Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Your theme revealer is MAKE IT LAST, or 62a. [“Use this sparingly” … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Various familiar words or phrases find their meanings thoroughly altered by the addition of an IT in the last position:
- 17a. [Hormel’s assurance that Spam is packed safely?], “YES, WE CAN IT.” Mind you, canning it offers no assurance of safety. There could be contaminants in the container, and the meat-processing process there has had dangers. (Note change from Obama’s slogan “Yes We Can” to an entirely different “can” meaning.) Perhaps a clue like [Gardener’s assurance that they’ve got a use for the bumper crop of tomatoes?] would work here.
- 29a. [Playground equipment thief?], SWING BANDIT. (Swing band.) Worse than the yahoos who flip the swings so that the chains wrap tightly around the top bar.
- 38a. [“Enough!” as opposed to “You quit that right now!”?], SHORT “STOP IT!”, vs. a shortstop. Cubs win!
- 48a. [“Miss Dickinson, put your poem on Facebook”?], “EMILY, POST IT!” (A play on etiquette expert Emily Post.) I wonder if Ned originally was going with a Post-it note reference here. The poet/Facebook bit, though, is impossibly cute. My favorite themer.
Notes on the fill: I like MERCH, and I think I like BE A HERO. LEGS DIAMOND is way more fun (unless your ancestors were victimized by him and his gang) than IRS AUDITORS (unless you work for the IRS). I’m wishing we’d never see ELOI again in a puzzle, but I suppose it’s not as bad as yesterday’s ATRI/ARA/SNEE/ONE-A. And I don’t care for PAW AT (or most of the other verb + AT phrases we see in crosswords).
3.6 stars from me.
Damien Peterson’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dynamite!” — Jim’s review
We’re adding Bs (that’s multiple copies of the letter B, not B.S.) to the ends of phrases today. Our revealer at 65a clues us in: [Dynamite product, and a hint to the puzzle’s theme answers]. Answer: BLAST.
- 18a [Saying “moo” instead of “oink”?] SWINE FLUB. Couldn’t this equally be a BOVINE FLUB? Maybe [Porky getting tongue-tied, e.g.] would be closer to the target.
- 29a [Spider’s weaving, strung between columns?] EDITORIAL WEB. This just doesn’t have any surface sense. I get the play on words with “columns,” but once you realize we’re talking newspaper articles, the image of a spider building a web on your newspaper just doesn’t make sense.
- 43a [Conclusion of a pot smoker’s justification?] AND I LOVE HERB. I like this one. I’ve seen many Beatles lyrics and song titles in Mike Shenk productions, so I’m guessing he’s a fan, as I am. However, I probably would’ve gone with a HERB Alpert clue.
- 54a [Caustic comment to a Klingon?] SPACE BARB. Eh. It’s okay as a theme answer, but surely there are funnier add-a-B possibilities, what with TOM becoming TOMB or JAM becoming JAMB or CAR becoming CARB. I don’t know what a PEEPING TOMB would be, but it seems like it would be funny.
Oh, and by the way, how does BLAST signal that we’re adding Bs? My first thought was that it might have something to do with BB guns, but…no. You have to re-parse the revealer to get B LAST, i.e. a B comes at the last.
That seemed a stretch to me. It was harder to figure out the revealer than to understand what was happening in the theme answers. Typically, a revealer like this would give us the hint, “when read differently” or something similar, but we didn’t get that here, so it took just that extra bit of time to understand what it meant.
So the theme was a little rocky for me, but as usual in a Mike Shenk joint, we get plenty of good stuff in the grid: EXORCISMS, LAURELS, EL PASO, “I DID IT!”, JANE FONDA, TEST LAB, TREASON crossing ARSON, LEOTARDS, and CELLISTS (with a fun [Ma and others] clue).
Names to know: [“Oklahoma!” aunt] is ELLER, [“Happy Days Are Here Again” composer Milton] is AGER, and [Cooper aboard the Mayflower] is ALDEN. That’s John ALDEN; his occupation was cooper, not his name. Oh, and expect ALDEN clues in the future to read [Solo portrayer Ehrenreich] as the actor is slated to portray a young Han Solo in a future stand-alone prequel.
Clues of note:
- 3d. I was thrown for a bit by the clever clue [They handle people’s possessions]. My first instinct (and I bet yours, too) was to put EXORCISTS.
