Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword, “Networking Event”
Cool theme: Eight phrases are clued as if they have to do with the TV (mostly cable) channels that the first words double as. Don’t watch TV? Don’t have cable? Then this isn’t the theme for you. If you do watch TV and romped through this puzzle, now you can lord it over the “I don’t watch television” people.
The theme launches with SPIKE HEELS; Spike TV used to be TNN, which used to be The Nashville Network, but now it’s basically “TV for men” the way Lifetime is “TV for women.” Then there’s E! MARKETING, ENCORE PRESENTATION, ION EXCHANGE (Ion used to be i, which used to be Pax, and Ion runs infomercials instead of Christian broadcasting in the wee hours), HISTORY BUFF, LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP, FOX HUNTERS (regular ol’ Fox is a broadcast network, while the other seven channels are on cable), and OXYGEN TANK. Given how many cable channels exist, it wasn’t necessarily easy to pin down the key words for the theme answers, but if you know your cable lineup you have a leg up here.
On the applet, I see some crazy-long solving times as well as speed-solver Stella’s crazy-fast 5:27. Whoa! I will bet you a dollar that Stella has cable.
Highlights in the fill: DISCO STU, SAND DUNE (I like the dunes lining Lake Michigan’s eastern shores better than your [Sahara feature]), CHOP-CHOP, CHAIRLIFT, TWIX, MR. HYDE, and the prosaic compound-word trio of TOOTHPASTE, PAINTBRUSH, and LAMPPOST.
The only real sticking point I can identify (aside from TV channels if you eschew TV) is 64d: [Sheiks' garments], or ABAS—though the crossings appear solid. If you got stuck, what snared you?
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
There’s lots to like in this 72/32 freestyle offering from Patrick Jordan, but the one lasting impression I have from this puzzle is “There are such things as JACKASS PENGUINS???” (Yes, the punctuation in my mind is repeated for effect.) [Seabirds that make braying sounds] could not have been a more direct or helpful clue, but I still couldn’t believe my eyes as I was filling in the last few squares.
ILL TEMPERS and ADOPTEE also seemed strange to me, but that’s because they struck me as unusual word forms. To my ear, one may be ill-tempered, but one does not necessarily have an ill temper. Likewise, I would probably use “one who was adopted” or even “adopted one” in lieu of “adoptee,” even though it uses more words. They’re both legitimate, of course, but they stood out in a not so great way.
But these little things are far, far outweighed by the highlights. Among them:
- JOHNNY KNOXVILLE. Even if, like me, you don’t care much for him ([He played Luke in 2005's "The Dukes of Hazzard"] and was one of the stars on Jackass), you have to like the entry with its four rare letters. I also like how it provides a subtle tie to the JACKASS PENGUINS, the puzzle’s other 15-letter entry.
- The peace and love vibes coming from the northern hemisphere. There’s a DEAD HEAD (OF COURSE), the SIXTIES, and even some BE-INS. I dig, man, I dig. (Did you notice how SIXTIES and BE-INS cross INHALE? Is that intentional?)
- [Numbers which are often parenthesized] as a clue for AREA CODES. I kept thinking of losses on a balance sheet, but I guess that says more about my own personal finances than I should admit.
- The lively entries like DO NOT PASS, AQUAPLANES, HAPPY TUNE, Gene SISKEL, PAYLOADS, ONE ON ONE, and HELPS UP. Good entries all over the place.
[Michaelmas setting] meant nothing to me as a clue for SEPTEMBER. I would have guessed Michaelmas was a holiday created by Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s character on The Office back when it was still good. Wikipedia tells me that Michaelmas, aka the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, falls on September 29 and traditionally marks the beginning of fall. It also marks the beginning of one of the four “legal seasons” of the year in the courts of England and Wales. The United States Supreme Court, following that tradition, starts its annual term by convening on the first Monday of October. I always wondered why that was the first day of the Court’s term.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Watch the Birdies”
If you downloaded this puzzle in .puz form, you may have been perplexed by last week’s title reappearing. This is no “Horsing Around” theme, it’s a “Watch the Birdies” theme—with TV and movie characters whose names include bird names. (Some are names from fiction, but they’ve seen movie adaptations.)
