David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword, “For Your Edification”
Why, I was just thinking about David Levinson Wilk’s puzzles the other day, when Tyler Hinman tweeted about an Amazon order he was awaiting, with a DLW book (probably Ever-So-Clever Crosswords, his newest one). And here’s his NYT crossword! The theme entries are all phrases that start with an -ED verb (or an adjective derived from a verb), but David has separated a famous Ed from the rest of that word:
- 23a. WANT ED DEAD OR ALIVE is clued with reference to Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes fame.
- 31a. Ed Harris being punished medievally is the gruesome BURN ED AT THE STAKE. *shudder* And yes, I know just the other day, I enjoyed that equally gruesome ICY DEAD PEOPLE. Hypocrisy!
- 43a. I wonder what guided the choice of famous Ed for each scenario. Why former NYC mayor Ed Koch for HOOK ED ON PHONICS? If any big-city mayor could use some phonics work, it’s Richie Daley. Regardless—Hooked on Phonics is such a goofball phrase, it is always welcome in my crossword.
- 66a. Ooh, I had an unseen typo in this one. BLESS ED EVENT showed up as BLESSEDDVENT, and it took a half minute to find the errant square. Ed O’Neill is really good on Modern Family, you know. And if you’re not watching that show, give it a whirl.
- 75a. Ed Sullivan, CRACK ED JOKES. Anyone know a good Ed Sullivan joke? I don’t.
- 93a. I don’t know about this one. GROUND ED FOR LIFE, [Prohibit Mr. McMahon from ever socializing again?]. He’s already dead, so telling him he’s grounded isn’t going to be what keeps him from hitting the social circuit.
- 103a. TOUCH ED IN THE HEAD by doing brain surgery on Ed Begley? Gimme the bone saw! I’ll get right on that. Or maybe just poke the brain through a trephine hole.
- 116a. Ed Meese is still alive, so ahead and DRESS ED TO THE NINES.
Except for the DEAD OR ALIVE, BURN AT THE STAKE, and grounding of a dead man, the theme is light and playful. Dark humor. Gotta have dark humor.
Tough puzzle, especially at the top where I tried to make headway early on. Didn’t know Calvin Klein’s bio was named after his OBSESSION scent (which gives me a headache; don’t make me use the hose on you). Didn’t know ROSALIE was a Cole Porter tune and sorta figured it would be a two- or three-word title. 1d is harsh: [Lee of NBC News], COWAN. Lee Cowan? Cowan Lee? The former. Haven’t been watching NBC News or much other TV news, so I haven’t heard of the guy.
I like the zones with longer stacks of fill, and they ring the entire grid. There are two corners with 9s stacked with theme entries, and the rest of the border is sections chockablock with 7-letter answers.
- 127a. [Where the stars might be pointing?] is to the FOOTNOTES, the “stars” being asterisks used as footnote symbols.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Heads of State”—Jeffrey’s review
Theme: American state postal abbreviations added to the beginning of phrase, with wild and crazy results.
This was puzzle #7 at the 2010 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT) and the times listed above are from then (only minutes count). So let’s try and review a puzzle 378 days after solving it.
Puzzle #7, the last puzzle for everyone except the nine Division finalists, comes on Sunday morning. Standings after six puzzles have been posted so solving strategy can be adjusted accordingly. In my case, I was comfortably ahead in the Foreign Division, and a few extra minutes would not hurt me; making a mistake would. So I took a full two extra minutes reviewing my solution and ensuring there were no errors. As I wrote here in my recap,
- Found two wrong letters in extra two minutes reviewing puzzle 7. Turned out to be huge!!!
Mistake corrected, first place Foreign trophy secured.
As for the puzzle itself, I must admit I dislike state abbreviation puzzles. This Canadian fails to understand the fascination Americans have with their postal abbreviations. Some of the resulting answers are funny, though.
