Dana Delany and Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “That’s Disgusting!”
A few months back, Deb Amlen asked actress Dana Delany to guest-blog a puzzle over at Wordplay, and she did so with just the right amount of wit and snark. This led constructor Matt Ginsberg to invite Dana to make a crossword with him, and this puzzle is the result. (Back in January 2008, actor Scott Foley paired up with constructor David Kwong to make a crossword cleverly tied to his TV series’ title, THE UNIT. What star will co-construct in 2014?)
The theme adds an “Ick!” sound (spelled -IC) to the end of a word in each theme answer. A gale warning becomes GAELIC WARNING (but what on earth is 6d: “EEW“? I think “eww” and “ew” are more standard (though no version of this word makes it into the Scrabble dictionary, which is a damn shame because they’d be useful). Then there’s a CLASS(IC) ACTION SUIT and RUST(IC) BUCKET. King Lear turns into KING LYRIC, though ["I feel the earth move under my feet," e.g.?] doesn’t ring a bell. Googling…Carole King. I only know her songs that were coopted by James Taylor. Fine-tune becomes FINE TUNIC, original sin cleverly becomes Antisthenes, the ORIGINAL CYNIC, the Today show has a TOP(IC) OF THE MORNING, and the phrase greatly missed (meh) turns into GREATLY MYSTIC. In the Down direction, there’s THE ISLE OF MAN(IC) and a CARPENTER ANT(IC), my favorite.
The surrounding fill and clues are pretty smooth, and I like that the entries that frame the edges of the puzzle are mostly 6 or more letters long. Never heard of REAL ALE, 2d: [Beer served without artificial carbonation].
Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Lost in Translation”
Lost in Translation is a movie title. Movie ads often include overly brief excerpts of critics’ comments, relying heavily on the use of ellipses. Merl riffs on those movie-studio “translations” of critical remarks that may lose the true intent, to good effect:
- 23a. ["Colossal … !"] WASTE OF TALENT.
- 35a, 45a. ["Extraordinary … !"] ACTUALLY, THAT / SHOULD BE TWO WORDS.
- 58a. ["This is the one … !"] TO MISS.
- 61a. ["It's on my A-list … !"] AS IN AWFUL.
- 71a, 87a. ["Four stars … !"] UNFORTUNATELY, NO / ACTORS.
- 97a, 124a. ["Fascinating … !"] FOR ABOUT TWO OF ITS / NINETY MINUTES.
- 108a. ["I smell Oscar … !"] MAYER BALONEY.
Funny stuff. You play that game when you see elliptical blurbs in movie ads, right? Try to fill in the missing words that would make the critic’s blurb a pan?
Henry Hook’s Boston Globe crossword, “Harsh Notes” — pannonica’s review
Unusual layout for the theme. Parts one and two of a long quote run across the upper grid, part three down from the top of the right side, parts four and five along the bottom. The source of the quote appears down the left side.
17a, 21a, 13d, 106a, 111a:
“I AM TERRIFIED AT | THE THOUGHT THAT SO | MUCH HIDEOUS AND BAD | MUSIC WILL BE PUT ON | RECORD FOREVER.”
SIR ARTHUR SULLIVAN. Better known as one half of Gilbert & Sullivan. He died in 1900, so he issued this decidedly pessimistic and of course prescient thought at the dawn of the age of recorded music. WS Gilbert, the lyricist in the partnership, might have more appeal to the word-loving crowd, but it makes sense that Sullivan would be the one to fret over the future of music.
To augment the quote, five songs (each clued with its recording date) whose titles evoke not-niceness turn up:
- 38a. [Donna Summer, 1979] BAD GIRLS.
- 50a. [Linda Ronstadt, 1975] YOU’RE NO GOOD. I prefer Terry Riley’s epic 1967 live remix of a different song with the same title (an R&B record). It may seem unpleasant for a while, but it rewards patience.
- 65a. [Janet Jackson, 1986] NASTY.
- 75a. [Elvis Presley, 1956] DON’T BE CRUEL.
- 84a. [Santana, 1970] EVIL WAYS.
Goodly amount of theme content. Of 359 white squares, 137 are themic: about 38 percent. There are 82 black squares in the grid, 12 of them “cheaters.” I don’t know if those numbers are typical for a 21×21 puzzle. The 7-square blocks that look like offset ells distracted me, but despite their size they don’t seem to impede flow or isolate sections of the grid. Surprisingly for a crossword of these dimensions, the fill is the opposite of Scrabbly, with zero Js, Qs, Xs, and Zs. Overall, the ballast fill is, in a word, unremarkable.
