Gregory Philip Butler’s New York Times crossword
In keeping with my habit of not reading the full theme-revealer clue until after I’ve finished the puzzle, I went through this whole crossword having no idea what the theme was. The clue for ROLE REVERSAL at the end points you towards the ELOR (reversed ROLE) inside DANIEL ORTEGA, a BARREL ORGAN (which is … perhaps not such a broadly known term), and a NAVEL ORANGE. You know what? I was at the grovery store today when the freshly squeezed OJ was being squoze. My gosh, that’s a wonderful aroma. And a BARREL ORGAN is this sort of thing, with an organ grinder (accompanying monkey optional).
Lots of clunky fill here, and fill that’s too tough for a Tuesday puzzle. Those 8- and 10-letter answers in the non-theme fill knock the word count down to themeless level, but with compromises like AREAL (clued as a partial, but also a single word that’s derived from AREA, which crosses AREAL), the mystifying BLOATER ([Smoked herring]? I only know of the “blue bloaters” and “pink puffers” in pulmonary medicine), ERNE, BEGEM (“If they still haven’t given you what you want, BEG ‘EM! And then threaten to kneecap ‘em.”), always boring OLEO, and ALLA. I knew famous (among doctors) old physician William OSLER because I’ve worked in medical publishing, and I knew the VIREOS because I grew up with my folks eyeballing the birds visiting the birdfeeders—but it would be hard to argue that most people doing the Tuesday puzzle will nail both of these answers.
I wanted 40a: [1970s Chevy] to be the NOVA, but it’s VEGA. Ms. Subramaniam, I thought of you, of course. And for 24d: [Alfalfa's girl in "The Little Rascals"], I thought of you, Ms. Spiers, when I filled in DARLA.
Most alarming clue/answer combo, which I didn’t see until just now: [What a milkmaid holds] and TEAT. Anyone else moving on to thinking of Milk Duds? No? Just me?
4d: SATIABLE spurred me to check the dictionary. Satiate is the main entry, and subsidiary SATIABLE is listed as “archaic.” Maybe that’s why I’ve never seen the word before.
2.75 stars. Over and out.
David Steinberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Today’s puzzle wasn’t hard at all. You might even say that it’s AS EASY AS ABC. Look for a consecutive ABC in each of these theme entries:
- 17a. [It arranges pickups] – CAB COMPANY
- 25a. [Emir] – ARAB CHIEF
- 50a. [Maryland seafood fare] – CRAB CAKES
- 59a. [Sit-up relatives] – AB CRUNCHES
I had the pleasure of meeting constructor David Steinberg at the ACPT this year. He’s far too young to remember ["The Prisoner of] ZENDA” or BELA [Lugosi of "Dracula]. Heck, I bet he’s not even seen Tony DANZA on TV. I think ESME, [Carlisle's wife in "Twilight"] is more in the right age range.
Some quick thoughts:
- 10d. [Tiny fairy tale hero] – TOM THUMB is the sparkliest bit of fill here, from my viewpoint; AXE MAN is a close second. The rest is… okay.
- 26d. [Having a lot of nerve] – BRASSY, but I tried BRAZEN first. I least I put in SERTA instead of SEALY.
- 54a. [The Lusitania, e.g.] – LINER. I mentioned the Lusitania to one of my students yesterday, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I’m officially concerned about the college admissions process.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “What a Shock!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I hate when a good solving time is ruined because of two little squares that just won’t yield. But more on that later. Let’s get through the theme first. The four longest Across entries begin with words that can precede “shock:”
- 17-Across: [Some art gallery patrons] are described as CULTURE VULTURES (“culture shock”). I’m more of a “word nerd” myself.
- 25-Across: The [Place to gas up with a scallop as its logo] is a SHELL STATION (“shell shock”) and not, as I wondered, a SEAFOOD RESTAURANT THAT SERVES CHILI.
- 42-Across: The [Figure on a new car] is the STICKER PRICE, which certainly can induce “sticker shock”). Hmm. Is the connection between the “stick” phrase (sticker stock) and the theme entry (sticker price) a little too close for comfort?
- 55-Across: Holy cow, it’s FUTURE INTERESTS (“future shock”), the [Legal concept regarding real property] that I cover in my property law classes. Seeing work and crosswords collide is a little unnerving, like the mixing of Relationship George with Independent George.
