Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword
Good themeless with an abundance of juicy fill and clues:
- 1a. The HALL OF FAME is the [Setting for many legends]. You know what the crossword world needs? An official hall of fame.
- 15a. “I KID YOU NOT!” Great phrase.
- 17a. TINSELTOWN, kinda old-school but cool to see in a crossword.
- 28a, 59a. Two [Jazzy Jones]es, NORAH and ETTA.
- 30a. SMOOT! One of the best governmental surnames of all time.
- 35a. Favorite clue: [Id checker] is not an “I.D. checker”—it’s the SUPEREGO.
- 56a. To [Imitate a hot dog] is to PANT the way an overheated canine does. (No connection to the ALPINE slaloms at 21a.)
- 63a. IN REAL TIME, [Like instant messaging]. Text messaging is slower than that.
- 67a. PAPER TRAIL is my favorite entry in this grid.
- 69a. But OPEN SOURCE is also great. Have you heard about the new open-source puzzle format, .ipuz? Roy Leban’s Puzzazz has developed it. If you’re of a techie bent, read more here.
- 2d. AKIMBO is one of my favorite words.
- 13d. What was your first thought for [Much simpler time]? The world portrayed on The Andy Griffith Show? The 1800s? Try the STONE AGE.
- 38d. ON THE WAY is clued as [Not yet born].
- 39d. “STAY CALM! Do not freak out.”
- 53d. [They flow along bays] uses bay to mean bay horse—flowing MANES.
Anyone else try ROUT for 26d: [Expunge]? That R kept me from filling in the answers to its left—had me thinking that 25a: [Black] was something like SEAR or CHAR. Er, no. X OUT, ONYX.
There’s some short interstitial fill that’s blah—your TAE, STA, ENNE, ABAB, ETAS, singer SYMS whom I don’t know, HE’S A, etc.—but it wasn’t bugging me while I was solving. There’s also an intersection between two cognates—40d: GENE, clued cleverly as a [Family hand-me-down?], and 46a: GENUS, [Begonia, Geranium or Magnolia]. Would you have preferred that GENE be clued as the person’s name to bypass the cognate issue?
Four stars. Smoot!
Todd McClary’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Distance Education” — pannonica’s review
This week’s offering finds constructor Todd McClary going to unusual lengths to misinterpret phrases that include words that also happen to be units for measuring distance. I think “distance learning” is a more familiar locution than the one used for the title, but concede that “education” may be more appropriate to the puzzle’s conceit.
- 17a. [Distance unit for competitive swimming?] makes an initial splash as a WATER METER, not something to keep track of usage in your home or business.
- 23a. [Distance unit for loch surveying?] further limns the theme as SCOTLAND YARD, rather than the headquarters of London’s venerable Metropolitan Police Service.
- 39a. [Distance unit for spinneret production?] emerges as WEB FOOT, since the spinneret is a spider’s silk-producing organ, not a notable feature of otters and eiders. I didn’t care for this one, as the adjectival “web-footed” feels more commonplace; the almighty Google, however, refutes this by returning 312,000 results for “web foot” and only 214,000 for “web-footed”. @#$%!ng Google.
- 50a. [Distance unit for electrical storm fronts?] strikes home as LIGHTNING ROD, as opposed to a structure intended to divert atmospheric discharges.
- 61a. [Distance unit for hedge maze design?] ends the theme entries with a flourish as a BUSH LEAGUE, not
the GOPa group of relative amateurs.
As a big fan of the creative and comedic potential of willful misunderstanding, I enjoyed the playfulness of this theme and thought the imprecise precision worked well. Your mileage may vary.
- 64a. [Singer’s line?] has nothing to do with carrying a melody, referring instead to the sewing machine company. SEAM. More misdirection.
- 13d. Product placement alert! FIEND. Via the substitution rule, that makes Amy and her cohorts (myself included) crossword [savage]s.
- 21a & 45d. Full names are usually nice to see in a puzzle, so actress EVE ARDEN and old-timey TV/radio host TED MACK are welcome, although I was unfamiliar with the latter.
For that Higher Education™ feel, the puzzle brandishes quotes, references, and the like, involving Berlioz, Zola, Shakespeare, Debussy, WYETH, and the ILIAD. For kicks, the clue for [3:10 to] YUMA, in citing Elmore Leonard’s pulpy short story, is incrementally snobbier than if it had invoked the movie version. Such blandishments will get you everywhere.