Non-theme music-related answers: 31a [Vega's constellation] LYRA; 49a [ __-la-la] TRA; 56a [David Allan of country music fame] COE; 71a [Jazz pianist Art] TATUM; 9d ["The Merry Widow" composer] Franz LEHÁR; 39d [Emperor Jones portrayer] Paul ROBESON; 59d [Fugue portions] STRETTI; 60d [Strauss inspiration] DANUBE; 71d [Sondheim octet] TONYS. Not bonus material, simply par for the course in crosswordy cross-section. 51d, NOISOME, centered vertically, looks sound-related, but it means [Nauseating].
Two spots gave me trouble while solving. For 19d [Consumer protection org.] I had BBB (Better Business Bureau) instead of FTC (Federal Trade Commission]. The error was reinforced because 26a [Climber's challenges] seemed entirely plausible, with the G in place, as BERGS; turned out to be CRAGS. The other was a mystery proper-name crossing at 34a & 34d: PTAH & PATON, [Chief god of Memphis] & ["Cry, the Beloved Country" author]. Took at least a full minute to get that correct.
- 57a. [They take stock] RUSTLERS.
- 60a. [Partook of the groaning board] DINED. “Groaning board,” how bounteously vivid.
- 1d. ["Think nothing of it" sayer?] NIHILIST.
- 2d. [Guidebook] BAEDEKER.
- 47d. [Off, to Burns] AGLEY. It’s love/hate for me with Scottish fill. “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men. Gang aft agley.”
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” — Sam Donaldson’s review
On the advice of counsel, I will not post my solving time on the grounds that it may incriminate me. Holy cow, what a workout! How many times can one circle a grid looking for some toe-holds before giving up in exasperation? This was one of those situations where setting the puzzle aside for a couple of hours definitely helped. After my first run-through, I had only SCIENCE ([Sweet ___ (boxing, to some)], the crossing ACE ([One in the hand?]) and MICE ([They could squeak by]), and IRAN (["-gate" opener of the '80s]), along with a couple of Ss in spots where the clue asked for a plural answer. And that was it. The timer kept clicking, surprisingly fast, and I was coming up empty. So I stopped the timer and went away from the puzzle for a while. A long while.
There’s nothing quite like the pressure of having to blog about a puzzle to bring you back to it. Not like anyone would care if I posted a “DNF” once in a while, but what little pride I have left forced me to hunker down and crack this thing open. The northwest was just impossible to penetrate. I decided to plunk down a guess to [Lay eyes on] as SEE and, well, “see” what happened. Not much, it turned out. So I tried another guess—this time trying MAILS for [Posts]. Two lucky guesses in a row led to ON A LINE for [Hung out to dry] and, eventually, BAHAMAS for the [British colony until 1973]. I’m embarrassed that I couldn’t remember that on my own, but sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all of the geopolitical changes.
The rest of the northwest finally fell quickly thereafter. I didn’t know that HEART LIGHT was a [1982 Neil Diamond hit inspired by "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"], and it makes a nice pairing with ALL THAT JAZZ. I didn’t know that was a ["Chicago" song]—I associated it with Bob Fosse instead. Broadway and geopolitics make strange bedfellows, but there you go. My favorite clue in that section was [Rice of New Orleans] for vampire author ANNE. Sure enough, I fell into the trap of wondering why neither “dirty” nor “Cajun” fit.
Though my first toe-hold came in the northeast, I couldn’t get it knocked down until after the northwest was complete. I knew that the ["Popeye" cartoonist] was Elzie Segar (thanks to a crossword of my own that used ELZIE), but with only two squares before what had to be the S in SEGAR, I wondered whether I was supposed to write “LZ.” But a word starting with Z felt wrong for [Lecture follower?] (shouldn’t the answer to that be NAP?), so that couldn’t be right. Only after trying my luck with STEW as the [Bad nickname for a rabbit?] did I back my way into figuring out that Klahn wanted E.C. SEGAR as the cartoonist (and CIRCUIT as the clever answer to the lecture clue).
A big mystery sat at the bottom of the southwest corner. It took every single crossing to get ANANIAS as the answer to [He lied, then died]. This looks more like a misspelling of the poet Nin’s first name. But it’s the correct spelling of a Biblical figure. Says Wikipedia, “Ananias and (his wife) Sapphira … sold their land, but withheld a portion of the sales, having decided that they did not wish to give it all to the common purse. Ananias presented his donation to Peter claiming that it was the entire amount. Peter replied, “Why is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” Peter pointed out that Ananias was in control of the money and could give or keep it as he saw fit, but that he had withheld it from Peter and lied about it, and stated that Ananias had not only lied to Peter, but also to God. Ananias died on the spot, and as a result, everyone who heard the tale became afraid. Three hours later, his wife told the same lie and suffered the same fate.” So much for sticking with the story.
