The NYT write-up will be on the late side tonight—joint summer birthday festivities with two of my oldest (as in “of longest duration) friends! And I have a cold and cough, so I will be wiped out when I get home and poke listlessly at the NYT puzzle. Which is by Caleb Madison! Caleb has just returned from a stint as a tour guide in Forks, Washington, where the Twilight saga is set (but was not filmed). His #teamedward photos and interview text document a rather unsettling sort of Americana. (The jar of jellybeans …)
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Celebrity Food Fight!”
This week, we get another of Merl’s fill-in-the-blank storytelling themes, with food/cooking-related phrases that take other meanings in different contexts:
- 23a. Host: “Welcome to ‘Celebrity Food Fight’! Tonight it’s reigning champ Bobby Flay vs. Alton Brown. Needless to say, they both have that HUNGRY LOOK …”
- 25a. Host: “… and more than just pride is at stake tonight, namely, a LOTTA DOUGH!”
- 32a. Host: “Whoa, Bobby just got bopped! Looks like his first entree is gonna be a CAULIFLOWER EAR!”
- 45a. Host: “And he takes another one in the BREAD BASKET!”
- 57a. Host: “And strike three … a KNUCKLE SANDWICH!”
- 66a. Host: “Is Bobby WHIPPED?”
- 69a. Host: “No, he’s just STEAMED!”
- 78a. Host: “Now Alton’s on the ropes! Bobby’s MAKING MINCEMEAT out of him! (Or should I say, hash browns?)”
- 85a. Host: “He’s getting hit with everything but the KITCHEN SINK!”
- 99a. Host: “It’s over! He’s FLAT AS A PANCAKE!”
- 110a. Host: “Champ, this seemed like a grudge match. Do I detect some … BITTERNESS?” Flay: “Well, yeah, he kept calling me ‘Flabby Boy’!”
- 112a. Host: “Well, that’s because it’s an anagram of your name. I guess it gives new meaning to the phrase ‘MIXING IT UP’!” Flay: “Wait … what?” Host: (Ding!) “And there’s the timer! Tune in tomorrow for another tasty edition of ‘Celebrity Food Fight.’ Chow, everyone!”]
The theme does its job, and the anagram kicker brings the wordplay goodies. I believe it was Deb Amlen (BEND MALE?) herself who tipped me off to the Flabby Boy anagram a few years ago. Merl the Glam Leerer, of course, is a wiz when it comes to anagramming people’s names on the fly.
Six more things:
- 58d. [Pillow fill], KAPOK. I’ve seen a kapok tree in Florida, and I think my dad was allergic to kapok as a kid (and had to be excused from using the mats in gym class). Is kapok filling used in anything in the US anymore?
- 29a. [Timothy B. Schmit band], EAGLES. Whoa. I know the Eagles’ oeuvre well but Timothy Schmit’s name is utterly unfamiliar. Don Henley, Glenn Frey—them, I know.
- 64a. [Pollyanna portrayer], MILLS. Um … Hayley Mills? Yes, from a 1960 Disney flick. Before my time.
- 119a. [Gore's "new" girl], MYRA. Gore Vidal, Myra Breckinridge. Written for a generation before mine.
- 34d. [Lazy], OTIOSE. This two-thirds-vowels words is far more popular in crosswords than in the rest of what we read.
- 39d. [A wife of Esau], ADAH. That name takes me straight to Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Leah and her twin sister Adah each narrate some chapters; Adah’s are filled with wordplay and palindromes and whatnot.
I didn’t relish that much of the non-theme fill. 3.8 stars from me.
Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword, “Sittin’ Solve”
Hey! This puzzle’s title echoes the Puzzlewright product line of Sit & Solve puzzle books (one of the newest in the family is Doug Peterson’s Lickety-Split Crosswords). If you’re familiar with the Sit & Solves, the “Sittin’ Solve” title reveals the theme: phrases with an “and” in the middle get converted into verbs endin’ with -in’. Spelling morphs as needed.
- 20a. [Spellin' things incorrectly?], WRITIN’ WRONG. That’s “right and wrong.”
- 29a. [Stealin' a hard drug?], JACKIN’ COKE. Jack Daniels and Coke meets the slangy verb “jack,” meaning “steal.”
- 32a. [Pushin' some bread back and forth?], ROCKIN’ ROLL.
- 66a. [Not allowin' anyone to cook burgers and franks?], BARRIN’ GRILL.
- 104a. [Recheckin' with a stopwatch?], TIMIN’ AGAIN.
- 106a. [Demonstratin' how to shoot an apple off someone's head?], SHOWIN’ TELL.
- 116a. [Usin' less stickum?], CUTTIN’ PASTE.
- 2d. [Givin' a female casino patron another card?], HITTIN’ MISS.
- 12d. [Makin' some big purchases?], BUYIN’ LARGE.
- 38d. [Hopin' favor is bestowed?], WILLIN’ GRACE.
