Martin Ashwood-Smith and Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
Alrighty, we’ve got a double quad-stack puzzle formed by welding one of Martin’s stacks to one of Joe’s, and the solder in the middle has the same gritty mouthfeel as the short crossings of the quad-stacks. There are definitely some lively bits, yes, but also some things I did not enjoy.
First up, the highlights:
- 10d. [Go a couple of rounds], SLUG IT OUT. Love it!
- 56a. [One given up for good?], SACRIFICIAL LAMB. The lamb may dispute your goodness.
- 61a. [“What a sight for sore eyes!”], “AM I GLAD TO SEE YOU!”
- 36d. [One getting rid of possessions?], EXORCIST. Great clue.
- 63a. [Unease], ANTS IN ONE’S PANTS. I knew we’d have at least one ONE’Sie in here. I should have guessed this phrase would appear as Martin has used it in at least six (!) other puzzles, per the Cruciverb database.
ADELAIDE’S LAMENT, the [Frank Loesser show tune], felt crosswordily familiar as well; Joe used it in a 2012 NYT themeless. And the outdated-sounding GASOLINE STATION also rang a bell; 2013 Krozel puzzle! Now, Martin made an April Fools Day puzzle with A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE and SCARLET TANAGERS in it, plus AMY, REX, and DEB in the center row, so it is no secret that bloggers may take note when those big, sprawly 15s make repeat appearances. SATELLITE STATES: two Ashwood-Smiths, one Krozel. MARINE INSURANCE: one from Martin. Guys! We noticed again. I dunno—it must be tremendously rewarding for the contructors to wrangle 15s like jigsaw puzzle pieces and make them fit, but the appeal of turning to many of the same 15s with favorable letter patterns is lost on me.
SINGING TOGETHER feels contrived to me … which may account for its absence in the Cruciverb database.
There were a bunch of things I just plain did not know—far more than in the typical Friday or even Saturday NYT.
- 45a. [Chart, in Cádiz], MAPA. Spanish.
- 2d. [“Love and Death on Long Island” novelist Gilbert], ADAIR. Adair translated Georges Perec’s crazy E-less novel.
- 3d. [Lead-tin alloys], TERNES. This looks like old-school crosswordese, and yet I don’t recognize it.
- 8d. [Many a backpacker, at night], TENTER. I had CAMPER.
- 30d. [Songwriters Hall of Fame member who wrote “April Love”], SAMMY FAIN. I had CAHN.
- 37d. [“Third Watch” actress Texada], TIA. It’s an ensemble show, and not a huge hit, and I know of only 4 of the show’s 16 main cast members. Tia Mowry and Tia Carrere, I know; and the liquor Tia Maria and the Spanish “aunt.”
Last weekend Martin mentioned this upcoming puzzle on his Facebook page. I good-naturedly predicted “at least one ONE’Sie, and at least seven 4s I would put in the ‘rather grievous’ category.” Let us take stock and see. Fragments (suffixes, prefixes): IDIO, ENCE, STER, AIRE. Abbrevs ID NO. and SAMS (surface-to-air missiles). Foreign MAPA. Weird RIMY. Ding, ding, ding! We have eight, and that’s not even taking into account the 3s, 5s, and 6s (TARED, TERNES, TENTER). And TEN HOURS is arbitrary; EIGHT HOURS is a thing.
I really don’t think I unfairly have it in for these stacked themelesses. Any other puzzle that dished out ENCE STER MAPA IDNO TERNES would come in for the same critique. It’s just easier to predict what we’re going to encounter in a puzzle whose raison d’être is “look what I made” rather than “ooh, these words are juicy” or “I hope this wordplay theme entertains the solvers.” And I know that there’s a subset of solvers who are enchanted by “look what I made” grids, but I am generally not among them.
2.75 stars from me.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Enter Key” – Dave Sullivan’s review
So, first off, it’s announcement day at DOACF. This will be my final week of CrosSynergy commentaries, as I will be handing over the reins to Adesina Koiki, whose work in the sports field can be enjoyed here. I hope you’ll be looking forward to his unique slant on these daily puzzles as much as I am. Those of you who have been following Amy’s blog for many years will remember Janie Smulyan and I sharing this responsibility prior to Sam Donaldson’s stint and now I’m completing a solo run that will be just a few weeks shy of a year. Best wishes to Addie who will continue the tradition!
