I’ll see you all again on Monday. I’m heading to New York Friday morning and leave you in the capable hands of Team Fiend, with reviews by Sam, pannonica, Doug, Jeffrey, Janie (she’s back!), and PuzzleGirl (she’s also back!).
Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
Fun puzzle! Maybe a bit more challenging than the standard Friday NYT, but chock full of sparkling answers. Let me dash through this review quickly, as I need to pack a few things and hit the sack.
Utter craziness: My first answer in the grid was the Latin SPERO, which I know only from crosswords. Then its crossing, ENOS—that [Grandson of…] clue screams Bible/ENOS to me, again thanks to crosswords. Third word in the grid was Spanish (I think) ARTES, which I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before. That’s just a weird start.
Highlights: SERGIO Valente! Yes, I wore Sergio jeans in high school. “AND I QUOTE” is terrific, as is “GREAT NEWS!” Wanting to look good IN A BIKINI would be a more solid lexical chunk with “look good” also in the grid, but I still like 32d. The David Naughton hit song, “MAKIN’ It”—not as memorable as his Dr Pepper jingle but I still enjoyed seeing this answer right on the heels of my SERGIOs. SCHNITZEL is fun to say. Two great full names—DIANA ROSS and ROSA PARKS, who sat up front in the bus IN PROTEST. I like POPS clued as [Old man] because my son, of his own accord, started calling his dad “Pops” a couple years ago. Don’t know where he picked that up. NO MYSTERY and the ONE-FOOTER above it also pleased me. The double [Second person in the Bible] clue, for THEE and EVE, is cute. And DASTARD! Cool old-fashioned word. Need to use that one more often.
Lowlights: ARTES, TAUR-, SEINER and SEATER, ORONO, -IFY. Really not much in the way of bad trade-offs for all the juicy stuff.
DIET PLATE made me laugh because it’s not A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE.
Bruce Sutphin and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Isn’t it nice to have the Friday LATs back where they were before The Change struck in spring 2009? They’re almost all a good bit tougher than the Wednesdayish cap they used to hit.
The theme entries lose an IN:
- 48d. DROP-IN is an [Unexpected visitor ... and a hint to 20-, 33-, 40- and 52-Across].
- 20a. [Movie about a wacky submarine crew?] is THE DIVE COMEDY. (Divine.)
- 33a. [Feeling when surrounded by taxis?] is CAB PRESSURE. (Cabin.) Provided they’re not all occupied, that is so much better than no-cab pressure. Hate waiting at the airport in an endless line of people waiting for scarce taxis.
- 40a. [Prince's request to the Pauper?] clues WILL YOU BE ME? (Mine.) I kept thinking the dropped letters were IT, not IN, and wondering what the heck kind of base phrase “Will you bite me?” is.
- 52a. [Random criticisms from the Musketeers?] would be THREE POTSHOTS. (Three-point shots in basketball.)
Solid theme, though not especially funny. Minus five points for the explicit IN in 28a: USHER IN. If you’re going to drop IN, drop it all the way.
Seven clues of interest to me:
- 1a. [Revolution for Caesar?] means a revolution of the earth, in Latin: ANNUM, or “year.”
- 18a. [Alarm clock toggle] is AM/PM. Admit it: Some of you went with AM/FM, didn’t you?
- 25a. [Quarterdeck?] is a cute clue for SPADES, one of four suits in a deck of cards.
- 49a. [Chicago city council mem.] is an alderman, abbreviated ALD. My longtime alderman finally retired and her replacement is so much more responsive to the community. Transparency! What a concept.
- 4d. [Like fliers on the windshield, usually] is a good clue for UNREAD. Sometimes even UNGLANCEDAT.
- 10d. [Trendy retailer named for its original 57th Street address] is shoe store NINE WEST. Hey, I never knew that about the name origin.
- 37d. An ALTAR BOY is a [Bible bearer, often]. I was thinking of church furniture and the Gideons.
Solid fill. Nothing made me scowl. 3.75 stars.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Crime Wave” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Depending on how you count, today’s puzzle commits either three or five crimes. Three of them are forms of (or related to) larceny, and two are murders. Murder makes for a juicier story, so I’m going to err on the liberal side and say there are five theme entries. Let’s start with the three thefts:
- 20-Across: To [Draw attention away from everyone else] is to STEAL THE SHOW. It has been nearly two years since Leno stole The Tonight Show away from Conan. And yet he served no time for his offense.
- 35-Across: The [Work to avoid blisters] one must sometimes perform is to BREAK-IN NEW SHOES. That last sentence has a blister or two, doesn’t it? Oh well, you can’t write ‘em all.
- 57-Across: To [Marry a child bride] is to ROB THE CRADLE. Can only grooms rob cradles? Isn’t someone who marries a young groom also robbing the cradle? Now for a question that’s not rhetorical: at what point is one robbing the cradle? My fiancee is 82 months younger than me (that’s just about 7 years). If we stipulate that she is over age 18, will I be robbing the cradle? I say no, but maybe my perspective is skewed since there was a nine-year gap in my parents’ ages. For the record, I have no problem with a marriage between any two consenting adults, regardless of their ages, their races, their genders, or even their attitudes about the evil menace that is sudoku. I’m just curious when the age gap invites speculation among the more judgmental fringes.
