Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
Don’t believe what you see on the NYT’s applet about my solving time. I had a blank white space in place of the puzzle and refreshed the page a couple times, so I started the puzzle with 50 seconds gone.
Baseball terminology as the grand unifying theory of the theme doesn’t do much for me, and then there were the reservations I had about the way the theme played out. First off, this is one of those themes in which most of the theme entries are the sorts of phrases you’d ordinarily see in a clue, while their clues are single words. And also:
- 17a. If you’re having a [*Ball], you’re having a GREAT TIME.
- 24a. [*Strike] clues a WORK STOPPAGE.
- 29a. Another sort of [*Ball] is a LAVISH PARTY. This answer doesn’t look any better than GREAT TIME.
- 40a. Another [*Strike] is a BOWLER’S COUP. Is it really a coup? Bowling a perfect 300 is a coup. Getting a strike is the sort of thing even I can pull off on occasion.
- 46a. TV COMEDIENNE is a rather horrible entry, isn’t it? “TV comedienne” isn’t a lexical chunk. And I’m no fan of the -enne ending. What, a woman can’t be a comedian?
- 59a, 61a. FULL-COUNT / PITCH is when there are three balls and two strikes, and the next pitch will force a decision (unless the batter hits a foul ball or gets a hit, there’ll be a walk or a strikeout, but really, given how many fouls you can hit, there could be a bunch of full-count pitches in a row, no?). Wait, it has to be split into two entries? And the symmetrical partner for PITCH is SNAPE? Inelegant.
Do they still sell books ON TAPE (10d: [Like some audiobooks])? They’re not all CDs or MP3s now? I have zero interest in listening to a book, so I have no idea.
33a: EGG is a [Frittata need]. Yesterday’s dinner was a frittata of sorts. Scrambled eggs + pesto mixed in + mozzarella = yum. If you like pesto or you’re just looking for a way to make green eggs & ham, look no further!
Nothing really called out to me in the fill as being particularly lively or loathsome.
One reader mentioned to me that she didn’t care for the word GYP (35d: [Swindle]) the other day, so I looked that up in the New Oxford American Dictionary widget. It says the etymology is “late 19th century, of unknown origin.” That sounds harmless enough, right? Then I spent the next 45 minutes reading a wide-ranging discussion of “gyp” at the well-regarded Language Hat blog. I will join Language Hat in eschewing the word, as there are Gypsy/Romany Americans who bridle at its usage. I like to err on the side of not causing offense.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I didn’t see where this theme was going until I finally worked my way down to 63a: POSITIVE is the [Word (suggested by the black shape in this grid’s center) that can precede the answers to starred clues]. Rather than just applying to one part of a compound word or phrase, POSITIVE can modify all five complete answers:
- 17a. [*Survey response] provides FEEDBACK, which can be positive or negative.
- 21a. If you’re THINKING, you may be [*Trying to remember]. Pessimism has recently been associated with living longer, so who needs positive thinking?
- 26a. Good [*Prospects] = positive OUTLOOK.
- 48a. [*Disposition] = MINDSET.
- 55a. If you have a [*Cocky manner], you’ve got a lot of ATTITUDE.
There have certainly been crosswords that happened to have a plus sign made of black squares in the center, but they generally just sit there. It’s cute that this one is there for a thematic reason. John Lampkin strikes me as a positive person. (Heck, a lot of crossword constructors are!) He took a picture of a pair of crimson-fronted parakeets in Costa Rica last month—two lovebirds courting on Valentine’s Day. Aren’t they cute? A pessimist would suspect that a predator ate them shortly after this photo was taken.
A dozen more clues:
- 1a. I must respectfully disagree with this clue that the HOLE is the [Inedible Swiss cheese part?]. The hole is the only part of Swiss cheese that I’m willing to eat.
- 20a, 68a. [Juliet’s volatile cousin] is TYBALT and a TYRANT is an [Oppressive boss]. I like the visual echoes between these two words.
- 40a, 46a. [Push-up sound, perhaps] is a GRUNT. This is not about a BRA, or [Push-up garment]. Me, I like to make fun of the exertion-grunters at the gym; don’t they know how ridiculous they sound? I used to like Push-Ups, the orange-sherbet pops.
- 2d. Tough clue for OBEY, this [Carry out]. If you carry out my orders, you’re obeying my orders.
- 6d. Did you know the classic clear plastic Bic ballpoint had a fancy name? BIC is clued as [Cristal maker]. I was thinking champagne rather than pens.
- 8d. [Best-seller] clues HOT ITEM, which I’m not sure is a “thing.”
- 18d. BLOOPERS! Great entry.
- 37d. [Pierre’s state] isn’t S. DAK. C’est un ETAT.
- 49d. [Like staccato notes] clues DOTTED. One of those things I just don’t know.
- 60d. [Brutus’ bird] is an AVIS, Latin for “bird.” I think the plural is aves.
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Remember the good old days when the national and world news was alarming and gripping, and yet the news cycle was still fixated on Charlie Sheen? It’s time to take a Bad News break and indulge in some Sheeinsanity. Tyler’s puzzle is light and silly, even though the grid extends to a serious 16 columns wide.
