Sean Dobbin’s New York Times crossword
It wasn’t until after I finished the puzzle that I realized the missing letters outside the grid for 4d, 7d, and 10d were all R’s and thus were not merely OUTSIDERS but OUTSIDE R’S. Neat trick.
Mr. Dobbin, have you done crosswords for decades? If so, you have probably seen the classic clue [Morsel for Dobbin], answer OAT. Apparently Dobbin is the crosswordese name for a horse, much like Fido, Spot, Rover, or Rex for a pooch. Sean “Morsel for” Dobbin, that’s how I’ve got you in my head now. So sorry!
Anyone else try a few wrong answers at 20a: [World capital at 7,200+ feet elevation]? Usually we get a higher elevation and it’s LA PAZ or LHASA, but this time I find out that Yemen’s SANAA is higher than Denver. Who knew?
Other things that slowed me down: ALEC Trevelyan and ILSE Steppat (more Lesser Known James Bond names, please! I mean, please no more); ASANTE, [“Thank you,” in Swahili] (I wanted UBUNTU); and SELECTS clued as a noun, [Superior things], which is an odd choice.
Peculiar clue alert! [Ones protected by the safety net, with “the”] clues POOR. Wait, is Mitt Romney guest-editing this puzzle? My bad—Romney said he wasn’t concerned about the very poor, who have a safety net. The working poor, the long-term unemployed poor, and plenty of the not-all-the-way-to-destitute/homeless poor have, of course, fallen through the gaping holes in this safety net. (As have many of the very poor, unfortunately.)
The double-H theme layout (the OUTSIDE R’S crossbar connecting the three 15s) must’ve constrained fill options, because the RASE, OTTO I, EST’D, ASTR, TROI stuff felt a tad overabundant, as did the inflected forms (DURABLY, DRESSES, VASTEST, HOER). I did like POINT B when I finally figured it out ([End of many trips]), and NITPICKS, VENDETTA, TUSH, and the double Fats Domino references. Plus the playing piece fake-out in the (r)OCK AND ROLL SINGE(r) clue, [Checker or Domino].
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless Fiddy”
Who doesn’t like a little OMPHALOSKEPSIS ([Navel-gazing]) in a crossword? And look, the OMP crosses another OMP in WHOOMP THERE IT IS ([Hip-hop duo Tag Team’s only hit]? Yeah, I couldn’t have told you their name, but the song is eternal**). PRESSURE COOKERS are clued more interestingly as stressful situations rather than as kitchen gadgets. And the other long answer is CHELSEA CLINTON, though it PAINEs me to see the words “porn star” in her clue.
I’m glad that Doug Peterson has joined Peter Gordon in exploring the potential of 14-letter answers in themelesses. So many answers maxing out at 11 letters or running 15, very few 13s and 14s. Bring ‘em on, I say. Especially if they aren’t heavily laden with the sort of letters we find in TEST SITE.
Never heard of CLIPSE at 21d. Recent rap duo or old one? Perhaps from the baroque era?
I think [Sister of Anton?] means “sister character written by Anton Chekhov,” but that pushes a little hard on the door of what “sister of __” means. IRINA‘s one of his Three Sisters, yes?
Favorite clue: [Part of G.R.O.S.S., the club in “Calvin and Hobbes”] isn’t, as I often misremember, “Girls R Slimy and Gross” (which doesn’t work at all with the acronit). It’s “Get RID Of Slimy girlS.”
** Yesterday at IHOP, the opening strains of a song on the sound system triggered a frightening instinct in me. “Christopher Cross,” I said. My husband thought I was wrong, that it was someone else—until the vocals began and confirmed it. (Usually he’s way better at identifying songs than I am.) And then! The song didn’t sound familiar after all. Googled it, and it turns out it hit something like #15 on Billboard but went to #1 on the adult contemporary charts (which I was not listening to in 8th grade, I swear), whereas the more easily remembered Cross songs were huge mainstream hits, but less popular on adult contemporary. I won’t look up the song title (which I’ve already forgotten) because I don’t want to interfere with the other Christopher Cross earworms that are insinuating themselves inside you now. But I digress.
Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
O, JAI! It’s a feat in and of itself to construct a puzzle without relying on a few well-placed plurals ending in S, but this puzzle takes it a step further.
- 20a. [Phenoms] – WUNDERKINDER
- 55a. [Trochee and iamb] – METRICAL FEET
- 3d. [Some living legends] – GRAND OLD MEN
- 5d. [Exemplars of poverty] – CHURCH MICE
- 26d. [Some molars] - WISDOM TEETH
- 32d. [Museums for astronomy buffs] – PLANETARIA
- 59d. [Last letter in most plurals (but not in this puzzle’s six longest answers, which are the only plurals in the grid)] – ESS
This puzzle didn’t feel GIMMICKY to me – just a solid theme idea with a nice selection of plurals. I’m glad we saw a German and a Latin plural in there, not just a reliance on one language. The choice of ESS as a revealing entry provided a nice AHA that I doubt I would’ve caught otherwise. Beyond these six longer entries, there’s not too much that grabs you and makes you fall in love with it, though.
ILE and ISLA get enough play in crosswords that the Italian ISOLA is a welcome foreign word. It pairs right nicely with NIKOLA Tesla.
