Zoe Wheeler’s New York Times crossword, “Space Invasion” — pannonica’s review
Well! This is quite close to the theme of the Hex/Hook puzzle (below, but which I wrote up before this). The letters ET (for “extra terrestrial,” at least as far as the title’s concerned) have been TELEPORTed (73d) into preëxisting phrases to produce, with little prodding, new ones.
nb: sung (and co-composed?) by Deepika.
Here we go:
- 23a. [Old AMC car that came fully loaded?] HORN(ET) OF PLENTY.
- 30a. [Good locale for adoptions?] BIRTHMARK(ET).
- 39a. [Ammo that’s still on the store shelf?] SITTING BULL(ET).
- 53a. [Some bleating?] RACK(ET) OF LAMB.
- 63a. [Excitement over some presidential selection?] CABIN(ET) FEVER. Now that’s wonky.
- 74a. [Avoid a scalping?] ESCAPE HATCH(ET).
- 87a. [ID for a certain band member?] TRUMP(ET) CARD.
- 95a. [Earth, in “Independence Day”?] PLAN(ET) OF ATTACK. The best for last? Arguably yes, because it has the bonus of resonating with the title, evoking alienses. Hey, I just realized I haven’t seen LGM in a crossword in quite some time.
Decent theme, two or three of the entries caused me to grin.
Quite an audacious opening salvo, with TRANQ at 1-across, leading to QUAGMIRE at 5d. I also appreciated the crossing seven-stacks capping the northeast and southwest corners, each with two acrosses and three downs: DAMAGES / EMINENT | GENTEEL / ENTITLE / STYLIST, and AEROBIC / RETHINK | EVEN PAR / SARA LEE / CLIP ART. Admittedly, not super-exciting words, but an excellent weaving job.
There’s a general playfulness and tricksiness to the cluing, which imbues the puzzle with personality and elevates it above the pedestrian.
- Nice mid-grid mid-size fill, HIGH FIVE [Little victory celebration] and CHIPOTLE [Salsa ingredient].
- Huh? 77d HAMMOCK is cross-referenced to 91a NAP, but 63d [Brutus abettor] CASCA isn’t connected with Caesar’s ET TU (57a)? Odd. But I did like the [Shrew] clue for SCOLD (39d).
- The A parade! A TIE, A LID, A SAD, A SORT, AN E, with [Berlin article] EINE an honorary participant. 69a [ Many-banded displays?] PARADES.
- What is it with baseball players’ names? Yesterday we saw Turkey STEARNES, today we get [Moundsman Dave] STIEB. Who are these people? Oh, and speaking of “moundsman,” PROSED—while venerable in its antiquity, it’s rather shambolic.
- 62d [Striped safari sight] OKAPI. Yeah, I can guarantee that that scenario isn’t going to happen.
- Had 96d [Eastern drama] NOH filled in, then moved back up top, where I encountered NH- for [People wear masks in this: Abbr.] and I was barely-excusably considering NHO, which is so very wrong for at least three reasons: (1) it’s spelled wrong, (2) “it” already appears in the puzzle and I was just looking at it its “other” appearance, (3) it isn’t an abbrev. Ha, ha… ha? Oh, the answer is NHL, where the goalies wear masks.
- Very informal impression is that the P component of the CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs. partials) is excessive, while the other two are about EVEN PAR for a 21×21 puzzle.
In all, I’d level it out to merely an average crossword.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Now You See It” — pannonica’s review
Literally. The letters I-T bubble up and insert themselves into various base phrases to create new, wackified ones.
- 22a. [Gem thief?] ROCK BAND(IT).
- 27a. [Old Wrigley Field dimensions?] CHICAGO CUB(IT)S.
- 44a. [Little bird’s noise?] PIP(IT)SQUEAK. I wonder how many solvers are conversant with pipits.
- 52a. [Limited gallery works?] FIN(IT)E ARTS.
- 60a. [Protests gone bad?] DEADLY S(IT)-INS. I chuckled.
- 66a. [Laughs from an SCTV alum?] EUGENE LEV(IT)Y.
