Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword
If only Damon J. Gulczynski didn’t have that N in Damon. Then his name would be an isogram (no letter appearing more than once). Those metas that Matt Gaffney and Peter Gordon have done, where you have you find some names that together cover the whole alphabet? Damon here has 15 different letters.
Which has nothing to do with the puzzle today. The four 4-letter answers in the middle of each puzzle edge can be parsed as three-word phrases in the form X OR Y, and there are four theme answers in which a certain letter can be filled with either the (hypothetical) X or the Y. The theme answers aren’t strictly symmetrical but the layout is visually pleasing enough.
The Black Ink solving software marked all four of my two-way squares wrong. I don’t care. And this is why I don’t miss the Java applet! I can check my solution, and if the only squares marked “wrong” are the rebus-type ones, then I know I solved the puzzle correctly. I move on.
- 1a. [Belief system founded in China], TAOISM or MAOISM.
- 1d. [Work hard], TOIL or MOIL.
- 68a. [Comedian Sahl … also what can fill the square at the crossing of 1-Across and 1-Down], MORT, M or T.
- 24a. [Shot out diffusely], SCATTERED or SPATTERED. I noticed this one while solving, that the crossing could be either of two letters that more or less worked in 24a.
- 25d. [Fraternity letter], CHI or PHI.
- 27d. [N.Y.S.E. listing … also what can fill the square at the crossing of 24-Across and 25-Down], CORP., C or P.
- 50a. [Bumbled verbally], SPUTTERED or STUTTERED. I dispute the “bumbling” characterization of stuttering.
- 51d. [Flowering plant], PANSY or TANSY.
- 7a. [Dessert wine … also what can fill the square at the crossing of 50-Across and 51-Down], PORT, P or T.
- 56a. [Kitchen gadgets], RICERS or DICERS. I wasn’t sure if a dicer was an actual gadget so I looked it up. I am a potato masher, not a ricer.
- 56d. [Sign of neglect], RUST or DUST.
- 37d. [1841 rebellion leader … also what can fill the square at the crossing of 56-Across and 56-Down], DORR, D or R. Never heard of this Dorr (looked it up—voting rights in 1841-42 Rhode Island. That first R was my last letter, since 45a. [Critic Richard] EDER is hardly a household name (he was a drama critic for the NYT).
This is a lovely theme concept, and it’s executed fairly well. DORR is a blotch on the theme, but the subtlety and general unforced nature of the either-or word pairs is nice.
Now, 21a. [“The Governator”] is not part of the theme, although AHNULD is a more familiar spelling for me than AHNOLD. Fun fill—but if you don’t know how to spell the 11d. [“Return of the Jedi” battle site] ENDOR, you’re sunk here. Actually, that whole corner is nuts—EDD crosses three propers, ENDOR and DOYLE and DREDD, which in turn are crossed by AHNOLD. People who disdain pop culture may be grumbling at that.
Highlights in the fill include OSCAR NODS, TIGHTWAD, NIGHT OWL, and STRATEGO.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 65”
Good themeless. Lots of fresh fill and fresher clues. My nine favorite bits were these:
- 17a. [Solitaire measure, maybe], ONE CARAT. Totally was thinking of the one-player card game.
- 28a. [Restaurant employee who works a lot?], VALET. Works a parking lot.
- 32a. [Band whose name is based on the name of several members’ high school gym teacher], LYNYRD SKYNYRD. Didn’t know that trivia.
- 52a. [Nickname of the boxer in “The Hangover”], IRON MIKE. Tyson.
- 56a. [Budget item?], RENT-A-CAR. That’s big-B Budget.
- 60a. [Baby photographer Anne], GEDDES. With the little babies inside flowers and whatnot.
- 9d. [Fourth qtr. ender], DEC. Football season has begun, and it had me convinced that this was a sports clue. DECember ends the fourth quarter of the year.
- 14d. [Stick in the mud], COFFEE STIRRER. Excellent clue!
