Pete Mitchell’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Who put this Saturday puzzle into my Friday? I wasn’t expecting the puzzle to put up such a fight. There are even a few crossings that seem to border on the unfair, especially before Saturday:
- 20a: [Pamplona pronoun] doesn’t have its gender specified. It’s ESAS. But the A could also be an O, and it crosses the completely-unknown-to-me [__ Optics (telescope maker)]. So it’s C-STAR Optics? What a goofy pun sort of a name. “See star” with telescope. How many of you are familiar with the brand, though?
- The 57a/63a/58d chunk threw me, too. A COW ["__ on the Line" (Thomas the Tank Engine story)] is, luckily, beyond my ken. Literary LARA, the [Byron poem], didn’t ring much of a bell, either. Which left the cross-referenced [Item used by a] PIXIE to rescue me on both Acrosses? Yow. It’s a WAND. I don’t think pixies are required to use wands.
- 27a: [Ace pitcher's reward?] couldn’t very well be a baseball SAVE with that question mark, and yet that’s what I had for too long. It made 28d: [Many an interrogee] hard to suss out. (“Interrogee”? Is that a word??) Turns out it’s a the result of a deft sales pitch, a SALE, crossing a LIAR. Oof.
I don’t usually get mired in so many bogs in a Friday puzzle.
Lots of zesty fill to appreciate here:
- 1a. AFLAC’s SPOKESDUCK! Now, I’m thinking that term has never before made it into a crossword puzzle. Surprisingly, the rest of the puzzle fulfilled the promise set forth by this 1-Across.
- 15a. TINA LOUISE was in something other than Gilligan’s Island? Huh.
- 17a. EXOTIC PETS are not handled by every veterinarian. Hey, Gareth, do South African and American vets define “exotic pets” the same way?
- 36a. A [Homebuyer's bargain] is a FIXER-UPPER. I am incompatible with fixer-uppers.
- 42a. BAD HAIR DAY! Pretty sure we’ve had that once or twice before, but it remains a super-zingy thing to find in a crossword. I was thinking [Result of a permanent failure?] would be something along the lines of straight, flat hair, so I wasn’t too far off.
- OVER THE TOP, NO LOVE LOST, DRAW STARES—just as superb a stack as the trio in the opposite corner.
- 12d. HUMBLE PIE! Great for dessert after your—
- 32d. COBB SALAD. I’m sorry, did you want an entrée in between? You can’t have one. Pete’s telling us the salad is a [High-fat dish with greens]. Plus, you already had that SOUP as an [Introductory course?]. (Great clue!)
Clues I found tough:
- 37d. E-FAX?? A [High-tech transmission]? Anything that starts or begins at a fax machine is no longer “high-tech.”
- 48d. [Bag in a trunk] clues SACHET. The trunk in question must be a steamer trunk full of clothes.
- 45a. [Basis of growth] clues SEED. Not an obvious path from clue to answer, is it? I took this photo tonight—it’s a small tree growing sideways out of LensCrafters’ front wall, about 9′ off the ground. What was that seed thinking?
Kelsey Blakley’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme here is words that end in -ER becoming different words that end in -A but otherwise sound alike:
- 20a. [Heavy metal mimic?] clues a HARD ROCK MYNA (hard rock miner). I’m not sure what a “hard rock miner” is.
- 28a. [Nickname for a pharmaceuticals czar?] is PILL PAPA (pill popper). Cute.
- 37a. [Surfing-induced torpor?] is a BEACH COMA (beachcomber).
- 49a. [Sailor's pocket bread?] clues SALT PITA (saltpeter). The “salt” part refers to the sailor, not a bread seasoning.
- 56a. [Heavenly food on the nightstand?] is BEDSIDE MANNA (bedside manner).
Solid enough bit of wordplay, no?
I like the corners with the 7s—KATYDID, NOVELLA, and SMIDGEN are particularly groovy.
Toughest spot for me: the 44a/44d crossing. [One shooting the bull?] with a hypodermic needle is a VETerinarian, and a VIP is a [Certain lounge frequenter]. Boy, that V wasn’t coming easily. Both terms are quasi-abbreviations, and neither clue hinted at that.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cookbook Review”—Janie’s review
Didja notice PONCA [City, Oklahoma] in Patrick Blindauer’s puzzle yesterday? It just so happens that’s where Patrick J. resides—the place where his crossword confections are created. Today’s is, as suggested, a “cookbook review” (sorta…) that comes to us in four parts, each of which features a word you’d find in the context of a cookbook but that is now used to new (punny) effect in the “review.” Here’s how it reads:
["Although this volume contains many a] STIRRING CHAPTER, [...there are quite a few] STEAMY SCENES, [...so the author can't be accused of] MINCING WORDS—[...but it's a good read for anyone who enjoys] HARD-BOILED PROSE.”
Is this what was written about Peyton Place (way) back in the day—or just about any Harold Robbins opus? Hey—if ya can’t stand the heat, get outta the (proverbial) kitchen!
This literary yet quasi food-based theme is supported by all sorts of foodie-related fill. Someone who [Tries a bite of] something SAMPLES it. Perhaps it’s some ziti cooked AL DENTE [Pasta recipe phrase], or some [...fois...] GRAS served on CHINA [Porcelain ware], some CHILI [Enchilada topping] (with or without the enchilada)—all washed down with swigs of various ALES [Malty brews]. Even though the word is clued as [Swelter in the sun], one way to prepare food is to BROIL it. And even though it’s clued as [Incited], I sure do love the way EGGED ON crosses that second “D” of hard-boiled. (Insert SMILEYS [Grinning icons] here.)
