Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
I zigzagged my way diagonally through this puzzle, from ICONS to ACETIC to CAIN to INITS to SPAN to A-LINE to LOAF to FARSI to CLIPPER to SPIGOT/SEMITE to JOE DIMAGGIO, and then the jig was up. Lynn Lempel’s Sports Fan Friday puzzle at Daily Celebrity Crossword on the 21st also marked the DiMag centennial, so the hitting streak and whatnot were fresh in my mind. He played CENTER FIELD, he had a HITTING / STREAK that lasted FIFTY-SIX GAMES, and his nickname was the YANKEE / CLIPPER.
So the theme was a speed-fill-in yawner for me, given that I didn’t have to work for it and given that old baseball stuff is of vanishingly little interest to me.
I did like SUSPENSE, ON HIATUS, and LAYAWAY in the fill. With the theme occupying seven entries in the grid, more of the fill left me cold: UNH SHO ATA ASPIC SUR LIC ANAT AZO MOTET TKO SSE RMN TYPEE BEFOGS LEM ENDAT SRA MEUP. Toss that FIFTY-SIX GAMES into the clue for HITTING STREAK, loosen up the whole grid, and you’d see markedly smoother fill. I don’t love the philosophy of “jam as much theme in as you can, it’s super-impressive!” Let the grid breathe a bit.
3.25 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 182), “Thanksgiving Stuffing”—Janie’s review
What’s your favorite part of the turkey? The white meat? The dark? The stuffing?… Today’s themers all take their cue from that last option. But let’s start with the bird itself which, as it’s clued at 45A. [Turkey that’s “stuffed” in the answers to the starred clues], is a TOM. In case you hadn’t realized before entering that answer (and you can count me in that number…), all of the themers (all five of ’em) start with “T” and end with “OM.” Not only is there a great grid-spanner at center, but also note the nifty four-letter overlap created by both of the remaining theme pairs. Because they’re fixed, those consecutive letter-pairs make an extra challenge for the constructor. It should come as no surprise to know that Liz has risen to the occasion. So much good fill today! Starting with those that fulfill the theme’s mission:
- *18A. TEN-ROOM [Like a “perfect” suburban McMansion]. Where “10” = “perfect.” Perfect. Btw, it wasn’t until I hit the reveal that I realized that this seven-letter entry was even in the theme set…
- *19A. TEMPLE OF DOOM [Booby-trapped setting in an Indiana Jones film]. The second in the franchise.
- *36A. THE MAGIC KINGDOM [Site of Disney’s Cinderella Castle]. Pardon me while I gush, but this kind of fill is as good as it gets.
- *49A. TICK, TICK… BOOM! [Musical by “Rent” composer Jonathan Larson]. I’m gonna guess that this one did not come trippingly off the writing-iron for most solvers. But this, too, makes for the freshest kind of fill—whether or not you are an avid follower of contemporary musical theatre. The title is terrific—and with Rent, the late Larson brought a whole new generation of theatre-goers into the fold, making this title eminently puzzle-worthy material.
- *55A. TRANSOM [Window above a door]. Whence the phrase “over-the-transom” associated with unsolicited manuscripts. Hmm… and perhaps a retro-detail in a ten-room McMansion?
As I said: this grid is
packed stuffed with goodies. The very open grid allows for triple stacks of seven-letter words in all four corners, giving us SLOWEST, LORIMAR, ONE MILE, POT-HEAD, ARIADNE and TEN-ROOM in the north; and TRANSOM, COLUMN “A,“ UMPTEEN, SHEATHE, BIRCHES and NOSHERS in the south. West and east gird the grid with triple columns of six: PET CAT, ENHALO and PLENUM, and “GLAD TO!,“ ACT OUT and SHAMES. Then, staggered and cascading vertically, there are three nine-letter entries: SALES TAGS, FOOD COURT and PISTACHIO.
Given the holiday at hand, I thought it most appropriate to find that food court right at center—how busy do you suppose your local one will be on Black Friday (the day when the prices on those sales tags are likely to be slashed)? And given the holiday at hand, loved the bonus shout-out to it in KIN [Thanksgiving invitees, usually]—which might include MOM [Maternal figure] or an AUNT or two.
Now remember, Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. Still, between WIMPLE [Nun’s head cover], ENHALO, CANONS [Church decrees] and thoughts of music by J.S. BACH, I had to wonder about puzzle’s “sacred” overtones. I thought perhaps EDO de Waart might have recorded some cantatas by J.S Bach, but, no. No sacred music. The best I could come up with are these violin concertos.
And as Thanksgiving coincides with the start of that slippery slope marking the end of the regular professional (and college) football seasons and the beginning of championship and “bowl” games, it seemed most fitting to see gridiron greats Michael OHER and TROY AIKMAN in the grid. A note on the latter, who is clued as [Cowboy Hall of Famer…]. Serious “d’oh” moment for me. I was thinking more along these lines, and not of the Dallas Cowboys and/or the Pro Football Hall of Fame. D’oh… Got me!