On to today’s puzzle! Constructor Gail Grabowski parses the title “Enter Key” as an imperative to add KY to base theme phrases:
- [Brawl between mechanics doing a lube job?] was GUNKY FIGHT – I can’t help but think the “lube” part of this clue was intended to remind us of the theme at work here.
- The reclusive dormouse gets the KY treatment with [Mickey behaving like a doofus?] or a DORKY MOUSE – I think Nancy Kerrigan would agree.
- What seems a bit like a partial to me, “in session” becomes [How-to meeting for making exploding pens] clued INKY SESSION – sounds like something agent Maxwell Smart might attend.
- Finally, another seems-like-a-partial phrase, “per second” becomes [Moment to look bubbly?] or a PERKY SECOND
Though a couple of the base phrases felt like partials, I do have to hand it to the constructor for coming up with some pretty wacKY and enjoyable phrases. Interesting grid construction with that string of 5-letter words marching from right to left down the center section, making for a rather impenetrable wall from the northwest into the rest of the puzzle. CRESS as a [Pungent salad green] seemed a bit unusual to me as I’ve heard of “watercress,” but not sure if this is the same thing. SET LOOSE, DAY CAMP and FOREMAN were highlights of the mid-range fill.
Kurt Krauss’ Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The write-up will be brief, although it’s a very unusual LAT and probably deserves more! From looking at the grid, one could see it wasn’t going to have normal long theme entries. That was confirmed when SADLZLE* emerged from the first corner. *I had ZEUS not DEUS, but I’m sure many of you did! That meant it took longer for me to grasp the theme. A pair of intersecting words imply a phrase with the pattern “a ‘in the’ b” with their positions implying the “in the” part. The only downside to this is it means 5 in effect unchecked squares – a big no-no in general, but the phrases are all very common so no harm no foul. We get BACK “in the” SADDLE, RUNS “in the” FAMILY, MONEY “in the” BANK, LOOK “in the” MIRROR, and DROP “in the” BUCKET.
- [Biblical kingdom near the Dead Sea], MOAB. Aren’t they all?
- [Windsor resident], ONTARIAN. Devious! Home to at least one frequent LA Times crossword constructor!
- [Jackson follower], VANBUREN and [1995 Will Smith/Martin Lawrence film], BADBOYS – are fabulous back to back answers!
- [Seer’s challenge], EYETEST. Seer as in “one who sees”.
- [Prefix with carbon], FLUORO. You again!
This ends a sequence of 3 very unusual and imaginative LA Times puzzle from Wednesday to Friday! I think that theme-wise, this was the best sequence of second-half-of-the-week puzzles since I’ve been blogging!
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Glib Headlines” — pannonica’s write-up
Oh, nothing. Just a breezy, fun theme. Imagined (31d [Headline material]) NEWS headlines, all beginning with a surname possessive and comprised of three rhyming words (possessive, noun, verb). Each of one syllable, for punch.
- 22a. [Headline for a favorable review of “The Black Cat”?] POE’S PROSE GLOWS.
- 32a. [Headline for a rave about Tina’s dramatic works?] FEY’S PLAYS BLAZE.
- 51a. [Headline for an article criticizing banjoist Bela’s distracting glasses?] FLECK’S SPECS VEX. (Acute accent missing from Béla; he was specifically named after Béla Bartôk, as well as Anton Webern and Leoš Janáček.)
- 67a. [Headline for a fluff piece about the success of Ione’s boyfriends?] SKYE’S GUYS RISE. Those headline hacks will say anything. Oh, and in the sky fluffy clouds are usually cumulus, and little fluffy clouds stratocumulus.
- 92a. [Headline for a story praising golfer Michelle’s line of casual shirts?] WIE’S TEES PLEASE.
- 106a. [Headline for a story on comic Josh’s failed IndyCar sponsorships?] BLUE’S CREWS LOSE. Did not know of this person.
- 120a. [Headline for a fashion feature on Brad’s Oscar-night finery?] PITT’S GLITZ FITS.
The proceedings are further enlivened by the very varied spellings of the words which nevertheless all rhyme. For me, anyway; but I honestly can’t imagine any regional accent for which the triumvirate members don’t rhyme with each other (i.e., internally) – though the TRIOs (126a) themselves might not rhyme from one accent to another.
