Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
Martin had alerted the world that his next quad-stacks puzzle was coming up today, and back when Gareth was selfie-blogging his own puzzle, I suggested that Martin blog this puzzle. He gave me the following template:
“Kudos to me on another 5-star puzzle. I’d give it 6 if I could. But let’s be modest: 5.5 stars. The quad-stacked 15s were all like old friends, in that I’d seen them dozens of times before. Also every single Down word was taken from the old Dell Crossword Dictionary of 1954. That’s quite an achievement, since none of these words appear in any modern reference. I don’t know how he does it. More, please!”
Now, for my review. I do not recognize these 15s as repeat denizens of the grid, which is a good thing. The upper stack has two ONE’Sies, and Martin tells me he submitted the puzzle 2 or 3 years ago and has since broken his habit of leaning on the ONE’S phrases. 1a: CLEAR ONE’S THROAT is solid, but 18a: STEPS ON ONE’S TOES grates. Dictionaries offer up “step on someone’s toes,” which has a different feel to it. The lower berth has stacked OFs, in 52a: the WISDOM OF SOLOMON (slightly ungainly with its “the” confined to the clue) and 53a: ASCENT OF EVEREST. Our other 15s are 16a: RESTORE TO HEALTH, 17a: AT SOME OTHER TIME, and 54a: REAL ESTATE SALES (solid if unexciting), plus sweet 46a: ORANGE MARMALADE (a [Florida preserve?] that isn’t the Everglades).
The Downs include the lovely entries NEON TETRA, HERSHEY BAR (lovely as an entry, but inferior chocolate—if you won’t mind the ample obscenity, read this English bulletin board discussion of Hershey’s), and the Eminem song WHEN I’M GONE (also by 3 Doors Down … which doesn’t ring a bell). The shorter Downs include the following answers that were surely found in the 1954 Dell dictionary, or maybe the 1957 edition: ESSEN, ETTORE, OLIOS, French THES, and Latin AMO. O’ WAR gets an unexpected clue: ["Hug ___" (Shel Silverstein poem)]; read it here.
Never heard of: 51d: [Romance novelist ___ Leigh], LORA; 40d: [Scottish island that's home to Fingal's Cave], STAFFA; and 44d: ["___ of Rock 'n' Roll" (1976 Ringo Starr hit)], A DOSE. Staffa is an uninhabited rock that’s about an eighth of a square mile, and it gets my pick for least welcome answer. Also! I Googled Lora Leigh and it turns out she specializes in erotic romances. Her Feline Breeds series includes a volume called Tempting the Beast and the Amazon “look inside” feature shows me in the male protagonist has “gorgeous, heavily veined” bits. Now, wouldn’t the LORA clue have been more entertaining if it had told us she wrote tons of salacious erotica? [___ Leigh (author of the "Nauti Boys" erotica series)], for example.
I did know the German word 9d: SÖHNE, plural of der Sohn, “son,” [German boys]. “Daughter” is die Tochter, plural Töchter. Don’t look for that one in next week’s puzzle.
21a: HES is clued as [Ganders, e.g.], and I really don’t buy this as a plural noun. The plural of “he” is “they,” and HE’S is perfectly valid in a bunch of fill-in-the-blank clues. Then there’s 39a: HIS, which can’t be clued as the possessive pronoun because of HES, so it’s clued as [Greetings], but I’m not a fan of pluralizing interjections. Goodbye is a pluralizable noun, but many exclamations lack broad acclaim as pluralizable things. I checked HI in three or four dictionaries and none has it as a noun. Slippery slope to DAMMITS and NERTSES, no?
3.5 stars from me.
Patrick Berry’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “The Devil’s in the D-tails” — pannonica’s write-up
One detail about this puzzle is that it’s 15×16, but there isn’t anything particularly satanic about that. As you might know, sense, or imagine, the atypical dimensions are to accommodate a similarly nonstandard entry, to wit: the 16-letter vertical spanner in the eighth column. The other four theme answers conform to this orientation.
As for the theme itself, said ‘D-tails’ are instances wherein the letter D is infixed near the end of a word in a phrase, creating mischief.
- 5d. [Does some much-needed renovating?] MEN(D)S ROOMS (men’s rooms).
- 7d. [Rock groups whose concerts are literally explosive?] NUCLEAR TEST BAN(D)S (nuclear test bans).
- 11d. ["We're still waiting on the artwork for that report"?] DRAWING PEN(D)S (drawing pens).
- 25d. [What'll keep you from picking up the scent?] WIN(D)S BY A NOSE (wins by a nose).
- 35d. [Family member's regimen of calisthenics?] UNCLE BEN(D)S (Uncle Ben’s).
All right. Get set for some on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-handing.
On the one hand, I appreciate the consistency of these answers in that the D is inserted between an N and an S, in the penultimate spot of each target word. On the other hand, can we really consider them ‘tails’, as they aren’t at the true ends of any words?
