Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Mr. Livengood brings us a puzzle about people who make a living out of being bad, specifically larger-than-life villains. Larger than life they may be, but this puzzle is one column narrower than a typical 15×15 daily. Let’s round up the unusual suspects:
- 8a. [“Star Trek” villain] is KHAN, here spelled with a meager single vowel.
- 15a. [“Batman” villain] is THE JOKER. Romero, Nicholson, Ledger, take your pick.
- 19a. [“Superman” villain] – LEX LUTHOR.
- 36a. Spanning the center is [“The Silence of the Lambs” villain] – HANNIBAL LECTER. Far be it from me to correct his oenological pronunciation.
- 51a. [Harry Potter villain] clues VOLDEMORT. Since I have neither read the books nor seen the movies, I can’t tell you if he’s the potions guy or the SPELLS (48a) guy or someone else altogether.
- 58a. [Sherlock Holmes villain] is the ever-elusive MORIARTY.
- 63a. Last, and tied with 8a for least, is [“The Lion King” villain], SCAR, voiced by Jeremy Irons.
I found the theme a little underwhelming since the villains are a motley crew: two from comic books, one from television, and three from books, although all seven appeared in movies. It would have made the theme a little stronger if all of them were clued as movies, but the lack of quotation marks for Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes undermine that approach.
However, the fill was Monday-smooth with only a few abbrevs. and partials.
- 31d & 48d. SHED and STRIP share the same clue [“Get out of, as clothing”]
- The two non-theme entries at 3d & 28d, THEME SONGS and EXTRA LARGE are welcomed for their length but they’re kind of dry.
Missed opportunity to tie 43d to 19a, as Margot KIDDER was in the 1978 Superman movie. On the other hand, I’m not much a fan of cross-referenced clues (they’re only a notch above Roman numeral arithmetic clues), so I won’t complain.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
So, people congratulated Gareth last week on his NYT crossword debut. He’s been so prolific over the past year and half in other venues, it seems odd to take note of a debut. Congrats on having yet another LAT puzzle published, Gareth! (And congrats to your countryman Charl Schwartzel on his win at the Masters tournament. He’s lucky to have made it so far with so few vowels to his name. He might as well be Czech, honestly.)
The first two theme answers led me astray. Blah-blah PRICE, blah-blah VALUE, oh, this theme has phrases that end with boring synonyms. But no! That’s not it at all. The five theme entries begin with the components Americans include when giving their mailing address:
- 18a. [“I’ll pay whatever you’re asking”] clues “NAME A PRICE.” I think I like “name your price” a little better.
- 30a. [Cost to the customer, as of illicit drugs] clues STREET VALUE. Although I think the term is used more to state the monetary value (if sold on the street) of a drug dealer or smuggler’s stash.
- 36a. [Smooth urbanite] is a CITY SLICKER. Not sure there has ever been a smooth urbanite who was willing to refer to him- or herself as a “city slicker.”
- 44a. [Subject of a highly classified file] is a STATE SECRET. The post office would be happy if you’d use its 2-letter abbreviations for the states.
- 59a. [“Not another word!”] = “ZIP YOUR LIP!” You know the “ZIP+4″ numbers appended to your 5-digit ZIP code? Apparently those are used to route mail to your post office. But if someone mangles your street address, it may well be that the mail carrier will completely disregard the ZIP+4 that codes your multi-unit building and find the letter to be undeliverable. (The things you learn on Facebook.)
- 9a. The ITALO[__-Abyssinian War: 1936 Mussolini triumph] was a war in which Mussolini led the Italians to victory over a wily cadre of short-haired cats.
- 22a. [Holy smoke] isn’t “Holy smoke!”—it’s INCENSE.
- 40a. [Campus VIP] clues BMOC, short for “big man on campus.” How come a female-friendly or gender-neutral version of this term has never emerged?
- 51a. [Mustard’s rank: Abbr.] is COL. in the game of clue. Personally, I find mustard to be quite rank.
- 8d. [Early antiseptic compound] is PHENOL.
