Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
I can’t blog. I have the hiccups. This is no good. At least I made it through the puzzle before the hiccups kicked in. ARPS!
I suspect this puzzle was constructed a couple years ago because of that VUVUZELA (38a. [Stadium ear piercer]). Are vuvuzelas still a big thing in South Africa, Gareth? Because they seem to have vanished from the public eye here.
I had an error in the puzzle for a while. I went with SPAM instead of SCAM for 45d: [Phishing lure?], and didn’t see that it made 36d: [Tank named after a French WW II general] the implausible LEPLERC instead of the entirely-unknown-to-me LECLERC. Cost me about 30-45 seconds on the applet’s clock. Imagine my surprise when really, yes, every letter of 14d: NEDICKS ([Old fast-food chain whose mascot's head was an orange]) was OK as is. Talk about your Naticks! Never heard of Nedick’s before. Regional and extinct? Ouch. Didn’t know 52a: [Classic Robert Burns poem, with "A"], RED, RED ROSE. (To reclaim my poetry cred, I did get 43d: CIARDI, [John who wrote the textbook "How Does a Poem Mean?"]. My all-time least favorite textbook title.)
Favorite entry: SENSORY OVERLOAD (7d: [Potential downside of the information age] doesn’t quite seem to get at it, if you ask me).
Did not care for ONE CARD. I do like the combination of answers you get with 19a and 27a. Who doesn’t love the ESTRUS FAIRY?
Three stars. I’m off to the kitchen to eat a spoonful of sugar now.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s mystery: figure out the theme of this puzzle so I have a shot in guessing its title as part of Name That Puzzle Month. In the CS puzzles, the theme is nearly always in the longest entries, so let’s start with the four nine-letter entries and see if we can find a connection:
- 20-Across: PARTY HOSTS are the [Reception givers]. Does that make guests the “reception takers?”
- 29-Across: WASH LOADS are [Basketfuls of laundry]. Reminiscent of Tuesday’s puzzle, no?
- 44-Across: That’s the thing about OLD SCORES, [They may be settled by longstanding enemies].
- 52-Across: VACANT LOTS are [Building sites]. Yes, yes they are.
The first thing that stands out: all of the theme entries are plural, and that must mean something. That has me focusing on the second word in each theme entry–what’s the link between hosts, loads, scores, and lots? In another context, all of them are synonyms for “multitudes:” hosts of reasons to procrastinate on all I have to do, loads of chores that don’t seem to do themselves, scores of reasons not to work right now, lots of other things I would rather be doing. I don’t see any other connection, and I’ve learned many times the hard way that I’m better off sticking with my first guess. So I’m concluding that the theme is “two-word terms where the last word is also synonymous with ‘multitudes.’” Not ean exciting description, I concede. But I think it’s right.
That has me wondering about the puzzle’s title. Perhaps it’s another synonym. Hang on while I consult with my friend, Mr. Roget. There’s legions, armies, seas, masses, assemblies, hordes, myriads, and throngs. Okay then, there’s Great Masses, Rear Armies, and just plain Throngs. Or maybe Scads? High Volumes? I could make a case for any of them, but none seems to hit the sweet spot. I’ll take Scads, just because.
Nope. The real title is “Oodles.” Same idea, I suppose, but oodles is livelier than scads. Speaking of lively, I liked a number of the long Downs, like TAG ALONG, ALOE VERA, LESS THAN, EGG TIMER, and SAY YES. I didn’t know [Mystery writer Josephine] TEY (talk about a surname made for crosswords!), but that didn’t slow me down as much as my own error in thinking [Billionaire corporate investor Carl] ICAHN had a K somewhere in his name–especially since that mistake had me convinced the [Birch bark craft] was a KAYAK instead of a CANOE. Oops.
One error that’s not mine: ACES are a great poker hand, but [They top royal flushes] isn’t right unless you’re playing with a joker. The only time a royal flush loses to aces is when one has five aces, as a five-of-a-kind is the only hand that beats a royal flush. But you won’t find jokers in casinos (well, you will, but not in the decks), just in home games, so the royal flush really is the best hand possible.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
A bit of a tough puzzle for me to blog today. See, three years ago, I had a puzzle in the LA Times with the same revealer. Yes, no one remembers. What’s interesting is, whereas I parsed ETTU as “et” too, Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter has interpreted it as et (and) “tu,” adding TU consistently to the beginnings of three phrases. What makes her version more interesting and impressive, for me, is that “tu” is not an affix of any kind, meaning the before and after are completely unrelated. “Lip” and “tulip” are in no way related etymologically. I don’t think I need to list the theme phrases today, I’m sure you’ve all grasped how this theme is working, so onward to some miscellaneous remarks on individual answers then.
