Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Double-Talk”
Well, I totally spaced on doing this contest puzzle until Peter’s email arrived this evening with the answers. D’oh! I appreciate that the solution PDF is always obscured with a spoiler space, because I promptly went and solved the puzzle and cracked the meta. The meta played like an easy MGWCC week 2 puzzle. “What hyphenated eight-letter word is hinted at by this puzzle?” Well, THE THRILL IS GONE smacks of B.B. King. FREEPORT, MAINE is famously the home of LLBean. WINNIE-THE-POOH is the creation of A.A. Milne. That left only the mysterious WHEN WILLIAM CAME to Google. It’s a book by Saki, aka H.H. Munro. BB LL AA HH splits into blah-blah, which is our contest answer.
- 22a. [Popular LARC (long-acting reversible contraception)], IUD. “LARC”? I’ve never encountered that acronym/abbreviation before, and I generally am up to date on contraceptive offerings. With FWIW in an adjacent clue, my meta hackles were raised. Would 4-letter abbrevs be key to solving the meta? (No.)
- 7d. [Rhoda Island surrounder], NILE. Rhode-with-an-E Island is in New England along with MAINE—another not-part-of-the-meta thing I briefly considered while solving.
- 38d. [Noted bell ringer], AVON LADY. I can’t imagine that any current Avon salespeople are doing the door-to-door cold-calling thing.
Four stars for the puzzle and the straightforward meta.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “The End Is Near”
This 16×15 puzzle with left/right symmetry has an oddball theme: Phrases that end with an X, Y, or Z pick up a different one of those letters.
- 45a. Valli’s voiced vote on a track event?], FRANKIE SAYS RELAY. Here’s the uncensored Frankie Goes to Hollywood video for “Relax.” I think the original T-shirts said FRANKIE SAY RELAX, but Google will show you a zillion with the grammatically correct SAYS.
- 54a. The brainiest explorer in history?], CEREBRAL CORTEZ. Cortex.
- 4d. Boxing cat who can’t spell well?], ONE TOO MANX. Many. I don’t understand the “boxing” and “who can’t spell well” parts of the clue.
- 6d. CD full of electric guitarist Paul?], LES MIX. Instead of Les Miz, a Les Paul mix CD.
- 9d. Novelist who was uncredited on “The Joys of Yiddish”?], AMOS OY. Amos Oz meets “oy vey.”
- 11d. Cockatoo in the White House?], BIRD OF PREZ. Kennedy and Johnson were the only presidents to have pet birds since the 1920s, apparently. Click through to that link to get a load of Coolidge’s menagerie. Lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau? Raccoons? A bear and a pygmy hippo?
X to Y, X to Z, Y to X, Z to X, Z to Y, Y to Z. Each of the six possibilities is included once, which lends elegance.
Four more things:
- 24a. [He'll be replaced by Stephen], DAVE. Took me a while to remember which Dave (Letterman) and which Stephen (Colbert).
- 51a. [Fast runner], EMU. If you’ve ever wondered how to draw emus to you, this video demonstrates one method. What I learned is that emus have very poor short-term memory.
- Toughest crossing might be where 33a. [Marceau persona], BIP meets 31d. [German actor Udo ___], KIER. Both were gimmes for me (they’ve both been in crosswords numerous times) but they’re hardly household names.
- 34d. [Merged sports gp.], AFL. No idea what merged together to form the AFL. Ah, I get it—the American Football League wasn’t formed via merger, it merged into the NFL.
James Tuttle’s New York Times crossword
37a. [Shelf prop ... or a hint to both parts of the answers to the six starred clues] clues BOOKEND, and the other six theme answers can precede the word book:
- 18a. [*Like software that can be freely used and altered], OPEN SOURCE. Open book, sourcebook.
- 26a. [*Samsung or LG product], FLIP PHONE. Flip book, phone book. I’m astonished that multiple paper phone books are dropped off at my home each year, still.
- 47a. [*Tournament competition], MATCH PLAY. Matchbook, playbook.
