H. David Goering’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme ties to the QWERTY keyboard (or a typewriter, if you prefer). The town/state combos that are the longest ones that can be typed with a single hand steadfastly remaining on its proper side of the keyboard are here, along with an awkward revealer answer.
- 20a. [Southern town whose name is the longest example of 52-Across [on the left]], SWEETWATER, TEXAS. Four retired professional wrestlers were from this small town.
- 34a. [Midwest town whose name is the longest example of 52-Across [on the right]], UNION, OHIO. Union is even smaller than Sweetwater and has no claim to wrestling fame.
- 52a. [See 20- and 34-Across], ONE-HANDED TYPING. Technically, if you have only one hand and you don’t have a really good prosthesis replacing the other one, you’re going to type all of the keys with one hand.
The same general concept has yielded at least a couple previous puzzles. Patrick Merrell had one in 2005 with 15-letter phrases, also spelling out the gimmick backwards-acrostic style in the first letters of the clues. More recently, Paul Hunsburger had an entire puzzle (3/8/11) filled with only the letters from the left side of the keyboard; it was … not much beloved.
While I appreciate a theme that doesn’t overreach in terms of occupying a ton of real estate in the grid, I do hope for the resulting fill to really shine. Corners full of stacked 7s are appealing, but I was a mite disappointed to get ANAEMIA, SEAGATE, and ASPIRER (plus a DARER). Those -ER words are what I call roll-your-own words—just add an affix and call it a word, even if people rarely ever use the language that way. Are you an aspirer? Have you been a darer? No?
SKIRMISH is a great entry, though. Apparently the word is etymologically akin to scrimmage, which makes sense.
Seeing Muhammad’s burial place MEDINA in the grid compelled me to look up the 1989 rap hit “Funky Cold Medina.” Wikipedia tells us that the “Funky Cold Medina” bottle holds an aphrodisiac potion that proves to be more trouble than it’s worth, and I’m pretty sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the sacred site in Islam.
Most difficult vocabulary: 1d. [Mountainous expanses], MASSIFS. Guess what the word comes from? The French adjective meaning “massive.” Mountains are big, yo.
2.66 stars from me.
Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Cute theme from Susan Gelfand today! I don’t think I’ve seen PARALLEL used as an indicator before! To be specific, the revealing answer is PARALLELBARS (there are people out there who wrote PARALELL first and made trouble for themselves!) Each of the answers describes a type of bar; because they’re all across, the answers are indeed parallel. Without further ado, the theme answers:
- 20a, [Chocolate-and-crisped-rice candy], NESTLECRUNCH Chocolate bar. If I haven’t said it before, the way Americans use the word “candy” is bizarre! I didn’t think I’d heard of it, but the wrapper looked familiar, and it is sold here
- 37A, [Solid investment?], GOLDINGOT. Gold bar. This took me an embarassing amount of time to parse.
- 42A, [“It floats” sloganeer], IVORYSOAP. Bar of soap. This is advertised so effectively that I know the brand without it being sold here! On the other hand, that slogan made 12-year-old me snigger.
We have, outside of the theme, mostly short fill today, with only 2 7’s: MARCONI and YOGAMAT, both nice answers. There are also fun answers to be found among the 6’s with AMOSOZ (as an answer, with his crazy short surname… I’m am Oz the great and powerful!), CUCKOO, and a RHESUS with a HAIRDO!
In other parts of the grid, the name of the game was compromise. The really cute opening stack of FANS over IDOL under AMOSOZ, leads to the partial ORTO and ADREM. I think that one was more than worth it! On the other hand, the two easiest corners hit one of my personal hates. We’ve been here before (Rex Parker has coined a rather brutal name for it), but the top-right and bottom-left corners have fill that’s only there because a J/X was jammed there. The sequence of XES/IMS/ESS crossing plural AHEMS fits in the top-right. The bottom-left has ABEAM/AJA/ENG.
