Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Wunderbar”
I am not really focusing here—it was a busy afternoon and by the time I finally sat down to do this puzzle, the family was watching The Bourne Identity (100d: [Recurring Matt Damon title role]). I may or may not properly explain the theme. The theme entries lose the BAR chunk of letters, but with no rhyme or reason I can see. Why does the theme include two 3-letter Down answers? Why is the title “Wunderbar”? There’s no “W under” where the BARs are deleted, is there? Please either tell me what’s up or tell me you’re confused too.
Theme entries, as far as I can tell, but I must be missing something:
- 26a. barE NAKED LADIES
- 46a. barTLETT pears
- 48a. CHOCOLATE bar
- 66a. PABLO ESCObar
- 69a. barBIE AND KEN. I just saw the “Fashion Plates” Ken doll at the store today. He was right below this “Teacher” Barbie, who was wearing an absolutely ridiculous outfit. See? Real teachers do not wear pink gingham micromini skirts. The toy designers at Mattel apparently are on crack these days.
- 84. barROOM BRAWL
- 87a. SPACE bar
- 109a. BELLY UP TO THE bar
- 27d. barKED AT
- 28d. barELY. Not fond of barELY crossing the barE entry.
- 88d. PIANO bar
- 99d. TIE bar
Help! What am I completely missing here? What justifies the inclusion of so many regular answers that are longer than many of the theme entries?
Oh! I see it at last! Everywhere there’s a three-square black bar, it replaces the letters BAR in the entry that butts up against its end. Given that the letters would fit perfectly into those three black squares, it’s a neat trick. But man, was that hard to see.
P.S. I’m pretty sure the clue for AGO—32d: [Fifth word of the Gettysburg Address]—wasn’t Liz’s. Why, she has stitched the entire text of Lincoln’s speech on fabric, and she’s got it as “Four score and seven years ago,” AGO being the sixth word. Apparently some people like to make “fourscore” one word?
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Punjabbing”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme answers, with groan (G) meter ratings:
Is this a classic? This puzzle could have been issued in 1987 without any changes required. I’m old enough (sigh) to get the references, but this one skews senior.
- 18A. [Part of a cell, the ___ body] – GOLGI. The unknown part of the cell, I guess.
- 49A. [Actress Susan] – DEY. “I Think I Love You”
- 52A. [Nuts] – GAGA. This week, Lady Gaga, barely older than this puzzle, has Billboard ‘s 1000th Hot 100 Number One single, “Born This Way“. So all my video links will be to Number One songs.
- 67A. [Clubber, opposite Rocky] – MR T. “Gonna Fly Now”
- 68A. [b, d, f, h, k, or l] – ASCENDER. I don’t get this. Is it because they have have lines going up?
- 86A. [Francis, e.g.] – SAINT. “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You”
- 103A. [“Chestnuts roasting …” melody writer] – TORME. Sorry, can’t play it. Highest chart version was #18 by Christina Aguiliera.
- 119A. [“Great!”] – SUPER. “Sunshine Superman”
- 120A. [“The Family Circus” cartoonist Bil] – KEANE. “Family Affair”
- 123A. [Brit’s intro] – I SAY. “Say, Say, Say”
- 6D. [Actress Pier of “The Silver Chalice”] – ANGELI. Who?
- 8D. [Vacancy venues] – INNS. “Hotel California”
- 15D. [“All the Way” lyricist Sammy] – CAHN. Pre Hot 100.
- 16D. [Items] – ONES. One hit wonder Right Said Fred – “I’m Too Sexy”
- 17D. [Unlike Joan’s hangers] – WIRE. “I Love Rock’n’Roll”
- 36D. [“So that’s it!”] – A-HA “Take On Me'”
- 53D. [For mature viewers] – RATED R. “Centerfold”
- 56D. [Creator of “the little round-headed kid”] – SCHULZ. Charlie Brown, of course.
- 68D. [Bandleader Shaw] – ARTIE. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
- 72D. [Cowboy, at times] – ROPER. “Rhinestone Cowboy”
- 74D. [Relax] – TAKE 5. “I Want You Back”
- 78D. [“Stairway to Heaven” star David] – NIVEN. Never released as a single!
