Hey! You know Neville Fogarty, crossword constructor, erstwhile Team Fiend blogger, provider of weekly indie puzzles, general sweetheart of a guy? That same Neville is making one of those meta puzzlefests! You’ve got four weeks to get in on the Kickstarter funding for this puzzle project. It’s a sure thing, since Neville secured enough backers in the first couple days to meet his goal amount. Pledge $10 or more here (that link gives all the details) and you’ll receive Neville’s set of 10 puzzles in May. What are you waiting for?
Gareth Bain’s New York Times crossword
Neat puzzle. The theme is given purpose by 62a: WHERE IT’S AT, which is the reason that selected familiar phrases with an IT letter pair instead have an AT.
- 18a. [Second of two spouses?], LATTER MATE. A littermate is a fellow puppy or what-have-you from the same birth cohort.
- 23a. [Nest?], HATCHING POST. [Hitching post?] is a frequent cutesy clue for ALTAR.
- 39a. [Wing or fang?], BAT PART. Bats make me nervous.
- 51a. [Like a good quilt maker?], PATCH PERFECT.
I like the idiom WHERE IT’S AT and it’s creative to view it as an invitation to make an “IT” into an “AT.”
10 13 list:
- 22a. [One of the “She’s Gone” singers], OATES. The other one is Hall. Not to be confused with the Hall and Oates who were in the news in December.
- 27a/28a. [Egg producer]/[Egg producers], HEN and OVARIES. Covering all the bases here.
- 37a. [Repeated lyric in “Java Jive”], A CUP. A cup of coffee, I presume, and not the bra size.
- 45a. [Paul Kruger of Krugerrand fame, e.g.], BOER. A little South African history from America’s top South African crossword constructor.
- 48a. [City destroyed by Mount Vesuvius], POMPEII. Great fill. Why don’t more Italian place names end in EII?
- 4d. [Tastelessly artistic], KITSCHY. Terrific fill.
- 11d. [Veterinarian’s subj.], ANAT. Terrible crossword answer, but Gareth is a veterinarian and he can probably tell us more than we ever wondered about hen anatomy.
- 12d. [Diamond in the sky?], KITE. My favorite clue in this puzzle. Twinkle, twinkle …
- 32d. [“Days,” for one], SOAP. Like sands through the hourglass are the days of our lives: gritty and small.
- 33d. [Oscar-winning film set in Iran], ARGO. Now, that’s a fresh clue, since that Oscar was won just eight days before this puzzle’s release.
- 41d. [It might be seen out of the corner of one’s eye], TEAR. No, wait. This one’s my favorite clue.
- 47d. [Mark of “The Kids Are All Right”], RUFFALO. At least two members of Team Fiend are Ruffalo fans.
- 52d. [Like some pudding and retreats], HASTY. You know what they say—you gotta beat a hasty pudding or else it will take too long to set.
I like the theme okay, but I don’t love it. However, the fill has so much sparkle, it elevates the puzzle. Four stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Nuclear Disasters”
Four phrases/words are used and/or concocted to contain the one-word titles of four dreadful movies I have not seen:
- 20a. [Pattern for highland families], SCOTTISH TARTAN with the Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty flop Ishtar inside.
- 32a. [Trips around the earth], MOON ORBITS with Eddie Murphy’s Norbit.
- 41a. [Outside the box], UNORTHODOX containing “family” movie North. This is the movie about which Roger Ebert famously wrote, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. … one of the worst movies ever made.”
- 51a. [Itinerary collected by a rock historian], BAND GIG LISTING, with the movie Gigli, which Ben Affleck has put behind him. Is “band gig listing” a thing, or just the only way Matt could get GIGLI into a longer phrase?
- 5a. [Disaster, like the four movies in the theme entries], BOMB.
I like the trivia category lurking inside the theme answers (Matt just finished hosting another annual round of nightly-trivia-on-Facebook-in-February. I think he likes trivia too.)
- 27a. [Richard or Maurice of 1940s fast food], MCDONALD. You don’t say. I know Ray Kroc but that’s it. Who are these McDonald clowns? And why isn’t either of them named Ronald?
