Sam Donaldson’s Fireball crossword, “Unfinished Works”
I always love a theme that hinges on the way letters look—whether they get turned to the side (it was Matt Jones who did that one, I think—theme was iPad display flipping), upside down (Pat Merrell had one in Scientific American, I think, where WOW was also clued as MOM for the upside-down version of the puzzle), or the letters get drawn with more or less strokes than required. This puzzle’s got theme answers changed by writing the final letter with one less stroke, turning it into a different letter:
- 16a. [Revealing evening attire?], AFTER-DINNER MINI. The T in MINT is missing its top bar.
- 21a. [Sign outside a “Snow White” house?], BEWARE OF DOC. DOG’s G is missing its hook.
- 33a. [Jupiter’s extroverted satellite?], SOCIAL IO. Q’s tail is gone.
- 40a. [“Fine, go ahead and ride the waves, bro”?], YEAH, SURF. E’s bottom crossbar is gone.
- 48a. [“Better to win by 70 than by 7,” e.g.?], RULE OF THUMP. Is this about the Chicago Bears’ opponents? The B’s last loop is gone.
- 58a. [“Rise, my little chickadee, then let them hear you sing!”?], STAND UP AND CHEEP. R’s leg is amputated.
Aside: Last week, a college classmate(ish) posted on Facebook that she was enjoying lecture given by some Georgia law school professor, on the subject of taxes, and that the speaker had won Professor of the Year five times and it was obvious why. I commented, “Sam Donaldson?!?” Yes, indeed. The hilariously entertaining tax law expert who inspires social media praise from strangers is crossword Sam. Sam is a hoot.
D could be I with most of itself missing, and L could also become I—but Sam has covered I with his MINI. M is a crooked N if you skip its last stroke, but that crookedness makes me forgive its absence from this crisp theme. The clues are kinda funny, maybe not as wry as a tax law lecture but better than the typical set of theme clues.
- 25a. [The Violets of the NCAA’s “Egghead Eight”], NYU. No idea who the other seven are. Gotta love a team called the Violets.
- 26a. [Workplace of the Bouvier sisters], DMV. Not sure I’ve seen this trivia in a clue before.
- 43a. [Result of a good deed?], TITLE. This is about mortgages, real estate, title checks, and property deeds, right?
- 66a. [Cold-blooded killers], ASPS. Just reptilian, not heartless.
- 11d. [“The Queen City”], CINCY. Short for Cincinnati, fresh fill. Didn’t know the nickname.
- 55d. [They may be tight or loose], ENDS. If I ever played football, I would want to play loose end.
There were some pieces of fill I wasn’t keen on (TRAC II, DIEM, MAHI, OREL, RDA) but overall rather smooth for a daily-size puzzle with six themers. Overall, I’m giving it 4.25 stars. The letter-stroke theme pulls it up above 4.0.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword
We’ve got five theme answers that take up 10 entries plus an invisible, positional ON that completes each pairing:
- 16a. [Literally, with 19-Across, a Western state capital], CARS on CITY.
- 17a. [Literally, with 20-Across, ski resort purchases], SEAS on PASSES.
- 35a. [Literally, with 39-Across, head doctor], SURGE on GENERAL. Deviation from theme symmetry here.
- 55a. [Literally, with 62-Across, longtime action star], HARRIS on FORD.
- 59a. [Literally, with 63-Across, distinguished chef], CORD on BLEU.
Neat concept, although I do get a kick out of positional themes that play with more than one preposition at a time.
That’s a total of 48 theme squares, which is not a huge number for a 15×15 puzzle. The theme words are all stacked, which I presume may account for the direness of the fill. I lost heart right in the opening corner when I discovered the crossing Latin words. 14a. Others, in Latin] kinda stinks because it’s not even specific; ALII means “other (male) people” but ALIA means “other (neuter) things.” The L crosses 2d. [Olive, to Ovid], OLEA. And then! And then crosswordese RIAS is right in that corner, too. KISSCAM is cute but I do find it hard to fully appreciate good fill when it’s got a bunch of subpar fill around it (as opposed to other zippy fill or just neutral, solid, indistinct fill).
Other fill under the crosswordese/repeaters/”who uses that?” umbrella includes SERE, NBC TV, ELIA, ORTS, AAHED AT, and SDAK. TEASELS and STOMA might stick out in a Monday but I think they’re Thursday-suitable botany. I guess that overall, the list of blah fill really isn’t that long, at least not compared to some more grumble-worthy puzzles. But I wish constructors would make sure that the opening corner of the puzzle is charming, welcoming the solver in and saying, “you and I, we’re going to have some fun here.” ALII OLEA RIAS does exactly the opposite, heightening my sensitivity to the less appealing stuff (expecting to see it at every turn) and making it hard to place my focus on the theme and highlights. Your mileage may vary, of course.
I do like BACARDI, but I never drink it. And I like RUTABAGA but never eat it.
3 stars from me, along with a plea for constructors to work hard to make the 1-Across corner really shine.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Behind the Music” — Matt’s review
Highbrow theme today: singers who’ve done songs about butts.