- 23A. [Origami?] – PAPER FORMING (performing)
- 33A. [Like some political scandals?] – MISTRESS RELATED (stress related)
- 53A.[Advice to a cougher?] – COVER MOUTH (vermouth)
- 60A. [Eatery at an oasis?] – CAMEL’S DINER (Mel’s Diner, from the show “Alice“)
- 66A. [Film about boastful jerks?] – VAIN GLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Inglourious Basterds - a movie title that was current at the time; spelling scared a lot of people)
- 79A. [Antoinette after hearing her fate?] – MOROSE MARIE (Rose Marie)
- 89A. [Answer to "What do you want on your BLT, Rocky?"] - MAYO ADRIAN (Yo, Adiran! – funniest)
- 102A. [How you can tell where the candle was?] – WAX MARKS THE SPOT (X marks the spot)
- 120A. ["Jumble"-solvin' dude?] – SCRAMBLIN’ MAN (Ramblin’ Man)
- 7A. [Beethoven's "___ Solemnis"] – MISSA. All crossings.
- 12A. [Quick tempo] – FAST PACE/20A. [Slow tempo] – ADAGIO. Make up your mind!
- 27A. [He played a cat with no backbone] – LAHR. Get it, Cowardly Lion.
- 59A. [Number of players on "La Ruota Della Fortuna"] – TRE. “Wheel of Fortune”.
- 88A. [Adams and Grant] – AMYS. Can’t think of anyone else named Amy.
- 99A. [Speed Wagons, e.g.] – REOS
- 101A. [Author Auletta] – KEN. Who?
- 110A. [Escape-route city, in "Casablanca"] – ORAN
- 123A. [Requires more than one, as to tango] – TAKES TWO
- 8D. [Last words of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"] – IAM
- 15D. [Olympic hurdles?] – TRIALS. The Vancouver Olympics were going on during the 2010 ACPT. The hotel bar had college basketball on the big TV, Olympics on the little one. Only in America.
- 45D. [When Otello dies] – ACT IV. Spoiler alert!
- 60D. [Singer Sam] – COOKE
- 71D. [Tycoon on the Titanic] – ASTOR
- 86D. [Magli of shoe fame] – BRUNO. I don’t know famous shoes.
- 92D. ["Ha-cha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!" crier] – DURANTE
- 104D. [Canadian chowderhead] – HOSER. Ah, take off Merl, eh?
- 109D. [Tale spreader] – YENTA
Finally, I repeat one other thing I wrote in my 2010 ACPT summary:
Giving a second copy doesn’t really help lefthanders. Why not hand out some grids with the puzzle on the left? Or better yet, give everyone a left handed version on one or two of the puzzles. Fair is fair.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe Crossword, “Mixup” – Sam Donaldson’s review
“Thank you, sir, may I have another?“ Good grief, this one spanked me pretty hard! The theme consists of six phrases containing a five-letter word that is some arrangment of the letters A-E-G-L-R. Accordingly, each is a “mixup” of those five letters:
- 25-Across: The [Creator of Ragged Dick] is HORATIO A-L-G-E-R. I had to figure this one out through some of the crossings because the clue was completely unhelpful. Prior to solving this puzzle, you could have convinced me that “Ragged Dick” was either Raggedy Andy’s older cousin or the name of a porn star. (One convention says that your porn name is the name of your first pet plus the name of the street on which you grew up. Under that rule, my porn name would be Don Morris. I feel sorry for the kid next door, or, as he’ll be known in the business, Dumbledore 202nd Street.) Back to Alger’s character: It turns out, according to Wikipedia, that Ragged Dick “is a fourteen-year-old bootblack in New York City circa 1866. He is not a model boy – he smokes, drinks occasionally, and sleeps on the streets – but he is anxious ‘to turn over a new leaf, and try to grow up ‘spectable.’” Good for him. A name change would be a nice start.
- 60-Across: The ["Pomp and Circumstance" composer] is SIR EDWARD E-L-G-A-R. That’s Elgar and his wife, Alice, on the right. Wikipedia says she was eight years older than Elgar, but seriously–couldn’t she pass for his mother?
- 64-Across: The [Key phrase?] is ROCKET’S RED G-L-A-R-E, a phrase from Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Okay, it’s National Anthem Trivia Time! Which of these statements regarding “The Star-Spangled Banner” is NOT true: (A) The words were set to the tune of a popular British drinking song; (B) Christina Aguilera should count her blessings, because we only sing the first of four stanzas in the song; (C) Federal law states that, during any rendition of the National Anthem, individuals other than members of the military “should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;” or (D) Only two versions of the Anthem have cracked the Billboard Hot 100, one by Marvin Gaye and the other by Whitney Houston. The answer appears below.
