Don’t believe the applet leaderboard when it claims the NYT puzzle took me 6:24. It was 3:39 before it went blank for a few minutes, during which time I paid a final visit to L.A. Crossword Confidential, which the delightful PuzzleGirl bids farewell to today.
That’s her in the photo in her crossword lair, as seen in O, The Oprah Magazine (November issue, p. 167). The writer had asked me if I knew any women with an obsessive crossword pastime she could talk to, and you know what? Angela was the first and only person who came to mind. I’m so glad she’s getting national media attention for her passion… and yes, it’s totally fine if the blogging part of that passion is drawing to a close. (Blogging every day can be a massive time and energy suck. Remember Mel-Gibson-as-William-Wallace’s “Freeeeedom!” shout? Congrats to Angela on her liberation.) Here’s hoping we’ll hear Angela’s voice here again soon as a guest blogger.
Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle was a snap! Get it? The theme entries all begin with words that connote snapping or slicing things in half (though the words aren’t used that way in these phrases). Now, the first one sorta lost me, as 17a: SPLIT A GUT is nothing I’ve ever said. “Bust a gut” with “side-splitting” jokes, sure. But BUST appears later in the theme, in BUST A MOVE (my favorite answer in today’s puzzle). There’s also BREAK A SWEAT, CUT A CHECK, and CRACK A SMILE. Fair enough.
The corners are quite good, with those trios of 7-letter answers in each quadrant. The clunkiest crossings for these 7-stacks are goofy-spelling GLEEM toothpaste and plural SLOES, but those aren’t terrible. Wait, GLARY looks terrible; it has dictionary cred but it still sounds made up to me. (And this blog’s position on ORTS is that they are always welcome, having once let me get a vocab leg up on my teacher in high school.) The best of the 7s include MOSHING MALWARE, a SHYSTER FLARE-UP, and TEL AVIV not appearing as a fill-in-the-blank half answer. I rather like the triad in which Muhammad ALI worships ALLAH, which is an ARABIC word.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V, Club crossword
What-what? Or should I say, who-who? Five famous people with doubled-syllable first names populate this grid:
- 17a. [Fashion icon played by Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Tautou] is COCO CHANEL.
- 20a. [Tony-winner in "Chicago"] is BEBE NEUWIRTH of Frasier/Cheers “Lilith” fame.
- 36a. ZSA ZSA GABOR is the [Ninety-four-year-old actress married nine times] who is in the hospital again. I dunno, she just might prove to be immortal.
- 53a. [Bandmate (but not actual brother of) Johnny, Joey, and Tommy] clues DEE DEE RAMONE. That closing parenthesis should be before “of.”
- 57a. [Detroit-born gospel singer with eleven Grammys] is CECE WINANS. How do we know it’s not her brother BEBE WINANS? Because BEBE NEUWIRTH already laid claim to that name here and besides, he only has, like, four Grammys.
Easier than the typical Onion crossword, no?
I like how LA-LA LAND gently echoes the theme. Other highlights in the fill:
- 40a. BIG MAC, [Famously calorie-heavy burger].
- 48a. Didn’t know BENADRYL was an [Antihistamine used in some hallucinogenic drugs] but I did know that it’s also used as a sleep aid.
- 21d. [It's almost always actually horseradish in the U.S.] is an educational clue for WASABI.
- 24d. [Rock band with multiple songs about "The Lord of the Rings"] is LED ZEPPELIN?? Seriously? My husband assures me this is true. I had no idea. Why no “Stairway to the Shire”?
- 58d. [Concert series with curated lineups: Abbr.] clues ATP. Wha…? All Tomorrow’s Parties, that’s what.
- 27a. ["Sex Machine" band, with "The"] clues the J.B.’S, James Brown’s backing band in the ’70s. Had I thought about the clue, I might’ve gotten this. Too easy to assume an Onion/Tausig clue about a band refers to something I have never heard of!
- 61a. [Actor Chris D'___ of the unfortunate new sitcom "Whitney"] clues ELIA. Nice try for a fresh approach cluing ELIA, but that is like putting NIRO or CAPRIO in the grid, no?
Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is tied together by 62a: TIGHT ENDS because the other theme answers all end with words that can be “ends” for the word “tight”:
- 16a. [*Itching for a fight] clues TWO-FISTED. Now, I always see that term used to modify the word “drinker.” The dictionary (NOAD) tells me it means “strong, virile, and straightforward.” I feel these are three entirely unrelated applications of this term. (But tight-fisted is crystal clear.)
- 23a. Your [*Steady guy or gal] is your MAIN SQUEEZE. (Tight squeeze.)
- 36a. The HOT CORNER is the [*Third base, in baseball lingo]. You don’t say. (Tight corner. Hmm. Not sure what this means, if it’s a thing unto itself and not just adjective + noun.)
- 54a. Is SOAP ON A ROPE still a [*Shower convenience]? I haven’t seen it in stores in years. (Tightrope.)
- 62a. TIGHT ENDS = [Football linemen, or an apt description of the last words of the answers to starred clues].
Five more clues:
- 1d. Haven’t encountered DOT-BOMB, or [Internet failure, punnily]. And you?
- 37d. [Laced dress shoes] are OXFORDS.
- 11d. CHEEZIT! The orange, square [Cracker with a hole in the middle] makes for a great crossword answer. Nice and crunchy. Its flavor is 45d: CHEDDAR.
- 1a. DAPS can mean [Skips, as stones]. DAP is also a word for the fist-bump.
- 13a. See the Spanish word in [Catchall survey opción]? It passed me by the first time so it was hard to see OTRO‘s place.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Splitting the Pot” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The “pot” that gets split in this Bob Klahn crossword are the letters P-O-T, the initials for a trio of three-word expressions of which you may well have heard:
- 17-Across: [One who has power OF attorney has one], and that’s a POSITION OF TRUST. For some reason, I obsessed over that tiny “of” in the clue (which I capitalized so you can read it like I did), thereby insisting to myself that “OF” could not be in the answer. And yet the “don’t-repeat-an-answer-word-in-the-clues” rule is often overlooked in the case of small stuff like “of,” “and,” “the,” “is,” and the like. You think I would have gotten over it sooner, but I didn’t. Am I imagining things again, or is it unusual to have the repeater in the very clue that goes with the answer containing the repeated word?
- 36-Across: A PECK OF TROUBLE is one way to describe [Hot water]. I’m more familiar with a “heap” of trouble and a “mess” of trouble than with a “peck of trouble.” In my world, “peck” belongs squarely in the expression “I love you a bushel and a peck” and nowhere else. But hey, I don’t get out much.
- 59-Across: The only theme entry I could plunk down with confidence was PRINCE OF THIEVES, the subtitle to Kevin [Costner's Robin Hood]. I’m not especially proud to admit that, but there it is.
So my goal for Klahn puzzles is to finish under ten minutes, and after I had about a third of the grid completed at the two-minute mark, I got cocky. Recipe for disaster. The two sections that slowed my down most were, first, that confluence of LETT, the [Permissive-sounding Latvian?], MAU MAU, a [Kenyan revolutionary of the 1950s], and [Susan B. Anthony colleague Carrie] Chapman CATT, all feeding ULTIMAS, the [Final syllables]. Wow, talk about three people that have never been in my kitchen.
The second section was the perfect storm of The Sam Cooke song “You SEND Me,” the [Quick click] that’s a DIT, the [Lateen-rigged transport] called the DHOW (d-how could I forget that when it comes up every few months in our puzzles?), YIPE, the [Daffy Duck cry], OPTIMA as the answer to the coyly-clued [They're the best], and WET-MOP, the answer to [Do a swab job]. In retrospect, had I remembered the DHOW sooner that section would have fallen more quickly and I might have been close to my ten-minute goal. Oh well, there’s always next time.
Look at all the long Downs in the middle! SCORESHEET, FIVESOME, UMPTEEN, TWO UNDER, and RIFLE SCOPE are fine by themselves (especially the delicious UMPTEEN), but smushed together like that the coolness quotient is squared. Toss in the interesting six-letter answers (especially THE MRS. and ERSATZ) and you have a fine, fine grid devoid of any cruddy fill.
And yes, Virginia, there are some terrific clues, too. My three favorites were: (1) [They're radio-active] for HAMS, (2) [First name in spy-fi] for Fleming, IAN Fleming, and (3) [Fiction devotee?] for LIAR. Honorable mention to [Hamburger beefs?] for ACHS.