Announcement the First: That Cru dinner I mentioned in yesterday’s post? Don’t be daunted by that “Cru” designation. If you are reading any crossword blog, you are officially a member of the Cru(civerbal) crowd. I encourage you to sign up for the dinner gathering, particularly if you are heading to the ACPT for your first or second time and don’t know many people there. You meet a bunch of people in a relaxed setting as the weekend begins, and suddenly you’re running into those folks all weekend and you’re completely in the swing of things.
Only about a dozen people go to the ACPT with an expectation that they might win some money. Everyone else goes to the tournament to hang out with like-minded puzzle people. And you can get to know some of them at the Friday group dinner.
Announcement the Second: If you’re on Twitter, you have until 10 p.m. Thursday to tweet your submissions to @EditorMark‘s National Grammar Day haiku contest. I am one of the “expert judges” and even have experience in judging a crossword haiku contest. Can I make a career out of this haiku judging business?
David Poole’s New York Times crossword
I loved this puzzle, y’all. A theme answer in a Wednesday puzzle made me laugh out loud? That’s a winner. A lot of the non-theme clues felt just right, too.
The theme is movie-related puns. Yes, they’re a mishmash of titles, near-titles, and catchphrases, but they were working for me.
- 17a. An Affair to Remember loses its An and becomes the pun A FARE TO REMEMBER, clued as ["Taxi Driver" tagline?].
- 25a. ["Back to the Future" tagline?] is A COMEDY OF ERAS. The Shakespeare play is The Comedy of Errors, not A Comedy of Errors, but “comedy of errors” is a common phrase on its own.
- 42a. This is the one that won my heart. The kid’s spooky line in The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people,” turns into a ["Titanic" tagline?], ICY DEAD PEOPLE. Horribly tasteless, yes, but it made me laugh. I just read it to my husband and he laughed and said, “Nice!”
- Look Back in Anger becomes LUKE BACK IN ANGER, a ["Return of the Jedi" tagline?]. Doesn’t quite parse grammatically, but it picks up a hint of Terminatory “he’s back” menace.
Edited to add: Well, I’m perplexed. Commenters sps and arthur118 checked out the site Joon was reminded of—Four Word Film Reviews—and all four theme entries are among the top 100. I give a lot less credit for a theme answer that makes me laugh if it wasn’t actually devised by the constructor, unless it’s a juicy quote with attribution. There was no attribution to Four Word Film Reviews (the website or the companion book) in the theme clues.
- 1a. NORM is the only Cheers bar patron who appeared in all 275 episodes. There! You’ve got one answer in this TV character Sporcle quiz. Ignore the factual mismatch between crossword and quiz—the quiz says Norm was in just 271 episodes.
- 21a. [Super Bowl XLV MVP Rodgers] is AARON Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. My husband has a man-crush on him.
- 39a. Is [Band of geishas?] a new OBI clue? It feels fresh to me.
- 10d. HUMMER is the [GM brand discontinued in 2010]. I don’t think I had heard the definite news. Aww, my son will never be able to buy a brand-new Hummer and will just have to hope that the Cadillac Escalade is still being made when he’s old enough to buy a car.
- 19d. I just learned something from this clue. You can call a Swiss person “a Swiss.” Leonhard EULER is the [Swiss who pioneered in graph theory]. Has there ever been a sports team of mathematicians called the Eulers? (It sounds like “Oilers.”)
- 26d. I like word-oddity clues. The Honda CIVIC is a [Palindromic car name].
- 28d. My favorite OVA clue: [They travel down fallopian tubes]. We get too many “lab”-related clues for OVA but really, the lab at an IVF clinic has far more spermatozoa on hand than ova.
- 41d. Punctuation! The COMMA provides a [Short stop?] in a sentence. Very short.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Timely theme this week: REHAB is where the famous people at the end of the starred entries have gone.
- 17a. [*Sex column that coined the word "santorum"] is Dan Savage’s SAVAGE LOVE. Courtney Love is the rehabbed celeb hiding here. Am psyched that Dan and his husband are launching their It Gets Better book at a March 23 reading/signing sponsored by my neighborhood indie bookstore, Unabridged Bookstore. Take that, big-box bookstores!
- 31a. [*You might use it to pay for staples] clues PETTY CASH. Johnny Cash did a few stints in rehab.
- 37a. ASPARAGUS SPEARS are a [*Bunch in the vegetable aisle], and Britney Spears lends herself to this theme so much better than Lindsay Lohan does. Do you know any phrases that end with LOHAN?
- 46a. [*Nickname for the area where politicians offer soundbites to journalists] is SPIN ALLEY. Never heard that term before. Kirstie Alley was in rehab? Wikipedia explains, she “went through Narconon, a Scientology-affiliated drug treatment program, to end her dependency.”
- 64a. ULTRA SHEEN is a black [*Hair product that conditions and shines]. Charlie Sheen gets his shout-out here. It’s about time the Ultra Sheen/Afro Sheen product category gets a little love from crosswords.
Speaking of Charlie Sheen, he didn’t really stick with that rehab thing, because he could just use His Mind to kick the habit. And ever since, he’s been saying bizarre things that are practically indistinguishable from the breeds of nuttiness espoused by Muammar Qaddafi and Glenn Beck. It’s true: Take this quiz and see if you can peg the speaker of each quote.
- 21a. [Group with many Beck fans] had me thinking of Loser Beck rather than Glenn Beck, so as TEA PARTY emerged in the grid, I was confused.
- 26a. [Guitarist on "Cherub Rock"] is James IHA. Don’t know the Smashing Pumpkins song, though.
- 52a. I like [LGBT-supporting comedian Margaret] CHO.
