Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “That Girl”
You know the “Bangor? I ‘ardly know ‘er” jokes? Which webcomic xkcd played up with “Supercollider? I ‘ardly know ‘er.” Joe DiPietro riffs on that, sort of, for this theme:
- 23a. [Confiscate a chef's appetizer?], SEIZE HER SALAD. (Caesar salad.)
- 37a. [Conk a coach's team member?], SOCK HER PLAYER. (Soccer player.) Hey! No violence. Yellow card for you.
- 55a. [Close a VW Beetle owner's car door?], SHUT HER BUG. (Shutterbug.)
- 66a. [Put a spice mix on a cook's piece of poultry?], RUB HER CHICKEN. (Rubber chicken.) I was apprehensive about where this one was going.
- 77a. [Keep a bad comedian onstage?], LET HER BOMB. (Letter bomb.)
- 98a. [Find out what a baby's milk tastes like?], LICK HER BOTTLE. (Liquor bottle.) Okay, no. Not all baby’s milk comes from a bottle, and “lick her” is just kind of gross for a crossword puzzle.
- 114a. [Hop over an electrician's wires?], JUMP HER CABLES. (Jumper cables.) “Jump her”? Perhaps this puzzle should come with a trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault. (See also: SEIZE HER, RUB HER, LICK HER.)
- 15d. [Ensure a surfer's safety?], CHECK HER BOARD. (Checkerboard.)
- 52d. [Take a mechanic's inventory?], COUNT HER PARTS. (Counterparts.) Are you thinking of The Silence of the Lambs and serial killers here, or just a leering male gaze?
What do you make of the theme? Charming wordplay with humor, or a little icky with what the phrases evoke?
The last square I filled in was the D in 26a. [10, for the base 10 number system], RADIX, and 3d. [Smoothly applied, as eye makeup], GLIDE-ON. Granted, I don’t use a lot of makeup, but this GLIDE-ON business sounds not remotely plausible. Would [Ice-skate over] work?
Lots of nice longish fill: PRO SHOP, I’M THERE, BIRDING, AL GREEN, “TOLD YOU!,” THE SMITHS (here’s my favorite Smiths song), SLUSH PILE, and ARM’S REACH.
Four stars from me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “S-capade”
One of the words in each theme answer picks up an extra S, changing the phrase’s meaning:
- 23a. [Talk about weenies?], FRANKS DISCUSSION. If you use the real word for “weenie,” it’s merely a frank discussion.
- 32a. [Earliest known fitness trainer?], PONTIUS PILATES. This one is golden, of course.
- 50a. [Request to a tailor?], CUT ME SOME SLACKS.
- 68a. [Simple tale of a boy and his fanged friends?], MARK OF THE VAMPIRES. I don’t care for this one. “Boy” is awfully vague as a signal for MARK, and I wouldn’t say that “mark of the vampire” is familiar enough to be riffed on in a theme answer. Plus, if you’re friends with vampires, are you “of the vampires”?
- 91a. [Q: "So, Lone Ranger (whinny, neigh), what do you call these undies of yours (neigh, snort)?" A: "___"], “LONG JOHNS, SILVER.” Ha! I like this one.
- 106a. [When accused of being "out of uniform," what the naked private said he was wearing?], MENTAL FATIGUES.
- 119a. ["Law & Order: ___" (TV show about what could be next if prisons get any more crowded?)], CRIMINALS IN TENTS. Hard to parse this one, no? The other theme answers don’t split a word in two, so we’re not expecting that to happen here.
The Scowl-o-Meter rattled into action today. Partials A LEAP and A SIGH crossing? Sigh. There were also these grumble-worthy bits:
- 2d. [Olivia's co-star, often], ERROL. Olivia de Havilland? Not my generation’s go-to Olivia (that would be Olivia Newton-John.) Had no idea Flynn and de Havilland were paired together a lot.
- 20a. [Soprano Gluck], ALMA. Crossword constructors need a household-name celebrity named ALMA.
- 6d. [Abe adjective], OLD. Huh? Which Abe is this? Honest Abe Lincoln? Bart and Lisa’s grandpa on The Simpsons? Again with the first-name-only business.
- 29a. [City by the ocean, like N.Y.C. or Balt.], SPT. Abbrev for “seaport.”
