Over at his Devil Cross puzzle site, Evan Birnholz has written a righteous polemic against the underwhelming fill ALER(S) and NLER(S). Check it out.
John Farmer’s New York Times crossword
You know the theme answers but they’re not fitting? Exactly. Each theme entry has a 3-letter overlap between two words where the words slide into each other:
- 18a. [Cream-filled chocolate treats], WHOOPIES. Whoopie pies. B-b-b-but two pies are better than just one pie.
- 19a. [Mark of dishonor], SCARLETTER. Scarlet letter.
- 39a. [“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” poet], PERCY BYSSHELLEY. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Tell me how Bysshe is pronounced, please.
- 57a. [All-time scoring leader for the U.S. men’s soccer team], LANDONOVAN. Landon Donovan.
- 62a. [Official residence at the Vatican], PAPALACE. Papal Palace.
- 69a. [What three-letter words do in five answers in this puzzle], REPEAT. Nice angle that each trigram is a legitimate word and not just a letter sequence.
It took me a while to work all the crossings for 11d. [Ultimate rally-killer]. TRIPLE PLAY? In baseball? Whatever. “Rally-killer” didn’t mean much to me, and 11a. [“L’Amore dei ___ Re” (Montemezzi opera)], TRE, that was a never-heard-of-it for me. Does that mean “The Love of Three Kings”?
Capitalized words outside the theme numbered about 25, not counting abbreviations. I suspect this led to some elongated solving times and heightened frustration for a lot of solvers. Little bits like VAL [___ d’Orcia (Tuscan region)] and ECO (10d. [“The Island of the Day Before” novelist]) could have been made much more accessible. A standard Thursday-grade solving time for me, but then I am good with names.
Four more things:
- 17a. [Bonkers], MENTAL. Raise your hand if you scowl at slang that makes light of mental illness.
- 42a. [Inspiration for Johann Strauss II], DANUBE. Rivers are awesome. They make me want to waltz, too. (Wait a minute. I’m only now finding out there were Johann Strausses I and II?)
- 52a. [Edomite patriarch], ESAU. That clue made me turn to the crossings. Looked like it was going to be a piece of biblical arcana!
- 58d. [Bird bills], NEBS! Man, I haven’t seen this bit of crosswordese in so long.
3.66 stars from me.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Whole Package”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again, everyone!
It’s a (very) rainy start to a Thursday here in New York City, but a very bright and sunny theme for today’s crossword, brought to us today by Ms. Donna S. Levin. In it, the first word of the three across theme answers combine to form the term All of Me, which is both the name of a (very) funny film and a (very) popular song. The movie’s co-star and the music artist who performs the song comprise the two theme answers going down.
- ALL FIRED UP: (17A: [Rarin’ to go])
- OF AGE: (38A: [Old enough])
- ME AND MY GAL: (60A: [1932 Spencer Tracy/Joan Bennett romcom])
- JOHN LEGEND: (11D: [Singer whose 2014 #1 hit has a title formed by the starts of 17-, 38-, and 60-Across])
- LILY TOMLIN: (28D: [Actress whose 1984 movie has a title formed by the starts of 17-, 38-, and 60-Across]) – SPOILER ALERT: Which man doesn’t want a woman controlling half of his body movements and thinking??
There was some great fill in the grid, none the least of which was NAYSAYER, a word that I’ve recently had a habit of saying a whole lot when doing sports reports (41A: [One who’s a buzzkill]). The naysayers are now doubting my ability to curb my use of the word naysayer. Then there was RICO, which, fortunately (at least for me), made me think of the one-hit wonder and its artist, Gerardo, who I think is now a Christian minister for children (18D: [“____ Suave” (1991 hit song)]). It also made me think of the time a former co-worker of mine played “Rico Suave” incessantly on YouTube in our office after another co-worker mentioned the song out loud. I wonder if that song, if it came out in this era of social media and YouTube, would have gone VIRAL (14A: [Like super-popular videos]). Even some of the mistakes I made in initially filling some of the answers were fun, including first typing in “A-Listers” instead of FEASTERS (39D: [Participants in a lavish banquet]). I actually got stuck in that section of the grid since I left the incorrect, yet very plausible, answer up there for a while, and only got out of that rut when one of its crossings had to be TESLA (44A: [Unit of flux density, or the physicist for whom it is named]). Because I’m an odd bird, I saw the words “flux density” and immediately thought of the movie Back to the Future and the flux capacitor. “EIGHTY-EIGHT MILES PER HOUR!!” Overall, it was a real fun solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HENIE (43A: [Skater-turned-actress Sonja]) – What makes Sonja HENIE one of the most fascinating and intriguing athletes in the history of sport? Not only was she arguably the greatest figure skater of all time (three consecutive gold medals at the Winter Olympics, in 1928, 1932 and 1936), she also, after her amateur athletic career, became the most in-demand actress in Hollywood at her peak and eventually earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Moreover, she also became a pariah of sorts for a while in her native Norway (and other areas) as she had a strong association with members of Nazi Germany, including Adolf Hitler himself, during the lead-up to World War II. She did later end up getting back in the good graces of many Norwegians after the war as she performed on ice as part of a skating tour across the country. Again, such a fascinating story.
