Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Quick review, as I’ve been out since morning and now it’s bedtime.
Neat concept, with the theme entries explaining that THE FIRST LETTERS / OF EACH / CLUE GO / FROM A TO Z IN ORDER. With a 78-word grid, that’s three full sets of 26 letters for the clues. I’m curious to know if any other puzzles have built on that triple-the-number-of-letters-in-the-alphabet coincidence. The clues are weird, but hey, there’s a reason for it. And no, I didn’t notice the alphabetical run of the clues before the theme entries tipped me off.
The grid’s a little wider than usual, 16×15 squares. It felt like a Thursday puzzle to me—and apparently to many others, judging from the beyond-a-Wednesday solving times I see populating the applet.
I bet 6-Down: OMASUM was a flat-out gimme for another crossword constructor, Gareth Bain. Why, he was just mentioning earlier today that he’d felt a pregnant cow’s fetus via a rectal excursion. I’m pretty sure he is better acquainted with the digestive system of 1d: CATTLE and other ruminants than 99.5% of crossword solvers.
The fill’s a little funky, with oddball verb forms like FLURRIED and ADORNING and the term ODOR-FREE. I bet 20a: ARTOIS is more broadly familiar to solvers via the beer Stella Artois than as a [Historical region of France], but I sure don’t have a good beer clue that starts with H (Stella’s not very hoppy, so…).
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Noodling Around” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Time to get your carbs on, as today’s puzzle features four expressions with last words that sound like the starts of various pastas:
- 20-Across: The [Pasta served during a military exercise?] is DRILL RIGATONI, a mash-up of “drill rig” and “rigatoni.”
- 27-Across: The [Pasta large enough to feed a clan?] is FAMILY MANICOTTI, the result of mixing “family man” with “manicotti.”
- 44-Across: The [Pasta dispensed from an aerosol container?] is SPRAY CANNELLONI, a pairing of “spray can” and “cannelloni,” a pasta that I knew had two Ns but which I forgot had two Ls.
- 51-Across: The [Pasta that spouts from the plate?] is FOUNTAIN PENNE, a combination of “fountain pen” and my favorite pasta shape, “penne.” (It seems so much better at holding sauce, and it’s very easy to eat with a fork.
Lots of interesting possibilities that wouldn’t quite work as theme entries: KUNG FUSILLI, BOBA FETTUCCINI, JUST SAY GNOCCHI, LASER TAGLIATELLE, NOT SO FARFALLE, and POP A ZITI. Sorry about that last one, but my inner ten-year-old loved it.
The theme was fine, but the fill really wowed me. I loved CANDY MAKER (though the clue, [Willy Wonka, for one], had me trying CHOCOLATIER first) and the [Disney film that introduced Herbie], THE LOVE BUG. Five discrete sections of the grid had some juicy fill. There’s a BONER in the northwest, GOLLUM and WIFI in the north central, NEXT TO and the one, er, next to that, ELMO, in the northeast, NAIL UP in the far west, and ICED IN over in the east. Usually we’re happy with just two or three great entries, but this puzzle has almost as many good entries as it has carbohydrates.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
5-minute quick review:
Theme is 58d: STP, with five phrases that have those initials. SWEETENS THE POT, SHOT TO PIECES, and STOP THE PRESSES are all terrific. SHORT-TERM PROFIT surely is a “thing” but not one I ever talk about. SURE TO PLEASE seems a hair shy of reaching the “lexical chunk” bar.
Interesting fill: AX JOB, “LET’S GO,” PYTHON, TUSH. Add-a-prefix, add-two-endings awkwardnesses of the day: RE-EXPOSE and EYERS. Unusual-as-a-crossword-answer but still solid phrase: HAVE UP. Strange clue of the day: [Brittle cake grain] for OAT. I once had a crunchy oat cake thing England, but such things barely exist in the U.S., do they? Clue made me think of moist cake somehow turned brittle. Odd.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Given that three of the theme answers differed from their base phrases by lopping off a -CH, I figured that’s what the theme was. It turns out that the theme is really “change \ch\ or \tch\ sound into \t\ sound”:
- 18a. [What a fugitive uses to hide his head?] is an ESCAPE HAT (hatch).
- 20a. [Nickname for a demon doing comedy?] is THE WICKED WIT (Witch).
- 37a. [Cute animal fawned over by murderers, whoremongers, idolaters, and liars?] clues HELL’S KITTEN (Kitchen).
- 53a. [Mentor to fruit salad chefs?] is a PITTING COACH (pitching). That reminds me: I have cherries in the fridge.
- 58a. [Polite request to an assistant on a home improvement project?] clues “BIT, PLEASE” (the sassy “bitch, please“).
Five clues and/or answers:
- 14a. [MC with “Still da Baddest”] is TRINA. I don’t know her.
- 22a. [Batshit Cruise] refers to the oceangoing party boats that take ecotourists to the islands where guano is mined, right? No, it’s TOM.
- 2d. [Top opening] made me think of attic windows, tank turrets, and nostrils rather than an ARMHOLE in a top you wear.
- 3d. I was trying to remember what those hovercraft skateboards were called in the Back to the Future movies, but the [Conveyance for Marty McFly] is the DeLorean TIME MACHINE.
- 25d. [Whatever-it’s-called] had four valid possibilities that fit most of the crossings, so I had to use a couple more crossings to hack it out. THINGAMAJIG could also be the other permutations of thing(a/u)ma(jig/bob).
3.5 stars. I wasn’t crazy about fill like XXO, OOLA, TETS, IS AN, I SAW, and STETTED, but I liked the theme and I liked the 11-letter Downs and answers like MLK JR and KOTEX.