As I indicated, I liked the theme: it’s always refreshing to have something different! 3.5 stars?
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Prime Time for Romans” – Dave Sullivan’s review
At first, based on the title, I was expecting theme entries based on the now defunct primetime show, American Gladiators, but instead we have six (notably, not a prime number) phrases where the beginning (prime) number is expressed as a Roman numeral:
- Baskin Robbins (and notably Trevor Hall) feature [Old ice cream slogan, to ancient Romans] or XXXI (31) FLAVORS
- [1951 Disney classic, to ancient Romans] is CI (101) DALMATIANS – I always want to misspell this with an -IONS ending.
- [Genie’s offering, to ancient Romans] clues III (3) WISHES – any idea why only 3? Can one of those wishes be 300 more wishes or does that open up some wormhole in the universe or something?
- [Feature of a Hawthorne house, to ancient Romans] clues VII (7) GABLES – this house is in Salem, MA, just minutes from our home in Swampscott, before we moved here to Vermont.
- [Splitting, in 1920s slang, to ancient Romans?] clues XXIII (23) SKIDDOO – my guess is Gareth had trouble with this one–it’s an old phrase said when leaving quickly (“splitting” in the sense of departing). Read all about its etymology here I prefer the one-D spelling, which I guess is 500 less?
- Finally, [Savings instrument, to ancient Romans] clues the difficult-to-parse CDI (401) K ACCOUNT – I enjoy the craziness of juxtaposing ancient Rome and modern retirement accounts.
A rather odd (or should I say “prime”) theme, imho, in that there are so many options here, as well as no particular rationale to associate prime numbers with ancient Rome. I also felt the fill was a bit odd, entries like AN ERA, IN RED, SLO, AAS, IAL, STEN, ALII, INKER and KO-ING seem to harken back to an ancient era as well. I did enjoy SASHAY, SEE IF I CARE? and STAY-AT-HOME, the last clued as [Kind of mom], which can also be applied to dads, right?
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Pop Muzik”
This week’s theme is puns involving musical performers with “misspelled” names:
- 17a. [Surrealist hip-hop collaboration?], DALI XZIBIT. Dali exhibit.
- 26a. [“Cop Killer” rapper at the beach in Montauk?], LONG ISLAND ICE-T. Long Island iced tea (contains no tea). I wonder if Ice-T has spent any time on Long Island while shooting Law & Order: SVU, and if somebody made that joke already.
- 44a. [Unpigmented Damon Albarn band?], ALBINO GORILLAZ. Albino gorillas.
- 58a. [Cowardly nü-metal group?], YELLOW KORN. Yellow corn, which, does anyone say that? The default is yellow, and we mention corn’s color mostly when it deviates from the norm (white corn, the glorious Carl’s Glass Gem rainbow corn).
Seven more clues:
- 1a. [Summer clothing portmanteau], JORTS. Think ugly, ill-fitting men’s jeans shorts. I don’t think the JORTS label gets applied to cute denim shorts worn by women. (And yes, I wanted SKORT here but the crossings disagreed.)
- 10a. [Symbol first used on “Led Zeppelin IV”], ZOSO. I had to look this one up after solving.
- 40a. [Popular Reddit section, briefly], AMA. “Ask me anything.” Here’s one with Brendan Emmett Quigley.
- 66a. [Band whose “Only You” was featured in “Napoleon Dynamite”], YAZOO. That’s the British name. They were billed as Yaz here in the states. Alison Moyet and … some guy, I think.
- 2d. [God killed him but not specifically because he spilled his “seed,” though that was also bad], ONAN.
- 28d. [Very, very lite], NO-CAL. I hate seeing NOCAL and LOFAT in crosswords. “Zero calories,” “low-fat,” “fat-free”—these are the sorts of labels we see on food packages. These are compromise entries rather than favorable fill.
- 45d. [Embrace with minimal contact], BRO HUG. Reach around gingerly to thwack the back or shoulder and for the love of god, keep your groins far apart.