Amy here: Apologies to Neville and Peter! I spaced out the other day when I wrote about four other indie puzzlemakers (Andy Kravis, Erik Agard, Todd McClary, and Evan Birnholz), and certainly did not mean to leave out these two regulars. (Or maybe they’re irregulars.)
Peter Broda’s Cross Nerd site publishes a new puzzle every other week, often a themeless but occasionally a vowelless puzzle. This week’s “Freestyle 35” is a themeless, and it’s a saucy bugger. Took me 7:34 to solve, longer than many a Saturday NYT. Lots of out-there fill and clues. If clues like the following ones call out to you, bookmark Cross Nerd and mark your calendar for the next offering on the 25th. [Element 118, which has the highest atomic mass of all discovered elements], [Site affiliated with “WTF Tattoos” and “White Trash Repairs”], [Communal tech workshop, in modern lingo], and (my favorite) [Scroll loch?]. Not spoiling the solve by giving away the answers here.
Neville Fogarty’s latest is a quote puzzle in a 22×11 grid. When a puzzle is published online, there’s so much more flexibility in grid size and shape. Quote themes, even derived from funny people like Andy Richter, don’t thrill me, but the puzzle pleased me with its smattering of pop culture. My favorite clue was the misleading [Link warning]; 4 letters, but the answer is not FORE.
Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
* still waiting on replacement keyboard for the replacement keyboard; feels like a runaround but probably just foot-dragging
So. Eleven-down gives us [Subs … or a feature of the answers to the 17 asterisked clues?] B-TEAM. First, it has nothing to do with (the obviously unasterisked) 53d [Sub builders?] DELIS. Second, what it really means is that those entries begin with the letter B. In the case of the 8 longish across entries and 2 11-letter downs in what we can call traditional theme locations, we’re treated to two-word or compound-word phrases in which both elements begin with B:
- 17a. [*Villainous noble of a classic French tale] BLUEBEARD.
- 21a. [*Dodo] BIRDBRAIN.
- 27a. [*Bench-pressing equipment] BARBELL.
- 34a. [*Neighborhood financial institution] BANK BRANCH. Bleah.
- 43a. [*Hungarian composer whose only opera is about 17-Across] BÉLA BARTÓK. Its English title is Bluebeard’s Castle. The librettist? One Béla Balázs.
- 49a. [*The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, e.g.] BIG BAND.
- 58a. [*Base of many gravies] BEEF BROTH. Not to be confused with bouillabaisse. No, not by any means.
- 66a. [*Physical attribute of Homer Simpson] BALDING BEAN. Oh, sorry. BEER BELLY.
- 4d. [*Have a meal] BREAK BREAD.
- 32d. [*Ones who criticize others in their absence] BACKBITERS.
There are two more vertical entries that I somewhat begrudgingly include, even though they’re only seven letters each:
- 9d. [*Bogeyman] BUGBEAR.
- 44d. [*Restaurant staffers] BUSBOYS.
5 4 5 are distributed more or less randomly:
- 1a [Replaceable part of a lamp] BULB (edit: forgot to count this one)/ 1d [Things to drool over?] BIBS.
- 9a [*Rum-soaked cakes] BABAS
- 15a [*__ Ruth] BABE.
- 27d [*Part of a fishhook] BARB. On the occasion of BARBELL crossing BARB in this context, the whiskers of catfish (as well as other piscine organisms) are called barbels.
… annnd, that’s it. I’m assuming the 17th asterisked clue was intended to be 18d [Gooey cheese] BRIE, but it isn’t so adorned, at least not in the PUZ file. Oh, also not in the PDF file. Nor, by the way, is the explainer (I don’t feel like calling it a revealer) at 11-down, which also qualifies, in a meta sense. (See correction above, and thanks to commenter Mark for prompting me to re-reassess my tally. Also, under these new circumstances, BRIE and B-TEAM seem even less welcome in the grid.) (addendum: disregard the bulk of this paragraph, and relevant parts of subsequent commentary, as per noticing BULB, above.)
My thoughts, succinctly: Mediocre theme, the quantity of double-B entries is mildly impressive. The other five (or six) accessory “themers” feel superfluous and distracting. All but one of them are unnecessary and, in essence, gratuitous. The one exception is 27d BARB, which intersects the start of one of the “normal” theme entries. If only the explainer could have been located there! And the others eliminated completely.
Incidental thought: Three of the ten BB entries have clues that begin with B; it might have been more impressive if all of them possessed that quality. Perhaps even all “17” theme entries.
Another incidental thought: as long as those flimsy single-B entries have been tossed into the ring, I kind of wish BLOOM had been one of them, as 16 June is of course Bloomsday. But I’m quite certain the constructor had no date-specific notions when submitting this puzzle. Nevertheless.
Cross-referenced clues: 73a [Sultan of __ (nickname for 15-Across)] SWAT. 69a [Roman poet who wrote about 33-Across] OVID; 33a [Love personified] AMOR. Meh.
Most interesting thing I noticed, or realized: 55d [Part of many a bus. address] PO BOX; swap the traditional axes designations and … voilà! … PO’BOY.
Time for dinner.
David W. Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Okay. I’ve solved the puzzle. I’ve identified the revealer. But I haven’t analyzed that revealer, to figure out what the theme is. Come along with me.
56a [Store posting, and what the first words of the answers to starred clues could literally be doing] CLOSING TIME. Okay, duly noted. What were those starred clues again?
- 18a. [*Mood] FRAME OF MIND. Nope, not getting it.
