Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
This is one of those unusual Friday puzzles with a theme: CARIBBEAN SEA and PACIFIC OCEAN are connected by the diagonal entry PANAMA CANAL. The Caribbean clue tells us the canal [opened on 8/15/1914], 100 years ago today.
The most interesting part of the Panama Canal story, if you ask me, is the epidemiology. Yellow fever and malaria ran riot through the workers until the project’s chief medical officer summoned the resources to wipe out the mosquitoes carrying the viruses. (Hmm, yellow fever includes headache and body aches … I think my summer cold has a touch of yellow fever to it.) Note that MALARIA is in this puzzle at 37d, paired symmetrically with … BLUE TIT? That’s unfortunate.
This 72-word grid has a low enough word count to qualify as a standard themeless, with a fairly wide-open grid. Highlights in the fill include APPLE PIES, RHAPSODY, SUPER GLUE, THE PILL, ZIP CODE, UMLAUTS, SPICE UP, PEPITA (5d. [Seed in Mexican cuisine]—those are pumpkin seeds, which are used to coat tilapia at my local Mexican steakhouse), BABKA, ALL AGES, and JEAN-LUC.
Less savory bits include the ERLE/BLEB/SESE clot, HAIRLIKE (27a. [Capillaceous]), RED TEA (say what?), MOCS, ILIUM, plural abbrev SCIS, half ZSA, abbreviated MR. ED, -INE, and URI. Granted, the three-way checking required when a diagonal answer passes through squares that already service Across and Down answers puts severe constraints on the fill, especially when the grid is so open.
Overall, the theme and the puzzle at large weren’t particularly fun for me, which may be the yellow fever talking. 3.5 stars?
Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Game Playing”—Ade’s write-up
It’s here! It’s Friday! I hope you are doing well and have great weekend plans in store. At the very least, I hope you have a relaxing weekend in your very near future.
One way to relax – or get riled up, depending on the people you’re playing with – is with a game of MONOPOLY, the tried and true board game favorite. Today’s grid, authored by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, essentially takes us through a few elements that make up the Monopoly board with the theme answers. Thimble not included.
- GO TO JAIL: (17A: [Get sent up])
- BOARDWALK: (21A: [Site of many arcades])
- ELECTRIC COMPANY: (40A: [PBS kids’ show of the ’70s, with “The”])
- LUXURY TAX: (59A: [Payroll assessment levied on some baseball teams])
- MONOPOLY: (64A: [Game where one could land on the answers to 17-, 21-, 40-, and 59-Across])
The northwest part of the grid was going smoothly until I saw TOOT and questioned whether that was right, given the clue (4D: [Spree]). Had not heard toot in that context before, but it was on I went, since there wasn’t any other answer that would have made sense…and all the crossings around it were just fine. Interesting that the “tee” part is spelled out in FIT TO A TEE (3D: [Be perfect]), since I’ve seen “TO A T” enough times that my awareness in looking out for the spelled-out version of the letter has waned. Speaking of spelled-out letters, “Hello, CEE (26A: [Communist leader?])!!” Is ORE-IDA officially the entry that reminds me to buy tater tots the next time I go grocery shopping (19A: [Big name in the freezer])? Happens every time I see it! Another smooth solve with no real hang-ups, and the crosswordese was pretty limited, even with the presence of RYA (39D: [Scandinavian rug]) and ENE (38D: [U-turn from WSW]) being next to one another. To put a bow on this section, I have to say that my former high school science teacher, who I have reconnected with over the past few months, would have my head on a platter if I didn’t know AXONS by heart (55D: [Nerve cell transmitters]). Don’t worry, Ms. G, I had it all the way!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CREW (10D: [Rowing team]) and RAPID (30D: [Quite quick]) – These two answers aligned with each other going down, which I found interesting because both entries have ties to Major League Soccer, the main American professional soccer league. The Columbus CREW are one of the franchises in MLS, and any member of the MLS team located in Colorado could be called a RAPID (Colorado Rapids).
Have a good weekend everybody, and we’ll see you on Saturday!
Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Weekend at Woodstock” — pannonica’s write-up
Had I looked at the title before solving I would have had a better sense of why the obviously musical theme clues were referencing seemingly atypical song choices.
So here we are at the 45th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, with an abridged rundown of some of the performers and selections. In order of appearance:
- 39d. [Friday, “Motherless Child”] RICHIE HAVENS.
- 86a. [Friday, “Tabla Solo in Jhaptal”] for the SITARist RAVI SHANKAR. Ustad Alla Rakha played the TABLAS on that unaccompanied piece.
- 29a. [Friday, “Mr. Tambourine Man”] MELANIE. A Bob Dylan tune.
- 48a. [Friday, “Amazing Grace”] ARLO GUTHRIE.
- 103a. [Saturday, “Evil Ways”] SANTANA.
- 114a. [Saturday, “Darlin’ Be Home Soon”] JOHN SEBASTIAN. Though his original Lovin’ Spoonful version did not drop the g.
- 34d. [Saturday, “Turn On Your Love Light”] GRATEFUL DEAD.
- 95a. [Saturday, “Piece of My Heart”] JANIS JOPLIN.
- 60d. [Saturday, “My Generation” (with “The”] WHO.
- 23a. [Sunday, “I’m Going Home”] TEN YEARS AFTER.
