Peter Wentz’s New York Times crossword
Well! This is exactly the sort of themeless crossword that floats my metaphorical boat. Utterly fresh fill? Check. Some pop culture from my generation? Check. Funky words? Check. Scrabbly letters without ugly compromises in fill? Check. Absence of grievous junk? Check. Crispy clues? Check. To wit:
- Fresh* fill includes MOVE BACK, B.B. KING, “I REALIZE…,” KAFKAESQUE, TAP DANCERS, SHED TEARS, NO-LOSE, TED TALKS, VELVET ROPE, KINESCOPE, BLUE JEANS, BIG GAMES, and SQUARE DEAL. (*Note: “Fresh” doesn’t necessarily mean “not seen in the NYT crossword before.” Just means “certainly not overused in crosswords, and nice to see here.”)
- Pop culture up my alley: KURTIS Blow of “Rapper’s Delight” fame, model KATE MOSS, Darth VADER. NATE Ruess of fun. is more of my son’s generation, but hey, I know who he is.
- Funky words: POOBAH! Much zippier than its fellow -AH word, RAJAH.
- Scrabbliness galore: six K’s plus a Z, Q, X, and J. KAFKAESQUE is particularly Scrabblicious.
- Absence of junk: [this space left intentionally blank]
And here are some clues I appreciated:
- 18a. [Home of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park], UGANDA. “Impenetrable”! I suppose there are a lot of roads in.
- 27a. [Things worn at home?], FACE MASKS. For the baseball catcher at home plate.
- 10d. [Bowls, e.g.], BIG GAMES. As in the college football bowl games. They ain’t small.
- 14d. [Part of a moving cloud], GNAT. Been through a city-sized gnat cloud just once, and that was one time too many.
- 20d. [Foe of the Vikings], Green Bay PACKERS. You were thinking of Picts and Normans and Visigoths and whatnot, admit it.
- 24d. [High beams], RAFTERS. Wooden beams up high, not the brighter setting of your car’s headlights.
- 32d. [Part of a TV archive], KINESCOPE. This thing right here.
4.5 stars because I so enjoyed this puzzle.
Patrick Jordan’s Washington Post/CrosSynergy crossword, “Time Consuming”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday everybody!
Before I start on today’s review, let me apologize for being young…and because of that, not recognizing that yesterday’s theme involved words that informally meant getting high/drunk. I pride myself in being an old soul, but I might need to go back to the drawing board! OK, off to today’s review…
Listening to a good joke is never a bad way to start a day, and our thanks to Mr. Patrick Jordan for providing us a chuckle with a little play on words, as well as a hungry clock that needs more than just batteries as fuel to keep on ticking.
- A CLOCK DID NOT GET ENOUGH TO EAT AT A BUFFET SO IT WENT BACK FOUR SECONDS (17A, 26A, 42A. 56A: [Start of a joke…End of the joke]).
It always amazes me when I see a quote or a joke as a theme and the clean word breaks on each part of the entry. Can only imagine how many possible ideas to do likewise in a grid came to their demise because of a bad word break at the edge of the grid. Even if I’ve never heard the quote before, it’s still an accomplishment to seamlessly incorporate it in a puzzle, and this is no different. That, and it’s humorous as well. Good job!
Some really nice fill in this one, including the rarely seen or heard FREE ZONE (38D: [Area without duty payments]), as well as PANCREAS (9D: [Insulin producer]). At one time, my home page was the ONION (14A: [Satirical Web site, with “The”]). We also go back to school with ELIHU (26D: [University founder Yale]) and with the home of St. Bonaventure University, OLEAN (19D: [New York city on the Allegheny]). Have heard of someone caught between two minds much more often than NOT OF one mind (27D: [_____ one mind (in disagreement)]). NOT OF crossing OHO (39A: [Realization vocalization]) was probably the most unsightly part of the grid. OHO is Ohio without being high in the middle.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KONG (18D: [King of filmdom’s Skull Island])- “Kong” was the nickname of the 1970s-80s baseball slugger Dave Kingman, who played for a myriad of teams, most notably with the New York Mets (two stints) and Chicago Cubs. Even without his last name that allowed for the obvious alliteration, Kingman might have had the most apt nickname of any player in baseball; he was huge (6’6″) and consistently hit mammoth, tape-measure home runs. He ended his career with 442 career dingers, but because of his consistently low batting average (.236 career BA), propensity to strike out, and poor defensive skills, Kingman eventually became the first player to hit at least 400 career home runs and NOT make it into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. (He was disqualified from future eligibility due to his low balloting numbers in his first year up for induction.)
