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Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Straightforward embedded-anagram theme:
- 17a. [Many a Manhattan Project worker], NUCLEAR ENGINEER.
- 28a. [Growth on wet rocks or the surface of stagnant water], GREEN ALGAE.
- 34a. [What a coiled spring or charged battery has, in physics], POTENTIAL ENERGY.
- 43a. [Targeted area?], RIFLE RANGE.
- 58a. [Chaos … or a hint to the contents of 17-, 28-, 34- and 43-Across], GENERAL DISARRAY.
The letters in GENERAL are in DISARRAY (scrambled) in each of the preceding theme answers. Rather sciencey vibe overall, no?
Raciest clue/answer combo: 12d. [Site of some piercings], AREOLA. You know what, though? I Googled this and there are a bunch of people saying that a nipple piercing should be just that, and that the surrounding areola should not be involved in the piercing. So if you’re contemplating this, ask your piercer. And then report back here, and let us know what your piercer advises in the areola arena.
- 11d. [Completely tuckered out], RAN RAGGED.
- 5d. [Old iPod Nano capacity], ONE GIG. Remember when 40 megs was a huge capacity? And now we’re up to terabytes.
- 16a. [Jamaican rum liqueur], TIA MARIA.
- 62a. [Dubai-based airline], EMIRATES. As seen on so many soccer jerseys, because Emirates sponsors a number of teams.
- 37d. [Yesterday: It.], IERI. Those letters in that order? They make me think of Guy Fieri (real name: Guy Ferry. Sounds like a fun boat!). Not sure I’ve ever seen this in a puzzle before.
- 49d. [Embellish, in a way], BEGEM. There’s a mobile/Facebook game called Bejeweled. Oh, how I wish it were called Begemmed. “Beg ’em!” And the Bedazzler! Why isn’t it called the Begemmer? BEGEM is an actual dictionary-grade word, but it has a bogus look to it, doesn’t it? And BEGEM crosses BARA, which in turn crosses RACEME—this looks like it may be a vexing crossing for a lot of people.
STALER, TIRED, OLD SAW, ARRANT, IN A RUT? Is this puzzle trying to tell us something?
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Those of us who have an idea of the mechanics of crosswords must have some suspicions that this puzzle’s theme would be placed unusually from the get-go. For starters, there are no long answers to be found in the typical places. Then, the second answer I looked at was 5d [___ in kilo], a very weak answer for a walled-off section of grid, provided there are no additional constraints. Sure enough, Minnesota’s Zhouqin “C.C.” Burnikel has given us a puzzle based on [Minnesota’s state fish, and a hint to all 12 border answers in this puzzle] the WALLEYE. All 12 answers on the edges of the grid fit the pattern “___ eye”. This type of puzzle is extremely difficult to pull off, especially at the corners, where two answers are already locked in. The downside is that the pay-off is mostly the “ooh, look at that” response to the feat itself, as the answers themselves are mostly short and basic.
Okay, a list of the “___ eye” answers is in order. A BLACK eye is the result of a blow. RIB-eye is a cut of meat. The NAKED eye is contrasted with the use of binoculars and such. DRY eye is the lay term for keratoconjunctivitis sicca; this answer could also refer to the phrase “not a dry eye in the house”. An EAGLE-eye is someone with good eyesight. BLIND eye exists mostly in the phrase “turn a blind eye to”, although someone with a blind eye could refer to it as such. A THIRD eye is a mystical concept, as well as anatomical structure in some vertebrates. A RED-eye is a late-night flight. A GLASS eye is a prosthesis. I’m not sure what a “big eye” is other than an eye that is big, which seems arbitrary. Anyone? A MAGIC eye seems to be one of those pictures that you stare at and then a image supposedly appears. I never knew what they were called! BIRDS eye exists mostly in the phrase “bird’s eye view.”
As noted, there are a few wince-worthy answers, especially in the two corners with 5×5 theme answers. KAS was noted previously. CANTI appears in its opposite corner and seems pretty contrived as answers go. ORTEA is another partial, but all in all things are well contained. There are some nice longer answers too: the pairs of NILEDELTA and PHARAOH and PLAYDEAD and LIARLIAR seem particularly cute!
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Data Mining” – Dave Sullivan’s review
In a world where “big data” is George Orwell’s dystopian vision come true, we even find DATA embedded in four theme answers today:
- [Sent in one’s 1040] was FILED A TAX RETURN. Gareth may have had trouble with this one, as I imagine 1040’s are peculiar to the IRS. In fact, our constructor is from Canada as I understand, where I certainly hope their tax system is less arcane than ours.
- [Lied] clued TOLD A TALE. I’d just use “lied” myself.
