Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “Strike One”
Strike out one letter in each long answer that’s clued by the first part of the clue by changing it to an X, and you end up with the fake long answer signaled by the second part of the clue. The X doesn’t work with each Down crossing, though. Apparently the electronic puzzle expected me to provide the original letter and the X separated by a slash, but that looks silly if you ask me. I had the original letters all circled, then I changed them to X’s, and the .puz told me I had every one of those squares incorrect. Whatever. Here are the theme answers:
- 23a. [*cross out* Symbols of happiness] Transmissions with colons, dashes and parentheses?, SMILEY FACES becomes SMILEY FAXES. This is the clue format used in the .puz file, which is unable to use strikethrough text.
- 29a. [
Sun Tzu tome] Madame Tussaud’s specialty?, THE ART OF WAR/WAX. Strikethrough text as seen, without the brackets, at nytimes.com.
- 38a. [
"Star Wars" character] Where droids go to dry out?, ARTOO DETOO/DETOX.
- 42a. [
Gibbons and siamangs] Mountaintop that’s not the very top?, LESSER APES/APEX.
- 56a. [
Pageant] Circumstances that render someone attractive?, BEAUTY CONTEST/CONTEXT.
- 78a. [
Pine, e.g.] Dinosaur that never goes out of style?, EVERGREEN TREE/T. REX.
- 92a. [
Studio substitute] Squarish bed?, BODY/BOXY DOUBLE.
- 95a. [
Member of a certain 1990s-2000s rock band] Censor unhappy with “Family Guy” and “Glee,” maybe?, FOO/FOX FIGHTER.
- 102a. [
Children's song] Ignore the rest of the lunch I brought and just eat the fish?, SKIP TO MY LOU/LOX.
- 113a. [
After-dinner display] One way to see a pie’s filling?, DESSERT TRAY/X-RAY.
- 124a. Struck out, as one letter in each of this puzzle’s theme answers, XED.
If you keep track of the crossed-out letters (which I’ve underlined above), they spell out CROSSED OUT. Hey! Ten theme entries because there are 1- magical letters to tie the theme together with a satin ribbon and a pretty bow on top.
The minimum number of theme squares in a Sunday LA Times puzzle is 84; this one has 113 if I counted right. The size of the theme presumably accounts for the handful of entries we don’t expect to see in a Berry puzzle—your CESTA, your AGARS … hmm, maybe there are only those two, in which case Berry deserves a prize. I grumble at way more than two entries in a typical 21×21 grid.
I haven’t really got anything more to say about this puzzle, aside from giving it 4.5 stars. Super-smooth puzzle packed with a multi-layered theme? That’s good stuff. There are also no X’s outside of the theme, which helps keep the theme squeaky clean. Also! Despite the title being “Strike One,” it’s not yet another baseball theme, which I appreciate.
Doug Peterson’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 218″—Janie’s review
A tale of two puzzles, this. As I looked at the contents of the finished grid, all I could see was a real beauty; as I was solving, however (in multiple sittings plus, gulp, one Google…), I couldn’t helping thinking I was dealing with a true beast. Last week’s Jeffrey Harris puzzle? A veritable breeze of a solve. WaPo: you are one unpredictable brain-tease/r!
The beauty part? Fill like CLICK-BAIT (even if I was slow to remember it, thank you, BEQ/NYT for putting this phrase on my radar…), “SUGAR, SUGAR” [and Everything's Archie], CANDYGRAM, PHILOMENA, COMES ALIVE, HAIR PIECES, LOOFAHS, VERSATILE, “OMIGOSH!”; the way most of that fill is also a part of a corner triple-stack or -column, adjacent to other totally solid if less (subjectively) “sparkly” entries. Lookin’ at you, MIAMI AREA, AARON BURR (my nemesis today…), ACE BANDAGE (first entry), TEST PAPER, ASCENSION, MOVES AWAY, STOPPED UP.
