Evan Birnholz’s New York Times crossword
Ha! Great theme:
- 18a. [-], HELL IF I KNOW.
- 24a. [-], I’M STUMPED.
- 37a. [-], BEATS ME.
- 52a. [-], DON’T ASK ME.
- 57a. Phrase that defines (and describes) 18-, 24-, 37- and 52-Across], I HAVE NO CLUE.
I love this theme! HELL IF I KNOW is my favorite answer in weeks. It’s a little meta, with the clue/no clue dealio and the way you may be stumped by a clue.
Now, there are five theme answers in Evan’s puzzle, and yet the fill is quite smooth. The five entries account for 47 theme squares, which is a rather ordinary amount and lets the grid breathe. So we get “HEY, YOU,” STONE AGE, GET EVEN, POKEMON, SUNSPOTS, and ERSATZ brightening up the long answers, and GCHAT (that’s Google’s chat app, which I access on the Gmail page), ROGET, JUNK and OOZE adding a little oomph in the short range.
It’s not all awesomeness, though. I raised an eyebrow at 46a. [Flying machines, quaintly], AEROS, which felt unfamiliar, and ARETE, a 53d. [Glacial ridge], falls into my crosswordese category. I do like OTO, 12d. [Ear-related prefix], because back in another era I was the managing editor for a book series we called “Oto” for short (Advances in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, to be specific); ah, memories. I reckon some of you are crying foul at the inclusion of both OTO and OTOE, 45a. [Siouan tribesman], given that sometimes OTO gets an Otoe clue. I don’t see it as a dupe, but OTOE appears far too often in crosswords. Too much Otoe, not enough Ojibwa and Lenape and Cherokee, you know?
4.25 stars. Those theme answers were fun to piece together!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “We Lost the WW” – Dave Sullivan’s review
It’s arguable if there were any “winners” or “losers” in the two World Wars to date, but today it’s clear that solvers of this puzzle were on the losing side:
- [Arab country suffering from an outbreak of poison ivy?] clued ITCHY OMAN – especially if they are in less than 400-count muslin kaftans. The original term “witchy woman” feels pejorative to me–is there a corresponding male equivalent? There is this Eagles hit, though.
- [Introduction of designer Gucci?] was HERE’S ALDO – just this answer alone was worth the price of admission today for its sheer amusement factor. The base phrase was the picture game “Where’s Waldo?”
- [Assassin of model Carol?] clued ALT HITMAN – not enjoying the reference to assassins here; I wonder if it could have been alternatively clued as “Indie site for assassins,” which still keeps the assassins, but doesn’t pick out a victim. Be kind of interesting to see what chats might go on at that alternative site. Anyway, transcendentalist Walt Whitman was the base phrase here.
- Nice tie-in to the actual movie with [Phoning a “phone home” character?] or RINGING ET – not sure offhand how to stylize ET, is it E.T.? Anyway, the base phrase here was “wringing wet,” which makes me think of facecloths or dogs-just-out-of-ponds.
Seemed like a lot of care went into the theme selection and cluing in this one and I was appreciative of that. Small nit was the presence of two other W’s in the fill– the crossing of BMWS and WICK as well as RAW and WEST. The latter could easily have been RAT/TEST or RAN/NEST, but the first would take a bit more work to remove. I enjoyed the clue [Twelve follower] for ONE, as we’re talking about clocks here. Speaking of which, those of us that observe it, don’t forget to turn ahead your clocks this coming Saturday night/Sunday morning! (Since it’s the weekend of the ACPT as well, that means less sleep before puzzle 7 and the finals!)
Patrick Blindauer’s March website puzzle, “Choose Your Weapon” — Matt’s review
Three times you must do what the title says, choosing between two weapons: MACHINE or SCATTER GUN, MISSILE or GRENADE LAUNCHER, and BOWIE or STEAK KNIFE. Guess if I were on the receiving end I’d go with scatter, grenade and steak, but all six are pretty menacing.
Your choices are presented through semi-Schrodinger squares, clued doubly instead of once as in a true Schrodinger. But even with the double clues it still took some fancy stepping to get everything to fit.
