Greetings, Friday solvers! You like a challenge, don’t you? Trip Payne is cooking up another one of his puzzle extravaganzas (12 puzzles plus a metapuzzle to crack—with a prize of $100 for each of two randomly selected people with correct solutions). You can order it now or this spring or this summer; the pack of puzzles will be released on August 1 and the contest ends August 31. Visit Triple Play Puzzles for order details.
Ned White’s New York Times crossword
I didn’t work through this puzzle from top to bottom, so I had the central “USA! USA! USA!” and the bottom SPEED SKATER before I had the top section. I was expecting to see another Winter Olympics-related 11 up there at 1-Across, but no such luck.
Then there was the other asymmetrical mini-theme candidate, the tripled “GIMME GIMME GIMME” with “USA! USA! USA!”
Most interesting fill:
- 12a. [Bit of nonsense famously replacing "strangers in the night"], “DOO BE DOO BE DOO.”
- 39a. [Fourth-brightest star in the sky], ARCTURUS. Most of our crossword stars are shorter ones, like Deneb and Vega, or they’re constellations, like Ara.
- 44a. [John P. Marquand's "The Late George ___"], APLEY. I didn’t know the title and don’t really recognize Apley as a familiar surname. Tough spot, though there are no proper nouns or iffy letters in the crossings.
- 47a. [Part of a U.S. president's name that's Dutch for "neighbors"], BUREN. What other Dutch name fragment have our presidents had? Two Roosevelts and a Van Buren is all we have to work with, no?
- 57a. [Is guilty of petitio principii], BEGS THE QUESTION. This does not mean “raises the question. If you, like many millions of us, have been confused about the more arcane official meaning of “begs the question,” do read Grammar Girl’s post on the topic. Shorter Grammar Girl: If something “begs the question,” it prompts a very specific question: “What is your support for that premise?”
- 61a. [Got a +2 on], DOUBLE BOGEYED. A golf term.
- 1d. [Florida food fish], POMPANO. Namesake of the city Pompano Beach.
- 38d. [Witchy women], VIRAGOS. The word has fallen into disuse but the occasional woman (such as academic blogger Dr. Virago) reclaims the label.
- 35d. [Query after a wipeout], “ARE YOU OK?”
There’s a fair amount of “meh” material in the shorter range, but little to make me scowl. MTA, APLEY and GANT, UEY, -OSE and TRI-, ROM, partial NOT BE, SEGO, EHLE, ABES, MDI, TYE … okay, there were actually enough answers that didn’t excite me that I might’ve scowled a little bit. But not too much.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Hacked Off” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four entries that end with some type of tool used to lop off the end of something:
- [Reality TV series about motorcycle] was AMERICAN CHOPPER – never heard of it, but pretty inferable once I figured out “hog” wasn’t part of the name.
- [Aid in making snickerdoodles] clued COOKIE CUTTER – I’m trying to recall what’s in a snickerdoodle, is it a sugar cookie with cinnamon sprinkled on top?
- [Abe Lincoln nickname] was RAIL SPLITTER – I think he was called that due to all the railroad track that was laid down while he was president, “mending” the Union.
- [Mayfield's most famous resident] was THEODORE CLEAVER – “the Beav” to you, me and his brother Wally. Funny I was thinking of Mayberry instead of Mayfield first and wondering how Andy Griffith fit the theme.
Timely puzzle given the recent TSA restriction on possible explosives on flights to Russia–if you can’t bring in toothpaste, good luck trying to hide a cleaver in your luggage! A few random comments about some of the fill:
- The [Turbo X maker] or SAAB is no longer in business, no? Should the clue have had an “erstwhile” in it?
- [Remark by the Empress of Blandings] was OINK; I’m guessing this is “some pig,” but no idea from where.
- [Type of box on a golf course] was TEE, what is a “tee box” anyway? Is it the rectangular area from where you tee off from or a box in which tees are stored?
- [Ten bucks?] for DEER wins the FAVE award today as the cutest clue.
- JITTERY, THIN AIR and PLUCKY were nice entries as well.
- Finally, [Tickle under the table] for FLIRT gave me pause; I’m hoping this is just an expression and not an actual flirtatious advance!
Jeffrrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Jeffrey Wechsler’s theme felt interesting and different, but also fairly simple. It features an interesting use of circles to conceal the theme answers in L-shaped patterns. I’m not sure how well this will work in those LAT venues that don’t feature circles, but, to quote Liam Lynch, “whatever.” As the central RIVERBEND implies, the circles spell out the names of rivers and each forms a bent L-shape. North America is represented by the PECOS; South America by the AMAZON; Europe by the DANUBE and the THAMES; and Africa by the NIGER. No Murray or Darling for completeness’ sake, but maybe not enough people know them. I checked, there are actually rivers in Antarctica too…
With no real theme answers other than the central one, and circles in most areas the number of eye-popping answers is probably of a necessity fewer than normal. I enjoyed the theme, so it didn’t bother me much and there were enough splashes of colour to keep my attention.
