Scott Atkinson’s New York Times crossword
- 1a. “I’M KIDDING” is one meaning of a wink. I like the sly insidery wink better. The next answer is I QUIT—too bad their order isn’t reversed, because telling your boss “I quit! No, wait, I’m kidding” would be hilarious.
- 15a. I’ve always liked the word SALTPETER. Derives from the Latin for “salt of rock.” Is the opposite pepperpaul?
- 29a. How come there’s no “light-set” that’s the opposite of HEAVY-SET? I do like to use a different light/heavy opposite, personally: “He’s a little heavy in his loafers, if you know what I mean.”
- 34a. Lots of names in the puzzle, but J.K. ROWLING is the best of the batch. Not the first time her name’s been in a crossword, but starting from the back end and having OUT for GUT ([Ready to be totally remodeled] uses “ready” as a verb, not an adjective—oof!) had me thinking of ––LINO people. [Creator of the currency system consisting of galleons, sickles and knuts] would be more obvious to someone who’s read the Harry Potter books rather than just seeing the movies.
- 41a. [Hot partner?] is…HUMID! Love the surprise of the answer; hate that weather.
- 58a. ROXY MUSIC, best known to MTV watchers of the ’80s as the [“Avalon” band], with the best-known song off that album being “More Than This.”
- 3d. MANUMIT, derived from the Latin for “send forth from the hand” (as in manual + emit), means to free, to release, to [Let go]. The same clue pulls double duty at 12d, UNLEASH.
- 3d. KLATSCH! Is it possible to have a Diet Coke klatsch, or is the coffee klatsch the only beverage/klatsch combo available?
- 9d. GRAD could be clued lots of ways. [Former Lenin adherent?] is a bright clue. (As in Leningrad, and as in all the college grads who were Leninists early in their education.)
- 11d. Who doesn’t love the word QUIRKY?
- 24d. SINKS IN is a good two-word phrase, especially if you parse the word division wrong and think of SINK SIN. Not rinsing your toothpaste spit out of the sink, that’s a real sink sin. (24a is a SIN of the non-sink variety.)
- 26d. This clue tells me too much without telling me anything. I got IVANHOE off the initial I and the “literary classic” part of the clue. [Literary classic featuring the jester Wamba]? Really? Wamba? I have never seen that name before (and obviously have never read Ivanhoe).
- 32d. Tough clue: To [Stick] your horn into a bullfighter is to GORE him. (He was asking for it.)
- 35d. [Equipment near a horse], as in the men’s gymnastics equipment, is the RINGS.
- 38d. I am resolutely urban but can appreciate the word EXURBAN, or [Almost in the sticks].
- 39d. PALAZZI is the plural of palazzo. What, Scott Atkinson and Will Shortz preferred PALAZZI/SNITS to PALAZZO/SNOTS?
So, I wonder if a Saturdayesque Friday puzzle means we have a truly wicked crossword in store for us tomorrow, or if we’ll just be saying “Will got his days mixed up this weekend.” I’d kinda like a wicked challenge!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Busters Last Stand”—Janie’s review
Full disclosure: Ray got me with this one. Focused on the third theme entry, I was somewhere in the land of overthink and didn’t see what was right in front of my eyes. The “last” word of all of the theme entries can be followed by the word “busters.” D’oh… (Thank you, Eli…) I was complicating the process in ways not worth going into. What is worth going into is the snappy theme fill and the great phrases “busters” is a part of. And they’d be:
- 18A. [Start of a lad’s first beard] PEACH FUZZ → fuzz busters. The former looks something like this (that’s young Daniel Radcliffe); the latter (we’re talkin’ radar detectors here), more like this.
- 27A. [St. Louis Cardinals nickname in 1934] THE GAS HOUSE GANG → gangbusters. From Cardinal Nation Globe, here’s a neat backgrounder on how the Cards came by this name. Seems that New York sportswriters are the ones to blame/thank. The Cards have a grand team history—and when they’re hot, they roll through their division like gangbusters!
- 44A. [Utterly surrenders] GIVES UP THE GHOST → (“Who ya gonna call?!”) Ghost Busters. This phrase, which can also mean “dies,” has it roots (as I just learned…) in The New Testament. This link will give you not only chapter and verse, but some useful explication as well. (For some reason, this was the only phrase in which I initially saw a connection to the title—which led me to cling to the mistaken idea that Ghost Busters was the unifying gimmick. Even though I could find no way to make the other theme fill work…)
- 58. [Imaginary tale of modern life] URBAN MYTH → myth busters. Snopes has gottem both!
In addition to this great theme fill, Ray has loaded the puzzle with great non-theme fill, like SOUL MATE, LOG CABIN and SANDBARS; UNCOUTH and CASABAS. His triple 6-columns NW and SE yield PARIAH [Persona non grata in society] and STODGE [Stuff with food] among others; and other lively sixes include IMPISH and HUSHED and SAINTS.
“The Mouse” gets a shout-out by way of [Disney movie of 1942] BAMBI and 1937′s Snow White, with the nicely misdirecting [Grumpy colleague] cluing DOC. (That [Nice companion] on the other hand is the French AMI.)
