Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “On Wheels”
Cute theme! Eight phrases include words that double as car models, and they are “On Wheels” because two circled O’s appear beneath each car, with the axles one letter in from each end.
- 23a. [Attribute of Elks or Lions Club members], CIVIC PRIDE. Honda Civic.
- 25a. [Recital piece for a wind player], HORN SONATA. No idea how in-the-language that is, but I reckon it’s entirely natural language for orchestra player Liz. Hyundai Sonata, I think.
- 34a. [1966 Wilson Pickett R&B hit], “MUSTANG SALLY.” Ford Mustang.
- 54a. [Opera based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais, with "The"], BARBER OF SEVILLE. Cadillac Seville.
- 76a. [Qualcomm Stadium athlete], SAN DIEGO CHARGER. Dodge Charger.
- 93a. [Walker's strip], BEETLE BAILEY. Volkswagen Beetle. The clue had me picturing someone walking on a gangplank or a tightrope, rather than Mort Walker’s comic strip.
- 110a. [Visa alternative], OPTIMA CARD. Kia Optima, I think. No idea if anyone is actually using an Optima card.
- 112a. ["The African Queen" novelist], C.S. FORESTER. Subaru Forester.
Despite the addition of those 16 gotta-be-right-there O’s to the theme, the fill is pretty darn solid throughout. The SISAL/ADANO/SAS/IDI AMIN chunk may be the worst of it, and it intersects one theme answer, lovely LOOSE TEAS, and SLICES INTO. On the opposite side of the grid, there’s a line-up of Down names (Neil CAVUTO, Ken OLIN, KHLOE Kardashian, Camille Saint-SAENS) that might also deter some solvers. EES, OTHO, LEY—it isn’t all pretty but I got through the puzzle without any hitches.
Five more things:
- 75d. ["Amazing" debunker], RANDI. Magician James Randi has a $1 million challenge, offering a million bucks to anyone who can provide “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.”
- 43d. Bird whose feathers were once prized by milliners], SNOWY EGRET. And then a law was passed to protect the species and the egret populations rebounded.
- 70a. [Ruler known as "Big Daddy"], IDI AMIN. How is this icky nickname not used in more crossword clues?
- 90d. [Slick hairstyle], WET LOOK. Not a fan.
- 46d. [Quaker production], COLD CEREAL. They do the hot cereal, they do the cold cereal. It would seem that they’ve got a market space to fill for the tepid cereal.
Four stars from me.
Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 211″—Sam Donaldson’s review
To all the stoner Christians out there, Happy 4/20 Easter! Among the goodies in our basket today is this sweet 68/29 freestyle from Todd McClary. The stars are the two sets of triple-stacked 11s and the two triple-10 stacks in the corners. My favorite is the northeast stack, though that may be the result of my plunking down AMAZON PRIME, the [Membership plan for e-tail fans], working just the second A. But even objectively this is a great stack, what with BANANA SPLIT and SO DAMN HAPPY, the [Aretha Franklin album with the Grammy-winning song “Wonderful”], serving as the bread to the AMAZON PRIME sandwich.
I also loved the southwest stack. QUE SERA SERA, the [Statement of resignation], is a smart bottom-row entry: you get bonus points for the rare Q but the rest consists of common “last letters” that probably give you a few options for finding crossings that work. BONNIE TYLER, the [“It’s a Heartache” singer], took forever to fall, largely because “Heartache Tonight” came to mind and wouldn’t leave. Yet neither DON HENLEY nor GLENN FREY would work. My little Eagles earworm had me thinking the answer had to be a male singer–and with that I was destined to spend a little more time in that corner. I did manage to get LTA, clued as [Like dirigibles: Abbr.], right off the bat, but honestly that’s because I once spent hours trying to convince myself that it was good fill for a puzzle I constructed. Ultimately I scrapped that grid and started over, after removing LTA from my word list. So I guess that tells you where I come down on the entry.
Bits and pieces:
- I love that feeling of writing down the answer to 1-Across, the very first clue I read in every puzzle, without having to look at any of the crossings. It happens on Mondays, usually on Tuesdays, and occasionally on Wednesdays. But with hard freestyle puzzles? We’re talking once-in-a-blue-moon-like rarity. That said, TOOT! Yep, I’m blowing my own horn at getting JOE as the answer to [Mud]. The lesson, kids, is that coffee is good for you.