CMVI got the Peter Gordon Roman numeral math treatment with [CCCII x III], which I approve of, especially since I see more and more people relying on a calculator for basic math these days. Underneath, [Gray with age] had me looking for a verb, but the answer is HOARY. People don’t use the word hoar much these days (spellcheck even thinks it’s wrong), and I blame homophones.
The link of -ITE and ORE makes the suffix a little more welcome than usual as far as constructor’s glue is concerned. Can’t SCOWL at that, nor at AU JUS. And with that, ADIEU!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Tree Tops” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Whenever theme entries run down instead of across, there’s usually a reason for it. Here, it’s because the start of each theme entry contains a type of tree. By placing the entries vertically, we thus get “tree tops:”
- 3-Across: ELMER GANTRY is the [Satirical Sinclair Lewis novel] that was (or is) likely required reading for many readers of this blog. I managed to take my share of literature classes high school and college, but I never had to read Elmer Gantry. I still haven’t. Should I?
- 9-Across: The [West Coast football player] is an OAKLAND RAIDER. Yes, I first considered SEATTLE SEAHAWK, but I saw there weren’t enough squares.
- 18-Down: ASHTON KUTCHER is both the [“Punk’d” co-creator] and [The guy who ruined "Two and a Half Men"].
- 26-Down: The PINEAL GLAND is a [Melatonin source]. I’ll say “true.” Oh wait, this isn’t a quiz, is it?
Please tell me there’s not a tree hidden at the top of PREFECT, the [Parisian police officer] that sits in the center of the grid. The pref tree?
The re-configuration of theme entries from Across to Down to drive home the “tops” aspect is a nice touch. I liked that we also had some OWLS and a PERCH in the grid, though now I’m wondering if it was intentional to have an ASS sticking out from the pine tree. There was plenty of interesting fill too, like CUM LAUDE, BROWN RICE, CIRCUS ACT, NOT FAIR, the EVERLAST brand from boxing, and YO HO HO (what are pirates doing in the forest?).
I was lost at the intersection of CLEW, the [Ball of yarn], and LAA LAA, the [Yellow Teletubby] with which I am, to put it mildly, unfamiliar. CHEW seemed to me to be a fine answer–aren’t there at least some cats that will chew on a ball of yarn in addition to batting it around with a paw? And HAA LAA was as good as anything else. Finding that error took me over the six-minute mark, but otherwise the solving experience felt efficient enough.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Touchy-feely Question”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan’s theme today is a quote from novelist Sherman Alexie, who also happens to be a BEQ solver. It says:
HOW TERRIFYING / WOULD THE FIFTH / DATE BE WITH A /SEX / ADVICE COLUMNIST?
Yes, I imagine you’d eventually show up in your partner’s column; a fraught proposition to the average person, I’d hazard. So if it has to be a quote puzzle, this is a good one (although why the fifth date? Is there a significance to that number?). Easy to blog a quote puzzle: you just tell everyone the quote and who said it, and done.
Left-right symmetry to accommodate the quote, so not much from 3-point range; BREWPUB is good, though. Also like vowelless MSNBC and DR J as the first two across (only one vowel in the whole top row, in fact). Odd plurals like PAPYRI are welcome of course, and the margins are all Scrabbly.
Best clue: [Ancient Civ paper?] for the aforementioned PAPYRI.
4.00 on starrage. Or maybe 3.97, though 4.02 is also defensible. Anyway, around there someplace. Thanks for the solve, Brendan!
Updated Thursday evening:
Here it is, nearly time to move on to the Friday puzzles and I have two Thursday puzzles left to blog. Well! Let me tell you that I am in no mood to do anything at all except whine and/or holler. Or maybe cuss. So these will be blessedly short reviews.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “High Season”
Five answers have been created by sticking a little THC (1a: [April 20th substance, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]) into actual phrases. Ear hair (eww!) becomes EARTH CHAIR. Go ape is GOTH CAPE. A slangy bro hug becomes a BROTH CHUG. Tee up on the golf course and put your dentures in a TEETH CUP. Saving the best for last, Ben has converted the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” into MYTH CHUMPS (you know–those gullible types who forward you all those urban legends and other untrue tripe).
Lots of white space in the corners, especially the SW and NE. Fun fill includes THE DUDE, I’M TIRED, NOONER, and RELINED. (Just checking to see if you’re awake here with that last one.) How do you like 30d: DOT EDU? I almost wish there were a college for helicopter parents’ kids, Doted U.
Dave Tuller’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”
If you don’t know the song that’s featured in this crossword, I can tell you that I found the song incessantly annoying every time my kid listened to it on the radio, but once I saw this video, I was a convert. Zombies! Breakdancing! Goofball fashions! Good times.
- 16a/17a. PARTY ROCK ANTHEM, [2011 hit for 47-Across]
- 30a. SKY BLU, [A 47-Across DJ]
- 33a. REDFOO, [A 47-Across DJ (uncle of 30-Across)]
- 43a. BERRY GORDY, [Motown founder who is the father of 33-Across and grandfather of 30-Across: 2 wds.]
- 47a. LMFAO, [Electro pop duo]
Rough fill, with SAB crossing SACRA, AWK, BLACK EYED split off from a singular PEA, LEY, and the hard-to-clue-easily CYRIL and LUC.