Jonah Kagan’s New York Times crossword
Each of today’s theme answers STARTS WITH A BANG, and what’s more, two of ’em have a sort of a bang built in. A POWDER KEG is explosive, and a BOOMERANG can smash into you. A guitar’s WHAMMY BAR does not bang; it’s also not a term I knew—it’s a [Guitar accessory that adds vibrato])—and perhaps a bit of a stretch for a Monday puzzle. BAMBOOZLE is such a great word (no real bang to it, though). Did you ever notice the BAMBOO at the beginning of that word? Mind you, it’s just the BAM that plays a part in this theme, together with BOOM, POW, and WHAM.
I have no idea why the four theme entries that start with a bang have starred clues. Those four are the only 9-letter answers in the grid. Would it really be that hard for the solver to piece together the theme without spotlighting those clues?
The fill in this puzzle is excellent. Highlights include the colorful 7s and 8s—MARTIANS, BAD KARMA, a HOT TODDY, STRANGE, STAR-LIT, and TRESPASS are all smooth and interesting. Shorter answers I like include PIZZA, BOWIE, BABES in Toyland, and WIZ.
Repeaters such as ERLE, OAST, ETTAS, TSAR, and ATRA are uninspiring, though, and silent movie star MABEL Normand is of a piece with Virna Lisi and Theda Bara—names mostly forgotten outside the precincts of crossword puzzles.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A Bone to Pick”—Evad’s review
- I’ve never heard of a HERRING GULL, but luckily the crossing entries brought the word out of the cruciverbial mist. (I would just call this guy (or gal) a seagull.)
I read here that the herringbone pattern is so named from its similarity to a herring’s skeleton.
- “Helpful boost to an aircraft in flight” isn’t ex-JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, but a TAILWIND. The tailbone is connected to the hipbone, right? Dem dry bones…
- The money entry in the middle is the 15-letter phrase WISH YOU WERE HERE.
I dunno, most postcards I send to people when we’re on vacation don’t include this sentiment; I mean the whole idea of a vacation is to see new places and meet new people right? Wishbones can be found both in turkeys and your supermarket’s salad dressing aisle.
- HAM RADIO leads to hambone. One of my favorite Jack Handy Deep Thoughts goes something like: “If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong though. It’s Hambone.”
- The final entry is “Spots for the Bumsteads and the Mitchells” for FUNNY PAPERS. This is a bit odd, as I consider a newspaper’s comic section to be called “the funny papers,” so I would’ve used “spot” instead of “spots” in the clue. Your funny bone is the one crossword constructors (and editors) keep trying to tickle each day (to varying degrees of success).
Everything else smooth as buttah, and very politically correct. (With so many less “pc” ways to clue TIGER today, Lynn went with “Biggest of the big cats.” I mean how nice is that?) Liked the phrases AS OF NOW, GET FREE, NO EXIT (we read Huis Clos in my French III HS class) and OPEN UP. My one SLIP was to put in TRIP for “Stumble.”
Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Theme: The first words in four phrases—RICH UNCLE, BOB AND WEAVE, FRANK DISCUSSION, and JERRY-RIGGED—double as men’s names, and they’re all going to a STAG PARTY. I liked the theme until I got to the STAG PARTY part; not sure why the unifying entry put me off the puzzle.
- 15a. TOE, [“The __”: placekicker Lou Groza’s nickname]. Never heard of him, but placekickers kinda kick with their toes so it wasn’t too hard to figure out.
- 20a. [Bagel flavoring] clues SESAME. Who orders a sesame seed bagel, anyway? I’m looking askance at the hummus I bought yesterday—the plain variety now comes topped with sesame seeds and I’m wishing they weren’t there.
- 32a, 1d. [Titled woman] is a DAME, and [32-Acrosses’ spouses] are SIRS. It would be funnier if the singular DAME had multiple SIRS. A tad awkward to cross-reference one singular and one plural entry.
- 54d. [Croc’s cousin] clues GATOR. When will this clue be used to clue UGLY RUBBER SHOE?
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Overall vibe: Too many word endings tacked on, and fill heavy on the RSTLNE letter bank. Plurals BIRCHES, AMPERSANDS, TRESSES, ICONS, crosswordese ETAPES, abbrev GPAS. Words with undesirable ending action: FATTER, ATONER, ALARMED, BASTED, SANER, STONIER, RETUNED. Combo!: UNITERS, Unexciting multi-worders: SAT IT, ADDS ONTO, EASY TO SEE, ONE ACRE, KEEPS TO.
On the plus side: MAN UP has current-events relevance, mere weeks after Ben Zimmer wrote about it for the NYT’s “On Language” column. A.J. SOPRANO crossing DJANGO Reinhardt is great. PETER ROGET—who remembered his first name? DECADENT is a great word. Don’t recall seeing FRO-YO (frozen yogurt) in a crossword before; fresh and well-chilled.