Kevin Der’s New York Times crossword
Kevin’s theme is tied together by the word SAILS: [Travels over what's hidden in the answers to the seven starred clues]. The word SEA is in each of seven 9-letter answers, and it progresses from the first trigram to the last trigram as it goes through SEARCH OUT, USE AS BAIT, LOSE A GAME, MIDSEASON, RESTS EASY, ROYAL SEAL, and CELTIC SEA.
Man! I didn’t even know there was a CELTIC SEA. I have studied my seas between Ireland and England now and I’ve got it straight: The Celtic is between the southwestern tip of England (Cornwall, where Land’s End is) and the southeastern end of Ireland, in the Cork zone. The Irish Sea is to the north of the Celtic, roughly between Liverpool and Dublin. Where’s the North Sea? That’s on the other (east/north) side of the U.K., separating it from Denmark and Norway.
Now, the theme doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. If SAILS is the point, why are the SEAs all bouncing along as if they were ships on the sea? The boat SAILS across the SEAs, from one side of the world/crossword to the other?
I blanked on the name of the woeful CHEEZIT cracker. I know people love them—but why? I like the entry, though, and I like the SHE-WOLF of myth, the SCOURGES/TSETSES combo, and the geographic bent of ESTONIA and ANTILLES.
Look at 9d: PALSY—it’s clued as [Tight], as in “yo, Deb Amlen and I are tight,” we’re pals, we’re PALSY, rather than as [Cerebral ___]. My cousin’s son Tyler has C.P. He plays sled hockey (ice hockey on sleds rather than skates) and was invited to go along with the championship Chicago Blackhawks team when they visited the White House. Tyler met President Obama and if I recall correctly, Tyler got Obama to sign his little sister’s copy of the president’s children’s book. (Not Sasha and Malia’s book—the book the president wrote. Too many pronouns!)
Trickiest square bragging rights go to square 42. 42d is [Ophthalmologist's procedure], and EYE TEST fits perfectly, except that optometrists and other health-care workers probably do more of those than the M.D.’s do. What is this DYE TEST that eye doctors do? I have no idea. I just know that I had UNASKEE instead of UNASKED for [Voluntarily, perhaps], and I bet tomorrow will bring people Googling voluntarily unaskee.
Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Jumper”
Neat theme, and not one that I recall seeing before. The four theme answers look like complete gibberish, but the letters in these two-part answers are merely playing LEAP FROG. Each one connotes “Jumper”/LEAP FROG action. The first one is CLEARING HURDLES, but the letters alternate: CHLUERADRLIENSG. For 27a, a BOUNCING / BABY BOY fills the squares, leap frog style. 47a’s cowboy is HOPALONG CASSIDY, and 65a is COLORADO SPRINGS.
- The two movies clued with the “The game…” taglines, TRON and SAW.
- The Zoroastrian god/Japanese car MAZDA clue.
- The BAKER who’s a [Dough nut?].
- The German-language action in [Wetter waterway] for RUHR (Wetter is a town in Germany) and BIER is a [Wein alternative].
- “AS IF!” is a [Cher Horowitz catchphrase] from the movie Clueless.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Ornery” — pannonica’s review
Here we have a straightforward letter-substitution theme, in which words ending in -ore become words ending in -orn, with reclued results.
- 17a. [Grain cultivated in Chernobyl?] NUCLEAR CORN (nuclear core). Incidentally, another “grain” clue at 25d [Creamy dish made with arborio grains] RISOTTO; stir, stir, stir!
- 24a. [X-rated editions of Garfield and Ziggy?] PORN STRIPS (pore strips). Took me a while to grasp what “pore strips” are, but then I remembered the targeted cleaners marketed notably by Bioré (parent company is KOA!). I have been too shaken by the image of Garfield and Ziggy porn.
- 37a. [Anger about an opponent's excellent Scrabble move?] TRIPLE-WORD SCORN (triple-word score). This must have been the seed entry. Long spanner, by far the most successful and entertaining.
- 52a. [Shakespearean "I can't believe we just stayed up all night!"?] MORN TO COME (more to come). …
- 62a. [Result of every resident of an East Coast state going hairless?] JERSEY SHORN (“Jersey Shore”). Even though the answer is chuckle-worthy, the clue is tortuous. Also, shorn isn’t synonymous with depilous; maybe something like “getting trimmed”? See also 26d [Brand used instead of waxing] NAIR.
