Joel Kaplow’s New York Times crossword
I don’t know how old Joel Kaplow is. My guess is 65+ based on the fill, because there are a lot of answers that felt pre-Shortzian to me. The six intersecting 15s were all fine, if not particularly exciting (though the SINGING TELEGRAM is fun). But then there’s a Grand Parade of Crosswordese of Yore. When I filled in Captain Hook’s buddy SMEE, I said to myself, “At least it isn’t SNEE.” And then SNEE was on the other side of the grid! Oh, dear. And ESCARP, a [Fort's steep slope], is pursued by a [Click beetle], or ELATER. ELATER! How the hell are ya? I haven’t seen you in ages. ORIBI, ESTE, plural NEAPS, Roman numeral MCML, plural LYES… none of those felt fresh. And ELENA Verdugo, the lesser of the ELENAs now that Elena Kagan’s on the Supreme Court. (True story: I had to Google her last name because I blanked on it and knew Kardashian wasn’t quite right.)
Paula ABDUL, by the way, has been axed from The X Factor. That was just in the “news” a couple days ago.
I think ORTON is usually clued with playwright Joe, right? Nice change-up to have [NFL QB Kyle] this time—I knew that one. Though one wonders why there are two abbreviations in the clue when the answer isn’t curtailed in any way.
I love seeing PAPI clued as a [Spanish term of endearment], and MAINE is [Where "ayuh" is an affirmative]—fun clue, that.
Weird to have AL GORE cross-referenced this way. [4-Down's grp.] mystified me. What organization is he part of?? Turns out it’s DEMS, but I feel he’s transcended partisan politics in recent years.
Weirdest answer in the puzzle: Well, it’s no HASA DIGA EEBOWAI (that was in this week’s Fireball crossword, I kid you not), but HOG SCORE, a [Curling rink line seven yards from the tee], is right up there in the ranks of “Say what?” answers. Do Canadians know this sort of term? Because curling really isn’t in the typical American crossword solver’s portfolio of sports interests. Strange.
David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Five theme answers are warped by having RE- added to the start of the last word:
- 17a. [Communications problem?] is a PHONE RECALL.
- 20a. [Summary of a shrinking mass?] sounds like it’s about a tumor, but it’s a POLAR ICE RECAP.
- 36a. [Title for the longest bridge?] clues EXTENSION RECORD.
- 50a. [Construction site order?] is “RAISE THE REBAR!”
- 57a. [Hardly the award for Chernobyl?] is BEST REACTOR. Fukushima also gets a Razzie award for nuclear reactors.
Do note that the top and bottom pairs of theme answers overlap, and that the grid’s middle has a sinuous swath of white space. While the grid design is ambitious, it does bring about some compromises, such as the EBW/TERN/HSIA/ET TU/ARRET/EPEE run—none of those answers excite me. There’s plenty of other lackluster short fill—SNA DIDI ITE OON UTE NAUT YOO! I suspect the average new solver would look at those entries and say “whoa, maybe crosswords aren’t for me.” (Granted, the Friday puzzle isn’t aimed at newbies, but do they know that?)
My favorite answer is the 40a: [Two-part answer], “YES AND NO.”
Matt Gaffney mentioned the other day that “THAIS has appeared 8 times in the NYT since 1993, all 8 times referring to…wait for it…the Massenet opera.” So hey! Look at that: 42a is THAIS, clued as [Bangkok natives]. Yay, not opera!
David Kahn’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”
David Kahn has a whole book of baseball crosswords, so I bet he likes the sport. (Brendan Emmett Quigley also has a bunch of baseball crossword books.) This week’s sports theme is the most recent World Series champs:
- 16a. [2011 World Series champs] = CARDINALS.
- 9a. [Home of the 16-Across: Abbr.] = STL.
- 18a. [Slugger Albert who hit three homers in Game 3 of the 2011 Series] = PUJOLS. (If you don’t know that’s pronounced “poo-holes,” I’m pleased to inform you.)
- 24a. [16-Across manager who retired after the 2011 World Series: 3 wds.] = TONY LARUSSA.