- 84D. [Is up] – BATS. “Batdance”
- 94D. [Cigar city] – HAVANA. “Anything ForYou”
- 101D. [Play hard ___] – TO GET. “Get Back”
- 106D. [Persian comment] – MEOW. “Cat’s In the Cradle”
- 109D. [Bikini parts] – TOPS. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Just Say No” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The puzzle’s title suggests we’re in for a sermon on abstinence and restraint. But instead Hook takes eight words that begin with “n-o” and re-interprets them as two-word phrases that start with “no.” Check it out:
- 22-Across: [Nonet?] transforms from a single word for a group of nine into a two-word phrase meaning FAILURE TO MAKE A PROFIT (“no net”). I got the “failure to” part easily, but struggled with the end because I kept thinking of “net” as the internet (as in, “I prefer the coffee shop across the street because it has wifi access; this one has no net.”). Part of my hang-up, I think, is that I cannot recall hearing someone refer to a net profit simply as a “net.” I hear people say, “we made a profit last quarter,” not “we made a net last quarter.” I think only nylon manufacturers say the latter.
- 66-Across: [Noels?] is not a yuletide reference back to the puzzle from two weeks ago but instead a pledge by one who decides to take SUBWAYS ONLY. Those preferring subways to elevated rails (the mole people?) would likely have a “No Els” policy.
- 112-Across: [Nomad?] is not a wanderer but how a dismayed newsstand patron would express surprise that a HUMOR MAGAZINE SOLD OUT. “No Mad? Yes, me worry.”
- 28-Down: [Nome?] ain’t a place to score some serum in Alaska; it’s how the ultimate egotist would describe EVERYBODY ELSE.
- 29-Down: [Nostrum?] is not…er…um…. Say, what the hell is “nostrum” anyway? My dictionary says a nostrum is “a favorite but usually ineffective remedy for problems or evils. See also: chocolate.” (Yes, I made up that last part.) Anyway, insert a space after the “o” and you have “no strum,” a Neanderthal-ish command that equates to DON’T PLAY BANJO. I’m not a banjo player (four years clarinet, thank you very much—chicks dig the clarinet), but couldn’t one still pick or pluck or tug at the strings of a banjo instead of strumming it? Does one even strum a banjo—intentionally?
- 30-Down: My favorite theme entry. In this puzzle, [Novices?] are not those lacking experience but those who are UTTERLY CHASTE because they have no vices. For a while, Richard Nixon had no Vice, either.
- 33-Down: [Norah?] is not a shout out to the intoxicating Norah Jones but instead a way to describe CHEERLESSNESS. That’s a pretty long word with a single vowel.
- 34-Down: [Nokia?] is not just a one-word mobile phone company; it’s also a two-word phrase to express that one’s KOREAN CAR (is) GONE. This one hurts the ears a little bit, though I suppose it’s written in the same newspaper headline style as HUMOR MAGAZINE SOLD OUT.
I like that the grid is constructed so that five consecutive down clues tie to theme entries. Those five down entries are all 13 letters long, and Hook manages to stack four of them in pairs on both sides of the grid. Color me impressed, even if it comes at the cost of primitive phrases like KOREAN CAR GONE.
If this puzzle is a tribute to Nomar Garciaparra, I failed miserably, as my grid was marred something fierce. Holy cow, this was a workout and then some! The theme entries came quickly enough, but all of the devious clues and difficult crossings made for slow going. One would think that after blogging Hook puzzles for the past six months I would be better at them. Though some standard Hook antics didn’t trip me this time (APRI meant to be “Apr. 1”, for instance), I fell into lots of little traps. I’m exhausted, and I feel like I’ve been beaten into a bloody pulp. I survived, but Hook wins by technical knockout.
Lots of little clusters proved to be, well, cluster****s—at least to me. One grouping that flummoxed me for the longest time was the intersection of LEDA, [Helen of Troy’s mother] (don’t ask me why I kept wanting this to be Hera), LOW EBB as a [State of decline], [Atlantic Records founder Ahmet] ERTEGUN, and the [Ancestral word], ETYMON. That nasty little etymon also went with another impish grouping that included the [Hybrid bovine] CATALO, the [2000 Olympics mascot], SYD, and the roll-your-own-plural CITYDOM, clued as [Urban areas]. Down south, the [Mayor, in Mexico], ALCALDE, was new to me even though I took four years of Spanish in high school and college. It didn’t help that one of the crossings was NUDGER, the [Incite-ful one?] that I thought was surely NAGGER. Over in the northeast there was [Horror-film director] ELI Roth and OMPHAL, the [Navel (prefix)].
Whoa, whoa, whoa!! Stop the presses! OMPHAL?!? A prefix meaning related to the navel?!? The only words I found with this prefix were omphalocele (according to the NIH, “a birth defect in which the infant’s intestine or other abdominal organs stick out of the belly button”), omphaloskepsis (navel-gazing!), and omphalitis (infection of the umbilical cord stump in newborns), and none of these are exactly household terms. Medical prefixes like PNEUMO and CARDIO are perfectly fair because they are used in words that lay folk know. This one’s sketchier, to say the least. Say, the view from this soapbox is kinda cool.
