Henry Hook’s New York Times crossword
Two non-Boston Globe/CRooked Henry Hook puzzles in one week! HH had last Friday’s MGWCC and now an NYT puzzle. I hope this means we’ll be seeing the byline more often, and not that these are the only two non-BG puzzles for the next year or two. Man, I can’t remember the last time I did two Hook puzzles in a week. I do have that used copy of his cryptics waiting for me, but the book smelled funny and I set it aside. Do you think the smell has abated by now?
The theme is balls:
- 20a. [Many traditionally have three balls], PAWN SHOP SIGNS.
- 35a. [What four balls may let you do], WALK TO FIRST BASE. Or … never mind.
- 52a. [Gizmo often with five balls that demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy], NEWTON’S CRADLE. My very favorite science gizmo.
Lots of unusual fill in this puzzle: There’s NO-DOZ, the [Vivarin competitor]. And the “WTF?” word SAMP, or [Hominy cereal]; old-school crosswordese vibe there. Fairly obscure [Glenn Close title role], MAXIE. DEAN RUSK, [1960s secretary of state]; not to be confused with my grade-/high-school classmate Dan Rusk. YOWZAH, ["Holy moly!"]. FESTOON, or [Decorate]; a terrific word. ANCHOS, [Sweet chili peppers]. MUGGLE, [Nonmagical one, in Harry Potter]; not sure I’ve seen this in a puzzle before. And North Dakota’s BISMARCK, [State capital whose site was visited by Lewis and Clark]. There’s also the fancy Euro [Vacuum cleaner brand] MIELE; did you know the name?
What a coincidence that we find this theme about three, four, and five balls on the very same day that Jezebel.com’s Lindy West wrote about two balls from an evolutionary standpoint. “We keep all of our other major organs tucked waaaaaay up inside our bodily meat-vaults, protected by bony cages and musclebound walls and fat moats, but then the delicate testes are just expected to bounce around in a gossamer skin hammock and hope for the best?” I appreciate phrasing like “meat-vault” and “fat moat” and “gossamer skin hammock,” I do.
I count about 19 proper nouns in this puzzle. Which means I pretty much enjoyed the fill but a bunch of you said “Aauuugh! How are we supposed to know that?”
I did not know that there was a default ALEXANDER ([Gin concoction]) made with gin. I assumed the Brandy Alexander (same recipe, but with brandy in lieu of gin along with the creme de cacao and cream) was the primary Alexander cocktail.
When did this newfangled “modernspeak” become a word? META is clued as [Self-referential, in modernspeak]. I do not care for this modernword.
Four stars. Not quite hard enough for a Thursday puzzle, in my experience, although all the names probably jacked up the difficulty level for a great many solvers.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 64″
Some weeks, I encounter comments on the blog or on Facebook raving about a Fireball puzzle hours before I even plan to solve it. This week … is not one of those weeks. This is an oddball Fireball, which I found moderately unpleasant to solve. Why? Because of these things:
- 1a. [Green job], ACTOR. What actor Green? Seth Green? Eva Green? Is there a markedly more famous Green out there?
- 14a. [Hostess Mesta], PERLE. Bleh.
- 27a. [The world's second-highest volcano], LLULLAILLACO. Never heard of it. Yes, it has three sets of double-L’s. But is it truly noteworthy?
- 36a. [Former rival of Iberia], SPANAIR. Okay, so, an erstwhile Spanish airline I’ve never heard of, not even via crosswords.
- 44a. [Good-guy video game character in a 2012 animated Disney film], FIX-IT FELIX JR. And if you didn’t see Wreck-It Ralph, you don’t know the make-believe video game characters in it, do you? My kid was 12 when it came out and he had no interest in seeing it. Nor did I.
- 51a. ["Workin' for ___" (Lynyrd Skynyrd song)], MCA. Wha…? I know Chicago’s MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Beastie Boys’ MCA, but not this. Looking at the Lynyrd Skynyrd discography, one sees that their albums were issued by the label MCA, but this song apparently wasn’t even released as a single. I call foul.