The theme features CHARLIE SHEEN and his TIGER / BLOOD, the BI-WINNING ways of a ROCK STAR FROM MARS with ADONIS DNA. I don’t recall learning the phrase EXPLODED BODY during Charliemania; is that Tyler’s own addition of a dangerous side effect. Anyway, Tyler ties these utterances together into pharmaceutical ad for a “new drug called CHARLIE SHEEN,” since Sheen said the only drug he was on was Charlie Sheen. It’s a creative approach to spinning a theme out of things Sheen said.
My only criticism of this theme is that it does not include anything about Vatican assassin warlocks.
Highlights in the fill: fresh DEMOING, literary and Scrabbly KAZUO Ishiguro, fun-to-say DEBUNKS.
- 22a. [“The Outsiders” rich kids] were the SOCs (pronounced “soshes,” derived from “Socials”). I think the clue ought to be in the singular, but I like a reference to The Outsiders.
- 8d. [Internet abbr. that rarely seems to be sincere] clues IMHO. If you’re not humble, why not just go with IMO?
Least familiar answer:
- 74a. [Faithful friend in”The Aeneid”] is ACHATES. I’m better with the Iliad than the Aeneid.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ocean Crossings”—Janie’s review
In case you hadn’t figured it out on your own, Patrick provided a helper clue/fill combo to clarify the gimmick (and the puzzle’s title) at 59-Down: [Ocean “crossing” this puzzles four longest answers (abbr.)] for ATL (the Atlantic…). But I’m going to guess that that, given the title…, solvers here were readily able to make that connection themselves, finding the embedded abbreviation within:
- 17A. MEAT LOCKER [Refrigerated storeroom]. Remember Sylvester Stallone as Rocky in the meat locker with Burt Young? The first movie. One classic scene.
- 10D. MUSKRAT LOVE [1976 Captain & Tenille hit]. Same year as Rocky… Somehow I don’t imagine this was Rocky and Adrian’s song—but hey, one never know. At first I thought all of the theme entries were going to be M/L phrases, but I was disabused of that notion soon enough with
- 25D. THREAT LEVEL [Homeland Security chart listing]. May it always be low; and
- 57A. GREAT LAKES [North American quintet]. Which we remember with the mnemonic HOMES, for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Was a little surprised by this particular theme entry, since it mixes the metaphors (so to speak) by introducing another type of “body of water.”
When it comes to ocean crossings, make mine on the QE2. Sinbad made seven VOYAGES […trips], each one offering exotic adventure if not creature comforts. While he did encounter the (crossword-familiar) Roc, am not sure that any of the tales make mention of his encountering DOLPHINS [Swimmers with blowholes]. Did a Persian equivalent of the [Smoky-voiced singer Edith] PIAF sing a Siren-like song to him? Read your Arabian Nights to find out! (And did Ms. Piaf acquire that smoky voice by inhaling too many MENTHOLS [Some cigarettes]…)?
Other fill that caught my fancy would have to include QUOTABLE [Worthy of being repeated], the crunchy GRANOLAS [Cereals in health food stores] and FOR GOOD [Permanently]. ( Entered FOREVER initially. Anyone else?) Also liked the poetic cluing of [Versified rhapsody] for ODE and [“The windows of the soul”] for EYES. The clue with “new information” (to me, anyway) was [Appaloosa marking], which is SPOT. Now that’s one interesting breed!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Terror From Above”
This theme mostly operates in the Down dimension because when THE SKY IS FALLING, those celestial objects are falling down. (This, of course, posits that the earth’s gravitational pull could exert its effects on far-flung orbs. Pretend you don’t know science, OK?)
- 34a. THE SKY IS FALLING is a [Doomsday expression, or what you might start to think if you stare at the Down answers for too long]. From left to right…
- 35d. [Java company, casually] is SUN MICRO(systems). The SUN is falling down in the grid.
- 5d. [Meteorologist’s area] is the CLOUD LAYER.
- 29d. STAR SEARCH was an [’80s-’90s Ed McMahon talent competition show].
- 10d. [Boat feature for divers and drillers] clues MOON POOL. Never heard of this thing before, which made that corner of the g rid especially rough for me.
It’s fairly subtle as themes go.
- The 6×4 and 8×3 corners.
- 2d. AMARANTH is a [Long-lasting flowering plant often mentioned in poetry] with a pretty name.
- 6d. LINGUINI is a [Pappardelle alternative].
- 12d. [His “Symphony No. 1” was written at age eight] clues MOZART. When I was 8, creating cacophony on a xylophone was about the best I could do musically.
- 36d. The FILLMORE is a [San Francisco rock venue associated with psychedelic posters, with “The”]. Are you like me? Do you always want to spell it out “F, F, FIL! L, L, LMO! O, O, ORE! Fillmore Junior High!” because of that one Brady Bunch episode?
- 45d. NAME IT. [“Whatever you want”].
- 23a. “EAT MY DUST!” is a great answer and it’s clued as a [Drag racing taunt].
- 26a. [Adonis ___] clues DNA. Hee.
- 16a. [Response to fireworks] gets you the 3-O OOOH.
- 48a. [Self: Pref.] clues AUT. We usually have an O on the end of that, but the O has been transferred to 16a.
- 59a. [Saudi Arabian province] is ASIR. Hey! That one’s not even crosswordese I know.
- 60a. [Options above “all of the above”] is the four-word A, B, OR C.
- 62a. CATO [___ Institute (Charles Koch’s think tank)].
- 7d. ANIL’S [“___ Ghost” (Michael Ondaatje novel)].