Vic Fleming’s New York Times crossword, “Reel-life Anniversary”
Sunday is the 125 anniversary of the birth of director 119a: VICTOR FLEMING, [Director of the eight starred films in this puzzle, who was born on 2/23/1889]. The inclusion of the constructor’s name in the byline would be a spoiler, so instead the byline reads “A Namesake of 119-Across.” Here are Fleming’s movies:
- 24a. [*1939 Judy Garland film], THE WIZARD OF OZ.
- 37a. [*1933 Jean Harlow film], BOMBSHELL.
- 54a. [*1943 Spencer Tracy/Irene Dunne film], A GUY NAMED JOE. Never heard of that one.
- 68a. [*1939 Vivien Leigh/Clark Gable film], GONE WITH THE WIND. How insane is it that the two classic 1939 movies that are most familiar to people who weren’t born yet in ’39 were made by the same guy? Wikipedia tells me “Fleming holds the achievement of being the one of two film directors to have two films listed in the top 10 of the American Film Institute’s prestigious 2007 AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list.”
- 89a. [*1942 Spencer Tracy/Hedy Lamarr film], TORTILLA FLAT.
- 103a. [*1948 Ingrid Bergman film], JOAN OF ARC.
- 5d. [*1932 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow film], RED DUST. Don’t know this one either.
- 98d. [*1925 Percy Marmont film], LORD JIM. Don’t know the movie but of course the novel is canonical. (Not that I read it.)
IMDb lists over 40 movies directed by Fleming, so I imagine it was not too hard to build a symmetrical theme set. I don’t know if the movies that are less familiar to me are less notable, or if the essential Fleming oeuvre is included here.
Judge Vic always likes to toss in a little juridical content. This puzzle includes L.A. LAW, Chief Justice ROBERTS, Justice ALITO, and ENACT a law.
Highlights in the fill:
- 60a. [Self-absorbed sort], SOLIPSIST. Ha! One could argue that a constructor building a puzzle around his own name puts him in this category. How do you plead, Vic?
- 82a. [Provider of music on the go?], CAR STEREO. The same clue would work for the tinkle of PEE, no?
- 10d. [What Babe wants to be in "Babe"], SHEEPDOG, and 57d. [Wiry-coated terriers], SCOTTIES.
- 16d. [Things that should be tied up by the curtain?], LOOSE ENDS.
- 83d. [Means of access to a cafeteria, maybe], STUDENT ID.
Approaching 104d. [1960s western sitcom] with the first two letters, I assumed it was “Ft. ___.” I wonder how many younger crossword solvers assume that the show was Ft. Roop rather than F TROOP?
Lowlights: Never excited to see N-TESTS in a puzzle, as it’s the sort of term that shows up in news headlines far more than in the associated articles; plus there’s the “wait, is it going to be A-test or N-test or H-test?” issue, since all three make it into crosswords. It also felt like there were rather more plurals than usual to me. For example, 96a. [Drinkers' toasts], SKOALS, feels awkward. LAST DAY feels contrived and non-lexical-chunky. And THORO is an ugly informality/variant.
Nice to see a current clue for ELSA: 102a. [Snow queen in Disney's "Frozen"].
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I enjoyed this 68-word themeless, anchored by four 15-letter entries in the form of an octothorpe:
- [Welcome words at the airport] clued ON-TIME DEPARTURE – and not often heard, in my limited experience anyway.
- [Postal service upgrade option] was SPECIAL HANDLING – does this mean not to do this? Funny how someone is expected to pay extra for that.
- [They're of help to some captains] was AUTOMATIC PILOT – I’ll always think of this scene from Airplane when I hear this term.
- [Computer identifying code] clued INTERNET ADDRESS – known in my world as an IP address, or an Internet Protocol address, which is a series of four numbers that uniquely identifies a computer and other networked devices. If you’re afraid the numbers will run out soon, please write to these folks, working on the iPv6 deployment.
My FAVE shorter entry was the answer to [A considerable number] or the slangy UMPTEEN. AL GREEN makes an appearance, along with NED Ryerson, MEL Blanc, HENRI Rousseau and Zubin MEHTA. That’s quite a broad spread of celebrity knowledge there! My UNFAVE award goes to HET UP, which sounds terribly dated to me and should be removed from modern constructor’s word lists, IMHO.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Sundae Puzzle”
Each theme entry includes something that’s part of the ice cream sundae experience. Sometimes it’s the first word, sometimes the last, sometimes somewhere in the middle. Cute title, eh?
