Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Do you know I had everything done in this puzzle except for the 1-Across corner, which was entirely empty? It’s rather daunting to face an entire isolated chunk of grid full of mystifying clues. Eventually CAMILLA Parker-Bowles helped me out of the bind I was in. Guessed ORO, eventually got its fellow Spanish words AMIGOS and TACOS, and the rest gave way. (Speaking of Spanish: MADRID on PINATAS too. Is BASTA Spanish too?)
Favorite answers: MALCOLM X, BANANARAMA, LILYPADS, MAD-LIBS, Ninoy AQUINO International Airport, GOOSING, HANGING OUT, and some nice Hannibal Lecter CHIANTI.
Thanks to two crossword constructors for two of the answers. I knew 33d: DUMB DORA, the [Comic strip that Chic Young abandoned to create "Blondie"], because this info was in a Victor Fleming puzzle I edited this week. And I knew 44d: BASHO, the [Poet credited with popularizing haiku], thanks to Francis Heaney’s anagram-based literary parody book Holy Tango of Literature. Basho’s name anagrams to “Has B.O.,” and Francis wrote smelly haiku in Basho’s style.
- 18a. [Unlocked?], SHORN. I got the trick quickly but could only think of BALD.
- 27a. IVANA [__ Humpalot, Austin Powers villain]. Horrible pun, but a fresh alternative to Ivana Trump.
- 56a, 45d. [They may be heard in a temple], GONGS and ORGANISTS. Solid double play.
- 22d. [Four-time Oscar nominee (never a winner) in the 1930s], Greta GARBO. Trivia!
Lots of proper nouns today: ARAL, BANANARAMA, MIMI, IVANA, MADRID, AQUINO, CONTI, FORD’S, XMAS, ANTONY, LARRY, CAMILLA, AMAZONIA, GARBO, MALCOLM X, DUMB DORA, MARGOT and ALDOUS together in one corner, and BASHO. Nineteen? That’s a ton. The “you either know it or you don’t” haters of names in crosswords may be unhappy with this puzzle. ARAL is utterly blah, but I generally like names in crosswords and found it refreshing to have names that aren’t the ones that show up again and again (no UMA, no OLAF).
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Loss Leaders” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Regular readers (hi, all three of you) know of my self-imposed goal of solving Bob Klahn crosswords in under ten minutes. I came up just a little short on this one, mostly because of a pesky corner. But let’s start with the theme. Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that can precede “loss:”
- 17-Across: Something [Easily activated] has a HAIR TRIGGER. Hair loss, alas, is a topic with which I become a little more familiar each day
- 26-Across: The [Piece of a major headline] is a CAPITAL LETTER. Here again I sigh “Alas,” for I’m now the proud owner of a (nondeductible) capital loss from the recent sale of my home. Let’s just say it’s a good time to be a buyer.
- 42-Across: The [Brand-new face] is a TOTAL STRANGER, who may or may not be at a “total loss.”
- 55-Across: Another name for a [Thumb drive] is a MEMORY STICK. I read something interesting about memory loss earlier this week, but darned if I can recall what it said.
I got off to a great start when I plunked down AARGH as the ["Peanuts" cry] at 1-Across. When you have the starting letters for five consecutive Down entries, you can make some great time. And that’s exactly what I was doing until I hit the conglomeration of MARTEN (the [Weaselly critter] that I so wanted to be a MARMOT), JANUARY (a month I know well, but not when it’s clued as a [Two-faced diety's period]–I just now learned that the Roman god Janus had two faces, just like that mirror in the Barbra Streisand movie), and AGE-MATE (the [Contemporary] that just feels weird to me), all of which kept the cleverly clued I’M STARVING ([Empty proclamation?]) well-hidden for far too long.
Overall, the puzzle felt easy for a Klahn crossword (meaning it was still harder than your typical CS puzzle, of course, but nowhere close to some of the doozies we’ve encountered over the years). But I still couldn’t crack the 10-minute barrier. Oh well, tomorrow’s another day.
Favorite entries: HOT WATER, TRAVESTY, TEAM UP, and the stacking of SWEAT and PIGGY. Four favorite clues (in no special order): (1) [Manufacture bullets] for the aforementioned SWEAT; (2) [Dutch bank manager?] for a DIKE; (3) [XXX rating?] for THIRTY; and (4) [Pure profit] for GRAVY.
Robert Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Pannonica was just commenting the other day on not liking crosswords with lots of prepositional phrase action. Well, there are so many prepositions and related adverbs and whatnot in this grid: 15a EXPECT TO ([Likely will]), 17a PRO-ROMAN ([Backing an ancient empire, like King Herod]), 18a TILT AT ([Charge with a lance]), 19a LET IN ON ([Made a party to]), 40a ONRUSH ([Sudden influx]), 53a PASS ON ([Decide not to use]), 11d CALLS FORTH ([Summons]), 12d ENTER INTO ([Join, as a discussion]), 20d FOR THE RECORD (["Just so you know..."]), 26d AT IT ([Busy]), and 30d MOVE APART ([Separate]). And then there’s 33a PONYING ([Paying (up)], which is crying out for the UP to join it in the grid. FOR THE RECORD is a great answer, but it gets lost amid the sea of short functional words that don’t add word interest.
- 32a. BONES, [Nickname for two very different TV doctors]. One a man on a spaceship, one a woman in forensics.
- 58a. ADAM BEDE, [George Eliot's first novel]. Classic literature.
