Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
We have an extra row in this puzzle thanks to the central quad-stack having an even number of rows. Listen up, I am about to fall asleep so let me just review the 15s:
Two at the top, NO NEED TO THANK ME and I MEAN IT THIS TIME: These are wonderful, colloquial, chatty. Don’t put them together into a single statement, though.
The middle quad has the coveted TRIPLE WORD SCORE from Scrabble and its imitators, along with a snoozy RESIDENTIAL AREA (familiar phrase, yes, but flat and full of super-common letters), some gross IMITATION BUTTER (is that a thing? is it something other than margarine? I might like it better clued as the bottled flavoring, but that might make it a 15-letter partial), and BEATS ONE’S BREAST.
At the bottom, we have a 1991 Jackie Chan movie called OPERATION CONDOR, which I have no recollection of (it surely is no Drunken Master). Googling … Sequel to Armour of God. May or may not have seen it; husband and I had a Jackie Chan phase at some point. The other 15 down yonder is LONG-TERM PARKING, which was developing into PONG-TERM-something for a good long while because I had POPE for 52d: [John Paul II, e.g.]. Great mislead for POLE!
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword
If you haven’t been following pop culture continuously since the ’70s, you might find this theme mystifying. For me, it landed mostly in familiar territory. The trick is puns built with two celeb last names, clued as surname/surname mailbox labels as if they were apartment roommates:
- 17a. PITT/CRUISE, [Actor roomies/ mailbox label that sounds like racing groups?]. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, pit crews on a car-racing track.
- 24a. CAAN/MANN, [Actor/flutist roomies' mailbox label that sounds like a crook?]. James Caan or his son Scott Caan, plus an unidentified flutist named Mann (I bet one of you knows his or her first name), con man.
- 32a. HART/RAITT, [TV host/singer roomies' mailbox label that sounds like a vital sign?]. Mary Hart (I forget what she is/was on), Bonnie Raitt, heart rate.
- 45a. ROLLE/BARR, [Actress/comic roomies' mailbox label that sounds like an auto safety feature?]. Esther Rolle of Good Times (’70s sitcom), Roseanne Barr, roll bar.
- 51a. SKYE/CAPP, [Actress/cartoonist roomies' mailbox label that sounds like an airport employee]. Ione Skye, Al Capp, skycap.
- 63a. TOWNE/CRYER, [Screenwriter/actor roomies' mailbox label that sounds like an old announcer?]. Robert Towne, Jon Cryer, town crier.
It’s good that there’s that consistency of every name being spelled differently from its sound-alike pun word. I knew 11 of the 12 names. How many were familiar to you?
I like seeing ICARUS and DREAM UP in the grid, though I could do without ENIAC, HESSE, and OLA. We hardly ever see GYN in the grid, do we? Here it is at 12d, [MD for women], no fuss. Cruciverb.com’s database shows that it’s been in the mainline crosswords a whopping four times before in the past five years. Is it just that the letters aren’t so useful to constructors, or has it been deemed quasi-inappropriate for the Sunday breakfast table? I wonder.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hidden Treasures” – Sam Donaldson’s review
68-Across says there’s ORES in them thar theme entries, i.e., that they’re the [Hidden treasures (found in the middles of 17-, 26-, 45-, and 60-Across)]. Once again, Ashwood-Smith has found four 15-letter entries that contain the same letter sequence in the center. This is fast becoming another trademark gimmick for him.
The theme entries this time:
- 17-Across: [Babe Ruth, in 1914], was a BALTIMORE ORIOLE. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that without the BALT- in place from the very easy northwest corner.
- 26-Across: BLACK FOREST CAKE is the [Dessert with cherries] that I had trouble figuring out. I’m not a big fan of cherries atop my desserts, so black forest cake has never been on my dessert radar. Given that I’m trying to lose weight to fit into my wedding suit, though, that’s probably for the better anyway.
- 45-Across: A SONG TO REMEMBER is a movie I don’t remember. All I can tell you is that it’s a [Merle Oberon/Paul Muni movie of 1945].
- 60-Across: A SOPRANO RECORDER is a [High-pitched woodwind]. In the fourth grade we all had to purchase recorders for use in music class. Were we playing soprano recorders or something else? Beats me–we just called them “recorders.” I graduated to the clarinet in fifth grade and never looked back, but I enjoyed playing the recorder. I remember learning the recorder sequence in the middle of this song. (It’s at the 1:56 mark if you want to keep your ears from bleeding.)
I like how the Ts and Ls in the middle give the grid a Tetris vibe. The 10-letter non-theme entries, ON OCCASION and especially The DATING GAME, are a nice touch. But there’s also ARRET, RETAR, and (shudder) EASER in there, and I confess they were noticeable distractions.
