Jean O’Conor’s New York Times crossword, “Befitting”
The title promised some “B” action and it delivers, changing V sounds into B sounds:
- 23a. [Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic?], TENNIS SERBS. Tennis serves.
- 28a. [Tour guide's comment at the primate house?], THAT’S A GIBBON. “That’s a given.” Did I ever tell you about the time we were in the large mammal house and asked, “What’s that?” and the zookeeper said, “That’s a tapir,” and we said, “No, what’s that?” and he explained that it was the tapir’s penis and the beast was just a little “upset.” (That is my more R-rated tapir story. The PG story involves a tapir in England whizzing on my entire family.)
- 33a. [Sign for tourists visiting the Bolshoi?], BALLET PARKING. Valet parking.
- 51a. [Tropical paradise for Barbie and Ken?], BALI OF THE DOLLS. Valley of the Dolls. I was initially thinking the base phrase would begin with “volley,” but the island can rhyme with both “volley” and “valley.”
- 65a. [Let Justin take care of everything?], LEAVE IT TO BIEBER. Leave It to Beaver. Shouldn’t this be LIEB IT TO BIEBER, though?
- 84a. [Passed security at the troubadours' convention?], SHOWED BALLAD ID. Showed valid ID.
- 97a. [Prepare to go canoeing?], GET OUT THE BOAT. Get out the vote.
- 107a. [Stadium binge?], HOT DOG BENDER. Hot dog vendor.
- 116a. [Fortunetellers' protest demand?], SIBYL RIGHTS. Civil rights.
Looking past the theme, this puzzle sold itself to me with that GINORMOUS. Those of you who argue that it’s not a real word should know that the dictionary cites its origins as 1940s military slang. It’s been around long enough and people use it; it’s a word. I also liked seeing GONE FLAT, LUMBER as a verb, RAGTAG, BASEBALL (just scored free tickets to tomorrow’s Cubs/Mets game, and if I go, no, I won’t really pay close attention to the action on the field), and TUNA FISH, which you will never get me to eat the canned form of. The two-fer [Ran] clue at 45d and 46d, for FLED and BLED, is another nice touch. It would’ve been more Klahnesque if one was a verb and the other was the Kurosawa movie—Bob Klahn likes those break-your-brain clue pairs.
I needed every crossing for 93a. [One of three Canadian aboriginal groups], METIS. The Métis are of mixed First Nations and European origin. Mestizo is a cognate.
I didn’t know that 63d. [José, to friends] would be PEPE. Apparently the same clue could have a number of valid answers, including Cheché, Chepe, Zé, Zezé, Zezinho, Zuca, and Juca, depending on whether you’re in Hispanic America (the Ch- names) or in a Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) land.
Four stars from me. I enjoyed the puzzle and its theme.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Great Outdoors”
There are lots of books, movies, songs, plays, and other leisure pursuits that have titles pertaining to the great outdoors. Merl compiles a bunch of them into an entertainment-centric road trip narrative:
- 22a. ["As we pulled out of the driveway, Dad started singing '___' ..."], ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Willie Nelson song, apparently.
- 34a. ["Mom put her headphones on and started listening to an audiobook of '___' ..."], AH, WILDERNESS! Eugene O’Neill play. I was thinking Willa Cather, but of course that’s O Pioneers!, the other starts-with-an-exclamation, ends-with-an-exclamation-point work of literature. Are there others? Starting with Hey or Yo or Aw, perhaps?
- 45a. ["I saw some ___. Lodges, that is ..."], MOOSE AND ELK. Okay, this one is just a non-outdoorsy rendering of two animals as two fraternal organizations. Not really a title/name of any one thing, right?
- 48a. ["Sis and I played ___ ..."], GO FISH. Card game.
- 55a. ["On the radio, Creedence Clearwater Revival sang '___' ..."], GREEN RIVER.
- 59a. ["Then Dad played his favorite CD, '___' ..."], SURFIN’ USA.
- 70a. ["I was thirsty, so I opened a ___ ..."], MOUNTAIN DEW.
- 83a. ["I unintentionally brought Mom's bag of DVDs instead of mine, so in the back seat we watched about 10 minutes of '___' ..."], STATE FAIR.
- 86a. ["We watched about 10 minutes of '___' ..."], ON THE BEACH. Nuclear!
- 93a. ["And we watched about 10 minutes of '___' ..."], PICNIC. The play.
- 96a. ["But since I actually like Danny Glover and Steve Martin, we watched all of '___' ..."], GRAND CANYON.
