I know many of you love to do acrostics. If you’re always on the lookout for more acrostics, check out Cynthia Morris’s American Acrostics site. The puzzles are all thematic—American history—and a new acrostic is posted every Friday. Enjoy!
Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Let’s call this puzzle “Utopia”: Four theme entries end with related words. Like so:
- 18a. The Kerouac character SAL PARADISE.
- 27a. The song “MY BLUE HEAVEN.” Can’t say I know it.
- 42a. The [Highest peak in the Northwest Territories], a mountain I’ve never heard of called MOUNT NIRVANA. Shouldn’t that be relocated to Seattle?
- 54a. I had the last six letters and thought to myself, “How on earth can soap opera actor ERIC BRAEDEN be considered a star of I Dream of Jeannie?” D’oh! BARBARA EDEN, of course.
Solid theme. Fictional character, song title, place name, real person—Barry mixes it up nicely.
- 3d and 9d are JAMES BOND and BURL IVES, together as you’ve never seen them before! 36d: PLUTARCH can scarcely keep up with those two.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Generally Speaking”
Matt took note of President Obama’s appointee to the position of attorney general and could not help seeing that the last name “Holder” doubles as a cryptic-crossword tag. The six longest Across answers are all ERIC HOLDERs in that they “hold” the letters ERIC in their midst:
- 17a. [Hairstyles seen in "Pulp Fiction" and "Coming to America"] are JHERI CURLS. Enjoy this account of the history of the Jheri curl.
- 21a. CLERICS are [Healers in role-playing games, often]. Boy, I needed a handful of crossings to get this, never having played an RPG.
- 29a. [They may reference Nantucket] clues DIRTY LIMERICKS. There are clean limericks too—but why?
- 38a. [Peoria resident, it's said] is an AVERAGE AMERICAN.
- 46a. [Dirk Nowitzki, for one] is a DALLAS MAVERICK.
- 54a. JERICHO is or was a [Post-apocalyptic CBS series], and I may or may not have ever seen some episodes in the first season.
- 61a. ERIC HOLDER is the [Attorney General, or what each of six Across answers in this grid literally is].
I (sloppily) count 73 theme squares, which is a lot. The fill didn’t feel clunky while I was solving. Well, okay, a few weird things were included:
- 7d. [Airport serving Iguacu Falls, for short (in VINAIGRETTE)] = IGR. The Merl Reaglesque addition of a container clue keeps IGR from being a sticking point, and gives a little nudge toward the container clue aspect of the theme.
- 22d. [Relocated to the U.S., on many family trees: abbr.] = EMIGR. Don’t think I’ve seen this abbrev in a puzzle before.
- 35a. [Phineas ___ (lead role on the 1980s sci-fi series "Voyagers!")] = BOGG. Who? What?
- 49d. [___ Island (Puget Sound locale)] = VASHON. Where? What? (Semi-duplication of clue word: 66a: ISLE.)
A few more clues:
- 9d. “HE’S LARGE” is apparently a [Song in "Popeye"]. I do not know this song. Never saw the Robin Williams movie. Gee, how come no movie studio has tried to relaunch the Popeye franchise?
- 32d. [Get the music started] clues KICK IT. I thought that was “hit it.” “Kicking it” means chillaxing, jut hanging out.
- 40d. A GEARHEAD is a [Car lover, slangily]. Best non-theme entry in the puzzle.
Jerome Gunderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review
This puzzle is under the power of a 37a: [Light controller...] – that’s an ON/OFF SWITCH, and the beginning of each theme entry each can be preceded by either ON or OFF – that’s twice what we usually get from these themes. Let’s surge through the theme entries:
- 17a. [Where sea meets sand] - SHORELINE. ONSHORE / OFFSHORE – you get the idea.
- 25a. [Behind-the-scenes worker] - STAGEHAND. I feel like this word downplays the importance of the role in making a production come together. I guess you can only have one property master or mistress, though.
- 51a. [Distract] - SIDETRACK. Wait – where was I?
- 61a. [Sentry's job] – GUARD DUTY. This one’s two words, while the rest are one – a minor deduction from the technical score.
