Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword
Hey, Susan Gelfand! That 1986 Games magazine I was just mentioning yesterday, the one that had an Andrea Carla Michaels quiz in it? It also had a crossword by Susan, “Body Shop.” The Across theme entries were HANDICRAFT, HEADLINE, NECKTIES, and ARMADILLOS. Interestingly, the two longest Downs are DATE PALM and TAILBACK, with more bodily echoes.
Susan’s NYT puzzle today has a DOUBLE TIME theme in which four two-word phrases consist of words that can both precede time. The first one is TRAVEL CARD, which is not a term I have encountered so I’m surprised to find it anchoring a Tuesday puzzle. Here in Chicago (where school starts Tuesday! and not a moment too soon), we call ‘em “transit cards.” (Time travel, timecard.) There’s also TRIAL PERIOD (time trial, time period), the zippy ZONE OUT (time zone, timeout), and SLOT MACHINE (time slot, time machine). Did you ever notice that about SLOT MACHINE? That’s a great wordplay find.
Other Tuesday surprises:
- 22d. A JABOT is [Frilly neckwear], a lacy frou-frou descending from the collar. Some judges sport jabots. They look itchy to me. (SCARF is merely a [Neck cover], frilliness optional.)
- 45a. -INE gets clued as [Suffix with brigand]. Whoa. A brigand is essentially a pirate of the woods and mountains, while brigandine means a coat of mail. Seems awfully arcane-vocabulary-quizzish for a puzzle early in the week.
- 54a. DAHS, or dashes in Morse code, are [Counterparts of dits], or dots. I’m still waiting for the Morse code people to explain to me why they monkeyed with the vowel sounds in both words and lopped the final consonant sound in one.
- 25d. [Nixon aide Maurice] STANS hasn’t really been in the public eye since the ’70s, has he?
Highlights: Scrabbly DOOZY SAXON OZZIE COAX, KANYE West, M.Y.O.B., a UKULELE, EL GRECO from CRETE, and EAGER crossing ARDENT with the same [Raring to go] clue.
Peter Koetters’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
We’ve got a [Girlish hairstyle] all over this grid. Five entries start with PIGTAILS – that is, words that can follow the word pig. Oink oink!
- 3d. [*Quaint means of communication?] is PEN AND PAPER, but I’m not sure why that’s considered quaint or why it gets a question mark. And maybe that’s reason enough right there – that it’s not exactly right. Kids these days with their texting and the Twitter.
- 5d. [*Was in charge of] is HEADED UP
- 18a. [*Typical Valentino roles] and classics professors are LATIN LOVERS
- 26d. [*To whom "Howdy, stranger" is often said] – an OUT-OF-TOWNER. The next time you’re visiting a new town, count the number of times someone says “Howdy, stranger.” Even if you’re in Texas, it’s going to be an awfully small number – I hardly think people say this and mean it. Most of the time I’ve heard it, it’s sarcastic and used when you haven’t seen someone in some time.
- 59a. [*Cold War symbol] is clearly the IRON CURTAIN
Despite my issues with two of the theme clues, the answers themselves as well as the theme content sat well with me.
There were a few treats in the fill – NO NEED was underneath ICE(D) TEA, which I do think needs the D. PEEWEE is a cute ANSWER, and STOP OFF and NAGS AT aren’t bad, and HUB CAPS runs through them. There are a couple of issues I have, though:
- 39a. [Cheesecake on a wall] is a great clue that gives an image of a food fight before cluing you into PIN-UP. But there’s the issue – we’ve got UP in two crossing entries, one of which is a theme entry. I’m not a fan of this duplication.
- 26a. [Western treaty gp.] is the Organization of American States, but I’m tired of seeing abbreviations in crosswords that I literally never see outside of the puzzle. Do you ever see this outside of the puzzle? BBC and NRA aren’t issues because, even if they appear a lot, we know what they stand for and see them in the real world.
