Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle struck me as a Saturday-hard puzzle, but they say Will Shortz likes to put crazy themeless grids on Friday where more solvers will see them. So here’s Martin’s double-quad-stack-plus-a-central-15 puzzle and you know what? As much as I am predisposed to grouse at such puzzles, I kinda liked this one.
Notes on the $15 footlongs:
- 1a. [Wiped the floor with], MADE MINCEMEAT OF. Love it.
- 17a. [Western daily], LOS ANGELES TIMES. Free advertising!
- 34a. [One may be tapped out], MORSE CODE SIGNAL. Is the “signal” part arbitrary (with “message” being equally valid), or is this in-the-Morsey-language? I am not up on my telegraphy lingo.
- 55a. [It’s not word-for-word], FREE TRANSLATION. I didn’t know this term, but it makes sense. Those modern translations of Dante and Beowulf fit, I presume?
- 56a. [Old French epics], CHANSONS DE GESTE. Just GESTE is more common in crosswords. This version looks much fancier.
Notes on the remainder:
- 1d. [1970s-’80s sitcom setting], MEL’S Diner from Alice. I went with another CBS show from that era first, guessing WKRP but soon realizing those grid-hostile letters were unlikely to anchor four 15s.
- 5d. [What Hamilton called the wealthy], MONIED MEN. And then he became a monied man himself, adorning the $10 bill.
- 7d. [___ Arden Oplev, director of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”], NIELS. A change-up from the usual Bohr clue.
- 9d. [Gershwin biographer David], EWEN. Never heard of him. How else are you gonna clue EWEN?
- 50d. [Sinatra’s “Meet ___ the Copa”], ME AT. Clued as a two-word partial because of MINCEMEAT. Other partials in this puzzle include A COP, GET SO, PAS DE, and the unattractive OR HE.
- 32d. [Second-greatest period in the history of something], SILVER AGE. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this. Some people say we’re in the golden age of TV, with terrific cable and Netflix offerings supplementing the worst of the network dross. When was TV’s silver age, then? The M*A*S*H ’70s, the Cosby ’80s, the Seinfeld ’90s, the Honeymooners ’50s?
Matt Skoczen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “States in Full” — pannonica’s write-up
Cute idea: take a name/phrase beginning or ending with a two-letter word which happens to also be a standard abbreviation for one of the United States and expand that abbreviation to the complete name, yielding one of those wacky fabulations that themed crosswords are well-known for. Speaking of expansion, this grid sports not a westward but a southward one, weighing in at 15×16 squares, and all of the themers are vertical entries.
- 3d. [Probe the Pine Tree state?] SEARCH MAINE ( … me). Oh, that’s right. Forgot to mention that each theme clue uses the state’s official nickname.
- 7d. [Gem State magician?] THE WIZARD OF IDAHO ( … Id).
- 8d. [Vocational school at the Aloha State?] HAWAII TECH (hi-… ). It seems that both the Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA) and the Hawaii Technological Institute (HTI) have both demurred from officially embracing such nickname.
- 33d. [Hoosier State regulation?] INDIANA LAW (in-… ).
- 29d. [Slasher-film effects in the Heart of Dixie?] ALABAMA GORE (Al …).
As per usual, I’ll note in passing my brumotactillophobic tendencies when it comes to theme and non-theme material. To wit, I’d have been happier if 14a [D-Day beach] UTAH were not in the grid.
The good and the bad:
- Some medium-length stunning acrosses: ROAD RAGE, DEPRAVED, ALLEY-OOP, WHEATIES …
- … offset by some tragic material , especially near the center of the grid: NE’ER, DCCC, AFBS, IOTAS, AERATE (but HAZY is very nice indeed).
- (18a) TWOFER-type clues: 12d [Corn units] EARS, 19a [Corn unit] KERNEL; 23a/64a MIAMI/HEAT. 24d [Whence the line, “A little more than kin, and less than kind”] HAMLET (ooh, >teeth-suck<) / 8a [Ethan who played 24 Down] HAWKE.
- New to me: 15a [Kansas State campus site] SALINA, though I know of Salinas, CA thanks to J Steinbeck.
- Most distracting clue: 2d [Wind in a pit] … oh, it’s just OBOE. Phew.
- Favorite clue, by process of elimination: 57d [In gear?] CLAD.
Fun, fine puzzle. Not ugly.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Sweater Issues” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four theme entries that end with something bad that can happen to a sweater:
- [Insomniac’s supply] was SLEEPING PILLS – I believe “to pill” (in the sweater sense) means to roll up into a small ball.
- [Handles for kitchen compartments] clued DRAWER PULLS – this is something our cats do a lot when we’re wearing woolens and they are sitting on our laps.
- [Cozy and comfy vibes] were WARM FUZZIES – cute phrase; though I get the imagery here, I’m not sure how a “fuzzie” (or is that FUZZY?) is a sweater “issue.”