The most troublesome cross for me was where the [“Miss Saigon” Tony winner], Lea SALONGA, met XSARAS, [Some Citroen autos]. Both were complete unknowns to me. I saw “Miss Saigon” several years ago when it came to Seattle, but Ms. Salonga was not part of the cast and Broadway is not my forte. And I would have thought Xsaras were people formerly named Sara. Before today, I wouldn’t have been able to name any French-manufactured car. Now I can name one. C’est magnifique! That’s an Xsara Picasso there to the right. Shouldn’t a car named Picasso be more cube-shaped?
Despite slogging through to the finish, I enjoyed this one on balance. It has lots of fun clues. Some of my favorites:
- [Teamster’s expense] had me thinking of union dues. But it was simpler than that: TOLLS.
- [Night lights?] is a fun, evocative clue for AURORAS. I hear the Northern Lights the past few nights have been especially pronounced and beautiful.
- I am pretty sure I have seen [Went platinum?] as a clue for DYED before, but it still made me smile.
- An ASHTRAY is [Where to park your butt?] alright.
- A TASER is indeed [A real stunner].
- [Ride in a spaceship] isn’t ORBIT because this Ride isn’t a verb. She’s a noun: SALLY Ride, the astronaut.
- Likewise, [Cop] is not a noun this time, it’s a verb. The answer is STEAL.
Okay, that’s enough for this week. Off to Whole Foods to buy some omphal oranges.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Four weeks and counting folks until the next American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, NY. Will last year’s champion, Dan Feyer, repeat or will today’s CrosSynergy constructor, Tyler Hinman, regain the winner’s prize for an unprecedented sixth time? I believe the finals will again be aired on NPR, so if you can’t attend in person, tune into your local NPR station on Sunday, March 20. (Any chance we’ll be on ESPN like the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee?)
On to the puzzle…most of the recent CS puzzles by Tyler I have had the privilege to comment on have been early-week themed grids, so it’s a nice change of pace to have a “Sunday Challenge” themeless to discuss. 1-Across in these type of puzzles tends to be the wow entry and this one did not disappoint, [Rapper born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco], LUPE FIASCO. Another of my favorite constructors, Patrick Blindauer, recently had this singer in a puzzle and I commented on it on this very blog. I particularly liked his recent single, The Show Goes On. So I wonder why he thought Fiasco was a better last name than Jaco? Another personality anchors the ten-letter triple stack at the bottom of the grid, one-time NY governor, Mario Cuomo. I learned here that he was the first guest of CNN’s Larry King Live show in 1985. (I bet Watson knew that as well.)
A few other clues and entries I enjoyed:
- [Where some exits are found] is AT THE REAR. Some entrances are found there as well, but we won’t get into that.
- Loved the Q action in the center of MISQUOTE and the lead-off to QUOTAS. The letter K also gets some prominent use, shared between KODIAK and KIBOSH, the latter clued as [Stopper]. (I have only heard it used in the phrase “put the kibosh” on something to stop it; I see here that its origin is obscure, either Irish or Yiddish. )
- I have not read Shakespeare’s Troilus and CRESSIDA. Am I missing something?
- Loved the phrases OLD SCORE ([One might want to settle it]) and TWO-TIMED ([Betrayed, in a way]). Very idiomatic.
Couple of missteps, wasn’t as sure about the spelling of either IMARET or IMHOTEP, was hoping instead for I’M OUTTA HERE. And I’m still not absolutely sure about SNES for [Gaming console released in 1990 (abbr.)]. I’ve heard of NES but not the S- version, does it stand for Super? Why, yes, it does!
Dave, my trainer at the gym explained to me just the other day that Lupe Fiasco took the “Fiasco” name from another rap album. I didn’t know his biography, though—check it out. In high school, he was on the chess team and Knowledge Bowl Decathlon Team. Nerd rapper!
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 46”
Good news! Editor Peter Gordon and the Washington Post have renewed their contract for another year of these themeless goodies.
Mid-range difficulty for this puzzle by Frank Longo. Not too easy, not too hard, as themelesses go. I mostly liked it but have reservations about some of the fill and clues (more on that in a minute).
Lots of names in the grid:
- 1a. ALICE MUNRO is the [“Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” author].
- 17a. FRANZ LISZT is the [“Réminiscences de Don Juan” composer]. Got this one thanks to having ZT at the end. Who else could it be?
- 24a. [“Avatar” actor] clues Giovanni RIBISI. Was he in that? I think he was one of the jerk soldiers. Not at all a lead role.
- 5d. [Olive’s creator] means Olive Oyl’s creator, Popeye’s creator E.C. Segar, who didn’t much use his weird first name, which is ELZIE. I know this only from crosswords. Boo.
