Northern California puzzlers, BACFill (formerly called the Bay Area Crossword Tournament) is coming up on Saturday, September 8 in Oakland. Click the link for details. Advance registration is $30, the proceeds support a worthy cause, and there are cash (!) prizes. The tournament puzzles will be unpublished New York Times crosswords.
Lou Borenstein’s New York Times crossword
All right, the concept is cute: Take songs that end with HEAVEN or HELL and swap the afterworlds. AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Mr. Meat Loaf’s “Bat out of Hell” become HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN and BAT OUT OF HEAVEN. On the other end, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Bing Crosby’s “Pennies from Heaven” (which I don’t know at all—the other three songs rock a lot harder than crooner Bing) become STAIRWAY TO HELL (which I can only hear to the tune of “Highway to Hell”) and PENNIES FROM HELL (which are the coins that weigh down my wallet). The theme is sort of needlessly beefed up with the addition of 1a: BELOW and 64a: ABOVE; I don’t think they add anything.
Now, HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN was also a TV series, with Michael Landon in his post-Pa phase, while the other three theme answers have no life outside of this crossword. I never saw the show, but the first 15 seconds of this bloopers/outtakes video made me snort.
The Scowl-o-Meter was quiet tonight but you know what? The Squinch-o-Meter turned on instead. My face went all squinchy when I hit NERTS, SROS, NISI, STOA, plural LYES, and the AMAH/LUMENS collision. Much of the other fill was on the snoozy side (BAHS, EMIR, APSE?).
I didn’t realize that SAAB ([Discontinued Swedish car]) was no more. An electric car concern has bought what remains and plans to bring out an all-electric version of the Saab 9-3. They may or may not get the rights to use the Saab name; apparently the cool griffin logo is off limits.
2.5 stars from me. And you?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Box Office Receipts” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Only five puzzles left in Name That Constructor Month, and I need a lot of points to make my goal. No margin for error now–it’s go time!
Fortunately, this one has Bob Klahn written all over it. The tricky clues, the easy theme that actually helps you solve the tricky clues, and the occasional sprinkling of the complete unknown is the most reliable recipe for a Bob Klahn puzzle. In this one, the theme involves tacking the letters -BO to the end of four common terms to get some wacky-slash-entertaining new ones:
- 20-Across: An “elevator car” becomes ELEVATOR CARBO, or [Pasta and potatoes that really lift you up?]. Okay fine, but doesn’t everyone refer to it as “carb” instead of “carbo?”
- 27-Across: In the “first place” becomes the FIRST PLACEBO, a [Garden of Eden sugar pill?]. They say the first placebo is a gateway drug to more intense placebos.
- 46-Across: Here’s your winning entry–”Bazooka gum” morphs into BAZOOKA GUMBO, the [Creole creation strong enough to launch a rocket?]. Methinks this might have been the seed that started it all.
- 56-Across: Another goodie comes at the end, as “Match (dot) com” becomes MATCH DOT COMBO, a [Two-for-one at a leading dating site?]. I suppose some might be into a two-for-one when it comes to dating, but I suspect that kind of promotion would have limited appeal once you get beyond teenage boys.
The title leaves me a little wanting, as I don’t normally think of “B.O.” as “box office.” Then again, a title along the lines of “What’s That Stench?” or “Smelly Behinds” might have been pushing the envelope a little too far.
Let’s get to some of the notable clues:
- Some of my favorite wordplay-based clues were [Something to get out] for LEAD (as in “get the lead out!”), [Devours Bacon] for READS, [Couch material] for NEUROSES, [Fiddlelike?] for FIT, and [Member of the service?] for a TEACUP.
- But the best clue of the puzzle was [Cry ... cry again?] as a description for an ECHO. That one just might get an Orca nomination in a few months.
- Honorable mention to ["That's full enough"] for WHEN. Just a terrific clue.
- Pugilists will appreciate that there’s both BOXED ([Went a round]) and SPAR ([Pull punches, perhaps]). And slackers will dig MEH and NAH lurking together.
