Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword
Well! That’s a zippy stack of 11s at the top of the grid (albeit with some ugly little crossings), and another zippy trio at the bottom:
- 1a. [“Perish the thought!”], “GOD, I HOPE NOT!” Love that answer, but could do without HEE, NOE, and ORLY ([General-aviation alternative to Le Bourget]? What a hideous clue). I like birds so I don’t mind OSCINE, 6d. [Of songbirds].
- 15a. [It has a “Complete My Album” service], ITUNES STORE.
- 17a. [He played Maxwell Smart in 2008], STEVE CARELL. Currently starring in Oscar-bait Foxcatcher.
- 57a. [Totally break up], DIE LAUGHING. Good clue—had me thinking of DEMOLISH….wait, that’s too short. And a great answer.
- 61a. [Renowned long jumper], EVEL KNIEVEL. Another good clue mislead—had me thinking of Olympians.
- 63a. [National coming-out day?], RELEASE DATE. For albums, I think is the gist; may also apply to books and movies?
Other things I liked:
- 2d. [Furry oyster cracker], OTTER. Everyone finds otters adorable, and this is one helluva clue. My pick for potential clue of the year. (I bought oyster crackers a couple weeks ago. I don’t think they’re furry but I haven’t opened the box to check.)
- 30a. [Certain union member], WIFE. Nice clue.
- 40a. [They might come with trains], GOWNS.
- 51a. [Part of a large kingdom], ANIMAL. I tried MAMMAL first. Have you heard of the kingdom Mammalia? Of course not.
- 29d. [What “many a man hath more hair than,” in Shakespeare], WIT.
In the debit column, we have -ITE, XES IN, MR ED for Mister Ed, A-TEN and B-TWO, GIE, and DEMONESS.
Just this week, Tim Croce launched his own indie crossword site, Club 72. Here’s his manifesto: “This is what Club 72 is all about: you will rarely see a themeless puzzle that doesn’t have 70 or 72 words. I will not go under 68 on this site, and 68 will be once in a great while. And I’m not afraid to use a pair or two of ‘cheater squares’ (extra black squares that don’t affect the word count) if it’s going to make for better quality fill.” That’s appealing—he’s also aiming for Saturday NYT difficulty.
Four stars from me.
Patrick Blindauer’s December website puzzle, “‘Tis the Season” — Matt’s review
Straightforward holiday theme from Patrick, centered on A Christmas Carol. There’s a lot of cross-referencing in the clues, so let me just present the answers out of order:
46-A [The Ghost of ___ (three different answers)] = CHRISTMASFUTURE, but also PAST and PRESENT if you read up and down from the second S.
82-A [With 85-Across, author whose last words were allegedly, “Be natural, my children, for the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art”] = CHARLES / DICKENS.
Then the cross-referenced entries are TINY TIM, EBENEZER SCROOGE, BAH / HUMBUG, MRS. / FEZZIWIG (a great Dickensian surname), GOD BLESS US / EVERY ONE, and MARLEY. Lots of theme material scattered around this 19×19 grid.
Stellar multiword fill: AMY ADAMS, JOE CAMEL, ONE ON ONE, P. DIDDY, ICE FOG. Stellar single-word fill: CURMUDGEONLY (though it’s sort of theme), RIBEYE, BARRIO, PANZER, FEDERER, HIYA, and EMBALM.
Favorite clues: [Person who makes beds?] for GARDENER, [The pilots of Penzance] for RAF.
Mystery fill: LRT for [Type of tramcar in Houston: Abbr.] and [One of Superman’s foes] for ZOD.
3.85 seasonal starrage.
David Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Letterheads” — pannonica’s write-up
The four-letter revealer is tucked away in a nondescript location at 105-across. It rather cryptically says [Its alphabet expands 10 answers (the letter spell a relevant phrase)] for NATO.
Now, I’m familiar with the NATO phonetic alphabet, aka the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, (use it when spelling things to people over the telephone) and could see that the relevant theme answers in this puzzle included some words from it, but not others. Decided to work out the additional answer post-solve. In fact, I’m doing it in the course of writing this up.
- 23a. [Plaza filled with Latin dancers?] TANGO SQUARE. Tango is the word for T in the IRSA. The one for S is Sierra. Aha. I see part of it now. The base phrase/word is T-SQUARE. Thus the letters phonetized in the theme answers will spell out a bonus phrase.
- 25a. [Shortish check-in window?] HOTEL HOUR. That is, H-Hour. Hey, you know what the H actually stands for in H-Hour? Hour. How about the D in D-Day? Yup, Day.
