Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
This is one sassy little crossword, with plenty of slang and other references that never populated older crosswords. Here are the bits I’m partial to:
- 1a. [Take it easy], CHILLAX. Some friends and I use this word, which the dictionary attests is of 21st century origin. (Chill + relax.)
- 16a. [Supermodel Lima], ADRIANA. I know the name but not all the things (good gravy! so many!) she is known for.
- 17a. [Scale with the highest reading at midday, usually], UV INDEX. The current UV index in Chicago is 0, but it will be up to 1 at 9 am.
- 35a. [Hot shot?], SEX SCENE.
- 39a. [It helps you focus], RITALIN, the ADHD med.
- 40a. [Unlocked area?], BALD SPOT. Locks = hair. At Carleton College, there is no quad. There is only the Bald Spot.
- 44a. [Allstate subsidiary], ESURANCE. Not your trite, overused fill.
- 49a. [Reuben ingredient, informally], sauerKRAUT.
- 57a. [BlackBerry routers], iPHONES. Not routers as in the internet connection devices, routers as in “phones that have routed BlackBerry from its earlier market dominance.”
- 1d. [Sucker], CHUMP. Great word.
- 12d. [Complain loudly], RAISE HELL.
- 24d. [Tennis smash?], LOVE SET, a set in which the opponent wins zero games. Anyone else start with LOB SHOT?
- 26d. [Puzzle solver’s complaint], “I’M STUCK.” I am not stuck on the Fireball meta! I solved it tonight without a struggle. Tomorrow’s Week 4 MGWCC puzzle, on the other hand? I am likely to be completely mired in ignorance of the meta.
- 28d. [Punishment, metaphorically], LUMPS. Great clue. As in “I’ll take my lumps.” We would also have accepted [“My lovely lady ___” (“My Humps” lyric)].
- 34d. [Colorful party intoxicant], JELL-O SHOT.
- 36d. [Shrill howl], CATERWAUL. Probably on the list of my 20 favorite words.
- 38d. [“Just wait …”], “YOU’LL SEE.”
Things that were new to me:
- 13d. [Obsessive need to check one’s email or Facebook, say], INFOMANIA.
- 29d. [Hypothetical particle in cold dark matter], AXION. Wait, wasn’t this just in another NYT puzzle a few weeks ago?
Things that were more on the blah side: MR. ED (the show and character were styled as Mister Ed), ESOS, XKE, IDEM, EX-ENEMY, S/M/L, ETONS, ADES, AND BE. Far outnumbered by the groovy stuff in this puzzle.
4.25 stars from me.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “In Disarray”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everybody, and hello Friday!! YES!
Geez, what a MESS! And yes, I’m talking about this puzzle, but not because it was sub-standard or dirty. Our puzzle, the 551st CrosSynergy special from Mr. Ashwood-Smith, has four entries that have the word “mess” hidden inside of them. Speaking of which, that best describes my room most times: a hidden mess.
- MIDTERM ESSAY: (19A: [English major’s assignment, at times])– Is there a common term for the essay that comes at the end of the semester/year? The “do-it-and-you-officially-move-up-a-grade” essay?
- FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE : (22A: [As a remembrance])
- HERE COMES SUMMER: (49A: [Top 20 hit in 1959 for Jerry Keller])– Mention a No. 1 hit, and I’m straight! Cite a Top 10 hit? I’ll buy it. A Top 20 hit? That’s a little bit of a stretch…though I’ll be looking up the song as soon as I finish typing this.
- JAMES STEWART: 52A: [“It’s a Wonderful Life” star])– “I have sinned against you…” Oh, that’s Jimmy SWAGGART, not Jimmy STEWART! But he, as well as Donna Reed, absolutely delivered in one of the all-time iconic movies.
Yesterday’s LA Times puzzle had a theme with figures of speech referring to people, and this puzzle has an answer along the lines of that with COMMON MAN (4D: [Average Joe]). A couple of first name entries were interesting, with ELEANOR (37A: [Rigby or Roosevelt]) and JCS (46A: [Penney and Snead]). JCS doesn’t look like a great sight in a puzzle, but I love that both J.C. Penney (my mother lived there essentially for years shopping) and J.C. Snead (probably the best golfer never to win a major) get shout outs. BAS (39A: [General college degs.]) doesn’t look so great as an abbreviation, though seeing that made me think of the former mixed martial arts fighter/legend Bas Rutten. The cluing to ATHEISM was, I think, the best in the grid (6D: [Religious non belief of a sort]).
