Roger Ebert, rest in peace. His Sun-Times colleague Neil Steinberg wrote a lovely tribute, as have many others. Roger was perhaps the best and the most beloved critic ever. When I met him at his book signing, I told him that I was once described as “the Pauline Kael of crosswords,” but that I really wanted to be the Roger Ebert of crosswords. I’ve still got a long way to go to reach that goal.
Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Peter starts the puzzle appropriately with KICKS OFF at 1-Across, but then neither of the Z answers shows up in the last spot. But that’s okay. It’s a fun puzzle without a “The End” entry. And it feels more like a zippy 72-worder than a 66-worder.
My favorite 10 entries are as follows:
- 31a. [Pop punk band with the 2002 triple-platinum album "The Young and the Hopeless"], GOOD CHARLOTTE. Totally needed crossings, but I know the band’s name even if the album title and genre were no help to me.
- 35a. [Last song heard on Disneyland's Splash Mountain], ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH. Now that is a zippy answer. (Even though, on their own, DEE, DOO, and DAH are boring answers.)
- 42a. [Big game show prize], a NEW CAR!! You can’t say this without the exclamation points.
- 1d. ["Batman" comics sound], KAPOW!
- 12d. [Noted cliff in Yosemite Valley], EL CAPITAN.
- STAN LEE and ZAC EFRON, full names.
- 29d. [Grp. whose flag has 12 stars], THE E.U. First time I recall seeing this in a grid.
- 31d. ["Up top!"], GIMME FIVE!
- 36d. Greasy part of pork], FATBACK. With a name like that, it has to be … inedible?
Also, did you get a load of those three long answers in the bottom? VW BEETLE, AAA RATED, and NBA STARS all begin with non-word-type letters. (Is AAA RATED pronounced “AAA rated” or “triple A rated”?)
And now, some clues I wanted to mention:
- 48a. [People without a religious affiliation, in modern lingo], NONES. Did you need crossings to put this answer together, or do you use this modern lingo? It’s odd that this word has “nuns” for a homophone.
- 17a. [Half of an old comic film duo], PA KETTLE. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello … Ma and Pa Kettle?
- 18a. [It includes picking the place], EXACTA. Horse race, betting, correctly picking the “win” and “place” (1st and 2nd) horses. Horse racing, of course, is an industry rife with abuse that leads to the untimely demise of far too many horses. /soapbox
- 59a. [Court luminaries], NBA STARS. Coming a week and a half after high-profile Supreme Court hearings, I was picturing black robes rather than long shorts.
- 21d. ["Well, that one doesn't work"], IT’S A DUD. I’m afraid the entry itself is also my opinion of this entry. It’s so meta. It’s as if TERRIBLE ANSWER were in the grid. I hated, hated, hated this entry. Okay, maybe that’s overstating it.
- 40d. [Mortimer of old radio], SNERD. Hang on a second! You can’t be a ventriloquist on the radio! You could totally move your mouth and nobody would see it! (Snerd was the name of Edgar Bergen’s dummy. Edgar was Candice Bergen’s dad. I don’t know whether the dummy was like a brother to her.)
4.25 stars. Lots of zip and very little doo.
Ned White’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I am feeling ambivalent towards today’s puzzle theme. If you’re still confused, the theme answers are all spoonerisms, i.e. the consonants of two words have been swapped and the result clued “wacky-style”. That’s pretty broadly defined as themes go. On the other hand, Ned White has used the opportunity to cherry-pick (er) some great, original answers rather than golden oldie spoonerisms… At least this is one for those who love hookers!
The answers are:
- [Falk and Fonda after mud wrestling?], ICKYPETERS. “Picky eaters”
- [Overzealous peach eaters?], PITNICKERS. “Nitpickers”
- [Oils a deck of cards?], SLICKSUPTHEPACK. “Picks up the slack”
- [Security images of an armed robbery?], STICKUPPIX. “Pick-up Sticks”
- [Gal idolizing actor Matthew?], PERRYCHICK. “Cherry-pick
Quite a dense theme, so mostly the non-theme fill is predictably utilitarian. We do have NOTACLUE and the fun-to-say CHOCTAWS. I don’t remember seeing INDUS in many puzzles despite its letters and geographical stature.
There were some cunning clues [Net profit makers] are ISPS – as in internet. [Lost, as a tail], SHOOK refers not to actual tails and lizards, but people following you.
Lastly, I found myself stuck in a few small corners and struggled to put the puzzle to bed, how about you? I’m not sure why the clue for WHISK was so opaque, but my unfamiliarity with BUCKO and my sketchy familiarity with ARKIN made that area tough. I even started doubting HUR for a bit! I had to post-solve google what [1970s-'80s self-improvement course] was all about. Apparently this. Oh and in the process I discovered this, which is if anything weirder! Also didn’t know [Coney Island" documentarian Burns] – Flair and Ocasek are the two typical crossword strong>RICs. Also was semi-stumped at STOLI/LAG as I wasn’t thinking about specific brands of gimlet ingredients. Let it be clear none of this is being held against the puzzle, it is after all a puzzle, so complaining simply for being puzzled is unfair. None of those crossings are unfair in the slightest. I’m just supposed to record my solving experience, and a lot of it was spent on those few squares!
Perfectly fine puzzle, I’m rating it a 3 but feel free to share your own experiences below!
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Musical Comedy” — pannonica’s write-up
I suppose this could also be called “Mr Holland’s Opus.” The long across answers offer common musical terms, but the twist is that they’re reimagined in a lateral way, and clued in this alternative sense. More opportunistic clue than revealer, 58-down [This puzzle’s theme entries, e.g.] PUNS, offers some guidance.
