Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “My Treat”
Tasty theme! We have the liquid version, four degrees of cacao content, two ethnicities, and one generic term that explains the vertical placement of the theme answers.
- 3d. [1984 "educational" Van Halen song], HOT FOR TEACHER. From a woman’s standpoint, the song/video are kinda gross, but ’84 is my pop music sweet spot, and hot chocolate is delicious.
- 68d. [Flowering plant used to treat liver ailments], MILK THISTLE. I’ve heard of it, but don’t know if it looks like regular thistle plants. Milk chocolate is pretty far down my preference list, though I don’t turn away from mainstream candy bars with a milk chocolate shell.
- 5d. [1998 Grammy-nominated song by the Verve], BITTER SWEET SYMPHONY. Tasty, rich chocolate, don’t know the song but have seen the title before.
- 64d. [Light, fruity alcoholic drink], WHITE SANGRIA. White chocolate is, of course, an abomination. Ain’t no cocoa solids in it! If it’s not brown, it’s not chocolate, period. White sangria, on the other hand, yum. I don’t do red wine, so red sangria is a no-go. But white sangria is a lovely way to get a serving of diced fruit in.
- 10d. [Setting of Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible"], BELGIAN CONGO. Loved, loved, LOVED the novel, but needed the crossings to remind me where it was set. My Sporcle quizzing only gives me current names of African countries, dang it.
- 26d. [Classic novel subtitled "Adventures in a Desert Island," with "The"], SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. I’m more partial to Swiss chocolate (hello, Lindt) than Belgian. Sure, Callebaut began as a Belgian chocolatier, but is now based in Zurich.
- 14d. [2012 film starring Johnny Depp as a bloodsucker], DARK SHADOWS. Did anyone see that? Dark chocolate, yes, please.
- 59d. [Kiss alternative ... or a hint to the starts of 3-, 5-, 10-, 14-, 26-, 64- and 68-Down], CHOCOLATE DROP. I’m not sure, but I suspect CHOCOLATE DROP means the same thing as a chocolate chip, or a chocolate chip/Kiss-shaped piece of chocolate. It’s also the name of a rapper, or a comedian/actor’s rapper alter ego.
In summary, chocolate is delicious, and any of you with a chocolate allergy or intolerance have my condolences.
Today’s Bruce Morton treat is 34a: [Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni] GABRIELI, entirely unknown to me but certainly quite familiar to Bruce, who is surely shaking his fist at the inanity of a SYMPHONY answer being tied to an alt-rock band.
My favorite fill includes “YOU BETTER“; BOING; Opie’s aunt BEE TAYLOR (never encountered her in the first/last name format, though); my mom’s name, CLAUDIA; “I HOPE SO”; and tasty RICOTTA cheese. Least liked: 57d. [Attach], TAG ON. Although the dictionary gives a usage example: “She meant to tag her question on at the end of her remarks.” But the clue felt like it was paralleling “pin on” or “tack on,” and I couldn’t picture anyone tagging something on.
3.75 stars. If you squint at the puzzle grid, it might pass for a giant pixelated chocolate chip cookie.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Puzzle with a Twist”
Every theme answer has a hidden LEMON or LIME in it. Seven LEMONs and nine LIMES in all:
- 16a. [Cleveland Hall of Famer known for his sinkerball], BOB LEMON. Is there also a basketball Lemon to go with this baseball one?
- 18a. [Brit's cry], BLIMEY, MATE.
- 20a. [The third man in "The Third Man"], HARRY LIME. Also a good name for the kiwifruit.
- 21a. [Where cacti grow], DRIER CLIMES. Sorta contrived answer.
- 34a. [Super brats], LITTLE MONSTERS. Maybe contrived, but certainly fun.
- 44a. [Explainer's words], ALL I MEANT WAS…
- 54a. [In a magnificent manner], SUBLIMELY. Seinfeld ruined that word for me. Kramer’s “sublime buttocks,” man.
- 62a. [First American to win the Tour de France], GREG LEMOND. That anagrams to LEGEND … GROM. But LeMond is definitely a legend. Lance Armstrong didn’t appreciate his insistence that Lance must’ve been doping.
- 65a. [Small unit], MILLIMETER.
- 76a. [Sleazy weasel], SLIMEBALL. Love the clue!
- 86a. [Probation device that Martha Stewart once wore], ANKLE MONITOR.
- 93a. [Say "You're cute," say], PAY A COMPLIMENT. Hey, you’re pretty good at crosswords!
- 113a. [King, for one], MALE MONARCH. Contrived phrase. Almost wish it were clued as a butterfly.
- 116a. [AABBA works], LIMERICKS. There once was a puzzler named Reagle / Whose themes are barely even legal. / His puns make us groan, / And break our funny bone— / Nonsequitur: Snoopy’s a beagle.