- 55a. [*Class assignments], SCHOOLWORK. Schoolbook, workbook.
- 3d. [*Like many a heartthrob's eyes], BABY BLUE. Baby book, blue book. I prefer my heartthrobs with dark brown eyes.
- 38d. [*Company whose logo includes the winged foot of Mercury], GOODYEAR. Good book (“the good book”?), yearbook.
Solid, if light on wordplay appeal. The presence of seven theme answers in a 15×15 suggests what, class? “The fill might have some issues, Ms. Reynaldo.” That’s right, class! SAS AMAT SABE YEGG -OON AEON and SKAT strike me as not as household-namey as you might expect Tuesday fill to be.
Favorite clue: 47d. [Shot for those who have mastered English?], MASSE. Not necessarily a household word—I learned it from crosswords—but this billiards shot plays well with the double meaning of “English,” both the language and the spin you can put on a pool ball.
3.5 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Meet the Flockers!”—Janie’s review
So nice to start the puzzle with a laugh—which is what today’s title gave me. Riffing on the name of the DeNiro-Stiller-Streisand cult comedy-fave, what we have today turns out, in fact, to be a tribute to our fine feathered friends. So that’s “flockers,” as in birds-of-a-feather-flock-together, and not “Fockers,” as in Meet the… And what sort of birds are we dealing with here? Why, varieties of avian songbirds whose names are also the first or last names of four high-profile human songbirds (two male, two female). All of these, in turn, are brought together by a fifth musical themer, “I’M LIKE A BIRD” [Grammy-winning Nelly Furtado song...or a hint to the puzzle theme]. And who do we find nesting in the grid?
- 3D. ROBIN THICKE [Aviarists love this "Blurred Lines" singer!]. Hmm… But how about the rest of us?
- 18A. TAYLOR SWIFT [Aviarists love this "I Knew You Were Trouble" singer!]. An aviarist, btw, is a bird-keeper. (And if you want to know why the caged bird sings, just ask Maya Angelou.)
- 59A. RICKY MARTIN [Aviarists love this "Livin' La Vida Loca" singer!]. Full disclosure: while I have a passing familiarity with the names of all of the singers in this puzzle, this is the only song I have any acquaintance with… Can you say “out of the pop-culture loop”? Pathetic! (Staying [somewhat] on topic, “If You Wanna Be a Bird” by the Holy Modal Rounders is closer to my own pop-culture musical wheelhouse…)
- 26D. ANI DIFRANCO [Avaiarists love this "Jukebox" singer!]. How lovely to see this crosswordese first name in a full-name context!
Then, how can ya not love a puzzle that rewards the solver with LAYER CAKES (which, in the singular…, also happens to conjure up memories of a gripping 2004 Daniel Craig movie)? That DOLCE fill [Sweet, in Italy] is smartly counter-balanced by DEAD CENTER—which isn’t [Smack dab in the middle] but today sits just to the right of it. Other favorite fill comes to us by way of “GOOD DAY,” DANDIER, the REPLETE/REVERB crossing, IN A JAM and THE HAJ.
And as we’ve come to expect in Liz’s puzzles, there’s a healthy measure of cunning cluing. That’s always a welcome complement not only to any longer fill, but to the short fill especially—putting a real shine on those otherwise “ordinary” words. A tip o’ the proverbial hat, then, to:
- [They used to be nuts] for OAKS. So this is about acorns and not psychotics.
- [Make it big?] for ENLARGE. We’re talkin’ photos here, say, and not accession to superstardom.
- [Remove A-Rod from a starting lineup?] for YANK. Love the layers of wordplay here. Think about the team A-Rod plays for and this should all come into focus.
- [Formal receiving parties?] for HEIRS. The “parties” here are people and not events.
- [Cooler of beer?] for ICE, making that “cooler” more this and not so much this.
- [Jogging stroller occupant] for TOT. How specific, and image-conjuring and current. Terrific clue for a tiny word.
