Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “Bywords”
The theme entries here are really just the embedded words in the circled squares. Each pair with one word running down right beside another word should be read as “X by Y.” Thus, from left to right: 3d/33d has KNEW by HEART. 91d/78d has SELL-by DATE. 29d/7d offers GO by TRAIN. 87d/80d yields FINE by ME (which I like—idiomatic English). 47d/42d has ONE by ONE. 11d/12d features DO by HAND, which feels awkward without a direct object; “do it by hand” sounds better to my ear. 64d/88d slips an extra word into the mix with PLAY IT by EAR. 15d/16d had WIN by A NOSE, again with an extra word. And 69d/54d has TWO by FOUR. The longer container answers are mostly crisp: NEW YORK NEW YORK, STRAINED PEAS, and DAYS OF OUR LIVES are great. DISPLAY ITEMS feels not quite … a thing.
Neat treats include the RED GUARD, the RENT MONEY, and KERRI STRUG. Oh! Remember Bela Karolyi exhorting, “You cahn do eet!” at Kerri? And then when interviewed later, he said that he told her it was totally up to her whether she wanted to try that second vault, and you’re all, like, “Dude, you shouted ‘You cahn do eet!’ at her! We all saw it on the TV).
Biggest mystery item: 42a: [1970 hit for Neil Diamond], SHILO. I went with SHINE and had some trouble in that spot as a result.
The fill isn’t all peaches and cream, but with 18 answers taking part in the theme play, it certainly could have been a lot uglier in less expert hands. The clues were pretty good overall, leading me to a rating of 3.75 stars.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Never Mind!”
The Mayan calendar cycle completed itself without incident and now Merl is unleashing a spate of MAYA(N) puns:
- 23a. [Rendezvous question?], YOUR PLACE OR MAYAN? (Your place or mine?)
- 33a. [Iconic American poet?], MAYAN ANGELOU. (Maya Angelou.)
- 49a. [Start of a Three Dog Night hit?], JEREMAYAN WAS A BULLFROG. (“Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”)
- 64a. [Purchases for a roast?], OSCAR MAYA WIENERS. (Oscar Mayer wieners.)
- 81a. [Do exactly as I say?], FOLLOW MAYANSTRUCTIONS. (Follow my instructions.)
- 97a. [Impediment’s query?], MAYAN YOUR WAY? (Am I in your way?)
- 111a. [Solving this puzzle is easy if you just … do what?], PUT YOUR MAYAN TO IT. (Put your mind to it?)
Nothing much thrilled me in the punfest or in the fill.
- 61d. [Tattooed lady of song], LYDIA. This … is not a song I know, I don’t think.
- 100d. Half a Heyerdahl title], AKU. What?? Aku-Aku, the Secret of Easter Island.
- 50d. [Major region with a minor part?], ASIA.
- 43d. [“I’d rather be on ___ than be emperor of the world” (George Washington)], MY FARM. You want to loathe a 6-letter partial, but this is kinda neat.
- 56a. [Everglades location: abbr.], S. FLA. SFLA is an ugly entry.
- 11d. [One way to see the USA?], ON A MAP. On a meh.
- TIMMYS + OMARS = too many plural names.
- Partials TOOK A, SPACE IS, OF ONE, OFF A, I HATE: I hate one of a space, is a took off.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review
About the best compliment I can pay this puzzle is this: it didn’t feel like a 66-answer freestyle. Once the number of entries dips below 68, you usually see a few compromises to make it happen. But that’s not the case here. At least 64 of the 66 entries are solid to great. (I’m willing to accept EPI [Pen (injector for allergic reactions)] as a solid entry, but some might balk. And I concede AM THE isn’t exactly the prettiest. But that’s it; the rest is terrific.)
The grid features six 11-letter entries that all meet up on the middle, making for a (very) wide open middle swath. In the Across slots we have SALAMANDERS, SENT TO THE PRESS, and INHERITANCE (with the fun clue, [You may have it coming]); in the Downs we have PERIOD PIECE, RIP-SNORTERS, and SENATE SEATS, the latter of which would make for a very easy bonus round puzzle on Wheel of Fortune. At the risk of redundancy, look at that wide-open midsection!
The corners have some nice pieces too, like RACISM atop PIRANHA (not saying racism is nice, just that RACISM is a nice crossword entry), A OR B, SCOT-FREE, RALIEGH, and CONTEXTS. I also like how PATRON rests atop CLIENT, both the clue [Paying customer].
The northwest was the last section to fall, as I thought maybe the [Brando film of 1954] was NO SIREE. Nope, it was DESIREE. Once I got that, the rest seemed to unfold quickly.
Favorite entry = LAMONT, the [“Sanford and Son” son] that was my opening into the grid. Favorite clue = [Astronomical butter] for ARIES, the ram.
Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 142” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. I apologize for the short post today. I’m leaving for Montana soon, and I’ve still got about 37 things to do. And I realized that I have no winter clothes. Actually I do have a few items of winterwear: long-sleeve shirts. I don’t think that’s going to cut it. Oh well, I’ll just stay inside as much as possible.
- 34a. [“Sí” men] – SENORES. Occasionally SENORES shows up in puzzle grids as SENORS, and it really ticks some people off. And then there’s the whole tilde thing. These are English-language puzzles, and I think it’s OK for constructors to tweak foreign words. As long as the results are figure-out-able. (I might be a little biased.) I’ve never solved a “crucigrama,” so I don’t know how they handle tildes and accents in Spanish-language crosswords.