- 34a. [2011 World Series MVP: 2 wds.] = DAVID FREESE. Um, I’ve never heard of him and needed tons of crossing letters. Not a big baseball fan here.
- 45a. [What the Texas Rangers needed in Game 6 to win the 2011 Series: 2 wds.] = ONE STRIKE.
- 53a. [Color on a 16-Across uniform] = RED.
Cardinals Hall of Famers STAN MUSIAL and BOB Gibson are in the grid, as are other baseball terms and names—a BAT, batters’ AVERAGES, ACE pitchers, Pete ROSE, ROD Carew, NED Yost, and VIN Scully. Muhammad ALI, a couple tennis words, and an Olympic skier round out the sports content. Probably not the easiest puzzle for someone who doesn’t follow sports, but a breeze for hardcore baseball fans.
Steve Salitan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Don’t!”
Steve’s theme is “Don’t!” with that word excised from various imperatives:
- 23a. [Masochist's plea?] = GO BREAKING MY HEART. Hmm, well, masochists are probably looking more for physical pain than for heartbreak. Sing it with me: “Don’t go breaking my heart.” (Elton John and Kiki Dee.)
- 43a. [Defiant diaper wearer's taunt?] = TRY TO CHANGE ME. What parent hasn’t tried to diaper a squirmy, kicking baby? You’re lucky if you don’t get peed on in the process.
- 65a. [Request for a band on a cruise?] = ROCK THE BOAT. Sing it with me: “Rock the boat, don’t tip it over.” (Hues Corporation, 1973 hit.)
- 90a. [Plea from those in witness protection?] = FORGET ABOUT US. Sing it with me: “Don’t you forget about me.” (Simple Minds!)
- 113a. [Freddy Krueger's warning?] = BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.
- 16d. [Second-story man's advice to a prospective partner?] = QUIT YOUR DAY JOB. I confess I don’t understand the clue at all. Consulting the dictionary… okay, a second-story man is a burglar who breaks into a house via the upstairs window. I still don’t get it. Is upstairs burglary typically more of a daytime crime, not a nighttime one?
- 52d. [Demeter's weather command?] = RAIN ON MY PARADE. Again, true confession time. The goddess Demeter is associated with parades? Or is inordinately fond of rain? Wikipedia says “In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons (personified by the Hours). Her common surnames are Sito (σίτος: wheat) as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros (θεσμός, thesmos: divine order, unwritten law) as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society. Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death.” Well! Clear as mud, then.
Stop believing (Journey!) that I understand all the crossword themes.
Today’s mystery person is 66d: [Tim who created TV's "Heroes"], Tim KRING. I watched the show and didn’t know this name.
My favorite clue is 70a: [Money for Monet, e.g.]. A TYPO! Cute. Good thing I understood the clue, because the only place I ever encounter the crosswer 71d: PAWL is in crosswords. It’s a [Ratchet bar] of some sort.
Not thrilled with the fill overall. 3.25 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Playing the Stein Way” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s quip time in today’s CrosSynergy crossword, featuring this [pithy quote by Gertrude Stein]: I LIKE A VIEW / BUT I LIKE TO / SIT / WITH MY BACK / TURNED TO IT. Cute quip, but there’s not much to say about it.
My favorite parts of the puzzle were the wide open corners and the TAPIOCA, the [Pudding type], running down the middle (and connecting with the theme entries in three places!). MANI-PEDI is a great and satisfying answer for regular solvers; we are used to seeing one or the other in our grids, so the full pair feels like a nice indulgence (how apt, in this case). UPSTREAM and WIDE-EYED are likewise fun.
Bonus points for the Q sitting right there in the number 1 box. QUEEG, the [Captain of the U.S.S. Caine], and QUICHE, the [Pielike brunch fare] get the puzzle off to a whimsical start.
I made it a little hard on myself by trying WAVE as the [Ocean motion] (it was TIDE) and DISMAYED instead of WIDE-EYED for [Amazed]. Heck, I even tried HULA as the [Festive time] instead of NOEL. I guess my mind is wanting a vacation to the islands. It took me a while to find COW SHED, the [Bovine abode]. “Cow” came easily enough, but “shed” was new to me. But the crossings convinced me it had to be right. Never heard of OPI, the [Popular brand of nail polish], either, but here again the crossings came to the rescue.
