Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword
Ooh, nice themeless from Gareth. Took me less time than yesterday’s which played like a Saturday time-wise, so I feel that Friday and Saturday were switched again.
I goofed on the last letter of 18a. [Title under which "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" originally charted, in 1952] is WIMOWEH, and I tried a Y for the last letter. Did you know the song’s based on an older one called “Mbube”? I did not, but I’ll bet Gareth did! I guess OH?’S works better for 16d: [Quizzical cries] than OYS, as nobody says “oy vey” with an inquisitive tone.
What I liked most:
- 1a. [HanesBrands brand], PLAYTEX. Lady stuff.
- 8a. [Exercise in a pool], DO LAPS. Looks peculiar in the grid. I like that in a multi-word answer.
- 19a. [Name for the T. rex at Chicago's Field Museum], SUE. Am reading a New Yorker article about dinosaur bones, and Sue was mentioned.
- 23a. [Bygone 20-Across fashion magazine], COSMOGIRL. Lady stuff.
- 39a. [Grub sellers], BAIT SHOPS. Literal grubs, not “it’s time for lunch; I’m gonna fetch some grub” figurative grub.
- 45a. [Composure], LEVEL HEAD.
- 63a. [Nightwear], TEDDIES. Lady stuff. Do we have TAMPONS or PANTYLINERS in the Downs? No?
- 5d. [They bite but don't have teeth], TORTOISES. No teeth? Really? I guess you have to trust a veterinarian on that.
- 11d. [Fictional boxer a k a The Count of Monte Fisto], APOLLO CREED. Rocky’s nemesis.
- 21d. [Top of the charts?], NORTH POLE. The navigational charts, not the music charts.
- 23d. [Amount of appreciation, maybe], CAPITAL GAIN. We can have that in the singular, yes? The clue had me thinking of standing ovations and applause.
- 35d. [Hip-hop producer for Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Missy Elliott], TIMBALAND. I do not know what brand of footwear he prefers.
- 48d. ["Journey to ___" (recurring "Sesame Street" segment)], ERNIE. Ah, yes. I remember this from my son’s preschool years but not from mine.
- 59d. [Jump the broom, so to speak], WED. I know this is an African-American tradition but I didn’t know its roots, nor that the tradition’s also seen among the Roma of Wales.
Who likes the phonetic echo between WIMOWEH and NINEVEH? Can you name any other 7-letter words that end with EH?
What could be lamer than Debussy?
Lesser stuff: ASSAI, OCTA, MENLO, PVTS, PAWL (I pretty much never have need of knowing what you call a [Machine part connecting to a gearwheel]), and the plural OHS and HEHS.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “That Sounds Familiar”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Parts of today’s puzzle were well within my wheelhouse, and other parts were so far outside of it they have their own area code. Some patches I couldn’t fill in fast enough, and others sat open for quite a while. Eventually, it all came together in a somewhat-average-for-me solving time.
The theme was easy enough: the five longest answers in the grid all start with the same homonym:
- 17-Across: RAINN WILSON is the [Dwight Schrute portrayer on "The Office"]. That was one of the gimmes. I’m sticking with The Office for this final season, even though it’s becoming increasingly painful with each episode. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, but it should have been put to sleep at the end of last season.
- 22-Across: To [Establish fiscal prudence] is to REIN IN SPENDING. By this point, the theme was obvious. My only thought was “Where’s Reign of Fire or reign of terror? Where is it?”
- 37-Across: It’s not here. Instead we get RAIN CATS AND DOGS, a bizarre term meaning to [Come down in buckets]. One website says the term “might have its roots in Norse mythology, medieval superstitions, the obsolete word catadupe (waterfall), or dead animals in the streets of Britain being picked up by storm waters.” Take your pick
- 47-Across: RAYNE, LOUISIANA, is the [Cajun city nicknamed the "Frog Capital of the World"]. How ribbit-ing. Yeah, this was one of those “far outside the wheelhouse” answers. Even knowing the homonym wasn’t especially helpful since I had no idea about the spelling.
- 54-Across: Finally! REIGN OF FIRE is the [2002 Matthew McConaughey movie] notable for being one in which he removes his shirt.
Other items in the Sam Wheelhouse included [Moscato d'Asti, for one] (only my favorite all-time WINE), H.H. MUNRO, the [Short-story writer known as Saki] (I know him only because he was a theme entry in an old NYT puzzle of mine), carne ASADA and PICO de gallo (two of my favorites, along with most all Mexican fare), and DINO, the [Bedrock pet] that was a staple of my childhood.
