We’re less than 3 weeks out from the 7th Running of the Lollapuzzoola Solving Bulls! Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 9. If you can get yourself to Manhattan then, I encourage you to join the fun and I promise you excellent puzzles and good company. It’s freakishly entertaining, as crossword tournaments go. There is whimsy galore. You can cash in Google Tickets to buy answers, there may be Utz Cheese Balls lofted towards mouths, and last year the winners’ trophies were entirely random and inappropriate. Visit Be More Smarter to register and see which frightfully hot constructors are providing crosswords. I am planning to compete in the Downs Only division, not receiving the Across clues. This will make for an extra challenge, and I hope I don’t hate it; so far, I think the rest of the division consists of Joon Pahk and divisional founder Peter Gordon.
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Either I’m slower tonight or this puzzle is tougher than the usual Tuesday puzzle. The theme, certainly, feels more involved than we usually see this early in the week. Splendid theme: Compound words/phrases that mean one thing in A/B order and something else entirely in B/A order appear in criss-cross fashion, with cross-referenced clues going both ways.
- 6a. [With 8-Down, lime shade], LIGHT / 8d. [With 6-Across, approve], GREEN. Light green and green-light.
- 16a. [With 12-Down, not natural], MAN / 12d. [With 16-Across, mob inductee], MADE. Man-made, made man.
- 33a. [With 23-Down, deli product], HEAD / 23d. [With 33-Across, fan of the N.F.L.’s Packers], CHEESE. Headcheese (yecch), Cheesehead (yay).
- 38a. [With 38-Down, place to drop a coin], WISHING / 38d. [With 38-Across, desiring happiness for someone], WELL. Wishing well, well-wishing.
- 40a. [With 31-Down, jazz legend], ARM / 31d. [With 40-Across, coerce], STRONG. Louis Armstrong, strong-arm.
- 58a. [With 54-Down, waffle alternative], PAN / 54d. [With 58-Across, bakery container], CAKE. Pancake, cake pan.
- 59a. [With 57-Down, part of a morning routine], BREAK / 57d. [With 59-Across, basketball tactic], FAST. Breakfast, fast break.
Unfortunately, the theme entries did not reside in all sections of the grid, as ICY TIBIA and LLAMA MOWER are not in the dictionary.
The theme answers are in roughly symmetrical spots, but not exactly. I suspect that other candidate theme pairs exist and might have allowed exact pairing of theme pairs, but the fill is so good I’m not going to wish for the theme to have had more constraints on the fill. Not keen on abbrev EDT, partials USE TO and NEED I, crosswordese ISERE and STOA, and TEHEE (come on now, outside of crosswords, it’s usually “tee-hee”). Really, only the latter three irk me. And I appreciated the theme so much, I scarcely felt any irkdom. Fourteen criss-crossing theme answers occupying seven of the nine grid chunks, plus BEATEN DOWN and BANDLEADER/IN CROWD anchoring the other two chunks? And a quaint LASERDISC and DIRT BIKES down the center? Solid work.
4.33 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “From Milk”
This is the first classic Jonesin’ puzzle drawn from the archives—and hey, I blogged it already! In 2010. (What a time saver.) Here’s what I said about the puzzle 4 years ago:
Got milk? The theme entries have got GOT. Matt took words that begin with the letters GOT that can begin other phrases, and tacked that GOT right on:
- 16A. “Hambone” becomes GOTHAM BONE, a [Chew toy on Batman’s utility belt?].
- 32A. “Ta ta for now” turns into GOTTA T.A. FOR NOW, or [Prof’s admission that someone’s helping him temporarily]. My personal aesthetic reserves “gotta” for slangified “got to,” keeping “got a” as “got a” because there’s no real point to adding that extra T. Am I alone in this?
- 40A. Ha! H. Ross Perot is transformed beautifully into GOTH ROSS PEROT, a [Halloween costume that includes big ears, dark clothing and a bunch of charts]. Tongue piercing optional.
- 57A. [Visit Vancouver, say] clues GO TO CANADA, which is GOT + the national anthem, “O Canada.”
Favorite fill and clever clues:
- Am I the only one who never heard this joke before? 8D: [Answer to the riddle, “What’s brown and sounds like a bell?”], DUNG. Did Matt make this up, or is this a grade school riddle I missed out on?
- 10D. [Spoke indirectly] clues MINCED WORDS. Solidly in-the-language phrase.
- 12D. The [Voice box] is your LARYNX. I will never understand those who pronounce this “larnix.”
