Pamela Amick Klawitter’s New York Times crossword, “Location, Location, Location”
The theme here is phrases that include a location component and a noun component, and some version of the noun piece is found elsewhere in the grid as suggested by the theme entry. Here are the theme answers:
- 22a. DRESSING ON THE SIDE is one of my favorite salad specifications. Really, a tablespoon of dressing is plenty for me. The DRESSING located ON THE SIDE is MAYO within 91d. But when someone asks for “dressing on the side,” generally they’re referring to a mixed salad dressing, not mayonnaise.
- 34a. SQUARE MILE is echoed in the four-square clockwise MILE in the northeast corner of the grid. Except that the phrase “square mile” really doesn’t use “square” as a location.
- 57a. ROOM AT THE TOP is a colorful phrase. The DEN in 1a is a room found at the top of the grid.
- 75a. SLANTED LINES isn’t quite “in the language,” is it? The word LINES appears on the diagonal ending at square 65.
- 97a. I’ve never heard the term BOTTOM FISH. Bottom feeders, yes. BOTTOM FISH is in the dictionary, though—defined as “bottom feeder.” The fish at the bottom is the EEL inside 123a. It’d be cooler if the fish were something like MACKEREL rather than the super-common-in-crosswords EEL.
- 115a. THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE doesn’t sound right to me. A [Go-between] is called a middleman. The middle entry in the grid is Hank AARON, a man.
- 15d. [Place for a date, frequently] is a CORNERSTONE. I was thinking of a romantic date and wondering who the hell takes their sweetheart to the CORNER STORE for a date. The word STONE spans the southeast corner of the grid.
- 67d. MENTAL BLOCK, like the square MILE, puts the word MENTAL in a rectangular block at the top of the grid, this time counterclockwise. “Block” is not a location, and there’s no rationale for MILE and MENTAL’s blocks/squares to appear where they do.
The theme feels wildly uneven to me. Examples of a ROOM, DRESSING, FISH, and MAN are used (DEN, MAYO, EEL, AARON), whereas MILE, LINES, STONE, and MENTAL appear as themselves in their allotted circled squares. Why isn’t the CORNERSTONE represented by, say, TOPAZ? Why are the SQUARE/BLOCK ones there when they’re not location-specific?
The fill didn’t please me any more than the theme, sadly. MASTO- as [Breast: Prefix], as in mastectomy? Suffixes -ISH and -ESCE. Partials ME NO and BE NO, among others (AND I’M, IN HER, A DARN, I ERE, IN ON). OLEOS in the plural. Repeaters and crosswordese like ERAT, EKED, ATRI, SERIN, ERN, EEN, ASTA, ERST, EGER, ERSE, OMOO. A dangling OTHER SHOE. A TEA TASTER, with a clue that’s designed to tease ([Worker who may create a stir?]) but doesn’t have a cool payoff. A Y-SHAPE, N-STAR, and N-TEST. OKE, clued as [Fine and dandy, in old slang]—really?
Okay, I like SIM CITY a lot, with the excellent clue [Hit computer game with the original working title Micropolis]. Didn’t know that little bit of trivia.
But overall, this puzzle left me unmoved, wishing for a theme that cohered better and for fill that sparkled. Is that about how you felt about the puzzle, or do you think I’ve been much too hard on it?
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Wacky Readings”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Anyone else here cut his or her puzzle chops on Games Magazine? One of my favorite recurring puzzles in Games was “Wacky Wordies,” graphical representations of common words and phrases. (Thanks to Google Images, I found an example—complete with doodles!—that’s pasted to the right.) With its “one-and-a-half star” rating, Wacky Wordies was one of the few regular features I could solve as an 11-year-old. Today’s puzzle offers ten more Wacky Wordies for our solving pleasure:
- [Tnempiuqe?] is “equipment” spelled backward, and “equipment” is synonymous with “gear.” So the clue is a representation of REVERSE GEAR.
- [Chickchick?] is two consecutive birds. What word or phrase evokes such an image? DOUBLE BIRDIE, anyone? (More commonly known as an “eagle,” a double birdie is a golf term for shooting two strokes under par, like making a three on a par-five hole.) I play golf maybe five or six times a year, and I started when I was 15. That comes to about 150 rounds of golf, which, at 18 holes a pop, means I’ve played roughly 2,700 holes. In all that time, I’ve made one birdie and no eagles. That may seem discouraging, but I look at the bright side. I almost always get my money’s worth—I usually get to hit twice as many shots as my playing partners.
