If you’re not an AV Club Crossword subscriber, I strongly encourage you to buy this week’s terrific offering for $1 here and solve it before you peek at the write-up below.
Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword
I’m getting to the puzzle late tonight. I saw La Liz’s byline and that jogged my memory about those interview questions I was supposed to answer today for Ravishly. (Ravishly profiled Liz recently.) An hour later, here I am, ready for bed just as soon as I get this blogging out of the way.
The theme is 54a. [Longtime Prego slogan … with a hint to the answers to the five starred clues], IT’S IN THERE, and there’s an IT S embedded within each theme phrase, spanning two words.
- 17a. [*Chilled appetizer or dessert], FRUIT SALAD. I’m sorry to do this to you, but have you heard the Wiggles song “Fruit Salad”? It’s quite catchy.
- 36a. [*Billboard listing], HIT SONG. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” has been a hit song for a couple months, but whether you know the song or not, I think you’ll like this jazzy cover version, featuring Kate Davis singing while playing an upright bass.
- 11d. [*Kick the habit, say], QUIT SMOKING. Dear readers, if you smoke tobacco, I beseech you to kick the habit. Use another form of nicotine if need be. I’m just tired of all the moms my friends have lost to COPD and lung cancer while the grandkids were still little.
- 24d. [*Feature of many a TV interview], SPLIT SCREEN.
- 25d. [*Time to retire?], PIT STOP. As in changing tires on a race car. I really wanted this answer to speak to me about bedtime.
Solid, though the pasta sauce slogan didn’t ring a bell for me.
I liked seeing SESAME OIL, BONGS, and KNEE BENDS in the grid. And I also appreciated the women of the puzzle—SELA Ward, ELLEN Barkin, GINA Lollobrigida (though I’d take the more current Gershon or Torres over Lollapuzzoola … I mean, Lollobrigida), Lucy LIU, and ANGELA’S Ashes. Five women’s names, up against GIL, KEN, CUSTER, ORR, and ALAN. A 50/50 split, probably better than you’ll see in most crosswords.
There was plenty of other fill that left me cold—ORAN, ASSAM, EGIS, RESOD, OLEO, REATAS, and AGORA felt like escapees from an old puzzle. And guess what? It was an old puzzle. Liz reports at Wordplay that this one was accepted for publication 7 or 8 years ago. I have no idea why it didn’t see light till now.
3.25 stars for me. I might well have liked it better in 2007, but Crossword Fiend didn’t have star ratings back then.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Wait Until Dark”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Hump Day, everyone!
Today’s grid, offered up to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, is something I can definitely relate to at this very moment, as each of the themes are activities that usually occur during the night. I’ve just arrived in Charlotte after taking Amtrak overnight, and definitely spent time burning the midnight oil while on the iron horse.
- MIDNIGHT MASS: (20A: [Religious ritual that happens after dark])
- FLASHLIGHT TOUR: (30A: [Exploratory excursion that happens after dark])
- GRAVEYARD SHIFT: (40A: [Work period that happens after dark])
- DRIVE-IN MOVIE: (54A: [Entertainment offering that happens after dark]) – Need to see a movie at a drive-in one of these days, just to say that I’ve done it before. Yes, I know my drive-in movie locations are limited, but I’m willing to go a long way to experience a drive-in.
It’s an interesting twist in seeing ENSIGNS in the grid instead of its abbreviation that we have to put up with many times (42D: [Certain Coast Guard officers]). We get very biblical up in the northwest with ADAM (4D: [Burt’s “Batman” costar]) and DELILAH adjacent to each other (5D: [Biblical temptress]). Speaking of Delilah, I remember living in Salisbury, MD and listening to Delilah, the radio personality, a whole lot of times over the speaker system when going grocery shopping, as well as when I worked at ClearChannel down there. Random, I know! My on-and-off insomnia has allowed me to catch up on The Smurfs, which airs in the early morning on the Cartoon Network offshoot Boomerang, so I’ve been seeing more PAPA Smurf than I thought I would have at my age right now (10A: [Smurf patriarch]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ILYA (31D: [“Superman” coproducer Salkind]) – ILYA Kovalchuk is hockey player who currently is playing professionally in Russia after a long stint in the National Hockey League from 2001-2013. Kovalchuk was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and, in 2004, he tied for the league-lead in goals scored (41). While a member of the New Jersey Devils, he once signed a 17-year, $102 million contract that was subsequently voided because the league believed the team was trying to cheat the salary cap rules in place.
