Will Johnston’s New York Times crossword
Hey! I rarely dip below the three-minute mark on a Wednesday puzzle, so I’ll call this an easy puzzle. The theme is fairly subtle—the four longest entries begin with words that are synonymous with “overt” or “obvious.” Nice touch to have the long Down answer cross through all three Across theme entries. They are:
- 20a. CLEAR PRIORITY. This is the weak link in the theme, because it doesn’t really feel like a true lexical chunk to me.
- 40a. EXPLICIT CONTENT, that phrase constitutes [Words on a parental advisory label]. Remember when Tipper Gore was big into the labeling-albums-with-swear-words thing?
- 56a. Do you have any PATENT LEATHER shoes? I have a pair of sandals. Shiny!
- 7d. MANIFEST DESTINY is everybody’s favorite [Expansionist doctrine]. Quick, name another expansionist doctrine! “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”
This is puzzle #3 from the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament last weekend. By the way, Jeffrey Schwartz won the top prize there. He makes me laugh more than anyone else on Facebook. Matt Matera (Matt M. in the comments here) and Jan O’Sullivan [Jan (danjan)] were the runners-up. If Jeffrey is unable to fulfill his duties, I believe the tiara then passes to Matt.
Back to the puzzle. Five clues:
- 24a. FWIW = “for what it’s worth,” a [Bit of cyberchat shorthand]. Its cousins are IMHO, BTW, and IIRC.
- 45a. Back in the day, before ISIAH Thomas hit it big in the NBA, ISIAH was probably never, ever in crosswords. Will there ever be a new ISIAH for the clues, or have Thomas’s parents sealed his cruciverbal status forevermore by spelling the name that way?
- 11d. “TAG, YOU’RE IT!” Wait, should that be a semicolon instead of a comma? I say yes. Very few crossword phrases take a semicolon.
- 29d. [Leipzig's state] is SAXONY. Isn’t that a kind of carpeting too? Dictionary says it’s a kind of wool used in coats.
- 30d. HYPERSPACE is a [Four-dimensional realm]. Is this physics or sci-fi? Or both?
- 41d. Who doesn’t enjoy finding a CUTIE PIE in the grid?
Four stars. exciting about the theme, but the interlock is cool and there’s some lively fill.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Five two-word phrases with an I in the middle(ish)—either the end of word 1 or start of word 2—find themselves taking on a second I in the middle(ish). No, wait. One’s a compound word and one’s a three-word phrase. I blame the migraine for being somewhat less than sentient tonight.
- 17a. [Figurine of a belligerent and expansionist tsar?] is a MINI IVAN.
- 19a. [Dispatcher's rush hour maneuver?] is a TAXI INCREASE. You know, I don’t think this happens. Especially when the weather’s inclement.
- 36a. [Theater for watching soda in lifelike detail?] clues PEPSI IMAX. It’s best in 3-D, so the carbonation bubbles look like they’re shooting right for your eyeballs.
- 55a. [Traveling space-gazing org.?] is SETI IN MOTION. Did you hear that the SETI project’s going on hiatus because of a government budget shortfall? I’m not sure this bothers me.
- 61a. [Kitschy, island-themed construction beam?] is a TIKI I-BAR. That…would be weird.
- 26a. [Memphis Grizzlies star forward] RUDY GAY is no one I’ve heard of, but my husband knows of him. I like seeing a first/last name combo in the grid, but it’s best when I actually know the name!
- 5d. DIVX is a [Big name in video ripping]. Wha…? DivX. I have not, as yet, found myself in need of video ripping services. Video darning, sure.
- 15d, 21a. The DITZY JAY-Z collision. Pretty sure that adjective has never been applied to him.
- 29d. “YES, MA’AM” is clued as a [Reply to the boss]. From the Cruciverb database, I see the following past clues for this answer: [Polite response to Mother], [Affirmative for Huckleberry Finn], [Lady-in-waiting’s reply], [Affirmative to a lady], [John Boy's response to Olivia], [Genteel assent]—not a single suggestion of the MA’AM being a boss or military superior. Ben’s [Reply to the boss] is by far my favorite of these clues. In contrast, the YESSIR clues tend toward the military, with a couple “underling” ones and “polite” ones—not a single suggestion of old-fashionedness, royalty, or outdatedness.
- 9d. [Mode of transportation when you're late?] isn’t “oh, crap, I gotta grab a cab,” it’s a HEARSE.
- 65a. This one tricked me. A zodiac-savvy friend cursed George W. Bush for being a “typical Cancer,” and the answer to [George Bush's sign] is indeed 6 letters. However! George H.W. Bush was born on June 12 and is a GEMINI.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “La Revolucion!”
This “La Revolucion” spins both ways—AL turns into LA and LA turns into AL in various theme entries. It’s a tad unfortunate that the AL/LA bigrams show up in various other spots in the grid, unchanged. The theme entries:
- 18a. [Vaseline?] turns love slave into LOVE SALVE. People! If you’re counting on anything latex to work for you, keep the Vaseline away from it.
- 37a. [Pests in a priest's closet?] turn lab rats into ALB RATS, gnawing at the priestly vestments. Baseball fans can probably identify some A.L. BRATS, too.
- 56a. [Sound from a leaking keg?] is a LAGER HISS. Alger Hiss is this guy.
- 3d. [Mollusc about which something isn't quite right?] is an EERIE CLAM. That’s…freaky. Much worse than an eerie calm.
- 33d. [Slogan for a fossil fuel company trying to be different?] is THE UNCOAL. You know what they tell me? That “clean coal” is no Uncoal at all, it’s still filthy stuff.
