Today’s AV Club puzzle has a chance to win a cool prize after solving the puzzle. Our writeup will be posted once the deadline for submission has closed.
Sean Dobbin’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
We’re back with a punny Wednesday NYT, in which constructor Sean Dobbin incorporates actors’ names into common “___ING ___” phrases:
- 17a. Military vehicle for actor William? HOLDEN TANK (HOLDIN’ TANK)
- 24a. Makeup for actor Kevin? BACON POWDER (BAKING POWDER),
- 36a. Footwear for actor Ted? DANSON SHOES (DANCING SHOES)
- 47a. Cudgel for actor Christopher? WALKEN STICK (WALKING STICK)
- 57a. Equipment for actor Michael? LANDON GEAR (LANDING GEAR)
It’s a solid theme with good base phrases. I get a feeling of déjà vu from it, as if I have encountered a similar theme before, but I can’t think of a specific puzzle with the same theme mechanism. It would be nice to have at least one woman in there though, such as (Dolly) PARTON WORDS.
The dearth of women and people of color in the grid is my main gripe with this puzzle, actually. The fill is fantastic: UMPTEEN, CRATERS, SOLACE, A LA MODE…all great stuff. PASHA is new to me but I could figure it out from crossings. Nothing here makes me cringe. But it’s overwhelmingly male, with BUCKO, EHUD Barak, MENS, TONTO, as well as the five theme entries. On the female side, we have cartoon character EDNA Krabappel, ELA, and Carly Fiorina in the clue for CEO (which people would remember from the past several months, but whose time as CEO is looked upon with mixed reviews at best). As for people of color, there really are none, unless one counts Native American stereotype TONTO. It’s frustrating. This is a well-crafted puzzle, but I feel like over half the population was not kept in mind when it was constructed and edited.
Again, this crossword is very well done. I just wish many people could feel better represented in it while solving it.
To end on a happier note, here is the Christopher Walken “More Cowbell” sketch from Saturday Night Live.
David J. Kahn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Notes From the Chairman” — Jim’s review
Tribute puzzle to Ol’ Blue EYES, aka The Chairman of the Board, aka FRANK SINATRA (which crosses serendipitously in the very center of the grid—nice touch!). Every theme answer is a song title clued as something else.
- 18a [*Rationalizer’s comment] THAT’S LIFE
- 20a [*Clairol brand since 1965] NICE ‘N’ EASY
- 53a [*Unconditionally] ALL THE WAY. We would also accept [One way to go].
- 57a [*What an idealistic person has] HIGH HOPES
- 3d [*It’s spellbinding] WITCHCRAFT
- 29d [*Seasonal weather phenomenon] SUMMER WIND
This puzzle is unashamedly aimed at an older audience, older than me anyway, and I’m in my 40s. Without looking any of the songs up, I recognize three of them off the bat (THAT’S LIFE, ALL THE WAY, and HIGH HOPES). But the other three…nope. Somehow I must know WITCHCRAFT, because I got it off the I, but I couldn’t tell you how it goes.
Okay, I’ve looked them all up and I do recognize two more, but not NICE ‘N’ EASY. Don’t know that one at all.
Yet none of his arguably bigger hits are in the grid. There’s no “My Way,” “Strangers in the Night,” “Theme From New York, New York,” “Chicago,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” or “Come Fly With Me.” Obviously some of those can’t fit at all, but it seems odd to have a tribute puzzle to SINATRA without “My Way” at least, his signature tune (which could be colorfully clued as the partial [“It’s ___ or the highway!”]). There’s enough material for a Saturday-sized puzzle (though I think a weekday-size is plenty big for a tribute puzzle).
If you count the FRANK SINATRA crossing as another theme entry, there are a whopping seven full-sized themers in the grid. That’s really impressive, especially given that there are a couple 8-letter fill words (FROWNS AT and ASTERISK) and a handful of 7-letters (STREAKS, SONNETS, MALIGNS, TEE SHOT, ABRAHAM, and ALIENOR).
With all those themers and the long fill, you’d think the rest of the grid would be overstretched. Yes, there are some harder-than-usual proper names: MOHS, HURST, and especially 62a [NBA star ___ Ellis]. My first thought was MOLTA crossing SUMMER WILD which seemed plausible, but I caught myself and changed it to MONTA. But that’s really as bad as it gets. Given the constraints, the grid is remarkably well-filled.
My favorite fill, though, has to be F. Murray ABRAHAM clued as [“Amadeus” Oscar winner]. Nothing more need be said than this:
Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Lets Go” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol, definitely did not let up in terms of having a good time solving the grid, but it did take me until after I solved the grid to figure out what was going on. In her puzzle, each of the five theme entries is a pun created by dropping the consecutive letters “LET” from a common phrase.
- PAINTER’S PATE (20A: [Spot for a beret?]) – Painter’s palette.
- HEROIC COUP (30A: [Daring takeover?]) – Heroic couplet.
- VA PARKING (38A: [Lot for a November parade?]) – Valet parking.
- ILLEGAL SUB (50A: [Unlicensed classroom temp?]) – Illegal sublet.
- RUSSIAN ROUTE (59A: [Way over the Urals?]) – Russian Roulette.
Again, I gained even more of an appreciation for the grid when finally realizing the gimmick. Although far from having a Yiddish background, I definitely catch myself saying OY VEY a whole lot (46A: [Yiddish “Yikes!”]). I haven’t seen BPOE as fill as much as I had seen it when first doing crosswords a decade ago, which tells me that this fill is probably going/has gone the way of the dinosaur (19A: [Letters often seen under antlers]). And it just so happens that I talk about the Elks while I’m in Chicago, where its headquarters is located. Should I make a run to see the building before flying out tomorrow? Hmm, probably not. Maybe next time. If you have a court date coming sometime soon, this grid is for you, with both EN BANC (10D: [Court term that’s French for “on a bench”]) and ALL RISE featuring (43D: [Order in the court]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PEARL (17A: [Gift from an oyster]) – One of the most influential college basketball players in the 1980s passed away a few months ago, as New York City native and Syracuse University basketball legend Dwayne “PEARL” Washington passed away on April 20 due to a malignant tumor in his brain. The flair that the 1985 second team All-American brought to the court while at Syracuse helped plant the Big East Conference in the national sports consciousness and ESPN, which started televising Big East basketball games regularly in the ’80s, as the go-to place for watching the best college basketball in the country. Washington was drafted 13th overall in the 1986 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets.
Thank you once again for your time, and I hope you have a great Wednesday! See you tomorrow!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Brain not functioning too well at the moment. Spent about two minutes trying to unravel the bottom left. Should have looked at the rest of the theme. PTAMEETI?? looked like giberish. PITACHIPS seemed only vaguely plausible. I thought that I must have made some big mistakes. Turns out that, although only one letter is circled, the ones on either side are also thematic. PTA is spelt out in ADOPTAROAD/UPTAKE, SHRIMPTACO/POPTARTS, and PEPTALK/KEEPTABSON.
The theme was dense and had some interesting choices. The grid was well-constructed given the constraints. POPTARTS has a mini-thematic partner in LEGGO. The one wobbly moment was GSA/STEPA. STEPA alone stinks to high heaven…
Gareth, who feels obliged to leave you with this!