Oliver Hill’s New York Times crossword
Do you like circles in your puzzle? Because here they are. Their purpose is to highlight the letters that are anagrammed in each theme entry (ABELD, in alphabetical order). I had reservations about some of the theme entries, though:
- 17A. [Genesis duo] clues PHIL COLLINS AND PETER GABRIEL BEFORE HE WENT SOLO. No, wait, it’s CAIN AND ABEL, who were portrayed by David Cross and Paul Rudd in the movie Year One. I kept falling asleep watching that movie late in the evening via on demand, but it sure did crack me up. If you appreciate a little crassness in your humor and always like Michael Cera’s characters, you’ll enjoy this cavemen-meet-Bible movie.
- 21A. [It’s found on a nightstand] clues a BED LAMP, but I have never, ever heard someone call a lamp at the bedside a “bed lamp.” BEDLAM would be a great answer but BED LAMP? Er, no. By the way, I’d love to see ERNO clued as the two-word phrase. C’mon, it’s 85 times better than AH ME, isn’t it?
- 29A. [Certain mustache shape] is HANDLEBAR. I do not care for big mustaches, but as a crossword answer, this is OK. Though the plural HANDLEBARS of a bike might be better.
- 38A. No. A HEATED BLANKET is not the thing that’s a [Means of staying toasty at night]. It’s called an electric blanket. I’ve never seen the term “heated blanket.”
- 50A. The BALD EAGLE is an [American symbol]. Solid.
- 57A. [Made possible] clues ENABLED. Flat, but at least it’s not a weird two-word noun phrase I’ve never seen.
- 62A. Tying everything together is SWITCHBLADE, as the letters in BLADE are SWITCHed around in the other theme answers. [Street weapon…or a hint to the circled letters] is the clue.
You know what would have been terrific as a theme unifier? I was waiting for DIFFERENTLY ABLED to show up at the bottom of the puzzle. Alas, it’s 16 letters long, not 15.
One answer in the fill was quite surprising. Can you guess which one? 55A: SAE, or [Major coll. fraternity]. What is that, Sigma Alpha Epsilon? Is this somehow notable enough that the uncounted millions of crossword solvers who weren’t in frats are supposed to know it, or were we just supposed to guess at an English-letter abbreviation for a Greek-letter organization?
Other clues and answers I wanted to mention:
- 36D. GARDEN HOE? No. Garden hose, yes. Hoe, yes. GARDEN HOE just looks all kinds of wrong here. Maybe households with bed lamps and heated blankets come equipped with garden hoes. [Tool you can lean on] is the clue.
- 35A. Instead of being clued as a plural first name, MEGS is clued as [Computer capacity, informally].
- 52A. “GAME ON!” is clued wih [“Let’s play!”]. The two phrases have a different feel to me. Can you suggest a GAME ON clue that captures the flavor of that phrase?
- 73A. [Darcy’s Pemberley, e.g., in “Pride and Prejudice”] is an ESTATE, but somehow my first thought in reading the clue was that “Pemberley” was a euphemism for…something else.
- 5D. IRAN is a [Country with a Guardian Council]. I leaned on the crossings as if they were a garden hoe.
- 37D. [Snick’s partner] is SNEE. I wonder if any of those really pathetic crosswords have ever used this clue for ERS.
- 39D. DOB, or date of birth, is [When you entered this world: Abbr.].
- 49D. [Girl with a coming-out party] clues DEB. I don’t think this refers to crossword constructor and humor writer Deb Amlen.
- 66D. [Half of a colon] is, I think, either the ASCENDING COLON or the DESCENDING COLON. No? Okay, it’s the DOT in this: “:”.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Battle of the Bands”
I filled in the theme entries half blind—Across Lite on screen gives you the beginning of a long clue, while Black Ink shows you the beginning and end of it. I used Black Ink and missed out on the middle of the clues. The battling bands play out here:
- 16a. [“You’d think Band A would hold up, but it’s flimsy. Band B wins.”] That’s FILTER VS. GARBAGE. Never heard of Filter; know next to nothing about Garbage.
- 35a. [“Band B wins, since Band A only has a tolerance for booze.”] LUSH VS. MORPHINE—I may have heard of both, but couldn’t tell you a thing about their styles.
- 43a. [“Drop Band A on Band B? Band B wins, no contest.”] Cute clue for CAKE VS. PAVEMENT. Cake! I know two of their songs. “Shadow Stabbing” was in Wordplay, and they had that “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” song.