- 57a. [Cricket fielders positioned directly behind wicketkeepers], LONGSTOPS. Does cricket also have a shortstop? Is a wicketkeeper like a baseball catcher? Don’t answer. I really don’t care about cricket.
- 9d. [Pizza topping], PASTRAMI. I think this is some New York malarkey. National chain Pizza Hut has no pastrami. Chicago’s Lou Malnati’s has no pastrami. Peter, quit cluing pastrami as a pizza topping. Isn’t this your second time, or was the other one the NYT?
- 11d. [Slow-burning], PUNKY. Dictionary isn’t showing me this meaning, which is unfamiliar to me.
- 56d. [___ Cup (annual Canadian hockey championship)], ESSO. No idea.
I like PIXY STIX, AMEX CARDS (that one was hard to get, [Their numbers always start with 3]), ABYSSINIA, newsy AUTOPILOT, CARJACKED, and ALMANACS (who doesn’t like a good almanac?). But all those other things that I found off-putting really … put me off of this puzzle. Limited to three stars for its obstreperousness.
Tom Pepper’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
So we have another clue/answer reversal theme; these had become quite rare, but seem to be popping up more frequently again. Todays answer, er clue, is [Bugs] and we have five definitions of this occupying the long across positions. I like how none of the definitions are the obvious MEMBERSOFTHEHEMIPTERA, although many are secondary meanings derived from that. We have:
- 17a, HIDDENMIKES
- 23a, BEETLECARS.Beetles themselves are not technically bugs, but VW Beetle cars are often so called.
- 37a, SOFTWAREDEFECTS. Discussion of the etymology of this usage is found here. Note that moths are not, in fact, bugs either.
- 48a, ELMERSBANE. The reason Tom Pepper chose BUGS rather than BUG I presume.
- 59a, DRIVESCRAZY.
I found this mostly typical in difficulty except the area around HIDDENMIKES, which occupy my final 3+ minutes! I clung to HIDDENWIRES obscuring LAPEL, EYELET, TEMPT and ANKLE. I hadn’t heard of the phrase [Apple polisher], but was able to suss TOADY. The clue for ERNIE was obvious, but also painfully tortured [Els only about six feet above the ground]. Still, I started doubting it after nothing else wanted to work!
- 16a, [Big name in kitchenware], OXO. Around here, it’s a big name in beef extract!
- 43a, [Mongolian tent], YURT. Such a strangely mellifluous word that!
- 66a, 67a [San Diego Zoo attraction], GIANT PANDA. A clever, interesting way of fitting a fun long answer in!
- 49d, [Madame Gorbachev], RAISA. A name we’re gradually seeing in fewer crosswords, but worth memorising if you haven’t already!
I overuse the word “solid” when describing crosswords, but I’d say it’s an apt description of the theme and its answers… 3.5 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “And Crafted” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Six (count ‘em, six!) phrases that substitute ‘N’ for AND:
- [Like Little Caesars pizza, they say] is HOT ‘N’ READY – yeah, and like other things as well, but we won’t go there, no we won’t.
- [Modern USPS service] clues CLICK ‘N’ SHIP – is this when you print the label and mail it yourself? Saves a trip to the local P.O., I guess.
- [Animated pair who first appeared in "Private Pluto"] are CHIP ‘N’ DALE
- ["Let's Talk About Sex" hip-hop trio] is SALT ‘N’ PEPA – listening to NPR recently, I heard that Push It by this group is the go-to song to get people up to get down at wedding receptions.
- A childhood staple of mine, [Crumby coating?] clues SHAKE ‘N’ BAKE
- Finally, [It''s here to stay, in a song from the movie "Grease"] is
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – yeah, they go together like “Ramma lamma lamma / Ka dinga da dinga dong.”
I kept waiting for “Spic ‘N’ Span” to appear, but I see now that that “and” is spelled out on product labels. Cute idea and I enjoyed the plethora of theme material. My one question regards the title though, why “And Crafted”? I get the “and” part, but why “crafted”? Is it a play on “hand crafted”? (I’m sure a head slap is lurking in my near future.) Usually with so many theme entries, the fill would suffer a bit from the constraints, but not today’s. We have the totally awesome MELISSA Etheridge, HITCHHIKE, TAKE TEN, CANASTA and [Faux] for IMITATION (my go-to synonym here is “ersatz.”)
