Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword
Liz Gorski is widely held to be the queen of the visual-gig crossword. Today, she’s made a crossword with a big musical note made of black squares in the middle. Just one note, ergo the central Across answers tie to it with JOHNNY / ONE-NOTE. Mind you, their joint clue did nothing to help me: ["Babes in Arms" tune that's apt for this puzzle]. I don’t know what “Babes in Arms” is. A Broadway musical? Is it about young people with weapons? People carrying infants? Who is this Johnny One-Note and is it important to know which note he has? Before I ever heard of “Johnny One-Note,” I heard a pun on the name. On HBO’s 1990s series Dream On, Michael McKean played a guy at the office and everyone called him Johnny One-Nut because he had but one testicle.
[Edited to add: Hang on! From a friend's latest Facebook post mere minutes ago: "Oh. My. God. Judy Garland in blackface. 'Babes in Arms' 1939. No wonder this never shows up in Garland retrospectives. Holy crap." I feel much better about not knowing the title now.]
The rest of the puzzle plays out like a themeless. There’s some fresh fill but there are also some clunkers. To wit:
- 6a. [Clothes hangers?] is a cool clue for PRICE TAGS, but the answer is SALES TAGS. Who calls tags on clothes in the store “sales tags”?
- 15a. Old crosswordese I knew: AMOLE is a [Plant whose roots are used as detergent], a.k.a. the soap plant. Haven’t seen it in a puzzle in at least half an eon.
- 16a. POOL TABLE, [Something you can bank on] when you’re making a bank shot off the side. Love it!
- 17a. Nice mislead: PECAN is a [Tart flavor] that’s not sour, it’s just the flavor of a pecan tart.
- 27a. I love the word amok, so RAN AMOK is welcome any time.
- 31a. What the…? MORITAT?? [Alternative title of "Mack the Knife"]? Surely I’m not the only one who looked askance at this one. [Edited to add an explanatory link.]
- 38a. Gruesome. I thought [Like some people resisting arrest] was looking for a synonym of obstreperous or something. TASERED serves only to remind me of that tendency too many police officers have today to zap people who pose no threat to them. Tasers are not safe and innocuous tools; people have died.
- 55a. The ERIE CANAL is not terribly exciting, but I like the clue, [Early 19th-century engineering marvel]. I was thinking of mechanical devices so there was a nice little “aha” moment when ERIE CANAL came together.
- 57a. Ah, DEAD SPOTS! Hate the cell phone dead spot in a building, love it in a crossword puzzle.
- 3d. “ROCK ON!” If you insist.
- 11d. Old crosswordese again. TAWS, the [Fancy shooters] in the game of marbles. Kids haven’t really played marbles in decades. Perhaps the older crossword solvers know TAWS from personal experience?
- 12d. Ugly word, this ABNEGATOR, or [One who surrenders]. Have you ever used it in a sentence?
- 13d. GLUTAMATE is what the G in MSG stands for. Add the BORATES and you are now over the limit of how many chemical words the solver who is not a retired chemist is pleased to encounter in a crossword.
- 23d. IN MOTHBALLS! Love it. Hate the smell, love the idiom. Prefer mothballed, actually, but both versions are good.
- 24d. Wanted [They may be incubating] to be NEW IDEAS or something chicken-related but got NEONATES. Fair enough. (Primarily the premature neonates. Any full-term newborn is also a neonate.)
- 33d. JOE TORRE, good first/last name combo for New Yorkers.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “I Hear a Symphony”
Hey! There must be some mighty easy cluing throughout this puzzle, because I’d never even heard of three of the seven symphony names in this puzzle, and it blew past like a Wednesday NYT puzzle. SURPRISE, JUPITER, and SPRING don’t ring a bell for me at all, and not a single composer + symphony number clue was any sort of gimme for me. I’m mildly put out by the inconsistency of names that precede the word Symphony vs. names that stand alone. EROICA is Eroica, yes. But is the Schubert one called UNFINISHED, or Unfinished Symphony? Similarly, Haydn’s SURPRISE Symphony and Dvorak’s The NEW WORLD Symphony stick out. I have no idea if PATHETIQUE, JUPITER, and SPRING are one-word titles or not. Hmm.
Anyway, I imagine this theme captivated the classical music lovers among you, but it did nothing for me. (Don’t call me a philistine. Start your life over with impaired hearing and see how much you get into classical music.)