- [Melville's "grand, ungodly, god-like man"] is an evocative clue for AHAB.
- ONKEY/TENT/UZIS don’t seem to be related in any way but the clues—[Pitched perfectly], [It's pitched], [Strong arms]—draw them together: neato!
- Anybody here called ERICA objecting to being called an [Evergreen shrub]?
- [Bugged?] for ILL is a one-word clue, but it’s brilliant!
- Re VET / [Spot checker?] – Why do dogs called Spot rarely have actual spots? I can never figure out if owners are a) unimaginative or b) wryly ironic.
- CLEMSON [South Carolina university] – needed every single crosser for this long answer. For the most part, I have learned American unis’ names from crosswords. This one is part of the 301 syllabus!
P.S. Photo filched from arod.com.au
Andrew J. Ries’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Key Chain” — pannonica’s review
69a [Tourist activity, and an explanation of the shaded letters] ISLAND HOPPING. Wait, what? There were no shaded letters in the Across Lite version of the puzzle I worked with, nor were there any circled ones, the standard AL replacement for shaded squares. The circled elements in the solution grid were added ex post facto by me.
The upshot is that this puzzle was a big old themeless for this solver. The intent, as you can see, was for the “shaded” squares in each theme entry to spell out the name of a well-known island sequentially (but not uninterruptedly, hence the island hopping). Which brings me to my first incisive observation: the title, “Key Chain” is a poor one. True, all keys are islands, but not all islands are keys. A key (cay, caye) is “a low island or reef; specifically : any of the coral islets off the southern coast of Florida” (m-w.com; Wikipedia provides a more expansive description). None of the hidden locales is such an island. It seems strongly possible to me that “Island Hopping” was the original title, but for whatever reason it received a “battlefield promotion” to central revealer, and a new title had to be recruited. I SEE (30a) the intent to describe the disconnected letters as a chain, but the irregularity of their distribution undermines that notion; however, once the “chain” was seized upon, the temptation to create the double entendre of key chain would have been understandably hard to resist. It just doesn’t work well enough for me.
- 23a. [Barometer for brokers] DOW JONES AVERAGE (Java). First theme fill I got and, keeping in mind it’s the Wall Street Journal, had a much different notion of where it was going. Other financial fill: GNP, BEN Bernanke, EOE, ITS A DEAL [Words spoken while shaking].
- 32a. [Candy created in 1922 and named for a dance] CHARLESTON CHEW (Crete).
- 44a. ["Love is Not All" writer] EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY (Sicily).
- 55a. [Madonna was one as a tween] CAMP FIRE GIRL (Capri). Never heard of them, but they seem more progressive than either the Boy Scouts of America or the Girl Scouts of the USA (which it predates by two years!). Factette: there’s a band called Campfire Girls (four guys, one gal) formed in Los Angeles in 1993, some time after Madonna’s tween years.
- 81a. [Vacation vehicle] STATION WAGON (Taiwan). The sole themer with an explicit connection to the idea of holidays and tourist activity, as expressed in the revealer. Because there’s just one, I found that it highlighted the lack of tie-ins among the others. Would have been better to have clued this differently and not even suggest broaching the topic. Ballast fill with vacation vibe: 20a [Handout from a concierge] AREA MAP (see also 35d [In the neighborhood] LOCAL; 86a [Put in the overhead bin] STOW.
- 90a. [1989 film written as "Teenie Weenies"] HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (Honshu).
- 118a. [Its tune is also used for "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"] GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (Oahu). On the same principle as Christianity and other religions overlaying their holidays on existing pagan celebrations. OAHU connects with 107d [Mainlander, to Hawaiians] HAOLE.
So, a decent collection of fill, and good finds for the hidden islands.
- Favorite clues: 21a [Colorful guy?] ROY G BIV, 61a [Asks for a hand] PROPOSES.