Bits and bobs:
- 20a, OTOS, [Natives who met Lewis and Clark near modern-day Council Bluffs]. I seem to remember that name coming up in a few US historical novels… Was one of the Centennial?
- 27a, [Stopper, with "the"], KIBOSH. Weird and tricky clue! A fun answer to say! Although it doesn’t seem to occur much with PUTTHE or ON in my world…
- 50a, [Traditional process for hammock making], MACRAME. An anonymous poem that I read in “Towards More Picturesque Speech” in the Reader’s Digest yonks ago, but has stuck with me is” “Oh what a tangled web we lay / When first we practised macramé”. Not especially scrabbly or unusual, but still adds some colour to the grid.
- 67a, [First, second or third person?], BASEMAN. Here’s a barely related oldie link.
- 2d, [Be diplomatic], USETACT. I’m not quite satisfied that this is a real phrase.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Let the Games Begin!” — pannonica’s write-up
Belated and abbreviated recap for this and the CHE puzzle (below).
The theme here should align with many solvers’ proclivities. Phrases beginning with the name of a classic board game.
- 22a. [Mind-wrenchingly difficult, as a puzzle] CRANIUM CRUSHING. But not this puzzle, which was tuned nicely for a weekly 21×21. Cranium, created in 1988.
- 36a. [Astonish] BOGGLE THE MIND. Boggle, 1972.
- 45a. [Color akin to slate] BATTLESHIP GRAY. Battleship, 1967.
- 65a. ["I want to know more!"] CLUE ME IN. Clue/Cluedo, 1949
- 67a. [Inflatable vessel] LIFE RAFT. Life, 1860 (as The Checkered Game of Life).
- 87a. ["I didn't mean to email the entire list!"] SORRY ABOUT THAT. Sorry!, 1929.
- 96a. [Investment adviser's determination] RISK TOLERANCE. Risk, 1959 (1957, as La Conquête du Monde).
- 115a. [Opera that Leonard Bernstein began while on his honeymoon] TROUBLE IN TAHITI. Trouble, 1965 (but apparently similar to Mensch ärgere Dich nicht, issued in 1914).
Can’t say that I’ve played all, or even most of these, but I certainly recognize them, and phrases themselves are pretty much winners.
- 29d [One way to scream] IN HORROR (followed by 31d [Scream] YELL), 71a [How one might recall a nightmare] VIVIDLY – quite a pair. Other long fill includes TELETHON, EGO BOOST (a [Shot in the arm] that isn’t a booster vaccination), DRILL TEAM, BY NO MEANS, INTIMATED, CONSENSUS, MASSIVELY, and perhaps to allay the fearsomeness elsewhere, 4d [Comforting diner order] TUNA MELT.
- One further long entry: 15d [Jane Does, perhaps] AMNESIACS. Had some trouble with this one, as the crossing 28a [Tropical vines] were known to me only as LIANA(S) and I was unaware of the alternate spelling LIANES. Could have used a 72d [Dict. tag on "thru"] VAR.
- Ironic trivia: 25a [Of all U.S. coins, the only one that's less than half copper] PENNY.
- Significant mis-fill: 57a [Great shakes?] SPASM for SEISM. I suppose, relatively speaking, a spasm is no great shakes.
- 119a [Monopoly player's collection] RENT. What’s that clue doing in this puzzle?
- Sportsfolk I didn’t know: 55d [2002 Wimbledon champ Hewitt] LLEYTON, 79a [Umenyiora of the Atlanta Falcons] OSI.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Name That President” — pannonica’s write-up
Colorful nicknames of a few of this country’s CINCs. Aligned vertically in a 15×16 grid.
- 4d. [Nickname for Buchanan] TEN-CENT JIMMY.
- 11d. [Nickname for Coolidge] SILENT CAL. “His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, recounted that a young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, ‘You lose.’” (source)
- 20d. [Nickname for Nixon] TRICKY DICK.
- 24d. [Nickname for McKinley] WOBBLY WILLIE. Now that’s an interesting back-to-back pairing.
- 36d [Nickname for Lincoln] HONEST ABE.
Substantial corners, with stacks of sevens and sixes. A goodly amount of clues and fill with that Higher Education vibe™, including Shelley’s BLITHE skylark and [Son of Elaine] GALAHAD, but the undisputed winner is 43a ["__ Meninas"] for LAS. See also 61d [With 59 Down, Yankee great, familiarly] THE; 59d [See 61 Down] BABE. (Not that I care for an eensy cross-referenced split partial.)
Cluecho with 4d [Low digit?] TOE and 30d [Low digits] ONES. Clue factette: 60a [Word coined by Herb Caen in 1958] BEATNIK – surprised it was so late. Sketchy 52d REEDED is saved via clue and crossing; clue: [Like clarinets], crossing: 68a [Like clarets] RED.
Good puzzle, more supple than its stiff theme would lead one to expect.