- 63a. [“You can’t be a real country unless you have a ___ and an airline”: Frank Zappa] clues BEER.
The grid features a baker’s dozen of 7-letter answers, just for the heck of it. Every one of them is rock-solid. SNIPPET and BAROQUE are particularly nice.
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword
[Some employee benefits, and this puzzle's title] are STOCK OPTIONS. Gagliardo interprets that phrase by taking selected “stock ___” phrases and replacing “stock” with an S-word that rhymes with it. O-o-okay. Seems like an odd sort of theme, but at least it’s fresher than one of those “first word of each phrase can follow CORN” themes. The rhymes are:
- 20a. SPOCK ANALYST, or [Shrink for a noted Vulcan?].
- 29a. SOCK ISSUE, or [Reason for a laundry odor?].
- 37a. SCHLOCK MARKET, or [Neighborhood garage sales?]. Ha! “I made a killing in the schlock market last weekend.”
- 45a. SMOCK FUND, or [Collection for an artist's garment?].
What, no SHOCK OPTIONS ([Gasping and fainting?]), TRADING, or BROKER? SOCK TRADING would have been fun.
Ten more clues:
- 15a. ["Brusha, brusha, brusha" toothpaste] is the 1950s classic dentifrice, IPANA. The mascot was Bucky Beaver. “Use Ipana and you, too, can have giant yellow incisors!”
- 23a. TERRACES, handy in hilly or mountainous areas, were a [Feature of Incan farms].
- 36a. Mimsie! I had no idea that cat had a name. Mary Tyler Moore’s [TV production co. whose mascot was Mimsie the Cat] is MTM.
- 49a. Apparently there’s a ["Tiny Toon Adventures" bunny] named BABS. I’d be surprised if more than a few of you (hello, Joe C and Dave M) knew this off the top of your head.
- 69a. [1954 event coded as "Castle Bravo"] is an H-TEST of a hydrogen bomb. I didn’t know this either.
- 3d. [Marathoner's lament] is “I’M SORE“? No, no, no. That’s not “in the language”!
- 12d. An EON is defined as [Two or more eras, in geologic time]. Or rather, an EON is subdivided into more than one era.
- 2d, 13d. Two different sorts of locks here. [Locked, in a way], in the hardware way, is HASPED. [Artificial locks] of hair form a WIG.
- 32d. Michelle KWAN is a [Nine-time U.S. skating champ].
- 41d. [Three-course military supplies] during World War II were called K-RATIONS. Interesting bit of history there—I didn’t know K-rations were so much worse than current-day MREs.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Barreling Along”—Janie’s review
There are several nice things that distinguish this puzzle. First of all, it’s a pangram, so all the letters of the alphabet get their “15 minutes of fame” today. But then, didja notice the title? Didja notice yesterday’s (“Stock Options”) and Wednesday’s (“Lox”)? That, folks gives us the “Lox, Stock and Barrel…” trifecta. Sweet, no?
And how does Tony’s puzzle add to the mix? All five of his theme entries (and clues) are lively and descriptive progressive verb phrases that are synonyms for the title. Even if you’re rushing around (so to speak…), slow down long enough to savor:
17A. WHIZZING BY [Going like a shot].
24A. RUMBLING PAST [Clanging down the road].
40A. HURTLING THROUGH [Rocketing across space].
52A. RUNNING AHEAD [Blazing the trail].
65A. FLYING AWAY [Flitting off].
I keep wondering what kind of mph these vehicles are using, what kind of mpg they’re getting and whether or not the EPA [Anti-pollution org.] should be on alert…
If the remainder of the fill isn’t “brilliant,” it is beautifully presented by way of the active or twisty cluing. To wit:
[Hit list?] for CHART. You know, like AM radio’s “Top 40.” No Sopranos reference here. And sure, SNUFFS [Puts out] can certainly refer to candles, but here I really did think of a mob tie-in.
[Bug's end?] yields -ABOO and not “SWAT!”
A [Person who sits in or walks out] is a STRIKER. We have Mohandas Gandhi to thank for non-violent confrontation as a way of voicing dissent and it was he who mobilized the citizens of South Africa (and then India) to stage the sit-ins that changed their lives—and history. And while it’s told in a style that’s way more than a bit “by the numbers,” Made in Dagenham casts a fond eye on the walk out by the women’s work force (the “girls”) at the Ford factory in Dagenham, England. It really happened (late ’60s) and it really focused attention on—and got results for—the “equal pay for equal work” movement.