- 118a. [Kindly (but ill-fated) guardian in the Lemony Snicket series], UNCLE MONTY. I only know of the “I am your uncle, Count Olaf” guy.
- 119a. [New Testament book], PHILEMON.
Note the stacking of four pairs of theme answers in the corners, and the thematic density that 16 theme entries bring. Mind you, the 16-ness also constrains the fill, so we get some unfamiliar names. Like TIMMIE (36d. [Pioneering black comedian (whose signature line was "Oh, yeah!"), ___ Rogers])—never heard of him. To the YouTube! Here’s a little history, and then 6 minutes of Rogers’ comedy on the Dom DeLuise show. Never, ever heard of this guy before, but I did appreciate learning about him. I also didn’t know ZIXI (83d. [Queen of Ix in Oz stories]), and that one was less thrilling to learn.
Not much else to report on. Lots of names in the puzzle, no? And the ballast fill is pretty much all short and unexciting stuff, thanks to the sheer number of theme entries. 3.75 stars.
Amy Johnson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Subway Series”
People in other cities may grumble that els are patently elevated train lines and a subway is by definition an underground train line, but in Chicago, we take the El even if the route burrows under downtown. (All the CTA lines are mostly on elevated tracks, but the Red and Blue Lines have subway portions beneath downtown, while the rest of the lines form The Loop aboveground.) Anyway! The theme entries have -ELS tacked onto a word to change the meaning:
- 23a. ["I say! Lovely places to worship!"?], JOLLY GOOD CHAPELS.
- 36a. [Teflon advisory groups?], NONSTICK PANELS.
- 57a. [IOU?], VOWELS OF POVERTY. Love it!
- 81a. [Really bad nursery color schemes?], CRIMINAL PASTELS. If you Google criminal pastels, you do summon up some pictures from Miami Vice.
- 99a. [Ones who control the markets?], GROCERY CARTELS.
- 120a. [What to grab for an early morning flight?], BAGELS AND BAGGAGE. Not sure what “bags and baggage” is, phrase-wise.
With only six theme entries, the grid has room to breathe, and when it exhales, it dispenses nice bits like MOTOROLA, RAVIOLI, ROSE BOWL, PARMESAN, MOLASSES, MADONNA, KOMODO, MASCARA, and INTRIGUE.
We get an etymology clue for TENET: 129a. [Latin for "he holds"]. I do like a good etymology factoid. And I learned a French opera venue from 37d. [Palais Garnier performance], OPERA. Pretty sure I hadn’t heard of it before now.
Fairly smooth fill with a smattering of crosswordese/repeaters (EROO OSSA RANI ARA, e.g.), but no woeful crossings. 3.5 stars.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 158″—Janie’s review
Hello, WaPo Puzzle Fans! As your 2nd-Sunday-of-the-month blogger, I gotta tell ya how pleased I am that Sam was game for sharing the gig with Gareth and me. Wanted to be a more active Team Fiend contributor—and this filled the bill. As I’ve written before, given the constructors who are part of the WaPo team, this has become one of my favorite puzzles of the week. Today’s was no exception.
From CAESAR ["He thinks too much: such men are dangerous speaker] to MAESTRO [Worker in a pit], there’s something of the CLASSIC ["Moby Dick," for one] about this one. To wit, KLIMT, that ["Beethoven Frieze" painter] (inspired by the “Ode to Joy” a/k/a the choral movement of Beethoven’s 9th). Also the inclusion of both AMORE [Canzone subject often] and EROS [It's opposed by Thanatos, in Freudian theory] (and in an iconic Woody Allen film, too). We also get Arthurian stalwart GAWAIN [Hero challenged by the Green Knight]—and (on the lighter side) let me mention that I love the way it’s situated close to (and alliterative with) GEWGAW. (How’s that for some cruciverbal CHICANERY? [And do you love that word or what?])
If all this is too cerebral and you’re a sports-loving ALPHA DOG with more FERVOR for things physical, there’s also baseball (the non-felonious HIT AND RUN), basketball (the non-monitary-unit [Bucks, e.g.] NBA TEAM), swimming or track (LANES), boxing (TKOS), a certain downhill activity requiring a way to the top (SKI LIFTS), and even Highland Games (CABER).
Looks to me like all of this adds up to mens sana in corpore sano!
For the record, this is a 68/31—68 words, 31 blocks—which has basically open corners, lovely triple stacks in the NW and SE, and strong triple columns NE and SW. Why “lovely” and “strong”? Because the fill is. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, let me REITERATE my appreciation by also giving a shout out to REMINISCE, ON A LEASH, MARINARA, EARTHMEN and TENACITY.