- 81a. [Little bouquet bud?] PET(IT)E ROSE.
- 88a. [#1 foam finger for Sox fans?] THE BIG DIG(IT). Wow, three of the theme answers reference baseball in either the clue or the answer. This one at least has a double Boston aspect.
- 99a. [Embellished sermon?] PULP(IT) FICTION.
- 112a. [Too much of a good thing?] MAL DE MER(IT). I didn’t understand this one until I realized the new version wasn’t DEMERIT but the relatively unaltered …DE MERIT. In this way it doesn’t deviate from the mechanics of the other themers, with the marginal exception of the hyphenated SIT-IN.
Quite a difference those two narrow letters can make, no?
Just for the hell of it—and no slight to the theme—here are the other IT words in the grid, none of which make much sense without IT: INHERIT, ITO, LOITERS, UNIT, AMITY (sorry Amy; you of course make much sense, but just your name on its own? not so much; see also 78a AMICA), EMITS, INIT.
The longer fill is pretty good, if not exactly flashy. 4d [Water by Toledo] full name LAKE ERIE, 85d [Workers like Rosie] RIVETERS. How about the symmetrical DOWNSIZE | BEVERAGES 58a & 72a)? Meets with the approval of New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, I bet.
- Botany! 72d [Fat-trunked tree] BAOBAB; 31d [Flower with milky juice] SPURGE; 21a [Spring bloomer] PEONY; 64a [Slippery __ ] ELM; themer 61a; honorable mention to 9d [Way through woods] PATH, 117a [Ready to pluck] RIPE, and 34d [Sucker of sap] APHID.
- ENTS and ELOI, together at last! (118a & 73d)
- I see TANGIER (82d) and I think Morocco, but [With more tasty smack] is equally viable, especially when 83d [Brilliance of style] ÉCLAT is the next clue.
- For 10d [Putin’s capital], I was trying to work out whether it was ROUBLE or RUBLES, but it turned out to be the straightforward MOSCOW. See also 30a [Bread since 2002] EUROS.
- 34a [Done to ___ ] A TURN, that’s not a phrase I hear too often, and I associate it with British English. Perhaps clunkier, but [Take ___ for the worse] is better, in my opinion.
- Favorite clue: 26a [Get willfully?] INHERIT.
- Double-duty, back-to-back: 94a & 95a [Org. for drivers] PGA and AAA. That’s one way to make that dose of crosswordese abbrevs. go down more smoothly.
Nothing truly scowlworthy, and an entertaining if not earth-shattering theme. Average to slightly-above-average puzzle.
Amy Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “High Jinks” — pannonica’s review
Oh hi, it’s me, pannonica, again. Holding down the fort at Fiendville. Hope you haven’t grown tired of me in this post.
Oh hey look! It’s another puzzle with an insert-two-letters mechanism! Huzzah! For this one, the bigram is UP, the “high” of the titular high jinks (which I prefer to spell hijinks (because I love the triple tittle), and never, ever with an x (because that just seems excessively silly)).
So! Let’s round up the unusual suspects, shall we? Hmm, I recall using that line before. Have I already written up a puzzle with this theme? … searching … … Aha. It was a Monday New York Times from about a year-and-a-half ago by Ian Livengood and involved super-villains. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular UP-and-in theme had been done before.
Onward and … oh, forget it.
- 23a. [Dear John?] BREAKING (UP) NEWS.
- 34a. [Extortion amount, perhaps?] COVER-(UP) CHARGE.
- 66a. [Raise some prices in the 19th-century literature section?] MARK (UP) TWAIN.
- 97a. [Revolting Oscar also-rans?] (UP)RISING STARS. Some serious wordplay there.
- 116a. [View from the Transamerica Tower?] BALTIMORE SUN(UP). I was thinking that was the name of the iconic pyramidal building in the San Francisco skyline. Help me, Wikipedia! Okay. Baltimore has the Transamerica Tower, “(colloquially called the Legg Mason Building and formerly known as the USF&G Building).” San Francisco has the Transamerica Pyramid.
- 15d. [Hired prankster on the set?] DIRECTOR’S CUT(UP).
