Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword
I loved Mike’s ACPT finals puzzle, with its fun 15s (that’s as spoilery as I’m getting) and those wicked A-grade clues. This puzzle, it’s got a lot of good stuff but not I’m not loving it, I’m merely liking it. It has no Z or Q, but there are a lot of mid-range Scrabbly letters, the Ws and Ps and Ys and Ms and Ks, plus an X and J.
Favorite fill, clever clues:
- 16a. To [Best (someone) in calculating] things is to OUTWIT them. I had OUTADD here first and was delighted to change it.
- 17a. “And WE’RE LIVE“—that’s often the [Start of a breaking news story]. Now, the TV news people don’t know when to quit being “live at the scene.” When you’re standing outside the building the next day, you’re not impressing us. Could’ve done without the duplicative ARE WE at 4d. “We’re live! Are we?”
- 55a. Who knew PAT BOONE was the [Onetime General Motors spokesman]?
- 5d. Ha! This clued stumped me for the longest time. [It's used during an introductory course] refers to a SALAD FORK, not to History 101.
- 11d. The SWAT TEAM is [Help in a dangerous situation]. In the Chicago area a few months ago, a SWAT team got extra practice when a woman mistook her butt-dialing husband’s car radio in the background for the sound of captors menacing her husband.
- 12d. From The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes the TIME WARP. It’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane, I hear.
- 13d. Another school fake-out clue—[Those involved in cutting class at school?] are hair STYLISTS at a cosmetology school.
- 31d. Who doesn’t appreciate a PRETTY BOY?
- 33d. Another full name in the grid, ERIC IDLE. I pick him over Pat Boone.
Props to Mike for including only six 3-letter answers.
- 1d. All right, who says “IT WAS I” dramatically?
- 49a. A [Coal miner] can be called a PITMAN, apparently.
- 7d. The clue for EAVE reads weird to me. [Builder's projected expense?] doesn’t parse right. An EAVE is a projection, yes, but I don’t know that it counts as a separate “expense.”
Paul Hunsberger’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Unnatural Scientists”
Cute theme! Various -ologist words are clued as if the part that comes before -ologist is an ordinary English word rather than a Greek or Latin root. Like so:
- 17a. [“You might call me a psychologist,” said the ___] CHEERLEADER, whose job is to psych people up and make them say RAH (2d: [Booster's bellow]), which crosses 17a.
- 26a. [“You might call me an enterologist,” said the ___] CAT BURGLAR, who enters places without permission. Yeah, but what’s an enterologist, really? I don’t know if there are truly any scientists or doctors who consider themselves enterologists rather than gastroenterologists.
- 37a. [“You might call me a topologist,” said the ___] MOUNTAIN CLIMBER, moving towards the top of the mountain. Is she climbing Mt. SINAI (35d: [Six-Day War battleground])?
- 51a. [“You might call me a cryptologist,” said the ___] TOMB RAIDER, stealing from crypts rather than cracking codes. Nice touch to have the ALAN parked atop this entry clued as 45a: [WWII code breaker Turing].
- 59a. [“You might call me a pathologist,” said the ___] TRAILBLAZER forging a new path.
I forgot that the [School where Jane Eyre spent eight years] was called LOWOOD. With only one W in that name, I am reminded of the LoJack. Did you know that the LoJack folks called it LoJack as the “opposite” of hijack? Don’t know if hijack has any connection to the word high.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Back to Front” — Janie’s review
Today’s four grid-spanning theme phrases play out like full-word Spoonerisms and, like their sound-swapping cousins, provide a high entertainment value. Martin’s clues make a strong visual impact as well—which always leads to a livelier solve. And, as with yesterday’s theme set, the whole solve is improved by the peppy, idiomatic base phrases. I sure got a kick out of seeing:
- 17A. grease the wheels → WHEELS THE GREASE and [Carts lubricant around?]. Silly and sound, no?