- 67-Across: The [Angler's prize, maybe] is a L-A-R-G-E MOUTH BASS. That’s a 25-pounder there on the right. What a beer belly!
- 107-Across: The [Big name in the theater?] is R-E-G-A-L CINEMAS. I always thought Regal Cinemas was a regional movie theater chain, but it appears they have cinemas across the country. Regal had the best policy trailer of any theater chain–the roller coaster with exploding popcorn would make a terrific real life thrill ride.
- 44-Down: The [Brewery product] is L-A-G-E-R BEER. Note that this, the only Down theme entry, intersects the three Across theme entries that are stacked atop each other. Holy schnikes, that’s impressive!
I’m pretty sure that’s the entire theme–variations on the same five letters. Why these five letters? I dunno. There doesn’t appear to be another layer to this puzzle, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally missing it. (Hey, I didn’t realize there was another layer to the Thursday NYT puzzle a few days ago, so I could easily be missing something more here.) But I just don’t see it. Is it the intersection of LAGER BEER with three other theme entries? That’s cool and everything, but it’s just not enough to sell me on the theme. I don’t think there’s any other arrangement of these five letters that would make an English word, so in that respect the theme is certianly “tight”–but it’s not especially compelling.
There’s not an excessive amount of space required for this theme, so there’s lots of room for good, lengthy fill. Hook doesn’t disappoint. Some of my favorite entries were I’M NOT HERE, the ONE-NIL soccer score, IT IS (clued not as a partial but as a stand-alone phrase meaning ["Really?"]), KOHLRABI, I’LL TRY, AVIATRIX and ADDED ON. My favorite clues were [Play favorites?] for BET (one betting at the track might well “play” (i.e., wager on) the favorites in each race) and [Raiders' org.] for FBI, which I thought for sure had to be either NFL or AFC.
What made the puzzle so hard for me was fill like SCLERAS, the [Eye coats], the red dwarf star in the Centaurus constellation, PROXIMA CENTAURI, author IZAAK Walton, Warren Harding’s middle name, GAMALIEL, the ["War and Peace" director], VIDOR, SWOT as the [Bookworm, in Britspeak], [Affectionate] as a clunky clue for BROTHERLY, ROMANSH as the [Language of Switzerland] (are the Swiss drunk and slurring their words?), TISHRI as the [Month after Elul], SIGILS as [Magic words], and COZ as a [Relative, familiarly]. (Shouldn’t that be “cuz,” “couz,” or “cous” instead? To me, “COZ” is a nickname for Bill Cosby.) Oh, and this is not even close to a complete list. These are just a few of the many places where I kept getting stuck. I was glad to finish, but I felt less rewarded than exhausted.
Anyone bugged by IN HEALTH used as an 8-letter partial? Doesn’t bother me in the slightest, of course, but I’ve got a dollar that says someone reading this review didn’t like it–after all, at least five people will read this post over the next few days.
Trivia answer: The correct answer, according to Wikipedia, is (D). The Anthem has indeed made the Hot 100 twice, but both times it was from versions by Whitney Houtson. Gaye’s legendary rendition never made the chart (perhaps it was never released as a single).
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 48″
I feel like I’ve seen more of these 11/13/15 stacks in the last year than in the previous three years combined. Yes? No? I rather like them, and the inclusion of 11s and 13s in the stacks offer a lot more variety than stacks of 15s. The poor 13s otherwise never get much chance to shine in a themeless puzzle.
- 1a. [Novel that begins at an 1805 soiree] was the first of a number of trivia clues that left my mind blank. Turns out this one’s WAR AND PEACE.
- 14a. BARGAIN BASEMENT, great fill. It means [Hardly high-end].
- 17a. I think [Oxford leader?] means “thing that leads the way inside your Oxford shoe,” or TOE. I think I like the tricky clue, but only if I actually understand it right.
- 20a. [Supporter of the cosmos?] is the STEM on a cosmos daisy.
- 30a. WAIT IT OUT is fresh fill. [Take refuge under an awning, say], and wait for the rain to stop.
- 49a. [Rites before some rites] clues BACHELOR PARTIES. The degradation- and exploitation-free ones are fine by me.
- 53a. Ha! The [Course correction?] is “YOUR OTHER LEFT.” As in: Person 1 says “It’s right there on your left.” Person 2 reaches to the right. Person 1 clarifies, “No, YOUR OTHER LEFT.” In the category of bizarrely funny fill, you’d be hard-pressed to top that.
