Victor Fleming and Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword
Seasoned vet Vic teams up with newbie Sam (teenager? I think yes) to bring us this 70-worder.
Listen, I’m watching the Parade of Nations and we’re still in the R’s, so I’m going to make this snappy.
Faves: Trekkie STARDATE; the IDITAROD; empty CALORIES from a vending machine; CHICK LIT (not to be confused with Chiclets); WET BARS; SHIRAZ (a cool-sounding word, an Iranian city, a wine, and a college classmate of mine), MONOGAMY IN CLUMPS (what? that’s not how it’s best served?); the verb SPIFF; GOOGLE EARTH; Hall & Oates’ “SHE’S GONE” (which is not the Hall & Oates song that served as Sam and Shelly’s wedding recessional; that was “You Make My Dreams Come True,” if I recall correctly, and the happy couple boogied their butts off); PHOTOBUCKET (which is spelled too properly; has it learned nothing from Flickr and Imgur?); and OBAMA clued prefixually as [Start to care?].
Unfaves: Old appliance brand TAPPAN; crosswordese geography MT OSSA ([Landmark also known as Kissavos] is a tough clue, no?); boring OATERS, ATRA, NEAP, SOLI, CEIL; unfamiliar ELYSE [Knox, costar of Lon Chaney in “The Mummy’s Tomb”].
Unusualest answer: 38a: SEA CALF, a [Certain seal], perhaps a harbor seal. Not at all the offspring of a sea cow, which is a manatee or other sirenian. Seals are a good bit sleeker than your average sirenian.
We are now up to Tajikistan in the parade. I’ll sign off here with a rating of 3.5 stars.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Boston Market” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features five terms that meet two criteria: (1) they can follow the word “Boston,” and (2) they either are or feature something comestible:
- 18-Across: The [Barbecue side] is (Boston) BAKED BEANS.
- 23-Across: The [Harbor protest against British taxes] is known as the (Boston) TEA PARTY.
- 39-Across: The [Salad leaves] are (Boston) LETTUCE. I’ve never heard this term. Quick research indicates it’s another name for Bibb lettuce or butterhead lettuce. I like “butterhead”–sounds like a great name with which to insult someone. “Wrong again, butterhead!”
- 51-Across: The [Dessert choice] that works here is (Boston) CREAM PIE.
- 56-Across: The [18-Across accompaniment] is (Boston) BROWN BREAD. Never heard of this one, either. Wikipedia, says it’s “a type of dark, slightly sweet bread (usually a quick bread) popular in New England. It is cooked by steam in a can or cylindrical pan.”
Two problems with the theme. First, the TEA PARTY stands out as the only non-food item in the group. Having TEA in the name is not enough to put it in the same group with the others, all of which are actually things you can put in your mouth. Second, only the last theme entry contains a clue that cross-references another theme entry. It should have its own stand-alone clue like the others.
That said, the triple 7’s along each side of the grid are a lovely touch. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a NEWS LAB, the [Journalists’ think tank], but that was the only entry that gave me much pause. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did pause for a little while with VITALS as the answer to [Heart, liver, and lungs]. I really wanted that to be ORGANS. To me, “vitals” is short for “vital signs,” like pulse and blood pressure. But maybe that’s the effect of watching too much Emergency! as a kid.
There’s a few too many abbreviations and word parts here for my taste (OLA, ARD, TRA, STS, ITES, and TRIN, short for “trinity” I s’pose), but it’s nice to see the full-name shout out to TINA FEY and the appearance of AFRO-POP, [Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s music].
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Lots of zippy fill in this 70-worder. Among the highlights:
- 15a. [Angry Birds, originally], iPHONE APP.
- 20a. [Line from one with no match], “GOT A LIGHT?”
- 28a. [Intercalary event], LEAP DAY. I don’t recall seeing the word intercalary before 2012’s Leap Day.
