Good news! If you’re am iPad/iPhone puzzle solver, the American Red Crosswords set of puzzles are now available for iOS via the Puzzazz app. Details here, along with links for those of you outside the U.S. who’d like to support the Red Cross/Red Crescent.
Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword, “Seven Blurbs for Seven Biographies”
Team Fiend’s Sam brings us this week’s NYT puzzle, with seven “The X of Y” phrases morphed into “The Y of X,” with that X word playing the part of a famous person in the altered titles:
- 22a. ["It's worth it just for Ms. Behar's famous lasagna recipe"], THE COOKING OF JOY. No! Don’t do it! Society frowns upon cannibalism. (The Joy of Cooking is a noted cookbook.)
- 35a. ["An insightful look at how playing Miss Brooks took its toll on Ms. Arden"], THE DESTRUCTION OF EVE. (“The Eve of Destruction.”)
- 48a. ["You don't have to be a gardener to dig this book about Kerouac's tools"], THE SPADES OF JACK. (The jack of spades is a playing card and an obscure movie.)
- 58a. ["Finally, we learn how one Jonas brother defined an entire generation"], THE TIME OF NICK. (I like the apt “finally” in this blurb.)
- 73a. ["Clinton's a well-known southpaw, so this exposé on his other-handed punches is an eye-opener"], THE RIGHTS OF BILL. Long clue!
- 87a. ["Required reading for all 'Purple Rain' fans who think their idol is too goody-goody"], THE DARKNESS OF PRINCE. I always suspected.
- 103a. ["A gripping narrative about one folk singer's violent turn against Paul Simon"], THE WARFARE OF ART.
Cute theme. At first I thought all of the base phrases were real titles of various works of literature/film, but I think they’re just phrases, some of which happen to have been used as titles.
Lovely assortment of long fill here. We’ve got TEETOTALERS; Cather’s O PIONEERS!; a CORD OF WOOD, which I like because I recently read an entertaining NYT article about a hit Norwegian book and TV show about … firewood, and the proper stacking thereof; EASY DOES IT; a RIVERBOAT casino; the [Last Incan emperor], ATAHUALPA; an annoying pill BLISTER-PACK; ONION DIP; BIG LEAD; the BAY STATE; GET ON IT; overly touristy NAVY PIER; and C.S. LEWIS with a neat clue, [Author with a fan site called "Into the Wardrobe"]. Mind you, I could do without 17d: PASSIVATE, or [Give an anticorrosive coating]; that was a toughie.
Five fave clues:
- 52a. [Long time follower?], NO SEE.
- 6d. [French press remnants], coffee GROUNDS.
- 45d. [Be all thumbs as a writer?], TEXT.
- 69d. [Take aboard a spaceship, maybe], ABDUCT. Because, good gravy, this answer’s clue could get dismal.
- 72d. [Casino that's partly underwater?], RIVERBOAT.
Four stars from me for a playful theme and lots of juicy fill.
Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times variety crossword, “Takeaway Crossword”
I worked through the puzzle, another of Matt Ginsberg’s “Takeaway” crosswords, without reading the notepad. It took a little while to remember what the deal is with the letters replaced by asterisks in the clues. The notepad explains it all clearly: “One letter of the alphabet has been removed from each clue every time it appears in the clue. If you remove this letter from the clue’s answer, the remaining letters will themselves spell a word, which is to be entered in the grid. For example, the clue ‘Be a sni*ch’ would suggest ‘Be a snitch’ with a missing T, leading to the answer TATTLE, which, with the T’s removed, would be entered in the grid as ALE. Every answer in the grid is a regular word or name except as indicated.”
It’s a delicious twist on the usual way of tackling a crossword, since you have the added challenge of choosing an answer word whose length is unknown and figuring out which answer matches the clue and ends up with the proper length after the *’ed letter(s) are removed.
My favorite answers are the longer words, with that inherent surprise that word X is just word Y with every instance of letter Z deleted. 19a: UPENDING began as suspending. 9d: HERMOSA is a thermostat when you put three T’s back in. A fitness test loses its three T’s to become a single word, 53a: FINESSES. and 48a: RIFLING started out with five more letters, in eerie feeling.
