Susan Gelfand’s New York Times crossword
- 17A. [A-team] is the FIRST STRING. You can tie a string around something.
- 26A. A MUSICAL SCORE is a [Composer’s work for a film]. In a game, the score can be tied.
- 47A. [Portuguese, for Brazilians, e.g.] is their MOTHER TONGUE. “Tongue-tied” is a familiar term.
- 61A. FIT TO BE TIED means [Really steamed…or what the ends of 17-, 26- and 47-Across are?]. The passive construction here is what holds the theme together—you wouldn’t say “I’ll tie my tongue,” but “my tongue was tied” is completely natural-sounding language.
- 22A. GNARLY means difficult or challenging (it’s this sense I have in mind when I call a crossword “gnarly”), twisted and gnarled, and unattractive and unpleasant. It was [Excellent, in slang] in the ’80s Valley Girl era, I think. Does anyone still use GNARLY to mean “excellent”? I don’t care for the clue but I do like the answer. And right below it is POODLES/[Curly-haired dogs]. Next time I need a team name, I’ll go with Gnarly Poodles.
- 37A. LORISES are small, [Slow-moving primates] with big, round eyes. Wikipedia tells me this fact: “Female lorises practice infant parking, leaving their young infants behind in nests. Before they do this they bathe their young with their allergenic saliva, which discourages most predators.” If only humans could do this! It would be super convenient.
- 5D. [Like dragons and centaurs] clues SO AWESOME!! No, wait, that’s too long. The answer is MYTHICAL.
- 9D. MONGOOSE intersects with LORISES in Small Mammal Zone. [Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, for one] is a pretty badass mongoose when it comes to fighting cobras.
- 48D. [Barbie doll purchase] clues OUTFIT. Technically, the Barbie doll cannot make any purchases, as it has no assets.
- 57D. [One who might receive roses at the end of a performance] is a DIVA. Did you know that some people who don’t know any better think that “prima donna” is spelled “pre-Madonna”? That’s got to be somewhere on the scale from humble to diva.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Self Centered”—Janie’s review
All right. I know I sometimes make things up, but am I imagining it, or was there another CS puzzle within the last year with a similar gimmick, with the word EGO at the center of the theme fill? Whether or not, Martin’s execution of the theme is perfection. He’s got three strong theme-phrases, a grid with lovely open corners and a great cross-section of non-theme fill. Taking it from the top:
- 19A. TWELVE GOOD MEN [Ralph Ince movie of 1936]. Never heard of it, but it didn’t matter, as the title was eminently gettable from the crosses. Ince was the director of the movie, a British crime film populated with characters with names like “Lady Thora’ and “Hopwood,” “Fortheringay” and “Inspector Pine.” Veddy British all, from the sound of ’em. (No [Detective Charlie] CHAN in this one…)
- 36A. STRANGE GOINGS ON [Things that go bump in the night,e.g.]. Great fill and clue.
- 51A. KISS ME GOODBYE [Sally Field movie of 1982]. Another one I wasn’t familiar with. Sounds like a bit of a clunker, I fear, but the title is just fine in the grid.
And speaking of the grid, it bears looking at, too. I love those triple-stacked sevens in the NE and SW and the stacked six + seven-pair in the SW and SE. Martin’s filled them beautifully, with such goodies as ENTENTE [International understanding], CAPE COD [New England resort area], the humorously-clued PULSARS [Flashers in space], ON A ROPE [Tethered], the punnily-clued FIREMEN [They often go to blazes], and the onomatopoetic RAT-A-TAT [Knocking noise].
While GRAF SPEE [Scuttled WWII ship] and BESOMS [Twiggy brooms] felt like a bit of a throwback to a different crossword puzzle era, there was nothing retro about historic yet ultra-modern (in some ways) ABU DHABI, modestly clued as [Gulf emirate] and STREET CRED [Reputation among home boys]. And while it may not have a long shelf-life as a clue, I liked seeing [“Balloon Boy,” for one] for HOAX.
On the question of timeliness, some clues and fill related by concepts of “time” include [Annually] for A YEAR, [No longer] for ONCE and [Prior] for EARLIER. Higher education ties together UNIV [Cambridge or Oxford, briefly] and, on this side of the pond, ‘BAMA [Ole Miss rival].
Nancy Salomon’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17a, 59a. The first phrase is the long two-parter. [With 59-Across, warm welcome for an old friend] clues “LOOK WHO THE / WIND BLEW IN.” “Look who the cat dragged in” is much more familiar to me, as is “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” which doesn’t split up into workable pieces for a 15×15 puzzle unless you go with a three-way 8/9/8 split.
- 27a. [Warm welcome for an old friend] is “HELLO, STRANGER.”
- 43a. [Warm welcome for an old friend] is “LONG TIME, NO SEE.”
The fill had an ’80s-’90s crosswords vibe, with [Puppeteer Bil] BAIRD atop [“Golden Boy” dramatist Clifford] ODETS; the SEGO [Lily with bell-shaped flowers]; KAYOS, or [Levels in the ring]; LUNT, [Fontanne’s stage partner]; [Veronica of “Hill Street Blues”] HAMEL. Not to mention [Mr. T’s TV gang], The A-TEAM—there’s a movie remake in the works that will give A-TEAM new currency.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Hold Everything”
This one’s a Time Out New York rerun with an EDDIE IZZARD quote: “I like my coffee / like I like my/ women: / In a plastic cup.” Izzard is a gem. I like to say that I like my chocolate like I like my men: Dark and a little bitter.
Brendan Quigley’s second Sunday puzzle in the New York Times, “Diagramless”
I solved this one mostly in the car on Saturday, and finished up at home on Sunday when I remembered the puzzle wasn’t done yet. When the puzzle was all filled in, I didn’t have a clue what the theme was—because if you know me, you know that Broadway musicals are outside my wheelhouse. The eight theme entries begin with the one-word titles of well-known Broadway shows: GREASE GUN, CHICAGO HOPE, NINE STORIES, GYPSY MOTH, TOMMY GIRL, WICKED GAME, RENT STRIKE, and HAIR METAL. Terrific batch of theme entries there.
When I was working my way down through the grid, at one point I had -GEISTS with 6 spaces to the left of it and assumed POLTERGEISTS would have to go there. Alas, it needed only an A, for AGEISTS. Now I’m wondering if anyone reads the word POLTERGEIST and wonders what sort of bias poltergeism is. Who is against the polterges?
I didn’t like the clue for SHRUNK. [Like some clothes that came out of a too-hot dryer] really wants to be SHRUNKEN. SHRUNK works great as a past participle, but less so as an adjective.