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “In Bloom” — pannonica’s review
Spring must be in the air, as March comes in like a lamb, leaves like a shivery lion, and gives way to April flowers. Technically speaking, we have puns based on some anatomical structures of the reproductive organs of angiosperms.
- 17a. [Flower parts that can be used to drive mule trains?] PISTIL WHIPS (pistol-whips). The pistil is “a single carpel or group of fused carpels usually differentiated into an ovary, style, and stigma.” To pistol-whip is to beat with a pistol. Lovely. Incidentally, there is an interesting variety of images to be seen in a Google search for gun flower. Not sure where the mule train element comes in.
- 27a. [Avid pursuer of flower parts?] SEPAL CHASER (steeplechaser?). The sepal is “one of the modified leaves comprising a calyx.” A steeplechaser is one who participates in the sport of steeplechase. Either variety.
- 47a. [Flower part that produces a musical effect?] WAH-WAH PETAL (wah-wah pedal). Yes, I’m continuing with the definitions. The petal is “one of the modified often brightly colored leaves of the corolla of a flower.” Wah-wah. Sorry, just wanted to type that again.
- 64a. [Flower part that doesn't match its flower?] WRONG ANTHER (wrong answer). Well, that’s an interesting way to finish up a theme, nominally incorrectly! The anther is “the part of a stamen that produces and contains pollen and is usually borne on a stalk.”
(All definitions graciously provided by m-w.com in exchange for… nothing really. Okay, for this unpaid and tepid endorsement.)
The puns may not be the freshest, but they’re good enough to bring a smile. What I really appreciate is that each themer includes a structure from the one of the four major concentric whorls of a flower: the calyx [SEPAL], the corolla [PETAL], the androecium [ANTHER], and the gynoecium [PISTIL]. Those last two, the innermost, constitute the male and female components, so the puzzle also provides equality of gender representation. I appreciate that kind of balance. Most of these terms derive from LATIN, which is also the [Language used for legal terminology] (38a).
Of the four, I was more pleased with the latter two than the first pair, because they are more basic, less adorned entities. The verb PISTIL-WHIPS takes a suffix -s, while SEPAL CHASER has the -er suffix; both of these have the effect of diminishing autarky(while of course providing the needed word lengths).
After I’d finished the puzzle, I was kind of wishing it had been constructed with radial symmetry to resemble a flower, the kind of thing that Elizabeth Gorski excels at. Despite that admittedly unreasonable desire, I found the puzzle to be a satisfying solve, with a minimum of dross and a generous amount of interesting fill and clues.
Just a few notes:
- 34d [ __ Beach (Operation Overlord location)] UTAH has a WWII clue, while its neighbor 35d [Place to go on a ride] MIDWAY opts not to have one, the noted island from the Pacific theater.
- On the other hand, 33d and 45d share the same clue—[Molten rock]—for LAVA and MAGMA. The intersecting 26d DHOW and 37a OMANI have an explicit “Arabian” connection.
- With a few letters in place at 20a, I figured [Former pitcher Valenzuela's nickname] was EL NIÑO, like the influential weather system, but it turned out to be EL TORO; for superficial resemblance, or something about his disposition?
- With all the biological structures, I felt a soupςon of remorse that MANTLE was clued in the realm of baseball rather than mollusk (and bird) anatomy.
- The twinned PRIMAL and SEPTIC are a potent combination (8d&9d).
- Some of the Higher Education Vibe™—here with Greek mythology—for the humdrum ASHES and BOAR. The Phoenix and the Calydonian Hunt, respectively. Some relatively highbrow popular fiction in Jane Smiley’s A Thousand ACRES and NEAL Stephenson’s Snow Crash.
- Favorite clue: the minimal [Least fair] for UGLIEST (52a).
Next week: the birds and the bees?
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “TV News Pun-dits” — pannonica’s review
It’s exactly what the title implies: puns involving the names of television news personalities.
- 22a. [Fox News's Brit in a snit] HUME ANNOYED (humanoid).
- 33a. ["Rock Center" contributor Ted in good spirits?] HAPPY KOPPEL (happy couple).
- 38a. [Lavish "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley with gifts, say?] SHOWER STAHL (shower stall).
- 55a. [Carefree romp for MSNBC's Rachel?] MADDOW LARK (meadowlark).
- 64a. [Apt moniker for Greg and Bryant's unstoppable careers?] GUMBEL MACHINE (gumball machine).
- 79a. ["60 Minutes" reporter Morley as an apartment manager?] SUPER SAFER (super saver).
- 92a. [Gets pushy with former CNN host Paula?] PRESSES ZAHN (presses on).