I was off to a slow start on this puzzle – two mistakes right away. I should know that the famous Harte for crosswords is BRET, but I always think of MICK Harte, title character of a children’s book from the ’90s. Can we have more Bret Michaels clues? I also threw in EGGO for the [Syrup brand], but it was KARO, which I actually prefer. 0 for 2 after two clues – this was not good. What happened to Tuesday being on the easier side, Jerome? Still, the wrong O in EGGO helped me to break in, and eventually I corrected both errors. I’ll do better on Thursday, I swear.
Okay, Jerome, I found your mini-theme, too – and don’t try to claim that this was a mere coincidence!
- 3d. [Titillating] – EROTIC
- 48d. [Stimulate] – AROUSE
- 57a. [Place for a cup] – BRA (cutely juxtaposed with the [Place for a pint], or BAR, next door)
- 58a. [Anatomical ring] – AREOLA
As the guy who snuck MONEY SHOT into an LAT puzzle last year, I’m duly impressed. But does this pass the breakfast test for the rest of you?
Did you know ALI BABA was a woodcutter? I didn’t! I thought he was a thief, sultan, prince, snake charmer, and/or sesame seed salesman. Excuse me while I go read up on my medieval Arabic literature – see you Thursday!
Updated Tuesday morning:
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Coarse Study”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Jordan goes blue with today’s offering, one featuring four two-word expressions that start with something uncouth:
- 21-Across: [Pre-deduction revenue] is GROSS INCOME. Devoted Diary readers know that I teach tax law in my other life, so I’m always up (or perhaps down, as the kids would say today) for a theme entry that contains a tax reference. When I teach gross income in the first week of the class, I always make a joke along the lines of “Gross income is the income you make from pole dancing, selling drugs, and cleaning restrooms.” Sensing it is a harbinger of jokes to come, that line usually gets three or four students to drop the course.
- 33-Across: [“Texas tea”] is not BLACK GOLD, it’s CRUDE OIL. Watching The Beverly Hillbillies as a kid, I was under the impression for a long time that crude oil always bubbled. I also thought one discovered oil simply by shooting a rifle into the ground in an errant attempt to shoot some food. Ah, youth.
- 41-Across: [It usually counts as a strike] clues a FOUL BALL. Of course, a foul ball in baseball is only a strike if the batter has less than two strikes. A foul ball is not a third strike. I wonder if “three strikes” laws for felons have a class of kinda-sorta felonies that are less severe and thus count as “foul felonies.” If your third strike is murder or sexual assault or child abuse, then it should definitely count. But if the third felony is something like perjury where there is no victim, maybe it could be a “foul felony.” And now you see why I stick to tax law.
- 55-Across: The [Informal speech of ancient Rome] is VULGAR LATIN. I’ll confess that I had not heard of this expression before solving this puzzle. Vulgar English I know (and use nearly daily), but Vulgar Latin? Never would have guessed. Some quick research indicates that it was the spoken Latin, while classical Latin was limited to writing.
There’s an interesting mix of the 1950s and the 21st Century in this grid (a pangram, for those that care). I would hardly say that a puzzle from the 1950s is OLDEN ([Of a bygone time]), but one coming to 2011 from a 1959 time machine could sail through a good chunk of this puzzle. You have the TELEX, [Western Union’s 1958 innovation], IKE, the [Moniker of Mamie’s mate], and SINEX, the [Nasal spray brand] that debuted in 1959. But then you also have CARS, the [2006 Best Animated Feature nominee], JASON [Alexander of “Seinfeld”], and [Pugilist Laila] ALI, not to mention ICE, the [Slurpee substance]. (Are slurpees all that modern? I’m thinking not.) The generational mix in this puzzle is quite pronounced, it seems to me.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t chime in about FORSWORE ([Sincerely renounced]) and STINTED ([Was frugal]). Fuh-uh-ugly. Hardly “in the language” stuff, even though obviously they are legitimate words. We must stint on the number of occasions to use such terms, and forswear them when they appear too often or in such close proximity within one grid. To be fair, there’s some cool fill in this grid too, like CUTS IT, SAVORY, CADIZ, and even the whole BAY AREA.