Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
Today, we’ve got a straight-up trivia theme: Five song titles that are also the names of thoroughfares. I love the theme because it put four of those songs swirling in my head instantly.
- 17a. [Where "we can make it if we run," per Bruce Springsteen (1975)], THUNDER ROAD. Here’s Bruce performing it live in 1976.
- 24a. [Where "the nights are stronger than moonshine," per America (1972)], VENTURA HIGHWAY. This one I don’t recall.
- 37a. [Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello," per the Beatles (1967)], PENNY LANE. We all know what the Beatles’ version sounds like. Here’s Elvis Costello singing it for Sir Paul and the Obamas in 2010.
- 52a. [Where "we gonna rock down to," per Eddy Grant (1983)], ELECTRIC AVENUE. The source of my favorite personal mondegreen: “Deep in my heart I abhor ye.” (“… I’m a warrior.” So close!) My dear friend Robin lives near Brixton, in London, where the song is centered, though back in the ’80s I thought it was a Caribbean song; I blame the dreadlocks. You know you want to sing along.
- 61a. [Where "you'll drink the night away and forget about everything," per Gerry Rafferty (1978)], BAKER STREET. Even more horn action than “Penny Lane.” I can’t imagine anything so snoozy hitting the top 40 today, but I sure enjoyed it in 1978.
Thirteen non-theme answers are 7+ letters long. I’m fondest of SCRAWLS, THE SHAH, INDIGNANT, YOU’RE ON, Justice STEVENS, and, in the shorter zone, MAN RAY and an ice cream SUNDAE. I’m also keen on CPA, as I’m seeing my accountant during Tuesday’s winter storm (ack) and will have my taxes done eons earlier than usual.
In the “hello, it’s Tuesday, who put you here?” category, we have these:
- 47a. [Figure in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts], HELLE.
- 65a. ["Peer Gynt" widow], ASE.
- 1d. [Times Square sign shown in lowercase letters], TKTS. Some answers are easy for local NYT crossword solvers and “Huh?” for the national/syndication crowd.
- 18d. [Liquide clair], EAU. French for “clear liquid” and “water.”
- 59d. [Eye irritation], STYE. Wait, is STYE tougher fill than the VAS deferens? You might pick up the vas deferens in high school health class.
I enjoyed the musical trip down memory lane and bestow four stars, one for each song I knew.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “What Is This?”
Each of the eight theme answers, when preceded by “This is …,” might answer the question in the puzzle’s title.
- 14a. [*Phrase once heard before a long beep], ONLY A TEST. The test of the Emergency Broadcast System? That, sir, is no mere “beep.” It’s more of a godawful, heinous mechanical screech.
- 17a. [*Part of a memorable anti-drug commercial], YOUR BRAIN. It’s on drugs.
- 26a. [*Cliche line from bank robbers], A STICKUP.
- 32a. [*Short poem by William Carlos Williams], JUST TO SAY. That bastard done et the plums I was saving for breakfast.
- 46a. [*1995 hit for Montell Jordan], HOW WE DO IT. I missed most of the pop music of the ’90s. Caught a little grunge. Here’s the video.
- 51a. [*Game show intro], JEOPARDY. Technically, the intro must be punctuated dramatically, right? “This … is … Jeopardy!!!”
- 66a. [*Dignified (but angry) complaint], AN OUTRAGE.
- 70a. [*Movie with the line "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever"], SPINAL TAP.
Eight theme answers is a lot, but they’re not too long. But half of them do appear in the guise of stacked 9s, which makes for a tougher task of filling the grid.
- 44a. ["But you told me that..." retort], I LIED. Try to work this into your conversation on Tuesday.
- 64a. [Tabriz resident], IRANI. No! That would be an Iranian.
- 69a. [Kenneth and Ashley], COLES. Kenneth Cole is a shoes/accessories fashion brand. Who is Ashley Cole? Oh! I was expecting some young actress wannabe, but it’s a handsome fella who plays soccer for Tyler Hinman’s favorite Premier League team, Chelsea.
- 9d. ["Twilight" characters], VAMPIRE. Extraneous “s” in the clue, or oddball plural you have to be a Twilight insider to know?
- 11d. ["Dinosaur Hunter" in a Nintendo series], TUROK. Yeah, I always get him mixed up with Sol Hurok and Scott Turow.
