Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Well! How refreshing. The grid’s got a handful of answers that feel rather Saturdayish, but the whole thing was so darn smooth it took me a standard Friday amount of time to solve it.
First up, the tougher stuff:
- 6a. [International cricket event], TEST MATCH. That doesn’t sound “international” to me, it just doesn’t. I wanted The Ashes but that’s too short.
- 16a. [Road built during the Samnite Wars], APPIAN WAY. I’ve heard of the Appian Way. Roman road, right? But have not heard of the Samnite Wars before. Apparently a Samnite is a member of an Oscan-speaking people of ancient southern Italy. They did battle with the Romans a lot.
- 20a. [Republican who won Bentsen's vacated Senate seat], HUTCHISON. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX.
- 49a. [Surrounded with foliage], EMBOWERED. Clue can’t use the helpful word “trees” because that’s 25a. Not sure I’ve seen this word before, though I know that a bower is a shady place in a stand of trees (or shrubs, apparently).
- 1d. [British P.M. when W.W. I began], ASQUITH. I kinda wanted ASPWITH or APSWITH for whatever reason.
- 37d. [How Congress might adjourn], SINE DIE. Without … something. Without a day. As in “without specifying a day to resume proceedings”).
- 43d. [Magna Carta's drafters], BARONS. Kinda wanted sAxONS here.
- 21a. [Band with a person's name], ID BRACELET. I liked their early stuff, but then they got too mainstream with their more recent albums.
- 26a. [Joe who was retired in 1997], CAMEL. The Camel cigarettes mascot. Kids loved him!
- 46a. [Heady feeling], RUSH. A much better rush than the hurry-up sort. Or the prog-rock trio.
- 3d. [Land line?], SANDBAR. Was just reading a New Yorker article about the Jersey Shore and its barrier islands, sea walls, dunes, eroding beaches, and storms.
- 11d. [Opposed to the union, say], ANTI-LABOR. Clue made me think of “If anyone knows of any reason why these two people should not be joined marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace,” especially with the TWOSOME/[Couple] right next door and SET A DATE/[Begin planning the nuptials] down below.
- 28d. ["Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman" speaker], BEETHOVEN. Sexist Beethoven.
- 30d. [Undercover item?], SHEET. In the bed.
Fave fill: OWN GOAL, “SPEAK UP!,” ABE VIGODA, SET A DATE, LANA TURNER, Chinua ACHEBE, ID BRACELET.
Jeff Chen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Epicurean Philosophers” — pannonica’s write-up
This time I actually noticed the title before solving. In fact, it was while clicking on the download link. With a title like that, it isn’t too difficult to guess what’s sort of offering is in the offing: a soufflé of philosopher names and foodstuffs, or perhaps just a soft-serve swirl. Be either as it may or may not, here are the relevant entrees:
- 16a. ["Would you like something spicy, Karl?"] JALAPEÑO POPPER. On the one hand, it’s very nice to see scientist/philosopher Karl Popper get some ostensibly mainstream recognition, on the other hand, it evokes the abomination of the jalapeño popper, something I was blissfully unaware of until my late 20s—a barbaric conglomeration of (usually oily sautéed) diced jalapeño pepper, cream cheese, and batter, all deep-fried. What a way to ruin a good-tasting pepper.
- 29a. ["How about a dried fruit, Isaac?"] FIG NEWTON.
- 35a. ["A drumstick for you, Francis?] TURKEY BACON. That’s the Elizabethan scholar Francis Bacon, not the 20th-century painter of grotesqueries.
- 44a. ["Care for a sweet drink, John Stuart?"] CIDER MILL.
- And the revealer, 58a [Alternate title for this puzzle] FOOD FOR THOUGHT. Sure seems to me that the wry literal interpretation of this common metaphorical phrase was the genesis of the theme.
