Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
The theme is MIDDLE / SCHOOL, and the four longest Across answers have the names of universities hidden within them:
- 18a. [Golf groundskeepers’ tools] are SAND RAKES, with DRAKE University of Iowa lurking inside.
- 22a. MILE HIGH STADIUM, the Denver [Broncos’ home, once], has Pennsylvania’s LEHIGH University.
- 47a. This theme answer isn’t remotely “in the language” for me because I do not speak hockey. The CENTER ICE CIRCLE is a [Place for an N.H.L. logo], and RICE University of Texas is inside it.
- 53a. “STAY ALERT!” means [“Keep your eyes open!”]. Connecticut’s YALE University sits here.
Lots of cross-referencing in the theme clues, which can befuddle the mind. It’s Thursday, so a certain degree of befuddlement is expected, but not too much.
A few other clues:
- 51a. [Roseau is its capital] clues the Caribbean nation of DOMINICA. Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.
- 49d. CIRCE is the [Sorceress on the island of Aeaea], which I can’t pronounce.
- The ugliest crossing prize goes to OLAND-meets-ALULA. Warner OLAND is your Charlie [Chan portrayer in film] and no, he wasn’t Asian. [“Be-Bop-___”] clues A-LULA and I swear I’ve never heard the song (I know it only from crosswords). Am I missing much?
- 21d. CINQ, or “five,” is [Quitting time in Quebec, maybe].
- 11d. YUKS IT UP is the answer to [Has some laughs]. Just “some”? Sounds like a lot.
- 55a. BOONE is the [Battle of Blue Licks fighter, 1782]. That’s too early for Dan’l Boone, isn’t it?
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords puzzle, “Themeless 24”
Holy mackerel, that’s a lot of stuff I don’t know smushed into a single grid. Baseball owner of yore, O’MALLEY, and baseball player RON Hassey? Don’t care about them, never heard of them. EXPO ZARAGOZA, a.k.a. Expo 2008? Gimme a break. ORE is a Settlers of Catan card? Yeah, whatever, I’ve never played the game. Never heard of EMO-journalism or the Julie Christie movie PETULIA. Didn’t know AMEX publishes Food & Wine. The ABCOULOMB is a unit of measure I’ve never heard of; there aren’t many words that begin with ABC. Aerosmith’s drummer is Joey KRAMER? Didn’t know HOKE (back-formation from hokum) was a word.
So getting the grid filled in (despite the puzzle having burned down much of my wheelhouse) was no mean feat.
- 8a. Hey! I’ve been to both Christiansted and Frederiksted in ST. CROIX. Paul Krugman lives part-time in Frederiksted, you know. A cognate crosses this answer—Penelope CRUZ’s last name and CROIX both mean “cross.”
- 55a. New(ish) Crayola color JAZZBERRY JAM is a cool answer, though of course nearly all the colors introduced in recent years are wholly illegitimate and I do not accept them as rightful inhabitants of the box of 64.
- 8d. Dining/etymology trivia! SPAGO is the [Famed restaurant whose name is Italian for “string”].
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “K Study”—Janie’s review
Today’s puzzle is a great example of the really fresh results that can be obtained with even a very familiar kind of gimmick. The gimmick? Substitution. In each of the four two-word theme phrases, Patrick changes the final “L” of the second word (a four-letter one in each case) to a “K.” But here’s the beauty part. Further tightening up the theme set, each of those words ordinarily ends with a “double L.” Here’s how he does it:
- 17A. Wailing Wall → WAILING WALK [Stroll through a bunch of banshees?]. (Or maybe even a particularly emotional group of tourists at the Wailing Wall…) We get a strong visual and aural image here that engages me from the get-go.
- 11D. Window sill → WINDOW SILK [Spider web in a wall opening?]. ‘Nother strong visual here.
- 28D. Pepper mill → PEPPER MILK [Spicy dairy product?]. Oh, I see—so this must be where jalapeño pepper cheese comes from….. (I’d like to see how contented the demand to produce pepper milk would keep ELSIE, that punnily clued [Beast of Borden].)