Good theme idea, but what I’d like to focus on here are how great Patrick’s clues are. Not many crosswords you can list a “10 best clues” on, but we can here:
[Dog star] = ASTA
[Chain that just announced a breakfast menu which includes the A.M. Crunchwrap™] = TACO BELL
[Met expectations?] = ARIAS
[Team building] = ARENA
[Warm & ___ (OPI color named for a Muppet)] = FOZZIE
[Internet start-up?] = WWW
[Live shot] = AMMO
[Bill with global warming warnings] = NYE
[Down a torpedo] = EAT
[Places for some monkey business?] = ZOOS
Good fill: RSS FEEDS, PIZZA and LAGER, the aforementioned TACO BELL, and SUPERB.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “House Additions”
The “house additions” are fashion houses, or more specifically, two-letter logos that represent them. Those logos get inserted into familiar phrases to create clueable new phrases:
- 18a. [Treat for a solstice party with an image of Gaia drawn in icing?], PAGAN CAKE. Pancake with Giorgio Armani’s GA inserted. I wasn’t familiar with the Armani initials logo.
- 28a. [Live video of the 2008 presidential runner-up going about his daily life?], MCCAIN STREAM. Mainstream + Coco Chanel’s CC.
- 38a. [The pairs of letters inserted into each of this puzzle’s theme answers, for example], FASHION MONOGRAM.
- 46a. [One at the wheel of a gherkinmobile?], PICKLE DRIVER. Pile driver + Calvin Klein’s CK.
- 61a. [“All right, y’all, let’s get in the old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage!”], “BUGGY TIME!” Buy time + Guccio Gucci’s GG. Never knew Gucci’s full name; had assumed it was just a pair of G’s both standing for Gucci.
The gherkinmobile and “BUGGY TIME!” bits amused me.
Did not know:
- 1a. [Fuel for some prop planes], AV GAS. I don’t own a prop plane, if you can believe that.
- 6d. [Letters for some accounting firms], LLP. Limited liability partnership.
Six more things:
- 45a. [“What ___ gonna wear to this thing?], AM I. If by “this thing” you mean the ACPT, then the answer is jeans, corduroys, and assorted sweaters. No couture for me this year; I just wasn’t moved by what I saw on the runways.
- 51a. [“The Da Vinci Code” group], OPUS DEI. Are they real or fictional or mythical?
- 56a. [Org. in which “everybody played with a gay teammate,” per Charles Barkley], NBA. See also: NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA. Just because someone isn’t out to you doesn’t mean they’re not in the LGBTetc. category.
- 67a. [“Hey-oh, keep the urologic details to yourself”], TMI. I once edited a paper on male STDs from a urology standpoint. I have an awesome bit of TMI from that paper that I can share by email, but it’s too horrifying to present on the blog.
- 39d. [“They was watchin ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ / What’s the ___ on the craps?”: Ice Cube], HAPS. A friend of mine uses “What’s the haps?” in conversation so I totally nailed this one. Did not know it was an Ice Cube reference although she probably told me.
- 52d. [Deen of wince-inducing language], PAULA. Her latest was likening herself to Michael Sam, “the black football player” who came out. I guess Paula felt it was important to distinguish Sam from all the white, Latino, and Asian football players who’ve come out, to prevent confusion in her audience.
3.5 stars. LLP and AVGAS offset the liveliness of things like KIBITZ and NASCAR.
John R. O’Brien’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth
Ok, I’m cooking and blogging! Hope my roast chicken doesn’t catch!
Today’s puzzle is low-density, but has a cute theme by debutant? constructor John O’Brien. It’s kind of similar to February 5’s puzzle (exactly 1 month ago!) by Zhouqin Burnikel, which spelt out NEIN/O/TO/WON/OH. Here, DOUBLE/OH/SEVEN, which is James Bond, created by IANFLEMING is the spelt out number. BOND is found in the corners, but I think that’s a bit of an unnecessary touch, possibly brought on because the the theme squares are less than is customary these days. I think it’s better for newer constructors to start small, 38 theme squares is just fine! We have:
- 16a, [Outing for four], DOUBLEDATE.
- 24a, [“Don’t tell me!”], OHBROTHER.
- 49a, [World waters], SEVENSEAS. A phrase with an odd history…
As with the low density theme, the puzzle is blacker than usual with 3 extra pairs of “helper squares”. Again, I think more people would be irked by poor quality fill than a few more black squares, so for new constructors, this is a good ploy. There a two A- partials (ABEE and ASTAB) and TVA doesn’t resonate with me, but maybe you have to be American to appreciate it! That’s not bad going! and I did appreciate the other literary long answer, MICHENER: I’ve read a good number of his novels! “The Covenant” is surprisingly insightful about South Africa’s history, for instance.