Michael Sharp’s New York Times crossword – Andy’s review
Hi, y’all! I’m filling in for Amy while she’s on vacation. Sorry to the early birds (pre-6AM Eastern) for the late post! Just looking at the grid, I knew it would be a fun solve: four triple-stacks of ten-letter entries filling each corner. They’re all beauties, but each corner has one standout answer. Let’s hit the highlights, shall we?
- 17a, [Former "Weekend Update" host on S.N.L.], AMY POEHLER. The clue opens up a world of possibilities, as Weekend Update’s had a lot of hosts (even some 10-letter ones, like SETH MEYERS).
- 61a, [Movie mogul whom Forbes magazine once named the highest-paid man in entertainment], TYLER PERRY. Another name begging to see the light of crosswords, yet this is the first time I recall seeing it in full. Perry earned the honor in 2011, thanks to not only the popular “Madea”” franchise but also the TBS shows House of Payne and Meet the Browns.
- 27d, [TV sketch comedy set in the "city where young people go to retire"], PORTLANDIA. Funny show, featuring another S.N.L. alum, Fred Armisen. Has his full name been in a crossword yet? I saw an episode featuring one of my favorite musicians, Joanna Newsom (still waiting for her crossword debut, I think). She’s engaged to yet another S.N.Ler, Andy Samberg.
- 12d, [N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer who, with Walt Frazier, formed the Knicks' "Rolls Royce Backcourt"], EARL MONROE. Walt Frazier has quite a Scrabbly name, doesn’t he? For those of us who go straight to Steinbeck when we hear “The Pearl,” it may not spring to mind that Monroe’s nickname was Earl “The Pearl.”
I also really loved MIRACLE GRO, ALL-TERRAIN, and SENEGALESE in those stacks. Of the connecting fill, ANTIBODY, READ-ONLY, HORRORS!, and the trending TRENDING were very nice. Of course, it’s difficult to get a grid with so many nice long entries without using some less-than-stellar 3- and 4-letter entries to glue them together. Lowlights in this one include ATA, MAI, ROG, ORL, LGA, NEN, IRT, INSP, ESTA, and the bygone ETNAS. OLDNESS rubbed me the wrong way as well. But other than that, really solid fill, and definitely an enjoyable solve from the GREGARIOUS Mr. Sharp. I’ll give this one 3.33 stars. Until next time, which might be sooner than you think!
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A sound addition theme (both meanings of “sound” are intended here) by Ed Sessa today. It’s probably easier to understand than for me to explain it, but here goes: Each theme phrase ends in a singular one-syllable word ending in an “S” sound. An “F” sound is added before the “S” to create wacky phrases ending in plural nouns. You dig? So, we have:
- 20a, [Dog aficionados?], GREYHOUNDBUFFS. Greyhound Bus. Great answer!
- 34a, [Lilliputian ocean formations??], PEEWEEREEFS. Peewee Reese. I think he plays/played baseball? Anyway, I love how Ed/Rich managed to included both Swiftian size adjectives in the puzzle! (See also 55d, [Brobdingnagian], HUGE)
- 40a, [Fodder for the British tabloids?], NOBLEGAFFES. Noble gas.
- 54a, [Reason for many December returns?], CHRISTMASGOOFS. Christmas goose. I assume that’s a thing in America?
Highlights in the grid include the fun word GUFFAWED, the au courant SWAGBAG (which was a GIFTBAG then a TOTEBAG in my grid!), SCREWTOP and the ZAPPA/PYREX corner that was executed without compromising the rest of that corner!
Further bits and pieces:
- 1a, ["Apostrophe (')" rocker], ZAPPA. The clue almost sounds like someones wearing an apostrophe in a stylish manner, doesn’t it?
- 1a, ["Bone used in pronation], ULNA. Easy enough from bone, but I imagine some people aren’t familiar with the concept of pronation and supination. When your arm is supinated, the palms face upward (as though as begging for soup was our mnemonic). Pronation is the opposite of that. It applies to hind-limbs too.
- 19a, [Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a __"], FAUN. Sounds like a lot of faun doesn’t it? I’ll stop now.
- 50a, [Classic Stutz], BEARCAT. Don’t confuse it with the manbearpig!
- 64a, [Horse show], MRED. Cunning! A TV show about a horse!
- 4d, [Start of an oft-misquoted 1942 film line], PLAYIT. Except up to this point, it’s correct, or so I’m told having not seen that particular movie
- 11d, [Norway's patron saint], OLAF. Is there a patron saint of crosswords? He’d get my vote!
A solid theme and an entertaining grid and clues: four stars from me!
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Body Blow” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four expressions that are in the form of [body part] + [gerund]:
- [Really funny] is GUT BUSTING. Isn’t this the slogan to one of the cable networks, maybe Comedy Central? (“Really funny,” not “gut busting” that is!)
- [Really loud] clues EAR SPLITTING. I’m just now noticing that all the clues are in the form of [Really...]. That’s really cool.
- [Really strenuous] is BACK BREAKING.
- [Really impressive] clues EYE POPPING.
