John Farmer’s New York Times crossword
The theme is fairly well explained via the puzzle’s notepad entry: “The answer to each starred clue is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. A certain four-letter word (spelled out clockwise by the circled squares) can follow the first half and precede the second half of each of these answers, in each case to complete another compound word or familiar two-word phrase.” The 4-letter word is BOOK. Here are the starred theme answers:
- 17a. [*Approval indicators], CHECKMARKS. Checkbook, bookmarks.
- 21a. [*Ban], BLACKLIST. Black book, Booklist. Neat that [Ban] works to clue it as both a noun and a verb.
- 39a. [*December 31], YEAR END. Yearbook, bookend.
- 55a. [*What a "forever" stamp lacks], FACE VALUE. Facebook, book value.
- 64a. [*Union supporter?], MATCHMAKER. Matchbook, bookmaker. “Matchmaker, matchmaker, light me a cigarette.”
- 11d. [*Magazine with an annual Hollywood issue], VANITY FAIR. Vanity book (what is that? a book published by a vanity press, Google suggests), book fair.
- 28d. [*Sailor], BLUEJACKET. Blue book, book jacket. Bluejacket is unfamiliar to me.
The notepad showed up on the nytimes.com main puzzle page, so I read it in case it was one of those “listen, you really should solve on the PDF this time” notes, but it wasn’t. I usually avoid the notepad until such time as I am befuddled (which may not happen). So with the B in the first square and CHECKMARKS, boom, I knew it was going to be BOOK. Slightly wind-aided solving time, therefore.
Ten more things:
- 1a. [Balkan land], BOSNIA. Inveterate Sporclers tried to fit ANDHERZEGOVINA into the black square after the A.
- 10a. [Former Chevy subcompact], AVEO. I knew the O would be in the circled square, but I hadn’t known that the Aveo was now a “former” model.
- 15a. [Burmese P.M.], U NU. Hoary crosswordese guy. Not the current P.M. Burma has a president now (Sein Thein), and no prime minister. SEIN is a German verb (“to be”) that just about never shows up in crosswords (despite ETRE and ESSE polluting the grid all the dang time), but maybe the Burmese president can bust his name into the crossword mainstream.
- 31a. [Repeated cry in the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"], HEY! HO! Let’s go! Not to be confused with The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey.”
- 59a. [2007-08 N.B.A. M.V.P., to fans], KOBE. That “to fans” made me think it was a nickname, but no, just Mr. Bryant’s first name.
- 71a. [City ESE of the 10-Down], OSH, ESE of the ARAL SEA. Good lord, that’s a terrible concatenation, and the “ESE” isn’t helping.
- 49d. [Santa Fe or Tucson, in brief], SUV. Ha! I like this sort of tricky clue.
- 66d. [Wartime stat], M.I.A. Number of people missing in action. That’s … depressing.
- John doesn’t seem to be updating his movie info blog anymore, but he’s packed this puzzle with movie stuff: FBI AGENT (Johnny Depp’s Public Enemies was filmed in my part of Chicago), Barbara BACH, Annie Hall’s NECKTIE, the AGEES of Hoop Dreams, and FARGO.
- With a theme square count approaching 70, there’s also a smattering of the blahs: U NU, ORU, INKA, NYER, OSH, KATS, ANYA, one ALP (you never get one Rocky or Ande, do you?), KOH, and ORTS.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Eat Your Fruits and Veggies”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the five theme entries in today’s puzzle contains a fruit or vegetable. It’s the hidden word gimmick, but with the twist that the hidden word is different each time. Let’s get our five servings of fruits and vegetables by reviewing the theme entries:
- 17-Across: To [Clear, as a tear (with a hidden veggie)] is to WIPE AWAY, containing a “pea.” As a kid, I argued that by eating two peas I had eaten two vegetables. I lost.
- 20-Across: One who [Set up camp (with a hidden fruit)] has PITCHED A TENT; the hidden fruit is a “date.” For the record, an abundance of jokes presented themselves when I originally typed “pitched a tent with a date.” I just want to note my maturity in passing on them.
- 37-Across: The [Opening night expression (with a hidden veggie)] is BREAK A LEG, inside of which you’ll find “kale.” (I mean “you’ll find the word ‘kale’ inside of ‘break a leg,’ not that if you break open a leg you’ll find kale.)
- 56-Across: The [Chemical group that included sodium and lithium (with a hidden fruit)] is ALKALI METALS, hiding a “lime” inside.
- 62-Across: The [Mailing option (with a hidden veggie)] is BOOK RATE, containing The Official Vegetable of Crosswords, “okra.”
I love the wide open corners in the northeast and southwest, though that lower-left corner proved to be the bear that added 90 seconds to my solving time. I managed to get IDAHOS, the [Baking spuds] and DETEST, to [Dislike with a passion], easily enough, and I was reasonably sure that the METALS in 56-Across were indeed ALKALIs. But I was even more sure that the [Starship Enterprise letters] were USS, and that made the crossing Downs just impossible. [Basic, chemically] turned out to be NON-ACID, but I had ??UA?ID in my grid. That’s an ugly letter sequence, but I couldn’t dismiss it as wrong because I just didn’t see any errors. My grid wanted an answer that fit ??SK?AT for [Consist of], so naturally I hit another wall there. It wasn’t until I tried NIP AT for [Lightly bite] and ON A TEAR for [Zooming] that I realized the answer to [Consist of] was INCLUDE and that the Enterprise letters were instead NCC. Oops. From there the corner finally fell.