- 41d. [Elmer's portrayer], BURT. Which Elmer? Which Burt? Shades of the Olivia/ERROL clue here. Elmer Gantry? Yes, Burt Lancaster. My go-to Elmer is Fudd. Not digging these “first names only for names from before I was born” category.
- 19a. [___ iris (Spanish for "rainbow")], ARCO.
- 3d. [Veni] I CAME. No quotation marks, no mention of Caesar or Rome or Latin? In the same corner with the Flynnless ERROL and the Spanish ARCO, ugh.
The Scowl-o-Meter didn’t make noise through too much of the puzzle, actually, but when the 1-Across corner has three unpleasant bits in it, the rest of the solve is colored by the opening negativity. Between that and the concerns I had with two of the theme answers, I’m giving this one 2.75 stars. How did you like it?
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 180″- Sam Donaldson’s review
Very few gimmes and lots of brambles in this 68/31 freestyle offering from the accomplished Frank Longo. I’m bruised but not defeated, and now that I have a little distance from my solving I can better appreciate some of the entries and their clues. But let’s start with the answers that gave me the biggest fits:
- The [Itchy skin woe] is TINEA. I know TINEA as TIN EAR without the last letter, but apparently it’s another term for “ringworm.” Wikipedia says up to 20% of the population may now be carrying tinea. You know tinea pedis as “athlete’s foot” and tinea cruris as “jock itch.” Good thing crossword blogs aren’t subject to the Breakfast Test, huh?
- FELUCCA is the [Swift Nile ship]. The internets tell me they are traditional wooden sailing ships found along the eastern Mediterranean and the Nile River. Wikipedia explains that “Despite being made obsolete by motorboats and ferries, feluccas are still in active use as a means of transport in Nile-adjacent cities like Aswan or Luxor.” Maybe part of my problem was thinking that “Swift Nile” was a proper noun I just didn’t know. Nah, that’s not it. Even if I knew that “Swift” meant “Rapid” or “Fast,” I still would have struggled with this. It was not, to say the least, smooth sailing.
- When I read [Radial's counterpart] the only thing I could think of was a radial tire. That turned out to be correct, though I had zero confidence in it. I mean, aren’t all tires radial tires? As it turns out, most of the tires we buy for our vehicles are indeed radials, but there’s an alternative that used to be more popular, the BIAS-PLY tire. I’ll let a mechanic who I met off the internet just now explain: “The main difference between bias ply and radial ply tire is how the tire is constructed. … On a bias tire, the cords run at a 32 degree angle from the direction of travel and on a radial tire, the cords will run at 90 degrees from direction of travel, or across the tire from wheel lip to wheel lip. Because of the construction of a radial tire, the tire has more flex and will allow for more ground contact. That will improve traction and better treadwear. It also gives the radial tire better stability. A bias tire will have a stiffer sidewall and shoulder, which will increase heat buildup in the tire. The radial tire will run cooler which will help the tire last longer, especially when the tire is under a load. At one time the cost was a big difference, but now with the radial tires being close in price they are a much better value.” So yeah, I’ll stick with radial tires.
- ECCE [signum! (cry from Falstaff)]. Sure, whatever.
- Like an idiot, I thought the [Air filter acronym] was HVAC, since I had the H in place. But of course, the A in HVAC is “air,” and “air” appears in the clue. The Post Puzzler isn’t sloppy like that. Once I realized I had it wrong, though, I was stumped to think of another H-acronym that would relate to air filters. Thanks to crossings I can tell you it’s HEPA, or “High Efficiency Particulate Air.” Wait, what? The A stands for “air” here too? Well then.
- [Babbo's partner] is MAMMA. An American comedy mime team that reached their peak of fame in the 1970s, Mamma and Babbo specialized in animatronic motions. They were good at it because of their talent for resisting the urge to blink. Wait, that’s Shields and Yarnell. Mamma and Babbo are just Italian for Mom and Dad. Mamma mia.
Let’s talk about some of the clever clues here. [What stoners are known for?] is a great clue for MASONRY, as is the very next clue, [Blue-collar program?] for COP SHOW. I liked [Sugar-deprived person's comment?] for I MISS YOU, [Take a position in the service?] for KNEEL, [Letter opener?] for MAIL DROP, and [Heavy nap] for SHAG carpeting. I remember chuckling at [Where many users discuss compatibility issues] for E-HARMONY.
