Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword, “Infractions” — pannonica’s review
Nothing out of bounds here, despite the title. Instead, the theme plays on phrases with (mostly) ordinal numbers, but expressed “in fractions.” Literally, as unit fractions with the integer/numerator “ONE” appearing above various integers/denominators in the grid. I’ve gone ahead and circled the relevant squares.
From greatest to smallest, there are:
- 105a. [With 112-Across, compromise] MEET ONEWAY, with the ONE above TWO, resulting in MEET ½WAY, i.e., MEET HALFWAY.
- 23a. [With 26-Across, like grandchildren] ONE/THREE GENERATION = ⅓ GENERATION → THIRD-GENERATION.
- 33a. [With 44-Across, execute, in a way] DRAW AND ONE/FOUR, DRAW AND ¼ → DRAW AND QUARTER. Can’t tell you how long I was stuck on draw and fourth/draw and forth(?).
- 71a. [With 77-Across, high-end retail chain] SAKS ONE/FIVE AVENUE → SAKS FIFTH AVENUE.
- 94a. [With 103-Across, 1999 Shyamalan thriller] THE ONE/SIX SENSE → THE SIXTH SENSE.
- 45a. [With 50-across, euphoric] IN ONE/SEVEN HEAVEN → IN SEVENTH HEAVEN.
- 122a. [With 127-Across, classical work that’s the source of the European Union’s anthem] BEETHOVEN’S ONE/NINE → BEETHOVEN’S NINTH. Specifically, the “Ode to Joy” of the final movement. That’s Beethoven’s Ninth, in DMINOR, Op. CXXV.
So, with the exception of the special terms half and quarter, the original phrases and names contain ordinal numbers. Eighth is missing, but considering the challenge of constructing such a grid (and that there’s little to choose from in the way of base phrases with eighth), that’s easily overlooked. Of course, it would have been fun to have that, and a ONE/ONE for something like the whole enchilada or the whole shebang, considering the naming flexibility that’s exhibited. Anyway, it took me a while to twig to the theme (got it with meet halfway), but once I did, I had a bunch of ONEs just itching to be filled in. Despite that, I still had a slightly longer than usual Sunday time for my solve. I really enjoyed the mix of fresh fill, less-common words that aren’t crosswordese, and playful cluing, all in appropriate measures. That’s what should comprise big Sundays.
- 21a [Pacific strings] UKULELES, all spelled out and not causing a fuss (see Friday), except for those who only want it spelled ukeleles.
- 22a [Fine word for libraries?] OVERDUE. Be that way.
- 13a [Student of morality] CASUIST. Casuistry (n.): 1: a resolving of specific cases of conscience, duty, or conduct through interpretation of ethical principles or religious doctrine. It also has sense 2: specious argument : rationalization. (both from m-w).
- (And all that was just in the top two rows.)
- Favorite clue: 87a [They’re fit for kings and queens] SHEETS. Brilliant, because it makes double use of fit, as in fitted sheets.
- The long-but-blah ENLISTEES gets a fun, rhyming clue [New faces on bases] (46d).
- 91a, 104a [What’s left behind] ESTATE, [What’s left] REST.
- Most trite clue/answer: 42d [ __ mission] ON A. Another partial, [ __ same mind] for the ultradull OF THE is a close second. There are more partials to be found in the puzzle, a few too many for my liking.
- Anatomy! 48a [Ankle bone] TARSAL, 52d [Venae __ ] CAVAE, 93d [Colored parts] AREOLAS, 95d [Bonelike] OSTEOID, 100d [Like a nasal membrane] SEPTAL (not, you will note, septic). Some of those are a bit unusual, which leads us to…
- ARISTAE, a bit of floral anatomy (75a) [Botanical beards], and more esoterica: 59d [Glacial formation] ESKER. 79d [Fisher with a grig] EELER; does that profession not have some of the oddest and most entertaining terminology? 48d [Gherman __, cosmonaut who was the second human to orbit the Earth] TITOV. PIXY (unannounced var.).
- Redundant, or am I being too picky: 10d [Et __ (and others)] ALII, 88d [And everything else, for short] ETC.
- Some fill highlights: 92d [Colonial service] TINWARE. 80a [Political party that won 39 electoral votes in 1948] DIXIECRAT (aka the segregationist States’ Rights Democratic Party); 49d [Jobs for dentists] ABSCESSES (don’t think that will go over well with breakfast-time solvers); 89d [Death personified, in ancient Greece] THANATOS (crosses the Greeky THRACE).