["Taste a piece!"] “TRY ONE!” Why, thank you, I’d love to.
[Use a roller and brush] to PAINT. Of course you can also use these items to STYLE your coiffure; then you might also like to have some GELÉE [Fancy hair goo] at your disposal. I s’pose that stuff is better than just plain ol’ gel…
*Natalia Shore is an anagram for “Another Alias” of Mike Shenk
Theme: Add “HR” to phrases with wild and woolly results.
23A. [One department of a landscaping company?] – SHRUB DIVISION. One ha.
32A. [Person who puts one and two together?] – THREE TOTALER. One ha.
48A. [Specialist for cooks who are kooks?] – KITCHEN SHRINK. Four ha’s.
66A. [Dome of the Rock's outline?] – SHRINE CURVE. Two ha’s.
79A. [Garbage dump?] – THROWAWAY ZONE. Two ha’s
95A. [Name for a whirling carnival ride?] – ROTO THRILLER. Three ha’s
109A. [Trim for the royal limo?] – KINGDOM CHROME. Three ha’s minus one for pronunciation change.
One line review for those in a hurry: Standard add letters trick done nicely with clean fill.
12A. [Private eye in Lawrence Block's novels] – SCUDDER/15D. [Scottish river] – DEE. Fail on the “D” crossing.
21A. [City on the Nile] – ASWAN/13D. [City on the Nile] – CAIRO. It’s a long river.
22A. [Tahiti's largest city] – PAPEETE. Right under SCUDDER led to a tricky NE.
27A. [Jeweler in many 116-Across] – ZALE’S. Good thing I’ve been in many U.S. 116A. [Spree settings] – MALLS.
28A. [Dog track dummy] – HARE. Hey you dumb rabbit. There are dogs around! Run!
40A. [Mournful wails] – YOWLS. Did you start with HOWLS?
52A. ["Hottest spot north of Havana," in song] – THE COPA
61A. [Bug-squashing sound] – SPLAT. SPLAT is the most funnest onomatopoeiac word ever wever.
72A. [Film for which Frances McDormand won an Oscar] – FARGO. What has she done lately?
91A. ["Hell ___ no fury..."] – HATH. Hell HATH no fury like outdated verbs.
100A. [Antepenultimate letter] – CHI. Amy, how are the CHI Bears doing? Are they in Antepenultimate place?
101A. [Frank's second wife] – AVA. Before MIA. Sinatra was picking wife’s out of the crossword puzzle. His first wife was ANOA.
113A. ["Baby ___ Your Loving"] – I NEED
114A. ["$#*! My Dad Says" star] – SHATNER. Turn around, bright eyes!
1D. [One of the Seven Sisters] – VASSAR. Hmm, I’m guessing Groucho, Chico, Sneezy, Dopey, Donner, Blixen and VASSAR.
9D. [Sounding like taffeta] – SWISHY. SPLAT and SWISHY in one puzzle. Wait, maybe they are two of the sisters.
20D. [Common shoe buy for men] – SIZE TEN. I wish. Size 13 wide is hard to find.
28D. [Album that included "Ticket to Ride"] - HELP
34D. [Princess Leia's friend Wicket, for one] – EWOK. Yay, Star Wars clues!
39D. [Singing legend Jackson] – MAHALIA
53D. [Neighbor of Minnesota, Michigan and New York] – ONTARIO. That should be neighbour. Can’t you see the red squiggly line Word has put under it? Wait, Lenny and Squiggly were also sisters.
55D. [Delphinium's cousin] – ANEMONE. Cousin?! I’m still working on sisters!
58D. [Five-time Wimbledon champ] – BORG. He assimilated McEnroe.
68D. [Crisp bread] – MATZOH. Fun to eat the first day of Passover. By the seventh day, not so much. Wait, MATZOH is the Jewish sister.
70D. [Lord High Executioner in "The Mikado"] – KOKO. Wait, KOKO is…
75D. [It covers your nut] – SHELL. I beg your pardon?
85D. [Final answer in "Slumdog Millionaire"] – ARAMIS. A gimmee for those who haven’t seen the movie. /end sarcasm
94D. [Human Resources folks] – HIRERS. A sly nod to the theme.
97D. [Monopoly buy] – HOUSE. Yes, I put HOTEL. And so did you.
109D. [Co-star of Kristin, Cynthia and Sarah Jessica] – KIM. Wait…