Daniel Bryant’s New York Times crossword, “Oh, Say…”
America’s national anthem gets the spotlight:
- 24a. [Lawyer who wrote 65-Across], FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.
- 30a. [Year 24-Across wrote 65-Across], EIGHTEEN-FOURTEEN. Who doesn’t love a four-digit number spelled out? *raising hand*
- 40a. [What the music to 65-Across was, originally], BRITISH PUB SONG. Did not know that.
- 65a. [This puzzle's theme, whose first notes are indicated by shaded squares], THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER. The shaded/circled letters spell out SOL, MI, MI, SOL, DO and they’re at appropriate heights for their relative notes.
- 88a. [Performer who gave a memorable rendition of 65-Across in 1991], WHITNEY HOUSTON.
- 99a. [Mission that 24-Across was on when he wrote 65-Across], PRISONER EXCHANGE. Had no idea.
- 113a. [Where 24-Across was inspired to write 65-Across], BALTIMORE HARBOR.
- 8d. [Locale for this puzzle's shaded squares], STAFF.
Holiday-related trivia quiz? No wordplay or humor angles, just straight-up factoids.
Favorite word in this puzzle: 12a. [General servant], FACTOTUM. Doug Peterson is the Crosswords LA Factotum this year; I serve as the tournament’s Puzzle Wrangler. Other good fill includes BROWN BELT in karate and the IVY LEAGUE.
Lots of other fill I’d place in the crosswordese category: plural AD INS, ISERE, who-uses-that-word HEMIC, ERST, E’EN, ELIA, AIT, REO, TITI, plural OTTS, NISAN…
Three stars from me.
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 222″—Sam Donaldson’s review
Sometimes you just get on a roll. When I read the clue for 1-Across in this week’s Post Puzzler, a 70/30 freestyle from one of the Themeless Titans, Frank Longo, I couldn’t plunk down the answer quickly enough. Spend as much time with cartoons from the 1960s and 70s as I have and you would too. [Reed who voiced Fred Flintstone] was a gimme for ALAN. With the first letters for the first four Downs already in place, the northwest corner offered no resistance. Alas, I couldn’t type (correctly) as quickly as I could solve.
I momentarily wondered whether I could break my Post Puzzler personal best on this one. Usually that’s a sure sign that vexation is about to pounce. But as I steadily made progress through the Oregon and Northern California section of the puzzle, then on to New England and the mid-Atlantic, my confidence grew. The South proved a little elusive (what an apt metaphor!). I forgot IAGO was the [Parrot in "Aladdin"], and I held on to SMILE as the [Indication of self-satisfaction] even though I wasn’t entirely self-satisfied with the answer. (Sho’ ’nuff, it was SMIRK.) I’ve heard of a film called “Donnie DARKO,” but I’ve never watched it, so the [2001 title role for Gyllenhaal] was a total nonstarter for me. (Was he Brokeback or Mountain?) But I got lucky with guessing DOOR PRIZE as the [Incentive to attend a function] and that helped me smooth out the corner in decent time.
What proved hardest was that open swath in the middle. I got MUSTARD, the [Frank request], and FALSE START, the [Reason to go back to the block], easily enough thanks to having a couple of starting letters. But for whatever reason I couldn’t figure out why the answer to [Printer options] would start with BUBBLE (ahem, that’s because it’s BUBBLE JETS, Sam). And the answers to [Barbituate, e.g.] (ESTER) and [Did a certain duple-meter dance] (TWO-STEPPED) just wouldn’t come out of hiding. The biggest mystery for me was WEST JORDAN, the [Salt Lake City suburb]. And yes, I tried EAST JORDAN first. So all in all I ended up with a good but not great solving time. Given my solving times on most of Frank’s puzzles, however, I’ll happily take it.
Items of note:
- Anyone else tempted to write the [1994 National League Manager of the Year]‘s first name as FELIX? Turned out to be FELIPE ALOU. Holy Moises, I should have known that one off the bat. (Sometimes double puns write themselves.)
- Didn’t know a HORNET was a [Vespiary resident]. For some reason I was confusing “vespiary” with “vesper,” so first I wanted a religious answer. Then I got to thinking about Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale and all bets were off.