- It was only because of getting 1-Across that I didn’t try NBC as the [Onetime XFL game airer]. I hadn’t read the clue for 1-Down yet, but I was reasonably sure the answer wouldn’t begin with JN-. I like that the answer proved to be UPN, a similarly defunct enterprise.
- Memo to self: bone up on the Borgias. The only one I knew was Lucrezia (confession: just looked up the spelling), but the answer to [Borgia profiled in “The Prince”] had only six letters. I was tempted to try VICTOR, but that’s just because I like to amuse myself from time to time. It turned out the answer was CESARE. His Wikipedia profile says he is the son of Pope Alexander VI. By my count, not many people can claim to be the descendant of a Pope. So he had that going for him.
- Shout out to the American Values Club Crossword, especially this week’s “Flight Path” puzzle from Francis Heaney. It introduced me to The EYRIE as a “mountaintop castle in ‘Game of Thrones’ where Tyrion was imprisoned.” (Hope that’s not a spoiler to the contest, as the meta answer still has me baffled.) So I smiled when I read the clue for 25-Down: [Mountaintop castle in “A Game of Thrones,” with “the”]. I like when something I learn in one puzzle comes up almost immediately in another–it the knowledge reinforcement is a nice treat.
- Speaking of learning something new, today was my first encounter with USIES, the term for [Arm’s-length pics of oneself with friends, in modern slang]. I’m already tiring of the term “selfie,” so while I like the “usie” term I worry about its pending overuse in crosswords.
- EONIAN means [Interminable]. Maybe to Old MacDonald, but not to me. Also, I never knew that SPHINXES were [Inscrutable people]. I probably would have clued it [Now-noseless ancient wonder, among others]. (This, among other reasons, is why I’m not a crossword editor.)
- [Private practice?] is a great clue for ENLISTMENT.
- C’mon, admit it. Someone else out there had EASTER EGGS as the first answer to [Fabulous treasures], right? I mean, c’mon! It’s Easter Sunday! Alas, it was GOLDEN EGGS. I plan to pout by eating chocolate eggs all day long.
Favorite entry = VEEJAYS, the [Cable hosts introduced in the 1980s]. Favorite clue = [Future monarchs, e.g.] for LARVAE.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge crossword —Ade’s write-up
It’s Sunday Funday!
Although I’ve only been doing the CrosSynergy puzzles for a couple of weeks now, this is the second consecutive week we’ve had 15-letter triple-stacks featured in the puzzle. This one, by Mr. Bruce Venzke, was much more down my alley this week, as it seemed the 15-letter answers just seemed to come to me really quickly. Good thing, because the sooner I get it done, the sooner I can get to some afternoon baseball and playoff hockey!!
Speaking of baseball, we have ERA almost smack dab in the middle of the grid (37D: [Pitcher’s concern (abbr.)]). Though this isn’t the “sports…smarter” part of the show, here’s how you calculate earned run average, in case you’re curious: take the number of earned runs allowed and divide it by the number of innings pitched, then take that answer and multiply it by nine. Oh, and remember that if a pitcher pitched, for example, 33 1/3 innings, you input it as “33.3333,” not “33.1,” or if he pitched 10 and 2/3 innings, you input that as “10.6666,” not “10.2.” Now go have fun calculating!
As I was saying, the 15-word entries started to go down like flies, when after first correctly guessing ACRE (1D: [Parcel size]), I immediately plopped down “close to the vest,” only to come up a letter short. Took another 20 seconds to think of CLOSE TO THE CHEST (16A: [Cautious way to play cards, say]), and I was off. The downs starting from the northwest and towards the middle of the grid were gimmies, including OSS (4D: Org. that produced the CIA]), ITO (6A: [Judge in O.J. Simpson’s trial]) and CONDI (7A: Dubya cabinet member, familiarly]). With the card-playing reference with “close to the chest,” seeing BET intersect it, and the way it was clued (5A: [Something you might see]) was clever.
With the triple stacks, you’re going to get some not-so-great 3-letter fills, and this is the case with OSS, ACS (11A: Summer coolers (abbr.)]), ONS (60A: [Run-___ (some very long sentences)]) and GDS (61a: [Merchandise (abbr.)]). But seeing the eye-popping (and musically soothing) EDELWEISS (46A: [“The Sound of Music” song]) definitely made up for that. Of course, whether it be the original run, or the remake with Carrie Underwood this past winter, “The Sound of Music” drew huge television AUDIENCES (21A: [Spectator groups]). Another sweet symmetry in the grid was seeing two pioneering African-American entertainers, with ARETHA (30A: [Soul star Franklin]) and KEENEN (44A: [Actor ______ Ivory Wayans]).
