David Kahn’s New York Times crossword
The theme tells a joke in its clues and answers. In short, a woman goes TO SEE A NEW DOCTOR and spots her high school name in the DIPLOMA ON THE WALL. Excuse me, but what doctor posts his or her high school diploma on the wall?? Possibly college, definitely med school, definitely the certificates for residencies and fellowships and for any professional honors and certifications. Not high school! Just…no. Anyway, the doc has THE SAME NAME as the patient’s high-school crush, but he’s JUST AVERAGE LOOKING, balding and gray, not a hottie. She thought he looked too old to be her CLASSMATE but asked “WHEN DID YOU GRADUATE?” “1971,” he replies; “WHY DO YOU ASK?” “YOU WERE IN MY CLASS!” she exclaims. “WHAT DID YOU TEACH?” he asked. So apparently each one thinks the other looks ridiculously old and is simultaneously unaware of their own oldness.
Might’ve been nice to have the doctor be female and the patient be male, or to have them be the same sex. Who likes a punch line that hinges on “Ha! She looks old!”?
I didn’t really notice a whole lot elsewhere in the puzzle to remark on. Herewith, a few comments:
- 102d. Tom [Cruise lines?] are found in a SCRIPT.
- 88d. Apparently one TY MURRAY is/was a [Nine-time world champion rodeo cowboy]. Never heard of him. Checking via Google…is, not was. He’s 41 but retired. Gotta love a Wikipedia bio flagged with the “weasel words” warning.
- 66d. When you read the clue [Say "I do" again], did you fill in RENEW, as in renewing vows? I sure did. But the answer is REWED. Strange-looking word. “Remarry” is the word people use.
- 2d. PEONAGE is [Some servitude]. This word doesn’t get much use anymore.
- 8d. RADNOR is the home of [TV Guide's Pennsylvania headquarters]. The unincorporated area’s Wikipedia write-up doesn’t mention TV Guide. Wait, wrong Radnor. It’s Radnor Township, population 30,000. Boo on small-town crossword fill!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, ”Keep It Moving”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: GO on. “GO” is added to phrases, with knee-slapping results.
- 23A. [What the producers of "Frida" said when they finally found someone to play her artist husband?] – THE DIEGO IS CAST. Alfred Molina played Diego Rivera in the movie “Frida”.
- 31A. [Practices for a dance contest?] – WORKS ON ONE’S TANGO. George Hamilton was on “Dancing With The Stars” and has worked on both his tan and his tango.
- 47A. [Daffy Duck's favorite game?] – LOONY BINGO. Who can forget the classic Daffy Duck quote, “I can’t stand pain, it hurts me!”
- 53A. [Fun-loving percussionists?] – BONGO VIVANTS
- 69A. [What it says on Donald Trump's money?] – EGO PLURIBUS UNUM. On the Canadian version of The Apprentice, the tag line is “I’m terribly sorry, but your services are no longer required.”
- 87A. [Eastern North Dakota?] – THE FARGO SIDE
- 90A. [Spanish cabbie's query?] – WHERE, AMIGO?
- 101A. [Whom Chiquita Banana can't resist?] – SWEET TALKIN’ MANGO
- 118A. [Words preceding "... and have Samoa fun"?] – COME TO PAGO PAGO. Groan-groan.
- 1A. [Actress Gibbs who played the Jeffersons' maid] – MARLA. Keep it Movin’ On Up!
- 6A. [VP before Agnew] – HHH. Harold Hornswoggle Humidity.
- 12A. [After some delay] – AT LAST
- 57A. [Singer Ives] – BURL
- 61A. [Word in the names of two baseball teams] – SOX. Medicine Hat Green Sox and Come-by-Chance Blue Sox.
- 62A. [Bottled spirit] – GENIE
- 95A. [___ Robinson] – MRS
- 100A./108A. [Green Bay great] BART STARR. I am rooting for Green Bay this weekend, because I hate the Steelers.
- 121A. [Saturnalias] – ORGIES. I just did an old Merl puzzle with the theme answer ORGY COPTER. Wanna guess the clue? The prize is either one year’s subscription to this site or two tickets to next year’s Super Bowl—Amy’s choice. Unless Amy wins.
