Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
The theme answers are all snippy things that might be said in certain contexts:
- 17a. [“That’s enough!,” to a hot dog-eating contestant?], KEEP IT DOWN. Eww, gross! This means “Do not get penalized for a ‘reversal.'”
- 25a. [“That’s enough!,” to a store clerk at Christmas?], WRAP IT UP. Uh, you should say “please.”
- 36a. [“That’s enough!,” to an assembly line worker?], MOVE IT ALONG.
- 51a. [“That’s enough!,” to a collagist?], CUT IT OUT. Why was I picturing taxidermy instead of collage?
- 61a. [“That’s enough!,” to a carnival thrower?], KNOCK IT OFF. Knock the doodad off the shelf if you have good enough aim.
Lots of zippy fill here—APE SUIT, WHATNOT, “TEN-HUT!,” GAS STOVE, unusual-in-the-grid CREW TEAM, GUTSY.
I would talk more about the puzzle but I got distracted by work (at this hour? I know!!) and I’ve lost focus on the puzzle and it’s late and I have a busy day tomorrow. So … I didn’t love the puzzle, but the fill’s pretty good (is ECOLAW really a thing, though?) and the theme isn’t a snooze, so I’ll call it 3.5 stars.
Updated Tuesday morning:
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle, “Contest!”—Janie’s review
One aspect of the indie puzzle movement is the proliferation of puzzle contests. The subscription-based Fireball and American Values Club run them periodically; Matt Gaffney and Pete Muller run free meta-contests, Matt on a weekly basis, Pete monthly. So when I saw the title of today’s Crossword Nation, my first thought was, “Wait! Really?” Spoiler alert: Well, no. But this played out so very well, I got no complaints. Liz has given us a homophone puzzle. We get five names. In each case, the last name is pronounced the same—”con”— but each has a different spelling, So today’s puzzle is literally a “con” test. Hah! And the guilty parties, each with his own factoid-based clue, are:
- 17A. JAMES CAAN [He voiced Tim Lockwood in “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”]
- 25A. ROGER KAHN [Author of “The Boys of Summer”]
- 38A. “KUBLA KHAN” [Samuel Coleridge poem inspired by an opium dream]
- 54A. SAMMY CAHN [“Call Me Irresponsible” lyricist]
- 64A. MARTY KAAN [Don Cheadle’s role in Showtime’s “House of Lies”]
How was your solve? I had a lot of trouble getting started, mainly because that NW corner was tough. Not a Saturday crossword TOUGHIE, mind you, but just tricky enough to make me decide to move on and come back to it—which I did once I’d completed the fill descending from both 5A. CRIB and 9A. SCOT. Then when I saw CAAN (and confirmed that the clue was looking for a name [because words with a double A pattern are not likely to be to be correct…]), I knew that JAMES couldn’t be far behind. Or ahead… And as ROGER KAHN came into focus, I had a sense of the game. (Though I’m a fan of Don Cheadle’s work, I’m unfamiliar with/unversed in House of Lies; MARTY KAAN was completely new to me.)
So after my tentative start, this became a very smooth kind of solve. Besides the theme fill, there’s nothing longer than seven letters. But we get some really good seven-letter fill in the process. Notice those triple columns of them in the NW and SE corners—and the paired columns NE and SW for starters. Here we meet up with the likes of PAJAMAS, KAMPALA, ORDEALS, TOUGHIE, STAYS UP and LEBANON. Then, too, I love the foodie sevens: KIMCHEE (you might want to make your own) and TABASCO, whose spiciness you might want to offset with some PEACHES and LIMEADE. And between the theme set and the remaining fill, we’ve got all those krunchy Ks, to boot—even more than last week’s I think.
Some clues I’d like to give a shout-out to:
- [Classic toy train brand] and [Train with Lindsey Vonn]. In the first instance that “train” is a noun and leads to TYCO; in the latter, it’s a verb and leads us to SKI. (Apparently it also leads us to some trending dish…)
- The kitchen combo of [Makes shortbread cookies] for BAKES and [Summer pie fillers] for PEACHES.
- And because there are so many times when I’m less than excited about a clue for a Roman numeral, I have to say that this one really put a smile on my face. [310, to a letter writer] for CCCX. Love it. One A+ pun.
- Saving the best for last, [Owl-patterned evening wear] for PAJAMAS.
On the whole, I’d have to say that this is a practically perfect on-ramp puzzle. Tight theme and theme set (all gents, all with a tie-in to various creative arts), super-smooth fill referencing a wide range of interests, nothing too difficult to suss out, and some fine clues along the way. All of which makes me hopeful that this is a “Contest!” where everyone’s a winner!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Why, Why, Why”—Ade’s write-up
Hello from Music City U.S.A.! Adesina Koiki here (just call me Ade, pronounced “ADD-E”), blogging my first review of the CS puzzles on this wonderful website, and just want to thank you for reading this far into this post, despite being a total newbie at this! OK, meet and greet is over, right? On to Mr. Ross’s very British-“y” puzzle.
Theme was pretty straightforward (three-word terms in which each word in the term ends in the letter “y”), and picked it up once I slammed in both BUDDY HOLLY STORY (17A: [Biopic featuring Gary Busey, with “The”]) and EASY MONEY POLICY (43A: [Federal Reserve plan involving low interest rates]) within a couple of minutes.
