Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “The Meaning of It”
This puzzle was a delight to solve. The theme is terrific, with lots of rewarding and amusing “aha” moments; the fill is Berryesquely smooth (and pretty easy); and tons of clues feel fresh and fun.
Each theme entry is a phrase that contains the word IT, and usually the IT is sort of undefined. For example, PUT A CORK IN IT means “shut up,” or “put a cork in your yapping mouth.” Patrick has clued it with [“Talking isn’t going to reseal that wine bottle!”]—which gets at both the idiomatic “shut up” meaning and the theme’s literal “put a cork in that wine bottle.” The whole theme plays out just as elegantly, with each theme clue touching on the idiom and the jokey literalist interpretation. CUT IT (the paper doll) OUT and stop ripping it. This store-brand white bread, IT’S NO WONDER, “I can see why.” Isn’t this gorgeous? So well-crafted, consistent, and entertaining.
I think my favorite was 104a: [“How dare you climb a barbed-wire fence wearing my sweater!”], THAT TEARS IT. In the close runner-up category, we have the STEP ON IT bug, Hawking’s book with IT’S ABOUT TIME, and the RC car (RC is short for remote control) where IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, [“Of course this car isn’t voice-controlled!”]. The 11 theme entries include two stacked pairs, with zero compromises in their tight crossings. This puzzle is, as they say, full of win. If you say “Patrick Berry is full of it,” it’s win that he is full of.
Sidebar: There was a recent discussion on Cruciverb-L about DCCAB vs. RCCAR. RCCAR may never have appeared in a crossword, whereas the forgettable Mr. T movie DCCAB sees regular use. Do you folks know “RC” as shorthand for “remote control(led)”? My kid has long been fond of RC helicopters, cars, and trucks, so it’s a gimme for me. But before he came along, I don’t think I knew RC as anything but the cola.
- 21a: [Short, light musical piece], SONATINA. Deb Amlen has made a batch of strawberry/vanilla bean vodka that goes great in a sonatini.
- 27a. [One of England’s Cinque Ports], DOVER. No idea what “Cinque Ports” is all about, but Dover has cliffs so I knew it was at the water’s edge. No idea that it was a port city.
- 58a. [Furry feller?], BEAVER. It’s a furry mammal that fells trees. Other furry fellers include bears and otters.
- 70a. [Hold up one’s end?], MOON. Har!
- 78a. [Peabody Essex Museum city], SALEM. Massachusetts rather than Oregon, I’m guessing. Never heard of the museum.
- 114a. [Abbr. for an unlimited number?], ETC. Clues, themes, fill, etc.—the unlimited number of crosswordy things Patrick Berry excels at.
- 115a. [They take stock during an emergency], LOOTERS. Oof.
- 2d. [Conversation opener?], MOUTH. Unless, of course, you’re conversing via American Sign Language.
- 6d. [Pilot who makes vertical takeoffs], AERONAUT? Wha…? I think aeronauts fly hot-air balloons, which do take off vertically.
- 21d. [“Great” guy], SCOTT. “Great Scott!”
- 55d. [Single-sex house, usually], FRAT. See also 117a.
- 64d. [Whitebeards], OLD MEN. I filled in ELDERS first and grumbled that elder women don’t usually have beards, so I was glad when the answer turned out to be OLD MEN.
- 110d. [It’s asked for a reason], WHY. Faintly reminiscent of the theme because of “it’s”, only backwardly.
Five stars. This is everything you want in a Sunday puzzle. The theme entries keep you entertained as you work your way through the grid so it doesn’t feel like a slog. And the cluing is so smooth that the occasional ELON or OTT pretty much passes unnoticed.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Pun-demonium”
Another offloading of Merl’s surfeit of puns, I gather—an assortment of puns that don’t bundle together with a theme’s worth of other answers, so they all go stag to this party.
- 23a. [Opening line of “Moby-Dork”?], CALL ME A SCHLEMIEL. (“Call me Ishmael.”) Ha!
