Joo-oo-oon! Friday’s episode is here: Part 1, Part 2. In his own homeland (the Boston viewing area), Jeopardy‘s channel shows football hooha in lieu of Joonstravaganza on fall Fridays, so Bostonians who missed today’s episode can catch it on the web.
Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Triple stack at the top, triple stack at the bottom, another 15 in the middle, and an eighth 15 crossing the other seven 15s. As a bonus, there are two mazes in the grid. Can you find your way from the outside to the VENT and Roman numeral?
I like the semantic ties between the 15s at the bottom. LOCKS BEHIND BARS, MAKES AN ENTRANCE, and ANSWERED THE DOOR all go together nicely, don’t they?
Trickiest clue and wrongest answer: For 30d: [Ones holding wraps in restaurants], I went with TORTILLAS. Then when ONCE asserted itself, I knew it had to be COAT CHECKS, but that was two letters too long. COAT RACKS!
Trickiest clue that wasn’t at all fun: 6d: NOL [__-pros]. I feel I have Googled this after a puzzle in the past but it wasn’t ringing a bell. I tried ALL-pros. Something about not prosecuting, something judicial?
That rare bird, the foreign-language partial: 39d: ["__ Pastore" (Mozart opera)] clues IL RE. IL = “the,” RE = “king,” “Pastore” = something pastoral in nature, which gets translated to “shepherd.” “The Shepherd King.”
“Drink the Kool-Aid” is thoroughly in the language, but I’m not sure that I’ve encountered the noun KOOL-AID DRINKERS. Similarly, “mix-and-match” is utterly familiar, but MIXED AND MATCHED feels off-center.
Lots of names today, no? Loved seeing ABE VIGODA in the puzzle. He’s joined by Richard RUSSO, SALMA Hayek, Jerry SLOAN, SOREN Kierkegaard, ELIA (Did you know Charles Lamb wrote some stuff together with his sister Mary Lamb? I didn’t until I watched Joon on Jeopardy! a few days ago), grocery chain IGA, the PENTEL brand (holla! I use the Pentel Twist-Erase pencil for all my paper-based solving), Dr. DRE, the ENIAC computer, fictional place name ADANO, Kay KYSER, TSAR ALEXANDER II, the city KÖLN, LEO I, AMY L. (that’s me!), and Anita O’DAY.
There’s also a smattering of words I learned about via crosswords: LEO I, ELIA, ANIL, ENIAC, ADANO, KYSER, and—just today!—IL RE.
Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Wait, did I ever get around to solving Brad’s September blog themeless? I don’t think I did. Any day now…
Tougher than the usual LA Times puzzle, no? I blanked on 1a, [Esther Williams number], as I could only think of SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING rather than WATER BALLET. That whole corner was the hardest one for me. The deeply mysterious 17a: DOLLY VARDEN, a [1870s period costume named for a Dickens lass]? (Oof. Here’s the dress, and here’s the Dolly Varden trout.) 1d tricked me into wanting a past-tense verb for [Improved, perhaps, as a road], but it’s the comparative adjective WIDER. I can’t believe that 15a: “IT’S SHOWTIME!” isn’t clued with reference to Bob Fosse! [Stage manager's exhortation]? Pfft.
- 25d. The ROYAL WE is a [Sovereign euphemism]. We approve of this answer.
- 12d. I like the word CABRIOLET. Except I associate it with cars (like this Mercedes E-Class and assorted VW convertibles). I have never seen a [Two-wheeled carriage with a folding hood].
- 32d. [Mars and Mercury] are ROMAN GODS. Though actually, it would be cooler to see GREEK GODS in the grid, because aren’t they generally our default versions of these deities? The ROMAN GODS already had their turn before, in a 2007 Peter A. Collins LAT with a hidden-fruit theme.
- 40d. The naked MOLE RAT is a [Subterranean rodent] that was featured in Errol Morris’s documentary, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. I highly recommend any Morris doc, but this one’s particularly entertaining.
- 59a. [Life-support system?] clues the CEREAL AISLE, though it would seem to refer to the shelving in said aisle.
- 61a. [Mona Lisa Vito in "My Cousin Vinny," for one] was the STAR WITNESS. Lots of common letters to park in the bottom row of the grid, and yet not at all a boring phrase.
- 39d. [String in a preschool class?] is THE ABC’S and their friends, D through Z.