- More than once while solving I found that an answer I’d potentially or provisionally considered for one spot turned out to appear elsewhere in the grid. This phenomenon isn’t terribly unusual, but it seemed more prevalent in this crossword. Enough to make me wonder if it was more than just probability and coincidence and perhaps intentional on the parts of the constructor and editor. Two examples: 44d [One in a black suit] SPADE / 4a [Asian assassin] NINJA. 42d [In that order: Abbr.] RESP. (I had R–SP completed at the time and was still perplexed) / 37a [Abrasive sound] RASP.
- Speaking of RESPectively … worst fill run-down: SCHED., AXA, ITAR-. (100d, 46d, 104a)
- Favorite clues: 60a [It covers all the bases] TARP, 30a [Rafter’s place] CANYON.
- Enjoyed the echo effect of 16d KLUTZ and 77a ERSATZ. Did not particularly enjoy the appearance of both 97a [Platte River people] OTO and 103d [Some Missouri natives] OSAGES in the same grid, even if it is a 21×21.
- A DASH, A FLEA, AGLARE, ASEVER. (83a, 118a, 119a, 8d)
- Lastly, had to wait a while to discover if 13d [Polish sausage] was going to be KIELBASY or KIELBASA. Doing a bit of legwork, I find that the former is a spelling of a locality in Poland while the latter is the most common anglicized spelling of such a sausage. However, I’ve also learned (from the same source) that “In the United States, the form kiełbasa (usually /kiːlˈbɑːsə/ or /kɨˈbɑːsə/) is more often used and comes from the Polish kiełbasa “sausage”. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most areas of Greater New York City, a derivative of the Polish word is used, pronounced /kəˈbɑːsiː/” [emphasis mine]. Another link in research: other North American spellings include kołbasa, klobasa, kobasa, kolbasi, kovbasa, kobasi, and kubas.
Very good puzzle. I think I want a pickle now.
Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Operator Order” — pannonica’s write-up
For the second week in a row, I’m giving the CHE crossword short shrift. I hope YOU all will EXCUSE me for that. In addition to similar reasons as last time—surprisingly busy personal schedule, relatively low popularity as judged by comments, picnic, lightning)—and despite the fact that I have a genuine fondness for the puzzle (one of my favorites of each week), this time I can’t see the theme and consequently have much less to babble about.
The theme answers, as helpfully indicated by asterisks, are
- 18a. [*Operator order] PLEASE HOLD.
- 24a. [*Remark to a line cutter, maybe] EXCUSE YOU. (See also 38d [Like cutting in line, say] RUDE.)
- 37a. [*”I’ll pick up the tab”] MY TREAT.
- 39a. [*”Holy cow!”] DEAR GOD.
- 48a. [*”Oklahoma!” character] AUNT ELLER.
- 55a. [*She played Mrs. Gump in “Forrest Gump”] SALLY FIELD.
Aside from the obvious repetition of the puzzle’s title for the opening themer, I don’t perceive any connection among all of the answers. The first four are spoken phrases, the final two are names of people, one fictional and one real. One seems to have a sympathetic non-theme clue.
My only real association for the phrase “operator order” is from mathematics, where in the absence of parenthesis or brackets, there is an order of precedence for different functions, as indicated by operators. The sequence is: exponents/roots, multiplication/division, addition/subtraction. Six operators, six theme answers, yet I don’t see a deeper connection beyond that simple correlation. What have I missed?
Moving along, the ballast fill is solid, and I especially liked the longdowns ATOMIC AGE (see also, 56d [Manhattan Project scientist Szilard] LEO*) and STRIP CLUB. At first I wanted TAIL for 14a [Tracking dog’s indicator] but it was soon revealed to be an ODOR; however, much like my experience with the WSJ, that answer appeared elsewhere in-grid: 59a [Comet part] TAIL (which works both for the cosmic body or the legendary reindeer).
Trivia! 12d [Hunt who won an Emmy and an Oscar in the same year] HELEN. For Mad About You and As Good as It Gets, respectively.
31d [WSJ alternative] NYT. 41d [Where Dantes was held in “The Count of Monte Cristo”] DUNGEON; ah but was it an oubliette? I don’t recall, or perhaps I’ve never known. 46d [Conspirator against Caesar] CASCA / 9d [“Julius Caesar” setting] IDES.
That’s it. My non-theme-enlightening PRATTLE (29d) is at an end. I think it’s a fine crossword, despite a distinct lack of awareness.
* lamest anagram ever of LIZARDS