Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Is that an editorial comment, the BAD TASTE/AMERICANS stack? Of course not. Americans have the good taste to like Patrick Berry’s crosswords. This one is, if you ask me, absolutely terrific. Freakishly, this 64-worder plays more like a 70-worder, with all the Z’s and X’s and the extreme liveliness of the stack in the upper left. I scoured the the grid looking for junk fill and the very worst I could get was a name from literature and film, O-LAN (which I think many of us know mainly from crosswords).
- 9a. Interesting HIPPO clue, [One form of the Egyptian god Set].
- 16a. [Light bulb, maybe] is a great misleading clue for an ONION. It’s a bulb and it doesn’t weigh a ton.
- 17a. ROSE ROYCE! “Workin’ at the car wash … whoa whoa whoa whoa, car wash.” Advantage: People at least as old as me.
- 19a. DREAM TEAM. You always remember your first (M.J., Pippen, et al.).
- 22a. [Like "sissies"] clues SIBILANT. Love this-s-s clue!
- 33a. HAROLD’S [__ Chicken Shack (Chicago-based restaurant chain)]! There’s one near me, over by Truman College. The menu is enticing. Fried chicken, maybe some catfish. Okra and gizzards are options I’ll be passing up.
- 35a. “AMSCRAY!” Pig Latin.
- 60a. TO THE MAX, casual language.
- 11d. PIA ZADORA, [1982 Razzie winner for "Butterfly"]. Again, advantage to those my age or older. This might not be in your pop-culture sweet spot but it’s in mine.
- 27d. [Scotland, to Poets] is CALEDONIA. I knew that. Victorian erotica is most educational.
- 28d. I forgot this etymology, that ORANGUTAN is [Literally, "man of the forest"]. That’s what we called ol’ Grizzly Adams, “TV Orangutan.”
- 29d. Just had pizza at home yesterday (I sustained a tomato burn on my chin. It blistered promptly. Tomatoes are dangerous, yo.) so I went the wrong way in my thinking about [Big piece of crust?]. Waited for the crossings to yield that CONTINENT.
4.5 stars. Presumably a tough grid to fill cleanly, but thanks to Berry’s (a) deal with the devil, (b) origins on another planet with superior intelligence, or (c) sweatshop of crossword peons slaving away to polish their grids, which he then takes credit for—thanks to whichever, this puzzle had smooth fill. And then there were all those great clues.
Steve Salitan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tee Off” — pannonica’s review
A very straightforward theme for this outing: two-word phrases in which the initial T of one of the words is dropped, clued appropriate to the new, less-sensical version.
- 23a. [Radiator in a freedom fighter's hideout?] GUERRILLA (T)HEATER. The original phrase has to do with performance art, not emotive combatants. Too bad guerrillas aren’t inclined to use gangster argot, or (relatively) small handguns. Deliberate that GONE APE is stacked on top?
- 34a. [C'mon, Governor Perry, believe in yourself!"?] CONFIDENCE, (T)RICK. Oh yes, I remember that guy. Of course, the “confidence” in any confidence game is not that the game or “artist” takes you in to their confidence but rather arranges things so that you perceive to be taking them in to your confidence. “Oops.”
- 53a. [Trouble removing a chemical peel, say?] FACIAL (T)ISSUE. Wow, clue that could have gone a whole different way.
- 77a. [Brew produced by a group of senior spouses?] OLD WIVES’ (T)ALE. I’m genuinely surprised that, with the abundance of craft beers and the propensity for many of them to have punny names, no product bearing that appellation is on the market.
- 93a. [God of storms?] (T)RAIN DISPATCHER. Paging Eugene Henderson…
- 110a. [Edible frill on a skirt?] CHOCOLATE (T)RUFFLE. Mmm, lace cookies.
- 17d. [Largest moose ever's claim?] (T)RACK RECORD. Megaloceros giganteus must’ve been too esoteric.
