Allan Parrish’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Did you notice the mini-theme? I totally missed the great one in this week’s Fireball puzzle by Peter Gordon (did you ever notice that GIUSEPPE VERDI and MEAN JOE GREENE have essentially the same names in Italian and English?) but I made up for it by catching the anagrams at the end of the three longest entries: OFFENSIVE REMARK, COSMO KRAMER, and PERMANENT MARKER. (Loved the clue for the last of the three: [Bad tool for a toddler to find].) Now, I think “mini-theme” is defined as two long answers that are somehow related in an otherwise themeless puzzle, so this trio is a 150% mini-theme.
- 15a. OMERTA clued as a [Code that's dangerous to break].
- The tableau suggested by the STRANGER/PIERCED/YONKERS corner.
- 37d. MRS. PAUL, second only to Mrs. Dash in the supermarket Mrs. category.
- 5a. “MMM BOP,” the [1997 #1 hit with a nonsense title]. Became obvious with the B and P in place once I realized the year didn’t say 2007.
- 19a. REN with a “You eediot!” clue. (Italics mine. For proper emphasis.)
- Two fresh clues relating to corporate entities: 10d: PARENT is clued as [Adidas vis-a-vis Reebok], and 49d: PETCO is the [Retail giant with the mascots Red Ruff and Blue Mews].
Crosswordese on parade: Archaic ANENT ([Apropos of]) and chemical ENOL ([Organic compound]).
The Roman numeral is a Roman numeral, but at least solvers can get MMII as [When the Salt Lake City Olympics took place]. No “year of the pope” clue here. SASE, UIE, and OTERI aren’t great fill but they’re not big offenders. Overall, it’s a pretty clean 68-word grid.
Question: How on earth does … oh, okay, I get it now. 39a: [Wish] clues PLEASE because the two words can fit into the phrase “if you wish / if you please.” I don’t know that “please” is really serving as a proper verb in that phrase. I guess it is. But I think this clue/answer combo is going to have a lot of people scratching their heads.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I think I understand the theme but that there’s a major inconsistency at 25a. Yes? No? I’d love to know if I’m missing something obvious. Four of the five theme answers, or maybe all five, are made by changing a word in a familiar phrase to a sound-alike (or sound-similar) word that’s a shortened name for a dog breed:
- 17a. CHOW BELLA, [Blue-tongued dog in the canine version of the "Twilight" series?]. Playing on the Italian “ciao, bella!” (basically “bye, lovely”).
- 25a. MATZO ROTTIE, [Powerful dog that loves a Passover staple?]. Is this one playing on Maserati or some quasi-familiar “matzo ___” term I’ve never heard? By the by, I have only barely heard of “Rottie” as shorthand for Rottweiler, or maybe not heard it at all.
- 37a. LAB DANCES, [Rumbas for retrievers?]. Lap dances. Dogs love lap dances, especially if they can stick their noses in people’s crotches. More of a pronunciation change here than with CHOW, PEKE, and POM.
- 51a. SNEAKS A PEKE, [Engages in toy dog smuggling?]. Sneaks a peek.
- 61a. POM READER, [Scholarly little Spitz?]. Plays on “palm reader.” I didn’t know spitzes were Pomeranians.
I remain perplexed by 25a. Donna’s themes are usually rock-solid so I figure I’m missing something here.
- 9d. PORPOISE, [Mammal whose name derives from the Latin words for "pig" and "fish"]. Pork + Pisces = dolphin fun.
- 64a. KREWE, [Mardi Gras parade group]. Sometimes I’m a sucker for nutty spellings.
- 57a. RHINO, [Nepal rumbler]. Figured the answer would be a volcano, not a large mammal! The Indian rhinoceros, specifically. I didn’t know Nepal had lowlands as well as Himalayan mountains.
- SHIATSU and SANFORD & Son (not Sanford, FL) are also nice.
