Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword
The theme revealer is SILENT, 69a. [___ movies (8-, 20-, 39- and 57-Across, in a way)], and those four answers are movie titles that begin with silent letters:
- 8a. [1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller], PSYCHO.
- 20a. [2012 John C. Reilly animated film], WRECK-IT RALPH.
- 39a. [2012 Quentin Tarantino western], DJANGO UNCHAINED.
- 57a. [2010 James Mangold action comedy], KNIGHT AND DAY.
I have no idea why three movies are clued with directors and one with a (voice) actor. If you’re trying to make the clues as Tuesday-easy and gettable as you can, throwing director James Mangold into 57a makes no sense at all. That’s a movie starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz—heard of them? I like the theme a lot but not the editorial decision on the theme clues. The revealer is also a tad nonspecific, but I’m okay with making the solver make that leap from “Those aren’t silent movies” to “Oh! Silent letters!”
Pairs of theme answers are joined together by the fresh long Downs, POWER PLANTS and JOHN GOODMAN, along with an EDIT MENU and COAT TREE.
Overall, the fill is pretty smooth.
Favorite misleading clue: 1d. [Beginning or end of "Athena"], SCHWA. Raise your hand if you went with ALPHA first.
Four stars. Good stuff, C.C.!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Headwinds”—Janie’s review
I could tell you that this puzzle was (ahem) “a breeze”—but because I solved it without knowing the title in advance, that wouldn’t be the whole truth. In fact, not only did it throw up a roadblock here and there (in the SW especially—hello, KEROUAC, KARA Zor-el, RESIN and TACTIC…), but after solving, darned if I could figure out what was holding the theme fill together. I seriously admired the fill as a whole and even wondered if perhaps Liz had given us a themeless. “YOU WHAT???” But not to worry. I looked at the title and it all became clear: the first (“head”) word of each of the themers names a kind of “wind”—not all of the meteorological variety. Sweet!
- 17A. SECOND JOB [Income booster]. Second wind. That re-burst of energy that lets you keep at whatever you’re doing (like a second job, perhaps…)—a real asset when you think you’re spent.
- 11D. SUMMER LOVE [July-August romance]. “Summer Wind“—a big ol’ hit for Ol’ Blue Eyes (a/k/a Frank Sinatra) in 1966. A Meier/Mercer song that itself defines the ephemeral nature of many a summer love. While I’m a big fan of this next song (same era—totally different vibe), was a tad let down to see [“Baby, I NEED Your Loving”] in the same puzzle with—and right next door to—summer love. But that’s a very personal kinda taste thang. Just prefer not to see the repetition of so key an idea when it coulda been avoided with a different approach to the clue.
- 28D. “DESERT ROSE” [Sting's duet with Algerian singer Cheb Mami]. Desert wind. Like the hot, dry and sometimes lethal simoom. Me, I’ll take that “Desert Rose,” thank you very much.
- 37A. ILL WILL [Bitter feeling]. “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Also this Arlen/Koehler American Songbook classic. Yes, more Frank. (In great voice here.) But hope you’ll also check out the versions by Lonette McKee and Billie Holiday. Worth it (even if the latter has not made it to YouTube in its entire entirety…)!
- 57A. TRADE NAME [Tylenol or Viagra, for example]. Trade wind. Started out with BRAND name here. Wrong. A helpful pair of pharmaceuticals to have handy in the medicine chest though, no? In case he’s in the mood and she sez, “Not tonight, honey—I have a headache…”
Bunch of additional clues and fill to give shout-outs to, so let’s get right to it:
- [Astrological border] CUSP. Well, of course. But for too long, I was thinking of a decorative border. Got me…
- [Doggies] POOCHES. Cute. And, “Hey there, ASTA!” That’d be [Nick and Nora's terrier], of course.
- The rhyme-y [Goo that holds a spiky do] for HAIR GEL.