- 23a. [Member of a TV family], KEITH PARTRIDGE.
- 27a. [Ill-fated guest of Norman Bates], MARION CRANE.
- 32a. ["Great" guy?], JAY GATSBY.
- 52a. [Scout's dad], ATTICUS FINCH.
- 68a. [Agent on the trail of "Buffalo Bill"], CLARICE STARLING.
- 84a. ["Friends" character whose last name sounds like an all-you-can-eat joint], PHOEBE BUFFAY. The phoebe is “an American tyrant flycatcher.”
- 101a. [Lindsay Lohan's character in "Mean Girls"], CADY HERON.
- 108a. [Johnny Depp's Caribbean pirate], JACK SPARROW.
- 117a. Keira Knightley’s damsel, opposite Johnny Depp’s pirate], ELIZABETH SWANN. The only spelling change in a bird name in this puzzle, but I guess Merl liked the Pirates Sparrow/Swann thing too much to pass up.
Good fill includes SMILEY FACE, VAPOR TRAIL, LITHGOW, and BEER KEGS. The worst entry is 79a: [Southernmost point of Hawaii, Ka ___], LAE. That word is more often clued as the seaport of Papua New Guinea, the last place Amelia Earhart was seen. Weirdest answer: 94d: BELOWO, meaning “below zero” or [Really cold].
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday Crossword, “Get-Togethers” — pannonica’s review
Smart little theme, it takes familiar groups and changes the constituents via punnification. Some are simple homophones, others involve marginally more significant alterations. Some seem a little stale, but all are entertaining.
- 26a. [Group of golfers?] TEE PARTY (Tea).
- 28a. [Farmers' group?] SOWING CIRCLE (sewing). Not to be confused with a crop circle.
- 41a. [Group of chemists?] PHARM TEAM (farm).
- 43a. [Crusading group?] KNIGHT CLUB (night).
- 55a. [Group of house-cleaners?] GRIME SYNDICATE (crime). I liked this one a lot, despite having seen more than one cleaning service called “Partners in Grime.”
- 67a. [Group of holiday cynics?] BAH ASSOCIATION (bar). Remember, folks, this crossword is published in the Boston market.
- 84a. [Gun-toting group?] PIECE CORPS (Peace).
- 87a. [Group of barbers?] HAIR FORCE (air).
- 98a. [Quad-fancying group?] are not ardent ATVers, but a quadriceps-adoring THIGH SOCIETY (high).
- 102a. [Feminine group?] YIN CROWD (in-). Apart from the contextually forgivable BAH, this themer constitutes the most drastic alteration from the original, but it’s well within the bounds of acceptability, even if it is an outlier in this puzzle. (By the way, I’ve checked and there is no pipa cover version of the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s “The In-Crowd.” I’ll have to drop a line to Wu Man.)
Not a knock-you-socks of theme, but very well executed and thoroughly enjoyable.
The best non-thematic part of the puzzle are the neatly arranged triple-eight stacks at the top and bottom center of the grid: PERSONAS/LEBANESE/ANISETTE and ADDITIVE/NEONATES/ARSONIST. Without exception they’re all great fill and fit together well, with crossings that don’t skimp.
Fairly low CAP™ Quotient (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials) added to the smoothness and pleasantness of the solve.
- 76a [Bod pics]. I had MRIS, then CATS, before finally seeing it was TATS.
- Seems there was an opportunity to write simpatico clues for 2d and 12d, [Leave the Land of Nod] RISE, and [Up and about] ASTIR, even if they aren’t contiguous. We also see an affinity between 1d and 34d [Pointer's reference] THAT, and 34d [Yonder group's] THEIR. Incidentally, should “group” have been expurgated from all non-theme clues?
- DARN and EGAD too!
- 19d [Brontean surname] for EYRE. Small quibble, but it may literally be a technicality. Not long ago I expressed my perplexedness at the nonfunctional diaeresis that appears over the e in Brontë, so I note its absence here. On the other hand, it might simply be a concession to AcrossLite’s limitations, which sometimes render diacritics as a string of garbled characters.
