Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword, “Risky Business”
This is sort of a Reaglesque pun theme—there are eight pun theme answers involving the “risky business” of gambling. “Oh, to be in England” becomes OTB IN ENGLAND. Holden Caulfield turns into a poker game, HOLD ‘EM CAULFIELD. Flambé crepes Suzette are CRAPS SUZETTE with flaming dice…which sounds like a bad, bad idea. “Lots of luck” turns into SLOTS OF LUCK. A keynote speaker, KENO SPEAKER—that’s kinda weird because, well, how many of know without looking at Wikipedia that keno has callers just like bingo does? And nobody would call the caller a “speaker.” Burt Reynolds + Burt Bacharach + gambling = BURT BACCARAT. “Don’t rule it out” turns into DON’T ROULETTE OUT, but is “roulette out” a phrase that means anything? I think STAKE PLATTER is playing on “steak platter,” but I’m not sure.
I’d like this theme better if all the puns involved casino games, but OTB means off-track betting and a stake is a wager.
- 114a. [Split personality?] is a CROATIAN. Split is a city in Croatia. My favorite clue in this puzzle.
- Scads of 8-letter answers. We’ve got the SUNDANCE [Film festival name since 1990], SHINNY UP for [Climb, as a rope] (and I have no defense for having first entered SHIMMY UP, because do you know how hard it would be to shimmy while climbing a rope?), the PARTISAN ANACONDA from cable news, a BACK SEAT, and DAY TRADE.
Not crazy about the Names Popular Mainly in Crosswords and the Names Not Popular in Crosswords, Either categories:
- In the former grouping are Diva Renata SCOTTO, actress SUE ANE Langdon (whose parents were decades ahead of the game in counterintuitive name spelling), chess legend Mikhail TAL, short story writer SAKI, and Charlie Chan actor Warner OLAND.
- The latter group includes [Former Buffalo Bills great Don] BEEBE and NFL Hall of Fame coach Dick LEBEAU, who may be famous among football fans but among non-football fans, they are nobodies.
Nor was I pleased with plural NOONS, UNPOTS, SANAA, ABEAM, the snake’s SSS of warning, EDO, or RIANT. I felt the puzzle had less Quigleyesque zip than the typical BEQ puzzle, and I missed it. Luckily, Monday morning there’ll be another BEQ themeless at Brendan’s blog.
Rather tough puzzle compared with other Sunday puzzles, isn’t it?
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Plays I’d Like To See”
- 22a. [Play about a woman who gets her "just desserts"?] is HEDDA COBBLER (Hedda Gabler).
- 28a. [Play whose title character won't eat anything unless it's fried?] clues ANNA CRISPY (Anna Christie).
- 31a. SHE STOOPS TO CONGA might be a [Play about a woman who dances with short people?]. (She Stoops To Conquer.)
- 44a. We change the preposition “for” into “on” for WAITING ON GODOT, a [Play about a diner patron whose food never arrives?]. It’s about time someone makes that Godot chap see what it feels like to kept waiting.
- 55a. [Play about a guy and his sloppy little pal from Mars?] is PIG ALIEN (Pygmalion).
- 66a. [Play about an actress trying to unload some real estate?] clues GLENGARRY GLENN CLOSE (Glengarry Glen Ross). Merl has anagrammed for Glenn Close in person, you know.
- 78a. Golden Boy becomes OLDEN BOY, a [Play about an over-the-hill boxer?]. I didn’t know Odets’ Golden Boy was about a boxer.
- 90a. [Play about some girls who were raised by orangutans?] clues THE TREE SISTERS (Chekhov’s The Three Sisters).
- 100a. [Play in which a college kid's football prayers are answered?] is THE HEISMAN COMETH (The Iceman Cometh). I like this one the most.
- 108a, 114a. [Play about a couple with a cloth allergy?] is WHO’S AFRAID / OF VIRGIN WOOL, swapping Virginia Woolf for VIRGIN WOOL in a two-pronged pun.
Not all that much outside the theme caught my eye. I needed every crossing for 65d: ["The House of ___ Leaves"]. BLUE? It’s a John Guare play. Merl worked some more plays, playwrights, and theatrical miscellany into the mix. Quite a lot more, in fact:
- 25a. REP. is short for repertory, or [Theater co.].
- 50a. Actor ALAN [Bates or Cumming]—both have done stage work.
- 72a. ["The ___ Page"] clues FRONT. The play was first performed in 1928.
- 2d. ["The Skin of Our ___"] TEETH is a Thornton Wilder play.
- 14d. Never heard of ["Three Men on a ___"] HORSE, also a play.
- 20d. R.U.R. is an old [Play with robots].
- 48d. [Parts, as a curtain] clues OPENS. Stage curtains?
- 51d. KING ["___ Lear"].
- 58d. Albee’s play is ["The ___ Story"]/ZOO.
