Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
This zigzag grid is anchored by two pairs of 15s, all perfect: STAMP OF APPROVAL and DRAW ATTENTION TO are utterly normal phrases, “THREE TIMES A LADY” is a song, and “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY” is colloquial speech. Did you know that, while “Three Times a Lady” is an R&B/soul ballad, it’s been covered by numerous country artists? (And now Commodores’s lead singer Lionel Richie’s got a new album of his songs out, Tuskegee, but country stars partner with him on each track.) Also! Apparently global soccer star Lionel Messi was named after the singer.
Despite Bill KURTIS‘s longtime Chicago home (he was an anchor on the local news before he went national), I was mildly disappointed that this answer wasn’t clued with reference to Kurtis Blow of early rap fame.
Highlights: CARTOONY, ON THE MEND, TALK TO ME, and NAMESAKE not clued with a cross-reference to Dr. PARKINSON of disease fame.
New to me: HAFIZ, [Koran memorizer].
Do you think North Pole explorer PEARY was ever called SMEARY PEARY by the other kids? We don’t get a ton of rhyming crossings.
In the mild debit column, we have OLEO, IN RE, less familiar names (EWELL, YNEZ, ALVAR), and OYEZ. Most of these are in my “rarely seen outside crosswords” zone.
Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What does 38a: JAM, a [Clue for four puzzle answers], mean?
- 20a. TRAFFIC PROBLEM
- 26a. TOUGH SITUATION
- 44a. FRUIT PRESERVES
- 54a. JAZZ CLUB IMPROV
Straightforward enough, although (1) “jazz club improv” doesn’t feel in-the-language enough to me and (2) I’m typically underwhelmed by “the long answers all define the same word” themes.
Can we have a word about 19a: UKES, [Luau strings]? Whenever I hear friends talking about buying a ukulele or read about the instrument, it’s invariably “ukulele.” I have yet, I think, to encounter “uke” outside of crosswords. This is no knock on the constructor, really, as the shortened word has become commonplace in crosswords. The Cruciverb database shows 189 UKE and 123 UKES (seldom with any clue hint at the shortening), 4 UKELELE (a variant spelling, per at least one dictionary), and zero UKULELE. Dictionary lists “uke” as an informal word that’s short for ukulele, so it’s legitimate fill, but I wonder who uses the word.
Good stuff: OLD FOGEY, SQUEAKER, MAKE NICE, SHOOK UP, and UPSCALE (I like both of the UP entries enough that the appearance of two UPs doesn’t make me grouse about dupes). I save the grousing for 24a: ‘OME, [Where to ‘ang one’s ‘at]. People with England experience: How valid is OME? And does the ‘ang/’at clue work for you?
So the UVEA at 61a, it’s clued as [Colored part of the eye]. Finally looked this puppy up. The iris is the outermost of three layers of the uvea, I gather. All three layers are colored? Or just the iris? A Google image search for uvea took me to this hauntingly strange eye photo. Don’t click if you have optical squeamishness; it shows ”extensive iris atrophy with polycoria and ectropion uvea in a patient with progressive iris atrophy.” This eye pic is also intriguing. (That site has lots of unusual medical and forensic pathology images. I can get lost in that stuff.)
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Dirty Books” — pannonica’s review
Dirty books, not in the vein of the recent Smut or House of Holes, but in the sense that they are all written by MUCKRACKERS (61a). The term originated with Theodore Roosevelt in the early part of the 20th century, who invoked a passage from the 17th century work, Pilgrim’s Progress to describe and commend the journalists then providing exposés of various social and industrial practices.
- 17a. [“The History of the Standard Oil Company” author] IDA TARBELL. (1904.)
- 21a. [“Ten Days in a Mad-House” author] NELLIE BLY. (1887.) Puts me in mind of Samuel Fuller’s 1963 film, Shock Corridor. Interesting that the four Ls in TARBELL and NELLIE form a square.
