Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This puzzle commemorates a 50th anniversary that I’ll bet fewer than 1% of you realized was upon us: It was 50 years ago today that Bamboo Harvester’s TV show premiered. That’s right: MISTER ED, the show with the talking horse, starring equine celeb Bamboo Harvester. The rest of the theme tells you he was a PALOMINO and provides a quote: “Well, TIME TO / HIT THE HAY… / OH, I FORGOT, / I ATE IT!” It’s so funny, I forgot to laugh. Wikipedia tells me the show premiered in syndication in January and was picked up by CBS that fall.
As far as anniversary-observance crosswords go, this one is, well, not one I was ever expecting (or hoping) to see. Given that the constructor is Donna Levin, however, we can look past the theme to find goodies in the fill and clues:
- 14a.[Kirk's Enterprise, for one] is a STARSHIP. Dodged a bullet here! Donna could have instead evoked the perpetrators of this woeful ’80s pop song. (Highlight of that video: When Abraham Lincoln’s statue busts into song.)
- 31a. [More than salty] is a good clue for LEWD.
- 66a. ALTER EGO is a terrific entry. I never use the [Intimate confidante] sense of that myself. And you?
- 5d. Sure, you could clue CHI as the Greek letter rather than an abbreviation. But why, when a fresh clue like [Scoreboard letters for "Da Bears"] is available to you? Lotta Bearsss fans around these parts who are pretty psyched about how this season took shape. I just wish Jay Cutler didn’t look like such a doof. Why can’t we have another good-looking QB like Jim Harbaugh?
- 12d. Oh, math! [Distance ÷ time] = RATE. Here’s some more math for you: Tragedy + time = comedy.
- 27d. [A dromedary has one] HUMP. In Chicago, broader, flatter speed bumps are termed speed humps. And yes, we snicker whenever we see a SPEED HUMP sign.
- 39d. SEAN PENN. I always like a full name in the grid, particularly if the name in question is currently well-known. DON HO is at 33d but he never hit the same echelon of fame as Sean Penn.
Mr. Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Yeah, so I did the L.A. Times puzzle before I did the N.Y. Times one. Oh. My. Gosh. Same basic theme. Same air of (to me) utter irrelevance. Just told my husband that two of Wednesday’s crosswords feature Mister Ed because it’s the show’s 50th anniversary and he said “I never watched it.” All he knows (and all I know) is the “a horse is a horse, of course” line. Neither of us has ever heard this cheeseball “hay-eating” line. Sigh. I sense a massive generational/cultural divide here between people who were watching TV in 1961 and people who were not.
This time around, what’s not the hay quote is “HELLO, I’M MISTER ED” and THE TALKING HORSE.
- 11a. PEZ [___-a-Mania, candy collectors' convention since 1991]. Technically, is anyone collecting the candy rather than the dispensers? Because it’s pretty crappy, at least in the U.S. I once had some tasty raspberry Pez in Europe.
- 23a, 24a. Who doesn’t like to read across the row of a crossword and say PETS ASS? I’ll bet Mister Ed was fond of the lady donkeys in his neck of the woods and always wished he had hands instead of hooves so he might pet that ass.
- 8d. CLIP is clued as a ["Good" rate], as in “Mister Ed is galloping at a good clip now.” Good clue.
- 10d. Now, if you’re gonna put decades-old TV in the puzzle, go with cartoons. I know NATASHA, the ["Rocky and Bullwinkle" villainess], even though the show’s just as old as Mister Ed.
- 25d. TABOO is clued with [Like cannibalism, e.g.]. Well, isn’t that judgmental. Chacun à son goût, baby.
- 42d. “WATCH IT!” ["Be careful!"] I like crossword answers that shout at me.
Not wild about most of the rest of what’s in this grid. IN AGES, AMICI, A TWO, OSH, ETAS, meh.
Likeliest trouble spots:
- 27a. [Chuck Yeager's breakthrough] looks like the inscrutable MACHI in the grid, but that’s MACH 1, the speed of sound. Physicists, are Mach numbers usually given as Arabic or Roman numerals?
- 50d. A DHOW is an [Indian Ocean vessel].
- 53d. Okay, I was stumped. The [Logo image for "The Rocky Horry Picture Show"] is LIPS? Oh, yeah.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Secret Seasoning”—Janie’s review
The first Klahn of the new year brings us a craftily-concocted (and clued) if familiar embedded-word theme. Kinda like the Colonel’s recipe for KFC, it’s the HERB-factor that remains under wraps today. Bob conceals his quartet of ‘em thusly:
- 17A. [Topper that's down inside] FEATHER BED. So that “topper” isn’t a hat—and “down” is a noun. (See above re: crafty cluing…)
- 11D. [2003 Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee] BROTHER BEAR. Totally new to me, but I sure love the way it pairs up with
- 25D. [G.K. Chesterton's intuitive priest] FATHER BROWN. Sweet.
- 59A. [Home run pitch, to Minnesotans?] GOPHER BALL. Well, especially (though not uniquely) to Minnesotans since the state’s nickname is The Gopher State—and the mascot of the Twin-Cities campus of the U. is Goldy Gopher, who has is a 3-time member of the All-American Mascot Team.
