Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
You see those ungainly letters in the blank grid, the big J and the oversized lowercase r? Those provide the missing “Jr.” from each theme entry’s name: KEN GRIFFEY, HARRY CONNICK, ROBERT DOWNEY, and SAMMY DAVIS. The black-square J and r are accompanied by weird dashes above the J and below the r, without which the grid would have required the skills of a Patrick Berry to fill cleanly.
Cute theme idea, and presumably not a tough one to pick up on given the level of famousness the quartet of theme guys possess.
I like the two corners with stacked 9s and the central zone that squeezes 6s and a 7 in between HARRY and ROBERT. On the down side, that middle section does contain NO ACT, I’M MAD, and a lengthy prefix (DODECA-).
26d is WILMA, the [TV mother of Pebbles] on The Flintstones. Wilma! I just saw a cute Fred-and-Wilma clip on Facebook today, courtesy of puzzler Eric LeVasseur. The cartoon clip doubles as a great anniversary card.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 40”
Okay, I’m dragging my heels on blogging this puzzle because I really just didn’t find it fun to solve. There’s some great stuff in it, sure, but the overriding vibe was “needlessly obscure trivia you might find in a Newsday ‘Saturday Stumper.'” Like [Dickenliz was one]—maybe if I’d devoured Elizabeth Taylor obituaries or been old enough to care about the Taylor/Burton marriages at the time, I would have appreciated this clue for “IT” COUPLE. But not only have I never seen that portmanteau name before, but that answer crossed two weird things. FIST is [Rock icon?] why? And how on earth should anyone other than a baseball nut be expected to know the first name of a former manager of the Seattle Mariners? Given that DAN and DEN are plausible substitutes for DON, I wasn’t sure it was something-COUPLE. (Also! There are probably dozens of Dons who are more famous than Mr. Wakamatsu, plus it’s a verb and a common noun.) And why is TSO clued that way? Okay, Peter’s answers PDF says FIST is because of “rock, paper, scissors” and that Chinese restaurants serve “Romeo and Juliet.” Say what? No, they don’t! I’ve never seen that. If you’re gonna put TSO in your puzzle, forget about being Mr. Super Original with the clue; that’s just obnoxious. And enough with the baseball! If there’s a third year of Fireball crosswords and the puzzles will have just as much baseball content, you know what? I would be less inclined to renew. The real baseball season is only a few weeks old, but in Fireball Land, it’s always baseball season, unremittingly. Peter, don’t lose sight of the fact that your audience isn’t just baseball fans. Please.
And SISTERS clued as a 1973 De Palma movie I’ve never heard of? Feh, I say. Feh! If nobody else has ever clued SISTERS that way, there is a reason. BERZERKISTAN is funny but you know what? Never heard of it. Must’ve missed that year(s) in Doonesbury.
All right, moving on to the things I did like: the FOOD BABY, the never-heard-it-but-like-it-anyway FAUXMOSEXUAL, the LATE NEWS, POST-ITS, Steve BUSCEMI, STAR TREK II, and a TOYS “R” US KID. All of that entertained me (though the obscure trivia clue for STAR TREK II again alienated me).
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
I found this puzzle terribly difficult – like New York York Times Thursday difficult. Is it just me, or are we getting harder LAT puzzles these days? Maybe it’s just Julian’s puzzles. [Instantly…] clues AT THE DROP OF A HAT, but it also hints as to what’s going one in each of the other 15-letter answers. The word HAT has been dropped off of each of these entries.
- 17a. [“Don’t tell a soul!”] – KEEP IT UNDER YOUR (HAT)
- 31a. [Spout nonsense] – TALK THROUGH ONE’S (HAT)
- 41a. [Moonlight, say] – WEAR MORE THAN ONE (HAT)
This puzzle just wasn’t making sense to me with the HATs missing. “Why does this end with YOUR?!?” I asked myself regarding 17a., with most of the first ten letters missing. It’s quite clever – and fortuitous to find three 18-letter phrases ending with the word HAT. Here’s what tripped me up:
- 1a. [Some graphic work] isn’t comic books or something similar, but EROTICA. That could have pictures, but it doesn’t have to.
- 8a. [It often involves x’s] is a great clue for ALGEBRA. Had me stumped!
- 22a. [Wroclaw’s region] – SILESIA. I don’t understand the clue, and I won’t respond to it. (Historical Polish geography, it seems.)
- 38a. [Carl’s sweetheart, in “Up”] is ELLIE, but I didn’t see that movie.
