Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword, “Bargaining”
In this “Bargaining” theme, familiar phrases gain a BAR to turn into goofy phrases. Most of ‘em weren’t too hard to piece together, but I had problems in the southwest corner when I put BAR SOAP OPERA in place of 103a: SOAP BAR OPERA. Granted, none of the other theme answers put the BAR at the very beginning or end of the phrase, but “soap bar” feels clunky to me. Certainly not a two-word thing spoken of as much as “bar soap.” “Bar of soap” is the single unit, if you ask me, or “soap,” much more than “soap bar.” Totally threw me off. Is it just me?
I was also slowed down by 15d: SNOOKER TABLE. It’s not a theme entry, but it’s a 12-letter answer crossing a 12-letter theme answer, so I really thought it was going to be a themer. Here are the answers that really are theme entries:
- 22a. “WHAT’S MY BAR LINE?”—This one feels off because, while it riffs on the game show What’s My Line?, a pickup line is called just that, or “a line,” and “bar line” feels not remotely in-the-language to me.
- 26a. I like the NO BARFLY ZONE. I also like the compound word BARFLY because it looks like an -LY adverb. “I’m doing barfly this morning, thanks to last night’s party.”
- 42a. I like THE DA VINCI BAR CODE, but a conspiratorial slant to the clue might’ve been more fun than calling out the bar code printed on the cover.
- 53a. E.T. has ALIEN SPACEBAR CRAFT. Remember when E.T. was playing with the Speak ‘n’ Spell?
- 75a. Not sure dumb people are “clunkers,” but CASH BAR FOR CLUNKERS has lots of potential.
- 90a. Slater! Zack! Kelly! Screech! SAVED BY THE BARBELL is cute.
- 103a. SOAP BAR OPERA.
- 114a. MARS BAR ATTACKS, yum. I hear they sell Mars Bars at Walmart now. The MARS BAR keeps showing up in a lot of crosswords despite its manufacturer renaming it “Snickers with Almonds” several years back. I’m hungry for dinner but you know what? If I had a Snickers with Almonds handy, I’d wolf it down right now and eat less dinner.
- 1a. POST-ITS, great way to start the puzzle.
- 85d. GET LUCKY. Hate the verb “score” used this way—[Score on a night out]—but I like the entry.
- 60d. ALL-STAR GAMES, another terrific entry. Wanted GAMES but was stymied by that SOAP/BAR mixup. Sandwiched down in the same corner are OPOSSUM and VAMOOSE, so that’s a wonderful zone.
- 71a. AXL ROSE! Not sure I’ve seen his full name make it into a puzzle before.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, ”Math Quiz”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Ordinary phrases with mathematics terms in them.
- 23A. [The Phillies are in it] – EASTERN DIVISION of the National League (baseball). Nobody cares since the Montreal Expos, the only team that mattered in the EASTERN DIVISION, moved somewhere in 2004. But I’m clearly over it.
- 32A. ["Why are we arguing?"] – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? I don’t think these are exactly the same. Wanna fight about it?
- 45A. [Depressions, e.g.] – HARD TIMES. This clue makes me sad.
- 47A. [Box supper, perhaps] – CHURCH FUNCTION. Can’t you order pizza in a church? Wait, that comes in a box. So this is all about pizza.
- 67A./70A. [Stephen King and Dave Barry's musical group (with "the")] – ROCK BOTTOM REMAINDERS. I have actually heard of this, because group member Ridley Pearson writes the “Kingdom Keepers” series, which take place in Walt Disney World after dark.
- 85A. [Romanian-born composer of the famously eerie theme music for "The Twilight Zone"] – MARIUS CONSTANT. Tip for remembering this name: Don’t bother. It won’t appear ever again.
- 88A. [Makeup maven] – MAX FACTOR. Alliteration guy wanted Max Mactor. But that’s just mrong.
- 99A. [Tattoo words] – DE PLANE, BOSS, DE PLANE. Welcome to Fantasy Island!
- 115A. [Editor's comment about a puppy story, perhaps] – THAT’S A CUTE ANGLE. Amy, you’re an editor. Would you say that?
- 1A. [Marciano's birth name] – ROCCO. Better known by his nickname, Marcy Marciano.
- 27A. [Reader of this clue] – YOU. This is wrong. It’s not YOU, it’s me.
