Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword
With a pair of 11s and a 10-pack of 10-letter answers, this 72-worder has no shortage of long fill. Many of the long answers are colorful, and every one of ‘em is top-notch:
- 14a. “HIT THE ROAD, Jack.”
- 17a. An ENDEARMENT is always pleasant.
- 22a. MEDIA FRENZY! That’s great. [Event at which many reporters rub elbows?] doesn’t quite capture it for me, though.
- 46a. PICTURESQUE brings some Q action to balance the Z in 22a.
- 56a. The DOMAIN NAME here is crosswordfiend.com.
- 59a. I love a good SMATTERING. Its pronunciation is surer than [Modicum]‘s is, too. (Apparently “modicum” and “codify” can both have “mode”/”code” sound or a “mod”/”cod” sound.)
- 11d. NO-NONSENSE means [Plain and simple]. There’s really nothing no-nonsense about pantyhose, so I dispute that brand name. You know what’s no-nonsense, people? Not wearing pantyhose.
- 12d. I didn’t know Henry Fonda won a BRONZE STAR. Nice work cluing this with an actor rather than a military legend.
- 13d. Mmm, CANDY STORE. Last summer in Brooklyn, I was like a kid in this one candy store that had popular candy from all recent decades. Such establishments are dangerous places.
- 24d. A [Maker of one's own rules] is a FREE SPIRIT. Hey! That was also the brand name of my Sears ten-speed bike when I was about 13.
- 25d. All procrastinators know that work is best done [Under-the-wire], LAST-MINUTE style. It’s hard to procrastinate on a daily crossword blog, but said blog really comes in handy when it comes to procrastinating on other work.
- 26d. [Chemistry] is ATTRACTION for a FLAME (24a: [One in an affair]).
Plenty of other admirable fill in here—MANEATER, FIX UP romantically, the BEST MAN, oh-so-TIRESOME, an A-PLUS partnering with the Boss’s E STREET (well, technically that’s a 7-letter partial, isn’t it?) and a RATED R movie (with a great clue, [Like "10," but not "9"]). Okay, I’ve Googled it and apparently the E Street Band took its name from an E Street in the New Jersey town of Belmar; I retract the partial accusation.
Second favorite clue:
- 37d. [As one entered the world] means NUDE. I just thought of a great 9-letter alternative that fits this clue. I leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Brent Hartzell’s review
Greetings, Fiend readers, from the appropriately named Orange County, Virginia—a rural outpost gradually being grafted into the exurbs southwest of Washington, D.C. You may have heard last week about Walmart deciding not to build a new store adjacent to the Wilderness Civil War battlefield; my subdivision is adjacent to both these properties. I’m Brent Hartzell, frequent commenter on the Fiend blog under my NYT identifier name floridaqqq. At Amy’s gracious invitation, I make my puzzle blogging debut with a review of Friday’s Los Angeles Times puzzle by Ed Sessa.
The six theme entries incorporate a common word or phrase beginning in S and add a T immediately following the first letter. Thus:
- 17a. [“Oklahoma!” prop?] becomes a S(T)AGE BRUSH. Appropriate for removing the chaff from the waving wheat that sure smells sweet, perhaps. Rodgers and Hammerstein are timeless.
- 21a. [Time spent off with Rover?] is a S(T)ICK DAY. As is frequently said in this space, meh.
- 34a. [Undercover operations where the agents can bring guests?] are S(T)ING ALONGS. And presumably all the karaoke selections are Scott Joplin rags.
- 42a. [Dance for louses?] is a S(T)INKER BALL. More appropriately, that’s the usual output of my semi-beloved Minnesota Vikings.
- 52a. [Taser switch?] is a S(T)UN DIAL. How did Bill Shatner in all his Shatnerism refrain from using that pun in an episode of Star Trek?
- 61a. [Fancy shoes for the campaign trail?] are S(T)UMP PUMPS. This was the first theme entry I solved, and I was tricked a little because there’s a delicious low-cost Australian shiraz from d’Arenberg called “The Stump Jump.” I wondered briefly if the themes were plays on wine brands, but I soon discovered (gratefully) otherwise.
