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Cathy Allis’s New York Times crossword, “Included Herewit”
Congratulations to constructor Cathy Allis on landing the gig as Maura Jacobson’s successor at New York magazine’s crossword constructor!
As the title hints, each t’eme entry changes a word wit’ a TH into a word wit’ just a T sound in it. And often dat word doesn’t just lose an H, it gets spelled a whole not’er way. The title also sounds kinda like legalese, which makes sense because its inspiration is 75d: VINNY of My Cousin Vinny, and he argued a case in court. (He alluded to “the two yout’s” and the judge requested clarification.) Here’s your t’eme:
- 24a. SWEET BIRD OF UTE (Youth). Playing on the Tennessee Williams play.
- 27a. DEBT IN VENICE (Death).
- 55a. BAT ROOM HUMOR (bathroom). I think this references Batman, but I don’t recall any “Bat room.” Didn’t really watch the ’60s TV show.
- 64a. Eww! LIKE PULLING TEAT (teeth) sounds crude without an article.
- 78a. CROSS ONE’S PAT(h).
- 108a. A YOU-AND-ME BOAT (both) sounds like a grand idea. You buying?
- 113a. WELT MANAGEMENT (wealth).
- 4d. BERT CONTROL (birth). The first theme entry I figured out and my favorite.
- 68d. TABLE OR BOOT (booth).
Solid, sometimes entertaining theme.
- 1a. BUBBE! Fun to say this word for a [Jewish grandma].
- 59a. Marisa TOMEI won an Oscar for playing Vinny’s girlfriend, didn’t she? Poor thing, continually cast as the girlfriend or wife of guys like Joe Pesci, George Costanza, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. At least she had Robert Downey Jr. in one movie.
- 94a. Love the word PROLIX, meaning [Wordy].
- 106a. SCROOGES, nice noun.
- 61d. MUESLIX! Not a [Kellogg’s cereal] I’ve ever bought, but a cool-looking word. Cooler than muesli, for sure.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Flip Sides”
Merl flips a word in various old song titles to generate the opposite:
- 22a. [Song about someone who’s easily entertained?] clues I GET A KICK OUT OF ME. (Me instead of You.)
- 38a. [Song about a dachshund?] is LONG SHORT SALLY. (Sub Short for Tall.)
- 57a, 64a. [Theme song for “Divorce Court”?] is YOU’VE MADE ME SO / VERY MISERABLE. Swapping Miserable for, uh, probably Happy. Not a song I’ve heard of.
- 87a. [Song about Salieri’s true feelings toward Mozart?] is I THINK I HATE YOU. Hate for Love. Hey! Is this Partridge Family song the most current song in the whole theme?
- 105a. [Song to swear by?] clues I SAY A LITTLE CURSE. Curse for Prayer. Ha! This one’s my favorite.
- 25d, 50d. [Song about holding one’s liquor?] is MOONSHINE ON / MY SHOULDERS. Moonshine for Sunshine. Wait, this is the most recent song. John Denver, early ’70s.
Are these song titles classic enough for younger solvers to get?
Weird-looking grid. Looks like a crazy game of Tetris is going on with the black squares.
Fairly smooth fill throughout; I didn’t hit any “Wait, what?” patches.
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “A-Pucker-Lips Now” — pannonica’s review
Life to Smoochy!
Despite the title, the theme is an unironic, punless tribute to kissing. I know the BGs appear online six weeks after publication in the newspaper, but I can’t figure out anything from late March or early April that this puzzle could be referencing. So it’s a straight ahead standalone, which is perfectly fine.
- (17a & 28a) [28a. Site of a kiss photographed at the end of 17 Across] Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped his iconic picture in TIMES SQUARE on V-J Day (15 August 1945), which marked the end of WORLD WAR II.
- 23a. OSCULATION is a fancy, Latinate word for the [Act of kissing].
- 58a. [Something to kiss under] is a MISTLETOE, especially around Christmastime.
- 69a. [“Kiss me, Kate” speaker] is PETRUCHIO. see shrews, taming of.
- (101a & 14d) [Participant in TV’s first interracial kiss] and [Partner of 14 Down] are LIEUTENANT UHURA and CAPTAIN KIRK. Star Trek, Episode no. 65, airdate 22 November 1968.
- 42d. THE BLARNEY STONE is [An oft-kissed landmark].
- (37d & 66d) […”A kiss is just a kiss” song] is “AS TIME · GOES BY,” so memorable in Casablanca.
- (111a & 115a) Together, these answers are a […kiss reference in a song]. “LIPSTICK ON · YOUR COLLAR” was a hit for Connie Francis in 1959. No, I’m not going to look up the single’s release date.
