Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I’ll confess it, this puzzle kicked my butt. Truth be told, that piece of metaphorical anatomy was already in a sling tonight.
Nothing outright unfair here, just some well-chosen places for the clues to be pitched a little differently. As most will know, I’m not much of a sports fan, but am familiar enough with, say, baseball to be able to compare some of the clues to curveballs, sliders, and more than a few to those unpredictable knuckleballs.
The part of the puzzle that hurt me the most, that kept me in that filipendulous state prior to dropping down those oh-so-rewarding final letters, was the center of the grid. After finally realizing my error of conflating the Whiffenpoof song with the Yale fight song, trying to shoehorn BOOLA BOOLA where a BAA BAA BAA should have been (a mindless AMOR rather than AMO, AMAS, or AMAT, reinforced by a ROOT cellar in place of a SALT cellar strengthened my misguided resolve). The final insult was taking another eternity to decode [Behave with respect to] as the two-word DO BY, rather than some misshapen DOTE or who knows what; and that 43-across [Imitated a wind-up toy] ZIPPED? PIPPED? YIPPED? DIPPED? Even POPPED, HOPPED, BOPPED, POOPED?!? I was at sevens and sixes over there in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, doubting fill I’d confidently laid in. Although 34d [Take the junk out?] for SAIL is one of those sneaky curveballs I mentioned earlier.
The off-speed pitches seemed to be everywhere. Just running down the roster in order we have: 1a [Terminal cases] for BAGGAGE, 8a [Something to do experiments in] LAB COAT, 17a [Baking session] SUN BATH… and that’s only in the top third of the acrosses! Quite a ratio established.
The longer fill are all showcase entries: 20a [Off the rack] READY-TO-WEAR, 21d [Ruthless] DOG-EAT-DOG, and [Bar glasses?] BEER GOGGLES, which was less convoluted than I imagined it to be. On top of that, all four corners are packed, packed, with seven-letter stacks.
- 51a [Title woman in a J.P> Donleavy novel] LEILA. That’s the name of the book, too. Unfortunately, I was familiar only with Donleavy’s The Ginger Man and The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B (it’s a title one doesn’t soon forget).
- Similar to the aforementioned DO BY is the even sneakier GO AT for [Charge] at 54a. Maa!
- 52a [Big name in water filtration] three letters = PŪR (or DOW if the constructor is totally evil), five letters = BRITA. That was a gimme.
- Another sampling of slippery clues, this time collected from the bottom of the grid: 39d [Icing supervisor] MOB BOSS, 41d [One going over telemarketer lines] SPIELER (wanted BRIEFER for a time), 56a [Shot after a break?] has nothing to do with billiards, it’s X-RAY, 46d [Light fright?] DAYMARE, aiyeee!
- Staying in the same area, I had to slow down and play the cross-reference game of actually piecing together 59d and 58d [… drop by] to eventually get STOP / OVER, to get a much-needed toehold and purchase in that lower section.
- New York-centric bits: 10d [Parts of the Big Apple] BOROS, 45a [Eatery seen in a "Manhattan" scene] ELAINE’S, which was a notorious celebrity haunt, equally notorious for its mediocre food.
There were many more traps and mazy catacombs to this puzzle, which was in the end tough but fair. I trust it was a good workout for all the folks gearing up in Brooklyn for the ACPT this weekend!
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “E-Tail Bookstore” — pannonica’s write-up
What is it with those seemingly superfluous terminal Es on some people’s surnames, anyway? Are they affectation or relics from the olde days? In any case—a bookcase, I suppose, in this instance—we get a quartet of authors with such monikers, whose sleeker versions form familiar phrases. The clues do their best to set the context in a bibliopegic milieu; further, they include at least one title by each author, but omit first names.
- 17a. [Pieces of pasteboard with "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" printed on them?] WILDE CARDS.
- 26a. [Copies of "Our Man in Havana," "The Quiet American" and "The End of the Affair"?] GREENE STUFF.
- 47a. [Limited editions of "The Civil War: A Narrative"?] FOOTE PRINTS.
- 64a. [Box sets containing "The Right Stuff," "A Man in Full" and "I Am Charlotte Simmons"?] WOLFE PACKS.
Two observations: all four are male, and all but Shelby Foote are writers of fiction. Why not use Horton in the clue? Are his works, mainly plays, not familiar enough?
- Non-theme literary content: 23a [Lengthy Nabokov novel] ADA, 54a [Biographical play set in Manhattan] TRU, 9d ["Song of ___" (opening poem in "Leaves of Grass"] MYSELF, 27d [Dove who won a Pulitzer] RITA, 51d ["A Confederacy of Dunces" author] TOOLE (hey! that steps on the theme’s toes!), 53d [Chaim who wrote "The Chosen"] POTOK.
- Long fill among the ballast are, unusually, also among the acrosses: TOE-TO-TOE and CORONETS, both fresh despite having common letters.
- 34a [Roman goddess of the spring] FLORA, Greek equivalent Chloris, who was a mere nymph.
- Most terrifying fill: Teddy RUXPIN.
Not much in the way of playful or clever clues, perhaps in deference to some of the gymnastics in the themers? I don’t feel they’re all that outlandish, so I found the
lack prevalence of straitlacedness elsewhere to ERODE the quality of the solving experience. The most engaging are probably the two “spoken” ones: ["Make yourself scarce"] SCRAM, and ["Cool!" NEAT-O." Also scarce are Scrabbly letters; aside from an X and a couple of Ks, there isn't much No Js, Qs, Zs, notably.
