Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword
All the words in the theme entries show up twice—the first and second words in three phrases swap places to make three more terms. You’ve got FIRST LADIES and a “LADIES FIRST” policy, the STATE POLICE and a POLICE STATE, a dissolute HANGOVER and an OVERHANG. Fair enough; easy enough, too.
There are some words in the grid that are likely to be gimmes for longtime solvers but a stretch for Monday newbies:
- 6a. [Taste] clues SAPOR. SAVOR is a more familiar flavor/taste-related word, but there’s no such thing as a VRICE TAG.
- 29a. TARO is a [Poi source].
- 28d. The three-word DO OR DIE is familiar, but it always throws people who parse it as DOORDIE or DOOR DIE. Clued as [Like a dire situation].
- 52d. [Table scraps] are old-school crosswordese: ORTS.
- 54d. STET is a [Proofreader's "reinstate" mark].
- 58d. FEU is [Fire: Fr.].
Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword (writing as Lila Cherry)
- 17a. [Sources of rowdy criticism] are PEANUT GALLERIES. Does that really take a plural? Singular feels much more familiar.
- 25a. BUTTERBALL is a [Turkey brand].
- 38a. The ampersand, or [&], may be informally called the AND SIGN.
- 49a. [Colorful plastic footwear] is JELLY SHOES. Don’t eat ‘em, folks.
- 59a. [Hawaii once comprised most of them] clues the SANDWICH ISLANDS.
I love some of the longer fill—STAND PAT, BEN STEIN the game show EMCEE, CHAMELEON, and PERCHANCE are terrific entries. Some of the short answers gave me more trouble, which I wasn’t expecting on a Monday (but then, it was before 7 a.m. when I was doing the puzzle, pre-breakfast and pre-caffeine):
- 1a. COCKY means [Self-confident to a fault]. Clear enough, but I drew a blank on it and skipped the upper right corner until later.
- 16a. [ROTC school WSW of Washington, D.C.] is VMI,or Virginia Military Institute. Voo Much Information!
- 32a. [Recline, biblically] clues LIETH. These biblical verb answers are a category of fill that I don’t care for.
- 2d. [Aptly named California coastal city] is indeed aptly named: OCEANSIDE. Too bad Oceanside is pretty much unknown to me.
- 6d. [Severity, in Soho] clues RIGOUR with the British “U” spelling (there’s a Soho in London as well as in New York City).
- 8d. This one was a gimme, but it troubled me. KIL. as [About .62 mi.] is awkward because km is the more widely accepted abbreviation for kilometer.
- 19d. [Opener's next call, in bridge] is REBID. My kid was asking about bridge the other day. My husband told him it was a game for very old people. I said “Hey! Brendan Quigley plays bridge.” My husband said he was an exception. So you see that we are not a bridge-embracing household. Nautical, poker, bridge, and biblical verbs—among my least favorite categories of fill.
- 48d. [Omega preceders], P*IS…is it PHIS or PSIS? I usually have to check the crossing to figure it out. It’s PSIS.
- 60d. [All-Pro Patriots receiver Welker] is named WES…but I’ve never heard of him, I don’t think. Current player, or player of yore?
- 62d. The CCU [Hosp. heart ward] doesn’t get much play in crosswords. It may stand for coronary care unit or cardiac care unit. Other *CUs besides the ICU include the SICU (surgical), MICU (medical), NICU (neonatal or neurological), and PICU (pediatric), none of which you are likely to encounter in crosswords.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “It Takes Two”—Janie’s review
Add the letters “BI” (same as the prefix meaning “two”) to some well-known base phrases and merriment ensues, especially in the group of theme phrases Doug has assembled today. Two phrases absorb the letters with the phrase’s first word, two with the last. All shine. Get a load of:
- 17A. SANFORD AND BISON [Redd Foxx sitcom set in a wildlife preserve?]. Just silly. And funny. The goofiness of the idea of professional junk collector Fred Sanford living where the deer and the antelope play is… well, maybe there’s someone out there who can winningly exploit the idea. (Of course, then there’s the problem of resurrecting Mr. Foxx—but that’ll hafta be someone else’s problem. Btw, Foxx’s real name? John Elroy Sanford…)
- 26A. BIKING COBRA [Snake on a Schwinn?]. Silly wins again. Though this one does conjure up the saying: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” D’you suppose there are some slitherers (and fish…) with latent limbs?… Doesn’t evolution tell us they at least have the potential to develop limbs? I’ll let someone else set me straight on this.