- 50d. [One-liner from the pulpit?] (UP)STANDING JOKE. Not sure why this clue specifies a pulpit when it could just has easily been a lectern or podium. There’s nothing inherently religious about the clue and LAIC (64a) lecturers are perhaps more well known for cracking jokes while making speeches. Coincidentally, though, it echoes PULP(IT) FICTION from the Hex/Hook puzzle. Is a standing joke synonymous with a running joke? If so, they’d constitute whatever is the opposite of a contranym or autoantonym. Speaking of tie-ins, how about the UFOS [Saucers in the air] at 1-across? ET indeed.
Pseudothemic material: TUPAC Shakur right there in the center of the puzzle, vertically. Also, 9d [Best of the best] TIP-TOP. 83a [New Eng. state] CONN (not actually, but it made me think “up periscope” / “raise the CONN” so I’m including it). Oh, incidentally, bit of repetition there with 12d [Part of USA: Abbr.] STS.
Loose ends to tie up:
- Good longer fill: SHEEPSKIN, IDENTICAL, Fran DRESCHER, DISSOLVE. The latter two, symmetrically paired, have clues that evoke each other: [“Happily Divorced” star] and [Break up, as a union]; unfortunately that clue repeats the gist of themer 23a.
- 85a [Once in a blue moon] SELDOM; 67d [Crescent component] ARC; 68d [Diminishing] WANING; 81d [Celestial sci.] ASTR.
- 5d [Inflation no.] not PSI (pounds/square inch) but CPI (Consumer Price Index).
- A lot of the cluing was refreshingly clever. Some favorites: 91d [Notre Dame recess] is not a school recess but a physical recess at the famous church, an APSE. 28a [Response to “Was it that bad?”] DON’T ASK. 18d [Small diamond] TREY.
- Symmetrical partners: 14d [German philosopher Bauer] BRUNO, 102d [Swiss mathematician] Leonhard EULER.
- AVAST, AHEAD, and ATRIP. ATRIP, really? Guess so, m-w lists it as a synonym for the clue [Aweigh], meaning “raised just clear of the bottom —used of an anchor.” Ahem.
- Kind of a boring bottom row EELERS | TEE | ERODE | SETS. Definitely very very typical ending letters.
Decent puzzle, the mostly quality ballast fill helped elevate the blah-ish theme.
All right, there’s a possibility that I’ll also be writing up Merl Reagle’s puzzle, and if it’s another two-letter insertion theme (unlikely, as it isn’t his style) I’m going to have to call shenanijinks.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Lots of things to discuss regarding this 72/29 freestyle crossword. Let’s sort them into three piles: stuff I liked, stuff I didn’t know, and stuff I shrugged off.
Stuff I Liked: Right away my eye goes back to QUICK FIX, the [Temporary solution] blessed with two rare letters that happens to be very in-the-language. Usually Qs find their way to the tops of crossword entries, but here it’s tucked away as the third in the triple stack of 8s up top. That’s like finding a second toy surprise inside the Cracker Jack box.
GO TO JAIL is a fun entry, and I liked the trivia-based clue that accompanied it, [Monopoly square featuring Officer Malloy]. Speaking of clues, my favorite was [Did a bang-up job on?] for DAMAGED. [They sometimes repair bridges] is one of those clues where you can smell the trick from a mile away. The bridges here aren’t spanning rivers; they’re in your mouth. That means the answer’s DENTISTS. (Alas, I confess my olfactory nerve let me down for a moment as I wondered what name would be given to one who might occasionally work on a bridge repair crew.) I also liked [Most “TV Land” programs] for RERUNS. [Adopt, as an attitude] was likewise a fun clue for COP.
Stuff I Didn’t Know: A TESTA (hey, that’s a palindrome) is a [Seed covering]. I always thought that was an ARIL. Guess you can’t have too many words for “seed covering” that use common letters.
I wouldn’t know a BODY KIT from any other kind of kit even if it came up and bit me. Well, the metaphor’s inapt but you get the point. Same goes for BETA RAY as a [Radioactive decay stream]. And the clue for SEINES, [They have both sinkers and floats], meant nothing to me whatsoever. One online dictionary defines a SEINE as “a large fishnet that hangs vertically, with floats at the top and weights at the bottom.” Well there you go.