- 107a. ["Yep, it doesn't take much to make us ___! ..."], HAPPY CAMPERS. Who are not actually doing any camping.
- 123a. ["So you never know — next time we take a trip across the country we might even ___"], GET OUT OF THE SUV. Rim shot.
Five more comments:
- 20a: ONE LB crossing 14d: ONE HR? Bzzzz! Two wrongs don’t make a right, especially when you add the third wrong of the word duplication in close quarters.
- 25d. [Cat Stevens tune, "Sad ___"] LISA. Never heard of it; neither had my husband.
- 29d. [Ouida novel, "___ Flanders"], A DOG OF. I know this from crosswords, likely from the occasional OUIDA clue, but still needed all the crossings to put the answer together. Six-letter partial, a Merl thing.
- 18a. [Independent film genre], ART CINEMA. I keep seeing this in my peripheral vision and reading it as ARCTIC ENEMA. Just me?
- Lots of fill flatly in the “meh” category. Only the ONEHR/ONELB thing made me actually frown while solving, but mostly this puzzle didn’t captivate me. 2.9 stars.
Over and out.
Alan Arbesfeld’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “PG-13″
I glanced at the title and guessed that there would be 13 theme answers with P.G. initials. Yep:
- 23a. [It's designed not to be noticeable], PLATE GLASS.
- 25a. [Lawman who killed Billy the Kid], PAT GARRETT.
- 30a. [Ibsen play with music by Grieg], PEER GYNT.
- 37a. [Subject with no depth?], PLANE GEOMETRY. Good clue.
- 50a. [Former park near the Harlem River], POLO GROUNDS.
- 53a. [Fun-loving female], PARTY GIRL.
- 68a. [Where to see an inflation index?], PRESSURE GAUGE.
- 85a. [Co-chair of John McCain's 2007-'08 presidential campaign], PHIL GRAMM.
- 88a. [View from Kuwait City], PERSIAN GULF.
- 96a. [Hardly luxury boxes], PEANUT GALLERY.
- 102a. [Military monetary scale], PAY GRADE. Not exclusively military.
- 115a. [Court quarterback], POINT GUARD. Basketball court, metaphorical quarterback.
- 119a. [Fictionary, e.g.], PARLOR GAME.
Favorite row in this puzzle: Row 10 with its verb + adjective + noun partial headline, SIRES TURGID STUPE. TURGID is such a fun word in its own right. Nominees for the subject of this partial sentence, the sire?
Five stodgy bits:
- 71d. [Actress Aimée], first name ANOUK. She lives on mostly in crosswords.
- 72d. [Agave fiber], ISTLE. Crosswordese of the finest rank. See also: INGLE, a fireplace or inglenook. Not in this crossword, but it’s an old chestnut as well.
- 123a. [Egyptian deity], AMON. Not entirely out there, not like PTAH (also not in this crossword).
- 117d. [Rhine tributary], AAR.
- 33d. [They follow springs by about seven days], NEAPS. Coastal dwellers may disagree that this is stodgy. Lake Michigan doesn’t have tides, so…
There’s also plenty of other short filler in the “meh” category, as we do often see in a Sunday-sized grid—one of the reasons I am not partial to the standard themed 21×21. I do prefer a Sunday theme that involves wordplay to one that just gathers a set of phrases that fit a particular category. Three stars.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Given my DNF of yesterday’s NYT by this same constructor, I braced myself for a good ol’ rassle. Luckily for me, this one was constructed and clued to be accessible to a broader audience.
Did you notice the mirror (as opposed to 180-degree rotational) symmetry? There’s the signature quad 15-letter stack at the top, but at the bottom, we have two sets of three seven-letter entries. Since MAS is a common visitor to this blog, perhaps he can tell us why he chose this type of grid for his puzzle today. (Perhaps the Christian element of the cross in the center connects to a “Sunday Challenge” in some way?)
Let’s look at the quad stack first:
- [Abysmal] clues AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE. I’m sure I’ve said that before, and I also liked the tie-in to the much shorter entry DEEP with the same clue, but an entirely different meaning.
- [Office wastebasket, facetiously] clues THE CIRCULAR FILE. Another common phrase for me and something I’ve used often in my attempts to create a publishable crossword!
- [Masters home] wasn’t some art museum, but AUGUSTA NATIONAL, which hosts the annual Masters golf tournament. I think this past one ended in a tie between a guy from Argentina and a younger player, but since neither was Tiger Woods, both names escape me. (Hand up for the sans-Google/Wikipedia pledge!)