Minor demerits for ZOLA, VALOR, MALACHI, OCALA, JAI ALAI, ALAS, and ALOES with their staid, revolution-free ALs and LAs.
- 6a. [Number of remaining dodo birds] is an interesting clue for ZERO. British people who think that American crosswords strictly have “definitions” for clues aren’t quite on target, are they?
- 10a. B.S.’ED, past tense of “to bullshit.: [Talked beyond ones expertise, as it were]. Daily newspaper crosswords clue this answer as the teacher’s degree, the B.S.Ed.
- 28a. THE CARS are the ["Just What I Needed" band]. They’ve recorded again, you know? I haven’t heard the new stuff.
- 47a. LOCOWEED isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. [Plant that poisons livestock]? That’s no good!
- 4d. CURAÇAO is the blue [Liqueur in a Blue Sapphire]. Surely I’m not the only American who loves the exoticism of the Portuguese AO letter combo?
- 31d. [Klansman's expectation] clues the lively and unexpected entry RACE WAR. Gonna be hard for white folks to wage a race war when they’re outnumbered by people of color, ain’t it?
- 34d. “Let’s see, I need a famous person named VICK for this clue. Oh! I know! It’s obvious: [Vaporub magnate Joshua].” No objections here.
Three and a half stars.
Vic Fleming’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This haberdashery theme spells out the parts of a DRESS SHIRT, by way of the ends of four theme answers:
- 17a. The SIDE POCKET is [One of a pool table pair].
- 24a. [Illegal football tackle involving grabbing the inside of the shoulder pads from behind or the side] is a long, long clue for a term I’ve never encountered: HORSE COLLAR. Well, I’ve seen the actual horse collar on horses, btu never heard of the horse-collar tackle.
- 36a. [Album holders] are RECORD SLEEVES. Apparently Jack White, ex of the White Stripes, has a record company that sells actual vinyl record albums. I haven’t had a turntable since, oh, the ’80s.
- 48a. LOBSTER TAIL is a [Seafood entrée]. A shirt’s tail isn’t a separate piece of fabric, just the trailing end of the body of the shirt. Shouldn’t it be its own piece?
Five more clues:
- 13d. [Aristocracy] clues the GENTRY. Now, when I see the name Victor Fleming and the word GENTRY, I think of Vic’s frequent constructing partner Bonnie L. Gentry. Bonnie and Vic also co-edit the Random House Casual Crosswords series now.
- 45d. [First family] isn’t ADAMANDEVEANDTHEIRBOYS, it’s the OBAMAS.
- 35d. The clue for TV-MA is [Like "Nip/Tuck," rating-wise]. More current TV-MA series include the pay-cable shows True Blood, The Borgias, Game of Thrones, Weeds, The Big C, Big Love, Entourage, and Camelot. What I’m saying is that there’s a lot to choose from. Now, I thought Nip/Tuck ended two or three years ago, but it turns out it was just March of 2010.
- 32a. A BAYONET is an [M16 attachment]. Ouch!
- 39d. My favorite answer in this puzzle is SHOE TREE. That’s the doodad that’s a [Shape-maintaining insert]. I doubt there is a single shoe tree in my house, but these doodads did make for entertaining clacky toys when I was a kid. (What? Video games didn’t exist yet.)
Lynn Lempel’s CrossSynergy Syndicate Crossword, “And the First Shall be Last” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The puzzle’s title sounds a little ominous, but the crossword itself is actually quite tame. Lempel adds an “A” to the ends of four phrases, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the first (letter of the alphabet) shall be last (in each theme entry):
- 17-Across: ["Whatever Beijing gives, give twice that amount!"?] clues DOUBLE CHINA, the result of adding an “a” to a “double chin.” This theme entry is a bit too awkward. The “add a letter” theme gimmick should result in phrases that are funny or kinda/sorta sensible, as if you could imagine the expression being used. “Double China” does neither, so it gets things off to a rather awkward start. That’s too bad, both because the other theme entries are quite nice and because it’s a waste of “double chin,” a great entry by itself. And then there’s the tortured clue. What is Beijing giving? And to whom? And why must we show them up on this matter?
- 27-Across: The [Everlasting sandwich?] is a BOTTOMLESS PITA. Ding ding ding! Now here’s a winner! A fun entry (playing off “bottomless pit”) with a great clue. I could see a sandwich shop advertising the “bottomless pita” as, say, part of an “all-you-can-eat” campaign. Okay, perhaps that’s just in my dreams, but I can still see it.
- 45-Across: The [Noodles for a square meal?] are (is?) CHECKERED PASTA. I like the clue’s fun with “square meal” here.
- 61-Across: The title of a [Host's party memoir?] could be “ME AND MY GALA.” This play on “Me and My Gal” is great note on which to end. At first I thought this was a variation on a song, but the song’s tile is “For Me and My Gal.” “Me and My Gal” (the one without the “For”-front) is a 1932 film starring Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. I love the description of the movie on imdb.com: “Young New York cop Dan falls in love with waterfront waitress Helen. Helen’s sister Kate falls for gangster Duke. Dan must do in Duke.” That’s it, but c’mon, did you need more?
Just like every other Lynn Lempel puzzle, this grid has wonderfully smooth fill. The long Downs, SWEAT IT OUT and ON THE CHEAP, are terrific, and there’s only two abbreviations in the whole grid (MBA and MRS, at 61-Down and 62-Down, respectively). I like that there’s both DADA, the [Abstract art style], and DODO, the [Birdbrain], in the grid, though it makes me wish DIDI Conn had made an appearance too.