Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Lots of cool long answers in this one, plus a few clunkers (but nowhere near as many Scowl-o-Meter triggers as one might expect in a 60-word grid).
Highlights: The top stack of 15s is terrific, with SOCIAL DARWINISM, A RUN FOR THE MONEY (though the I feel the absence of “give”), and “FORGIVE ME, FATHER…” That stack’s crossings are all right, though I want to know who the hell is making CURRANT pies (had a misstep when the tart pie ingredient that came to mind was RHUBARB), because I’ve never encountered such a thing in this country. The midsection’s bright spots are “GO, RANGERS!” as well as BRAIN-TEASER and TRANSGENDERED. (Never seen the term TALE BEARERS before.) In the Downs, my favorites are BERSERK and IN HEELS (and backwards).
I don’t know what happened in the clue for 45d. Do the Across Lite and newspaper versions also have a capital I instead of lowercase L in [Res ___ Ioquitur]? Res ipsa loquitur is the legal principle that an accident’s occurrence implies that there was negligence.
Wow, DECOCT (37d: [Boil down]) just two weeks after its last appearance in the NYT! Its previous use was back in 2003. DECOCT, please go away now. Thank you.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme’s an ordinary add-a-letter theme, but where this puzzle shines is in the clues. More on that in a bit. First up, the theme answers:
- 37a. D PLUS is a [Low grade, or an appropriate title for this puzzle], as each of the theme entries is made by adding a D.
- 17a. [Comedian for hire?] is a RENTAL CARD.
- 23a. [What Shakespeare's parents had to do?] is RAISE THE BARD. They did a nice job, don’t you think?
- 47a. [Green that's hard to swallow?] clues CHOKE COLLARD, which doesn’t really read well. “Choke carrot” wouldn’t make any sense either.
- 57a. ACTS OF WARD might be a [Memoir title for Sela?] or for Burt.
Eight clues I liked are as follows:
- 36a. GEEK [__ chic]? Absolutely. Raise your hand if you wanted TRES instead.
- 2d. ["All righty __!"] THEN! Super casual and colloquial.
- 4d. [Star of "61*"?] references that HBO movie with Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane playing Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The star of that movie’s title is the ASTERISK.
- 8d. [It may be lent or bent] clues an EAR by way of two familiar phrases.
- 18d. Princess LEIA is a [Princess with great buns?] in her braided hair.
- 22d. MELT is clued nonliterally with [Get weak in the knees].
- 38d. [Tip of the Yucatán peninsula?] might be the PESO you leave as a tip for your restaurant server or bartender. Is a peso a reasonable amount to tip in Mexico?
- 42d. A glass JAR can serve as a [Vase, in a pinch]. When someone brings fresh flowers and you can’t find a vase, you have to make do.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fly by Night” (‘Maryanne Lemot” anagrams to “not my real name”)
What flies by night? A nocturnal OWL, that’s what—and an OWL is inserted into various phrases to change their meaning:
- 23a. [Black bird with bald patches where its fine feathers should be?] = CROW LACKING DOWN.
- 32a. [Butcher who doesn't sell his filet mignon?] = COW LOIN COLLECTOR.
- 51a. [Putting all the Harry Potter books into crates?] = BOXING ROWLING.
- 70a. [Starts up like a really old computer?] = SLOWLY BOOTS. Who doesn’t like a little “slyboots” action?
- 87a. [Football headgear that looks as if it's made of ribbon?] = BOW-LIKE HELMET.
- 101a. [Make a chart indicating how tall Kobe's teammates are?] = SHOW LAKER HEIGHTS.
- 116a. Flapjack at the fancy French cafeteria?] = CREPE DE CHOW LINE.
None of the resulting theme answers struck me as funny, so the theme leaves me cold.
Here are a dozen more clues, mostly the ones I found toughest:
- 8a. A BODEGA is a [Shop patronized by Nuyoricans], or New Yorkers/Americans of Puerto Rican descent.
- 56a. [First, to Francisco] is the Spanish word PRIMERO. You know Francisco, right? He runs the corner bodega?
- 61a. SODIUM is a [Malleable metal] that doesn’t lend itself to jewelry.
- 85a. MIRANDA is the name of a number of reasonably famous people or characters, but it’s clued astronomically here as the [Innermost of Saturn's five major moons]. I needed the crossings for the whole name.
- 125a. [Marks for retention, perhaps] clues STETS, the proofreader’s word.
- 127a. [Begins a winning streak] clues GETS HOT. Less violent than cluing this entry as “get shot.”
