Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Bottoms Up!”
The theme entries run vertically so that those backward words at the end of each theme entry are indeed “Bottoms Up”:
- 3d. JUNK REWARD
- 4d. HOT CROSS SNUB
- 10d. GIANT PETS. “Giant step” feels less in-the-languageriffic to me than, say, “junk drawer” or “hot cross buns,” or any of the others, which are all rock-solid.
- 14d. CUSTOM EDAM
- 24d. SATURDAY NIGHT EVIL—I like it!
- 60d. GO TO YOUR MOOR
- 67d. WHAT’S UP, COD? Love this one, too.
- 70d. VAMPIRE TAB
- 75d. SAFETY NIP
There’s no shortage of sparkle in this grid. We’ve got ANDROGYNY and SWING VOTE (both might go either way), TACO STAND, the HAGGARD/SVELTE combo, a PASSERBY. I had no idea that [Kahlua and cream over ice] were called a SOMBRERO. And Mike ROWE of Dirty Jobs and a multitude of mainstream TV commercials! Likeable guy.
There are also a few weird things. Such as RINGO clued as [Title gunfighter of a 1964 #1 hit]. The plural MISOS. The has-anyone-ever-really-said-that? “HI, GUY.” Some other two-word answer I can’t find that stuck out, too—oh, there it is. “YA DIG?” Crosswordese-oriented NACRE and APIA.
This LPGA Tour Player of the Year, Yani TSENG—is she one to watch? The two-time POTY title suggests that she is—so make a mental note. YANI may be coming to the crossword next.
3.5 stars. How’d it treat you?
Ed Sessa’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Merge Ahead”
In this puzzle, two road signs are merged into one:
- 27a. ["Just ignore landslide warnings"], OVERLOOK FALLING ROCKS.
- 42a. ["Approaching Alaskan landmark"], DEAD END BRIDGE AHEAD. Is this meant to evoke the “Bridge to Nowhere” that I don’t think was ever built?
- 60a. ["Sorry, you can't avoid strip mall traffic"], NO OUTLET DETOUR. Hang on. Strip malls and outlet malls aren’t at all the same thing. Is this referring to outlet malls, or merely the outlet of a strip mall parking lot?
- 73a. ["Road under construction ... still"], SLOW MEN WORKING. Are you guys still seeing those gender-limited MEN WORKING signs?
- 88a. ["Napping mandatory for sleepy drivers"], REST AREA NO STANDING. This one needs punctuation in it, doesn’t it? And it’s weird, because standing is not the opposite of sleeping.
- 107a. ["Animals jaywalking, use caution"], DEER CROSSING WRONG WAY. Silly animals. Can’t they read signs?
I dunno, the results don’t seem too whimsical or funny to me.
Seven more clues:
- 78d. [Bussing overseer?], MISTLETOE. Bussing = kissing, except when you’re busing/bussing tables or riding the bus.
- 20a. [Cork objections], NAES. What? No! Cork is a county in Ireland, which is not even on the same island as Scotland, which is the place with “nae.”
- 16d. [SpongeBob SquarePants feature], BUCK TEETH. Ed didn’t go scientific with MESOHYL or OSCULUM, and aren’t you glad?
- 61d. [Old West gang family name], DALTON. The Dalton Gang. They were outlaws who robbed trains and banks.
- 10a. [Former Facebook marketing director Zuckerberg], RANDI. Who? Apparently she’s Mark Z’s sister.
- 111d. [Collage application], GLUE. Did you also read it as “college application” at first?
- 79a. [Ab __: from the beginning], INITIO. I know this from crosswords. Initio is akin to “initial” and “initiate,” pertaining to the beginning. But if you’re not up on your Latin phrases and don’t know the DALTON Gang, director Vittorio De SICA, or the ELOI ([Weena’s people, in a Wells novel])
I’ll give this one three stars.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Once again it was a Sunday Challenge that became a tale of two puzzles: three corners that had their thorns but yielded somewhat steadily, and a southeast corner that took half of my solving time to conquer. “Conquer,” really, is an overstatement. It was only by sheer luck of typing random letters that I tumbled to LAVAGE as the answer to [Washing]. My dictionary defines it as “the irrigation or washing out of an organ, as of the stomach or bowel.” Breakfast test, anyone? That term crossed PILOSE, a term for [Hairy] that was entirely new to me.
Speaking of which, what a hirsute grid! We also get ALOPECIA, the formal term for [Loss of hair], TOUPEE, the [Hair that might be there when there’s none there], and the best answer in the puzzle, MAN-SCAPE, to [Lose some back hair, say]. And all of this is in the lower half of the grid. But I guess if hair is falling out, you’d find it at the bottom.