- 38A. [Danish scientist and poet Piet ___] – HEIN. Also a mathematician. Hidden theme answer. “Is your brother here, Bad Grammar Boy?” “HE IN.”
- 41A. [Bolger castmate of 1939] – LAHR. So is Kansas Under the Rainbow?
- 53A. ["___ just going through a phase"] – HE’S. But he still in.
- 57A. [Eggs, to Caesar] – OVA. Caesar liked his eggs OVA easy. Thank you, I’m here every week.
- 60A. [Warning, to Caesar] – IDES. Ides be careful eatin’ dose eggs, Julie. Julie, don’t go! Rinse the Blood Off My Toga
- 65A. [Roof features] – EAVES. What time is he in ’til? He EAVES at six.
- 77A. [It might be boxed] – SET. Or pizza.
- 78A. [The pizzeria owner in "Do the Right Thing"] – SAL. At last, the pizza has arrived.
- 106A. [Urchin's place] – SEA. Was that in Aladdin meets Ariel?
- 109A. [Anapest's cousin] – IAMB. Who get forget Neil Diamond’s “I AMB, I SAIDB”?
- 2D. [Pal of Gen. George] – OMAR. Patton, not Washington, I guess. Americans?
- 18D. [Pretzel brand, ___ of Hanover] – SNYDER’S. Come on Merl! How is a Canadian supposed to know something this obscure! Let me check their website…Snyder’s of Hanover products are proud to be sold in the following stores in Canada…Western Canada – Sobeys, Overwaitea, HY Louie, Fed Co-op, London Drugs, Macs, 7-Eleven, Rodgers, and Blockbuster. Really? Wait here, I’ll be right back…ok, I’m back from 7-Eleven, where they sell SNYDER’S of Hanover pretzel pieces. Great answer, Merl.
- 34D. [Words in Superman descriptions] – THAN A. Faster…more powerful…
- 58D. [Elvis's dad et al.] – VERNONS. Don’t Cry, Daddy.
- 69D. ["And the ___ goes to ..."] – OSCAR
- 71D. [Pack ___] – I TIN. “Hey, you’re not really Bad Grammar Boy. You’re a member of the Metal Men. Which one are you?” “ I TIN. “
- 84D. [Authorized: abbr.] – OFCL. That’s a very unofcl abbr for official.
- 89D. ["But those days ___"] – ARE GONE. Check out this version of Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone by a non-crossworder Matt.
- 90D. [Sword-shaped] – XIPHOID. This word is so obscure, I’m betting even Amy and joon don’t know it.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Boston Globe crossword, “Crazy Quilt”—Sam Donaldson’s review
When it comes to crossword themes, I suppose we all have our blind spots—the genres that just elude us for whatever reasoSome of us don’t fare well with sports-related themes or puzzles playing on opera titles, while others struggle with pop culture and musicals. My own blind spots are anything classical (music, literature, Coke), anything French (words, rivers, kissing), and the biological sciences.
At least I thought those were my blind spots. Now I have another one: quilting. This week’s puzzle makes puns based on various textiles and patterns. No, really. Cox and Rathvon cotton to quilters everywhere with their take on eight phrases containing words that kinda-sorta sound like assorted fabrics:
- [Inns for quilters?] are BATIK HOTELS. I’m 96% confident that this is a play on “boutique hotels,” a term that felt contrived to me but, hey, it has its own Wikipedia page. The word “batik” was familiar to me, but I would have been stumped if you asked me whether it’s the name of a fabric or a pattern. It appears, from my ten seconds of searching on the interwebs, that it’s both.
- The [Prelude to quilting fights?] is WAR CHINTZ. My best guess, and this is a total shot in the dark, is that this is a play on “war chants.” For a while I thought it was “war chest,” but that doesn’t exactly sync with the clue.
- A [Layer under a crazy quilt?] is not a SHY HEN but a MADRAS PAD, playing off “mattress pad.” Madras, says Wikipedia, is “used primarily for summer clothing—pants, shorts, dresses and jackets.” I know Madras as a small city in Oregon. I’m not exactly Project Runway material. Get it? Material? Sigh. Guess I’m not exactly Last Comic Standing material, either.
- The [Daring quilter?] is a TWILL-SEEKER, a pun on “thrill-seeker. Apparently twill is a genus of various fabrics with which I am familiar. Herringbone, houndstooth, denim, chino, and gabardine are all forms of twill. Other forms include foulard and serge, but I’m afraid ’twill be a cold day in Hades before I remember these.