- 2d. NORAD? [It's headquartered inside Cheyenne Mountain].
- 10d. [Catch participant, perhaps] is a DAD playing catch with his kid.
- 43d. [Casserole material] is PORCELAIN. That’s the casserole dish, not its contents. (Don’t eat porcelain. Don’t sprinkle porcelain chips on top of your casserole for crunch.)
- 88d. [Salt shaker?] clues WAVE. I wonder how many people who don’t do crosswords have any idea that an “old salt” is slang for a sailor.
- 103d. OZONE is a [Pale blue gas]? I had no idea.
- 105d. INDIO is a [California city that hosts an annual Date Festival]. You know what? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a date, or a fig either.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Best Medicine” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This Patrick Blindauer offering has a lot of laughs, and I’m not referring strictly to the theme entries. The theme is simple enough:
- 20-Across: The [Result of a riot?] is HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. For the curious, one “Ha” = “Yeah, right;” two “Ha”s = “Very funny, smart ass;” three “Ha”s = “I get it, did you?;” four “Ha”s = “That was genuinely funny;” 5-20 “Ha”s = riot; 21-50 “Ha”s = hysterical; over 50 “Ha”s = “I just wet myself.”
- 37-Across: The [Sound of breaking up?] is HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE. In my experience, few people “hee” when they laugh. I think it’s mostly “ha” with a smattering of “ho,” but very little “hee.” (And don’t forget the HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH of Butthead, who, with his companion, Beavis, made a return to prime-time television last night. I’m quite possibly the only person in my age cohort excited about that, but I don’t care. Fire! Fire! Fire!)
- 51-Across: Santa’s [Gag reflex?] would be HO HO HO HO HO HO HO. Readers who don’t make puzzles might be interested to know that one of the most popular software programs for crossword construction (Crossword Compiler) has a feature that identifies letter strings that might be offensive to solvers who think we bury secret messages in the grid. The program would, for instance, flag an offensive five-letter word hidden in the entry MY SCAB ITCHES (no, that entry is not in my word list). I like the feature, as I wouldn’t want an unintended ANUS to sneak into my grid. As you may have guessed, the program always flags HO, even though that letter string will very likely show up in many (if not a majority of) puzzles. I bet it had a fit with Patrick’s grid.
The real grins are in the fill and the clues. As the clue for MORAY, ["That's a ___" (statement from an Italian eel expert?)] makes a strong case for 2011 Clue of the Year consideration. That’s just gold. I also liked [Problematic subject?] as a clue for MATH. I know no one else will appreciate it, but I liked [Word before sales or tax] as a clue for ESTATE. I give a lot of speeches about the federal estate tax, and with the very high exemption currently in place, it’s a subject fewer and fewer seem interested in hearing about. So it’s nice when I can see it in a crossword–proof that it hasn’t lost all relevance yet!
Here’s my guess as to the clues and answers that might have some solvers still stumped: (1) in Roman numerals, X is TEN, and since many clocks and watches use Roman numerals, one would find [X on some faces] of timepieces; (2) Christopher REEVE played Clark Kent (Superman) in two great films and two bad films, so that’s the [Christopher who played Clark]; and (3) CARS are roller [Coaster units].
In addition to lots of laughs, there’s also a lot of Hs–21 by my count. Were this a NYT puzzle, it would be atop the xwordinfo leaderboard for most Hs in a puzzle (Richard Chisholm and CrosSynergy regular Randall J. Hartman have each published NYT puzzles with a “mere” 16 Hs). I don’t know if this is an all-time, all-venue record, but Blindauer deserves kudos for such a smooth fill given the abundance of Hs. Hear, hear!
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Holy Men(u)” — pannonica’s review
Papal’s got a brand new bag! At least for purposes of this puzzle, anyway. The theme is eponymous menu items which happen to contain names of popes. 62 Across is the revealer: [Logical place to serve the items on the menu] VATICAN CITY. In truth, though, if you look at the four entries, you’ll realize that there’s no amount of logic to explain any one menu containing all of them. Except perhaps one of those exhaustive tome-like diner offerings; you know what I mean, the large and hefty ones that might be classified as lethal weapons in some states.
- 17a. [Black-eyed-pea dish on our menu] HOPPING JOHN. One theory is that the name comes from a corruption of Haitian Creole for ‘black-eyed peas,’ pois pigeons. The name is most commonly rendered with an elided ‘g,’ Hoppin’ John.
- 28a. [Fruity beverage on our menu] ORANGE JULIUS. Named for original propagator Julius Freed.