Okay, now the two blank squares. My Waterloo Moment (or, if you prefer, my “aha moment”–”aha” being the reverse of “aha”) was at the intersection of 59- and 62-Across with 50- and 56-Down. I was positive with the VI- in place that the [Specimen holder] was a VIAL, but that didn’t fit nicely next to ENT, which had to be the answer to [Middle-earth inhabitant]. Certainly NACE was not the answer to [Ruff stuff]–that had to be something related to a canine (I know, I know) and NACE has the assortment of letters that leads me to think I would have seen it in crosswords before now if it was a legitimate word. And no amount of rationalization in the world was going to make TLED the answer to [Took a powder]. Certainly that answer would be a synonym for “rested” or “relaxed,” I thought. (Sigh.)
I just couldn’t unravel it. I tried to think of a canine-related term that ended with -ACE, but MACE and FACE were the closest I could get. (It never occurred to me that the “ruff” could be anything but dog-related.) It wasn’t until I tried to make sense of the “took a powder” clue that it finally broke open. I tried thinking of anything that fit -LED. I tried BLED (by this point, I just wanted a word…something…anything–I didn’t care whether it fit the clue). SLED spent some time in there too. (“Could ETS be Middle-earth residents?” I wondered.) Finally, I tried FLED, which suggested the Middle-earther was an ELF instead of an ENT. At last that gave me LACE for the “ruff stuff” and the happy message that I had solved the puzzle.
Looking back, I’m taking away two lessons. First, random letters can be my friend. Second, “take a powder” doesn’t mean “relax” or “take a break.” It means “skip town” or “get out of a thorny situation fast.” Maybe that’s what I should do with this review, before it gets more embarrassing.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
I might add another “Turn!” to the song title because this theme’s got four examples of 48a: DOWNWARD SPIRALS ([What the four longest entries in this puzzle (except this one) are examples of]), all running downward:
- 4d. CINNAMON BUN, [Sweet breakfast]. A spiral of dough with thin brown interstitial layers of cinnamon. On Chicago’s North Side, Ann Sather’s restaurants add two sides to your breakfast order. You could get toast and fruit, say, or hashbrowns and two giant cinnamon buns slathered with glaze, big enough to fill you up without the omelet and hashbrowns.
- 27d. BOX SPRINGS, [They support sleepers]. Technically, this one is multiple spirals.
- 28d. SNAIL SHELL, [Slowpoke's home].
- 10d. STOVE BURNER, [Surface for a pot of boiling water]. Electric burners only, as gas burners and their grates aren’t spiral.
Didn’t even notice before that the grid has left/right symmetry. A pretty symmetry is obvious, but the ones that look more like they have random agglomerations of black squares? I don’t gaze so closely. Also hadn’t notice 24a: SPRANG, [Jumped (out)], which more or less duplicates part of BOX SPRINGS.
Best entries: Pouty ZELLWEGER (though I misread the clue as [Poultry actress Renee]), PAULA DEEN, AGENT K (new MIB 3 flick coming out soon), LADY GAGA, DAWGS. And DOWNWARD SPIRALS is a great phrase unto itself. I also like “shame spiral,” which I think I learned from Senator Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live.
Clue I needed every crossing for:
- 45a. LUO, [Kenyan ethnic group that Barack Obama, Sr. was part of]
Donna Levin’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”
Boy, this was not an easy theme for me. I don’t watch the cooking competition shows often. That’s more my husband’s domain, and he’s seen more of the dessert competitions than the Top Chef shows lately.
- 17a. TOP CHEF: TEXAS, [Title of the most recent season of the Bravo reality series whose losers are told, "Please pack your knives and go!"]
- 31a. EMERIL LAGASSE, [Judge on 17-Across]
- 41a. TOM COLICCHIO, [Judge on 17-Across]
Had no idea Emeril was on that show. Just the TX season? And I wouldn’t know Tom Colicchio if he walked up and introduced himself. I’d say, “I’m sorry, what was that last name again? Can you spell that, please? Nice to meet you, Tim.”
Nice to sport a DASHIKI, or [Brightly colored African shirt]. And I like the neighboring nationalities: SAUDI, GRECIAN (Formula, anyone? Here’s the classic Pete Rose commercial.), and JAPANESE.
Fresh clue for TARA: [Actress Reid of "American Reunion"]. I’ve been hoping this American Pie years-later sequel does well enough at the box office that we can quit cluing TARA with Toni Collette’s canceled-last-year Showtime series, The United States of Tara, and go back to Tara Reid. Guess what? The movie grossed $21 million in its opening weekend just a few days ago, which means about 2 million viewers in 3 days. The Showtime series had … 230,000 viewers? Ms. Reid wins!