- 7D. [Broadway hit of 2003] – HAIRSPRAY
- 8D. ["___ monster, Gaston, you are!" ("Beauty and the Beast")] – HE’S NO. I just played “Gaston” so let’s pick another song.
- 11D. [Singer Lenya] – LOTTE. I know this from “Mack the Knife.”
- 29D. [Strong ___] – AS A NOX. Nothing is stronger than a nox.
- 34D. ["___ Little Tenderness"] – TRY A
- 35D. [She played Lilith on "Cheers"] – BEBE
- 36D. [Golf club choices] – IRONS. Yes, Jeremy is an excelllent golf club.
- 54D. [Denny's rival] – IHOP. In my limited experience, IHOP is always the better choice, except in Bellingham, Washington, where the IHOP service sucks.
- 76D. [Broadway hit of 1980] – EVITA
- 81D. [Britain's House ___] – OF COMMONS. Canada has one too. 3.4.
- 88D. [Inventor's middle name] – ALVA. Alexander Alva Bell.
- 99D. [Siam visitor] – ANNA. She went there to sing.
- 106D. [Nuts (over)] – GAGA. Obvious artist choice. Paul Anka.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Noel” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Remember the previous Sunday when I mentioned that we use the syndicated version of the BG crossword that runs about five or six weeks behind? Turns out that matters again this week, as Hook gives us a pseudo-Christmas theme. The name given to this crossword (shown above, in case you missed it) is the answer to the “definition” set forth in the theme entries: CHRISTMAS REFRAIN / THAT DESCRIBES / WHAT MAKES / THIS CROSSWORD / NOT QUITE A PANGRAM.
Sure enough, if you break the name of this crossword into two parts of the same size, you have a two-word description of its key feature; that is, the character that comes between K and M is nowhere to be found in the entire grid. Given how common that character is in everyday words, this is quite an impressive feat! What’s more, the grid does contain every other character from A to Z. As the kids today say, “That’s just sick.”
To honor Hook’s achievement, then, this post does the same thing–you won’t find the character missing from Hook’s grid anywhere in the body of this write-up. (That means you’re in for a short post.) It’s going to be hard to describe some of the hints used to assist in writing the correct words into the grid, as they do not avoid the missing character. But I am determined to find a way, so here goes. Here were some of my favorite entries and hints:
- I didn’t know that KARAOKE means [..."empty orchestra"]. When I sing karaoke, it means “empty room” within a few seconds. My go-to tunes are “Copacabana” and my theme song, “I’m Too Sexy.”
- [They know what you're thinking] is a coy hint for PSYCHICS. It’s reminiscent of the oft-heard joke, “My psychic phoned to set a make-up session because, she said, I was going to miss my next appointment.” Did you know I was going to refer to that joke? If so, you might consider a career as a medium–but not if you’re a different size.
- Some great phrases from everyday conversation make the grid shine–consider GOOD AIM, the [Marksman's asset], SAY GRACE, OH GEE, IT’S A DATE, AT ONCE, and HISSED AT.
- RHETOR, hinted in part as a [...speaking master], is new to me, and I do a fair amount of speaking in my job.
- ["Quercus" members] are OAK TREES. The use of quotation marks made me think Quercus was the name of some story, perhaps about horses. Oops, that’s “Equus.” Turns out Quercus is the genus of which oaks are a part.
- I’m not sure I’d use REANIMATORS to describe [Dr. Frankenstein, (and others)]. Having the start and end squares set here, I started to write REINCARNATORS into the grid, and just the thought of doing so made me cringe. And yet REANIMATORS doesn’t seem much better–I find it just as awkward.
- This may make me a persona non grata with Duke grads, but my first answer to [Durham sch.] was UNC, not the correct UNH (University of New Hampshire). I ask their forgiveness.
- When I saw [Nimbus], my first thought was of Harry Potter’s quidditch broom. Then, for reasons unknown to me, I thought of the puffy white things in the sky. In time (quite a bit of time, to be candid), I discovered it’s AURA.