Okay theme + blah fill + starchy cluing = average puzzle, at best.
Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, "A Lung Time Coming"- Sam Donaldson's review
Off to Brooklyn this morning for the ACPT! I’ve been waiting for this weekend with bated breath, and given today’s puzzle that seems very appropriate. The theme consists of three 15-letter answers ending with respiration-related words:
- 17-Across: The [Much-mocked Clintonian rationalization] is BUT I DIDN’T INHALE. At first I was wanting something like IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE MEANING OF IS IS. But this one works too.
- 39-Across: The [1995 chick flick starring Whitney Houston] was WAITING TO EXHALE. Spoiler alert: they do exhale after all.
- 63-Across: The [Doctor's request suggested by the last words of 17- and 39-Across] is TAKE A DEEP BREATH. This is something I must remember to do at the start of Puzzle 1 tomorrow. For the past two years, I’ve been so frantic to finish with a fast time that I’ve made silly mistakes on Puzzle 1 (including leaving a square blank–the ultimate sin!). This time I’m trying to keep calm at the start, and a deep breath sounds like very good advice.
I enjoyed much of the fill in this puzzle. LETS BE, YES VOTES, CONVENES, NOICEMAKER, STANDS FAST, NOT ME, ON DECK and DOODAD were all fun. I had a couple of unknowns in the middle: MARAT was the [French revolutionary who met his end in a bathtub] (did someone throw in a hair dryer?), and SANAA is [Yemen's capital]. I can never seem to remember that. If SANAA comes up in the tournament, I think I’m ready!
David Steinberg and David Phillip’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up
A short post tonight unfortunately. I’ve just had a 12 hour car journey to visit my brother.
David Steinberg needed the help of another David to complete this masterpiece… Or is it the other way around? I think this puzzle would have been solved better in print than in the Across Lite format I solved it in. WATERFALLS is represented by the WATER part of various horizontal theme answers runs down. I assume the truncated parts are unnumbered in the print version. Bonus points for PRICEWATERHOUSE although it sticks out as the only non-water related answer.
Theme is everywhere, but this grid has some nice scrabbly touches like JENGA and AMOSOZ. AMOSOZ was also a very tough answer for me, as were the stacked TELESIS/ATAVISM. Nice trivia clue on ISTHMUS too.
Judith Seretto’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Daylight Saving” — pannonica’s write-up
Slightly off from the central axis—in Row 12 to be precise—and at the bottom of the grid is the nearly superfluous revealer: [Daylight source found in the seven longest Across answers] SUN. I can’t help but think this was not the originally envisioned location; that would be 64d RBI, or possibly 116d MOO.
In any event, here are the theme answers:
- 22a. [First #1 hit for the Ink Spots] ADDRESS UNKNOWN. That was in 1939, long before Elvis Presley’s 1962 hit “Return to Sender,” which was in turn recorded long after he left Sun Records.
- 32a. [Parade attire] DRESS UNIFORM.
- 47a. [Words on Magritte's painting "The Treachery of Images"] CECI N’EST PAS UNE PIPE. Now that’s fun, erudite fill I can get behind.
- 67a. [Change wording?] E PLURIBUS UNUM. First French, now Latin (albeit ubiquitous Latin)? Kind of interesting.
- 82a. [Department for Detectives Stabler and Benson] SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT. Haven’t seen the shows, so the clue was of minimal help.
- 102a. [Recipient of a 1300-gem crown] MISS UNIVERSE. Uninteresting trivia.
- 115a. [Its logo includes two horse heads] TEAMSTERS UNION. But, alas, no sun.
Wise decision to divide the S-U-N the same way in all seven entries. To garner an SU|N division, made-up phrases, most likely incorporating Japanese (NINJUTSU NUNCHUKU, anyone? SHIATSU NECKRUB?), would be required. Still avoiding words or phrases beginning or ending with SUN (although that isn’t a requirement, but is perhaps more elegant), fill such as MISUNDERSTANDING, BOSUN‘S CHAIR, LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS are possibilities, but I respect the consistency of approach here.
- 21a [Slugger featured on a 2006 U.S. postage stamp] MEL OTT. The full name took me by surprise.
- Double time! 62a & 63a, [Ill-mannered fellow] LOUT, [Ill-tempered fellow] CRAB. Double duty clue [Hardly one of the in crowd] for 29a and 46a: LOSER, NERD. 79d [Put on] AIR, 68d [Put on again] RERAN (tense change!). Another double, of a sort: 110a ["Unforgettable" singer] COLE, either Nat “King” or his daughter Natalie.
- The bad type of repetition: 65a [Go out of business?] RETIRE and 80a [Like many Fla. residents] RET’D. Tut, tut.
- 87d [Husky food] TAMALES. Don’t understand this one.
- Favorite clues: 57a [Person with a title] OWNER, 120a [Neither here nor there] EN ROUTE.
- Dodgy fill: 103d [City dept. that really cleans up] SANIT. and 95d [Get ready for possible conflict] PREARM.
- 50d [Embodiment] SOUL. There’s something vaguely oxymoronic, or perhaps more accurately paradoxical, about that. Food for thought.
Good puzzle, about average.
p.s. Neglected to mention the timeliness of the theme, as this is the weekend that most US states change the clocks for DST (spring forward!).