Would you like a sneak peek at how Will Shortz edits a crossword? The Atlantic gets an inside look as Will wrangles a recent Elizabeth Gorski puzzle into its final form, in “How Will Shortz Edits a New York Times Crossword Puzzle.” I’ve never laid eyes on a crossword manuscript as edited by Will (though I know how one looks when I’ve edited a batch of clues).
I glanced at the article this morning when Rex Parker tweeted the link, and the Atlantic’s original headline had the word “Creates” where you now see “Edits.” I’m presuming that this was one of the several corrections Will asked the Atlantic to make before he sent the link out hours later. Nicely played, Will!
Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
Fun theme! Jeff finds a valid way to repeat an answer in the grid and give solvers a little tip-off to the theme right in 1-Across. It’s a highly oppositional theme. 1a and 71a are the black SPY and the white SPY (though they are both equally black and white in my crossword) from Mad Magazine’s timeless “Spy vs. Spy” feature. The remaining theme entries are the NATURE VS. NURTURE concept, the MAN VS. WILD TV show (have you seen Bear Grylls eat that gigantic larva?), the RENT VS. BUY real estate decision, and the movie ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. Bonus points for a fresh and fun theme concept with a soupçon of rule-breaking.
- 25a. SHE gets clued by way of the Talking Heads song, “And She Was.” I love that song! Here, if you watched that horrible Man Vs. Wild clip, cleanse your mental palate with Talking Heads.
- 55a. Blame George Lucas for the oddball spelling of WOOKIEES. No, there’s no reason at all for that double E.
- 7d. [Our 206]? Why, that’s the area code for Seattle, isn’t it? It’s also the number of BONES in the human body, typically.
- 19d. Great clue for ROYAL: [Word before pain or treatment]. Were you thinking of all sorts of body parts and medical conditions?
Not wild about the crosswordese slant to ASTI, RARA, OLEO, KENO, and SLIER. And the clue [Reply to a knock]—I’m pretty sure I have never responded to a knock at the door by calling out “ENTER.” If you’re the kind of person who does that, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest people may find you off-putting.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Cute theme that hides its true purpose until you reach the revealer answer:
- 62a. Those [Words in a classic game show that can be followed by the ends of the answers to starred clues] are “I’D LIKE TO BUY…” a vowel. Which one? Maybe an A, an E, an I, an O, or a U—and ANA, ANE, ANI, ANO, and AU are lurking at the end of the other theme answers.
- 17a. [*”The Music Man” number] is “GARY, INDIANA.” Also a person, Michael Jackson’s hometown, and a dismal place to drive through on I-94. (But if you hit Detroit on the same trip, you’ll see even more burnt-out, boarded-up buildings there than in Gary. Sad.)
- 21a. A CANDY CANE is a [*Sweet stocking stuffer].
- 34a. [*Lead singer in No Doubt’s hit “Don’t Speak”] is GWEN STEFANI.
- 42a. A PLAYER PIANO is an [*Instrument using rolls].
- 52a. AL JARREAU is a [*Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz singer].
I like the theme a lot better than the fill. Prefix API gets a clue—37a: [Bee fore?]—that is trying too hard to rescue it, when a boring clue would draw less attention to the blah fill that is API. The combination of SOU and ECU (49a: [Trivial amount] and 63d: [Former French coin], respectively) feels trapped in a crosswordese echo chamber. Then there are AGHAS, Roman numeral DCC, and ELOI ELAN ALBA ABBA AUK TET ISH. And the PERI SOYA LOGE ENIAC bundle all smooshed into the opening corner? Not helping the solver enter the puzzle with enthusiasm.
The presidential cross-reference is a nice touch, though. 30a: [Predecessor of 33-Down] and 33d: [Successor to 30-Across] looks supremely irritating in the clue list, but then you get enough crossings filled in and boom, presidents JOHNSON and NIXON hold hands in the grid.
2.75 stars overall, with a 4-star theme held back rather than supported by its surrounding fill.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Surely You Jet” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Lempel takes four common expressions containing a word ending in -EST, removes the “S” so that those words end in -ET, then clues the results as if they were real entries. Let’s put that description “to the Tet:”
- 17-Across: The [Equipment in the New Orleans Arena?] would be a HORNETS NET, a play on “hornets nest.” The NBA team in New Orleans is the Hornets, and they would need nets to play the game.
- 28-Across: Another way to say [“Oppose this liquor ban, dude!”] would be to say GO WET, YOUNG MAN, a variation on “Go west, young man.” Great theme entry.
- 44-Across: Your BET INTENTIONS (a play on “best intentions”) would be [What you give your bookie?]. If you had a bookie, that is. Another great theme entry.
- 58-Across: The [Goal of obedience school?] might well be described as PET CONTROL, a twist on “pest control.”
It’s a simple, accessible theme that’s well-executed. The grid has a nice mix of high-culture (VIOLIN SOLO and WINE BOTTLE) and more pedestrian entertainment (the MUPPETS and YAMAHA guitars—GOODY!). Other highlights include ABYSS, the [Immeasurable depth], and JUST SO.
I had JOEY as the answer to [Dennis the Menace’s friend], but this time the answer was GINA. RUFF would be another possible answer, but that one didn’t occur to me until just now.
My favorite clue was [Black sheep, maybe] for EWE. Speaking of the clues, I’m not sure I would call the TRAY an [Airline passenger’s convenience]—it seems to me the trays either come down too far or not far enough. The tray sits level only when the plane is banking sharply in one direction. And they usually contain gross, sticky remnants from prior passengers—I’d rather eat off a Motel 6 bedspread than the typical airplane tray. Convenience my eye! (Or, more accurately in this context, I suppose, “my lap!”)
Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I wasn’t understanding the theme at all until, towards the end of the solve, I got all of I’LL SAW YOU IN HELL figured out (had that ending with HALF first). Familiar phrases get a word that is (or can also be) a verb converted into the past tense, which completely changes the phrase’s meaning:
- 17a. [Command that Ms. Barrymore not leave her poop in the toilet?] is “FLUSH, DREW.” I don’t know what flush draw is. Something poker-related, perhaps?
- 25a. [Movie killer John Kramer’s sadistic promise?] is I’LL SAW YOU IN HELL. “I’ll see you in hell” is certainly fresh fodder for a crossword theme. No idea what John Kramer is. That’s the name of the killer in the Saw movies? I thought he was just called Jigsaw or something.
- 43a. [Valentine’s Day gift from Mt. Olympus?] is a red ROSE OF THE TITANS. What on earth is rise of the Titans? A title of something? I know Clash of the Titans but that’s it.
- 57a. [Result of chewing on a pool table?] is MOUTH FELT, green felt in the mouth, rather than mouth-feel.
So the theme was hit-or-miss for me. Smart concept, but I’d have preferred original phrases that were more familiar.
Good fill overall. Favorite clues/answers:
- 5a. [“Drugs are bad, ___?” (Mr. Mackey line on “South Park”)] clues M’KAY.
- 20a. A SAD SACK is a [Debbie downer].
- 5d. [Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in headlines] is MAD COW disease.
- 6d. [Cameron of “Growing Pains” and “Left Behind: The Movie”] clues KIRK. Gotta love a little Left Behind action in your pop-culture clues.
- 9d. MACHINE gets a great clue: [Person with great power and stamina, as it were].
Bleh: 36a. [Two after tee] is VEE, as in the letter V is two past T in the alphabet. Nobody likes the spelled-out-names-of-letters thing in the grid, much less spreading to the clues. Not to mention SLATY ISFAR EKCO EPEE ETTE.