- 41d. [Game catchers, at times], TALON. Not baseball, but angry birds. Just saw a bald eagle on PBS tonight—it stalked a coot and snatched it out of shallow water and took it away for eating.
I don’t think the TEES OFF ON/18a. [Really scolds] usage is familiar to me, but it’s familiar enough to the dictionary.
Somebody explain this one to me: 51d. [Bill] clues YARD.
Not the most exciting themeless in the world, but also not boring, and the fill is Gordonesquely smooth. Four stars.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Different Strokes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
I prefer the title to be stylized without the first e, but that’s only because I was a TV junkie in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The idea here has nothing to do with the Gary Coleman series, but with two-word phrases where the first word is a synonym of “stroke”:
- [Gregory Hines talent] clues TAP DANCING – I think of “tapping” as just a quick touch, whereas “stroking” involves lateral movement, no?
- [Informal group discussion] is a RAP SESSION – yeah, again there’s touching involved, but to rap is to knock not stroke per se.
- [Favored activity] clues PET PROJECT – I think “to pet” is the closest synonym of “to stroke” of the four.
- Speaking of the ’80s, we have [Hit Me With Your Best Shot singer] or PAT BENATAR – patting is pretty close to stroking too, although not much lateral motion in this one either.
In the theme’s favor, I enjoyed that each “synonym” was three letters, but they only represent stroking in a very loose sense. New solvers might have trouble in the NW with TATI ([Jacques of “Mon Oncle”], unlikely on most people’s top 100 movie list) and COPT ([Pre-Islamic Egyptian]), and even some older solvers (like this reviewer) might have trouble there. [___ avis] is a pretty standard crossword clue for RARA, but how many know that the phrase means “something rare” where the “avis” is the Latin word for “bird.” (We might even call someone a “rare bird” if they are unique.) My FAVE entry has to be the unusual letter sequence beginning MR. MAGOO, a myopic character voiced by Jim Backus, who also played Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island. JIGSAWS and LION CUB were also nice entries.
Robin Stears’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The theme is weird American foods re-imagined in the clues as though they weren’t. I have no idea what a TURKEYCLUB is, I’m off to wikipedia it! It seems to be some variant name for a club sandwich. Club sandwiches do exist here; I’m not too sure what’s on them, steak is involved I thought? but I’m pretty sure there isn’t turkey… I have no idea what FRENCHDIP is either! This entry suggests another meaty sandwich. I do know what a SLOPPYJOE is! Yay me! Finally, I only have the vaguest idea what PULLEDPORK is! Here we go again! It appears it can also be put on a sandwich. So the theme is tighter than I thought – all of the four are apparently sandwiches? Are they referred to as such without SANDWICH at the end? I know it’s called a sloppy joe not a sloppy joe sandwich, do the other work the same way? Ok then, we’ve I don’t know my meaty American sandwiches, but then how many of you know what a Curry Bunny is? Or a Spathlo? This article should get you up to speed. A very clever theme though, and my enjoyment wasn’t diminished too much by my unfamiliarity with the terms; I realise that it is down to my un-American-ness.
Like the NYT, I enjoyed many of the clues in this puzzle. Here are my favourites: [Ran when wet?] for BLED, [Iron clothes?] for ARMOR, [Like some track stars] for EQUINE and [Last of the Mohicans?] for ESS. On the other hand [Kingston Trio song that inspired the Boston subway’s CharlieCard] rankled. As the Wikipedia article describes, the Kingston Trio recorded their version long after it was originally sung, so it’s not really a “Kingston Trio” song any more than “Cocaine” is a Eric Clapton song or “All Along the Watchtower” a Jimi Hendrix song.
The puzzle is lighter than most puzzles these days on thematic content: 38 squares. Ms. Stears opted for a low black-square (only 33!) grid with wide-open corners. The answers in those corners and elsewhere are more functional than fantastic but that’s fine: we do get DOORDIE, SCAMPI, RODENTS (clued as [Capybaras, e.g.] – see right) and SIBERIA. On the other hand, The puzzle is also light on awkward answers: we only have OAST, one A-? partial, APOD, and the Roman numeral LII.