- 69d. [Coin depiction of an ornamental vase?] (T)URN ON A DIME. Well, those torches do have a classic look to them…
Nothing earth-shattering among these, either before or after, but they’re all solid enough. For me, it was the overall quality of the ballast fill and the cluing that made this puzzle worthwhile. Forthwith,
Random Observations on Some of the Other Stuff in the Crossword:
- Full names! Symmetrical, too. EARL (“Fatha”) HINES at 5d, and PATTY DUKE (later Patty Duke Astin) at 81d. Both FATHA and ASTIN are often seen in crosswords. The other nine-letter entries are the lovely PRESS KITS and WEARS THIN (13d & 78d).
- That aforementioned GONE APE? I don’t really like it, as in the real world the phrasing meaning [Freaked] would more likely be WENT APE. Google suggests it’s by a factor of roughly two-to-one.
- I’m aware of Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, but it seems they’re complemented by Daisy Duck’s NIECES April, May, and June (47a). Who knew? Has that Brady Bunch vibe. Oh, bit of a duplication from the clue, as APR is the answer to 76a [Busy mo. for accountants].
- Two words that are perfectly fine but which I have issues with:
- 37d ["Jeopardy!" component] FACTOID. As readers may have noticed, my preferred term is factette; this is because the suffix -oid is not restricted enough in meaning for me. Merriam-Webster provides a typical definition for the noun suffix: “something resembling a (specified) object or having a (specified) quality.” Problem is, I like my facts, if they are factual, to be clear-cut; “factoid” sounds like something resembling a fact but which may not actually be a fact. Especially since the “resembling” sense generally precedes the “possessing” sense in definitions. And before you say it, I’m aware that the suffix -ette for my preferred formation also has two meanings. m-w (again): 1: little one, 2: female. Skirting the gender politics therein (which in any case I’m hoping are on the way out), note that this definition separates the two senses into distinct numbered sections rather than implying that they’re the same mishmoshy thing, as for -oid. Another alternative that I’ve toyed with is factini, but that puts me in a drinking mood.
- 83d [Pleasing to look at] ESTHETIC. Aside from the clue not indicating that this is a variation (“aesthetic” is more common (and also more pleasing to look at)), there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with the clue. I simply begrudge the fact that the word has come to be prejudiced toward the positive or beautiful when—in its origin and literal sense—it is impartial, meaning “of perception.” Same for “luck,” which can be good or bad (presupposing the validity of luck, but that’s yet another issue). Since I’m naturally leery of optimism, this is a disturbing quality of the language, the presumptuous hijacking of the neutral to the positive. Whew! Thanks for letting me tee off.
- 15a [Hip-hop headwear] DO-RAG, although I imagine Sacha Baron-Cohen’s fictional hi-hop-wannabe alter-ego ALI G. having a fictional girlfriend named DORA G. 46a [He had the first hip-hop album to bear an explicit content sticker] ICE-T.
- 52a [Brand that contains "Retsyn"] CERTS. The clue prompted me to finally (thanks, Internet!) bother to find out what the heck Retsyn is, anyway. Wikipedia tells me it’s “a trademarked name for a mixture of copper gluconate, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and flavoring. It is the copper gluconate in Retsyn which gives Certs its signature green flecks.” Unspecified flavoring, yum. No clue to the etymology of the word, probably courtesy of some unheralded marketer of yore. Not to be confused with Retin-A, or retsina, neither of which should be mixed with with factinis.
88a [Start of some ode titles] TO A. Having nothing to do with poetry, suit TO A ‘T’ is common in crosswords, and for this crossword in particular that could have been a fun answer to see, imparting a forLORN (24d) quality, pining for that shed letter.
- Least common answer (even accounting for the stray crosswordese): 102a [Waste allowance] TRET.
- Some fun clues: 86d [Brothers in the hood] FRAS, those monkish cowls. 95a [Poison remedy] IPECAC-ack-ack-ack. 53d ["Yeah, sorry"] ‘FRAID SO; nice, colloquial.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ham It Up” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I won’t say my solving slump is over, but at least my time is heading in the right direction. It probably helped that the title told me what to watch for right away. As I suspected, the letter sequence H-A-M gets inserted into five common (and fresh!) terms to yield wacky results. Amusement ensues:
- 17-Across: The commercial catchphrase GOT MILK becomes GOTHAM MILK, a [Big Apple dairy product?]