- 63d. ALL ["___ My Sons"] is another mystery to me. Clue’s in quotation marks? Must be another play title. Yep, Arthur Miller.
- 66d. ["The ___ White Hope"] clues GREAT. Wait, is this a play, too? Sure enough.
- 96d. ACT I is the [Start of the play].
- 118d. ["Oh! What A Lovely ___"] WAR was a stage musical before being made into a movie.
Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 29″
We don’t often see stacked 15s from Karen, do we? It feels unexpected. Also unexpected: the rate at which I marched through this puzzle, as if it were a mere Wednesday crossword. I think this is the easiest (for me, anyway) Post Puzzler to date.
So, what all is in this puzzle? Among other things, these clues and answers:
- 15a. [Clearasil ingredient] is BENZOYL PEROXIDE. Hello, Traceyesque Z and X! We’ve been expecting you.
- 17a. ANTIDEPRESSANTS make up [Some psychotropics]. You know where you don’t want to go on vacation this winter? The psycho tropics.
- 36a. [The Six Million Dollar Man's org.] is, uh, O.S.I. I don’t know what it stands for, and I don’t know if it was mentioned on The Bionic Woman, which I much preferred.
- 37a. [Show hosted by Click and Clack], the so-called Tappet Brothers, is NPR’s CAR TALK.
- 46a. I like the spelling of URUSHIOL, the [Irritant in poison ivy]. It doesn’t give me a rash at all.
- 56a. Can we all agree we don’t much like to pluralize cheese breeds? [Dutch treats] clues EDAMS because Edam is a cheese from the Netherlands.
- 62a. The ATTORNEY GENERAL is the Department of [Justice head]. Currently Eric Holder.
- 4d. I have no idea why I got [Golfer Paul] AZINGER with fewer than five crossings.
- 7d. [San Bernardino Pass locale] is the ALPS. Hmm, this is not the San Bernardino of Southern California, is it?
- 8d. WEENA, the [Heroine of "The Time Machine"], is also in Merl’s puzzle today. That’s too much WEENA. Actually, one WEENA is too much WEENA.
- 12d. SINON is the [Greek who persuaded the Trojans to take in the Trojan Horse], apparently. I didn’t know this was a name, much less an important one.
- 16d. I needed plenty of crossings to figure out that the [Show with the catchphrase "One day you're in, and the next day you're out"] is PROJECT RUNWAY.
- 27d. A ZARF is a metal [Ornamental cup holder]. I like to call the coffee-shop cardboard sleeves “cardboard zarfs.”
- 31d. Great clue! [It's cut and dried] refers to your HAIR, unless you are bald.
- 33d. [Patience, stateside] is the game of SOLITAIRE. I had no idea it was called patience elsewhere.
- 41d. [Au contraire] clues my favorite entry, MAIS NON.
- 43d. [Newfoundland, at times] refers to the big dog and not the Canadian province/island. By shedding hair, the Newfie is a SHEDDER. Meh entry.
- 51d. One of several possibilities for the [German indefinite article] is EINES.
- 61d. The oddly spelled EEW is clued as a [Repugnant exclamation].
Besides SHEDDER, EINES, WEENA, SINON, and EEW, there are other entries that don’t sparkle as much as standard Karen Tracey fill. SONE, AGAR, EEN, SLOE, ABAB, OSSO, AROO, AVGS, ST. LO, and LOUS were all pretty lackluster, too.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Fractured Latin”—Sam Donaldson’s review
- [One shunned at a boat race?] is a PERSONA NON REGATTA. This theme entry comes from persona non grata, meaning “an unwelcome person.” Having been persona non grata at any number of events, this one came easily to me. A nice way to start.
- A [Jamaican's blank slate?] is a TABULA RASTA. Our base phrase here, of course, is tabula rasa, or “blank slate.” The phrase is generally used to explain the philosophy that all of us come into the world without preconceptions or biases, that our knowledge and opinions are formed by our experiences. That’s a lovely thought, but according to my mother I came into the world with a very definite bias toward feeding.
- An [Exchange for a smart bird?] would be a QUID PRO CROW, playing off quid pro quo, meaning “what for what,” or an arms-length exchange. I liked this theme entry best, as the image of haggling crows is just plain funny.
- The [One-of-a-kind Chinese food?] is SUEY GENERIS, a take on sui generis (“of its own kind”) using chop suey.
- The [Condition of a dead cat?] is RIGOR MORRIS, an evocative mix of rigor mortis (“death stiffness”) and Morris the Cat from the old commercials for 9Lives catfood. Check out Morris there to the right. Indeed, he looks a little stiff. I’m guessing solvers yet to reach age 30 won’t be familiar with Morris. And I’m guessing solvers with cats in their families might find this theme entry a little graphic. But I liked it.