Granted, some of the “after” answers in the grid are intensely “meh” in nature. SERIN ESTEE ESTES ACERS IRAE SARG DANO SUER INURE FLITE ERTE REES REDIG? Lifeless. But they’re really hiding SEAR IN, ESTEEM, RESTERS (also meh), PACERS, TITRATE, SARGE, DRANO, STUTTER, INSURE, FLIRTER, AERATE, REEKS, and RENDING—a much better group of crossword answers. In general, the “before” and “after” words contain a preponderance of super-common consonants, but that’s because words like vivid and zebra and cackle don’t tend to form other words when you add or subtract letters in “Takeaway” fashion. Every single answer in the grid has to work as a standard crossword entry and as a legitimate word when you add a letter that can be used in a reasonable clue for the longer word. The constraint reminds me of Joe Krozel’s Thursday puzzle this past week.
“Takeaway” is a little like a vowelless crossword in that if you step away from the finished puzzle and come back to it later, it’s hard to remember what the expanded answers are supposed to be and everything seems a little mysterious. 4.75 stars from me.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 152″ – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Very wide-open corners in this 64-word grid. I’m impressed.
- 34a. [Opening for birds?] - AVI. There’s an author named Avi who writes for children/young adults, and I wish he was a bit more famous so I could use him in more crossword clues. He won the Newbery Medal for Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Remember that fact. It’ll be in my next AVI clue. Or maybe in a Learned League question.
- 37a. [Indiana county whose name is a color] – VERMILLION. I’m never sure whether to spell the color with one L or two. Checking the dictionary … either version is OK. Checking Wikipedia … there’s a two-L Vermillion County in Indiana and a one-L Vermilion County in Illinois. And they border each other. That’s gotta be confusing.
- 51d. [Jacks' rippers?] – SAWS. Once I figured out that the jacks were lumberjacks, this made a lot more sense.
- 1a. [Offspring in a fast-food restaurant] – WHOPPER JR. My first thought was Jack in the Box’s son. But does he have a name? I think it’s Jack, Jr. And yep, that’s Jack & Son at a Lakers game. I wonder how uncomfortable it is to wear a giant plastic ball on your head all night.
- 52a/42d. [Café specification/Drink with vitamina D] – AU LAIT/LECHE. We’ve got the French word for milk crossing the Spanish word for milk. Is that a feature or a flaw? I kinda liked it.
- 28. [The third golfer?] – DAVIS LOVE. Wow, this was tricky. I’m pretty sure they didn’t play golf in the bible, but that’s where my mind was going. I’ve seen ABEL clued as [The third man?] before. Big head slap when it turned out to be Davis Love III.
Other good stuff: DEATH ADDER, NO REMORSE, AEGEAN SEA, MASH UNIT.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Well, it’s not my fastest solving time today (I solved today’s NYT puzzle in just under eight minutes, but it’s fair to say I had something of a head start on that one), but I’ll take it. Today’s mystery square was the one highlighted in the screenshot, as neither TRANE nor CHOLE meant anything to me.
The former was clued as [Contemporary of Bird and Cannonball], and my first thought was “Okay, I know Larry Bird, but what NBA star went by the name ‘Cannonball?’” Obviously I’m in the minority here, for a Google search of “bird cannonball trane” turns up over 2.2 million hits, most all of which confirm that the reference is to three famous sax players (I should have known this, given Tony’s affection for music!), Charlie Parker (“Bird”), Cannonball Adderley, and John Coltrane (“TRANE“). The crossing CHOLE is a [North Indian chickpea dish] that I’ve never heard of, and again it appears I’m very much in the minority here. I like how one website puts it: “There are few foods more North Indian than Chole … and there are probably as many recipes for making Chole as there are households in North India!” Lessons learned (I hope).
