Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
I very nearly had an unsolvable square or two in the southwest corner, and I had to back into the northwest corner in order to find a foothold in that zone. So there was a touch of Saturday-grade fear but then it all came together for me. Whew!
Tons of interesting long fill, plus some Scrabbly midsized fill and no shortage of twisty clues. I give this one an unreserved thumbs-up.
Let’s begin with the “eek!” squares. I had SUES FOR at 53a ([Seeks]) instead of RUNS FOR, and didn’t know the 48/49/50d trio. With the aid of those wrong letters, 48a: [Palindromic girl] was looking impossible. EVE, AVA, NAN, or ADA? Eventually I saw that [Indirect lines] could be ARCS rather than ESCS, which meant 50d also began with an A, though I don’t know what ANNO [___ mundi] means. (“Year of the world”?) A*NO was most likely to be ANNO, right? So the operatic [Puccini's "O Mimi, tu piu non torni," e.g.] is a DUET. Those of us who don’t know opera could be excused for suspecting ARIA here, which would nudge us towards NAN instead of the correct ADA.
Favorite answers, favorite clues:
- 8a, 47a. [Didn't go out] = SAT HOME, while [Stayed out?] = SLEPT. I like Klahnesque clue pairs.
- 15a. If you [Iron-deficient?] and do not own an iron, your clothes may be CREASED in rumpled ways.
- 17a. RICKETY = [Unstable].
- 33a. The quote from Dante’s INFERNO makes for a lovely clue.
- 45a. Isn’t KLAXON a cool word? Means a [Loud horn]. Ai-YOOO-gah!
- 59a. You solve a lot of crosswords, right? So when you see a clue like [Bristles], all you need to know is: “Five letters or seven?” Plural of SETA or plural of ARISTA, and with an S or an E? Wrongo. It’s the verb, SEES RED.
- 2d. I have an IRISH LINEN ([Overseas fabric spun from flax]) hand towel I never use. I also have a cotton one with info about Irish writers printed on it. I swear to you that I’m not making this up: It lists The Importance of Being Ernest under Oscar Wilde.
- 4d. TAKEN TO TASK is nice—three words, two K’s.
- 8d. I like the entry SILENT I, but that clue stinks. [Carriage part?] means that it’s pronounced “carrage” but…it’s not. It’s either a short I sound (according to the dictionary I checked) or maybe a schwa. You could say it has a SILENT A, but not a SILENT I.
- 9d. Geography! The ARABIAN SEA.
- 24d. I didn’t know this. The GREAT PLAINS region is [known as "the Prairies" in Canada].
- 38d. Old-fashioned golf club names are so droll. The [Spade mashie] is better known now as the SIX-IRON.
Gary Whitehead’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Mental Breakthroughs”
Ah, this is a neat theme! The sort we used to get a lot of in the New York Sun. “Thinking outside the box” is represented by having the first or last letter of a famous thinker’s name protruding beyond the grid’s edge, and having the eight overhanging letters spell out THINKING clockwise from the top. It’s all tied together by 71a: [What this puzzle's grid represents], which is THE BOX. Because it is a box, 15×15 squares in area. The academic/CHE slant comes from having the overhanging names all be noted thinkers in various fields.
The Across Lite file I downloaded Thursday evening says “see Notepad” in the title bar, but there’s no AL notepad entry. Fine by me—I suspect it just explained the theme a bit. Right? There’s nothing more that I missed seeing?
The THINKING people are as follows:
- 10d. T for Alan (T)URING of Turing test fame.
- 12d. H for George (H)EGEL.
- 44d. I ends BERNOULL(I). Is this one Daniel? Dictionary lists three notable scientific Bernoullis.
- 62a. N as in Richard FEYNMA(N).
- 50d. K as in Max PLANC(K).
- 56d. I as in PAUL(I), whose first name I don’t remember. I know this guy mainly from crossword clues for PAULI. Dictionary says…Wolfgang! The clues usually cite his Nobel Prize for physics, though this puzzle does not.