- Under the headings of either “New to Me” or “Why Can’t I Ever Remember These?” come COTE, the [Pigeon pad], KEAS as the [Green kiwi parrots], MERE as the [French family member] (not to be confused with merde), OSIER as the [Wicker willow], and TOPER for a [Pub crawler].
- I only now understand RES as the answer to [B's in the key of A]. To me, a res is a thing. But here, it’s a plural term for the second notes sung in do re mi fa sol la ti do.
As for the best entry in the grid, it would be hard to top KICK ME, the [Note on a victim's behind].
Finally, two comments about ULE, the [Mod finale] (as in “module”). First, the correct answer is either ERN or, perhaps more humbly, ESTY. Not ULE. Second, ULE might give SER a run for its money as the worst piece of crossword fill ever.
Oh, and I’m so sure on this one that I’ll take just one guess for my entry in Name That Constructor Month. It’s Bob Klahn. Wait, if I use Bob for all three guesses, would I get six points? Nah, that would be cheating. If I was tempted to cheat, I sure as heck wouldn’t be 0-7 in LearnedLeague right now! So I’ll take Bob Klahn for (just) three points, please.
Yay! Three more points! Yes, they were easy points, but I’m in no position to insist on hard-earned ones at this juncture. Name That Constructor Stats After 28 Puzzles: 10 correct first choices (3 points each), 4 correct second choices (2 points each), 4 correct third choices (1 point each); 42 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 50 points.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Hey there, Mr. MISTER – there are eleven(!) entries in this puzzles that complete the names of notable misters across all realms. I’ve circled their symmetric(!) locations in the grid for your ease of searching… especially since there are so many of them!
There’s theme material all over the grid; the only mister I didn’t know was “Mr. BLUE“. That’s not bad considering how many fellows we’ve got in the grid. I love that COFFEE/BEAN are clued together as [Roasted aromatic seed].
The longest words and phrases in the grid – only 7 and 8 letters long – aren’t part of the theme. Winners abound: BAR CODES, BREAD BOX, PET LAMB, BLESS ME and RUNNER-UP are good by me. How’s that irony at the end of the across clues? [Begin] for START… shouldn’t that be in the upper left?
Though IVANA may have been The Donald’s first wife, I doubt that she was [The first Mrs. Trump]. I mean, wasn’t his mother called “Mrs. Trump”?
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “That Show Is So Corny”
Merl Reagle hasn’t quite cornered the market on pun themes. This week’s theme from Matt is corn-related puns on TV show titles:
- 16a. [Corny game show set on city streets?], CASH COB. Cash Cab.
- 22a. [Corny reality show set all over the world, with "The"?], A-MAIZE-ING RACE. The Amazing Race.
- 37a, 39a. [corny buddy cop show?], STARCHY AND HUSK. Starsky and Hutch. This is both a grievous double pun and a pun that I like.
- 48a. [Corny coming-of-age dramedy?], THE WONDER EARS. The Wonder Years.
- 61a. [And all these corny TV shows are brought to you by...] E-HOMINY, a riff on dating website eHarmony.
Five for fighting:
- 2d. [Family played by Alexander, Stiller and Harris], COSTANZAS. Jason A. played George, Jerry S. played his dad Frank, and Estelle H. played, oh, what was George’s mom’s name? I’m drawing a blank. In any event, this is my favorite fill today.
- 36d. [Between S and F on a laptop], D KEY. As in the keyboard key for the letter D. Not a fan of this construct. SHIFT KEY, COMMAND KEY, ARROW KEY, a phone’s STAR KEY or POUND KEY sure. But not A through Z keys or the rest of them.
- 58a. [Home perm brand], OGILVIE. Retro? No, it still exists! Who knew?
- 41a. ["Andre the Giant ___ Posse"], HAS A. For real? What on earth is this? Google to the rescue: A Shepherd Fairey street art/viral marketing thing from 1989, eons before his Obama iconography took off. Interesting.
- 31d. [Major German river, in German], RHEIN. You know what? “Rhine” always looks a little bit wrong to me. There’s nothing wrong with the German spelling.