17-A [“Anaconda” rapper] = NICKI MINAJ. The second-greatest singer of all time from Trinidad with a (5,5) enumeration.
22-A [“All About That Bass” singer] = MEGHAN TRAINOR. Never heard of.
35-A [“Fat Bottomed Girls” band] = QUEEN. Heard of.
42-A [“Bootylicious” singers] = DESTINY’S CHILD. Heard of.
49-A [“Baby Got Back” rapper] = SIR MIX-A-LOT. Heard of.
Also like KANYE WEST (no butt lyrics?), INTEGRALS, VERMIN and GAVE IT A GO. 4.00 stars since the 00 looks like a butt.
Jerome Gunderson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
- [Place for a nagging passenger?], GRUMBLESEAT. I recognize that a rumble seat is a thing, but not what it is. Hmm…
- [Prohibition against Confederate soldiers?], GRAYBAN
- [Soup with a prayer?], GRACECOURSE
- [Tribute to a sourpuss?], GRUMPROAST
- [Farmer’s harvest tradition?], GRAINDANCE
The theme design is all-pervasive, and this makes it hard to tart up the rest of the puzzle. Still we get PAINPILLS and HOLEINONE clued evocatively as [Its maker traditionally buys the drinks] – “maker” being a somewhat forced misdirect. Harder stuff is mostly well distributed – EARLE in the top-right (if you need an introduction, this song is a good place to start!). The cute PACA and ORAN are both in the middle-bottom, but everything else is quite work-a-day so no-one should have too much problem there. Crossword newbies of the wrong generation may not know film animals NALA and/or ASTA (I tried TOTO first there off the ‘T’, but again things are well-spaced.
There’s a doctor subtheme going on in the puzzle today! [You may get one from a doctor], NOTE; [Doctor’s order], BEDREST; [Small dose?], MED; [Aleve and Advil], PAINPILLS. Sort of related – I got asked if I also treat people while euthanasing someone’s dog today, so that was weird.
- I like the etymology angle for [Word from the Latin for “little grandfather”], UNCLE; similarly [Weary from overuse], JADE comes via JADE an obsolete word for a prostitute.
- [Dragonfly prey], BEE is a fascinating clue. It’s completely correct, and yet is completely unhelpful as there is no stereotypical connection burned into the collective conscious – like the way frogs are always shown catching flies with their tongues. It’s weird how simplistic many of these connections are, yes?
Well-constructed grid, but rather ho-hum theme. 3.25 Stars
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Self Starters”—Ade’s write-up
What’s up, crossworders?!?
I hope all of you are doing well, and hope you all did a fine job with today’s challenging crossword puzzle, brought to us by none other than Mr. Bob Klahn. If you’re a “me” person, then this grid is for you, as each of the three theme answers are two-word entries in which each of the words start with the letters “ME.” Thank goodness the first theme answer was clued in a way in which I had absolutely no problem in getting without any crossings! (YOU CAN’T SLIP ANYTHING LOONEY TUNES-RELATED PAST ME, MR. KLAHN!)
- MERRIE MELODIES: (20A: [Series with “Duck Amuck” and “One Froggy Evening”]) – Factoid: When the network The WB first launched in the mid 1990s, they used Michigan J. Frog, the star of “One Froggy Evening,” as the network’s mascot in promotions for its shows.
- MEDICINE MEN: (36A: [Sitting Bull was one of them])
- MELINA MERCOURI: (54A: [She was Ilya in “Never on Sunday”]) – I know the film, but need to catch it on Turner Classic Movies one of these days so I can be familiar with it more.
Pleasant earworm alert: the theme song to BEWITCHED, a show that I liked much better than I Dream of Jeannie (10D: [Captivated]). I’m also sure that many people who saw the show would compare their actual mothers in-law to Endora! I’m not a seafood eater, but from all the people I’ve heard from that do eat seafood, they are mostly fans of SCAMPI (1D: [Garlicky seafood entrée]). Thank goodness I heard of MÉTIER before, or that would have had me bamboozled as to what in the world was going on in that entry (34D: [Area of expertise]). Never heard of the verb BEDIM, and that entry took a while for me to look past because of its unusualness (45A: [Make murky]). As I typed unusualness, I had to look that up to see if that actually is a word. And it is.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: YANKEE (50A: [Doodle on a sheet of music?]) – First of all, GREAT clue! Second of all, I’m not going to talk about any New York Yankees, past or present. This “moment” is dedicated to the YANKEE Conference, a now-defunct collegiate sports conference which was founded in 1946, and once featured all of the land-grant universities in the New England states. For a story I’m working on for basketball-themed show on The A Lot of Sports Talk Podcast (look it up if you haven’t had a chance, but don’t make fun of my looks on the cover art), I got a chance to extensively talk with a member of the University of Connecticut men’s basketball teams in the 1950s who was a part of 10 consecutive championships in men’s basketball won by the Huskies. The Yankee Conference dissolved in 1997.
Thank you so much for the time, and I’ll see you all on Friday! TGIF, almost!