John Lampkin’s New York Times crossword
Today has been one of those days that provoke too, too many HARRUMPHs. Misbehaving computer peripheral. Irksome webhost. Too much down-time. (On the plus side, I had extra couch time with Gary Krist’s book, City of Scoundrels.) I have no blogging groove tonight.
Good stuff: SHOOTOUT, which I mistyped as SHOUTOUT. (Harrumph!) HARRUMPH. “NO REASON…” SALARY CAP, TWENTY-ONE, “I’LL GET IT,” LASER BEAM focus, THE ROYAL WEDDING (hmm, was this puzzle constructed last April?), “TAG, YOU’RE IT.” I’m okay with the intersection of two …IT answers because they’re both fresh and fun.
Favorite clues: ["Rock"], GEMSTONE. The crossing combo of [Belts in which stars are seen?], KOS, and [Stars in which a belt is seen], ORION.
Entry that I’ll bet John Lampkin has a beautiful photograph of: LUNAS, the [Pale-green moths], or possibly the SETAE that are [Caterpillar bristles]. Or a luna moth caterpillar, perhaps. He’s a terrific nature photographer.
Lowlights: Assorted partials (OR TEA, A HOME, A TEE), the awkward-sounding NOT DO, repeaters SETAE and ROANS.
I used to be bugged by TERP ([Comcast Center athlete, briefly]), short for University of Maryland Terrapin, but constructor Erik Agard is a TERP so I can’t be mad at the word anymore.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “One For the Ages” – Sam Donaldson’s review
We just might have to create a new Orcas Award category: Best Execution of a Title. In this puzzle, the phrase “one for the ages” here serves as an instruction, as the solver must substitute the letter sequence O-N-E for the letter sequence A-G-E in four familiar terms (thus, ONE is used in place of all the AGEs). The result is four wacky new phrases that get clued accordingly. Great idea!The four theme entries certainly qualify as “wacky:”
- 17-Across: A “stagecoach” becomes STONE COACH, a [Private tutor for director Oliver?] . I bet there’s a saucier clue for this one that could involve actress Sharon.
- 29-Across: The “baggage claim” section of an airport becomes a BAG GONE CLAIM, a [Terse assertion about a missing suitcase?]. It’s noteworthy that the substitution here splits one word into two. It’s consistent with STONE COACH in that makes more words out of fewer words, I suppose, but still it feels a little unlike the others to me.
- 49-Across: The contemporary sport of “cage fighting” becomes the (likely less violent) CONE FIGHTING, or [Jousting with dunce caps?].
- 64-Across: A real “page-turner” of a book becomes a PONE TURNER, a [Short-order cook who specializes in fried corn bread?].
The puzzle does have a certain OOMPH to it, and not just because that term for [Get-up-and-go] appears right in the center of the grid. I like how the clues for the crossing ALPACA ([Highlands beast]) and APE ([Lowlands beast]) relate. On a personal note, the references to the ARNO River and the [Venus de] MILO were nice, as I have seen both in person within the past two weeks. Other interesting entries include AT HOME, ALAN ARKIN, TAKE AIM, and the [1985 Ron Howard film], COCOON.
Okay, time for my guesses in today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month. The letter-substitution-for-wacky-phrases gimmick suggests Tony Orbach, but Tony’s puzzles often have a lot of musical entries and/or clues. Here there’s OH SUSANNA, the [Stephen Foster song], but nothing else seems especially musical. The playful fill suggests Doug Peterson, and the inclusion of WRESTLES might be a subtle tribute to fellow crossword blogger-slash-constructor-slash-cool kid, PuzzleGirl. But Doug just had the Sunday Challenge, so it seems it would be a little too soon for another appearance. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a Randy Hartman puzzle or something from one of our Patricks (Blindauer or Jordan). Hmm, let’s see…how about:
1. Tony Orbach. 2. Patrick Blindauer. 3. Randy Hartman.
One point for me! It may be a bronze, but it’s still a medal! Name That Constructor Stats After 10 Puzzles: 2 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 11 points total so far; score to beat = 15.5 points.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dog Days” — pannonica’s review
Disclaimer: Not certain if there’s more to the theme than I’ve comprehended, so my write-up may be more flawed than usual.
Seven theme answers, the original phrases containing a day of the week, appear in order, beginning with Monday. For each, the day has been replaced in the grid with a breed of dog, but the clues make no concession to the alteration; there isn’t the pretense of a “wacky” interpretation. I’ll go ahead and (accurately, in my opinion) use the charged term schizophrenic, because there is an apparent environmental disconnect.
As best as I can see, there’s no rationale for the substitutions. It’s almost as if the theme is derived from the title rather than vice-versa, which I assume is the typical genesis. Even for cases where the title presumably precedes the mechanics, the two components feel to be essentially on even ground; not so here, where the nuts-and-bolts of the theme are subservient to the (unsurprisingly) most apt of titles.
None of this detracts from the feat of constructing a puzzle with such lengthy and chewy theme entries.
- 23a. [Critic who offers opinions after the fact] PUG MORNING QUARTERBACK (Monday).