- [Sipped] was HAD A TASTE. I certainly had more than just a taste of our Christmas dinner last night!
- [Clearly doing evil] was UP TO NO GOOD AT ALL. The “at all” part of this seems a bit superfluous.
Last time we reviewed a MAS “common letters in theme phrases” puzzle (henceforth referred to as a CLITP®), the letters were split in different ways in each entry. Here, it seems they are all the same, except for the final one, which seems a bit inelegant to me. Some random thoughts about the fill, in no particular order:
- [Biblical sling wielder] was DAVID. Far and away, my FAVE entry, although I might ask for a more recent clue, such as [Daily CrosSynergy reviewer on Diary of a Crossword Fiend Sullivan].
- [Slimy-sounding Yorkshire river?] was OUSE. How is that slimy? I would imagine it rhymes with “house.”
- [Heat-resistant glassware] was PYREX. Nice Scrabbly five-letter entry there.
- [Jobs offering?] clued MAC. Steve Jobs of Apple.
- [Botanical bristle] was SETA. A member of the crosswordese pantheon.
- Nice 1-2 punch of both STERLING and POUND as [British money].
- Finally, is AMOUR necessarily an illicit love affair? I think of it as plain old-fashioned romance.
- [Crowds, proverbially] clued THREES. Two is company, “three’s” a crowd. Often muttered by those actively participating in an AMOUR.
Tyler Hinman’s American Values Club crossword, “To Top It Off”
Okay, I am so out of sync with the AV Club difficulty ratings. If this took me as long as a Thursday NYT, I’d call it a 3 or 4 on a 5-point scale, but the puzzle was send out with a difficulty rating of 2. Just me? Distracted solver going more slowly than the puzzle dictated?
The theme is “O TANNENBAUM,” and the circled squares (green squares in the PDF, with a star on top) are evergreen trees that may be used as Christmas trees: SPRUCE, FIR, PINE.
The fill’s Scrabbly, but those uncommon letters are used to a good end. ZAGNUT, GI JOE, and QBERT are lively, poppy fill. (Compare to a recent NYT that plunked a Q in the grid to achieve a pangram, but at the expense of giving a Monday solver crossing French words, COQ and QUOI. Video game character QBERT and familiar informality PDQ are much more fun. Unless, of course, you know nothing of the video games of yore but studied French, in which case you probably think I’m a yutz.)
- 29d. [“It’s a Small World,” for one (sorry)], EARWORM. Nope, Hinman, not getting that song into my head. Nice try.
- 4d. [Like knowledge that should be kept to a minimum in crossword clues], ARCANE. Followed by 5d. [Rough-toothed dolphin’s genus … [reads previous clue] … oh, sorry, try “Dictation taker”], STENO. If you have to include boring, outdated fill, at least have fun with the clue and acknowledge that it’s crappy. Like COEDS as a plural noun—don’t play it off as a totally standard vocabulary word that isn’t sexist and outdated and doesn’t have porny uses. Have the clue tip us off that you know the word is terrible, and we will forgive you for including it in your grid. Because I know you know I know you should know.
- 40d. [ESPN show with men yelling about sports (OK, that may be a little nonspecific)], PTI. Pardon the Interruption. I like the parenthetical.
Four stars. Theme is simple but timely, there’s plenty of zip in the fill, and Tyler writes fun clues.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Boxing Day” — Matt’s review
Boxing Day isn’t something we celebrate in the U.S., but Brendan’s visiting his in-laws in the U.K. so a Boxing Day theme it is. Puns on boxing terms, to be specific:
17-a [Very popular spot to find a boxer?] = HOT CORNER.
25-a [Boxer’s book about a semi-circular punch?] = ON THE HOOK.
36-a [Boxing referee?] = CROSS-EXAMINER.
49-a [Boxing announcer?] = BOB BARKER. Bob is I think the “bob and weave,” a boxer’s tactic? Let me check. Yup.
59-a [Boxing circuit?] = RING CYCLE. I know it’s a famous opera series but I have to look up who wrote it. Wagner.
Still groggy and egg noggy from yesterday so this took me a painful 7:53. Painful since I kept making mistakes: PVTS instead of PFCS for [Some G.I.’s]; TV-PG instead of TV-MA for [Rating of some shows]; EVOKES instead of EDUCES for [Draws out]; and BUILD instead of BUILT for [Put up]. In retrospect those were all tough clues and reasonable guesses so this crossword is just plain tricky. Which is a good thing.
TINA FEY, SHORT I, STOLI, WHITMAN, JOE TORRE, ON A JURY and RUBBED in are all things you want in your crossword.
4.00 stars. Happy Boxing Day to everyone! If, like me, you don’t know exactly what Boxing Day is, here’s the answer.