Peter Gordon’s launching a new (quasi-)weekly current-events crossword via Kickstarter. For a pledge of $5 or more, you’ll get a puzzle nearly every week from July to December, via email, full of topical references. This is similar to what Peter did at The Week, but there he was constrained by a weekly printing schedule—with the Fireball Newsweekly venture, you might see a name or term that catapulted into the news just the day before. Check it out.
Brendan Quigley and Liz Donovan’s New York Times crossword
Hey! Brendan and his talented wife Liz have teamed up on a crossword for us. Perfect trick theme for a Thursday:
- 20a. [Language that gave us “kowtow”], DARIN CHINESE.
- 28a. [Clutch performer?], UAL TRANSMISSION.
- 46a. [Discuss reasonable outcomes upfront], AGE EXPECTATIONS.
- These have nothing to do with Bobby Darin, United Airlines, or age. 51a. [Emergency shout … or a possible title for this puzzle] clues MAN OVERBOARD, and three MANs have gone over the left edge of the crossword. Mandarin, manual, manage.
Things I liked most:
- 19a. [Mammal that hums to its young], LLAMA. Fun trivia.
- 50a. [Gent, in Britain], GUV. Liz is English so I’m gonna guess this is her clue. (See also EAST [__ Anglia].)
- 58a. [One providing assistance after a crash], I.T. GUY.
- 5d. [1931 film for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor], THE CHAMP. I’ve seen the Jon Voight/Ricky Schroeder remake and even as a kid, I could tell the manipulative tear-jerking was too much.
- 42d. [Red, white and blue players], TEAM USA.
- 43d. [Clint Eastwood, for one], EX-MAYOR.
- 35a. “Right You Are, Mr. ___” (1957 novel)], MOTO.
- 54d. [___ Rapee, longtime Radio City Music Hall conductor], ERNO. There’s another semi-famous Erno besides Rubik??
- 39d. [The English Beat, for one], SKA GROUP. Not sure I’ve seen the phrase “ska group” before.
Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Season Split”
The main problem with solving crosswords in computer programs that truncate long clues (rather than wrapping around and running a long clue in multiple lines, as you see in print crosswords) is that I often entirely miss the end of a long clue. And so it is that I could not for the life of me figure out this theme. I saw that each theme phrase started out as something that ended with “spring,” but couldn’t make sense out of the replacements. 37a: [Bacchanalian period, or what can be inserted in this puzzle’s theme entries to make four sets of overlapping words and phrases]? Oh! *head slap* That makes perfect sense. SPRING BREAK cues “X Spring” and “Spring Y” phrases:
- 17a, 18a. [Set of items seen on Al-Jazeera’s version of “Hoarders”?], ARAB / COLLECTION. The Arab Spring, a designer’s spring collection. Try as I might, I couldn’t get COLLECTION to feel like a replacement for the word “spring” (because it isn’t).
- 22a, 24a. [Jan’s pre-painting routine?], THE RITE OF / STEEN. The Rite of Spring, Bruce Springsteen.
- 49a, 51a. [Spy on during reveille?], WATCH / AWAKENING. Watch spring, spring awakening.
- 58a, 63a. [Somersault that’s performed by a perch, gar, or flounder?], FRESHWATER ROLL. Freshwater spring, spring roll.
I rather like the split into two separate answers, keeping the “here’s where SPRING goes” part crystal clear. (No “What’s ‘The Spring Rite of Steen’??” confusion.) It also pounds home the SPRING BREAK aspect.
Least likely pairing of 10s in an American crossword:
- 15a. [County that borders Wales], SHROPSHIRE.
- 64a. [“Money shot,” as it were], MALE ORGASM.
Anyone else try PIPITS for 20d: [Common beach birds]? The pipit is not a shorebird, but PIPERS, to me, are bagpipers or fife players. I haven’t seen PIPERS as shorthand for sandpipers before.
Three things unlikely to appear in your daily newspaper puzzle:
- 40d. [Personals ad abbr. for a proudly large lady], BBW. Big, beautiful woman.
- 10a. [Leatherwork?], BDSM. Bondage, domination, sadism, masochism. This is the stuff of fiction best-sellers, of course. And the snark that targets such books.
- 19a. [All-female missionary member?], STRAP-ON. I was just contemplating a hypothetical AV Club theme that makes use of Maleskan crosswordese—lile [Latigo] as a clue for STRAP, worked into a weird LATIGO-ON. Unfortunately, too few people would get the joke, and latigo is a noun, not a verb, anyway.