30d. [1993 Best Mexican-American Album Grammy winner] clues SELENA. Disney Channel star and pop/dance singer Selena Gomez may well have eclipsed the late Selena in fame, and I can’t wait for crossword clues to catch up. Gomez has had three gold-record albums and three platinum-record singles, and she is a current celebrity. Is that not enough to break the Selena clue hegemony? (Wikipedia tells us Gomez’s parents named her after the late Tejano singer, so you could even include both singers in a clue.)
For 5a: [Stare open-mouthed], I filled in GA*E and waited for the crossing to tell me whether it was GAPE or GAZE. Then 7d: [Chopin work] turned out to be WALTZ, not ETUDE, so I made 5a GAWK. But then the mysterious 8d: ["Phaedo" philosopher] looked like KLATO, so I changed it to PLATO and asked myself, “Is GAWP really a word??” And indeed it is. Not sure I knew that.
Three stars, or maybe more if MATZO ROTTIE is indeed consistent with the other theme answers.
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Foreign Exchange” — pannonica’s review
The “exchange” of the title doesn’t refer to the (108a) EURO [Coin that debuted in 2002], nor to the (50a) [Old Italian bread] LIRE, so no need to set your GPS for the nearest Thomas Cook. No, for the purposes of this theme, the second word of each alliterative original two-word phrase has been swapped out for a homophone. Each leading word is the adjectival form of a place name.
- 23a. [Complaint from Clouseau?] FRENCH WHINE (wine).
- 28a. [Jidda Jedi?] ARABIAN KNIGHTS (nights, as in (Tales from) the Thousand and One).
- 46a. [Share in a Basel business?] SWISS STAKE (steak). nb: Swiss steak does not look like Minute Steak™ with holes in it.
- 61a. [West End walkways?] BRITISH AISLES (Isles). This one’s a bit weird, because the original phrase describes the place itself.
- 76a. [Old lady in Luxor?] EGYPTIAN MOMMY (mummy). I know that “old man” is nickname for one’s father (or, sometimes, husband), but I’m not familiar with the use of “old lady” for mother, although I have seen it used for wife. Truth is, I don’t care for either version in any metaphorical context.
- 94a. [Shanghai shirt?] CHINESE TEE (tea). I have very rarely encountered that term, unless one is talking (economically?) about all the tea in China. Mostly it’s more specific, by type (e.g., black, white, green) or variety (e.g., lapsang souchong, oolong, pu-erh).
- 107a. [Roomer south of the Rio Grande?] MEXICAN BOARDER (border). Similar to, but not quite as blatant as 61a; I guess you can say this one’s on the edge.
- 118a. [Agreement in the Antilles?] CARIBBEAN SÍ (sea).
- 42d. [Maker of Colosseum calls?] ROMAN UMPIRE (Empire).
- 36d. [Activity on Qom courses?] PERSIAN GOLF (Gulf).
First, that’s a healthy amount of theme content. Nine entries, 108 squares. Now, I’ve already quibbled with BRITISH AISLES and MEXICAN BOARDER, but there’s some more. Most of the entries are nations, but a few aren’t. The countries of the Arabian Peninsula comprise Arabia; that’s Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, and of course Saudi Arabia, where Jibba is located. The Antilles include the Lesser and Greater Antilles of the Carribean; that’s… actually, that’s too many to name here, so if you’re interested, have a peek at the Wikipedia page. As you will notice, the official languages of the islands comprising the Antilles include French, Portuguese, and English, in addition to Spanish. Last, Persia is no longer an official nation and is nowadays called IRAN, (120a) [Azerbaijan neighbor]. All right, it’s bad enough that there’s a distracting country name in a puzzle with such a theme (see also, NIGER (74a)), but this one steps all over the toes of one of the theme entries; very disconcerting.
So, the theme is loosey-goosey, which isn’t a sin, and can sometimes be worthwhile if the payoff is transcendent, but none of the puns felt particularly fresh or clever, making this puzzle feel every inch (and minute) the 21×21 that it is.
Taking a break from disparagement, there’s quite a lot of fill to like. The longer answers include RUFFIANS, RINGTONE, Daphne DU MAURIER, non-partial RICE-A-RONI, OPEN-TOE, FORGET IT ["No offense taken"], the all-common-letters-but-still-interesting ITINERANT, SKIP A BEAT, and ONE-HORSE [Hardly sprawling]. The cluing has the typical spunk of Shenkovian EDITS (123a).