I also love how Patrick smushed together the theme entries at the top and bottom. You can’t always get theme entries to cooperate like that, and I would have been too chicken to try. Patrick makes it look effortless, as he usually does.
Favorite entry = ELPHABA, the ["Wicked" heroine]. Favorite clue = [Person who is saving the world?] for PACKRAT. That’s just awesome.
Eric Williams’ Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
The theme is a list. The list is 3 entries long. The three films in the list are ones for which WOODYALLEN received screenwriting Oscars. So sayeth the clue. It’s a neat touch to get two of the down themers to interlock with the middle across spanner, and allows less strain to be placed on fill. I haven’t seen many Woody Allen films, and none of the 3 in the grid, though the names were neverletheless familiar. There’s also a bonus in ANTZ, which although Allen didn’t write, he did star in (vocally).
If you were solving the puzzle in Across Lite like I was, then you probably struggled to read the quotes. For MIDNIGHTINPARIS, the clue reads [2011 film in which Owen Wilson says, "Wonderful but forgettable. That sounds like a picture I've seen. I probably wrote it."] HANNAHAND/HERSISTERS‘ clue reads [1986 film in which Dianne Wiest says, "But you have to remember, while you read and you're cursing my name, that this is my first script.] ANNIEHALL has the clue [1977 film in which 59-Across says, "Awards! They do nothing but give out awards!"]. I think all 3 quotes are meant to refer back to the theme? If so that’s a neat touch!
Rich Norris is constrained by newspaper space, so the length of the clues in their entirety is limited. I’m guessing that, after the theme clues, there wasn’t much more space left for the rest! So if you’re wondering why the other clues seem brief, that’s the reason.
A brief selection of other answers and I’m done:
- Both [U2 producer or, backwards, U2 hit] and [Justin Bieber or the golden calf] make use of “or” in interesting ways.
- [Close-Up, e.g.] for TOOTHPASTE. Wait, it’s sold here!! Is it the same thing? Ours have creepy smiling couples on the tubes!
- Hands up if you only know that [Simoleons] are MOOLA because of Sim City. What, only me!
- The clue [Oldest musketeer] may as well have read [Musketeer whose name has five letters]
- I’ve seen some claim the [Minister's house] MANSE is obscure crossword-ese. Both churches I’ve attended have pastors who stay at manses. So they definitely are a real life thing!
That’s me for today! See you in the comments!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Puzzle Shmuzzle”
I wish somebody would combine Snoop Doggisms with Yiddishisms so we could say “Puzzizzle Shmuzzizzle” instead. Ben’s theme just plays around with the Yiddish convention in the title and changes familiar phrases by adding an SH or SCH (either is correct when it comes to transliterating Yiddish words from their original right-to-left Hebrew letters) at the front of a word:
- 17a. [Department of urology?], SCHLONG DIVISION. Urologists do deal with women’s bladders and kidneys too, you know. But this is funny anyway.
- 27a. [99% of the toys baby Julius owns, e.g.?], CHILD SCHLOCK. Is it mostly plastic? Was it made in China? One or both of these apply to probably 99% of what’s sold in Toys R Us.
- 36a. [Woody Allen's whole thing?], NERVOUS SHTICK. Brilliant! Nervous tic —> SHTICK perfectly encapsulates Woody’s vibe.
- 45a. [Total jerk lawn care guy?], SCHMUCKRAKER. Many of today’s so-called journalists are in the business of schmuckraking. See: Huffington Post aggregation, linkbait headlines, newspaper homepage links to salacious videos and celebrity gossip.
- 59a. [Meager cream cheese portion?], SCHMEER PITTANCE. I’m more familiar with the schmear spelling, but my dictionary lists all four ee/ea and sh/sch combos.
- 19a. [Org. that permits Pete Weber's post-roll "crotch chop"], PBA. Frankly, I don’t know enough about the crude moves of professional bowlers.
- 53a. [Acts like a little bitch, perhaps], YIPS like a small female dog. Yappy little male dogs are no less annoying.
- 66a. [Magazine that started Occupy Wall Street], ADBUSTERS.
- 25d. [Formed sides, as for teams], CHOSE UP. Choosing up sides, familiar language.
- 28d. [CA airport with a See's Candies store], SFO. I looked up the company’s website to confirm that its name was styled correctly here when I test-solved the puzzle. I saw a caramel/marshmallow/chocolate candy reminiscent of a favorite candy from Chicago’s Fannie May. Then I asked my husband to pick some up for me for Valentine’s Day. Then he forgot which candy I wanted and bought two other boxes. Then he went back on Thursday and bought a small box of Carmarshes. And this is why I hold Ben Tausig responsible for the weight gain over the past six days. (We don’t have See’s around here.)
Did not know:
- 8d. [Developer chemical, in photography], AMIDOL. ["Do you have ___ or Pamprin I can borrow?": 2 wds.] would work too.
- 40d. ["Star Wars" race], HUK. I imagine these creatures have fins.
Rating, schmating. I give this puzzle four stars.