If the above two clues and answers don’t horrify you and you’re not already subscribing to the AV Xword, you might look into subscribing. $15 for a year of weekly puzzles. Do it! If 100+ people sign up for AV Club puzzles in the next month, all of us subscribers will get a bonus 21×21 themeless puzzle, which I want very much. I love a proudly large themeless puzzle. BBXW.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 62”
Very solid themeless this week. Here’s what I liked most:
- 8d. [Self-described bird watcher, maybe?], REVEREND SPOONER. Spoonerize “bird watcher” and you get “word botcher.”
- 12d, 13d. Neighboring EPIC FAIL and SIM CARDS.
- 18a. [Character in a Nehru jacket in film sequels of 1999 and 2002], MINI ME. Have we had Mini Me in clues for NEHRU?
- 35a. [Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor based on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch], SCHWEDDY BALLS. The skit featured Alec Baldwin. The word SCHWEDDY was evoked a few days ago when the NYT puzzle included SUETY. I do not have a recipe for Suety Balls, alas.
- 45a. [Name that becomes another name when an F is added to the front and an X to the end], ELI. -> Felix.
- 49a. [Island southeast of Gozo and Comino], MALTA. I like geography, and I’ve never heard of Gozo and Comino. I’d hate to see either in a grid—too obscure—but I am okay with learning a little Mediterranean geography via the clues.
- 59a. [Hawk, e.g.], SKATER. Tony Hawk, champion skateboarder.
- 6d. [Unlocked?], BALD.
- 35d. [Its flag has four bo tree leaves on it], SRI LANKA. As with Gozo, I wouldn’t want BO TREE to be an answer, but going deeper into trivia is okay for clues.
- 48d. [Bunker-mentality sort?], BIGOT. Archie Bunker, All in the Family.
ELLS and ALEE, meh. Never heard of EVIL OTTO, 60a: [Smiley face character in the arcade game Berzerk]—never was big on arcades.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword
“C and Y” are the theme today:
- 18a. [Where Cal Ripken’s consecutive game record was set], CAMDEN YARDS.
- 24a. [Color named for a bird], CANARY YELLOW.
- 40a. [“Calm down!”], CONTROL YOURSELF.
- 50a. [Taxing period, usually], CALENDAR YEAR.
- 62a. [Immature 20-something, say], CALLOW YOUTH.
- 69a. [Sweet, or, read another way, a hint to five long puzzle answers], CANDY.
I wasn’t loving the fill in this puzzle while I was solving, but at least the Scowl-o-Meter did not overheat. The Perplex-o-Meter took some of the burden.
- 44a. [Pitch add-on], BLENDE. So now we’re pretending that word roots from the German can fly as stand-alone suffixes?
- 45a. [__ Khan: Rita Hayworth’s husband], ALY. Really? When Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman is currently appearing (billed as Alexandra, though) on Dancing with the Stars? They were married from 1949 to 1951 and I rather doubt Americans of that era would have been familiar with Aly Khan if a movie star hadn’t married him.
- 61a. [Plucked strings, in Padua], ARPA. My cousin Heather plays the harp, but I don’t need the Italian word for it in my crosswords, if you must know.
- 71a. [Cadillac luxury sedan], XTS. There’s also a CTS sedan. I hate car companies that jump on random combinations of letters and/or numbers instead of using a word. And since Cadillac has both an XTS and a CTS, you can’t fill the whole thing in without checking a crossing even if you are well-versed in your car model names.
- 8d. [Grill on a stove], FRYTOP. Not a term I’d seen before. Apparently this is a term for that flat griddle section between the burners on stoves that cost $8,000.
- 19d. [Lon of Cambodia], NOL / 21d. [NYC’s __ Hammarskjöld Plaza], DAG. “I’ll take Three-Letter Names from Global Politics in the ’60s and ’70s for $600, Alex.”
- 47d. [Rte. for many a red-eye], LATONY. That’s “L.A. to N.Y.”
- 49d. [Handwoven rug], RYA. Crosswordese, but sometimes I play it in Scrabble.
- 53d. [Old Dodge compacts], NEONS. Legit, but I would still like it if constructors took plural NEONS out of their (mental or computerized) word lists. Sometimes NEONS is clued as shorthand for neon lights. This is also dictionary-legit. The cars were made from 1994 to 2005, and there are still some on the road, but [Old Dodge compacts] just doesn’t excite me. The singular NEON, of course, is never inappropriate fill.