- 9d. THE ARTIST is the [Fantastically pretentious former nickname for one of the few musicians who could get away with it]. Prince! I’d link to a YouTube but he never has any videos up there. Heard “Purple Rain” on the Sirius XM ’80s station yesterday. Good times.
- 13d. BOOYAH! ["That's what I'm talkin' about!"] Good fill.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Leave Your Worries Behind”—Janie’s review
Wish I knew how to describe this one. It’s definitely a synonym gimmick (for “worries”) and the synonym is the last word (“behind” the others) in the theme phrase. It’s just that I’m having trouble seeing substitution-consistency in the theme set . Also, the title word promises a plural use of the noun; the fill delivers the worries in their singular forms. Or is it that the words are to be understood in their verb form?…
The worries that get “left behind” are: bother, upset, curse and pain. Am very iffy on how curse and pain made the cut, but maybe one of you will see things in a different light. Here’re the phrases they show up in:
- 20A. “IT’S NO BOTHER” ["I'd be happy to"]. Things that worry you are things that bother you; “I have a lot of worries”; “I have a lot of bothers.” This mostly works.
- 34A. STOMACH UPSET [Agita]. Ditto. Used to work with a woman who introduced me to the word “agita.” She had it a lot. Love the word. This clue/fill combo also ties in with [Gut feeling], though the fill here is the more benign HUNCH. No Pepto required.
- 41A. THE DAIN CURSE [1929 Hammett novel]. Still have a big question mark here—but… if you enjoy classic stories of hard-boiled detectives, Hammett’s your go-to guy. Before there was Sam Spade, there was the Continental Op. Worth your own private investigation. Oh—the morphine-addicted heroine of The Dain Curse reminds me that NARC is also in the grid, too, with its Hammett-worthy slangy clue [Horse-seller's collarer?].
- 57A. HOUSE OF PAIN ["Jump Around" band]. Great way to get the band and the song in the grid, but this still feels stretchy as theme fill. These hip-hoppers (with Irish-American roots) are a far cry from POP DUO [Hall & Oates, e.g.].
Love the triple-6 columns NW and SE with clue fill combos like [Play book?]/SCRIPT, [Pampering place]/DAY SPA and [Stoops]/DEIGNS (the choice of a [Hoity-toity type]/SNOB). But love even more the symmetrically placed PRO BONO [Free of charge] and ROBOCOP [Peter Weller's role as a policeman]. I’m uncommonly tickled by the one letter difference between the two. Not sure that Robocop ever worked pro bono, but it seems he did TASE [Zap, as a perp] every now and then.
And I’d be a total AIRHEAD (great word!) [Scatterbrain] if I didn’t cite some more examples of Tony’s terrific cluing. Take a bow: [Bowed orchestral instrument] for VIOLIN, followed directly by [Blown orchestral instrument] for OBOE; [Kitty letters?] for IOU; and the alliterative + homophonic [Caracas cash cache] for BANCO. Is this the Klahn effect? Whether or not, works fer me!
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’m partial to themes that assemble a collection of cool words with something in common. (Palindromes and other word oddities? Yes, please.) This Naddor theme presents six words that have NINE LETTERS but just ONE SYLLABLE: STRAIGHTS, SQUELCHED, STRETCHED, SPLOTCHED, STRENGTHS, and SCRATCHED. Yes, they all end with -S or -ED, but they do indeed meet the criteria. It’s not necessarily an entertaining theme, but I feel my mind is enriched a tad by having this list of words in it now.
Highlights and lowlights:
- 4d. ONE PART (as in “one part sugar, one part brown sugar”) isn’t a great entry, and its ONE duplicates what’s in ONE SYLLABLE.
- 12d. “WHO’S THERE“? is the [Obligatory joke response] to “Knock, knock.” It looks weird in the grid but I like it.
- 28d. [Gift shop items on a rotating stand] are POSTCARDS. Who doesn’t like seeing three-stacked 9-letter answers in a themed puzzle?
- Overall, fairly lackluster fill. ESTO IDEATES SCH USD RET SRS SWE CHA ROS ONO OTT? Eh.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Remixes”
- 18a. BAKING SODA is an [Ingredient in some tooth whiteners].
- 23a. [Video series in many a frat house library] is GIRLS GONE WILD. I’ll go on record as deploring those exploitative videos.
- 31a. [Chemical warfare weapon] is POISON GAS. No matter how bad flatulence is, I believe it does not rise to the level of being poisonous.
- 40a. LIONSGATE is the movie [Studio with the "Saw" series]. Deplore!’
- 48a. “NO GUTS, NO GLORY” is a [Pre-game platitude].
- 59a. ["Octopus's Garden" composer] is RINGO STARR. My kid pegged someone on TV as looking like Ringo’s fellow Beatle, George Harrison. You know how he knows what the Beatles look like? Because his class has been studying the historical era of the Sixties in social studies, that’s how.
Interesting batch of theme entries. This sort of theme carried out with boring theme entries would feel pointless, but it’s got some zip to it. The “remixed SONG” concept is cute, too.
Five more clues:
- 28a. [Pig Latin 101 word] is IXNAY. One of those words you learn during the first week of Pig Latin class.
- 38a. EPT, short for Early Pregnancy Test, is a [Brand used while waiting for a period].
- 47a. The HOA are a [Vietnamese minority group]. No, I didn’t know that either.
- 10d. I like how [Major export from the islets of Langerhans] makes you picture islands with a bustling ports and cargo ships. These islets are in your body and they make INSULIN.
- 45d. KAL PENN is the actor who’s your [Kumar portrayer] in the stoner pic Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. His hair-trimming scene at the beginning of that movie was a delight. Apparently he is still an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.