Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
I liked this puzzle. I barely noticed what the theme was while solving, as the theme answers, all nouns, were clued so straightforwardly. I can’t quite label what it is that the theme entries do—not exactly a word ladder, but there’s a laddery chain in which part 2 of one answer becomes part 1 of the next answer, and so on:
- 17a. BALLPOINT pen.
- 25a. POINT GUARD in basketball. Anyone else find it bizarre that Memphis is playing Oklahoma City tonight and this is the NBA? Until recently, neither city had a single major sports team.
- 31a. GUARD DOG.
- 45a. DOG HOUSE.
- 51a. HOUSE PAINT.
- 63a. And that brings us full circle to PAINTBALL, which hooks back up with BALLPOINT and differs by only one letter.
I enjoyed some of the fill while wending my way through the grid:
- 3d. There’s a SALSA BAND that might have those Cuban wedding guests shaking their 20a.
- 10d. TEAM USA, of Olympics fame.
- 49d. To [Talk incessantly about] something is to HARP ON it. This could easily have been filled as TARPON, the fish (ARCH -> partial A RAT, CPU -> APU) but HARP ON is so much livelier.
- 35d. BLUE JEANS, plain and simple.
- 27d. GOTCHA! (Could do without partial I GET right beside this.)
Answer I’ve never seen before:
- 43a. [Magritte’s “__ Fixe”] clues L’IDEE. LIDEE looks funny in the grid.
And another one I’m not sure I’ve run into before:
- 25d. [Word ending meaning “foot”] clues PEDE. Crikey! Glad I never even saw that one while solving. Rather an ugly entry. Plus, the two most common words with that particular ending are horrifying.
Four stars for the theme, three for the fill.
Doug Peterson and Angela Olson Halsted’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Wonderful – a puzzle by two of my favorite puzzle people: crossword blogger Angela “PuzzleGirl” Olson Halsted and her “crossword boyfriend” Doug Peterson. It’s a nice “good idea/bad idea” theme that they’ve got here:
- 20a. [Good place for a run] – WRIGLEY FIELD. Starting it off with baseball, eh?
- 34a. [Bad place for a run] – NATIONAL BANK. Don’t expect Mr. Potter to bail you out of this one, George.
- 41a. [Good place for a run] – VAIL, COLORADO. From baseball to skiing.
- 56a. [Bad place for a run] – SILK STOCKING. I always think of that ‘90s show on the USA Network Silk Stalkings when I see something about silk stockings. Am I alone in this?
I like that Doug and Angela came up with four distinct uses of the word run for this – I wonder if they came up with any better or worse runs that didn’t make the cut. I’m curious if they considered putting RUN in the grid and referencing that entry – thank you for not doing this!
As you might expect from this duo, there are a lot of fun entries:
- 3d. [#1 Toto song that mentions Kilimanjaro] – AFRICA. Great cover version here.
- 5d. [Arthur’s castle] – CAMELOT – though I prefer Spamalot.
- 36d. [Common sitcom rating] – TV-PG. I agree – we need more family-friendly TV shows these days, especially in the first hour of primetime. There – that’s my one-sentence soapbox.
- 44d. [Horn & Hardart eatery] – AUTOMAT, a fresh entry… for 1950. I think it still looks fun in the grid though.
- 55d. [“You don’t have to remind me”] – I KNOW.
And those are just some of the fun and cool-looking down entries. There were some downers, though, like EBRO, LOGY, OTOE, WEND, and RIIS. Which one of you accepts responsibility for these atrocities? Let the finger pointing begin!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Between Five and Ten” – Sam Donaldson’s review
How fitting that on May 10 (5/10) we get this puzzle featuring four terms that begin with “five” and end with “ten”–well, the Roman numeral equivalents anyway. Yes, each theme entry starts with V (five, to Flavius Flav) and ends with X (ten, though not to Xerxes):
- 17-Across: [Riboflavin, folic acid, etc.] clues VITAMIN B COMPLEX. Coincidentally, if you want to purchase some, you might have to visit a Vitamin B complex. But that shouldn’t give you a complex. You see, it’s all very complex.
- 24-Across: The [Spring time] is the VERNAL EQUINOX. Not “infernal equinox,” as I used to think it was called. Hey, that was a long time ago–do you remember where you were last October?
- 41-Across: The [Charge passed on to a customer] is a VALUE-ADDED TAX. The “VAT,” as it’s known among tax professionals, is not widely used in the United States, but is especially common in Europe. Think of it like a sales tax that’s imposed at every level in the supply chain instead of just at the point of retail sale. The Wikipedia article on the subject is not half bad.
- 54-Across: The [Common cause of fainting at the site of blood] is the VASOVAGAL REFLEX. If you’re like me, you almost fainted at the sight of that theme answer. WebMD can tell us more: “Fainting is caused by a drop in blood flow to the brain. After you lose consciousness and fall or lie down, more blood can flow to your brain so you wake up again. The most common causes of fainting are not dangerous. In these cases, you faint because of … [t]he vasovagal reflex, which causes the heart rate to slow and the blood vessels to widen, or dilate. As a result, blood pools in the lower body and less blood goes to the brain. This reflex can be triggered by many things, including stress, pain, fear, coughing, holding your breath, and urinating.” So for those who get stressed out because of their fear of urinating, fainting must be pretty common.
This grid overflows with rare letters, and not just because the four theme entries have five Vs, four Xs, and a Q. Ross also managed to squeeze in three Js and even one more V into this grid. The result is quite impressive, and I thought the theme was clever even though perhaps the last theme entry was a bit forced.
My favorite entry is [Beyond fabulous]; it is simply TO DIE FOR. But there’s other terrific fill here like BAMBINO, EGOMANIA, and FLAMINGO. The placement of JIVE right next to “I DIG” is too good to be coincidental. Finally, notice how Ross places ROSS, [One of TV’s “Friends”] as the very last Across entry in the bottom right-hand corner–the appropriate place for an artist to sign such fine work.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Dance Party”
Each theme answer is a made-up phrase consisting of two dance names:
- 18a. [Getting to home plate while walking on carpet?] is doing the BOLERO SHAG. Where are the movies that pair a hot male equivalent of Bo Derek with a dorky female stand-in for Dudley Moore?
- 52a. [The gray area between getting a fashion magazine or not?] is the VOGUE LIMBO.
- 10d. [Automated servant for dispensing dip?] clues SALSA ROBOT. Frankly, I’m surprised I don’t see salsa robots in the SkyMall catalog.
- 25d. [Switching around faucets in a restroom?] would be the boring TAP SHUFFLE. This dance is done by plumbers padding their invoice.
With a 68-word grid, this puzzle could make it as a themeless if only those theme entries were real phrases. Lots of GROOVY themeless-grade longer fill: MEXICO meets XANADU, BAR-HOP, GRAFFITI, SOULMATE, Ian MCSHANE, Oscar the Grouch’s pet worm SLIMEY, two more X’s.
Other constructors fond of dropping the word count to ≤72 in a themed puzzle include Dan Naddor and Tyler Hinman. Given my preference for themeless puzzles, I approve.