My favorite clue was [It's just over a foot] for ANKLE. In my case, WAISTLINE would have been a viable answer too (in the sense that I have to suck in my gut if I want to see my feet). That reminds me–time for dessert!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Prime Time Panhandlers” — pannonica’s review
With the campaign races, fundraising, and all the political news coverage going on, it’d be understandable to assume from the title that this puzzle would somehow be a commentary on the trials and tribulations of Super PACs, posturing, and pandering.
But noooooooooo, these ready-for-prime-time players are TV CHEFS, as revealed in the central across answer to [Names at the end of 17-, 26-, 41-, and 55-Across].
- 17a. [Unflattering comparison for a fruitcake] HOCKEY PUCK, which suggests Wolfgang Puck, an Austrian restaurateur known for, among other things, frozen pizzas; draw your own conclusions. Factette: Nowadays hockey pucks are discs made of vulcanized rubber, but their ancestors were spherical and square (cuboid?) and made of wood. For more, see Wikipedia.
- 26a. ["Texas Justice" alternative] JUDGE JOE BROWN, indicating Alton Brown, relatively mild but highly entertaining mad kitchen scientist and host of Good Eats. For further investigation, see molecular gastronomy and, in parts, Nathan Myhrvold’s landmark tome. Both Texas Justice and Judge Joe Brown are television shows with the truthistic trappings of legal proceedings. Texas Justice went off the air in 2005, so the clue would read better with a “onetime.”
- 41a. [Group called Girls Tyme when they lost on "Star Search" in 1993] DESTINY’S CHILD, leading to the grande dame of American cooking shows, Julia Child. Not much to say about her because she continues to flood the public consciousness via books, films, and whatnot, such as Being Julia and Julia and Julia and I Was a Teenage Julia.
- 55a. [Vacuum tube type] CATHODE RAY, aka perky Upstater Rachael Ray.
Fine theme, which immediately put me in mind of the mid- to upscale downtown Manhattan purveyor, Broadway Panhandler, which is two or three locations removed from Broadway and currently resides on 8th Street, aka Shoeland. However, I feel JUDGE JOE BROWN is weak because—even though it’s the title of a program—is also the name of a person. Maybe something like VAN DYKE BROWN would have been better; yes it’s one letter too short and includes the name of a person (but doesn’t constitute a person inandofitself), but I’m sure you get the idea. I was also distracted that the clue for DESTINY’S CHILD, although an interesting bit of trivia, references a prime-time television show while the other three answers do not.
There’s also an allied bit of long fill at 26d [Cook for whom a culinary award is named] JAMES BEARD. Normally long and full-name fill is welcomed, but I’m leery of this one because its symmetrical partner, TELEPORTED, while nice, has nothing to do with the theme. 8d NECKBONE, on the other hand, is fine because it’s only tangentially related to the theme; it’s also a great entry.
- The fill at 1a and 21a, FIVEK and LAINK, look vaguely Czech at first, but they break down to FIVE K [High school cross country race, typically] and LA INK (Reality show featuring Kat Von D (or VOND, if you prefer).
- Not being enough of a Star Wars geek, I’m not sure whether the clue for 29a is correct. ["Empire Strikes Back" attack bot] AT-AT, “All-Terrain Armored Transport”—I confess I thought it was something like “All-Terrain Attack-Tetrapod” before I looked it up. Anyway, is it a vehicle, a bot, a robot, a droid, what?
- German! 58a [Aged Hamburger?] ALTE, which cutely follows CTRL [Key in many shortcuts, for short]. 22a ["O Freunde nicht __ Töne! (opening note to Beethoven's Ninth)] DIESE. Which recalls 11d in yesterday’s NYT. (Proofreading: the clue lacks a close-quotation mark.)