- 18a. [One clever kid?] A SHARP MINOR. This one works better on paper than as spoken, since the emphasis moves from the first word to the second in the punnification process.
- 25a. ["John Hancock" on the Declaration of Independence?] KEY SIGNATURE. Hm, I like the twist, but is his autograph more crucial than any others, or just famously the largest?
- 48a. [Flawless bottle of booze?] PERFECT FIFTH. Good, but my mind habitually goes to the practice of incorporating both sweet and dry vermouths in a cocktail when I hear “perfect” in this context. This is idiosyncratic and not a real slight against the clue or answer.
- 63a. [IOU for twenty-five cents?] QUARTER NOTE. Damn, I can’t find any nit—marginal, far-fetched, or other—to pick with this one. What will all the other mean, nasty critics think of this lapse? I’m such a failure.
Puns are verbal riffs, and if I didn’t already think MIDRIFF was a great word, I’d certainly think it is in this puzzle, appearing as it does down the backbone of the grid. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s such a thing as a MIDRIFF in musical notation. In any case, riff does have a musical connotation.
Three of the four long downs—SENATES, ARMADAS, STYLETS (all plurals, you’ll notice)—have strong Latin roots. SLANTED is the odd one out here. Speaking of that location, it’s the part of the puzzle that I completed last. The trouble was with 20-across [Rid of impurity], which I figured was past tense, first filling in CLEARED, much later modifying it to CLEANED, and finally—when the crossings simply would not coöperate at all—realizing there was no clever misdirection of tense predicated on “rid,” and that the answer is CLEANSE.
- 32a/35a: What a nice, higher-eddy way to clue the evisceratingly blah words THE and DEAD by presenting them in sequence and referencing the [ … James Joyce novella from "Dubliners"]!
- The consecutive appearance of NAIF and YAHOO is also scintillating, at least mildly so. Can something be said to be “mildly scintillating”?
- 57a [Verb associated with Neville Chamberlain] APPEASE. He’ll never live that down, poor guy.
- 8d ["Fitzcarraldo" director] Werner HERZOG. Great movie, but I adore even more the earlier Herzog/Kinski South American film/debacle Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes. Don’t miss the documentary My Best Fiend. You read that right.
- Low CAP Quotient™ makes for a non-ruffling solve overall.
Good, enjoyable puzzle, despite musical terminology being not 100% my bag.
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Chance of Showers” — pannonica’s write-up
The chance is 100% that RAIN will show, if the fill is a long across theme answer.
- 23a. ["Push 'em back! Push 'em back! Way back!"?] FOOTBALL REF(RAIN).
- 39a. [Imposter pretending to be from Manama?] BAH(RAIN) HUMBUG.
- 49a. [Parts of transportation for passengers and their autos?] CART(RAIN) WHEELS. Both clue and answer are strained. Speaking of which,
- 63a. [Cops huffing and puffing during a chase?] POLICE ST(RAIN)ING, which is not strained at all. Such is the quality of mercy.
- 81a. [Like a jumbo egghead?] B(RAIN)Y AND LARGE.
- 89a. [Mariner who can be taught?] T(RAIN)ABLE SALT. See also 48a [Ingredient of eau de mer] SEL.
- 111a. [Put handcuffs on, and get no resistance?] REST(RAIN) IN PEACE.
[Unstable internet this morning caused my brilliantly literate and stunningly insightful analysis to disappear into the ether. You'll have to settle for this hasty, inferior approximation. Apologies.]
Cute theme. Most of the precipitated phrases caused at least a smirk to cross my face. Two of the phrases (49a, 89a) share the train root and two others (63a, 1a1a) share the strain etymology. It’s clear, however, that an effort was made to separate these phyletic entries from each other: train as a noun and then as an adjectival version of a verb in the first pair, and strain converted to restrain in the latter.
I also appreciate how the position of the inserted letter quartet varies from phrase to phrase (although it never appears at the very beginning of one). RAIN never spans across two words; I’ll not undertake even a cursory investigation to see how feasible it may have been to generate a few of those (enough to ensure that the theme answers didn’t have just one or two anomalies), but I suspect the answer is “not so feasible.”
And in a poetic touch, the base phrase for the last themer is “rest in peace,” which has an obvious sense of finality.
During the solve I was encouraged by the unusual number of single words among the long non-theme answers: NEOLIBERAL, BILINEAR, IDIOCIES, PORTRAYALS. They so often feel more impressive or gratifying than phrases, even strong, cogent phrases. Speaking of which, NOBLE BLOOD and LOW FAT DIET are none too shabby.
- [Burn soother] for both 37a BALM and 55a ALOE.
- 56d LINE ONE, the not-so-pretty answer to also not-so-pretty [Spot for gross receipts or sales on Schedule C] (though it is timely) detracts from the appeal of the aforementioned BILINEAR.
- New-to-me vocabulary: CALTROP, which is apparently the name for the [Spiky device thrown in the road to puncture tires]. It’s an ancient technology and seems to be derived from its similar appearance to the water caltrop. This gives me an opportunity to lay down one of my favorite fun words: rozsocháč.
- With the interruptions, I’ve forgotten many details of the solve, but I don’t recall an excess of crosswordese, abbrevs., partials, et cetera that unduly intruded on the experience.
- Favorite clue was probably 20a [Way to order dressing or earn extra money] ON THE SIDE. Many others were typically tailored and framed for the business-oriented readership befitting the Wall Street Journal.