Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
Tons of fresh 10- and 11-letter entries in this puzzle. 2d: INDOOR POOL may have popped up before and 30d: MCMANSIONS might have too, but here they’re cross-referenced and that’s a nice touch. The [2010 best seller by Michael Lewis], 4a: THE BIG SHORT, isn’t ringing a bell at all; the internet tells me it’s about all the things that led to the bubble/crash/recession so I’m surprised the title wasn’t familiar to me. The book is stacked atop 16a: BEATLEMANIA and 18a: SAMUEL ALITO, who is not the one who just said something about having moral opinions that Teh Gay is icky. (That was Scalia. He’s campaigning hard to be my least favorite justice, isn’t he?)
The swimming corner has 1d: STAND ASIDE and 3d: STARSTRUCK, which are less exciting, but I love 23a: DO SHOTS. Down below, there’s another full name, 50a: EVA LONGORIA (whose name is delightfully close to baseballer Evan Longoria’s), parked on 54a: FACE REALITY ([Wake up and smell the coffee]) and the mystifying 56a: [Sea novel by James Fenimore Cooper], THE RED ROVER. The old Authors card game had four Cooper titles: The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Deerslayer … and I’m pretty sure the fourth was neither Red Rover nor Satanstoe. Nothing is looking familiar. But man, I loved that little literary-nerd-out version of Old Maid. The final quadrant groups the McMansions with STRIP MALLS (which I find highly appropriate) and a third full name, ALICIA KEYS.
Elsewhere, I like those GEL PACKS, the [Flexible injury soothers] that are also helpful for migraines and live with others of their kind in my freezer; publisher KNOPF; and UNCLE SAM. I am curious as to why there’s a question mark in the 35d: TAUTENED clue. [Took up the slack?] without a question mark is plainly adequate there. 11d: [Cubic crystals with perfect cleavage] seems to call for a plural, but it’s the mineral HALITE, or rock salt. Generally seen in the form of more than just one crystal, yes? Did you know that a Google image search for cubic cleavage returns far more pictures of mineral crystals than boobs? True story. Least favorite abbrev is 44d: DERIV, [Dict. info].
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hollywood Big Wheels”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Fun theme: four well-known automobile options start with the surname of a celebrity, so why not pretend the option is one custom-made for that star? Let’s get right to the red carpet:
- 20-Across: [Vin's custom car feature?] is a DIESEL ENGINE. For those who Rip-Van-Winkled the 2000s, Vin Diesel was an action star of (one) note.
- 35-Across: [Tom's custom car feature?] is CRUISE CONTROL. For those who Rip-Van-Winkled the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, Tom Cruise was also an action star of note. And if you’re just now dozing off, you might miss him as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in the forthcoming Reacher.
- 43-Across: [Jack's custom car accessory?] is BLACK INTERIOR. Well we’ve come to a screeching halt on the action film stars, that’s for sure. Mr. Black, the comic actor of note, might want to re-think the black interior. In the summer, his car will be an oven.
- 56-Across: [Elijah's custom car accessory?] is WOOD PANELING. Heh heh heh. You said wood. Heh heh heh.
There’s a lot of great fill in this grid; in auto parlance, this grid is a luxury car. WAR CRIMINAL is a great long Down, but even the little stuff packs a punch. For your consideration: JAY Z, B SIDE, AS IF, I’M IN, ZOWIE, HELL, EGG DYE, ROLEX, DeNIRO, DANDER, even AWFUL. The only clunker entry is IBLE, though xenophobes who want English only in their crosswords might also point to NOIR. But the point remains: there’s lots of goodness and barely a blemish. This is one terrific grid.
I kinda liked how we got both ACME and ACNE in the same puzzle. If only ACHE and ACRE could have been there too.
Favorite entry = CARE PACKAGE, the [Student's gift from home]. Favorite clue = ["...then again, I could be wrong"] for OR NOT.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hollywood Gift Exchange” — pannonica’s review
Let’s parse the title: Hollywood indicates that theme involves actors’ names, Exchange suggests anagramming, and Gift reveals that the results are nouns: to wit, bestowable objects of varying degrees of plausibility.