Here’s a joke involving numbers/math before signing off. Why did I divide sin by tan?
Have a great weekend!
Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Oh Yeah?” — pannonica’s write-up
Phrases with a long O sound suffixed. Good variation here, with what seems like all the common English spellings of /ō/ included.
- 22a. [Designer’s color suggestion for sprucing up gray uniforms?] REBEL YELLOW (Rebel Yell). You’d thing designers would have a better appreciation for metaphor.
- 24a. [Winter treat made with Splenda?] DIET COCOA (Diet Coke).
- 30a. [The Magi?] CHRISTMAS TRIO (Christmas tree).
- 42a. [Comedy team pairing Red with a clown?] BUTTONS AND BOZO ( … and bows). That’s far too disturbing a concept.
- 48a. [Come into part of a house?] INHERIT THE WINDOW ( … the Wind). Clever phrasing, with “come into” doing a bit of misdirection—alas, it isn’t 100% seamless.
- 70a. [Rescued after shouting for help?] SAVED BY THE BELLOW ( … bell).
- 91a. [Wine served in the dining hall?] SCHOOL BORDEAUX (school board, not to be confused with boarding school, nor with wine in a cardboard box).
- 101a. [Find some change on a Tijuana sD\idewalk?] PICK UP THE PESO ( … the pace). Not to be confused with Pace picante sauces and salsas, made in Paris, Texas.
- 112a. [Store chain specializing in replacement joints?] KNEE DEPOT (knee-deep). A modest little gem, this one.
- 114a. [Tea marketed to surviving spouses?] WIDOW’S PEKOE (widow’s peak). Trying to imagine the cutesy packaging that oh-so precious Celestial Seasonings would come up with for such a variety.
In addition to the many /ō/ spellings, we see quite a bunch of transformations to the base word after the suffix is added. Fun theme, very well executed.
- 17d [A group of them is called a knot] TOADS; 46d [A group of them is called a parliament] OWLS. Factette*: the collective noun for the flammulated owl (Psiloscops flammeolus) is a funkadelic.
- WSJ-inflected clues and answers (some gratuitous, but pardonable): 80a [Canner’s job] AXING; 95 [Some mortgages] JUMBOS; 96a [Stock character?] TRADER; 97a [Business letters] INC; 99a [balance sheet list] ASSETS; 19D [Contract components] TERMS; 53d [Exchange places] PITS; 68d [Major suit] EXEC; 1a [Their business is picking up] BUSES; 88a [One might be bailed out] BOAT.
- DIVAS/OPERA/ARIAS. Also, CROONS. (82a, 52a, 27a, 40a)
- Some of the strong long non-theme fill: SABER TOOTH, UNCENSORED, LIGHT SPEED, BACKSIDE, OLDSTERS, LAWBREAKERS. Also nice to see 66d [Metal band that holds an eraser on a pencil] FERRULE, which is exactly how I think of WILL (the nearby 57d) Ferrell—cylindrical, with an odd tuft on top.
- 120a [All-inclusive word] EVERY / 73d [Under any circumstances] EVER. Uh-oh. Bothe from Olde Englishe ǣfre.
- Non-theme entries ending with /ō/ are I’M SO, ROW, ROLO, HIDEO, RIO, SILO, CAIRO, OLEO, SANYO. Though there are a bunch, they don’t intrude on the theme too much, and only a few make (homophonic) sense sans the terminal vowel sound. (20a, 50a, 118a, 10d, 14d, 28d, 39d, 78d, 100d)
- 121a [Cones’ counterparts] RODS, right beneath 117a [Seeing things?] EYES.
Strong puzzle. My only question is, why didn’t Frank Longo and not Mike Shenk construct it?
