Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword
I once heard that Monday theme answers were generally real things, not answers made up through wordplay. But right here we have a wordplay theme with made-up homonym phrases and it certainly doesn’t get in the way of marching through the puzzle, does it? We’ve got “[last name]‘s [sound-alike plural noun]” times five:
- 17a. [Philosopher John's tresses?], LOCKE’S LOCKS. Sondra Locke’s publicist bemoans the lost opportunity.
- 25a. [Actor Sean's writing implements?], PENN’S PENS. Kal Penn’s publicist, etc.
- 34a. [Aviator Wilbur's entitlements?], WRIGHT’S RIGHTS. Could also make a case for WRIGHT’S RITES, too, if only a 12-letter answer could be centered in the grid.
- 50a. [Soccer star Mia's meats?], HAMM’S HAMS. Sorry, Jon Hamm. Mia gets this one, because otherwise the theme would be 100% male.
- 59a. [Composer Franz's rosters?], LISZT’S LISTS.
There’s some lovely fill in this puzzle. I’m partial to BAGELS, JINXED, WOODSY, WHAMMY, and TRAVESTY. 1-Across is a solid answer, but the [Gross growth] of MOLD is a gross way to start out the puzzle.
The short stuff falls short of the long stuff in terms of quality—prefix ISO; abbrevs NCO MTN MED YRS PSAT DSL SRO PAC; crosswordese ARA SSS ESSO; and French/Latin/Spanish MAL TEM ORO all grate a bit.
3.75 stars from me, because the easy puzzle didn’t force me to really notice all the short clunky stuff while I was solving. Solid, basic Monday puzzle gets the job done.
Zhouqin “C.C.” Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Six shortish theme answers take the form of CH*CH*:
- 8a. [Affectedly trendy], CHICHI. Usually pronounced “shee shee,” not “chee chee,” so it sounds different from the other theme entries.
- 17a. [Chinese dog with a blue-black tongue], CHOW CHOW.
- 31a. [Tot's toy on a track], CHOO-CHOO.
- 46a. ["Make it snappy!"], CHOP-CHOP!
- 64a. ["Bottoms up!"], CHIN-CHIN. Dictionary labels this one “British informal, dated,” which explains why it’s only faintly familiar to me.
- 69a. [Mambo cousin], CHA-CHA.
Interestingly, half of the theme answers (CHOW CHOW, CHOP-CHOP, and CHIN-CHIN) come from pidgin English influenced by Chinese.
The longest theme entry has 8 letters, and there are two lively 10-letter Downs (which don’t get confused with theme answers since the theme is strictly an Across venture today). CRAZY HORSE and MANGO SALSA are terrific.
Does anyone who isn’t well-grounded in physics/astronomy know the answer to 50a: [Red giant in the night sky] without the crossing for the first letter? I think we see S-STAR more often than other-letter-STAR in the crossword, but I never encounter these star designations outside of crosswords. And you?
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Poke Around!”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Blogger’s prerogative: I’m blaming today’s solving time on this nasty cold I seemed to have picked up late last week. You know, one of those bugs that, on Thursday night, feels like it won’t be anything too severe (luckily, given the season and the current flu outbreak), hangs around on Friday, and then starts to get progressively worse? It’s mid-day Monday morning now and I feel worse than the three days before combined. Hopefully the thrill of finally conquering today’s crossword signifies the beginning of the end of this thing.
The theme involves splitting the word POKE three times. Three two-word terms either start with P and end with OKE or start with PO and end with KE. (Thus, POKE wraps around each entry.) Since there’s two instances of the former and just one of the latter, I have to call the theme inconsistent, but it sure was a help in cracking the entries that just wouldn’t fall. Here, then, are the theme entries:
- 20-Across: The [Round assessment] is a PENALTY STROKE. I’ve been solving Bob’s puzzles long enough to know almost immediately that this was a golf reference, but it wasn’t until I understood the theme that it finally fell.
- 38-Across: The [Shallow-fried one of many in the national dish of Belarus] is a POTATO PANCAKE. I’m guessing the national dish of Belarus is either a stack of potato pancakes (plural) or a Big Mac made using potato pancakes in place of the bun. (Fingers crossed that it’s the second one.)
