All righty, folks, this is the New York Times crossword that will be on The Simpsons Sunday night, when Lisa goes to a crossword tournament; Merl Reagle and Will Shortz are celebrity guest voices, right up there with the likes of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. There is Homer's [Exclamation from a blockhead], D'OH, at 35-Across. And BART is clued as the public transit system, [Driving alternative in S.F.]. (For an actual Simpsons-themed puzzle, do Merl's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword.) The hidden message in the puzzle may be a spoiler for a plot point in the show, though it's more or less revealed in the synopsis for the episode (click and drag to see the white text: DUMB DAD SORRY FOR HIS BET runs along the diagonal.
Because of the tie-in message, there were certain constraints on the construction—hence, more black squares, short entries, and clunky answers than are typical for a Sunday NYT. The theme entries are all puns on famous people's names, as hinted at by the title, "Sounds Like Somebody I Know":
It's impressive that the first and last pairs of theme entries are stacked together—Merl does like to show off by stacking theme entries.
If ["Rats!"] clues OH, HELL, then INA shouldn't also be clued [Hell ___ handbasket]. One hell per crossword, dammit! That is The Hell Rule of Crosswords.
Tough, tricky, twisty, unusual, or obscure things:
Merl Reagle's non-tie-in crossword this weekend is "Simply Simpsons" in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It doesn't tie in with tonight's episode, no, but the seven theme entries contain the names of members of the Simpson/Bouvier clan. LISA, BART, and Grandpa ABE occupy the upper left and lower right corners and the very center of the grid, while their relatives are here:
It was fun playing hide-and-seek with the Simpsons. It's not all cartoon fun here, though. There are some less familiar things here too. LEHI is the [Site of a Samson slaughter] and not grape soda pop brewed at Lehigh University. MAN-ELF is clued [Will Ferrell played one in a Christmas film]—easy enough if you've seen Elf, perhaps difficult if you haven't. [Dodsworth's wife] is FRAN, and I have no idea who they are. Merl's from the Tampa Bay Rays' area, so he knows that [Carlos of baseball] is PENA, but I have no idea who the player is; my favorite Peña is actress Elizabeth. [Veteran character actor Vito] is SCOTTI. Who? [Donny ___] crosses the ampersanded answer, so its answer is "& MARIE." [Trailing ___ (type of shrub)] is ARBUTUS.
At first glance, Bob Klahn's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" had nowhere I could get a toehold. I read clue after clue and drew blank after blank. Eventually I found a couple 4-letter answers that were gettable, and that got things rolling. There were some answers that resonated with other ones—LANDS ON ([Reaches, in Monopoly]) and PASS GO ([One way to earn $200]) are both from Monopoly. And the northeast corner had tons of music—LA BOHEME was the [First opera in which Pavarotti appeared]. Singer [Linda Ronstadt or Lynda Carter], the actress, is an ARIZONAN. [King Oliver group] is a JAZZ BAND. BIZET is the ["Toreador Song" composer], and OZZY Osbourne is a [Black Sabbath name]. (Elsewhere, more music: a BASS voice is the [Person responsible for the bottom line].) STADIA are [Sports spots] and an ARENA is an [Engagement ring?].
Jack McInturff's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword is called "Double-barreled," and those barrels are filled with water. Each of nine theme entries is a two-word or two-part term in which WATER (100-Down) can precede each word. Here are several of them"
Among the tougher clues were these:
Liz Gorski's Boston Globe Sunday crossword rerun in Across Lite, "Extra Credit," adds an extra CR, or credit, to nine phrases to transform them into something completely different. Add-a-letter (or two letters) themes can be rather arid, but in capable hands they're entertaining—and Liz Gorski is nothing if not a capable constructor. My favorite theme answers:
Favorite fill and clues: The BOSS MAN is a [Guy leading a gang]. NO-FAT MAYO is a [Low-cal spread]. I like the southwest corner, where theme entry CRU-HAUL sits atop PICASSO and "SAY WHEN." [Player's club?] is a TWO-IRON and [Play girl?] is an ACTRESS. It's time to update SHEA clues, isn't it? It's clued as a [Queens stadium]. It's being dismantled and the big sign now calls it a TADIUM.
November 15, 2008