Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
Is it just me, or did this puzzle extract a few ounces of brain flesh from you, too? I had to work hard in every section of the puzzle, not a single long answer was a gimme, and the clues did a good job of hiding the answers.
Let’s amble through the clues, shall we?
- 1a. [Baseball All-Star's nickname...or a popular food product] clues BIG MAC. Is that Mark McGwire?
- 7a. I don’t know about SAD SONGS as a regular phrase ([Music that may make you get down], but not get down and boogie), but I do know the ’84 Elton John song by that name.
- 17a. Man, DO A JIG was hard to assemble. All its parts just plain looked wrong. [Physically show elation] is clear, and yet…
- 33a. I made [Macaque or marmoset] harder than it needed to be by deciding there was a highly specific term that applied to both. Uh, SIMIAN? A broader term than the nonexisting specific terms that weren’t coming to mind.
- 62a. Ooh, I’d like some, please: TEACAKES are [Treats served toasted and buttered]. Shout-out to the Zora Neale Hurston character, Teacake.
- 64a. TOTO IV! Album with the song “Africa”! You know you want to hear that cheesy song: here it is. If only more recording artists went with the Roman numeral approach in titling. Crossword constructors would be able to draw on ENO VI, ONO X, ELO VII, ENYA I, and more.
- I had no idea that the [Signature song of Peter Allen] is “I GO TO RIO” and you know what? I’m not ashamed of not knowing that. Is he the one Liza Minnelli married? Yes, her first gay husband.
- 3d. GLADSOME is a word I have never had reason to use. My dictionary labels this one “poetic/literary.” I think I’ll stick with [Delightful].
- 14d. My favorite clue: [Character traits?] are SERIFS, characters being individual letters and letters sometimes having serifs.
- 26d. Took ages to figure out that [Bore] meant the past-tense verb meaning STOOD.
- 29d. Dadaist RAOUL Hausmann is not one of the leading RAOULs that come to mind, but I’m glad I had cause to look him up because would you get a load of his photo? A scowl + a monocle = a helluva look.
- 42d. On windy days, I always hope to see a COMBOVER being flipped. This hair crime is indeed a [Cover-up unlikely to fool anyone]. I like the cross-reference at 48d: a STRAND of hair is a [42-Down unit]. Here’s a video of a wind-tossed combover atop a tour bus. In case you couldn’t guess, COMBOVER’s my favorite entry in this crossword.
- 47d. [Poinciana feature] is a RACEME. The last time we had POINCIANA in a puzzle, the clue cited a [Bing Crosby hit in which "your branches speak to me of love"]. A raceme is a flower cluster, and the poinciana is an ornamental tree. Not to be confused with Porcelana, “the medicated fade cream.”
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “What’s Cookin’?”—Janie’s review
What’s cookin’? Well, it must be something like soup, or stew, or fried chicken, or sautéed vegetables or water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Why? Because each of the pieces of cookware that is the last word of the theme entries [...can be found], as we learn at 51A., ON THE STOVE TOP. These kitchen basics include a pot, a pan and a kettle. But you might not know that at first glance. The peppy phrases they’re a part of are:
- 20A. SWEETEN THE POT [Toss in more chips]. And I don’t think this means cinnamon-sugar chips. But they might up the (snack expectation) ante in their own way.
- 27A. FLASH IN THE PAN [One-hit wonder]. Another terrific theme phrase. Here’s a “Top 100″ site that let’s you manipulate (some) of the factors for recognizing one-hit wonders; and here’s a link to Wiki’s very comprehensive approach to the subject.
- 44A. MA AND PA KETTLE [Marjorie Main/Percy Kilbride roles]. (Not to be confused with [Mom's mate] and DAD…) Ms. Main was theme fill herself a few weeks ago. Didn’t post a link about her then, so here’s one now. And here’s one for Mr. K. What a puss on that one. Very much a character actor of his period!
And what might this cookware be made of? Stainless steel? Cast iron? Copper? “NOPE!” ["No way!"]. According to the puzzle, this stuff is aluminum and teflon, a/k/a T-FAL [Nonstick cookware brand].
Take a look, too, at some more of the fine non-themed fill Sarah’s chosen to sweeten the pot with. Under the heading of “Be Prepared,” there’s both FALSE ALARM [Groundless warning] and ALERTS [Warnings]. Under the heading of “Everybody Loves a Saturday Night,” we get NIGHT SPOTS [Discos], BAR HOP [Pub crawl] and SLOE GIN [Fizz ingredient].
