Josh Knapp’s New York Times crossword
I liked Mr. Knapp’s themeless puzzle that appeared in the NYT a mere 10 days ago but wasn’t expecting to see his byline again so soon. This time there’s a theme: Add PL to the beginning of a familiar phrase’s first word and the hijinks ensue.
- 18a. PLUS WEEKLY plays on Us Weekly magazine (“Celebrities: They’re Just Like Us!”) as a [Magazine for arithmetic lovers?]. This is for those who were daunted by subtraction and live in abject terror of multiplication. (Don’t get me started on long division.)
- 24a. PLEAT MY SHORTS, [Bizarre demand to a dry cleaner?]. I had PLEAT MY SHIRTS at first because cleaners + dress shirts makes more sense than cleaners + shorts. Although it wouldn’t be bizarre at all to expect the box pleat on the back of a shirt to be pressed, of course, and the clue does say “bizarre.”
- 39a. [Zales or Tiffany's?] is a PLACE OF DIAMONDS. The people from Jared and Kay need much better publicists (or maybe they just shouldn’t have given their businesses somebody’s first name [and yes, Tiffany is also a first name, but we all know that Jared is no blue-box Tiffany's]).
- 51a. [Overfish?], PLUNDER THE SEA. I like the simplicity of the clue.
- 60a. PLACID RAIN is a [Light shower?]. This morning, beneath the mostly blue skies, light sprinkles of rain fell from scattered clouds. It really was placid rain.
Pannonica alerted me to a problematic 9-Down before I looked at the puzzle. [Bounce around a canyon, say] clues REECHO. But of course, the sound bouncing around is simply an echo, encompassing the series of sounds in its basic definition. No need for the re- affix. In the grid, it looks like a two-syllable word, I told Pannonica: “Ree-cho.” She shot back, “…laaaaaaa!”
I think I learned about 53a: UMAMI, [Taste that's not sweet, sour, bitter or salty], from frequent commenter Martin H. It corresponds to the deliciousness of, uh, MSG. I don’t get the appeal, personally.
Great clue for 51d: PIPES, [Singing ability, informally].
Well, NBC moved Grimm to Monday nights, and that’s essential family togetherness viewing. I haven’t got much else to say about this puzzle, so I’ll sign off with a rating of 3.33 stars.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Has Anyone Herd of These Guys?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
You know what this puzzle needs? More cow puns.
The puzzle makes cattle-related puns out of the names of four well-known men. (I wonder if they have a beef with this theme.) In an udder-ly over-the-top move, each of theme clues includes a bovine pun as well. Here are the theme entries and their clues:
- 17-Across: Bill Gates becomes BULL GATES, the [Microsoft chairman who tried to beef up his company?]. I mistakenly thought Gates had relinquished all formal titles with Microsoft some years ago, but I see now that he remains as “Chairman,” a role that’s somehow different than being CEO, COO, CFO, or Margaret CHO.
- 30-Across: Hugh Hefner becomes HUGH HEIFER, the [Playboy founder who injured his calf muscle?]. Nothing a little blue pill can’t fix, I’m sure.
- 49-Across: Ringo Starr becomes RINGO STEER, the [Beatles drummer who answered a cattle call?]. You have to be careful with puns like this–there’s a lot at steak.
- 66-Across: Baseball legend Cal Ripken transmogrifies to COW RIPKEN, the [“Iron Man” of baseball who played for the Texas Longhorns?].
I like that there’s a certain tightness to this theme–it’s not just cow puns, and it’s not just cow puns on famous names. It’s cow puns on famous male names that, in turn, lead to the punny title. When you add in all the puns from the theme clues, you see a real dedication to the theme that’s admirable, even if one is not the biggest fan of puns in the first place.
The longer fill is quite nice too, highlighted by CAT’S MEOW, TIN CUP, WARPAINT, and YUKS IT UP. It was a little strange to see HUEY, HUES, and HUGH (Heifer) all in close proximity (the latter two even intersecting!), but I like that kind of edginess.
The northwest, where I started, had me worried. A puzzle that begins with ROCS and EPEE doesn’t inspire a lot of faith. But despite a few other patches of eww (MAI, ALAI, ESAI, and TRI–hey, they rhyme!), the grid works for the most part. I liked HEALTHY, ERITREA, GAUZE, and EGOMANIA.
Oh, and speaking of egomania, it’s time now for today’s entry in my little vanity project, Name That Constructor Month. We’re nearing the homestretch now, so I gotta get serious if I’m going to reach my 50-point goal by the end of the month. My gut is telling me to go with Tony Orbach. We haven’t seen his byline in a couple of weeks, and the puzzle’s title is something I could hear Tony saying. I don’t normally associate him with pun themes, though, so I better get some back-up guesses.
