Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
I knew there were lots of double letters squooshed into single letters, but there were also unchanged double letters in the grid and that made it hard for me to figure out what the puzzle was doing. All became clear when I printed the crossword out: The five theme answers I’ve circled are supposed to be doubled in order to suit their clues, and each letter is doubling in the Down crossings. Basically, it’s as if we’re splitting those theme entries horizontally, making two rows where there is one. So the northwest corner could also be represented by the following:
AMMO POOH POOH STRI...
Isn’t that clever? I like it a lot, though it was rather vexing not to grasp the concept without looking at a hard copy of the puzzle. POOH-POOH, “ZOOM-ZOOM,” “EXCUSES, EXCUSES,” “BEEP-BEEP” (we would also have accepted “MEEP-MEEP”), and PAGO PAGO.
Highlights: REGIFTS! In my experience, regifting is not a matter of frugality so much as wanting to unload something you have no need for, or needing a gift on short notice. [Place to get a date] is a cute clue for a PALM TREE. EX(X)ON MOBIL, KERMIT the Frog, BUZ(Z)ING, LOSES SLE(E)P, BABY DIAPER, KASPAROV, FALSE GODS, THIS END UP, and small, private liberal arts college POMONA (alma mater of two friends of mine—and where constructor Joel Fagliano currently attends college). It’s also nice to see TE(E)PEES with the spelling I grew up with; TEPEE is more common in crosswords and always feels wrong to me. And CE(E) LO! I love Cee Lo Green and had been perplexed because neither Al nor Cee Lo is 4 letters long.
Steve Salitan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review
It’s one of those puzzles where each of the theme entries has the same clue. The lower right gives that away with ROUNDS at 64a., but if you had the same issues I did, TOO FAR and PUEBLO were not obvious, leaving part of tis ever so important clue word hidden. Here are the four sets of rounds:
- AMMUNITION UNITS
- SPARRING PERIODS
- TOURNAMENT PARTS
- TRAYFULS OF BEERS
Unfortunately, this isn’t my cup of tea for a theme. I didn’t much like two sporting uses of the word – though they are distinct. And frankly, I prefer the plural TRAYSFUL to TRAYFULS. The fact that none of these are really lively phrases made this puzzle rather blah on the thematic front.
There’s some nice fill in MON AMI, HERBAL DIET and CAUSE A STIR. But there’s a lot to not like – the crossing of OSSA and LSTS, NAHUM (which is apparently in the Bible?), HOB, and more. Not a happy time with these.
- 23d. [Reporter’s source] – LEAK. I thought it was LEAD until the very end checking my work. Note to those looking to create a split-personality crossword – use this one!
- 3d. [Rose Parade flowers] are MUMS, as ROSES would be much too obvious.
- 22a. [It may be painted] could describe your TOE… nail? Do you paint your whole toe or just the toenail? Why do some people paint their toenails? Fingernails I almost understand, but toenails? Pardon my ignorance.
- 22d. [Palm in one’s palm?] is a TREO. They still make these! I didn’t realize that! But that doesn’t mean I need to like a model of a cellular phone as fill, especially one that no one drops in conversation.
Didn’t please me. Sorry, Steve. 2.5 stars.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Arctic Ark” — Sam Donaldson’s review
If today’s puzzle left you cold, that may be just what Patrick Jordan wanted. Jordan gives us three theme entries featuring common nouns that start with the names of Arctic mammals:
- 20-Across: The [Facial feature of David Crosby] is his WALRUS MUSTACHE. It’s also the facial feature of Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters.
- 34-Across: The POLAR BEAR CLUB is the group for [Wintertime bathers]. These are the people who often celebrate the new calendar year by jumping into a cold lake. I prefer to ring in the new year with a marathon watching of the original Star Wars trilogy. I’m sure the Polar Bears and I are both happy with our respective choices.
- 52-Across: The [Endorsement insignia] is a SEAL OF APPROVAL. I get that a seal is an Arctic mammal, but here the “seal” is an impression or insignia. This is the only theme entry that works this way. A walrus mustache evokes the image of a walrus. A polar bear clue evokes the image of a polar bear. But a seal of approval does not evoke the image of a seal, at least not the one that basks on a hunk of ice in the Arctic. The inconsistency is troublesome.
We get bonus thematic content with ICY, clued as [Very unfriendly]. Interestingly, it’s paired alongside SAHARAN, clued as [Extremely arid]. Now that’s climate change! And maybe there’s another bonus with AIR WOLF, the [1980s Ernest Borgnine show featuring a helicopter] (though of course that’s not a full-fledged theme entry since it ends with the name of an Arctic denizen and it has no symmetrically-placed counterpart).
Only 41 squares were harmed in the execution of this theme, so there’s plenty of room for some good extras. I love the 8-letter pairs in the northwest corner, CHEWED UP and THE ALAMO, but the pairing in the southeast feels flat. BAKELITE, the early [Plastic in many telephone receivers] looks more like a two-word imperative sent via text message to an oleo-philic pastry chef. And UNSEATED might be fine (albeit dull) but there’s also UNEASE the southwest corner. That’s not technically a duplicate, but it certainly does nothing to make UNSEATED look any prettier.