- 50a. I saw “myrmecology” in a somewhat recent crossword and the word stuck with me, so I was able to answer [Myrmecology specimen] with ANT quite readily.
- 2d. [Burt’s “Rent-a-Cop” co-star] is LIZA Minnelli. That’s Burt Reynolds and their 1987 collaboration. Turns out that on the strength of that film, both Minnelli and Reynolds were nominated for the 1988 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress and Actor respectively (Minnelli went on to win her award).
- 34d. Never heard of Grace and Frankie in the JANE FONDA clue. I thought it was some old film, but it turns out to be a current TV show on Netflix. Sounds like a great cast: Fonda, Tomlin, Sheen, and Waterston.
Bottom line: lots of great fill in this puzzle, but the theme execution just felt a little off to me, and the revealer felt like more of a hindrance than a help.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Problems with the Economy” — Ben’s Review
One last AVCX puzzle this August, and it’s from editor Ben Tausig. This one has a 3.5/5 in difficulty. It took me a second (and a few sips of coffee) to see exactly what’s happening what was going on with the theme clues, so let’s see if I can communicate that out:
- 10A: Imperfection — WART
- 17A: Renovation hire — CONTRACTOR
- 24A: Sign before Virgo — LEO
- 27A: Old monitor type, briefly — CRT
- 44A: Hoof sound — CLOP
- 60A: Lamar who was Khloe Kardashian’s partner — ODOM
- 62A: Skimp, as a 17A might, potentially causing the issues around the (shaded/circled) squares — CUT CORNERS
Regardless of whether your squares were shaded (on the print edition, which is what I solved with) or circled (as on the .PUZ/.JPZ files), it’s important to see those as cut corners. skipping those squares and reading the remainder of the down answer as well:
- WART becomes WARTPING
- LEO becomes LEOAK
- CRT becomes CRTACK
- CLOP becomes CLOPGS
- ODOM becomes ODOMRS
All things you might experience if you pick a contractor off of Craigslist without checking Yelp/Angie’s List for the quality of their work. A few other notes:
- 33A: Backstop for wild pitches? — AUTOTUNE (This was a clever clue.)
- 36A: Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope’s project, briefly — ICP (I am terrified at how quickly my brain processed “Violent J & Shaggy 2 Dope” -> “Insane Clown Posse” -> ICP this morning. They are a terrible rap group who have issues understanding magnets that no one should listen to.)
- 41A: Doppelbock pairings — BRATS (This is a clue where my Midwestern heritage IMMEDIATELY kicked in. Because beer brats are the best)
- 58A: Mark, on a Zuckerberg platform — TAG (This was another clever clue that I let stymie me, for some reason)
- 9D: Beavis’ alter ego, after eating too much sugar — CORNHOLIO
- 11D: Like comment sections, typically — ASININE (don’t read comments section, y’all.)
- 25D: Ratings system in chess — ELO (If you don’t clue ELO with a reference to Jeff Lynne, I’m not going to get it without the acrosses)
- 51D: Apple in music — FIONA (her duet with Andrew Bird on his latest album, “Left-Handed Kisses”, is one of my favorite songs this year.
Nice fill with a clever theme that took me a second to fully grasp all adds up to a great puzzle. Nicely done, AVCX!
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I’ve never heard of the term INTERMEDIATECAR before – so that revealer was very puzzling. Google seems to suggest it’s US car rental jargon. I think most of us would call it a sedan (or if you’re British, saloon, though that term feels like more of a luxury sedan only…), which is the word hidden in the three answers. All three are in the past tense, which feels a little less elegant, though it’s useful to provide the ED of SEDAN here. The phrases are – KIS(SEDAN)DMADEUP, CAU(SEDAN)UISANCE and RAI(SEDAN)EYEBROW.
- [Pervasive clown], BOZO. I don’t understand the function of “pervasive” in this clue.
- [With “en,” hot, in sports slang], FUEGO. News to me. Paging Team Fiend’s sports gurus, Messrs. Koiki and pahk?
- [Bump on a lid], STYE. I’m not sure why, but this clue tickled me.
- [Joe Namath, notably], EXJET. Garbage, green paint answer. Waiting for EXPACKER, or EXANGEL, or EXSKY – the opportunities are endless!
Reserving rating ’til can get a more informed view of INTERMEDIATECAR, but it doesn’t look an inspired choice of theme answer…