Jacob McDermott’s New York Times crossword
I like a nice sedan, I do, but can also appreciate a good TWO-DOOR, 41a. [Coupe, e.g. ... or a hint to 17- and 64-Across and 11- and 34-Down]. In this puzzle, four phrases or compound words are made of two words that can precede “door”:
- 17a. [Product of colliding weather systems], STORM FRONT. I like meteorology, but it’s unfortunate that the one-word version of this term is a prominent white supremacist/neo-Nazi website. Shame they had to steal a perfectly useful phrase. What, wehatehumanity.com was already taken?
- 64a. [Annual tennis tournament played on clay], FRENCH OPEN. Will Rafael Nadal ever win there again, or are his days as the King of Clay over?
- 11d. [Behind the scenes], BACKSTAGE.
- 34d. [Metaphor for a sharp mind], STEEL TRAP. Nice find!
Storm door, front door, French door, open door, back door, stage door, steel door, and trap door are all utterly in the language, so the theme is well done. I suspect the theme’s been used before elsewhere (Cruciverb reveals yes: 3/20/12 LAT, with DOUBLE DOORS as the unifying entry), but no matter.
The old Scowl-o-Meter shook off the rust tonight. HOLD ME, ROTGUT, VOODOO, MARBLES (the name of my favorite game store), and BATH OIL (when I had B*T* OIL, what came to mind was not BATH, and no, I don’t know what butt oil is) are nice, but there were a few more “meh” words than I like to encounter in a single puzzle. They’re all valid fill, but enough is enough when it comes to SALA, MOTO, ARA, IRAE, LENTO, SNERT, ENGR, and UVEAS. Three rather than eight, that would have gone down more easily.
Most interesting clue: 33d. [How many times Laurence Olivier won a Best Actor Oscar], ONCE.
Most mystifying: 59d. [Dog on TV's "Topper"], NEIL. Really? When Neil Diamond has been in the “Sweet Caroline” spotlight this year, and when Neil Armstrong, Neil Gaiman, Neil Young, Vince Neil, and Neil Simon are decades more current (and prominent) than a 1953-55 TV show, this is the NEIL clue we get?
Most surprising answer word: BOSH, 49d. [Claptrap]. I never see this word outside of the context of the NBA’s Chris Bosh.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Athletic Booster”
PED, or performance-enhancing drug, is “taken” by each theme answer:
- 18a. [What the Dodge did as it struggled up the mountain?], NEON GASPED.
- 35a. [Athletic boost "taken" by the four theme answers], PED.
- 54a. [Place with crooked walls?], WARPED ROOM.
- 3d. [Piano control that makes strange noises?], WEIRD PEDAL. Hey, it’s Weird Al! Nice base phrase to play with.
- 29d. [High place where all the nitpickers go?], PEDANT HILL. Can we put a wall around the hill when they’re all up there?
Top fill includes Jon FAVREAU (more recently in the Iron Man movies), DAD-TO-BE, C.S. LEWIS, CHAUCER, and L.A. TIMES. Hey, did you ever notice that Brett Favre’s surname plus the chemical symbol for gold gets you Favreau? Also nice to see 45a. [Actor Harry Dean ___] STANTON again. Odd fellow.
Never heard of: 5a. [Band with the 2006 album "Decemberunderground"], AFI. I know the American Film Institute (they are fond of making AFI Lists of the top movies in whatever category).
Three more clues:
- 60a. [She played Carrie], SISSY Spacek. She was in her late 20s when she played the telekinetic high-schooler. The remake comes out this October with teen actress Chloe Moretz in the title role.
- 15d. [Fluidless, as a barometer], ANEROID. How else are you going to clue ANEROID?
- 52d. [Piano teacher on "Family Guy"], LOIS. I don’t watch the show but I suspect any parent can relate to this clip.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Going Gothic” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I always look forward to solving a puzzle from constructor Lynn Lempel, as I’ve learned to be confident the theme will be solid and the fill will be lively with few, if any, clunkers. Today’s was no exception; we have four theme phrases that end with something to do with an element of Gothic Architecture:
- [Podiatry concern] clues FALLEN ARCH – as a runner, I’m always concerned about my arches, and debating whether to switch over to the new minimalist shoes. Seems so counterintuitive to what I’ve heard before from podiatrists, but I’m romantic over the idea of returning to the less cushioned experience of yesteryear (and even modern-day Africa).
- [Event that earned McKayla Maroney a silver medal in 2012] was WOMEN’S VAULT – did you know there was an entire site devoted to her “not impressed face”? It’s a strange world out there on the information highway!
- [Traitorous group within a country] was a FIFTH COLUMN – the phrase is vaguely familiar to me, it reminded me of the press being considered the “fourth estate.” I see here that the phrase dates back to the Spanish Civil War and refers to a clandestine “column” of army combatants.
- Finally, you knew this one was coming: [Marilyn Monroe's costar in "The Misfits"] is, of course, CLARK GABLE – I wonder if he had four brothers and sisters, their home would be referred to as The House of the Seven Gables?
Too bad Lynn couldn’t find that fifth entry that ends with “flying buttress,” huh? A nice set of entries all the same, and rather upmarket as well. Nice to learn something from our daily diversion, isn’t it? I also learned a bit about [Literature Nobelist] DORIS Lessing, who at 1-Across, is the author of The Golden Notebook, which deals fictitiously with her real-life African experiences. A cute phrase, and my FAVE this morning was [Comforter-and-sheet ensemble] or BED-IN-A-BAG. I wasn’t as pleased with ["Don't get there at the last minute!"] for BE EARLY! as that phrase seems a bit arbitrary to me. Overall, a fun and instructive romp!