- [Sites serving brewskis] was a WATERING HOLE – I’m thinking moths here.
Rather unusual theme; I guess PILLS was my favorite given how distant the original phrase association is to a “sweater issue.” Given all the global flak around Edward Snowden, I thought [Surrpetitiously records conversations, say] for WEARS A WIRE was particularly timely. MALL MAP and FRESH SLANT were also ELEGANT, or [Swanky], which was my FAVE today. I also enjoyed the triple-Z action in the center of the grid. Have to award an UNFAVE to FIR TREE; they’re just firs around here.
Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Scare Tactics” — pannonica’s write-up
In time for Halloween, some phrases have been ENHANCEd (115a) with a spooky BOO at the beginning, so that each ADAPTS (1a) to a new, LOONIER (118a) incarnation.
- 23a. [Silverware that has a full operating system installed?] BOOTABLE SPOON (tablespoon).
- 42a. [Job for some Tampa Bay cheerleaders?] BOOSTING RAYS (stingrays).
- 47a. [Dishes ordered like “ham AND cheese NOT mayo”?] BOOLEAN CUISINE (lean cuisine). Wonder if the original clue had “omelet-plain AND (chicken-salad-sandwich AND wheat-toast NOT mayonnaise NOT butter NOT lettuce NOT chicken-salad) AND cup-coffee.”
- 64a. [Full tally of baby’s footwear?] BOOTEE TOTAL (teetotal). Have never been comfortable with that spelling—invariably reminds me of Boötes—but have learned to accept it.
- 84a. [Ruling family enjoying great prosperity?] BOOMING DYNASTY (Ming Dynasty).
- 90a. [Bright-footed seabird’s slip?] BOOBY MISTAKE (by mistake). Comparatively weak, this one, though I like the quasisynonymical feel of the new answer.
- 107a. [Job for an ensemble’s manager?] BOOKING OF CLUBS (king of clubs). Finish with a flourish!
As with mechanisms of this type, the predictability of the location and character of the added letters drains some life from the solve. Despite this liability, the radical changes wrought by the introduction of the trigram (which is credit due the constructor’s discernment) injects a greater amount of vivacity to the puzzle.
- 75a [Team whose logo shows Chief Wahoo] INDIANS. This has been in the news (again) lately. (The original image dates from 2001.) Do not see also: 98a
- 88a [Mississippi Delta bottom-dwellers] MUDCATS. Mudcats!
- 92a [Like Helvetica] SAN SERIF [sic]. Big flaw there, much worse than “ice tea.”
- 97a [Bird named for its golden plumage] ORIOLE. New information to me, but rather obvious in retrospect, especially to crossword solver and anyone with basic knowledge of Romance languages. Good to learn.
- 1d/73d [Monastery figures] ABBOTS / MONKS, but the latter shares the etymology with the clue word. Yet THUG and APE, close to each other, have distinct clues with similar senses (67d, 68a).
- 42d [Connection from one bank to another] BRIDGE. Pretty sure this isn’t how a bridge loan works.
- [80-Down collaborator Brian] ENO, [63-Across collaborator David] BYRNE. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981), most prominently.
Cute theme, high quality and good variety of clues, a few more FITBs and quasi-partials than I’d like, but ultimately a good puzzle. My solving time is on the long side, probably because I solved it after I should have gone to bed.
Jacob Stulberg’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s Review
One of the main arguments against quote themes is that they have only one pay-off. If you don’t like or have already encountered the quote, the entire theme is a big chunk of blah. Today the quote is AHENISONLY / ANEGGS / WAYOF / MAKING / ANOTHEREGG. I hadn’t heard that quote before and found it most interesting philosophically / biologically. It’s by the 17th century author SAMUEL / BUTLER whose oeuvre I haven’t read.
Mr. Stulberg’s name is not one with which I am familiar. I’m going to assume this is a puzzle debut. If so, I’m impressed with the grid design, it’s offbeat arrangement facilitating the unusual theme answer breakdown. The actual answers are more functional than fun, with very few multi-word phrases; I don’t think that is such a big deal, BTW. I didn’t know BASINET (my medieval armour knowledge mostly comes from RPGs and DND), but learning things are part and parcel of doing crosswords! No demerit. I also didn’t know the current TV series TREME.
The one thing I would’ve changed personally is the walled-off middle-right area. I think that I shun partials more than most, but I’d have tried to excise USIN. As a first attempt to refill that section I came up with SAC/UNO/TONTO/UNIT.
One more short remark [Tee sizes: Abbr.], SMS. Over here that’s what a text messages is ubiquitously referred to as. Is the abbreviation so unfamiliar that a contrived plural is a fairer angle? I’m going to assume so.
Nice quote find: 3.5 Stars.