- [PROFIT?] is a gain shouting at me in all caps. Shh! It’s Sunday morning—please use your indoor voice! Our loud clue is representing a CAPITAL GAIN. As a recovering tax lawyer, I welcome any and all tax entries in my crosswords. You could make a whole Wacky Wordies puzzle out of tax terms: Picture the word “tax” in six-point font and decked out in Gothic chic clothing—it’s the “alternative minimum tax!” After further consideration, maybe that’s a puzzle just for tax geeks like Jeffrey and me.
- I’m guessing the print version of the puzzle will have ["Current events"?] in italics instead of quotation marks, because the clue is getting at SLANTED NEWS. “Slanted news” feels a bit arbitrary to me (is that because I’m biased?).
- Either of [Earth, or hater?] would be a BROKEN HEART, as each is an anagram (or “breaking”) of “heart.” A different variation on “broken heart” was the theme for a NYT crossword from February 2009.
- [Circl?] is a “circle” without the “e” on the end, meaning it is an ENDLESS LOOP.
- Here’s another clue that gets lost in translation from the print version to Across Lite: [Aches?] clues GROWING PAINS. I’m guessing each letter of “Aches” in the print version gets progressively larger. Without the visual element, this is certainly a tougher nut to crack.
- [Ji/ffy?] is a fun representation of a SPLIT SECOND.
- [Allerina?] is clearly a HEADLESS BALLERINA. Oops, that doesn’t fit. Instead, it’s a TOPLESS DANCER. I normally don’t care much for topless dancers in my crosswords (too distracting), but this was my favorite theme entry.
- [Mother, pa?] is a little tricky because of the meaningless comma. Take out the punctuation and you have a two-word anagram for “metaphor,” thus leading to MIXED METAPHOR. This probably wasn’t intended, but I like how “mother, pa” is in a loose way a mixed metaphor of “ma and pa” and “mother and father.” Okay, I’m reaching here.
Save for the aquatic fill near the grid’s equator (CETACEANS and the ominous DORSAL FIN) and the cry of “LET ME GO,” there wasn’t much sparkle beyond the theme entries. I did like the intersection of the Hawaiian islands OAHU and MAUI. The clues I appreciated most were [Hill of a Hill hearing] for ANITA (you remember Anita Hill from the Senate confirmation proceedings of Justice Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court appointment, right?), [Red state?] for DEBT, [Quiet cards] for MIMES, and [Union member] for STATE (I wanted a synonym for laborer).
The first step in conquering ignorance is to admit you have a problem. The second step is to expose your ignorance, learn from it, and make fun of yourself, preferably online so that everyone in the world can laugh at you. That’s the point behind our weekly feature, Brushes with Lame. Here’s what gave me fits this week:
- [South American monkeys] are SAKIS. Thinking I would add a picture of some cute monkeys to this post, I did a Google Images search for “sakis.” All I got was about 4,000 pictures of the guy pictured at right. According to Wikipedia, he’s “Anastasios ‘Sakis’ Rouvas II…a Greek musician, television and film artist, businessman, and former pole vaulter who is one of the most commercially successful entertainers of all time in Greece and Cyprus.” When you’re a pole vaulter, the sky’s the limit.
- I know I should know that CATO is the [Roman called "the Censor"]. To my credit, I knew it started with “C” and ended with “O.” Cato was not just a censor. He was also quite the bartender—his Cato Tonic was considered a stiff drink.
- A [Leg warmer] is a LAP ROBE. In some parts of the country, it’s called a “blanket.” On TV, it’s a “Snuggie.”
- I thought I knew a little about music, but [Diatonic scheme] was an intimidating clue for a simple word: MODE.
- Pauline KAEL is the noted film critic and ["Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" author]. The book contains a collection of her reviews. It was written in Walla Walla. Hee hee.
- Never heard of the [On-screen Samantha], one Samantha EGGAR, even though she’s an Oscar nominee. That’s particularly shameful because we Sams usually stick together. I’m sure, for example, that all the Tobins out there know TOBIN as the answer to ["Saw" actor Bell]. (By the way, this may be the only time you’ll see Saw and Oscar in the same paragraph.)
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Totally Q-less”
If you knock out the /k/ sound of a typical Q, you still have a /w/ sound sitting there. And so it is that Merl’s Q-less puzzle takes phrases with Qs and gives them /w/ sounds instead (changing the spelling as needed). The results are good:
- 23a. [Publicity photo from the film "Tombstone"?] is WYATT ON THE SET (“quiet”).
- 31a. A [Basket?] is a WICKER PICKER-UPPER (“quicker,” from the paper towel commercial).