Then there’s the stuff I plain didn’t know or couldn’t recall (in addition to RAYNE, LOUISIANA). First up, DOLMA, the [Stuffed grape leaf]. The only answer I have for that clue is NO, THANKS. Then there’s UINTA, the [Utah mountain range that includes Kings Peak]. That has to be a typo, right? Am I the only one who thinks of JUG as the [White lightning container, perhaps]? I was mildly surprised to see it was JAR. Finally, I know SPAIN, but not that it’s the [Alhambra setting]. Live and learn.
Favorite entry = HOOEY, or [Fiddle-faddle]. Favorite clue = [Half of nine?] for the two ENS in the word “nine.”
Barry C. Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Hi all! Two tournaments slated for today: one’s the Minnesota Crossword Tournament in St. Paul, MN, and the other is the 14th Annual Westport Library Crossword Tournament in Westport, CT. I’ll be at the latter. Can you believe the ACPT is just over a month away?
In the meantime, let’s talk about the puzzle we’ve got today from Barry C. Silk. I had a devilish time with this NW corner. My first entry was LOW BALANCE at 1a, confirmed by ANKA and E’ER running down. But then just a ton of nothing doing, so I putzed around the rest of the grid looking for a foothold. Turns out [Insufficient funds notification] was POSTAGE DUE, not LOW BALANCE. I kept wanting 17a, [London landmark], to be a proper noun — I think I was fooled by the similar 19a, KEW [London's ___ Gardens]. Nope, just the generic CLOCK TOWER. The icing on the difficult-NW cake was putting FROWNED at 3d for SCOWLED [Showed displeasure].
Two other missteps before I move on to the delightful stuff in this puzzle. First, I had SHYNESS at 42d for SLYNESS [Artful quality] until I realized that SEIDEH probably wasn’t the last name of anyone famous. Second, what the heck are OAT TRESSES? Nothing. They’re not a thing. MATTRESSES, however, are: see 61a, [Lying often involves them], which makes 56d [Mil. award] DSM, not DSO.
The highlight of this one for me is the long 15 running down the center of the grid — 8d, DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT [Key visibility aid?]. Great clue, unique entry. Lots of Scrabbly fill throughout (no Q, no Z), including TAXICAB, VANUATU, OKINAWA, BEVERLY, PICKLES, NAVY SEALS, and WAIMEA BAY ["Surfin' U.S.A." locale].
Favorite clue: 36d, NISSANS [Quests, e.g.]. I know this is an old trick, but it’s a new iteration of that trick to me (I’ve seen “Stanzas” and “Pathfinders” for the same entry, but “Quests” is my favorite so far).
Here’s your trivia fix for the day:
- 25d, NOMO [Only Japanese MLB player to pitch a no-hitter (he had two]. Hideo Nomo played for eight different MLB teams in his tenure. None of them were the crossword-beloved Orioles, sadly.
- 40d, ADONAIS [Shelley's ode to Keats], and 49d, ELIOT ["Ash Wednesday" poet]. Two kind of okay poems, I guess.
- 45a, SEIDEL [Weather Channel storm reporter Mike]. Are we supposed to know who he is? Granted, I don’t have a TV, so The Weather Channel isn’t my source for storm news. I’m more familiar with Erik Seidel, Hall-of-Fame poker player, but I don’t think he should be in a crossword either.
While we’re on gripes, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the phrase SCHOOL TIES [Basis for some social networks]. Never been a huge fan of EROSE. LXIV isn’t ideal but it makes the NE pretty, and it’s not like I haven’t been guilty of the Roman numeral offense. I guess LA-LA‘s almost always been clued as “___ land,” but I’m wonder if a Teletubbies clue would still be viable in this day and age. (Editor adds: Pshaw! The ‘Tubby is spelled Laa-Laa.)
All in all a fine puzzle, but not a sizzling one. 3.5 stars from me. Until next week!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (“Anna Stiga” byline)
Refresher course on Newsday pen names: Stan’s toughest themelesses and some themed puzzles are credited to S.N. His mid-range Stumpers are by Anna Stiga (anagrams to “Stan again”). His gentler themelesses are by Lester Ruff. His easy themers are by Sally R. Stein (“it’s really S.N.”) And when you see Lars G. Doubleday, that’s an anagram of Bradley and Douglas—Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson.