- 37a. [“The Shame of the Cities” author] LINCOLN STEFFENS. (1904.)
- 55a. [“How the Other Half Lives” author] JACOB RIIS. (1890.) Nice to see him get the full-name treatment for a change. To revisit my earlier interpolation, interesting that all four writers have double letters in their names: LL, LL, FF, II.
All very early, “classic,” and incontrovertible muckraking, but there is plenty going on today, both in print and on the internet, as the linked Wikipedia article indicates. Back to the theme: gender equality in representation is appreciated, especially since there were far fewer female authors back then. As a side-note, I grew up not far from the Nellie Bly Amusement Park (now depressingly called the Adventurer’s Family Entertainment Center) in Brooklyn, and even closer to Jacob Riis Park in Queens.
The theme is a bit dry, a bit didactic, but I learned something from it and it’s well executed, so it gets a nod from me. They don’t all have to be madcap or insanely clever. Not much junk in the ballast fill, so a smooth, if rather uneventful solve.
- 1d put me off balance. I’ve never seen the acronym SEATO written as Seato, as per the clue for ASIA.
- 57a & the nearby 65a share the same clue: [Resolver of religious questions]. RABBI and IMAM, respectively. Related content in 47d SERMON and 13d HOLY.
- Even though I’ve long appreciated his acerbic insight, I’ve lately been feeling that Mort SAHL is stale as crossword fill, but I was surprised to learn that he’s still active, since his website lists contacts for bookings. He even tweets!
- 6d [Library-book ID] ISBN. Not sure I buy (or borrow) this one. Most libraries use their own bar code schemes as unique identifiers for their holdings, and employ either the Dewey Decimal or the Library of Congress System for organization.
- Want to know what a DELE looks like? 26d.
- DIGESTIF! These [Postprandial drink]s are underappreciated, but welcome. 10d.
- 50d [Fully absorb] SOAK IN, or as I read it, SOAKIN, as in Soakin’ Donuts.
- 8d [Single-__ ] CELLED. This was far too vague for my liking, although the term gets ≐ 2.5 million Google hits. Viable alternatives of the proper length and with many more results include single-family (1.24 billion), single-spaced (42.9 million) , single-minded (27.2 million), and single-handed (10.7 million). Also, single-cell has a respectable 141,000 hits.
- 33a [Victor Lazlo's wife] ILSA, Ingrid Bergman’s character in Casablanca. I was going to say that she wore a FEDORA (41d) in the movie, but I looked at some stills and decided that it isn’t a fedora, although I (and some rudimentary searching) could not put a name to the style. Factette: the FEDORA, so strongly associated with masculinity, was originally a ladies’ hat.
- 11d, Carrie Ann INABA, of Dancing With the Stars, was entirely new to me, but puts me in mind of a personal shibboleth, indaba, from the Zulu. I like to say, “that isn’t my indaba.” (“What he does in his own country, to his own folk, ain’t our indaba.”—Flashman on the March)
- Favorite clue: 51d [Forced to pay for admission?] HAZED, although the practice has rightly been getting some bad press lately.
Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Ought to Be in Pictures” — pannonica’s review
As the title suggests, the letter I is inserted into film titles, and the unusual results are clued, also as films.
- 23a. [Film about a reclining seat that’s very flimsy?] THE PAPER CHA(I)SE.
- 37a. [Film about the lute maker’s art?] A S(I)TAR IS BORN. Not happy at all about the fact that it intersects with 5d STARMAN [1984 Jeff Bridges film]. Not happy that STAR is repeated in spirit, not happy that film titles aren’t exclusive to the theme entries. As a negative bonus, there’s a strong echo of ”Bridges” in the theme answer at 113a.
- 52a. [Film about the flier of a clan’s private jet?] FAMILY P(I)LOT.
- 66a. [Film about a color mismatch between adjacent Venetian paintings?] CLASH OF THE TIT(I)ANS. Probably the seed themer.
