Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword, “For Mother”
Based on the title, I assumed a Norman Bates/Psycho theme was in store for us. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a Mother’s Day puzzle. The black squares traversing the middle of Peter’s grid spell out MOM, and the angular portion of each M encloses three unchecked letters—but those letters spell out M-O-M both times so they’re thematically confirmed after all. The rest of the theme is a bunch of answers clued [Mother ___]: 14a JONES (she was a labor organizer and a terrific magazine, co-edited by a Carleton schoolmate of mine, is named after her); 49a TERESA; 68a LODE; 70a SHIP; 91a TONGUE; 124a GOOSE; 9d HUBBARD of nursery rhyme fame; and 95a COUNTRY. There are only a very few other fill-in-the-blank clues, which helps the symmetrically slotted [Mother]s stand out, and the final Down answer is 120d. ["Happy Mother's ___!"] DAY.
Before I delve further into the puzzle, I want to extend a sympathetic hand to all those who find the hegemony of Mother’s Day to be emotionally difficult. You know who you are, and you’re not forgotten in all the hoopla.
Back to the puzzle. Seven more things:
- 83a. ["Survivor" tactic], ALLIANCE. If you’ve been watching this season, be sure to read crossword/game show whiz Trip Payne‘s entertaining recaps of each episode at Previously.TV. You will likely be amused even if you haven’t been watching Survivor—Trip is a hoot.
- 7d. [Backsliding, to a dieter], PUTTING ON WEIGHT. You don’t see a lot of 15-letter non-theme answers in Sunday puzzles.
- 48d. [Words to one who's about to go off], another 15, DON’T START IN ON ME. I tried DON’T START WITH ME, which sounds more familiar to me.
- 93a. [Pot pusher's vehicle?], TEA CART. Pot of tea, pushed on a cart. No drug innuendo here.
- 41a. [Prince Harry, for one], REDHEAD. This clue pleased me inordinately. Glad it wasn’t ETONIAN.
- 12d. [Forever, in verse], ETERN. What? Really? Usually our poetic forever is 6-letter ETERNE. ETERN is tied with ISSY (127a. [Paris suburb on the Seine]) for my least favorite fill here. I even like OVOLO better than these two.
- 74d. [Most people don't think they're funny], LAUGH LINES. This is about wrinkles, right?
Thing I was less familiar with than ISSY: 55a. [Simple storage unit on a farm], POLE BARN.
Four stars. I liked the nutty little 2-letter answers in the pointy parts of the black-square M’s, the lively long fill like JOE BIDEN and DREW BREES and a SHIH-TZU, and the non-overbearing riff on a holiday theme. Plus! Look how much nifty fill, and how little lousy fill, you can wrangle into a 21×21 grid when the theme doesn’t take up so much real estate. Bit of a plus-size themeless vibe.
Robin Stears’ syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Body Language”
It took me all the way to the end of the puzzle to grasp the theme—fake two-word phrases in which each word can follow body.
- 23a. [Bit of roomy footwear?], FAT STOCKING. I think of stockings as legwear. Body fat, body stocking.
- 28a. [Iron Man's coat?], ARMOR PAINT.
- 42a. [Shrill morning awakener?], PIERCING CLOCK. This one threw me off the scent because “piercing alarm” and “alarm clock” mesh together so well.
- 59a. [AutoZone inventory?], PARTS COUNT.
- 65a. [Hawaii museum section?], SURFING ART.
- 86a. [Clothing store shoplifters?], SUIT SNATCHERS.
- 97a. [The old one-two?], DOUBLE BLOW.
- 105a. [Put down a high school subject?], SLAM ENGLISH.
Not a one of these made-up theme phrases amused me, which is disappointing. One likes to have at least two or three evoke a genuine smile.
Also not bringing a smile: The first two rows of the grid, with ASPIC, UNARM, TBAR, REINA, and NAXOS alerting newbie solvers that crossword puzzles always seem to insist that you should know a lot of relatively obscure words.
Five more things:
- Did you know there’s another ELIN out there? In addition to Elin Nordegren, 26a. [Tiger's ex], there’s beach-novel author Elin Hilderbrand. Entertainment Weekly mentioned that her newest book will be out soon.
- 83a. [Pago Pago's nation] clues SAMOA and it’s factually wrong. Pago Pago’s nation is the United States, as American Samoa is a U.S. territory. Apia is the capital of the country called Samoa, which constitutes the western Samoan islands. Now, SAMOA also is the name of the group of islands that includes both American Samoa and the sovereign nation of Samoa, but [Pago Pago's nation] just doesn’t cut it.
- 31a. [Sour notes], CLINKERS?? The dictionary tells me that yes, this is actually a word, and yes, “wrong musical notes” is one definition. I tried CLANGORS and CLUNKERS.
- 68a. [Acapulco beaches], PLAYAS. Don’t be a playa hater just because it’s annoying to have sand inside your swimsuit.
- 110a. [Spanish bar servings], TAPAS. Yay! Plural! It makes me grumpy every time a singular TAPA is foisted on crossword solvers.
Three stars from me, or maybe a little less.
Trip Payne’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 214″—Janie’s review
Solid corners NW and SE add real heft to Trip’s 70/27 themeless and, with that diagonal of blocks running between them, create something that reminds me of the image at right. I solved this one just fine—eventually. But in a couple of sittings—and SOLACED myself that I hadn’t needed to consult Google. Tough, tricky cluing added to the challenge. Like [R cause, often] for SEX. Huh? First of all, what’s an “R cause”? Religion? Righteousness? Reality TV? Ooooooh. We’re in movieland, where sex in a film may be the cause for its “R” rating. That kind of tricky.