The beast? Them clues! Damn you, Doug and Peter! Starting at 1-Across with the Eliza-Doolittle-challenging [Hyperbolically headlined hyperlinks]. Before I grokked click-bait, I held on far too long to a word [tbd] with a final “S” — (wrongly, but reasonably) allowing for SHA at 9-Down [Refrain snippet] (which proved to be TRA…). In fact, the whole NW proved most elusive for me and was the last portion of the puzzle to fall. [George Clinton replaced him] for Aaron Burr. Okay then. Not this George Clinton, this George Clinton. [Jupiter is found there] has nothing to do with the planet or its location in the cosmos, and all to do with this Miami-area town in Palm Beach County. [Contributed to a clutch] yields LAID. Huh? Ohhhhh, Laid an egg… Tricky [Sticker?] for KNIFE pairs up nicely with [Try to run through] and STAB AT (but please don’t stabat mater!…). [Stressful words?], not “YOUR TRAIN HAS BEEN DELAYED INDEFINITELY” but the stress-/emphasis-conferring “I REPEAT,” in advance of “Your train has been delayed indefinitely.” [Guard's activity, colloquially] for B-BALL. So not like a palace “guard,” but a hoopster. And while a SILO [...might be full of corn], today it’s CAMP (humor) that has that distinction. And that’s just the NW, folks!
- [Does] for APES, as in, “In this clip, Jimmy Fallon does a great Neil Young. And Bruce. And Bob.”
- [Scored sheet] for test paper. Had paper but didn’t know how I was gonna fit MUSIC in the four squares above it… But we do get music in the [Lets the air out?] SINGS combo, where “air” is synonymous with “song” and is not another word for “oxygen.”
- [Grand fraction] for C-NOTE. Because $100 is a “fraction” of $1,000, one “grand.”
- [Shot in the arm] for TONIC. So not a hypodermic, but a more metaphorical kind of booster.
- [Its followers observe Samhain]. Felt confident about the final “A,” so, semi-confidently entered BAHÍ’Á, my go-to for a(n apparently) faith-based five-letter answer. Nupe. WICCA. Nice one.
- [Inspiration for Orwell's Snowball] for TROTSKY, which took me right back to 8th grade and my first reading of Orwell’s Animal Farm. Remember getting to the heart of, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”? Alas, still seems to be true…
- The sweet [Missive with kisses?] for candygram. Which, of course, brings up memories of this early SNL classic.
- And the fabulous [Coverage providers after a recession?] for hair pieces. D’oh. For the longest time, thinking far too literally, thought this was going to be fair [somebodies].
Two items sent me to Ngram—which really is a fascinating place (imoo…). [Pay particular attention to] is KEY ON, which I didn’t even notice until after solving. But there it was. I’m more familiar with the phrase “key into,” but look which one gets more usage. Who knew? Then there’s [LCD component]. With only five squares to work with, I know it’s not LIQUID or CRYSTAL or DISPLAY. But neither is it LOWEST or COMMON or DENOMINATOR. That’s because this time it’s LEAST [common denominator]. But look which gets higher common usage this time. File under “keep an open mind.”
And that’ll do it for today. As you read this on your desk-top or lap-top or tablet, perhaps this image will remind you of what a miracle that piece of technology is:Guess that term “high-tech” is all relative!
Patrick Jordan’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning everyone, and a happy Sunday to you!
I’m typing this blog (after just finishing the puzzle) while watching the French Open men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and I’m not sure if I’m having more fun watching this tennis match or while solving today’s puzzle. All that means is that this puzzle was really enjoyable – especially since I’m on the edge of my seat watching this tennis match right now! First thing right off the bat is the interesting DEFEATS/DEFATS intersection at the very top of the northwest (1A: [Takes down])/(1D: [Gets the lard out]). Immediately put the “DE” going down and had an inkling it was DEFATS, but I wasn’t as sure of the answer for 1A, because I initially didn’t interpret the clue as “to win/be victorious.” After getting a couple of the down crossings relatively easily, then DEFEATS jumped out right at me.
Staying in the northwest, how good is FOLDEROL in the grid (16A: [Nonsense])? Speaking of good, I’m in the need to devour a good T-bone steak from a reputable STEAKHOUSE (23A: [Restaurant offering rare entrées]). To be honest, I haven’t had a steak in over a year, and that has to change soon!! And since I’m not a seafood eater, for the most part, don’t think I’ll be having any SCROD in my diet (27A: [Young haddock]).
Elsewhere, seeing the misnomer, PANDA BEARS, was sneakily good (48A: [Colloquialism for some bamboo munchers]). And I guess ISR is the official go-to country abbreviation in crossword puzzles, after seeing this entry about four times in the past two or three weeks of my puzzle-solving experience (42A: [Leb. neighbor]). Finally, let’s see how much of a generation gap exists between myself and some of our readers: when you see Q-TIP (36D: [Unilever swab]), do you think of the cotton swab first or the stage name of the hip-hop artist who was one of the rappers in the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest? You may or may not be a fan of hip-hop, but if you’re a fan of just great lyrics and melodic beats (and a music lover in general), get their 1991 album, The Low End Theory. It’s THAT good!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BRAKEMAN (15D: [Conductor's assistant])- In two-man and four-man bobsled, one of the people that make up the bobsled crew is the brakeman, who is mostly responsible for pulling the brake lever in the sled once the sled crosses the finish line.