- 73d. [Bitin' a friend of Robin Hood?], NIPPIN’ TUCK. Friar Tuck.
- 75d. [Carryin' a load of grain?], HAULIN’ OATS. This one’s my favorite, as a child of the ’70s-’80s Hall & Oates heyday. Yes, it is inconsistent in that it’s the only one where the second word’s spelling changes. But Hall & Oates!
The theme works pretty well for me, though I fought really hard to get 104a to somehow work as TIMIN’ A HALF.
Caleb includes a smattering of fresh fill: NOBU Matsuhisa, CIARA and KESHA, “AWAY WE GO,” NEWSSTAND with its four consecutive consonants, RAP VIDEO (clue spoiled by that recent New York magazine article), “IS THAT ALL?,” a Seinfeldian MAN-PURSE, EASY MONEY, SNAPCHAT, EMOJI, “I WANNA,” THE ROOKIE, and LEGAL PADS. That’s a lot of good stuff for a puzzle with a dozen theme entries. My HOMIE Caleb has some serious crossword chops—think how good he’s going to be when he’s an old man of 30 with well over a decade of experience publishing crosswords.
59d. [Engineering topic], ROBOTRY? Huh, didn’t know that was a word. Apparently it doesn’t get much use, because the first page of Google hits is mostly dictionary entries and word lists.
Time for bed! Over and out with a ratign of 4.33 stars.
Todd McClary’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 228″—Sam Donaldson’s review
I liked this 68/25 freestyle from Todd McClary very much. We’re treated to four lively triple-stacks in the corners (two 11s and two 10s) and good stuff all around. When you have lots of interesting terms in the fill like POLAR ICE CAP, SAVE ME A SEAT, and IN ONE SENSE, little things like ESE and ENE don’t seem nearly as troublesome.
School starts tomorrow, so let me get straight to the bullet points so I can figure out what to tell students in the morning.
Items of note:
- If you told me this puzzle had been custom-made for a tech convention, I’d believe you. We have ONLINE VIDEO ([Stream for surfers]), ADOBE READER ([Program for viewing PDFs]), CHARGE RATE ([Mobile electronics stat]), and ADDRESS BAR ([Browser feature]) all appearing in two of the triple-stacks.
- But there’s a political bent to the fill as well, with TERM LIMITS ([Office restrictions]) and SENIOR AIDE ([Source for many a political writer)] in the Downs, not to mention… well, I guess that’s it, really.
- Among the complete unknowns for me was MLL, short for Major League Lacrosse. Good thing the clue, [Semipro sports org. whose logo shows a player with a crosse], tips you off.
- Another word new to me was TRAGEDIENNE, which, according to my dictionary, means “an actress who specializes in tragic roles.” That makes [Female member of a moving company?] a great clue, though I kept wanting something along the lines of TROUPERETTE.
- I would have added ENDO to the list of common crosswordese in the first paragraph, but this one got a really unique clue: [Front wheelie, in biking slang]. Here too I had entirely no idea of the answer, but I prefer this clue to the common [Internal: Prefix] stuff.
- You know how certain common crossword answers always get clever clues to dress them up a little? You rarely see ATM clued simply as [Cash dispenser], for instance–it’s almost always clued more humorously. Recent examples from other venues include [Buck passer], [Source of kale], and [Bread box]. Same goes for ELOPE (recent examples include [Become one on the run], [Alter altar plans], and [Unite in flight]). I will argue that ACNE is another on the list of “must clue humorously” words. There’s [Trouble spots], [Unsatisfactory marks], [Dots over eyes]… and now [Breakout teen phenomenon?]. That’s a nice addition to the Pantheon of ACNE Clues (certainly not a blemish).
- Person, did I want HURRICANE or some equivalent as the answer to [Tropical twister?]. I even had the starting H in place from HIDEKI Matsui, the 2009 World Series MVP. But I loved the correct answer: HULA DANCER.
Favorite entry = SECRET KNOCK, the [Entrance requirement for some clubs]. Favorite clue = [Orange half?] for YELLOW, as orange is half red and half yellow.
Bruce Venzke’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Good morning everybody! Here’s hoping you wrap up your week, and weekend, in style today.
