David Woolf’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Today’s theme is TWO-STATE SOLUTION, as indicated at 39a. [Topic of international negotiations … and a hint to every four-letter answer in this puzzle]. Each of the four-letter entries are composed of the postal abbreviation of two states. For example, 6a. MISC is formed from the postal abbreviations of Michigan and South Carolina. There are 18 such entries in this 15×16 grid, comprising a lot of theme material.
I had no clue was what going on with the four-letter entries until I got the revealer, which came towards the end of the puzzle for me. It took so long for me to get there, though, that it felt more like an “OH, OK” moment than an “aha!” moment. The theme entries were fine words for the most part, but a lot of the grid played harder than a regular Wednesday and took me about 50% longer than usual. Unknown to me were: SERIO, AMGEN, TRIAMORY, NOREEN Corcoran, AAU, Jean-Paul RAMPAL, CLAVE, ALAIN Delon, UDO, MAE Whitman, and the correct spelling of SHILLELAGH. (Known to me but less than ideal are the partials A FARM and A HOST. With such a long slog through unfamiliar territory, the theme would have to be incredible to redeem the puzzle for me.
I did enjoy INGLORIOUS, MOO COW, and 4a. [Court tie-ups?] as the clue for SNEAKERS.
Zhouqin Burnikel & Don Gagliardo’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tag Teams” — Jim’s review
Nice puzzle today from Burnardo (or should that be Burn & Gag? Nah. Let’s stick with Burnardo).
Our theme takes common compound words or phrases that end in what could be a person’s name and repurposes them with the first part becoming a verb.
- 18a. [Call Nicklaus and Nicholson?] PHONE JACKS. I love the similarity of Nicklaus and Nicholson, and at first I thought that was part of the theme. But this is the only one like that.
- 24a. [Put Gates and Clinton in the game?] PLAYBILLS. Fine.
- 54a. [Avoid Heflin and Morrison?] DODGE VANS. Grumble. Not nearly as strong a phrase as the others. There’s the Dodge Caravan, the Dodge Grand Caravan, and the Dodge Ram Van, but how many people lump them together to say DODGE VANS?
- 63a. [Sit McGwire and Teixeira?] BENCHMARKS. Far and away the best theme entry, because the action in the entry is related to the people (baseball players).
To be honest, I’m not sure why all the theme entries have to be plural. There’s nothing about the theme (other than the puzzle’s title) that requires multiple people.
Also, why no women? Surely it would’ve been possible to come up with at least one example featuring women. How about STONE ROSES? (Eww. No. Bad example.)
Moving away from the theme we get great long Downs in the NE and SW corners: ARCHETYPE, LIKE AS NOT, SOAP OPERA, and U.S. MARINES. Other fun shorter entries are YAMAHA, JAPAN, PAPAYA, TROLL, OVER IT, and I’M OKAY. Less-than-great fill includes ISU, LEDA, AMS, and HET, but they didn’t really detract from the overall solidity of the puzzle.
Some clues of note:
- 19d. [Country governed by its diet] refers to the National Diet, JAPAN‘s bicameral legislature (although JAPAN is well-known for its food as well).
- 53a. [Apple gadget] got me. I even put in an I at the beginning of the entry. Took me a while to see CORER.
- 68a. [Plane figure] is referring to a geometric plane, thus the answer is AREA.
- 50d. [Classified info] got me thinking of Clinton emails. Instead, the answer is AD RATE.
Solid puzzle, though the theme entries were hit-or-miss. One missed, one homered, and the other two were solid base hits, so all-in-all, a good at-bat.
Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “A Little Back-and-Forth” —Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everybody! Ade here pinch-blogging for Ben today, and boy did I pick a doozy of a puzzle to talk about. The grid was created by the extremely talented – and equally as diabolical (in a good way) – Byron Walden. In the grid, each of the four theme answers had the consecutive letters “ZIG” and “ZAG” in it, and the grid boxes literally do a zig (or zag) in the areas where those letters belong. Oh, and each of the four theme entries go in opposite directions – top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right and right to left. The cluing was hard enough to try and get the theme entries without the rebus! Definitely a work out for sure! But workouts are fun, and this was fun.