- 38a. [Cocktail on our menu] BRANDY ALEXANDER. Wikipedia says, without citation, that it’s named after tsar Alexander II and not the actor Alexander Woollcott (wasn’t there a ‘triple double’ theme recently?). Incidentally, it’s getting to be the time of the year for Brandies Alexander. (That is the proper pluralization in my book, along with gins and tonic, rums and coke, et al.)
- 46a. [Brunch dish on our menu] EGGS BENEDICT. According to Wikitichlán (again), there are at least three potential namesakes: Lemuel Benedict, Wall Street broker; Commodore E.C. Benedict, American expatriate in France; and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, turn-of -the-(2oth)-century New York socialite. Whatever the case, if one of these three is responsible, than it’s American in origin, runny eggs and cloying Hollandaise être damnés! Points off for repeating the name of the constructor.
There’s a healthy side order of other personal names in the remainder of the puzzle, starting at 1a with French revolutionary figure Jean-Paul MARAT, killed by Charlotte Corday. There’s also LON Chaney, “A Boy Named SUE,” TV host Bill MAHER, NORA Charles from The Thin Man series; mythical AJAX; Peter Fonda’s title film character ULEE; popular author BELVA Plain; “Rawhide” singer Frankie LAINE. Cut ‘em out, ride ‘em in /Rawhide! / Hah! Hah!
In terms of long entries, the ballast fill contains just a couple of eight-letter words: TAILORED and ANCIENTS. There are also a pair of sevens and a pair of sixes, none of them particularly interesting either. Admirably low CAP Quotient™.
A few other notes:
- VICE lies right above VATICAN CITY, VC.
- Only in a venue such as the CHE will you find SERE clued as [Like fallen leaves, eventually]. My favorite in the puzzle, for its sheer silliness.
- TONES and STENO, stacked in the southeast, are anagrams.
- Did you know that (10d) the [Bird on the Mauritian coat of arms] was the DODO? I didn’t but guessed correctly right away. The motto translates as “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean.”
- 35d. With the initial G in place, it occurred to me that a clever answer for [Street-smart set] could be GANG, but I didn’t imagine it would be the intended fill, especially as it was clued without a question mark.
After all that piety, you might consider one of these cakey recipes for dessert.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Teasers” — pannonica’s review
After the menu-themed CHE puzzle, the only thing I could think of while solving this one was whipping together some tzatziki, perhaps while listening to some music on John Zorn’s Tzadik record label. The letters TZ have been inserted into familiar phrases and the results are clued.
- 17a. [Store with Austrian folk dancing outfits?] WALTZ MART. Walmart. Tzeventeen Acrosszt.
- 20a. [Head of the Passover seder] CHARIMAN MATZO. Oh! Chairman Mao.
- 37a. [Sewing and scapbooking, like, I don't know, I forget?] DITZY CRAFTS. D.I.Y. crafts.
- 58a. [Ribbed condoms included with a rental car?] HERTZ PLEASURE. Her Pleasure (a Trojan product).
- 63a. [Part of talent agent Michael's HVAC system?] OVITZDUCT. Oviduct. I guess this is a tie-in with 58a, not to mention 45a, about which we will speak no further.
Nice and Scrabbly grid (I double-checked this time!), despite the lack of Xs and Qs. “Only” 7 Zs: the necessary five in the themers and two extra, each of which is doubled in crossing a theme answers. Those crossings are Swifty LAZAR, Kindlemacher AMAZON, ZZ TOP (clued with the fun trivia that [Their only beardless member is Frank Beard]), CZARS, and Ruth BUZZI. The two extra acrosses are MUZAK and Frank ZAPPA.
- Fun clue for 26a [It's kept up with posts] BLOG. I know, I know! I’m too tense.
- The two skimpy rows (10 letters in 15 squares) overcome their paltriness with winning fill. SEERS and OUIJA for a linked feel. MUZAK | KAHLO for an intriguing letterform image.
- I’m surprised Tausig kept it clean for CRISCO at 52a [Lard alternative]. At least I think he kept it clean.
- Call me crazy, but I liked VELCROED (3d).
- SBARRO and PARM side by side.
- Fake out! 29d [Japanese packaged sweet that comes in a "Men's" variety] POCKY. Totally innocent, except for the bizarre notion that only a man can be an “intelligent connoisseur who appreciates the finer points in life.” No, women’s Pocky are not ribbed.
- That’s the end of this liszt.
And this is the end of the write-up.