The rest of the fill was neither too derivative nor too exciting, and the same can be said of the clues. My favorite clue and answer: 40d: [Clear as mud] clued the lovely word ABSTRUSE. SUDOKU also makes an appearance at 20a as the [Subject of a 2009 national tournament cheating scandal]. On the Fiend rating scale, I give this puzzle three stars.
One more item of note: Amy was generous to provide me this forum for a more serious reason. I was laid off last fall for the first time in my life, and I have found latching on elsewhere to be more difficult than I expected. I have a master’s degree in public policy, and my career has been spent mostly as an education policy wonk with a stint in government relations involving financial services and student loans. That explains my need to live near Washington. But if any of you work for a firm that could use a good quantitative or statistical analyst, legislative researcher, or government relations associate, I’m all ears even if it means a move elsewhere. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested, and I’ll send you a frequently re-edited résumé.
Ed Sessa’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Let Me Introduce Myself”
Ed Sessa again! This theme’s custom-made for the folks in the English department, and for the nonacademics of a literary bent. Each theme answer is a character/narrator clued by way of their introductory sentences. (Are these all the opening sentences in those books?) All four are male, so it’s too bad that the 12-letter MOLL FLANDERS didn’t have another 12-letter partner here. Plus, her first sentence is a doozy, as is the second sentence in which she gives her name. Wouldn’t really fit into the space allotted for a clue. The four narrators are as follows:
- 17a. [“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born ...”] clues HOLDEN CAULFIELD of The Catcher in the Rye. Too bad he’s not the titular character; the other three (like Moll Flanders and Oliver Twist) are.
- 26a. LEMUEL GULLIVER of Gulliver’s Travels said, [“My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons”].
- 45a. [“I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family ...”], said ROBINSON CRUSOE.
- 60a. [“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ but that ain’t no matter”], said HUCKLEBERRY FINN.
Me, I like a good literary theme, especially when I can get the answers without much of a struggle. That recent names-of-symphonies theme? Felt like a slog. Your mileage may vary.
- 65a. [Creator of heffalumps and woozles] is a colorful clue for A.A. MILNE.
- 4d. The word BEDLAM, meaning [Pandemonium], lives in the same part of my brain as flotsam and jetsam.
- 9d. ALL TOLD, [On balance], this is a good crossword.
- 25d. I like those adjectives for language families, such as TURKIC, [Like the Uzbek language]. (Also Finno-Ugric and Uto-Aztecan.) Is that weird?
- 47d. [Conjugation addition, often] is a SUFFIX. I had conjugal whatnot on the mind. Did you know the jugum root means “yoke”? Yes, spouses are yoked together like oxen.
Randall Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A House Divided”—Janie’s review
Saw the title and immediately thought that the letters of “house” would be “divided” to form the beginnings and ends of the theme phrases. But no. As is borne out at 54-Across, Randy gives the lie to the concept that “A House is Not a Home,” where [Final straight part of a racetrack (and a hint to the long entries)] yields the perfect HOME STRETCH. So it’s home that’s “divided” and thus stretched out over the theme phrases, and they’d be:
- 17A. HOOSIER DOME [Stadium where the Indianapolis Colts once played]. Sorry. Living as I sometimes do, in the land of denial, the only Colts that register as Colts are the Baltimore Colts…
- 22A. HOLIDAY BOWL GAME [Annual gridiron event in San Diego]. Hmmm. Makes me think that perhaps all of the theme fill will be football and/or sports-related. But I am disabused of that notion with
- 35A. “HOW COME?” [Frequent question from a toddler]. Like its correlative “Why?” the frequent answer to the query is, “Because…” (Possibly followed by “I said so.” Hopefully not followed by tears…)
- 47A. “HORSE WITH NO NAME” [1972 chart-topper by America, with "A")].