- 109 [Cousin of rust] OCHRE. With the O and perhaps E in place, I plunked in OXIDE, even though it doesn’t quite fit the clue. Definitely took the bait.
Overall, clever theme and a good puzzle, but I wonder if some solvers will say there were too many strange words in it.
Mike Shenk’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 108” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I’m a little tired tonight because I was DASHing around all day. We had spectacular weather, a beautiful venue (UCLA campus), and a passel of fun, clever puzzles to solve. Can’t ask for much more. The next big puzzle event in Southern California is the 4th annual Crosswords LA tournament on May 12th. Check the website for a details and a bonus puzzle by yours truly.
Typically solid grid by Mike Shenk today. I solved this one a while back, so I don’t remember if there were any particularly thorny crossings. The stacks in the NE and SW are particularly fun. Look around: stark naked Nicki Minaj goes native.
- 28a. [Summer specialty] – DISCO. Donna Summer, of course. Great clue.
- 32a. [Free of coarseness, in a way] – SIFT. On Dan Feyer’s Not a Blog, Al Sanders and Dan commented on the sneaky little trap found in this clue. Did you try SOFT or SIFT first? That’s nasty.
- 34a. [Capital of the German state Thuringia] – ERFURT. Haven’t seen that one before. Looks like the hillbilly pronunciation of EFFORT. The crossings are all solid, though as Al points out, it’s dangerously close to the SOFT/SIFT area.
- 56a. [Not in gear?] – STARK NAKED. My clue of the day.
- 13d. [Bond rating?] – VALENCE. Another nice one. Tough too, especially if you don’t remember your high school chemistry
- 34d. [Prepares for the pyramid] – EMBALMS. My first thought was of someone cramming before an appearance on The $100,000 Pyramid.
- 38d. [Like a fedora’s crown] – CREASED. I love the visual in this clue. Probably as interesting a clue for CREASED as you’re going to find.
- 49d. [Parliament unit] – PACK. Parliament cigarettes. Wow, that’s another nasty one. But that’s what we like in our Post Puzzlers, right?
Lots more to like in this puzzle, especially in the clues. Thumbs up.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s Sunday Challenge purports to be a 72/38 themeless puzzle, but there’s actually a theme to it. It’s called “everything outside my wheelhouse.” There was so much here I just Did Not Know. Let the enumeration begin:
- CHLOE is the [Lover of Daphnis]. Of course, all I could think about was Daphne, the lovely ginger from Scooby Doo. She was the only redeeming character on that show, I thought.
- CHERCHEZ LA FEMME is a [Detective’s famous cliche]. It means nothing to me, a guy whose knowledge of French is limited to crosswords and Pepe LePew cartoons. Apparently it means “look for the woman” as an explanation for why a guy behaves funny.
- RAGS is [Crusader Rabbit’s sidekick]. Well, if I knew Crusader Rabbit, I’m sure this clue would have been a gimme.
- I’ve seen SPAD, the [WWI fighter], in crosswords before, but it’s one of those terms that comes up so rarely that it hasn’t sunk in the way OLIO, OLEO, and AGHA have.
- CASS is [Fiction’s Timberlane]. He’s bringing sexy back. Oops, wrong one.
- The first name of [Cross or Kupcinet] could have been anything and I would have bought it. IRV is as good as anything else, I suppose.
- Given my lack of culture, evident from much of the above, it will come as no surprise to readers that I had no idea that the last name for [French novelist Honore de ___] was BALZAC.
- EGGAR is the last name of [Samantha of “Doctor Doolittle”].
- LOIRE is the [French wine valley]. Huh, go figure. There was something French I didn’t know. At least I got C’EST magnifique!
So when one-eighth of the answers are complete unknowns, one is in for a slog. Is my ignorance (especially of French) the puzzle’s fault? Not one bit. But did my ignorance make the solving experience more frustrating than entertaining? This time, oui. Little things like SESS and CRESC bugged me more than they normally would, but that’s probably because I felt more beaten up than usual. Oh well–tomorrow’s another crossword!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Amazing!” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: WOW! Eight w-o-w phrases.
- 23A. [Steal] – WALK OFF WITH
- 29A. [Wouk work, with “The”] – WINDS OF WAR
- 35A. [2000 Sean Penn film, with “The”] – WEIGHT OF WATER
- 59A. [Have a drink] – WET ONE’S WHISTLE
- 80A. [Last book in Robertson Davies’ “Deptford Trilogy”] – WORLD OF WONDERS
- 99A. [Sage advice] – WORDS OF WISDOM
- 106A. [Laurel and Hardy film set in Brushwood Gulch] – WAY OUT WEST
- 118A. [’30s show tune that became a 1960 Dion and the Belmonts hit] – WHERE OR WHEN
So we have three good phrases and five books, films and song that are all pretty obscure.