- The [Quilter's whatsit?] is a GINGHAM-A-BOB, the clothing cousin to “thingamabob.” My dictionary says gingham is “a cotton fabric, usually woven of two colored yarn in a checked or striped design.” A sample of gingham appears to the right. It should be the official fabric of the upcoming American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
- [Madonna's ode to stretchy quilts?] is the clue for LYCRA VIRGIN, from “Like a Virgin.” I thought this was the funniest theme entry. Has anyone actually made a quilt of spandex? I would think it would be quite a stretch.
- To [Watch TV under a quilt?] is to CHINO SURF, from “channel surf.” Hey, did you know chino is a variety of twill?
- [TV fare for a quilter?] is a CREPE SHOW, from “creep show.” I knew the crepe you eat and the crepe paper you twist and hang from the ceiling for parties, but I didn’t know it was also a fabric that always looks badly in need of ironing.
This wasn’t in my wheelhouse, but it’s a lovely grid with 90-degree symmetry that gives it a very quilt-like look. And I enjoyed the conversational, folksy feel of the fill with HOW SO, HANGS IN, NAME IT, I’M SAD, and PSHAWS. I liked the modern clue for HARLEM, ["Precious" setting], and the clue for EARACHE, [Big pain for an elephant?], really tickled me, even if in fact an earache for an elephant may not necessarily be any more painful.
We finish with four random observations:
- ENACTOR is a rather awkward term for the [Performer of a part]. I’ll wager one dollar that someone, somewhere wrote in AN ACTOR. That would change the crossing, clued [Leave shore], from SET SAIL to SAT SAIL, which obviously does not work. But I’m still confident I’d win that dollar. Hey, I’ve talked myself into more peculiar crossings in the past.
- Holy mother of pearl! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out NACRE as the [Oyster shell interior].
- At last! My technique for remembering SHIRRED, clued here as [Baked in ramekins], finally came in handy: “I like my creme brulee shaken, not shirred.”
- HILAIRE as the answer to [Author Belloc] came to me strictly through crossings. To prove just how unfamiliar Hilaire Belloc is to me, I phrased my Google search minutes ago as “Belloc Hilaire.” I see that one of his better-known works is a poem entitled “Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion.” Um, shouldn’t that title come with a spoiler alert? Seriously, do you need to read it now?
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Today’s CrosSynergy puzzle by Patrick Jordan is a pangram. I like it best when I notice this only after I’ve solved the puzzle, but once I saw the Q in BRIQUETTES, I suspected I had one on my hands. My comment to constructors out there: don’t go out of your way to construct a pangram. Sure I like Scrabbly letters as much as the next guy, but that “aha moment” at the end of one is likely preceded by a lot of “oh no” moments while solving. Let’s see if this one feels forced or smooth:
- The J in this puzzle was brought to you today by a phrase I learned from crosswords, JUMPING THE SHARK. The story goes that the TV series Happy Days reached its climax during a 1977 episode when Arthur “Fonz” Fonzarelli, dressed in swimming trunks and a leather jacket, ski-jumped over a confined shark to prove his bravery. Though the series ran another six seasons after that episode, some critics believe that this stunt signaled the beginning of a downward trajectory for the show. I was a big fan of the series, shark or no, as it ran during my formative adolescent years.
- The symmetric entry of the aforementioned BRIQUETTES was [Like some compliments or scissors] or LEFT-HANDED. I’m not a southpaw myself (roughly only 1 in 10 are), but “left-handed compliments” (ones that are insincere) remind me of the origin of the word sinister, from the Middle Age notion that someone who wrote with their left hand was possessed by the Devil.
- ILL-CHOSEN ([Not carefully considered]) was an interesting entry to run across as was its pair, SNAKE EYES, [Two in craps]. I wonder if this is why we call taking a crap number two? (Sorry, kids.)
Most of the clues felt on the easy side, [One involved in a class action?] for EDUCATOR was fun and I thought [Move quietly] was an unusual clue for STEAL. I’ve read many of James Clavell’s novels over the years (the miniseries Shōgun starring Richard Chamberlain, was another TV favorite of mine), but I haven’t read TAI-PAN. May have to add that to my Kindle someday soon. Not a big fan of the partials AT ALL, TO SEE, or SAY DIE, and I think the spelling of the “House of Dana” fragrance TABU is just whacked (but likely inspired from an advertising perspective). BUMBLE reminds me of yet another TV show, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, for this is how Yukon Cornelius referred to his buddy, the Abominable Snowman. I’m going to start calling my friends “bumble” and see how it goes over.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 45″
Whoa. Did this puzzle wallop you, too? I found it to be the week’s toughest themeless.