I liked the long fill, which included COMMON MAN, as well as POOR MARK (7D: [Low grade, e.g.]). For some reason, I filled in POOR MAN’S for that clue at the beginning. CABOOSES (29D: [Tails of trains, at times]) looks nice, although probably better without that last “s.” First time I’ve seen MAH-JONG (36D: [Classic tile-based game (var.)] spelled like that, as well as a first time seeing/hearing the word AIRMADA (38D: [Large fleet of warplanes]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DREAM TEAM (31D: [Superstar assembly])– The two most famous dream teams are, by far, the 1992 United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team and O.J. Simpson’s defense team during his murder trial. We’ll just concentrate on the 1992 edition, and just list the 12 players responsible for the rapid, widespread globalization of the game of basketball: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Scottie Pippen Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Christian Laettner. Interesting note: Jordan’s inclusion on the Dream Team, for the most part, hinged on fellow future Hall-Of-Fame player Isiah Thomas’s exclusion from the team, given their nasty battles while Jordan was on the Chicago Bulls and Thomas on the rival Detroit Pistons, known as the Bad Boys for their overly physical play. Ironically, the head coach of the 1992 Olympic Team was then-Detroit Pistons head coach Chuck Daly.
Not much to say now other than to enjoy the upcoming weekend! If you’re not hung over, I’ll see you tomorrow morning.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A very clever concept underpins today’s letter change theme by Samuel Donaldson. Four phrases’ final words end in X – they’re XRATED. Sam changes them so that they’re now G-RATED. It’s unusual for a crossword constructor to deliberately eschew X’s!
The theme answers themselves are a edgier set than usual. I’m fairly sure this is deliberate, and constitutes an extra level to the theme. It opens with the generic SINTAG, [Scarlet letter?]. I didn’t notice the star while solving, and only figured out what the hell it was supposed to be post-solve. Crosses baby! We have a reference to pubic hair in the original phrase that becomes [Rio jokester], BRAZILIANWAG. The clue for the third, [Law against certain intra-family marriages?], OEDIPUSREG hints at incest. The fourth is based on a disease, CHICKENPOX, which becomes [Game disc on the farm], CHICKENPOG. I learnt the word POG from crosswords, but didn’t bother to look it up until I’d seen it for the umpteenth time. It turned out I was very familiar with them outside of the name! The fad reached South Africa, but as TAZOS, which although Wikipedia contends are different, I maintain they’re close enough to be interchangeable! After pubic hair, incest and disease, we have alcohol to finish! The final concept of a [Fighter running on tequila], MARGARITAMIG is somehow extremely amusing to me. I was only dimly aware of something called MARGARITAMIX. I found this on google. Its existence surprises me on the one hand, because of how simple a margarita is, and on the other hand doesn’t surprise me, given how many similar products like instant cake mix also exist.
The grid has unusually meaty corners. On the one axis, we have ZEROMOSTEL as a wacky full name, with the more bland SEMIANNUAL counterbalancing it. The other axis gives us CHEAPTHRILL, PIZZASLICE, and the local LA shout-out MIRACLEMILE (which I was again only vaguely aware of again. The magnificent mile in Chicago is my go-to US m mile, thanks Oprah!) Other nice long answers were BEANBAGS INUNISON and the ancient history name [First-century Judean monarch Herod ___].
- [Like unmiked orators, maybe], HOARSE. A very evocative clue!
- [Collins contemporary], BAEZ. Tough clue! I considered the astronaut and the Irish leader. Judy Collins was certainly not in the picture until the answer appeared! I expect a lot of people born post-1955 haven’t heard of her! Here she is.
- [Shaver brand], WAHL. Hey! My clippers are WAHL! I don’t think I’ve seen them in a puzzle before!
- [Muscle prone to tears, briefly], ACL. Sigh, that’s an embarrassing clueing error! A ligament and a muscle are different things!
- [Waffle ___], FRIES. WTF!? All crosses! Ok, probably you all know what these are, and google told me… I was completely oblivious to their existence.
- [Window alternative], AISLE. Cross-day clecho from yesterday!
