Richard Chisholm’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme is contrived phrases that contain three O’s in a row.
- 18a. [Lacks pizazz], HAS NO OOMPH.
- 26a. [Overly partisan], TOO ONE-SIDED.
- 47a. [Animal on display], ZOO OCCUPANT. Occupy Zoo Street!
- 61a. [Inuit, maybe], IGLOO OWNER.
Likes: PAPA DOC (who doesn’t love cruel despots in their crossword?), BLEW OFF, SWISH, “OH, WELL.”
Lots of blah fill here, if you ask me, and with 42 theme squares (not so high at all) and 78 words, I’m not sure what accounts for things like CORFU, DEL, SHAD, AERO, LT GEN, ALFA, TARA, BOS, IRMA, plural HUHS, SID, DEB, BOOLA, OAKEN, ETUDE, TAO, NEO, and I GET.
Did you all enjoy the puzzle more than I did? I was underwhelmed. 2.9 stars.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Kitchy Jokes”
The title is knowingly spelled “kitchy” rather than “kitschy” because the theme consists of kitchen-related answers made by adding a sound to a familiar phrase:
- 17a. [Chef’s note-to-self after dispensing soup with a measuring cup?], GET LADLE. Playing on “get laid.”
- 28a. [Platonic utensil that clashes with the other utensils?], MIXED META FORK. Mixed metaphor.
- 46a. [Dishware emblazoned with the Ten Commandments?], MORALITY PLATE. Morality play.
- 62a. [Cookware gorgeously adorned?], GRAND POT. Grandpa.
Zippiest fill and clues:
- 16a. [Encourages with chicken taunts, say], EGGS ON. “Come on, you coward! Lay that egg!”
- 50a. [Portmanteau in pitching], SLURVE. Uh, slider and curve? This one’s new to me.
- 8d. [Cinnamon candy], RED HOTS. Nasty little things.
- 29d. [U.S. transit system that spans two states and a district], DC METRO. Virginia, Maryland, D.C. I am looking forward to buying a new Metrocard in New York on Thursday.
- 31d. [About to fall], ON THE ROPES.
- 33d. [Name that would be super easy to clue if this puzzle were in Korean], KWON. [Tae ___ do] is also an easy clue, but where’s the fun in that?
- 34d. [Hold from the top, as a basketball], PALM. Among the very finest of “palm” definitions.
- 35d. [Big name in golf carts], EZGO. Never heard of it. Have never golfed, but would love to tool around in a golf cart. Can this be arranged?
- 47d. [Lame, with an accompanying hand gesture], L-SEVEN. One hand makes an L with the thumb and forefinger, the other hand makes a 7, and together they make a square which is what you are.
- 57d. [Queer initialism], LGBT. Sometimes expanded to LGBTQ or LGBTQI, I think. Maybe to LGBTQIJFK.
- 58d. [Like Steve Jobs, partly], ARAB. Lebanese or Syrian? Answer: His dad was of Syrian descent.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “City Planners”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle takes (somewhat) famous people with surnames that are also the names of familiar American cities and given names that can also be nouns. It then swaps the first and last names to form nouns that appear to derive from those American cities. Check it out:
- 17-Across: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson reverses to JACKSON JOE, or [Mississippi mud?] (“mud” and “joe” as in coffee).
- 31-Across: Guy Madison (someone who both has never been in my kitchen and starred in the 1950s television series, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok) swaps to MADISON GUY, a [Wisconsin fellow?].
- 48-Across: Pro basketball great Earl “the Pearl” Monroe reverses to MONROE EARL, a [Louisiana aristocrat?]. If, like me, you haven’t heard of it before, it might have something to do with the town having a population of about 50,000. It may be familiar to Louisianans (and maybe Arkansans too, as it’s close to the border), but that’s about it.
- 64-Across: Folk singing legend John Denver swaps to DENVER JOHN, a [Colorado bathroom?]. There’s gotta be a bathroom-related joke that plays off “Rocky Mountain High,” but darned if I can think of it now.