- 62A. Sitting Bull → SITTING BULK [Junk mail in a pile?]. Groan. (That’s a good thing.) Here, for the record, is Sitting Bull sitting. And here’s Sitting Bull standing… (In neither does he appear to be carrying much in the way of excess bulk…) Also, Sitting Bull is someone who had a [Home on the range?], i.e., a TEPEE.
Okay, so each of the theme phrases ends in “K.” Do four Ks make a “K Study” (or even a “case study” for that matter)? Oho, our constructor is ahead of us and has woven five more ’em into the fill. That’s a lotta Ks for one 15×15 and no small accomplishment. We find ’em (and their crossing fill) in KODAK [Polaroid competitor], ICKY [Gross], KNEES [Cap site] and SKOSH [Smidgen]. (Went looking for the Dockers “just a skosh” ad, drew a blank, but did come up with the John Pizzarelli Trio playing a song by the same name. Nice.)
Patrick also gives us a foody mini-theme starting with ATE IN [Used one’s dinner table, say]. And what did one dine on? Coulda been a spicy BURRITO [It may be full of beans]; coulda been some spicy ETOUFFÉE [Crawfish dish]. Or if one has been overdoing of late, perhaps one FASTED [Abstained from eating]. My first fill there was DIETED, but then the F and the A emerged. I erased the E, which left me with FA_TED. Right next to that bean-filled burrito. Referencing the clue helped put me back on track…
We get the word “boxer” in two different clues, once as [Boxer Ali] for LAILA and, in a lovely piece of misdirection, once as [Boxer’s warning] for “GR-R-R.” Caveat canem! And we have two references to time, with WKS for [Calendar units (abbr.)] and CEN [Fivescore yrs.]. 5200 wks. in a cen.
Besides the fine fill already mentioned, BESIDES [In addition] has a beautiful complement of 7-letter fill in ALLEGRO [Quickly, in music], TITANIA [“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” queen], MEMOIRS [Autobiographies] and MIRAGES [Delusions in the desert]. At six, DAIBLO [Maleficent’s pet raven in “Sleeping Beauty”] and LILACS [Purple bloomers] ain’t too shabby neither.
So, all in all—clues and fill—what’s my take on this puzzle? “SUPERB!” [“Outstanding!”]
Updated Thursday afternoon:
Whoa! The day disappeared on me. I went out for breakfast but then on the spur of the moment opted to swing by the car dealership to order my dream car, and then it turned out they’d just gotten my dream car on the lot and wow, does it take a long time to actually buy a car. Next thing I knew, it was closing in on 4 p.m. and this poor blog has been sitting here all day, patiently waiting.
Doug Peterson and John Doppler Schiff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Lots of fresh fill—”WHO, ME?” Yes, you. You with the X’S AND O’S and the X-RAYS, the bodybuilder’s RAW EGGS, ZONK OUT and its opposite concept WIDE AWAKE. Fun clues, too. Well done, Doug and New Guy Who Co-Authored This Puzzle!
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Check Marks”
The theme is, I think, fully contained in the circled squares. Those spell out the last names of four people named Mark, and the circled squares are laid out to make big check marks. Writer TWAIN, actor HAMILL, painter ROTHKO, and Dallas Mavericks owner CUBAN. I was looking for SPITZ down where CUBAN is, but the 3-letter wine bar order had to be ZIN or CAB, and ZIN not only didn’t fit, it didn’t make for a famous Mark Z*N**.
Favorite clue: [Chip ingredient] is the inedible SILICON. Favorite answer: MR. TOAD. Yes, he’s a literary character, but that neon nightmare of a slow Disney ride, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, gives him added pop-culture resonance. I also like SEE ALSO, which I like to use even though I am not a dictionary.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Trying New Things: Part One”
I test-solved the two-puzzle series that this crossword starts, but I figured out what was going on with the theme while working on Part One. Your biggest hint is at 1a: [*Noted Seuss protagonist with an upcoming birthday, and a hint to a two-part puzzle that begins this week (1)]. What Dr. Seuss character is named SAM? Well, there’s Sam I Am of Green Eggs and Ham fame.
There are a zillion starred clues that are single words or phrases consisting of ordinary words, and the clue includes the word count in parentheses. Why these particular words? Did you crack the secret? If you have no idea what’s going on in this puzzle, wait until next week’s puzzle and it will all make sense.