Victor Fleming’s New York Times crossword
This one almost felt like a Saturday puzzle, what with the tight squeeze by squares 27 and 36 nearly splitting the grid into two distinct puzzle and all sorts of clues that weren’t gimmes. Eventually it tumbled in a Fridayish (but not easy Fridayish) amount of time, though.
Did you see the hidden mini-theme? Look inside those two 14-letter Downs. Inside the PYRRHIC VICTORY and pretty BLACK-EYED SUSAN are VICTOR and SUSAN, and Vic’s wife’s name is Susan. Aww!
First up, those three letters: “WTF?” The answer to 10-Across is, the crossings told me, NOL. This NOL. [___ pros. (court record abbr.)] is surely familiar to Judge Vic, but I don’t have a clue what that means and I hope never to see NOL parked in a crossword grid again.
Exhibit A, favorite things:
- 1a. [Locals make them often] clues train STOPS. A clue for the city folks among us.
- 25a. [Start a scrap]? Sure, that’s one way to go with cluing GET IT ON. Would’ve been fun to see [Make sweet, sweet love] instead.
- 4d. Love the term PYRRHIC VICTORY, a [Win offset by losses]. If only the ACPT championship came at great personal cost. Dan Feyer would have one pyrrhic victory and retreat, making way for a new winner. Eventually the tournament wins would chew up so many people, it would be my turn…and then I’d be sorry. (But sorry with a nice check to deposit.)
- 10d. Always have a soft spot for a NEONATAL [Kind of ward], having spent plenty of time in one. Have you seen those TLC shows about the women who didn’t know they were pregnant? (They’re on when I’m in the gym, and more entertaining than Headline News.) In the dramatic reenactment of one such story, the role of a baby born two months premature was played by, like, an 11-pound baby. It’s like casting Louie Anderson as Eddie Arcaro. I tell you, it really took me out of the story. Now, where was I?
- 15d. You know the BLACK-EYED SUSAN, right? Like a daisy, but with a brownish black center and golden yellow petals.
- 24d. Love the clue [In one's cups]—you’ve gotta say it with an English accent. I could do without the answer being SOTTED, though. Wanted this to be SOUSED, a more familiar synonym for “drunk.”
- 32d. TATER TOT is good but would be better in the plural. What you don’t want to do is fry your tots in truffle oil, because it’s then soused in grease. (Local restaurant Hearty has truffle tots as a weekly special.)
- 36d. I like the trickery of [Not excise], because the first thing I thought of was excise taxes and I had no idea what the opposite of that would be. It’s the verb excise, meaning “to cut out,” and the opposite of that is LEAVE IN.
What’s in the rest of the puzzle tends to the non-exciting side. RON ELY is almost as old as OBOLI. I never heard of CHET [Lemon on a baseball field]. Fill like IBAR, TANYA, A TEE, ITER, UVEA, ORES, AS ONE, DOES OK, LETS PASS? Those leave me tepid.
Daniel Finan’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I think I’ve seen unclued themes before, but not where the theme entries are CLUELESS for a reason like this: The five unclued answers are synonyms for people marked by cluelessness. There’s a NINCOMPOOP, SPACE CADET, PEABRAIN, DINGBAT, and AIRHEAD. Cute theme.
21d is clued as [Stand offerings]. I thought of LEMONADE, but that wasn’t going to work with the crossings. It was filling itself in from the bottom, and then I had **BRIDES. Good gravy! What sort of stand is selling some kinda BRIDES?!? Ohhh, I see: CA BRIDES. In California, brides are available in stands. (Or, parsed another way, the answer is CAB RIDES.)
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Whose Book Is That?”
Many doctors know the book Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. It’s one of those books that gets referred to by its eponym—like the other possessive names in the theme of this puzzle. We’ve got BARTLETT’S Familiar Quotations, GRAY’S Anatomy, BREWER’S Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, great jurist BLACKSTONE’S Commentaries on the Laws of England, HOYLE’S Rules of Games, ROBERT’S Rules of Order, JANE’S Fighting Ships, and BULFINCH’S Mythology (I liked Edith Hamilton’s). I was waiting for Garner’s Modern American Usage to pop up, but perhaps Bryan Garner hasn’t hit the eponymous big time yet.
There’s another famous eponym lurking in here, but not associated with a book. It’s BOYCOTT, clued as [Make a statement while shopping, say]. Charles Boycott was the target of the first organized boycott, not the initiator. I don’t think I knew that.
For 52d, I misread “Hampshire” as “New Hampshire” and was confused as to why a weird little regional word (a) existed and (b) was showing up in the crosswords. Whoops. [Hoodlum, in Hampshire] means “British slang for hoodlum,” or YOBBO. I have no idea what they call hoodlums in New Hampshire. But it’s those Vermonters you really need to watch out for.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Crude Containers”—Janie’s review
I suppose OPEC would consider it a JOKE [Practical thing?] if members of the organization started shipping their product cruciverbally, but Martin’s game for showing ‘em how it’s done. All of his theme phrases “contain” the word OIL. In two instances (the first and the third) it’s contained in a single word—and you can hear the sound of the word. In the second example, the letters jump from the end of the first word to the beginning of the second. This more cryptic approach is also more subtle, and while the other phrases make for terrific theme fill, this one gets my vote as the best of the three. Those “crude containers” come to you by way of some very polished fill, namely:
- 20A. SOFT-BOILED EGG [Breakfast choice, maybe]. While I have to limit my cholesterol intake and find myself having egg-white omelets and sometimes using Egg Beaters, boy, do I love the real thing. And just about any way you can fix ‘em!
