Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
Is it just me or did these feel a smidgen more like a Saturday puzzle than a Friday one? I kept hitting slow patches:
- 16a. [The Bay of Fundy has the largest one in the world], TIDAL RANGE; 7d: [Cho ___, romantic interest for Harry Potter], CHANG. I knew Cho’s last name was CH*NG but was at a loss for the vowel. And TIDAL what? I tried SURGE for a while there. And 6d: [Downright], ARRANT? That wasn’t coming to mind either.
- 28d. [Grateful Dead album whose title reads the same forward and backward], AOXOMOXOA. Have seen it before in a crossword but had to work the crossings to put it together this time. Luckily, each letter you get gives you its palindromic partner.
- 33a. [Compromise of 1877 figure], HAYES; 36a. [Southern writer William Gilmore ___], SIMMS. All crossings, all the way, for both names.
- 37d. ["Dude, I got something to tell you..."], DIG THIS; 40a. [Nickname in classic jazz], DIZ (Dizzy Gillespie, yes?). I have never once said “Dig this,” but if I had a shovel to give you, I might.
Favorite clues and fill:
- 1d, 21d. [It controls the amount of light admitted], F-STOP and IRIS. Was the F-stop devised as a mechanical simulacrum of the iris? I’ll bet it was.
- 24a. [Having a bad trip, maybe], CARSICK. That’s right. You don’t need LSD to have a bad trip. Just ride in the back seat with a headache, crank the heat up a little too high, and try to read a book.
- 54a. [What a drawer may hold], FELT TIP PEN. The answer looks weird without spaces between words.
- 10d. THE FATES is a pretty answer. Wouldn’t have known [Moirai, in Greek myth], but I had the F*TE* part so that helped.
- 11d. REALITY TV is clued as ["Big Brother," for example]. Not Orwell’s Big Brother but the one hosted by Julie Chen. This answer is what dissuaded me from British LIT at 11a (it’s RAJ). 11d looks good grouped with ARTICLE IV and JOHN KERRY, especially with those two final V’s.
- 33d. HIT IT OFF, terrific answer. [Clicked], got along great with, etc.
New term for me: 39d: TELCO, [Verizon, e.g.]. I’ve seen telecom plenty but not TELCO.
Chuck Deodene’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Chuck Deodene is someone I think of as a constructor of long standing, but one who’s been a lot less active since I began solving. His puzzle today hit my “wacky” sweet spot, I don’t know about yours. I cottoned to what was going on pretty quickly; when I came across the first entry I had “LUN” in place and it wasn’t much of a stretch to get to LUNATICMOTH. I often battle to figure such answers out so it was a pleasant surprise for me. I don’t think that had anything to do with my enjoying the answers. If you need an explanation, each long answer has a 40a, “Like one afflicted with the added elements in 17-, 24-, 53- and 65-Across?”, NERVOUS TIC. Adding a trigram, like TIC, is quite a coup in my book, although the fact that TIC is a common suffix does make Mr. Deodene’s task a little easier. However, he also used that fact to create an extra layer of consistency: each TIC is added to the end of the first word. Let’s see what we have:
- 17a, “Berserk flutterer?”, LUNATICMOTH. How do you make a moth a lunatic moth? Just add a light source, as we all know. Instant lunacy!
- 24a, “Trans-Alaska pipeline repairer?”, ARCTICWELDER. Brrr!
- 53a, “Alluring facial feature?”, ROMANTICNOSE.
- 65a, “Assembly celebrating digestion?”, PEPTICRALLY. Quite a bizarro image, yes? PEP to PEPTIC and ARC to ARCTIC get extra points as the answers are in no way cognates.
What else do we have? You know what they say (I don’t who they are, but anyhow): “When in doubt, do bullets!”
- 1a, “Unlikely hits”, BSIDES. Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles. Anyway, that’s a nice 1a answer and I had no idea where the clue was going for a while.
- 22a, “Source of silky wool”, ALPACA. I did an autopsy on one once. Very weird anatomy; for instance, no gallbladder (like horses).
- 26d, “Where rocking is not suggested, CANOE. A very clever clue
- 33d, “Native of Shiraz”, IRANI. Amy’s taken us through why this answer is in fact wrong before, yes? Such a person would be an IRANIAN.
- 47D, “Body wrap offerer”, SPA. My first answer here was BOA. It made sense in my head, I swear!
That’s all I have for you today, but feel free to bring up whatever you’d like to in the comments, of course.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It Takes Two to…” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Those solving crosswords as a mechanism for coping with loneliness might find today’s CS puzzle a little sad. It reminds us of four activities that require a second person to enjoy fully. Well, as we’ll soon see, one of the four may not be very enjoyable, unless you’re in Fight Club. Whoops, I’m not supposed to talk about that. Never mind.
Each clue to a theme entry is supposed to be read as though it started with the puzzle’s title, but each begins with an ellipsis instead. For ease of reference, we’ll just use the complete clue here:
- 20-Across: [It takes two to ___ (compete in a paper-and-pencil game)] clues PLAY TIC-TAC-TOE. At a summer camp just before the start of seventh grade, we learned the optimal strategy for tic-tac-toe. Proving the strategy involved a lot of solo games. I suppose some might find it sad that most of my summer camp was spent indoors with pencil and paper. But I liked it.
- 28-Across: [It takes two to ___ (stroll like loverbirds)] clues WALK HAND-IN-HAND. You don’t need to be an ornithologist to know that lovebirds don’t stroll–they waddle. And they waddle wing-in-wing, not hand-in-hand. Duh! This puzzle could have used some editing!