There are other terrific answers besides MAN-SCAPE, like SURE BET, IT’S NOT ME (clued as [“I prefer a different style”] instead of [Breakup words heard by many a cheater]), EYELINER, and ERSATZ. But my favorite grouping is the stack of 8s in the northwest corner: TAKE PART, I’M A LOSER, and MANI-PEDI. That’s gold.
Back to that southeast corner for a moment. Other unknowns to me were VERT, four random letters that are the answer to [Bois de Boulogne couleur] and OVO-LACTO, the term for one who’s [Veggie, but not vegan]. STAGIER feels pretty awkward to me, so I didn’t believe it when I first typed it in as the answer to [More theatrical than necessary]. If I hadn’t played the hunch that ONE-STORY was the answer to [Ranch, e.g.], you’d be reading this writeup sometime on Tuesday.
Other unknowns to me were POPI, the [Arkin film of 1969], the PRADO museum as the [Home of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”], and AQUA-BLUE as the shade [Like the skies in Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique”].
Anyone else have OPEC instead of ROTC for the [Drilling gp.]? Evil little clue, that one.
Of the 500+ ways to clue KANGAROO, you’d think we get something a little less gruesome than [Pricey Perth leather]. I’m not hopping mad about the answer, but I do feel like kicking something in protest. I wonder if Tony roos the clue.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Cheers and Booze” — pannonica’s review
Each theme answer begins with a colorful adjectival synonym for inebriation. There are many to choose from. I wouldn’t call them euphemisms. The title is simply a homophonic pun on “cheers and boos.”
- 17a. [Sitcom booster] CANNED LAUGHTER. That’s one that I hadn’t encountered before.
- 21a. [Delicacy of Southern cuisine] PICKLED PIG’S FEET.
- 57a. [Poolside decor, maybe] POTTED PALM.
- 82a. [Cheater's cubes] LOADED DICE.
- 121a. [Circus employee] TIGHTROPE WALKER. In this one, it’s the first part of the first word, a compound word.
- 125a. [Hunt's product] STEWED TOMATOES.
- 13d. [10-Down's output] HIGH FIDELITY. (10-down is [Sound system] STEREO].) Always feels funny to me when a theme clue cross-references a non-theme clue, or vice-versa. Like one of those biologically subconscious incestuous taboos.
- 62d. ["Why did I bother?" evoker] WASTED EFFORT.
Fertile territory for a theme, since we have so many synonyms available in our language. Here is a list I found of over 150, although it includes some verbs among its ranks. Needless to say, some of them are offensive.
In what I’ve realized incredibly belatedly, the grid contains the Hook trademark of extensively overlapping entries for the first and last two across themers; here we see fourteens alongside fifteens.
Overall the puzzle was rather strong, but my ultimate impression of the solving experience was annoyance because of
three four severely suboptimal crossings. Aside: I eschew the widely-adopted term of Another Blogger, “Natick” because the premise of its origin is faulty (i.e., if you don’t know NC WYETH you’re ignorant, plain and simple). However, in this puzzle are:
- 16d & 20a. [Foundered], which can be SANK or SUNK, crossing [Soap actress Lisa] RINNA.
- 98a & 99d. [Head honcho], which could be PREZ or PRES.*, crossing ["Freedom of the press" pioneer] ZENGER. This one is only a mild infraction, since the casual cluing and absence of an abbrev. signal of 98a points to the slangy PREZ rather than the abrreviated PRES. However, since not all constructors and editors are consistently rigorous for instances such as this, there’s understandable ambiguity not easily dismissed.
- The cluster including 54a, 41d, 64a, (55d)and 39d. There’s enough obscuriana here to practically ensure that most solvers will have extreme difficulty completing the entirety of this section. ["Show Boat" gambler Gaylord] RAVENAL, [Mainland Equatorial Guinea] RÍO MUNI, [Poltical columnist Charen] MONA, [Magic herb of myth] MOLY. A sequela of this assemblage is that the normally relatively easy VAN [Delivery means] becomes quite difficult to get.
- 21d & 23a. [Infatuation, slangily] PASH, [Galatea's love] ACIS.
- 48d [Crunch's rank] CAP’N. Sorry, his rank is Capt. or Captain; “Cap’n” is just an ELIDED (53d) version and the one that is invariably seen in collocative formation.
- Fresh clue for mundane fill: 100a ["Sweeney Todd" props] PIES.
- 102a [Navy destroyer] TIN CAN. Who knew?
- 74d [Cartoonist Avery] TEX. I’d have preferred to see “animator” in the clue.
