Michael Farabaugh’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle was used in Round 3 of the Marbles Chicago Crossword Tournament, and the first finisher solved in in 3:40.
Cute anagram theme. The central answer, MIXED GREEN SALAD, cues you to mix up the letters in GREEN SALAD to get the following anagrams:
- 17a. [Lee at Appomattox, e.g.?], SAD GENERAL.
- 24a. [Portly college figures?], LARGE DEANS.
- 49a. [Salutation in an Anaheim baseball fan’s letter?], DEAR ANGELS.
- 62a. [Cowgirl Evans’s hot temper], DALE’S ANGER.
- 10d. [Where to get discount flowers?], GARDEN SALE.
- 26d. [Go out with the star of “The Wizard of Oz”?], SEE GARLAND.
There are a couple hundred possibilities for two-word anagrams of GREEN SALAD, but most of them would make for strained crossword answers (ELAND SARGE, DANG RESEAL?), though there are some that would fit in just fine (REGAL SEDAN, DARN EAGLES). I’m glad to see six choices in the grid rather than just four. Six 10-letter anagrams plus the 15 means heavy theme density, and yet the fill is pretty smooth and even includes a pair of 9-letter answers (ELEVATORS, RESILIENT).
Four stars for an abundance of theme. (Plus I like anagram action.)
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. crossword – pannonica’s review
Just in time for Passover, the Onionistas provide a puzzle with a triple serving of HAM. Each of the long entries adjusts the meaning of a stand-alone phrase by adding the word HAM—creating a celebrity’s surname—and cluing the absurd result.
- 20a. CUNNINGHAM PLANS are a [Strategy to reunite the cast of “Happy Days”?], or at least Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, Ron Howard, and Erin Moran.
- 36d. WINNINGHAM, DUH would be an [Answer to “Charlie Sheen, do you remember the name of your ‘Bad Day on the Block’ co-star?”], referencing Mare Winningham. Having fortunately avoided the particulars of Sheen’s meltdown, the original phrase was not familiar to me, although the warlock and tiger blood stuff was inescapable. I suspect this was the seed entry as it’s topical and the existence of a Sheen/Winningham movie, though obscure, is fortuitous.
- 54a. BUCKINGHAM HORSE, clued as [Heroin for a Fleetwood Mac guitarist?], is the weakest of the lot because “bucking horse” isn’t much of a phrase, awkwardly straddling “rocking horse” and “bucking bronco.” Then again, the fact that Charles Watson-Wentworth, the second Marquess of Rockingham, was the eighth prime minister of the United Kingdom (for all of three months in 1782) is not exactly common knowledge. Lindsey Buckingham it is.
I am now singing “Marezy doats and Lindzey doats and Cunninghamzy divey…” to myself. Help.
Overall, the fill is inconsistent, the refreshing winners offset by boring abbrevs., partials and some that are simply blah. Technically, the former are exemplified by (59a) DOUG E. FRESH, but include (11d) TIRA MISU ([Literally, “pick me up” in Italian]), INDECENT ([Still changing, perhaps]), and (forgive me) SNOOKI (33d). On the other hand, we see ANTH, RDS, CONG, and the profoundly unpretty 11th row: ITE/KEA/RAV/HAE. Itekearavhae. Also unsatisfying are the questionable lexical chunks: GAINS ENTRY, RIDS OF, BIG CUT, HEY MAN, DID WE, WAIT UPON.
- 39a & 40a. TANGO and SEESAW, both clued with [It takes two to do it].
- 61a/50d/56d. This node nicely meshes EGGOS, AGOGO and HUGO. Go, go, go!
- Not having read George Du Maurier’s Trilby, I don’t know where the original SVENGALI (5d) is supposed to have come from, but I like to think he might be ASSAMESE (38d, and the symmetrical partner to 5d). Or maybe he’s Swedish.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Queuing Up” – pannonica’s review
Perhaps it should have been temporarily rechristened the “Inqell Puzzle,” as this week’s theme involves the insertion of the letter Q in a name or familiar phrase, the wacky result getting an appropriate clue:
- 3d. [Drinkware that might be filled with Arabic coffee?] yields IRAQ GLASS, which references the clever-but-sometimes-too-easy-to-parody Ira Glass, host of PRI’s This American Life. Chiqago.
