Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
The most important answers in this “five, five, five puzzles in one!” crossword are 21a, 24a, 46a, and 48a. If you nail those, you can travel between the four corners and the midsection. I lucked out and got SILENT K ([Start to kneel?]), JARHEAD ([Leatherneck], both slang for a member of the U.S. Marines), DR. SEUSS ([Writer who coined the word “nerd”]), and KNOCK ON ([Tap, as for luck]). Also had good luck with the trivia/pop culture bits, like KIKI DEE and Pauline Kael’s “I LOST IT at the Movies,” but the crossword still played out a bit tougher than a lot of Fridays.
This 66-worder is mostly 7s, isn’t it? Let’s count. I count 30 shorter answers, leaving 36 of those 7s, indeed. Each corner crosses a quad-stack of 7s with a triple plus a midsection-connector 7. To achieve this, Peter has included a number of little prepositions along with all those Scrabbly J’s and K’s (JIGSAWS NITPICK JARHEAD KNOCKON HACKSUP CASKETS JAMESON SNEAKBY KIMONOS JETPACK INCHECK KIKIDEE KEYEDUP). The preposition action lands in KNOCK ON, HACKS UP, SPEED TO, FENCE IN, SNEAK BY, PATCH UP, IN CHECK, and KEYED UP—two IN’s and three UP’s.
Fave fill, clever clues:
- 1a. JIGSAWS, [Popular gifts that make a distinctive sound when shaken].
- 21a. SILENT K, [Start to kneel?].
- 43a. LOAN, [Redistribution of wealth?].
- 24d. JETPACK!
- 25d. AREA MAN, [Local, in a news story]. Betcha a dollar that Peter’s original clue referenced The Onion, which has a running gag of asinine “Area Man …” headlines.
Not wild about the astronomical URSAE/C-STAR meetup, the incompleteness of I LOST IT, the eh-ness of IT’S HERE, and the I-lessness of CAN’T SAY. I didn’t know [Voice actor Gary] OWENS but my husband quickly said, “Gong Show.” You probably watched something he’s been in—my personal highlight on his list of gigs is Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy. Oh, I loved that show. Here’s a Powdered Toast Man bit. Overall, I wasn’t hitting much that bugged me while I was solving.
By the way, Pauline? We found the IT you LOST. IT’S HERE. Just stop by the front desk and describe IT and one of our staff will reunite you with IT.
Erik Wennstrom’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Gareth’s review
A cursory search of Fiend archives suggests this to be Mr. Wennstrom’s second puzzle (unless he has had others in publications not covered by DOACF). Here is a link to his first puzzle, a real doozy!
The core theme concept is a strong one. I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out for you, as the theme revealer, 65A ATOZ “The whole nine yards, or a hint about how the starred answers are formed” explains all. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but like a puzzle with extra Z’s in! Z words almost all sizzle with pizzazz! (No, I don’t think that phrase makes a lick of sense…) There is inconsistency in that three answers have one ATOZ change and one has three changes, and that some phrases have A’s that are still A’s, but really, “because this way we have fun answers” is a good enough reason for me!
- 18A ZEROPLANES (AEROPLANES) “*Serious problem when planning an air force?” Zeroes are also ‘planes from WWII
- 62A LOVELYRITZ (LOVELYRITA) “*Alluring Piccadilly hotel?” There have been a lot of Beatles references recently! This is not a complaint, just an observation.
- 4D PEZSHOOTERS (PEASHOOTERS) “*Malfunctioning candy dispensers?” I could imagine how Pezes(?) are solid enough to sting quite a bit!
- 27D ZZZBASEBALL (AAA BASEBALL) “*Game of nothing but pop flies and walks?” Clue aside, my thoughts exactly. I’d much rather watch 5 days of test cricket, thank you.
In case you’d like to know this puzzle’s average Scrabble score is 2.02, which is astronomically high; and yes, it does have a “Q”. The high-end letters are not limited to the theme answers. Mr Wennstrom clearly thought “this is fun”, and threw them all over the grid! Some of the other fun Scrabbly answers include:
- 30A JAZZED
- 41A SQUAB, clued as an “Avian delicacy”. Funny, I thought it was a baby pigeon. Who eats pigeons? Except really desperate homeless people???
- 44A KIRK Clued not as James Tiberius but “Diamondbacks manager Gibson”
- 5D ENZYME “It often ends in ‘ase'” Some of the common ones that buck that trend include pepsin, papain and thrombin. I’m sure there are ones that end in neither “-ase” nor “-in” but I can’t think of any… Anybody?
- 19D PUNJAB One of those really fun words to say!
- 41D SKANKY “Foul” It has another, more common, and more offensive meaning…
- 49D PANZER “German for ‘armor'”. Here’s today’s “laugh at Gareth’s ignorance” moment. I always thought it was German for “panther”, this being reinforced by the fact that there is a Leopard tank and a Lynx tank.