- 80a. [Film about a big pipe that’s likely to rupture?] THE THIN MA(I)N.
- 94a. [Film about “Mack the Knife” singer, as told by a jazz fan] THAT DAR(I)N CAT.
- 113a. [Film about an overly equitable span?] A BRIDGE TOO FA(I)R.
A couple of other entries reference movies—32a [Old ewe in "Babe"] MAA, 39d [Holden's "Sunset Boulevard" co-star] SWANSON—but they don’t irk me the way STARMAN does because in both cases the title doesn’t appear in the grid. As for the themers themselves, for the most part they’re okay, but not particularly entertaining or interesting. The original films are a mish-mosh in terms of quality and fame, and it would have been much neater and impressive (and far more difficult to construct) if they contained no other Is.
Some lively fill in the rest of the grid, along with engaging clues (more than a few have hallmarks of the Shenk hand) helps to make the puzzle entertaining. F’rinstance:
- BURNOUTS, CRONIES, MEDEVAC, EXACTNESS. 61a ANAPESTS and its singular, due to their friendly letters, seems to show up more often in crosswords than in real life, but haven’t grown stale yet. ["The Cat in the Hat" consists of them]
- 77a [Capri or Corsica] CAR, because ISOLA just wouldn’t fit.
- 100a [It's hot and heavy] STOVE.
- 111a I’M LATE, 40a IT’S A DATE ["Ill see you then!"]
- 52d [Bank alarm?] FOGHORN.
- 64d [Smeared with ink?] LIBELED.
- 71d [Phoenix surroundings] ASHES.
Good puzzle, but in the END (112d) felt a bit of a slog because of the less-than-spectacular theme and ballast fill that doesn’t quite redeem, in the large-format 21×21 grid.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Contact Sport” – Sam Donaldson’s review
50-Across tells us that the other three theme entries begin with a word that is also slang for a TELEPHONE CALL. What say we dial into the details on this one:
- 20-Across: [Woody’s high-flying pal] is BUZZ LIGHTYEAR. I’m still a little mad at Toy Story 3 for making me have an “ugly cry” in the theater for the last five minutes of the show. In front of my then-seven-year-old niece, no less. I did my best to make sure she couldn’t see her uncle crying like he had sprung a leak.
- 27-Across: JINGLE BELLS is the [Wintertime tune] of fame. The song makes me into such a phony. Every year I proudly croon of the grandeur of riding in an open sleigh pulled by a single horse as if I spoke from experience.
- 45-Across: “Who’s this RING LARDNER character?” asks Sam from Five Minutes Ago. Well, replies Sam from Having Used Wikipedia Two Minutes Ago, he’s either a writer who was the father of another writer, Ring Lardner, Jr., or a writer who was the son of another writer, Ring Lardner, Sr. You can go in circles and circles with these Ring guys.
There’s plenty of snazzy fill in this puzzle. I loved all of the long Downs (NOT CERTAIN, INTRUDED ON, WOOD SCREW, and especially KRAZY GLUE, the [Strong adhesive brand]). There’s JEEVES the butler, actress ANNE Hathaway (sigh), MIFFS, BALK, and SLURP adding some more pizzazz in the shorter fill. I better stop the recitation of favorite entries lest you think I’m just phoning it in.
Donna Levin’s Celebrity crossword, “Sports Fan Friday”
Nice theme from Donna: Three basketball players with “[first name] the [rhyme]” nicknames take the lead role here.
- 18a. EARL THE PEARL, [NBA great Monroe's rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]
- 29a. CLYDE THE GLIDE, [NBA great Drexler's rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]
- 39a. WILT THE STILT, [NBA great Chamberlain's rhyming nickname: 3 wds.]
Are there any other famous nicknames in this category? Dirk the Jerk? Steve the Beav? Mike the Tyke? Dwyane the Train? Dwight the Might? None of those really have the same positivity as the three in the puzzle.