Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
The word “wise” is “cracked” open and filled with other letters in our theme answers today:
- 17a. [*Migratory flock], WILD GEESE.
- 30a. [*Singer Amy with six Grammys], WINEHOUSE.
- 36a. [*Pegasus, notably], WINGED HORSE.
- 42a. [*"Regardless of the outcome ..."], WIN OR LOSE.
- 60a. [Witticism ... or, literally, a description of the answer to each of the four starred clues?], WISECRACK.
Straightforward, not particularly whimsical or fun.
The corners look a tad Thursdayish with the stacked 6-, 7-, and 8-letter answers. A word count of 74 is on the low side for an early-week puzzle. Paula’s got a knack for filling themeless grids, so it’s not surprising she’d aim for a 74 in a Tuesday puzzle.
Seven more things:
- 1a. [Fed. procurement overseer], GSA. A 1-Across like this tells me “Start solving in another part of the puzzle.” Luckily, even though I’ve never heard of Boito, 4a. [Boito's "Mefistofele," e.g.] screamed “clue for OPERA” so I got started one section to the right.
- 29a. [Greek letter traditionally associated with Earth Day], THETA. You don’t say. Am I the only one who had zero idea what letter belonged here? It seems like a Saturday clue to me.
- 51a. [Dim sum dish], SHUMAI. I don’t like Chinese dumplings, but this is a neat-looking answer all the same.
- 52a. [Yale Whale players], ELIS. What the heck is “Yale Whale”? I will accept an explanation only from someone with a Yale degree. I know you’re out there.
- 64a. [Who said "The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall"]. CHE. Interesting/fresh clue. Also not a Tuesdayish sort of clue.
- 24d. [Brothers of old Hollywood], WARNERS. Plural last name? Meh. I’ll bet you a dollar Paula had originally clued this as the bra brand Warner’s, which I would deem to be an entirely solid clue/answer combo.
- 36d. [Manitoba's capital], WINNIPEG. With the middle of this word, I have a hard time typing a G at the end. I start thinking of pinnipeds (seals, walruses, et al.) and then it comes out WINNIPED. Trivia people, take note: There’s now an NHL team there, the Winnipeg Jets. The expansion team the Atlanta Thrashers was bought and relocated to Canada in 2011. (I did not know this last week when I did a Sporcle quiz.)
3.5 stars from me.
Zhouqin “C.C.” Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The Tuesday puzzle’s got a simple but not dumb hidden-word theme:
- 17a. [Reuters or Bloomberg], NEWS AGENCY. I’m hoping my sage plants survive outside until Thanksgiving so I can use locavore sage in my brioche stuffing.
- 30a. [Nutritionist's recommendation], HEALTHY MEAL.
- 44a. ["My goose is cooked!"], “I’M IN TROUBLE!”
- 61a. [Aromatic plot, and where to find three different plants hidden in 17-, 30- and 44-Across], HERB GARDEN.
With the theme occupying a fairly modest 42 squares, there’s room for terrific long Down fill. “BACK AT YA!” is slangy. “PLEASE HOLD” is annoying in life but good in a crossword. GUATEMALA and ROOT BEER are solid. MIAMI BEACH is sunny and DIANA ROSS is lovely to see in the puzzle. (Here’s the YouTube of her “Upside Down” performed in concert, with Michael Jackson coming on stage for a little dancing.) I also like the freshness of BAR BET, 46d. [Wager over darts, e.g.].
- 16a. [Latin for "elbow"], ULNA. How on earth is this not already a common clue for ULNA? I love a good etymology clue but didn’t recognize this one.
- 41a. [Food __: listlessness after a large meal], COMA. Better than pondering the actual coma in our crosswords. And then a food baby is belly bloating from a big meal.