- 27D. Why couldn’t I see ITCHED for [Tended to a scratch] without a lot of crossings? Is the clue misleading or am I just off?
- 42D. PSY WARS is an interesting term. These are [Uses of mentally based propaganda, in CIA-speak].
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Do the Shuffle!”—Janie’s review
Once again, to add to the challenge of the solve, I opted to cover up the title. But that NW corner gave me challenge enough! 1) I entered IOTA for ATOM thinking that the bailed out insurance company was ING. Wrong. Okay, so then I erased both of those and 2) entered ERMA where IRMA eventually found her home. Yes, it was that kinda solve for me at times! The theme truly didn’t come to me until I reached the reveal—and then: “Aha!” The light came on and I was onto the game. Back I went to the NW to clean things up since that [Backyard flea market…or a hint to the puzzle theme at 17-, 25- 37- and 50-Across] is JUMBLE SALE. 1) This is a term that’s heard primarily in British English and 2) jumble (ditto that “shuffle” in the title) is cryptic-speak for anagrams. In this case, the word SALE. D’oh—of course! Whence:
- GINGER ALES [Fizzy tummy settlers]. Love the stuff. Don’t need an upset stomach to enjoy it!
- SELA WARD [She plays Jo on “CSI: NY]. Does this woman ever stop working? (And good for her, too!!)
- ELSA BENITEZ [Mexican-born “Sports Illustrated swimsuit model]. Omg. Does this woman ever stop working? (I’m thinkin’ there are a lotta guys out there praying it won’t be any time soon…)
- SEAL TEAM [Elite force that captured Osama Bin Laden]. Um, and gave him a burial at sea while they were at it…
This strong and lively theme set receives a fitting complement in the remaining fill and clues, too. For starters, we get some great long downs: OMNIVORE with its understated clue [He’s hardly a picky eater?] (and, though I question the question mark, how perfect that in case he [Pigged out] ATE A TON, those crossing ginger ales are so close at hand ); the geography-rich ZAMBIANS [Lusaka residents] pairing; and the alliterative PLAY LISTS and PLUM WINES. Sweet, so to speak. I’m also keen for “LOVE YA,” STARLIT [Bright at night] (with the reminder that the celestial URSA is a [Bear seen on a clear night]) and (the new-to-me) TRITONS [Large sea snails]. Something else that omnivore would certainly savor!
Some fave clues:
[Won the battle of the bulge] for LOST, i.e. dieted and lost weight; not this World War II event in which youthful American forces lost their greatest number of troops. This German counter-offensive took place six months after D-Day but, as it was fought on land and in the forests, did not involve the LST [D-Day carrier, briefly].
[Park Avenue tower?] for the zingy REPO MAN. So we’re not talking real estate here, but autos and the people who divest us of them/tow them away for non-payment. Wonder what the MSRP on that vehicle was… (Glad to remember from last week what the MSRP is, but woulda preferred not to have seen it two weeks in a row. And we get kinda alphabet-soupy what with RSTU, AEG, MTM, LEM, PSAS, SASE and LST in the grid as well.)
[Stand for a portrait?] for EASEL—so “stand” is a noun here and not a verb. In another sense of the word—of the stadium seating variety, and now in the plural, STANDS—it’s also the response to [Grand places?]. And we get some nice, back-to-back clecho (clue echo) with [“Grand” ice cream brand] for EDY’S.
[It cancels a takeout order] for STET. So, no, this is not the call you place to Domino’s to say “never mind,” but a reference to a proofreader’s or editor’s notation on a manuscript. Nice one. And a great way to freshen up crosswordese.
A nifty, lively little puzzle, this one—especially with all that internal glue I’m so fond of, tying together so much of the fill. It’s part of my job description to note what I think are a puzzle’s weaknesses. But I hope you’re also hearing that 99% of the time it’s the puzzle’s strengths that I can’t praise highly enough. And this one’s got ’em in spades!
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Zhouqin’s latest is a hidden word theme:
- 17a. [Faulty smoke detectors, e.g.], FALSE ALARMS. I would say that the faulty smoke detector gives a false alarm rather than is a false alarm.
- 24a. [Comedian Handler’s talk show], CHELSEA LATELY.
- 49a. [Higher than zero, on an altimeter], ABOVE SEA LEVEL.
- 60a. [Countries with strong economic ties, say], CLOSE ALLIES.
- 39a. [Elite Navy group that’s fittingly camouflaged in the four longest answers in this puzzle], SEALS. This is plural and the hidden words are singular, but each individual SEAL surely is skilled in the art of camouflage so it works.
