Vic Fleming’s New York Times crossword
NYT applet solvers may think this puzzle took me 3:42 to solve, but it is not so. The entire puzzle area stayed blank until I refreshed the screen a couple times, by which point 38 seconds had ticked away on the timer. Bah!
I believe Judge Vic, like me, majored in English. He writes a newspaper column, has published light books, and loves to use the English language correctly. For his theme today, it’s all about the humble and hard-working pronoun. Vic has assembled the full set (Northern style): I, YOU, HE, SHE, IT, WE, and THEY (no second person plural y’all). The phrases they begin don’t have much in common other than being 7- to 9-letter phrases that start with a pronoun, but they’re a lively batch. Things people say include “WE MADE IT!”, “I CAN DREAM,” YOU AGAIN?!?”, and “IT FIGURES.” “THEY SAY…” precedes many other thoughts. (“They say seven theme answers is on the high side, but these ones are short.) HE GOT GAME is a movie (and I love that it’s clued, a la Spike Lee movie credits, as a [1998 Spike Lee joint]). And then there are SHE-DEVILS; generic devils are in the dictionary as “people,” not “men,” but the English language always finds a way to name-call when it comes to women.
Let’s see. What else is in this puzzle? I like the neighboring I CHING and ITCHES; pass the antihistamines. And the crossing near-twins TWIN and TWIT, and TWIN’s twin CLONE. Fresh clue for Yoko ONO: [Singer with a negative-sounding name]. How did you feel about the neighboring YEA and AYE? Yes, they both mean “yes” and they are made up of the same letters. But! Apparently they have entirely unrelated etymologies and thus do not constitute a dupe.
RESAVES made me laugh because I was playing Lexulous (it’s like Scrabble) on Facebook earlier and wanted to extend a word to reach a triple-word score square. The word was DEBUTS and I checked to see if I could play REDEBUTS. That’s like “recarving” the turkey after the deed is done, or losing your virginity a second time. Can’t be done.
Fairly smooth solve, cute theme. Four stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword
In “No Way,” the STREET SWEEPERS theme takes the word “street” out of (mostly) familiar phrases. I was confused for a while because I expected that the abbreviation ST is all that was dropped, but no, it’s more elegant than that—the full word that vanishes.
- 19a. [They offer hyped-up sermons?] clues MANIC PREACHERS. I was about to ask if “manic street preachers” is at all in the language, and then I thought back to Jesus Lady on the Times Square Shuttle train Sunday afternoon. She was loud and never shut up. That just might qualify as manic. (She told us she needed two minutes of our undivided attention and proceeded to preach for, oh, 8 to 10 minutes. During her spiel, she said you don’t need to be an ax murderer to be a sinner—merely telling a lie or having sex outside of marriage will do it. Does her misleading statement about how long she’d talk constitute a lie? I say yes.) Manic Street Preachers is also a Welsh alternative rock band unknown to me.
- 27a. [What paintings do, in an art gallery?] is OCCUPY WALL. Great topicality!
- 36a. [Herbie the Love Bug, for more mature audiences?] could be A CAR NAMED DESIRE. There’s plenty of automotive porn out there, but it’s for gearheads rather than consumers of X-rated video.
- 43a. [Gollum-like phrase for getting a strike in bowling?] clues TEN DOWNING. The British prime minister’s address is 10 Downing Street. I’m not quite grasping this one, so I asked my LOTR-fan husband “What would Gollum say?” He tells me that contemplating “What would Gollum do?” is his guiding light in life.
- 50a. [They've cleaned up the four theme entries above] clues our grand unifying explanatory STREET SWEEPERS. Those are cool machines, but I hate it when I forget that I’m parked in the street on street-cleaning day. That ticket costs $50, man.
Ups and downs:
- 9d. [Worse than a has-been] is to be a NEVER-WAS. Saddest of all is to progress from wanna-be straight to never-was.
- 28d. [Helmet ___ (reality show prop)] clues CAM. Helmet-cam! Lively stuff here.