Visually, I was taken by the stacked fill RUINS/ENNUI in the top center. Those Us, Is and Ns make for a satisfying composition. Overall, modest count of abbrevs. and partials, with nothing beyond the pale (speaking of distance).
- When the worst fill that can be pointed out are the crosswordese ILIE, ESAI, and EFT, then the puzzle is pretty strong. Perhaps the center section is a bit too fragmented?
- 2d. It would never occur to me to describe ÉLAN as [Impetuosity]. m-w.com defines élan as “vigorous spirit or enthusiasm” and impetuous as “(1) marked by impulsive vehemence or passion… (2) marked by force and violence of movement or action.” The former—for me—has a distinctly positive connotation (vigor, style) and the latter a negative one (rashness, violence).
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 39”
You like those big, fat chunks of open grid space? You don’t often see 7×5 corners in a themeless. The 7×4-crossing-9s-and-an-8 corners aren’t the commonest, either.
- WANT ADS, COLTISH, ATOM ANT, “CHIN UP!,” Jay MCINERNEY, DESULTORY PETULANCE (can petulance be desultory?), C.S.I. MIAMI, a ratty SWEATSUIT, and HORSEHIDE (a baseball answer that requires no obsessive baseball fandom, unlike never-heard-of-him OCTAVIO Dotel, one of those Peter-Gordon-sure-loves-baseball entries that does not win me over). Good stuff!
- That giant dictionary definition for HOTEL. Really?
- The new Starbucks iced-drink size, TRENTA. My personal term for the jumbo cup size available at the movies is “trough.” I like to have a trough of Diet Coke to wash down my popcorn.
Scott Atkinson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This 15×16 tall puzzle is anchored by that big answer in the middle, THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Here, the old switcheroo is pulled on phrases with ER or OO, which instead end up with OO or ER:
- 5d. The poop deck becomes the PERP DECK, or [Convicts’ level on a prison ship?]. Wait, who’s on the other levels of this prison ship? Tourists?
- 11d. The Bering Strait turns into the BOOING STRAIT, a [Narrow passage where catcalls are heard?]. Eh.
- 24d. Tattoo artist morphs into TATTER ARTIST, or [Creative user of worn-out clothes?]. Eh.
- 41d. [Evict a “Wizard of Oz” actor?] clues BOOT LAHR, playing on Bert Lahr. Eh.
The concept seems solid, but I’m not thrilled with the theme’s results here.
17a and 57a are long answers that exceed the length of two of the theme entries, thought it’s hard to mistake them for theme answers even though they’re Acrosses—the theme-revealing clue for 7d prettu much shouts that the other theme entries are all Downs. These long Acrosses are nice, though—”YOU ARE HERE” and a CARICATURE. When’s the last time a [Hirschfeld drawing] itself was referenced in a clue, rather than the hidden NINAs he included in his cartoons?
Seven more clues:
- 1d. [Victims of a storied loser] are SHEEP. Are these the sheep Little Bo Peep lost? I’m thinking the only victim is Bo Peep. Ditching her was probably the best thing that ever happened to those sheep. They won’t get shaved bald and they won’t be served as mutton.
- 53a. [They beg to differ] clues those pugnacious ANTIS.
- 54a. A PEBBLE is a [Shoe annoyance]. Yes! V. annoying.
- 65a. [Horse halter] is a rein or the spoken command “WHOA!”
- 12d. BONDO is an [Aptly named auto body adhesive]. Add “auto body adhesives” to the list of categories outside my wheelhouse.
- ALEPPO, not the capital city Damascus, is [Syria’s most populous city], with a population of 2.3 million. Who knew?
- 38d, 38a. [With 38-Across, large pol. arenas] clues CONV. CTRS. Mind you, the typical convention center hosts far more business and professional conventions than political conventions. Strange clue.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Taking on Debt”—Sam Donaldson’s review
Happy Earth Day everyone! Remember to hug a tree today and tell it you love it, because tomorrow it could be gone.