- 18a. [Middle Eastern football competition?] makes for QATARI GAMES (Atari Games). I guess this could also refer to the 2022 World Cup. Soqqer.
- 37d. MARS BARQ’S (Mars bars) would be [Root beer for the intergalactic market]. Even despite the fact that Mars is in the same galaxy, the same solar system, as Earth and is better clued as “interplanetary,” this was a weird and unsatisfying answer. Weaq.
- 63a. An [Implement for checking the doneness of a steak?] is a SIRLOIN Q-TIP (Sirloin tip). Huh? Since when is a cotton swab the kind of tool you’d choose for piercing flesh? That’s just qooky.
I don’t know whether it was intentional or if the constraints of shoehorning a Q into a base phrase predicate it, but none of the theme entries follow the Q with its usual partner U. The crossing fill, with one glaring exception, also shun the U (FAQIR, HDQRS, QBS, MONIQUE). Even though two of the four are abbrevs., that anomaly irqs me. That, the awkwardness of the themers themselves, combined with the relatively low proportion of theme fill (38 of 188 squares), leave me underwhelmed by the puzzle.
- 5d. Does anybody refer to Lady Gaga as just GAGA?
- 7d. [Sold above face value] I was prompted to get the answer, SCALPED, when I saw the next clue (8d. [Voided, perhaps, as a ticket]).
- 15a. [Chic style] refers to the DISCO band, Chic. Le Freaq!
- 9d. VAGRANCY is a spiffy word to see in a puzzle, it’s counterbalanced over at 41d by [Larry the Cable Guy catchphrase], which I kind of knew but was unsure of spelling. GIT ‘R DONE.
- 48a. Longish clue [Word with an extraneous apostrophe, often] for a short answer, but I liked it for ITS snobbish sensibility.
- 31a. [Actor Vigoda who is dead]. ABE. Uhm, not. Perhaps there was a question mark or some ironic quotation marks that were inadvertently omitted? It was cute that it crosses with 25d [“The Godfather” actor James] CAAN, although the connection (Vigoda played Tessio) isn’t mentioned.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Don and C.C. gave us a “Make or Break” puzzle about a month ago – it was C.C.’s debut! They’re back today with a hidden word theme (and an extra-wide grid!):
- 21a. [*Ages] – FOREVER AND A DAY. It’s fun when you get a long entry like this off of the first few letters – that’s the sign of a true “in the language” answer.
- 29a. [*Surgery prep area] – SCRUB ROOM
- 39a. [*”Aha!”] – JUST AS I SUSPECTED, which warrants the 16-letter-wide grid.
- 48a. [*Bout with very big contestants] – SUMO MATCH. What else could this have been? This was the easiest theme answer of the puzzle for me.
- 59a. [Groundbreaking sitcom, and a hint to four different three-letter words concealed by starred answers] – ALL IN THE FAMILY. Like with SUMO MATCH, I feel like this is narrowly defined – sitcoms these days aren’t very groundbreaking. Plus, MAUDE didn’t fit.
I’ve got to give this puzzle ups for fun theme entries, including two breaks over three words, but I have seen this theme before – more than once, I think. The tie-in clue is nice though, and without it, I don’t think I’d have easily figured out the theme here.
In the long vertical entries, ELIOT NESS is my favorite (I love a full name) followed by TASK LIST (I wanted TO-DO LIST). PANDEMIC and STABILITY aren’t nearly as fun as the shorter MY HERO, OXTAIL and Mr. FIX-IT. And I love the clue [He who is not without sin?] for STONER – that was brilliant.
- 1a. [Berlin Olympics star] Jesse OWENS, who wore Adidas shoes at those games – the first sponsorship of a black male athlete.
- 41d. [Soccer star Freddy] ADU is familiar to me only from a commercial – I can’t remember what he was plugging though. Adidas shoes, maybe?
- I’ve only seen 42d: UMA [Thurman from “Kill Bill”] in three films – Gattaca, Batman & Robin and The Producers. My hunch is that I should watch both Kill Bills and Pulp Fiction. (Before you judge, I was ridiculously young when that came out.) What other Uma flicks do I need to catch?