- 38a. [1967 #1 with the lyric, "Who could hang a name on you?"] RUBY BULLMASTIFF (Tuesday).
- 55a. [Morticia's daughter] PINSCHER ADDAMS (Wednesday).
- 71a. [It's three days before Easter] MAUNDY GOLDEN RETRIEVER (Thursday).
- 88a. [1940 screwball comedy based on "The Front Page"] HIS GIRL SHIH-TZU (Friday).
- 101a. [Conan O'Brien and Larry David wrote for it] BEAGLE NIGHT LIVE (Saturday).
- 122a. [1999 Pacino film directed by Oliver Stone] ANY GIVEN BOSTON TERRIER (Sunday).
Breakdown: ((two film titles, one song title, one television show title), one television show character), (two relatively generic phrases). Make of that what you will. Of the dogs, PINSCHER seems different from the others in that it’s more generic and could refer to a Doberman pinscher, a miniature pinscher, an affenpinscher, an Austrian pinscher, or a German pinscher. Much more trivially, there are two “versions” of the BEAGLE recognized by the American Kennel Club: 13-inch and 15-inch.
- African geography! 22a [Where the Blue Nile begins] ETHIOPIA, 66d [Northernmost country in Africa] TUNISIA (north of parts of Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and all of Cyprus). The latter is part of a nice seven-stack. Actually, I really like all of the significant stackings in the grid:SMUSHED / SASHIMI / TUNISIA; the fresh WHATEVS / LIMITER (okay that one not so much) / FESTERS (not clued Addams-style); PIT STOPS / ETHIOPIA; SLEEPIER / HYDRO-SKI [Seaplane attachment).
Non-theme dogs! 45a ["The Muppet Show" dog] ROWLF. 75d [Dog's cover] RELISH; pfft! everyone knows that HOT (97a) dogs should be garnished with only mustard and sauerkraut, and occasionally diced onion.
- A cat! 86a [Cat also known as the dwarf leopard] OCELOT. You know, I’ve never heard that name, but it seems to be in use. Never mind that it derives from a pre-Colombian Mexican word for “jaguar” (or that the Spanish colonizers called jaguars “tigers”…). And also never mind that in Asia (where leopards actually live, as opposed to Central and South America), you can find the leopard cat. OCELOT = Leopardus pardalis; leopard = Panthera pardus; leopard cat = Prionailurus bengalensis.
- Timely [Fodder for an opponent's campaign ad], for which I first filled in FLIM-FLAM rather than the better FLIP-FLOP. (33d)
- Another mis-fill at 9d [1940s USSR secret police]; had NKVD not NKGB.
- Favorite clue, though not favorite fill: 133a [When rights may be outlawed] ON RED.
Enjoyable puzzle, despite the prevailing sense of randomness.
Steven St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
In today’s puzzle, Mr. St. John goes sans revealer, meaning the theme’s sole attraction is its 4 theme entries. In three, a single “C” is added to phrases beginning with answers starting with l’s to create wacky ones. It climaxes with the fourth answer, where a c is added to both words of the phrase. The phrases didn’t really delight me>me> today, but I’ve said before I find the appreciation of any individual wacky answer to be very unpredictable, hit and miss, with solvers, so I’m sure you plenty of you guys got a kick out of ‘em. They are:
- 20a, “Problem for French Open tennis officials?”,CLAYONTHELINE. Yup, true that.
- 30a, “Challenge for an aspiring vascular surgeon?”, CLOTSTOLEARN. You know, I can’t imagine vascular surgeons spend much time learning clots. There’s a chicken fat clot and a strawberry jam clot, but I can’t think of much relevance to vascular surgery.
- 38a, “”Come on-a My House” and “Hey There”?”, CLOONEYTUNES. Yup. LOONEY to CLOONEY is an interesting transition.
- 49a, “Daily chore for Travolta?”, CLEFTCLEANING. A slightly disturbing image to end on, almost as bad an image as a “strawberry jam clot”.
It may not look it, but this is actually a 72-worder, which means it’s eligible to be a themeless! Considering that, it’s a pretty smooth grid, although not an overly pizzazzy one. 10a, “2011 NBA MVP Derrick”, ROSE is echoed by 53a, “St. __: Rose’s Minnesota home town on ‘The Golden Girls’”, OLAF. For once an old-timey TV-show reference I was familiar with! 3d, “Burglar alarm alternative”, WATCHDOG is probably the zippiest of the answers. I can’t remember if its symmetrical partner, 35d, “Command from Captain Kirk”, ENERGIZE, was really said or not. Okay, 38d , “Elegant fabric”, CHIFFON is also a fun word. To be honest, it’s no mean feat to have even a few answers like this in this grid and have as a little dreck as Steven St. John has, it’s just hard to delight over as an achievement. Lastly, 43d, “First name in circumnavigation”, NELLIE is Bly and not “the Elephant”, but I’ll leave you with the latter. I still feel for the girl of that name in my primary school class, who had the misfortune to be prematurely tall…`