- 47-Across: [It takes two to ___ (duke it out)] clues HAVE A FISTFIGHT. Here too, two people aren’t required: on many occasions, my older brother proved I could hit myself, only to ask me repeatedly why I kept hitting myself.
- 57-Across: [It takes two to ___ (step to the sounds of "Hernando's Hideaway")] clues DANCE THE TANGO. I want a hideaway someday.
The fill is a mixed bag of zippy stuff and flat stuff. The peppier entries include GLAD TO, I NEVER, FACADE, and HEF (even if the clue, ["The Girls Next Door" mogul Hugh, familiarly], is a tad dated). But there was also OEDS, A SEC, BAHS, TOGGED, HICS, and, worst of all, E. LEE. Throw in all the foreign words (like ARTE, MERCI, AMO, and UNE), and you’re making some significant compromises.
I liked the double reference to yummy Mexican food with carne ASADA up top and EROSE con pollo on the bottom. (Click here for full effect.) Was I the only one who wanted LION for [Rap music's Snoop ___]? This grid’s looking for DOGG. That’s so five weeks ago!
We end with today’s entry for Name That Constructor Month. This puzzle doesn’t seem to have any signature features that points to one of the constructors in the CS stable. I haven’t seen many instances of the unusual clue formatting used in this puzzle, and I don’t associate it with anyone in particular. So most of my guesses today are just random shots–I’m using names I don’t remember seeing in a while. Here goes:
1. Sarah Keller. 2. Alan Arbesfeld. 3. Patrick Blindauer.
Hot dog–three more points! Name That Constructor Stats After 17 Puzzles: 7 correct first choices (3 points each), 3 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 28 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 30.5 points.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Lady Vanishes” — pannonica’s review
Considering that I twigged to the theme very early, I should have had a much faster time. Probably just moving a little slowly this morning.
So, yes, at 25-across, after swiftly jotting in ARRAS (20a, which I learned in the course of reading Hamlet in junior high and is thus eternally linked to Polonius in a veritable gumbo-okra axis), the clue was very leading. [Enigmatic feature of this puzzle's subject]; at five letters I was supremely confident it was going to be SMILE. Only then glancing at the title did I know whose smile it was, for there were two strong candidates.
As for the mechanism of the theme, that took me slightly longer to figure it out, but I had a hunch which turned out to be correct. The letters of the puzzle’s subject, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” are dropped in sequence from eight of the theme entries. A ninth entry, spanning 19 letters across the center, fastidiously confirms this with a historical tidbit: [On 8/21/1911 the subject (the letters dropped from the starred answers) was __ ] STOLEN FROM THE LOUVRE. Proud to say I plopped in the full answer off of just the first S and the F. Was this puzzle intended to be run last year at this time, on the occasion of the centenary?
- 23a. [*"Here's to you, Napoleon!" perhaps?] (M)ELBA TOAST.
- 32a. [*Rack's well-liked partner?] POPULAR (O)PINION.
- 39a. [*Public protest against Hawaiian noisemakers?] NO (N)UKES RALLY.
- 55a. [*Counseling offered by TV's Downey?] (A)ROMA THERAPY. I don’t even know if this person is Roma Downey or Downey Roma. I also don’t care.
- 75a. [*Pusillanimous particle?] COWARDLY (L)ION. Tee-hee. That reminds me of an obscure personal mondegreen. From The Rutles’ “Another Day,” the refrain is “You’re so pusillanimous, oh yeah / Nature’s calling, I must go there” but I always thought the second line was “Nature’s call in animus, oh yeah.”
- 90a. [*Cliburn's nickname after winning the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition?] (I)VAN THE GREAT. Not to be confused with Van the Man, George Ivan Morrison.
- 97a. [*Superego] (S)URGE PROTECTOR. First imagined Jung, now Freud.
- 113a. [*Exotic center of instinctive impulses] FOREIGN (A)ID. Freud again? We’ve got to stop meeting like this. People will talk.
To further strengthen the theme, all of the letters are lost from the beginnings of words. There’s a bonus as the symmetrical partner of SMILE at 112a: [Birthplace of the puzzle's subject] ITALY. This one gave me some trouble because I don’t think of Italy being so cohesive back in the 16th century and was looking for a city, like MILAN (although the supposed subject, Lisa del Giocondo, was from Florence).
Good mix in the ballast fill. Notable longer entries include the vertical stacks in the northeast and southwest with MISS INDIA / PHOTOSHOP and OHIO RIVER / WINE GLASS. The usual assortment of good and bad, unusual and crosswordese, partials, abbrevs., etc.
What really holds the puzzle together, beyond the robust theme, is the cluing. A lot of playful and entertaining stuff to be found in this one. Some of my favorites were [Private lunch area] MESS, [They wear very little clothing] DOLLS, [It ends at Cairo] for the aforementioned OHIO RIVER, [Advice from a pro?] VOTE YES, [Driver's warning] FORE.
On the other hand, [Shower head?] for RAIN GOD doesn’t work well enough for me. Also, I often feel victimized by clues whose answers are (take your pick) US OF A, THE USA, THE US OF A (97d).
Strange that the clue in 51d [Less cowardly] for BRAVER repeats an unusual word from one of the theme entries. Predictably I first filled in STAGE for the more argotic ÉTAPE at 100d [Leg of a cycling race]. 67d [It has juicy white flesh in a rough red shell] LITCHI. Yum! They’re in season now. I’d call their rind reddish rather than red (they vary from pinkish to brownish), but that’s like quibbling about LITCHI vs. LYCHEE (or RANI vs. RANEE (68d).
Now go eat some litchi with an enigmatic smile on your face. Pretend they’re eyeballs.