- 25-Across: SAN DIEGO, home to the weather reporters with the easiest jobs in America, becomes SHAMAN DIEGO, the [Muralist Rivera who was also a witch doctor?]. This one took me a while to figure out, as I kept thinking COAT had to be the answer to the crossing [Cold coating]. That’s right, even with “coating” in the clue, I wanted the answer to be COAT. I’ve ordered a new brain on Amazon this morning, but since I’m a sucker for free shipping it will still be a few days before it arrives.
- 40-Across: Why just have STRING THEORY when you can have HAMSTRING THEORY, a [Sports doctor's thoughts on a common leg injury?]?
- 52-Across: To be LET ALONE is rather dull, but HAMLET ALONE, the [Abridged Shakespeare play featuring only a famous soliloquy?], is must-see theater. Alas, no, there is no intermission.
- 65-Across: I always like it when my favorite theme entry comes last–like a punch line coming after a well-constructed set-up. The W HOTELS, a rather posh chain, become WHAM HOTELS, the [Tour lodging for George Michael's '80s band?]. This put the boom boom into my heart.
Some would say it’s less elegant that the HAMs are strewn all over the place–sometimes at the front, sometimes at the end, and once in the middle of a word. But I’m not one of those–I like the fun of not knowing exactly where the letter sequence will be added. Give me fun over elegance any day.
Anyone else plunk down GO BANANAS instead of GO BERSERK as the answer to [Fly into a rage]? Anyone else spell BERSERK with a Z instead of an S? It didn’t help that GESSO, the [Artist's canvas coating], looked just as correct to me as GEZSO.
There are 57 theme squares in this puzzle (well above average), and yet Tony managed to squeeze in great stuff like POSTAL, SO KIND, I SEE IT, and BOSSY. It would certainly help to know your famous figures, as this puzzle has Ronnie MILSAP, RAUL Julia, ETHEL Mertz, George SEGAL, Nick NOLTE, Arthur ASHE, PAM Grier, Captain QUEEG, ARI Shapiro, Marisa TOMEI (purr), GINO Vannelli, DAPHNE from Frasier, and the ISLEY Brothers. That borders on over-population!
Favorite entry = IT’S WAR. Favorite clue = [Education declaration] for MAJOR. Has a nice ring to it, and it’s easy to dance to.
Stephen Edward Anderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review
Gareth here discussing this Friday’s Los Angeles Times.
The theme is abbrs. spelled out using the NATO phonetic alphabet. I don’t know about you but it felt a bit like it needed something more; I don’t know what, though. But probably that’s just me in any case…
- INDIAQUEBEC (IQ) “Brightness measure, to a pilot”
- OSCARKILO (OK) “Green light, to a pilot”
- LIMASIERRADELTA (LSD) “It’s dropped for a trip, to a pilot”
- BRAVOALFA (BA) “Undergraduate degree, to a pilot”
- TANGOVICTOR (TV) “Den centerpiece, to a pilot”
Elsewhere, the two longest downs – EMPHASIZE and FACSIMILE - are notable for both being single-word answers, but punchy, crunchy answers none the less… We also have the topical SERENA “Sister of Venus”, Williams that is. Serena is the one who’s still in the Wimbledon draw… WHANGS are “Loud metallic sounds” as well as an answer that makes everyone’s inner twelve-year-old titter. KOWTOW “Bow and scrape” was my favourite answer of the puzzle; it’s just such a fun word to say!
Quite a few nice clues as well… My two favourites were “Work on a wall” for FRESCO - that’s “work” n. not work v. “Old flood insurance?” is a very clever, if transparent clue for ARK.
A couple of things I didn’t know:
- ROBERT‘s Rules of Order. I tried reading the Wikipedia page, but it mostly made my head hurt. It sounds like it’s a set of rules for meetings? Everyone reading this is sniggering at my ignorance right now, right?
- That ARAM is “William Saroyan’s son”. Also that there was someone called William Saroyan. Apparently he is an author, and among is best known works is a collection called “My Name is Aram”.
I think I’ll leave you with a song, by “Vocalist Vikki” CARR…