David Kahn’s New York Times crossword
It’s been 150 years since Lincoln laid it out, and David Kahn commemorates our 16th president’s most notable speech. The first six words of the Gettysburg address appear in the circled squares hidden within six phrases: FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO.
- 17a. [1922 Willa Cather novel that won a Pulitzer], ONE OF OURS. Less familiar than My Ántonia or O Pioneers!, no?
- 25a. [Bridge or Scrabble need], SCORE PAD.
- 36a. [Verdi's "Don Carlos," e.g.], GRAND OPERA. I can’t say I knew there was a “grand” classification of opera.
- 43a. [Big attraction for bargain hunters], SALES EVENT. I feel like “sales event” is usually used for cars.
- 51a. [Some school exams], MID-YEARS. Not a noun I’ve ever encountered.
- 66a. [Maximum loads of hay or vegetables], WAGONFULS. A legit word? Perhaps. Not one I’ve had need for.
- 3d. [Prez who delivered a famous address on Nov. 19, 1863], ABE LINCOLN. Slightly hokey to go the “Abe” route, but this 10 pairs so nicely with 31d.
- 31d. [Where 3-Down's address was delivered], GETTYSBURG.
- 56d. [31-Down general's signature], R.E. LEE.
As events worthy of commemoration go, this one ranks right up there. I’m hoping this week won’t offer a puzzle marking the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, because that would be a downer.
Seemed like there was a lot of nautical action floating around this grid:
- 71a. [Speed units for seafarers], KNOTS.
- 18d. [Take the bait?], FISH. (Not specifically boaty.)
- 34d. [Crow's-nest site], MAST.
- 44d. [Seafarers], SAILORS.
- 46d. [Seafarer, informally], TAR. If it were me, I’d have clued KNOTS as tied-up threads and TAR as the black goo, just to remove the sense of a second theme that’s entirely unrelated to Lincoln’s speech.
- 52d. [Swerves at sea], YAWS.
Scrabbly northeast corner: It’s got FAZES/ZAP, EXALT/AXE, and SAX/STYX. No junky words in that corner, either. It’s other sections of the grid that give us ESSE and JAI/ALAI and AFTA (meh).
Funny story about 28a. [Classic pop brand], NEHI. Did I tell you this already? My son and I passed a gas station running a sale on weird off brands of pop. Two of the varieties bore the Nehi label, and my kid asked, “What’s nay-hee“? Because his school’s so diverse, he’s learned the standard, every-other-country-but-us pronunciations of vowels. (It’s pronounced “knee-high.”)
I don’t love all the phrases used to hide the FOUR SCORE words, and a handful of the fill entries smack of crosswordese. But Lincoln! He’s golden. 3.75 stars.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straight-up synonym theme without a revealer—the first words can all mean “weird” or “different”:
- 20a. [State Department's purview], FOREIGN POLICY.
- 26a. [Pulp comic that transformed Nick Fury into a super-spy], STRANGE TALES. Not in my ken.
- 42a. [Entertainer with many fans?], EXOTIC DANCER. I like the reference to old-fashioned fan dancers like Sally Rand (check out this 1934 video).
- 50a. ["War of the Worlds" attack], ALIEN INVASION.
- 11d. [Westley portrayer in "The Princess Bride"], CARY ELWES.
- 38d. [Roosevelt's chat spot], FIRESIDE. Franklin D., not Theodore or Eleanor.
Lots of 5s in this grid, no? Perhaps not as many 3s and 4s as usual? And the 3s and 4s mostly come in small sections with 9-letter fill criss-crossing them. Not your standard grid design.
Didn’t love stuff like ACTA, CIERA, ADDN, plural EDIES, and ARAL—but overall the puzzle’s got solid fill with solid cluing and a solid theme. Let’s give it a solid four stars.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Rec Center” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Generally I cringe a bit when I see this constructor’s byline on my daily CrosSynergy puzzle, since it seems to happen just when I have the least amount of time to solve it. Luckily today’s had a straightforward theme that helped me get some toeholds in the crossing fill so I could get on with my other chores of the day. As you might expect from the title, REC is found within four theme phrases:
- [Stressful situations] clued PRESSURE COOKERS – unfortunately, I will always now think of the Boston Marathon massacre when I hear this term.
- [Paper tiger of a sort] was a SCARECROW – a “paper tiger” is something that looks imposing, but in actuality is not–I think more of the Cowardly Lion in this role instead of the Scarecrow, but of course, scarecrows in general look more “scary” than they really are.
- [Status report] was a SCORE CARD – funny how this term showed up in David Kahn‘s NYT today as well. Are Kahn and Klahn kibitzing? I think I prefer David’s (or Will’s?) take on the clue–[Bridge or Scrabble need], as that capitalized Bridge is a bit misleading.
- [Carnival diversions?] were PLEASURE CRUISES – Carnival Cruise was a recent theme entry in the “Open-and-Shut Case” puzzle as I recall.
As I mentioned above, it helped to be able to get the REC letters in the theme entries (once I saw one of these 3 in the rough middle of a theme entry, I tentatively guessed the other two to help with the crossings there). Otherwise, there were a lot of tough clues that I had a lot of trouble with:
- Starting with 1-Across, I had never heard of “The Last Command,” (which I’m assuming is a movie), so its “focus” of the ALAMO only appeared with the crossing entries.