- 8d. [Guy whose targets were all wet?] is Eliot NESS, battling bootleggers (wets) during Prohibition.
- 22d. [Ralph’s co-star in “The Avengers”] is UMA Thurman.
- 34d. The last name of [Singer Michael with the 1983 No. 1 hit “Maniac”] is SEMBELLO. ’80s trivia! A gimme for me, but if you skipped Flashdance mania in 1983, there’s no reason to have heard of this guy.
- 40d. [Usher creator] is Edgar Allan POE.
- 42d. Grey’s Anatomy actress SANDRA [Oh with a Golden Globe].
- 45d. [Washington Mystics hoopster Beard] is named ALANA. Never heard of her, but don’t mind learning about women in sports.
- 48d. [Talking Heads bassist Weymouth] is named TINA.
- 55d. ODA [___ Mae Brown (“Ghost” psychic)] is Whoopi Goldberg’s character. She won an Oscar for the role. Better than a crosswordese “harem room” clue?
- 16a. Clever clue for X-RAY: [It may reveal a break].
- 18a. [Be trailing?] clues HIKE. Now, who on earth says “I’m going trailing” for “I’m going hiking”? I think this clue pushes too far.
- 28a. NATIVISTS are clued as [Protectors of indigenous rights]. That seems so off base to me. Today’s NATIVISTS are not remotely “indigenous”—they’re Americans descended from European immigrants who are agitating against any and all newer immigrants who don’t look like them. And that’s the general vibe for most nativist movements—fear and loathing of immigrants. Australia’s whites had an anti-Asian nativism, and they’re not remotely “indigenous” to Australia. Yes, there have been some American Indian nativist movements, but these are not the norm.
- 32a. [2002 comedy sequel] clues ANALYZE THAT. “I’ll take ‘Forgettable Sequels’ for $1,200, please, Alex.”
- 53a. To BILL AND COO is to [Be all lovey-dovey]. I do love that old phrase. I never use it, but I like it.
- 57a. [Alternative to garlic rolls] clues ONION BREAD. Is that even a thing? I just instructed my husband, “Tell me about onion bread.” He said, “I know onion rolls. What’s onion bread?”
- 1d. A German [Shepherd’s cry] might be ARF.
- 6d. Shopping MALLS are [Places with clusters of chains]. Good clues.
- 7d. [Rams’ home, briefly] is URI. Uh, University of Rhode Island, I presume? Blah.
- 21d. [Slightly purple cabbage] isn’t about cruciferous veggies, it’s about cold, hard cash. FIVERS have some purple ink now.
- 33d. [No. 1 hit for Nat King Cole] is NATURE BOY. Didn’t know it, but it’s a cool entry.
- 37d. Hello! What, what? [Study of electrical discharges in the air] is SFERICS? This…is not a familiar word. At all. The crossings looked so solid, but I was still surprised to get the Happy Pencil.
Peter Wentz’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Find Out”
The title cryptically suggests that you put an F in and take a D out, and each theme entry swaps out a D for an F:
- 23a. [Flight attendant’s reminder when serving alcohol?] = THIS IS NOT A FRILL. Yes, beer, wine, and cocktails are $5 each. Unless you’re flying Southwest on a holiday, and then your first drink is free. I’ll be flying to the ACPT on St. Patrick’s Day. Will I be offered a free drink on the plane that morning?
- 32a. [Equine exhibition with poor visibility?] = FOG AND PONY SHOW.
- 45a. [Stick around for sautéing?] = HANG OUT TO FRY.
- 64a. [Energizing bluegrass instruments?] = FUELING BANJOS.
- 75a. [Craze for some moms?] = STAY-AT-HOME FAD.
- 95a. [Pixie dust?] = FAIRY PRODUCT.
- 104a. [Written warning about gangster Gotti?] = FEAR JOHN LETTER.
- 119a. [Imposing monetary penalties with a nice Chianti?] = WINING AND FINING. If you’re like me, you can never, ever see the word “Chianti” without thinking of Hannibal Lecter, human liver, and some fava beans.
I don’t like 7a: HAD A BIT as a crossword entry, but Pete includes tons of other great fill: O CANADA, a YULE LOG, HOT COCOA, AS IT WERE, BAD DEBT, LOUDMOUTH, CBS SPORTS, and THE FLASH.
Do any of you wonder why EAP is pretty much always clued, as it is here—74a: [“Annabel Lee” monogram]—as Edgar Allan Poe’s initials and not as the abbreviation for “employee assistance program”? Has that abbreviation faded from use since my corporate days?
And wait a minute. Since when is KFC an “organization”? 27a: [Org. with a Double Down sandwich] is just plain weird. It’s a company, not an organization.