Daniel Finan’s New York Times crossword, “It’s All Relative”
Twelve vertical theme answers appear in pairs that in which relative position subs for the word “over” or “under”:
- 3d. [See 51-Down], A SPELL. If you’re under A SPELL, you’re BEWITCHED, 51d. [3-Down, relatively].
- 6d. [73-Down, relatively], NO WAY, JOSE equates to “over MY DEAD BODY,” 73d. [See 6-Down].
- If you’re “under THE GUN,” 8d. [See 52-Down], you are FEELING THE HEAT, 52d. [8-Down, relatively].
- 12d. [93-Down, relatively], TALK TO YOU LATER can be what’s meant by “over AND OUT,” 93d. [See 12-Down].
- What’s “under LOCK AND KEY,” 14d. [See 82-Down], might be said to be SHELTERED, 82d. [14-Down, relatively]. The connection between SHELTERED and “under lock and key” doesn’t feel as solid as the other theme pairs.
- 42d. [95-Down, relatively], EXCESSIVE means “over THE TOP,” 95d. [See 42-Down].
The theme pairs were not so easy to figure out, and then the fill made the solve even harder. I had a lot of blank squares in the lower middle section of the puzzle, what with the obscurity of the neighboring answers EWEN (106d. [Gershwin biographer David]) and ELOGE (99d. [Funeral delivery of old]) crossing the odd three-word entry A LEG UP (117a. [Some starting help]). 104a. [Take blows for] was a fairly tough clue for SHIELD, too. Plus these answers were all sandwiched in between two piece-them-together theme answers.
Other rough bits:
- 40a. [Period of the Cenozoic Era], NEOGENE. Neogene, you’re no Triassic.
- 55a. [Sapling], TREELET. Didn’t know that was a word.
- 64a. [Amo : I love :: ___ : I hate], ODI. How appropriate for this unfamiliar foreign word to mean “I hate,” because I don’t care for the entry. What is this, anyway? Italian? Spanish? Latin? Romansch?
- 87a. [All riled up], IRED, meh, crossing 71d. [Taking a certain tone], HUED. We don’t see HUED much without a preceding word; Merriam-Webster agrees it is usually used in combos. “Taking a certain tone” sounds like it’s talking about emotional tone, and then the answer is just a small bundle of disappointment.
- 54d. [“Bambi” doe], ENA. Been a while since we’ve seen her, no? Didn’t miss ENA.
- 43d. [“___ gut”], SEHR. “Very good” in German. Easy if you know German, probably difficult otherwise.
- 62a. [“Back to the Future” villains], LIBYANS.
- 83a. [Tops off?], BEHEADS. Clue doesn’t quite work grammatically but it makes beheading as cute as it can be.
- 92a. [Source of ivory], WARTHOG. Warthog tusks are considered ivory? I had no idea. Apparently their tusks can be carved scrimshaw style.
- 94a. [About a quarter of the population of Sicily lives on its slopes], ETNA. Fresh clue for an old answer.
- 121a. [On the receiving end of a Dear John letter], DUMPED.
- 13d. [Lines to Wrigley Field], ELS. Well, actually, I would just say that one El line (the Red Line, northbound and southbound) goes to Wrigley. The same line goes to Cellular Field on the South Side.
- 49d. [He’s 2, for one], AT. NO. Blah answer, but the initial capital letter obscures the use of He, helium, instead of the pronoun he.
3.5 stars from me. I would have liked to see smoother fill overall.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Smooth as (Barry?) silk 70-worder from constructor Doug Peterson:
- Two toon-related entries in the center, first [Bugs Bunny cartoon loosely based on Wagner’s Ring Cycle] was WHAT’S OPERA, DOC? and then [Justice League member] or BATMAN above that.
- [Pungent burger topping] or GORGONZOLA had me thinking of the marquee entry in a Trip Payne Wacky Weekend Warrior, which was GORGONZOLAESQUE, a play on Byron Waldon’s ZOLAESQUE entry in an ACPT final puzzle.
- Not sure how to parse the clue [For, for against] for OPPOSITE. Oh, now I get it, “for” is the opposite of “against.”
- The clue [Pall Mall users] had me thinking of London, but instead it was the brand of cigarettes, and was SMOKERS.
- Another misdirection for me was [Make out] for FARE, as I was thinking of either discerning or kissing at first. “How’d you fare?” is definitely synonymous with “How’d you make out?”