Because these phrases are so colorful, I also enjoyed fitb’s [Spitting] IMAGE and [Dressed to the] NINES. Patricia T. O’Connor addresses the origins of the former (see #27); and scroll down to “Among the Mullet-Americans” for a little discourse by “The Word Detective” on the latter.
Clive Probert’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. [Baroque painter’s study of a snack?] is a RUBENS SANDWICH (Reuben sandwich).
- 36a. [Surrealist’s portrait of a president?] is DALI MADISON (Dolly Madison), which would be cool to see. I’d like to see a Dali Obama.
- 42a. [Synthetist’s picture of a French author?] is GAUGUIN ZOLA (Gorgonzola). I gotta tell you, the word “synthetist” was not helping me out here.
- 57a. [Impressionist’s study of a washerwoman?] is a MONET LAUNDERER (money launderer).
Pun themes can hit the sweet spot or they can thud. This one worked for me. It might’ve been neat to have all four be portraits, but RUBENS’ hypothetical SANDWICH painting at long last explains how the Rubenesque developed their avoirdupois.
The artistic theme is accompanied by an art word: LIMNING is 45d: [Representing in drawing].
In the fill, I liked the space pair:
- 10d. [First first name in space] is Russian cosmonaut YURI Gagarin.
- 59d. [First first name on the moon] is American astronaut NEIL Armstrong.
Three more clues:
- 5d. [Berlin was its last capital] clues old PRUSSIA.
- 9d. [Freshwater crustacean] clues the CRAWDAD, crawfish, or (the term I knew as a kid) crayfish.
- 27d. If you can’t spell LISZT, the [Symphonic poem pioneer], and you didn’t know ZOLA was a French author, that Z might’ve been tough to fill in.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Gross Receipts” (pen name Alice Long)
Each theme entry is made by putting the ICK into familiar phrases. Ellen Ripstein! She’s the foremost modern practitioner of “ick,” to my knowledge. (As in “Ick, smoking!”) The theme entries include a LICKED ZEPPELIN, PICKUP TENTS, SAINT PICKETER, PEACHICK PITS, BICKERING SEA, PITCH FOR KICKS, WICKET PAINT, and ROLLICKING PINS. I liked the PICKUP TENTS and WICKET PAINT best.
Eight more clues:
- 19a. I DO, I DO is the [Musical based on the play “The Fourposter”].
- 27a. [Dr. Zaius, for one] is an APE in Planet of the Apes.
- 48a. [Tom Canty, in a Twain tale], The Prince and the Pauper, is the PAUPER.
- 87a. CARA [“___ Mia” (Jay and the Americans hit)]? Who? Them. That hit was in 1965, before I was born, and turned out not to be the sort of song that continued to get radio play in the ’70s and beyond. I’m counting on my niece Cara to become a notable adult because the CARA clues in crosswords are crying out for a famous person named Cara.
- 123a. [Some Okefenokee fauna] clues TOADS. I think of alligators and egrets more than TOADS. According to this roundup of Okefenokee wildlife, you’re not going there for the toads, but presumably some live there with the gators, turtles, ospreys, frogs, woodpeckers, and black bears.
- 9d. [Coach involved in training] isn’t about sports teams, it’s about choo-choo trains: a RAIL CAR is the answer.
- 13d. [Borsa Italiana setting] is MILANO, or Milan. And Turin is known as TORINO (53d. [Where Apolo Ohno won his second Olympic gold medal]) to the Italians.
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Child Hoods”
- 20a. [1930s bank robber pursued by the FBI’s Melvin Purvis] is PRETTY BOY FLOYD. If the movie Public Enemies is accurate, Floyd was chased down and shot by Purvis in an orchard. Did you see that movie? I liked the local aspect—John Dillinger hung out on the North Side of Chicago. He had an apartment about three blocks from me (not in the movie). One address mentioned in the movie is five blocks from me. And I drove past three different filming locations around town; the restaurant/nightclub where he met Billie is portrayed by the Aragon Ballroom, and I saw scads of extras in period attire.
- 32a. [Outlaw killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881] is BILLY THE KID.
- 40a. [Gambino family successor to the “Teflon Don”] is JUNIOR GOTTI. I have no idea if he’s involved in organized crime…apparently yes.
- 51a. [He was named Public Enemy No. 1 following the death of John Dillinger] clues BABY FACE NELSON. (Not to be confused with Babyface, the “American R&B and pop singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, record producer, film producer, and entrepreneur.”) I have only heard of a few of the current FBI Ten Most Wanted.
Moving along to the fill:
- 38d. [Military concept typified by Sherman’s March] is TOTAL WAR. Gettable with some crossings, but not a term I’m familiar with.
- 40d. Favorite answer: To JURY-RIG is to [Patch in a pinch].
- The bottom of the puzzle looks mighty Floridian. In addition to OCALA and a GATOR, TAMPS and ORANG are so close to TAMPA and a Florida ORANGE.