- 33a. [What there was between Annie Oakley and her brothers?], SIBLING RIFLERY. (Sibling rivalry.)
- 43a. [Bob Dylan tune with a bouncy melody?], MR. TRAMPOLINE MAN. (Mr. Tambourine Man.) You know the proper name of the London Games’ key Trampoline Man, right? Dong Dong.
- 63a. [Maker of soup that can clean its own bowl?], PROCTER AND CAMPBELL. (Procter and Gamble makes a lot of cleaning products.)
- 70a. [What to look through if you want to see that new building being built?], THE VILLAGE PEEPHOLE. (The Village People.) Ha! Not that I see any connection between “village” and this clue.
- 90a. [What the horse chef got on his new “oat cuisine”?], POSITIVE FEEDBAG. (Positive feedback.) Not sure how a feedbag can be positive.
- 98a. [Dangerous month for Mexican homeowners?], SINKHOLE DE MAYO. (Cinco de Mayo.) My husband ran a 5-mile race in May with the punny (but ungrammatical) name of “Cinco de Miler.”
- 116a. [What the California inmate accused the authorities of?], FOLSOM PRISONMENT. (False imprisonment meets Folsom Prison.)
Eight theme answers is a low count by Reagle standards, though the theme entries are all long ones and there’s a ton of fill that crosses two, three, or even four (!) (no, really—look at 36d: ICE CANOE and 64d: REED PIPE) theme answers. Despite that, most of the fill is smooth and the long partials are inoffensive.
Least familiar answers, to me:
- 59d. [Ill-fated water chief in “Chinatown,” ___ Mulwray], HOLLIS. Still haven’t seen that movie. I was 7 when it came out, so I wasn’t in the viewer demographic.
- 48d. [Big Easy museum, familiarly], NOMA. New Orleans Museum of Art—I haven’t been inside (and didn’t know people called it NOMA) but my family enjoyed the impressive sculpture garden adjacent to the museum. Despite the clue saying “Big Easy,” I read it as “Big Apple” and filled in MOMA.
3.5 stars. The theme lacks focus but the crossword pretty much dishes out what Merl’s longtime fans are looking for—a smooth solve and plenty of puns.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 123” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Many thanks to Neville for filling in for me last week. He rocks. And he’s serving up a new puzzle every Friday on his website, which seems to be called “Neville Fogarty.” Good stuff!
Did you like today’s Post Puzzler by Karen Tracey? Do you generally like puzzles by Karen Tracey? How about Mike Nothnagel? Liz Gorski? Matt Gaffney, Tony Orbach, Patrick Blindauer, Doug Peterson? I heard you say “Yes!” eight times, so you should definitely order a set of puzzles from last weekend’s Lollapuzzoola for the low price of $10. Today (Sunday) is the last day to order, so act now. Click HERE for puzzles and more info.
- 1a. [Like rosebushes] – SNAGGY. This entry feels a little made-up, but it’s totally something I’d say. “My cat’s claws get snaggy when I don’t clip them regularly.” Yeah, that works. Snaggy is also the name of a character in the movie Scabby-Doo, a cheap Scooby-Doo knockoff made in Slovenia. It’s bad, but not much worse than the original
- 22a. [Quick, in a way] – SAME-DAY. I was not quick, in any way, on this entry. I’d written in NEGRO for 2d. [___ Modelo (Mexican beer)] and thus got SOMEDAY for this answer. Quick = someday? It made no sense at all. Took me at least five minutes to straighten that out. Good thing I don’t time myself on these darn puzzles.
- 60a. [“Wealth and Poverty” author George] – GILDER. Wikipedia tells me that he’s an “techno-utopian intellectual.” Well, lah-di-dah. I’m more familiar with Nick Gilder, who sang the 1978 #1 hit “Hot Child in the City.”
- 25d. [Southern university with the motto “Numen lumen”] – ELON. Hello, Numen.
- 33d. [Fourth-grade teacher Edna on “The Simpsons”] – KRABAPPEL. I know some solvers don’t like all the Simpsons references in puzzles, but I can’t get enough of them. It’s like every time I watch The Simpsons, I’m also getting better at crossword puzzles. A win-win.
