Todd Gross’s New York Times crossword, “Media Start-Ups”
Fairly subtle theme this week: Assorted phrases have initials that are also TV networks, but only one (the last one) actually has anything to do with TV.
- 23a. TENDER LOVING CARE, [Special attention]. TLC used to be The Learning Channel but has forsaken its Learning roots to focus on wedding dress boutiques and Honey Boo Boos.
- 28a. NOT BY CHOICE, [Against one's will]. Feels slightly unphrasey to me, but yes, NBC is familiar.
- 44a. [Soap discontinued in 2011], ALL MY CHILDREN. It was an ABC show, not an AMC one. Anyone else try to think of bath soaps recently gone from the market?
- 63a. PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, [Comic strip with the characters Rat and Pig]. Boy, I needed a lot of crossings here. PBS, famously, is the network that accounts for more federal spending than the Department of Defense.
- 81a. TOTAL BODY SCAN, [M.R.I., maybe]. Meh. I don’t care for this answer. TBS … I forget what shows they have. Conan?
- 104a. TELL NO TALES, [What dead men are said to do]. Essentially an 11-letter partial, no? I don’t think “tell no tales” has a life apart from “dead men.”
- 108a. CAROL BURNETT SHOW, [With "The," former sketch comedy program on CBS ... fittingly enough]. Can I tell you how pleased I am that my son’s 7th-grade teacher is named Mr. Wiggins? Or “Mr. huh-Whiggins,” as I like to call him.
I love ALL MY CHILDREN as a crossword entry, but I kinda wish it weren’t in this theme to call attention to its offness. Better to let CBS/CAROL BURNETT SHOW be the only double-barreled TV entry in the TV theme than to include another program that doesn’t have that same initialism treat.
Fave fill: DESPICABLE ME, WHIRLPOOLS (which I never think of in terms of boating), HOUSECAT crossing SHORTHAIR. Least favorite: ADMONISHMENT is a perfectly cromulent word, but a tad dull for a 12. Didn’t know ROOFLET was a word. SO RARE was a hit in 1937, but that was before my parents were born. (Addendum: Also the ones Jason F mentioned in the comments. Yikes! Yes. I have never encountered 13d: [Three-time All-Star pitcher Frank] LARY before. TAEL is fusty crosswordese, but like most fusty crossword answers, I have seen it before.)
Fave clue: 89d: [Presidential middle name or last name] for WILSON.
Does the Danish echo of 79d: SOREN Kierkegaard and 82d: [Ted who wrote "The Kennedy Legacy"] SORENSEN bug you or not?
Toughest crossings, for me: Where 113a meets 101d and 102d. TEENS are [Some up-and-comers]? If you say so. [African region including Khartoum and Timbuktu] is SAHEL (the area between the Sahara Desert and the Sudan), and ["__ roll!" (bettor's cry)] clues the three-word partial I’M ON A. (Sigh. It’s never I’M ON A ["__ Mexican, whoa-oh, radio"].)
3 2.5 stars.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “What IT Is”
I dunno, I might’ve gone with “What Is IT?” for the title. Merl’s theme this week is 13 assorted phrases that have the initials I.T.—but not, oddly, the one most people think of when you say “I.T,” information technology. A perfect 21! Och.
- 19a. [It's nothing to fear], IDLE THREAT. Note that each clue begins with “it’s,” a nice touch.
- 22a. [It's half of a 1960s duo], IKE TURNER.
- 24a. [It's an exclamation of wonder], IMAGINE THAT.
- 30a. [It's often taken out], IMPACTED TOOTH. If you know anyone in Chicago who needs an oral surgeon, the wonderful Dr. Alexis Olsson took out all four of my impacted wisdom teeth in one appointment and I had minimal pain and swelling afterwards. I took a Vicodin and it made me puke, and then my husband asked, “How bad is the pain?” and I realized that Tylenol alone was plenty. I saw Dr. Olsson again for a little bump, and received the advice that if you have postop bleeding in your mouth, wet a tea bag and stick it in there. The tannins or something will help the blood clot. This concludes today’s episode of “Amy’s Dental Chat.”
- 41a. [It's a name on an award], IRVING THALBERG. One of the special Oscars.
- 60a. [It's an isolated place], IVORY TOWER.
- 67a. [It's mentioned by the Scarecrow when he gets his brain], ISOSCELES TRIANGLE. Cute touch, to go with a classic bit of pop culture trivia instead of geometry.
- 79a. [It's an impossible order], IGNORE THIS. Although some people are really good at ignoring the elephant in the room.
- 92a. [It's a special delivery], IDENTICAL TWINS. Grammar fail with the cluing conceit: twins are not an “it.”
- 103a. [It's a famous race route], IDITAROD TRAIL.
- 115a. [It's featured in the Marx Brothers' "A Night at the Opera"], IL TROVATORE.