Then, too, those solid corners are made up of a lotta long fill—triple ten-stacks crossing triple columns of seven. The puzzle contains two more tens as well, plus eight more sevens. Plus a pair each of eights and nine. In other words, a lotta long fill in general! Among the highlights: THE NATURAL, Malamud’s book that was the basis of the movie; “I IMAGINE SO,” which, with its double “I” looked wrong at first; REORIENTED with its tricky, non-wheel-based clue [Put back into alignment]; LENDS AN EAR clued with [Attends]—so that’s “attends” as in “pays attention” and not “is present at”; the full name of SETH MEYERS; HILAIRE Belloc (whose classic A Moral Alphabet you can read here or download as a free e-book); EXCEL IN; EDAMAME; RIVETER and [Job of a World War II icon], which kept me guessing for a while as the icons I was thinking of were along the lines of Ike, or Churchill or Patton, and not Rosie…; TENTACLES; and NOODGES.
So we get solid if not overly flashy long fill. Which makes the tougher cluing stand out on its own terms. The puzzle needs it to shine some. Among the clues that were trickier for me to suss out (and besides those I’ve already mentioned): the kinda poetic combo of [Small and round] and PEA-LIKE—because I’m hard-pressed to think of when I’ve ever put those two thoughts together before solving; [Got more from a magazine] for REARMED and not RENEWED…; the slangy [Shake] for LOSE; [Requiring a jump] for DEAD—making this is an automotive concept, as a car’s dead battery may require a “jump” start; [Eldrick, familiarly] for TIGER—Woods; [Put forth] for EMANATE, which I think of as meaning “emerge from” and not “emit”—but that latter meaning is right there in the dictionary; and yes, even [Lee side] for REBS, because this is a Civil War reference and not the nautical sense of “lee.” Good mental workout here!
Was not taken, however, with the sheer number of names, titles, proper nouns in the grid. More than a third of the fill by my count. This tends to be a very subjective area, but this felt like way too many by any standard. In addition to those previously cited, there’s ALBERTO, RENÉ, NAT, RAY, SADIE, ERTÉS, ALEC, (the unknown to me) ALOE (Blacc), DRE, RAMS (team name), REEBOK; DETROITER, [Estados Unidos MEXICANOS], MARS, SALEM; COON CAT, [Loup de MER], RAIL… You get the drift.
Perhaps it was seeing it in the same grid with LEPERS, but I coulda lived really nicely without BACNE, thank you very much. That’s the portmanteau for “back acne.” If you’re of the same mind, you probably don’t wanna look at these…
And I am outta here. See ya next month!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, especially to all of the moms out in the crossword world!.
I hope you’re all having a great start to Mother’s Day, and have already given your mom a hug or placed your phone call or acknowledged her in the way you know best! Maybe your mom is a big crossword puzzle fan, and if so, she’ll definitely like this Sunday challenge from Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, which was full of lively, long entries!
The two 15-word entries concentrated, somewhat, in the diminutive, with SHORT-ORDER COOKS (20A: [Raft suppliers]) and SMALL TIME CROOKS (51A: [2000 Woody Allen film]). I might be in the super-duper minority, but I’ve never been a fan of Woody Allen movies. Neurotic and hypochondriac characters are just not my thing. Sorry. To START OFF (9D: [Start off]), I stupidly had Caan instead of CAHN (1A: [“All the Way” lyricist]), slowing me down a little bit. Didn’t slow me enough to get CUB SCOUT immediately (1D: [Den denizen?]), and from that answer, was very confident that TETR, despite the its odd-looking appearance, was indeed an answer (33A: [Four, for starters?]).
Best part of the grid was the symmetric answers of FIRST BLOOD (27D: [It may be drawn in a game]) and SECOND-RATE (10D: [Mediocre]). Also have a little homage to STAN LEE in all the hoopla around The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie coming out (25A: Co-creator of the Fantastic Four]). I know he’s long since passed, but doesn’t Jack Kirby, the other co-creator of many of the Marvel Comics characters, get any love in crossword puzzles? He should! Maybe the best clue of the grid goes to the entry that produced MANHOLES, and our favorite sitcom sewer worker (36D: [Entrances for ED Norton]). Some might have a problem omitting the “in” between OUT FRONT, but not me (26A: [Leading]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CALE (22D: [Velvet Underground rock star])- Not talking about John Cale in this space, but NASCAR racing legend Cale Yarborough, who won four Daytona 500s and is only one of two drivers to win three consecutive season championships.
Thanks so much for your time, and have a great rest of the weekend! If you’re a mom reading this, let me speak for the many daughters and sons out there and say, “Thank you!”
Merl Reagle’s Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, “Go Ahead, Make Her Day” — Matt’s review
22-A = UNDER THE VOLCANO AUTHOR (Malcolm Lowry)
32-A = COSBY SHOW CO-STAR (Malcolm Jamal Warner)
48/80-A = LATE PUBLISHER OF A / BUSINESS MAGAZINE (Malcolm Forbes)
66-A [Where this answer is located (and, if you add a word to the front, a former sitcom)] = IN THE MIDDLE (Malcolm Wilkerson, from the show)
95-A = SIXTIES ACTIVIST (Malcolm X)
107-A = A CLOCKWORK ORANGE ACTIVIST (Malcolm McDowell)
What do all those MALCOLMs have to do with Mother’s Day? A notepad hint tells us: “For a hint, write out the letters in these squares: 70-101-10-29-51-115-14-39-56.)”
Those spell out ANAGRAM IT, and by anagramming MALCOLM we get a phrase that would “Go Ahead, Make Her Day”: CALL MOM. Cute.