Small consistency problem among these answers, though. After a modicum of analysis, I see that the offered grub refers only to the first part of each answer. Hence “something spicy” indicates JALAPEÑO though a JALAPEÑO POPPER may be spicy, “a dried fruit” specifies the FIG whereas a FIG NEWTON is a cookie incorporating the dried fruit, “drumstick” is taken to mean a piece of TURKEY and has nothing to do with TURKEY BACON. But, while a “sweet drink” may be a CIDER, unlike the other three themers, the entirety of this answer is not also a food item. Instead, a CIDER MILL is a piece of equipment used to make something edible. And to be more specific, something imbibable; it’s a small quibble perhaps, but food and drink are seen as complements, not synonyms. Technically, I suppose, all drinks—especially those that provide nutrients—can be considered to be foods. But combined with this problematic entry’s other anomalous aspect, it feels significant.
Orts for consideration:
- Much like seeing Karl POPPER among the theme answers, it was nice to see the criminally less-remembered Phil OCHS [Last name in 1960s protest music], especially in the company of the more recognized (and still living) ARLO Guthrie [First name in 1960s protest music]. (1a, 55d)
- 36d [Calhoun who played Marco Polo] RORY, who is pretty much the only Calhoun I know of. Why am I thinking of the horrible casting of John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror?
- Favorite clue (by a mile): 48a [Fired loaded shells at?] EGGED. Runner-up: 44d [Tower of London sound] CAW.
- Appreciated the reference to NENA as a band name rather than just the lead singer; it’s a Sade-type thing rather than a Blondie-type thing.
- Strangest clue: 56d [Tend a cauldron, maybe] STIR. It makes perfect sense, but it still seems a bit weird to me. Runner-up: 15a [Body associated with Phoebe] MOON, as in, I suppose, one of the two moons of the planet Mars (the other being Daimos).
- Fun longish fill: OXONIAN, SKIM OFF, NEGLIGEE.
- Lst. fav. abbrev. ans.: 26d [Child or grandchild, say: Abbr.] DESC.
- WRONGS, OBJECTS, HOLLER AT, REBUKE, COERCE, DEPOSE.
Somewhat disappointing, sharply flawed puzzle.
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Lesser-Known Holidays” — pannonica’s write-up
“Lesser-known” because they’re made-up, punny versions of better-known holidays. Most, but not all, end in “Day.”
- 23a. [Celebration for Mexican geologists?] SINKHOLE DE MAYO (Cinco …).
- 33a. [Celebration for wet-weather racers?] MUDDER’S DAY (Mother’s …).
- 49a. [Celebration for greasy spoon cooks] HASH WEDNESDAY (Ash …). Ah yes, a spot of oil on your forehead.
- 78a. [Celebration of landmark court cases?] PRECEDENTS DAY (President’s …).
- 96a. [Celebration for those who harp on things?] BELABOR DAY (Labor …).
- 109a. [Celebration for prolific NHL scorers?] ST HAT TRICKS DAY (St Patrick’s …).
- 16d. [Celebration for those sitting on their duffs?] KEISTER SUNDAY.Apparently not derived from German, so the weird pronunciation may be defensible.
- 57d. [Spring celebration for OPEC members?] APRIL FUEL’S DAY.
I suspect one’s appreciation for this puzzle will be dependent on one’s tolerance for puns, specifically the run-of-the-mill, slightly arbitrary ones that are most common, which also often MAUL the language. I like puns, but for me they need to have an extra level of relevance to strengthen them, otherwise they feel incomplete, gossamer, nearly random. The ones on display here are simply okay, fine for what they are. Yes, I am damning with faint praise, but that’s how I roll.
- Non-theme answers that rhyme with “day”: CATHODE RAY, Martha RAYE, JAY, GRADE A. (72d, 40a, 42d, 64d)
- Least favorite fill: ENFRAME, POB, SEA CABIN, TRINE, E LEE, SAR, SDA. (88d, 78d, 39d, 94a, 104a, 52a, 55a)
- Most favorite fill: 117a SLY DOG, 90a CHERUBIM. Favorite clues: 10d [It may be cut or paste] GEM, 3d [State workers] CONSULS.