So there you have it. There’s no need to question or second-guess the constructor’s theme entries, as I am apparently wont to do, because the theme is straightforward and flexible enough to include anything, so long has it has something to do with kissing. In this sense, it could have been littered with references throughout the grid and clues, the way the New York Times’ monthly bonus puzzles are constructed. However, the quantity of theme content is sufficient, if a bit on the meager side for a 21×21. Bonus points for having stacked and intersecting themers.
Average CAP Quotient™ but the partial IS THAT A [“__ fact?”] rubbed me the wrong way and I don’t care for the variant spelling of TIKE (39a). Also, and this isn’t (77a) HH’S ((108d) ‘ENRY) fault, it seems that you can’t swing a [plush] cat in a puzzle these days without bumping into IRA Glass; Flatow and Gershwin are receding rapidly. I guess the financial acronym is still going strong, but then everyone’s preoccupied with the economy.
Where was I? How about the good stuff? 38d CAPULET intersecting 69a PETRUCHIO for a little Shakespearean flair. 44d & 55d, symmetrical entries, seem somehow connected: RATTLE and POPCORN. PET NAMES (81a) is a kissing cousin to the theme. Interesting to see some offbeat words like FISTIC, ASCRIBE, CANOPUS and RIM ROCK.
New for me:
- 41a [Issues a pledge]. TROTH. Comes from the same root as truth.
- 36d [Former Labor Secretary Elaine] CHAO.
- 79a. RÉAUMUR is the [Temperature scale on which water boils at 80€]. Perhaps it’s an idiosyncrasy of my version of AcrossLite, but it seems the clue should have had a º instead of the sign for the Euro.
- 86a. [Playwright Molnar]. FERENC.
- 107d. [Blue dye] is WOAD, which seems like old-school crosswordese. AZO is a lot more common, at least according to XWord Info.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Just the other day, I heard a tongue, shriller than all the music, cry “Sam!” “Speak up, dawg,” I said, “I’m listening.” “Beware the Ides of May,” said this, like, totally random guy. “Whatever, dude,” I said before leaving. And now I know to what he was referring, as this Klahn challenge offered a stiff challenge. At least it did for me.
This 70/27 freestyle puzzle lures the solver with its elegant arrangement of black squares and triple-stacked 11-letter answers. But once inside, the solver has to fight like mad to get through the grid. As one would expect, there’s an abundance of wonderfully vexing clues. Here were my favorites, in no particular order:
- I love how [Copyright concern], the clue for USE, appears atop [Health concern], the clue for SPA. I initially read “concern” as meaning the same thing in both clues. It wasn’t until after entering SPA into the grid that I realized the “concern” there meant “business establishment.”
- [Make stew] clues RILE. Yes, I thought the clue suggested something like “slow-cook” or “marinate.”
- [Switch-hit?] is a terrific clue for CANED. (One who is caned is hit with a switch.)
- Did you notice the three consecutive Across clues containing “jump?” There’s [Johnny-jump-up, e.g.] for PANSY, [Made jump] for STARTLED, and the terrific [Jumper cable] for a BUNGEE cord.
- I always hate to admit this when it happens, but there’s a clue I still don’t get. Hopefully someone can explain why [You can put up with it] clues JAR. And while you’re at it, why is DOG RACES the answer to [Artificial hare fare]? (I know that the greyhounds chase an artificial rabbit around the track, but wouldn’t the rabbit be the “fare” (thing to eat) for the dogs? To me, the clue is asking for the “fare” consumed (or paid, I suppose) by the “artificial hare.” And “dog races” as the answer to that query doesn’t feel right. So what am I missing here–besides a few screws in my head?
- [Rooting section?] is a great clue for SCALP. (Hairs take root in the scalp.)
- [Pay a poker debt, perhaps] is an evocative clue for STRIP.
- [Blazer blaze] is a clever (nee fiendish) clue for a CAR FIRE. Even more fiendish is [Take plaice] for FISH (a plaice is a flatfish, so to take plaice would be to fish). Yes, “plaice” is pronouned just like “place.”
Normally, Klahn puzzles stand out more for their clues than for their fill, but this one has terrific stacks. PAPER PUSHER atop ITALIAN HERO atop CAT FANCIERS in the northwest corner is great, but it’s not nearly as wonderful as the southeast stack of I’M LISTENING, SPIN CONTROL, and HANG IN THERE. In the “I didn’t know that” department, there’s PICAROS, the [Roving rogues], and SHINNED as a verb meaning [Climbed straight up, perhaps].
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 58”
I don’t know if this puzzle’s actually a good bit tougher than the Post Puzzler usually is, or if I was merely too sleepy to be doing a crossword. I do know that after I finished the puzzle last night, I was far too tired to blog it.
Anyway! Lots of pop culture in this one:
- 16a. Old pop culture: “MARIE” was a [#1 hit for Tommy Dorsey].
- 19a. Localized pop culture: [“Today ___” (California morning show)] clues IN L.A.
- 31a. Oliver PLATT, [Co-star of “The Big C”] series on Showtime.