And now, ten bullet points, highlighting some of the non-theme good stuff:
- [Things for Yum-Yum's tummy] for OBIS. Why? Because Yum-Yum is the ingenue of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, an operetta set in… Japan. You should be able to connect the rest of the dots.
- A [Man with a moll] is a MOBSTER. Mess around with him and (continuing with the alliterative cluing) you may give him reason to shorten your [Mortal measure], or LIFE SPAN.
- Bob appears to take his inspiration where he finds it and to share it with us, giving us a pair of “inspiring” clues—the gerund usage in [Inspiring shivers] for EERIE and the adjectival one with [Inspiring cheer] for “RAH!”
- A [Brazen hussy] is a JEZEBEL which is also the title of a Bette Davis movie. She played the title role as an antebellum southern belle and won an Oscar for it in 1939.
- Vivien Leigh won one the very next year for her portrayal of an antebellum (and beyond…) southern belle in Gone With the Wind. The ultra-feminine PARASOL she used to keep the sun from damaging her perfect porcelain complexion might be called a [Frilly shade of Scarlett?].
- There’s a clustered trio of “literal alphabet” clue/fill combos with ENS [Ninth-inning quintet] atop AN “A” [It'll turn togs into togas], which are both crossed by GETS A “B” [Does some above average schoolwork].
- Because it’s so concise, [Whence Eve] for ADAM’S RIB. And because it’s such a nice word, MÉLANGE [Potpourri].
- [Portion placed on a plate] is a TITHE, so this is about giving (money) and not about taking (food).
- And speaking of giving money, that’s how ya [Help build, as a foundation]. You ENDOW it with funds. But the misdirection (this could be about construction after all) has not been overlooked!
- Then, “ODDS ARE…” ["More than likely.."] you read the clue [Impossibility if you keep your mouth shut] and decided to see if you couldn’t YAWN anyway. I’ll fess up. My ears kinda pop and I have to breathe though it, but I think I’m mastering a new skill…
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Just as I suspected: another Mister Ed commemorative theme.
No, not really. But the theme worked me over because I made up a base phrase for the first theme entry that’s nonexistent, and I was then confused because the other theme entries didn’t make any sense that way. Yep, I decided that QUASH ROOM was an Elmer Fudded “crash room” originally. You can see how that would get in the way, right? It’s actually based on “washroom,” with the /W/ sound giving way to a /KW/ sound spelled with a Q:
- 16a. [Place to dispel rumors?] = QUASH ROOM.
- 21a. [Institution that commemorates malpractice?] = QUACKS MUSEUM (wax museum).
- 28a. [Employment notices for financial analysts?] = QUANT ADS (want ads). This one was handy because it reminded me that I owed an email to a quant.
- 37a. [Unnamed activist in the credits of "Milk"?] = QUEER NO. 1 (“We’re No. 1!”). Now, I followed online crossword convention and put an I in lieu of the numeral 1. Across Lite was all “nuh-uh” until I figured out that it wanted a number there. I decided not to include the time I spent eyeballing the grid and changing I to 1 in my solving time since it would have been a moot point if solving on paper. Do you have a No. 1 queer in your life? I have a couple of them.
- 44a. [Fast bathroom breaks?] = QUICKIE LEAKS (Wikileaks). Brilliant! And yes, thinking “crickie ___” was really no help to me at all.
- 54a. [Folks who bogart the entire Ben & Jerry's container?] are QUART HOGS (warthogs). Wait, I thought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream came in pints. If they have quarts widely available, that’s a new development. Perhaps the Onion crossword team is not as ice-cream-savvy as one would expect.
- 2d. ["Jane, you ignorant ___"] SLUT is a ’70s Dan Aykroyd/Jane Curtin SNL reference. Why, Evad was just mentioning that vis-a-vis our own Janie. Janie’s certainly not ignorant, and while she’s a very nice person, I’m not privy to knowing whether the SLUT part is at all applicable. We should probably all start calling ourselves Crossword Sluts, no?
- 25d. [Alleged comedian Cook] is a rock-solid clue for DANE Cook. I think I was just reading about some show or project he was joining. You see that I put the details right out of my mind.
- 36a. [With 50-Down, Vincent about whom Jonathan Richman rhapsodized] clues 36a. VAN GOGH. Here’s a video for Richman’s song. Now, the “Paul Cezanne” song is my favorite quirky song about a famous painter. It’s where I learned to pronounce “Cubism” with an emphasis on the second syllable.
- 34d. [Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the ___ Bomber] clues UNDIE. “UNDIE Bomber”? Never heard that version. Just “Underwear Bomber.”
- 23d. [Queensbury title, briefly] is MARQ. Not sure I’ve had reason to encounter this abbreviation before. Do car people call the Mercury Grand Marquis the Merc Marq?
- 4d. For [Funeral rite], I had OBLOQUY (which means strong public criticism, disgrace) before OBSEQUY. High-end vocabulary words! One dictionary lists funerary obsequies only in the plural form.