- [Either of two stubborn Seuss characters], ZAX. I can see this forcing people to figure out the theme to complete that square!
Exemplary, brave theme! Brave fill too! 4.5 Stars.
Gareth (I’ll be back with the CHE sometime, but first, sports break!)
Andrew J. Ries’ Chronice of Higher Education crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s CHE features a simple, but clever theme by Andrew J. Ries. He found famous people whose surnames make them sound as though they should be prize-winners for the various Nobel categories. He then clued them as “presenting” said prizes. He includes the prize for economics, whose membership in the “Nobel” set is debatable.
- Old actor TYRONEPOWER awards the physics prize. Power is work / time in physics.
- Baseballer BARRYBONDS awards the chemistry prize. Bonds connect atoms in chemistry.
- Actress I’ve never heard of ALISONPILL awards the medicine prize. I don’t think I need to spell out what a pill is!
- Johnny’s daughter ROSANNECASH gives out the economics prize.
- Poet RITADOVE gives out the peace prize.
- Finally, NFL player I naturally haven’t heard of, ALANPAGE, gives out the literature prize.
- [Reggae-influenced genre], SKA is back-to-front AFAIK. SKA was the original, reggae evolved out of it… Classic choon!
- [R&B ballad], SLOWJAM. Very nice answer!
- [“Telephone Line” group], ELO. More popular music! Surprising for a CHE puzzle.
- [Berry with antioxidants], ACAI. Exogenous ones of questionable benefit, and kind of unnecessary in a diet providing adequate nutrients to maintain the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.
- [Bartholomew, for one], APOSTLE. Of all the apostles, he really needed a better agent.
- [Image in Dali’s eye-tricking “In Voluptas Mors”], SKULL. Fun clue, although I don’t know the painting…
- [Huevos rancheros side], FRIJOLES – a fun word to say!
- [Roy Orbison hit of 1989], YOUGOTIT – and yet another popular music ref!
- [What “the lion’s share” originally meant], ALL. Nice informative clue that!
Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ch-ch-changes”
There was a recent NYT puzzle that featured theme answers with several different sounds represented by CH. This time, the David Bowie–inspired concept is simply “add a CH to the start of familiar phrases”:
- 22a. [Feature of an eBay furniture listing?], CHAIR CONDITION.
- 39a. [Results of picking Gregorian ringtones?], CHANTS IN YOUR PANTS. Hey! I like the YOUR in lieu of a ONE’S.
- 53a. [Relax redundantly?], CHILL AT EASE.
- 75a. [Crux of designing the perfect goatee?], CHIN ESSENCE.
- 88a. [Press release about a cereal brand?], CHEX COMMUNICATION.
- 110a. [Book detailing how doubles players might gain an advantage?], CHEATING FOR TWO.
- 3d. [What leads some to join navies?], CHARM OF THE SEA. “Arm of the sea” is not the zippiest of base phrases.
- 58d. [Presentation leader?], CHART DIRECTOR.
It works, yes, but it didn’t particularly entertain me.
Trickiest clue for me to understand: 102a. [Major division], GULF. As in “There is a gulf between the two sides in this negotiation.”
Least familiar clue: 37a. [Unix command for listing logged-in users], WHO. I am not in the habit of using Unix commands, but at least it makes perfect sense. Honorable mention: 54d. [Denny of the Moody Blues and Wings], LAINE. WHO, indeed.
My favorite fill includes THE DOLE, WHOOSHED, ONCE-OVER, RED MAPLE, and ST. PAUL’S Cathedral.
Quaintest word: 65a. [Merchant stocking stockings], HOSIER. I wonder if most hosiers make their money from socks rather than pantyhose and other stockings.
Word that is on my list of Words That Should Be Eradicated From Crosswords: 63a. [Like fans after a touchdown], AROAR. If you do a Google News search for that word today, you will find exactly zero hits other than a single dictionary definition. No, sportswriters are not using it to describe sports fans cheering. It’s not a word that remains solidly “in the language.” We’re not using it. Not every dictionary includes it. You can’t play it in Scrabble. Does this word enhance your solve in the slightest?
Hmm, I find myself with not much else to say about this puzzle. 3.5 stars, it fills the bill of “21×21 crossword that works fine and doesn’t have bad fill” but doesn’t do a whole heckuva lot to enchant me.