- Funny to see the clue [Pete who won seven Wimbledon titles] as I’m currently watching Wawrinka v. Nadal in the Australian Open. The Swiss player just won in four sets as I write this sentence!
- [Not push the envelope] for PLAY IT SAFE was another fun entry.
Patrick Berry’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 199” – Gareth’s review
This is a Patrick Berry puzzle. Mr. Berry has a singular approach to his puzzles; I’m sure most of you would’ve guessed he was the author without even looking at the by-line! It’s 27/66 with unusually fat stacks in the four corners, and only two answers of 10 or more letters. The hallmark of Patrick Berry puzzles of course is present: I can’t see one questionable answer! Not one! There are no partials, no contrived answers or infrequently used abbreviations. To achieve this, Mr. Berry has employed a combination of construction magic and low Scrabble-value letters. There is only one K and no Q, J, X or Z to be seen. There are also an abnormally high number of E’s (27).
Another high point of this puzzle was clueing. With very few splashy answers (HIDEYHOLE and HERBALPERT would be them) it’s up to the clues to provide the fun. Usually, this means misdirection, but straight-forward but pretty clues like [Bridal path markers] for ROSEPETALS are also welcome. [U.S. region that’s growing?] is a cute if obvious mis-direction. [Singular bunch] ODDBALLS was more opaque as was [Turner of movies] REEL. [Topless bit of attire] SANDAL was another common word that had to emerge via word pattern! [Fictitious film of 1979, or a real film of 2012] for ARGO was obvious in hindsight but perplexing before it appeared!
[Printer’s pointers] FISTNOTES was the one answer wholly unfamiliar to me – it’s in the dictionary. I imagine that, as a name, [Desktop pop-up], DIALOG may be unfamiliar to many; actually, it’s thing every computer user will be familiar with – those standard windows like “save”, “open”, and “print” are called dialog boxes or dialogs.
Very impressive technically, as always. From a solving point of view, slightly on the mundane side but without anything iring either.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “The L, You Say”
This pun theme was crafted by adding an L sound (or two) to otherwise L-free words, adjusting the spelling as needed:
- 23a. [Pre-coffee condition?], BLURRED BRAIN. Birdbrain.
- 29a. [Literary character who’s as charmin’ as a slug?], SLIMIN’ LEGREE. I haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin so I know this character, Simon Legree, from crossword clues for LEGREE. Just looked at Cruciverb.com to review the past LEGREE clues—they’re terrible. The character was a cruel slave owner who orders Tom whipped to death and “sexually exploits” a female character. [Fictional meanie] trivializes the hell out of that, doesn’t it?
- 36a. [The small dots on your dog after he’s been sprayed?] LATE FLEAS. Late fees.
- 39a. [“He … vas … my … boyfriend!” from “Young Frankenstein,” for example?], A CLORIS LINE. Cloris Leachman, A Chorus Line.
- 57a. [Ode to a guitarist?], O CLAPTON, MY CLAPTON. “O Captain, my captain.” I kinda dig this one.
- 65a. [“I promise to ski safely today,” for example?], SLALOM OATH. Solemn oath. Man, does SLALO MOATH, SLA LOMOATH, SLALOMO ATH look weird in the grid.
- 70a. [Drink of choice among weight-conscious vampires?], BLOOD LIGHT. Bud Light. Cute.
- 78a. [The usual taunt from the crowd when the ball-playing urologists are up?], HEY, BLADDER, BLADDER. “Hey, batter, batter.”
- 97a. [Tarzan’s order to Cheeta when the wedding bouquets didn’t arrive?], WAKE FLORIST. Wake Forest University.
- 101a, 120a. [With 120 Across, query often heard at Urban Squalor Outfitters?], DO YOU HAVE / SLUMWEAR TO GO? Somewhere. Ugh, don’t care for the SLUMWEAR concept.
- 109a. [Mall store that caters to “the choosy floozy”?], SLATTERNALIA. Saturnalia meets slattern.
Uneven theme, in terms of my enjoyment. A few good puns and a few “uh, no” puns.
Uneven fill, too. 32a. [Survey participants], POLLEES? I’ve never heard of LIO, 58d. [Comic strip boy whose friends are monsters and aliens]—haven’t gotten a daily newspaper with comics since well before the strip began in 2006. AURAE RASA EXO- -ALGIA SHAY PLEB DOSO ESTOP ENIAC LYS MDL SETA MATA PROV AGER ANAT? A few more of those all over the grid than I would have liked—just kept running into fill I didn’t care for.