- 49a. [Event with a queen] is a PAGEANT. I still had the royal wedding on the mind. Fun fact I learned from Wikipedia earlier today: Prince William doesn’t usually use a last name, but when he does, it’s Mountbatten-Windsor. I wonder if that’s on his drivers licence?
- 65a. [Suffering terribly] parses to IN AGONY, not IN A GONY. Reader challenge: What’s a GONY?
- 22d. [Display of links] is the passe SITE MAP. Imagine a site map for Amazon. Or Facebook. Yeah. Good luck with that.
- 42d. [With no end in sight] – it goes ON AND ON and on and on; this is a strange entry to look at without the spaces in place.
There it is again! BLOOP – the most fun you’ll get out of saying a baseball term in a crossword. More fun with AT HEART, HAN SOLO and a number of the entries I listed above – they were fun but hard, just like this puzzle. An oh so tricky 4 stars from me – knocked down for some ugliness with SSNS, GER., ULT, ALLA and STYE.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Double Vision” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I’m on my way to Kansas City this morning (more accurately, Overland Park, Kansas) so I can speak on partnership tax issues at the Kansas City Estate Planning Symposium tomorrow. That’s right, partnership tax issues for estate planners. Don’t you wish you were in the audience? Anyway, this particular organization really knows how to put on a first-rate conference, so I’m looking forward to the trip. Since I’m unsure of wifi access on the road, this and other posts for the next few days may be a little abbreviated. I have a feeling you’ll like that more anyway.
So let’s get to it. This one’s all about clones, but I found it refreshingly original. Hamel serves up four common but colorful terms for duplicates, all clued simply as [Double]:
- 20-Across: SPITTING IMAGE. The original doesn’t spit–it’s the double that expiates.
- 32-Across: CARBON COPY. Hopefully the other elements like hydrogen and nitrogen copy too.
- 41-Across: DEAD RINGER. It’s better to be the living one.
- 52-Across: IDENTICAL TWIN. Okay, three of the four theme entries are colorful. That’s still a pretty good percentage.
The puzzle gets off to a nice start at 1-Across, with [Word following grand or identity] as the fresh-feeling clue for THEFT. [What a feminist might burn] is an evocative–if maybe somewhat dated–clue for BRA. NICE GOING is cheerful fill, but HIRELING, the [One working solely for compensation], feels a little awkward. Otherwise, I think the fill is pretty smooth.
Let’s finish up with some random observations:
- I know NOTARY, and I know VOTERS, but VOTARY, the [Ardent supporter], was new to me.
- Did you notice that ABE sits smack in the middle of the grid, one day after an entire puzzle built around the [Presidential nickname]?
- The same G starts both GO BY and GO BAD. I think I’m not supposed to like that, but I kinda do. There’s other good short fill here too, like NO SIR and DO IN.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Taking Direction”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan SCORSESE PLUS today with puns on film directors’ surnames:
- 18a. LYNCHPINS
- 27a. ALLEN GOOD TIME
- 34a. AS THE CROWE FLIES
- 44a. A COPPOLA WEEKS
- 59a. BOYLE OVER
Somewhat inconsistent themage, since 18a, 34a, and 59a are precise homophones of the directors’ names and the other two aren’t. Plus they’re not really rip-roaring funny. On the other hand, there aren’t that many punnable directors’ names, so maybe Brendan did indeed maximize the potential of this idea. And there were five long theme entries, so a C+ does seem about right.
With so much theme material it was tough for Quigley to work his usual magic in the grid—imagine Lebron triple-covered in the lane trying to fire off some brilliance with six arms in his face. But a little of the light does indeed shine through: DEL MONTE, OLD LYME, SOLOMON, SHIITE, and AND YET are all nice.
Now let’s jump back to last week’s contest puzzle. BEQ’s instructions asked:
What famous person, currently in the news, is hinted at in this puzzle?
The puzzle’s theme entries—MOSQUITO NET, CAT O’NINE TAILS, REINVENT ONESELF, PHOTO NEGATIVE, and SWEET ONIONS—each conceal the letters T-O-N somewhere inside. One might say they contain a “middle TON,” which would lead one to submitting new Royal Family member KATE MIDDLETON as the correct contest answer. Cute and timely meta—B+ for this puzzle from me. Check out the full results and winners here.
Thanks for the puzzles, BEQ, and have an entertaining Cinco de Mayo, everyone!