Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Piece Meal” – Erin’s writeup
This week we have a buffet of words and phrases ending in types of food, clued as if they were actually edible.
- 23a. [Breakfast treat for a hunk?] STUD MUFFIN
- 25a. [Snack for an amoeba?] MICROCHIPS
- 41a. [Snack for a pyromaniac?] FIRE CRACKERS
- 55a. [Diner bread for a sauna patron?] STEAM ROLL
- 57a. [Salad tidbit for a fortuneteller?] PALM OLIVE (To be overly picky, the Palmolive brand was named for the palm and olive oils the soap contained, so this entry technically started with OLIVE as a food, albeit in oil form. I don’t think it’s enough to call it a theme inconsistency, though.)
- 75a. [Fruits for a mail carrier?] POST DATES
- 78a. [Fruit for a sprinter?] QUICK LIME
- 92a. [Oniony garnish for Snoop Dogg?] RAP SCALLIONS (I laughed out loud at this one.)
- 111a. [Lunchmeat for a sly fox?] CUNNING HAM
- 114a. [KFC bread for a pirate?] SEA BISCUIT
- MATH, ADDS, TANGENT (not clued as a math term), [Sine of 90 degrees] ONE. Lots of stuff for number fans this week.
- 71a. [Gimli’s weapons] AXES. Also could have been clued as a math term, but instead it’s a susbsitute Lord of the Rings entry for everyone who wanted ENTS instead of ANTS in Saturday’s NYT. Hmm…maybe this writeup needs a WaPo LOTR Clue of the Week section, as there tends to be one in each puzzle.
- 1d./43d. [With 43 Down, late TV psychic born Youree Dell Harris] MISS CLEO. Her commercials for the Psychic Readers Network aired all the time in the late 90s. What I did not know was just two years ago (the year before her death in 2016), she recorded online commercials for French Toast Crunch cereal, but they were pulled after the Psychic Readers Network complained.
- 5d. [Julia of “Street Fighter”] RAUL. I was expecting Julia to be a first name here. Raul Julia was in “Street Fighter”? Apparently his over-the-top performance was the high point of an otherwise critically panned film.
Andrea Michaels & Pete Muller’s New York Times crossword, “If the Spirit Moves You”—Amy’s write-up
The theme entries are 61a. [Places to get looped], COCKTAIL LOUNGES, and 29d. [“It’s on me!” … or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters], “DRINKS ALL AROUND.” “Looped” and ALL AROUND circle back to the drink names that appear in the circled squares: DIRTY MARTINI, BEER, PINK LADY (has anyone ordered one of those in this century? I looked it up and it sounds horrifying—a glass of gin with some grenadine for color … and an egg white), COSMOPOLITAN, TIA MARIA (do a lot of people drink that straight? I thought it was mostly used in mixed drinks), and WINE. I paid next to no attention to what the circled letters were spelling out while I was solving, and the gimmick wasn’t worth the trade-off in terms of the fill. The areas with the circular booze include plural OLAVS right at 1-Across (setting a foreboding tone for the solver), ANAT. NEBS, ERLE. YES/NO crossing NOES (!). AT.WT., LEO I, and ERNA (?!) stacked together. British TITRE. And in the not-so-constrained sections, an awful lot of other unexciting fill. Partials IF AT and A DAMN crossing, ORLE, EPOS ….
I do like “SEE A DOCTOR” though I’m not sure that’s the exact wording you’d see on a package of over-the-counter medicine. ROUGH CUT, NONSTARTER, PAY DIRT, DUST MOPS, YIN AND YANG, and “My SHARONA” are also nice.
Five more things:
- 60a. [Nail polish brand], CUTEX. Fact-check! No. It’s a brand of nail-polish removers and allied products. They stopped selling polish after the ’70s. I’m thinking this wasn’t Andrea’s clue, because she might actually eyeball the nail-care aisle at the drugstore. (Unless she loved Cutex polish when she was 13 and never noticed that the brand changed its focus.)
- 111a. [Met soprano Berger], ERNA. Well, how else are you gonna clue ERNA? Assuming, of course, that you have ERNA in your grid. It doesn’t spark joy for me, but I suppose NYC opera buffs may like this one.
- 48a. [“Thanks ___ God!”], BE TO. Uncommon partial entry. This could also have been clued as the Democrat who’s challenging Ted Cruz in 2018, Beto O’Rourke. But with unfamiliar BLOOD KNOT and two names crossing BETO, the partial was a safer, anti-Naticky bet.
- 91d. [Stereotypical Deadhead wear], TIE-DYE. Yeah, the Dead played at Wrigley Field the other weekend. This weekend, Wrigley is hosting Jimmy Buffett and his many Parrotheads. They wear Hawaiian shirts; a stuffed parrot on the shoulder is optional. (My ears will prick up on Monday, when James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt play Wrigley!)
- 86d. [Old-style warning], ALARUM. I’m really tempted to use “alarum” in place of “alarm” for every possible use. Alarum clock. Did you set your alarum? What time’s your alarum set for? Uh-oh, the smoke alarum batteries need changing.
2.5 stars from me. The theme didn’t bring show me a good time, and so much of the fill was so clunky. I had such high hopes when I saw the byline! Alas, the hope was not fulfilled this time.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “I’m Out of Here” — pannonica’s write-up
Sort of the OPPosite (87a) of the common add-a-letter-or-letters theme. The theme answers are common phrases and in order for the clues to make sense, one must disregard the differential to ‘wackify’ them. Here, it’s the bigram IM.
- 24a. [Do a search on stars’ birthdays?] GOOGLE IMAGES (Google ages).
- 26a. [Hollywood heads?] LIMA BEANS (LA beans).
- 48a. [Mansion that needs work?] ROUGH ESTIMATE (rough estate).
- 68a. [Glue that holds together a car rental?] NATIONAL PASTIME (National paste).
- 92a. [Dots on a sticker?] DECIMAL POINTS (decal points).
- 115a. [Cause Guevara to be out of breath?] WIND CHIME (wind Che).
- 118a. [Enlisted royal proxy?] ARMY REGIMENT (army regent).
It’s subversive and silly. I like it. True to the puzzle’s title, however, I can’t stay to chat about it.
Bruce Haight’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Share and Share Alike”—Amy’s write-up
Nifty theme. Every square that begins both an Across and a Down answer (which I’ve circled here) launches a phrase in which both parts begin with the same letter. PICTURE PERFECT, TICKING TIME BOMB, FATAL FLAW, HOW CAN I HELP YOU, FACEBOOK FRIEND, BUNCH OF BALONEY, DOUBLE DIPPER, MIND MELD.
So despite the gimmick of the Down portion being unclued, this is essentially a themeless puzzle. Some sparkly bits, like YOGA MAT, SEX IT UP, SOY LATTE. Pretty solid fill.
- 2d. [Poker phrase], “I SEE YOU.” Really? I’m not a poker player but that feels like a weird way to clue this.
- 43d. [Biform beast], CENTAUR. Half horse, half human. Not sure I’ve seen biform before.
- 46a. [North Pole feature], TUNDRA. I don’t feel like that’s accurate. The North Pole doesn’t have land, just ice on water. TUNDRAs are terrestrial biomes, no? Certainly the Arctic Circle may have tundras, but those are on the lands south of the Pole.
Four stars from me.