Louis Zulli’s New York Times crossword
Here’s the NYT theme:
- 54a. ID THEFT is [Modern crime, briefly … or a hint to 17-, 36- and 59-Across]. Those three answers have lost an ID. But wait. Does anyone ever call identity theft “ID theft” for short? I’ve never heard it.
- 17a. LAME DUCK PRESENT takes the ID out of “lame duck president.”
- 36a. ACCENTS HAPPEN instead of “accidents happen.”
- 59a. Your [European gin mill?] is a CONTINENTAL DIVE (“continental divide”).
I had TIE instead of VIE at 62d for a while there. I know, if you [Go head to head] with someone, you’re vying, not tying. I VIEd in tonight’s singles crossword tournament over at PuzzleSocial’s Crosswords app on Facebook. You know who beat me? Will Shortz*! _shaking fist_ It’s fun to see Will in a competitive crossword setting, because when do we ever get to see him trying his hand at a crossword tournament? He’s always too busy running the tournaments. Will beat 1982 ACPT champion Stan Newman, too. Y’all should come play—click the “schedule” button to see if there’s a tournament coming up that evening. (*Or was this an impostor Will Shortz? There’s already @FakeWillShortz on Twitter. Don’t tell me there’s one on Facebook too, and one who’s a faster solver than me?)
I like the entry BAD ANSWER but there were some other entries that kinda fit the category of “bad answer.” I speak here of 1a: COHAB ([Roommate, informally]—in what world? have never heard this usage), and 49d: ODRA ([Wroclaw’s river, to Poles]). Whoa. Plus ALAR AGEE RESOW ERTE IRWIN ADELA ELKE ORR UTEP ELEA ADIA KERR INGE. A little of that fill goes a long way.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Here’s the LAT theme:
- 61a. [Many a joke’s start, either part of which is synonymous with the ends of 17-, 25-, 37- and 52-Across] is “KNOCK, KNOCK.” Rap, pan, slam, and blast are synonyms for the “criticize” meaning of KNOCK more than the “strike a surface noisily” definition.
- 17a. [Ice Cube genre] is GANGSTA RAP.
- 25a. [It’s not as bad as the fire, metaphorically] clues the FRYING PAN. As in “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
- 37a. [Bases loaded opportunity] is a GRAND SLAM home run.
- 52a. [All-out] clues FULL BLAST.
Solid theme with lively theme entries.
The puzzle nearly lost me at 1-Across. [Actor Alan], 4 letters? Gotta be ALDA. No… maybe HALE, who played the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island? No… not him, either. When the answer is an actor who’s been dead for nearly 50 years—Alan LADD—it’d be nice if the clue actually gave some hint that the answer wasn’t ALDA. Hmph!
Likes: DOGGY BAG (nice to have 4d: [Takeout request?] not clue STET), BAD EGG, some timely in-the-news KOREANS, EYEBALL clued as a verb, and slangy VAMOOSE.
Ungainly proper-name crossing where 43a and 38d meet. 43a: ORKANS are [Sitcom planet people] from around 1980, and 38d: ROBB is [Lynda Bird’s married name]. That’s LBJ’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb. I could see a lot of solvers under the age of 40 having no clue about either of these answers, with RABB and ARKANS really being no less plausible. Not wild about the ESE ISM ARA TRA OLA OLIN EKED TSE lineup, either—a few more of those than one hopes to see.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Holding the Fort” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the five theme entries ends with a word that is also the name of a notable fort. Let’s spice up the usual roll call of theme entries with some trivia questions (answers at the end of the post):
- 17-Across: One’s [Bottom-line value] is one’s NET WORTH, and Fort Worth, of course, is large city in Texas. In fact, it’s the fifth largest city in the state. Can you name the other four?
- 24-Across: [Happiness ever after] is one way to describe ETERNAL BLISS. Fort Bliss is an Army post that straddles two states. Can you name the states?
- 39-Across: STAN LEE is [Spider-Man’s co-creator], and Fort Lee is most famous as a New Jersey borough. But let’s get back to Spidey, since tikes voted him their all-time favorite superhero. Can you name the other co-creator who partnered with Stan Lee to create the friendly neighborhood web-slinger?
- 52-Across: The [Cuba Gooding Jr. film set in a ghetto] is BOYZ N THE HOOD, and Fort Hood is a military base in central Texas. The (one) director of Boyz n the Hood was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director, becoming the first African-American to be so nominated. Can you name the director?
- 63-Across: The BASS DRUM is a [Boomer in a band]. Fort Drum is the military reservation located next to Wheeler-Sack Army Air Field, north of Syracuse, New York. This was the only fort in the puzzle that was unfamiliar to me. It is home to the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division of the Army that has been active in a number of engagements, including the Unified Task Force, a U.S.-led multinational force that operated in Somalia in 1992 and 1993. Can you give the code name for this operation?
I love the open corners that feed the super-long Downs like MEMORY LANE, the [Path to the past], and ENCHILADAS, the [South-of-the-border orders]. I like that STOLE, the [Woman’s evening option], neighbors TUX, the [Man’s evening option]. Other highlights include SPLASHY, LOZENGE, and TEMPERA, the [Paint mixture made with egg yolk]. There’s an unsightly conglomeration of crosswordese and abbreviations with ERST, RAGA, TNT and SGT all neighboring each other, but the rest of the fill is typically Lempelian in its smoothness.
Here are the answers to the trivia questions. The four largest cities in Texas are, in order: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin. Fort Bliss straddles Texas (go figure) and New Mexico. Steve Ditko was Spider-Man’s co-creator (his name anagrams to “tikes voted,” the italicized words in the completely fictitious factoid about Spider-Man’s popularity). The director of Boyz n the Hood was John Singleton (I added the “one” parenthetical as a very indirect hint to his surname). Finally, the code name for the Unified Task Force in Somalia was Operation Restore Hope.
Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Straight-forward pop-culture theme this week, where THE A-LIST is used to describe a group of famous people whose names contain no vowels other than A:
- 16a. ALAN ALDA, [Actor in “M*A*S*H” and “Tower Heist”].
- 20a. JACK BLACK, [Half of Tenacious D].
- 31a. FRANK ZAPPA, [He led the band on “Weasels Ripped My Flesh”].
- 40a. ANWAR SADAT, [Egyptian president assassinated in 1981]. He was also one of the original MTV VJs before his assassination. (I made that up so I wouldn’t have to retract my description of this puzzle as having a “pop-culture theme.”)
- 52a. HAL SPARKS, [Comedian in the U.S. version of “Queer as Folk”].
- 57a. [Group to which 16-, 20-, 31-, 40- and 52-Across belong] is THE A-LIST.
Five more clues:
- 26d. [Maker of the Fructis hair care line] is GARNIER. I don’t know about you, but this was a gimme for me.
- 4d. [Crusty and coagulated] clues SCAB-LIKE. Gross!
- 17d. [Fancy way of asking if you have to skip doing something] clues “NEEDN’T I?” Is it just me or does this answer kinda stink?
- 33d. [Military cops in the sky] are AIR POLICE. Not sure I’ve ever seen that term before.
- 9d. [Fishy sandwich spread] clues TUNA SALAD. I think of “spreads” as more condimental or cheesoid, less chunky than tuna salad. Though I guess you can technically spread your gloppy tuna salad on bread.