Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
This week’s Monday NYT theme gathers phrases that begin with synonyms for “flee”:
- 17a. [John Cusack thriller based on a Grisham novel], RUNAWAY JURY. Is that anything like a runaway truck or train? Split that first word into two words for the theme: “run away.”
- 28a. [Newly famous celebrity], BREAKOUT STAR. Another split-into-two theme piece.
- 47a. [Stipulation that frees one of liability], ESCAPE CLAUSE. No split required.
- 62a. [Part of a ski jump just before going airborne], TAKEOFF RAMP. Did not know that had a name. Third one to split in two, “take off.”
I’m mildly put out by that 3/1 split in the theme entries.
POGO STICK, QUAFF, and BAND-AID are delightfully lively entries. But is anyone going to remember that they were there when 66a is something very few of us have heard of? (And in a Monday puzzle!) This FUMET, this [Strong, seasoned stock, in cookery]? I Googled it. Apparently it’s a fish stock (Emeril’s recipe calls for 2 1/2 lb of fish bones, without the heads so don’t even think about sneaking your stash of bony fish heads in there) or a game stock. I also checked the dictionary. There’s an unrelated second definition that usually goes with the plural fumets. It means “the excrement of a deer.” So tuck that one away in your memory just in case it comes up in another puzzle in another 20 years. (The Cruciverb database includes over 100,000 entries. FUMET has never shown up in any of the indexed puzzles since 1997. Maybe it’s a Maleska-friendly term?)
I was curious about how this wildly unfamiliar word was accepted for a Monday puzzle, so I checked the constructor’s notes at Wordplay. Gary reports that Will Shortz asked him to change the fill in the southwest corner, which is not the FUMET corner at all! And that Will also was unfamiliar with that word, but was okay with it because the crossings were easy. Okay, then…
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Planet Hollywood” – Dave Sullivan’s review
The first four planets in our now-eight planet Solar System appear in four film titles ranging from 1948 (yikes!) to 2011:
- [1948 Ava Gardner comedy] was ONE TOUCH OF VENUS – I wonder what the other “touch” was?
- I haven’t seen the [1998 Bruce Willis thriller] which clued MERCURY RISING, but at least I’ve heard of it.
- Another obscure (to me, anyway) film, [2011 computer-animated Disney adventure] was MARS NEEDS MOMS – did they have enough Dads already? You learn a lot about nature as a beekeeper, and this time of year the (female) worker bees are now ejecting the male drones, since they are unneeded during the winter and just take up space and precious honey reserves. Maybe Mars operates like a bee hive?
- [1955 sci-fi classic] was THIS ISLAND EARTH – if “classic” means popular, I missed this one as well.
I like the fact that they are all movie titles (tying nicely to the puzzle title “Planet Hollywood”), and that they were the first four in order, as opposed to just a random set of four of the eight. I did have trouble with titles I wasn’t familiar with–I had SHORE for [Summer camp treat] instead of (what now looks much better) S’MORE, and since I wasn’t sure of the last letter of the book that follows Micah in the bible, I couldn’t see the last word (MOMS) of the Disney title. The long PERFUMERS and CHEERLESS both lack a bit of oomph that I like to see in my medium-length fill. Overall a decent if not stellar (heh heh) effort.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
A lattice of 15s anchors this grid:
- 17a. [Somewhat], TO A LESSER EXTENT. Not necessarily. “You aren’t scowling, but are you angry?” A “Somewhat” answer would not have any connotation of TO A LESSER EXTENT.
- 37a. [#1 single with the lyrics "Take me by the tongue / And I'll know you"], MOVES LIKE JAGGER. Did you see last week’s “Moves Like Jagger” Fireball crossword by Peter Abide? It had anagrams of words in Rolling Stones songs.
- 59a. ["Doesn't matter to me"], “WHATEVER YOU LIKE.”
- 3d. [Begins at the top], STARTS OVER AGAIN.
- 6d. [One whose instincts are never right?], KNEE-JERK LIBERAL. “Right” = “right wing” here, not “correct.”
- 10d. ["Slow down"], “ONE THING AT A TIME.”
Only one of the 15s is pop culture or specifically contemporary and BEQish; the other five are completely in-the-language phrases.
Five more things:
- 15a. [Coffee bean], KONA. There are coffee beans called Kona? Wikipedia tells me that Kona coffee is from the Coffea arabica tree, which is cultivated all around the world.
- 20a. [Lay people?], ENRON. Kenneth Lay.
- 50a. [Bellyful?], FLAB. Heading to the gym after I finish blogging this puzzle, I swear.
- 46d. [Košice native], SLAV. Mismatch in specificity here. If you’re from Košice, you’re Slovak, and Slovaks are Slavs. The clue’s too specific.
- 54d. [Maker of the Gator utility vehicles], DEERE. Did not know that; fresh clue.
Favorite fill: MYRIAD, AZTEC, DOLOR, and APERCU are all great words.
Erik Agard’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Really a lovely Monday theme here, simple but not stale. Two words that differ only in the location of the letter S—at the start of one, the end of the other—are combined into a plausibly clueable phrase:
- 17a. [German cars bought by Riyadh residents?], SAUDI AUDIS.
- 21a. [Cafeteria carriers gone missing?], STRAY TRAYS.
- 54a. [Streamlined onion relatives?], SLEEK LEEKS.
- 59a. [Stories you've heard a bajillion times?], STALE TALES. Love “bajillion.”
- 10d. [Out-of-tune string instruments?], SHARP HARPS.
- 27d. [Neato water sources?], SWELL WELLS.
For added elegance, the second words all start with different sounds—AU, TR, L, T, H, W.
Despite the inclusion of six theme answers, the fill does not suffer. We have the shine of DON RICKLES, MOUTHGUARD, PORTFOLIO, and FLUCTUATE occupying big swaths, plus the coffee K-CUP for freshness.
I’m surprised to see ADELE clued as 52d. [Dancer Astaire] in a puzzle by a college student. Erik, did you originally clue this as singer Adkins?