- I liked how the vertical SARASOTA SAILs down the center to the similar sounding SAPSAGO.
- Also sibilant are the symmetrical acrosses REPOSSESSED and ESSAY TEST.
- Names! People’s names! We got ‘em! Billy JOEL, IGORS Stravinksy and Sikorsky, THEO Huxtable, AHMAD Rashad, DU MAURIER, Chrissie HYNDE, the RENOS Janet and Jesse (no Jean?), ALFS Kjellin and Landon, TERI Hatcher, LOIS Lane, DEBI Mazar, YVES Montand, Captain AHAB (factette*: surname is Thacklewaite), and crossword mainstay ERMA Bombeck.
- Some unusual words in the grid: ATMAN [Hindu soul], RAREE [Carnival peep show], PESACH [Seder time], SAPSAGO [Hard cheese flavored with clover], LEMNOS [Site of Hephaestus's forge] (factette: Vulcan, the Roman analogue, had his forge at Etna).
- Could do without either (18a) LED IN or (65a) SET IN, or both.
- A sampling of clue highlights:
- 79a [Hefty item] BAG.
- 26d [Something inspired] AIR.
- 73d [Hole in one's shoe] EYELET.
- 41a [Piehole] TRAP.
- 58a. [Gambler's giveaway] TELL.
- Favorite clue, for intangible reasons: 19a [Clear __ (not clear at all)] AS MUD. I know, it’s a fill-in-the-blank partial, but I’m partial to it. What can I say?
Average puzzle, overall.
*not intended to be a true factette.
Public Service Announcement: I’ve just discovered a “feature” in Across Lite. Even if a puzzle is not constructed as a rebus puzzle, any letter can be substituted with a numeral that begins with that letter. That’s to say, anywhere O appears in a grid, it can be replaced with a 1. And so on:
• E = 8
• F = 4 or 5
• N = 9
• O = 1
• S = 6 or 7
• T = 2 or 3
• Z = 0
Perhaps constructors were already aware of this, but it was definitely a happenstance novelty for me.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Occupancy” – Sam Donaldson’s review
According to 69-Across, ROOM is an [Interior space, and what can follow each part of 17-, 28-, 46-, and 60-Across]. Those entries are all two-word terms, and sure enough, each word in those entries is a type of room. After a while it’s like a game of Clue: Bruce Venzke did it with a pencil in one of eight ROOMs. Here are the theme entries:
- 17-Across: The [Wellesley structure] is a WOMEN’S DORMITORY. The co-ed dorm there proved to be a waste of money. A-a-a-anyway, that one has a “women’s room” and a “dormitory room.” Isn’t the latter almost universally known just as a “dorm room?” They’re smart and everything at Wellesley, but even there I’d consider betting a major organ that students refer to them as “dorm rooms.”
- 28-Across: The [Peer panel in action] is a SITTING JURY, a synthesis of “sitting room” and “jury room.” Did you ever notice how a jury sits but the witness stands? (No, I’m not especially proud of that one. Thanks for asking.) I like how this one changes the meaning of “sitting.” I wish the others did something similar to this too.
- 46-Across: The [Industrial Revolution power source] is a STEAM ENGINE. That’s your basic “steam room” and “engine room” coming together.
- 60-Across: A [Postgame Q and A, for example] is a PRESS CONFERENCE, which here consists of a “press room” and a “conference room.”
My Spanish classes back in the day were of mucho value today, as there’s both AHORA (“now”) and TIA (“aunt”). For Polynesian flair, there’s both LEI and LANAIS, and for our gratuitous dose of French, there’s ICI (“here”). I suppose some will balk at crossing partials (TEA OR crossing ONE AT), made even more noticeable by the partial clue given to the abutting EAST L.A. (["Born in ___" (Cheech Marin film)].
Favorite entry: ZAPS, or [Shoots, science fiction style]. Favorite clue: [Spare setting?] for a bowling alley’s LANE.