- [Sweater compartment?] SAUNA. And not a garment container but a small room where you can take some heat. Best to enter [Not packing heat] UNARMED, however…
- [Spy's personnel file] for DOSSIER, because dossier‘s a great word, and the combo conjures up the worlds populated with characters created by the likes of Ian Fleming and John LeCarré. IMBUES is an evocative entry, too, especially clued as [Permeates, as with flavor].
- The cozy sounding [Sit comfortably] NESTLE combo (where we can keep things strictly [Entre NOUS...]).
- The scenario-setting [Dad's reaction to: "Dad, I dropped out of college and joined the traveling circus"] for the aforementioned “YOU WHAT???” Tone of the clue makes the fill perfect. Though the clue is more straightforward, [Disgruntled], the fill IN A SNIT is equally successful in conveying attitude.
- Another straightforward clue [50 Cent of Dr. Dre] yields up] the zestier RAP STAR.
- And finally, there’s [Chafes] and RUBS RAW. Ouch. Well, hey—ya know what helps with that? LANOLIN. It’s not just a [Lip gloss ingredient]. Marathon swimmers share their secrets!
Oh—and as I read it—for a thematic bonus, we also get a high wind—by way of PICCOLO, clued here as [Play this and you'll end on a high note?]. Given how wittily- and tightly-constructed today’s puzzle is, I’m thinkin’ Liz musta been listening to [“Got My MOJO Working” (Muddy Waters classic)] when she created this one—because her mojo was clearly in the groove! As for ending on that high note, give this a go (piccolo obbligato at 1:59 and 2:53)!
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
A small but architecturally elegant theme:
- 20d. [Ironman event comprised of the last words of 19-, 39- and 58-Across], TRIATHLON. This answer runs through three 9-letter theme answers.
- 19a. [Pool session for grown-ups], ADULT SWIM. Also a Cartoon Network programming block.
- 39a. [Motorcycle designed for acrobatic maneuvers], STUNT BIKE.
- 58a. [Baseball play that may be foiled by a pitchout], HIT AND RUN. Never heard of the baseball sense, but it’s less unpleasant than the vehicular crime.
I blew a Learned League trivia question a few weeks ago by guessing that the order of tri events was bike, swim, run. I knew the run was last, and it made sense that you’d have the cool-down swim in the middle … but a friend pointed out that doing a distance swim when tired out from a lengthy bike race might lead to drownings, so it makes good sense to start with the swim. And of course, an hour after giving my wrong trivia answer, I was at the gym … where a guy wearing a SWIM BIKE RUN shirt passed in front of my eyes.
C.C. balances the modest 33-square theme with stacked 7s in all the corners. SASHIMI, CALTECH, DAYTONA, and “NO DOUBT” are particularly nice, as are all four Down 8s: SAPPHIRE, TROMBONE, BACK DOWN, IRA LEVIN.
Overall, the fill’s smooth, and I appreciated the anagrammatic/synonymous EVIL/VILE crossing. Four stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Carefreestyle”
It’s themeless/freestyle time again chez Jonesin’. Thirteen answers in the 9- to 11-letter range plus a dozen 7s means lots of fresh long fill. Among my favorites:
- 1a. [Reason to go through half a box of tissues], SNEEZING FIT.
- 15a. [It's not natural to swim in], MANMADE LAKE.
- 52a. [Bambi's father's title, re the forest], GREAT PRINCE. Bambi’s aunt ENA gets way more play in crosswords, but the Great Prince of the Forest may be more memorable.
- 58a. [It lasted for over three million years], THE STONE AGE.
- 61a. ["I set my alarm for PM instead of AM," among others], LAME EXCUSES.
- 63a. ["The big sleep"], ETERNAL REST.
- 37d. [Dancing cigarette pack of the 1950s], OLD GOLD. Know your cigarette trivia!
- 27d. [Conflict for the ages], EPIC BATTLE. Would’ve been good to clue this without “ages,” given the crossing THE STONE AGE.
- 11d. [Electric inventions seen in "Frankenstein"], TESLA COILS.