Then there are those two 14s. Thank goodness that seriously unfriendly looking [Patagonian toothfish, on menus] is sold as benign-sounding, great-tasting CHILEAN SEA BASS. And wow, the tie-in of that scary-lookin’ creature to [Charlie Brown's nemesis], that benign-looking yet seriously unfriendly KITE-EATING TREE just occurred to me. Ah, well—I always enjoy a joke once I understand it! So in no small way, these two long, central and related entries anchor the puzzle.
Finally, some fave clues. Today that would include:
- the cinematic/non-automotive [Trailer unit] for SCENE
- the property name/non-operatic [Vegas casino that opened in 2009] for ARIA
- the clinical/non-Christmas-elf [One who fixes toys, e.g.] for VET
- the recreational/non-editorial [Gp. concerned with magazines] for NRA and
- the character-defining/non-show business [Unlikely to sell out] for TRUE TO.
In the non-3-Card-Monte or Eddie Felson way, I’m going to use the [Hustler's phrase...] to say “I’M LATE.” Til next time—CIAO, all!
Henry Hook’s CRooked Crossword, “Step Lively” — pannonica’s write-up
Didn’t discern the theme until after the grid was completely filled. Then again, I gave only passing consideration to that concern as I was flying (for me) through the puzzle. As a result, my tenuous working hypotheses included candy (perhaps influenced by the chocolaty NYT) and some sort of nicknames thing.
It’s of course patently obvious with the merest calm reflection that the theme is names of dances.
- 18a. [Rose nickname] CHARLIE HUSTLE. Pete Rose, the baseball player.
- 21a. [Nougat treat since 1922] CHARLESTON CHEW. See also 12d FONDANT, 74a TOFFEES.
- 35a. [Neglected] STUCK IN LIMBO.
- 45a. ["We've been caught!"] THE JIG IS UP.
- 86a. [Gear on a pier?] ROD AND REEL. Further, there are mechanical gears inside the reel.
- 96a. [Mechanic] GREASE MONKEY. Are coveralls a greasemonkeysuit?
- 118a. [Garb in a 1960 song] POLKA-DOT BIKINI. It was itsy-bitsy.
- 122a. [Cruciverbalist's buy at Staple's?] QUADRILLE PAD. Now that is an admirably geeky clue and answer!
- 36d. [Irony ingredient] TWIST OF FATE. Simple, no?
Sure, I could nitpick and say that nearly half of those (four, to be precise) practically require the definite article to be understood as dances, at least as nouns rather than verbs. (That is, one could say either “let’s twist!” or “let’s do the Twist!”) But in truth I don’t feel it’s at all a detriment here.
Non-theme, not-really-bonus: 74d [Tango requisite] TWO.
Really felt elated by rolling through the vertical eight-stacks on the central flanks, especially one on the right-hand side: 50d ["Manon" composer] MASSENET, 51d [Fiberboard brand] MASONITE (see also 125a [Gypsum variety] SELENITE (which I didn’t know)), 52d [Put out] EMANATED.
- 2d [Los Angeles district] TARZANA (actually named for Tarzan), 121a [Neighbor of 2-Down] ENCINO.
104a [Highlander] SCOT, 116a [Wee 'uns, to 104-Across] BAIRNS.
105a [Inuit for "house"] IGLU, 115d [Conical tent (var.)] TIPI.
16d [Studio echo] REVERB right alongside 17d [Sound setup] STEREO.
11d [Noyes's "lilac time" locale] KEW (Gardens), 72a [Little-used letter] KUE.
- In which being a New York Citier is both a help and a hindrance: Good: was unfamiliar with the [1972 play, "6 Rms __ Vu"] but was easily able to surmise—without crossings—that it was RIV, short for river (Hudson or East, presumably). (See also 1d [ __ al Arab (river in Iraq)] SHATT, whatt? Bad: 42d [NYC transit abbr.] LIRR; sorry, despite the fact that its lines terminate in Manhattan, I can’t help but think of it as a suburban system.
- Don’t agree with the assertion that [Like a prank, to the pranked] is necessarily UNFUNNY. Is someone speaking from personal bias here? (63d)
- Greatest unfortunates: 26d [Of Shak.'s time] ELIZ(abethan), 124a [Off-the-rack (abbr.)] RTW, aka PAP (pret-à-porter)? Runners-up: DAK, OKD, LAR (although if it had had a gibbon clue, I’d feel differently), IOLA,
- Favorite clue: 46d [Time for an egg roll] EASTER. (See also 111a [Chinese-menu general] TSO.
- Didn’t understand: 110d [Kate's aunt-in-law] ANNE. Is this a British royals thing?
Good puzzle, decent theme elevated to above average overall with extreme overlaps (first and last two across themers) and mostly robust supporting fill.