I always enjoy learning things from the puzzles I solve, and today I learned that KIWI is a brand of shoe polish, or a [Shinola alternative]. (Actually, I knew that Kiwi was a brand, but hadn’t heard of Shinola in this context; only in the phrase “you don’t know [expletive deleted] from Shinola.”) So that was my FAVE today. My UNFAVE was the UIE spelling for a 180-degree turn. I’m on the UEY side of that fence.
BEQ’s website puzzle, “There’s an App for That” — Matt’s review
“There’s an app for that” is the now-standard joke, which Brendan cruciverbalizes by inserting APP into base phrases:
16-a [Greek lyric poet's arms?] = SAPPHO GUNS, from “shoguns”.
23-a [Like most PRISM-monitored cellphone calls?] = TAPPED TALKS, from “TED Talks”. Clue sounds better without the “Like most.”
35-a [Close in on the Bates establishment?] = APPROACH MOTEL, from “roach motel”.
49-a [Quality of Yeezy's voice?] = RAPPING TONE, not “ringtone”.
57-a [One in dire need of a diaper change?] = CRAPPY BABY, not “crybaby”.
Highlights: SO HELP ME, EVEN KEEL, SIOUX, AFRAID SO, PORPOISE, POP TOP, PODCAST, HOT WAR, CAR SEAT, QIX, NO FUN and The World’s Most ORNERY Crossword. The NE and SW corners are pretty great.
Top clue: [They're not the working classes] for EASY A’S.
Byron Walden’s American Values Club crossword, “Nicked Names”
If you’re one of the many fans of Byron Walden’s work and you’re not an AV Club subscriber, you are missing out on the main outlet of Byron puzzles. $15 a year, cheap.
This week’s AV theme is people with duplicative names, where their first name recurs as the beginning of their last name. (So Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby doesn’t quite fit.)
- 24a. [Winner of a stuffed bear for Barack Obama], CHRIS CHRISTIE. I hope Governor Christie is doing well these days. Those bariatric surgery procedures are rife with dreadful complications and are not at all a simple way to lose weight.
- 34a. [Winner of Season 11 on "American Idol"], PHILLIP PHILLIPS. The two-L first name is unusual, isn’t it?
- 44a. [Fox News commentator who called the rise of female breadwinners "anti-science"], ERICK ERICKSON. Never heard of him. Aww, poor guy. He’s the only one who isn’t clued as a winner. It’s the women who are winners here. Of bread. Figuratively speaking.
My toughest spot was where I filled in the brand-name SEX WAX where the generic SKI WAX goes ([Lubricant for those who like going down?]), giving me DUX CLASS for the thing Khloé Kardashian was jailed for missing. Didn’t know DUI CLASS was a thing. I was also surprised when the crossings gave me ASTRE for [1970s Pontiac subcompact]. That does not ring even the faintest bell.
Five items of interest:
- 36d. [Boy-girl party?], INTERSEX. “Party” meaning “person,” “boy-girl” reflecting the mix of male and female body parts or chromosomes.
- 10a. ["Come & Get It! Cookout Classics" brand], ALPO. Sign me up! Sounds delicious.
- 22a. [Mourning of NBA glory], ALONZO. I like morning glories and I like Alonzo Mourning, the most famous poster child for a particular brand of kidney disease. The fact that he went back to the NBA after a kidney transplant is awesome, no?
- 59a. [Anyone who disagrees with me on the Internet, obviously], NAZI. Is this about that tea kettle that looks like Hitler?
- 2d. [Actress Pataky of the "Fast & Furious" movies], ELSA. I saw Fast & Furious 6 last month. I was outraged that she did not have a bigger part in the movie. C’mon, she’s a current ELSA! We need her to be broadly famous. For the crosswords. C’mon, Hollywood—do it for the crosswords.
Highlights in the fill: KAPOW, BELL CHOIR, TOAD HALL, INTERSEX, EDWARD II, LEGOLAND, SKI WAX, XEROX.