Mike Nothnagel’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Chewy, crunchy, nom-nom. Lots of long fill, lots of fresh fill, lots of tricky clues. It’s pretty much all a solver could want in a themeless Friday. Okay, sure those fluvial blocks break the grid into relatively discrete sections, but the entirety has a sinuous integrity such that it doesn’t feel so much like solving a bunch of little puzzles.
Let’s look at the long stuff.
- Vertical ten-stacks in the northwest and southeast: Frankly, I’m a little surprised to see UP THE WAZOO in the NYT, as it could be seen as naughty, a small bird (39d) told me. It lies alongside the very nice NO LOVE LOST. In the other corner are SNOB APPEAL (you know I like that) and OUT OF RANGE.
- In the complementary corners are horizontal double-nine-plus-eight stacks. FIRES UPON kind of recalls that last ten-letter entry. It sits above ITINERANT and TIME ZONE. Up right are SWEARS BY, COAL MINER, and RADIO DIAL (clued subversively as [What you might reach for after hearing “Don’t go anywhere!”]).
- Oh yes, there’s also a the grid-spanning SOAKED TO THE BONE bisecting the whole shebang, clued simply as [Saturated].
The CAP Quotient™ is admirably low, especially considering the wonders to be found elsewhere in the puzzle. To my mind, the worst offenders are C: AZO, OTO-; A: SWED., LLDS, YRLY; P: HAIL TO. I don’t really mind the acronyms AZT and APR since they aren’t overused in crosswords. The cluing is late-week tough overall throughout, with some good misdirection (I was so sure of HULA, not UKES, for [Entertainment at a luau]). Aside from the excellent clue-work, what truly helps this puzzle to shine is the mix of old and new content (PLATO, UP THE WAZOO), some relatively obscure (The SMOOT-Hawley Tariff Act, anyone?), some pop culture (Simon Cowell’s CRUELLY delivered critiques on whichever-talent-show-he-haunts-these-days), film (Gus VAN SANT), theater (BARNUM), sports (SPAHN), geography (Coeur d’ALENE), and so on. You get the idea.
Oh, I also had PETRO- instead of NEURO- as the ‘chemical’ prefix at 46-down.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Washer Language” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s time to clean up our act around here. 62-Across reveals that popular laundry DETERGENTS are lurking at the ends of the other four theme entries:
- 17-Across: A [Fracas] is a FREE-FOR-ALL. A less riotous event is a free-for-few.
- 39-Across: EBB TIDE is a [Hit song for the Righteous Brothers] that I have never heard before now. If it’s new to you, too, take a listen and see what you think. Not their best, imho.
- 11-Down: A BRONX CHEER is certainly a [Show of disrespect]. It’s also known as “blowing a raspberry,” but that seems a little too crass to me. Whatever you and a consenting raspberry wish to do is not for me to judge and something I don’t need to know about. Just watch out for the seeds.
- 29-Down: [Weight gain, e.g.] is sometimes referred to as the FRESHMAN FIFTEEN. In my case it was more like the Freshman Forty, but I was always an over-achiever when it came to academics.
Long-time readers know I’m easy to please when it comes to crosswords, but this theme really worked for me. I like brand names in my puzzles, so an entire puzzle built around common detergent brands is a delight. There was also much to like in the fill, especially FINICKY, a word I always associate with Morris the Cat from the commercials (like this one) for 9-Lives catfood. I also liked ROMANIA (I’m sure its placement next to the BRONX CHEER was entirely a coincidence), LEAD-UP, and HOISTED. My favorite clue was [Te ___ (cigar brand)] for AMO. Yes, “I love you” is the brand name for a cigar. Delicious, no?
I’m unsure of the accuracy of SCHOOLS as the answer to [Prom sites, often]. Even back in my high school days, we (and the raptors, T-rexes and other dinosaurs) held proms at outside venues far away from the school. That was part of the charm. (Edited to add: So I hear, anyway. I never actually attended the prom while in high school. No, it’s more embarrassing than that–I went to high school prom when I was a college freshman. Long story, so let’s just say it explains much of the Freshman Forty.)
Brendan Quigley and Francis Heaney’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wealth Redistribution”
What I like to see in a Sunday-sized puzzle is enough juicy fill to keep me interested in filling in 140 or so answers. While this week’s theme answers don’t involve wordplay, they do include some lively entries to go along with the snappy stuff in the rest of the grid.
The theme answers contain the letters in WEALTH “redistributed,” or scrambled into a new order:
- 22a. [“Tell me something I don’t know”] = “WHAT ELSE IS NEW?”
- 27a. [Tariff Act of 1930, familiarly] = SMOOT-HAWLEY. Wouldn’t “Smooth-Awley” sound better?
- 34a. [1987 buddy cop film that spawned three sequels] = LETHAL WEAPON.
- 49a. [Sheldon’s nemesis on “The Big Bang Theory”] = WIL WHEATON.
- 61a. [Decadent dessert topping] = CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM. I prefer my whipped cream non-chocolate.
- 78a. [Unattainable goal] = WHITE WHALE.
- 91a. [Portrayer of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies] = CARL WEATHERS.
- 96a. [Star of 1943’s “Cabin in the Sky”] = ETHEL WATERS.
- 107a. [Lyric sung to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries”] = “KILL THE WABBIT, kill the wabbit.”
Fill highlights include CHILLAX, R. KELLY, TIKTOK, zombie SHAMBLE, PALO ALTO, and GIN UP.
Five more clues:
- 49d, 86a. [Pulitzer-winning playwright Crouse] is RUSSEL and [“When Worlds Collide” co-author Philip] is WYLIE. Who? I needed crossings for both of these dudes.
- 76d, 80a. [Dungeon only accessible though a hatch in the ceiling] is OUBLIETTE, and its U crosses MULETA, or [Corrida cape]. I bet that U ends up being a lot of solvers’ final square to fill in.
- 12d. [Godwin-Austen, by another name] is the mountain K2, or K-TWO in crossword-speak. I confess I had the KT and then filled in K-TEL. Why would I do that?
I rather like the fifth row of this puzzle, where 29a: CHAO, [Rosalind of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”] meets 31a: HSIA, [Early Chinese dynasty] meets 33a: TSARS, [Serbian Empire rulers]. The AO, HS, and TS combos aren’t native to English. (Although the southeast corner of the puzzle does have AOLERS and A-OK, and now I want to pronounce them as “owlers” and “owk”).
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme answers all flip the halves of various phrases or compound words, and are all clued with retail-department references:
- 18a. [Daily take in the Lumber department?] = BOARD BREAD.
- 23a. [Revenue in Lingerie?] = SLIP SALES.
- 40a. [Outlay in Electronics?] = POWER PURCHASING.
- 51a. [Merchandise capacity in Men’s Wear?] = SUIT SPACE.
- 60a. [Display case in Wine & Spirits?] = STILL STAND. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a still at a liquor store.
Five more clues:
- 29d. [Murmuring sound] is SOUGH, which can be pronounced with an “F” sound at the end or with a silent “GH.”
- 49d. [Battle of Hastings fighters] include SAXONS. History quiz: Who were the Saxons fighting?
- 17a. [Univ. seniors’ tests] clues the plural GRES, which looks odd in the grid.
- 10d. [Words before a stunt] clues my favorite answer in this puzzle, “HERE GOES…”
- 3d. [Controversial Gettysburg general] clues EWELL. History quiz: Why is he controversial?
Three stars. There wasn’t much that entertained me in this puzzle, but then I solved it right on the heels of the BEQ/Heaney puzzle and that duo does set the zippiness bar high.