I wonder if the ANT at 6d. feels inferior so close to the COOL ANT at 9d. Overall, a fun puzzle – 3.9 stars.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Coming Clean” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Doug Peterson gives us a squeaky-clean theme here, with four nouns beginning with a word associated with bathing:
- 17-Across: SPONGE CAKE is the [Light dessert], and might use a sponge for bathing. These days, I suppose, it’s more likely to be a loofah, but a loofah cake sounds too dry and airy. I’ll stick with a sponge cake.
- 28-Across: WATER CHESTNUT is that weird [Stir-fry vegetable] that seems to be all about adding some crunchy texture without adding anything to the taste.
- 46-Across: [Kelly Ripa, once] can clue both SOAP OPERA STAR and INTERESTING. Sorry, that was mean. The send-off for Regis begins this week, and it will be interesting to see what happens to Kelly. Stay tuned.
- 62-Across: Really? There was a [Prohibition era concoction] known as BATH TUB GIN? This is the most disturbing thing I’ve learned in a while. Was it strained through the long hair that clogs the drain?
The grid sports a host of rare letters (two Xs, a J, some Ks, and four Ws in the northern hemisphere). Yet it’s stil very smooth and easily navigable. Bonus points for MILA [Kunis of "Black Swan"] (and Family Guy), BIG TIME ([In a major way]), and TOY BOX, the [Holder of balls and dolls].
My only serious error was writing GLITTER for [Sparkle] instead of GLISTEN, and that had me somewhat asea with the answer to [Coast] (I had it starting with TEA-, which makes it hard to find SEABOARD) and [Tidbit on a tray] (since I had it starting with CAR-, CARROT seemed more right to me than CANAPE). I also had TOOL as the [Doofus] instead of TWIT, but I can’t think of anything starting with ORAI-, so the crossing WRAITHS ([Specters]) helped me see my error pretty quickly.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Crank Up the AC”
At first I thought the theme involved jettisoning a T at the end of a theme entry, disregarding the fact that accompaniment has an I, not a Y. Actually, the theme answers have an AC added to change their meanings.
My favorite seasonal billboard is the one that says “Your wife is hot…Time to get your A/C fixed!” I see Matt skips the slash in “A/C.” I could go either way. I’m AC/DC on the AC-A/C issue.
- 20a. [What escorts are usually paid to do?] is ACCOMPANY MEN. Isn’t it bothersome that there’s no common gender-neutral version of “company men”?
- 28a. [Agreement between nations to stretch borders further?] might be an EXTENSION ACCORD.
- 46a. [Birds who get busy right up to April?] are ACCOUNTING CROWS.
- 53a. [Cockney and French, when I'm entertaining people at parties?] are MY TWO CENTS. I like to pull out a fake Lawn Guyland accent on occasion.
Five more things:
- 1d. I mixed up my Spanish-I-learned-from-cartoons and tried ARRIBA instead of ANDALE for ["Let's go!" to Speedy Gonzalez].
- 38d. [M&M hue] used to be TAN. Discontinued in 1995. Did you know the animated spokes-M&Ms have had high-profile voice talent behind them? I had no idea. My favorite TAN is my friend whose nom de blog is The Assimilated Negro; can’t wait for his Negropedia book to come out!
- 40a. [Star of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," in tabloids] is Scarlett Johansen, or SCARJO.
- 51a. I like [Actress Dawson], ROSARIO Dawson. At the Independent Spirit Awards last spring, Paul Rudd wasn’t letting go of Eva Mendes’s boob on stage, so Rosario stabbed him with a fork. He still didn’t let go, so she grabbed his yarbles and that did the trick. Gotta like an actress who’s willing to describe herself as a women’s rights activist.
- 2d. ["Laugh and the world laughs with you" poet Ella Wheeler ___] WILCOX—”Weep, and you weep alone.” From her poem “Solitude.” Pretty sure I didn’t know that.
This is a 72-word grid, with 10 7-letter answers in the fill. Good stuff; four stars. Could’ve done without the saline duplication between 58d: [Salt, in Quebec]/SEL and 33a: [Dietary restriction for some]/NO SALT.