Chris McGlothlin’s New York Times crossword
Hey! This puzzle took me a Saturdayish amount of time. I approve. I hate a weekend whose themeless puzzles aren’t challenging enough.
I don’t always approach a puzzle with stacked 15s with a happy heart (your mileage may vary—if you love triple stacks, you probably ought to buy Martin Ashwood-Smith’s Triple-Stack Crosswords), but I liked how this one turned out, with the exception of the ONE’Sie in the bottom row. Good stuff:
- 1a. [“No more wasting time!”], “LET’S DO THIS THING.” Contemporary, casual language.
- 26a. [Parked cars], VALETED. The dictionary may not reflect the indirect usage I’ve heard—”Did you valet the car?” meaning “Did you hand the keys over to a valet who then parked the car?”—but I bet it will eventually. It already knows the usage in this clue.
- 45a. [Musical instrument for a geisha], SAMISEN. I believe I learned this word from crosswords, mostly themeless ones, but it figured into Memoirs of a Geisha too (with the shamisen spelling).
- 56a. [Numbats], BANDED ANTEATERS. I pieced the answer together from the crossings despite having never heard of a numbat before. Apparently it is a small Australian marsupial that eats termites. (The word wombat derives from the same family of Australian languages.) Numbats! “You numbat! Watch where you’re going!”
- 59a. [Washington report starter], “I CANNOT TELL A LIE.” George Washington, not Washington, D.C.
- 1d. [Caribbean capital, to locals], LA HABANA. Entirely unfamiliar but still somehow gettable. Habanero peppers help. This is part of what gives the puzzle a Saturday vibe. Numbats, La Habana…
- 4d. [Trash talk], SMACK. If you talk smack about someone, you’re trash-talking.
- 8d. [Immobilized], HOG-TIED. Colorful phrase.
- 11d. [Texting ta-ta], TTYL. “Talk to you later.” Fresh and modern.
- 9d. [Needing], IN WANT OF. Sure, the phrase looks boring, but to me it evokes Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in a want of a wife.”
- 22d. [Practice test?], BAR EXAM. In order to practice law, you gotta pass that test. I like the clue.
- 23d. [Square things], GET EVEN. I hope plenty of solvers asked themselves, “What things are square here?”
- 36d. [“Live más” sloganeer], TACO BELL. Great entry.
The least savory answers are LEU (54a. [Romanian capital], meaning currency) and ELP (58d. [Grp. with the 1971 gold album “Pictures at an Exhibition”], Emerson, Lake & Palmer). We have one partial (A RAIL), foreign AMICI and ANANAS, a few abbreviations—but no glut of bad stuff and plenty of interesting stuff.
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Six-Act Puzzle” – Dave Sullivan’s review
As the title implies, we have six theme entries that (roughly) rhyme with ACT + one more word:
- [Lost consciousness] was BLACKED OUT
- [Dirtied the floor with] clued TRACKED IN – this phrase feels a bit incomplete without an object here.
- [Retreated] clued BACKED OFF
- [Ate between meals] was SNACKED ON – Frito Lay hopes we all will be doing a lot of that on Sunday!
- [Laughed hysterically] was CRACKED UP
- [Attached, as carpet] was TACKED DOWN
Happy to see that last word be different in each case–ON/OFF, UP/DOWN and IN/OUT. I guess your mileage will vary depending on how close these “-ACKED” words rhyme with “ACT.” Nice challenge for the constructor to stack two theme entries on top of each other, separated by just one row, although that one-two old-timey punch of DOLOR and IPANA shows a bit of the strain of this. I really enjoyed the longer downs of MALADROIT ([Clumsy]) and the high Scrabble valued PEACH FUZZ ([Adolescent boy’s first beard, slangily]), and thought the fill in general was above par, particularly with the theme density.