- 44A. METAL BISHOP [Part of a magnetic chess set?]. This one snuck up on me in a way the others didn’t and represents one very fresh transformation as (in my mind anyway) there’s virtually nothing to connect chess to metal shops, making for a fine example of juxtaposition . Am just wondering whether or not that [Pawn, e.g.]/PIECE belong to the same chess set.
- 57A. BIDEN OF INIQUITY [Nickname for the veep's evil twin?]. Another serious home run with this one, too. Great before, great after. “Before” suggests the racy (for its day) lyric by Lorenz Hart, “In Our Little Den of Iniquity,” written for Pal Joey, with lines like: “We’re very proper folks, you know/We’ve separate bedrooms comme il faut/There’s one for play and one for show…” Scroll down to read the whole lyric here. “After” proposes an idea some Tea Party types might want to run with…
The non-theme fill has much to commend it as well. PEEP HOLE, OFFERINGS, HAIRIEST, MONSIEUR and LUDACRIS make for good, longer fill. But the best is IRISH PUBS, those [Waterford watering holes], Waterford being a city in Ireland’s southeast. LYRE is a small village in Northern Ireland, but today it’s clued as the [Harp's cousin], both of which are strongly associated with Celtic music. And as long as the fill has taken us across the pond, remember that a [Petrol pump unit] there is a LITRE (and not a LITER…).
A country in northern Africa is also summoned up by way of CAIRO [Egypt's capital] and GIZA [Great Pyramid locale]. If you can’t get over there any time soon, consider seeing the film Cairo Time, the story of an unexpected affair of the heart that’ll take you up close and personal.
I think the only place where I’ve seen the word BERMS [Road shoulders] is in crossword puzzles. And where crosswordese is concerned, I was amused today to see both ERA [Span of history] and EON [Centuries and centuries] in the grid. The former, of course, would be a subset of the latter.
Finally, both astronomy and astrology get some attention with URSA [Bear among the stars] descending from the “U” in CUSP [Astrological border]. Apologies for giving such short shrift to the focused and image-making cluing, like [Hand rests for the angry] for HIPS. Get the picture?
Updated Monday afternoon:
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
This is one of the best examples of a BEQ themeless lately. (And by that I mean both that it’s typical BEQ and that I enjoyed the hell out of it.) It’s a 70-worder with ridiculously topical fill, the sort of fill that if I’d skipped that Visual Thesaurus column (subscription required) by Ben Zimmer and hadn’t read an article or two about that computer malware worm thing, I’d hate it. The two answers in the top row, the dreadful-but-used-in-corporatese-of-late ACQHIRE and the recent coinage STUXNET, would have struck me as horribly unfair and terrible entries. That’s the thing about Brendan’s puzzles—the crossword dictionary that sees you through any amount of crap fill in a USA Today crossword will be largely useless on a BEQ. And you’ve got to be bopping around online and reading, reading, reading, or you’re gonna miss some of his references. It helps to be into sports and Brendan’s preferred musical genres, too.
Also classically Brendanoid: the clever clues. A few favorites:
- 16a. [Not done] doesn’t just mean “taboo” or “incomplete”; it also means half-cooked, like PINKISH meat.
- 18a. [Bow tie specification] is AL DENTE. Bow tie pasta, not neckwear.
- 30a. [Bieber phenomenon] is MANIA. See? You know Brendan didn’t yoink a clue from a database.
- 9d. TILTS on a pinball game—[They make you lose your balls].
- 13d. Smart trivia I didn’t know: [Nation that demonstrated in the "Singing Revolution" of 1989] is ESTONIA.
- 40d. [Farm tool with a crosspiece and a swivel] is a YOKE. Look, Ma, no mention of oxen.
- 42d. Etymology I didn’t know: EDAMAME is a [Superfood that literally means "twig bean"].
- 57d. [Dunkin' Donuts topping] is the LID on a coffee cup. They sell a lot of coffee.
Other hot fill includes QUEENS BOULEVARD, NINTENDO GAMEBOY, ADULTERY and SPANKING, and a DIVE BAR.