Favorite entry = HAVE A BABY, with the great clue, [Get through labor day]. Favorite clue = [Brandy name] for MOESHA. Yep, I took the bait, wondering what brand of brandy could fit in the grid.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Starting Over” — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases starting with compound words which themselves begin with “back” comprise the bases of the theme answers. The twist is that that “back” is removed and the second half of each compound word is reversed, literally rendered back to front. It’s much easier to comprehend by reviewing examples:
- 16a. [Gifts for groupies] EGATS PASSES (backstage …).
- 21a. [Many July 4 parties] DRAY BARBECUES (backyard …). Read at face value, it sounds like a bonfire.
- 23a. ["I Want It That Way" band] TEERTS BOYS (Backstreet …).
- 56a. [Frenemy's remarks] DEDNAH COMPLIMENTS (backhanded …).
- 65a. [1979 miniseries set in D.C.] SRIATS AT THE WHITE HOUSE (Backstairs …).
- 78a. [Small-town paper features] EGAP CLASSIFIED ADS (back-page …).
- 113a. [Annoying adviser] TAES DRIVER (backseat …).
- 118a. [1969 song inspired by football?] DLEIF IN MOTION (Backfield …). Recorded by Mel and Tim, who I assume modelled themselves (or were packaged by some record company) on another soul duo, Sam and Dave.
- 122a. [Hirer's investigation] DNUORG CHECK (background … ).
The pleasure of encountering crosswords with themes such as this is how some of the entries—with bizarre letter combinations emerging from the void—seem at first nonsensical, impossible, flat-out wrong. But then comes an aha! moment and the haze begins to dissipate, burned away by the rays of the solver’s growing enlightenment.
Strong elements of the theme’s implementation are the 21-letter spanner in the center (I hadn’t heard of the miniseries, but the clue ensured that it was guessable) and the constructor’s trademark of stacked entries (the first and last two pairs).
The so-called cheater squares, especially those in each of the four corners, are noticeable but not distracting—they never seem to bother me much. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a constructor.
- Unusual, somewhat obscure fill: the waterways MEUSE [North Sea Feeder] (14d) and [River to the Amazon] XINGU (52a). 40a [Fancy centerpiece] EPERGNE. Notorious-for-one-bumbling-play 1970s football placekicker GARO Yepremian (32a), [1950s tennis champ Lew] HOAD (64d), TROMA studios (107d), and so on. For the most part, I appreciated learning these.
- Cared for the medium-length fill—SIBELIUS, OSCULATE—far more than the longest non-theme answers—ENCOURAGED, READMITTED—though the clue for the latter is spot on: [OK'd a hand stamp].
- DONEE and GRANTEE in the same puzzle? Tut-tut. (125a, 41d)
- 95a [He was Ferris's economics teacher] BEN STEIN. Clue has character name, answer requires actor’s name.
- Was put off by the top row, back-to-back partials IT BE and AS AN. (10d, 11d)
- Seeing 73a [O.co Coliseum squad] I had no idea what to make of it, but was put in mind of yesterday’s NYT, with the odd “O.” abbreviation for Ohio. But it turns out that “O.co” is exactly what the stadium is called, a shortening of the sponsor, Overstock.com. THE A’S.
- Some notable clues: 30a [They're blue, because nothing rhymes with "purple"] VIOLETS. 9d [Wise alternative?] LAY’S. 79d [What hot dogs do?] PANT. 120d [Lemieux milieu] ICE. 36a [One may hold it over your head] UMBRELLA.
- 44a [Hannibal's group] A-TEAM, 5d [Kathy Griffin's ilk?] D-LIST.
- Last section to fill: east-southeast. The crossings of 88a [Role in "CSI" reruns], 72d [South Carolina city], and 93a [Earthly] proved difficult to complete. But a bit of educated guessing paved the way: GI– for a name? Probably GIL. Thence, EASL–Y for a place name? Must be EASLEY, and ergo the proper suffix for TERR––– is ENE for TERRENE. Didn’t help that for a long time I errantly wanted 45d [Gave a pep talk] to be something like INVIGORATED rather than ENCOURAGED.