Marie Kelly’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just for Clicks” — pannonica’s write-up
Your standard hidden word theme, announced at the oddly-located 108d [Clickable item found in the seven longest Across answers] ICON. Obviously, these are modern, computer icons and not, for instance, the gilded Russian Orthodox antiquities.
- 23a. [“Give Peace a Chance” group] PLASTIC ONO BAND.
- 38a. [The Green Mountain Boys captured it in 1775] FORT TICONDEROGA.
- 47a. [Chip component] SEMICONDUCTOR.
- 68a. [Declaration after a successful campaign] I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED, which often appears piecemeal in crosswords from the original Latin incarnation, VENI, VEDI, VICI.
- 92a. [Texas’s state dish] CHILI CON CARNE.
- 100a. [Lyrica and Valium, for two] ANTICONVULSANTS.
- 116a. [Aid for some surfers] WIFI CONNECTION.
Admittedly not the most heart-stopping theme concept, but the execution of it is superb. Every one of the seven answers is lengthy, interesting, and wholly in-the-language. There’s much variation in word count: two are one-word, two are two-word, two are three-word, and one—the centerpiece—is comprised of six words. Three present ICON intralexically and four offer it spanning words. Further, two pairs of the themers overlap for seven letters, tightening up the grid both technically and impressionistically.
The final theme answer reminds us of the context. See also, in the top center: 20a [Right-click result, often] POP-UP MENU.
- Newfangled stuff I didn’t know: 85a [Singer Grande] ARIANA; 79a [Headey of “Game of Thrones’} LENA; 101d [Harry Potter’s uncle] VERNON (not so new, but I’ve so little interest in the whole phenomenon that any but the broadest details are beyond my ken).
- I MIGHT, A TOAST, HAS A GO AT, AS IN, A TAD—not too many of those, whew. Conversely, these are much better: I LOVE IT, LEAVES OUT, SETS TO, AT HOME, AT ONCE, et cetera.
- No duplication with 10d [Place with a wet floor] SEA and 65d [Hub for Alaska Airlines] SEATAC, which derives from “Seattle-Tacoma.”
- Plural abbrevs.: SEMS, AGS, , MPS, WACS. Not sure why that last one seems less irksome than the others. And you know, MPS is all right too. Shortened plurals MEDS and REPS are ok, but [One with DPL plates] AMB makes up for them.
- Some fun fill: DOOFUS, AQUARIUS, MOSAIC, MIDDLE C, BAD COP.
- 30a [Snuggeries] DENS. Snuggeries!
- Can’t parse 1d [Monitor, in a way] TAP.
I could go on, grazing and browsing, but the gist is that the fill has typical crossword diversity. What really helps the puzzle to cohere beyond the realization of the theme is the considered and sensitive editing, principally clue resonance. Since Marie Kelly is Really Mike, I have no qualms here about possibly slighting the constructor. Some highlights include:
- 31a [Superbowl III champs] JETS, 50a [1990 World Series champs] REDS.
- 24d [Winery worker] TASTER followed by 29d [Before, in Burgundy] AVANT.
- 11d [Rustic hotels] INNS, 104a [Rustic hotels] LODGES.
- Clever clue 33d [Perilous drops?] ACID RAIN, paralleled by 51d [Takes a dip] SAGS.
Taken altogether, an above average puzzle.
Mark Feldman’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Backwaters” — pannonica’s write-up
Watery locales—real places—comprised of two words, the second literally an aquatic feature, but clued with an ostensibly different sense.
- 17a. [Stolen mattress parts?] HOT SPRINGS.
- 25a. [What happens when a leaner gets jostled?] HORSESHOE FALLS.
- 44a. [BBC station?] ENGLISH CHANNEL.
- 55a. [Storage site for masses of ice?] GLACIER BAY.
Maybe my expectations are too high, but this theme seems rather flimsy to me. It’s essentially just “water places”—nothing much holds them together, gives them a shape.