- 99a. [CBS anchor Scott's reaction to a joke?] PELLEY LAUGH (belly laugh).
- 115a. [Take Fox News's Alan ashore and dump him on the sand?] BEACH COLMES (beach-combs).
I was familiar with all but one of the puzzle’s pundits, Scott PELLEY being the exception. Most of the base words and phrases are unexciting, but the wordplay is enjoyable enough to make it worthwhile. It ends on a mildly sour note, as the original beach-combs is a bit awkward, with that suffixal -s.
Lots of fun and interesting stuff in the ballast fill. In the northwest is EL CID [Hero who fought the Moops] and the ever-so-slightly redundant tie-in at 26a [Where 1-Across is un heroe venerado] ESPAÑA. (Don’t know what the WSJ typographical guidelines are, but héroe should have an accent there on the e.) SUBPOENA, ENTHUSED, VANDYKE, SAND PEOPLE, LEILANI ["Sweet" girl in a Bing Crosby song], CYMBALS, all interesting. The long DOOLITTLE, RESOURCES, and NEW ORLEANS are okay, but are comprised of predominantly common crossword letters.
A few odd short entries are tucked in here and there:
- 24a [Org. for once-a-month swabbies] USNR, United States Naval Reserve.
- 27a [Honorary deg. from Yale] LLD, Legum Doctor (Doctor of Laws).
- 54a [ __ tamid (synagogue lamp)] NER.
- 59a ["__ be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed": Juliet] IF HE, an unusual partial.
- 110a [One of five in NYC] BOR., not boro (short for borough).
- 122a [Three times, in prescriptions] TER, Often seen abbreviated in the formation t.i.d., ter in die (three times a day).
Just a few more very brief notes:
- TYBALT, NEMEA, IONA (via MacBeth). Lit-ra-cha.
- 80a RAMIE [Flaxlike fiber] completely new to me.
- JET LAG, GUTSY, good letter combos.
- Partials A GIRL and A MEAN? A Meh.
- [Part of UTEP] PASO. Without the EL, it looks naked. At least UTEP wasn’t in the grid itself. A nother meh.
- [Moonfish] OPAH, which is also called a sunfish. Go figure. Not to be confused with the MOLA, also known as the ocean sunfish. Opah, mola… Oprah, Uma…
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “It All Revolves Around You”
The puzzle’s not really about an egotist, but rather about phrases in which the two letters surrounding a U are rotated:
- 17a. GET ON THE SUB, [Movie about an undersea protest event?].Get on the Bus is a Spike Lee joint with Ossie Davis and others getting on a bus to go to, I think, a protest march in D.C.
- 41a. BEER GUM, [Orbit product for adults only?]. Eww. Eew. Euww.
- 65a. SENATE LURES, [Briefcases full of lobbying money, e.g.]. Senate rules are subject to change.
- 11d. COCK RUSE, [Crowing before sunrise as a prank, say?]. Playing on cocksure, aka arrogant. Is this the same clue as what appeared in the print Onion? I solved the version Ben emailed out in his “Weekly xword” Google group mailing.
- 40d. SAND NUDE, [Figure in a Saharan studio drawing course?]. Wouldn’t really want to be naked on a sand dune, personally. Too much reflection of UV rays burning all the bits. I don’t tan well.
The theme’s all right, no great shakes. I don’t have much else to say about the puzzle. I love seeing PINHEAD clued as 48a: ["Hellraiser" villain]. Rather silly-looking horror villain, if you ask me. I don’t know what Pumpkinhead‘s villain looks like, but that is a silly-sounding name for a horror villain. Didn’t know 31d: SABLE = [Flaky whitefish]. I don’t know that 24a: [Bathroom door word] is quite on target for MEN’S. Don’t most “men’s room” doors just say MEN? And then the “women’s room” doors say LADIE’S.
David Kahn’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”
This theme was a big “Who??” for me.
- 16a. CHRIS PAUL, [NBA star who was traded last December: 2 wds.]. Who? I know nothing about him. Not in my wheelhouse.
- 22a. CLIPPERS, [Los Angeles team that 16-Across now plays for].
- 38a. ALL-STARS, [A league's best players: Hyph.]. I gather Chris Paul’s an All-Star in the NBA … but I still don’t know who he is.
- 44a. POINT [___ guard (position played by 16-Across)].
- 46a. FAST BREAK, [Play often run by 16-Across: 2 wds.]. Fast Break! That’s the name of a candy bar, right?
- 3d. ASSISTS, [Important statistic for 16-Across].
- 32d. HORNETS, [New Orleans team that 16-Across used to play for].
Probably a fun puzzle for Chris Paul fans, or NBA fans in general, but a lot of work-the-crossings business for me today.