- [Patty Duke movie of 1989] clues BEST KEPT SECRETS. Not familiar with the movie, but the phrase is still solid in my book.
So four solid phrases, nicely done! That they incurred two crossing partials A TAB and A LASS is a small knock against them, but to be expected for sure. (I wonder if instead ALASS could be how a snake may utter a sigh?) One more fifteen, POSTAGE STAMP PLOT is found in row 11, I guess I’d like a SIZED in there for my ear, but again it is a common concept. I’m a bit curious about I GOTTA, clued as [Just try an' stop me!], does it pass the phrase-in-its-own-right test solvers? I struggled with how Dwight YOAKAM spells his last name as well–I would’ve guessed YOKUM if there weren’t 6 squares there to fill. All in all, a nice (and thankfully much easier than yesterday) romp!
Mike Nothnagel’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 163″- Sam Donaldson’s review
The Nothnagel byline always brings a smile to my face, as I know I’m in a for a good ride. Today’s 72/30 freestyle didn’t disappoint. It’s framed by intersecting 15s at the equator (BEAT THE PANTS OFF) and prime meridian (AT CROSS PURPOSES), the former boasting long offshoots like RAIN FOREST, FIRE ESCAPE, SCOTT TUROW, and SAFETY NETS, and the latter feeding a couple of triple-stacked 8s.
The northwest fell easily enough, as I figured ARF ARF was the likely answer to [Repetitive sound a burglar doesn’t want to hear]. With six starting letters to the crossing Downs, I was off to the races. Well, kinda sorta. I had two small problems. First, I held on to ADD-ONS as the answer to [Computer extras] before finally getting ADD-INS. And I’ve never heard of The FENS, a [Boston park]. At first I thought maybe it was short for Fenway Park. But no, it’s a real park that goes by the more formal name of “The Back Bay Fens.” The more you know, as NBC would say.
Trying to work may way east, I fell behind when I figured LAMBS was the answer to [They’re innocent]. But the crossings just plain didn’t like that. So I left that area unfinished and moved to the southwest. Luckily the sailing was much smoother there. FATIGUES, the [Military wear], and SARA [Bareilles with the hist “Love Song”] were gimmes, helping the corner stack fall fast. Were it not for crossings I would have been stumped on [Its national anthem is “Bilady, Bilady, Bilady”]. I haven’t seen that many bi ladies since … ah, hell, I have no punchline here. The answer is EGYPT. I also would have been lost on XYLENE, the [Compound used in solvents]. So big thanks to the crossings here–they did the work for me.
On to the southeast. My only gimmes here were TEE for the [Masters prop] and Carla BRUNI, the [Model who married a president] (alas, ABIGAIL FILLMORE didn’t fit). I took a flyer on SCOTT TUROW as the [Author of “Innocent”] even though I am unfamiliar with the book. It felt right–he writes legal fiction (One-L being his best work of fiction ever) and “Innocent” seems like the title of a bad legal novel. So I got lucky there. After I reasoned that I SAY was the [Bloke’s exclamation], I had ???W?Y in place for [In the middle of a slow drop-off?]. I figured it had to end in WAY, and the question mark in the clue had me thinking the clue referred to a slow roll out of a moving car. Yeah, not so much. The answer here proved to be DROWSY. Oh well.
So then it was to the northeast. Along the way, luckily, I had enough of the middle filled in that I could finally see that LAMBS was really BABES. Also in the middle, I kept resisting OLD CAR as the [Demolition derby entrant, frequently] because it looked so 39-Across and arbitrary. If OLD CAR works, do OLD BUS, OLD SLED and OLD BOAT? But when I realized it just had to be OLD CAR, I was freed to tackle the one final corner. What a struggle it proved to be, at least for me. I didn’t make it easy on myself by insisting on MILK instead of YOLK as the [Creme anglaise component]. (No wonder my creme anglaise always comes out so runny!) Or that read [Untold] to mean “something secret” instead of “lots and lots.” Had I realized that sooner, untold minutes (er, MANY minutes) would have been saved.
Three clues and entries of note:
- [It can be toothless] had me thinking of some kind of saw, not an ARGUMENT.
- I fee like I should have known that ATTO is [Metric prefix between femto- and zepto-], but I didn’t. Are Femto and Zepto the lost Marx brothers?
- [Way out in the city?] is a fun clue for FIRE ESCAPE.
