Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “Oh, Who?”
Feels a bit like a St. Patrick’s Day theme, so perhaps it should have run either two months ago or four months from now, when it would just be “Hey, here’s an Irish name theme.” Apparently Joe submitted it so long ago (it was accepted more than 3 years back) that he no longer remembers if it was intended as a March 17 puzzle. At any rate, I’d probably have liked it better 3 years ago, because my expectations for fill have risen sharply in the last year or two. Anyway! The theme is words or phrases with an “O” sound in the midst, respaced and respelled as if a bizarre Irish surname were involved:
- 22a. [Irish chemist?], ANGIE O’GRAM. No idea why a chemist would be involved with angiograms, the turf of cardiologists and interventional radiologists. The first name portion, I guess, is irrelevant to the theme? Not that grams are inextricably linked to chemistry.
- 24a. [Irish arborist?], WILL O’TREES. Willow trees.
- 32a. [Irish secretary?], JEAN O’TYPING. Genotyping.
- 47a. [Irish algebra teacher?], COREY O’GRAPH. Choreograph.
- 63a. [Irish woodworker?], PATTY O’FURNITURE. Patio. This one is an old chestnut. “What’s Irish and stays out all night?”
- 83a. [Irish mountain climber?], NATE O’SUMMIT. NATO summit.
- 96a. [Irish dogsled racer?], JUNE O’ALASKA. Juneau. Are there any Irish names that follow O’ with a vowel?
- 110a. [Irish health care worker?], MAE O’CLINIC. Mayo.
- 112a. [Irish painter?], MEL O’YELLOW. Mello Yello.
Goofball theme that didn’t do much for me, personally. I did appreciate the 10s in the fill:
- 3d. [Like some bands with only modest Western popularity], BIG IN JAPAN.
- 69d. ["Let's shake!"], “PUT ‘ER THERE!” I had MAY O’CLINIC at first, which made PUTERTHYRE mystifying.
- 15d. [Chaucer work that invokes the book of Job, with "The"], CLERK’S TALE. You can put your Chaucer in my crossword as much as you want.
- 72d. [Prepare the first course, say], TOSS A SALAD. Would you agree that a restaurant’s house salad really ought to mention its ingredients on the menu if the dressing is a bacon balsamic? Nobody expects the house salad not to be vegetarian, people. *grumble, mumble*
You may be astonished to hear that I looked at the clue 48d. [Springfield Plateau area] when I had *Z*R*S in place and filled in AZORES. Yes, that’s right. Portuguese islands. Turned out to be the OZARKS.
The fill had a lot more chaff than I like to see. Variant SAREE, INRI beside EGAN, jai ALAI and a jai alai CESTA, and even a TOPEE (37d. [Pith helmet])?? The OREM/OREL twofer. Suffix -ITE clued as 88a. [Suffix with zinc]? (Zincite is in the dictionary but I move to strike the word because it is messing with our language. A “ci” pronounced with a hard C? No way, man.) SOYA, TALI … just a lot of words that jostle me out of the happiness groove.
Three stars from me.
Byron Walden’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 215″—Sam Donaldson’s review
Quick, what event happened 34 years ago this morning? If, like me, you’re from the Pacific Northwest, this is probably a gimme. May 18, 1980, is when Mount St. Helens erupted. Today’s Post Puzzler suits the anniversary well, because it was a blast.
I broke into the grid with HOME PLANET, clued as [Ork, to Mork]. That led me to ALANON (the [Support group whose symbol is a white circle in a blue triangle]) and ELOI, the [Prey for Morlocks]. But after that, there were no gimmes. Between the devilish clues a la Bob Klahn and the complete unknowns a la David Kahn, you could call this puzzle a “Klahn Kahn” (not to be confused with Ken-Ken). Or you could call it just another Byron Walden Tough Mudder. Either way, I enjoyed the extended workout.
Under the heading of devilish clues, I offer State’s Exhibits A through G:
- [Series of reverses], right there at 1-Across, has you thinking of a plural answer. Maybe you, like me, put an S in the last square, hoping that would help with the crossing. Uh, nope. Instead the answer is BAD PATCH. A terrific entry with an even better clue. Nice start.
- In a Byron Walden puzzle edited by Peter Gordon, anything goes. So I can’t be the only one who wondered whether something prurient was behind the clue [Rubber]. But it was just an OVERSHOE. I like it when I’m punished for my deviant thinking. Whoops, let’s not go there.
