Dana Motley's New York Times crossword
It's been a couple years since the last Dana Motley puzzle. You know what her themelesses are notable for? Rather than going with grids with longish stacked answers, triple-stacked 15s, or corner blocks filled with 7s, she spreads her long fill all around. Rumor has it such a grid is easier to fill than the stack-heavy ones are. One good thing about them from a solving standpoint is that the longer answers serve as bridges between the puzzle's various zones, so you can extend some footholds if you get a few long entries early on.
That said, there are some insanely tough clues here. For example, 1D: [Port near Ogre]. Ogre, it turns out, is a Latvian town of 26,000 that is ridiculously new for a European city, dating back only to 1928. And "Ogre" doesn't shout "must be Latvian" to most of us. The answer is RIGA, but that's a roundabout way to approach it. Speaking of place names that start with O, OSHKOSH is the 39A: [Seat of Winnebago County], Wisconsin—but there are counties by that name in Illinois and Iowa, too. OHIO is clued by way of being 59A: [Title locale in a Leonard Bernstein song where "life was so cozy"]. I relied on the crossings for all three of these. The other geo answer, ANGOLA (48D: [Cabinda is an exclave of it]), is the only place name the clue helped me to get.
Highlights in the fill:
• 17A. [Big wheels, often] clues GAS GUZZLER. Crossword clues more often use "big wheel" to mean a boss, so I like the change.
• 26A. Okay, this clue didn't help me much at all. [Funshine, Grumpy or Love-a-lot] is a CARE BEAR. Good answer, goofball clue that I am the wrong age to know.
• 60A. ACROPHOBIA is the [Source of high anxiety?]. Fear of heights, of course.
• 3D. [She's identified with a cause] clues POSTER GIRL.
• 18D. ZYDECO is a [Grammy category starting in 2007]. I saw Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band in college.
• 22D. WELCHERS, another spelling of welshers, are [Debt disregarders, slangily]. My dictionary says the word's origin is unknown, so don't get your knickers in a twist defending the morality of the Welsh people.
• 24D. ABSINTHE is the [Potent stuff called "the green fairy"]. I knew ABSINTHE was green, but not that it had this nickname.
• 30D. BOOSTER BOX is an [Item-concealing shoplifting aid]. Never heard of this one.
Other favorite clues:
• 10A. [Top or bottom, in baseball] clues a HALF of an inning. Here's why the clue makes me laugh.
• 38D. [1/768 gallon] is a TEASPOON. Remind me to tell this one to my kid.
• 50D. [One may give facts about acts] clues EMCEE. I was thinking of acts that are passed by Congress rather than entertainment acts introduced by an EMCEE.
• 16A. [Stick out in a restaurant?] clues OLEO. Out where? On the table? I have never seen a stick of margarine on a restaurant table. Out in the restaurant kitchen? Boo to the clue.
• 21A. [American goldfinch] clues YELLOWBIRD or YELLOW BIRD. It is a small yellow bird. Wikipedia redirects yellowbird to the yellow warbler. Is this answer meant to be a specific bird name or just the description of a bird of a certain color? Because as a generic phrase, it's not good fill. It needs to be a specific term for something.
• 44A. [Opposite of me, in Munich] is SIE, which means "she," "they," or (when capitalized) the formal "you." I'd argue that "me" does not have an opposite, per se, and surely not an opposite with three distinct meanings. Ulrich or Zulema, back me up here.
• 53D. [Worrier's words] are "OH, ME"? Who says that? Anyone you know? "Oh, me, oh, my," sure. "Oh, my," of course. But not OH ME or AH ME, which keep showing up in crosswords. I have just consulted my husband about the utility of OH ME and AH ME and he said "no [bleep]ing way." It's fill like this that turns off newbies, isn't it? More so than OLEO? Maybe it's a tie.
Clues that may stymie:
• 6A. [Watch things, briefly] are LCDS. Meh.
• 29A. A spherical GLOBE of the earth is a [Meridian shower] in that it shows the location of the meridian and the equator.