Also, I hope you guys can see this grid without any issues, especially since there was no .PUZ format available to subscribers. My apologies if you’re not able to make the letters out, but I tried (as always) to be as neat as possible. Obviously, I was not going to do this in pen, even though the letters would have been easier to read on here.
- BENGHAZIGATE PIZZA GIRL (4D: [Domino’s employee who brought pies to Trey Gowdy’s Select Committee?)
- DANZIG JAZZ AGERS (24A: [Flappers and flagpole sitters serving as backup singers for the Misfits?])
- BUZZ IGNATZ AGAIN (53A: [What Krazy Kat might do when there’s no answer at his mouse pal’s apartment the first time?])
- MITZI GAYNOR’S ZAGNUT BAR (62A: [Hershey treat with a red-and-yellow wrapper for the female lead in the movie “South Pacific”])
Definitely knew that the letter Z was playing big in almost each of the theme entries, as I figured that “Benghazi,” “pizza,” “Ignatz,” and “jazz age” all had to be part of the theme entries, but wasn’t sure at all how they were being manipulated. What let me into the gimmick were the crossings in the middle-left portion of the grid, with ATONES (36A: [Does penance]), SLOOP (39A: [John B, for one]) and HOT MIC, something I’ve been a victim of talking into when not knowing I’m not the air, all allowed me to realize where the “pizza” part in the “Benghazigate Pizza Girl” was supposed to go (41A: [Gaffe conduit, often]). Then I thought that particular intersection/slant might be where the end to “Ignatz” would be (which it was), and it was all-go from there. Of course, this was after almost 20 minutes of being utterly frustrated as to not knowing what was going on. Only entry I really needed help from the crosses was the one involving Mitzi Gaynor, as I’m sure enough of you had a) heard of Mitzi Gaynor before, and b) heard of a Zagnut bar and knew what its signature wrapper looked like. Was 0-for-2 on those.
I might have heard of JOG BRA once before today, of course in reference to sports bras, but I definitely loved the clue and the origin of that particular apparel (1A: [Original brand name for a sportswear item created from a pair of jockstraps]). So, in a way, there are two different clues/entries that refer to Carl Sandburg, if you look at the “John B” reference in SLOOP through the lens of his (Sandburg’s) folk songs collection. The other was CAT FEET, which took me a while to see since I lazily put an “S” at the end of that entry when first realizing it was going to be a plural (42D: [Stealthy movers in Carl Sandburg’s “Fog”]). Can’t tell you the last time I saw TWINKY, either in a grid or reading a comic strip (59A: [What Moe calls Calvin in “Calvin and Hobbes.”]). Grid played to a slightly older audience with the clues, which I’m sure pleased many on here. Grid pleased me too, but it was a fight to finish…literally. Last entry filled in? SAOIRSE (29A: [Oscar-nominated “Brooklyn” actress Ronan]). Heard the name before, had NO IDEA how to spell it!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RAGS (16A: [Spring cleaning needs]) – Former Major League Baseball pitcher and two-time All-Star Dave Righetti, nicknamed “RAGS,” was the key figure in one of the most memorable moments in baseball history almost 33 years to the day. On the Fourth of July in 1983, Righetti threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium against the Boston Red Sox, striking out Wade Boggs to complete the no-no. Rags is now the pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants, where he’s won three World Series titles with the Giants – in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
See you later on today with the CrosSynergy/Washington Post writeup!
Vasu Seralathan’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today we have a synonym theme. Four theme answers begin with synonyms for AUNATUREL: NUDEMOUSE, RAWPOWER, BARENECESSITIES and NAKEDEYE. The synonyms in use don’t stray too far from their AUNATUREL meanings, but I don’t think that they could.
Not a whole lot more to remark on. [Site of the first “Occupy” protest: Abbr], WALLST is clunky. [Satirical publication that claims to be “America’s Finest News Source”], THEONION is probably the best answer in the grid. Its symmetrical partner is IHATEYOU is rather dark. Most of the rest of the answers are short and of one word. Fairly clean, but quiet grid.