- [Trips up on one's own efforts?] as a clue for FREE CLIMBS took me quite a while to parse. Were it not trying to be so coy, it could have read [Takes trips up a rock face using nothing but one's own hands and feet]. Maybe some will find this clue too cutesy or awkward, but I like that it requires such a careful, creative reading.
- [Underwater army dangers?] didn’t fool me for a second. Long-time readers (with little else to do in their lives) will remember why. Bottom line: anytime you see “army” and “?” in a clue, be thinking SQUID, SQUIDS, OCTOPUS, or OCTOPI.
- [Rows, e.g.] is a purely evil clue, for the word “rows” has different pronunciations and so many different meanings. You really have no “clue” which way you’re supposed to lean. You have to have some crossing letters in place and then think of possible answers that could support the clue. This time, the clue related to boating, so the answer was PROPELS.
- Had I known that Hugh Lofting wrote the DR. DOLITTLE books, I would have seen through this clue. But I didn’t, so [Lofting lead] really had me confused. I had no idea that Lofting was a proper noun instead of a verb or adjective. I could have saved this one for the “new to me” section below, but since I like this hidden pronoun clues so much I stashed it here instead.
- [High school cut-ups?] was a fun, albeit gross clue for FROGS.
- [Matching cases?] is a cute clue for ARSONS, but I can’t get over how awkward the plural form sounds to my ear.
- This one was the runner-up for my favorite clue: [Frisky order?] for SPREAD ‘EM, a phrase a cop about to conduct a pat-down search (aka “frisk”) would utter in reference to a perp’s legs.
- [Object with a slash?] is a fine clue for HER/HIM but I’m less enchanted with the entry itself. HE/SHE and S/HE seem much more “in the language,” I feel, and even “him/her” yields ten times more Google hits.
- [No tie?] is an awesome clue for OBI, once you get that “No” is a form of Japanese dramatic theater. I told you there were fiendish clues in this puzzle!
And for the complete unknowns, the following are offered for your consideration:
- I knew I had seen the word before, but [Had pruritis] had me flummoxed. Eventually I clawed and scratched my way to the answer, ITCHED.
- I’M A MAN was a [1965 Yardbirds hit written by Bo Diddley]. The danger in writing songs like this is that you can’t sell it to half the singers out there.
- Something called ARGAN OIL is a [Trendy cosmetic ingredient traditionally produced using nut-eating goats]. Hi, I’m Bob. I’m in charge of feeding the goats we use to make argan oil. Ol’ Billy here is getting a special treat today–a nice mix of almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Yessir, watch how he gobbles that down like it’s the nectar of the gods.
GUERNICA is the [Masterpiece now permanently housed in Madrid's Museo Reina Sofia]. That’s it there on the right.
- Thanks to crosswords, the AVIA shoe brand is on my radar. But I had no idea about the other company referenced in the clue, [Saucony competitor].
- I thought I knew my red meats, but I had no idea that ENTRECOTES were [Cuts of beef taken from between the ribs]. Our friends at Wikipedia claim they correspond to rib-eyes and Delmonicos.
- It has been 28 years since I took the SAT, so my vocabulary has atrophied a bit. So I liked learning that DENY is synonymous with [Gainsay].
- Never in a million years would I have come up with THAT OL’ WIND as the [1996 Garth Brooks song whose title completes the lyric "___ had once again found its way home"]. Here’s a great example that supports this hypothesis: the length of a clue is proportional to the answer’s obscurity.
- CLARE is an [Irish county]. I’ll drink to that.
Now some stuff that I did know (just so I leave you with some credibility in tact) included ACES as the [Excellent hold'em holding] and ["Dirty Jobs" host Mike] ROWE. Yep, I’m a cultured fellow.
Favorite entry = OK THEN, clued as ["Sure, if that's the way you feel"]. (Honorable mention to EXACT A TOLL, clued as [Have damaging consequences]. Favorite clue = [Series of revivals?] for the television show about life-guarding, BAYWATCH. In a puzzle packed with great clues, this one really stood out.
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and hope you enjoy what’s left of the weekend!
