Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword
Shout-out to Mr. Rogers! Raise your hand if you knew 7d: [Troglodytes troglodytes] was a WREN because of King Friday’s bird-on-a-stick. Maybe pannonica can tell us why the wee wren picked up such an inapt-seeming genus name.
Shout-out to slang from a century-old folk song! Because apparently that’s where 18d: [Go for broke], BALL THE JACK came from. A more contemporary equivalent is “go balls to the wall,” but that “ball” is not welcome in the Gray Lady’s crossword. Too testicular.
This grid is built around four interlocking 15s and the 11s crossing in the middle. MAKE THE BEST OF IT is good, OVER THE EDGE is good (we don’t dock puzzles for multiple uses of THE, do we?), PLUM TUCKERED OUT is juicy (I prefer the PLUMB spelling, though), TAKE A LOOK AROUND is fine, and LIFE IS VERY SHORT eluded me for too long as I tried to remember [Why “there’s no time for fussing and fighting,” per a Beatles hit]. Not a one’s-ie in the set.
Did not know:
- 55a. [“Idol ___” (Mozart aria)], MIO.
- 63a. [Mathematical physicist Roger], PENROSE. I didn’t know the name but I could gaze at Penrose tiling patterns for hours.
- 27a. [Automaker Adam], OPEL.
- 33a. [“___ Bein’ Bad” (Sawyer Brown country hit)], BETTY’S.
- 2d. [Antes up for peanuts?], ANAGRAM.
- 40d. [It shows small parts of the picture], TRAILER.
- 44d. [Like many newlyweds and bagels], TOASTED.
I shouldn’t have known 19a: [Hungarian city known for “Bull’s Blood” wine], but EGER was in another NYT puzzle not long ago so I was reading up on it. It’s Hungary’s 19th largest city, with a population of about 54,000, but it is an ancient town and notable for various things. The last time EGER was in the puzzle, it was clued as a river, really just a stream. It’s better as the city. Also? I would never, ever drink a wine called Bull’s Blood.
A little tough for a Friday, no? That oddball BALL THE JACK in the middle didn’t look right even when the crossings all looked solid. Four stars.
Alan Olschwang’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Leaderboard” — pannonica’s write-up
The results are in. 65-down sez [Leader hidden in 5-, 9-, 11-, and 34-down, informally] PREZ. Not the most Higher Education-y of themes.
- 5d. [Technique used to determine the composition of stars] SPECTRUM ANALYSIS. Turns out they’re made of cocaine, botox, vodka, and glitterdust.
- 9d. [Hip-hopper’s improvisational skill] FREESTYLE RAPPING.
- 11d. [How-to book series with yellow covers] … FOR DUMMIES. Would have been better if the clue stipulated “yellow and black” (and yes, white is in the mix too).
- 34d. [2008 Clint Eastwood film] GRAN TORINO.
Good theme entries. The covert CINCs are TRUMAN, TYLER, FORD, and GRANT. In each instance the name spans the gap of the two words comprising the entry, although, somewhat unevenly, the last two are strongly affinitive in that the hidden name is composed of the entirety of the first word and the initial letter of the second. Up-vote for consistency, down-vote for variety. On the subject of ups and downs, you’ll notice the grid is 16 rather than 15 rows tall, to accommodate the two longest themers.
Can’t help noticing the aptness of FORD/FOR DUMMIES, as that president was generally characterized as a bumbler.
The grid felt internally disconnected with those six-square blocks (more like reflected Idahos than Utahs) touching corners with four-square columns, among the other blocks. The result is three nearly disjunct subgrids, though the resultant two 4×4 and one 5×4 sections across the center band are notable.
- 20a [Home of the Twins] slyly misdirects to baseball, but its Gemini, of the ZODIAC. See also 46a [Some July births] LEOS, 52a [Biblical twin] ESAU.
- 10d Not-Lincoln ABE, so as not to interfere with the theme.
- Might have been better to clue 28d RATTLE referencing conductor Sir Simon rather than the straightforward [Unnerve] to (1) milk the Higher Education vibe™ and (2) to echo 68a [Maestro Ozawa] SEIJI.
- 62d [Music-store purchase] HI-FI. First, HI-FI feels hopelessly retro, evoking the ’50s through ’70s or so. Second, isn’t a music store where one buys musical instruments?
- One-word AVOWALS is more interesting and fresher than its symmetrical partner, the tripartite crossword staple AS A RULE.
- More overexposure: ANEW, ATOP, AÇAÍ, ILSA, BOAS, ESPY, ET AL—whoops, sorry: et al.
Perhaps, had the constructor and editor made the ballast fill more interesting, this would have been more than an okay puzzle.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Keep On Truckin'” – Dave Sullivan’s review
A “moving” tribute today from constructor Lynn Lempel that consists of four theme phrases that contain a type of truck:
- The alliterative [Words from a wannabe wooer] clues PICK UP LINES. I’ve got one of those (the truck not the line).