Fill I could do without, that we wouldn’t be looking at if the puzzle had four theme entries instead of eight: URI, ECLAT, IRANI, ERNS, JAI, NEC, ASCH, ODA, ELIHU. Ouch.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Internal Agreements”- Sam Donaldson’s review
I could tell from the puzzle’s title that Martin was employing the hidden word gimmick, but even after I had a couple of the theme entries in place, I couldn’t readily see the hidden word. Fortunately, 54-Down, over there in the southwest corner, told me that AMEN was the [Word of agreement found inside 17-, 39-, and 61-Across, and 7-Down]. Holy schnikes! We have four 15-letter theme entries (already ambitious, but not unusual from Martin Ashwood-Smith), but this time one of them intersects all of the other three right down the middle! And only one of the theme entries felt entirely foreign to me (you’ll know which one when we get to it). That’s a pretty impressive construction!
The four theme entries, in the order listed in the revealer, with the word of agreement highlighted:
- 17-Across: The [Enrico Caruso contemporary] is DAME NELLIE MELBA. I had no idea. (Given the dame’s surname, you might say I was toast.) But that’s what crossings are for, right?
- 39-Across: A [Law producer, in England] is an ACT OF PARLIAMENT. In my native land, it’s an “act of Congress.” Long-time readers know I prefer hidden words that straddle words over those contained entirely within one word (short reason for my preference = it renders the extra words like ACT OF irrelevant). But at least this is not the only theme entry where the hidden word is found within one word; thus we cannot dock points for inconsistency.
- 61-Across: One who MADE A MENTAL NOTE has [Tried to remember, in a way]. I make many mental notes but I find later that I can’t read my own brainwriting.
- 7-Down: [Links competitions] are not sausage-eating contests but GOLF TOURNAMENTS. Again, the hidden word is contained withing one longer word, but hey–this one also intersects the other three right at that midpoint. That extra touch completely offsets my nit about straddling hidden words. Can I get an AMEN?
Given the placement of the four theme entries over 57 theme squares, one could be prepared for subpar fill. But look at some of the loveliness inside: TRAIPSE, TIPTOE, GAS PUMP, ICE BAG, SEIKO watches, and Jules MASSENET among others. Some of our most familiar crossword friends make an appearance, like ERIE, ELBA, URAL, ARGOT, ENYA, and Zhou En-LAI, and the iffy stuff is limited to TRAS and ENTR. I’d declare it a success.
Favorite entry = PEEKABOO, the [Baby's game]. I totally ruled at that game. Favorite clue = [Paper route?] for MAP.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I thought the fourth theme answer was going to end with a word meaning “group of things/people,” since nation, collection, and union all share that vibe. Then the fourth themer turned out to be STATION BREAKS, and I began looking for TV networks split across words in the theme answers. RNA? MPC? Wha…? That isn’t the point at all, of course; the word station is broken by other letters appearing in the word’s midst:
- 20a. [Pittsburgh fan base, collectively], STEELER NATION. Fresh fill.
- 27a. [Philatelist's pride], STAMP COLLECTION.
- 49a. [Annual political speech], STATE OF THE UNION.
- 57a. [Commercial interruptions literally found in this puzzle's three other longest answers], STATION BREAKS.
Note that Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter nailed down three different splits (st/ation, sta/tion, stat/ion) and placed them in a natural progression.
Like the NYT puzzle today, this one’s got plenty of 7- and 8-letter answers. PETER PAN, STAND-UP comedy, HOUSECAT, and TICKLED are especially nice.
Toughest Tuesday bits:
- 10a. [Highland tongue], ERSE. This word for the Scottish or Irish Gaelic language is marked as “dated” in the dictionary. Crosswords are the last stomping ground for dated/archaic/obsolete words.
- 34a. ["Bus Stop" playwright], William INGE. What’s his level of fame/distinction outside of crosswords, compared with his playwright peers? To the Wikipedia! (Theater is not my strong suit.) He won a Pulitzer (for Picnic) and had hit plays on Broadway, and his lesser-known works have gotten some attention in recent years.
- 62a. [City near Sacramento], LODI. Probably easier for LA Times home subscribers than for the nationally syndicated crossword junkies.
- 10d. [Nixon attorney general Richardson], ELLIOT. The more familiar El(l)iot(t)s are spelled Eliot or Elliott.
- 13d. [Twisty curve], ESS. You may think it’s an “S” curve that gives your power steering a workout on a bendy road, but in crosswords, it’s an ESS.
3.5 stars. I could do without ELS, NEHI, AAAS, ANEEL, ERSE, LIC, A-ONE, etc., but the puzzle fell quickly and the theme’s got an elegance to its structure.