- 54d. TRUTH OR DARE. Ooh, I don’t like that game. “I Never” is a hair better.
- 10d. [Mitch's partner on "Modern Family"] is CAM, short for Cameron. Like I said three puzzles above, that’s a good show. Funny writing, solid acting.
- 15d. [Highlight holder] is a TRESS of hair. Yes, I have an appointment for highlights Sunday morning.
- 21d. [Site of an early 2011 uprising] is TUNISIA. You got this one, right?
- 32d. [Cry from Laura] is “OH, ROB!” Laura and Rob Petrie, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke’s characters on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Isn’t it nice how she went on to star in her own “The Three-Named Star Show”?
- 40d. This is the adjective free, not the verb. Something that is SMOOTH, like an event that runs without a hitch, is [Free from hiccups].
- 48d. Even older TV than in 32d, [Beaver relative] means WARD Cleaver of Leave It to Beaver. That show was the correct answer to reader Danjan’s last question on Friday’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? show. The question asked which TV show debuted on the same day Sputnik launched in 1957. My mom and I didn’t know, and neither did Jan—so she took her $60,000+ in winnings and hit the road. Good call, Jan, and congratulations!
There were also some things I just didn’t know or that seemed blah:
- 32a. ["___ Nut Gone Flake" (1968 Small Faces album)] clues OGDENS. Say what? I declare this to be lousy fill with an obscure clue. Why lousy fill? Can you come up with a better clue than the one provided?
- 43a. Well, if you want to avoid having a partial entry, that’s a fine goal. But don’t include something like A MAN that can be clued as a complete entity when that entity is a [1980 Oriana Fallaci novel] that probably no more than 2% of have heard of. Just admit that it’s a partial and clue it as such.
- 5d. ["Little Men" tomboy] clues NAN. I don’t know the Little Men characters—just the ones in Little Women.
- 6d. To [Fish with bobbing bait] is to DIB, apparently. I had DAP, which is another word for the same thing. Dibs is far, far more common than DIB.
- 8d. [Where Attila was victorious in 1842] is EPSOM. I’m guessing Attila was not just a Hun but also a…horse? Yes. Listen, I have enough trouble remembering the Kentucky Derby winners here in America. Now I’m expected to know a horse that won a race in England 170 years ago?? I say no!
- 24d. Greek letter PHIS are [Latitude indicators]? Who knew?
- 34d. [Pigeonhole setting] clues DOVECOT. I knew dovecote was a word, but I’ve never seen the cot version. Apparently both forms are related to “cottage.” Who knew?
- 38d. After you watch Attila in the Derby at Epsom, why not saddle up your hunting horses and go look for some HARTS? Those are [Hunt quarries]. Does anyone refer to male wild deer these days as HARTS?
- 50d. [Judah's house, in an 1880 novel] is HUR. Here’s the apparent thought process for whoever wrote this clue: “HUR, huh. Pretty much always gets clued as ["Ben-__"], but that’s so boring. I know! We’ll clue it in reference to the 1880 book rather than the 1950s movie, and we’ll throw out that fill-in-the-blank. Too easy! Much better to befuddle the solver instead with an arcane reference.” Still boring, but now you have to work to get to the disappointing fill.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Sunday Challenge”—Evad’s review
Hey, I’m safely back from Costa Rica, and it looks like I missed many lively discussions here. First I want to send out a big Thank You (or should that be knahT uoY?) to my partner in crime, Sam Donaldson, for holding down the proverbial CrosSynergy fort while I was ziplining over treetops, howling monkeys and way-too-deep caverns. It’s a beautiful country, largely unspoiled and full of friendly, warm citizens who are very welcoming to visitors. Luckily my high school Spanish was relatively untested while I was there, but I did endeavor to throw in some short phrases when I could. (I told one person: Hoy esta nuestra ultima día aquí. ¡Qué lástima! and actually think she understood me. Well, she smiled like she did anyway, but Costa Ricans are known to be polite that way.)