- [Getting high on painkillers?] clues AD ASTRA PER ASPIRIN. It’s based on ad astra per aspera (“to the stars through hardships”), which regular crossword solvers likely know as the official motto of Kansas.
- [Protection for a dolphin?] is HABEAS PORPOISE, a giddy twist on habeas corpus (“you may have the body—here, take it, it’s starting to smell really bad”). In law it refers to the written order to release someone from unlawful imprisonment, hence the “protection” element in the clue.
- Finally, the [Divine solution for a downpour?] is DEUS EX MACKINAW, a variation of deus ex machina (“God out of the machine”). This one took me a while to suss out because I can’t recall having heard the base phrase. Help me, Wikipedia: “A deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object.” Go figure, there’s a Latin phrase to explain the ending of most episodes of Family Guy. Fortunately, as a resident of Washington State, I am familiar enough with the mackinaw (both the rain-repellent cloth and the trout).
Was I just in the mood to be amused easily, or did this puzzle have a higher concentration of fun clues? [Sweet age for a Roman?] is a sassy way to clue the otherwise lackluster XVI, and [What he and she do] made me think for a while before tumbling to the answer, RHYME. I liked [Making a comeback] for REPLYING, [The hole ideal] for PAR, [Cussword surrogate] for BLEEP, and [TV eye-poker of note] for MOE of the Three Stooges (and not Moe from The Simpsons—I think).
My favorite clue was the one that tricked me at least a half dozen times. I was sure [Sottish syllable] really read “[Scottish syllable],” so I was thinking along the lines of NAE and MAC. When the crossings finally gave me HIC, I couldn’t see anything Scottish about it. Eventually, of course, I realized there was no “c” in that clue—and then I loved it.
While the clues were really great, the fill was…good. I liked LONG SUIT, AKIMBO, RAN OUT ON, and BARGES IN, but little else stood out (and both DIREST and REDOSE induced grimaces). Another painful section lurked down south, which brings us to this week’s episode of Brushes with Lame, the weekly review of the stuff that was foreign to me.
- I eventually remembered EIDOLA, the [Ideals or phantoms], from a prior blog post. But I confess to spending some time thinking, “Oh yeah, I blogged about this one not too long ago. What was it again?” It didn’t help that in this grid it sits directly atop the completely unknown DAVITS, the [Cranelike lifters]. My dictionary says they’re the cranes on the side of a ship used to raise or lower lifeboats and anchors, et alia.
- CAPOS don’t just lead crime syndicates, they also serve as [Guitar-neck tools] serving to raise or lower the pitch of the strings uniformly. Busy guys, those capos. The next time I want to insult someone, I’m going to call him or her a “guitar-neck tool.”
- BUMPPO is the [Natty in novels]. I think I have heard this name, as it has some familiarity, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t read this name, as the double-p really looked wrong. The only Natty I really know, sadly, is Natty Lite.
- Of all of the JORGEs in the world (Jorge Garcia of Lost, fad diet guru Jorge Cruise, Jorge of the Gungle), Argentinian [Author ___ Luis Borges] was not on my radar.
- RAMAPO is the [Town in Rockland County, NY]. When one’s first thought after reading the clue is, “There’s a Rockland County in New York?,” it is not a promising start. I see the population is a little over 100,000, which makes it fair game I suppose, and the crossings were easy enough. But I think it’s safe to say the best thing this entry has going for it is alternating consonants and vowels.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Aarrgghh! The Wrath of Klahn strikes again! This was one tough puzzle. Very few toeholds to gain traction, and incredibly devious cluing kept me at loggerheads with this aptly named “Sunday Challenge” until the very last square. It’s funny now that I look back at it, I wonder why I had so much trouble. Let’s start with what came quickly:
- I’m reading War and Peace now (and have been for over a year, the new translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky is wonderful, but the density allows me to read only a few pages at a time and it’s very hard to carry around. I need to get me a Kindle!), so Tolstoy is very much on the mind. Aleksei Vronsky‘s love is ANNA KARENINA from the novel of the same name.
- The corresponding 12-letter entry in the SE, We Are the World cowriter (along with Michael Jackson) is LIONEL RICHIE. I didn’t recall this right off (the song is 25 years old!), but got the name pretty quickly with just a few crossing entries.
- Loved the clue “Hardly anyone’s good at it anymore” for LOST ART, as well as the entry OSCAR NOD (“February nomination”).
Almost everything else was a struggle:
- Let’s start at 1-Across: “Do more than check” leads one to OGLE, LEER, etc., but we’re actually talking chess here and the answer is MATE.
- I think of ANITA Gillette from her gameshow appearances (What’s My Line? and Match Game, among others) not from her role in Moonstruck, where I can just come up with Cher and Olympia Dukakis off the top of my head.