- 14D. [Have an easy catch with] – TOSS TO. A phrase that uses 3 letters twice each.
- 95D. [Former children’s clothing chain] – KIDS R US. Shouldn’t a former children’s clothing chain be called Adults R Us?
- 100D. [Reindeer name] – DASHER. I had Dancer. Darn Santa and his names.
- 103D. [“Rock Around the Clock” label] – DECCA
- 56A. [“The Namesake” director Mira] – NAIR. A new NAIR clue? Who knew?
- 65A. [Germany, to Meg Ryan: Abbr.] – ANAGram
- 87A. [Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David] – CROSBY
Unfortunately, this Amazing! puzzle didn’t live up to its title for me.
By the way, themeless puzzle lovers should check out frequent Fiend commenter Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Triple-Stack Crosswords, featuring 72 all-new puzzles, including some quad-stacks! I have solved over 30 so far, and there’s some great stuff here.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “April Showers Bring…”
I can’t help wondering if this puzzle is a rerun from the ’80s because so much of the fill feels fusty to me.
The theme is straightforward: Nine words, names, or phrases contain the letter string MUD, which April showers may bring along with May flowers.
- 22a. DR. SAMUEL MUDD, [Famed prisoner of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas]
- 32a. MUDDLED THROUGH, [Weathered somehow]
- 44a. MUDVILLE, [Where mighty Casey struck out]
- 54a. SMUDGE POT, [Heated container that a citrus grower uses to reduce frost]
- 64a. CURMUDGEONS, [Irascible individuals]
- 71a. THE TALMUD, [Ancient text]
- 78a. AMU DARYA, [River between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan]. AMU with a [__ Darya] clue is old-school crosswordese.
- 93a. BERNARD MALAMUD, [Author of “The Fixer”]
- 106a. BERMUDA ONION, [Vidalia’s cousin]
Now, what do I mean by “fusty”? Let’s look at several examples. First up, a river I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, not even in crosswords—and it’s parked directly below AMU DARYA. 85a: DVINA, [Riga’s river (anagram of DIVAN)]. Another clue has the anagram helper because its answer, too, is fairly obscure. 4d: SPARGE, [Splash or sprinkle (anagram of GRAPES)].
I grant you that E-CASH didn’t exist in the ’80s (and it’s a yucky answer because who talks about e-cash these days?) and neither did the PRIUS, so the puzzle probably isn’t a 25-year-old rerun. But there were a couple other answers that I’ve never seen before. 21d: DINGLE, [Irish peninsula near Tralee] and 75d: LUNARIA, [Flower with moon-shaped seed pods]. We’ve also got UNLASH and UNARM, and the 1920s’ Gertrude EDERLE (who’s awesome, but I first learned of her as a kid via crosswords). Plus (in the category of “meh” rather than “How old is this puzzle?”) there are two Roman numerals—61a: III, [The unthinkable war] and 80a: CCXXII, .
BRENDA LEE (41d. [“I’m Sorry” singer]) is a nice answer, a full name. I will grant you that she’s in all sorts of music Halls of Fame, but her heyday came before I was born so I don’t really know her oeuvre.
I don’t see 23d: [Stylish] and UPSCALE as being equivalent. Something can be stylish without a lot of money behind it, and something can be upscale but musty rather than stylish.
2.5 stars from me. I look to Merl’s puzzles to bring whimsy and fun, and this one felt like more of a trudge through the MUD.
Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”
Everybody’s favorite green ogre is the name of the game today:
- 1a. SHREK, [Title character in a series of four DreamWorks animated films]
- 17a. EDDIE MURPHY, [He voiced Donkey in the 1-Across films: 2 wds.]
- 26a. LORD [___ Farquaad (short-statured villain in 1-Across)]. Do children snicker at that sounds-like-a-dirty-word name, or just the grownups?
- 30a. OGRE, [What 1-Across is]
- 36a. BOOTS, [“Puss in ___” (2011 prequel to the 1-Across films)]
- 40a. CAMERON DIAZ, [She voiced Princess Fiona in the 1-Across films: 2 wds.]
