Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “A Whiff of Cologne”
That’s Köln to those who speak Deutsch, of course. The city of Köln is called Cologne in English, for which I blame the French. The byline should really read “Dan Prettywood,” because that’s what that translates to.
Matt Gaffney includes German words beyond DER/DAS/EIN/EINS/EINE in his MGWCC puzzles, and I generally appreciate that because I studied German for five years. The crosswords expect us all to be familiar with far more French and Spanish words than German ones, and you know what? I’m better with the German ones. Today’s theme is English loanwords that came straight from German:
- 21a. [Alternative to white], PUMPERNICKEL. “Bumpkin.”
- 102a. [Low grade?], KINDERGARTEN. “Children’s garden.”
- 15d. [Novel that focuses on character growth], BILDUNGSROMAN. “Education novel.”
- 26d. [Practical approach to diplomacy], REALPOLITIK. Go ahead, guess what those word parts mean. “Real politics”? Not quite. “Practical politics.”
- 44d. [Rapper?], POLTERGEIST. “Ghost that creates a disturbance.” The term polterwang should really be geistwang.
- 46d. [Forceful advance], BLITZKRIEG. “Lightning war.”
- 50d. [Informal social gathering], KAFFEEKLATSCH. “Coffee gossip,” straight up.
I relished this theme, and in fact enjoyed the whole puzzle. You’ve got some longish fill—I love a Snickers with ALMONDS. PIPE IN works for music and water. The ARCHDUKE Franz Ferdinand echoes the theme. LOW-RENT and UP-RIVER are good. I liked the double-Roosevelt cluing for TAFT and TRUMAN. Wallace BEERY would be outdated but a BEERY frat party works nicely, especially if you’re looking to get trashed.
I was surprised to learn that Barack OBAMA was 85d: [Time's second African-American Person of the Year]. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the first. A specific American woman has been honored by Time just once, in the 1930s (Wallis Simpson). Really, Time?
4.25 stars from me. Das Kreuzworträtsel ist sehr gut!
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 148″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here on Super Bowl Sunday. The game will probably be boring, so be sure to bring some puzzles to the party. This one’s worth solving during the game, even if it’s tied in the 4th quarter.
- 17a. [Chewing the doors, for example] - SPOONERISM. Took me way too long to figure this one out. Great clue.
- 18a. [Humphries of the Brooklyn Nets] – KRIS. Not a great basketball player. This dude’s claim to fame is that he was married to Kim Kardashian for a couple of months. And I just noticed that he has the same first name as his ex-mother-in-law, Kris Jenner.
- 58a. [Only performer to appear in every episode of "Knots Landing"] – MICHELE LEE. My first thought was Joan Van Ark. Just checked the Wikipedia page. Holy crap, the show was on for 14 seasons! I had no idea. And Michele Lee “was the only cast member to appear in all 344 episodes, which was a record for most appearances of a female character on American primetime television. The record was surpassed in 2008 by S. Epatha Merkerson’s character on NBC’s Law & Order.” I’ve got news for Wikipedia. Marge Simpson has them both beat.
- 6d. [Little, for one] – APER. Rich Little. He’s still around, though most of the people he impersonates are dead.
- 47a. ["The Weiner Schnitzel Waltz" songwriter] – TOM LEHRER. I went to Wienerschnitzel the other day (Yep, I’m all about healthy food) and saw that they’re running a new contest. You post a caption or something on their Facebook page, and you can win a “Der Prize Package.” I assume it’s a collection of chili dog-themed puzzles by Kevin Der. I’m in! They’ve got the word “Der” plastered on everything in the restaurant. I hope Kevin’s getting royalties.
- 32d. [TV show whose premiere episode was No. 1 in the ratings] – RHODA. Loved the clue. Classic ’70s TV, and right up my alley. Wikipedia tells me it was the #7 ranked show during the 1975–1976 television season, tied with Sanford and Son. That’s what I’m talking about.
More stuff I liked: TATE MODERN, CRATER LAKE, VEAL OSCAR, and HOME ROW.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
The top half fell in less than four minutes, but it took almost another eight full minutes to get through the southern hemisphere of today’s 66/26 freestyle Sunday Challenge. 1-Across, the [Obsessed captain] AHAB was practically a gimme, and the whole northwest corner seemed to fall in what for me would have been near-record time. It all unfolded so neatly and with such little resistance. The only hiccup was guessing BALDNESS as the [Jean-Luc Picard feature] instead of BALD PATE, which made the southwest a little tougher to access.
Building off the Z in GORGONZOLA(-esque), ZELIG was an easy get as the [Woody Allen film of 1983]. NO MAS and RELIC soon followed, along with GREASE, the [Musical about Danny and Sandy]. But then it started to slow down. I went from flying to flopping in very short order. I couldn’t remember how to spell TOUAREG, the [Volkswagen SUV], and I kept wanting KISSES for BUSSES, the [Pecks]. SENTENCES and USAIN Bolt were easy enough, but the rest of the northeast took a while.