- 58a. ["___ Lap" (1983 film)] clues PHAR. Phar Lap was a race horse with a weird name and PHAR is a crossword answer with a case of the uglies. Remember the Phar-Mor discount drugstore chain? R.I.P., Phar-Mor.
- 65a. Zippy, slangy clue for SMOKE: [Defeat crushingly].
- Whoa, Nellie! That is an awful lot of proper nouns for one crossword. Mingling at the party are people (OLLIE, DRAC, GENE, MOOG, ISLEY, ELSA, ARIE, PAOLA, HAYNES, TWAIN, CHERI, LOREN, LOEWE, DON, MEL), animals (PHAR Lap, TOTO), and a Muppet (ELMO) talking about their vacations to all sorts of places (EDEN, OSAKA, SAAR, ELAH, NABOO, Lake HAVASU). Way too many of these are essentially crosswordese at this point.
Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (3:30)
It’s a veritable hot dog topping bar in the LA Times today:
- 17a. [Is well versed in a subject] – KNOWS ONE’S ONIONS
- 26a. [Achieves required standards] – CUTS THE MUSTARD
- 41a. [Obviously enjoys a meal] – EATS WITH RELISH
- 54a. [Assuming an attitude of importance, and a hint to what ends 17-, 26- and 41-Across] - PUTTING ON THE DOG
This puzzle is full of phrases I don’t use. I know the first one from crosswords. The mustard one is legit, but EATS WITH RELISH sounds really arbitrary to me unless you mean pickle relish. (Yes, the Internet tells me this is a real phrase.) And PUTTING ON THE DOG is not nearly as fun as puttin’ on the Ritz – just ask Irving Berlin. I guess it’s okay to have some lesser known phrases in a puzzle. It’s a cute theme idea, though I’d bet some of you have seen it before. (I don’t think I have.)
ECO-TOURIST is a cool use of a long vertical answer. AMBASSADOR isn’t as great. STOP IT – don’t RAIN ON my parade! ON is repeated in this puzzle though – there’s also BIDS ON and SPOT ON. One repeat is iffy, but this is a bit extreme, don’t you think?
Favorite clue: [Motel victim?] is ROACH, but I was thinking Janet Leigh all the way. This puzzle gets only 3.2 stabs in the shower from me .
William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Make Mine Mink” – Sam Donaldson’s review
If a crossword’s theme eludes you, the title will almost always help. Consider today’s title, “Make Mine Mink.” How do you make the word “mine” into “mink?” Simple, just replace the E with a K. That’s what the four theme entries do, each time changing the first word of a well-known expression (which follows the letter pattern ?INE) into one following the latter pattern ?INK:
- 17-Across: A “wine connoisseur” becomes a WINK CONNOISSEUR, a [Casanova, among women?]. Is the one doing the winking the connoisseur, or is the connoisseur the one who has been on the receiving end of enough winks to know what he or she does and doesn’t like?
- 27-Across: Ordinary “pine paneling” from the early 1970s becomes the much more updated and swanky PINK PANELING, a [Feature of Barbie's Dream House?].
- 49-Across: Remember when banks used to make loans? One common way to borrow was through a “line of credit.” In this puzzle, that gets changed to a LINK OF CREDIT, or an [On-line bank's URL?]. (This is not a critique of the puzzle, as style conventions vary from syndicate to syndicate. But can we agree that “online” no longer needs a hyphen?)
- 63-Across: “Fine motor skills,” those that have eluded me for much of my life, now become FINK MOTOR SKILLS, or a [Stoolpigeon's driving habits?]. That’s my favorite one of the bunch.
You gotta love a puzzle loaded with BOFFO stuff like MALARKEY, KITTEN, and BACARDI rum, all GIFTWRAP-ped in one grid. I especially liked the fresh clue for IGUANA, [Quincy, Jason's pet in the "Fox Trot" comic, e.g.].
Still, there are some less attractive spots. Today’s Crosswordese lineup includes ALEUT, ETTE, M-SEC, and OONA, with the less common ALTI- and TARNS also making appearances (tarn it all!). HIRAM Walker had me saying “TGFC” (“thank goodness for crossings!”), and that may be the first time he’s heard that.