Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
The theme includes those three big letter T’s made of black squares as well as the three 15s with T.T.T. initials:
- 16a. [Triumphing], TURNING THE TRICK. Say what?? I have never, ever, not once, heard this usage. “Turning tricks” means having sex with paying customers. Is this “winning” sense of the words at all common enough to merit having it sprawled across a newspaper crossword? I did some Googling and couldn’t find a reference that supported this. I’m sure one of you will have better luck.
- 33a. [Traditional pre-Christmas activity], TRIMMING THE TREE.
- 53a. [Testifying accurately], TELLING THE TRUTH.
These phrases are not particularly colorful or fun or interesting, so I do not find much cleverness to the theme.
And the grid pattern, built around those big black T’s, locks in a lot of long answers that cross the theme answers with a lot of short junk in the midst. I simply did not enjoy the puzzle. While SHEESH, SHAR-PEI, HIGH NOON, and STRIKE ZONES are zippy, there was an underlying mood of despair. LETHAL AGENT and TOE TAG and HARA-KIRI? That’s three death answers. And AGED OUT, or 52a. [Became too old for foster care, say], evokes sadness too. I also was nudged out of the happiness zone by fill like SHUTTLER, HOI, POS, TKO, CLIC, TOTIE, SST, O COME, EPI-, -ENE, PDT, and AD REM.
There will be those who are enchanted to find the big T’s drawn in the grid, yes. But me, I am left grousing that the last three NYT puzzles with a visual twist have all been letdowns; Liz Gorski remains the undisputed heavyweight champion of the grid-art world in my book. Two poinT Three stars from me.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Stuff of Nursery Rhymes” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Four things (“stuff”) that you’d find in a popular nursery rhyme:
- [“Jack Be Nimble” obstacle] was a CANDLESTICK – also an obstacle for New England bowlers.
- [“Little Miss Muffet” dish] clued CURDS AND WHEY – I know some people eat whey as a protein supplement, but I’m afraid curds on their own would be rather disgusting, unless salted. Is cottage cheese just curds or has it been processed in any additional way?
- [“Three Blind Mice” chopper] was CARVING KNIFE – I’m not as familiar with this rhyme, something about “see how they run,” but then I get lost on the rest (which must include something about a carving knife).
- [“Jack and Jill” burden] was a PAIL OF WATER – fetched from the top of a hill, no?
I found this theme a bit odd, not sure if I’m missing some connection between these four objects, other than their mention in four different nursery rhymes. Why not WATER SPOUT or LITTLE LAMB? Row 4 had an old-timey vibe with K-TEL preceding VHS, but I did like the all-consonant action of BMWS and CNBC. I was about to call foul on the the entry for [Sold-out Broadway shows] for SROS, thinking you can’t pluralize it like that, but it ended up being HITS instead. Never mind.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Outsourcing”
Interesting theme that plays with language. Various phrases like “desk job” are redefined as if they are jobs specifically focused on the the key word.
- 1a. [With “job,” what a 56-Across might do], DESK / 56a. [See 1-Across], WOODWORKER. Hand-crafting desks, not shuffling papers.
- 5a. [With “job,” what a 37-Across might do], RUSH / 37a. [See 5-Across], MUSIC PRODUCER. Producing records for Rush, not hurrying.
- 9a. [With “job,” what a 25-Across might do], HACK / 25a. [See 9-Across], PROGRAMMER. Computer hacking, not doing a slapdash job.
- 17a. [See 66-Across], MANICURIST / 66a. [With “job,” what a 17-Across might do], HAND. Shaping and polishing fingernails, not [crude reference redacted].
- 46a. [See 55-Across], DRUG DEALER / 55a. [With “job,” what a 46-Across might do], BLOW. Selling cocaine, or blow, not [crude reference redacted].
The occupational terms occupy the five longest Across slots, and the short partner words are in the top row and two random spots near the bottom. The deviation from symmetry is okay because you can’t have two symmetrically placed sets of five items in a single grid unless the two center answers cross in the middle square. I liked the redefinition theme—it’s a category that Merl Reagle has long trafficked in, but with a fresh all-in-the-grid angle.
- 45a. [Words from one asking for a smack?], KISS ME. Smack on the lips.
- 4d. [“Jump” group], KRIS KROSS. The NYT recently had KRISS KROSS clued as a variety puzzle; note the extra S.
- 6d. [Geller who beefed with the Amazing Randi], URI. I like any reference to the Amazing Randi, and “beefed” as a verb is fun.
- 26d. [Widely televised ’90s courtroom spectacle], O.J. TRIAL. Did you see the various memes during/after the Super Bowl mentioning O.J.’s friend’s white Bronco? “Last great run by a Bronco was in 1994.” This, when the Denver Broncos were having a hard time scoring.
Lowlights: CITEE, A AND M with its ampersand spelled out, crosswordese beastie AGAMA (23d. [Insect-eating lizard]), the WAH/OLA/OON trio.
Did not know:
- 45d. [Creative spelling for some hip-hop collectives], KREW.
- 46d. [Bill W.’s partner in founding AA], DR. BOB.
- 2d. [MTV musical honors show held in the Netherlands in 2013], EMA. European Music Awards. This is the awards show where Miley Cyrus appeared to light up a joint on stage.
Jeff Chen & Jim Horne’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
This is a difficult sort of a puzzle to review – a stunt puzzle where each answer has at least one “H” in it. It also has 49 black squares, far more than the norm, and almost normal symmetry, except for those 2 cheater/helpers squares in the top-middle (either side of “who”).
Despite the extreme difficulty of filling this grid, the result is a puzzle where, apart from going “yep, that one has an ‘h’ too” each time you fill an answer in, there isn’t a lot going on in the puzzle, interest-wise. A few of the 7s were nice: WHATTHE, MADDASH, and HAWKEYE; I assume these were seed answers. There are also inevitable short-fill issues, handled as well as you’d expect with Jeff Chen’s byline on the grid, but there was still plenty of ADISH/HEPT/OTHE type action going on.
2.5 stars. Extremely impressive grid-filling, but the result is inevitably uninteresting as a crossword puzzle.