The biggest spots of quicksand for me included, first, SOLIPSIST, the [One who knows his own mind?]. (Solipsism, you see, is “the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure.”–Thanks, Wikipedia.) Then there was BLACK METAL, the [Underground music genre] unfamiliar to me. I also didn’t know THE TERROR, a [1963 Jack Nicholson movie]. And I seemed to try every version of “artery” before tumbling to ARTERIOLE as the [Small blood vessel]. So when you add those all together and toss in an insistence that a [Volcanic deposit] is ASHES instead of the then-unknown-to-me SCREE, you have the recipe for a very slow solve.
For a 66-word grid, though, this one is quite smooth. If pressed to find a bad entry, the best I could do would be to point at ENC or maybe RATERS or ORNE. When that’s the worst of it in a 66-answer grid, you really ought not complain.
Favorite entry = DEAR SANTA, the [Start of a letter of request]. Favorite clue = [He said "Media is the plural of mediocre"] for Jimmy BRESLIN.
Henry Hook’s CRooked Crossword, “That Hurts!” — pannonica’s review
Hold still, this won’t hurt a bit. It’s just a tiny implant, a mere bigraph. Oh, but there’s eight of them. Now count backward from 127…
- 23a. [Hollyhock or hibiscus grown domestically?] MALL(OW) OF AMERICA. Yes, there is an antecedent.
- 33a. [Ingenues?] CALL(OW) GIRLS. This sounds far-fetched for the convenience of a story, but it’s true. This was the first themer I completed, and—having not looked at the puzzle’s title, as per usual—I figured that the original bit was COWGIRLS, with ALL being the introduced part. Guess I should have known better, considering the constructor.
- 67a. [Cowardly insurgent] REBEL YELL(OW), though it sounds more natural as yellow coward.
- 103a. [Force behind a cricket bat?] WILL(OW) POWER.
- 117a. [Italian acres where nothing grows now?] THE FALL(OW) OF ROME. Ow, >groan<.
- 19d. [Headrest, a bit redundantly] SLEEPING PILL(OW). Only a bit, as it’s true there are pillows intended for other purposes.
- 34d. ["FREEDOM!" e.g.?] LIBERTY BELL(OW).
- 49d. [Sanctify CRTs?] HALL(OW) MONITORS.
It seems unnecessary to the mechanics of the theme, but all of the OWs are inserted after double-Ls. Certainly there must be phrases with other configurations that could be altered to something sensible by the introduction of O-W? My guess is that, as the puzzle was taking shape, there was a preponderance of –LLOW entries so, rather than end up with a noticeable imbalance, it was deemed better to change course and head directly into the storm. Makes for good consistency, but also has the side effect of giving the solver extra ‘free’ letters.
The rest of the puzzle’s fill was mostly strong, including longer fill such as FREESTYLE, IN A SWIVET, the quasipartial KEEP OFF OF, RIPOSTES, and PARALLELS. There were a bunch of proper names that I didn’t know at all: Louisiana’s Lake BORGNE, actress BAI Ling, Uhry’s chauffeur HOKE, baseballer ELSTON Howard, physiologist Otto LOEWI, chemotherapy drug TAXOL, the Chinese city WUHAN, actor George EADS, and the otherwise common name RON (I just didn’t know the one in question, [Comedian White].
Some notable clues: 63a [Preference maker] L’OREAL. Unusual daughter-mother analogy 124a [Caroline : Jacqueline :: Susan : __ ] BETTY, 119d [Moo goo gai pan pan] WOK. Least favorite clue and answer: 79d [Start of a "Mary Poppins" song] CHIM.
There seemed to be a lot of partials in the grid, more than a few particularly heinous, but I won’t enumerate them here; it’s the impression that counts when assessing a puzzle.
Last, I liked some PARALLELS and echoes in the clues and/or answers: LILI and MIMI (4a, 1d); 3d [Euclidean triangle?] DELTA, 61d [Third consonant] DEE; DAEDAL, OREAD (31a, 26a).
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Repeat Performance”
This 20×21 puzzle has a dense quip theme (urgh), some awkward fill, and a plethora of proper nouns. Here’s the quip: PLEASE HELP ME. / I’M CAUGHT IN A TIME LOOP. / EVERY MORNING, I WAKE UP, I / FLIP ON THE TV, AND / NO MATTER WHAT CHANNEL I / TURN TO, THEY’RE SHOWING / “GROUNDHOG DAY.” It’s kinda funny, but I seldom enjoy the process of working through all the crossings and surrounding fill to piece together the words in a quote or quip. (I know some folks love quote themes. If you are one of them, then we must agree to disagree on the worth of this theme type.)