The grid features three 15-letter entries, and all of them are great. My favorite was THE KEEBLER ELVES, the [Spokestoons who work in a tree]. It was one of very few gimmes in this puzzle, and being able to plunk down a 15 without any crossings gave me some much-needed confidence. SECOND-HALF SWOON, [What follows a mid-season disintegration], is something I associate with the Chicago Cubs, as it was a Cubs fan that introduced me to the term “June swoon.” As a Mariners fan, I’d take a second-half swoon, as it implies the first half was pretty decent.
Other highlights in the fill include ANTI-FUR, PLACEBO, SHORT FOR, FLESH OUT (yes, Inner Beavis loved that one), TOPLESS (and that one) ISN’T HOME, AB-FAB, X-MEN, ATE IT, ODD LOT, and KAZOO. Um, together with the 15s? That’s a lot of good stuff! ( I suppose I would have added DROP SEAT to the list if I rode more taxis and thus could relate to the clue, [Checker cab feature].)
Favorite entry = WRITE OFF, a term I regularly use as a noun but which here is clued as a verb: [Deem unsalvageable]. Favorite clue = [Sturgeon dispersion] for ROE. Any clue that both rhymes and evokes an icky mental image (roe-squriting sturgeon, anyone?) is a winner in my book.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Centennial” — pannonica’s write-up
Straight-up fact-based puzzle this time around. All the theme answers are associated with the year 1913. That’s the same year that, uh, the Word Cross débuted. (Look for more celebrations as the year comes to a close, as Arthur Wynne’s creation first appeared in the New York World on 21 December.)
- 23a. [1913 inauguration VIP] WOODROW WILSON.
- 26a. [1913 novel] SONS AND LOVERS.
- 51a. [1913 novel] DEATH IN VENICE.
- 87a. [Leader arrested in 1913] MAHATMA GANDHI. “The honorific Mahatma (“Great Soul”) was applied to him by 1914.” (Wikipedia) Neither here nor there, but kind of interesting.
- 113a. [NYC skyscraper that opened in 1913] WOOLWORTH BLDG. The abbrev. in the answer looks in no way strange to me, as I’ve probably seen it referred to in this configuration more often than not.
- 119a. [Activist who died in 1913] HARRIET TUBMAN.
- 14d. [Burden imposed in 1913] FEDERAL INCOME TAX.
- 34d. [Humanitarian whose hospital opened in 1913] ALBERT SCHWEITZER.
A good mix of items: some people, tangible and intangible objects, a couple of novels. Now, if there’d been three or more novels, that would seem strange. The grid possesses what I consider a Hook trademark, namely the extreme overlap of theme entries. In this instance, it’s a perfect stack of the first and last pairs of across themers, thirteen letters apiece.
- Long downs SERENGETI (spiffy) and NOMINATES (meh). FRONTMAN, AVERAGED (eh).
- Welcome to Bostonville: 31a [Fenway scoreboard letters] RHE, 9d [Salem's county] ESSEX. 24d [71°3'37", for Boston (abbr.) W LONG (ick). 79d [Cantab's rival] ELI.
- Favorite clues: 77a [Passing notes?] REQUIEM. 94a [Couples retreat?] ARK. 33d [Cuckoo's announcement] HOUR. 88d [Found the means] AVERAGED.
- 36d [African lute] OUD. Although it’s seen in North Africa, it originated in the Middle East (i.e., western Asia) or possibly central Asia.
- People! Lotsa people! HOSNI Mubarak, Jackie CHAN, Forrest GUMP, LORIN | MAAZEL, AARON, Kerri STRUG, ARCHIE Manning, SETHS Myers and MacFarlane, WEI Dynasty, RIELLE Hunter, ANTONIA Novello, YOLANDA Adams, ENYO, YVES Saint Laurent, EDSON Arantes do Nascimento, Patrick HENRY, Jack PAAR, Bennett CERF, Tony La RUSSA, LARA Logan, NELL Gwyn, Ben SHAHN, Cousin ITT, SURI Cruise, Robert DENIRO, Everett SLOANE, ELROY Jetson, Don SHULA.