It’s kind of difficult for me to fairly rate this puzzle, but I’d say it’s about a 3 and 1/2!
Byron Walden’s AV Club crossword, “That Is to Say”
The Latin abbreviation for “that is”/”id est” is i.e., and IE is added to the end of the first word in each theme answer to change the meaning:
- 21a. [Instagram faux pas for Anthony Weiner or Geraldo?], SELFIE ABUSE. If you missed the Geraldo selfie (a photo taken by oneself, typically with a smartphone) showing him looking pretty damned toned in nothing but a low-slung bath towl for a 70-year-old, you might want to Google it. Warning: It cannot be unseen.
- 26a. [Cozy room for reading and trysting?], QUICKIE STUDY. I was just reading a Buzzfeed article about the movie Clue, which I’ve never seen, and now I want to see it. Apparently constructor Mike Nothnagel has seen it about 80 times, and he’s not alone in loving it.
- 44a. [George Will article about infant wear?], ONESIE COLUMN. Knowing Will, he finds a way to blame Democrats for everything to do with infant apparel.
- 51a. [“Friend with benefits” action?], BESTIE SCORE. Like selfie, bestie is a relatively new word. I think. I haven’t checked to see how far back the word goes, but I’ve only been hearing it a lot in the last several years.
Very good theme, as the resulting phrases are mostly entertaining. The ONESIE one sticks out as having no lewd content at all, unless there’s something I don’t know about what George Will likes to wear for sexy time.
- 36d. [Home brewer’s fermenting need], ALE YEAST. Are there any other phrases that can be made by adding letters inside a sports division name? NFC North and NL Central don’t seem to lend themselves to this.
- 40d. [Fluoridation conspiracy theorist, jocularly], TOOTHER. Did Byron make this up or are the antifluoridationists actually called toothers these days?
- Nice “OH, SUSANNA”/LOUISIANA pairing. The state gets a shout-out in the lyrics.
- 45d. [Young brooder with bangs], EMO KID. Dammit! “Brooder” made me think of hens and I had EMU KI* there for a while. Wondered if young emus were called kits. I was just reading about emus. Did you know the female emu comes after the male when she’s ready for fertile sexy time? True story. And then a few days later she’ll lay 15 to 20 lb of eggs.
- 47d. [Bad thing to drop on the radio], F-BOMB. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to drop the mic on the radio?
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Turning Potential” — Matt’s review
No one gets new words into a puzzle faster than Brendan; an ear to the ground for trendy language and a twice-weekly publishing schedule will always get you there quicker.
Today’s straightforward add-a-T theme is but a vessel for Brendan to get TWERK into his grid. It’s not that new a word, but recently received a big boost from Miley Cyrus at that awards show performance. I tried to watch it but couldn’t make it past about a minute (same thing that happened when I once tried to listen to a Justin Bieber song).
Brendan’s themers are:
17-a [“I challenge you to a dance duel to see who can shake their ass the naughtiest!”?] = WE CAN TWERK IT OUT.
23-a [White ass?] = PALE TAIL. I have one of those. Today it’s covered by my crossword boxers (no joke).
35-a [Sun-baked bathroom inlay?] = DESERT TILE.
41/48-a [“Now serving: pad see ew, extra wet dirt”?] = HERE’S MUD IN / YOUR THAI.
58-a [Act in a clichéd way?] = DO THE TRITE THING.
Tough solve which took me 8:25 in Across Lite. Among other wrong turns I had the incorrect SASE instead of the correct RSVP at 43-a [Invitation encl.], the incorrect GRR at 21-a [Boxer’s taunt?] instead of the correct ARF, and the incorrect DARN instead of the correct DRAT at 46-d [“Fudge”]. 54-down that!
Nice literary refs with Roald DAHL at 33-d and Tom WOLFE at 22-a, and TICKLE WARS, LOW-FI, R AND D, I’M GAY and HO-HUM are all A+ entries. And 30-d is an entry you will not see anywhere else except under BEQ’s byline.