There were things in this puzzle that didn’t make me cranky, mind you:
- 57d. [ELO relative?], AC/DC. Because Electric Light Orchestra and alternating current/direct current both pertain to electricity. Goofy, yes, but the bands are from the same general era so it works.
- 3d. [Like many magazines, nowadays], ONLINE ONLY. An entry like this (and the ACAI berry) is what shows you the puzzle wasn’t constructed in the era of LEMAY, ARABY, WACS, NOL, DAG, and ALY Khan.
- 8a. [Bad hair day feature], FRIZZ. Great word, although not something that applies to me at all on a bad hair day. My hair has no innate frizzability.
- 2d. [Reliable], GOOD AS GOLD. Isn’t platinum better, though?
Three stars. The theme is okay, as such things go; the C.Y. phrases were all familiar enough, not contrived. But the fill left me feeling decades too young for the puzzle.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Men of Action” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four (generally) well-known men whose first names are also a verb:
- [Cut a talent show host while giving him a shave?] clues NICK CANNON – hmmm, which “talent show” is this guy a host on? Hold on a sec…it’s America’s Got Talent. Not a fan of the show, I think he’s the guy who speaks to contestants offstage as they are about to come on. Does anyone out there not shave themselves anymore? I suppose there must be some, or STROP wouldn’t still be found in crosswords (</ irony>).
- [Pelt a newsman with rocks?] clues STONE PHILLIPS – this “talking head” I remember; I bet a lot of viewers would like to pelt some current-day reporters with rocks.
- [Get a James Bond actor prepared for wearing earrings?] clues PIERCE BROSNAN – I just heard him interviewed on NPR recently, he’s taking on more challenging roles after being typecast in the James Bond persona. Not sure any of those roles involve him wearing earrings, though.
- [Give an oldies musician the boot?] clues CHUCK BERRY – when I think of “oldies,” I think of Big Band music, but Chuck was rock ‘n’ roll through and through.
I’m a bigger fan of Pa-trickier puzzles, but this one is sorta cute, and certainly NOT BAD. For a FAVE entry, I’ll choose RHINOS, or Thick-skinned beasts. I learned yesterday you need a thick skin as you read the online critiques of a puzzle you’ve constructed when it’s published! Not a big fan of A-ONE (see yesterday’s rant on A AND E), so that gets my UNFAVE award today.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Band’s Down a Member” — Matt’s review
17-a [Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce?] = AD COMPANY (Bad Company)
24-a [Chinese restaurant employees?] = MEN AT WOK (Men at Work). Funny. Wok puns in Chinese restaurant names (on “work” or “walk”) are pretty common.
28-a [Hesitant, awkward agreement?] = ER, SURE (Erasure)
37-a [Impromptu session with banjo player Scruggs, pianist Hines, and rapper Sweatshirt?] = EARL JAM (Pearl Jam). Funny.
41-a [Unemotional shtup?] = COLD LAY (Coldplay)
53-a [Steamy porn, initially?] = HOT TNA (Hot Tuna)
54-a [Direct answer to “why can’t you get it up?”] = SIMPLY ED (Simply Red). Funny.
63-a [Engage in some S&M with C&W’s Hill?] = BIND FAITH (Blind Faith). Funny.
Whew, that’s a lot of bands! LAYER and PRIUS work as one-worders, too, an Easter egg Brendan made me HEP TO via e-mail.
***12-d [Send toward Venus, say] = SERVE. Totally fooled on a tennis clue! D’oh.
***11-d [Agcy. caught targeting over 500 conservative groups] = THE IRS. Timely clue, and let me assure you that this kind of Soviet tactic happens only under (D) presidents (sarcasm), and that no other government agency does it (sarcasm).
***5-a [Psychotic “Kitchen Nightmares” restaurateur Bouzaglo] = AMY. Another timely clue, though it seems like that Gordon Ramsay guy is really the jackass here? Isn’t he known for being a jackass?
***15-a [Tobey’s “Great Gatsby” co-star] = LEO DiCaprio. Yet another timely clue. I haven’t seen it yet.
4.20 stars. Theme was fun and there was a lot of it and the clues have that funny/up-to-the-minute BEQ vibe we’ve grown attached to over the years.
PS — don’t miss Brendan’s NYT puzzle today, co-authored with his wife, Liz Donovan.