On the one hand, the vowel sounds are not altered, not even in 25d which certainly seems inclined to lean that way—however, the clue puts the kibosh on that notion. On the other hand, some of the new and wacky phrases stretch credulity or simply seem inconsistent given the clues: 35d suggests the answer should be UNCLE’S BENDS, the terse phrasing of DRAWING PENDS practically demands the clue be equally hurried (“Still waiting on artwork”), and NUCLEAR TEST BANDS, per se: worth a special grid?
On the one hand, the inserted letter is the only D in each answer (correction: there’s one at the beginning of 11-down). On the other hand, it would have been more impressive, exciting, and emphatic if there weren’t any extraneous Ds in the grid (there are five, SIX (58a) including that DUH/DRAWING crossing).
On the one hand, there’s a good distribution of insertion spots: two in the first word, three in the last word. Would have been supremely spiffy if that 16-letter and only 3-word spanner had balanced everything perfectly by locating the new D in the central section. On the other hand, it feels as if there be some underlying unity or connection among these five (very random) answers beyond the mechanical conceit of the theme.
So, I’m a bit underwhelmed by the theme. Yet I found the supporting fill and cluing to lift the crossword to a higher echelon. The long entries REMINISCENT and OPINION POLL [Temperature reading of a sort] are both excellent. And often the clues are fresh realizations for some routine fill—e.g., 61d [Stage light] SPOT, 70a [Treat to a Gatorade bath, say] DOUSE, 23a ["The __ is a ass": Dickens's Mr. Bumble] LAW, 60a [Roué's smarmy greeting] “LADIES.”
A few other details:
- Not so thrilled by the stacked cluecho at 36a/42a [Some Internet pop-ups] for VIDEOS and ADS. But I appreciated the proximity of 39a ["__ vobiscum" (Mass salutation] PAX and 49a [Like the Sea of Tranquility] LUNAR.
- 72a [Cheese with "eyes"] SWISS. Never in my life have I heard the holes in Swiss cheese called eyes. Wikipedia says otherwise, citing a website called The Nibble:
“Three types of bacteria are used in the production of Emmentaler cheese: Streptococcus thermophilis, Lactobacillus, and Propionibacter shermani. In a late stage of cheese production, P. shermani consumes the lactic acid excreted by the other bacteria, and releases carbon dioxide gas. This forms the bubbles that appear to be “holes” when the cheese is sliced. The cheese industry calls these holes or tunnels “eyes.” Swiss cheese without eyes is known as ‘blind.’”
- 28a [High-ceilinged enclosure]. Thought for sure it was ATRIUM, but AVIARY was where it was at.
- 6d [Casey who did countdowns] KASEM. No idea if the clue was modified after his very recent (15 June) death, as he retired from the last of those shows in 2009.
Solid crossword overall, despite my misgivings regarding the theme.
Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “… In a Pod” — pannonica’s write-up
Most of the time, I neglect to look at a crossword’s title before solving. This tends to be beneficial, as it’s more satisfying to witness the theme develop, an intellectual analogue to a developing photograph.
Occasionally, however, I slip, and by accident or perhaps subconscious design my eyes stray to the upper-upper left. At such times one (or two) of three things will happen. Odds are, the theme will be telegraphed and I’ll feel a tad cheated. Less commonly, the title will be ambiguous or 94d OPAQUE and I’m none the wiser and prone to nagging distraction about it while solving. Rarest of all is that I’ll interpret the title in a nonstandard way, for some bonus entertainment.
The latter instance was the case this time: it boomed in my head with the rumbling basso tones of overblown movie trailers—think Don LaFontaine. Sure, had I been more attentive I’d have realized the ellipsis should follow the phrase rather than precede it …
In any case, 112-down provides a hint. [Item in a pod] PEA. As in, (thing that are similar are like) two peas … In a Pod. So it naturally follows that a pair of Ps are inserted into each theme phrase to make a new one. Naturally, that is, if you spend a lot of time in crosswordland.
- 22a. ["Should we add their boutique to our mall?" reply?] “IF THE SHO(PP)E FITS (shoe).
- 30a. [Stone, when flung?] WATER SKI(PP)ER (skier).
- 44a. [Flavor of a spiced cider?] GINGER A(PP)LE (ale). I highly recommend Reed’s Spiced Apple Brew. But be careful, it looks a bit like a beer, so you may get some judgmental looks if you quaff it in a public place that discourages alcohol consumption.
- 54a. [High temperature that puts you in
happyhigh spirits?] HA(PP)Y FEVER (hay). See also 7d [Pollen season sound] ACHOO.
- 72a. [Third-rate ballroom dancer?] BUM STE(PP)ER (steer). See also 30d [Street frequented by bulls?] WALL. See also, this puzzle’s venue.
- 82a. [Entreaty to be picked, at the tropical fish store?] I’M YOUR GU(PP)Y (guy). Google Ngram of I’m your guy vs I’m your man weighs heavily in favor of the latter. Wonder if there’s a Leonard Cohen effect, at least recently.
- 96a. [Like the mouth?] TONGUE-TI(PP)ED (-tied). Quite a stretch to think of a mouth in such a way, as that organ tends to reside interiorly, internet celebrity cat Li’l Bub and countless pugs and pekingese notwithstanding. So that’s a potent question mark in this clue.
