Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
The theme here is NO UNDERWEAR, a [Fashion rule for the liberated … or one of four arrangements found literally in this puzzle]. I dispute that it’s any sort of “fashion rule,” that it has any connection to “liberation,” and that it’s a lexical chunk worthy of being a crossword entry. Here, it serves as the rationale for putting WEAR in four symmetrical entries and placing a hidden NO somewhere below the WEAR squares.
The execution of this theme leaves a bit to be desired, however. Putting one WEAR in 20a: WE ARE DEVO is great (at least for people of my generation). The other three are in 22a: WEARY, 50a: WEARIN’ (where it has quite literally the same meaning), and 52a: I SWEAR. The NO under each WEAR is found in an odd assortment of answers:
- 23a: NOTATE, ordinary word, nothing exciting.
- 24a. PHENOL, clued specifically and grimly as a [Chemical embalmer].
- 54a. Whoa! Really? NOTUS, [God of the south wind]? That’s a new one on me. I would almost have preferred the two-word NOT US, though there may not be a clue that would rescue it.
- 55a. GOLD PIANO? Not. A. Lexical. Chunk. [Elvis instrument now in the Country Music Hall of Fame]? I’ll take your word for it.
I have to dock the puzzle for having another NO floating two rows above WEARY, in 16a: NORAH.
The word count is just 72, meaning there was leeway to rearrange the theme and get a potentially more forgiving grid.
And now! More things:
- 46a. I started with the three S’s and wanted it to be the ’70s snake horror flick SSSSSSS, but then I read the clue. [Body of water named for an English explorer] and packed with S’s is the ROSS SEA.
- 58a. [Muscovite prince known as “Moneybag”] is such a colorful clue. It’s just IVAN I? Aww. Minus two points for crossing yet another medieval leader name + Roman numeral, LEO VII. Hey! Didn’t I just ask for a moratorium on all the numbered LEOs? I did. There’s another Roman numeral in the puzzle—in the clue for NOON, [XII, maybe].
- 64a. Say what? GIING? G.I.’ing? [Cleaning, as if for military inspection], is apparently GIING.
- 3d. [F.A.A. center] is AVIATION in that “Aviation” is the central word in “Federal Aviation Administration.” Don’t care for that clue’s trick.
- 21d. [Abbr. for those who didn’t make the list] is, if you want to be picky about it, et al., since “those who” connotes people. The abbr. for the items that didn’t make the list is ETC.
- 34d. Love the clue [Bud’s place] for EAR (as in earbuds). I first thought of Budweiser and buddies, but not flower buds.
- 41d. Weeeeiiird clue. Totally stumped me. [Brown strip] is PEANUTS because that’s the comic strip with Charlie Brown.
- 42d. In a puzzle about NO UNDERWEAR, who raised an eyebrow at the clue [Balls at balls?]?
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Tube Tops”—Janie’s review
So how did you do in catching on to the gimmick today? Sure took me a while, but then—there was both the “aha” moment and yes, the requisite head-slap. Well done, Patrick! Notice that each of the four theme phrases appears vertically in the grid. We don’t see that everyday—and its a choice that aptly supports the gimmick.
The “tube tops” of the title refer to the names of four different TV (tube) shows, each of which (by virtue of that vertical configuration) sits at the top of the theme phrase. The TV shows in question are Lost, C.O.P.S., Fame and Soap. (While I may have seen an episode or two of Soap [a hundred years ago...], I’m completely unfamiliar with the others…) Each title is four letters long, one syllable only; and each is also half of a familiar pairing—with the construction of each conforming to the “___ and ___” model. Beautiful. Comme ça:
- 4D. LOST AND FOUND [Spot for misplaced stuff]. Probably some misplaced kids every now and then, too. (I’m thinkin’ visits to theme parks and the like.)
- 14D. COPS AND ROBBERS [Tag variation]. For some reason my first thought was of a “price tag” and not the schoolyard game… Nice though, how the “schoolyard game” understanding ties in to “DOES, TOO” [Playground retort].
