Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword
This will be a distracted review, as I am watching Sharknado while solving and blogging. It’s delightfully, whimsically implausible. Fun for the whole family!
Okay. So. A 72-word themeless grid, but with a theme. DRIVERS are people [who should follow the advice in the sounded-out answers to the starred clues]. Oh, good gravy, the clue has to spell out “sounded-out” for us? In a Friday puzzle? KEY PURE ICE UNDER OWED sounds sort of like “Keep your eyes on the road,” but I figured that out without reading the entire revealer clue. Sheesh. It’s cute, this theme, but the “you’re probably too dumb to figure this out on your own” clue put a damper on the fun, I thought.
Fave fill: ANTONIONI, ODIOUS, GENTLE SEX, SWISS ALPS, LAZY SUSAN, JACKPOT, ON SERVE, and KLEENEX.
There were some bits I didn’t like so much, but there are too many sharks in the air for me to concentrate and recall what they might’ve been. Overall, I liked the puzzle and it was an excellent Sharknado viewing companion. 4.25 stars.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “For Rangers Fans” – Dave Sullivan’s review
This puzzle ain’t about hockey, folks. It’s four theme phrases where the first word can precede “ranger”.
- [Oklahoma Sooners' rival] is TEXAS LONGHORNS – funny when I think of a sports team named Rangers, I think of hockey, not baseball.
- [Cause of a blackout] clues POWER OUTAGE – my nephew had a Power Rangers-themed birthday party last year (he was 7). Knowing nothing about the show, we found the games he played with the kids amusing. He also spent a lot of time with his knuckles on his hips puffing out his chest in (what we assume) is a typical Power Ranger pose. Either that, or he just liked to show off.
- [Father Mulcahy on "M*A*S*H," for one] was an ARMY CHAPLAIN – some of my favorite college memories are watching this show in our dorm rec room. This site says that Army Rangers are the “best-trained soldiers in the world.” Based on what criteria? Is there an annual competition for soldiers?
- We finish with an upmarket literary reference [Wooded area mentioned at the start of Longfellow's "Evangeline"] is FOREST PRIMEVAL – here’s the opening stanza:
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms. Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
When I think of “forest rangers,” I think of Yogi Bear cartoons.
Straightforward theme, nicely executed. My FAVE today was the 25-cent word VITRIOL clued with another [Vituperation]. My UNFAVE was the questionable phrase GET A TIP clued as [Be the recipient of some handicapping info]. As far as crossword-worthy phrases go, “get a job” maybe, but not a tip.
Enjoy the weekend folks, it looks to be much drier weather up here in Vermont, finally!
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
It feels like a long time since I last saw John Lampkin’s by-line? Great to have you back John! He has given us a clever, subtle (no revealer!) theme for us today. There are five two-part answers each ending in some sort of written work; only in the original phrases, that second part didn’t refer to a written work but had some other meaning. The clues are shifted “wacky-style” to be interpreted as though the second part referst to a written work. I did find that aspect quite loose though: three of the five refer to short works – COLUMN, PIECE, PAPER; one is long – BOOK; and the fifth is usually acted out – PLAY. I’m guessing such variation was necessary to have a workable theme though, so I’m OK with it. The answers are:
- 17a, [Article about a bottle of whiskey?], FIFTHCOLUMN. Originally a column of soldiers, now a newspaper column. Fifth changes meaning too.
- 41a, [Autobiography?], IBOOK. I’ll bet this was the seed answer! I’m not 100% sure what an IBOOK is, I think it’s an iBook, and it’ll be an absurdly overpriced Apple marketing coup of some sort…
- 62a, [Essay for grammar class?], PERIODPIECE. A period piece is typically a play set in a particular historical period, although I have heard it applied to books… PERIOD changes meanings to refer to a full stop.
- 11d, [Report on the site of the Humpty-Dumpty tragedy?], WALLPAPER. “Humpty-Dumpty tragedy” is an amusing turn of phrase!
- 34d, [Drama about Trigger?], HORSEPLAY. Very close to the real phrase “horse opera” that…
I had a strange entry into the puzzle: TItO/OTT – two baseballers for this baseball non-fan. Luckily both crossword regulars, although I misremembered the first, and it was only when I had TIFTY that I realised my error! I found the puzzle uniformly tough for a Friday although I can’t put my finger on why post-solve… There are a few couple of mini-themes going on here! Apart from the baseballers, we have crossing anatomical idioms with COLDFEET and KNEEDEEP. There are also BERGS and ICECAP connected by the clecho [Antarctic phenomen(a/on)]. Lastly we have the short Spanish triumvirate of ESA, REY and UNOS. That was less elegant, although the crossings are more than fair. I don’t think there’s ever been any hard and fast rule about how many words from one foreign language are too many?
