there are a number of double entendres floating through my head. I do have a butter knife. But I have a problem here, because the unspoonerized term is box cutter, which is a type of knife. That’s distracting, that it’s knife before and half knife after, when the other theme entries are only in the half-knife-after category.
- 49a. ["Casablanca" nightclub income?] is RICK BREAD (brick red). I love my bread knife so much, it doesn’t go back into the knife block. It lives in a niche on the counter.
- 55a. [Ironically, the 58-Acrosses in this puzzle end in types of them] clues KNIVES. Why is that ironic? Is this spoon(er)/knife utensil humor? Reverend Spooner has naught to do with spoons.
- 58a. [What each of the other four longest answers in this puzzle is] is a SPOONERISM.
Where the theme really lost me is that these spoonerisms aren’t funny. When my parents were dating, my grandma told my dad, “Claudia’s a great bed breaker.” See? That’s funny. Messing up “steam-bake” as “Beam steak” is just weird.
Nine more clues:
- 5a. [Legendary brothers in law] are the EARPS. If they’re brothers-in-law, how did they end up with the same last na…oh! Never mind. Brothers, working in law. Okay, awesome clue.
- 30a. [Shooting gadget] clues SYRINGE. When I think of syringes and shooting, I think of shooting up. Giving someone a shot ≠ “shooting.”
- 33a. [Dutch physics Nobelist Simon van der __] was an all-the-crossings-are-needed answer, MEER. Clue that as the Dutch word for “sea” and I would’ve had a shot at it.
- 38a, 44d. [Shelled out] is PAID and [Take-home] is NET PAY. That’s a lot of paying.
- 51a. [Friend of Jesús] the Spanish speaker is AMIGO.
- 3d. The BICEPS muscle is an [Arm & Hammer logo feature].
- 6d. [It may be blonde or brown] clues ALE. Make mine amber, red, or brown, please.
- 13d. [British : trainer :: American : __] SNEAKER. Chicagoans call ‘em gym shoes.
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Character References”
Patrick’s erudite theme gathers a party full of nouns that arose from literary characters by those names. If you (a) knew all the nouns, (b) knew they came from literature, and (c) have at least a passing familiarity with the relevant works of literature, please give yourself a cookie and a pat on the back right away. Good for you! No cookie for me. The theme entries are as follows:
- 14a. [One who hypocritically pretends to be pious] is TARTUFFE, from Moliere
- 17a. [One who’s adept at solving mysteries] is SHERLOCK, after Arthur Conan Doyle’s S. Holmes. The phrase “No shit, Sherlock” amuses me.
- 20a. [One who’s grouchy and miserly] is a SCROOGE, from Dickens.
- 27a. [One who’s absurdly optimistic] is a POLLYANNA. I wanted Pangloss here, and I didn’t know that Pollyanna is from literature. From Eleanor Hodgman Porter’s children’s stories from the early 20th century, the dictionary tells me.
- 35a. [One who has grandiose daydreams but a humdrum actual life] is WALTER MITTY. The only member of the theme with first and last name as the noun/adjective. Thurber character.
- 44a. [One who earnestly pitches woo] is LOCHINVAR. Not in the first dictionary I checked; not a name/noun I know.
- 53a. BABBITT is [One who contentedly conforms to middle-class ideals]. Sinclair Lewis.
- 59a. [One who dominates another by sheer force of personality] is a SVENGALI. From George du Maurier’s novel, the dictionary advises. What a weird character name. Half Swedish, half…Bengali? I’m partial to Elaine’s mispronunciation on Seinfeld: “Sven-jolly.”
- 64a. [One who seduces women with ease] is a LOTHARIO. Super-familiar word, but where’s it from? Rowe’s Fair and Penitent, the dictionary tells me. I believe we are excused from being expected to know that reference.
Any Filipinos in the house? I wanted 46d: CEBUAN/[From the Philippines’ oldest Spanish town] to be one letter longer—Cebuano. You, too?
Other interesting spots in the fill included ERAGON, the LOW ROAD, non-melon CRENSHAW, and an Alanis Morissette song I don’t know, “YOU LEARN.”
Did you know what 23d: EPEE meant? [It means “sword” in French].
Least familiar word in the puzzle: The key word in the clue for 21a, [Galleass’s three]. Inflected by “galleon” and “galley,” I suspected it was a boat and worked out MASTS, but I’ve never seen galleass before.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Home Movies”—Janie’s review
The last words in each of Sarah’s theme movie-titles are not so much synonyms for the word “home” as an array of places one might take up residence—longer-term (apartment, house) or shorter- (shack, hotel [keeping in mind that the residential hotel is not completely a thing of the past]). Of course there’s always the saying that “home is where the heart is”—so, “be it ever so humble,” here’s today’s quadruple bill of “‘home’ movies”:
- 17A. CADDYSHACK [1980 Chevy Chase comedy]. Never saw it…and even with its decent rating at IMDB, can’t say as it sounds like a “must see.” I love a good comedy, but must be in the right frame of mind to appreciate the “goof-ball” stuff.
- 26A. THE APARTMENT [1960 Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine romantic comedy]. Am always surprised to see this highly celebrated film—which includes a suicide attempt—described as a comedy. Not that it’s humorless. But it’s also very serious in depicting ways people are victims/victimized. More a romantic dramedy for my money. This one was adapted to the musical stage most successfully (currently enjoying its first revival on Broadway some 40 years after its debut) where it goes by the name Promises, Promises (with a score by some pop writers named Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and a book by a guy named Neil Simon…).
- 44A. LIFE AS A HOUSE [2001 Kevin Kline drama]. Never saw this one either, and while it’s decidedly on the “serious” side, it also sounds like I’ll be adding this to my wish-list at the library. Seems that when we first meet our hero, the dwelling he’s living in is described as a shack…
- 60A. GRAND HOTEL [1932 Greta Garbo romantic drama]. Ah—this is the one in which Garbo famously says, “I want to be alone.” In year five of the Academy Awards, Grand Hotel took the Oscar for Best Picture. In 1989, this movie, too, was adapted for musical theatre and it was deservedly nominated for any number of Tonys in 1990, including one for 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski. (Fans of Evening Shade may remember Michael Jeter. He won a Tony for his performance.)
Since it just appeared yesterday, I didn’t love seeing [Lion's share] for MOST again; but I sure did enjoy these [...?] clue/fill pairs: [Touchy king?] for MIDAS (the original Goldfinger), [Unlucky Roman number?] for the graphic XIII, [Airline carriers?] for SKY CAPS (the folks who carry/handle luggage for the airlines), [Is in the past?] for WAS (the past tense of “is”…), and most especially [Sound elicited by an electric can opener?] for “MEOW!” (think cause-and-effect here).
Fave fill? SHUSHES and STOPGAP, MAHLER and EXEMPT, the rhyming SWEE and GLEE (which follow one another in the far right column), and WISHING which comes to us as a [Type of well].
We have another example today of fill that repeats something from an unrelated clue. [Goddess of the hunt] is DIANA; ["Diana" vocalist Paul] is ANKA. The name’s the same—but that’s about it, so I’m guessing this kind of duplication is fair game.