- 22a. [Select the best], CHERRY-PICK.
- 31a. [Anchor's intro], “TOPPING OUR NEWS TONIGHT…”
- 47a. [Forecaster's words], “EXPECT A FEW SPRINKLES.”
- 65a. [Sanity plea], “ARE YOU NUTS OR SOMETHING?” Sounds contrived/unnatural.
- 78a. [Manufacture first, perhaps], SCOOP THE COMPETITION. I associate this phrase with journalism, not manufacturing. Scoop of ice cream, for the theme.
- 97a. [Retort to a trash talker], “YOU KNOW HOW TO DISH IT OUT.” That’s not a retort. It’s the “…but you sure can’t take it” part that is a retort. “You know how to dish it out” is more of a compliment.
- 109a. [Small town invented by poet Edgar Lee Masters], SPOON RIVER.
- 13d. [Behind the eight ball], IN A PICKLE. I really wanted this to be part of a surreal ice cream sundae theme. Alas, the symmetrical partner answer is BOLO KNIFE ([Machete's cousin]), and I haven’t seen anyone using a knife on a sundae. Maybe if the pickle is really hard?
This sundae is woefully incomplete. No whipped cream? No caramel sauce or hot fudge? Are those all subsumed under the TOPPING category? But aren’t the NUTS and SPRINKLES also TOPPINGs? From an ice cream standpoint, this theme is not wholly satisfactory. And from a “Do these theme answers work as clued?” standpoint, also shy of the mark.
- 14d. [Word that contains a six-letter state], FOREGONE. Never noticed that. I assume there have been cryptic crosswords putting the state into iron. Possibly also putting Maine into red. Not many states will lend themselves to this.
- 84a. [Big lizard's tail?], -SAUR. Cute as you’re going to get for a suffix clue.
Did not know:
- 62d. [Betty Boop's dog friend], BIMBO. Had a crazy typo with SOMETHONG and had no way to know BOMBO was wrong, because I never knew the Betty Boop character had a “dog friend.” “Check solution” highlighted the incorrect O and I put it together.
- 117a. [Robert and Paul], RYANS. Paul Ryan is the Wisconsin congressperson, yes, but who is Robert Ryan? Answer: He’s an actor who played tough guys and died in 1973. Never heard of him, never seen any of his movies, but admire his off-screen pursuits on behalf of civil rights and whatnot.
3.25 stars from me. Not as satisfying as a good ice cream sundae.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Spelling Key” — pannonica’s write-up
This puzzle’s conceit is an update of the old and willfully obtuse criticism—usually incorrectly attributed to George Bernard Shaw—of English spelling “demonstrating” that fish can be spelled ghoti. I think you know how it goes: gh as in enough, and so on.
A nifty aspect of the crossword is that the theme answers have bizarre beginnings due to the way the phonemes are introduced. As of this moment, I still don’t know what the meta answer—66a [Word spelled per our key] GHOUGHPTEIGHBTEAU, quite the mash-up—translates to, simply because I haven’t bothered to piece it together. Let’s discover it together.
- 23a. [P = ?] GH AS IN HICCOUGH.
Well, it’s obvious now that all one needs to do is treat the clues as an acrostic. Continuing,
- 39a. [O = ?] OUGH AS IN DOUGH.
- 47a. [T = ?] PT AS IN PTOLEMY.
Oh wait, now I remember a cross-reference clue that I encountered. Down at the bottom right, one of the traditional locations for a revealer. 122a [Synonym of 66-Across] SPUD. Good gravy! You see it too.
- 83a. [A = ?] EIGH AS IN WEIGH.
- 91a. [T = ?] BT AS IN DEBTORS.
- 112a. [O = ?] EAU AS IN THOREAU.
And so we’ve grown a POTATO. Why a potato? I don’t know. Just be grateful it wasn’t spelled Quayle-style, with an E at the end.
As mentioned above, the unusual letter groupings slowed down the solve time. GHASI…?PTASI…? Ultimately, however, it made for a more savory experience.
- 13a [James who founded a Civil War town] GETTYS. See, I’d assumed the namesake would have been just GETTY. Interesting fact.
- Wading through the grid: 30d [Sounds from 85-Down] NEIGHS; 85d [116-Across mounts] HORSES; 116a [Troopers of Can.] RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which duplicates the C[an.] of the clue.
- Also: 38d [63-Across catch] FISH; 63a [Large net for 38-Down] SEINE. Eh.