- 50a. [With 82 Across, one way to describe a home run derby?] is HERE A WHACK, THERE A WHACK, / EVERYWHERE A WHACK WHACK (“quack, quack, quack quack”).
- 65a. [Warning on a Tim the Tool Man drill?] is SOME ASSEMBLY REWIRED (“required”). Tim the Tool Man was Tim Allen’s character on Home Improvement. He was continually rewiring things for “More power! [grunt grunt grunt].”
- 97a. [Reacting to your first jog in 10 years?] clues FEELING A LITTLE WHEEZY (“queasy”).
- 112a. [What they called Shakespeare after that really bad haircut?] is PORCUPINE WILL.
There is nothing wrong with a puzzle that goes a little lighter on theme content. You know why? Because what surrounds the theme gets more room to breathe.
Eight more clues:
- 1a. [King's place] isn’t the THRONE, it’s the CASTLE. Before I got to the CASTLE, I also asked myself if Stephen King lived in BANGOR.
- 22a. A [Roustabout, e.g.] is a LABORER. Isn’t “roustabout” a great word?
- 41a. NAHA is an [Okinawan port] and though I’ve seen it in crosswords before, I typically forget what the second consonant is.
- 1d. [Gag answer to "Why are birds so noisy"?] is CAWS, which sounds like ’cause.
- 29d. [They schuss to be happy] clues SKIERS. Weird clue, isn’t it?
- 33d. WETA is the [D.C. PBS station that produces Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour"]. It’s not ringing a bell.
- 55d. I have never heard of ["Generation of Vipers" author Philip] WYLIE. My go-to WYLIE in crosswords is Elinor. I don’t know what she’s done either, but at least I recognize the name.
- 67d. EVORA is a [City in central Portugal] that I know (faintly) only from crosswords. Frankly, NAHA is more familiar to me.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
This one was going pretty smoothly for me before I hit the SW, where a dearth of knowledge about movies, art and crime fiction all conspired to send me to Google for some relief. Let’s start with what came easily:
- You don’t have to be a HARRY POTTER fan to guess that the Radcliffe in “Full Radcliffe credit” was referring to actor Daniel, not the once female-only college here in Cambridge (“Our Fair City” as the Tappet brothers like to call it).
- Next door was the cutely-clued “Tube tuber?” for COUCH POTATO
- I’m assuming it’s Howard Stern referred to in the “Stern urging Stern would spurn” clue for KEEP IT CLEAN; never heard that Isaac Stern used foul language while playing the violin.
- The entry EDIT always inspires great clues, this time we have “Better clues,” which I presume the entire CS team does when reviewing submissions. “Better” here is a verb, not an adjective.
- Was thinking of Hammond organs not ROAD ATLASes at first. These remind me of the maps Mobil gas stations used to sell (or give away?) that we would use at home planning our family road trips when I was young.
- The “sauce” in “Tartar sauce” refers to the slang for alcohol, or in this case, VODKA. I read here that tartar sauce does get its name from the notion that Tartars were “rough,” like the sauce the French invented.
- If you opened an 18th-century CHIPPENDALE cabinet, would you find a calendar of male dancers inside?
- Finally, enjoyed the Klahn-esque pairing of clues: “Didn’t go fast” (ATE) and “Go fast” (RACE) as well as “Come to nothing” (DIE) and “Needing nothing” (SET).
That brings us to the SW, my Waterloo. I had MYRA HESS in place and then just the MC or “John D. MacDonald’s detective.” I actually guessed MCGEE correctly, thinking those Es would be good ending letters for the 2 plural crossing entries. (Googling to confirm, I see a Travis McGee novel was the basis for the 1962 movie Cape Fear). But I was stuck on GAUGE for “Estimate” instead of JUDGE, so the 3-letter 1991 Best Picture nominee (JFK) never came to me. It didn’t help I was thinking of fishing LURES or FLIES when seeing the names of the two KLEE paintings in 65-Across, “Fish Magic” (below) and “They’re Biting.” (Was Paul an angler when not painting?)
I guess I should’ve seen URL as “Surfing destination,” but I think of a URL as an address of a website, not the site itself. (We also say we’re going over to 152 Elm St., even though that’s an address and not the house itself, so I reluctantly concede to the appropriateness of this clue.)
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 25″
I failed in the upper middle here. I had a single ONE-dollar bill as a [Tray filler] at 8d, but it would be difficult to fill a money tray with just a ONE and no wad of bills, so I should’ve known better. The 7a and 15a crossings weren’t making me question ONE, and then I gave up and revealed the first two squares in 9d. You know what? I don’t like that clue for NRA. [Stock-holding gp.?] is misleading but not, I don’t think, in a good way. People grip a gun by holding the stock, but the NRA isn’t a group of people holding guns in their hands. ICE is the [Tray filler]; fair enough. But I have no use for the unit ACRE-INCH, or [Unit equivalent to 3,630 cubic feet]. And for [Bar measure], I could think only of ingots and music, not a PINT of liquor at the bar.