A [Guru’s pupil] is a YOGI. For some reason, I always equated guru and yogi. I thought they were both masters of their crafts. I guess YOGI wouldn’t have a pupil, unless you count Boo Boo.
Stuff I Shrugged Off: Strike the first letter, and you’ll get my opinion of EVILER. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much else here that felt off. Though it was my toe-hold into the grid, I wasn’t a big fan of SUI generis. I have no real ARG-ument with ARG, the [Uru. neighbor], except to say that the abbreviation in the clue is even uglier.
[Shady Records releases] seems to me to be something of a stretch as a clue for RAPS. Are the songs really called “raps,” or would they be “rap songs.” Does a jazz label release JAZZES? (See, this is why I have to shrug these things off–else I get too preoccupied with them.)
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 131” – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Back with a brand spanking new Post Puzzler. Nice grid, anchored by a pair of solid 12-letter entries: FIRESIDE CHAT and SPOILER ALERT. Nothing much to complain about in the rest of the grid. A squeaky-clean 66-worder. Well, I don’t love ESPO at 2-Down. I’m never sure whether that’s a popular nickname or a crossword convenience. Hockey fans feel free to chime in.
I like to think that MEL above DINERO in the middle left section is a subtle shout-out to Mel’s Diner. I find lots of hidden references to Vic Tayback in the puzzles I solve. Maybe it’s just me.
- 14a. [Turkey wing?] – ASIA MINOR. Funny and clever.
- 46a. [Lions and Tigers and Bears and more] – IVY LEAGUE. Columbia Lions, Princeton Tigers, and Brown Bears.
- 55a. [Mushing need] – SLED. Time for a SPOILER ALERT. Rosebud is the name of Bruce Willis’s sled in The Sixth Sense.
- 12d. [Equal] – TANTAMOUNT. I’ve always liked that word.
- 13d. [Drops in summertime temperatures?] – SWEAT. Clue of the Day.
- 28d. [Gnomologist’s output] – APHORISMS. Is that a real job? Coming up with pithy little sayings? Interesting. I guess you could sell them to crossword constructors looking for quotes to put into puzzles. Just make sure your aphorisms can be split up symmetrically, and you’re in business.
- 44d. [Traveling Wilburys member] – LYNNE. Jeff Lynne is also a member of ELO. You’ve probably seen his name in a clue or two. And Wikipedia tells me that “The Washington Times named Lynne the fourth greatest record producer in music history.” Guess who’s number five? Brian Eno. How crosswordy can you get? This Lynne guy probably lives in the Erie area and has kids named Ali, Eli, and Ari.
More cool stuff: BLUE HAWAII, WAXED PAPER, MANTA RAY.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “It’s T Time”
Why add an ET or an IT when you can just add a T? Apparently there has been a cosmic cruciverbal alignment regarding add-a-(*)T themes.
- 17a. [Hurdle to being a “Simpsons” publicist?], PASSING THE BART EXAM.
- 26a. [French director with a mean croquet swing?], LOUIS MALLET.
- 34a. [With 44 Across, film about gum left in theaters?], IT CAME FROM / BENEATH THE SEAT.
- 58a. [Apology for a bad kick?], PARDON THE PUNT.
- 68a. [An officer to avoid like the plague?], CAPTAIN BLIGHT. Heh.
- 84a. [Least interesting travel hub?], DULLEST AIRPORT.
- 94a. [How salamanders taste, comparatively speaking?], AS GOOD AS NEWT.
- 105a. [Gift with a burlesque dancer on its side?], STRIP TEA SET.
- 114a. [Composer of “Auto Mall and the Night Visitors”?], GIANTCARLOTMENOTTI. How many people who aren’t hardcore crossword solvers know Amahl and the Night Visitors, composed by Gian Carlo Menotti?
The theme’s solid. The surrounding fill is all right—neither “wow!” nor “ugh.” Three stars from me.