Speaking of enjoying the rest of the weekend, I know I will because I was able to (somehow) get through this very well-constructed, juicy and über-challenging puzzle from Mr. Bob Klahn. For me, the best thing about doing a puzzle of Bob’s – outside of saying that I actually completed it – is that solving is more of edification than anything else. In this grid, a perfect example is PETRI (10A: [German with a dish named after him]). Coming in a close second, in terms of knowing something I had no idea about beforehand was MFN (19A: [Status accorded by one state to another in worldwide trade (abbr.)]), which I now know is short for most favored nation.
As per usual on a Sunday challenge, it took a while for the engines to get warmed up, although ICBM came immediately (1D: [SALT-covered item]). What broke it open was thinking…Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Well, this now-defunct wrestling organization used to have a wrestler called The Sandman, and his shtick was that be brought a Singapore cane to the wresting mat every time, and used to beat people with it. So yes, thinking that allowed me to get CANER (6D: [Singapore disciplinarian]). That allowed me to correctly guess ICK FACTOR (1A: [“Eeew!”-inducing aspect]), and the northwest was, for the most part, taken care of.
The long down answers packed punch, though none of them really knocked me out. Sherlock Holmes author + female character = IRENE ADLER, at least when I was doing this puzzle (14D: [Arthur Conan Doyle character possibly modeled after Lilli Langtry]). Loved the clue for CRUNCH TIME (25D: [April for accountants, e.g.]), and proud of myself that a Johnny Cash song didn’t throw me as I got RENO, NEVADA (13D: [“Folsom Prison Blues” locale]). Oh, and can someone help me with THIS OLD RAG, and what the mislead is (12D: [Dapper Dan’s disclaimer])? I’m still stumped, but it looked right when I ended up typing it in with the help of crosses.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CIGAR (45A: [Churchillian trademark])- With horse racing being a hot topic now because of California Chrome winning The Preakness States yesterday and having a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown, it’s fitting that the “sports” moment is that of one of the greatest racehorse of all time. In the mid-1990s, Cigar went on arguably the greatest run of any racehorse ever, winning 16 consecutive races in major stakes race competition and becoming the first horse to do that since Triple Crown winner Citation did it between 1948-1950. Cigar retired to stud in 1996 as the then-leading money earner in Thoroughbred racing history.
Thanks so much for your time, and hopefully there’s some sun outside so you can enjoy your Sunday!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Spaced-Out People”
I loved this theme! Merl takes a bunch of first names, 7 to 8 letters apiece, and parses them as two or more words that can occupy a sentence. Merl is known for his humor, and this theme gives us so many hits of the funny. I will give a star rating for the humor level of each themer, where 5 = laugh-out-loud funny and 1 = not remotely funny.
- 19a. ["I ___ ... that's about the extent of my kitchen skills"], CAN DICE. 4.25.
- 21a. ["Is a ___ way to spend an evening? Let's kiss and make up"], TIFF ANY. 3.5.
- 51a. ["I can sing this ___ major, but it won't sound too good"], CAROL IN E. 2.5.
- 56a. ["Why does Ma let ___ her like that?"], PA TRICK. 4.25.
- 76a. ["So, what do you do ___ and relaxation around here?"], FOR REST. 2.5.
- 79a. ["Do we want a buzzer or ___ better idea?"], IS A BELL A. 3.5, for the surprise of a four-word split.
- 112a. ["One more payment will make the ___"], CAR MINE. 3, but I didn’t like having “cars” also in the 1d theme clue.
- 116a. ["On your 'Welcome' ___ is missing"], MAT THE “W.” 4.5. “Elcome!”
- 1d. ["I love to detail cars, but I will ___ without a down payment"], DO NO VAN. 3.5.
- 5d. ["If it's black, I lose, but I ___ comes up"], WIN IF RED. 3, plus there’s a RED in 86d too.
- 12d. ["Yep, it's my horse; it has my ___ it"], BRAND ON. 1. Poor horsey. Branding has gotta hurt.
- 16d. ["Sure, you're innocent. Now up against the ___!"], WALL, ACE. 3.5.
- 82d. ["___ silent H in your name, right?"], THERE’S A. 4.5, not so much for funniness as for how well the clue/answer combo works.
- 83d. ["At the gym I usually toss up ___ ball -- it's my specialty -- just before I leave"], A LAST AIR. 4.
- 86d. ["I like only the ___ peppers"], MILD RED. 2.
- 91d. ["She likes to ___ old coffee before making a new pot"], HEAT HER. 2.5.