Good gravy, that top left corner was tough, and the rigors spilled over into the top right as well:
- 1d. BB GUNS clued with [Ball throwers?], with that weird BBG letter combo. I was considering the vowels for letter 2, which got me nowhere. The other weapon in this section, GAS GRENADE, didn’t come to mind readily, either: 17a, [Riot police weapon].
- 15a. [Motto coined by Baden-Powell] is “BE PREPARED.” Mystery coiner! I presume that Baden-Powell is a Boy Scout founder or something.
- 5d. Tough clue for BERG, as in iceberg: [Sailor's growler]? Who among us is hip to nautical slang?
- 7d. Mystery word TANIS: [Ark's location in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"].
- 20a. [Two-person publicity shot, slangily] clues the mystery phrase GRIP AND GRIN. I have been in such photos, but didn’t know they had a slangy nickname.
- 22a. Tough trivia clue for NETS for non-sports fans: [Team originally called the Americans]. I also considered METS, JETS, and NATS.
- 28a. If you ask me, [Ghostly] is closer to SPECTRAL than to ETHEREAL.
Hardest answer elsewhere:
- 37d. [Share equally] clues GO HALVES, not a phrase I know. “Go halvesies,” sure, but not GO HALVES.
There are some lovely words in this puzzle. Please use the following entries in a single sentence:
- INCHOATE—36d. [Not fully realized]
- DEMURRAL—31a. [Scrupulous refusal]
- SCHOONER—43a. [Big beer glass]
- FRANGIPANI—59a. [Bush with fragrant but nectarless flowers]
Other good fill:
- UNDERGRAD—33d. [Premed, e.g.]
- GOLD DIGGING—54a. [Seeking a lucrative partnership]
- ODOR EATERS—64a. [Rotten Sneakers Contest sponsor]
- LEVITATE—13d. [Get off the ground], literally, not figuratively
- FEDAYEEN—41a. [Mideastern commandos]
MaryEllen Uthlaut’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “English Lessons We Never Learned”
This is the grammar riff on Merl Reagle’s math-terms crossword theme: Uthlaut takes seven grammatical terms and playfully redefines them. Like so:
- 23a. [Legal dispute over personal property?] is a POSSESSIVE CASE.
- 39a. PARTS OF SPEECH are clued as [Oratorical elements?]. Minus one point for deviating from the way we speak. You’d say “parts of a speech” or stick a “the” or “your” in there.
- 52a. This one’s my favorite: DEPENDENT CLAUSES are [Santa's minor children?].
- 69a. [Settlement negotiated by one's ancestors?] is an ANTECEDENT AGREEMENT.
- 88a. [Part of a broken-up prison term?] is a SENTENCE FRAGMENT. I like this, though I have no idea why a prison sentence would be broken up into pieces. Is there a jailbreak in the middle?
- 98a. [Rosy answer in a seer's crystal ball?] clues “FUTURE PERFECT.” Minus a half point for FOUR ROSES ([Bourbon with a floral logo]—never heard of it) just above the “rosy” clue.
- 120a. [Philatelist or numismatist?] is a COLLECTIVE NOUN, a noun labeling a collector. Did you know there are people who collect plastic retail gift cards? Not to spend. Just to collect.
- 14d. [Palace of the Ottoman sultans] is TOPKAPI?? I only know TOPKAPI as a movie title. The movie’s about a heist at Topkapi Palace, so obviously I’ve never seen the flick.
Favorite wrong impulse:
- 44d. Knowing that the [Word with cats or cow] started with an H, I thought HELL. Hellcats…hellcow? With a menacing moo? Turned out to be HOLY. I never heard “Holy cats!” until the last few years, but I like it. It makes cats sound a little like a swear word. I’ve just started using “ding-dang” as a replacement for the intensifer swear words, like “goddamn” and its R-rated brethren. Join me, won’t you? “I can’t get this ding-dang document to print!”
Not much else to single out in the fill, good or bad. I’d much rather have workable fill that doesn’t excite me than fill with mystifyingly bad answers that dislodge me from the solving zone.