David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
Lots to like here, and only one square to hate. (The latter is where 7d: [Russian ballerina Galina] ULANOVA hits 20a: ["Dove __" (Mozart aria)] SONO. I tried ULALOVA and SOLO first.)
Tops on my Likes list:
- 1a. JIFFY LUBE! Fun brand name to say, nice 1-Across opener. Now, Jiffy Pop popcorn would be even better.
- 17a, 60a. Pop songs from the ’50s, ’60s, and 2010,”MAYBE BABY” and “FOXY LADY” and “WE R WHO WE R.”
- 37d. ATALANTA, the [Mythical runner] best known to me from Free To Be…You and Me.
- 36d. The neologism PALINISM is clued by way of a neologism, ["Refudiate," e.g.]. Circle of life, my friends. Circle of life.
- 13d. Medical terminology! I tried FLAT FOOT before FLAT FEET for pes planus. Most people do have two feet, so the plural works.
- Other zippy pop culture stuff includes MARIO KART and TIME TRAX and EX-LAX and Simon LEBON, who I thought was the bees’s knees around 1983. Wait, I just inserted a laxative into the pop culture category.
Oddball entries that are hard to parse in the grid: the kind of strip at 23a is a NO-PEST insect control strip (and this was not helping me put together ULANOVA, I tell you), and the Nike competitor at 45d keeps looking like LAG EAR, which surely is a medical condition among lop-eared rabbits, rather than L.A. GEAR.
Overall, 4.25 stars. The high sparkle quotient pushes the rating up, but that ULANOVA/SONO crossing knocks it down back down to 4.25. Still a fun puzzle.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Extended Barking” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The four theme entries to this Bob Klahn offering all have the word YAP hidden inside:
- 17-Across: The [Woody Allen comedy with a rhyming title] is MIGHTY APHRODITE, the movie that ignited my ongoing crush on Mira Sorvino.
- 29-Across: The [festive "Deck the Halls" attire] is our GAY APPAREL that we now don.
- 49-Across: A BARBARY APE is a [Misnamed tailless monkey]. I’m guessing it’s the APE part that’s wrong and not the BARBARY part. Yep, Google confirms: it’s a macaque. I know the Barbary Coast (it’s a dive of a casino on the Las Vegas Strip), but I wasn’t aware of the Barbary ape. I wonder if you can see a Barbary ape playing 21 at the Barbary Coast. A blackjack macaque. I smell a theme….
- 62-Across: [He planted nurseries rather than orchards] is a reference to JOHNNY APPLESEED. Hey, kids–it’s time to play Find the Lie! I’ll give you four statements about Johnny Appleseed, and you tell me which one is a lie (I should note that I pulled the other three statements from Wikipedia, so they might be lies too): (1) Johnny Appleseed was born John Swedenborg, and his mother died while he quite young; (2) when asked why he didn’t marry, Appleseed said that two female spirits would be his wives in the after-life if he stayed single on earth; (3) Appleseed cared about animals too: when he heard a horse was to be put down, he bought the horse, bought a few grassy acres nearby, and turned the horse out to recover–when it did, he gave the horse to someone needy, exacting a promise to treat the horse humanely; and (4) in addition to spreading apple seeds, he was also known for spreading the gospel–he converted many Native Americans, about whom he wrote with fondness, “I have traveled more than 4,000 miles about this country, and I have never met with one single insolent Native American.” The incorrect statement appears at the end of this write-up. No peeking until you guess!
Anyone else note the flowery feel in this puzzle? There’s an OXLIP, an AZALEA right next to some POPLARS bearing tulips, and even THE ROSE, the [Biopic inspired by Janis Joplin]. Even the clue for OPEN is [In full flower]. There’s so much pollen in this puzzle I’m starting to sneeze!
As usual, there are lots of great clues. My favorites were in the northwest corner. [Keys at the piano] had me thinking of lots of things (IVORIES, EBONIES, et al) but not proper names. It’s ALICIA Keys. [Northpaw?] is a fun clue for RIGHTY (left-handed folks are southpaws, so it stands to reason that righties would be northpaws). TWO PAIR is a great entry, and the clue ([Kings and queens at Caesar's Palace, perhaps]) is fun even if it didn’t fool me for a second. Ditto with BOPPER, the [Teeny follower?].
This grid wasn’t exactly the smoothest, what with ICH, DER, IER, and WYE strewn about. There were some tricky entries, too. SAPID, meaning [Mouth-watering], is not a word on the tip of my tongue, and for whatever reason I always seem to struggle with EPODES, the [Horatian "aftersongs"] (nice euphemism).
I admit I’m no fan of cluing SEC with [Like Chianti and Chablis]. Until thirty seconds ago, I had no idea that SEC is an adjective for “dry, as in wine.” (So does that mean that triple sec is really, really dry? Any sots care to help me out?) When it’s crossing the fugly and not entirely intuitive CTNS, an abbreviation for [Boxes] (cartons), this solver needs an easier clue for SEC. The other clue that really vexed me was [Hits what's pitched] for COPES. Come again? Even after looking up “cope” in my dictionary, I’m still not figuring out how this clue works. Fortunately I was confident enough in the crossings to stick with COPES.
Oh, the incorrect statement in Find the Lie was number (1). Appleseed’s given surname was Chapman. Swedenborg is the theologian/philosopher whose writings were the subjects of Appleseed’s preachings. Thanks for playing!
Ki Lee’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Kudos for a theme I haven’t seen before: The phrase BACK TO SQUARE ONE doubles as the instructions for completing the other theme answers, each of which is missing its final letter but that letter can be supplied by going BACK TO SQUARE ONE, as the word/phrase’s first letter is repeated at the end:
- 17a. [*Major financial concern] is ECONOMIC COLLAPS(e).
