Gary Steinmehl’s New York Times crossword
I kept forgetting this was a Friday puzzle while solving it and indeed, there’s a three-part theme to it so it could make sense as a tough, low-word-count Thursday puzzle. Instead, it’s a Friday 70-worder built around three movie titles, each three words with the third word being a 5-letter one starting with Z. We’ve got ICE STATION ZEBRA which, for my money, has one of the best titles of all time. What is an ice station? Are there 25 more of them named after animals that start with A through Y? I don’t know! I don’t want to know. I like the mystery.
When I had the Z***A at the end of 16a, I wondered if it would be the ZENDA one—I started in the POULTS/ORZO/PENNY/atom SMASHER zone, so I didn’t have the ICE STATION at first. So I filled in PRISONER OF ZENDA easily by the time I got to it, after passing MARK OF ZORRO.
Mind you, not a single one of those movie clues was helpful to me. Could’ve all said [Old movie], and I would have gotten to the answer just as soon.
The rest of the fill was decent. Not too much sparkle, no, but I made it through TERNATE and BORAX and HARVARD without grief.
My main quibble: How many of you still use your INDEX FINGER as a [Telephone dialer?]? On my cell phone touchscreen, I use my index finger if not using the memory autodials, but the cordless phone at home? That’s thumb, all the way.
Updated Friday morning:
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Front Runners”—Janie’s review
Didja maybe overeat a bit yesterday? Then by all means, this may be a day for some exercise. So up and at ‘em! (“CHILL OUT!” I hear in response…) Never gonna be able to rationalize a day of abundant left-overs and channel-surfing if you merely LIE IN BED. Take a good long walk first or perhaps engage in some variation of a [Race (and a word that follows the starts of 20-, 37-, and 48-Across)] DERBY. Not fully understanding the title? Another way of parsing it is to say that the first word of each of the three theme phrases runs in front of the word derby. Like this:
- 20A. [Coney Island Cyclone, for one] ROLLER COASTER → roller derby. Anyone on a roller derby team is bound to burn off a calorie or three. (For the faint of stomach, once or twice around the Cyclone might lead to the loss of an entire meal…)
- 37A. [Honorary title in the Bluegrass State] KENTUCKY COLONEL → Kentucky Derby. This honorary title has its origins in the military, but in recent history has been bestowed on such bold-faced names as Betty White, Barack Obama and Muhammad Ali. Only one workin’ off any serious calories in the Kentucky Derby is the horse (and to a lesser extent, the jockey).
- 48A. [1993 Sylvester Stallone movie] DEMOLITION MAN → demolition derby. I think the real common denominator here is the kitsch appeal. Neither the movie (even with its rather impressive cast) nor demolition derbies genuinely call out to me…
What I’d like to know is the origin of “derby hat” as a synonym for “Bowler hat.” Anyone? The OED was no help; nor was this Wiki article (which, nevertheless, does provide an interesting backgrounder).
Love the polite [Response to “Need a hand?”] “COULD YOU?” combo and also encountering AL PACINO. He’s currently on Broadway as Shylock in a critically acclaimed production of The Merchant of Venice, but Randy gleefully takes us down the pop-culture path, cluing him instead as gangster [Big Boy Caprice portrayer in “Dick Tracy”]. The link will take you to a site (from 2008) that lists filmdom’s top 20 gangsters. Characters portrayed by Pacino clock in at 16 (Big Boy Caprice) and 4 (Michael Corleone).
On the subject of pop-culture, was definitely out of my depth with PINK (which I’d heard of) but not its clue [“Stupid Girls” singer], and [Skateboarder Hawk] for TONY. Yikes. This is one guy who knows that you don’t get anywhere by stayin’ still. In a sport that’s gone in and out of fashion (now in again), who’da thunk there’d ever have been professional skateboarders with any longevity? There may not be many, but at age 42, Tony Hawk is the IDEAL [Perfect] exemplar.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: 59A. [Liven up, with "to" (and a hint to how 17-, 27- and 44-Across were created)] – ADD A LITTLE PUNCH. A type of punch is added to the beginning of phrases with amusing results.
- 17A. [Flight from a heated argument?] – CROSSFIRE ESCAPE
- 27A. [Talkative "King of Country"?] – JABBERING STRAIT
- 44A. [Gene carrier responsible for truancy?] – HOOKY CHROMOSOME
One-line review for those in a hurry: A knockout of a puzzle from a Team Fiend member.
- 5A. [Big name in crackers] – RITZ/ 9A. [Earthshaking news?] – QUAKE. Z, Q and K in row one. Scrabblicious!
- 14A. [Othello's confidant] – IAGO. This is required in every puzzle now.
- 16A. [Where to look out?] – BELOW. Usually followed by bonk!!!
- 22A. [Flamboyant band since the '70s] – KISS
- 25A. [Jack succeeded him] – IKE. Kennedy/Eisenhower
- 38A. [Minor damage] – DING. Better a DING than a bonk!
- 39A. [Word on the Great Seal of the U.S.] – NOVUS. Does NOV mean “the”?
- 65A. [Boss’s privilege] – SAY SO
- 1D. [Pay stub abbr.] – FICA. CPP on my stub.
- 6D. ["__ Had $1000000": Barenaked Ladies hit] – IF I. Canadian content! Didn’t I play this yesterday? So let’s go with “Be My Yoko Ono“
- 29D. [Bela Fleck's instrument] – BANJO. Playing Lennon. I am king of the segues.
