Jim Horne and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
Former Wordplay blogger Jim Horne makes his constructing début with a coauthor, Jeff Chen. Excellent choice, Jim—Jeff makes puzzles that are smooth and fun. Little-known fact: Jim is 97 years old, making him the second-oldest NYT constructor working today. Let’s give him a hand!
I like the 11/13/15 layout of long answers, which I feel like I’ve seen most from Peter Gordon (Fireball Crosswords) and Paula Gamache. It lets the constructor get away from the stalest 15-letter fill and triple-stack-crossings ugliness. Now, 1a is very suggestive when one is tired. STIFLE A YAWN? No, thanks, I’ll go ahead and yawn now (though I do like the answer—I’m beat from walking nearly 3 miles, though I shouldn’t complain because my husband walked a mile and a half after running 5 miles and he’s not whining at all [fourth in his age group! he wanted a top-3 prize but I still think he’s a champion]). The other long fill is NO HOLDS BARRED, BUSINESS AS USUAL (lots of S’s but not in the bottom of the grid!), ITALIAN DRESSING (there are lots of ITALIAN + 8 15-letter answers out there—see also STALLION, AMERICAN), EVIL SCIENTIST (we all wanted MAD, didn’t we?), and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s exhortation USE THE FORCE.
In the middle range, the fill perplexes me. SOULMATE (clued [This bud’s for you], which doesn’t quite capture the soulmate business, does it?), AS I SEE IT, PODCASTS, and NEUROTICS are good, but IT’S DEJA VU feels a tad contrived and this DATE BAIT term, I have never, ever seen before. The clue feels creepy—[Young, alluring sort] suggests the answer is the creepy JAILBAIT. Is DATE BAIT also creepy and hinting at statutory rape, what with the “young” in the clue?
- 21a, 22a. [“Don’t Look Now” diretcor], Nicolas ROEG, and [Feature of the previous clue], TYPO. You know how I typed the answer to 22a, twice? YTPO. I kid you not.
- 46d. [Ludwig wrote für her], ELISE. Bilingual clue action so seldom goes German.
Just went back to bold the answers and clues and worked my way up to the top—where the word YAWN made me yawn. True story.
Fill in the blah category: WRS, ANDS, DYER, ARUT, LIS, KENO, ASTR.
Mike Torch’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
It’s been a good day for puzzles so far. I just finished solving Jeff and Jim’s fabulous NYT themeless, a tough act to follow, IMO. That said I thought Mike Torch’s puzzle was great! It’s Friday at the LA Times, and, as veteran solvers know, that’s “Add Some Letters Day” quite a lot of the time! In this case Mr. Torch has added four, ACHE, which is very tough to do, both because there are less viable options, and because the resulting phrases tend to be very long. I think Mike has done a wonderful job!
Let’s look at the answers:
- 17A [Brisket-making flair?], ROASTINGPAN(ACHE). Who doesn’t love a puzzle with PANACHE? I often read clues incorrectly, making the puzzle a lot trickier for myself in the process. On the first pass, I thought the clue was “Basket-making flair?”
- 26A [Hidden dietary supplements?], VITAMINC(ACHE). I consider building off a single letter to be less elegant. Though considering the difficulties listed above, it bothered me a lot less today.
- 44A [Teen’s response to “You need to shave”?], ITSAMUST(ACHE). This only works if you write in American English. MUST to MUSTACHE is a most interesting transformation though!
- 56A [Annoyance … and a hint to how 17-, 26- and 44-Across are formed?], PAININTHEBEHIND. This is the euphemistic version of the idiom! I must say I wasn’t expecting a revealer, which added to the punch.
Elsewhere we have:
- 32A [ZAP], LASE. Don’t lase me bro!
- Two candidates for T Campbell’s list: “CROSSWORD REPEATERS THAT HAVE GROWN WAY MORE USEFUL SINCE 1993” 41A [Talking iPhone feature], SIRI and 62A [YouTube co-founder Steve], CHEN. Neither have yet risen to the status of repeater, but I can see them gaining momentum as we speak.
- 5D [Poetic pugilist], ALI: “Me We”
- 11D [Starbucks flavor], MOCHA: There are no Starbucks here, so I’ll take the clue’s word for it.
- 26D [TV adjuncts], VCRS: This one can be filed under “CROSSWORD REPEATERS THAT HAVE GROWN WAY LESS USEFUL SINCE 1993”
- 43D [“… __ to be born and …”], ATIME: Partials become way cooler when they’re quotes from the book of Ecclesiastes!
I’ll finish with a song, as is my wont. I can’t have been the only one having a hankering to listen to the Eagles? PS. While editing this blogpost, I’ve moved on from Lyin’ Eyes, to Desperado, then Peaceful Easy Feeling, so many earworms!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sub Headlines” — pannonica’s review
I’m not sure what to make of this puzzle’s title. A subheadline is a real thing, embodying exactly what the theme answers purport to be: a smaller, secondary headline that usually elaborates on the main headline. Of course there’s a twist here, said answers are puns. Puns that feel very familiar, as the punchlines of one-liner jokes. Hoary even. However, it stands to reason that not everyone has heard all of them before, so these expansive (in letter count) chestnuts work well in the grid.
- 23a. [TOILETS MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEAR FROM PRECINCT…] COPS HAVE NOTHING TO GO ON
- 37a. [PUN-FILLED COMEDY WINS TONY…] A GREAT PLAY ON WORDS – a bit self-referential, that one.