I slowed myself down in this one by letting 26a: TEN, [Two fins], branch out into two wrong answers. For 1d: [Nevertheless], I tried AND YET before AT THAT, and for 3d: [One from Weimar], I had GERMAN instead of TEUTON. Well! That pretty much shut down the whole quadrant until I backed into it later on with 19a: HOT TO TROT, [Really eager].
My other longest-lasting misstep was assuming that 16a: [Port visited by Commodore Perry] would be something like FORT ERIE (though that is on Lake Ontario, not Lake Erie). YOKOHAMA? Alrighty then! The Commodore got around. Did somebody say Commodores? Here’s “Brick House.”
Things I liked:
- 15a. [One of British rock's ''holy trinity''], THE WHO. I’m guessing the other two are the Beatles and the Stones?
- The RUPEE/RUBLE crossing. When I was a tender young solver, I think I tended to go with RU**E and let the crossings distinguish between the 23a: [Word from the Sanskrit for ''silver coin''] and 20d: [Maxim's scratch].
- 29a. [Dept. whose history goes back to Nightingale], ICU. I did not know that.
- 44a. [Parting word], TOODLES. I was all set to dislike this answer as stilted and contrived, but then I remembered how often I type that exact word.
- 60a. [CNN colleague of Wolf and Piers], ANDERSON. Three guys whose first names sound more like last names. [Piers' counterpart] or [Wolf's coworker] would be extra tough with the masked capital letter.
- 61a. [Buffett, per his nickname], ORACLE. Wouldn’t it be funny if people called Jimmy Buffett the Oracle of Margaritaville? (The clue’s about Warren B., Oracle of Omaha.)
- 7d. [Since lots wanted it], BY POPULAR DEMAND. The clue was mystifying, wasn’t it?
- 13d. [Twisted expression?], EMOTICON. Twisted 90 degrees to one side.
- 30d. [Run down], DIS. As in “running something down” in criticism, not running down with a car.
- 32d. [With 36 Across, rapper's woe], TIN EAR. I think this is the first time I’ve seen TIN EAR clued with reference to rappers rather than musicians from an older tradition.
- 35d. [2012 Niagara Falls aerialist], WALLENDA. Ah, yes. That guy.
- 54d. [Square one], NERD. You always want to start from nerd.
Like the NYT, this one’s a 70-worder. I like the open corners, and somehow stacks of 8s and 6s please me more than having four corners of stacked 7s. Why do you suppose that is? 4.25 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s January website puzzle — “The Great White Way” — Matt’s review
PDF-only for this month’s Blindauer, which suggests Across Lite-unfriendly hijinks afoot. Indeed it wasn’t long before answers began not fitting into their assigned spaces, but I figured out quickly what was going on from the riff this puzzle takes off an earlier Blindauer masterpiece. The title helped, too.
As you can see from the solution grid (I solved it in Paint, click to enlarge) there’s a swath of white spaces cutting irregularly through the center of the grid. Answers split by the Great White Way continue on the other side of it.
This puzzle takes its cue from one of my favorite puzzles of 2012, Patrick Blindauer’s “Little White Lie” (Fireball Crosswords, 1/25/12). I can’t recall having ever seen this gimmick (extraneous white squares in the grid form a pattern of some kind) before “Little White Lie,” whose solution is reprinted at left. As you can see, the letters remaining in white after you solve spell L-I-E. What an elegant and unique idea that was, and how smartly it was executed.
This puzzle is well-executed, too, but the payoff isn’t as good here (a white stripe down the center of the grid) as the L-I-E last January. That one had a truly great, scales-fall-from-your-eyes a-ha moment, while this one felt more like just a mental “OK, I see how that works.” But if you hadn’t seen the L-I-E puzzle, you probably liked this one a lot more than someone who had.
He did sneak in a subtle theme, with PAPER TRAIL, MAIN COURSE and PATHFINDER each bisected by the theme stripe (trail, course, path).
Now I have that eerie feeling on a Blindauer puzzle when you suspect you’re missing another level. I checked to see if the stripe matched the path of Broadway in NYC but it doesn’t appear to. Are DIAMOND RING and SAVED ENERGY part of an overarching super-theme I’m not seeing?
Enlighten me in comments if so. If there’s nothing else then we’ll say 4.05 stars. If there’s something else then maybe much higher.