The whole time I was doing this puzzle, I thought it was a Peter Gordon crossword and not one by Patrick Berry. It was the names that made me think that. This is more musician names than I may have ever seen in a Berry, plus other pop culture:
- 19a. I remembered SHARKY’S ["___ Machine" (1981 cop film)] but thought it was Sharkey’s.
- 28a. [Project leader?] is ALAN PARSONS of the Alan Parsons Project. “I am the eye in the sky. I am the maker of rules, dealing with foo-oo-ools.”
- 48a. LYNDA [Carter on 1970s TV] played Wonder Woman.
- 57a. ["Lanark" author ___ Gray] clues ALASDAIR. Who? Dystopian fantasy writer, magnum opus published in 1981. So this puzzle is zeroing in pretty aggressively on the late ’70s, early ’80s.
- 59a. [Machine destroyer Ludd, from whom the word "Luddite" is derived] does not have a famous first name. It’s NED. Did you know? I didn’t.
- 60a. INXS is the [Band that chose a new lead singer via a 2005 reality show]. “The One Thing” was their first American hit, in 1983.
- 61a. [Comic Boosler] is ELAYNE. Didn’t she hit the big time in the ’80s? Checking…yep, ’86.
- 3d. ["Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" singer] is B.J. THOMAS. I know him better from 1975′s “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” The popularity of some songs from that era mystifies me. Just heard Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” on the ’70s station yesterday. How on earth was that a hit in the era of rock’n'roll? How did they land a variety show on TV?
- 4d. [Richard Dysart TV series] is L.A. LAW. He played the older gray-haired senior partner, what’s-his-name. The show began in ’86.
- 35d. [Blues singer Gertrude Pridgett's stage name] is MA RAINEY. Hey! 1920′s-’30s music, not circa 1977. What’s she doing in here?
- 41d. [Rock singer Gregg] ALLMAN has been in the Allman Brothers Band since ’69. In the late ’70s, he was married to Cher.
Tell us the truth, Patrick. Did you construct this puzzle back in 1986 but it was rejected because the editor wasn’t sure LALAW and ELAYNE would stand the test of time? (They did. SHARKY’S, not so much.)
Damien Peterson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Mal de Mer”
- 23a. [Response to "What's a six-letter answer for 'Silent performer'?"?] is MUMMER’S THE WORD. “Mum’s the word” is your familiar phrase, and mummer is an old English word for a mime. Here’s a clip of the Mummenschanz troupe performing in the ’70s.
- 50a. [Seaside vacation disappointment?] could be a BEACH BUMMER. Who among us has not experienced a beach bummer? It rains. It’s too cold. The jellyfish are stinging. There’s a hurricane warning. Dead fish are washing up. You get too sunburned and have to miss the next day at the beach. You have taken the sacred tiki from the cave in Hawaii and have bad beach luck. Or there’s a shark attack.
- 60a. [Prison performer?] is a SLAMMER DANCER. You’ve all seen the video of the Filipino prisoners’ big production number of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” right?
- 75a. [Team in an agricultural all-star game?] is THE FARMER SIDE. Ah, who doesn’t love the cartoon “The Far Side”?
- 84a. [Station that exclusively plays rapper MC's hits?] would be HAMMER RADIO. My car gets satellite radio and there is not, as yet, an all-MC Hammer station. Hammer pants! The most amusing fashion trend of the past year was the reimagining of baggy drop-crotch Hammer pants. This year’s version were less pantaloony and more “old man baggy jeans with diaper bunching.”
- 118a. [Like steak cooked by an enchanting chef?] is CHARMER-BROILED. Except nobody refers to the person who cooked the food in an adjective. Mother-baked? Jerk-fried? No.
- 32d. [Sugary complaint?] is CANDIED YAMMER. I’m not wild about this one because the candied yam wants to be pluralized.
- 34d. [More cordial old-timer?] clues WARMER VETERAN.
Good fill, with lots of 7s in the corners. Highlights include KID ROCK and PAT RILEY (together again!), CHAOTIC SNEEZES, ARMPIT clued with [It's exposed many times during the singing of "YMCA"], BODACIOUS, a RED SOX CAP (moderately arbitrary as phrases go, but a colorful phrase), and FAT CITY.