If we read the theme not as “answers starting with synonyms for theft” but as “answers starting with words that are also crimes,” then the next longest Across answers would also qualify:
- 18-Across: We have seen ICE clued as a synonym for murder, so maybe ICE SCRAPER, the [Blade used on wintry windshields], is also a theme entry. I admit, that’s reaching. But look at the symmetrical answer in this grid…
- 60-Across: END OF STORY, clued as ["And that's all I have to say about that!"]. C’mon, that can’t be entirely a coincidence, can it? It can? Oh, well then. Never mind.
And then there’s both DEAD AIR and OFFS in the grid. My, this one’s a multiple offender, no? Anyway, I felt like I was solving this one quickly, but my solving time is a tad slower than my average weekday CS pace. What slowed me down? Well, for one thing, STOATS was once again my third answer to [Summer ermines], after first SABLES and then STOLES. And then the clue for BOBS, [Cuts short], proved tricky to me. And for whatever reason, I had NEE as the [First-name follower, on some records] when the clue very clearly contains the “(abbr.) signal. That should have led me to the correct answer, NMI (for “no middle initial”), sooner. Finally, F HOLE sounds like something I’d get in trouble for saying aloud in school. It’s just a [Feature of a violin], innocently enough.
Arnold Katinsky’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Oxford Ties” — pannonica’s review
Straight-up theme, famous characters (all men) who’ve attended the venerable English institution. To quote the opening line from an Oysterband song (and to provide a token gender counterweight), “I met a man whose brother said he knew a man who knew the Oxford girl…”
To my surprise, an Oxford tie is not a tie at all, but “a kind of shoe, laced on the instep, and usually covering the foot nearly to the ankle.” (1913 Webster, via freedictionary.com) That said, one can buy neckties from the University of Oxford Shop. And apparently the modern necktie derives from the the style of the oarsmen of Exeter College, Oxford, who in 1880 tied the bands of their straw hats around their neck.
I’m going to lean heavily on Wikipedia for the ferreting of attendant “facts.” All quotes are taken from there.
- 17a. [Fictional West Egg resident who attended Oxford] JAY GATSBY. “After the war, he supposedly attends Trinity College, Oxford, but he lies throughout the story that he did.”
- 24a. [Fictional detective and cruciverbalist who attended Oxford] INSPECTOR MORSE. “… it is hinted that as a schoolboy he won a scholarship to study at St John’s College, Oxford. He lost the scholarship as the result of poor academic performance … [and was] … [f]orced to leave the University…He often reflects on renowned scholars (such as A. E. Housman) who, like himself, failed to get academic degrees from Oxford.”
- 38a. [Fictional amateur sleuth who …] LORD PETER WIMSEY. “Lord Peter was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where he received a first-class degree in history. He was also an outstanding cricketer, whose performance would still be well remembered decades later… Though not taking up an academic career, he was left with an enduring and deep love for his Oxford alma mater…”
- 52a. [… teddy-bear toter …] SEBASTIAN FLYTE. From Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. “It has been suggested that Waugh based the character of Lord Sebastian Flyte on Hugh Patrick Lygon and Alastair Graham, two of Waugh’s close friends from his own Oxford days. Sebastian’s relationship with his teddy bear Aloysius is modeled on John Betjeman, a contemporary of Waugh’s and future Poet Laureate, who famously brought his teddy bear, Archibald Ormsby-Gore, to Oxford with him.” Flyte attended Christ Church at Oxford. Having neither read the book nor seen the miniseries or films, I was tending toward the journalist Sebastian Faulks, never mind the letter count and his actuality.
- 63a. [… superspy …] JAMES BOND. From crosswords, I associate the character with Eton and know nothing of his supposed later schooling. Wikipedia mentions Eton College, Fettes College, the University of Geneva, Cambridge University, and finally (in films) Oxford University.
Not an exciting theme, but a well-executed one. The only quibble I have is the discrepancy of including the title of “Lord” for Wimsey but not for Flyte.
During the solve, the grid felt a little fragmented, even though none of the sections are particularly isolated. It looked that way too, once I stepped back and regarded the solved whole. XWord Info tells me that 76 words is typical of a Wednesday NYT puzzle; other aspects similarly place it in the early- to mid-week cohort. I prefer my premier weekly crosswords to be Thursdayish or tougher.
- Longer non-theme fill: POP ARTIST, the venerable (dating from the 16th century) GRAYBEARD, DREARIER, and THE FORUM. That last rankles just a bit, as the clue [Temple of Vesta location] points to the Roman Forum. Sure, it’s the most famous and perhaps the original, and “Roman” is practically understood, but it such a structure was a standard civic feature of most cities in the empire. Am I wrong in thinking that this formulation was popularized by the early Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?