A further olio of entries I’d like to pass comment on: 24A SASHIMI – I’m sure I’ve seen this answer somewhere recently! Emulating Alfred Hitchcock, 32D is ERIK. The clue for 69A BOWED strikes me as odd, but then I’m not up on my classical music jargon, so maybe cellists do “bow their cellos”. It’s a 100% legit answer in any case, though I’m personally more familiar seeing it in a phrase like “bowed with age.”
I’ll leave you with some Lovely Rita.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Starting Point” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that can also precede “point:”
- 17-Across: The [Pump selection] is HIGH OCTANE. I’m looking forward to a personal high point in a couple of weeks. Of course I mean the release of The Dark Knight Rises.
- 53-Across: The [Wildlife manager] is a GAME WARDEN. I once lost a ping pong match even though I had several game points, any one of which would have given me the victory. (When I play, it’s ping pong, not table tennis.)
- 11-Down: A FLASH DRIVE is a [Computer storage accessory]. My dictionary defines a flash point as “the point at which eruption into significant action, creation, or violence occurs.” When my trainer made me do another set of chest dips with weights attached earlier this morning, we just about hit the flash point.
- 28-Down: The [Top-notch restaurant offering] is FINE DINING. I used to do all of my work using a fine point pen, but for the past few years I’ve been using almost exclusively pencils. (0.9 leads, in case you’re curious.)
I’m hoping I caught all the theme entries. At least I don’t there are such things as “lee point,” “tea point,” “eric point,” and “code point.” Those four 8’s (LEE CHILD, TEA WAGON, ERIC IDLE, and CODE NAME) made for great fill, though. A few friends have recommended the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, so I’m thinking about reading one. Any Reacher fans out there? If so, should I read the series in order of publication, or does the order not really matter?
The short fill had some notable highlights too: GET IN, DRAN-O, PINATA, PHISH, and FETID (which I wanted to be ACRID) add some punch. In contrast to the zippy fill, the clues felt a little too routine and lifeless. That’s about the only weakness in an otherwise well-constructed offering.
Favorite entry = MAD DASH, the [Scramble]. Favorite clue = [Started to pucker up, perhaps?] for AGED.
Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Educationo crossword, “Presidential Library” — pannonica’s review
Delayed publication of puzzle + further delayed review + extremely straightforward theme = brief write-up + implied apology.
The library in question is quite an exclusive one, consisting of well-known books of fiction whose titles contain a US president’s surname.
- 17a. [With 22-Across, 1992 Robert James Waller novel in our library] THE BRIDGES | OF MADISON COUNTY. James Madison.
- 32a. [1941 James M. Cain novel in our library] MILDRED PIERCE.
Joseph Mildred. Franklin Pierce.
- 46a. [1894 Mark Twain novel in our library] PUDD’NHEAD WILSON. Woodrow Wilson.
- 53a. [1921 Booth Tarkington novel in our library] ALICE ADAMS. John (and John Quincy) Adams.
Granted, the source material for such a theme is scanty—the absolute pool of candidates is 44, with only a small fraction of those names common enough divorced from presidential context—prior to being filtered through the lens of the back half of the conceit, titles of famous novels. And that’s all preliminary to the consideration of the pragmatic niceties of symmetry and complementary fill. As a result, the theme doesn’t feel rigorous or consistent enough for my liking. Nevertheless, it’s a feat that constructor Livengood was able to pull it off at all.
- Only one of the themers is split over two entries.
- The other three themers are books whose titles are simply the full names of a character, who shares a presidential surname. One of them is a nickname (Pudd’nhead for David). Admittedly, the other entry is also a proper noun derived from a surname.
As for the ballast fill, it’s welcomingly free from too much junk and furnished a smooth solve.
- Some pleasingly fortuitous-seeming fill: NADA and NASA as symmetrical partners (16a & 57a). USSR (52a) crossing one of its major port cities, ODESSA (42d), which parallels the nautical BURSAR (41d). Techie WEBCAM and E-TRADE paired with each other (4d & 5d).
- More maritime fun: 21a [Oceans, to poets] DEEPS. Invariably makes me think of vasty deeps.
- 58a [Pool-table cushion] BANK. I never think of the object as a bank. Cushion is the best term, with the technically less accurate rail a practical synonym. As far as I’m concerned, bank is only a verb in pool and billiards. Appreciated that the potential cross-reference was averted by cluing 36d CUES as [Shuffleboard sticks]. Plus, I learned something new!
- 44d [Allowed to travel, in a way] is VISAED. Sounds made-up but it isn’t, it’s just awkward. I think “ENVISAED” sounds better. Either way, it still cries out for a G.
- Toughest crossing, and last square filled, was 53d/61a: ABU/UTES with less familiar references in the clues. The former was [ __-Bakr, father in law of Muhammad], the latter [Some Black Hawk War combatants] (which misdirected me into thinking about Somalia in the 1990s).
In sum, an okay but perfunctory-feeling puzzle from the solver’s standpoint.