So that’s 16 short theme answers, with all but a few being at least mildly amusing. Given how many Sunday themes fail to make me smile at all, I have a massive appreciation for a theme that evokes 12 moments of humor.
Given that the theme answers top out at 8 letters, there’s no juicy long non-theme fill. I’m sure Merl deliberately designed the grid to avoid any 7- or 8-letter fill—those L-shaped chunks of “cheater” squares in each corner let CANDICE and DONOVAN shine and not get lost amid a sea of same-length fill. It also means that 6-letter HARLAN and 5-letter KEMAL and ELIOT don’t conflict with the theme—it would be unrealistic to expect a 21×21 to include no first names in the fill, no? I mean, it can be done, but if Merl needed to avoid those few extras, the fill might have suffered. It’s okay fill as it is, not much to marvel at, but not much to grouse about, either.
Four stars from me.
John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Addressing the Crowd”
The theme is plausible street names for specific groups of people, made from familiar phrases that end with words that can also mean “street” or “road” in addresses:
- 23a. [Apt address for hit men?], VICIOUS CIRCLE. As in “Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts lived at 125 Vicious Circle.” (Don’t sue me for mislabeling the mob jobs of these characters.)
- 28a. [Apt address for prizefighters?], BELT LOOP.
- 41a. [Apt address for petrologists?], ROCKY ROAD.
- 50a. [Apt address for surgeons?], INSIDE LANE.
- 68a. [Apt address for an Orlando team?], MAGIC SQUARE.
- 86a. [Apt address for photographers?], FLASH DRIVE.
- 94a. [Apt address for gossip columnists?], DIRT TRAIL.
- 109a. [Apt address for dairymen?], MILKY WAY.
- 118a. [Apt address for Australian zookeepers?], KANGAROO COURT.
The theme works well enough, but it didn’t amuse me. (See? I told you, in my Merl write-up, that a lot of Sunday themes are in that boat.)
Three more things:
- 51d. [Classical music lover, facetiously], LONGHAIR. Really? Had no idea.
- 1a/18a make a nice little stack: ASS TWADDLE! It sounds like it should mean something.
- 3d. [Untouchable], SACRED COW. I don’t think this clue works. SACRED COW is a noun, but the noun untouchable refers to low-caste Indians. It’s the adjective that has a meaning related to a SACRED COW.
One hard section: Where 65a. [Jerk]/DORK and 73a. [Projecting window]/ORIEL cross 65d. [German village]/DORF and 66d. [Sportscaster Hershiser]/OREL.
Another hard section: Where 16d. [Futile]/OTIOSE and 17d. [British stew]/HOT POT cross 15a. ["Silly me!"]/D’OH and 39a. [Mollycoddle]/COSSET. Crosswords usually fall back on the archaic “lazy” meaning of OTIOSE for whatever reason, so [Futile] may throw solvers for a loop, and HOT POT may not be so familiar to American audiences. I had to work for this corner.
I did not love the fill in this grid. Words like RESEEKS, ALII, A MOI, O’SHEA, QUES/PROB, ERE I, CDRS, DORF, and ORIEL popped up wherever I turned. I’m calling it three stars.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Ionization”
Add an -ION to familiar phrases to change the final word and get fake phrases that provide some smiles:
- 23a. [Mouth-watering game show?], I’VE GOT A SECRETION. Ha! I would watch that. Among my favorite guilty pleasures are the shows Monsters Inside Me (recounting and reenactments of real people’s experiences with parasitic infections) and Mystery Diagnosis.
- 43a. [Diplomat's instrument?], PEACE ACCORDION. Sounds like an act of war.
- 57a. [Studly singer in a robe?], CHOIR STALLION. Smiled at this one, too.
- 75a. [Timid military group?], CHICKEN LEGION. Also found this one amusing.
- 90a. ["Do I need glasses?," e.g.?], VISION QUESTION.
- 112a. [Fun in a sub?], DEEP-SEA DIVERSION.
- 16d. [Fair skin?], B COMPLEXION.
- 65d. [Love of trains?], RAIL PASSION. I know a train buff or two, and “passion” does not understate their fondness for locomotives. (See also: North by Northwest sleeping car action with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.)
High marks for the theme. For half of the theme entries to amuse me is an achievement. The fill was fairly smooth overall, so I’ll sign off now (this is the fourth 21×21 puzzle I’ve blogged in the last 18 hours!) with a rating of four stars.