- 51a. [2010 Grammy winner for “Just the Way You Are”], BRUNO MARS. I like him.
- 60a. [RealPlayer alternative], Apple’s QUICKTIME.
- 23d. [Sailor’s concern], DEAD CALM. Also the name of a movie with, if memory serves, Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman. Lurid!
- 27d. [The Fab Five of ’80s rock], DURAN DURAN. I know many of you share my disappointment that Duran Duran didn’t play a role in the Olympic opening ceremonies last night.
- 30d. [Respect, in slang], PROPS. The best props to receive, of course, are mad props.
- 53d. [Zombie bases], RUMS. Cocktails, not the living dead come back to eat your brains. Okay, so this is semi-lame fill and it’s the clue that I liked.
These are offset by the clunkier stuff:
- 10a. APPAL, variant spelling.
- 16a. SALT I, which may be fading into a historical footnote four decades later.
- 40a. [Kodak film brand], TMAX. Never heard of it. Haven’t bought film since the ’90s.
- 62a. [Playwright Bernard who created “The Partridge Family”] as a clue for SLADE. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen his name before. There’s an old British rock band and former senator Slade Gorton.
- REI, SHAR, MEM, NANG, DONEE, ASTA, etc. Snoozy stuff.
- 13d. AT THAT RATE, [If things continue as they’re going]. “At this rate” feels much more familiar to me.
- 25d. [Somewhat lacking], NOT THE BEST. Not the best fill, as it doesn’t feel at all like a lexical chunk to me.
Pet peeve: Hearing people mispronounce 64a: TENET ([Article of faith]) as “tenent.” I believe these are the same people who enjoy “sherbert.” In both cases, the word is easier to pronounce correctly, so I don’t know why the inserted consonants happen.
Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”
Easier than most Stumpers, if you ask me, and less zippy than the NYT and LAT puzzles today owing to a grid densely packed with 7s and barely anything longer.
- 1a. [Motional game show], CASH CAB. Canceled by the Discovery channel but still airing in syndicated reruns.
- 28a. [Jason wears one in “The Bourne Identity”], SEIKO watch. Great clue.
- 51a. [Jim Broadbent, in “The Iron Lady”], DENIS Thatcher. I’ve selected this one because when I reached this clue, I had *ENIS in place and wondered if the phallic bridge would be crossed today. Alas, no.
- 66a. [French word for “workshop”], ATELIER. As in “This crossword comes from the atelier of Barry Silk.”
- 68a. [Ray’s employer on “Everybody Loves Raymond], NEWSDAY. I always like it when a newspaper crossword gets the paper’s name into the grid.
- 40d. [Sci-fi stock character], CAVE MAN. I like the answer but am not sure what the clue has to do with it.
- 46d. [Essential element of dot-com transactions], ZIP CODE. I like the answer but am not sure what the clue has to do with it. You can buy a lot of virtual stuff (subscriptions to the Fireball crossword, registration for crossword tournaments) via PayPal, and your ZIP code is utterly beside the point. It’s essential only if you’re having something shipped.
- 60d. [Name meaning “born again”], RENÉ.
Parts that left me cold:
- 8a. [Newfangled transmission], WEBCAST. This is not a word I encounter often.
- 25a. [Liz Claiborne brand], RUSS. It’s not a particularly famous brand. The Russes Feingold, Tamblyn, and Meyer are probably more familiar to most people.
- 5d. [“Double Indemnity” author], CAIN. I’m not up on my 1940s crime novelists. I do like the lurid cover of this paperback, though.
- 8d. [Parting declaration], WE MUST GO. Sounds clunky.
- 13d. [Voice], SONANCE. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary doesn’t include this word.
- 29d. [“The bird is on the wing” source], OMAR. Since when do we call him just “Omar” rather than Omar Khayyam?
- 42d. [Disperse], BESTREW. This word doesn’t do much that “strew” can’t do.
Lots of proper nouns in this one. Too many? 3.5 stars.