Patrick McIntyre’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme plays a CON GAME by including four people whose last names are pronounced like “con”: SAMMY CAHN, CHAKA KHAN (and I just learned that while Chaka wasn’t her real first name, the Khan part was a married name), JAMES CAAN, and some boxer I’ve never heard of named BILLY CONN. If you ask me, Didi Conn of Grease is considerably better known, but I guess there wasn’t a good Cahn, Khan, or Caan with a 4-letter first name to partner with Didi. I do like a pop culture theme, though this one’s three quarters pop culture and one quarter old sports.
Lots of fill struck me as loitering in the crosswordese-and-repeaters parking lot: IBIS, -IDE, UTA, SMEW, ESSENE, O IS, ALGID, ERI TU, ERST, ENNA, OCTAL, and -ARY felt like a few too many, especially for a Tuesday puzzle. New solvers, do not be daunted! Wednesday may well have fewer of these sorts of answers.
I do like the four-pack of long Down answers, though. BADMINTON is fun, and I like the repeated letter string in MONSIGNOR and EXIT SIGNS. The FREE RANGE chicken in the Across direction is good, too. And people are talking about HOME EC more now—how else will kids learn to make healthy home-cooked meals if their parents aren’t teaching them that? Friend of mine just had a child ask if she could do her laundry
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I Get Around”
This week’s theme features four 15-letter phrases that start with I and end with GET:
- 17a. [Memorable line?] clues IT’S HARD TO FORGET. I would’ve liked a wordier clue here, something like [Reply to "You remember the time your trunks fell off when you got out of the pool?"?]. The given clue feels rather vague.
- 35a. [What a paranoid person may feel they have on their back] is an INVISIBLE TARGET. And the people with the X-ray vision can totally see it.
- 41a. INSPECTOR GADGET is a [Cartoon detective with a trench coat]. Why don’t I remember him from childhood? Because I was a high-school senior when it began airing. And then the 1999 movie version came out before my kid was born. The Smurfs and My Little Pony pretty much fall into the same hole in my life.
- 60a. [Spending proposal, often] is an INCREASED BUDGET. Not sure that phrase is actually a lexical chunk.
Reaction to the theme? Eh, 60 squares is fairly ambitious but it doesn’t do much for me.
Five more clues:
- 66a. [Soccer player Hope on “Dancing With the Stars”] is Hope SOLO. I know her name because puzzler Dan Katz rants about her in social media. I have no opinion of her morals or her dancing skills.
- 69a. [Chihuahua with the last name Hoek] is, of course, REN. Now, Ren & Stimpy was on beginning in 1991, when I was a grown-up with a spouse and everything, so you’d think I might never have watched it. But what cements a new union better than watching gross-out cartoons, I ask you? Twenty years later, we still love Ren.
- 25d. [Little kid’s words after finishing a meal] are “ALL GONE!” Cute. Wasn’t sure if it’d be ALL DONE.
- 1a. [Brain scan, for short] clues EEG. NO. No, no, no. Read up on EEG, Matts J and G, and believe me when I tell you the word scan is wrong here. This clue works for MRI, CTSCAN, CATSCAN, PETSCAN, XRAY, and FMRI just fine, but the EEG is a tracing of electrical activity and no sort of scan at all.
- 21a. [Charles I and Mary II, e.g.] clues STUARTS, a royal line in England. And now I’ve got Mary Stuart Masterson on my mind.
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Don’t stop me now! Someone’s standing in your way at the end of each theme answer attempting to to thwart your progress:
- 20a. [Shareholder’s bonus] - DIVIDEND CHECK
- 29a. [Kitchen island material] - BUTCHER BLOCK
- 46a. [Wrap for leftovers] - ALUMINUM FOIL
- 56a. [Laundry convenience] – CLOTHES HAMPER
Some big ups:
- 6d. [Jeff Foxworthy tells jokes about them] – REDNECKS. A smile-inducing entry. I would’ve liked a Redneck Joke for the clue here, but I could see that Rich might get letters about that.
- 11d. [Created a study aid in class] – TOOK NOTES. I like the entry a lot; the clue a little less, though. There’s a fellow in a couple of my classes who doesn’t take notes – maybe he creates his study aids after class?
- 29d. [Witch craft?] – BROOM. This was a new cute clue for me, and I liked it!