So you’re here for the puzzle and not my trip report, aren’t you? I found this a particularly smooth solve, reminiscent of constructor Mike Shenk’s excellent themeless grids. 68 words is pretty open in my book for a themeless and this one had some very interesting entries:
- First, two unusual entries with numbers in them: TOP FIVE ([Common listing of award finalists], not if you’re talking about the 10 nominees in the Academy Awards Best Picture category this year!) and ONE WISH, which I have to forgive for its amusing clue, [Gift from a stingy genie], which I think deserved a question mark as even the stingiest of genies (or is that genii?) offer three wishes, even in these hard economic times we find ourselves in.
- The matching pair of CHEATSHEET (with the vague clue [Crib]) and SPACE CADET ([Goofball]) were both fun entries. I’m thinking the origin of that slang meaning for “space cadet” has to do with being “spaced out,” or with one’s head in the clouds.
- ["No problem"] is reminiscent of Obama’s recent campaign slogan restyled for individualists, YES I CAN.
- Nice crossing 9-letter entries in dead center as well: LETS SLIDE for [Excuses] (the verb instead of the more common noun form of that word) and IN FASHION, which is something we all try to be here at Casa Fiend, to varying degrees of success.
- Big fan of Sideways’ Virginia MADSEN. She lost the Best Supporting Actress award to Cate Blanchett that year (2004), whom I love even more.
A few things had me scratching mi cabeza a bit:
- HIRED OUT seems a bit odd to me, with its clue [Exchanged one's services for payment]. Does one hire oneself out then? Don’t we just call this being employed?
- RED CHINA was easy enough to get, but did we really call it that back in the Cold War? The answer had me thinking Fiesta Ware.
- UPSTREAM seems a bit more idiomatic to my ear than UPRIVER ([Not near the mouth]). I was first thinking that’s where most of a baby’s food ends up.
- Have never heard of paddywagons referred to as Black MARIAS. Wikipedia says the origin of the phrase is uncertain.
- If someone is [Waiting], they’re ON THE LINE, not ON A LINE, no? Tightrope walkers and fish are on a line, are they waiting to be reeled in? Actually “on the line” makes me think of something that is being risked, so I’m not sure what the correct phrase is here.
John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Adducational TV”
Instead of “educational TV,” we have TV shows to which one letter has been added. If you thought it would be “ads,” well, no. I see no rhyme or reason for the letter additions. The added letters (which I’ve circled) don’t seem to spell out anything. It’s not the same letter each time. The new titles have nothing in common with one another. And three of the nine make their changes in a title character’s name. Here are the theme answers:
- 25a. SITAR TREK, [Documentary about a Ravi Shankar concert tour?].
- 27a. LOVE THAT BOOB, [Sitcom about an endearing dimwit?]. I had to do some Googling to know what this one was. The Bob Cummings Show was later called Love That Bob. Late ’50s TV shows = not my bailiwick. Kinda offputting for younger generations to encounter this in the upper left of the puzzle—not a hearty welcome into the theme.
- 43a. BLARNEY MILLER, [Show about a nonsensical grain grinder?]. Would be better to clue with the “talk that aims to charm, flatter, persuade” definition of blarney, which I think is more familiar.
- 70a. JUDGING ARMY, [Drama about an opinionated military?]. Weird to have three first-name plays in a row when the rest of the theme isn’t like them.
- 100a. THE FLYING NOUN, [Talk show about words like "zeppelin" and "dirigible"?]. Eh.
- 119a. THE MOOD SQUAD, [Sitcom about a team of aromatherapists?]. I don’t associate aromatherapy with mood.
- 122a. MEAD MONEY, [Financial show about the fermented honey market?]. Feels a little out of place to have a cable finance show amid all the other scripted/fictional sitcoms and dramas that form the basis for the theme entries.
- 39d. KUNG FLU, [Drama about an Asian virus?]. This doesn’t have a good surface sense. What is “kung” by itself?
- 63d. BRATMAN, [Drama about an obnoxious superhero?]. Move the added R up one letter and you have Bartman, which is Bart Simpson with a cape or Steve Bartman who caught that ball in a Cubs game and was unfairly blamed for making the team collapse as if they’d never played in the major league before.
Highlights in the fill: SCHMOOZE, WISEACRE, ANTIQUES and SEQUOIA bringing Q action, an URBAN MYTH, CHEEKY, Roz CHAST, “BY CRACKY,” and ARISTOTLE. Aren’t those zippy?
Gotta run now—