- 42a. [It may lead to a broken heart] – UNREQUITED LOVE. I can’t be the only person to have learned this phrase from “Peanuts.”
- 37a. [Pinterest posting] – IMAGE. I still have no idea what Pinterest is all about. You’re supposed to “pin” things you like. Or something. I do like seeing it in a crossword clue though.
- 51a. [“Ella” author] – URI GELLER. Baffling clue. I didn’t know this guy wrote novels. His Wikipedia page is way too long to read, but I like this line from the opening paragraph: “Geller used to call his abilities ‘psychic’ but now prefers to refer to himself as a ‘mystifier’ and entertainer.” Magician = cool. Fake psychic = lame. So I’ll give Mr. Geller credit for dropping the bogus psychic trappings.
Happy Holidays! See you next week, if I don’t catch double pneumonia.
Erik Agard’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Secret Agent”
I was hoping the secret agent was a spy, but the only spy in this grid was playing I SPY. Which is apt, in a way: You can play I Spy looking for the hidden REPS in the theme answers. Each starred clue’s answer contains an embedded REP:
- 23a. [*Scenic souvenirs], PICTUREPOSTCARDS.
- 36a. [*Acupuncturist’s target], PRESSURE POINT.
- 59a. [*Nonconformist, idiomatically], SQUARE PEG.
- 67a. [*Cookies sent from home, say], CARE PACKAGE.
- 77a. [*Repair shop item], SPARE PART.
- 95a. [*Tense subject?], FUTURE PERFECT.
- 115a. [*British Sunday meal staple], YORKSHIRE PUDDING.
- 15d. [*Protected area], NATURE PRESERVE.
- 51d. [*Smokey Bear’s bailiwick], FIRE PROTECTION. I had PREVENTION first.
- 125a. [Agents “hiding” in the answers to starred clues], REPS.
Pretty straightforward. I would have liked to see the REPS hiding in a variety of ways, rather than always in the —RE_P— word break. Say, REPrehensible, SAT pREP course, pREP school, decREPitude. I know theme consistency is something to strive for in general, but when your hidden word is supposed to be sneaky, it would be a little more fun not to find it in exactly the expected place every time.
Three favorite words in the grid:
- 10d. [To the point], SUCCINCT. Fun to say, isn’t it?
- 48d. [Agreeably sharp-tasting], PIQUANT. I confess I had to look up the pronunciation just now—so from here on out I can actually use it in conversation.
- 29a. Little green man?], GUMBY. The flexible teal green toy whose flexible orange horse is named Pokey. My sister and I had the rubber toys but I don’t recall watching the Claymation show. I just watched a 6-minute short from 1956, “Gumby on the Moon,” that is enchanting.
With 10 theme entries, Erik didn’t leave much space for juicy longer fill. The fill is fairly smooth, though rather less piquant than one might have liked. 3.5 stars.
Henry Hook’s Sunday crossword, “Think About It” — pannonica’s review
84a. [Source of quote] TIMES OF LONDON. >ahem< “With ‘The'”
42a. [84-Across’s description of person quoted] ELDERLY READER.
22a, 38a, 37d, 44d, 62a, 88a, 102a. The quote itself: I ALWAYS DO THE CROSSWORD | FIRST THING IN | THE MORNING | TO SEE IF I’VE | ENOUGH MARBLES | LEFT TO MAKE IT | WORTH MY WHILE GETTING UP.
Undeniably an extensive quote, not even including the two-part attribution. It’s even kind of amusing, so I’ll say it was worth my while solving the puzzle. Impressive way to divide it up, just so, that everything’s all symmetrical and flows properly (including the vertical components).
- Favorite answer: 93a LAMASERY [“Lost Horizon”‘s Shangri-La, e.g.]. Most annoying clue: 62a [H-“deux”-O] for EAU.
- 39a [Syrup source] TREE SAP. I trust all of you have heard about the embezzlement that was reported recently to Canadia’s strategic maple syrup reserve? The latest.
- 25a [Flight path?] STAIRS. I’ve mentioned it previously, but I am highly susceptible to this particular misdirection.
- The Seemingly-Obligatory-Remember-This-is-a-Boston-Based-Crossword clue: No, nothing about candlepin bowling! It’s 103d [Yaz, in 1967] for Red Sox luminary Carl Yastrzemski, who was the league’s (?) MVP that year. Also-ran: 63d Neighboring [Late ’70s Connecticut governor] GRASSO, whose first name ELLA, at 3d, is clued with a cross-reference.
- The non-theme long answers are a mixed bag. SOLITAIRE, INNOCENCE, TARHEELS, SYNERGIC.
- 75d [Long as some dashes] TWO-EM. Very long, I’d say. I’m also giving that fill a long, leery look.
- 47a [“Do the Right Thing” star] Danny AIELLO. When is this guy going to market his propriety recipe for AIOLI?
- A HOLE. Risky, that. [Beatles’ “Fixing __”] 14d.
- Less than stunning inclusions: SALIR [To leave (Spanish); MISSAYS; -GEIST; BIENNIA; TOMSK; IN IT; AGNI; TIES YOU [“Twister – The game that __ up in knots!”].
And before I get myself too knotted up, I’ll end this write up and proclaim the puzzle to be good, not great. More impressive for the construction, accommodating the quote and its accoutrement, than for the overall solve.