Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Hmm, Saturday difficulty for you, too, or just for me? I was mired in the southeast quadrant largely because of my fondness for ELLA Fitzgerald, but it turned out that 51d. ["___, Red-Hot & Live" (1982 blues album)] clued ETTA. Yes, I know Ella was jazz, not blues. The other woman in that corner, 38a: ELISSA, is clued as [Actress Landi of "The Count of Monte Cristo," 1934], which tells us that crosswords need a famous more ELISSA now. [Crosswords LA tournament founder Grossman], I would have gotten. I put GLARY (48d. [Blazingly bright]) in and took it out before reluctantly putting it back in again; you ever run into that word outside of crosswords or a dictionary sub-listing? Hmph.
So, this 66-worder has two triple-stacks of 15s, but unfortunately two of them are ONE’Sies and that lowers the excitement level. EMAIL DOMAIN NAME seems a tad stilted/dry. ROCKET TO THE MOON is fun, though dated. EDITORIAL STANCE and ORNAMENTAL TREES are all right, no great shakes.
ELISSA Landi is joined here by 18a: [Bloom who played Mary in "The Last Temptation of Christ"], VERNA. Another actress who is far from a household name. But! Did you know that Bloom played Marion Wormer in Animal House? No wonder she was cast as Jesus’s mother.
- 23a. ["Hey-y-y-y!" sayer of sitcomdom, with "the"], FONZ. Two objections: I think it’s “Ayyy!”, and “sitcomdom” is not a word. Now, “romcomdom,” I could buy.
- 47a. [Swamp birds], SORAS. Two groups of people know this word: Hardcore crossworders and swamp bird aficionados.
- 2d. [Bore down (on)], HOMED IN. Eh. “Home in on” is the phrasal verb, so this feels naked/partial.
- 3d. [Instrument whose name means "little goose"], OCARINA. The inclusion of “goose” in there tells you it makes very pretty sounds.
- 7d. [Mexican Indians], OTOMIS. I had OLMECS first.
- 9d. [Electrically neutral subatomic particle], ETAMESON. I had OTOMISON first. I was thinking of subotomic particles.
- 12d. [Every, in an Rx], OMN. This might be 19th-century prescription writing, I’m not sure. As you can see in the link here, OMN and TER are stinkin’ crosswordese that doctors have not written out on a prescription pad for years and years. Constructors should consider killing these if they’re in their word list.
- 14d. [It carries out many orders], DOMINO’S. If Domino’s is the best pizza available in your town, you have my pity.
- 30d. [Future alumnae, quaintly], COEDS. You know what? The moment internet porn took that word over, it lost its “quaintness.” Why not [What the women of the class of 1962 were called]? Take that “future” out of the clue.
- 32d. [Substance used in fillings?], GASOLINE. Yes. Your dentist is huffing gasoline. You didn’t know?
- 40d. [Certain telecom technician], SPLICER. I wonder if the Comcast technician in my back yard today was doing any splicing. He was fixing a wire that had been chewed through by squirrels who had been nesting inside the external box of wires. And there were two dead squirrels in the nest. What do you suppose happened to them?
I definitely prefer a puzzle to derive its challenge from delightfully tricky clues rather than from lesser-known fill. If the blank grid doesn’t goose you (and empty grids don’t do much for me), the fill has to entertain. This one, I dunno, there wasn’t much I actually enjoyed while solving. Three stars.
Tracy Bennett’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “C. Net” — pannonica’s write-up
I didn’t realize that I’d encountered the first theme answer, even after I’d figured out the correct fill. In haste, I assumed it was just a clever clue, only later realizing that it formed a part of a larger pattern. The puzzle is a tribute to EB White’s 1952 children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. Alright, here we go:
- 17a. [First in a series of Web postings] SOME PIG.
- 20a. [Second in a series of Web postings] TERRIFIC.
- 33a. [Fourth in a series of Web postings] HUMBLE.
- 38a. [Third in a series of Web postings] RADIANT.