- 26A. beats to the punch → PUNCH TO THE BEATS and [Spar disco-style?]. My fave in a group of goodies. Again, the visual factor here is a great asset.
- 45A. spare the details → DETAILS THE SPARE and [Decorates a trunk item?]. This one is maybe a tad weaker because there’s usually an object in the base phrase. Still, I’m getting a picture of a spare tire covered in découpage. Not terribly practical, but who knows what won’t be done for art’s sake.
- 60A. trick of the trade → TRADE OF THE TRICK and [Magician's profession?]. A final treat. In another kind of publication, I suppose this might’ve been clued as [World's oldest profession?]… And if you missed constructor/magician David Kwong’s construction cum magic at the ACPT, run-don’t-walk to YouTube.
Love the look of this grid, too—the actual appearance created by the placement of the black squares—and particularly the way Martin’s filled the six sevens inside. It PLEASES [Delights] me to (also) call out SAME DAY [Like some dry-cleaning service], SPEARED [Harpooned], DENOTES [Stands for], CLERICS [Ordained ones], and STATELY—with its image-specific (thus more interesting) clue [Like Wayne Manor].
That same kind of cluing specificity improves the use of a word like APSE. Today it’s a [Notre Dame niche]. That helps when using (often unavoidable) crosswordese. I wouldn’t put ROAR in that same “crosswordese” category, but cluing it as [Victoria Falls sound] sure makes things more interesting. More of that, please!
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme entries have all lost half of their opening pair of twin syllables. Now, I wouldn’t describe any of the resulting phrases as HALF-BAKED, though they do look [Not well thought out]. Here are the halfsies:
- 17a. Chinese appetizer is pu pu platter, so the theme answer is PU PLATTER. It doesn’t sound appetizing in English with one PU or two.
- 21a. HIP HOORAY sounds wan.
- 37a. BYE BIRDIE, a HALF-BAKED musical though in actuality the title is only missing one quarter of its letters. This theme answer has two thirds of the original words and three quarters of the letters. It’s at least TWO THIRDS BAKED, if you ask me.
- 51a. A KNOCK JOKE is even less entertaining than a knock-knock joke.
I suspect there’s a better way to tie together a theme consisting of phrases that have lost one of a twin set of words, but I don’t know what it is. Ideas?
- 11d. [They don't laugh when they're tickled] clues the IVORIES, or piano keys.
- 39d. Gustav Klimt’s THE KISS, an [1889 work of art deemed unsuitable for general display at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair]. Correction! Commenter Linda Murray says the steamy artwork in question is the Rodin sculpture called The Kiss, not the Klimt painting. Linda’s an artist herself so (a) I believe her and (b) you should check out her work.
Randy Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Job Search”
Eight theme answers fit the category of phrases that end with words that can also mean “job”; each is clued as without reference to the phrase’s usual meaning. In an ambitious touch, Randy has stacked the top and bottom pairs of theme entries so that they overlap by 8 letters. The theme:
- 24a. [Shakespeare's job?] is his AVON CALLING.
- 26a. [General's job?] is a MILITARY OCCUPATION in more ways than one.
- 40a. A MEDICAL APPOINTMENT is the [Surgeon General's job?].
- 60a. [Movie composer's job?] is SCORING POSITION.
- 68a. [Unsuccessful dieter's job?] clues NO-LOSE SITUATION. I don’t know that I’d call a job a “situation.” You can be situated in a job, but is the job itself a situation?
- 81a. [Handyman's job?] is a HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT to work on a home.
- 101a. [Cable network exec's job?] is LIFETIME EMPLOYMENT, Lifetime being the name of a cable channel.
- 105a. Saving the cleverest for last, [Mayor Bloomberg's job?] is indeed a NEW YORK POST.
I don’t get why 22a: [Equation answer] is ROOT. Which equations have roots for answers? Dictionary says: root is the “value of an unknown quantity satisfying a given equation.” And there you have it. Not a term I knew.
Overall, the fill is quite solid, though not especially zingy. Fairly easy cluing throughout.