- 55-Across: A PRACTICAL JOKE is the ["Gotcha!" precursor, perhaps], or the [Flatulence inducer, maybe].
My first crack into the grid came with PHAT, clued as [Very fine, in rapspeak], though I suspect the words “15 years ago” should have been added. I only went with PHAT because I had a suspicion that the [Celebratory circle dance] was indeed the HORA rather than, what, the VIRGINIA REEL. That helped me get the upper-midsection of the grid (the Rose Marie section, in case any old Hollywood Squares fans are reading this).
When I hit dead ends trying to branch out into adjacent sections, I came in at the far left, feeling okay-but-not-great about ZINC being the answer to [Galvanize]. I figured the [Shocking sound] was most likely ZAP, so ZINC seemed as good as anything. When the crossing at the C proved to be ITCH ([Bug bite upshot]), I knew I was on the right path. (Am I the only one who jumps to the rarest letter in any entry–here, the C in ZINC since I already had the crossing for the Z–and checks the crossing there first? I wonder if that slows me down instead of just building from each correct letter in turn. These are the thoughts that come to mind when it’s 46 days until the ACPT.)
Although “Poke Around” was the puzzle’s purported theme, there’s definitely a second one here: The Puzzle of Repeated Consecutive Clues. Look at some of the consecutive clues in the Downs: [Check for arms] and [Check for flavor] (cluing FRISK and TASTE, respectively), ["I have an idea"] cluing both AHA at 12-Down and SAY at 13-Down (though each is punctuated slightly differently), [River spanned by the Key Bridge] and [Town at the northwest end of the Windsor Bridge] for POTOMAC and ETON, respectively, [Bug with a bite] and the previously referenced [Bug bite upshot] for GNAT and ITCH, and [Bloke] and [Bloke's brew] for EGG and ALE. Can anyone come up with a similar set of clues for STIFF and TIGER?
Favorite entry = ON TIPTOE, how one might be [Moving sneakily]. Favorite clue = [Goal of the Sith and a bunch of nerds] for REVENGE, as in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Revenge of the Nerds. Two great films that looks great together. </Reese’s trademark infringement>.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Between going to the gym and being transfixed by the inauguration, the day’s half gone already. Let’s get the show on the road here!
First thing I did was scan this grid for 8-letter answers and read their clues. There he is, 39a: [Notre Dame linebacker who was catfished during the 2012 season], MANTI TE’O. I knew he’d be here! No LENNAYKEKUA yet, but the request has been put forth to Brendan. Or the hoaxer guy with all the vowels, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Hard to spell if you don’t have a familiarity with Samoan, amirite?
- 1a. [Portmanteau for some larger-than-average mobile devices], PHABLET. That word is simply phull of phail, isn’t it? Phone + tablet doesn’t phonetically lend itself to portmanteauing. Recently voted Least Likely to Succeed by the American Dialect Society.
- 8a. [Cold drink bought at gas stations], SLURPEE. Only if the gas station is part 7-Eleven.
- 22a. [Chip alternative], TOT. Huh?
- 23a. Wu-Tang Clan member], U-GOD. Huh? I never noticed his name among the long list of Clan members.
- 33a. [French game played with a 32-card deck], PIQUET. Yow. Really? WIth the EL MONTE crossing (13d. [City known as "The End of the Santa Fe Trail"]), this was a tough section of “Huh?”s.
- 49a. [Where you might get a tan], TRIG. That G was slow to fall.
- 56a. [It ends at the goal line], RED ZONE. Um, I had END ZONE. Wrong side of the goal line.
- 6d. ["Love & Hip Hop" star Mena], ERICA. Huh? It’s a reality show on VH1, apparently, and Erica Mena is one of the people on it.
- 42d. ["Now what's wrong!"], OH, GREAT.
- 52d. [The only Ron Howard film a crossword solver needs to know], EDTV. <— This.
Solid 72-worder with a handful of never-before-seens. Four stars.