* Not a true factette.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I really like the central premise of David Poole’s puzzle. It’s pretty obvious, but you need to add a vowel that is its own syllable to the beginning of the first word of the theme phrases. These progress from A to U. Like all wacky-style answer puzzles, entertainment value is highly subjective, but these kind of just sat there for me. I wasn’t familiar with the middle phrase “pad of paper” but it seems to be a thing. The answers, in full, are:
- 17a, [Cost to join the elite?], ALISTPRICE
- 25a, [Kindle download that’s too good to delete?], EBOOKKEEPER
- 35a, [Origami tablet?], IPADOFPAPER
- 49a, [Expert on circular gaskets?], ORINGMASTER
- 58a, [List of reversals?], UTURNTABLE
The two “big corners in the top-right and bottom-left corners were particularly well-filled today! Along with the long CHEAPTHRILL and TAXIDRIVERS we get Dr. Seuss’ YERTLE (who is a terrapin not a turtle, while I’m here!) and the kind of fun to say MINARET. LEONIDS, CURACAO and EUREKA are all punchy for one word answers.
Elsewhere, [Hitching aid] THUMB is a cute way to open the puzzle. In the same corner, BETHESDA seems to be one of those names that has been given to a lot of things. I’m not sure which the [National Institutes of Health home] is. Apparently that’s BETHESDA, MD. So sayeth Wikipedia. The clue [Wee bit o’ Glenlivet, say] seems to be a deliberate trap! I put in DROP first and I assume I’m not alone!
So-so theme, but the rest of the puzzle provided more than enough to interest me! 3.5 Stars
Amy Johnson’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “It’s Not Easy Being Greek” — pannonica’s write-up
Nifty theme with a great title, playing on the now-iconic song “Bein’ Green” from Sesame Street, written by Joe Raposo (who’s also responsible for the show’s title song, the Three’s Company theme song, and many other insanely catchy tunes).
Only three themers, but they’re all long, and all good. Characters from Greek mythology, in adjective form and with a sort of ordeal.
- 17a. [What a difficult task may require] HERCULEAN EFFORT. Referencing his ten—then twelve labors.
- 38a. [Impossible-to-complete endeavor] SISYPHEAN TASK. He of the boulder and the hill, in perpetuity.
- 61a. [Arduous trek] ODYSSEAN JOURNEY. Ten years, people. Ten years to get home. After ten years of fighting in the Trojan War. And you know what? After 20 years away, his loyal and faithful dog Argos is there to greet him, just before expiring. Assuming the two had a number of years together to build a relationship, just how old was that dog anyway
Minimal but disproportionately lengthy critique: (1) the first two themers are prevalent collocations while the third is not overly familiar to me. Let’s see if Google Ngrams bears out this notion … yes, it does. But it isn’t completely unheard of, and it allows a second 15-letter spanner to match the first. (2) The first uses the demigod’s Roman name while the other two stick with the Greek; however, in contrast to many Roman/Greek equivalents, for Herakles the later name has eclipsed its Greek analogue. It seems very willful and deliberate—possibly pedantic— to say “Heraklean effort.” Back to the Ngrams! (Notice also that “Herculean task” is markedly more common than “Herculean effort.”)
45d [Listening to Muzak, maybe] ON HOLD. Oh, that’s definitely a PANNONICAN ORDEAL (16, alas).
13a [Rigel’s constellation] ORION, the hunter from Greek mythology. 71a [Praiseful pieces] ODES, ultimately from the from Greek ōidē, literally, song, from aeidein, aidein to sing; akin to Greek audē voice (m-w).
- 11d [“The Color Purple Setting”] threw me, because AFRICA is not the primary setting; that’s Georgia.
- 19d [Like the swankiest hotels] FIVE-STAR, where you might be lucky enough to spend an extended LAYOVER (30d). Other long ballast fill: KIRIBATI and SIPHONED, plus INGÉNUE, clued with via the crossword-friendly-but-horrific-looking Christine DAAÉ. I mean, her name is horrific-looking; her suitor, the Phantom of the Opera, he’s the one with the grotesque physiognomy.
- Least favorite fill: 9a [“First in Flight” st.] NCAR. Also, I ignored the clue’s abbrev. signal and casually went with OHIO, forgetting Kitty Hawk and thinking of Dayton, not to mention all those astronauts.
- 64d [Jargon suffix] -ESE. I love jargonese.
Good puzzle, and unlike the theme items, an enjoyable experience.