Less thrilled with AEON, AH ME, AMAIN, ENCS, SSA, HGT, ANON, and ODIE, but a constructor buys a lot of goodwill by not overdoing the theme and by providing more than a couple juicy fill entries. 3.5 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I’m a Little Bit Country”
If you’re in my age range, you read the title and thought immediately of the keystone song from the Donny & Marie show in the ’70s. Matt’s theme this week, though, has no Osmond content at all. Instead, it’s portmanteau names that mash up a rapper with a country singer, all men:
- 19a. [Rap/country collaboration with the album "Defying Gravity with Dr. Octagon"?], KOOL KEITH URBAN. I don’t know Kool Keith but apparently he has a couple “Dr. Octagon” albums, and Keith “Mr Kidman” Urban has a Defying Gravity album.
- 31a. [Rap/country collaboration with an extremely crunk version of "Ring of Fire"?], LIL JOHNNY CASH. Crunk star Lil Jon meets the Man in Black.
- 39a. [Rap/country collaboration with the hit "Konvict in Tight Fittin' Jeans"?], AKONWAY TWITTY. Akon meets Conway Twitty.
- 53a. [Rap/country collaboration with a Dirty South version of "Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy"?], LUDACRIS LEDOUX. Ludacris is quite famous, but I’ve never heard of Chris LeDoux. He was big in rodeo, apparently.
I am into neither rap nor country, so this theme landed right in my not-sweet spot, the Land of Meh. Your mileage may vary markedly.
Somewhat surprised to fill in MEOW and then see “meow” in the CATS clue, though Will Shortz, for one, defends such a thing as not a violation of constructing rules.
- 25a. [Big name in hummus], SABRA. I like the Israeli/Arab crossover appeal of hummus, falafel, and whatnot. In keeping with that spirit, this answer crosses THE HAJ.
- 9d. [For a rectangle, it's length times width], AREA. Saw AREA clued as [Length times width] the other day, and you know what? That’s not true for a triangle. This clue is solid.
- 11d. [Like, immediately], NOW. The “like, ___” formation does not get much play in crosswords.
- 28d. [Mom-to-be's party], BABY SHOWER. I missed a friend’s baby shower in August because I went to Lollapuzzoola in New York instead. That baby was born 10 days ago, to a 45-year-old first-time mom who beat the infertility odds and her partner. V. excited to welcome Anna Elizabeth to her mamas’ hearts! And I have a onesie (at right) to send her.
Didn’t love the theme, didn’t find a whole lot to write home about in the fill and clues. 3.33 stars.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Here’s Eric Holder” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I’m guessing the idea here is a play on the AG’s last name, in that we have four theme entries that “hold” the letters ERIC:
- [Classic risotto requirement] was WHITE RICE – I thought risottos (or is that risotti?) were made strictly from Arborio rice, but I see here that other white rices can be used as well.
- ["Tutti Frutti" singer in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] clued LITTLE RICHARD – here ’tis!
- [Stopping points for a mouse] were not, as I first suspected, pieces of cheese, but COMPUTER ICONS
- [Hockey rink area] was CENTER ICE – where the puck is dropped to begin a game (or period).
Pretty much the perfect weekday puzzle here–fun theme, nice title tie-in, and interesting entries that split the ERIC in two different ways. On top of that we have some great long crossing entries, COZIED UP TO for [Ingratiated oneself with] and THE ACCUSED for [Defense attorney's client]. The neighboring TASSO, or [Italian Renaissance poet] may be a bit obscure, but I’ll leave you with a link to madrigals written by de Wert that you can sample based on his 1580 Jerusalem Delivered. Ethereal.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Opening Arguments”—Janie’s review
Once again, we get a nice basic theme that is elevated by the quality of its execution. We’re in the land of synonyms today, where the opening sound or letters of themer spell out various sorts of arguments. Whence (to state the obvious) the title. And, as is appropriate to this kind of theme, we get very direct clues. Happily, the theme fill itself lends lots of color (literally in one example) to the finished product. Behold:
- 17A. ROWLF THE DOG [Floppy-eared resident pianist of the Muppet Theater]. Love the wordplay in Rowlf‘s name (a pun on the name Ralph as it might be conflated with growl…) and the way this kind argument (the row) is embedded in it. This makes for especially lively fill. Not to mention the image it conjures up. Based on the clue, I could visualize the character, but it wasn’t until solving the puzzle, however, that I learned his name. I like that another character from childhood (this one, literary) has found his way into the puzzle as well—so, “Hello, EEYORE!”