- Hiss at me if you will, but I think [King of the jungle?] is a fun clue for COBRA. I also liked [Corn inspector] for a PODIATRIST.
- GOATEES may be [Rough patches for men], but they’re much rougher on the men and women who have to kiss them.
- Edward James OLMOS was the ["Stand and Deliver" Oscar nominee] who should have won. So say we all.
- I bet if I did better on the SAT I would have known that PASTY was a good antonym for “rubicund.” I kept thinking “rubicund” meant something along the lines of Rubenesque, but maybe that’s because PASTY was crossing AMPLE, which was clued as [Plump].
Favorite entry = F-BOMB, the [Bad thing to drop when reporting live]. For the record, it is also frowned upon in taped segments. Honorable mentions for favorite entries include SMELL TEST, NO MERCY, and SUITS ME. Guess I’m a sucker for two-word answers. Favorite clue = [Firm cheeses] for BOSSES. I fell for this trap, and I doubt I was the only one. EDAMS doesn’t fit!!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “Antonymous Antics” — pannonica’s write-up
Words or phrases in which components have been replaced with their opposites to generate new, wacky versions. The additional twist is that the antonym is taken not from the actual word but from a homonym—or at least a polyseme—thereof.
- 23a. [Not toss and turn?] SLEEP LIKE A BOTTOM (top, but not the toy). This particular version of the metaphoric phrase was utterly unfamiliar to me.
- 115a. [Economics 101 topic?] EVILS AND SERVICES (goods, but not merchandise).
- 4d. [Long-running daytime entry?] THE PRICE IS LEFT (right, but not correct).
- 34d. ["Little Boy" dropper] ENOLA STRAIGHT (Gay, but strictly in the happy sense). Though the name’s etymology lies in that happy sense, it may also be a short form of Gaynell, Gaynor, Gaylen, Gaylord, or even Gaetano and Gabriel.
- 36d. [Winter spread] UP COMFORTER (down, but comprised of fluffy feathers).
- 46d. [Romantic atmosphere enhancer] CANDLEHEAVY (light, but not the luminescent sort).
- 56d. [Pie fruits?] GIRLSENBERRIES (boys, but having nothing to do with Rudolph Boysen, the berry’s namesake). Carving out, cleaving, a partial thingy there. (See also 81d [Break, as ice] CALVE.
Interesting theme, and that twist gives it extra oomph. I’m fine with the slight syntactical variations.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of fill that noticeably winged my brain in an unfriendly way. A sampling: [In truth, old-style] CERTES; writer EDA LeShan; Actress Taina ELG; ALS Hirsch and Jaffee “R IS for Ricochet”; NO U Turn; unannounced VARs for AUNTY and EMEER; Italian ESSI; OR TO; IWO Jima; M’LISS; abbrevs. ENL, SYR, etc. (75a, 120d, 39d, 64d, 86a, 35a, 49d, 37a, 74a, 57a, 79a, 126a, 7d, 2d, 121d, usw)
LAST TANGO, smack dab in the middle at 70-across, [Brando's 1972 dance], due both to its location and content, seems as if it wants to play Theme with those other answers, but it just isn’t the case. HIVES, at 73a, has nothing to do with bees or wasps (see today’s WaPo) and is instead clued as [Urticaria], which is the medical term for that unpleasant affliction.
On that note, it’s time for me to break out of here.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Near-Miss Film Classics”
Famous movie titles get a word swapped out for a similar one:
- 24a. Near-miss E.M. Forster classic?], HOWARDS REAR instead of Howards End. (“Rear” appears again in 63d. ["___ the rear"], STEP TO.)
- 26a. Near-miss Dr. Seuss classic?], HORTON HEARS A WHAT instead of a Who.
- 39a. Near-miss Tim Burton classic?], EDWARD STAPLERHANDS, Scissorhands.
- 52a. Near-miss Bill Murray classic?], GROUND PORK DAY, Groundhog.
- 56a. Near-miss Sir Walter Scott classic?], IVANRAKE, Ivanhoe.
- 70a. Near-miss Charlton Heston classic?], STEVE-HUR, Ben-Hur.