Other goodies: YELLOWSTONE, BUY SOME TIME, AIR QUALITY INDEX, SUPERBOY, and SEXY GENIES.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Let’s do the easy part first: I have only one guess for today’s entry in Name That Constructor Month, and if it’s not Bob Klahn then…well, I don’t have a hat nearby that I can eat, but you get the point. The last few Klahn puzzles had been relatively easy–by his standards, mind you– so I suppose we were due for a Whopper (alas, not one made my way). Please tell me this wasn’t just a killer for me. My entire solve had me feeling like a 45 rpm record being played at 33-1/3. Everything just fell so slowly, and any bursts of momentum were very short-lived.
I broke in at 53-Across, knowing that TRIB was the answer for the [“Dewey Defeats Truman” paper, for short]. But none of the crosses were immediately apparent to me. I was frustrated in not being able to crack [Pop test?] since it only has three letters and I had the middle I. I think that clue would be perfect for something like PATERNITY, but a three-letter answer? It wasn’t coming to me. (Eons later I saw it was SIP, perhaps meaning to take a small taste of soda pop. That clue’s a little too obtuse for my tastes, but this was certainly not my biggest struggle.)
I would have sworn [Inferno] should have had the word FIRE in it. So when I finally got the -HOLE ending, I figured it had to be FIRE HOLE and moved on from there. Alas, it was HELLHOLE. What a perfect entry–both zippy and descriptive of my solving experience. Anyway, my insistence on having a FIRE in the southwest kept me from cracking FIRE TRAP, the answer to [It ought to be condemned]. Great clue, though my answer of FLEA TRAP felt just as right in my mind.
As I have noted before, Bob’s puzzles are great for learning new vocabulary. Here’s what was new (or at least really unfamiliar) to me:
- PURPLE PROSE. If obscene writing is “blue,” I suppose purple stuff must be really bad. Even though the term is new to me, the clue ([Bulwer-Lytton’s “It was a dark and stormy night…,” e.g.]) had a fun and familiar feel.
- I’ve heard of SCUD, but didn’t know it could be the answer to [Run before the wind].
- I knew there were Type A and Type B personalities, but I didn’t know there was a TYPE C to describe a [Detail-oriented, perfectionist personality]. I suppose TYPE O would be a misleading label for these folks.
- [Hags and nags] are HARRIDANS. Rex Harridan was a famous actor, but who knew he had such an unfortunate surname (no need to comment–it’s a joke).
- The clue [Midmorning tea with HobNobs] might as well have been [Forget it, Sam, you’ll never get this without all but one crossing]. The answer is ELEVENSES. And the British wonder why their empire fell. (I take it HobNobs are biscuits. Whatever.)
- POTEEN is [Illicit Irish whiskey]. The English have elevenses, the Irish have poteen. Are we catering to stereotypes?
- There’s a word called CENTESIMAL. My dictionary says it means “Relating to or divided into hundredths.” You know, [Like dollars and euros].
- To [Claim without warrant] is to ARROGATE. Had I known that off the top of my head, I would have felt arrogant. Alas, I’m just defeated.
The clues were especially tricky this time. I really struggled in the northeast. ARE is the [Contemporary art] if you think of “art” as the old-fashioned way of saying “are” (wherefore art thou?), and EXPENSES works as the answer to [What comes after them may come back to you], because it’s the net income after expenses that may be paid to you. (I might have liked that clue better without “back”–to me, that would feel more accurate. Net income doesn’t come back to me–it’s what is mine for the taking after paying off expenses.)
Another clue that felt like it was just a little too cute was [Special deliveries] for SPEECHES. What exactly is so special about a speech? Wouldn’t [Deliveries] be the better clue? I get that it’s trying to play on the term “special delivery,” but the playing is a tad too forced, making the clue even harder than was likely intended.