- 23A. FLAPPER DRESS [ Glitzy costume spotted at a "Gatsby"-themed party]. I saw the recent remake of the movie of The Great Gatsby and I was happily surprised that I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. In fact, I rather liked it at times. (Lotto people [Elegantly clad] in SPIFFY costumes at times, too.) I love the novel, but getting it right on celluloid seems to have eluded filmmakers for generations (Redford/Farrow anyone? No, thanks). Got to see Gatz when it was presented at the Public Theater a few seasons ago. Now that was something! The entire novel, word for word, read/enacted by a small ensemble with a minimal sets/production values over the course of an afternoon and evening. May not sound like it should work, but it sure did for me! Some pretty gripping flaps in there, too.
- 39A. SPATULA [Hand-held mixing utensil]. Not the most compelling of the themers (and a mundane [if most practical!] kitchen utensil), but sneaky and terrific in its own way. Its companions are all multiple word phrases; this is the only one that’s a one-word answer, and (truth be told) I didn’t even notice it as theme fill as I was solving. It was only while I was looking at the puzzle more analytically that I saw it. Nice one! Particularly like the way it’s, uh, sandwiched between (and perhaps put to good use at) what I see as a SPIFFY EATERY. Given the high-pressure nature of the work, suspect there’s been many a spat in the kitchen of an eatery—spiffy or otherwise…
- 47A. SCRAPBOOKING [Hobby that combines photos, memorabilia and stories in album form]. Not a hobby I’ve adopted as an adult, but as a kid, I did keep scrapbooks. Which (unbeknownst to me) my mother saved. The remains of which remain in boxes in my closet… Some “Mickey Mouse Club” stuff; a ticket stub to and Playbill from my first New York City Broadway show, My Fair Lady (c. 1959). Have no interest in reviving the hobby component—and while. on one level (forgive the pun), ‘s crap and should probably be scrapped—neither am I sorry at all to have these items “among my souvenirs.” Ya wanna scrap about it?
- 60A. TIFFANY BLUE [Robin's egg color associated with a high-end jewelry box]. If there’s been a tiff between you and someone you care for, nothin’ says lovin’ like a little Tiffany make-up bauble…
Elsewhere in the grid, am very happy with the two 11s that appear: the punnily-clued HOCKEY RINK [Where one might pass the puck] (remember: it was [FDR's successor] HST who was famous for saying “The buck stops here”); and the expressive, “I’M OUTRAGED!” ["It's appalling!]. Clearly someone has done something to [Put one’s nose out of joint] and OFFEND someone. (See 60A for a hint on how to make things right!)
Also like the way the aural sense is appealed to with the “BOING!” / [Jumping-on-a-pogo-stick sound] pairing; ditto the implied aural connection between PLOP and [Sit clumsily (with "down")]. Other pairings of note: [Panhandle state] and [Panhandle state: Abbr.] for TEXAS and FLA respectively; and (with more geography in the clue in addition to sound-alikes in the fill) IKEA and KEA for [Swedish furnishing chain] and [New Zealand parrot] respectively.
Not wild for MNOP (but do like the [Queue before Q] clue) or MSG clued as an [Egg roll flavoring, briefly]. I always thought MSG was a seasoning used like salt—to bring out the flavors of the foods it was used on—but not a flavoring in and of itself.
So that’s a wrap. If I’ve omitted something you felt I shoulda mentioned (ELAINE Benes? Rocky BALBOA?), “ASK ME” ["I'll answer any questions..."]. Gotta SCRAM now—til next week, “BYE!”