When I start solving a titled puzzle, I usually spend a few seconds guessing how the theme will play out based on the puzzle’s title. (I wonder if the speed solvers are thinking, “Heresy! That’s precious time!” But hey, I’m not in that league and don’t pretend to be.) This time, with the title “Taking on Debt,” I thought maybe it would be an insertion theme, with “IOU” added to various phrases. Turns out it’s even better, as Hartman adds I-O-U-S to the ends of the first words in three two-word entries:
- 20-Across: The [Wall Street figure seeing red?] is a FURIOUS TRADER, the result of adding “-ious” to the end of the first word in “fur trader.”
- 41-Across: A [Cashier with an attitude?] is a FACTIOUS CHECKER (“fact-checker” + “-ious”). For a little while I was thinking the first word would be “facetious,” but then I realized there’s no such thing as a “facet checker.” I feel like there should be, though. Shouldn’t someone be checking out all the facets of a situation?
- 56-Across: The [Boring member of the Round Table?] is TEDIOUS KNIGHT, a play on the late comic actor, Ted Knight. I’m old enough to remember him on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and young enough to remember him on “Too Close for Comfort.”
This 78/42 grid (78 answers/42 black squares) is high on the black square count, but the resulting fill is worth it. IN A TIZZY, clued as [Worked up], and GET A LIFE!, clued as [“Dude, move on!”], are just golden, as is HAM ON RYE, the [Deli order]. I kind of like that there’s both OGLE and OGRE in the grid, and even some of the shorter fill like EGG ON and DR. NO is quite nice. Letter-insertion themes are hardly original, but this one’s well executed, clean, and interesting. That’s why I gave it four stars.
Three other items of note:
- Yesterday, EPIC was clued in connection with the expression, “epic fail.” Today, [It’s a long story]. It’s also an entry that slowed me down a little, as I first tried SAGA.
- If you’re still a little new to crosswords, the answer to [Ray or Jay], AL-ER, might seem confusing. A Ray is a player on the Tampa Bay Rays, and a Jay is a player on the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays and Jays are professional baseball teams that play in the American League. The league is sometimes referred to simply as the AL, so one playing in the AL would be an AL-er. Some say you never hear this term outside of crosswords and certainly never in baseball talk. But I’ve never had an issue with it, and I’ve been a fantasy baseball team owner for 13 years now.
- My favorite clue was [Org. that prints a lot of schedules]. That org. is the IRS.
Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shopping Directory”
Simple but effective theme—familiar phrases that end with words that can also mean “store” or “business” are reclued to emphasize that interpretation:
- 24a. [Where vitamins are sold?] = HEALTH CONCERN
- 46a. [Where broth is sold?] = STOCK MARKET
- 63a. [Where wiring is sold?] = CABLE OUTLET
- 70a. [Where legumes are sold?] = BEAN COUNTER. My favorite theme entry.
- 86a. [Where storage space is sold?] = HOLDING FIRM
- 112a. [Where joke books are sold?] = FUNNY BUSINESS
- 3d. [Where gifts are sold?] = PRESENT COMPANY
- 6d. [Where kitschy clothes are sold?] = CAMP SITE
- 53d. [Where pie ingredients are sold?] = FILLING STATION
- 85d. [Where calligraphy supplies are sold?] = INKSTAND. Old-fashioned!
Highlights in the fill include a BOOM MIKE, CARE BEAR, ALTAR BOY, WINNIPEG.
Among the names in the puzzle are these:
- 21a. [“Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” composer Wrubel] was named ALLIE. Kate & Allie wonders if its prolonged moment in the crossword sun has finally ended.
- 76a. [“Two Children Are Threatened by a Nightingale” artist] is ERNST. Strange painting.
- 109a. [“Les Miz” role] is Inspector JAVERT. No idea why the title is shortened when the answer isn’t abbreviated in any way.
- 120a. [Brothers who played behind Crosby] are the DORSEYS. Not the Doobies. You knew that, right?
- 122a. [“Drums Along the Mohawk” author] is EDMONDS. Who?? Walter Edmonds. The book stayed on the bestseller list for two years…in the late 1930s.
- 113d. [“One Mic” performer] is NAS, who’s a RAPPER (1d: [113-Down, for one]).
- 56d. [Poet Brooke] clues RUPERT. That’s Mr. Rupert Brooke, not Ms. Brooke Rupert.
- 34d. [Composer Rimsky-Korsakov] was named NIKOLAI.
Four stars. Not too thrilling, but the theme works well.