- 62a. N as in Friedrich (N)IETZSCHE. I am, I am, I am Superman, and I know what’s happening.
- 17a. G as in (G)ALILEO Galilei. Famous on a first-name basis, much like Cher.
Tough to clue 11d in a crossword, as his status is in flux. RAHM EMANUEL is currently the [Former Chief of Staff in the Obama White House], being replaced by Bill Daley, but he could become equally famous for replacing Bill’s brother Richie as mayor of Chicago, with an election on February 22, but he could always lose that election and then where does that put him? Does he stay here or supplant Bill Daley in the White House or plot a return to Congress or what?
So, RAHM EMANUEL is one highlight in the fill. Others include OXYMORON, LISA LOEB, and BAZAARS. If you click that link, you’ll get the music video for New Zealand’s crossover pop hit “How Bizarre.” Do you know that when I started typing how biz in the YouTube search box, all the autocompletion options were misspelled? “How Bizaar” led “How Bizaare” and “How Bizarre” wasn’t in the top 10. *shaking head sadly*
Didn’t know there was an AHL that was the [Manitoba Moose's org.]. Wait, this is the American Hockey League? What are the Canadians doing in it? More to the point, why’s it called the American Hockey League? The Canadians need to lobby for a change. AHL is joined by a number of other TLAs (that’s three-letter abbreviations, you know) and four-letter abbrevs in this puzzle: MLA (scholarly!), TBS, CSA, GRE, NSEC, TSP, EPA, SEN, GIGO, and CTN.
And then there’s TESLAS, the unit. You know Nikola T. is spinning in his grave because Turing played the role of the T in this puzzle and not him. “ESLA would be so easy to fit into any grid!” he’s saying.
Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This isn’t your typical add-a-letter theme because there are five different letters added—the vowels, in order, dramatically altering the meaning of the first word in each phrase. Like so:
- 20a. [Proof of quartz sales?] could be your AGATE RECEIPTS. “Gate receipts” are the box-office take for a concert, sporting event, or what-have-you.
- 30a. [Brewery's best?] clues ELITE BEER. “Lite beer” is most decidedly not the brewery’s best effort.
- 38a. IRATE MOVIES builds on a not-quite-in-the-language phrase, “rate movies.” You can rate lots of things (including crosswords! coming soon to a blog near you), but “rate movies” isn’t really a lexical chunk in its own right. It may be salvaged by the clue: ["Mad Max" and "Twelve Angry Men"?], two irate-titled films.
- 46a. [One of many at a Syracuse University football game?] adds an O to “range top,” which I think is synonymous with “stovetop,” to make an ORANGE TOP. Though who calls the shirts football fans wear “tops”? Jerseys, t-shirts, shirts, not so much “tops.”
- 58a. Is “pending cases” a lexical chunk in legal circles? Add a U and get UPENDING CASES, or [Making a mess at the warehouse?].
Ten more clues:
- 5a. [One usually includes an aria and a recitative] clues SCENA. Crossings, I thank you.
- 10a. [Rhode Island's motto] is HOPE. How nice to have state-motto action in a crossword that isn’t an arcane bit of Latin trivia.
- 25a. ["One Good Cop" actress] is Rene “My First Name Is Spelled Like a Boy” RUSSO. Really? That’s the clue? A 1991 movie hardly anyone remembers, if they even heard about it in the first place? It grossed $11 million.
- 68a. [City where de Gaulle was born] is LILLE. That’s why they called him the LilleHammer. Wait, I’m mixing up my Tom DeLay and my Norwegian Olympic sites with my nicknames for French statesmen.
- 69a, 72a. [Cameo, maybe] is a small ROLE in a movie (but bigger than 21d: EXTRA, or [Hollywood "spear carrier"]), while ONYX is a jewelry [Cameo material]. More of that Klahnesque double-meaning clue action I like.
- 10d. [Place to chill] is a HOT TUB. That’s chill as in “chillax,” not chill as in “cool down.”
- 31a. The LIMBO is clued with [People bend over backwards for it]. Gotta love a tricky clue that is actually quite literal.
