Mike Buckley’s New York Times crossword
I love the grid for this 15×16 puzzle, with the dozen PENTOMINOES pieces serving as the black squares. At first I thought the theme was the Soma Cube but these pieces (a) are mostly wrong for Soma and (b) are strictly two-dimensional (at least in this crossword). Besides 37a, the other theme answers are LACKING SYMMETRY and NON-INTERLOCKING. Well, of course they’re non-interlocking. If they were all pieced together, you’d have a giant contiguous blot of black.
However, those 60 black squares do somehow make for a little awkward fill. I’ve never heard of STORM IN A TEACUP. “Tempest in a teapot,” yes. (Apparently it’s an old movie, a few songs, and an established phrase, but it’s looking to have a British bent, no?) I’m not sure that BIG OX is a discrete lexical chunk unto itself. The clue [Penniless, in Pennington] presumably points us towards an English town and thus a British English word, SKINT, that I’ve never seen before. And the crosswordese NENE flew in from Hawaii for the occasion.
Much better are the UTOPIAN PRAIRIE, “OH, ROB!,” “TIGER RAG,” STYMIE, ELSINORE, and GO LONG. Did you know Phylicia RASHAD is directing a play here in Chicago, at the Goodman Theatre?
I’ve been waiting to see “OTIS” clued this way—[2011 Grammy-winning song by Jay-Z and Kanye West]. It is not, I assume, about the elevator inventor dude.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “On the Road” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The longest Across entries are two-word entries where the last word is synonymous for “excursion:”
- 20-Across: The [Chrysler SUV] is the DODGE JOURNEY and not the DODGE CARAVAN which, alas, occupies the same number of squares. That error cost me a good chunk of time.
- 37-Across: FANTASTIC VOYAGE is the [Asimov sci-fi novel based on a 1966 movie]. Huh, the film came before the book? You don’t see that nearly as often.
- 52-Across: The [Executive excursion] is a BUSINESS TRIP. Why is this the only clue that ends with another word synonymous with the three theme words? This should be the case for every theme clue or for none of the theme clues, not just one of the three.
“Synonymous word” themes like this work best when the synonyms are used in ways that play to their alternate meanings and not to their thematic meaning. So DODGE JOURNEY works because the “journey” here is not an excursion but a car model. But FANTASTIC VOYAGE isn’t great because it doesn’t play off of any alternate meaning of “voyage.” The same is true for “trip.” POWER TRIP or TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC would be great theme entries (ignoring issues of symmetry and length) because they use alternate meanings of “trip.” But a BUSINESS TRIP is an excursion, a voyage. So the theme comes up short here.
The fill is considerably better, fortunately. CON JOB, GET LOST, VINYL, and DIJON add some spice to the grid.
My solving time was slow even by my mortal standards. I blame BAIZE, the [Billiard table surface] that just wouldn’t switch to FELT no matter how badly I wanted it to do so. I made another misstep with RITE instead of RITZ for [Extravagant display] (I still like my answer better), which gave me AXLE as the [Figure skating leap] instead of LUTZ. Yeah, yeah, when I’m not in the heat of the moment, I know the skating move is AXEL and not AXLE. But when you’re trying to navigate quickly you’re willing to make all kinds of compromises.
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Okay, here’s how to do a quote puzzle: Make the quote super-short and put it in a wide-open grid. We’ve got a 70-worder here with 6×4 corners and 7-8×3 corners and some juicy fill. Plus, there are fresh clues galore.
Theme: JIMMY KIMMEL emceed the White House Correspondents Dinner and quipped, “WE USED TO MARCH. NOW WE OCCUPY.”
- 25a. BP/AMOCO, fresh fill. [Big Oil merger of 1998].
- 43a. RITZ BITS cracker sandwiches. [Snacks filled with peanut butter (OK) or “cheese” (ick!)]. The “cheese” is in quotes because it’s really neon orange cheezoid.
- 48a. [Trendy cupcake sprinkle], au courant clue for SEA SALT.
- 60a. [Tail chaser?], semi-naughty clue for the innocuous GATE.
- 1d. [It makes the fur fly], WAX JOB at the waxing salon. Technically, the “fur” isn’t going to fly through the air. It’s “fly” in the dictionary sense of “depart hastily.” Haven’t actually heard the term “wax job” but it makes for fun fill.
- 4d. [Witty comment], BON MOT. My kid is good at the bon mot.
- 5d. [2002 Pedro Almodóvar film], TALK TO HER. Solid, arty.
- 9d. [“Go the F*ck to ___”] SLEEP. It’s a picture book for parents. I’ve not heard the audio version read by Werner Herzog, but the Samuel L, Jackson one was pure gold.
- 11d. [Gallant but futile], QUIXOTIC. Like WAX JOB, a double-Scrabbly answer.
- 35d. [ABC reality show featuring familial rearrangements], WIFE SWAP. A friend of mine was actually invited to be on the show. At the time, this liberal feminist was the proprietor of a sex toy shop. She could have used the TV money, but she figured the producers would put a conservative Christian in her house and it just wouldn’t have worked for the family.
- 39d. [Needs a toilet], HAS TO GO. Fresh fill, but only after a spritz of deodorizer spray.
- 44d. [Clic, for one], BIC PEN. Fresh fill, no?
See? This is why I sometimes grouse about ambitious themes that fill up 60 or 80 squares, or stunt grids (think quad stacks) that prevent the constructor from packing the grid with juicy stuff. QUIXOTIC, TALK TO HER, RITZ BITS—those are, to me, a bigger payoff than “Wow, there are 10 theme answers in a 15×15” or “Wow, look at the low word count.” I like interesting and fun fill. A wee theme of 35 squares, and a quote theme to boot? Not a problem if the other 67 answers entertain me.
Mystery answer: 65a [Journalist Octavia canned by CNN for a tweet sympathetic to Hezbollah], NASR. I missed the entire story and I’ve never heard of her.
The “no, that’s not a lexical chunk, not at all” answer: 33d [Snap, crackle, or pop, say], EMIT SOUND. No, no, no. Now, if the answer had been EMIT GAS or BLOW A FART, I would be more forgiving.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Don and C.C. are back with a theme I couldn’t figure out without the revealer at 45d:
- 20a. [Cause a major snafu], GUM UP THE WORKS.
- 32a. [Spacely Space Sprockets employee], GEORGE JETSON.
- 41a. [Pioneer 10 or Voyager 1], JUPITER PROBE.
- 57a. [Umbrella-carrying Disney character], JIMINY CRICKET.
- 45d. [This puzzle’s title, based on the starts of 20-, 32-, 41- and 57-Across], BYLINES.
“By gum,” I may have said in jest. “By George,” very familiar. “By Jupiter”…say what? I know “by Jove” is an expression, but Jove’s equivalent Jupiter sounds wildly unfamiliar in the phrase. “By Jiminy” is all right. “Criminy” is not a mashup of Jiminy and Cricket, which is a shame.
Haven’t heard the phrase SPIN JOBS, I don’t think (38d. [Damage control efforts, imagewise]). Or maybe I have.
Two answers made me scrunch up my face. 29d: [Lambs: Lat.], AGNI, and 55d: [PayPal funds], ECASH. I see how AGNI was encouraged by the theme answer layout that put a *G*I space here. The choices are AGNI, AGRI-, and UGLI, and the latter two are better in my book. I’ve yet to hear the word ECASH in any conversation, spoken or written. The ECCL/ELIHU crossing is uninspiring, but I do like LL COOL J and SNAPPLE to the right and left of it. ENE, SSE, LLD, EELY, and EDA are also on my “meh” list.