Despite not working exactly like the theme mechanics, I can’t help seeing the title and thinking of an orrery. Anyway, can’t say I loved the theme, but it has a few moments. On the other hand, the fill is relatively free of the crosswordese, abbrevs., and partials we all know and loathe. Let’s take a look.
- Lovely, lovely vertical triple-eight stacks in the northeast and southwest: ITALIANO/CREEPIER/HERDSMAN and TRIMARAN/RENOVATE/INGRATES. Should the intersection of TRIMARAN and TRIPLE… offend? It doesn’t bother me too much; that’s a slippery slope. Next could very well be RENOVATE and INGRATES, and then where does one stop? Sadly, the resultant three-letter stacks are not so hot: ICH/TRE/AER and RAT/ATE/NES.
- A couple of rarer words: 2d [Pointed] ACUATE; 6d [Particle made of quarks] BARYON. Perhaps some solvers found TAJIK or BRIOCHE unfamiliar? My personal bane was Orlando’s “O-RENA.”
- German! One is clued overtly (32a) ["Was __ das?" (German "What is that?")] IST, while the other is much more subtle (11a) [Worms self-identification] ICH.
- Even though they’re rather crosswordy, I liked seeing playwright William INGE and novelist Georges PEREC in the puzzle—in the same row, no less!
- Okay, here are a couple of ugly abbrevs. and partials: 18d ADP [Big name in payroll]; 31a I AIM [["__ to kill you" ("Sling Blade" line)].
- Hipness! 56a [Pitchfork darling with "Past Life Martyred Saints"] EMA. Pitchfork is a self-consciously hip music review website. So, no, the woman in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is not a pitchfork darling. 33d [Common typo often mocked online] TEH.
- Favorite clue is the sneaky 47d [They're fire proof] EMBERS. Honorable mention to the answer to 20a [Certain old maid] CAT LADY. Finally, hands up: who first thought ANIME for what turned out to be MANGA at 67 across?
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
It’s hidden anagrams and potential lead-ins all over today’s puzzle… you’ll be seeing stars before it’s all over.
- 6d. [Word with the 57-Across in 17-Across] – RUSSIAN…
- 17a. [Where pros play] - SPORTS ARENA
- 21a. [Word with the 57-Across in 12-Down] - LIBERAL…
- 12d. [Like most Valentines] – HEART-SHAPED
- 41a. [Word with the 57-Across in 25-Down] - COAL…
- 25d. [Ammo for a simple cannon] – MORTAR SHELL
- 57a. [Night sky feature, and hint to a four-letter sequence hidden in 17-Across and 12- and 25-Down] – STAR CLUSTER
What’s really neat is that each lead-up word crosses its associated STAR anagram in the grid, hence the cluster. What’s not so neat is that all this cross-referencing gives me a headache.
Who is avant-garde Belgian artist James ENSOR? I think I’ve said all I can by myself. Some research tells me that he was a surrealist and expressionist from the late 19th c. to the mid-20th.
RAP SHEETS is my favorite entry in this puzzle, though I do like the look of SUNUNU in the grid. It’s right under ECOCAR; do consumers use the word ecocar, or is that just sales jargon? ETAIL is certainly an something I only see in grids; most of the time accompanied by [Net sales?] And the DEE/ESS pair that’s a [Dallas opening/closing?] is a bit weak, as the phrases don’t lend themselves to clue much of anything else. I’m surprised they weren’t combined with ELL to make a cable modem alternative. All in all, though, fun stuff.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “eBay Advice” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features a beautiful grid and a cute theme involving homonyms for “buy” and “sell” set forth in the form of advice given to eBay users:
- 17-Across: First, ["If you want to learn more from that author..."] then BUY THE BOOK, a play on doing something legitimately, or “by the book.”
- 52-Across: Next, ["If you want to advance academically without studying..."] then BUY DEGREES (from the much-less-familiar-to-me-at-least-but-I’m-not-sure-I’m-the-best-authority-on-such-matters-unlike-other-stuff-like-Star-Wars-and-game-show-trivia-on-which-I-seem-to-know-way-more-than-I-should phrase “by degrees”). How do I use this in a sentence? Does one “advance by degrees” or something like that?