- THEPRU! SERAPH! SEPIRA! Actually, I liked SERAPH, more commonly seen in the plural form, seraphim. Without looking it up, I believe THE PRU is a building belonging to Prudential insurance, and the Back Bay of the clue I just bet is in Boston, where this crossword appears (The Boston Globe). SEP is another alternative to ROTH and traditional, but I’m not looking into it.
- I do know, however, that 100a [DreamWorks __ (film studio)] SKG is formed from the initials of the triumvirate founders: Stephen Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen.
- Favorite clue: 65d [Shuttle with 33 flights] ATLANTIS. Somehow vaguely disorienting.
- Most random clue: 50d ["Bad Boys II" release year] MMIII. What the heck is that all about?
- 57a [Last meal of the Iceman] SLOE. That’s OTZI, the prehistoric Alpine “Iceman,” not the titular character from the O’Neill play, or the comic book superhero.
Good puzzle, a different solving experience.
Gail Grabowski’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Age Isn’t Everything”
In this “Age Isn’t Everything” theme, AGE is dropped from (mostly) familiar phrases, changing the meaning;
- 25a. [Plight when the caterer cancels?], HOST CRISIS. Hostage crisis.
- 27a. [Kit with a parachute?], BAIL-OUT PACK. Bail-out package.
- 45a. [River project evaluation?], DAM ASSESSMENT. Damage assessment.
- 82a. [Psychiatrist who falls asleep during sessions?], SHRINK PROBLEM. Shrinkage problem? Is this a familiar phrase? Is it about the shrinkage George Costanza mentioned on Seinfeld, when a man gets out of chilly water? Is it about laundry? It is about the Aral Sea?
- 97a. [Pedicured tootsy on a video-sharing website?], YOUTUBE FOOT. Is “YouTube footage” actually a phrase people bandy about? I haven’t heard it.
- 103a. [Course for new cattle farmers?], STEER CLASS. Steerage class.
- 35d. [Scenes of Oscar Madison's room?], RECORDED MESS. Recorded message. This RECORDED MESS feels awkward.
- 40d. [Cleaning out a clothes closet?], GARB DISPOSAL. Garbage disposal.
None of the newly created phrases actually stuck me as funny, which is a disappointment. LEAVE A MESS AT THE BEEP, now that might have amused me a little. And it was mildly jarring to see a longish answer, not part of the theme, with an AGE in it (79a: STAGE SETS). Not a big problem, but it would have been smoother not to have any AGE in the grid, particularly in a longer answer.
There’s some nice fill here: “SAY WHAT?!” and THE DOCKS, REST EASY and GETS BACK, CHILIES, SEALSKIN. But there were also a few more word fragments than I like to see. To wit: spat ULA, super IOR, front IER, HELI port. HELI is a solid prefix/combining form, and the dictionary I’m checking includes -ior and -ier (but not -ula), but broken pieces of words are not great fill.
3.25 stars from me.
Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 203″ – Gareth’s Review
Two things struck me about this particular puzzle: 1. There was a definite attempt to cram lots of fresh (not necessarily new answers, although there were several of those too!), unusual answers into the puzzle. 2. There was a big musical subtheme going on.
As to point one, the overall effect seemed a bit hit and miss. BLEGS is a useful word, describing when some begs for money on a blog; I had never heard of it, and it googles iffily. Feel free to convince me that this is already a well-established phrase. MOTOROLARAZR already sounds hopelessly dated, even though it’s only a few years old. I’d never heard JIGSAWFAMILY before, only BLENDEDFAMILY. It’s a very evocative phrase! I like it! LONGARMS and EVILLOOK are also unrecorded. AIRKENYA is a further new entry, with a usefully leading clue of [Safari group's carrier, perhaps] – very nice answer! KYUSHU, as far as I can tell, is yet another never before seen answer, and a surprising one at that! It’s also in an interesting location for an answer with a Y and U’s!
Point 2: TOOSHY, BLUEMEANIE, and ROCKME are all song that haven’t appeared in a major crossword (see point 1), leastways as far as I can tell. That’s impressive, even if I detest One Direction on principle. NINETOFIVE has been used, and is in fact clued in a manner unrelated to the song; nevertheless, I feel it belongs here.
[Response to a request to extradite Edward Snowden] for NYET was my favourite clue, if only for its cheekiness!
4 Stars. I applaud the quest for surprising entries, even if I wasn’t sure that I liked all of them!