Kevin Christian and Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword
This theme is one of those “great minds think alike” themes. Joon Pahk (who is about to launch a subscription site with variety puzzles!) published HELLO KITTY and MOOD INDIGO (along with EVENT HORIZON and MAJORITY RULE) in the NY Sun back in 2008, and Michael Sharp submitted another HELLO KITTY Norse gods theme to the CHE (great puzzle, but rejected because something quasi-similar had recently run) some years back, as well. And the CHE later ran one by Zhouqin Burnikel in 2013 (same Loki and Odin, plus LOST HORIZON and DIRTY RICE). Here, Kevin and Brad use this set:
- 17a. [College prank popular in the ’50s], PANTY RAID, with Tyr embedded within.
- 25a. [Classic Duke Ellington tune], MOOD INDIGO, Odin.
- 36a. [Slumber party game], TRUTH OR DARE, Thor.
- 47a. [Japanese toon with a red bow], HELLO KITTY, Loki.
- 58a. [They’re hidden in 17-, 25-, 36- and 47-Across], NORSE GODS.
And despite having just been reminded of Joon’s and Michael’s puzzles (I may well have test-solved Michael’s) a week ago, I still didn’t have a clue what this theme was till I reached the revealer. It’s been a long day. Nothing like a system snafu that gives you a needless two-hour wait to see a health professional, eh? I am collecting needless two-hour medical waits. I have three or four of them already.
Favorite fill: BARRON (because it’s also a name in my Irish family tree), BOSS MAN (despite the gendering—personally, I use “queen man” as the female equivalent), LAW FIRM, KOJAK, SIN TAX, and HORRIBLE. Dual Olympians SHANI Davis and Matt BIONDI are cool, too.
Did not know: 36d. [1968 Etta James album], TELL MAMA. Had trouble piecing it together, too, as I had a careless typo in RHEA (RHAA!).
T-TOPS, SOU, and ALEE are rather “meh” but I’m pleased with a grid with so few words in that category.
4.25 stars from me. Not dinging the puzzle for the way it REHEATS an old puzzle from a different venue. I suspect the constructors missed Joon’s 2008 offering, which doesn’t show up in the Cruciverb database, and derived the theme independently.
Tyler Hinman’s AVCX crossword, “Service Cancellation” — Ben’s Review
The AVCX promised a 1.5/5 in difficulty, and they definitely delivered – I don’t take my self-timing too seriously when I solve, but this was one of my faster solves in memory. Perhaps in honor of the US Open (or the FRENCH Open, which gets a shoutout at 9D), this puzzle was all about applying -LET to phrases in the theme clues:
- 17A: Where to plug one’s gloomy electronics in, in a goth-themed room? – BLACK OUTLET
- 27A: Place much smaller than Richmond? – VIRGINIA HAMLET
- 44A: Deep red that won’t fade? – LASTING SCARLET
- 59A: The very slightly eldest of three siblings? – HEAD TRIPLET
Lots of nice finds, a straightforward theme, and nice overall puzzle, fill-wise. I don’t have much to say besides that, so here’s some other clues I liked:
- 54A: “Tear-jerking vegetables…oh wai, sorry; I mean ‘negative particles'” – ANIONS. (I make the same mistake all the time.)
- 66A: “Your constructor’s are blue, ladies” – EYES. (Your reviewer’s are green, ladies. Form an orderly queue to the left.)
- 60D: “Greeting at sea (hey, two crossing sailor’s words!)” – AHOY (this one crosses AYE at 64A – there’s also multiple FRENCH words in the grid, to go back to 9D – OUI pops up as a “Consonantless concord” at 16A, and VOILA at 27D as ‘Aaaaand here it is!’)
3.5/5 stars. Nothing jaw-dropping, but a nice, refreshing start to my Wednesday.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme itself is elegant: four four-letter surnames of famous JACKs make up 2×2 boxes. Dr. Sessa’s four jacks all skew old today. They’re born between 1918 and 1935. I think that says a lot about the heyday of Jack’s popularity as a name! Paar, Lord and Webb are all from TV’s paleolithic. Kemp is a sportser turned politico. Jack Elam and fictional Jack Ryan are about the only other potential options I can see.
What I was less thrilled with, was the fill around these JACKs. All four corners are quiet enough that seeing things like ORAN/LSATS/THOM/TENPM in all four looks majorly ugly. I’m never against those answers (except maybe contrived TENPM) in isolation, but the overall impact was less than ideal.
This is partly a problem with this type of theme: no theme answers to focus on, in fact, very few interesting answers to see: tricky-to-spell AMONTILLADO was one and the not-by-Beck IMALOSER another.
Dunnos: The specific COLEMAN that makes Camping gear. I know Coleman’s mustard though! I also didn’t know OLIVIA as a kiddie-lit pig, but I appreciated the clueing angle nonetheless.
Gareth, leaving you with four JACKs and a JILT!