Fun puzzle, above average.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I’m running late (literally, I ran a half marathon this morning), so I’ll just post the solution to Tony’s puzzle now and add the commentary later today.
OK, I’m back…sorry for the delay. Overall, I thought this a very nice themeless with some interesting entries:
- [Supreme Court Justice from the Bronx] was Sonia SOTOMAYOR. Her My Beloved World is sitting on my bed stand awaiting me to crack it open.
- Her symmetric partner in the northeast was [Reciprocal retort] cluing SAME TO YOU. Other conversational entries included WAIT A BIT (I had SEC and MIN first), IT’S A TRAP and I DECLARE.
- Finally, a rather current entry [TV show based on characters from "Red Dragon"] or the primetime series HANNIBAL. And here I thought it was based on The Silence of the Lambs.
Couple of unfortunate partials, A PLEA and A NOTE, but no biggie in the larger scheme of things. My Waterloo, though, was the crossing of ["Get Lucky" band] for DAFT PUNK with the P of [Court ranking gp.]. I read the former clue as “brand” before “band,” but either way I had no clue on either. I also knew the “court” of the latter clue referred to the tennis court (I mean the US Open was just a week ago), but I thought it was American Tennis Association at first. I had to look up what the P stood for–it’s Professionals, I guess. Funny how the women’s counterpart is called the WTA, which makes a lot more sense to me.
Amy Johnson’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “No-win Situations”
Tic-tac-toe rows that don’t win are OOX, OXO, OXX, XOO, XOX, and XXO. These trigrams are found where two words meet in made-up phrases:
- 23a. [Wonka's starting hockey team?], SIX OOMPA LOOMPAS.
- 37a. [Much "Sanford and Son" banter?], REDD FOXX ONE-LINERS.
- 66a. [Rockport knockoffs?], FAUX OXFORDS.
- 96a. [Rusty, the Iron Man?], SUPERHERO OXYMORON.
- 16d. [Artistic place for tiny letters?], MAILBOX ORIGAMI. Tough clue, rather indirect.
- 50d. [Non-conforming Marvel mutants?]. UNORTHODOX X-MEN.
- 116a. [Three-letter combinations hidden in this puzzle's six other longest answers], TIC-TAC-TOE LOSERS.
Comments on other items in the puzzle:
- 1a. [Casserole holders], MITTS. A hot casserole dish, yes. I was thinking the answer would be a casserole dish itself, but no.
- 21a. [At full throttle], AMAIN. The Merriam-Webster site tags it as archaic, and the Oxford Dictionaries Online site just plain doesn’t list AMAIN. This is not the sort of word that enhances a crossword solver’s experience. Plus, it crosses Latin 15d. OMNIA [__ vincit amor] and outdated 22d. [Video game console] NES.
- 69d. [Longtime "What's My Line?" host], DALY. Who? I had to look this up for the details. John Charles Daly? Wow, that does not ring any kind of bell at all. The show was a tad before my time. Sibling actors Timothy Daly and Tyne Daly, golfer John Daly—these I know.
- 64a. ["__ Went Mad": Riley poem], ERE I. Hey! It’s still not a good entry, but it’s nice to get away from the stale “able was I ere I saw Elba” approach. It won’t work for IERE, of course.
- 123a. [Lombardy Castle city], ENNA. Crossword town!
- 94d. [Ritchard who played Hook on Broadway], CYRIL. We could use more famous Cyrils these days.
- 10a. [Santa __, aka "devil winds"], ANAS. Californians do talk about the Santa Anas, so this is perfectly in the language, and yet it looks strange in the grid. ANAS has 73 appearances in the Cruciverb database, so apparently I just haven’t been paying attention when the plurals have shown up in crosswords.
- 107a. [Old-fashioned show of affection: Abbr.], LTR. Is this supposed to mean a love letter? In the world or personal ads and dating websites, LTR means long-term relationship.
3.5 stars. The theme’s all right (and certainly unexpected). Some constructor figured out a while back that OOX and OXO and XOO could be clued as [Losing tic-tac-toe line], and we all roll our eyes when we encounter those entries. It’s clever to elevate the junk into a fairly well-executed theme—it’s our small reward for tolerating all those XOO answers. The fill is a little rough, though.