55a. [Hippie era swinger?] clues BEAD CURTAIN, which doesn’t feel like a familiar name for that. All I can think of is just “beads” or “hanging beads.” This hippie-decor website calls ‘em “hippie door beads.” Baby Boomers, what do you call these beads?
Never heard of 53a: EVA, clued as [Soprano Marton]. I wonder if Brad ever had a chance to see her perform—he’s the most ardent opera fan I know.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Big Mac Order” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Oh, the words roll easily off my tongue even though they’re drenched in drool: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Fellow fast food junkies recognize this instantly as the composition of the McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich. Even though I had my last Big Mac (indeed, my last McDonald’s meal) in July of 1993, I’ve eaten more than enough for any one lifetime.
Back in college, my Sunday football ritual was to have two Big Macs, a large order of fries and a large milkshake. That was just one meal! And I still remember the time a buddy and I took advantage of a 99-cent sale, buying 40 Big Macs between us and storing them in the freezer for later consumption. In case you’re wondering, no, Big Macs do not freeze well.
Why the (gross) tour down Memory Lane? Because Randall Hartman’s crossword honors the McDonald’s classic with four entries beginning with a Big Mac ingredient:
- 17-Across: If you thought my Big Mac confession was gross, look away now: PICKLE JUICE is the [Drink favored by some athletes]. I like pickles as much as anyone I know, but drinking pickle juice would be a bit much even for me.
- 30-Across: The [Asian appetizer] is a LETTUCE WRAP. I’m thinking the calories in 10 lettuce wraps equal the calories in one Big Mac.
- 48-Across: TOMATO ASPIC may well be a [Kind of gelatin] (again, gross!), but, um, tomatoes are not on Big Macs. Or at least they weren’t prior to July, 1993. Are we confusing Big Macs with Whoppers?
- 64-Across: PATTY HEARST was the [Urban guerrilla known as "Tania"]. Too bad she didn’t have a twin with the same name, for then we’d have the two patties needed to make the Big Mac.
No love for the special sauce, cheese, and onions? Oh well, I suppose there are enough calories here as it is. As an ode to the Big Mac, this is incomplete. As an ode to the old McD-L-T, however, it’s perfect. The ad campaign for the McD. L. T. was that “the hot stays hot and the cool stays cool.” By the way, you won’t believe the spokesperson for this campaign. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Anyway, I think this puzzle is more like a McD. L. T., for while the theme execution leaves me cold, a lot of the fill and clues are hot, hot, hot.
Check out the long Downs: FRATERNIZE is just a cool word, the LONE RANGER is terrific, and how often do you see MARIO CUOMO spooning with IRON MAIDEN? That’s just too good. And how about [Prepare for takeoff?] as a clue for UNZIP and [She's on TV for a spell] as the clue for VANNA White? Again, terrific stuff. Yeah, CARER, TAJ, and A TEE are eyesores, but they get happily lost amidst the sparkle. For me, the entertainment value here far exceeded my disappointment in the theme, so I leave full and happy.
Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Anyone else immediately see through the clue for 1a…but the wrong way? I knew [Six-footers?] didn’t mean 6″ putts on the golf course or 6″-tall people because it had to be INSECTS. Except that it turned out to be the units of measure called FATHOMS. I wasn’t filling in wrong answers everywhere else, though (save for an ASTI/ESTE flub)—in fact, the filling in was hard-fought throughout the puzzle.
- The [Fancy] and [Idle fancy] pair of 17a: IMAGINE and 55a: CHIMERA. Pretty words.
- 33a. Fresh fill, DEEP-FRIED OREOS, a [Carnival treat]. Seems more like a state fair treat to me, but when’s the last time I went to either a carnival or the state fair?
- 39a. NATALIE PORTMAN is our [Jerusalem-borm Oscar winner].
- 43a. [About 1/9 of the dictionary] is a promising clue. I was hoping for NOUNS or VERBS or something like that, but it was only ESSES. (Meh.) I bet Doug filled in the southeast corner of the grid last, because the ESSES/SAYS SO/ADDED TO trio felt more blah than anything else in the puzzle. Maybe DO ONE’S BEST started out as DOONESBURY but that corner wouldn’t work out?
- 60a. Had no idea HEIRESS was the name of [Paris Hilton's record label]. She paid for it herself.
- 10d, 11d. Apt to put Roger EBERT beside a MOVIE POSTER. I wonder how many of those have included blurbs from his reviews?
- 53d. WAWA is clued as a [Voicelike musical effect]. I never thought of it that way.
I’d write more, but breakfast plans call me away. Four stars.