Okay, I’ll quit carping and get to my formal Name That Constructor Month entry. Call me cocky, but here goes:
1. Bob Klahn. 2. Bob Klahn’s evil twin. 3. The Bob Klahn from the same parallel universe in which Mr. Spock has a goatee.
Oh goodie–at least I got the constructor right. Name That Constructor Stats After 12 Puzzles: 3 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 14 points total so far; score to beat = 15.5 points. I suppose another silver lining is that I’m well on pace to beat the 15.5-point standard I set for myself at the beginning of the month. If I break it tomorrow, I’ll set a loftier goal, just so you can have the pleasure of watching me fail. Our readers like their Schadenfreude!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Film Prequels” — pannonica’s review
Cute premise, hypothetical antecedents to well-known movies. I appreciate the variety among the clues and answers, which are sometimes distinct enough to allow the actual original title to appear, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s a simple date- or time-shift, sometimes there’s an element of increasing mood, and sometimes both.
- 23a. [“Dinner at Eight” prequel?] COCKTAILS AT SEVEN.
- 35a. [Prequel to a 2000 disaster drama?] THE PERFECT CALM (The Perfect Storm).
- 54a. [Prequel to “Twilight”?] MIDAFTERNOON.
- 74a. [“Independence Day” prequel?] JULY THE THIRD.
- 88a. [Coppola war prequel?] APOCALYPSE SOON (Apocalypse Now).
- 105a. [Prequel study of #43?] AMERICAN HISTORY W (American History X).
- 15d. [Henry Fonda courtroom prequel?] ELEVEN PEEVED MEN (Twelve Angry Men).
- 45d. [Royal Hepburn-O’Toole prequel?] THE LION IN AUTUMN (The Lion in Winter). A good double feature with Becket.
As I said, I appreciate the freewheeling take on the theme concept. Sure, it’s easy to see where things could have gone farther (The Imperfect Calm, Eleven Peeved Boys), but it’s just a riff and a romp here.
No appreciably long non-theme fill, just solid integration and a good mix of words and cluing.
- Least familiar to me: 50a [Kenya’s Kenyatta] JOMO; 64d [ALF’s home world] MELMAC; 70d [Pueblo chambers] KIVAS.
- Vocabulary clue! 62d [Chinook or mistral] WIND. Don’t get sidetracked by 67d [What salmon do] SPAWN (or 53a [Take to court] SUE and 85d [Legal entreaties] APPEALS.
- 44d [TV theme song “Movin’ __ “] ON UP. From The Jeffersons. Sherman Helmsley died between the puzzle’s publication in print and on-line (six weeks later).
- Consecutive halves of repeats: 101d [Food fish, for short] MAHI, 102d [Word sung by Day] SERA.
- Two of my favorite clues: 61a [Fifty of two?] ONE-TEN; 5d [Brest milk?] LAIT.
Breezy, fun puzzle.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Beg Your Pardon?” – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Apologies that aren’t (Alternate title north of the border: What the referee in the Olympic women’s soccer semi-final between Canada and the U.S. should have said.)
- 23A. [Slapstick comic’s apology … or is it?] – I FELL DOWN ON THE JOB
- 39A. [New Year’s Eve techie’s apology … or is it?] – I DROPPED THE BALL
- 59A. [Proud liberal’s apology … or is it?] – I DID NOTHING RIGHT
- 84A. [Army cook’s apology … or is it?] – WHAT A MESS I’VE MADE
- 100A. [Zen Buddhist’s apology … or is it?] – I WAS THOUGHTLESS
- 122A. [Nostalgic seismologist’s apology … or is it?] – THIS WAS ALL MY FAULT
- 8A. [“Piano Man” singer] – JOEL
- 127A. [Saying “You can say that again!” again, say] – REDUNDANT
- 127A. [Saying “You can say that again!” again, say] – REDUNDANT
- 16D. [Aleutian Islands crustacean] – ALASKA KING CRAB. Awesome down fill.
- 50D. [Vigilante’s collar] – CITIZEN’S ARREST. Awesome down fill, Part 2.