Phil Ruzbarsky’s New York Times crossword
This is horse tackle, right? Is tackle the right word? Tack? (I am not of the horsey set.) Each theme answer begins with something used by a person riding a horse:
- 17a. [Bobbysoxer’s footwear], SADDLE SHOES.
- 24a. [Sleeveless garment], HALTER TOP.
- 37a. [Impromptu], SPUR OF THE MOMENT.
- 47a. [Nestlé bar], BIT O HONEY.
- 57a. [The signs in the movie “Signs”], CROP CIRCLES.
- 4d. [When Armed Forces Day falls], MID-MAY. Random.
- 10d. [One low in a pantheon], LESSER GOD. I don’t encounter this much outside of the Children of a Lesser God setting.
- 32d. [India’s ___ Rebellion, 1857-59], SEPOY. An uprising of Indian soldiers being ordered about by the English. Tough word for a Tuesday puzzle, but worthwhile history to know.
- 12d. [Certain guitar], DOBRO. It’s got metal on the front, it’s typically played at a different angle, and it sounds like this.
Plural SENS (65a. [Professional filibusterers: Abbr.]) looks weird in the grid, doesn’t it? DEI, SRI, OSTEO, CTN, and SSRS aren’t much better. But “WELL, I’LL BE” and ODD MAN OUT are quite nice.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Magazine Racket”
I always like a good magazine-title theme. This one mashes up two titles into a single, vaguely plausible publication:
- 20a. [Magazine that summarizes the contents of some cookies?], FORTUNE ESSENCE.
- 32a. [Magazine that stops you from dancing to a Madonna hit?], VOGUE PREVENTION.
- 41a. [Magazine that shouldn’t try to fit into an elevator?], SEVENTEEN PEOPLE. I would read that.
- 53a. [Magazine that draws readers to it 52 times a year?], ALLURE US WEEKLY.
- 10d. [Not the best bedmate], BLANKET HOG.
- 26d. [“Idiocracy” actor], LUKE WILSON.
- 43d. [Feature of subscription-only websites], PAYWALL.
- 61a. [1983 comedy with the line “Kenny, don’t paint your sister!”], MR. MOM.
- 14a. [A or E, or an IOU for that matter], NOTE.
- 50a. [“Blueberries for ___” (kiddie lit classic)], SAL. There are a ton of stale and overused SAL clues; this is a nice change-up.
- 3d. [Cable movie channel that used to have an exclamation point], STARZ. Did not know that.
Did not remember: 36d. [Uma, in “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”], NOELLE. Her neighbor Abby was played by Janeane Garofalo, and the charming Ben Chaplin was the guy they both fell for.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Call Boxes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Today we find entries with the four-letter sequence CALL “boxed” within:
- [Some sautéed cutlets] were VEAL SCALLOPINI – I wonder if our word for “scallop” has a similar etymology–these cutlets are kind of the same shape as I recall (been a long time since I’ve ordered veal after I’ve heard how they are raised).
- [’60s opera legend] clued MARIA CALLAS – yesterday’s Google doodle marked her 90th birthday. Very timely entry!
- [Cotton Club bandleader] clued CAB CALLOWAY – Hi De Ho, kids!
- [Bugs, to Elmer] was WASCALLY WABBIT – constructors, add “wabbit” to your fill lists if you haven’t already! (Not sure “wascally” belongs though. MAS can tell us if he has both.)
In a perhaps edgier outlet, these CALL boxes may have been imbedded in just one box, but I don’t recall ever seeing a rebus in the CrosSynergy puzzles I’ve reviewed thus far. Not too awed by the theme–having two names made me wish there were four and not a mix of an entrée and epithet along with them. I enjoyed the symmetrically placed MISS USA and LUNATIC, but felt, on the other hand, that ONE AD for [Millennium opener] was a bit arbitrary.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Classical Quartet”—Janie’s review
As many of Liz’s solvers probably know, among her wide-ranging gifts, she is a highly accomplished musician (the viola is her instrument of choice)—and in any given week, it’s not unusual for her to devote hours playing chamber music with like-minded friends. Mozart quartets, Beethoven quartets, Brahms quartets. You get the drift. But—that’s not the drift of the “classical quartet” alluded to in the title of today’s puzzle. Instead of the arts, we’re taken to the wider realm of the cosmos, with its own classical quartet dating back (in the Western world) to ancient Babylonia. We’re talkin’ earth, air, fire and water here.
