Thinking of all of you who are in Sandy’s path and bearing the brunt of the storm. Friends in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia have lost power, and I know they’ve got plenty of company. Stay warm, dry, and safe!
Alex Vratsanos’s New York Times crossword
I like the theme—five terms on the political spectrum from the left wing to the right wing make bold occupations of the squares in five of this grid’s columns—but so much of the fill is marginal that the enjoyment was dampened.
The theme words in the circled squares spell out RADICAL, LIBERAL, MODERATE, CONSERVATIVE, and REACTIONARY. Remember the Supertramp hit, “The Logical Song”? “Now watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical, a liberal, ohh fanatical, criminal.” Supertramp!
Now, what did I not like here? AMAT, ABOIL, OGEE, NALA, MASTIC, AERO, ELOI, SENNA, ANZIO, ANIS, URANO, ERI TU, BATOR, and ENOL, that’s what. That is an awful lot of vowel-heavy blahness, especially for a Tuesday puzzle. Beginning solvers probably don’t know OGEE, ELOI, ANIS, and ENOL, you know?
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Poor, Sleepy Richard’s Almanack”- Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s a four-part [quip about sleep–or lack thereof], and it goes like this: LATE TO BED / EARLY TO RISE / MAKES A MAN UNABLE / TO OPEN HIS EYES. There were definitely some pros and cons to this one, so why not itemize them?
What I liked:
- All four parts of the quip are centered in the grid, thanks to the unorthodox use of left-right symmetry instead of the traditional rotational symmetry. If you’re going to use a quip theme (often considered a bit quaint), it’s nice to jazz it up with something a little different like different symmetry.
- That XOXOXOXO, the [String of letters that might close a love letter] is so goofy it’s cool. XOXO (and maybe XXX and XOX) would be conventional answers, but this one treats us to four pairs of kisses and hugs. A bit needy for my tastes, and a sign of emotional instability. But as crossword fill, it’s kinda fun–“oh no he DIDN’T,” I thought as entered the third and fourth sets of XO. It’s envelope-pushing for envelope-pushing’s sake.
- Three more Xs! IMAX/HELIX, DETOX/XER, and XEROXED/WAX introduce even more kisses into the grid. Sheesh! Get a room, already!
- TAKE A BREATH is nice long fill, and the clue, [“Get yourself together now…”] is perfect.
That for which I didn’t much care:
- There’s a lot of three-letter entries in this grid (look–the entire perimeter is nothing but 3s!), and some of them are sketchy. I’m looking at PPP, KIR, ARS, NEL, HWY, X-ER, and ERY. Whether that represents too many compromises in the fill is up to the reader.
- I’m starting to think we need to convene a constitutional convention to decide just how to spell the answer to [“Very fancy!”] Either it’s OO LA LA or OOH LA LA (we all agree it’s not OH LA LA, right? Right?). One needs to be labeled as a “variant” so we know which one to enter without having to count white squares. We have to draw the line somewhere. If anarchy rules, this grid could have used OOOOOO LA LA. Beware the slippery slope!
- Does anyone say PAPER KIOSKS? Don’t most just say “kiosks?” That feels hella arbitrary, as the kids said circa 2003.
- LODEN, the answer to [Deep olive-green], and PERDU, [Hidden], are, to me, better suited to a NYT freestyle puzzle than a CS puzzle. I’ve got a nickel that says someone reading this write-up is doing so just to see what these answers are (or to find comfort that someone else found those answers pretty darn hard too).
Favorite entry = XEROXED, the answer to [Photocopied] that led me to realize this was not your ordinary quip-themed crossword. Favorite clue = [Third part of the quip]. That perfectly captures MAKES A MAN UNABLE, no?
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Each of today’s theme entries begins with the same syllable, spelled four different ways:
- 17a. [2003 horse movie that won Best Picture], SEABISCUIT.
- 28a. [One who’s not on the honor roll], C STUDENT.
- 46a. [“Yes, ma’am,” in Madrid], SI, SEÑORA.
- 60a. [Primer sentence], SEE JANE RUN.
“Seize Them!” might be a fun title for this puzzle.
- 11d. WAX POETIC is lovely, though the [Woo like Cyrano] poem had me stumped at first.
- 5d. [Rum cocktail], DAIQUIRI. Harder to spell than “margarita.”
Lowlights: That [Early 11th-century date], MXIV. [One __: kids’ ball game], O’CAT. The Wikipedia article on these baseballish games says “Baseball historian Harold Seymour reported that Old Cat games were still being played on the streets and vacant lots of Brooklyn in the 1920s.” (So recently! Wouldn’t it be nice if constructors would remove OCAT from their word lists?) Two-fisted abbrevs like LT-YR and MT. ST. are ugly, as are plural abbrevs like DIVS and STS. (Have you ever encountered the plural of the “street” abbreviation in the wild? What would that look like? “On 8th and 9ths Sts.”?)
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Four Legs Good”
Moo! I like this theme:
- 1a. [There’s one at the beginning of each of this puzzle’s four theme entries], BOVINE.
- 20a. [Bart Simpson word], COWABUNGA.
- 24a. [Explorer with a peak named after him], ZEBULON PIKE. I wonder how many Americans know the zebu but didn’t learn it from old crosswords.
- 42a. [Native American group (and source of a Washington city that differs by one letter)], YAKAMA TRIBE. Never knew there was a Yakama spelling.
- 46a. [Drug abused by Rush Limbaugh and Courtney Love], OXYCONTIN. Their favorite fragrance is musk OxyContin.
- 62a. [Notable feature of each 1-across], HOOVES.
Favorite entries: MEG WHITE, KARAOKE, ARMCHAIR as an adjective, YOO-HOO.
Least familiar answer: 48d. [Giant slain by Odin, thus creating the Earth], YMIR. Joon is Crossword Fiend’s in-house Norse mythology expert, not I.