- BAA, LAMB (1a, 99a). LORIN MAAZEL (105d, 44a). Teensy dupe with 27a [Reserve fund] NEST EGG and 111d [Louse eggs] NITS, but perhaps I’m… you know.
- Rogue’s gallery of less savory partials, mostly fill-in-the-blanks: OR NO, SET IT, YES WE (although it has a winning clue), WHAT’VE, A-BOO, HE WHO, IN LA. Some quasi-partials, abbrevs., and crosswordese, but an expected amount.
- Biggest What?! 74d [Japanese port city] ŌITA.
Good puzzle, can’t decide between 1,913 or 2,013 stars.
nb: 2012 was the centenary of the beloved OREO, but will the wonderful MALLOMAR receive such hullabaloo? I doubt it. Here’s a 2005 New York Times article about the nostalgic favorite (and one of the few exceptions to my “no marshmallow-type things” rule). Bonus: the article also mentions the 1913 début of the crossword (and makes a terrible attempt of humor in the process by speculating about “Marsomalls).”
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “All About Eaves”
It’s here, at long last: the puzzle you’ve been waiting for, the one with all the eave jokes. Most of the theme answers make you look at words a different way when applied to eaves; the central pair provide a pun.
- 22a. [What the larger eaves had?], QUITE A HANGOVER.
- 30a. [What eaves experience?], LIFE ON THE EDGE.
- 47a. [Hammered a few eaves?], HIT THE ROOF.
- 57a, 79a. [With 79 Across, what one icicle said to the other? (with apologies to 1960s singer Barry McGuire)], AH YA DON’T BELIEVE WE’RE ON / THE EAVE OF THE STRUCTURE. I needed every crossing in that “AH YA” part. “Eve of Destruction” pun here, while all the rest of the theme answers are unmodified phrases. Also, this answer’s key word is found in the title and all the other theme clues.
- 69a. [Reason that rainwater is pouring over the eaves?], SPOUT’S OFF. Playing on the verb phrase “spouts off.”
- 90a. [Eaves' location?], ON THE HOUSE.
- 106a. [What a pitched roof does?], FORCES A RUNOFF. Eh. “A runoff” is an election thing, but roofs just have “runoff,” no article.
- 117a. [How eaves feel after a storm?], TOTALLY DRAINED.
I imagine Merl cooked up this theme while lounging in his back yard, sunglasses on and margarita in hand, musing on the eaves of his house.
Weird to have two different Sunday puzzles play on the same title of a 1965 Barry McGuire protest song (which I sure as heck do not know).
There were a number of eyebrow-raising answers in this grid:
- 24a. ["Gentleman's Agreement" author ___ Hobson], LAURA Z, first name and middle initial. Not bizarro LAURAZ. I bet people will be Googling “Lauraz Hobson” after filling in this puzzle, confused by the odd-looking name.
- 64a. [1961 sea-monster film], GORGO. Huh? Appears related to classical mythology Gorgon, but I’ve never heard of the movie.
- 30d. [Female demon (anagram of I AM AL)], LAMIA.
- 75d. [Times of year when shows premiere], TV SEASONS. I’m okay with the answer, but the clue doesn’t work. New TV season, fall TV season, January mid-season—these are when shows tend to premiere. Show longevity is measured in seasons, and a new season may premiere any time of year, but the series’ initial episode premiere does not take place in “TV season.” Something like ["Lost" lasted for six of these] might have worked better for me.
- 48d. [French bullet-train letters], TGV. You don’t say.
- 20d. [Classic punching combination], OLD ONE-TWO. Meh. ONE-TWO is solid, but once OLD gets in there, it needs THE. “The old one-two” is the thing, and “an old one-two” is not a thing.
- 83d. [Hot and muggy, to an Italian], UMIDO, humid. Does anyone dislike this crossword answer? Um, I do.
- 16d. [Way-out puzzle?], MAZE.
- 11d. [No. 1], THE BEST.
- 126a. [Not a movie], REAL LIFE.
- 14d. [^], CARET. Yep, that’s what that symbol is called.