- Interesting bit of proximate coincidence: 109a [Singer Lovett] LYLE atop 117a [Guitarist Lofgren] NILS. Both are accomplished singers and guitarists, but the clues are correct in apportioning their talents according to popular imagination.
- 7d [Cafeteria lady's wear] HAIRNET, not the crosswordese SNOOD.
- 126a [With 24-Across, actor aptly born a Leo] BERT | LAHR (born 13 August 1895). However, a missed opportunity to include 8d [Summer mo.] AUG. I mean, as long as you’ve traversing the cross-reference Rubicon… See also, 32d [Den] LAIR; Lahr, lion, lair? No?
- Ugliest fill: 45d [Wind instr.] CLAR.
- Favorite clues: 51d [Constitutional] STROLL, 108d [Stress-free character?] SCHWA.
- 79d [""__ n'est pas un pipe"": Magritte] CECI. Actual title: La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images). I’m assuming the nested double-quotation marks indicate that the clue is quoting the words that appear in the painting, but realize that there are typographical issues associated with converting the printed version of the crossword to the Across Lite format.
- 83d [Prettify] DO UP crossing 94a [Draw blood?] SUCK. I had outsize difficulty getting this crossing, primarily because my brain just wasn’t willing to parse the scant four letters of DOUP as two words.
Good, but deeply flawed, puzzle.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 136″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. The marquee entry today is QUICKIE DIVORCE. Love it. You meet someone who’s RAVISHING, tie the knot, and a couple months later, you’re in Reno for a QUICKIE DIVORCE. Uh, and then you get A ROOM WITH A VIEW with the Marquis de LAFAYETTE, while snacking on an ALMOND JOY and watching TYRA. I was never very good at making up stories from the entries.
- 27a. [Candy since 1924] - BIT-O-HONEY. Haven’t had one of these in a while. It’s great for yanking out fillings.
- 39a. [Candy since 1946] – ALMOND JOY. I like the clue echo. Is there a dark chocolate version of Almond Joy? If not, there should be.
- 27d. [Soap unit] – BAR. This clue psyched me out. I figured it couldn’t be referring to regular soap. That’d be too easy. It must have something to do with soap operas. But only 3 letters? Hmmm. Then I finally got BAR and realized that it was so easy, it was hard.
- 11d. [“Reuben, Reuben” star] – TOM CONTI. Was this a spin-off from The Partridge Family? That’s the only Reuben I know.
- 52a. [Kind of splint that immobilizes the wrist and thumb while allowing movement of other fingers] – SPICA. That’s a mouthful. SPICA is usually clued as the brightest star in Virgo.
- 50d. [Pod opening?] – OCTO-. Thank God it wasn’t [Mom opening?].
- 34d. [Putting in the mail?] – ARMORING. I caught on to this one right away. And it made me think of The Lord of the Rings. So you know Denny’s has a Hobbit-inspired menu now, right? It includes the lovely dish you see here, the “Fried Cheese Melt.” Yep, mozzarella sticks embedded inside a grilled cheese sandwich. I eat a lot of crappy food, and that gooey monstrosity even makes me a little queasy. But it’s approved by Hobbits, so I’m on board. Wish me luck! I’ll see you next week, if I don’t end up in the hospital.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “When Zookeepers Lose It”
A whimsical theme this week, based on the idea that when zookeepers snap, they call people names. And those names are the sounds-like-an-insult names of actual critters, such as the LONG-TAILED WEASEL, SNUB-NOSED MONKEY, BIG-EARED BAT, FIRE-BELLIED TOAD, BLUE-RINGED OCTOPUS, HAIRY-TAILED MOLE, BAT-EARED FOX, RED-EYEDTREE FROG, and HAIRY-NOSED WOMBAT. The concept of actually spitting these names out as insults is funny, though I didn’t find the puzzle particularly entertaining to fill in. Plus, there are two instances of TAILED, NOSED, HAIRY, EARED, and BAT.
Three tasty morsels:
- 95d. [It has a point] is a great clue for DECIMAL.
- 92d. Love “SAY WHEN,” clued here as [Pouring words].
- 42d. GOLDBRICK, or [Loafer], crosses a whopping three theme entries.
Worst crossing: 15d: LATAKIA, [Turkish tobacco], meets 15a: LAPP, [Reindeer raiser]. I have encountered LATAKIA in a crossword or two before, but never in real life. Runner-up: French crosses Italian, and Merl salvages the crossing from unfairness by adding one of those anagram hints. 53a: [Safe place, in Italian] is a BANCA (bank, where there might be a vault/safe?), and 43d: [Hell, to Henri (anagram of R.N. FEE)] is ENFER.