- 53a. MYERS, [Mike who voiced 1-Across]
- 11d. ASS, [Another term for 17-Across’ character]
Rather tough fill in this one, especially for brand-new crossword solvers. Hence the anagram clues for HIED and the FRESNEL lens (the latter is new to me). DINGO isn’t so hard, but it crosses a relatively uncommon word (UNDAM), a name (INGE), the crosswordese ingredient AGAR (its job is to help keep ice cream and crosswords smooth), and more names (ZOES)—so the anagram hint for DINGO can help the new solver conquer that corner.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Bugged” — pannonica’s review
This grid has been colonized by ANTs!
The wee hexapodal beasties are manifest at the ends of the theme entries, altering the base phrases in alarming ways.
- 22a. [One reason for crowded depots?] BOARDING RAMPANT. Boarding ramps are the used to embark on barques, which may or may not be made of birch bark—but probably not— before you embark on your journeys.
- 40a. [Flag raised in 1066?] WILLIAM PENNANT. William the Conqueror (ca. 1028–1087), William Penn (1644–1718).
- 61a. [Congressional gala?] SENATE PAGEANT.
- 83a. [Insistent gent’s comment?] MADAM, I’M ADAMANT. This is an ’80s-pop-free zone.
- 103a. [What a landlord provides?] QUARTER TO TENANT. A bit random on the original phrase here; there’s nothing particularly notable about that time.
- 15d. [Unhappy noncom?] BLUE SERGEANT. Sergeant derives from “servant,” while the textile serge traces its etymology through the Middle English sarge to the Latinsericus, meaning silken. That said, a sergeant in the RCMP wears a uniform made of red serge. As for blue serge, I’ll make room for Cab Calloway.
- 32d. [Lowly worker who’s been fired?] CANNED PEASANT.
- 55d. [3 ~ cosine?] TRIPLE SECANT. I don’t recognize the ~ notation, but the answer was easy enough to get. Is it margarita time?
In general, I appreciate the themers in which the added letters change the pronunciation (PAGEANT, SERGEANT, PEASANT, SECANT), but my favorite of all of them is MADAM, I’M ADAMANT. I can’t help but picture a STARK NAKED (see today’s LAT) Adam saying this to Eve (as the hypothetical palindrome would have it), so primly and properly. Plus, the rhyming clue is so fun! (-ent is not -ant, at least in my pronunciation.) A drawback—or advantage, depending on how you look at it—to a theme such as this is that a series of letters and their location is known and can be used to rapidly fill in a bunch of squares.
Some other stuff:
- Some fun, not-often-seen fill, including Henry WINKLER, GLOBULIN, MINARET, GAUZY, and MACOUNS.
- 37a [Macabre monogram] EA POE. Do not like. Monogram, from Late Latin monogramma, from Greek mon- one + gramma letter. That means initials. I suppose it could be argued that “Poe” is a grapheme and so forth, but a monogram is generally understood to be composed of initials.
- 67a [Paltrow : Danner :: Hudson : __ ]. I did not know that Blythe Danner was the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, nor did I know that Goldie HAWN is the mother of Kate Hudson. Having it cross with equally unknown-to-me actor George EADS, was unpleasant, but how many possibilities for H_WN are there, especially when the clue seems to be about actresses?
- AL DUBIN, whom I was trying to parse as one name as I was struggling to fill in all the letters, is the [“42nd Street” lyricist]. Harry Warren was the composer. (20a)
- 50a & 78a RESEEDS and RESAT. I have a tolerance of one funny re-verb per puzzle.
- 72a [Caribbean resort island] ST BARTS. Had ST KITTS at first, would have appreciated a “familiarly”-type modifier in the clue. S(ain)t Barthélemy.
- 5d [Last two words of Matthew 23:22] IT I. Really? Really?? Isn’t IS IT I crosswordesey enough without further PARE-DOWN (79d)? Or is it just me? I? I… I… don’t know what to say.
- 73d [Tit-for-tat compliment] TRADE-LAST. I’d never heard of this term before, but am glad to know it. “Trade-last (n.): a complimentary remark by a third person that a hearer offers to repeat to the person complimented if he or she will first report a compliment made about the hearer. First known use: 1891. (m-w.com) A bit convoluted, but interesting.
- PSA: 77a [Country star with a trademark stutter] Mel TILLIS, is not to be confused with Meg Tilly, actress with a trademark something-or-other.
- 100a [Don Corleone] VITO. Am I the only who, upon hearing “Vito Corleone,” thinks of vitello mascarpone? What about I Vitelloni?
- 47a [TV’s ShamWow spokesman] VINCE. I did not need to learn this. I will not investigate to find out whether it’s a first or last name. I am going to lie down now.