Was almost done with the puzzle until I hit a huge snag: had “dry” instead of DRI (19A: [Gillette’s Soft & ___]). The erroneous “y” totally threw off my guesses with figuring out CHAIN (9D: [Shackle type]). A very, VERY frustrating two minutes ensued, until I deleted the entire entry to 19A, finally saw the “CH—-“ had to be chain, and finally could clean up the rest of the grid. Overall, a fun time! Thanks, Bruce!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STRUG (40A: [Kerri of gymnastics]) & CONDI- Kerri Strug, because of her heroics in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, became, in my opinion, the Gen-Y version of Mary Lou Retton: an American gymnast who stole everybody’s hearts who either everyone loved and/or many people got sick of seeing almost everywhere they turned once her celebrity exploded. Of course, the heroics I’m talking about is she sticking the landing on her second attempt at the vault on virtually one leg (after severely spraining her ankle in her first attempt) to secure the team gymnastics gold medal for the Americans. USA! USA! USA!
And why is CONDI in the “sports” section also? Well, first of all, she is a well-known huge sports fan, regularly attending high-profile college and professional sporting events. Second, Condoleezza officially was named one of the committee members who will help decide which four schools will compete for the national championship in the newly-formed College Football Playoff. Click here to see the predictable reaction a few men had after hearing the announcement, and here to see that same predictable reaction from a television pundit who played his college football in the South. (Addendum: Previously, the last comment read, in part, “click here to see the predictable reaction a few Southern white men had after hearing the announcement…” In no way did I intend to lump in/generalize an entire ethnicity and/or region and associating all of it with the comments made by the men in the links that I put up. My sincerest apologies for the gray area that I left in that comment.)
Take care, everybody, and make sure to end your weekend in style! Happy Easter to those that celebrate it, and I’ll talk with you all on Monday!
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Oscar Mash-Up” — pannonica’s write-up
Just as surmisable from the advertising: titles of Best Picture nominees for this past year’s recombined. Call it transposition, call it word-swapping, call it what you will. And then, of course, clued for the new phrases.
- 23a. [Lycanthropic lady?] PHILOMENA THE WOLF.
- 34a. [Life a of a preteen girl?] HER TWELVE YEARS.
- 50a. [Workaholic trader?] A SLAVE OF WALL STREET. My favorite.
- 67a/69a. [ … disco dance in cowboy boots?] DALLAS | HUSTLE. Wasn’t that called Urban Cowboy?
- 84a. [Hardware co-op?] PHILLIPS BUYER’S CLUB. Weakest themer in my opinion. Phillips [screw/screwdriver] seems a bit too specific. Sure, the “hardware” in the clue isn’t meant to represent all hardware and tools, but it still seems clunky. On the bright side, there isn’t any Phillips/Philips spelling discrepancy.
- 98a. [Heavyweight superhero?] CAPTAIN GRAVITY. Or maybe this is my favorite.
- 113a. [Cornhusker?] NEBRASKA AMERICAN. Am not bothered by this formulation versus “Nebraskan-American” or some such.
The original versions—before they were recut—are Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Twelve Years a Slave, Dallas Buyer’s Club, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, and Nebraska. Seems a slight theme, but I found the new titles quite entertaining, so it counts as a boffo release.
- Sportsians: skier Alberto TOMBA, ice skatrix Oksana BAIUL, hockeyist Phil ESPOsito (who wore number SEVEN), golfman Ernie ELS, baseball announciator SHERM Feller, shotputter Johnny TAPIOCA. Similar lists could be made for actors and Greek/Roman mythology, the Christmas season, among others.
- Explicit vars.: AMEBA, IDYLS. Only two, but they both appear by the sixth across clue, so it was noticeable.
- Clue That Got Me Good: 109d [Fed] G-MAN. Sometimes it’s the simplest ones …
- Favorite clue: 44d [Joe's mug shot?] JAVA.
- Kind-of-spiffy Thorpe, TWYLA / Shania (et al.) TWAINS crossing.
- Some subtle clue tie-ins throughout. Some may are certainly intentional but some might be coincidental and perceived because humans are superb at pattern recognition. Especially appreciated 32a [Pupil of the artist David] INGRES and 80d [David's device] SLING.
Good puzzle. It might not win any awards, but it was an enjoyable and entertaining solve. That’s entertainment, eh?
