Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword, “Musical Interpretation”
I enjoyed the theme, which took so many different forms. In each case, a song title was rendered physically to replace a preposition:
- 28a. [With the circled letters, 1955 Bill Haley and His Comets hit?], THE CLOCK. “Rock Around the Clock,” with the word ROCK appearing in circled squares orbiting THE CLOCK.
- 37a, 43a. [With 43-Across, 1973 Deep Purple hit?], “SMOKE on THE WATER.“
- 66a. [1959 Dion and the Belmonts hit?], LOATEENAGERVE. “A Teenager in Love.”
- 78a. [1984 Cyndi Lauper hit?], “TIME After TIME.” Ooh, I like that song so much. Have a listen. You know, Cyndi Lauper is only an O away from an EGOT.
- 90d. [1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit?], NOOMDAB. “Bad Moon Rising.”
- 95d, 89d. [With 89-Down, 1968 Tammy Wynette hit?], “STAND by YOUR MAN.”
Did I miss any? I think that’s all of them. They’re hard to eyeball since most of the theme bits are shorter than the 9-, 10-, and 11-letter fill.
Most confusing clue: 14d. [Medium for love letters?], BARK. I think this means tree bark when someone gouges the trunk with an “AZ + RR” inside a heart. The 102d: ERATO clue also includes “love,” but with the 66a theme answer, that may be too much loving.
Least familiar word: 31a. [Having a beat], CADENT. Cadence is completely familiar, but not so CADENT.
Favorite clue: 54d. [Where "hello" is "sveiks"], LATVIA. Yikes!
Fave fill: MR PIBB, STARDUST, LAMBASTE, DICK AND JANE, IN BAD SHAPE, VLASIC pickles.
Least favorite fill: ORA and NTS (4d. [Some versions of Windows]) in the opening corner, EFT, AMIR, plus assorted other stuff that made me frown while solving, including SNOOK, 96a. [Thumbing-the-nose gesture]. That’s from the “chiefly British” phrase cock a snook. Americans may cock their snooks, but they don’t call it that.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 208″- Sam Donaldson’s review
This week’s Post Puzzler from Trip Payne is, for me, the perfect freestyle puzzle. Though there’s not a single answer with more than eight letters in this 68/30 grid, there are 20 6s, ten 7s, and ten 8s–nearly 60% of all answers. Would you look at those beautiful corners with quad-stacked 8s and quad-6s! More importantly, it’s chock-full o’peppy stuff. My only problem is that it’s a mere 15×15 grid–something this fresh and fun should really be a 21×21 puzzle just so you can savor it.
If there was an Orca Award for Best Corner, that northwest corner would be the frontrunner. It’s sick-smooth, y’all. COINSTAR, the we’ll-do-the-coin-rolling-for-you [Service whose users look forward to their bills] rests atop ON NOTICE, NEAT IDEA, and GONE GIRL, the forthcoming Ben Affleck movie and [2012 book whose title character is Amy Dunne]. That stack is amazing, especially when you see such elegant crossings, including ONE OF US, the [1995 song with the lyric "If God had a name, what would it be?"] that stuck in my head throughout the rest of the solve. And of course there’s REAL SEX, the [HBO series with such segments as "Of Human Bondage" and "The Agony & the Ecstasy"]. Being of driven-snow purity, of course, I had no idea about this answer and got lucky with the crossings. Ahem. Moving on.
Answers and clues of note:
- The opposite corner isn’t exactly shabby. I like MINI-BARS as fill, but I liked the clue better: [It's costly to empty them]. A LA CARTE, REMINDER, and TSA AGENT round out the 8s in that stack.
- Had no earthly idea about [What the Norwegian Blue was, in a Monty Python sketch]. It was EX-PARROT. And here I was all proud of my guess, EX-TORRIE. Here‘s the sketch, if you’re interested.
- Continuing with the theme of British Ignorance, I hadn’t before heard of Dirk BOGARDE, the [Matinee idol in "Darling"]
- [Stone fragments?: Abbr.] is a great clue for LBS. And hey, no British Ignorance this time!
- Lots of lovely multi-word entries, like SEES TO, MESS UP, PIPE DOWN, and THAT’S IT, along with a couple of nice hyphens: GAL-PAL and WAL-MART, the [Chain based in Bentonville, Arkansas].
- The first few times I saw the clue [Keys on a piano], I fell for the trap. IVORIES? EBONY AND IVORY? Now that I’ve seen it a few times, though, I’m no longer tricked and can confidently plunk down ALICIA, as in Alicia Keys.
Favorite entry = I DIGRESS, the [Admission of a tangent]. Favorite clue = [Sort of wounds] for TRIAGE, where wounds are sorted. The clue for MINI-BARS was a close second, though, and I also liked [Wand holder, sometimes] for TSA AGENT and [Personal letter?] for INITIAL. Again, this was just a terrific puzzle from start to finish.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Breezy, fairly easy, 70-word offering from the CS atelier this morning:
Let’s start with my missteps, shall we?
