Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
It’s unusual for a grid to have just four black squares on the periphery (with 6- and 8-letter words on the borders, framing stacked pairs of 15s. I think this grid holds the record for the lowest black square count, but this is not a record that lends any particular excitement to my solve. I generally look to the stuff in the white squares for the entertainment.
My “Whut?” answers were:
- 16d. GERENTS, [Rulers or managers]. Even Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary includes this unfamiliar word, which is attested back to 1576. It looks like a dyslexic’s REGENTS, doesn’t it? How many of you knew the word?
- 39d. CENCI, [“The ___: A Tragedy in Five Acts” (Shelley work)]. Missed that one in my English literature studies.
- 30a. SOLATES, [Undergoes liquefaction, as a gel]. One of those science words I never had cause to learn.
- 24a. NER [___ Tamid (synagogue lamp)].
In the “Know Your Crosswordese” Department, we have:
- 19a. ARIANE, [French-built rocket].
- 23a. SAMI, [Laplanders].
In the “Where Have I Seen That Before?” department, we have 7d: LED INTO and 42a: LEAD IN. One [Preceded], one [Segue]. It’s one (taboo) thing to repeat a key word. It’s another to repeat a preposition chunk (subpar, but often forgiven). But the one-two combo here may be new.
Likes: PEPCID (have taken it), A PASSAGE TO INDIA (saw it in 1984), DISPUTED BORDERS (have none), CENTER LANE (what do you call the two center lanes when your highway has four lanes in your direction?), the YALTA CONFERENCE (which was not in Malta), 50¢ word EPISTEMOLOGICAL, TIRE MAINTENANCE (why, I just had my tires rotated last week and finally learned what that even means), CHOSEN FEW, and DEAD ON (the rare entry with a preposition that’s zippy, idiomatic language rather than a clunky kludge).
26a: [Suffix with diet] slowed me down. The words dietetic and nutrition always make me want to spell it dietITIAN instead of dietICIAN. Maybe if I liken it to pediatrician and mortician, I can remember that it’s a C.
Three stars? Not sure.
Bruce C Greig’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
I think this is another debut, well done Mr. Greig! The theme takes a basic add a letter (“R) gimmick and adds a twist. All the themers are films, and are 45d, RRATED. The original films are from a fairly narrow band in time, from the late 80’s to the early 00’s; that’s neither here nor there for me, but I thought I’d note it down anyway. All the reworked answers’ clues still allude to the original flicks, which is sometimes frowned upon, but in this case is necessary, IMO, as a way to derive the answers. So lets list ’em, they are:
- 17a, TROYSTORY, [The “Iliad” film version for kids?] The ’95 animated blockbuster is reset in ancient Ionia!
- 24a, STRANDBYME, [Coming-of-age film about DNA?] The ’86 Rob Reiner film’s new title doesn’t make lexical sense. On looking the film up in Wikipedia, I discovered it’s based on Stephen King book “The Body”. Stephen King gets a second reference at 70a, DERRY [Town near Bangor, in many King works]
- 36a, DREADMANWALKING, [Bob Marley prison film?] The original is a ’95 Oscar-winning drama.
- 53a, HOMERALONE, [Epic poet-left-behind film?] The violent ’90 family comedy now sees Joe Pesci being tortured by an ancient poet… Interesting link between this one and the first answer. I wonder if that was a part of the theme’s genesis?
- 62a, BARDSANTA, [Shakespearean holiday film?] Another cheesy comedy, this time from ’03. I like the image of Shakespeare in a red and white suit “saving Christmas”.
What else do we have?
- 9a, SHAGS [Some carpets]. They’re made out of cormorants.
- 30a, AVATAR, [Online self-image]. If you haven’t already done so, head over to this site and get one for the comments section below. It’ll do wonders for your online self-image.
- 56a, ARAM, [Composer Khachaturian]. He’s been popular this week.
- 58a, MAT, [Pin cushion?]. My nominee for clue of the day. Took me a while after it being filled in to understand it. When being pinned in wrestling, the mat serves as a cushion.
- 59a, DAN, [Miami’s Marino] crossing 49d, MADDEN, [Memorable telestrator user in NFL broadcasts] was my last letter. I had to do the “run through the letters of the alphabet” trick.
- 6d, BOO, [Rude welcome at the park] More sports (baseball park), and another great clue for a three-letter answer.
- 39d, MRMOM, [1983 Keaton film] Is the odd film out, as it doesn’t get “r-rated”, though its placement and clue meant it was hard to mistake for a theme answer…
- 54d, MABEL [Normand of the silents] Is a silver-screen actress whose name I forgot. There aren’t too many Mabels around these days from which to derive a more contemporary clue are there?
- 55d, ETAPE [Military camp] Is our old-school crossword answer of the day. All the crossword veterans either plopped it in immediately or made wild gesticulations at their newspaper/print-out/computer screen/PDA/tablet (did I leave a solving option out?) because of a malfunction in their hippocampi.
(Disclaimer: the above post may contain a glaringly obvious terminological inexactitude.)
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Takin’ Kin” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Tony finds four common two-word terms where the first word ends in -CAN or -CON, changes those letters to the homophonic -KIN, then re-imagines the results in verb-noun form. Lordy, that was a dull explanation for a very lively theme. Let’s just move along to the theme entries:
- 20-Across: The Incan Empire becomes INKIN’ EMPIRE, a [Media magnate’s printin’ business?].