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’m a little surprised to see the circled letters in the grid, as the theme is not all that much harder to figure out without the circles. There’s a revealer answer, ["For goodness __!"] SAKES. And for cryin’ out loud, that answer should not have an S at the end. The +S version of the “sake” phrase is “fer Chrissakes.”
Anyway. The theme answers “stuff” the word SOLE with other letters:
- 17a. [Easy-to-swallow gelatin pill], SOFT CAPSULE. I had to Google that term to see what it was referring to. The term used on my bottles of vitamin D liquid-inside-a-gel-casing is “softgel,” not soft capsule, which I don’t think I’ve seen before.
- 31a. [Decorative piece behind a couch], SOFA TABLE. Is that an actual term? Not familiar to me. My sofa back’s up against the wall.
- 40a. [Aromatic burner made from vegetable wax], SOY CANDLE. The clue is accurate but a snooze.
- 57a. [Seafood selection suggested by this puzzle's circles], STUFFED SOLE. I have been watching MasterChef: The Professionals on BBC America (to pick up phrases like “bags and bags of flavor”), and the contestants had to make their variations on sole stuffed with lobster.
- 11d. [Cucumber in brine], SOUR PICKLE. Aren’t dill pickles and bread and butter pickles also pickled in brine? They are.
- 27d. [Bathtub popper], SOAP BUBBLE.
Lots of words here that I encounter most commonly in crosswords. We’ve got your N-TESTS, UKE, LEAS, SMEE, EPEE, ARON, AMATI, TET, UTES, and ST. LO. As in the NYT, three of these would feel like plenty, but ten feels like too many to me.
One thing I have never gotten into: 42a. [Lake __: "Prairie Home Companion" town], WOBEGON. Keillor fans, please tell me what the appeal is.
2.75 stars. I would have preferred livelier theme answers and zippier fill.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Scattered Showers”—Janie’s review
Okay, so in her title last week, Liz advised us to “stay cool!”—and from the looks of this week’s, she’s apparently conjured up some precipitation for us. Well, yes ‘n’ no. As things transpire, if it’s not an all-wet-weather-all-the-time theme, it is one that capitalizes on homophones for one kind of wet weather. Starting with:
- 17A. REIGN OVER ME [2007 film starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle]. Never saw this, but have to say I find the IMDB write up rather an inducement to borrow it from the library. Am deeply not an Adam Sandler fan, but really do tend to love the work of his CO-STAR. To judge from the synopsis, sounds like there could be a good bit of “there” there. Then we get the straight-forward
- 29A. TIGHT REIN [Strong control]. Which is followed by
- 47A. ALDO RAINE [Brad Pitt's "Inglourious Basterds" role]. Ah, revisionist history. How sweet it is! Liked this movie far more than I’d imagined I would. To no small extent, though, the real star (as with Django Unchained [another fave]) is screenwriter and director Quentin Tarantino. What must it be like inside his head?… And finally,
- 63A. RAIN OR SHINE [Invitation info for an all-weather event]. Like a Labor Day picnic, perhaps…? And since we’re in the land of homophones, did you know there is also a character actor (with several Broadway and many film credits) by the name of, yes, Raynor Scheine. (Is that any better/worse than Noelle, the Christmas-born co-worker I once knew, whose surname was… Noelle…? [True story; rhetorical question...])
So apparently it’s also true that into each life a little RAIN or RAINE or REIN or REIGN must fall. Or into each Crossword Nation solver’s life, at any rate!
Now if you’re going to let a smile be your umbrella, it’s fortunate that there’s plenty by way of non-theme fill to smile about. I’m mighty fond of the muscular “LET’S DO THIS!” and its equally solid clue ["Game on!"]. The way “RAH!” shares the “H” of THIS (and the complementary cluing of ["Go, team!"]) makes for a nice piece of serendipity, too. As these examples illustrate, I do tend to favor the liveliness of “talking” clues and fill. We get another three-letter entry with “YUK!” in response to ["Are those chocolate-covered ants?"]; and while last week we learned that “BAA-BAA!” is lamb-speak for ["Bo Peep, Bo Peep!"], today we learn that “ARF-ARF!” translates to [Greetings from Sunny, the White House dog recently adopted by the Obamas]. There is so much to be learned from puzzle solving, no?
(Actually, I did learn a thing or two in the course of my solve: 1) that ATSANA is the capital of Kazakhstan , and 2) that Beirut-born (seriously) high-end fashion designer ELIE Saab—as well as Jerusalem-born fashion designer ELIE Tahari—are both men. Live and learn… [sez she, totally not thinking til now of ELIE Wiesel. "D'oh!"]. Oh, and there’s a third: that if the sounds you hear coming from what you think is your tattoo parlor-of-choice are OWS, don’t go in there!!)
With the approach of (or even recent start of) the school year (or simply the wind-down of summer), has it been BUSY SEASON at your house? Too many trips to the mall? Would it help to have a ZIPLINE get you there and back? Or is it time for you (or the scholar in the house) to start paying more attention to the [Frost lines?]. This is a sneaky clue that isn’t referencing meteorology, of course, but Robert Frost and the exquisitely wrought lines found in any STANZA of his poetry.
Other goodies? SCROOGE and LUGOSI; those dainty CANAPÉS; INVENTOR and (because of the image-evoking detail in the clue) INLAID [Embedded, like wedding ring diamonds]. There’s a clue that just sparkles! And saving the best for last: that modest ONE SCOOP of gelato. Because ya always wanna leave ‘em wantin’ more!
And on that note, folks—til next time: ciao, ciao!