• 47A. [Was an accountant?] clues NARRATED, as in "gave an accounting of a tale." Not wild about this clue.
• 56A. [NFL'er Olsen or Toler] clues GREG. Who? Husband tells me G. Olsen plays for the Bears.
• 67A. [They're applied to some backs] clues WAXES. As in the wax that's used to strip out body hair?
• 5D. [Sch. whose sports teams are the Violets] is NYU. Really? Did not know that. I like it. Violets are closely related to pansies. Pretty flowers.
• 7D. [Kale kin] is COLLARD, as in collard greens. Looks weird without "greens" appended to it.
• 27D. ["Dawson's Creek" role] is PACEY. Except that here, we need ANDIE. Who? Not one of the core four characters, ANDIE was played by Meredith Monroe, who played a 16-year-old when she was 30. Now, that's just silly. Andie MacDowell wants her clue back.
• 28D. [Chloe in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," e.g.] is an AUNT.
• 43D. [Dog for logs] is an ANDIRON. Not familiar with this use of "dog."
• 57D. EINE is a basic German word, one of the ways of saying "a." ["Nosferatu, ___ Symphonie des Grauens"] is missing its EINE.
Overall, I think this was harder than the usual Friday puzzle. And you?
Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is "add an R to words that end with GE":
• RADAR RANGER is a [Park official who tickets speeding bears?]. Radar range is not familiar to me, but the Amana Radarange is.
• [Smallest allowable bet?] might be the MINIMUM WAGER. Minimum wage is certainly familiar.
• [Steals a plumbing supply?] clues TAKES THE PLUNGER. I'd clue that as [Steals a plumber's helper?] or [Steals a bathroom tool?] or something—I think of "plumbing supply" as being pipes and valves.
• [San Fernando creator of fake van Goghs?] could be a VALLEY FORGER. Speaking Valleyspeak, no doubt. "Grody to the max!"
• [Burrowing creature cited for excellence?] is MERIT BADGER. Brendan Quigley just had MERIT BADGE in a recent cigarette-themed puzzle.
Weirdest long fill: [Stereotypical pratfall cause] clues BANANA SKIN. SKIN?!? Not BANANA PEEL? Who calls it a BANANA SKIN? Not me.
James Sajdak's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Produce Literature"
This week's CHE theme is works of literature with fruit in their titles. To accommodate two 15s and and two 16s, the grid's stretched a little taller. The books are THE CHERRY ORCHARD, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, THE GOLDEN APPLES, and THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
• LARRUP means [Thrash].
• RICE CHEX is an [Ingredient in a certain party mix]. Would someone remind me to buy Rice Chex?
• ALLAH is a [Word spoken when reciting the shahada]. What's that? It's this, the ritual declaration of belief in Islam. (See also SALAAMS, [Respectful greetings].
• [Audacity] and MOXIE are more or less synonymous.
• [One with a heart of stone?] is a DRUPE. Apt for a puzzle with this theme—DRUPEs are stone fruit, like peaches, plums, and cherries. (See also: PEAR, [Popular compote fruit].
• DOORMAT is an [Overly unassertive person]. Not to be confused with a doorman (which differs by one letter).
• [Trooper on the highway, e.g.] is an ISUZU, as in the Isuzu Trooper SUV.
• Indy [500 letters?] are STP.
Who is this? [Field of White?] clues STYLE, but I can't think of a relevant person in fashion/style named White.
Updated Friday morning:
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle,"Inland Seas"—Janie's review
In the world of cryptic puzzles, they're known as "hidden answers." These are the words that can be found by looking at the last letters of one word and joining them with the first letters of the next one. Today Martin's theme fill gives us two such examples and one in which the word in question (see title...) falls within another in its entirety. The beauty of this particular construction is that in each case, the "inland sea" occupies the seventh, eighth and ninth squares of the row it appears in. And there's a little bonus fill as well. The three places you'll find those hidden bodies of water are within:
• 17A. IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? [Moviegoer's question].
• 35A. PROPOSE A TOAST [Raise one's glass].