Started the puzzle in the northwest, and immediately erred: had GIANT instead of D-BACK (1A: [NL West player]), and it didn’t help that both entries share the “A” which gave me ALDA (3D: [Pierce portrayer on “M*A*S*H”]) and locked me into GIANT for about a minute and change. More on 1A later. Getting BUDDY HOLLY STORY took care of ridding GIANT from the grid, as DEBS (1D: [Ball girls?]) had to be going down. And off I went…
More than the “why” theme, as I said, this came off as very British: GAOL (6D: [Canterbury can]) crossing LOLLY (21A: [Soho sucker]) that sat on top of SIR (23A: [Elton John, e.g.]) that sat on top of LADY MARY CRAWLEY (25A: [Eldest daughter at Downton Abbey]). Throw in the fact that LANAI (31D: [Island west of Maui]) crossed 25A and is part of a state that was discovered by a British explorer. I’m breaking out my semi-good Geordie accent as we speak as I’m reading along to what I’m typing.
Have yet to watch an episode of Downton Abbey (though I know how to pronounce “Downton” correctly), so that was by far the hardest theme answer for me to get.
Not sure about you, but have you ever used “sky” in the singular when you, or your local weatherman, talk about the weather? I know I haven’t: mostly cloudy skies, sunny skies, gray (grey for you Britons) skies. Only time it’s in the singular is to point out that there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The sky is all around us, so I guess we just decided to make it plural since there’s so much of it.
Some crosswordese: odd fill in the grid included EPISC, ARAT, AFIRE. LULL crossing LOLLY (which was immediately below the LLs in “HOLLY” part of the theme answer) makes for some interesting viewing.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: D-BACK (1A: -NL West player]). The Arizona Diamondbacks (D-Backs for short) played their inaugural season in Major League Baseball in 1998, along with another crossword regular, the Tampa Bay RAYS (then known as the Devil Rays) of the AL East. In 2001, Arizona won the World Series over the New York Yankees in seven games, becoming the fastest expansion team to win a championship in major league history (four seasons). The franchise’s first ever manager, Buck Showalter, was fired in 2000, immediately before Arizona won the World Series. Showalter previously was manager of the New York Yankees, and was fired from that post after the 1995 season. The year after, in 1996, the New York Yankees won the World Series. Showalter now manages the Baltimore Orioles, which means you should bet the farm on the Orioles winning the World Series the season after Showalter gets shown the door! It’s a lock!
Bonus: The “Sports could also make you dumber” moment occurred when I typed in HUSKY instead of YALIE (29D: [Connecticut collegian]). Did this puzzle just minutes after the University of Connecticut Huskies won the men’s basketball national championship game. Make sure never to mix up your Nutmeg Staters…
Thank you so much to everyone for staying patient with me on my maiden voyage, and I’ll make sure to brush up on what I didn’t get right now for a more enjoyable read going forward. Can’t wait to hear from you all!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ themeless crossword, “Weave Only Just Begun”
This one’s freestyle, no theme. Unusual grid, with the NW/SE 11-stacks not partnered with NE/SW stacks. Instead, the middle five rows contain two 10s, two 11s, and a pair of 7s.
Top fill includes WACKADOODLE (did not know it was 1a. [Nutty person (and new OED entry of 2014)]), COMING-OF-AGE stories, “GEE WHIZ,” PLASTIC SPOON (because getting ice cream or gelato or froyo is always a treat), TWERKED, “SIXTEEN TONS,” and ZIP LINE.
I zipped through this puzzle, what with all the names and proper nouns in it. DON Cornelius, the HMONG, ULLA (which I did not know: 27a. [___ Popken (plus-size clothing retailer; hidden in PULLABLE)]), the UAE, BLACKSTONE, ATOM, LORENA Bobbitt, Kevin KLINE, Danny AINGE, DAG Hammarskjold, Yoko ONO, Buddy HACKETT, Apple’s SIRI, IONE Skye, Donna KARAN, RUDOLF Nureyev, the APOLLO Theater (did not know about the log: 13d. [Theater with a log rubbed for good luck]), PINDAR, and Ford LTD’S. What is that, 18 names? That’s going to wallop some solvers, for sure.
IRON-HEARTED (64a. [Lacking feeling]) was unfamiliar to me, and then it’s preceded by a key-word dupe: 63a. [___ heartbeat], IN A. Prefer not to have such echoes between clues and nearby fill.
Favorite clue: 57a. [Like a new coat, at first?], WET. Coat of paint. Runner-up: 1d. [Suffix after sand or Man], WICH. Yes, I will buy -wich as a suffix, thanks to the English etymology of the Sandwich place name.
3.75 stars from me.
Jason Chapnick and Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Isn’t it neat that C.C. Burnikel has created an empire over at Crossword Corner? She started out blogging the Tribune Media Services puzzle (which I do not miss—it was such a blah puzzle) and switched to the LA Times puzzle when the TMS bit the dust. And then she started constructing puzzles, most of which have run in the LA Times. Today’s puzzle authors are both regular members of the blogging team at Crossword Corner, and Marti’s byline shows up a lot at the LAT. And now commenter/CC blogger lemonade714, aka Jason Chapnick, has gotten into the game.
Jason and Marti’s theme is rhyming phrases made by pairing adjectives with cartoon characters, and the toons are from a variety of sources and not all, say, Looney Tunes. I like the toony diversity.
- 17a. [High-maintenance Gonzales?], NEEDY SPEEDY.
- 62a. [Overeating bird tempting Sylvester?], MEATY TWEETY.
- 11d. [Bullwinkle pal who’s been working out?], STOCKY ROCKY.
- 25d. [Fussy Disney mouse?], PICKY MICKEY.
Guess what? I am out of blogging time for today! And I didn’t get a chance to look at the fill and clues overall. Didn’t love the theme as much as the toons involved, but the fill’s mostly on key, ordinary LAT fill. Let’s call it 3.33 stars.