- TWICE SHY is very nice long fill, and the clue is rather good too: [Attitude of the bitten]. (14d)
- Liked the crossing of CIVET and DUVET, but feel compelled to point out the partial repetition between the (biologically correct) clue at 54a [Musky catlike critter] and 64a CATNAP [Quick snooze].
- Over in the center of the east side of the grid is a pair of obscure answers: 72d [French composer Jacques] IBERT and 73d [Goosefoot family plant] ORACH. Fortunately, the crossing fill was a breeze. They might have been necessitated by the two themers they connect.
- Athletes Steve GROGAN and Lou BOUDREAU were not in my wheelhouse. (29d & 83d). Then again, both played for Boston-area teams.
- Quibble time again: 115a [Nori-wrapped rolls] for SUSHI. Those items are called MAKI (or makizushi). The cuisine itself is called sushi as an umbrella term. At the very least, the clue should have had an appended “for instance.”
- Favorite clue: 50a [Primo in bookstores] LEVI.
And a pretty primo (if easy) puzzle too.
John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Oh, You!” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. When I saw today’s title, the first thing that came to mind was the movie Oh, You Heavenly Dog. I remember going to see that one at a drive-in (man, am I old!) when I was a youngster. It starred Benji, and my sister and I were big Benji fans. A quick search reveals that the movie’s actually called Oh! Heavenly Dog, and it starred Benjean, Benji’s daughter. She was credited as “Benji” to draw in the crowds. I wonder if Benji’s great-grandchildren are acting in cheesy straight-to-DVD releases nowadays. OK, where were we? There’s a puzzle today? Right, theme entries…
- 23a. [Parasite extermination overkill?] - LOUSE CANNON. As you can see, we’ve got an OO to OU change. This is a fun entry. Reminds me of a Tom & Jerry or Itchy & Scratchy cartoon.
- 34a. [Lead actor in a war movie, at times?] - SHOUTING STAR. Twenty years ago, you could have clued this with a Sam Kinison reference. Are there any shouting stars these days? Maybe that chef guy who yells at people in kitchens. I’ve never seen the show, but the ads are painful. Has anyone ever cracked him on the head with a frying pan? I’d watch that.
- 56a. [Bit of culinary class practice?] – FLOUR EXERCISE.
- 75a. [Do-gooder's long-term goal?] – ROUT OF ALL EVIL.
- 96a. [Cause for repeated whistle-blowing?] – CHAIN OF FOULS.
- 110a. [Lily-livered takeover?] – CHICKEN COUP.
- 42d. [Stratosphere or euphoria?] – HIGH NOUN. I liked this one because the clue was so baffling.
- 53d. [Gloomy train station?] – DOUR STOP.
That’s a nice selection of theme entries, and the clues were clever. Here are a few more entries that caught my eye.
- 48a. [Not exaggerated] - LITERAL. This entry literally made my head explode.
- 66a. [How Santa dresses, for the most part] - IN RED. Speaking of dressing, remember last week’s “Pajama Party” puzzle? How did I not include this picture?
- 12d. [Fastest feline] – CHEETAH. I love cheetahs. I’ve got a really cool cheetah picture, but I’m only allowed one picture per post. Maybe next week!
- 77d. [Sportscaster Scully] – VIN. A living legend. I’m not a Dodger fan, but I love listening to Vin Scully. He’ll be starting his 63rd season in a couple of months.
- 112d. ["The Eyes of ___": 2005 PBS science show] – NYE. I don’t know why I’m stuck on old movies today. My first thought on this one was “Laura Mars.”
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 95″
Quick take, because this cold is making me whiny.
Toughest clue pair: 10a: [Stay places?] for MASTS (grr, I don’t care for nautical lingo and don’t know why crosswords expect us to know it) crossing 12d: [Play featuring the lizards Leslie and Sarah] for SEASCAPE.
Best fill: PUT ‘EM UP, GUINEA PIG, DON’T BE SHY, SAM SPADE, KEWPIE