Thank you so very much for your time, and I hope to see you all tomorrow!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “P is for Puzzle” — pannonica’s write-up
… and P is also for various other words, specifically here as the first halves of two-letter initialisms.
- 22a. [PS] LETTER ADDITION (post script).
- 67a. [PX] MILITARY STORE (post exchange). Post in a different sense.
- 118a. [PC] DESKTOP MACHINE (personal computer).
- 2d. [PM] LATE HOURS (post meridian). Post in the same sense as 22a.
- 16d. [PT] JFK’S BOAT 109 (patrol torpedo). Rather audacious answer, dropping the numerals in so cavalierly. The crossings of the 1 and 0 are treated as I and O, whereas the 9 stays a nine—but then! the across answer with that 9 spills the numeralism over with a zero (’90S) and the crossing down answer treats that as the letter O.
- 33d. [PA] SPEAKER SYSTEM (public address).
- 34d. [PE] GYM CLASS (physical education).
- 60d. [PU] “IT STINKS!” [not an initialism]. I don’t have access to the online OED, so I’ll link to a secondary source that references its discussion: Grammarphobia. Essentially, PU is a two-letter phonetic rendition of an exclamation variously spelled ‘pue’, ‘peuh’, ‘peugh’, ‘pyoo’, and ‘pew’, dating back to the early 17th century.
- 66d. [PB] JIF OR SKIPPY (peanut butter). Those are brands and, aside from their popularity, are familiar to crossword solvers because the latter is often used to clue the former, as in [Skippy alternative]. See also 13a [Stuck] IN A JAM.
- 85d. [PI] DETECTIVE (private investigator).
Unusual apportionment of the themers: a meager three acrosses and a whopping eight downs. An absence of Hook’s characteristic theme-stacking, but plenty of theme-crossing, and a tight cluster in the center.
Far from the most revelatory or amazing of themes, but it’s solid, gets the job done, and is well-executed. This sentence is here only to pad the text so that the next paragraph will start below the photograph of Capra nubiana. [addendum: Looks as if a little more padding is required, so that explains this.]
- People I didn’t know at all: 42a [Dan of "The Wonder Years"] LAURIA; 124a [Televangelist Joel] OSTEEN; 46d [Katic of "Castle"] STANA. Hey, at least I was familiar with zitherist Anton KARAS of The Third Man fame.
- Many French and Spanish bits throughout, but nothing particularly obscure, save possibly GARD, which is Nimes’ département.
- Cross-references I actually liked: 103d [Comical Catherine] O’HARA, 113d [103-Down's old sketch show] SCTV; 100d [Hot time] SUMMER, 125a [Re: 100-Down] ESTIVAL. Not to be confused with Esquivel.
- Favorite clue: 104a [Knight's backup] PIPS. Nothing to do with chess or jousting. Also, it gives me an excuse to pop this in:
- 127a [Almondless Joys?] MOUNDS. Only if you overlook the fact that there’s also an important milk chocolate vs dark chocolate discrepancy.
- Personal peeve: 52d [Bracelet site] ANKLE. Those are called anklets. Bracelet derives from the Latin bracchium, meaning arm. Ergo, bracelets are located on arms, usually the wrists. Bracelets may also include armlets (not the oceanic kind). I realize not everyone agrees with me on this distinction.
- Some relatively crunchy 7- and 8-stacks across the center: TIE TACK/ELECTRA; AGRARIAN/PASSIONS; EBONIES/SARGENT; COMES DUE/AVENGERS.
- Pretend I list a bunch of abbrevs., partials, a couple of random plural names, and a smattering of crosswordese here, and that I say that there are more of these than I prefer to see, even in a 21×21 grid. Thanks.
- 105a [Pork recipe] MU SHU. What? No “var.”? Let’s see what Google Ngrams has to say on the matter: aha!
- 26a [1957 Jimmy Dorsey hit] SORARE. I’m thinking it’s really two words and doesn’t rhyme with Domenico Modugno’s 1958 “Volare” (“Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu”).