Scrabbly but not arrogant, refined yet fun. Yep, that’s a Nothnagel puzzle alright.
Oh, I almost forgot: if you want more Nothnagel in your life (who doesn’t?), don’t miss Any Questions, his weekly quiz segment of WAMC with Ian Pickus. It’s a light and easy introduction to your weekend. And hey, while we’re plugging things, be sure to check out the Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords campaign now on Kickstarter. It’s from the Post Puzzler’s editor, Peter Gordon. And you can probably solve five of them in the time it takes to complete one Post Puzzler.
Favorite entry = J-TILE, perhaps because [It’s worth 10 points in Words With Friends]. I used to play Words With Friends regularly with Mike, but I decided I wasn’t worthy after sporting something like an 0-12 record against him, often with loss margins of 100+ points. Favorite clue = [They get lapped] for SHORES.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Play-by-Play” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle could also have been well-titled as “Double Bill,” as for each theme entry it takes the names of two stage plays and strings them together to create a new phrase. Curtains up!
- 27a. [Rather odd mascot?] OUR TOWN RHINOCEROS. Wilder Ionesco.
- 45a. [Eyesores for open ranges?] OKLAHOMA FENCES. Rogers Hammerstein Wilson. AWOL exclamation point.
- 60a. [Salon graffiti?] HAIRSPRAY ART. Am familiar with Hair and Hairspray, but neither Sprayart nor Art rings a bell. As a guess, I’d say the breakdown is HAIRSPRAY | ART, as that preserves the integrity of the new phrase. Off to look it up … voilà! ”Art is a French language play by Yasmina Reza that premiered on 28 October 1994 at Comédie des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The English language adaptation, translated by Christopher Hampton opened in London’s West End on 15 October 1996, starring Albert Finney. It played on Broadway in New York from Feb. 12, 1998 to Aug. 8, 1999.” – Wikipedia. Waters Reza.
- 70a. [Junket for Satan's minions?] WICKED PICNIC. Schwartz Holzman Inge.
- 85a. [Midwest Greyhound depot?] CHICAGO BUS STOP. Kander Ebb Fosse Inge (Watkins).
- 106a. [Why there's yowling in New York?] CATS LOST IN YONKERS. Webber Simon.
Not going to rave about this theme, but neither will I rant. And I’m certainly not planning to do both, so it’s win-win for all of us, right? Seems a rich vein to tap for a theme, with lots of choices and combinations, so this bunch is understandably strong, with the exception of Art, but that’s most likely due to my own ignorance.
- Cute and/or clever clues: Bang right off the bat with 1a [Abode's makeup?] ADOBE and 2a [Bulk of the Bay State?] MASS. 105a [Big wet spot] SEA.
- Long and longish fill: ENROLLEE (bleah), CONFISCATE, AFFILIATES, POSITIVE, INERT GAS, the anatomical MENINGES and [Bird's third-row feather] TERTIAL (see also 103d PREEN).
- 22a [Blackmore's Lorna] DOONE, 73d [Nary a soul] Peter NOONE.
- Huh? 95d [When the "eagle flies"] PAYDAY. I believe this is a reference to the blues “Stormy Monday,” but all the versions I know say that said raptor aviates on Friday. A search for “the eagle flies on payday” returns an unwhopping 37 results on Google, whereas one for “the eagle flies on friday” garners 205,000. Friday is typically a payday, but not always, so I don’t feel it’s fair to ask the solver to work it that way.
- 92a [Big-eyed lemur] LORIS. Not a lemur. Lorises, along with bushbabies, tarsiers and lemurs, are prosimians (primates that are not apes), but the names are not interchangeable. I wouldn’t expect most solvers to know this, but in a puzzle that features TERTIAL feathers, the error should be highlighted.
- Had, understandably I feel, SCAB for 35a [Healing evidence] SCAR. but the crossing DEBOBAH is definitely not anything sensible. Last square filled/fixed for this solver.
- Vocabulary-building clue to mollify unsavory fill: 19a [Put back in a kraal] REPEN. Safe assumption to think it shares an etymology with coral? Not checking.
- Also not checking: 76a [Like Legolas] ELFISH. Not a JRRTLOTR fan, but was under the impression that it’s “elvish” with a v, and reminiscent of the rock-and-roll fella. Yes, no?
- Coincidence? Row 7: 43a [Played with epees] for DUELED, sharing the line with themer OKLAHOMA FENCES.
- Favorite new non-word: Row 19: “CATCHINONIDED,” laced with catchinonide. Dangerous.