I love the idea for this theme, but MADISON GUY and MONROE EARL feel too weak to me. The former doesn’t work because I’m sure only a small segment of solvers will know Guy Madison. The latter seems awkward (even though Earl Monroe is widely known) because Monroe, Louisiana, is so small. JACKSON JOE and DENVER JOHN work just fine, but apparently there aren’t many other good entries to complete the theme.
Luckily the fill compensates to some extent. I like the vertical stack in the middle: BAD LIE, IDEA MAN, and I’M SURE are all great, though I might have preferred a gender-specific clue for IDEA MAN. To me [One who thinks outside of the box] suggests women are less capable of doing so, which is just plain wrong. [He thinks outside the box] would have been just fine.
Other nice stuff included NARROW TIE, the Austin Powers-related FEM-BOTS and MOJO, ON TAP, MOOLA, and Pat SAJAK. The elephant in the grid, I suppose, is GRAWLIX, the know-it-or-you-don’t [Word for the symbols “@#$%&!” used in comic strips]. I suppose you either love it or hate it. And if it’s the latter, you might well speak in grawlix.
Favorite entry = TOP BANANA, the [Head honcho]. Favorite clue = [Raspberry relative] for BOO.
LAT 4:18 (Gareth)
Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
This is puzzle gave me serious de ja vu from Monday’s NYT by Ian Livengood. Ian’s puzzle featured phrases whose last word ended in homophones for “ROW”, whereas today’s phrases all end in “d + long o”. The theme entries are short – there are 3 7’s and a 9. One refinement on Ian’s theme is that today the theme parts are all discrete chunks. We have:
- [__ Sam: 49ers mascot], SOURDOUGH. Not the angle I’d have gone with, but vive l’difference! Also, can we start calling Sam Donaldson this?
- [Lake Geneva water fountain], JETDEAU. That’s some high-falutin’ French! I’d look askance if it were non-theme fill, but in the interests of this theme I think it’s fun and it works. Plus it’s quite inferrable!
- [Fun Factory clay], PLAYDOH. Fun answer!
- [Mystery man], JOHNDO. Another!
- [Olympic sport since 2000], TAEKWONDO And Another!
I’m guessing it was the short themers that led Robin Stears to design the grid the way they did. There are some serious chunks of white in the top-right and bottom-left, but the other two corners are all “blacked up”. If you didn’t spot it, all the non-theme answers are 6 letters or shorter, so there can be no confusing what’s theme and what isn’t. Some constructors are more relaxed about such distinctions, though this has been known to cause solvers to assume that, e.g., central 7’s are bizarre non-theme entries. Who am I to judge?
The tough-to-fill corners were handled most deftly. There’s little that I object to, COTTER (“Welcome Back Cotter” could be a sitcom about old crossword-ese?) and some nice bits like CHILIS, DECAF and FAROUT (a pleasant surprise for a right-edge answer!) More controversially, EJECTA has only 3 entries in Matt Ginsburg’s Clue Database. I’m guessing it has breakfast test concerns attached to it, but c’mon it’s a fun word isn’t it!? I’m not too familiar with the symptoms of the [Infant ailment] COLIC. Do they include vomiting? If so, I applaud Robin for taking that ball and running with it! I’m a bit more familiar with colic as an equine syndrome. Horses are physically incapable of vomiting so no tie-in there (they can be “refluxed” with a long tube of course). If the crossword didn’t put you off your breakfast I bet this paragraph has!
I realise this a perennial kvetching of mine, but, whereas I enjoyed those wide-open corners, the closed-in ones made me frown. I don’t see any advantage in using rare letters if they don’t result in fun answers like JOHNDOE or SKYPE, or if they result in unneccessary awkward answers… To get a Q in the top-left 3×3 square we have: HOI (half a phrase with no other clueing options), QVC (abbr.), HQS (plural abbr.), OVO (uncommon prefix), ICU (abbr. but to be fair used as though it were a real word. Its opposite corner has a Z in the words: NEZ/ZOO plus ONO, DOO, EON. NONEED.
Four-star theme, less 0.3 for those two corners.