The SEALs split SEA/L twice and SE/AL twice, well balanced.
The highlights in the fill are BILL COSBY, “OK, I’LL BITE,” and ORVILLE Redenbacher. Lowlights: IN B, ENL, plural SOYS, ROE DEER, and MEADE. Mostly the fill was of an ordinary caliber.
50d. [Number-calling game], BEANO. I don’t know why the newspaper crosswords are so shy about the anti-gas supplement Beano, which is far better known than an old name for bingo that apparently is now used only in Massachusetts.
3.75 stars from me.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “6 x (2 x 2)”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everybody! How is your Tuesday going?!
First off, many thanks to pannonica for covering for me yesterday as I was talking to many, many leaders of men…who play college football. Back from Greensboro, NC today, and now it’s time to talk about today’s crossword from a leading man in crossword-puzzle constructing, Mr. Randolph Ross. Is this double time grid, each of the six theme answers have the adverb (too), number (two) or preposition (to) appear twice in it, with the combination varying in each of those six entries. My brain would hurt just trying to come up with half of those answers and making sure the TOs/TWOs/TOOs combination doesn’t repeat.
- TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: (17A: [Wedding vow phrase]) – Anyone out there who is/was married and did not have to hear that phrase in your ceremony?
- TWO-TO-ONE: (22A: [Odds for a Kentucky Derby favorite, perhaps])
- TWO TOO MANY: (30A: [A couple more than the rules allow]) – While having some really good catered food down South in Greensboro, I definitely had two too many servings of New York Strip and barbecue ribs during dinner. It wasn’t all work I was engaged in the past few days.
- ARTOO DETOO: (39A: [Droid in all the “Star Wars” films]) – How can C-3PO be incorporated in a crossword puzzle? Anyone?
- TWO-BY-TWO: (46A: [Biblical boarding pattern])
- TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: (51A: [Like a snake oil salesman’s promise]) – Or what I would think if I ever won an Edward R. Murrow Award or a sports reporting Emmy.
So according to the time I posted, this was the fastest I’ve ever done a CS/WaPo puzzle, which means I should have a lot of good things to say!! Other than all of the six themes being fit into the grid (which is a feat in itself), I liked the somewhat sly cluing to CRYSTAL (41D: [Good glasses]). My parents were so afraid of having their good glasses broken that they eventually forgot where they placed some of them in our apartment. Now looking back at it, did they think their sons were wild animals that would run around the house and break things??? Well, in my case, maybe, because my attention definitely would draw to things that were SHINY and could be played with (44A: [Like a new penny]).
One of the highlights of my reporting career so far is when I was working as a radio broadcaster for a minor league baseball team, and the team and I had to board the CHARTER to bus it to away games in the Mid-to-South Atlantic part of the United States (4D: [Hire, as a bus]). As a minor league hoping to play in them majors one day, it wasn’t the most ideal way to travel, but for someone like myself, who loved the romanticism of barnstorming from city to city and getting to know players and coaches on a more intimate basis, it was absolute heaven. The only time I wasn’t a big fan of riding was then they used the sleeper buses, and all of the players would have the luxury to recline/sleep during the bus ride. I wasn’t a fan of those because the broadcasters never were afforded that opportunity (only the players, and some managers, got to use the actual beds/cots).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: JOHNNYS (37A: [Cash and Carson])– Here are a couple of sports Johnnys for you, one that you’re probably tired of hearing of/from because of his enormous popularity, and another because he gets lost when talking about the great pitchers in baseball.
In 2012, former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best football player in the highest level of college football, the Division One. Because of his improvisational skills on the field, turning near disastrous plays into highlight reel-making fantastic plays for his team, he earned the nickname “Johnny Football.” His legend grew, and with that, came all of the off-the-field baggage that could prove to be too much for a college-aged kid, including hamming it up with celebrities and being suspended the following season for getting paid to sign autographs while still in college. This past May, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the NFL Draft to be their next “savior.” Good luck with that.
In the mid-to-late 1940s, Johnny Sain was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, as he starred for the Boston Braves. After his rookie season in 1942, Sain entered military service as a naval aviator during World War II. Immediately after his service, Sain went on a great run in the Majors, winning 20 or more games in four of the next five seasons, starting in 1946. In 1948, he led the league in wins (24), complete games (28) and innings pitched (314.2), and finished second in the MVP voting behind the Cardinals’ Stan Musial. Sain, along with teammate (and future Hall of Famer) Warren Spahn, formed one of the most fearsome duos in baseball on the mound, and spawned the famous saying, “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.”
See you all on Wednesday!