- 53d. WESSEX is the [Setting for many Thomas Hardy novels].
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Putting It Together”—Janie’s review
Yes, our constructor is a great lover of musical theatre; but no, this is not his Stephen Sondheim tribute puzzle. Instead Patrick gives us a nifty syllable/addition theme, where the parts deliver something larger than the whole. Here’re the component parts of the word (as it’s spelled out in the clues) [CON] + [JUG] + [ATE]. Remember the TV rebus-game Concentration? Now imagine the “plus” signs between the pix below and a final “equals” sign, and behind the game board for the final word today you might see:
- 20A. PRISON INMATE +
- 28A. MOONSHINE HOLDER +
- 45A. FINISHED FASTING
Putting it together, so to speak, it all adds up to [CONJUGATE], or
- 51A. INFLECT A VERB
Pretty cool, no? I also like those triple 6-columns that flank the puzzle’s midsection. MOTIFS [Recurring musical themes], ONESIE [Baby shower garment] and ZERO IN [Focus on, with "on"] being among the stronger fill there. And I like the social ON A DATE [Out, say] and the way it runs between those two sections.
While there’s something firm in the tone of ["Have] I MADE [myself clear?"], you won’t hear anyone SNAP AT [Become testy with] anyone today—and no one is being “TSK”ED [Reprimanded with a click]—with either of the politely conversational entries “DO TELL!” ["I'm all ears!"] or “IT IS SO!” ["You speak the truth!"].
Other fave fill would have to include SWOONS and its height-of-infatuation clue [Goes weak in the knees], and the lovely GODSEND [Unexpected blessing].
Musical entries come to us by way of UKES [Music makers in Maui], ["]BLAZE [of Glory" (#1 hit for Jon Bon Jovi)], ["War] IS A [Science" ("Pippin" song)], ["]STOP[! In the Name of Love"], and ELLA [Fitzgerald who sang "A-Tisket, A-Tasket"]. [They're on the beat] is a cheeky piece of misdirection, referring not to people with a good sense of rhythm but to your friendly men and women in blue, our neighborhood COPS.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Welcome ’11″
Thanks to Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle this week, I quickly figured out that the ’11 being “welcomed” was a Roman XI inserted into each theme entry:
- 22a. The song “Sixteen Tons” turns into SIXTEEN TOXINS, or [Oleandrin, anthrax, botulin, snake venom and a dozen others?].
- 33a. Designer Vera Wang yields VERA WAXING, or [Film's Miles getting a spa treatment?].
- 49a. Flash Gordon’s nemesis Ming the Merciless adopts XI to give us [Getting stony-hearted folks to mingle?], or MIXING THE MERCILESS.
- 66a. [Result of feeding the wrong-side down?] is WHITE FAXING, playing on Jack London’s White Fang.
- 77a. I loved this one! OXIDE ON A GRECIAN URN is a [Rust problem at the antiquities museum?].
- 93a. [Records set in the delivery room?] clues BABY MAXIMA (“baby mama”).
- 110a. [Sprite waving the Stars and Stripes?] is an AMERICAN PIXIE.
Six more clues:
- 59a. [Encyclopedia Brown's real first name] is LEROY. This is, of course, the inspiration behind the 1973 Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Speaking of classic songs from the ’70s, we also have 1970′s Kinks hit “LOLA” at 68a and Devo’s 1980 hit “WHIP IT” at 44d.
- 56d. Most disturbing image: [Treat for tired dogs], with no question mark, clues FOOT RUB. Now, that’s “dogs” as slang for feet, not canines, but I was picturing something entirely different.
- 41d. [Its ruins are across the Tigris from Mosul] clues NINEVEH. That’s really Nineveh business, you know. (Sorry. Lame pun.)
- 63d. For [One whose job is a grind], I anthropomorphized a MORTAR but the answer is a MILLER.
- It’s a Seinfeldy puzzle today. 84d: [Bygone Chrysler] is a LEBARON, and [Friend of Jerry] pulls double duty at 18a: ELAINE and 76a: GEORGE.