- For [Cy Young Award favorites], I started with ARMS before ACES. The use of the term “arm” for a pitcher reminds me of the recent “smeller” for nose.
- ["Would ___?"] wasn’t much to go on–I tried IT BE and then I DIE before the correct I LIE.
- [It inspires ogling] clued EYE CANDY and not the more sibilant RED DRESS.
- [Statement upon delivery] was “IT’S A BOY!” and not the generic “IT’S HERE!”
I felt there was a lot of food in this one–OLIVE PIT, CILANTRO, HONEY MUSTARD, SODA and NACHOS made for quite the morning meal. [Holder of leaves] or TEA BAG reminds me of this clip from John Waters’ Pecker. Finally, our Swampscott neighbors called their son Atticus after the famous character ATTICUS FINCH from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “On the Side of Caution?” — pannonica’s write-up
All right. I’m admitting that I don’t know what the theme is here. I’ve a notion, but will disregard the puzzle’s title and share the dubious hypothesis after the list.
- 22a. [Borat portrayer] SACHA BARON COHEN.
- 44a. ["The Talk" talker] SHARON OSBOURNE.
- 59a. [New York-based designer] DONNA KARAN.
- 62a. ["Beyond the Sea" subject] BOBBY DARIN. Was fazed by the clue, since that’s the title of one of his hit songs—then I realized it’s a biopic.
- 80a. [One of Tim Allen's sitcom sons] TARAN NOAH SMITH. In-grid, found myself repeatedly tempted to mentally alter the spelling and consider the prefix tyranno–.
- 102a. [Vegas site named for a senator] MCCARRAN AIRPORT.
- 16d. [1982 Cooperstown inductee] HANK AARON.
- 71d. ["WTF" podcast comic] MARC MARON.
Throwing caution to the wind, remaining decidedly unalee, this is all I’ve got: all of the theme entries contain the letter sequence R–N, variously completed by all the vowels except U. That is to say, alphabetically speaking, they occupy a space on this side of RUN, and running is often associated with a lack of caution. Additionally, all but one of the themers are the full names of individuals. The anomaly is 102-across, which includes a dignitary’s (Senator Pat McCarran) surname, but in association with another word.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. The R–N sequences always occur at the ends of names, but sometimes it’s the given name, sometimes the middle name, but most often the last name.
- 41d [Steered a gondola] POLED. This is incorrect, as I just confirmed after solving either the CHE or WSJ on Friday. Gondolas are in part distinguished from punts in that they are propelled with oars, not poles.
- Enjoyed the technical terms peppering the grid, with fair crossings. Further, they aren’t extremely esoteric and could be useful new vocabulary for some. 66a [Herculon makeup] OLEFIN (a FIBER, as per the cross-referenced 53d), 86a [Linguistic roots] ETYMA, 76a [Having muscle pain] MYALGIC.
- Musicals! 108a ["A Chorus Line" role] CASSIE, 37d [River City librarian] MARIAN, 57d ["The Worst Pies in London" baker] LOVETT. Honorable mention: 72a ["A Holly Jolly Christmas" singer] Burl IVES.
- Favorite clue and potential Clue of the Year candidate (if I may be so bold, Sam): 110a [They'll help if you break your word] HYPHENS.
In general, the fill—and cluing—is interesting and challenging. Of course, there’s approximately the usual compliment less-desirable fill for a larger 21×21 grid; the most woeful might be 94a [End for top or opt] -ICAL—despite the clever anagrammatic clue it’s nasty fill, but at least it didn’t invoke Apple’s calendar application.
Am unable to give this crossword a proper quality rating since the theme remains obscure to me.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “New Words I’d Like To See”
Not Merl’s usual sort of pun theme. This one takes real words, changes the spelling to incorporate an unrelated word, and redefines it to encompass the new angle:
- 23a. [One who's just wild about nuclear physics?], AFISSIONADO. Aficionado, nuclear fission.
- 25a. [Strictly against regulations, in the Navy?], VERBOATEN. Verboten, boat.
- 31a. [Like the perfect working relationship of lazy, lusty, greedy people?], SINNERGISTIC. Synergistic, sinner.
- 46a. [The tendency of tennis players to play better the older they get?], MATCHURATION. Maturation, match.
- 54a. [Obsessed with buttons?], FASTENATED. Fascinated, fasten.
- 69a. [Full impact of a kick?], TOETALITY. Totality, toe.
- 83a. [Government in which the people only think they're in charge?], DEMOCKRACY. Democracy, mock.
- 89a. [How mathematicians drink their beers?], SEQUENCHALLY. Sequentially, quench.