If the NOSHERS in your house are filling up on OREOS and PISTACHIO ice cream, or having a clotted-cream-topped SCONE, here’s hoping that won’t make them [Last in the Turkey Trot fun run] SLOWEST. No mere ONE-MILE races, these, but more on the order of 5K and over. Gobble-gobble!
So much to be thankful for—the roof above my head, reasonably good health, having “enough” with some left over to share. I’ll be going down to Baw’mer (my hometown, hon,) and am hoping you and yours will enjoy the day however you choose to do so!
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword
Okay, my third DiMag puzzle in five days. Losing the will to live, and blog. Peter’s theme has more pop culture and less sports focus, with MRS. ROBINSON‘s lyrics and the MARILYN MONROE marriage accompanying JOE DIMAGGIO the YANKEE CLIPPER, and his b. As in the NYT puzzle, the inclusion of seven theme entries in the grid leads to some blah fill.
And as in the NYT puzzle, I’d vote to leave FIFTY/SIX/GAMES on the cutting room floor. Might’ve helped Peter to avoid things like crosswordese ESS, IONA, SRI; plural RCAS, RXS, YOGIS, EDAMS, ABBRS; partials/fragments OR A, TEM, OH I, A TUNE, A JAM; abbrevs ENE, SSGT, SEM, ASSOC, PCB, SDS, TSU, IRA; foreign EIN and MES; and the GO TO/NO-GOS duplication. There’s also the contrivance HAS A ROOM (11d. [Is staying overnight (at)]).
3.25 stars from me. The fill felt a bit worse than the NYT’s, but I liked the MRS ROBINSON/MARILYN MONROE angles better.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “RK’d Game”
I have no idea what “RK’d” means. Oh, a sound-alike for “arcade”? Gotcha. Four phrases with RK initials are the theme:
- 18a. [Tae kwon do move], ROUND KICK.
- 28a. [Breakfast noisemakers], RICE KRISPIES.
- 47a. [Bus driver of classic TV], RALPH KRAMDEN. The first two theme answers I filled in had KRispies and KRamden so I wasn’t clear why it was “RK’d” and not “KR’d.” The lighted soon dawned.
- 62a. [Indie band formed by actress Jenny Lewis], RILO KILEY.
Abstract thing, food, fictional character, band name. Good assortment, though initials themes seldom move me. It is nice to have a 15×15 puzzle with four theme entries, not seven.
Three more things:
- 1a. [Doing OK on the golf course], AT PAR. Is that legit? Don’t golfers say “shooting par” or something? AT PAR has a specific meaning in finance: “(of a share) purchasable at issue par or nominal par.” Not a warm and fuzzy 1-Across.
- Favorite fill includes PLINKO, B MOVIES, and PANINI (though the clue, [Sandwich made with a press], violates Italian by treating it as a singular word, in English PANINI can be singular. Yes, it’s a bastardization. So is a lot of the English language. Don’t get me started on what happened to napron and pease.).
- 41d. [Food ___ : Portland, Oregon :: Food trucks : other cities], CARTS. Needed all the crossings. I guess I don’t watch Portlandia enough, and my viewing of Grimm doesn’t focus on the street food.
3.75 stars. The fill’s quite a bit smoother than the NYT and LAT fill today—modest theme size has its advantages.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Familiar Detectives”—Ade’s write-up
Hello hello everyone!
Hope you all are well, and also hope you’re getting ready for Thanksgiving…and if you’re in the East Coast, getting ready for an upcoming snowstorm during the holiday weekend! Goodness! Anyways, this is about crosswords, and today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Tony Orbach, uses puns and common terms to identify famous fictional detectives, all located at the end of each of the theme answers.
- RABBIT HUTCH: (17A: [Nickname for a fleet-footed detective Kenneth])
- CASUAL FRIDAY: (27A: [Nickname for an easygoing detective Joe])
- TRAPPIST MONK: (44A: [Nickname for an ascetic detective Adrian])
- ESCAPE SHAFT: (59A: [Nickname for an elusive detective John])
Seeing RAINMAN just reminded me that I haven’t watched that movie since about 1992 (5D: [Dustin Hoffman movie of 1988]). Another down clue I loved was SEX APPEAL, something that definitely doesn’t come to me naturally (35D: [Allure]). I might have to buy that from the grocery store for me to have it! Ok, ok, maybe I’m kidding…a little bit. This was a free-flowing puzzle and I didn’t have too many trouble spots in it. That, and I did not have a near worm when filling in ABBA today (53D: [“Fernando” band]). Thank goodness!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PHD (11A: [Third degree, for some]) – Why am I about to talk about Frank Ryan, the quarterback who last led the Cleveland Browns to a championship, back in 1964? Because only months after Ryan led the Browns to a 27-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Rice University. Dumb jock? Definitely not in Frank Ryan’s case.
See you on Hump Day!