- 73a. Near-miss Frank Capra classic?], MEET JOHN DEERE, John Doe.
- 84a. Near-miss Stanley Kubrick classic?], FULL METAL SPORTCOAT, Jacket.
- 102a, 106a. [With 106 Across, near-miss southern classic?], AN AIRPORT SHUTTLE / NAMED DESIRE, although streetcars and airport shuttles don’t feel like very close swaps to me.
I didn’t know there was an Ivanhoe movie (1952, Elizabeth Taylor), and I definitely wouldn’t class Horton Hears a Who as a “film classic.” Liked the STAPLERHANDS entry the best.
Five more things:
- 40d. [Abbr. after Lamar Alexander's name], R-TENN. I wasn’t sure that “(R-Tenn.)” was out there as much as “(R-TN),” but both Google up fine.
- 11d. [Get started on laundry day], DO A WASH. In the language, but an unusual entry. Thought the sorting was the start, but if you’re doing more than one load, one wash is indeed a start.
- 2d. [The Rolling Stones' first greatest hits album, "___ and Green Grass"], HIGH TIDE. Never heard of it, and didn’t read the full clue so with the first H in place, I filled in HOT ROCKS.
- 31a. [Indiana hates them], ASPS. That’s Indiana Jones, and the fear of snakes.
- 75d. [Earthquake type], ROLLER. Merl used to live in California so I’ll take his word for it. Doesn’t ring a bell to me.
And by the way, I don’t want to see 46a. [Brain scan, briefly] as a clue for EEG. Scans are radiographic images, like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, whereas an EEG is a tracing of brain waves. Constructors! Editors! Stop putting the word “scan” in your EEG clues.
Frank Virzi’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “ET Trading”
The theme answers are made by changing an E at the end of a word into a T, forming a new word and changing the phrase’s meaning. While the “ET Trading” title describes what goes on, it strikes me as weird that “ET trading” doesn’t actually mean anything by itself.
- 23a. [Pair of pooches' synchronized dash?], DOUBLE DOG DART. A tad awkward, as nobody talks about a running event as a “dart.” You can make a dart, yes, but the usage in the puzzle feels clunky to me.
- 34a. [Boss' personal brewing ingredient?], ALPHA MALT.
- 50a. [Blast off?], START INTO SPACE. Five of the seven theme answers change the phrase’s final letter, and this is one of two that change the end of the first word. Would prefer a 3/4 split to a 2/5 split.
- 66a. ["We're boarding the elevator now, chaps!"], GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFT. Cute riff on a Beatles lyric.
- 87a. [Natural source of a Massachusetts dairy product?], BOSTON CREAM PIT. I like a play on Boston cream pie, but a “cream pit” sounds repulsive.
- 99a. [Result of washing political dirty laundry?], PARTY LINT.
- 118a. [Course that covers crop circles?], PLANT GEOMETRY.
Felt like there were a lot of partials and other awkward fill while I was solving. You’ve got your crosswordese SNEE, INRI, SEGO; your plural suffix -ITES; your [Russian infant emperor, 1740-'41] IVAN VI; an outdated [Big name in gas] clue for AMOCO; an unfamiliar abbrev LECT.; partials I HADA A, I LOVE, AS NO, A PAT; an L-BAR and a T-NUT; prefixes ODO- and TELE-. I did like DIET PEPSI, NINTENDO, and CANTONESE, but much of the other longish fill was unexciting (NATTERER?).
3.25 stars from me.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge”
Quick post from Amy, as Ade is swamped—he’s volunteering at the 4th and 1 football training/SAT prep camp. (A worthy cause.)
This 70-worder has some nice stuff in it—I like XENOPHOBIA and EASY TARGET the most. The desert wind called SIROCCO is a neat word, as is SKOSH.
There’s also a lot of the sort of short fill you expect to see crossing triple- or quad-stacked 15s, but the long answers here are 10s and not 15s. INKA, B TEN, -ITE at the top? SRTA, SSS, SSI, PRES, and MSGR abbrevs? UTICA, EASTON, and ULM place names? Meh.
2.9 stars from me.