- 107a. [Committer of a crime, and a rat to boot?], PERPETRAITOR. Perpetrator, traitor.
- 114a. [Wails from the crypt?], CACOFFINY. Cacophony, coffin.
- 116a. [Junk mail?], LITTERATURE. Literature, litter.
Might’ve been good to clue SUSPECT as a verb rather than with 4a. [Possible perp], given 107a.
Six more remarks:
- 3d. [Psychologist who wrote "Walden Two"], B.F. SKINNER. I’m thinking Henry David Thoreau would not have cared for this Walden Two concept.
- 10d. [Like some paradises], TROPICAL. Initially, I misread the clue as [Like some parasites]. You know what? The answer fits either way.
- 29d. [Diving duck], SCOTER. Like its fellow duck, the SMEW (and the non-ducks ERN(E) and TERN), a bird word I know primarily from crosswords.
- 32d. [Do a tape chore], REWIND. Wow, it’s been years since I rewound a tape. Have actually played music cassettes in the car in the last five years … but rarely. No working VCR anymore. The rewind button on the DVR, of course, gets ample use.
- 34d. [Wrigley Field flora], IVY. I’m betting that the ivy at this point is brown, shriveled, lifeless, scarcely beginning to think of budding. Early spring is … something we’re still waiting for here.
- 97d. [Buddy's last name on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"], SORRELL. Needed lots of crossings to pull this one out. Could’ve been plural SORRELS crossing ugly plural abbreviation HDS, but nobody likes ugly plural abbreviations.
3.75 stars. The fill is mostly prosaic, old/familiar stuff, but long-time solvers should zip through that stuff. Clever theme.
Rich Norris’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “CB Switches” (pen name, Nora Pearlstone)
I’m not sure why my solving time was comparably slow. Yes, the theme entries took some brain power to work out, but I think maybe I was conversing more with my husband than I realized. There was also some tough fill and challenging clues that applied the brakes.
The “CB Switches” take a hard C in a familiar word, name, or phrase, change it to a B sound, adjust the spelling as needed to make a real B word, and clued with the B word in mind:
- 23a. [Sidewalk vendor's income?], STREET BREAD. Street cred.
- 25a. [Steeped salad topping?], BREWED OIL. Crude oil.
- 64a. [Accident report?], BLAME FORM. Claim form.
- 107a. [Sketched a Gibb brother?], DREW BARRY. Drew Carey.
- 109a. [Villain's backwoods hideout?], BADDIE SHACK. Caddyshack.
- 37d. [Qualifying exam for opera school?], VOCAL BOARD. Vocal cord. (Not vocal chord, as a magazine article I was reading the other day had it.)
- 46d. [Undersea party pooper?], MARINE BORE. Marine Corps.
Given the mixed bag of spelling changes, this theme was nowhere near as easy as a letter-change theme can be. I like having to puzzle things out, I do.
Ten more things:
- 1a. ["Waverley" novelist], SCOTT. Sir Walter Scott, and not his most famous work so a little tough for 1-Across. Wasn’t sure if Moose Jaw was in Alta. or SASK., had no idea the 2d. [Diamond Preferred credit card offerer] was CITI, 19a. [Many a network] was might vague for the blah answer AIRER, and 4d. [Drive, often] meant a TEE SHOT in golf, though drive has so many other meanings. So this was a tough corner for me.
- 38a. [All-Star outfielder Raul], IBANEZ. Don’t know him. I was guessing this was IBARRA since I’m used to seeing IBANEZ clued as a guitar brand.
- 46a. [E.T. policers of film], MIB. Men in Black, all sorts of aliens. Not the E.T. from Spielberg’s movie.
- 52a. [Old Bristol-Myers toothpaste], IPANA. “Old” + “toothpaste” = IPANA, just as “cookie” + 4 letters = OREO. #crosswordrules
- 60a. [Turn right], GEE. Do contemporary horse people use this word, or is it old-timey?
- 61a. [What you can't get if you pass the bar?], DRINK. Objection! Move to strike. You can go to the liquor store, you can visit a friend, you can imbibe from your own stash at home, you can order a potent potable at many restaurants. (I did like the clue, honest!)
- 82a. [Lotto variant], BEANO. Raise your hand if you have any idea what this refers to. Because I don’t. I’ve seen the word in life exclusively in reference to the anti-gas supplement. Newspaper crosswords are so squeamish about guts.
- 94a. [Diacritic for a long vowel sound], MACRON. My nāme is Āmy.
- 116a. [Map type: Abbr.], TOPOG. Blech. The shortening topo is probably more common than the topog. abbreviation.
- 14d. [Central California city], ATWATER. Never heard of it, but I remember Lee Atwater. Population 28,000? I don’t care if the father of the sweet potato industry was from there, Atwater is obscure and we oughtn’t be quizzed on it.
Four stars for the theme, 3.25 stars for the fill.