See you all on Thursday, everybody!
Caleb Madison’s American Values Club crossword, “Spirituals”
Combine Halloween ghostiness with the AV Club’s general fondness for rock and rap, plus Caleb’s inventiveness, and you get this fun puzzle. The two 5-square lines of black squares are hiding two famously “Are they really dead?” musicians, and those hidden letters appear in the Down answers above and below. But the twenty curtailed Downs are also legit answers, and they’re clued via the unparenthetical letters in those Down clues.
ELVIS is below these five answers, for example:
- 4d. [(Possible) g(o)al of s(h)o(ppi)ng], SAL(E), with SAL clued as [gal of song] with the letters not enclosed in parens.
- 5d. [Fi(rst) v(ictim of his own broth)er], ABE(L), with ABE a [fiver].
- 6d. [“(That’s it,) p(al, you’ve lo)s(t) y(our) ch(ance to watch anything tonight)!”], NO T(V). NOT = [“Psych!”].
- 7d. [(Slaps)ti(ck s)t(ar,) “Par(ade” ac)t(or, a)n(d Oscar nomin)e(e of F)r(ance)], TAT(I). TAT = [tit partner], as in “tit for tat.”
- 8d. [(On)e (of) X(ena: Warr)i(or Prince)s(s’s an)t(agonists)], ARE(S). ARE = [exist].
The five answers below ELVIS, then, are (E)QUIP, (L)UMBER, (V)APE, I(LEX), and (S)IDE. In the bottom half of the grid, TUPAC hides out amid EMI(T), TUT(U), UTE(P), STRAT(A), and ANTI(C) above and (T)IRE, (U)DON, (P)ENT, (A)CHE, and C(HAR).
If that’s not enough to impress you, there are also two theme answers:
- 10d. [Description of work by the figures haunting this puzzle?], DEAD BEATS.
- 35d. [Description of work by the figures haunting this puzzle?], SOUL MUSIC.
You might think that a grid with 20 of these plus/minus-a-letter answers, two names hidden in black squares, and two 9-letter themers would otherwise suck, but really 1a: ALG (short for algebra) is the worst it gets.
- BEAM ABOARD atop LOVE LETTER, and INSTAGRAM opposite WHAT A JERK.
- 39a. [Olympian Jim or Ian], THORPE. New and old classic athletes.
- 43a. [Hamburger home?], HAUS. As in the German word for “house” in Hamburg.
- 71a. [Webcomic with a name chosen because it can’t be pronounced], XKCD. If you don’t know Randall Munroe’s science-friendly webcomic, here’s one I like about “for the sake of argument.”
Did not know: 20a. [Michael who won an Oscar for “Little Miss Sunshine”], ARNDT. He wrote the original script, and it was his first produced screenplay. His second screenplay, for Toy Story 3, garnered an Oscar nom for best adapted screenplay. Dude can write movies, I guess.
A rare 5-star rating from me. Interesting and creative theme concept executed superbly with a fresh approach to double-edged cluing. Kudos to Caleb and editor Ben Tausig for a gem.
Allan E. Parrish’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Rhyming theme! Subtle. Don’t see many of them anymore. I think this one was chosen for the middle entry? It’s a cute centrepiece with no vowels to represent the “oo” sound! Anyway, we have:
- [Classic country song with the lyric “I’ve lived my life in vain”], BORNTOLOSE. No idea. More familiar with this Born to Lose…
- [Manners expressed in letters], PSANDQS
- [Writer/director known for his coming-of-age films], JOHNHUGHES. I recently watched his “Uncle Buck”. What a repulsive movie!
- [Deduction on many paychecks], UNIONDUES
- [24/7 information provider], CABLENEWS
It’s funny how it works out, but the top-left & bottom-right, the most challenging corners, are pretty solid, except for ALERS of course. Where things unravel a bit is in the two quiet sides. MMCD over OPA and EPPS/EMP/DSOS. Only MMCD and EMP are bad in isolation, but their combined effect is rather ugly.
- [Alternative to Windows], UNIX. Only in an extremely tenuous way. They’re both operating systems, but used in very different context. A bit like having [Alternative to gumboots] and the answer being TAPSHOES.
- [Chewy candy brand], ROLO – the Americanism “candy” always sounds/looks funny to my eyes/ears. The two “candy” references could be a tenuous link to actor John who featured in several JOHNHUGHES films…