- 37a. [*Philatelist’s prize possession] STAMP COLLECTION. Sorry, Lou, still not getting it. Also, that should be prized possession. Ice tea creep will be the death of us all.
- 3d. [*Like a baseball fouled into the stands] OUT OF PLAY.
- 34d. [*Solid baseball hit] LINE DRIVE.
Whoa, it took me longer to comprehend the gimmick, longer than a Monday puzzle should require. The computer has been drinking, not me? Oh wait, I’ve gotten my Tom Waits albums mixed up. This is from his fourth album, 1976’s Small Change, which is equal in quality to his 1973 début, Closing Time.
So, we have a bit of sophisticated wordplay on our hands. “Closing,” in the sense of following, following the word time. Hence, time frame, time stamp, time out, and timeline.
It’s a bit perturbing that two—that is, half—of the theme answers overtly invoke baseball, so that’s a ding.
Some fine, evocative fill in this modest grid: DEFACES, GODOT, NIMROD, BOREDOM, SNEER, VOLGA. Or perhaps I’m just being fatalistic. Other bits: Uncommonly engaging (for a Monday) clue at 48d [Woman often followed by a train] BRIDE. Mildly amused by 15a [Like most white bears] POLAR / 29d [Gondola helmsman] POLER. Resonance with 35d [Ready-to-go lawn starter] SOD / 51a [Planted] SOWN.
Yelling-at-cloud moment: when, oh when will constructors and editors move on to some description of OTTERs (49d) that doesn’t invoke playfulness or frolicking?
All in all, a cut above the typical Monday fare.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
*shaking fist at Brendan* Yes, UKRAINIANS fits the space for 65a. [Odessa residents, e.g.], although the U and the I’s and the K are a little less than friendly as bottom-row letters. Turned out to be WEST TEXANS. Vladimir Putin does not, to my knowledge, have issues with the West Texans.
- 17a. [Coach of the US Men’s National Team], JURGEN KLINSMANN. Haven’t been paying much attention to the USMNT, and thought I remembered a Klipsch– name. Crossings, lots of crossings.
- 60a. [“That reminds me …”], “DID I EVER TELL YOU…?” The other anchoring 15, and one I could actually get.
- 3d. [First couture house to make a designer sports car], VERSACE. Figures it’s Italian. ‘Twas a Lamborghini.
- 7d. [1943 Cary Grant film about a gambler], MR. LUCKY. Didn’t know it, but it’s inferrable.
- 27d. [Robotic pet in “Doctor Who”], K-NINE. Did not know this one. It’s actually K-9, with a numeral. Meh for spelled-out numbers in crossword answers.
- 56d. [Female character who sings “Typically English” in “Stop the World – I Want To Get Off”], EVIE. I don’t know what any of this means. Apparently there’s a musical.
- 52d. [Blind cave ___], EEL. One of my favorite EEL clues.
- 43d. [“Gone Baby Gone” actress], AMY RYAN. Not a huge name, but she was nominated for an Oscar in that role.
- 45d. [Sweeps on the field], END RUNS. I don’t quite understand this. Can one of you sportsy types explain it?
3.75 stars from me.
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Three Strikes”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, and hope you’re having a good start to the new week!
Take me out to the ballgame…and if not, YER OUT (68A: [Cry hinted at by the last words of 23-, 38-, and 49-across])!! Ok, maybe that’s not how the famous baseball rhyme goes, but I really like the subtle baseball theme to this puzzle, authored by Mr. Jeff Chen. In the grid, the three themes each end with words that can come before the word “strike.” And you know what happens when you get three strikes, right? That means you’re a turkey!! (Don’t get offended, because I’m playing off a bowling term. Turkey is the bowling terminology for making three strikes in a row. This is a bonus “sports…smarter” moment!)
- WHITE LIGHTNING: (23A: [Backyard hooch) – Raise your hand if you’ve had White Lightning before? (*Hand raised*)
- DIVISION OF LABOR: (38A: [Topic of household debate, commonly])
- I’M FEELING LUCKY: (49A: [Button on Google’s search engine])
As I always say, the first clue, either across or down, sets the tone to my mood when solving a puzzle, and it immediately was buoyed by the awesome entry of AGENT J (1A: [“Men in Black” role]). Obviously (for those that have watched the MIB movies), it was going to be either agents “J” or “K,” and filling in that last letter was made easier when reading the clue that led to JOE PESCI (6D: [“I mean, funny like I’m a clown?” speaker]). There are many times that movie references are lost on me in puzzles, but you combine MIB with Goodfellas in a grid, then I’m set!! Oh, and throw in DENIRO and I’m am as comfortable as a pig rolling in the mud (14A: [Godfather portrayer]).
Julius Caesar was also a popular figure in this grid, as evidenced by I CAME (49D: [Start of Caesar’s boast]) and VIDI (19A: [Middle of Caesar’s boast]). Was fooled by the clue for CNET (31A: [Tech gadget reviewer]), as I initially put in USER. Although I know this is a totally legitimate answer, I might have said the word WOWIE maybe twice in my life (23A: [“Cowabunga”]). The only real spot of bother came figuring out TREX (37D: [One of Calvin’s alter egos (abbr.)]), but the crosses sussed it out pretty quickly.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: COX (48A: [Crew director])– Cox is short of coxswain, the steersman of a ship. Many sports fans usually take notice of coxswains when seeing rowing events in the Olympics.
Have a great day, everyone, and I’ll see you tomorrow!