Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
Yawn. I had about three hours of fractured sleep last night and drove all over three counties for work today, and had choir rehearsal. This will be short.
This is a quip puzzle. I am not particularly fond of quip puzzles unless the quip is REALLY funny. This one is a little bit funny. (I realize that’s a judgment call; I’m the one making the judgment. Feel free to make your own). Since the punchline was obvious (at least to me) it made the puzzle easier than I would prefer a Wednesday to be. So not my favorite. Let’s get to the quip.
- 20a is the first part: [Start of a punny quip about two professionals] and the answer is WHEN A DENTIST. We go on to
- 28a AND A MANICURIST NOTE: As someone pointed out in comments, this is not what the puzzle says. The puzzle says “AND MANICURIST,” which makes it sound as if the dentist and the manicurist are the same person. In my sleep-deprived state, I read right over that. Thank you, commenter-I-don’t-know.
- 38a ARGUE
- 44a THEY MUST FIGHT
- 53a was the one I filled in without any crossings: TOOTH AND NAIL.
Get it? Dentist and manicurist? Tooth and nail?
A few other things:
- The long non-theme Down answers are TICKET TAKER and POLE VAULTER. Both perform a valuable service.
- 19d [Crosses off] is XS OUT. That just looks wrong; it seems like it should have an E in it somewhere, although XES OUT doesn’t look right either.
- We get ELIHU Yale and EZRA Cornell. John Harvard, Nicholas Brown and William Penn are filing a grievance.
- SARAH Silverman would undoubtedly make a joke about the fact that her name crosses SECTS and IM HOT.
- 43d [Pre-Easter purchase] is EGG DYE. Is that what you call it? Serious question. “Hey, hon, while you’re at the store, would you pick up some egg dye?” I’ve never dyed. Enlighten me.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that PRAVDA was founded in 1912.
And to all a good night.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Preposition Players” — Jim’s review
Existing two-word names and phrases are re-parsed to humorous effect. Each entry’s first word/name ends in a different preposition which is separated out, thus creating a three-word phrase.
- 17a [Water resistance?] DRAG ON BOATS. Dragonboats. Yup, I suppose that’s true.
- 11d [Area full of illegally parked cars?] LOT TO TICKET. Lotto ticket.
- 25d [Jousting feint?] BOB BY KNIGHT. Bobby Knight (college basketball coach). This one is the most awkward.
- 53a [Emulated a Roman senator?] SAT IN SHEETS. Satin sheets. I like this one best. It also occurred to me that its spoonerized form might nonsensically answer the same clue: SHAT IN SEATS.
Good solid wordplay here, and I like the fact that each one uses a different preposition, adding to the variety. Some don’t work as well as others, but my sense is that it can’t have been easy to come up with a viable theme set for this.
The vast majority of the fill is really nice. The longest bits of fill are NIGERIA, PANDEMIC, DESIGNER, ESPRESSO, SET LISTS, and SISTERS. That’s some nice stuff. But there’s also a lot of sparkly mid-length fill: CATNAP, MILTON, GABRIEL, PAGE ONE, SONNET, SCATTER, KATANA, VANILLA, ADONIS, and ANTMAN are my favorites.
However, there are a couple thorny areas. Up north, ZINE [Enthusiast’s pub] crosses PIA [___ mater (brain membrane)]. I still had no idea what the first one was referring to until just now. Here, “pub” is short for publication. This is much too confusing when you’re given a tough crossing. This section could easily be fixed with CLAD and LONE in place of IPAD and ZINE (giving CLOD and LOA in the Down direction).
The other area is tougher to fix. 42a‘s SKUA is apparently a [Gull’s cousin]. Yikes; I don’t think that one’s in my memory banks anywhere. But that K is part of a theme answer, so it’s fixed in place. There’s also an unfortunate plural name in that area (ERICS). No easy fix comes to mind, so for me, this is a good candidate for a cheater square. I’d try putting one where the S is in ERICS and seeing if any good would come of it.
Finally, SIR KAY raised my eyebrows for a bit until I could parse it correctly and realize the clue was referring to King Arthur.
There was one tough, but good clue of note: 30a [Set sibling] is ISIS. I found the clue somewhat distracting since the entry SET LISTS is nearby, but it is a very good clue. Set is the ancient Egyptian god of storms, desert, evil, war, chaos, etc. And how’s this for a dysfunctional family? Set marries sister Nephthys. Brother Osiris marries other sister Isis. Set murders and mutilates Osiris. Isis re-assembles Osiris long enough for them to conceive son Horus (fun!) who then seeks revenge on Set. How is this not an HBO series yet?!
Overall, this is a nice grid with a solid theme and really lovely fill.
Laura Braunstein’s AVCX crossword, “Museum Closings” — Ben’s Review
New constructor alert! This week’s AVCX puzzle is the constructing debut of Laura Braunstein, who I know from seeing on Crossword Twitter occasionally. It’s a 2/5 difficulty puzzle called “Museum Closings”, so let’s dive in and see what’s going on:
- 20A:”That expert pilot? He’s over there, near that video installation …”? — ACE IN THE HOLZER
- 30A:”You leave us no choice but to buy another Marilyn Monroe silkscreen …”? — THIS MEANS WARHOL
- 40A:”We’ll eventually have an exhibit of self-portraits critiquing gender stereotypes in the adjacent gallery …”?– THAT’S FOR SHERMAN
- 53A:Beyond the threshold of irony and self-reference, artistically, and an alternate title for this puzzle — POST-POST-MODERN
Okay, I loved the revealer here, but I felt like the rest of the theme was underclued, particularly the artist portion. I knew enough about contemporary art to be able to quickly pick out WARHOL, HOLZER, and SHERMAN, but I think those last two (HOLZER in particular) could be tricky if you’re not as familiar with their work. The “video installation” clue for HOLZER is a little underbaked, too – I’d a mention of the work being text-based or on an LED sign/bench rather than just “video” in order to get to the right artist starting with HOL-.
I hate to be nit-picky on a debut like this, but when the contemporary artists are a big part of the theme, it feels important to get them clued right.
Other things I liked: the band CHIC being clued, sloths with three TOES, HOT ITEM, GONZO
Other nitpicks: even if broken up, the ever-present JAI/ALAI, and other less-great fill pieces like ON AT, YAYAS, RSVP, ATVS, etc.
Even if I felt the fill/execution could have been stronger, I really liked the concept behind this puzzle’s theme. I look forward to your next puzzle, Laura!
Thomas Takaro’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The central idea is a nice riff on “a words that go with both parts” theme, as the key part is two words OUTOF. So OUTOF: (WORK/SPACE), (BREATH/CONTROL), (COPYRIGHT/DATE) and (SIGHT/LINE).
The rest of the grid, well, it has some nice longer answers: IWOJIMA/DEJAVU, names VITTORIO/ANDRETTI and LEASALONGA, but the whole thing is rather clumsily executed. IWOJIMA/DEJAVU is not worth IEST/ORES/OTE/COSI/ASHOW/ITAT/MENO/IVANI – maybe one or two of those answers is acceptable, but all of them is de trop.
CKS was completely avoidable. Change TOKE to TOIL and you have CIS which is at least real. Seriously, three and four letters are part of the crossword too, and throwing high value letters at a grid isn’t worth it if it doesn’t create more interesting answers!