- [One who’s moved closer to a win] is a SEMIFINALIST. Haven’t been watching much of the French Open, but I did hear yesterday that Roger Federer was ousted in the quarterfinals by un joueur de tennis français.
- [Come-on aimed at filmgoers] clues MOVIE TRAILER. After talking about old-time TV yesterday (are shows from the 70’s old-time?), I’m reminded here of Rex Trailer, host of a weekend staple of my childhood.
- [Oil company machine] isn’t a price gouger, as I first suspected, but a DRILLING RIG. Is the term “drill rig” more common? That gerund seems a bit off to me.
Rather atypical for this constructor to have the theme words on opposite sides of the entries, but I was fine with that, especially since the first two had them in the front and the last pulling up the rear. My FAVE entry was [Where Hamlet told Ophelia to “get thee to”], or a NUNNERY, which we’d call a convent today. As is typical in Lynn’s puzzles, there really isn’t any questionable fill, so I will forego my UNFAVE entry today.
Jim Holland’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Jim Holland gives us a solid hooker theme today, albeit one that’s quite broad. The theme answers are two-word phrases; a stand-alone letter is added to the beginnings of the phrase’s second words. There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why those letters were chosen, and there are any number of other options… still. We have the following answers:
- [Spontaneous camera adjustment?], SUDDENFSTOP
- [Electronic device for some singles?], BACHELORIPAD
- [Oversized cleaning tool?], GENEROUSQTIP
- [Kid’s sport played in costume], MASKEDTBALL
A conservative grid, and conservatively filled too… Entries of note for me include:
- [Move furtively], SLINK. Was SNEAK then SKULK before SLINK!
- [One at a dull meeting, perhaps], DOODLER. Cute clue!
- [Use a ladder, stereotypically], ELOPE. Another clever clue! See this song by Jimi Hendrix.
- [Eponymous beekeeper Shavitz], BURT. Wanted ULEE and clung to that answer desperately! It made that corner tough to unravel. BURT’s Bees seems to be a US maker of cosmetics and the like.
- [Luggage lugger], BELLMAN was another tricky answer for me. I dropped BELLHOP in pretty early and it took a lot of convincing for me to drop it after the first part proved correct!
- [Fancy spread], ESTATE. Duped! I was thinking about toast for the longest time!
Puzzle for the most part didn’t evoke strong positive or negative feelings. 3 stars?
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inflation” — pannonica’s write-up
Even with the revealer, 123a [Copper words, and an appropriate end to this puzzle] ONE CENT, I felt like [Animated myope] MR MAGOO (49a). I said I CAN’T SEE what the theme is!
Sure, it was impossible to miss 66a FIVE AND DIME STORES stretching across the equator, and the unfamiliar BUCK SAW (that first B, crossing BSS—which could have been MSS or who knows what else—was the last square filled for this solver) was symmetrically opposite the revealer. Even so, I wasn’t seeing it. BUCK, CENT. FIVE, DIME. It seemed so meager—where was the QUARTER, at least?—and messy—FIVE only works as NICKEL in context, otherwise it’s a fin. And for inflationary purposes, shouldn’t the nickel come after the dime?
Then there were the distractions and an ensuing crazy hunt. LIRA as a stand-alone entry (84a). TENS (19d). BUCK SAW can be inverted to SAWBUCK. NOTRE DAME has RED hidden in it (RED CENT?).
I commiserated with Amy. We were both at sea. It just didn’t seem possible that a 21×21 crossword could have a mere three theme entries, and not-so-great ones at that. After some time, she uncovered it: “Word Ladder!” And she listed the elements. Full credit to Amy on this one. I’ve highlighted the components with circles in the solution grid.
BUCK SAW, SEA DUCK, DICK TRACY, LOADED DICE, DINE ALONE, FIVE AND DIME STORES, NOTRE DAME, CAME AROUND, SUGAR CANE, CAN’T SEE, ONE CENT.
And so the wording of the revealer’s clue—”an appropriate end”—makes sense.
Can’t say I liked the theme all that much; word ladders don’t thrill me, and remaining obscure as it did brought no favor from me. There was no, “ah that’s clever, it sure got me ha-ha” appreciation; it was more a, “oh so that’s it, okay” moment.
Longdowns (and erstwhile red herrings) include CAT’S PAJAMAS, FREE MARKETS, FLUORESCE, COAL SEAMS. Favorite clues: 4d [Brownie maker] KODAK, 73a [Times feature] SERIF. Double-duty clues: 29a/36d [Cooper’s product] CASK/KEG, 67d/114d [Corp. VIP] DIR/CEO. Low-ish CAP Quotient™ though of course the puzzle is not entirely free of such fill.
Objectively, okay puzzle. Subjectively, bleah.