- 13d. [Director of the first two "Hostel" movies], ELI ROTH. We get ELI by itself far more often in the grid; nice to see an expansion to the full name, though I decry the existence of “torture porn” movies.
- 14d. [Funny bones and such], DOG TOYS.
Did not know:
- 3d. [Decorate by inlaying a jewel], ENCHASE. Here’s a globe with countries made of enchased stones amid lapis lazuli oceans.
- 5d. [The white ninja, in Lego's "Ninjago"], ZANE. Familiar name, but not in that context.
The short fill crossing all the long stuff tends to be much drier, as is typically the case. The least familiar 3-letter answer here was 32d. [West Coast sch. with a sister campus in Berkeley], UCD. That’s UC Davis, part of the UC group along with UC Berkeley. I’ve seen it called UC Davis far more than UCD.
I question the clue for ESPANA, 46a. [Islas Canarias locale]. While the Canary Islands constitute a region of Spain, their locale is the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco, hundreds of miles from the Spanish mainland.
Four stars from me. I’m in a 4-star mood today, apparently.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Good 63-Across”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and a Happy Tuesday to you!
For those of you that have ever seen me in person (which is a few), you’ll know by my body shape that I have not missed many meals over the years. So this puzzle’s theme is right down my belly, err, I mean, alley, as each of the four theme answers (two across, two down) start with words that are alternate/slang terms for EATS (63A: [Food]).
- GRUB STREET: (17A: [World of literary hacks])
- CHOW YUN-FAT: (58A: [Star of five John Woo movies])
- CHUCK-A-LUCK: (11D: [Game using three dice]) – I’ve played a lot of dice games – including a couple that involve three dice – but can’t say that chuck-a-luck is one of them.
- MESS OF HURT: (28D: [Emotional pain])
This grid was ENHANCED by many of the snappy entries in the puzzle (21A: [Improved]), the best of which, in my opinion, was PASTICHE (38D: [Stylistic imitation]). Other good entries included HOME TEAM (26A: [They typically bat last]), PICOT (38A: [Ornamental loop]), and ARBITERS, with the clue being somewhat of a mislead, having to know that it was being used as a noun and not a verb (4D: [Judges]).
I’m going to end my non-sports part of my blog today with an Ode to TESS (37A: ["The Bone Garden" writer Gerritsen]). The first name of my high school science teacher for three years is Tess, and she was the person that first got me interested in crossword puzzles. I would bring in the newspaper into class everyday (to read the sports section, of course), and at the end of a number of my science classes with her (or at the end of the school day), I would walk up to her, paper in hand, and she would open up the paper to the crossword/jumbles section. (It was the New York Daily News, if you wanted to know what paper I had.) Needless to say, I was only useful for the sports clues as she usually tore through the grid, and it was fascinating to see her solve the puzzle while having such a sense of humor in doing so. I just visited her in person after almost 14 years, albeit in tough circumstances: our high school is slated to close down at the end of June. Emotions were, and are high, in talking about the high school that has become such a big fabric of our beings (Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, Brooklyn, NY). But during the visit, we did one more puzzle on school property, for old times’ sake, and this time, it was the New York Times crossword puzzle. It was fun, and I can’t thank you enough, Tess, for all the great memories…as well as starting me on a black-and-white checkerboard path that has led me here to talk about crosswords. Thank you…and you, unintentionally, created a monster!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ENRON (65A: [Company in a 2002 scandal])- At this time tomorrow, I will be in Washington DC, preparing to watch the Houston Astros play the Washington Nationals with Angela Halsted (a.k.a. PuzzleGirl). The Astros are my favorite baseball team, and for many years, they played at the Astrodome. But in 2000, Houston moved into a new ball park, and it was first named Enron Field, as the energy company acquired the naming rights to the facility in 1999. Needless to say, the stadium is no longer called Enron Field anymore. (It’s now Minute Maid Park.)
Thanks for your time, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!