Yesterday, I had Ray Hamel for one of my guesses, in part because it has been a while since I have seen his byline. Though I wouldn’t say the puzzle is laden with trivia, I don’t see any reason to leave his name off of today’s choices (besides, it makes for easier cutting and pasting from yesterday’s guesses).
I still need a third choice. The baseball entry and the reference to Tin Cup make me wonder if Doug Peterson had a hand in this puzzle. I’m not going to guess him, though, because I know Doug works hard to eliminate partials from his grids, and I can’t see him having both MAI and ALAI in a puzzle, especially when neither appears necessary.
I wonder if a woman constructed this puzzle. You know, as a twist on the overall machismo of the theme. Just for shi-giggles, then, I’ll toss in Gail Grabowski. Okay, so the official ballot for today is:
1. Tony Orbach. 2. Ray Hamel. 3. Gail Grabowski.
Nerts! It’s Randy Hartman. He sure is getting a lot of bylines lately. I wonder if he’ll have another before the month is out. Maybe he should be my default third choice from this point forward. Name That Constructor Stats After 21 Puzzles: 8 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 2 correct third choices (1 point each); 34 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points.
David Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Oyez, oyez, oyez!
- 17a. [Former kids’ show title character named for the large pockets in his coat] – CAPTAIN KANGAROO
- 27a. [Fuse blower] – SHORT CIRCUIT
- 44a. [Apollo Theater tryout for nonpros] – AMATEUR NIGHT
- 58a. [Judge’s demand, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme words, which end 17-, 27- and 44-Across] – ORDER IN THE COURT
A nice simple theme for a Tuesday; it’s quite well-executed. Four nice long entries. Let’s GET INTO the fill straight away.
Holy TOLEDO! I like the singular RONETTE much more than the awkward plural VERMOUTHS. The [Junkyard guard] ATTACK DOG is great in this grid. Our tricky-for-a-Tuesday clue was [Show up unannounced], for POP IN. It makes perfect sense now, but it’s one of those phrases that you don’t consider because both words are short. Plus, CRASH also fits!
Pop culture round-up: Scott BAIO from “Happy Days,” the improvised puppet show “KUKLA, Fran and Ollie,” the great Billy Crystal film “WHEN Harry Met Sally…” and crossword staple ETTA James. ELM ST. avoids a pop culture clue – no nightmares for us tonight! And I SPOT a pair of mythological entries: [Love personified] for EROS and [One of a powerful race of gods] for TITAN. (You know, like Atlas or Prometheus.)
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Thank You Very Much”
Some folks abbreviate “thank you” as “TY.” Me, I prefer “thx.” This puzzle plops an appreciative TY into four phrases to create the theme entries:
- 20a. [Sense of house-selling skills nearby?], REALTY PRESENCE. “Real presence” doesn’t feel like a phrase that has a real presence.
- 27a. [Well past mourning a broken egg?], OVER THE HUMPTY. I dunno. Who calls Humpty Dumpty “the Humpty”? Especially when you can “do the Humpty Hump.” Are we all over that song? Yes, we are over it. It’s totally played out.
- 36a. [Spans over lovely rivers?], BEAUTY BRIDGES. Is Beau Bridges still making movies?
- 47a. [Claim from a video store stocking “Bulworth” and “Reds”?], WE GOT THE BEATTY. Who doesn’t love The Go-Go’s song “We Got the Beat”?
The theme kinda left me cold. No real humor in the phrases that are concocted by inserting TY.
Five uncommon answers:
- 3d. [Stevia, alternatively], SWEET HERB. I haven’t heard it called that but yes, it is indeed an herb and it does indeed provide a noncaloric sweetener.
- 14d. [More rad, as it were], AWESOMER. I’m okay with this. UNIQUER, I would have trouble accepting.
- 30d. [Sack lunch item that needs a spoon], YOGURT CUP. I feel like the cup is the default setting for yogurt, and that only non-cup packages need to be specified (like a drinkable yogurt or a Go-Gurt tube).
- 38d. [Ursus ___ (scientific name for the brown bear)], ARCTOS. Tried ARCTUS first. Ursus arctos horribilis is the grizzly bear.
- 51a. [Pasta sold in a bag], EGG NOODLES. Seems like most American brands of Italianate pasta are sold in boxes. You know, I found a few packages of Ronzoni spaghetti at my grocery store, but they were all weird concoctions, like brown or green noodles. The same store had plenty of Barilla, Prince, and Creamette in boxes, plus bagged De Cecco pastas.