• 54A. JAPANESE ANEMONE [Showy garden plant of the buttercup family]. Attractive to members of the APHID [Garden pest] family, too, I fear. Today's IRISES are not clued botanically, but anatomically as [Pigmented eye parts]. Durn!
And bonus fill:
• 33D. SEA [Word in the center of all three long entries]. This one's intentional. Just in case the key element ELUDED [Gave the slip to] you... This one (I suspect), sitting right next to it, is not:
• 31D. SEAMS [Clothes lines?] Hmmm. Sure wish there'd been a way to avoid using this word...
Elsewhere, there's a healthy amount of longer fill, clued in a very straightforward way, so it's not too difficult to complete the grid—even with the likes of ROAST PIG [Luau food], MOUTHWASH [Listerine, for one] and ANACONDAS [Jungle crushers]. If they're on the loose, you might want to set out some SNARES [Game keepers?]. Ouch.
There's a little computer mini-theme going on in the Texas portion of the grid with EXE [Computer file suffix] adjacent to USER [Computer operator], which shares its "U" with
URL [Web browser entry].
But my fave combo today? No, not NESTLÉ [Crunch maker] or ORIOLE [Baltimore player], but TWO for [Tango requirement]. Sing out, Dean. Nowhere in this clip, however will you see a tango... Here you definitely will!
Elizabeth Gorski's Wall Street Journal crossword, "For Your Inner Child"
Wow, really? New York City has a PULASKI DAY PARADE? I had no idea. It's a government and school holiday here in Chicago, but I didn't know NYC celebrated Casimir Pulaski at all.
That and the other theme entries contain an "inner child," or KID. I'm not crazy about the theme answers, which don't feel all that natural to me. KHAKI DRESS? KABUKI DANCE, not drama? CHICKEN TERIYAKI DINNER, not steak and not lunch? What I like better is the long non-theme fill:
• 46A. SEX ORGANS are [Features of anatomically correct dolls]. People have 'em, too.
• 80A. WHACK JOBS are [Nutters].
• 92A. SAY PLEASE is a [Reminder from Mom]. I'm more circumspect than that. I say "Psst, did you tell her..." and then my KID says "please" or "thank you."
• 126A. [They may be dusted] clues CRIMES SCENES. Not, you'll note, my bookshelves and furniture.
• 4D. I like the SCULPTURE clue: [It might be a bust]. Indeed.
• 82D. Full name! JOHN DEREK [was married to Ursula Andress and Linda Evans]. Also, notably, to Bo Derek, but that would kinda give the answer away.
Most unusual fill: 30D: TUK, [Barbados musical style]. That one's new to me. I have seen FELLAH (54A: [Egyptian peasant]) before, but quite seldom.
Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "The Final Four"
The theme is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, right? SUDDEN DEATH, FEAST OR FAMINE, ENOS SLAUGHTER, and THE ART OF WAR? Apparently not: They're Conquest, War, Famine, and Death, no Slaughter. So it's just four things that can be "final" in terms of your life?
I didn't care for I'M BAD, the [Little devil's observation], right at 1-Across. Had no idea an IN-RUN was a [Ski-jump feature]. Thought the commonest phrase was PUB CRAWLS, not BAR CRAWLS—haven't seen the latter. Grumbled at the clue [Last year that was a palindrome, in Roman numerals] for MMII, Roman for the Arabic number 2002. Does the word palindrome really apply to numbers? And oh, crap, now we're expected to know the names of Mad Men characters even though a vast majority of Americans do not watch the show?
I had some crazy typing today, so GRITH (GIRTH!) put an R in a Roman numeral, and MICS (MISC!) put the S in OFF-SCREEN (OFF-CAMERA!). D'oh. It's one of those mornings.
• AL LEWIS, Grandpa Munster, is the gubernatorial candidate at 25D.
• [Shock preventer: Abbr.] clues EMT. Took a while to make sense out of this: paramedics try to prevent you from going into shock.
• [Epic ___] FAIL.
• [Puzzler Trip] PAYNE! Howdy, Trip of Triple Play Puzzles fame.
November 12, 2009