- 41a. [What the Web posts described] WILBUR.
- 54a. [The Web site] BARNYARD.
- 62a. [The Web administrator] EB WHITE.
Alas, among the constraints are that, due to the symmetrical conventions of crosswords (and perhaps spider webs), it was impossible to have the “postings” in chronological order and apparently it was too difficult to acknowledge the post-writer—you know, the blogger. But I won’t take it personally. Nuh-uh, no umbrage here. In the scheme presented, that entity would be the empathetic titular spider, Charlotte.
Seven moderate-length theme entries in a 15×15 is pretty TERRIFIC, and leaves room for plenty of other rather RADIANT fill: stacked with themers are LENS CAP and IN A HOLE, SILENT E and CESSNAS, FIDELIO and ROOMIES [Space invaders?], and—best of all—EPICURE and TAMALES. ¡Olé!
Perhaps the spiffiest piece of fill is 20-down, running along the grid’s midline, TWO-FISTED. Unfortunately it’s marred by an inaccurate clue: [Inclined to fight]. That’s more like BELLIGERENT (three letters too long) or possibly AGGRESSIVE. Here’s how m-w defines TWO-FISTED: “marked by vigorous often virile energy : hard-hitting <two–fisted journalism>” or, in another common collocation, a two-fisted drinker.
- Quasi-bonus content at 65a [Shoat's shelter] STY.
- Misdirection for solvers in a hurry? 4d [Woolshed tool] SHEARS, immediately followed by 5d [Bit of woodland] COPSE. Incidentally, I can’t recall ever seeing EAR clued with [Wood __ (fungus that grows on trees]; a bit long-winded but I like it. (40a)
- Dislike the demeaning ‘girl’ in the clue for 7d PEG [Steely Dan title girl]; there is nothing in lyric to suggest her age, aside from the situation being a “début.” Perhaps it would have been marginally acceptable for a song like “Janie Runaway” or “Hey Nineteen,” considering the protagonist’s persona. (Obviously the latter has no name, but I hope you get the gist.)
- Why? clue of the puzzle: 26d [British P.M. who repealed the Corn Laws] PEEL.
- A good dose of clever and playful clues, including those for LENS CAP, PLEASE, BOSSES, ODOR, DRUM, ABETS.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Grunt Work”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s the last day of spring break here at my day job. Students come back on Monday, so this is the last day I’ll have for some time to actually get something done. I’m sticking to a shorter review and then signing off. The puzzle features four two-word terms, each of which begins with a term that can be synonymous with “grunt” or some other term for one who does tedious, lowly work:
- 21-Across: A [Cabbie's permit] is a HACK LICENSE.
- 27-Across: DRONE ATTACKS are [Unmanned aerial raids]. You never know when the President will turn against you and order a drone attack, right?
- 43-Across: The DRUDGE REPORT was the [Internet news source that was the first to break the Clinton/Lewinsky story]. You can read about it in the memoir, Devil in a Blue Dress.
- 50-Across: One who is [Prideful] might be said to be STIFF-NECKED. My dictionary defines stiff-necked as “stubborn and arrogant or aloof,” which I don’t necessarily equate with “prideful.” But last I checked I have more than six degrees of separation from Mr. Roget.
Um, PORN crossing PROF? I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that. But I know how I feel about the rest: I like it. DING-DONGS! The [Cream-filled chocolate snacks once produced by Hostess] were a staple in my Peanuts lunchbox. I’m also a fan of TAPIOCAS, the [Neighbors of gelatins and puddings in the supermarket aisle]. I’m less enamored of the SLIDER, the [Miniburger], but it looks nice in a crossword puzzle.
Favorite entry = SOUR NOTE, the [Bad thing to strike]. Favorite clue = [Be revolting?] for UPRISE.
David Poole’s Los Angelest Times crossword — Gareth’s write-up
David gives us an offbeat Friday puzzle today. The final word of each theme entry has two vowels, which have been switiched, and the resulting phrases clued wacky style. The vowels are not the same in each phrase, which could be deemed inconsistent, but for me made the theme less predictable, which IMO is good!