- 25a. [Sunday, “Tears of Rage”] THE BAND. Co-written with Bob Dylan.
- 111a. [Sunday, “Blue Moon”] SHA NA NA. Actually, they played Monday morning, just prior to …
- 41a. [Monday, “The Star-Spangled Banner”] JIMI HENDRIX. Final performer. Can you imagine what it would have been like if the promoter’s original plan had occurred? Roy Rogers closing the proceedings with “Happy Trails”?
Nice job, getting so many recognizable names in the grid as symmetrical same-length pairs.
- 77a [Stephen whose band played on Sunday] STILLS. They played Monday morning too, but in the late wee hours so maybe we can call it Sunday. Dupe with 25a; should have called it his trio?
- 9d [It may have a wood stock] RIFLE.
- 32d [One in a school] FISH. Country Joe and the FISH played on Sunday.
- Other musicians presumably not in attendance: 28a [Blues-rock guitarist J.] GEILS, not MASCIS; 47a [Ocasek of The Cars] RIC; 115d [“Double Fantasy collaborator] ONO; 79d [“Rude Boy” performer’s nickname] RIRI (this apparently is RIHANNA).
- It’s quite likely that some of the guitarists played a Fender TELECASTer (93a) at the concert.
- The broad sinuous column running down the center resembles a large rivulet of mud, providing a visual interpretation of the event. To emphasize this, the bottom right has mudlike COAL TAR and 94d and a tar PITT at 1d.
- 88d [Tammy Baldwin’s title: Abbr.] SEN / 106a [Tammy Baldwin’s state: Abbr.] WISC.
- 27a/80d [Reformer’s targets] ILLS / EVILS.
- 45a/30d [Teller of fabulous tales] AESOP / LIAR.
- 99d [Got credit, in a way] PASSED / 109d [Get no credit, in a way] FAIL.
- 106d/114d [Tiny amount] WHIT / JOT.
Favorite clues: 36d [Farm team] OXEN – it may be old but it’s still very good. 71d [Word said while putting one’s hand down] GIN. 49d [Lady in waiting?] GIRL. Have to say that I was really hoping 51a [Act pushy] CUT IN was going to be a neologism for PUTIN as a verb.
Speaking of CUT IN, here are the prepositional phrases in the grid: IN A BIND, HIP TO (?), ON IT, IN ERROR, WON OVER (?), ON ICE, ON A, ON HIRE. Piling on with some of the blecchy fill: OLAF I, ADA, OSH, ALKA-, AUTOED, -O’WAR, OWER, HOI. But the real nadir of the grid is on the left flank, with the hideous pile-up of APHIS and DAISES, which the brain wants to be APHID and DAISIES.
All in all, still a fine crossword.
Ian Livengood’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Que Pasa?” — pannonika’s write-up
A little gem of a puzzle. The aural equivalent of the letter ‘K’ – \ˈkā\ – is inserted into phrases to make new ones. The spiffy twist is that the K-equivalents, all spelled differently, are components of actual words, and the inferred original phrases are with one exception homophonic approximations.
- 18a. [Halloween, to a dentist?] DECAY DAY (D-Day).
- 20a. [11 p.m. business report for Japanese stock watchers?] NIKKEI AT NITE (Nick at Nite).
- 37a. [No longer being able to “pinch an inch,” among others?] SPECIAL K EFFECTS (special effects).
- 55a. [Carrier pigeons bringing flowers?] BOUQUET BIRDS (boo birds).
- 58a. [Dispenser of Hungarian wine] TOKAY TAP (toe-tap).
Fairly novel theme, excellently executed. There’s a significant five-letter overlap in the two theme pairs while the fifth spans the width of the grid.
Well-integrated grid without much flash among the ballast fill. Higher Education vibe with the clue for LAURIE eschewing actor Hugh and instead tapping Little Women (cross-referenced to AMY), Shakespearean TYBALT, author INGA Muscio, and of course LITERATI ([Set of books?]).
A five-karat puzzle, notwithstanding the cays at 17a.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
As an answer, LETSSEESOMEID is rather snazzy. As a revealer for a +ID theme, it’s a tad oblique but it works! None of the theme answers really grabbed me, though only CHIDEGUEVARA struck me as actually weak. The rest manage to change the meaning of their other component if only slightly, but here GUEVARA is still CHE. The answers are:
- [Cause of brittle cigars?], DRYHUMIDOR
- [Rebuke a revolutionary?], CHIDEGUEVARA
- [Tolerate a Midwest capital?], BIDELINCOLN
- [God of honeymoon truck rentals?], RYDERCUPID
The central 13 provides an architectural challenge, resulting in the need for double-stacked 9’s crossing two theme answers. PEKINGESEs are all too plentiful where I’m working and come with a host of genetic problems, I mean breed characteristics; BUMSARIDE is also nice. ROSEMARIE will provide nostalgia for the oldies among us, but required all the crossers for yours truly – ROSEMARY has far more clueing options! Lastly ILLBEAWAY strikes me as completely bogus as a phrase: as legit as ILLHAVETHEDUCK.
Other stuff I didn’t personally know:
- [Friar __ de Torquemada], TOMAS. He had a first name!
- [Tortilla dough], MASA
- [Virtual transaction], ESALE. I don’t believe this is a word.
- [Artistic surroundings?], FRAMES
- [Said “You’re on!” to], CUED