- 34a. ROZ is the [“Monsters, Inc.” character] whose voice I can imitate best. It’s frightening. The tragic part is that she is voiced by a man.
- 55a. A MOVIEGOER is [Someone who might see action?]. I saw Thor last night. There was indeed action.
- 59a. [“Sesame Street” collection] clues the EMMYS the show has won.
- 2d. The partial entry AS ONE is clued as [Last words of “Imagine”].
- 3d. Technically Yiddish and not pop culture, but this word is perhaps most widely known as part of the Laverne and Shirley theme song. [Chronically unlucky sorts] are SCHLIMAZELS.
- 5d. [Setting for “The Good Wife”] is both LAW and CBS.
- 12d. [Yo La Tengo guitarist Kaplan] is named IRA.
- 21d. Second crossword appearance this week for [“Blue Bloods” actor Will] ESTES. Who? What? Not really a notable actor. Blue Bloods is that show with Tom Selleck as an old cop who has some kids (including Estes’ character) who are also cops. This Estes fellow should get really famous because crosswords need a truly big name in the ESTES department.
- 26d. [The Weasleys’ owl, in Harry Potter books] is ERROL.
- 45d. [Co-star of Patrick and Gates] clues LEVAR Burton, from one of those Star Trek spinoffs. The Gates in question is actress Gates McFadden (I swear I’ve never seen that name before), who played Dr. Beverly Crusher.
- 49d. [Oscar-winning role after Capote] is Idi AMIN. Philip Seymour Hoffman followed the next year by Forest Whitaker.
- 50d. U2’s BONO is [Co-lyricist of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”]. Is there anyone who thinks the retooled show is going to be a success?
See? Trip Payne, he loves the pop culture.
The highlights are mainly in the zippy clues, though the fill is certainly good too:
- 15a. [Rice used to be in it] means the U.S. CABINET. Condoleezza Rice, not Jerry Rice. Trip is not so much into the sports. But editor Peter Gordon is, so I figured this clue was about Jerry Rice at first.
- 17a. [Diamond-topped thing] is the MOHS SCALE of mineral hardness. (See also 14d: GEM, [A loupe might be used on it].)
- 20a. [Pair of boxers, e.g.] are pugilistic HITTERS, not dogs or underwear. See also 29a: PET STORE, [Where you might find a pair of boxers], still not underwear. (And also 52d: SHE, [One term for Senator Boxer?].)
- 33a. [A+, perhaps] would indeed be a rating of FIVE STARS here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend.
- 1d. My mother-in-law made chicken adobo last weekend, so I was all ready for [Adobo ingredient]. Wait, 5 letters? Not GARLIC or VINEGAR? It’s CUMIN. The VINEGAR showed up later at 41d: [Sauerbraten marinade ingredient].
- 53d. [Dunkin’ Duncan] is a fun clue for basketball player TIM.
- 39d. LINNETS were [Popular Victorian pets]. These are birds, finches in particular.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Sale!”
This is Don and C.C.’s third LA Times collaboration and first Sunday puzzle together, I think. The theme is a cute (or maybe depressing, given how many vacant storefronts I see around town) progression from a decent sale offer to business failure:
- 23a. BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE is [Week 1]’s offer.
- 39a. Next week, INVENTORY REDUCTION.
- 57a. Week 3, DEEP DISCOUNTS.
- 67a. HUGE SAVINGS. You know, when my local Borders store closed, I don’t know that they ever made it down to 50% off. When they were at 40% for books, I checked the puzzle section and found it depleted to just a single word-search book. On the plus side, my local indie bookstore survived the arrival of both Barnes & Noble and Borders within 6 blocks, and it outlasted them both.
- 82a. BLOWOUT PRICES.
- 97a. STORE-WIDE CLEARANCE.
- 115a. EVERYTHING MUST GO. Now, a “going out for business” sale is entirely different from a “going out of business” sale. The former is just a misleading yet not technically deceitful way to get people into the store.
- 129a. [Week 8], the store is CLOSED.
- 61a. “I HEAR YA!” [“Understood”].
- 79a. [Yacht feature?] is the SILENT C in the word.
- 92a. Good clue for SATIRES: [“Li’l Abner” and “Doonesbury,” e.g.].
- 16d. EXCALIBUR is a [Legendary sword] and a cheesy ’80s movie.
- 25d. EASY OUT is clued as a [Routine grounder, say] but it’s got non-baseball meaning too, right? Short form of “easy way out”? Yes? No?
- 81d. L.A. DODGERS is a good entry, though the clue didn’t help me one whit: [Six-time World Series-winning MLB franchise].
- 84d. TAGALOG is a [Manila tongue], one of many Filipino languages. My favorite Tagalog word is bastos.
I’ll go with a 4-star rating, until I start thinking about those vacant storefronts and get depressed and take half off.