- 64a. BELLY VS. FISHBONE is clued [“Band B wins, because it’s pointy and doesn’t digest well.”] Have I heard of either band? Maybe.
A handful of 9- and 10-letter answers in the fill bolt the theme entries together. Overall, though, most of the puzzle felt like short, familiar answers with fairly easy clues. Not Monday-puzzle easy, no, but not hard on the spectrum of alt-weekly crosswords, either.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “MP3 Selection”—Janie’s review
Another smooth and really well-calibrated construction from Lynn today, where the title is spot-on in providing just enough misdirection to amuse and proving itself to be entirely accurate in describing the theme. So, no–this is not about the music you store on your computer or in your iPods, although there is one gorgeous musical reference in the grid: ODE TO JOY [Poem sung in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony]. (A music-lover I know once said that if everyone in the world were required to sing the choral portion of that music, she’d defy them ever to pick up arms again.)
This puzzle’s theme fill is quite literal about its “MP3” connection. The letter “M” appears once in the first word and the letter “P” three times in the second of the four two-word phrases. And the guilty parties are:
17A. MUD PUPPIES [Large, water-dwelling salamanders]. Um. We saw this fill once before here and I commented then on how adorable the name is but how seriously unadorable these creatures look. You be the judge. And although the related (and cuter) NEWT is also in the puzzle, he’s clued today as [Former Speaker Gingrich].
10D. MARY POPPINS [Fictional nanny to the Banks children]. The one who’s “Practically Perfect.”
25D. LEMON PEPPER [Zesty seasoning]. Especially nice on fish or chicken. And where cooking is concerned, we’re reminded that AROMA is a [Mealtime allure] and that as far as service goes, CHINA (as opposed to PAPER or PLASTIC) makes for lovely [Holiday tableware].
62A. GUM POPPING [Annoying habit of some chewers]. Full disclosure: I’ve never been able to master the “art” and have always been a little jealous of the folks who could pop their gum—even if it is a “don’t” is everyone’s book of etiquette…
Lotta “internal glue” in the grid today. There’s the “thermodynamic” duo (with their shared “L”): “KEEP COOL!” [“Now don’t get flustered!”] and TOO COLD [Like Mama Bear’s porridge]. And there are the symmetrically placed pair-sets: side-by-side court stars ASHE [Tennis great who wrote “Days of Grace”] and ILIE [Tennis ace Nastase], and side-by-side Steinbeck references JOAD [Family name in “The Grapes of Wrath”] and OKIE [“The Grapes of Wrath” figure]. We also get a trio of “stasis” clue/fill combos by way of [Where folks commonly get stuck] RUTS, [Traffic delay] TIE-UP and [Sits in traffic] IDLES.
Pete Muller and Sue Keeler’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Tell me this: Does this puzzle have six 8- to 10-letter theme entries, or eight 6- to 10-letter theme answers with one odd man out? There are eight rhyming phrases, but only seven of theme use the same spelling in the phrase’s two words. 22A: DRY EYE, clued with [There may not be one “in the house” during a tearjerker] is the only one that doesn’t spell its vowel sounds with the same letters. The other seven make an ironclad set:
- 20A: [Blondness] is FAIR HAIR.
- 32A: [Cat’s pajamas] and BEE’S KNEES are both circa-1920s slang. Wonder why “bee’s pajamas” never caught on.
- 37A: [Like some stockings] clues THIGH-HIGH.
- 47A: [Captain Ahab feature] is a PEG LEG.
- 50A: [Fan of Jerry Garcia’s band] is a tie-dyed DEADHEAD. This one’s actually another odd man out—it’s one word, not two.
- 3D: [Flight of scientists to another nation, e.g.] is a BRAIN DRAIN.
- 27D: [“The original gourmet” candy bean] is the JELLY BELLY brand. Steer clear of those Harry Potter–themed Jelly Belly beans with horrifying flavors like ear wax.
I needed all the crossings for 35D: [Cymbal sound]. WHANG? Pete’s a musician so this probably made perfect sense to him. Here’s the dictionary entry—after the whip and penis senses, you get to the reverberant sound sense. “Wang Dang Doodle” omits the H, of course.
Highlights in the fill: old-school DISHPAN (which lives on in “dishpan hands,” because “too much handwashing hands” and “bathtub scrubbing hands” never caught on); the PET ROCK of the ’70s; and a flying FRISBEE.
Least favorite answer: the partial A BUY, 42A: [“It’s __!”: bargain hunter’s words]. Isn’t “a buy” more of a stock analyst’s phrase than a bargain shopper’s?