- CATAWAMPUS is just not in my lexicon; I’ll take Bob’s word on it that it means “Diagonally, down South.” Wonder if I’ll LARN this so I don’t forget it if it comes up again? Probably not.
- Speaking of loggerheads, who has heard of the phrase TURNS TURTLE for “Flips”?
- Enigma was the name of a family of machines (I had thought it was just one) used in WORLD WAR II to encrypt and decrypt messages. Those two I’s at the end made me question the crossing SNAIL-LIKE and ARMORIES for a long time.
- More names: MEL ALLEN rings a faint bell, but more from his Yankees association; he was also the voice of the Movietone newsreels in the ’60s. We also have the biblical money-withholder (with dire consequences!) ANANIAS, “Goddess of childbirth” DIANA (where was The Supremes reference when I needed you?), playwright Edward ALBEE, Napoleon’s commander Michel NEY, STEARNS of the now defunct Bear Stearns, Impressionist Claude MONET, protest singer Phil OCHS, The Saint (Simon Templar) author Leslie CHARTERIS (I was thinking Geoffrey Chaucer!) and philosopher SIMONE Weil. No wonder I had trouble with all these names.
- My final entry was parsing TIP ONE’S HAND for “Flush at the final table, e.g.” For some reason I was thinking of the Dead Man’s Hand, but I see here, that’s Aces over Eights, not a flush. It didn’t help I had sub RASA (that’s tabula, not sub!) and LERN first.
John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Country Kitchen”
The theme took a while to understand—and I’m glad the explanatory answers were in the center of the grid rather than the bottom because it meant I was confused for only half the time. Each theme entry is a food with two United Nations country CODES (the 3-letter chunks in the circled squares), and today is 65a: U.N. DAY ([Oct. 24, every year]). Each foodstuff is clued straightforwardly, but they’re not all so familiar. Here’s the international menu:
- 23a. [Lunch box item] is a BOLOGNA SANDWICH. BOL = Bolivia, AND = Andorra.
- 41a. PAN-FRIED TROUT is a [Sautéed fish entrée]. PAN = Panama, ROU = Romania.
- 48a. [Cup-shaped breakfast fare] is a weird clue for a BRAN MUFFIN. BRA = Brazil, FIN = Finland.
- 77a. PESTO SAUCE is a delicious [Basil-based topper]. EST = Estonia, SAU = …looking this up…ah, yes, Saudi Arabia.
- 85a. [Honey-coated dish] clues GLAZED CHICKEN. Is that a thing, glazed chicken? AZE = Azerbaijan, KEN = Kenya. CHI isn’t a code, as CHL and CHN stand in for Chile and China.
- 103a. [Tangy confection] clues PEPPERMINT CANDY. PER = …hmm…not Persia but Peru, and CAN = Canada.
- 16d. [It's milder than yellowfin] clues ALBACORE TUNA. ALB = Albania, TUN = Tunisia.
- 58d. [Some links] are SWEET SAUSAGE, which I think I’ve never heard of. SWE = Sweden, USA = United States. I was confused by the A from AZE getting tacked on to the beginning of USA, as it looks like AUSA is circled here.
More clues from beyond the theme:
- 1a. A BAGEL is one [Breakfast-on-the-run choice]. DONUT also has 5 letters.
- 19a. [Building on a 1936 centennial stamp] is the ALAMO. Not a factoid I knew.
- 20a. The noun [Speed] means PACE. The verb “speed” means “race.”
- 21a, 22a. [Plane starter?] and [Plane starter] are the prefix AERO and a PILOT.
- 34a. [They may be behind pictures] clues hidden wall SAFES.
- 46a. LYES are [False-sounding soap components] because “lies” is a homophone. Not big on the pluralization LYES, though.
- 52a. Old crosswordese alert! [Glassmaker's oven] is a LEHR.
- 61a, 62d. [Bolt down] clues both SECURE and EAT. Nice double-meaning action.
- 63a. [Herder's equine] is a COW PONY? Okay, I’ll take your word for it.
- 72a. [Crabber and cutter] are both BOATS.
- 90a. G-SUIT is clued as [Rocketeer gear]. Do rocketeers exist?
- 112a, 113a. How strong are your feelings toward puppies? Dislike, neutral, like, love? [Puppylike] clues CUTE and ["Puppy Love" singer] clues Paul ANKA. Nice one-two combo.
- 1d. [Labor day output?] is a BABY.
- 4d. [Compensation for labor] of an entirely different sort is an EMOLUMENT. This word is usually seen in the plural.
- 9d. [Pin in the back] is a noun, not a verb, and the TEN pin is in the back of the setup of bowling pins.
- 33d. A RIGMAROLE is a [Tediously detailed process]. Great word!
- 68d. I wanted [Hacks] to be the noun meaning cabbies and not the verb COUGHS.
- 78d. [Having a pressing need?] is a clever clue for a truly boring word, UNIRONED.