Given all those full names in the theme fill, I do wish there weren’t quite so many names elsewhere in the grid. But… I also hafta give more leeway for this in on-ramp puzzles, where getting the newer solver into the game is so important. To Liz’s credit, her roster runs the gamut—from supermodel ADRIANA Lima to Olympic gold-medalist SHAUN White, from TV’s ILENE Graff to baseball’s Hall-of-Famer EARLE Combs, from upstate New York’s OSWEGO to Chicago’s O’HARE airport, e.g.
And with that, I’ll take flight myself. Hope you enjoyed all of this puzzle’s many pluses (why, it’s veritably replete with pluses!), solved without too much struggle or making any bird-brained mistakes. Although, given today’s theme, you’re easily forgiven!
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Ooh, There’s an Echo”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again everyone! Hope you all enjoyed your holiday yesterday.
This puzzle today from Ms. Donna S. Levin gives us a little double vision, giving us puns created from celebrity names and/or objects. The first word, unlike the original word, is doubled, but not spelled in the same way as in the original.
- LULU GRANT: (17A: [Project subsidy for a “To Sir, With Love” singer?]) – This clue has spunk…I hate spunk! (From Lou Grant.)
- CHOO-CHOO TOYS: (27A: [Lionel trains?]) – This clue almost doesn’t even need its question mark, as I probably would have called products from Lionel “choo-choo toys” on my own up until about 14 years old. (From chew toys.)
- FOO-FOO MANCHU: (45A: [Mustachioed villain who’s a bit of a pantywaist?]) – From Fu Manchu.
- TUTU IRONS: (59A: [Small appliances used by the Bolshoi costume department?]) – From two irons.
After hearing a talk-show host who I listen to a lot use it, I’ve found myself saying HAS AT IT, or “have at it” a lot of times lately (24A: [Gives ‘er the old school try]), and I never used that term at all beforehand. How fun is it to see the two Cs followed by the two Os in MCCOO (9A: [The 5th Dimension singer Marilyn]). The much-hyped Million Dollar Arm is out, staring Jon HAMM (41A: [Jon who plays Don Draper on “Mad Men”]), and I hear that it’s not a HOT MESS (41D: [Total disaster]) but also nothing too great. Maybe I’ll have to see the movie after drinking a couple of MOJITOS to derive some more enjoyment out of the experience (9D: [Minty rum concoctions]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: JARED (19A: [Subway spokesman])- In a way, you can say “former” Subway spokesman. Jared Fogle, famous for losing a large amount of weight and attributing part of his success to his constant diet of eating Subway sandwiches, has been less of a spokesman these days, and much of the spokespeople for Subway are professional athletes. Here’s just a sample of the athletes that have appeared in spots for Subway over the past few years: Pelé, (soccer legend) Michael Phelps (swimming legend), Mike Trout (baseball), Ryan Howard (baseball), Nastia Liukin (Olympic gymnastics gold medalist), Apolo Anton Ohno (Winter Olympics gold medalist) and Laila Ali (boxing/daughter of Muhammad Ali).
Because of the holiday yesterday (Memorial Day), it doesn’t feel like tomorrow is going to be Wednesday, but it is. But, anyways, I’ll see you tomorrow/Wednesday!
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Gareth has tapped into one of my favorite thesaurus pages of all, the one with malarkey and piffle and codswallop and tommyrot in addition to the words Gareth put into his theme. [Rubbish] is the clue for BALDERDASH, HOGWASH, MOONSHINE, HORSEFEATHERS, POPPYCOCK, TWADDLE, and APPLESAUCE. That last one was unknown to me, and moonshine wasn’t familiar with a “nonsense” sense. Sure, there’s no wordplay happening in the theme, but there is definitely word fun for word nerds who appreciate colorful synonyms.
Bright spots in the fill include TV DINNER and PEDANT. Lowlights include OLEO, nautical crosswordese ORLOP deck, quite possibly bogus singular TAPA, suffix -OLA, and the staccato STAC/STK pair. I can forgive most of those just because I so enjoyed the whole BALDERDASH explosion.
3.9 stars from me.