“DEAR ME!” ["Heavens above!"]. Four words today repeat fill we’ve seen in the last two days: ABED, OBI, DIRTY and (yes) ALAS. [Woeful comment]—if my perpetual NIT—indeed. Happily, the grid also gives us BACKSEAT [Subordinate position] and the very nice NICETIES [Elegant features], which PEPS up an already strong picture of this puzzle’s [Favorable aspect] “PRO“-column listings.
Wall Street Journal crossword by Mike Shenk (aka “Alice Long”), “Money-Back Offer”
Fantastic theme! It’s a “before and after” word game, with two phrases joined by a common word. The unifying factor is that the final component in each theme entry is slang for money (cash, bucks, bread, scratch, dough, jack, cabbage), and there’s more than the usual amount of entertainment in the new phrases and their halves. See for yourself:
- 22a. [Introduction to the Man in Black?] clues HERE’S JOHNNY CASH. Double pop-culture goodness. “Heeere’s Johnny”! meets Johnny Cash.
- 32a. [First-rate coffeehouse?] clues SUPER STARBUCKS. Superstar merges with Starbucks.
- 49a. [Miniature loaf in a spotted wrapper?] is a SMALL WONDER BREAD. Second theme entry with a trade name in it. Wonder Bread is really not a small wonder, though.
- 61a. [Offbeat handwriting that's hard to make out?] clues FUNKY CHICKEN SCRATCH, my favorite of the theme entries and the longest one. You can’t go wrong with the liveliness of the Funky Chicken dance and chicken-scratch penmanship.
- 79a. TOUGH COOKIE DOUGH might be the [Source of batches that are very chewy?]. I’m a real tough cookie with a long history of…doing crosswords. And eating cookie dough.
- 93a. [British flag waved in a courteous manner?] is a CIVIL UNION JACK. Civil unions, the Union Jack flag.
- 108a. [Where you pour vinegar when making colorful slaw?] is IN THE RED CABBAGE. Interestingly, “in the red” means you don’t have enough cabbage.
Highlights in the non-theme fill include EUROCENTRIC Mercator projection, UNMOTIVATED (like me this morning), and I’M SO TIRED (I slept till 9:15).
- 79d. [Ineffable] clues TABU. I am more familiar with the “too great to be described in words” sense of “ineffable” than the “not to be uttered” (as in Jews’ writing “G-d” because the full word is ineffable).
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “More Is Less”
You know how there are some words that end with a double S that would become plurals of unrelated words if you had just a single S at the end instead? No? I have in the past noticed that deadlines are part of deadliness. Ben added two more words to that category for me:
- 22a. [Spa offering that's not quite godlike?] is an EARTHLY CARESS, building on “earthly cares,” which are what you’re trying to forget when you visit the spa.
- 35a. [Cut-throat stockbroker's skill?] is TRADE DEADLINESS. Are trade deadlines sports things or stock-trading things?
- 47a. [Tuba for beginners?] clues TRAINING BRASS, a play on “training bras.”
- 1a. Tying everything together, SINGULAR is [What 22-, 35-, and 47-Across cease to be, if you subtract an "s" from their ends].
- 15a. Love the phrase AS IT WERE. Must use it more often to come off as being more affected.
- 21a. DR. EVIL is Austin Powers’ nemesis.
- 9d. I would get fired from any job that required me to COLD-CALL people. Good phrase, loathsome activity for me.
- 45d. Love the word ABSURD, as it were.
- 46d. The upstairs neighbors have a dog named GRETEL. I am biding my time until there’s also a yipping Hansel.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Taking Steps”
Regular commenter Meem brought it to my attention that there is, in fact, a Chronicle puzzle today. It hadn’t been posted by noon, so I gave up on it. (And I’ll bet I could have found the puzzle earlier by using the handy-dandy download link via the Today’s Puzzles tab at the top of this very page…but I didn’t. Oftentimes, you can find a puzzle there even if it doesn’t appear to have been posted on another site.) Meem called it “an amazing and challenging trip down memory lane” so I figured I’d best get on that. And, well, ehhh. It was challenging, yes, but the theme felt entirely pointless and obscure to me. Didn’t know all the names, and I’m not fond of the “pack two or three words in a category into a single entry” approach.
The names in question are astronauts who have walked on the MOON, and who knew there were so many of them? Not I. [Alan who took steps] is Alan BEAN. [John, David, and James] are Messrs. YOUNG SCOTT IRWIN. Who, who, who? [Charles and Edgar] are DUKE MITCHELL. Who, who? Harrison SCHMITT, faintly familiar. Alan SHEPARD, he’s famous. Eugene CERNAN, Buzz ALDRIN, one familiar and one quite famous. Pete CONRAD is a “who?” and Neil ARMSTRONG, of course, is super well-known as the first person to walk on the moon.
So for me, this puzzle really wasn’t any fun at all. Your mileage may vary. I’m okay with a listmaker theme if the subject resonates, but if it’s something far outside my wheelhouse (fictional ships, names of symphonies, moonwalking astronauts), it can be such a dry slog through the crossings without any sort of excitement when it all comes together.