Three stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Combobulated” — pannonica’s write-up
The theme answers play with phrases involving so-called “unpaired words“—those that would appear to have a related word but don’t, or if they do are exceedingly rare or obsolete. Some, in a process superficially similar to convergent evolution—which in turn is also a phenomenon of superficiality—have been imported from foreign languages and only through the processes of transliteration and alteration appear to have salient prefixes or suffixes.
- 25a. [Boys not at all awkward?] GAINLY LADS (ungainly).
- 27a. [Adventures of the timid?] TREPID VOYAGES (intepid).
- 35a. [Muss-free clothing?] SHEVELED DRESS (disheveled).
- 51a. [Well-behaved gathering?] RULY CROWD (unruly).
- 57a. [Good social skills?] COUTH MANNERS (uncouth).
- 63a. [Unlikely blues theme?] REQUITED LOVE (unrequited). “You Threw Your Love on Me Too Strong” – Albert King (1969), though arguably portrays unrequitedness in the opposite direction.
- 73a. [Tresses always in place?] KEMPT HAIR (unkempt).
- 84a. [Faulty sense of style?] PECCABLE TASTE (impeccable).
- 96a. [Easily-toted bundle?] WIELDY PACKAGE (unweildy).
- 99a. [Zesty jokes?] SIPID HUMOR (insipid).
I enjoy frolicking in the sandbox of language and (slightly) tethered absurdity, so these fanciful curiosities catch my fancy. That said, I was a somewhat gruntled by the presence of prime-candidate-for-inclusion-by-association 54d INEPT [Possessing two left feet] (disinestropodism). See also 70d [Left footprints] TROD.
Incidentally, why does a clue like that go without a modifier—either a question mark or the word “say” preceded by a comma, while 68a [Purrfectionist?] for CAT takes one? I imagine it’s ostensibly the nonsense spelling, but in my opinion that alteration is so patently obvious that it obviates the need for special treatment. Incidentally, then: 85d [Piebald, as a puss] CALICO and 56a [Feline wail] YOWL, but not 81a CLAWS [Talon show exhibit?].
- Longdowns HULA SKIRT, POMPOSITY, KAYAKERS, HABITUAL.
- KLATCH [Kin to a bee] appears s-less here, but with the other spelling in this past Friday’s Wall Street Journal.
- 19a [King stuck to a wheel in Hades] IXION. For offending the gods, natch. He’s sometimes pictured with his punishment cohorts Tantalus and Sisyphus. Although he’s described as being bound hand and foot to a large wheel, some representations show him on the wheel’s face in the manner of the famous Vitruvian Man, while others have interpreted the punishment as affixment to the rim, which offers repeated crushing as well as perpetual dizziness. Those wacky gods!
- 83d [Polar features, so far] ICE CAPS. Not sure what the generally conservative Wall Street Journal’s official stance on climate change is.
- 53d [Do a puzzle] SOLVE, the vertical center entry.
Fun theme, strong supporting fill, engaging cluing: above average crossword.
Mark Feldman’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Just Say No”
NO is inserted into familiar phrases to give them a bump in a new direction:
- 24a. [Congressman lacking influence?], LEGISLATIVE NOBODY.
- 31a. [Inexperienced company leader?], NOVICE PRESIDENT.
- 53a. [Conquer one’s Pachelbel addiction?], KICK THE CANON.
- 69a. [Flight getting in at 12:00?], NOONTIME ARRIVAL.
- 85a. [Chamber group income?], NONET REVENUE.
- 103a. [Promo line for an open wine bar?], BOTTOMLESS PINOT. Cute!
- 116a. [Unimportant orbiter?], MINOR SPACE STATION.
Fairly straightforward, mildly entertaining, gets the crossword theme job done.
Toughest crossings section:
- 4a. [Peter who produced James Taylor’s debut album], ASHER. Proper name, not a household name.
- 20a. [Now, in Spain], AHORA. Not among the top 10 most familiar Spanish words for non-Spanish-speakers.
- 4d. [Finnish architect Alvar __], AALTO. Known mostly to hardcore crossworders and perhaps architecture buffs.
- 6d. [Greedy], HOGGISH. Could be the more common PIGGISH, which I filled in first.
- 7d. [“___ tu”: Verdi aria], ERI.
Crosswordese I haven’t seen in a while: 65d. [Heraldic border], ORLE.
Top clue: 48d. [One who more than just trash-talks?], LITTERBUG.
The fill’s mostly workmanlike, not a ton of sparkle but not a ton of junk, either. 3.5 stars.