Today’s Sunday Challenge was a very smooth and fun solve, and we thank Mr. Bruce Venzke for the fine offering today. Somewhat of a slow start for me, until MACAU presented itself, and I started to build around that entry (6D: [Last European colony in Asia]). You never know whether the spelling for that will be with a “U” or and “O” at the end, but the clue for that crossing made that answer very clear, and LUCIANO was an obvious fill (24A: [Crime boss known as "Lucky"]). Really liked the clue to ON BOARD, as well as the appearance of that entry in the grid (25D: [Passenger's status]). Not only do we have ENGAGED in the grid on the left (3D: [Busy doing something]), we have FIANCÉE as its counterpart on the right (12D: [One who's spoken for]). For a little while, I read RE-ENTRY as REENTRY (pronounced it REEN-tree) and thought that answer made absolutely no sense (14D: [Space flight event]). Error of the day: had “syringe” initially instead of SEDATER (32A: [Morphine administrant, e.g.]). Again, a lovely solve and not as challenging as some other Sundays…and that’s totally fine by me! Although what’s not fine is that I’ve never been on an EGG HUNT in my life before (64A: [Easter activity for kids]). There’s way too many fun things I missed out on when I was a kid!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KOHL (58D: [Former Senator Herb of Wisconsin])- The former senator has had a profound impact in Wisconsin sports over the past quarter-century or so. Kohl purchased the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1985 and owned the team until this past April, when he sold the franchise for $550 million. He also donated $25 million to his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, towards the construction of a new sports arena, the Kohl Center, where the school’s men’s basketball team – among other teams at the school – plays its home games.
Thank you so much once again for the time, and I’ll see you on Monday!
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “A Bit Off” — pannonica’s write-up
It’s a quote puzzle! 26-across introduces it – [Start of a quote from physicist Marcelo Gleiser] – and it continues through 45-, 58-, 72-, 86-, and 106-across. SYMMETRY MAY HAVE ITS | APPEAL BUT IT IS | INHERENTLY STALE | SOME KIND OF | IMBALANCE IS BEHIND | EVERY TRANSFORMATION.
The perceptive solver will notice that these entries lack the usual same-length pairings, and in fact the entire grid abandons the 180° rotational symmetry typical of standard crosswords. It’s metacruciverbal and I like it. Transformational indeed!
The final part of the crossword for me was the section involving the theme segment of 72a; the crossings were obscure and I was having some trouble determining that first, four-letter word (which turned out to be SOME). The crossing entries are 46d [City near Orlando] EUSTIS, 56d [Resin used in varnish] ELEMI, and 73d [Italian pronoun] EGLI. Rough stuff.
In general the grid is lively (read: not STALE), with sparks such as the stacked BAR MITZVAH and BOMBAZINE, plus one-offs like MINIATURE, RASPUTIN, PANCREAS, GARBAGE CAN, and the possibly self-reflexive OUT OF ORDER.
Despite the freedom engendered by the dispensation of symmetry, there are still lows as well as highlights among the ballast fill. No need (nor time) for litanies, though.
So how did other solvers feel about the liberties taken in this puzzle? You (110a [Make up your mind] DECIDE. As for this correspondent, I conclude as the crossword does with 122a [Pos. preceder] NOL – that’s nolle prosequi.
C.C. Burnikel’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Treasure Hunt”
The theme here is silver, with a bunch of theme answers whose first words end with A and second words begin with G, Ag being the chemical symbol for silver.
- 22a. [*Source of mohair], ANGORA GOAT.
- 28a. [*Runner-up to Einstein as Time's Person of the Century in 1999], MAHATMA GANDHI.
- 44a. [*__ Tibbets, eponymous mother of a WWII pilot], ENOLA GAY.
- 47a. [*Super Nintendo rival], SEGA GENESIS.
- 67a. [*1965 Beach Boys hit], CALIFORNIA GIRLS.
- 91a. [*Black-necked honker], CANADA GOOSE.
- 94a. [*Hue akin to avocado], PEA GREEN.
- 110a. [*Gainesville team], FLORIDA GATORS.
- 118a. [Where to find the metal whose symbol spans the words in the answers to starred clues], SILVER MINE. Solid revealer.
This is one of those themes that gives you a boost with each theme answer once you know that the second word always starts with a G, but that doesn’t embody any humor or wordplay.
The Down answers include some sparkle, with PUGET SOUND, RODEO DRIVE, HIT THE GYM, and the RIO GRANDE populating the grid. The shorter fill had a lot of old chestnuts, like EDOM, BARA, ATRI, EDESSA, and ESPO.
There was a discussion in the comments the other day about clues having the same word as an entry in the same LAT puzzle. Today, we have 66a: KISSES ([They may be planted] is a cute clue) along with 82d. [Kiss, in Cádiz] cluing BESO. I know that Will Shortz doesn’t hew to any “rule” forbidding such overlap (and it would appear Rich Norris agrees with him), but I also know that a great many solvers hesitate when they hit a dupe like this, convinced that the answer can’t be KISSES because “kiss” was just in a clue. Solvers don’t like hiccups that interrupt their flow, and being stopped cold by a dupe is a definite interruption.
- 37a. [Highest U.S. capital], SANTA FE. Wait, why isn’t this Denver? Sure, Santa Fe’s elevation is 2,000 feet higher, but Denver has legalized marijuana.
- 107a. [Do a pitcher's job], PEDDLE. Sales pitch, not sports.
- 125a. [Bane in a bed], WEED. Flower bed, not sleeping bed.
- 5d. [It usually pops up], TOAST.
- 52d. [Chow chow], ALPO.
3.33 stars from me.