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Sorry, Wrong Letter!”
40a. [Comedy writer Carol (whose new book, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying," inspired this puzzle)] clues LEIFER, and that trying-into-Crying wordplay points the way to Merl’s theme: Each theme answer is made by changing one letter to alter the phrase’s meaning.
- 22a. [Traditional washday target?], WHITE COLLAR GRIME. Crime.
- 30a. [Motto of the Brando School of Acting?], LET’S GET READY TO MUMBLE. Rumble. I cannot abide mumblers!
- 49a. [Donald Trump's autobiography?], WE SHALL OVERCOMB. Overcome meets comb-over.
- 63a. [Buccaneer who used to be a teacher?], BLACKBOARD THE PIRATE. Blackbeard.
- 77a. [Hemingway's least-known war novel?], THE SUB ALSO RISES. Sun. The sub(marine)/war link is mildly tenuous. Yes, subs are used in war, but most subs most of the time are not engaged in war at all.
- 94a. [Bird's pickup line?], MAY I HAVE A WORM WITH YOU? Word.
- 105a. ["If we just allow them to keep merging, everything will be okay," for example?], THE BIG BANK THEORY. Bang.
Merl must be visiting a different sort of SALAD BARS from the ones I frequent. 43d. [All-you-can-eat venues]? Mine are at grocery stores and they’re all-you-can-afford propositions that are billed by the pound. The all-you-can-eat ones—are those at all-you-can-eat buffet joints where it’s not only the salad that’s unlimited?
Five more things:
- 3d. [What weight watchers watch] clues WAISTLINE. Hey! I know a Weight Watchers success story! Crossworder/competitive Scrabble player/Jeopardy! great Jason Keller dropped about 90 lb with Weight Watchers and was profiled as one of WW’s success stories.
- 50d. [Singer-actress Lenya], LOTTE. I can’t be sure, but there’s a very good chance that more than 95% of my exposure to Lotte Lenya (it’s not Lenya Lotte, in case you always wondered) comes from crossword puzzles.
- 14d. [On-hand items?], THUMBS. I don’t think of body parts as “items” but I see what Merl was going for here.
- 62d. [Captain's kid, maybe], ARMY BRAT. Play on Captain Kidd.
- 90d. [Grandpa Munster had one (named Igor)], PET BAT. My first guesses were CAT and then RAT.
Overall, an easy puzzle with the sort of fill that long-time solvers can breeze through, but that might snag newer solvers—consider SAAR, E-CASH, OCHRE, URIS, ULM, LEMS (70a. [Moon landers, briefly]) and LST (4d. [D-Day landing craft]). The theme has a few funny bits, so while the changed letters don’t spell any secret message, the theme plays well. 3.75 stars.
Matt Skoczen’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “I’ll Be Waiting”
Blondie’s classic rock hit “CALL ME” (122a. [1980 Blondie chart-topper, and what's needed to make sense of the answers to starred clues]) anchors this puzzle. The other theme answers fit the “CALL ME ___” format or are phrases that clue those “CALL ME ___” phrases:
- 25a. [*2012 Hot 100 #1 song in both the U.S. and Canada], “Call Me MAYBE.” This partners with 98a. [See 25-Across], CARLY RAE JEPSEN HIT.
- 27a. See 47-Across], BROADWAY MUSICAL clues 47a. [*Source of the song "The Hostess With the Mostes' on the Ball"], Call Me MADAM.
- 34a. [See 71-Across], OPENING OF MOBY-DICK points to the 71a. [*Memorable 1851 novel line], “Call me ISHMAEL.”
- 58a. [See 91-Across], “DO KEEP IN TOUCH” clues 91a. [*Parting request], “Call me LATER.”
- 65a. [See 119-Across], “AM I NUTS?” ties to 119a. [*"This is going to sound dumb ..."], “Call me CRAZY.”
- 78a. [*Van Heusen/Cahn classic], “Call Me IRRESPONSIBLE” is a 110a. [See 78-Across], SINATRA STANDARD. I don’t know this song at all.
I like the Blondie song, and Matt’s theme concept is a fresh and interesting one. I think everything thematic except the CALL ME revealer occupies symmetrical spots in the grid, and it must have taken a lot of work to wrangle everything just so.
What with the theme requiring 13 entries, there isn’t room for a lot of spice in the grid. The fill is solid, though, and I didn’t run into any trouble spots. I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on with the theme and piecing it all together. Four stars.