- Clever clue that doesn’t work well enough: 125a [Ring for boxers?] ELASTIC. I assume this has something to do with gift-wrapping, although I suppose it may be referring to the elastic of the ropes in a boxing ring. See also 22a [Bout prize] PURSE.
- Partials (including FITBs and affixes)! IS IN, -AROO, A DOT, TRI-, UP A, ARTE, NO I, IT’D, -OON, -ISH, NO PEP. I’ll spare the litany of abbrevs.
- 42a [Assess in a dressing room] TRY ON.
- Speaking of 67a [Half of hex-] TRI-, too much of a duplicate for 46d [Uno e due] TRE. Glad to report that there isn’t a triplicate issue here. But…
- 110a [Cold call?] BRRR. With three Rs? Not so much.
- 19d & 60d: REHIT and RESEW in the same puzzle? Too much, best take a mulligan on that.
- Edgar Awards: 98a [Guest in a bookstore] EDGAR, 29d [Masters work] POEM (Edgar Lee Masters).
- Longdowns: Annette FUNICELLO, AWESTRUCK: great. Seven-stacks: CADDISH / ADMIT TO / MOVES ON; LAST LEG, AMERIGO, YES I CAN: so-so.
- Favorite bit of flair: last clue 123d [Proof-ending letters] QED.
Okay puzzle, but too much wreckage (particularly in the CAP Quotient™) for my liking. Dragged it down to the depths.
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Book Fare” — pannonica’s review
Perfect title. The gimmick is famous fictional characters that are also branded names of food. Note that the theme entries appear vertically. This entails the grid being lengthened to 15×16, but visually it also evokes the titles on book spines; it’s a nice touch.
- 3d [Brand of cookie named for a literary character] LORNA DOONE. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor (1869), by Richard Doddridge Blackmore. The shortbread cookies were first made by Nabisco in 1912 (the same year as their Oreo cookies). OREO, LORNA.
- 8d [Fast-food chain named for a literary character] LONG JOHN SILVER’S. Treasure Island (1883), by Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS to crossword veterans). The first LJS restaurant was opened in 1969 in the seaside shantytown of Lexington, Kentucky. RLS.
- 14d [Candy bar named for some literary characters] THREE MUSKETEERS. The Three Musketeers (1844), by Alexandre Dumas. Technical note: the candy bar is “3 Musketeers,” first produced in 1932 by M&M/Mars; originally it was packaged as three mini-bars, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. MANDM.
- 23d [Brand of peanut butter named for a literary character] PETER PAN. Peter Pan (1904, play), by JM Barrie.
“The product was introduced by Swift & Company … in 1920 under the name ‘E. K. Pond’. The product was renamed in 1928. Originally packaged in a tin can with a turn key and re-closable lid, packaging was changed to glass jars because of metal shortages during World War II, again to plastic jars in 1988, and was the first brand of peanut butter to start selling in plastic jars.” (Wikipedia) It’s now owned by ConAgra. BARRIE. Ah, what the heck, JIF peanut butter (The JM Smucker Co. (nb: not JM Barrie) as of 2001, when they purchased it from Proctor & Gamble (PANDG) who introduced it in 1958).
- 29d [Candy company named for a literary character] WILLY WONKA. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), by Roald Dahl. The Willy Wonka Candy Company is owned by Nestlé and was launched in 1971, to coincide with the first film adaptation of the book. DAHL, ROALD.
A strong theme, well executed. But there’s so much sparkly fill throughout. Just look at the stacked goodies! TACITURN / BURMESE, TAG SALE / PERJURES, AVOWAL / CREMORA / CHAGRINED; with lesser wow value are NORTH STAR / IGNORES, and UNLEARN / SOURCES neatly in the center. Other winning fill includes PHIZ, V-NECK, HECTOR, PLAINLY. Unknown to me was 7d [Anti-allergy drug] ZYRTEC.
Good clues for blah fill: 12d [Pillory threesome] HOLES, 8a [Spot checker?] LEASH (liked it better than VET, in the LAT), 5d [Jobs, metaphorically] HATS, 61a [Sir __, foster brother of King Arthur] KAY.
Demerit: Duplication of “art”: 17d [National Museum of Western Art city] TOKYO, 21d ["What garlic is to salad, insanity is to __": Augustus Saint-Gaudens] ART. Two interesting bits of information marred by the repetition, not to mention that they appear one after the other!
Overall, a very enjoyable crossword.