See you all on Friday, and thank you so much for your time!
Victor Barocas’s Fireball crossword, “Going to the Next Level”
Unusual theme here—The circled letters on top have an inherent “over” in them and the circled squares in the bottom of the grid have an inherent “under”. The answers below and above the circled letters need the circled letter and the preposition to be understood.
- 21a. Impeccable], AEPROACH. Really A, B over E, proach, or ABOVE REPROACH.
- 23a. Gregarious types], EXTTS. Really EXT, R over T, S.
- 32a. Goobers, e.g.], CHOCOLATE ED PEANUTS. Really CHOCOLATE, C over E, D PEANUTS.
- 55a. Sandwich consumed by Morgan Spurlock in February 2003], QUARTER P WITH CHEESE. QUARTER P O under W ITH CHEESE.
- 67a. Certain muzzleloader], BBUSS. B, L under B, USS.
- 71a. Mob lawyer, maybe], MONEY LER. MONEY L A under E R.
I like the two food items occupying 18-square grid-spanning entries, but actually being 23 and 24 letters long.
The puzzle took a good long while to unravel, since mastering the top half might well persuade you that OVER was also involved in the bottom half.
Five more things:
- 39a. [What might come out of the blue?], ISLET / 31d. [Jazz guitarist ___ Farlow], TAL. That L was the last thing to fall. I don’t know that a small island is technically “coming out of” the water. Isn’t it just sitting there? Unless it is actively forming by volcanic eruption, it’s not “coming out.”
- 12d. [Tomorrow is in it], NEAR FUTURE. This one was weird. Didn’t come easily.
- 16a. [André the Giant’s middle name], RENÉ. Total guess that proved right.
- 43d. [Turns into a Mercedes-Benz logo, say, as a circle], TRISECTS.
- 13d. [Unrefined] INCULT. I’m sorry, what?? Is this a scientific or technical term? I’ve never seen this word before. Just me?
4.25 stars from me.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Battle of the Bands” — Matt’s review
Your archetypal BEQ puzzle: Brendan conceals famous military conflicts inside battles between musicians:
20-A [“Give Me Everything” rapper vs. “My Adidas” rappers (7/21/1861)] = PIT(BULLRUN)-DMC. Battle of BULL RUN, Union vs. Confederacy. Winner: Confederacy. Music battle winner: never heard of Pit Bull, so we’ll give this one to Run-DMC.
25-A [“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” band vs. DJ born Richard Melville Hall (2/23/1836-3/6/1836)] = TAME IMP(ALA MO)BY. The Siege of the ALAMO, Mexico vs. Texas. Winner: Mexico. Music battle winner: never heard of Tame Impala, so we’ll give this one to Moby.
42-A [“Take On Me” one-hit wonders vs. “Every Breath You Take” singer vs. “Angel of Death” metal band (10/14/1066)] = A-(HA STING S)LAYER. Three-way battle, as many have been in history. Battle of Hastings, France vs. England. Winner: France. Music battle winner: Slayer is not an option, and normally Sting would win over a-ha, but I’m going to give it to a-ha here because BEQ has slandered them with the “one-hit wonder” label. They were a three-hit wonder.
47-A [“Round and Round” glam band vs. “Twin Infinitives” punks (sometime in the 1100s B.C.)] = RAT(TROY)AL TRUX, Trojan War. Athens vs. Troy. Winner: Athens. OK, Wikipedia tells me it wasn’t exactly Athens but all of Greece. Music battle winner: I’ve never heard of Royal Trux, but I’m going to give them the win anyway because Ratt can’t beat anyone.
***Your standard issue badass BEQ fill: SIXTH MAN, MT. FUJI, BOY CRAZY, HOLD ‘EM, ARBY’S and OH, HI!
***Top clues: [Pitch catcher?] for EAR, [One with will power?] for HEIR, and [“I’m not paying attention to you”] for LALALA.
***OPAL PERIL ZERO in the 14th row sounds like a sequel to “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A slightly off-beat theme, and one that for me didn’t quite come together nicely: CASECLOSED concludes the puzzle, and the previous answers begin with words associated with a crime scene: A KILLER in [*Programs that generate hardware sales], KILLERAPPS; a dead BODY in [*Certain repair site], BODYSHOP; some CLUES in [*Brings up to speed], CLUESIN; a generic COP in [*Bargain for less jail time], COPAPLEA. The plea is not officially part of the theme as far as I can see. All in all, it felt a bit arbitrary and incomplete, although clever conceptually.
- IDTAG, [Dangler on a dog] – microchips are superior, but pricey.
- CYAN, [Greenish-blue] I first wanted AQUA, which came later, and then TEAL!
- [Gael or Druid], CELT – one of those answers where you have to wait and see: here if it will have a K or the variant C spelling.
- [“Surfin’ ___”], USA. A shameless crib of CHUCKBERRY...
- [José’s “Moulin Rouge” co-star], ZSAZSA seems to have caused the most damage to the grid: below her are ATRI, SRAS and (ugh) OSTAR – no where near worth it IMO.
- [Big name in wine], GALLO… And South African music.