Let’s first examine the “backwater” part. That is, the back part of each phrase that’s the literal water component. SPRINGS: coiled solid structures, though they share the potential leaping quality of some aquifer outlets. FALLS: an object drops due to gravity, just like the falls section of a river. CHANNEL: a band of frequencies through which information runs, compared to a waterway path. BAY: a compartment of a larger structure, typically with three sides, versus an analogous aspect of a shoreline. To my mind, none of these homonyms are radically different in meaning, which isn’t to say that the dual senses are precisely the same; it’s a matter of degree.
Next, the front end. HOT: stolen, versus describing a high temperature; certainly there’s a metaphorical correlation—a hot item is something you want to get rid of as soon as possible, whether it’s a potato or a car. HORSESHOE: an actual horseshoe, and something that’s shaped like a horseshoe. ENGLISH: demonym in both instances. GLACIER: a large mass of ice, twice. So that’s just one of the four that demonstrates notable difference in meaning. In this light, perhaps it would’ve been better if all four didn’t.
Now, the locations themselves. HOT SPRINGS: many places with this moniker, but the most well-known is Hot Springs, Arkansas – a geologic feature with dozens of component springs, a National Park containing them, and the nearby town that is the eleventh largest in the state. HORSESHOE FALLS: again, more than one place that goes by the name, the most famous by far is the Canadian component (=90%) of Niagara Falls. ENGLISH CHANNEL: joining the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, separating England and France. GLACIER BAY: an arm of the Pacific Ocean, the core of another National Park. Again, not much holds these together, and in this case variation isn’t a virtue. Two are freshwater, two saltwater. Three (or 2½, or 2.9) are part of the United States (or you could say relatively definitively that 3 are North American) and one is from Elsewhere.
And so I return to the notion that the theme isn’t much more than “water places.” And that’s rather limp, and it leaves me feeling all wet.
- Long downs. STOCKADE, clued the CHE way as [Wall Street was built along one]; this may evoke for some solvers the notion that Canal Street was built along a waterway called a canal. 36d [Calorie-counter’s counter] SALAD BAR; fun clue, but the BAR part unfortunately reminded me of the nautical “submerged or partly submerged bank (as of sand) along a shore or in a river often obstructing navigation” (m-w), so while it isn’t a water place per se, it can be close enough in sense so as to provide a navigational solving hazard.
Regarding the theme, I find the first of these connections vague and tenuous enough to be amusing, and the latter to be distracting.
- 57a and 62a share the clue [ __ Nebula]. One is CRAB and the other is EAGLE. The former seems strong enough, but somehow the latter too vague, as a result the duplicate cluing, which I’d normally welcome, feels too forced.
- Best Higher Education vibe™ clues: 41a GOTH [Battle of Adrianople warrior]; 8d EGG [Object in an apocryphal story about Christopher Columbus].
- Debatable clues: 25d [The “H” of HR] HUMAN. 64a [Miller product] BEER.
- Sorry, tongue removed from cheek now.
- Can’t-decide-if-I-like-it-or-not section: bottom right corner. 63a [Suffix with contempt or corrupt] -IBLE, sitting atop 66a [Street __ ] CRED. Just try not to see CREDIBLE, I dare you.
Confusing, vaguely disappointing crossword.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’m really tired, so this is going to be short, which is a shame. It’s a quirky theme using the well-worn coin sequence, but in a surprising manner. The four answers are PENNYSTOCKPHOTO, NICKELBACKTAXES, DIMEADOZENROSES, and QUARTERFINALCUT. As you see, they all begin with US coin nicknames, but then have additional phrases tacked onto them.
Despite 4 spanners, it has a wealth of delicious answers: TONELOC, the wacky looking OREOOS, quaint MIXTAPE, more contemporary DROPBOX and KINECT, LETSSEE. With so many good’uns and so much theme something has to give: there are a few difficult answers, but the big clunker is STETTED. I’m not sure that’s something that is said. Can you convince me otherwise?