- 118a. It’s the company that made Mr. Machine in the 1950s], IDEAL TOYS.
- 120a. [It's what Jack Benny says twice after being told, "Your money or your life!"], “I’M THINKING.”
There’s nothing In This theme that Is Too youthful for solvers In Their 60s or 70s, Is There? Despite being a few hairs shy of that age group, I had zero trouble filling this grid. You know how often I get a sub-6-minute solving time on a Sunday-size puzzle? Maybe once or twice a year. (There are others who can do them in under 5 minutes, but I haven’t crossed that threshold.)
Most out-there answer: 54a: [Mercury's winged sandals], TALARIA. I’ve seen the word before (in crosswords!) but couldn’t retrieve it without, oh, about seven crossings.
I’d have been happier with the fill if it didn’t include an IT answer, 28a: IT’S SO ["___ unlike her ..."]. Minor wart.
Six more things:
- 57d. [Shaggy arctic grazer], MUSK OX. Sarah Palin said this week that watching Joe Biden in the VP debate reminded her “of watching a musk ox run across the tundra with somebody underfoot.” I suspect she meant it as an insult, but almost sounds admiring.
- 84a. [Mysterious Asian giant], YETI. See also: MUSK OX. (Though the musk ox is native to North America and Greenland, not Siberia. I must be thinking of Mongolian yaks.)
- 2d. [Start of a baseball song], TAKE ME. All sorts of people around the country are excited about the baseball playoffs but here in Chicago? Eh.
- 11d. She said, “Dying is an art”], Sylvia PLATH.
- 14d. [Underground-railroad cargo], ORE. In a mine. Not to be confused with the Underground Railroad.
- 59d. [Aptly named cinema cop], BULLITT. This entangled a top solver at the ACPT a few years ago, a younger solver. Steve McQueen movie, 1968. Advantage, older solvers.
John Lampkin’s LA Times crossword, “Location, Location, Location” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Neville is blogging my Post Puzzler today (Thanks, Neville!), so I figured I’d slide over and handle the LA Times Sunday puzzle. As part of Team Fiend, I’ve been trained to handle many different grid sizes and black square configurations. We all have to make it through a grueling six-week crossword boot camp. It was rough. I almost lost a couple of fingers when someone threw a crazy 15×16 grid onto my bunk. But this 21×21 shouldn’t be a problem, so let’s get to it.
I was happy to see John Lampkin’s name in the byline, because I usually enjoy his playful themes. Today we get a nonet of punny locations.
- 25a. [African antelope's haven?] - GNU REPUBLIC.
- 27a. [Farmer's fields?] - FODDERLAND. For maximum comedic effect, say this one in a cheesy Schwarzenegger accent.
- 44a. [Roomer's mecca?] - BOARDER STATE.
- 66a. [Ford's legacy?] - AUTOMAN EMPIRE. My favorite.
- 85a. [Oscar fan's realm?] - WILDE KINGDOM. Olivia Wilde won an Oscar? Cool. Must have been for Cowboys and Aliens.
- 108a. [Celebrity chef's turf?] - EMERIL CITY. I tried EMERIL ISLE first.
- 110a. [Bellyacher's bailiwick?] - WHINE REGION.
- 42d. [Friendly folks' environs?] - HI COUNTRY.
- 14a. [Jurist's paradise?] - SUE NATION.
More entries from around the puzzle…
- 56a. [Aimée of "La Dolce Vita"] – ANOUK. I only know her from crosswords, and for many years I thought she was named Aimée Anouk. I have the same problem with Lenya Lotte/Lotte Lenya. That one still confuses me. Anyway, she’s Anouk Aimée, and apparently she’s still alive and acting in French films. For some reason, I assumed she died years ago. I associate her with the Theda Baras and Nita Naldis of crosswordland. How embarrassing. I hope she doesn’t read the blog today.
- 119a. [Site of unplayable organs] – TORSO. That’s a goofy clue. I like it.
- 72d. [Kubla Khan's palace] – XANADU. Oh boy, now I’m going to have the song running through my head for the next three days, because just seeing the word makes me want to watch the video. (Watch carefully, and you’ll see Olivia get kicked in the head at the :30 mark.)
- 16d. [Baseball commissioner who helped establish interleague play] – SELIG. Bud Selig also instituted the Wild Card back in 1995 and the second Wild Card for this year’s playoffs. And of course 2007 was the year that the Yankees declined the Wild Card.
- 78d. [Hundred-dollar bills, in slang] – BENJAMINS. Nice entry. Sometimes I see ABES in puzzles, clued as slang for five-dollar bills. Have any of you actually heard someone use that “slang”? How about ANDYS for twenties or JEFFS for two-dollar bills? It’s all about the Jeffersons.
- 103d. [Cup sought every two years] – RYDER. I heard that this year’s Ryder Cup was the most exciting 17 hours of golf ever played. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never watched golf voluntarily.