- 25d. I like this one. [“Lord knows __!”] I TRY!
- 55d. [Rugby radial] means a radial tyre in Rugby, England, or a TYRE. Wouldn’t you think the people who invented the English language would know how to spell things? Silly Brits!
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Made For Each Other”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Orbach plays Matchmaker to the Stars, pairing famous people according to their surnames:
- 20-Across: [Actress Karen married to singer Barry?] would be BLACK AND WHITE. So much for the coupling of Jack Black and Betty White. Karen Black is the Oscar-nominated actress from Five Easy Pieces, and Barry White is the distinctive bass behind hit like Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Baby. (By the way, the streak is over! We had six straight days where the first theme entry of the CS puzzle was 17-Across. It was a great run while it lasted. Six now joins the pantheon of other legendary sports numbers like 56, 762, and 2,632 and 4,256.)
- 27-Across: [Singer Faith married to actor Jim?] clues HILL AND DALE. Faith Hill is a famous crossover country-pop vocalist, and Jim Dale is the British actor who narrated TV’s Pushing Daisies and the Harry Potter audio books. Their relationship must have its peaks and valleys.
- 48-Across: [Actress Helen married to actor Gregory?] is HUNT AND PECK. Helen Hunt starred in Mad About You before becoming a temporary A-list actor in movies like As Good As It Gets, while Gregory Peck inspired generations of young Americans to attend law school thanks through his portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- 55-Across: [Fictional chocolate lover Veruca married to a sergeant of song?] clues SALT AND PEPPER. Bonus points for the reference to Veruca Salt, the uber-annoying brat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, though I would have been just as happy with a reference to Evelyn Salt, Angelina Jolie’s secret-agent character from the 2010 film, Salt. It’s hard to imagine Sergeant Pepper putting up with Veruca Salt for very long, but I guess that’s what having a lonely heart will do to someone.
Highlights in the grid include the entire northwest corner, with I’M OFF, ODDBALLS, and FAR AWAY. Other good stuff includes TOLD A LIE, IT’S OK, and the [2002 Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson movie], I SPY.
Let’s see if we can pick out the clues that will have some solvers turning to Google (and thus tumbling to this site):
- 10-Across: [Island series] is LOST. I loved the show. And while I may be in the minority, I thought the way the series ended was brilliant.
- 14-Across: [Jason’s sorceress wife] is MEDEA. I watched a performance of the Euripides play about eight or ten years ago, and you only need to see this once to remember Medea forever.
- 33-Across: One may have to be “of a certain age” to get [“The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo” star Claude] AKINS. I am of that certain age.
- 37-Down: The [Gadget guru Popeil] is RON. I think Ron Popeil was the star of the first infomercial I ever saw. I think it was for a food dehydrator.
Anyway, the theme was nicely executed. I’m having a hard time thinking of additional theme entries. The best I can do is [“Believe” diva married to her own impersonator?], which is CHER AND CHER ALIKE. Okay, so that’s no good. What ideas do you have?
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Quickly, because I’m due at the gym soon—
- MY HUMPS, which may be considered an EARWORM. Friend of mine was just asking which is worse: “My Humps” or “Friday.” Both eschew standard grammar, both are inane, both are sadly catchy.
- TABLE-HOP, v. nice.
- TRANS AM! Don’t we all have a special fondness for the cars that were deemed “cool” when we were about 12? (IRON-ONS were all the rage then too. Anyone else ever have a “Seventh graders do it better” t-shirt? Good lord, why was that iron-on available? I had a different idea of what “do it better” meant.)
- HOGWARTS always looks good in the grid.
- Geography—ALGIERS, SLOVENE, ICELAND, CANALED Venice (though CANALED is “meh”), fake DAGOBAH, DEAD SEA.
- CHUN-LI is a choice example of the category “video game stuff I don’t know at all.”
- ARN and ITER!
- Mindless wrong letters. I knew Joe Paterno’s Penn State so I entered…PSA? Not PSU? That made me think there was a STACEY or STACIE Stuart at ESPN. D’oh! My bad.