Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword
What a perfect Tuesday theme. Gather up some words that mean “steal,” find phrases that begin with those words in other contexts, and clue them as if everything is felonious:
- 17a. [Make off with some raffle tickets?], TAKE CHANCES.
- 23a. [Make off with some kitchenware?], POCKET KNIVES.
- 39a. [Make off with some vehicles?], COP CARS.
- 50a. [Make off with some cash?], PINCH PENNIES. Least effective thief ever, am I right?
- 60a. [Make off with some gym equipment?], LIFT WEIGHTS.
I always like a Lynn Lempel puzzle, and this one’s no exception. Highlights in the fill:
- 29d. [Doing the job of an attack ad], DEMONIZING. My eye is breaking that word into three components, cryptic crossword style. Somebody give us a clue for this word that splits it into a DEMON I ZING.
- 9d. [British royal name since 1917], WINDSOR. Baby Prince George is a member of the House of Windsor. Formerly called Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, until the English turned against the Germans in WWI.
- 43d. [Type who wears tight-fitting jeans and thick-rimmed glasses, maybe], HIPSTER. Does this apply equally to the female of the species?
- 3d. [Pad of drawing paper], SKETCHBOOK. My husband does lovely things with a sketchbook.
4.25 stars. Very good example of how a Tuesday puzzle should look and feel.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Bar Exam” – Dave Sullivan’s review
After I solved this one (and that was after getting “this close” (holding thumb and forefinger up) to giving up in the middle left around SINECURE), I panicked a bit as I was unable to relate the theme entries to each other or the title. Finally, I noticed each one is three words beginning with the initials B.A.R.:
- [Heading for cover] clues BEATING A RETREAT – my ear wants “fast” or “quick” before retreat.
- [Lush dessert] is a BABA AU RHUM – two problems with this one; the first was mine in parsing the clue as “desert” not “dessert,” but the second is that I wonder how many are familiar with this cake and its from-the-French (I’m guessing) spelling. Most would just call it a “rum cake,” no?
- [Defensive strategy against an NFL pass receiver] clues BUMP AND RUN – does the defensive player do this? I’m thinking the offensive player is the one running after bumping another player, but football isn’t my strong suit.
- [Broadway hit for Judy Holliday] is BELLS ARE RINGING – I was having trouble with reading last night, I guess, as I parsed this one as Jennifer Holliday and I was trying to fit And I’m Telling You in there.
Kind of an odd premise for a theme, and other than “bump and run,” the phrases didn’t leap out at me. SINECURE ([Nice work if you can get it] is certainly a great word, but hard to see when I was having trouble with baba au rhum as well as the simple TREES for [Ashes, e.g.]. (I was thinking of cricket matches.) My FAVE entry was [Prop on a Chuck Barris game show] for GONG, as it made me smile thinking of the Unknown Comic. And I also enjoyed the crossing of [Popular winter footwear brand] for UGGS with [Clash of heavyweights] for SUMO as I tried to imagine those guys in fleecy footwear when competing. I’ve never seen the monogram GRF in a puzzle before, I guess because Ford served for a shortened term and was never elected to office by the Electoral College.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Series Enders”—Janie’s review
I’m gonna take a wild stab here and say that I bet this week’s was a BUMPIER solve than the last few. But I’ll also guess that with its crazy-quilt of cultural references, high-brow and low- (not only in the theme fill but throughout the grid), it was one of the more satisfying ones as well. As we’ve often heard said, your mileage may vary (YMMV), but for me this puzzle delivered a multitude of highlights. Some directly, some by association. But let me start with the themers and not get too far ahead of myself. And let me start in the middle of them, with the reveal, which is…
- 37A. FINAL FOUR [March Madness quartet (and a hint to the puzzle theme)]. But surprise, surprise—the theme has nothing to do with sports. Instead, this FINAL FOUR comes from…
- 17A. COMPOUND W [Blemish-zapping over-the-counter product]. And no, the blemishes in question are not zits, but, well, warts. Not a pretty thought, to be sure—but context is everything. Especially when the next hint to the theme is to be found in…
- 20A. POPE INNOCENT X [Religious leader in a 1650 painting by Diego Velázquez]. When a classic of the art world can follow a wart remover (and both have a legitimate reason to share the stage), I think you get my drift about the way high-brow combines with low-. (Think of this as a “preview of coming attractions,” btw.) Even better, notice how these two stacked themers overlap in the grid—by a healthy seven squares. This, of course, will be true of the pair that follows as well. Starting with…
- 54A. AND SOMETIMES Y [Phrase that follows a string of vowels]. Did you know this phrase plays into the hook of Freeez’s 1983 song “I.O.U.”? News to me. And the song was covered lots, too. Also news to me… But do check it out. As a mainstream phenomenon, music videos were a pretty new medium 30 years ago (but who’s counting?). And are you seeing the FINAL FOUR thematic pattern emerging? In case it’s still in doubt, the last entry brings it home with the oh-so up-to-the-minute…
- 60A. WORLD WAR Z [2013 Brad Pitt film about a zombie pandemic] (not to be confused with Contagion, the 2011 Matt Damon film about a global-virus pandemic). So whaddaya think? Can JON HAMM give B.P. a run for his money in the competition for looks-and-talent? (Certainly, where the former asset is concerned, both leave poor POPE I X in the dust—though he would have the upper hand where DOGMA is concerned…)
So the titular “series enders” are the FINAL FOUR of… the alphabet: (the scrabbly) W, X, Y and Z. And given the particular way they’ve been called out, I’d say this makes for one very tight theme—and one eclectic group of theme phrases.