- 27-Across: The (near to me) city of Macon, Georgia, becomes MAKIN’ GEORGIA, a [Documentary about the foundin’ of a state?].
- 48-Across: A plate of yummy bacon burgers become BAKIN’ BURGERS, or some [Patties cookin’ in the oven?].
- 58-Across: Cake mix maker Duncan Hines becomes DUNKIN’ HINES, [Dancer Gregory’s nickname when shootin’ hoops?].
The fill is just as fun, with FOOL’S GOLD, TAE KWON DO, SNIDELY Whiplash, I SAID NO, SNOOP Dogg, and (speaking of canines) NICE DOG among the highlights. SMEW, the [Fish-eating duck], is new to me. You can supposedly see them in action here, but if you ask me it looks more like regular ducks going after lead-filled bread crumbs. I was also thrown off by TPKE as a four-letter abbreviation for “turnpike,” the [Toll rd.]. I’m used to TPK as crossword fill (am used to doesn’t mean like, for the record), but the one with an E on the end is a bit of a twist. I had TPK- already in place from crossings, so I didn’t even bother reading the clue and just put down an S in the last square. The lesson, as always, is to read the clue!
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Playing a Few Rounds” — pannonica’s review
Today we have a rebus puzzle in which the letter sequence RING occupies a single square. Across Lite also accepts fill as correct if just the first letter is used, which is what I’ve done in the solution grid, for clarity. I’ve also taken the liberty of adding circles (rings, coincidentally) to the relevant squares. The rebus is used in the downs as well as the acrosses.
- 23a. [Yorkshire manor of the Earnshaw family] WUTHE(RING) HEIGHTS.
24d. [Secret pros] (RING)ERS.
- 28a. [It’s hardly a big shot] DER(RING)ER.
17a. [Sense of where one is] BEA(RING)S.
- 36a. [With limited funding] ON A SHOEST(RING).
39d. [Sound familiar] (RING) A BELL.
- 56a. [Ship securers] MOO(RING)S.
44d. [Kitchen waste] PA(RING)S.
- 67a. [Watergate follow-up] SENATE HEA(RING)S.
48d. [Explorer aboard the St. Peter] BE(RING).
- 65a. [Olympics symbol] (RING)(RING)(RING)(RING)(RING).
65d. [“Photograph” singer] (RING)O STARR.
61d. [Saddle-shaped snacks] P(RING)LES.
57d. [You might be stuck with them] SY(RING)ES.
52d. [They have large schools] HER(RING)S.
31d. [Frodo takes it to Mordor] THE ONE (RING).
- 72a. [Welcome, as the new year] (RING) IN.
47d. [It’s graduated] MEASU(RING) CUP.
- 73a. [Information brokerages] CLEA(RING) HOUSES.
56d. [On the road] MOTO(RING).
- 80a. [Job at a reception] CATE(RING).
53d. [Hopeless] DESPAI(RING).
- 87a. [Florida spot noted for its glass-bottom boats] SILVER SP(RING)S.
80d. [Compassionate] CA(RING).
- 109a. [Diner treat] LEMON ME(RING)UE PIE.
91d. [Like many fans] ADO(RING).
- 114a. [Aftershave, e.g.] AST(RING)ENT.
101d. [Diving judge’s job] SCO(RING).
Whew! That’s a lot of theme content, or at least theme-associated content. With such a wealth of material and the realities of crossword construction, it’s expected that quality will vary, especially with one member of each crossing being more robust than the other (the dominant twin?). To me, the straight-up gerunds and the entries in which the RING is in fact just a ring—either noun or verb—are the lesser ones, as are the short ones (some are both). By these criteria, themers such as ASTRINGENT, PRINGLES, LEMON MERINGUE PIE, DERRINGER, and ON A SHOESTRING are among my favorites. The locations of the rebus squares are not symmetrical.
It seems rather obvious that the impetus for the puzzle is the 2012 Olympic Games, which officially start today, and whose logo is clued in the intensive center across entry. Perhaps it’s an obvious criticism which doesn’t properly acknowledge the spirit of the thing, but I found this to be a semiotic disappointment. How does it work? Is it supposed to be interpreted as “five rings” or as a graphical representation? Either way, it doesn’t succeed. If the lexical interpretation is to be used, then it doesn’t follow the mechanics of the other theme entries; if visual, then it’s wildly inaccurate and is more reminiscent of an overzealous, supernumerary version of Audi’s logo.
Admittedly, to more faithfully reproduce the logo would require a grid with offset squares to accommodate the bottom two rings, or would necessitate a presumably impossible construction with alternating rebus squares, three in an upper entry and two in a lower one. That’s obviously ridiculous, so I’m back to feeling it’s naggingly unsatisfactory, like an irritation on the upper palate that is only aggravated by addressing with your tongue.
The rest of the puzzle has the expected mix of pleasing longish non-theme words, variety, and clever cluing that are typical of the WSJ 21×21 offerings. With a dash of a few bonus Olympic-flavored clues and entries.
A good puzzle, but with a slightly off-putting theme for this solver.