The answers are:
- [Army mints?], MILITARYTICTACS. I and A of “tactics” swapped.
- [Temperamental Midler impersonators?], BETTEDIVAS. I and A of “Davis” swapped.
- [Penalize a Russian leader?], FINELENIN. I, E, “linen”.
- [Poll on where to sink the eight ball?], POCKETVOTE. E, O, “vote”. I wasn’t too sure what a “pocket veto” was, but apparently it’s when the US president doesn’t sign a bill in his allotted 10 days and in the mean time Congress adjourns itself; if congress is in session the law stands. I think that’s what what I read said.
- [Seasonal shade of pink?], ACHRISTMASCORAL. A, O, “carol”. The Dickens novel has an “A”.
Unusual grid shape: very open corners and a congested middle where three theme answers occur in five lines. Indeed, this puzzle’s fairly high (59) theme letter count, coupled with that grid shape has meant the fill tends more toward the functional than the flamboyant. We do get two cheeses: MUENSTER and STILTON, and a Canadian shout-out in ALBERTA; PLANTERS may have common letters, but it’s a fun brand-name that has been imported here sporadically. What do they do to their peanuts that makes them so delish???
Clue-wise, I had no idea what a “bush-hook” was. A SCYTHE apparently. Other toughies include: [More than just calls], RAISES is a poker clue if you were wondering; [Jimmy follower], RONALD refers to presidents; ["Cheers" accountant], NORM had me scratching my pip as to who the bar’s accountant was, but actually Norm was an accountant who went to Cheers to escape his wife, I think?
Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Working Capital” — pannonica’s write-up
Perfect title for the puzzle’s theme mechanics and its venue. Each entry begins with a person’s name and finishes with a career description (an understandably loose term). The zippy part is that the name, extended into the occupation, forms a US state capital. Encroachment, occupation?
- 24a. [Woman who may take a shine to you?] ANNA POLISHER (Annapolis, Maryland).
- 30a. [Man who can see ahead?] FRANK FORTUNETELLER (Frankfort, Kentucky). Am reminded of the old quip, “What’s that in the road, a head?” (It might be an acting thing, making fun of poor delivery.) The connection is reinforced for me because FRANKFORT phonetically suggests FORK; fork, road, ahead, see? Erm, I think I’ll get back to the list.
- 50a. [Man who's good with feet and meters?] JACK SONNETTEER (Jackson, Mississippi).
- 63a. [Man who's serious about preservation?] SAL EMBALMER (Salem, Oregon). Mistakenly went down the path of environmental conservation here. See also 1-across [Pyramid, often] TOMB.
- 84a. [Woman who tries?] HELEN ATTORNEY (Helena, Montana).
- 97a. [Woman who talks about herself?] JUNE AUTOBIOGRAPHER (Juneau, Alaska). That one’s pretty flashy, no?
- 109a. [Man who uses building blocks?] BO STONEMASON (Boston, Massachusetts).
Feels like a novel theme to me, although as I was solving the mechanics curiously never came fluidly and I relied primarily on crossings.
Some solid long non-theme answers include DEREK JETER; IWO JIMA; HIGH RISE; BODY HEAT; LILY PAD; HEAR, HEAR; D’ANGELO (singer I didn’t know; not actress Beverly); NITROUS (oxide); SCIENCES; RUG BURNS (brother of documentarians Ken and Ric); ALMOND OIL; BEER BELLY; GO STRAIGHT. Was less thrilled with the preposition-heavy CUT IN ON and CREEP UP ON, as well as COULD IT BE.
Biggest mis-fills: 44d [Apples and pears] POMES, not FRUIT (I blame the recent comments about Matt Gaffney’s contest puzzle no. 250), and 65d [Honey found in Dijon] AMIE, not MIEL.
Good cluing throughout, strong puzzle.