- 11-Down: Psst! Hey! Buddy! ["If you want to make a few bucks in the communications business..."] then you should SELL PHONES (“cell phones”). My favorite answer of the bunch.
- 27-Down: Of all of the pearls of wisdom in this puzzle, I think the most apt advice for a real eBay user is this: ["If you want to get rid of your old Legos..."], then SELL BLOCKS (“cell blocks”).
Does using the same homonyms (“by” and “cell”) twice annoy you? I didn’t mind it, as it would seem the only other options would be “bye” and “cel,” and those would appear much more unwieldy to use. BUY FOR NOW? ANIMATION SELL? Ugh and ugh, respectively.
But look at the purty grid! You’ve got the stair-cased fives ascending from left to right, and some neat 8s to help with the framing. Naturally I loved IRS AUDIT and its clue, [Unwanted check from the govt.]. But I must also extend props to SET A DATE, UPRIGHTS, BARNACLE, BED TABLE, LAKE ERIE, and perhaps my favorite, THE BUG ([It may be caught in winter]). That answer eluded me for a while, so I should probably be thankful for all the vitamin C I’ve been taking lately.
My quicksand came in the far west with the intersection of [Cellist Pablo] CASALS (I knew that, but my brain tooted), BEL [Paese cheese], and, alas, COMBS, the [Salon supply]. Whenever I see that clue, my instinctive answer is DYE or DYES, and when that’s not it, my confidence just gets shaken. I had -OM-S for what felt like the longest time and just couldn’t see COMBS for the life of me. When I finally remembered CASALS, of course, it hit me. But my personal failing didn’t affect my enjoyment of this puzzle. Sure, there’s DARERS next to LADERS, both crossing EWERS. But that’s hardly ugly in this beholder’s view.
Stan Newman’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”
The theme is “albums that sold a boatload last year”:
- 18a. [37-/28-Across album that sold about 2 million copies in the US in 2011: 3 wds.] = BORN THIS WAY
- 22a. THA ["__ Carter IV" (album that sold almost 2 million copies in 2011)]
- 23a. OWN ["__ the Night" (Lady Antebellum album that sold a million copies in 2011)]
- 37a/28a. [Monster Ball Tour artist] = LADY GAGA
- 33a. [Her "21" was the top-selling album in the US in 2011] = ADELE. The whole album is about playing blackjack, of course. Her “19″ album two years earlier was about playing blackjack poorly.
- 36a. LIL [__ Wayne (rapper who recorded 22-Across)]
- 46a. [His "My Kinda Party" album sold over 2 million copies in 2011: 2 wds.] = JASON ALDEAN
- 10d/4d. [Her "Teenage Dream" album sold over 2 million copies by 2011] = KATY PERRY.
- 46d. [His "Watch the Throne" album with Kanye West sold over a million copies in 2011: Hyph.] = JAY-Z. Their upcoming follow-up, “Wash the Throne,” has some cuts with the tag “feat. Ty-D-Bol.”
Given the ubiquity of these super-hits, anyone paying a little attention to top-40 music in 2011 should have done all right on this crossword. I would have liked to see Cee Lo Green in the puzzle, but guess what? His album didn’t sell a million copies, though the “F(orget) You” single sold over 5 million digital downloads. That’s a lot of dollars on iTunes.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Cue Shtick”
Brendan tacks a Q onto four phrases today, and hilarity ensues:
- 20a. [Personal oral cotton swab?] = Q-TIP OF MY TONGUE
- 25a. [Petting zoos full of '80s video game characters?] = Q-BERT PARKS
- 45a. [Scholars of Eli Manning and Tom Brady?] = QB STUDENTS
- 50a. [Drugs that will help you finish your math proofs?] = Q.E.D. MEDICATIONS (the base phrase here isn’t as natural as the others, but the result is funny so we’ll let it slide)
- Tricky clues with several intentional traps into which I dutifully fell: 65a. has [Dove's opponent] for EDYS instead of hawk, while 9-d. has [Bess's man] for PORGY instead of Harry.
- Took me 9:33, in part due to those traps.
- Nice palindrome action at 4d with PUFF UP.
- Scrabbly fill: in addition to the four theme Q’s we also get a J, a Z, and two X’s.
- Fill roundup: NRBQ, QDOBA, DOGMA, NYPD, and of course SUPERMAN.
Thanks for the puzzle, Brendan (who will be playing Qatari 2600 games all day).