Now this is a theme that gets a good bit of play among constructors, and because I caught on rather quickly, I wasn’t particularly wowed by the straight-forwardly clued theme set:
- AIR FORCE ACADEMY [Military flying school].
- DOWN TO EARTH [Unpretentious].
- WATER METERS [Some workers read them on a monthly basis].
- IN THE LINE OF FIRE [1993 Clint Eastwood thriller]. My fave of the bunch.
A tad on the functional side, no? Nuthin’ flashy; nuthin’to write home about. But hold on. Look at the center vertical fill. That grid-spanner passing through each of those themers pulls everything together:
- THE FOUR ELEMENTS [Essential components of nature (and the puzzle theme)]. Hah! Who sez there’s no such thing as alchemy? I take this for cruciverbal gold!
And as if that PLOY (today defined as a [Slick tactic], but one I see as elegant) weren’t enough, the puzzle’s strengths are reinforced with the peppy fill and cluing we get by way of:
- GOOD WITCH [Glinda of Oz, for one].
- FRESH LIME [Wedge in a vodka gimlet]. (Not your thang? Maybe MUMM [Champagne label name] is more to your liking… [only 29 days til…])
- “KISS ME” [Under-the-mistletoe request]. Only 22 more shopping days til…
- The punny SCOT [Nae sayer] and OB-GYN [Special delivery pro] pairings.
- The joke-starting [“]SO A [chicken walks into a bar…”]. So a chicken walks into a bar. The bartender says “We don’t serve poultry!” The chicken replies, “That’s okay. I’d like a drink!” [Rimshot!] So a chicken walks into a bar and the bartender says, “So that’s why…!” (Think about it…)
- The literal TWOS for [22 digits].
- JIVE [Claptrap]. A nice take on this one. Put claptrap on the list with puddinghead (11/26) and stumblebum (11/19).
- DOORWAY [Where one might hang a bamboo curtain]. This is about as visual and specific a pairing as could be hoped for. In case you need a nudge, every picture tells a story (don’t it?).
- O’KEEFFE [“Sky Above Clouds” painter Georgia]. Coming to us in version III, from the vantage point of the so-called fifth element (or quintessence), ether, I leave you til next time with this heavenly? ethereal? image.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoops, forgot I had one more puzzle to blog and I was out for most of the day.
The theme is phrases that end with things that are parts of a tree, I think:
- 18a. [Thin, decorative metal], SILVER LEAF. Rather less familiar than gold leaf, no?
- 23a. [Gets married], TIES THE KNOT. A knot in the trunk, a knot in the wood?
- 37a. [Dangerous things to risk], LIFE AND LIMB.
- 48a. [Equestrian’s supply box], SADDLE TRUNK. Have never heard of this. Am not an equestrian and have no need for such a supply box.
- 56a. [One, to one, e.g.], SQUARE ROOT.
So leaves grow out of the branches/limbs, which grow out from the trunk, which grows up from the roots. The KNOT seems out of place in this progression, no? And the 14a. [Garden center supply], SEED, seems perhaps unideal as a botanical answer that is sitting here without being part of the theme.
Lots of Scowl-o-Meter action in this one. While I liked BAROQUE, the LEFT TURN, the JUNEAU/PEORIA combo, GLEE CLUB, and neighboring artists ANG LEE and R. KELLY, there were more entries that did not please me. ALL OK, STENO crossing OONA, AFL ESE CET ABMS IEST EMS ALS DIDI GON ASTR EDSEL ENLAI? Good gravy, I didn’t even see ERSE sitting there. And I didn’t mention APSE occupying 1-Across. That is rather too many of the “I’ll only use it if I have to” entries in a single puzzle. Try to keep it down to maybe three or four of these answers, eh?
2.75 stars. Without the KNOT theme answer, this could have been a 10/11/11/10 theme with a lot more breathing room for the fill.