- 110a. [Cook in a pancake restaurant?] FREQUENT FLI(PP)ER (flier). Likely my favorite.
Three of the eight theme answers insert the Ps between an I and an ER/ED for similar constructions, but while a bit noticeable it isn’t a theme consistency deal breaker or anything. But soft, soft… what’s this? The sixteen inserted ones are the only Ps in the grid? Impressive!
- 5d/92a [Ruhr valley product] STEEL / COAL. 66d/67a [Once more] OVER / AGAIN. 69d/74d [Skirt feature] HEM / PLEAT.
- Don’t understand: 88a [Overthrew first, say] ERRED. Oh wait! It’s a sneaky baseball clue. Very clever. Do not see also 1d [Diamond with many hits] NEIL.
- Even so, my favorite clue remains 19a [Boxers ring] ELASTIC; note the absence of an apostrophe either before or after the S in boxers. Runner-up: 108d [It includes many companies] ARMY.
- Least favorite fill: 28a [Jet sound?] SHORT E.
- 28d [Disgustingly dirty] SKANKY. Is this offensive/un-pc?
- 1a [Cartoon spy from Pottsylvania] NATASHA. Natasha Fatale.
- Toughest fill: 27a [Brood of pheasants] NIDE; 113a [City northwest of Arles] NIMES. In the latter instance, NIMES could be replaced by NITES and the crossing IN NAME changed to INNATE; on the other hand, NIMES isn’t so obscure.
- Double-barrel dupe: 77d [Venue for Pearl, Parton and Paisley] OPRY, 78d [Letters by 0] OPER. Both OPRY (‘opera’) and OPERator share a 40d [Ancestry] DESCENT from the same Latin root, opus. Or do we think they’re sufficiently divergent?
Good puzzle, I could go on for pages with my opinion but in truth it must be assessed on a per person basis; I can’t speak for for all solvers, per procurationem. Oh! And my replacement-of-the-replacement keyboard just arrived (first class, not parcel post) – let’s hope this one is fully functional.
Jacob Stulberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I have no idea what’s going on – BETCHACANT/EATJUSTONE is a “memorable snack food slogan” that probably was only used in the United States. Apparently something is hidden at the end of NATIONALARCHIVE, DUTYFREESHOP and DONTROCKMYBOAT. I should probably see what BETCHACANT/EATJUSTONE is a slogan for… Lay’s chips apparently. ARCHIVE/CHIVE/HIVE? SHOP/HOP/OP? CLOVE/LOVE? BOAT?OAT? I have no clue what this puzzle is on about!
The coolest thing dropped into this puzzle is LES/PAUL, a pioneering musician and inventor! SPYCAM is also modern. The Strangest clueing angle is O RATION (I’ve heard of C and K, but not O) when ORATION is a common enough word.
Don’t know enough about what’s going on in this puzzle to rate it.
P.S. peeked over the fence at crosswordcorner. Apparently the words are CHIVE/HOP/CLOVE/OAT, which in plural are foodstuffs. Too subtle for me, but the crossworld can do with more subtle themes! 4 Stars
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Swindled”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and I hope you all have a great weekend in store!
Our grid today, from Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, is criminal. No, it’s not bad at all, but I’m referencing the theme of the puzzle: each of the four theme answers add “con” to typical phrases and nouns to create puns.
- CONDUCT TAPE: (17A: [Behavioral video?]) – From duct tape.
- CONFRONT RUNNER (27A: [Challenge in the mind of a Pamplona bull?]) – From front runner.
- CONSOLE CUSTODY: (42A: [Charge of the remote?) - From sole custody.
- POWER TRIP: (56A: [Happy European?) - From tent pole.
TORMÉ was a very strong way to start the grid (1A: [The Velvet Fog]) and the crossing of MAD MONEY was a good entry as well (4D: [Emergency fund, in a way]). The ear worm that is sure to creep in after answering GERMAN BAND is going to be a welcome one or one you agonizingly can’t get out of your mind until you think of an ’80s tune you think is better (11D: ["99 Luftballons" group, say]).
The line going across of IGO (39A: ["Where did ___ wrong?"]), LORN (40A: [Bereft]) and WONTS (41A: [Customary practices]) was a little bit of an eyesore. But the crunchy long downs made up for it, including seeing ON PATROL (9D: [Making the rounds]). Weirdly, any time I see “on patrol” I think of the movie Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol. Yes, I’m a big fan of the Police Academy movies. You can judge me and my character on that fact alone!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CARGO (27D: [It's held in a hold]) – CARGO is the nickname of Colorado Rockies All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (derived from the first three letters of his first name and the first two letter of his last name). I wouldn’t mention this if he was an average player, and Gonzalez is definitely an above average player. In the past two seasons, Gonzalez has made the All-Star Game and has won a Gold Glove in right field (has three Gold Gloves altogether), and in 2010, he finished third in the National League’s Most Valuable Player voting. That season, he led the league in batting average (.336) and hits (197), and also had 34 home runs and 117 runs batted in.
Thank you for your time, and we’ll see you on the weekend!