A new feature of my commentaries will be to see if there is any possible way the middle entry can be considered part of theme to avoid future embarrassment. Today’s is [Have a hippo] or CALVE. Now, while giving birth to a baby hippo could be considered “gut busting,” “back breaking,” and even “eye popping,” since the clue isn’t in the form of [Really....], nor is the entry in the form of [body part] + [gerund], I think I’m safe assuming it’s just part of the fill.
Solid theme as we’ve come to expect from this constructor. I thought it rather funny that since I interpreted the clue [Details] as a verb and put in SPECIFIES, I just had to change that E to a C to get the intended noun form. (Might be a good trivia question – what verb becomes a noun when you change an E to a C?) Anyway, hard to choose just one FAVE today with such smooth fill, but I’ll go for the clever clue [Item on a jacket] for BOOK TITLE. My UNFAVE was the abbr. RESP, but it’s a small nit to be sure.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Switchcraft” — pannonica’s write-up
Recipe: take a rhyming phrase, swap first and second words, reclue as appropriate. Salt to taste. Arrange on 21×21 platter, garnish with many other words. Publish in national newspaper. Makes nine.
- 22a. [Deli man who lies about sandwich fillings] BALONEY PHONEY. Though most establishments have reverted to the more authentic BOLOGNA spelling.
- 41a. [Rocker Van Halen's girlfriend?] EDDIE STEADY.
- 68a. [Typo on a vodka bottle label?] PROOF GOOF. And the proof(read)er would have goofed as well. While under the influence of this clue, I was fooled into thinking that the crossing 49d [Shot, for short] was TYPO, and was annoyed, feeling it needed a “perhaps” qualifier. The correct answer is HYPO, for hypodermic.
- 96a. [Bedtime horror show?] NIGHT FRIGHT. Not terribly removed from the original sense.
- 119a. [Demolition Man of the Year?] BLASTER MASTER.
- 11d. [Banquet honoring the Brady family?] BUNCH LUNCH. Have never heard of the original.
- 14d. [Vintage skirt manufacturer's shakedown?] BUSTLE HUSTLE.
- 60d. [Latest gossip about movie star Driver?] MINNIE SKINNY.
- 74d. [Composer W.C. on the cover of GQ?] DANDY HANDY.
Not the meatiest of themes, but as a canapé it’ll please your weekend guests, especially if you keep the SOAVE and BACARDI flowing (51d, 113a). Ply them heartily enough and perhaps they won’t notice the dubious FUN RUNS at 20-across. Or at least be courteous enough not to mention it. (I obviously have no such qualms.)
Chewy accompaniments include HYDRATION, FACE NORTH (a non-rhyming switch-phrase), STRAY CAT, and TANNERY.
- 26a, 55d [Concerning] IN RE, AS FOR. 23d, 110a [Trading card stat] ERA, RBI. 59d [Perfume from YSL] OPIUM, 107d [Part of YSL] YVES.
- 33a [Everything, in Essen] ALLE, but more accurately ALLES, since “everything” is a noun.
- Strangely fixated on the symmetrical pair HEPTAD and SINÉAD (65a, 73a). See also 48d TRIG.
- 61a [Call‘s counterpart] PUT, 102d [Make a sales visit to] CALL ON. 18a [Albany setting] UPSTATE, 62d [Prefix with athlete or state] TRI-.
- Favorite clues: 66a [Impressionist's art] APING. 108d [Prevention unit] ISSUE (not OUNCE). 81a [What some keys are made of] CORAL.
Pleasant, sunny puzzle.
Jeffrey Harris’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Misstatements” — pannonica’s write-up
This is a bit curious. The previous CHE puzzle, two weeks ago, was also a 15×16 grid, and also featured a “national” (57a NATL) theme. That one featured hidden presidents, this one provides state name puns. Rather SIMILAR (20d), no?
- 3d. [Give one of the Muses a ring?] CALL ERATO (Colorado). She’s the most popular Muse in crosswordom! Good misdirection with ring, too.
- 17d. [The dos and don'ts of prison life?] CON ETIQUETTE (Connecticut).
- 18d. [Fountain order for someone who isn't all that thirsty?] MINI SODA (Minnesota).
- 31d. [Aprons, hairnets, and such?] DELI WEAR (Delaware).
- 37d. [Nickname for a married woman of the 1960s?] MRS HIPPIE (Mississippi).
Neat that each of the puns converts a one-word state to a two-word phrase, and all are fresh and fairly flashy. Unrelated to theme: 53a [Withdraw from a union] SECEDE.
OF NOTE (25a):
- Janus time! 4d [Least friendly] ICIEST, 5d [Most friendly] NICEST.
- Trickiest clue; 32a [Deposed one] WITNESS. Deftly echoed—and perhaps misdirected—by 70a [Depose] UNSEAT.
- Interesting clue for tired fill: 59a [Wish granter in a Stevenson short story] IMP. Fortified with that Higher Education vibe™. More HEv (via clues): 1d FAR, 6d GAS, 12d SENSE, 43d AHAB, 48d BEAVER, 58d AMOR, 42a AQUA.