Hey, any grid that can boast the WWE’s John CENA, the MIRAGE resort in Vegas, [Commader Riker's portrayer] Jonathan FRAKES, a SEAHAWK (shout out to my home team!), a DWEEB, and James Bond’s best nemesis, AURIC, is tops with me.
I suppose the highest praise I can give this crossword is that I first noticed the missing character just as I was finishing it. The entries seemed very fresh and no portion of grid came across as forced, so it took some time for the theme to sink in with me. Hook’s gift, as mentioned before on this site, is his prowess in making tough constructions appear easy.
Frequent readers know that I have no issue with entries containing just part of a phrase, but I am pretty sure I’m in the minority on that point. No doubt some might kvetch about the fact that there are eight such entries here: ME SO (from the center of a phrase and not from the start of one, thank heavens), A FIRST, EYE TO, HIT THE, AS ABC, WANT A, TWO TO, and A KIND. Yes, that’s more than you see in the ordinary Sunday-sized grid. But when you’re trying to avoid a certain character that gets a significant amount of use in day-to-day speech, this kind of compromise is within reason.
Whew! We made it! Even though this post is about 15% shorter than most BG write-ups, it took about 40% more time to write. Having the entire range of characters on hand for next week’s post might just make it easier for both writer and reader. See you then!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
I was delighted to see constructor Bob Klahn‘s byline on this “Sunday Challenge.” It wasn’t always this way; I once dreaded his gnarly creations, but now I feel I’ve reached somewhat of a truce with his original cluing and unusual entries and am not as flummoxed as I once was. Either that, or he’s laying off the hot sauce and lightening up on us! Either way, this one was a lot of fun to solve.
Let’s start with a couple of the longer entries:
- [They're impossible to find] clues the elusive HEN’S TEETH. It seems scientists in the UK have determined that hen’s teeth aren’t nearly as rare as once thought. Chew on that one for a while!
- The rather longish clue ["Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes," a.k.a. "Fleas" in its entirety (world's shortest poem?)] is from Ogden Nash: ADAM / HAD ‘EM. There’s an interesting discussion here on whether that poem continues to hold this honor.
- [Sound from a shoehorn?] for FOOTNOTE is inspired…I wonder if a shoehorn is best featured in sole music?
- The OZONE LAYER is a [Holey protector], playing on a homophone of holy. Holey rusted metal, Batman!
There’s always a lot of alliteration to look forward to in Bob’s clues, [Movie monster's milieu, maybe] is MARSH (starting with yet another M!), [Chichester chum] is MATEY, [Frivolus funds] is the also alliterative MAD MONEY, [Party person?] is ANIMAL, [Clairvaux cleric] is ABBE and [Subtly spiteful] is CATTY. We’re usually treated to a few rhyming clues as well, [Cold mold] for ASPIC seems to be the only one I can find today.
Some final random thoughts:
- I wonder if the phrase SO LOW ([Like the "Down in the Valley" valley]) is justifiable as a stand-alone phrase. What do you think?
- The “catbird SEAT” refers to an enviable position of advantage and dates back to 1942.
- [Man of the world] is ATLAS. “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”
- I keep thinking the word “mendicant” is related to telling tall tales or “mendacity.” They seem to have a similar Latin root, but the former is related to being in need (or here, a PANHANDLER). Perhaps a person who is mendacious is in need of the truth!
- [Plain toast] had me thinking breakfast, but it’s just the simple CHEERS when lifting a glass.
- The Nice in [Nice life] is pronounced “niece,” and the answer VIE also shortens the long i to “vee.”
- The original Lola in Damn Yankees was GWEN Verdon, wife of choreographer Bob Fosse.
- Nice literary confluence with James JOYCE crossing Joseph Conrad‘s LORD JIM at the J.
- And I leave you with [Carnival game with markers] or BEANO. Hmmm, there is something else with that name, but I can’t for the life of me remember it, I seem to have run out of gas.