- 23a. [For SANDRA BULLOCK, a gift of summer side dish in large quantity] BULK CORN SALAD.
- 33a. [For DEBRA WINGER, a saloon poster] BEER DRAWING.
- 44a. [For DANIEL CRAIG, a sweater from the Yale student store] ELI CARDIGAN. Sounds like the name of a SAG member.
- 59a. [For SOPHIA LOREN, a handset decorated with anchors] SAILOR PHONE.
- 70a. [For CAMERON DIAZ, a fruit drink from Brazil] AMAZON CIDER.
- 85a. [For ADRIEN BRODY, an unexceptional four-poster] ORDINARY BED.
- 94a. [For DIANNE WIEST, a sidewalk cart] WIENIE STAND.
- 108a. [For CLINT EASTWOOD, a couple of warm parkas] TWO LINED COATS.
Of the lot, I only really cared for the visually amusing WIENIE STAND (helpfully inserting it into a remembered Dianne Wiest scene from Broadway Danny Rose—”Shh! Don’t speak!”—which takes place in Central Park, haven to many a soggy-water dog cart) and the non-inane ORDINARY BED, but in truth my favorite was the clue’s description for that one: the nigh-poetic “an unexceptional four-poster.”
Of course, it isn’t so easy to come up with appropriate anagrams, of equal lengths to be paired for symmetry in a grid. So there’s undeniably definite effort involved. Nevertheless, I’m viewing this seasonal (TMWTOTY™) puzzle as a teaser present to tide solvers over until next week’s, on the 21st, the anticipated Eve, at least as per the constraints of publishing schedules.
- Was feeling auspicious as I was able to put in the answer to one across immediately [Phenomenon caused by a bloom of dinoflagellates] RED TIDE; much nicer than a reference to that goofy submarine movie. Sailed through must of the grid, but ironically had a final slowdown—noticeably extending the solving time—close to where I started, with AIL, SKATE, PLAY, ALIKE.
- ADUE, ACHY, and BEMY sound like overworked, disgruntled, non-unionized elves. (26a, 27a, 57a)
- 58a [Woody Woodpecker creator Walter] LANTZ, 61a [Cavalry soldier] LANCER, 73a [Flicker food] ANTS. Oh what the hell, let’s add 12d [From the age of chivalry] MEDIEVAL.
- 86d [Tiff-averting answer] YES, DEAR. I think that approach, and assumption, might be your problem, hon.
- 112a [Inlayed flooring] PARQUET. “I can’t believe it isn’t veneer!”
- Sampling of clever clues: 51a [Company that offers little training?] LIONEL; 55a [Take another's place?] SUBLET; 95d [Unit of Time] ISSUE.
- 74d [Friend of Han and Chewie] points to first name LANDO Calrissian, but no such indication is given for SANCHO Panza in 55d ["I Really Like Him" singer in "Man of La Mancha"]. Bonus: SANCHO’S O crosses Edgardo ALFONZO and Don Quixote’s real name is Alonso Quijano; kind of close, no? No? Okay, fine.
- Super similar clues: 31d [Clark Kent, originally] KAL-EL, 114a [Clark Kent, for one] ADOPTEE. And I really want to link the sneakily-clued 48a [Nephew of Claudius] HAMLET with 82d [Devised] DREAMT UP, but alas, I just can’t bring myself to; yes, even I have limits.
Suzanne Hudson’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Wits’ End” — pannonica’s review
I liked this puzzle. I learned something. The revealer is final theme entry, a 15-letter spanner (which means that the first one is too; the other three are a pair of fourteens and a tidy little seven). Sadly, I learned that something the slightly hard way, getting a letter wrong and not seeing the error.
PARAPROSDOKIANS are [Sentences with unexpected endings, such as 17, 23, 37, and 50 Across].
(I’d spelled the ending -ions—which seemed legitimately ancient Greek—and the crossing answer didn’t help enough; 53d [Tread heavily could just as easily be TROMP as TRAMP]. The editor should have substituted a clue that unambiguously suggests TRAMP, for instance something about Charlie Chaplin’s famous character.)