Theme: Always Got Time for Tim Horton’s. Replace the word “dollar” in phrases with a type of doughnut.
- 23A. [Be very certain] – BET ONE’S BOTTOM DOLLAR BEARCLAW
- 38A. [Rodomontade, quixotic, stygian and the like] – TEN DOLLAR BUTTERNUT WORDS
- 49A. [With 70- and 85-Across, insufficient to be useful] – A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR CHOCOLATE FROSTED SHORT. That’s very sad.
- 97A. [Budget rival] – DOLLAR SPRINKLES RENT-A-CAR
- 114A. [Taft's foreign policy] – DOLLAR OLD-FASHIONED DIPLOMACY
One line review for those in a hurry: Ridiculous theme idea that totally works.
In the name of crossword blogging research, I stopped at Tim Horton’s before writing this post. Too bad there was no room in the puzzle for Boston Cream and Walnut Crunch. Next week, BEQ brings us “From Soup to Nuts.”
- 28A. [Thanksgiving leftovers] – TURKEY/73A. [Thanksgiving leftovers] – BEETS. Enjoy for the next month.
- 29A. [Green on JetBlue] – AIR SICK. Who doesn’t like seeing AIR SICK in their puzzle?
- 46A. [Item with 21 spots] – DIE. One DIE, two dice. Whose idea was that?
- 47A. [Casus ___ (war justification)] – BELLI. You said a phrase I don’t understand, so prepare to be invaded.
- 79A. ["At Last" singer James] – ETTA
- 82A. [British band with the 1991 #1 hit “Unbelievable“] – EMF
- 104A. [Julianna ___ (sleepwear brand)] – RAE. Who? Did the “Facts of Life” girls wear this?
- 124A. [Lucy's little brother] – LINUS. Rerun fits as well.
- 3D. [Droid maker] – MOTOROLA. I have the “Backflip”.
- 33D. [She duetted with Justin on “The Only Promise That Remains“] – REBA
- 34D. [I ___ Tenori (Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti)] – TRE
- 41D. [Start a snooker game over] – REBREAK. I’ll reforgive this.
- 65D. [Nickname of the 1967 NFL Championship Game] – ICE BOWL. This Sunday’s Grey Cup in Edmonton could be another ICE BOWL.
- 69D. ["The Sound of Music" figure] – ABBESS
- 88D. [Puts back] – REPLACES. Another “RE” word? Wait, this one is real. Never mind.
- 91D. [H5N1, familiarly] – BIRD FLU. Who doesn’t like seeing BIRD FLU in their puzzle?
- 102D. [Fixed a rug] – REWOVE. No recomment.
- 109D. [Where it all began] – EDEN. 1 Across should be termed the EDEN answer.
Thanks to Jeffrey and Janie for covering most of the Friday puzzles for Fiend Central!
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Compound Interest”
- 18a. [Gift container of chemical compounds?] is an ESTER BASKET (Easter basket). I started out with ETHER BASKET, which retains the long-E sound.
- 25a. THE KETONE KOPS are your [Slapstick group of chemical compounds?], playing on the Keystone Kops.
- 34a, 36a. [Admission that chemical compounds are needed?] clues IT TAKES ALKYNES (“it takes all kinds”).
- 43a. [What destroyers of chemical compounds might bring?] are AMINES TO AN END (“a means to an end”).
- 57a. [Tests involving chemical compounds?] aren’t final exams, they’re PHENOL EXAMS.
I’m calling this puzzle a sop to the chemistry profs who read the Chronicle of Higher Education and grow weary of the literary and historical themes the Chronicle crossword often features. But there’s not really any surface sense to the theme answers, no rhyme or reason besides “a chemical compound has a name that sounds kinda like a word in a familiar phrase.” What? No love for methane, ethane, ethyne, enol, and the other chemicals that populate crossword grids?
There are plenty of tough clues outside the theme, too:
- 9a. ["Summertime," for one] is an ARIA, apparently.
- 14a. [Basho composition] suggests music but means poetry: HAIKU, in particular.
- 22a. [Tucson sight] seems a rather overspecific clue for SAGUARO cactus.
- 24a. ["The Black ___" (Dumas novel)] TULIP? Never heard of it.
- 7d. A ukulele, or UKE, is a [Chordophone from Kauai]. “Chordophone” doesn’s much sound like it refers to a stringed instrument
- 24d. TNT is a [Torpex component]. Never heard of Torpex.
- 29d. SAN LEANDRO is the [California city that's home to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company]. I thought they were based in San Francisco.
- 33d. [Went from pillar to post] clues MEANDERED. Not familiar with this “pillar to post” phrase.
- 35d. [Eau de vie from Gascony] is ARMAGNAC, cousin to cognac.
- 46d. [Jewish ascetic of yore] is crosswordese, the ESSENE. If you haven’t been doing crosswords for years and you’re not a biblical scholar or Judaic scholar, do you know of the Essenes? I know ‘em from crosswords.
- 47d. [Americans might pledge to it] clues NPR, National Public Radio. Do people donate money to NPR at the national level? Chicago Public Radio does pledge drives to support Chicago Public Radio and help the station buy the NPR and PRI programs they air.
- 58d. [Louis ___ (War of the Spanish Succession king)] clues XIV, or Louis the 14th.