- 37A. CHICAGO ILLINOIS [Willis Tower location]. Nice the way oil pulls Chicago, Illinois, together, no? Oh, and nice the way the bonus OIL [Fuel found in all three theme entries] crosses that second “I” at center, too. No, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is not an oil tower, but these days it does remain the tallest building in North America.
- 53A. EAU DE TOILETTE [Perfume variety]. Basically, from the weakest to the strongest scent concentration, ya got yer oh duh co-loney, yer terlit water and then yer poifume. For more specifics (and other varieties along the spectrum), read all about it.
The grid is also filled with a nice concentration of longer entries. I particularly like: HANGERS ON [Sycophants], ICE FLOES [Arctic floaters], CANBERRA [Capital of Australia] (I was thinkin’ SYDNEY—but that’s its largest city), NICE NELLY [Goody-goody], HARD SELL [High-pressure pitch], and the beautiful GOLD DUST [High-priced powder]. How pitch-perfectly Dorothy Fields used that phrase in the 1930 (Depression era) lyric for “On the Sunny Side of the Street“: “If I never have a cent/I’d be rich as Rockefeller/Gold dust at my feet/On the sunny side of the street.” Exquisite. Nice how it stands in contrast to TIN GOD [Petty dictator], too.
Lotso names in the grid, from a variety of fields, including:
- SHAQ [Cager O'Neal, familiarly]—whose footwear might be by AVIA [Big name in sports shoes].
- [Actress Roseanne] BARR. Yes, it seems she’s using her last name again…
- [Jazz musician Kid] ORY. Long gone, but worth catching up with.
- ["Guinevere" actor Stephen] REA.
- [Actor Ed of "Lou Grant"] ASNER.
- ["Piano Man" singer Billy] JOEL.
- CINDY [Supermodel Crawford].
- ["Nana" novelist Émile] ZOLA.
- BELA ["Dracula" star Lugosi] and TED ["Dracula" director Browning]. (Among the dozens of films he directed, he is also remembered for Freaks, which featured any number of side show artists.)
- SHARI [Puppeteer Lewis].
Patrick Blindauer and Steve Salitan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chop Shop”
I’m not sure if it was that hard to piece together the theme entries or if blasting the Beatles on iTunes was slowing me down (songs copied from CD, not bought from iTunes—pfft, what do you take me for?). Each theme entry is a food split phonetically into syllables (or two-syllable chunks) that are changed into separate words, with each series of syllable-soundalike words clued. It makes for a fun word game:
- 23a. [Farm female/ guesthouse/ depilatory brand/ fan sound] is marinara, or MARE INN NAIR RAH.
- 42a. [Field sound/ first name in Norse exploration/ "Today" host] clues cauliflower as CAW LEIF LAUER. I’m one who pronounces it “collie-flower,” not “caw-liflower.”
- 50a. [Site of some monkey bars/ sharp/ child support?] is ZOO KEEN KNEE, or zucchini.
- 66a. This one took me the longest to parse. [Crafty/ mix/ crucial] clues SLY STIR KEY—sliced turkey.
- 69a. [Racetrack margin/ soup server] is a NECK TUREEN, or nectarine.
- 90a. The herb cilantro is SILL AUNT RHO, or [Window part/ reunion attendee/ P look-alike]. Now, I pronounce your mom’s sister as “ant” and the herb as “cilahntro,” but both vowel sounds are kosher for both words.
- 98a. BLEW BEAR EASE is clued [Lost, as the lead/ withstand/ naturalness], for blueberries.
- 118a. [Farm female/ short chat/ be short/ gave rise to] is SOW WORD OWE BRED, or sourdough bread.
Who’s hoping Patrick and Steve will host Thanksgiving for us? Cilantro blueberries marinara sounds delicious.
Herewith, some clues:
- 34d. [Like b or d, phonetically] is PLOSIVE. Those aren’t shy, retiring sounds. Is it coincidence that the word bold contains two plosives?
- 103a. SYRIA is your [Palmyra setting]. That’s an ancient city.
- 15d. [He served before Johnson] clues LINCOLN.
- 63d. GISELLE is the [Title peasant in an 1841 ballet].
Giselle and Lincoln aren’t the only people in the grid. There were a bunch of them partying in the northwest corner of the grid—ELIAS Canetti, ANTON Bruckner, EVAN Lysacek, Rob REINER, and AYN Rand are all crammed in too tightly. RENE RUSSO, the MOORES, MERYL, the ALDENS, ED ASNER, SCHROEDER from Peanuts, MERLE Travis, Nora EPHRON, ERROL [Barnett of CNN], and the BEAV are spread out a bit more. CEE gets clued as [Rap's ___ Lo Green], but it bears noting that Cee Lo has a solid set of singing pipes too; his “F*ck You” is my current earworm.