- 15a. [The “King’s Speech” Oscar winner Firth] is COLIN. I know I need to see this one, too.
- 61d. EROS was a [Mythical archer]? Oh yeah – he shoots the arrows to make people fall in love. Gotcha.
- SALMI is simply a [Pheasant ragout] – though it might have a different gamebird in it. Never tried it.
- [Mack Sennett lawman] clues KOP, as in the Keystone Kops. Didn’t make sense at the time.
- [Reine’s spouse] is ROI – that’s “queen” and “king” in French, and it jibes after the puzzle’s solved without a problem. At the time, though, I thought we were spelling the Rhine River as they do in some country – the little things confused me in this puzzle.
That’s it today – I hope you’re having a happy Passover. See you after Easter!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “False Starts”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Hamel adds an “F” to the start of three phrases (hence, each theme entry has a “false start”) and clues the resulting wackiness:
- 17-Across: The [Peasant’s hem?] is a FROCK BOTTOM. Fall you have to do is add an “F” to “rock bottom.”
- 28-Across: The [New entry in competitive hot dog eating?] is a FRANK AMATEUR (from “rank amateur”). That’s a nice theme entry and a great clue.
- 48-Across: To be [Like Stephen King?] is to be FRIGHT-MINDED, a play on “right-minded.” I tend to be “light-minded.”
- 63-Across: The [Lack of complete trust that kept him from the promised land?] is the FLAW OF MOSES. I had problems with this one, largely because I was unaware of the phrase on which this theme entry plays. I’m not sure what’s meant by a (or is it “the”?) “law of Moses.”
Usually, themed puzzles are kept to 78/38* or less, but this is a 78/40, and the two additional black squares help facilitate some good non-thematic fill like NOBODY, BAD TASTE, NAME TAGS, NICE ONE, and TRUFFLE.
Other interesting tidbits from the puzzle:
- [Emerged] is a perfectly suitable clue for CAME OUT, but I would have preferred something a little more lively, like [Publicly declared one’s preference] or, if you thought that was a little too PG-13, [Left the house].
- I stayed with BRO as the [Lift provider] (as in, “Can you give me a lift, bro?”) for way too long before finally realizing it was supposed to be BRA. I guess I don’t get out much.
- I know [Quill pen receptacles] as INK WELLS, but with only seven letters, this grid wants INK POTS.
- Faux pas alert at 1-Across, where the clue for RAINED, [Came down], uses a word from 10-Down, the aforementioned CAME OUT.
*In case you missed Sunday’s post, “78/38” refers to the number of entries and black squares, respectively. In general, editors limit the maximum number of entries in a themed 15×15 puzzle to 78 and the number of black squares to 38.
Abe Vigoda was mistakenly reported to have died in the early 80’s. Ever since, false reports of his death have become a sort of running gag, to the point that http://www.abevigoda.com consists of a single page confirming that he is still alive. So, Tausig’s 31a clue is just a small part of the fabled 30-year history of Abe Vigoda’s questionable mortality.
Upper right corner of the LA Times was brutal. Took me a minute, and then I went back to scratching my head – “Who’s ELI OTNESS?”
Ha! I hope the LAT was written for today – 9d becomes a lot funnier that way.
NYT: Really amazing theme execution and fill containment! I’m sure I’ve seen this theme done in a CS, but whatever…
Pannonica- some of those “questionable lexical chunks” that you cite in Byron Waldon’s puzzle:
… are in my books, A-1 crossword fill.
Plot: I’m aware of the AV phenomenon, and even linked to the same page, but felt that it’s too much of a stretch for the AV (the other one) editors to clue it without so much as a wink. In other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
Martin: Speaking of stretching, I might have been doing a little linguistic yoga when I included those three, although I do feel they’re relatively feeble. “Hey, man” is probably the strongest, but I’m still not overly fond of it.
“Oh, what dear daughter/
’neath the sun…
could treat a father so?
To wait upon him hand and foot/
and always tell him no?”
edit: Whoops. I got my Onion and Tausig mixed up.
No love for “Marezy doats and Lindzey doats and Cunninghamzy divey”?
Sorry, pannonica—thought you were just having a 4/20 (or 4:20) moment there. :-)
Oh no, that isn’t my sort of thing at all.