- [Drive the point home] was to be taken literally, or STAB
- [Marketing mantra] or SEX SELLS was both a gimme and a nice find.
- Two [Slip]s in a row were ERR and SKID.
- I learned that I DO is repeated once in a Merrick musical (“I Do, I Do”) and 5 times in an Abba hit (I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do).
- I also learned that VIG is short for vigorish, a word from Yiddish meaning “winnings.”
- Did you know that POLO is only played right-handed? I didn’t.
- Finally, I felt the crossing between SWOOP ([Descend dramatically] and PECOS (["The Law West of the ____" (Judge Roy Bean)]) was a bit cruel, as I had SWOON at first and wasn’t familiar with the book title. PECOS looks a lot better though, in retrospect.
So how did this one beat you up?
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Finding Common Ground”—Janie’s review
The gimmick in “Finding Common Ground” puts us on terra firma in a near-literal way. You probably won’t “feel the earth move under your feet” with this one, but you will see a solidly (if stolidly) developed theme set, with the word earth embedded in each phrase.
- 17A. YEAR THREE [Final hurdle of law school, traditionally].
- 24A. “NOW HEAR THIS!” ["Pay attention!"].
- 40A. I HEART HUCKABEES [2004 Dustin Hoffman film whose title sometimes features a ticker symbol]. Ooh. Finally a clue/fill combo that has some real juice in it. The movie may not have been universally loved, but it’s quirky, may make you reconsider how you look at the world at times (not unlike a good Charlie Kaufman movie) and has a terrific cast. And that “ticker symbol” in the clue, btw, is a charming misdirect. Not “ticker” in the old NYSE ticker tape sense (with its coded stock symbols), but “ticker” as in slang for heart. Nice one!
- 52A. CLEAR THE AIR [Dispel differences].
- 65A. EARTHLINK [Internet service provider (it's the puzzle theme!)]. Perfect: not only do we get the ISP, but the reminder that word earth provides a link between words in each of the theme phrases—so this really ties everything up very neatly.
As tight as the theme set is—and dense! (five themers including one that spans the grid)—it also tends to take, well, a more earth-bound clue/fill approach than we ordinarily encounter in a Gorski puzzle. If the theme set doesn’t lend itself to more playful cluing (or “dazzling” fill [this fill does the job, but never really catches spark, which is a constraint of the theme]), Liz does manage to keep things lively elsewhere in the grid. Some of my faves would include:
- [Billings setting] for MONTANA. In other words, not some “accounts receivable” office, but a shout-out to the largest city (population 162,848…) in “The Treasure State.”
- [Bull or bear chaser] for the suffix “-ISH.” Note to new solvers: a word like “chaser” in the clue is often cruciverbal-speak for “suffix.”
- The enthusiast/achiever twosome of ["Please, Ill do it..."] for “LET ME” and ["I'm] ON IT[!" (can-do remark)].
- [Stumblebum's remark] for “OOPS…” Because I love the word “stumblebum” and think it makes for a great, fresh way to clue a word we encounter pretty often in puzzles.
- The borderline testy ["Relax, don't be so touchy!"] “SHEESH!” combo. For Art Carney’s classic take on the use of the word, kindly click here.
- [Strong butter] for RAM. What? You were looking for a three-letter word for “garlic spread”?
Oh—and TEAM MASCOT [Colorful, enthusiastic game bird] and A LITTLE BIT? Not too shabby neither [sic...]!
Not sure I’d pair “I DIG” with [Hippie's affirmative], mainly because I associate the phrase (and that locution especially) with Beatniks (who pre-date hippies). But the one era did blend into the next and there was a lot of crossover slang, so this isn’t exactly an egregious mis-match—just one that could maybe use a re-think. Or not…
Brand new to me: [Celebrity chef] ROCCO [DiSpirito]. Oh, wow–local boy makes good!
And that, folks, is a wrap. ‘Til next time, have a great week!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Big Time”
Themeless/freestyle this week, always a treat and always markedly different from everyone else’s themeless grids. There’s that roughly 7×7 chunk in the middle and two little 3×3 sections—both unusual. There’s also an odd Jonesian combo of really zippy fill and questionable stuff that allows the good stuff to exist. So at least it’s never going to be a dull ride.
Hot stuff: WHAT A PITY, CLOWN CAR, HASHTAG (though I dispute the clue: [One of 140 characters, often] is the hash mark; the hashtag is the # mark plus a word or phrase), LAY BROTHERS, BINGO CARD, HAWKEYES, PORTLAND OR, SPACE-AGE, “HOW HIGH?,” CHIN REST, CUT CLASS, and counting BY TWOS.
Favorite clue: 27a. [Sign of family leadership, maybe], TROUSERS. As in “she wears the pants in that family.” Runner-up: 17d. [City claiming the world's smallest park], PORTLAND, OR. How small is it, Matt? This one’s also fun: 39d. [Show with episodes “Pettycoat Injunction” and “His Suit is Hirsute”], L.A. LAW.
Least familiar term: 20d. [Private economy spending gap], FISCAL DRAG. Guess I haven’t been paying attention.
Lowlights: Partial Y IS (though I’m fine with the 6-letter FAME IS because 20a. ["___ like caviar..." (Marilyn Monroe quote)] is intriguing). RINSIBLE looks risible. Awkward CROSS AT.
Overall, there were more “Ahh! Nice!” things than *grumble mumble* things. 3.75 stars.