- 81d. [Pickled offering at a deli] – PIG’S FEET. My grandfather used to keep a jar of these in the refrigerator. *shudder* I’ve eaten plenty of hot dogs, so I’m sure I’ve ingested many weird pig parts, but you couldn’t pay me enough to put one of those feet in my mouth.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
This 70/40 themeless puzzle features four great 15s running vertically down the fourth, seventh, ninth, twelfth columns. The rest runs the gamut from “good” to “good grief.” Let’s start with the wonderful 15s:
- The [Gift recipient's comment of appreciation] is YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE. Sometimes the recipient really means that.
- The [Frank Sinatra hit of 1955] is LOVE AND MARRIAGE. My generation knows it mostly as the theme song to Married With Children.
- If you want to say ['This topic is off limits!"] but sound like you’re stuck in the middle of the last decade, just say DON’T EVEN GO THERE and you can declare the mission accomplished.
- ["Easier said than done"] is the even livelier way to say THAT’S A TALL ORDER. The latter is what a Starbucks employee says to confirm the size of your latte.
As I said, that’s some great stuff. To make it work, though, the grid has to be sliced into several distinct quadrants, six of which you can only enter via one of the 15s. That can make for some brutal crossings. The ones that slowed me down were, first, the intersection of ABOU and ROLLE. I’m assuming the ["Tell them Esther sent you" spokeswoman] refers to the great Esther Rolle of Good Times, but I have no idea what product or products she pitched with this tagline. And no clue in the world would have led me to ABOU, certainly not [Leigh Hunt's "___ Ben Adhem"].
The other section that slayed me was the crossing of AVE, clued as [Hail in the forum], with both AVIV (clued not as [Tel ___] but as [Ancient Hebrew month]) and RENE, here clued as the [Former French president Coty], a complete stranger to me. But I played around with enough letters until everything seemed to fit.
Can’t say I knew SLADE, the ["Merry Xmas Everybody" glam band], or SCANDIA, the [Ancient name for a region of Northern Europe]. But the crossing proved capable of inference. Some might carp at CAROTIN, the variant spelling of “carotene,” but that’s how I would have spelled it anyway, so I had no problems with it. Every once in a while, ignorance pays dividends.
Favorite entry = any of the 15s, but if I have to pick another I’ll go with SCATMAN Crothers, and not just because [He voiced Meadowlark in the "Harlem Globetrotters" cartoon series]. Favorite clue = [Some bishops and kings] for MEN.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Don’t Get Pushy” — pannonica’s review
Despite 11-down’s possible intimations—[What this puzzle has (Abbr.)] 3WDS—it offers no hint to the actual theme of the puzzle. It does, however provide an opportunity for Constructor Hook to engage in some FOOLERY (119a) by incorporating a single, non-alphabetic square into the grid.
The theme itself is simply phrases containing words that are all antonyms of “push.”
- 18a. [Without a clear winner] ENDING IN A DRAW.
- 22a. [1938 fish-out-of-water movie] “A YANK AT OXFORD“. Not quite as famous as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, I imagine. Nevertheless, it was sent up by Laurel and Hardy in A Chump at Oxford (1940), followed by A Yank at Eton (1942), remade as Oxford Blues (1984).
- 51a. [Light blond] TOWHEADED.
- 66a. [Is greatly influential] HAS A LOT OF PULL.
- 78a. [Ballplayer who wrote 'Ya Gotta Believe'] TUG MCGRAW.
- 112a. [Dolled up?] DRESS IN DRAG. I understand this may have something to do with HH’s Halloween plans.
- 116a. [For quite some time] IN THE LONG HAUL.
- 15d. [X-shaped tools] LUG WRENCHES.
- 65d. [Jamaican recipe] JERK CHICKEN.
Nine strong and solid entries. I especially appreciate the nice touch of placing the PULL answer in the center, as PULL is the “premier” antonym for push. The fully stacked theme entries (18a/22a and 112a/116a; thirteen letters each) are an impressive hallmark of many a Hook grid. Hey, you know what’s useful for pulling things? That’s right, a hook.
Aside from the the very well executed theme, there’s much to like in this puzzle. However, compromises are inevitable, and there is a lot that is UGLY (109d). Rather than intersperse, I’ll clump them together:
- 29d OLATHE is a [City in Kansas], made worse by reproducing the answer to the clever 118a [Selma or Gary] CITY. A careless oversight?
- 16d & 43a. ARMIN and ADNAN. Who and who? Why, it’s [Actor Mueller-Stahl] and [Khashoggi of Iran-Contra fame]. Confession: I’m actually familiar with the actor from his performances in Avalon, Night on Earth, and Eastern Promises, though I see now he’s been in some more high-profile films (which I have no intention of seeing). Oh, he was also in Fassbinder’s 1981 “LOLA” (84a ['Damn Yankees' vamp]—hm, does that count as a repetition of the YANK in themer 22a?).