- Higher Education vibe: Right off the mark, we have a Goya clue at 1-down. The two paintings of the MAJA are clothed and not clothed. [Feature of Monet's "Houses of Parliament" paintings] is a roundabout and vaguely highfalutin way to clue FOG. In context, the crossword mainstay AMATI rides the vibe, though it’s disconcerting that it crosses AMO [High school Latin word]. I suppose BEREA [Kentucky college town] fits the bill too, and it was new to me. Neville?
- Trivia: [Louis Malle's "My Dinner With __ "] ANDRÉ does not star André the Giant. I know this for a fact because I watched it three nights ago.
- 26d. Did you think [One tossed into a fountain] was a COIN? Well, yes, but in this case it’s more specifically a CENT.
- Last, there’s something bizarrely charming about cluing PEZ as a [Spring-fed confection]. That phrase is going to live in my head for the next little while.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Corporate Shuffle” — pannonica’s review
More anagrams! All in favor, say “Aye!”
That’s pro consortia for corporations. Alternatively, it’s inchoate torpors for the corporations. Let’s move on, shall we? Next on the agenda is… description of the theme. Here, the first part of a company name-phrase is reorganized and the result is clued.
- 22a. [Laptop designed for vacationers?] GETAWAY COMPUTER (Gateway).
- 31a. [Network that shows only Portier movies?] SIDNEY CHANNEL (Disney).
- 51a. [Strained carrots made by Clinton's security adviser Sandy?] BERGER BABY FOOD (Gerber). That’s the most recognizable BERGER? A presidential adviser three or four (five?) administrations past? What about novelist Thomas? Art critic and philosopher John? Auuhhm… perhaps my experience is biased here. Poltico Sandy Berger it is. Wonder if he makes gritty meatloaf?
- 70a. [Concert worker's favorite side dish?] ROADIE FRENCH FRIES (Ore-Ida). Since, according to the crossword rulebook, roadies must be associated with amps, the word “ampmover” should have been used in the clue.
- 91a. [Cartography product that need to be changed?] MAPPER’S DIAPERS (Pampers).
- 110a. [Morning eye-opener for swingers?] GOLFERS’ COFFEE (Folger’s). The best part of wakin’ up is a little white dimpled ball in a flagg-ed cup?
- 124a. [Gaming system that collects lots of personal information?] NOSY PLAYSTATION (Sony). Probably not so far from the truth,
- 15d. [Military's online message service?] HOO-YA MAIL (Yahoo). This was unfamiliar to me. Seems there are various spellings: hoo-ya, hooya, hooYa, hooah, hoo-ah, and so on. Oh,and look at this: Hooya.com – “SMS across the whole world”
- 82d. [Legumes engineered to be stretchy?] YOGA BEANS (Goya). I’d say flexibility is the dominant external characteristic of yoga, moreso than stretchiness.
Did you notice which one is not like the others? No? Go back, I’ll wait.
Correct! 124-across! The other eight are brands coupled with a generic descriptor for the product, whereas “Playstation” is a trademarked name exclusive to Sony. Shame, because that’s one of the better themers, as far as imagery goes. Next item…
Some other stuff:
- 1-across, VW BUG, not a fun way for me to start a puzzle. Even though the clue’s “auto” indicates a casual answer for the Volkswagen Beetle, the ultra-short construction was (ironically?) just a little too much for me right at the outset.
- 19a. Did not know [Bollywood beauty Aishwarya __ ] RAI (she also won the Miss World pageant in 1994), but I do know the Italian broadcast system that goes by those initials (Radio Audizioni Italiane).
- Cross-referenced clues, often maligned, can sometimes bolster otherwise mediocre fill. Such is the case with 54d and 117a, which together are […words before "…one, Mr. Grinch"]. But, sheesh, isn’t that an awkward partial quote, starting with “one”? YOU’RE | A MEAN.
- CXX-across. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Constructors, editors! Lend me your aures! If you’re going to resort to Roman numerals, don’t try to obfuscate the solve by requiring the solver to perform math. It’s akin to the person in the movie theater who tries to open the candy wrapper s-l-o-o-w-ly in a misguided attempt to be discreet, but ends up annoying the hell out of everyone else in theater by prolonging the excruciating experience. Just rip off the band-aid! Oh, and never mix metaphors. CML. On the other hand, the relatively streamlined 98a [Cube root of acht] for ZWEI didn’t annoy me nearly as much.
- 95d. Fun colloquial clue ["Hey! There's a line here!"] “I’M NEXT!”
- Mini-golf theme with… Wait, let me rephrase that. A MINOR (23d) theme involving golf, in addition to the themer at 110a-across. 14a CHIP [Short shot in golf], 28a [Couples support] TEE, 88D [U.S. Women's Open org.) LPGA.
- Totally random-feeling fill: 80d [International pageant competitor] MISS HAITI.
- Beleaguered Fannie Mae is FNMA, the Federal National Mortgage Association (107a).
- Without actually tabulating, it felt to me as if the CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs, partials) was on the high side for this puzzle, even considering its 21×21 size.
That concludes this meeting; minutes will be distributed shortly.