Finally I got to the southeast. I got lucky with CAT BURGLAR as the answer to [Grant's Robie in "To Catch a Thief," for one], and that helped feed several crossings. But the one that stumped me for the longest time was the CAT BURGLAR’s neighbor, FANFARONADE, a word that looks like a mash-up of FANFARE and PARADE but which is actually synonymous with [Braggadocio], as verified by my dictionary.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Secret Stash”
There’s nothing stashed secretly inside these theme entries. Rather, the original phrases’ “ST” is represented AS “H,” hence the “Stash” in the title.
- 24a. [Jack Benny in his patented pose?] = HAND-UP COMIC.
- 26a. [One military stint after another?] = CHAIN HITCH. I guess chain stitch is an embroidery term.
- 37a. [Causes serious damage at sea?] = HACKS THE DECK.
- 61a. [Getting flattened by a gridiron lineman?] = HUMBLING BLOCK.
- 75a. [Hollywood hopeful's pursuit?] = PUBLICITY HUNT.
- 97a. [Cad on his best behavior?] = TEMPERED HEEL.
- 111a. [Coven gatherings?] = HAG PARTIES.
- 117a. [Give a ride to roadside yokels?] = PICK UP HICKS.
- 14d. [One going from theater to theater?] = SHOW HOPPER. Cute.
- 73d. [Pawnbroker's niche?] = HOCK MARKET.
The theme rationale seems weird, but the results are decent and that’s the main thing. You want a theme that’s consistent (this is; no lurking ST units that aren’t changed), with clues that work (these do, with a degree of challenge but nothing too difficult), and answers that are a bit entertaining or evocative.
Highlights in the fill include the longer answers BALTIC SEA, ALFA ROMEO, TRUE STORY, RAIN DANCE, EYE CANDY, and GO FIGURE. I also like UPHOLSTER and just got curious about the word’s root meaning. It’s a back-formation from upholsterer, which dates back to the early 1600s and came from an obsolete noun upholster, relating to the word uphold in the obsolete sense “keep in repair.” I’m now thinking that bras could be considered a form of upholstery.
Two clues I needed all the crossings for:
- 5a. [Carlisle's wife in "Twilight"] is ESME. Never read/seen anything in the “saga”/series.
- 34a. ["Crispin: The Cross of Lead" Newbery Medal-winning author] clues the pen name AVI. Never heard of him, probably because the bulk of his YA fiction was published after I’d moved on to mostly adult fiction.
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 74″
Ooh, I think this just became my favorite themeless of the weekend’s quintet. It’s not filled with sparkly, Scrabbly stuff that we’ll all remember, no, but the fill is smooth in a Berryesque way (the closest thing to a clunker is 7d: COLEAD, [Be in a tie for first place]) and the clues were eminently enjoyable.
First up, my top
10 14 clues:
- 1a. [What must be up to come down?] are airplane SEAT BACKS.
- 10a. [Punch ingredients?] are FISTS.
- 17a. The clue [Page for masters of deduction?] might make you think of philosophers and detectives, but it’s accountants and the IRS’s SCHEDULE A. (More philosophically, right below this answer is KOAN, a [Riddle from a master].)
- 42a. [Canon fodder] is Canon-brand printer TONER. No ballistic cannons here.
- 52a. [House work] is a LAW pass ed by the House of Representatives.
- 59a. [It's between Venere and Marte] clues TERRA, Italian for Earth. The clue lists Venus and Mars’ Italian names.
- 62a. MATHLETES are [Figure heads?]. Mathletes! One of my favorite answers here. I bet a lot of you were Mathletes in high school, too.
- 1d. [Eponym of the film center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago] is Gene SISKEL. Chicago gets another clue: 49d: [Last stop on the CTA's Blue Line] is O’HARE.
- 2d. [Number that's added] isn’t about accounting (see SCHEDULE A) or math (see MATHLETES). It’s the ENCORE, a song that’s added at the end of a concert.
- 5d. [You make it after you use it] clues BED. Well, some people make the bed routinely.
- 9d. [Where the buoys are] is at SEA LEVEL. Unless you back them in your luggage and take them on a flight, or climb a mountain with them.
- 36d. To [Follow doctors' orders?] in accordance with the Hippocratic oath is to first DO NO HARM.
- 39d. [Ruler markings?] are a queen or king’s REGALIA.
- 46d. [Title high schooler surnamed White] is Stephen King’s CARRIE.
- 51d. This clue just sounds great spoken. [Like kappa or Capricorn] clues TENTH, the tenth letter in the Greek alphabet and the tenth sign of the zodiac.
- 55a. [10% of a quarter of a quarter of a quarter section] is an ACRE. According to the dictionary, a quarter section is a quarter of a square mile, or 160 acres. The rest is math.
4.5 stars for the abundance of tricky and interesting clues in this 68-worder.