- 47d. [Crunchy snack] – NUT BAR. Could’ve used one of these on the hike I went on on Sunday.
And something I didn’t like - 7d. [Pigged out (on)] - OD’ED. You pig out on food and OD on drugs. Maybe cake. It’s still not a pretty-looking entry.
I know SET-TO is a real term, but I never hear it in the non-crossword world. Homework: Drop set-to into conversation this week. 4 stars.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “State Department” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Martin Ashwood-Smith gives us a triple feature of movies that start with the name of a State:
- 17-Across: TENNESSEE NIGHTS is a [Julian Sands movie of 1989]. Having never heard of it, I went looking for a synopsis over on imdb.com. It says the movie has been renamed Tennessee Waltz, a familiar expression. (The new title wouldn’t work for this puzzle, though, because it has only 14 letters and thus could not pair against either of the other two theme entries.) In any case, here’s the plot summary: “An innocent fishing trip in the hills of Tennessee entangles Wolfgang Leighton in a murderous web of intrigue, sparked by a torrid encounter with the provocative Sally Lomas. Inexplicably pursued by faceless stalkers, Wolfgang turns to the law only to find himself arrested. Charged with murdering Sally, he’s thrown into a cell seething with violent criminals. A teenage hitchhiker appears to be his only friend.” The murder victim is played by Denise Crosby, revered by fellow Trekkies as Lt. Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And the teenage hitchhiker is played by the lovely Stacey Dash of Clueless fame. That casting would have been right down 1989 Sam’s alley, but for some reason I missed this one.
- 34-Across: OKLAHOMA CRUDE is the [George C. Scott film of 1973]. Nope, never heard of this one either. A Henry Mancini song in the film, “Send a Little Love My Way,” snagged a Golden Globe nomination. Give a listen to this version, and try not to cringe when you hear “I think you’ll like the way our pretty girls sing it.” Here’s the plot summary: “It’s oil boom time in Oklahoma and Lena Doyle, a hard-bitten, cyncial feminist has a fight on her hands: the big oil companies don’t like the fact that she’s working a potentially profitable wildcat rig. Reluctantly, Lena must accept the aid of her estranged father Cleon, and Mason, the man he hires to help. The three form an unlikely team: Lena hates men, Mason is out for himself, and Lena’s father is trying to make up for a lifetime of neglecting his daughter. But together they take on the big guys and put up a terrific fight.” Sounds like the original Three’s Company, no?
- 54-Across: CALIFORNIA SUITE is the [Neil Simon movie of 1978]. Now this one I have heard of, though I haven’t seen it. I’m pretty sure the only Neil Simon movies I have seen are The Odd Couple, Chapter Two and Biloxi Blues. I didn’t know until digging into imdb.com that Dame Maggie Smith (most recently known for playing Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter films) won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this film. Here’s the (not quite typographically or grammatically correct) plot summary: “4 totally different and seperated [sic] stories of guests in a hotel. Maggie Smith and Michael Caine came from England to attend the Oscars; Jane Fonda came from New York, Alan Alda is her ex who lives in California; in the slapsticky part Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and their wives come to the hotel to relax and play tennis and find there is only one room vacant; in the fourth segment Walter Matthau has come a day before his wife for his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, his brother: sends a prostitute to his room.” I always like the “slapsticky” parts of films.
The theme fell a little flat for me, but that’s probably because I was unfamiliar with two of the films. Had they all been films I knew, I probably would have liked it more. I’m still deciding whether TENNESSEE NIGHTS is a legitimate entry given its name change, but it’s not like it affected my solving experience or anything.
There’s only 74 answers in the grid, and the long Downs in the corners give the grid an open feel. My favorites entries were NOT COOL, RUN-INS, CAT SCAN, LET SLIDE, and OH BEHAVE, the [Austin Powers catchphrase]. The Best Clue of the Puzzle Award goes to [Nap sacks?] for BEDS.
I lost a little time having NIMBLE as the answer to [Agile], but eventually I got to LIMBER. New to me was SOTHERN, or [Ann of “Lady Be Good”] as she is known to her friends. The three-letter fill was pretty dull: ESE, AOL, ABR, MRE, and NON, with only a TIT (bird) to liven things up. But to the extent they facilitated the lively Downs, I can live with them.