- 22a. [*Numbers field?] is ANESTHESI(a), the specialty for doctors who numb patients up and/or render them unconscious.
- 50a. [*Fantasized] clues DAYDREAME(d).
- 59a. To [*Misrepresent, in a way] is to TAKE OUT OF CONTEX(t).
I like the theme concept, but it would be more of a knockout if the four affected theme answers had something in common or had some sort of connection to the phrase back to square one.
- 1a. [You might do it after making a wish] is BLOW, as in blow out the candles on your birthday cake. Today would’ve been my crossword-loving grandma’s 100th birthday!
- 28a. TOUGH LOVE is a [Caring but strict approach].
- 64a. ["The __ Affair": Jasper Fforde novel] clues EYRE. Fforde’s Thursday Next mysteries involve a literary detective who enters various fictional worlds of literature, such as going into Jane Eyre.
- 5d. [Name meaning "beloved"] is AIMEE or Amy.
- 31d. [Subject of the biography "The Man Who Loved Only Numbers"] is ERDOS. People who write papers about mathematics have Erdos numbers, which I think is the math equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
- 60d. UMS are [Thinking-on-one's-feet indicators]. You may think it’s bogus to pluralize this answer, but how often do you hear a speaker use a slew of “um”s? Nice clue.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chill Out”
Phonetically, a “BRR” (111-Down) is added to 10 phrases to warp them into something different:
- 23a. [Bonsai trees cut down for wood?] = TINY TIMBER (Tiny Tim)
- 25a. “Charlotte’s Web” pig no longer confined to a pen?] = FREE WILBUR (free will)
- 40a. Giving Justin a breather by taking the stage for him?] = SPELLING BIEBER (spelling bee). Spelling “Bieber” is also challenging for many people who never studied German and are convinced that “Beiber” makes more sense.
- 56a. Church work by a woman who’s not ordained?] = LAY-LADY LABOR (“Lay, Lady, Lay”)
- 61a. Pekoe-potato trade?] = TEA FOR TUBER (“Tea for Two”)
- 74a. One cutting locks in airlocks?] = SPACE BARBER (space bar)
- 77a. Proud parent’s comment when Junior calculates 2 x 2 x 2?] = THAT’S MY CUBER (“that’s my cue”)
- 96a. Cop’s disappointed cry on reading a breathalyzer?] = “SAY IT AIN’T SOBER” (“say it ain’t so”). I don’t like the “it” paired with “sober” here, because who would say that?
- 111a. Roman river after a big ink spill?] = BLACK TIBER (black tie)
- 113a. Fan fiction based on “Cimarron” and “Show Boat”?] =- FAUX FERBER (faux fur)
I liked the theme for the most part—it was kind of fun to try to figure out the theme answers based on the clue, with the variations on “brr” spellings increasing the difficulty. Was less enamored of the fill, though MR. BUBBLE is delightful. 3.5 stars.
Mark Bickham’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Peak-a-Boo” — pannonica’s review
The tall 15×16 grid is apposite, as the long vertical theme entries conceal—not quite shrouded in mist—the names of four famous mountain ranges spanning words. 25-across plays revealer: [Skill helpful in discovering the quartet hidden in 3, 5, 7, and 8 Down] RANGE FINDING. While I know what a range finder is and have a vague idea of how one is used, I’m not sure how much currency it has in verb form.
- 3d. [Region bordered by the Euphrates] SYRIAN DESERT. Wikipedia informs me that it is a combination of steppe and desert and that “the desert is very rocky and flat and mountainous.” So the answer itself contains some elevation.
- 5d. [Study of nonhuman behavior] ANIMAL PSYCHOLOGY. With the -OGY in place I confidently filled in ETHOLOGY, which caused me trouble toward the end of the solve, as the puzzle was not sewing up properly. If you’re a biology major, you think ethology. If your a psychology—or perhaps sociology—major, I suppose you think of animal psychology. The two disciplines strike me as being distinct and I feel ethology is a better answer for the clue. But of course I’m biased.
- 7d. [Severe throat ailment] ACUTE TONSILLITIS. Why is that second L in there, anyway?
- 8d. [Centerpiece of Darwinian theory] NATURAL SELECTION. Eh, I guess you could call it a centerpiece of the theory.
So, with the ANDES, the MALPS, the TETONS, and the URALS we have three continents represented, Asia twice. The puzzle would have been stronger if a fourth was invoked. Perhaps Africa’s Atlas Mountains? Something like HOME AT LAST, PEACE AT LAST, perhaps even the slightly awkward FERMAT LAST THEOREM? Scratch that, it’s seventeen letters; it would have to spill over into the margin.
I was wondering if the longish TIRAMISU at 17a was intentionally clued [Dessert name that's Italian for "pick me up"] to echo the theme, but I doubt it, as its symmetrical partner TWIN SIZE (which sits below the simpatico TANDEM) is thoroughly unrelated. Speaking of symmetrical pairs, I got a weird feeling about ANGOLAN and ANGORAS looking too similar. And pity the poor DALAI (56a) Lama, searching in vain for the missing HIMALAYAS.
- 28d [Musk-secreting mammal] BEAR CAT, which is, of course, neither bear nor cat, although it’s in the Carnivore family with those other two. The binturong is a large viverrid—think civets, genets, and linsangs (all wonderful cruciverbal and Scrabble words)—and one of the few carnivores to possess a prehensile tail. Their musk has a sweet, buttery smell.
- Was completely flummoxed by 32a [Sash insert] because I only thought of obis and beauty pageant tiaras. PANE.
- Speaking of crosswordy entities, where, where were the oh-so appropriate SNO-CAPS??
Stick a flag in me, I’m done.