- 58a. [ENERGY BUNNY ARRESTED…] HE’S CHARGED WITH BATTERY
- 84a. [CONSERVATIVES BLAME LIBERALS FOR D.C. EARTHQUAKE…] IT WAS GOVERNMENT’S FAULT
- 102a. [CARICATURIST MURDERED…] DETAILS ARE SKETCHY
- 123a. [WOMAN ADDICTED TO BRAKE FLUID…] SAYS SHE CAN STOP ANYTIME
Aside from the themers, there aren’t any notably long answers in the grid, which paves the way for some very appealing midlength fill, often stacked alongside the theme answers. Up top in the first two rows we see ONE DOWN/SAPPORO; YE GODS/ICE AXE; BRIARS/LOATHE. The last two rows have these gems on display: PLASMA/SISTER; UP TO IT/PRINCE; IGNORED/NECTARS. The weakest are the prepositional phrase UP TO IT, the blah and relatively s-heavy SISTERS in the bottom row, and ICE AXE which is far more common in crosswords (usually without the terminal e) than everyday speech; even they aren’t all that bad. I especially appreciated the tone set by 1a [It starts with this answer’s first letter] ONE DOWN.
On the down side (not the downside) there more stacks of interesting pairs, one at each compass point: ECOTYPE/GETS OLD; OPERETTA/ROSE BOWL; BEST BUDS/ARTICLE I; TELLS ON/ASEPTIC. Proud to report that I confidently plunked in ECOTYPE [Environmental subspecies] with only the initial e in place. Of course it would have been nicer and impressive to have done away with the blocks at either end of Row 8, creating triple eight-stacks, but evidently it was onerous enough as it is, judging by the less-than satisfactory EBERLE [Ray who sang with the Glen Miller Orchestra] (not to be confused with crossword luminary, swimmer Gertrude EDERLE), STRATI [Low clouds], erstwhile Saudi king FAHD, and the annoying abbrev. HYP[otenuse].
- The grid possesses two initialized ’70s bands: the all-too-familiar 92a ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), and the less common 77a BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive). It also contains two SME_ bits of crosswordese: [Hook henchman] SMEE (51a), and [Diving duck] SMEW (109a).
- Am surprised, not sure if pleasantly, that 34d and 105d weren’t cross-referenced: the first, WYATT, gets the somewhat obscure [Young’s “Father Knows Best” co-star] and is not linked to EARP [Clanton foe].
- In-the-news BAIN Capital (119d).
- 36a [Really big shoe] EEE. That just specifies width, which is not always correlated with length. I wouldn’t call a short, wide shoe really big, Ed Sullivan notwithstanding. Bonus: AAA appears at 76d as [Best bond rating].
- Seemingly high CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs., partials), which I’ll spare litanizing.
- The cluing is less clever and playful than I’m accustomed to from a Shenk-edited puzzle. Enjoyed learning that DENALI is [Athabaskan for “the high one”]. Aside from that and one-across, the most playful is 112d [You might get them out of your bed] WEEDS.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “All In” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Take five common terms and squeeze ALL somewhere in the middle to get five new pseudo-phrases coupled with wacky clues:
- 18-Across: An ordinary shotgun becomes a SHALLOT GUN, a [Green onion shooter?]. I might have preferred [Green onion firearm?] or [Green onion weapon?] to avoid the echo between “shoot” and “shot.”
- 28-Across: To be [Festooned with a shell pattern?] is to be SCALLOPED OUT, a play on “scoped out.” The best part of this whole entry is the use of “festooned” in the clue. What a great word.
- 38-Across: “Show business” becomes SHALLOW BUSINESS, a [Kiddie pool cleaning company?]. With most of the kiddie pools I remember, one would have to spend a considerable amount of time to get it truly clean.
- 47-Across: The [Commiseration consideration?] is not “wow factor” but WALLOW FACTOR. This one is easily my favorite.
- 58-Across: An ordinary “t-square” becomes a TALL SQUARE, a [Rangy, uncool sort?]. I remember t-squares from the drafting class we had to take in junior high. At my school, the boys had to take shop (it was called “industrial arts”) and the girls had to take home economics (it was called “home economics”). Given the choice, I would have been all over home economics–they got to cook stuff! But at least shop taught me how to draw a cube and print nice capital letters, so it wasn’t all bad.
There’s not a lot of long fill here–to be precise, there’s two entries: STEEL BELT and ONE ACROSS, so much of the puzzle’s liveliness comes from the clues. I like the use of [“Over here”] as a clue for both 32-Down, PSST, and 33-Down, AHEM. There’s a similar echo in the clues for 2-Down and 3-Down: LILAC is [Fragrant flower] and AROMA is [Fragrance].
I’m not sure I remember any of the characters in J.K. Rowling’s books use the term, but I liked [Dessert, to Harry Potter] as the clue for AFTERS. Other neat clues included [Perennial battlers] for the SEXES and [Place in which a bathysphere may be deployed] for the OCEAN. A bathysphere is one of those spherical deep-sea submersibles like the one James Cameron traveled in to see the Mariana Trench. And no, I didn’t know that until just now.
Favorite entry = DIG UP, to [Find, as clues]. Favorite clue = [Much sought after guy in children’s books] for WALDO. I’m never very good at finding Waldo; I’m glad no formal aptitude test ever measured for this, as I think I would have been held back.