- 7D. FAME AND FORTUNE [Star qualities?]. Amazing how many stars sadly manage to squander both…
- 24D. SOAP AND WATER [Cleaning staples]. These two basics manage to accomplish a myriad of household tasks!
In addition to these four lively and lovely theme entries, Patrick has fashioned a the grid with lots ‘n’ lots of sevens. There are triple columns of ‘em NE and SW, paired stacks NW and SE, four more running horizontally in the mid-section and two more peeling off two of those. That’s how we come to see such terrific (and well-clued) fill as BELATED [Like some birthday wishes], PARASOL [Victorian sun blocker], “EN GARDE!” [“Let’s fight!”], KOOKIER [More eccentric] EMBASSY [Attaché’s mission], [Time is of the] ESSENCE, RED DAWN [1984 Patrick Swayze movie…], BI-POLAR [Like some who have mood swings] and “O, CANADA!” [National anthem of North America].
Musical references abound—and run the gamut, from the sultry EARTHA [Kitt who sang the song “Santa Baby”] to the silly (funny!) “FAT” [“Weird Al” Yankovic song with the lyric “I’m the king of cellulite”] (do check out this video with its section-to-section comparison of “Fat” to “Bad”); from classic rock ‘n’ roll’s DEL [“Runaway” singer Shannon] to classic hard rock’s [“Dude (Looks Like)] A LADY[") Aerosmith song] to pop diva [Singer Celine] DION (though it doesn’t look like she’s ever recorded ["]ALL [That Jazz“]); from the patriotically referenced FOR [Third word of “America the Beautiful”] to the school-tie referenced ELI for witty, sophisticated composer/lyricist [Cole Porter, collegiately].
Harvey Estes’ Los Angeles Times crossword
I’m tardy with the blogging this morning because I woke up this morning with a sore throat and laryngitis, took Tylenol and went back to sleep for a couple hours. Ahh, sleep. Good stuff.
Harvey’s theme swaps in -OLE homophones for other words:
- 17a. Poll taxes become POLE TAXES for the Polish.
- 25a. Soul music becomes SOLE MUSIC for the feet.
- 35a. Cole Porter’s metier is COLE FIELD, which plays on…coal field? Is that a thing?
- 49a. This one’s my favorite: roll calls turn into ROLE CALLS for an actor and agent.
- 58a. Whole wheat becomes HOLE WHEAT.
Nice open corners with lots of 7′s. I like PELL-MELL, WINSTON Smith, BOLOGNA, and TROTSKY.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Garb Bag”—Matt Gaffney’s review
I liked this puzzle quite a lot for the first six minutes of the 7:39 it took to solve. And who could blame me? Nifty theme with funny entries—LOBSTER TARP and SHRINK WARP are goofy images, and PIECE OF CARP plays off a good base phrase. With lively fill like HEY JOE, BLUEBIRD, NORTH BAY, BE PROUD, Jon ARBUCKLE, BBGUNS, and EX-SPOUSE, Quigley was clearly in the zone. The clues were also snappy: [Dollar competition] for AVIS, new info on an old standby at 7-down, [Gain momentum on Twitter] for TREND, and [Opera annoyance?] for POP-UP AD all had my solve grooving right along.
But then, we hit a small blot. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it is a blot. Imagine Brendan taking a no-hitter into the ninth, then giving up a solo home run. He still gets the win and it’s a fine performance, but that one imperfection rankles. Here, that imperfection is the inconsistent theme entry at 27-down: the other three finish with a four-letter word in the pattern ?RAP, and change that to ?ARP. So “lobster trap” becomes LOBSTER TARP, “shrink wrap” becomes SHRINK WARP, and “piece of crap” becomes PIECE OF CARP. But at 27-down the the second word is just the three-letter “rap,” which switches to finish GANGSTA ARP (which in itself is another hilarious entry).
I also liked the title: it has several different intriguing wordplay aspects to it so you don’t know right off the bat what’s going on (it looks like a palindrome at first glance, for instance).
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ—and enjoy your Thursday, everyone!