- 40a. [Geometric shape: abbr.], RECT. When I see this abbreviation in a crossword, it makes me think of “rectum,” which puts me in mind of a joke that gastroenterologists probably hear way too often: “Rectum? I hardly know ‘im!”
- 5d. [Simon in South American history], BOLIVAR. My first thought was LeBon. What? C’mon! “Rio”?
- 22d. [Makes new friends?], ADDS. A Facebook reference. Today, Facebook suggested that I might know Herb Stempel. I clicked on the profile. Old black and white photo. One friend: Charles Van Doren. I want to be Herb’s second Facebook friend. He’d love Matt Jones’s February trivia.
- 33d. [“Moral ___” (Cartoon Network show)], OREL. Hey! An alternative to Orel Hershiser for crossword clues.
3.75 stars from me. Fun theme, but the movie titles are in a mishmash of longer entries.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Going Undercover”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Throughout the solve, I had the funny feeling someone was watching me. Turns out there were four MOLEs hiding in the theme entries:
- 17-Across: [Bucks] could be any number of things, but here they are SIMOLEONS.
- 28-Across: GUACAMOLE DIP is one [Nacho topping], though I’m partial to lots of shredded cheese and fresh pico de gallo. Alas, the only thing hiding out in PICO DE GALLO is a CODE GAL, and she might lose interest fast.
- 44-Across: DNA MOLECULES are the [Double helix components] that helped me see my errors, as discussed more fully below.
- 59-Across: Someone named PRIMO LEVI has nothing to do with denim. He’s the [Author of “The Periodic Table”], declared in 2006 as “The Best Science Book Ever.”
[Insert usual refrain about preferring hidden word themes where the hidden word straddles two or more words, but don’t go on about it because everyone knows it’s coming and they just skip to the next paragraph anyway.]
I had a lot of missteps here–EAT UP rather than LAP UP for [Really enjoy], DIRTY instead of SALTY for [Off-color], and TAB instead of DUB for [Name] are some examples. There was also much I just plain didn’t know, like the aforementioned Mr. Levi, BEMA as the [Synagogue stage], SIAMESE as the answer to [Like Anna’s students] (a reference to Anna Leonowens, I now assume), typing teacher MAVIS Beacon, MT. ETNA as the [Workshop of Hephaestus], and whatever letter was supposed to precede BOLT as the answer to [Hose clamp tightener] (it’s a T-BOLT, in case anyone’s curious). And, having never been abducted and probed aboard an alien vessel, I didn’t know [Spaceship sections] were MODULES. If that’s the price for not being probed, I’m okay with it.
Favorite entry = LAB MICE, the [Experimental animals] (even though my first guess was LAB RATS). Favorite clue = [Black hats] for BAD GUYS.
Mel Rosen’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straight-up vowel progression theme, with P*TT— phrases traveling from PATT to PUTT in alphabetical order:
- 18a. [Singer called the “Godmother of Punk”], PATTI SMITH. She’s the one whose biggest hit is 1978’s “Because the Night” (which doesn’t sound punk at all, does it?) and who was buddies with Robert Mapplethorpe. Patty Smyth is the one who was the lead singer of Scandal (“Goodbye to You” and “The Warrior,” early ’80s) and is married to John McEnroe.
- 23a. [Misdemeanor], PETTY CRIME.
- 38a. [Set in opposition to], PITTED AGAINST. Better than PITTED DATES or PITTED NAILS, I guess.
- 50a. [One given to bad language], POTTY MOUTH. Love it! The highlight of the puzzle.
- 57a. [Finishing the 18th, say], PUTTING OUT. We would also have accepted [Gamely having a roll in the hay].
So, 40% to 60% of the theme was a tad boring, but I loved seeing PATTI SMITH and POTTY MOUTH here.
Looking past the theme, the fill had a bit of a crosswordese vibe. ENA RAH ENLAI APSE NSEC NITTI TTOPS ITES ACEY and TEC are all words I rarely encounter outside of puzzles, but that rear their heads regularly within the grid. The longer fill—GYRATED, EPITOME, ARMENIANS, and STRIKE TWO—is solid, though.
Three stars from me.