The puzzle does have its share of less-than-ideal (if still legit!) fill in places (lookin’ at you, ABBR, APOC, OOM, STA, ALG…) but sometimes there’s just no easy way around this. And with a theme that’s as well put-together as today’s (in concept and execution), neither should the baby be thrown out with the bathwater: the bigger picture becomes more important. Which is why I keep going back to citing those high-brow/low-brow cultural references Liz has laced through the puzzle: at the one end (in addition to Velázquez and His Holiness), there’s Sir Walter Scott’s IVANHOE, RUDYARD Kipling, Sylvia PLATH, Brokeback Mountain‘s ENNIS Del Mar, and (in another realm) for the physical scientists out there—LEPTONS; at the other (move over Messrs. HAMM and Pitt [and WW Z]), Ed Norton’s wife TRIXIE, DESI Arnaz, Sue Grafton’s C IS for Corpse and (given how long the show that made her popular has been running on B’way [25 years, but who's counting?]…) probably even The Phantom…’s Miss Christine DAAÉ.
This puzzle’s other main asset? As I suggested at the beginning, the way a given word will trigger a memory, an association that brings it into higher relief. Again—YMMV. My mom lived in SARASOTA for many years, and in my visits down there I came to really love and appreciate the beauty of the Gulf Coast. Despite its political usage today, the sight of the word CAUCUSED took me right back to the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland. I first encountered the word ROUÉ as a 13- or 14-year-old in the Oscar Hammerstein lyric, “Eager young lads and roués and cads will offer you food and wine.” (“You are Sixteen,” The Sound of Music). Ooh. They sound interesting! And even the more earthbound N. DAK., that [State next to Minn.], brought back memories of the Coen brothers’ classic Fargo.
So, once again, I’ve gone on at length… and once again, I leave on a high note, saying “NICE ONE!” about this week’s puzzle—and looking forward to the next!
Victor Barocas’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Great theme—three disparate things are bundled together because the same pop artist painted them all.
- 17a. ["A revolution is not a dinner party" leader], MAO TSE-TUNG. Great quote.
- 28a. [It's "M'm! M'm! Good!"], CAMPBELL’S SOUP.
- 46a. [Actress born Norma Jeane Mortenson], MARILYN MONROE. Wait, Mortenson?? I’d always heard her original name was Norma Jean Baker. Here’s some background, though I don’t see an explanation of the Jean/Jeane discrepancy.
- 60a. [Artist born 8/6/1928 who painted 17-, 28- and 46-Across], ANDY WARHOL.
So today would have been Warhol’s 85th birthday.
Highlights in the fill include the long entries DE GAULLE, CLOUD COVER, TRY AGAIN, and OUTWEIGHED.
Similar to Lynn Lempel’s NYT today, this puzzle’s got an excellent theme, interesting long fill, and no Scowl-o-Meter action. Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Tee Off”
Matt takes the T off the front of a few song titles for this week’s theme:
- 17a. [Elvis song about a whirlpool-loving grizzly?], EDDY BEAR. Sure. Bears in the river, looking to catch salmon, lurking by the eddies in the stream. You ever watch that live stream of video from a river in Alaska, where the bears are doing just that?
- 21a. [2008 Mariah Carey song in dire need of painkillers?], OUCH MY BODY.
- 35a. [Cyndi Lauper song that's full of regret?], RUE COLORS. No allusion to the “Colors” in the clue.
- 55a, 59a. [With 59-across, Taylor Swift song about medicine leaking during a jam session?] EAR DROPS ON MY GUITAR. Hah!
The corners full of 6s and 7s are good. I’m particularly fond of YIDDISH, MAKES DO, and CROATIA.
I don’t recall 5d. OREO O’S, [Discontinued black-and-white cookie cereal]. And I needed the crossings to get 7d. [Main section of Venice], SAN MARCO.
I can do without 58a. Dictation taker, for short], STENOG. Or STENO. And how common is CHM as 46a. [Board head: abbr.]?
3.66 stars from me.