- 109d. [Brad's family?], NAILS. Hardware! We would also have accepted THE JOLIE-PITTS.
Strange theme execution, with a long central pun bracketed by six non-pun eave-related phrases. With lots of Down fill intersecting two theme entries, the fill gets constrained and we end up with things like that UMIDO/RID OF/ERA OF brick. 2.9 stars from me.
Elizabeth Gorski’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Invitees”
I’m having trouble parsing the title, “Invitees,” as it relates to the theme. Double up on the T sound and “invite T’s” must be the gist here. Each theme answer has a T added to a familiar phrase to change the meaning. In each case, the T stands apart, pronounced as “tee”:
- 23a. [Heavenly ruler?], ST. PETER’S T-SQUARE. Ruler to measure things, not to reign.
- 35a. [Game with swinging and dancing?], DISCO T-BALL. That would make T-ball a lot more entertaining for little kids’ parents.
- 43a. [Theban king's dinosaur?], OEDIPUS’ T. REX.
- 69a. [Economy-boosting govt. issue?], STIMULUS T-BILL.
- 96a. [Steaks served at roasts?], FUNNY T-BONES.
- 102a. [Contraption that gives skiers a lift in more ways than one?], COFFEE T-BAR. Hot drinks would be welcome on the slope, wouldn’t they?
- 118a. [Motto for the Untouchables?], STAND BY YOUR T-MAN. I like the Tammy Wynette riff even if this “T-” and the one in 69a both stand for the U.S. Treasury.
Solid theme, and I like the elegance of the added T’s standing apart in every theme answer (as opposed to, say, turning “sink” into “stink” some of the time).
Notes on the fill and clues:
- 8a. [Spring title on a beefcake calendar], MR. MAY. Is this a thing? Just to be sure, I Googled “Mr. May” calendar. Yes, I saw enough beefcake. The clue checks out.
- 31a. [Best-selling physician], DR. SPOCK. Great answer.
- 53a. Stereo on one’s shoulder], BOOMBOX. Or hoisted over one’s head, Cusack style.
- 60a. The Green Wall of China is designed to slow its expansion], GOBI Desert. New info for me.
- 61a. City whose police cars sport a witch logo], SALEM. Awesome! The Seattle Police Department also has a sense of humor, as seen in this Twitter exchange. (“Cosplay” is dressing up in character costumes, as people do at those comics conventions.)
- 106a. City in Pennsylvania Dutch country], LEBANON. I was creeping through the answer, working the crossings. I hope the country of Lebanon is better known to most Americans than this PA city is.
- 110a. Goat’s cry], MAA. This is a crossword convention, that goats say “maa.” You know what? A lot of goats don’t say “maa.” They sound human. They shriek. Have you seen the viral goat video? (You must!) The latest viral craze is splicing in these goats to liven up music videos, like Adele singing “Skyfall” at the Oscars.
- 2d. ["__ to PM": 2001 Christina Milian hit]. AM TO. I reckon the clue was not supposed to have that “to” in it.
- 3d. [Eschews the doorbell], RAPS. Yes. When Drake comes to the door, he just starts shouting rhymes until you open up.
- 4d. [Purchases that give you a run for your money?], TREADMILLS. Good clue, good answer.
- 10d. [Cleansing rite associated with Easter], MAUNDY. As in Maundy Thursday. Didn’t know it was a cleansing rite.
- 54d. Corp. jet group], MGT. Is this supposed to be the other, non-”mgmt.” abbreviation for management, or is there a corporate jet company called MGT? I think it’s the former.
- 78d. [Louis XVI's queen], ANTOINETTE. That’s kosher without the “Marie”?
- 102d. [Dove], COOER. Not much of a used-by-people word, but it is the title of a pigeon newsletter.
- 108d. [Aussie lad], BOYO. MATE did not work those crossings one bit, but it didn’t stop me from trying it.
- Crosswordese includes ERNES, EEE, D’OR, EENS, OLLA, SNEE, EBRO, ADES.
3.5 stars from me.