I find a kind of pugnacious undertone to a lot of the non-theme fill. Look what’s inside: HATE [Abhor]; “I’M MAD!” ["That ticks me off!"]—which sounds like it could be an early-draft line from a play by the “I’m-happy-when-I’m-ranting” David MAMET ["Glengarry Glen Ross" playwright]; “WHAM!” ["Kapow!"] and [Ring combination] ONE-TWO, which might leave the recipient of such a punch AREEL [Dizzy] or, if cut, crying “OW! OW!” ["Man ... that stings!"]. In which case it might be time for a dose of MOTRIN [Aleve alternative]. Ditto the person who’s gone to the mat and is now very achy from being held too long in a (not infant-friendly) CRADLE [Pinning hold in wrestling].
Oh, and Al PACINO as [Corleone portrayer in "The Godfather"] is not exactly the sort who seems to have handled his stress with TAE BO [Exercise based on martial arts] or ZEN [Branch of Buddhism]. Interestingly enough the clue that suggests sparring [Hit back?] is actually a lovely piece of misdirection taking us to SIDE B of your favorite 45…
On the lighter side—nice how [Hooters restaurant emblem] OWL meets [Bluesman] HOWLIN‘ [Wolf] at their shared “L,” and the way that “ow” sound is echoed in the grid-cluster of the aforementioned “Ow! Ow!” and “How come?” and also in TAO [Chinese principle] and ["O Brother, Where Art] THOU["].
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Changing Jobs” (pen name Maryanne Lemot)
This one seemed tougher than the usual anagram theme, perhaps because the theme entries were so long, I couldn’t easily eyeball the unused letters and I wasn’t inclined to jot them down on paper. The clue for each theme entry includes an actual job plus a hint at what the anagram relates to, a fake job:
- 23a. [ADMINISTRATOR begins writing hard-boiled plays?] clues NOIR DRAMATIST. I guessed the DRAMATIST part pretty quickly with the crossings but my eyes didn’t want to subtract the letters of DRAMATIST from ADMINISTRATOR to see what was left. I think my anagramming skills are much more fluid up to about 10 letters.
- 33a. [BANK OFFICER helps out in a crematorium?] clues COFFIN BAKER. Good gravy, that’s gruesome.
- 44a. [RECEPTIONIST gets a job in the Zegna factory?] clues TIE INSPECTOR. I don’t shop for ties, so I was thinking of broader fashion rather than neckties here.
- 63a. [ASTRONOMER oversees a poultry farm?] yields a ROOSTER MAN. Got this one quickly. See? I can handle 10-letter anagramming tasks.
- 65a. You get GAME ARTIST from [MAGISTRATE tries designing graphics at Nintendo?].
- 80a. [STENOGRAPHER works for a studio's PR department?] clues POSTER HANGER. Movie studio, movie posters? Not my first interpretation of “studio.”
- 95a. [OPTOMETRIST chauffeurs poodles and Persians?] clues PET MOTORIST. Hang on. A “pet motorist” would be a pet who is a motorist (like Toonces, the Driving Cat), not a driver who ferries pets around.
- 106a. [ARCHAEOLOGIST acts as a procurer in Tokyo?] clues GEISHA LOCATOR. I kinda prefer my crosswords without that sort of procuring.
Six more clues:
- 1a. [Tank top?] clues GAS CAP. Cost myself a lot of time by putting in TURRET. That gave me TEAM UP instead of GANG UP at 1d, which further shut down that corner.
- 13a. CAMISES are [Loose shirts]. I have never used this word outside of crosswords.
- 39a. Think automotive, not Texas college sports teams, for [Mustang rival]: the CAMARO.
- 111a. [It may be in a stew] clues OYSTER. Eww! Really?
- 115a. The golfy [Courses with greens] is a terrific clue for SALADS.
- 39d. The CITRON is a [Fruit resembling a large lemon]. Thanks to the languages in which citron is the word for “lemon,” I hadn’t quite realized the citron was a separate fruit. Eek! The “Buddha’s hand” fingered citron is monstrous-looking.