1-Across fired a shot across the bow. 1a: [Japanese mat that contains "mat" backward]? I seldom encounter TATAMI outside of crosswords. I quizzed my husband on it. When I gave him the first 5 letters, he still didn’t get it. At least the “‘mat’ backwards” bit gives the solver 3 letters, but the rest of the grid bore out what TATAMI announced:
- 38a: [Product ID: abbr.], SERNO, ser. no., serial number? Uh, not sure I’ve ever seen that, in or out of crosswords.
- Two long Downs were unknown to me—3d: [Tarot card symbolizing creation], THE EMPRESS, and 73d: [1903 Elgar oratorio], THE KINGDOM.
- 50d. [End-of-the-day work stack], OUT PILE? Is this a term you use?
- 79d. [Improv music popularized by Ella Fitzgerald], SCAT SONGS. Is this a term you use? OUT SONGS and SCAT PILE work nearly as well. Okay, one of them does.
- 54d. ["And so she ___ steadily, And little other care has she" (Tennyson)], WEAVETH. All crossings for me.
- 66d. [Sweet'___], N LOW. Ooh, that’s ugly fill. “Sweet’n Low” is how the brand styles it.
- 90d. [Product-launch pronouncement], IT’S NEW. Really?
- 25a. [Abbr. on cans of motor oil], SAE. No idea what it stands for. I’m guessing it isn’t “self-addressed envelope” here.
- The proper nouns! Oy. Roll call! OMAR, ABEL, CAIRO, San REMO, LIBYAN, SAUDI, OLSEN, MIA, ENNIO, HMONG, ELMORE, ARA, Perle MESTA, ROMANO, AMELIA, ERATO, REBA, CHER, TRINI, MILAN, ERIK, OMANI, YURI, plural NOAHS, STEPH, soprano Lily PONS, SRI Lanka, NAVI, Alley OOP, and GMA. Some of these are solid fill, and some of these (you know who you are, ARA PONS TRINI MESTA ENNIO REMO) fall into the overused or old crosswordese categories.
The humor of the quip doesn’t buy enough forgiveness for all the fill I found off-putting. 2.5 stars from me. Your mileage may vary, etc., etc.
Bruce Sutphin and Doug Peterson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Kiddie Taxidermy”
Subtle theme, no? I had the whole puzzle finished and still didn’t understand the theme. 120a: [Cuddly toys, or what can be found at the two-letter "head" and "tail" of the answers to starred clues] clues STUFFED ANIMALS, and even though I got that early on (the starred theme clues sent me to the end to look for a theme revealer), it wasn’t helping me fill in the rest of this (smooth, easy) puzzle.
You know why the theme revealer didn’t help me? Because the clue was too long and I didn’t read all of it. I saw the “‘head’ and ‘tail’ of the answers” part, but skipped right over the “two-letter” part that holds the key. Each long answer has a 4-letter animal hiding as the first and last 2 letters:
- 23a. [*High-ranking administrator], SENIOR OFFICIAL. Seal.
- 34a. [*Really pricey spread], BELUGA CAVIAR. Bear. Bear and seal are also verbs.
- 51a. [*Home of a 360-member music group], MORMON TABERNACLE. Mole. Could be part of a “stuffed dermatology terms” theme too.
- 69a. [*"Love, Actually" actor], LIAM NEESON. Lion. Should I see this movie?
- 72a. [*Get down and dirty?], MUD-WRESTLE. Mule. Could be part of a “stuffed shoes” theme too. (Also? Terrific crossword entry!)
- 90a. [*Teetotaler, for the night], DESIGNATED DRIVER. Deer.
- 104a. [*Vera Wang's field], HAUTE COUTURE. Hare.
Five more clues:
- 40d. [Nolan Ryan, notably], FIREBALLER. So I guess that’s a baseball term for the kind of pitcher he was? Husband confirms: fastballs. And here I thought it was just a term for people who subscribe to Fireball Crosswords.
- 52d. [Title woman in a Jolson classic], MAMMY. I didn’t know.
- 46d. [Coffee pot remnant], DREG. Is the singular DREG essentially a casual back-formation from the more familiar plural noun dregs?
- 33d. ["Rodent" band since the 1980s], RATT. They’re more metal than small mammal.
- 24d. [Symbol of decency], FIGLEAF.
Highlights in the fill and clues include Kate WINSLET, POP OFF, [Copy cats?] cluing copy EDITORS, [It may influence which club you choose] cluing a golf ball’s LIE (there are so many meanings of “lie” that can be used in the clue, and this one’s not the most obvious), FIGLEAF, FIREBALLER, SPLIT-LEVEL, Che GUEVARA, and BATMAN.
Simple theme, smooth solve. Four stars.