- 3d. SPOTS, [Ladybug's array]. Nice clue.
- 13d. DEAD SLEEP, colorful answer. [Situation that makes stirring difficult].
- 44d. [Collage application], PASTE. If you read the clue as “College application,” you’re never getting PASTE.
- 48d. ANTS, [People seen from skyscrapers?]. Cute, like the ladybug at 3d.
- 31d. ANALGESIA, [Controlled numbness]. No. Anesthesia brings numbness (an = not, esthesia = sensation). Analgesia is pain relief (an = not, algesia = pain). When you take the analgesic Tylenol for a headache, does your head go numb? When you take ibuprofen for joint pain, do your joints go numb? Of course not.
- 43a. OTE, [Taxonomic suffix]. Martin H. and pannonica had a lengthy discussion in the comments about this recently. It’s an ugly little answer no matter how valid it is. The T crosses an abbreviation, so I have no idea why these answers weren’t ODE and END, two simple words that could lend themselves to nifty cluing. If only every constructor would look closely at the worst answers in the grid and try to change them–sometimes the fix is so simple.
- 2d. EX-RED, [Ken Griffey, Jr., e.g.]. Little-known fact: Griff was a member of the Communist Party during his salad days. It was making big money in the big leagues that turned him resolutely capitalist. (But seriously: I don’t care for the EX-[team name] answers. How much are these in the language among the sporting crowd?)
- 6d. Ooh, a question-marked clue! [Air head?], hmm, will it be a word that precedes air? I hope it’s not as lame as that. Working the crossings… oh. ATMO. A prefix. Meh.
- 10d. CEILS, [Puts a roof on]. Not really the same, are they, making a ceiling vs. making a roof?
- 27d. Ooh, a question-marked clue! [Auto-biographical fig.?], hmm, this is sounding clever. Working the crossings… oh. VIN, the vehicle identification number. A car’s VIN isn’t really “biographical” in any way, is it?
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
I found the left side of this puzzle to be a lot more challenging than the right. The longest connecting word serving as a bridge into the left was 42a: REFLEX ARC ([Neural pathway activated by a hammer]), and boy, I sure didn’t know that.
- 1a. [Caddies for five decades] isn’t about golf, as I first thought. It’s ELDORADOS, the Cadillacs.
- 16a. Didn’t quite know it, but I like the super fresh cluing. ALEVE, ["Jeopardy!" runner-up prize provider].
- 17a. GENE KELLY, full name. Didn’t know he was the ["Hello, Dolly!" director]. If you’re keeping count, that’s two titles of entertainment programs with exclamation points in the clues.
- 35a. The vowel [Sound of fright] is a LONG I.
- 55a. CLARABELL, [Howdy Doody partner]. The one non-Howdy “Howdy Doody Show” character I can name quickly.
- 58a. BAFFLEGAB is your quirky/insane Word of the Day. It means [Impenetrable prose]. Thanks for putting up with my bafflegab, people.
- 5d. RYKRISP! [Cracker brand since 1899]. Who knew it was so old?
- 8d. [Double-check figures?] is a great clue for OGLE.
- 11d. Lovely clue for ELINOR Dashwood, [Austen's "Sense"]. Her sister Marianne was the more emotional “Sensibility” one. (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, respectively, in the Ang Lee movie.)
- 13d. AVGOLEMONO, [Citrus-tinged Greek soup]. My mom just ordered this at lunch on Thursday, as “egg-lemon soup.” Tasty.
- 26d. Who doesn’t appreciate a good STUD FINDER? As a picture [Hanger's device], it’s a boon.
- 52d. [Go out with a bang] and SLAM that door.
Only slightly more familiar than REFLEX ARC was its symmetry partner, 27a PARTERRES, [Theaters' rear seats]. You sit there if you want to depart quickly?
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle, “Primary Concerns”
The recent Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest puzzle with the primary vs. secondary colors kerfuffle made me think of colors, whereas Hex’s “Primary Concerns” theme is about 22a FIRST THINGS. In nine answers, the part of the answer that’s a word that can follow “first” is moved to the beginning of the word’s space.
- 4a. METER MAIDS becomes AIDMETERMS because first aid is this answer’s “first thing.”
- 14a. HYPERSONIC becomes PERSONHYIC.
- 30a. EXPEDITION appears as EDITIONEXP.
- 37a. ASTRINGENT, STRINGAENT.
- 1d. SIDELIGHT, LIGHTSIDE. [Incidental item in view around food shop] clues SIDELIGHT, which isn’t an entirely in-my-vocab word. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary includes these definitions: (1) light coming or produced from the side; (2) incidental light or information. It’s that “or information” that goes with “incidental item” in the clue.
- 3d. ANIMATE, MATEANI.
- 13d. INTESTATE, ESTATEINT.
- 19d. RENASCENT, ASCENTREN. “First ascent”? Wikipedia explains that it’s “the first successful, documented attainment of the top of a mountain, or the first to follow a particular climbing route. First ascents are notable because they entail genuine exploration, with greater risks, challenges, and recognition than climbing a route pioneered by others.” Renascent isn’t a super common word. It ties to the “making a big comeback” part of the clue.
- 24d. DOG-EARS, GEARDOS. The answer sounds like a portmanteau of gearhead and weirdos.
None of the clues particularly delighted me or baffled me. 3.75 stars because the clues and answers didn’t knock me out, though the theme was nifty.