- 5a, [Batter like the wind], BUFFET. A fun word to say. After being battered by two succesive baseballers I was almost expecting this to be a batter who was very quick at running…
- 19a, [Bar in the shower], LUX. Unilever soap bar. I’m told this brand is not so common in the States anymore, but here it’s ubiquitous, probably the “Cadillac” soap brand. There is another clecho, in 29a, [Bar in the kitchen] for OLEO.
- 37a, [Hardly a back rd.], TPKE. I’m sure I learned this as TPK in previous crosswords! I have no way of knowing which form is more common IRL!
- 42a, [Unwanted growth], WEED. Well, most of the time. If you’re a stoner and the weed is Cannabis sativa…
- 44a, [Beaver's expletive?], DAMN. I assume this is a pun and that because beavers build dams, if they could speak, it would be apt for them to swear by saying “damn!” The somewhat plausible alternative, as I haven’t watched the show, is that Beaver Cleaver used the expletive in the sitcom.
- 46a, [They can make good impressions], SEALS. I’m certain this one refers to wax seals and not seals at the aquarium, because despite many being accomplished performers I’ve yet to see one impersonating a penguin…
- 48a, [Start to get going], STIR. 57a, [Get going], HOPTO. Is another clecho.
- 68a, [King with a notable nape], LION, 69a, [King of Spain], REY and 70a, [Den piece, SETTEE.] A three-in-a-row clecho! Maybe I’m stretching a bit to bring in the third clue, but lions + den?
- 50d, [___ Rouge], KHMER. This clueing angle certainly makes KHMER the most gettable, but it refers to a regime estimated to have executed around a million of its countrymen… I’m not usually in favour of censoring crosswords, but something like [Cambodian majority] steers clear of that whole aspect…
A good idea for a theme, plus the clueing today was a treat, with Klahn-like clechoes abounding! 3.5 stars.
Lastly, John Lampkin has a few bonus treats for us today, around the subject of 71a, ANTS. As we have learned previously, John is an accomplished photographer, and today he has taken one of an interaction between an ant and an ambush bug (see yesterday). He narrates as follows “An ambush bug had just finished consuming a fly. The ant has climbed on top to groom the bug, cleaning up the residual goo.” What astonishing patience and careful observation must be required to take such a shot!
Secondly, John has sent us one of his classical compositions. The accompanying text was as follows: “The sound clip is a movement from my woodwind quintet, “Insects: a Musical Entomology in Six Legs” called ‘March of the Ants.’ It is performed by the Austin Chamber Ensemble, one of the groups that co-commissioned the work.”
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just Do It” — pannonica’s write-up
Although the theme is obvious enough to obviate the need for a revealer, in a flourish one appears in the central across spot: 68a [What you’ll find at the end of each of this puzzle’s longest answers] HAIRSTYLE.
More specifically, each of those answers is a “before-and-after” style mashup, with the B and C parts forming the hairstyle (or “do,” as per the title). The clues are presented wackystyle, with no reference to coiffures.
- 23a. [Profit share for an understaffed work group?] SKELETON CREW CUT (crew cut).
- 36a. [Youngster making headlines?] FRONT PAGE BOY (pageboy).
- 98a. [One shadowing an outgoing president?] LAME DUCK TAIL (ducktail).
- 115a. [Dreidel in a single guy's pad?] BACHELOR FLAT TOP (flattop). “Bachelor pad” is the more natural phrase, and “flat” is more of a Britishism, so perhaps the clue would have been better with something like “chap’s” instead of “guy’s.”
- 15d. [Noisy quarrels about a colorful crop?] INDIAN CORN ROWS (cornrows).
- 50d. [Greeting from a Bond villain?] GOLDFINGER WAVE (finger wave).
Fine theme, executed well. As far as hairstyles can be seen as gendered, there’s an adequate variation among the themers. Crudely, male: CREW CUT, DUCKTAIL, FLATTOP; female: PAGEBOY, FINGER WAVE; unisex: CORNROWS. As far as I can tell, the GOLDFINGER of 50d is the only mashup in which the A and B parts are actually one word.
The ballast fill and cluing is strong but not spectacular. Nothing too long, nothing too fancy. Lengthiest non-theme answers are the sextet of ANTARES, ACERBIC, APRICOT, MAUDLIN, SLOT CAR, and LUCIFER.
- 30a [Legalese, for one] LINGO, but I had ARGOT at first. Speaking of legalese, 83d NISI was new to me [Not yet final, in law].
- 10d, 108d [Little Italy neighbor] BOWERY, SOHO.
- SO-SO; MY, MY. (55a, 78a)
- Favorite clue: 7d [Group of waiters] LINE.