- 28a [Woman, to Watteau] FEMME. Ugh, the only thing worse than evoking Watteau is fraternizing with Fragonard. But it’s still pretty dreadful.
- 71d EVE wisely not clued to tie in with the theme.
- 41a c[Capital of Chad] N’DJAMENA. Did not know this. Spicy fill.
Alan DerKazarian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Alan DerKazarian is not a name I recognise, nor one that appears in the “Tags” combobox to the right of the blog. For a debut, this is an unusual ambitious puzzle indeed! In contrast, the diagram itself is quite conservative, 42/76; but I’m grateful to Mr DerKazarian that it is, because the grid is well-filled, with interesting answers!
If you haven’t cottoned to it, the grid has six “beans” that “jump” across the black squares separating two answers. I have highlighted them in red in my answer grid. The answers that contain jumping beans have starred clues. It’s not the most elegant hint but probably the one that works best. Personally, I’d have liked no hint whatsoever, but then a lot of solvers wouldn’t be able to enjoy the theme. On the other hand circled letters, while probably more elegant, would have made things too obvious! Of the six beans, four are “true” beans of the genus Fabiolus; SOYA beans are legumes, but of a different genus, and VANILLA “beans” are actually orchids! There are two further legumes in the grid ALFALFA (clued by its Commonwealth English name “lucerne”) and LENTIL (clued as bean… I’d have steered cleared of that as it’s not a “true” bean either). Another nod to the theme is the clue [Bean cover?] for HAT!
One further aside on today’s theme: How many of you have watched the British show “An Idiot Abroad”? It’s definitely an experience! The central JUMPINGBEAN reminded me of this segment, where Karl Pilkington wanders around Mexico in a vain quest to find real Mexican JUMPINGBEANs. I think his mistake was going to the wrong part of Mexico!
The fill, as I said earlier, had plenty of highlights, but also one or two clunkers. My favourite answers today were YANGTZE, ALFALFA, VAMPIRE, MINUTEMAN, and CANDLEPIN. I’m personally pleased to see Rich Norris has softened his position on DANI California (brilliant music video if you haven’t seen it!). I had to remove her from a Saturday puzzle of mine that instead ran with LONI Anderson, who I’d barely heard of! On the other hand, ALANA is here mostly because of her convenient letters, as are the two bits of foreign language detritus in ELA and SUA; considering the intricacies of the puzzle that’s not a lot at all!
From the above you wouldn’t be surprised that I’m rating this puzzle 4.5 stars!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Melancholy, Baby” – Dave Sullivan’s review
The 1912 tune My Melancholy Baby (first sung by one William Frawley, who oldsters like me might recognize as Lucy’s and Ricky’s landlord on I Love Lucy) is the inspiration for today’s CrosSynergy puzzle which features four theme phrases that begin with a synonym for “down in the dumps”:
- A [This can bring tears to your eyes] is a SAD REMINDER – let’s move along quickly and not dwell on this one, shall we?
- [Group of renowned experts] are a BLUE RIBBON PANEL – funny how “blue” which represents a happy, cloudless sky is also a synonym for being sad (as well as for porn). I wonder if the latter is from the “blue laws” that were enacted to keep that in check.
- [Targets which are reached with little effort] clues LOW-HANGING FRUIT – a phrase generally heard only in the business boardroom.
- This puzzle certainly didn’t need a revealer, but we get one with [Shout at a crowded venue (and a hint to...)], which is DOWN IN FRONT – this made me wonder if the constructor considered placing the theme phrases in the down entries to add a visual aspect to them.
You know, I’m SORRY, but it’s hard to warm up to a puzzle that is such a downer. I also thought some of the fill skewed to an older generation, including the riff off the 1912 song in the title. There’s QUEEG from Casablanca, [Job for Charlie Chan] (CASE) and [Cab Calloway's signature line] for HIDEHO as examples. My UNFAVE was perhaps the oldest of the all, Marshall NEY under Napoleon. I did enjoy the fun clue of [Top secret?] for TOUPÉE, so I’ll give that my FAVE award today.