Robert Harris’s New York Times crossword
Been a while since we’ve had a state-abbreviations theme that used the traditional abbrevs rather than the 2-letter postal ones, no? Here’s what we’ve got today, taking existing phrases and cluing them as if the first word’s really a state abbreviation:
- 16a. MISS. MANNERS are the [Proper way to behave in Biloxi?], Mississippi. Good one!
- 23a. ORE. ASSAY is clued as [Evaluation in Eugene?]. I gotta tell you, basing a theme entry on the phrase “ore assay” is snoozy.
- 32a. Musically, we’ve got a WASH. RAG.
- 45a. My home state is represented by ILL. WINDS, or [Chicago balloonists’ needs?]. Boy, we’re still digging out from the blizzard those ill winds blew in last week.
- 52a. MASS. TRANSIT actually exists. Mass. mass transit.
Well-played, except for the flatness of ORE ASSAY. Possible substitutes? Ark. of the Covenant is too long for a 15×15. Pa. Kettle would fit at 23a but might be lonely without Ma Kettle; better or worse than ORE ASSAY? The other state abbrevs don’t double as plain words.
Okay, who knew 13d without crossings? [First woman, in Greek myth], is PANDORA? If I knew that, I had quite forgotten it. The ancient Greeks get another 7-letter answer. 23d: ORPHEUS is [The father of songs, according to Pindar]. 5d: JUNO ditches Roman mythology and is clued as the [2007 Ellen Page title role].
I find myself with nothing to say about the rest of the puzzle, for whatever reason.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Sign Off”
This super-topical puzzle almost feels dated. Is the “ZOMG! There are 13 zodiac signs and all the dates have shifted!” excitement all a thing of the past, or does it have legs? In any event, it’s a clever theme:
- 16a. [Domestic car model which changes during April and May?] turns the Ford Taurus into FORD ARIES.
- 18a. [Film star who changes during July and August?] clues CANCER (né Leo) DiCAPRIO.
- 34a. [“The Simpsons” villain who changes during October and November?] is HANK LIBRA instead of Hank Scorpio.
- 54a. “The Age of Aquarius” takes a tumble. [With “The,” “Hair” song that changes during January and February?] clues AGE OF CAPRICORN.
- 58a. [New 13th zodiac sign that would cause all these changes (if astrologers took it seriously)] is OPHIUCHUS. Nobody wants to be an Ophiuchus because of the forbidding spelling and pronunciation. Worse than Sagittarius!
Five theme entries with significant stackage (along 8-letter runs of the top and bottom pairs of theme answers) is impressive. So too are the 10-pack of 7- and 8-letter answers intersecting the theme answers.
- 13a. [Not silicone] is not the usual way to clue REAL.
- 4d. SWEET TEA is a [Beverage option on Southern menus]. I’ll take mine unsweet, please.
- 9d. WIIITIS, the [Nintendo “diagnosis”], is hard to type. Too many I’s in a row. It just feels wrong.
- 36d. [Skeezy district type] isn’t looking for a skeezy type of person who frequents the District of Columbia—it’s about a RED-LIGHT district.
- 46d. DEFCON is an [Alert system in action movies]. Does the military still use it? Did they ever? How many of us know it from anywhere but action movies?
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
You don’t usually see a heinie theme in the daily paper’s crossword, but(t) here it is:
- 17a. [Side-to-side skid] is a FISHTAIL.
- 24a. [Have no place to go but up] is to HIT ROCK BOTTOM. (Ooh, firm. Have you been working out?)
- 50a. Took a while to piece together the [Bus driver’s request], hoping it would turn out to be something like STEP TO THE REAR. People! If you have boarded a bus at the front and more people want to get on, move your heinie to the back! All the people standing outside at the bus stop can see you and they can see how much space is behind you.
- 62a. An [Idler at the shore] is a BEACH BUM.
- 39a. And each of those phrases has a BUTT END—[Pistol handle, and what 17-, 24-, 50- and 62-Across each have].
PIRATE’S BOOTY and WILD ASIAN ASS (the onager) both have 12 letters and could have played a role in this theme, too. No complaints about this theme, though.
- 5a. [Big Apple line] is MAC computers, not an NYC subway line.
- 64a. [Nonsupporter’s political sign words] are VOTE NO. In contrast, 54d: [Supporter’s political sign word] is ELECT.
- 67a. [Monopod feature] is ONE LEG. Not crazy about that answer as a crossword entry.
- 7d. [What drives a baby buggy?] is COLIC. Actually, I think it drives the parents absolutely buggy but just makes the baby abjectly miserable.
- 9d. [Transplanted successfully] clues REROOTED. You all wanted REPOTTED, right? I know I did.
- 39d. [Spare tire site?] clues BELT LINE. “Beltl ine”? I know “waistline.” Is “belt line” the same thing? Don’t like this answer.
- 3d. [Newspapers’ staff lists] are the MASTHEADS. Love the word, don’t know its derivation. Wikipedia explains, “The term masthead is borrowed from the shipping industry, when a brass plate would be affixed to the main mast of a commercial sailing vessel. This plate contained the name of the owner or owners of a ship.”
- Ay, chihuahua! Uno, dos, tres. 47d: [Chihuahua, e.g.] is a TOY DOG. 6d: [Chum in Chihuahua] is an AMIGO. And 28d: [Chihuahua greeting] in Mexico is HOLA.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “You All Know Jack”—Evad’s review
Wow, for someone as celebrity-challenged as I am, this was one tough puzzle. In it, the name of five actors who have played someone named “Jack” in a TV series (I think they are all TV series, that’s how little I know about this) are featured:
- Apparently MATTHEW FOX played Dr. Jack Shepard on Lost. I see here that he lost to Bryan Cranston at the 2010 Emmy’s. Sorry, Matt!
- I do have to admit I do know Alec Baldwin from 30 Rock, but wouldn’t have been able to tell you his character’s name was Jack Donaghy.
- The show Without a Trace sounds like one of those CSI-wannabes, never have seen it. ANTHONY LAPAGLIA apparently plays Jack Malone on it, got the last name strictly from the crossing entries.
- I would also be able to pick out GEORGE SEGAL in a line-up and would even recognize him from the show Just Shoot Me, which seems like it’s been out of syndication for a while. But that his character’s name was Jack Gallo? I got nuttin’. More memorable was the caustic Wendie Malick who played Nina Van Horn on that same show.
- And here’s one where I finally know both the actor and character’s name, JOHN RITTER from Three’s Company in which he played Jack Tripper. Man, what that show seemed to get away with in its day; now, no one would even bat an eyelash compared to what’s shown on Skins or Jersey Shore.
So why these five Jacks in particular? What about the first one who came to mind to me, Jack McFarland from Will & Grace? This was pretty dense as theme entries go—five in a daily 15×15 is definitely on the upper end of what we typically see. That didn’t seem to compromise the fill, though there seemed to be a few too many short entries to hold things together. I enjoyed the crossing of BOZO and ZORBA, neither of whom have ever been called Jack to my knowledge. The clue [Show complaisance] for KOWTOW seemed a bit off to me, but that was when I was confusing complacent (self-satisfied) with the less common complaisant (eager to please). Do you pronounce those 2 words differently? I don’t think I do.