- 123a [Chanel No. 5 alternative] ARPÈGE. Here’s what Luca Turin, olfactory scientist and perfume connoisseur, had to say about it in 2008:
Arpège (Lanvin) **** unisex classic — I have long held the opinion that, much as people’s politics tend to drift rightward with age, perfumes become more masculine with time. This is partly due to the fact that most classic feminines undergo breast reduction at each reformulation, and partly due to the outrageous, borderline-slutty girliness of many modern feminines, which makes the ladylike masterpieces of an earlier age seem positively virile. Add to that the fact that most modern masculines are either fresh-woody nonentities or chemical foghorns, and you see why the discerning guy raids his grandma’s shelves. Arpège is a case in point. It was reformulated many times, both stealthily and openly, all the while claiming absolute fidelity to the original formula. Today it is an elegant, nutty, woody floral with an overall cashmere beige tonality that would be very dowdy on all but a guy. Recommended.
- Finally, I got a kick out of the last across entry being RSVPED, with that unusual and refreshing combination.
* Surprisingly rapid solve time, as my problematic keyboard was very recalcitrant.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “The Homer That Never Happened”
The grid looks a little like a baseball diamond, and the four bases (the central square on each side of the grid) are occupied by squares that spell out MYTH. There are no exact theme entries, just a slew of baseball-related clues and answers. The explanatory notepad reads “One of the meanings of MYTH (whose letters appear in the grid, reading clockwise from the top) is “folk tale,” and that certainly describes the subject of this puzzle. Once you find it.” The clue for 134a. BETSY, [Flagmaker Ross (and, starting on the T, an 11-word quote that "runs" diagonally through the grid)], tells you where to find the mythical content. Running the basepath from home plate and returning to home plate, the diagonal diamond quote spells out “There is no joy in Mudville. Mighty Casey has struck out.”
So the large number of squares that need to be checked three ways—Across, Down, and diagonal quote or M-Y-T-H squares—accounts for the various infelicities in the fill, such as 9d. ["Look ere ___"] YE LEAP and 130a. [Hesitant words], “WELL, I.” Some of the longer fill—your PERVERSENESS and SNATCHERS—similarly fails to wow. What exactly are NEWS JOURNALS (61d. [Some magazines]), anyway? Cursory Googling isn’t telling me. I started with NEWSWEEKLIES, which is entirely familiar.
If you’re not a baseball buff (and I am not), the wealth of baseball names in the grid are of no added value. It was cute to discover that Merl had snuck a familiar 11-word phrase into the basepath in the grid, but my solving experience was mostly complete before that fillip of fun landed. So should the star rating reflect the solving experience more, or the difficulty of construction? I’ll settle on 3.75 stars.
Alan Olschwang’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “You Too”
Phrases with at least one O have one O changed to an OU, creating new phrases that are sometimes a bit of a stretch:
- 23a. [Being on hands and knees?], SCOURING POSITION.
- 45a. [Follow the proverbial crowd?], VENTURE FOURTH. Eh. It’s not as if we say, “She ventured first,” so this one doesn’t really work for me.
- 67a. [Soda fountain?], SWEET SPOUT. This one’s good.
- 71a. [Town boor in a western capital?], SALEM’S LOUT.
- 92a. [Auto equipment supplier?], RADIATOR HOUSE.
- 117a. [Prescription for extremely potent medicine?], OUNCE IN A BLUE MOON. “Once in a blue moon” is in the language, yes, but “in a blue moon” doesn’t stand on its own so well and prefacing it with a volume measure is just weird. What would OUNCE IN A BLUE MOON mean, exactly? Could you prescribe 180 mg in a blue moon? It’s nonsensical.
- 14d. [One hyping the spud industry?], TATER TOUT. Is it just me, or do the rest of you encounter TOUT as a noun primarily in crosswords?
- 78d. [Court case involving a British tennis player and a rake?], ROUE V. WADE. Virginia Wade, tennis star who was active during the Roe v. Wade era.
Like his LA Times daily crossword colleague Jack McInturff, Alan Olschwang tends to have a lot of what I consider crosswordese in his grids. I knew what was in store right from 1-Across on: [Bar stock] is the plural RYES, and plural RYES tends to be awkward (like 11d: ANISES). ARIL SRI ALIT ALEE STETS ILIA MOUE NISEI … more in that vein.
Did not know 96d. [Alaska Panhandle city], HAINES. Population 2,500. If you’ve never heard of the place either, I absolve you.
2.9 stars from me. The theme didn’t always work well for me, and the fill left me lukewarm.