I’ve seen [Part of a flight] as the evasive clue for STAIR so many times that now TAKE-OFF, TURBULENCE, CRUISING, or LANDING would now be the unexpected answer. On the other hand, I liked [Character in Progressive ads] as an updated clue for FLO. You can see the woman who plays Flo at the end of this clip from Mad Men. Man I wish that show hadn’t taken such a long hiatus!
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Ch-ch-ch-Changes” — pannonica’s review
Sound substitution theme, replacing the soft /j/ of the original phrase with the soft /tch/ phoneme.
Aside: as a harbinger of the tone of the puzzle, let me first refer you to 54d [Leonard of dirty lyrics] COHEN. Such gratuitous allusion to an occasional aspect of his songs lets you know that this isn’t your father’s crossword puzzle. Unless your father is a dirty old man.
- 17a. [With 64-Across, reflective question from one experimenting with sandwich toppings?] WHAT WOULD | CHEESES DO? (What would Jesus do?) More than merely reflective, I’d say an inquiry of this sort is projective and empathetic; quite a feat to imagine oneself as sentient fromage. A better and more organic phrasing might be, “What cheeses would do?” Of course, that wouldn’t do for the theme.
- 24a. [Apt name for a gay S&M supply store?] DICK AND CHAIN (Dick and Jane). See what I meant before? There’s more in the ballast.
- 40a. [Argentine revolutionary down in the dumps?] BLUE CHE (Blue jay). Makes me think of Bluette.
- 51a. [Wrestling move for the Strangling Sprinter?] RUNNING CHOKE (running joke).
While criticizing a standard theme type is unwarranted, it’s perfectly acceptable to take hammer and tongs to the theme’s content. I only cared for one of the four (five?) themers. The long two-parter is inane, to be charitable. Some sensitive and pious souls may even be offended, which would be in keeping with the other theme of the puzzle. Which brings us to 24-across; a bit transgressive, that one, but it’s clever and vivid. 40-across is short and uninteresting. 51-across is tortuous and labored while the joke’s payoff isn’t big enough.
Overall, the 4½ themers feel uninspired and desultory. In total the puzzle, while I wouldn’t exactly call it smooth, is not clunky. Average there.
As for the “dirty” vibe, in addition to the aforementioned entries, I direct the reader to 3d, 9d, and 29d. I suppose there were opportunities for the constructor to push it farther, but you get the gist. Perhaps 30a qualifies here too? I’d be inclined to clue DOOB in reference to Bollywood, but realize that it’s too obscure.
- REUSED (49a) clue for CIAO and SEE YA, 21a & 69a [“I’m out”].
- 46d [Join the line] QUEUE UP. Adore the –U–U–U– pattern.
- Obama! [ __ Soetoro (Obama’s stepfather)] LOLO, and [Obama who became a teenager in July 2011] MALIA.
- Minimaritime theme: OCEAN, TIDE, QEII, BUOY.
- Long non-theme fill: NO-SPIN ZONE, and the new-to-me ZETTABYTES.
- Kind-of-hip clue for MATADOR at 4d, but come to think of it, perhaps it was an excuse to indulge in that subtheme?
- 62a [Hotlanta] A-TOWN. Lovely how the two nicknames complement each other and don’t overlap, not even the seemingly integral initial A. Great find.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Adding a Family Member”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan just added a daughter to his family, so today’s theme is a natural: each of four family members are added to phrases to create goofy new phrases:
- 17a. “Ken dolls” become BROKEN DOLLS with the addition of “bro.” [Barbies snapped in half?]
- 28a. “I-Formation” becomes SI, SI FORMATION with the addition of “sis.” [Manner one employs when agreeing with Jose?]
- 44a. “US Magazine” becomes MOMUS MAGAZINE with the additon of “mom.”[Periodical named after the Greek god of satire?]
- 58a. “Gumshoes” becomes DADGUM SHOES with the additon of “dad.” [Blasted footwear?]
- Brendan has a new baby daughter named Tabitha. Isn’t that cute? And she anagrams to HABITAT.
- I’ll admit I’ve never heard of MOMUS or DADGUM. Each Googles quite well, though, and were easy to piece together from crossings.
- Upper-middle of the grid: very nice.
- Top 5 fill: INNUENDOES with the -es ending, ARBY’S, FIVE A.M., HIJAB, IMHO.
- Bottom 3 fill: EROSE, AHL, SIREE.
- Clever consecutive clue twins (fraternal, not identical): 23d and 25d.
- Anyone else have REWEED for 66a.? No? Me neither then.
- Don’t know if there’s a name for the clue type at 16a., but I like these. I had AD- and read the clue as “Big brother,” even though it’s “big bother.” Sneaky way to take advantage of the “autocorrect” feature we humans have.
- Took me 7:01 to finish. Unbeatable.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and congratulations on your new addition to the family!