So. Each of the theme answers is a smarty-pants quote with a zig where it might have zagged. Hence the position of the apostrophe in the title, indicating not the solver’s wit’s end, but the end of something said by a wit.
- 17a. ["Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's ___": John Kenneth Gailbraith] JUST THE OPPOSITE.
- 23a. ["The trouble with practical jokes is that ___": Henry Cate VII] THEY GET ELECTED.
- 37a. ["If God wanted us to fly, he would have given us __": Mel Brooks] TICKETS.
- 50a. ["I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, ___": Groucho Marx] BUT THIS WASN’T IT.
Begin with communism, finish with Marx. Bet you didn’t expect that!
Much to like (and very little to dislike) in the ballast fill:
Favorite clue: 16a [Walk like a wolf]. Perfectly evocative, needed no letters to know it was LOPE. Second favorite clue, dressing up a humdrum answer: 21a [Three from nineteen] ENS.
- Long downs: common-lettered-but-interesting ALSATIA, the portmanteau CATTALO, the okay phrases IN THE RED and YAPPED AT. The Anglican ACCOUTRED and [Shopkeeper's annoyances] LOITERERS, which I had for a time as the mystifying LOOTERERS.
- Crossword solving shortcut #832: if you see “roadie” in the clue, the answer is either AMP or AMPS. Always.
- Least favorite answer: SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).
- Am somewhat unhappy with the clue for 51d SASHA, [Unisex name in Russia]. One, it’s really a nickname (a namenik?), diminutive for Alexander or Alexandra. Two, it’s my understanding that it’s far more common among boys.
- Spiffy crossing at 1a/1d: William of OCCAM and OBJET d’art.
Good, above-average puzzle.
Peter A. Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Most constructors, on finding an anagrammable answer like 73d [Reason to wear shades (and a word for which you have to 7-down to find a word, different in each case, that can follow a starred answer)] GLARE (could you read that Amy?) would start or end phrases with these anagrams. Peter A. Collins always marches to a different drum, however, so only the first word appears in the grid and you have to anagram GLARE yourself and mentally append it. The plus-side is that it’s a fresh take on a common crossword trope . The minus is a) short theme answers are less fun at the time of solving, and b) the interpretation doesn’t lend itself to in-solve appreciation. I’m guessing a lot of us will go “whatever” after the puzzle and skip the whole anagramming “meta” puzzle business
Anyway, here are the solved anagrams:
- 1a, [*Century maker], BUICK. I’m going to guess and say that there’s something called a Buick Regal. To my knowledge this make was never sold here.
- 23a, [*Name of eight English kings], EDWARD. Composer Edward Elgar.
- 25a, [*Engenders], FOSTERS. Foster’s Lager is Australian isn’t it? Yes. Paradoxically it seems to be made by South African Breweries in the states, but not in fact made in South Africa at all.
- 55a, [*To whom Hamlet said, "O, I die"], HORATIO: Alger, a rather PASSE author. Also, I have never seen OIDIE in a crossword. I hope no-one’s gone and added it to their wordlist!
- 60a, [*Certain psychic], MEDIUM. Medium-large is between medium and large, believe it or not.
- OTARU. I had the T. Please let it not be OTARU, I thought. But it was.
- IANMCEWAN/HOWE is a pretty tough pair of names to be crossing. I’ve never heard of either, but I guessed right!
- 48A, [Joined a jam], SATIN. Is that idiomatic for ‘Mericans? Cos otherwise I don’t get why it isn’t clued as the fabric.
- 37d, [What might involve reminiscing about old flames?] PYROMANIA. Love the answer. Clue felt forcedly cutesy.
- 16a, [How holes are rarely made?] salvages the partial INONE, with a clever tough clue.
- 9d. [Carefree quality], WILDSIDE. Made me think of Lou Reed.
- 35d, [South American forest dweller] TAPIR. Who doesn’t love perissodactyls with interesting proboscises?
- 51d, [Attend alone], GOSTAG
Both lists are on the short side, no? That’s me out, over to you.