- 4d [Great Smokey Mountains Deer] ELK is either an easy or tricky clue, depending on your level of knowledge. (1) If one is completely ignorant, one wont know that ELK is the most common cervid in crosswords; (2) if one is mildly crossword-literate but ignorant of faunal distribution, then the answer is a gimme; (3) if one is knowledgeable about localized extinctions, one will realize that ELK are long gone from the Tennessee–North Carolina location of that national park; (4) if one is current with conservation efforts or has visited the park recently, one would be aware that a viable population of Cervus canadensis was reintroduced to the area in 2001. Whew!
- I have yet to make up my mind about gotcha! part-of-speech clues like 7d [Rock, paper, or scissors] NOUN.
- 34d [Lime quantity] TWIST feels off to me. It’s more of an incarnation than a quantity. On the other hand, a similar use of lime is a slice, and that’s definitely a quantity. Still, I’d have preferred “garnish” in the wording.
- Favorite clues: 36d [Mystic's charms] CRYSTALS. Sneaky because these charms are the tangible kind. The flashy 9d [Teacher's comment that she maybe might write near sentences sort of like this current clue here] AWK[ward]! (frag.)
- Even though it’s also an abbreviation, it’s nice to see an alternative to Robert Louis Stevenson. 40d RLS stands for restless leg syndrome.
- 42d [Michelangelo or Donatello, e.g.] TURTLE. Grr. Why won’t they die?
- I feel obligated to mention the non-self-referential 12d [Popular subway pastime] CROSSWORD. Trying to solve on the train has always frustrated me because I’d have to wait for the stops to rapidly write down all the mentally accumulated fill. Hate shaky writing!
Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Repeating Geography” — pannonica’s review
Now this is a sort of theme I like! No strained wordplay, no ambitious tricks, just some interesting information, presented in a bite-size griddy format. The eight (!) theme entries trade on the tendency for redundancy when combining English descriptive terms with names from foreign languages that are already descriptive. I was familiar with two of these, but was happy to see them, and was glad to learn some new ones.
- 17a. [The __ Tar Pits (after translation, "The The Tar Tar Pits")] LA BREA. See also, The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What’s wrong with you, southern California? Spanish.
- 18a. [ __ River (after translation, "Crooked River River")] CUYAHOGA. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain? Iroquois.
- 29a. [ __ Islands (after translation, "Boar Island Islands")] ORKNEY. Scottish Gaelic.
- 44a. [ __ Hill (after translation, "Hill Hill Hill")] BREDON. Celtic and Old English.
- 56a. [Lake __ (after translation, "Lake Large Lake")] MICHIGAN. Ojibwa.
- 58. [ __ Desert (after translation, "Desert Desert"]) SAHARA. Arabic.
- 3d. [The Rock of __ (after translation, "The Rock of the Rock of Tariq")] GIBRALTAR. Arabic, via Spanish.
- 33d. [ __ Falls (after translation, "Waterfall Falls")] MINNEHAHA. Dakota.
Fun, fun! Nevertheless, it won’t convince me to patronize Little Caesar’s pizzerias. 58 theme squares is darn respectable. Plus, there’s a minimum of frass in the fill. Really, the “worst” are the abbreviation HGT for “height” and the initialism DNR for “do not resuscitate,” and they aren’t at all offensive.
- Long and/or interesting non-theme fill includes: SWAP MEET, TORCHING, AKIMBO, SOMINEX, RECTORY, and DRY ICE.
- (Depressive) literary content! 21a ["The blood is poetry / There is no stopping it poet" poet] Sylvia PLATH. 52d ["Der Tod in Venedig" novelist] Thoman MANN. And for good measure, there’s 38a [Émile who authored a mathematical physics treatise] MATHIEU; c’mon, that’s pretty depressing!
- Clues That Lead Me Astray: Had CIRCUS for BIG TOP (1a); PRANK for PUT-ON (23a); BALL for CALF (27d).
- A nice consecutive pair of clues near the end were 57d and 59d: [Turn right] and [Turn left] for GEE and HAW.
- Trickiest clue: 46a [Teach wrongdoing?] PIRACY, because Edward Teach was also known as Blackbeard.
Very enjoyable and edifying puzzle.