Though it’s clued today as [Italian car, briefly], ALFA is also the first letter of the Danish/Norwegian Radio Alphabet (which uses “Romeo” for “R”…)—and makes for a complementary pairing with ALIF, the [First Arabic letter]. (“R” in the Italian Radio Alphabet is, appropriately … ROMA [Capital of Italia].)
Music, art and sagacity get called out through A SHARP [B flat equivalent], [Artist Georgia] O’KEEFFE and ATHENA [Goddess of wisdom].
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (writing as “S.N.”)
Tough one this weekend, no? (Please don’t say “no.”) My experience here was similar to the woes I had with the NYT puzzle—every corner had really challenging clues and I found precious few gimmes to get started with. Among the hardest clues I encountered were these:
- 16a. [Northern vacation destination] clues DENALI. You know what else has 6 letters? ALASKA, which is where you’ll find DENALI.
- 26a. LAVA can be a [Glass-forming liquid].
- 28a. [Emergency-aid system] isn’t a HOTLINE of any sort. It’s an AIRLIFT, which very few of us have ever received aid from.
- 34a. [Goats, bears, lions, etc.] are ANIMALS, yes, and MAMMALS, sure. They also happen to be sports team MASCOTS. One wonders why there’s no professional sports team called the Goats. Which sport would they play?
- 38a. [Jenny, e.g.] can mean a spinning jenny, a female donkey or ass, or a nickname for a person named Jennifer. The second meaning is at play here, and donkeys and asses are EQUINEs.
- 8d. [Part of Lugosi's "Dracula" costume] is a MONOCLE. Wasn’t hard to get with several crossings, but I wasn’t picturing a Draculean monocle at all.
- 9d. [He said "Be sincere; be brief; be seated"] clues FDR with no cue that the answer’s initials and not a name.
- 12d. [Movie inspector] is Dirty Harry CALLAHAN. Did you plunk CLOUSEAU in without a moment’s thought?
- 14d. SIN TAXES are [Controversial budget enhancers]. I recently read that cigarettes cost something like $12 a pack in NYC.
- 35d. A [Hooked] nose is AQUILINE.
- 36d. SUN DECKS are clued as [Cruise-ship amenities]. That’s a pretty basic amenity there.
- 37d. I kinda wanted SOFT SHOE for [Moccasin, for one], but it’s the horrible sort of moccasin, the PIT VIPER.
So, this was a hard puzzle but I didn’t find much in it to enchant me. I prefer NYT/Washington Post-style tricky clues to the vague and oblique Newsday clues, and it’s always fun to have sparkling words and phrases in the grid.
Timothy Meaker’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Ah, now that is a tasty crossing: DIET COKE (39a. [A lime-flavored version of it came out in 2004], but I prefer plain. Which is not to say that I don’t add orange pop to my DC whenever I’m at a self-serve soda fountain. Why doesn’t Coca-Cola sell Diet Coke with Orange?) meets a COOKIE JAR (31d. [Where a small hand might get caught]). When you make cookies at home, do you put them in a cookie jar? I tend to leave them out on a plate but wonder if the cookies would be happier in a jar.
Other bits I liked:
- 52a. JUMBLED UP is clued as [In disorder]. Would [Anagrammed] work just as well?
- 55a. I like this clue, [Metaphorical victim of an upset]. Have you ever literally upset the APPLE CART?
- 6d. [Golf's __ Cup] contains a landmine. RYDER and FED EX both fit the **DE* pattern, and the Ryder Cup is much better known. Did you fall into the trap? I know I did. I like a good crossword trap.
- 25d. [Rolls seen at the beach?] are SPARE TIRES of flab.
- 34d. CROCS are rubber [Holey footwear]. I cannot abide Crocs, which only makes the Brett Favre scandal funnier.
41d: [Bird's song] clues WARBLE because, of course, Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird is famous for his pretty WARBLE.
Also from the world of sports, we have 33a: [16-time Gold Glove-winning pitcher Jim] KAAT. What a horrible last name. It looks wrong. I needed all the crossings for this one, so I’m gonna call the guy obscure, but I’m sure you baseball fans will quiver with rage (as is your wont) and tell me how renowned and familiar he is.