Mike Peluso’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Subtraction”
This puzzle takes a neutral stance by subtracting an ION from (mostly) familiar phrases to create the theme entries:
- 23a. ["Most Difficult Woman" pageant title?] is MISS IMPOSSIBLE. Cute rework of Mission: Impossible.
- 35a. [What Nadia Comaneci gave her Olympic opponents?] is a TENS HEADACHE.
- 57a. [Batch of itch reliever?] is a CALAMINE LOT.
- 79a. [Native American Washington baseballer?] clues CHEROKEE NAT.
- 99a. [Timeless witticism?] is a PERPETUAL MOT. I like this one best.
- 118a. [Deal between thugs?] is a MUSCLE CONTRACT.
- 16d. [Restrictions on Cupid?] is EROS CONTROL. “Erosion control” strikes me as boring. I would have liked to see PORT CONTROL, with either a fortified wine or seaport setting.
- 69d. [Number in an Amtrak report?] is a RAILWAY STAT. Slightly off-kilter, as most people call ‘em “train stations.”
I liked the theme but so much of the fill went in on autopilot. Easy puzzle, no? At least for long-time solvers, who see [Weasel cousin] and put in STOAT right away. (That’s not normal. It’s a sure sign of a cruciverbified cerebrum.)
- 25a. [Establish a new foothold] clues REROOT. Please commit yourself to using that word three times in conversation this week. What? You don’t think you can?
- 64a. [Sm., med. or lge.] isn’t cluing some weird abbreviation for “size,” it’s cluing ADJ., short for “adjective.”
- 72a. [Anglican church officials] are BEADLES. If you asked the average American the difference between BEADLES and STOATS, I think you’d get a blank stare in reply.
- 67d. MESCAL is clued as [Maguey plant liquor]. Sounds trippy.
- 47d. A Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtle is [One of a reptilian comics quartet].
Karen Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 44″
Standard Karen Tracey puzzle:
- Sparkling, fresh fill with lots of Scrabbly action.
- Zero partials, and just one fill-in-the-blank clue.
The cluing was easier overall than I was expecting, and my solving time was faster than usual for a Post Puzzler. I did have an error from a dreaded baseball name whose crossings I didn’t check when I got the long answers around it. I was misremembering from past crosswords that 37a: [All-Star Toronto pitcher Dave who threw a no-hitter on September 2, 1990] started with STA (STAE* or STAU*, I was thinking), so when the crossings filled in 33d, I never looked to see that NAA made no sense but NIA Vardalos did ([Loser to Pedro for Best Original Screenplay of 2002]).
The “wow, that’s great” stuff:
- 1a. [Bandleader for the original recording of "All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)"] is SPIKE JONES. Not to be confused with director Spike Jonze.
- 20a. CLINIQUE is a [Big name in skin care] and a cooler answer than OLAY.
- 31a. LARRY KING gets cross-gender action with [Voicer of ugly stepsister Doris in three "Shrek" movies]. Looks like a verb: I larryk, I’m larryking, I larryked yesterday, I have larryken. You know what word I came across in the dictionary yesterday (while looking up NYT 3-D Word Hunt answers)? Grutten. Erstwhile past participle of “greet.” Have you grutten your child today?
- 42a. To CATECHIZE is to [Question thoroughly].
- 6d. [2008 March Madness champions] were the Kansas JAYHAWKS.
- 8d. Favorite clue: [Drew in kids' books] isn’t a verb phrase about defacing books, it’s girl detective NANCY Drew.
- 12d. [Johnny Cash concert venue of February 1969] is SAN QUENTIN prison. Speaking of prison, one of my Facebook friends is doing a speaking tour at women’s prisons with a fascinating perspective; check out Deborah Jiang Stein’s video here.
- 23d. Second favorite clue: [Bit of a jerk?] for a muscle TWITCH.
- 25d, 26d. Super-lively fill! A BLOCK PARTY ([Neighborly get-together]) beside a BAHAMA MAMA ([Tropical drink]).
- 29d. The puzzle is talking to us and it says “I GET BY.” ["It's enough to live on"].
- 38d. [High pitch that might hurt your ear?] is a great clue for a colorful baseball term, BEAN BALL.