- SDAK and WIS, cross-referenced with Minn. in the clues. If it’s going to be ugly, may as well flaunt it! (3d & 28a)
- Some of the partials: I GOT, A LAMP, A LOON, ALL I, NEED I, BED OF, sort-ofs for A BIT and I’M GLAD.
- Less common foreign words: 88a [Fluid for 'un stylo'] ENCRE; fluide? 72a [Topic, in Toledo] TEMA. Possibly 100d GARNI [With parsley]; I’m familiar with this word from bouquet garni, which is a mixture of herbs.
- 74d AGREER? Blech.
- Pluralization swap! 5d [1940s vocal quartet member] INK SPOT, 54a [Minelli, et al.] LIZAS. See also 76a [Sally Field role(s)] SYBIL.
- 108d Prefix TAUR- right next to UGLY! Olé!
Transitional bit: clues/answers I didn’t understand.
- 32a [BC belongs to it] ACC. Not British Colombia and CANada… looking it up for the occasion of this write-up… ah. Boston College and Atlantic Coast Conference. Seems dodgy to me except that it’s understandable as this is a Boston-based puzzle.
- 113d [Fling] SHY. No idea.
- 44d [Dripping] A|LEAK. Can’t figure out if this is dripping (adj.) = ALEAK or dripping (n.) A LEAK. I suspect it’s the former, but either way it’s damn 109-down.
Now, the good stuff!
Taxonomy! 110a [Quercine] OAKLIKE; helps if you know that Quercus is the genus for oak trees. 37d [Murine critters] MICE.
- Poetics! 39d [Long-short-short, to a poet] DACTYLIC. 117a ['abba abba cde cde' creation] SONNET.
- 23a [Apathetically cold] PHLEGMY, great string of letters in a crossword. Bonus: echoed in the clue for 27d DRAT ["Phooey!"]
- ["And we'll __ a cup…": Burns] TAK. Good thing it’s “we,” otherwise one would be drinking ALOON, possibly on a BRAE. 24a, 64d, 107d.
- 37a [Cuban team?] MAVS. The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks are owned by Mark Cuban.
- 52d Who doesn’t love ETHELRED the Unready?
With wildly divergent good and ugly in this crossword, this expansive offering is certainly not bad. I’ll say that, on balance, it’s just average.
p.s. Proofreading note: in the Across Lite format, all instances of single-quotes in the clues consist of left single-quotes at both ends. The double-quotes are not directional and thus avoid that gaffe.
p.p.s. Please resist the urge to TROLL in the comments.
Doug Peterson’s Post Puzzler crossword – Neville’s review (7:40)
Neville here, in for Doug who wrote today’s Post Puzzler. As always, there’s a lot to love in one of these themelesses. We’ll start with standard Doug Peterson Baseball Clues. (Xword Maker Profiles seems to omit that any DP puzzle will inevitably have some clever baseball related clues and entries.) Right off the bat, a Tampa Bay [Ray rival] is a Baltimore ORIOLE. Two of my close friends are on opposing sides of this rivalry, so it came quickly to me. Less obvious was [It may follow a walk in the park] at the end of the grid. Thinking I had already exhausted the baseball references, I thought that this might be a canine clue. Alas, it’s a STOLEN BASE. I’ll bet you that this is what Doug started with in the SE corner. Too clever
There’s also a card game crossing. I CALL is a [Declaration before a showdown] in poker. On the other hand, we’re led to believe that [Trump in diamonds?] might be a bridge clue, but instead we get IVANKA, daughter of The Donald.
One [Cocktail that requires two glasses] is a SAKE BOMB; but really, doesn’t any bomb shot? This one wasn’t the first one to come to mind for me, as when I think bombs, I think Irish Car Bombs and Jagerbombs. Plus, the best sake-based drink is the holiday favorite of nogasake – one part eggnog, three parts sake.
The [Visionary "Lord of the Flies" boy] isn’t Ralph, Roger or Piggy (certainly not him with his glasses or ass-mar), but instead SIMON. Speaking of Simons, did you catch Jon Hamm & Adam Scott’s shot-for-shot remake of the “Simon & Simon” opening sequence last week? Simply amazing. RESCUE ME is the [TV show with the tagline "Sometimes you have to play with fire"]; it makes sense since it was set in the NYFD.
Did you ever notice that if you watched the music video for Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” on TiVo and had it cut out all ADs, you’d be left with a BROMANCE? That’s the [Buddy movie portmanteau] in the NE corner of the grid. (It seems like more of a seed entry than COWERING, doesn’t it?) Instead of a buddy movie, I’m more in the mood for a MOCKBUSTER. I’m off to go rent “AVH: Alien vs. Hunter.”