- 40a. [Periodicals for yodelers?] ECHO NEWSLETTERS. E-newsletters. The first three letters of our ten-letter answer are T-H-E.
- 64a. [Spokestuna catcher?] CHARLIE NET. Spokestuna, pronounced with four syllables as I read it, sounds like some far-flung exotic locale. CNET, the technology review website.
- 66a. [Instrument that measures a film’s award-worthiness?] OSCAR GAUGE. O-Gauge. O-Gauge? O gauge. O tempura! O mores! O scale!
- 73a. [In the form of a certain bean?] LIMA SHAPED. L-shaped. The IRSA pronounces this L-word with a long-e, like the capital of Peru, but in English the legume is pronounced with a long-i.
- 77a. [Airline’s desire to do better?] DELTA DRIVE. D DRIVE. I suppose we’re talking about computer hard drives here. T-H-E-C-O-L-D …
- 98a. [Publication featuring Jim Beam and Johnnie Walker?] WHISKEY MAGAZINE. W magazine. “Magazine” is not part of the publication’s title but is used to provide clarity.
- 116a. [Document signed by Milanese car buyers?] ALFA PAPER. Fiat Paper sounds more like a real thing. I suppose an A paper is one written for class that garners (or is expected to garner) a grade of A (or better).
- 119a. [When lady’s men are active?] ROMEO MONTHS. R-months, à la edible bivalves. Shouldn’t the clue read “ladies'”?
And voilà, the meta phrase is THE COLD WAR, which tangentially relates to the subject of the theme. Certainly not exclusively. I guess it’s okay. Not enough punch to this punchline for me, so I’m a bit let down by the them. However, there was a lot to like among the cluing throughout the rest of the crossword.
- 83d [Haydn nickname] PAPA, which is the IRSA word for P.
- 89a [Number on 68 of the 100 Scrabble tiles] ONE; 127a [Number on 8 of the 100 Scrabble tiles] THREE. 13d [Like some shots] ANTI-FLU; 24d [One getting shots regularly] SOT.
- 122a [Porterhouse stamp] USDA, followed by 123a [Porterhouse source] STEER. Not super-exciting, but the the former clue reminds me of
- Favorite clues: 55a [Glass elevator word?] CHEERS, nothing (directly) to do with Roald Dahl. 72a [Polish writing] EDIT. 106a [Grader’s headache] ESSAY. 118d [Was fast, or wasn’t fast] RAN.
- Least favorite fill: 1d [What the frightened might wake with] A START, 97d [Chart topper, e.g.] SONG HIT.
- 5d [Place to learn to crawl] POOL. This clue definitely needs a question mark. The misdirection is overly dubious with the omission of the definite article ‘the’ (i.e., the Australian crawl).
- 90a [How crickets chirp] SHRILLY. Seems rather subjective to me.
- Rough crossings: 3d [Foe in Nintendo’s game Luigi’s Mansion] KING BOO and 39a [Chinese menu eponym] TSO (admittedly, I missed the “menu” part of the clue while solving). 36d [Victorious declaration] I WIN (never know if it will be won) and 47a [Canton south of Lake Lucerne] URI.
- KING BOO, Elayne BOOSLER, BOOSTS, [Group with many boomers]. (3d, 16d, 103d, 69a)
- Fun fill: 100d [It comes before first, in math] ZEROTH.
All right puzzle. Definitely enjoyed the ballast fill and cluing more than the theme.
Jeff Chen’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Do Not Included”*see addendum — pannonica’s write-up
Oho, mathematics. Not my strength. Let’s take a look.
- 31d. [Like numbers represented by the symbol at the center of this puzzle] IMAGINARY.
- 13d. [With 14 Down, an expression of the symbol at the center of this puzzle] THE SQUARE ROOT | OF NEGATIVE ONE.
- 1d. [Mathematician whose work pioneered concepts represented by the symbol at the center of this puzzle] EULER.
- 9d. [Philosopher who contemptuously coined the term at 31 Down in its mathematical context] DESCARTES.
- 56d. [Mathematician whose work pioneered concepts represented by the symbol at the center of this puzzle] GAUSS.
Quite the deft construction here. Impressive. As far as I can tell (and recall), the symbol in question is i, an italic lowercase i. What look like large brackets—again, as far as I can tell—are not part of the graphic. And the i lacks its tittle, which would have been a huge headache to include.
In my ignorance, I also don’t understand the significance of the title.
Despite the theme constraints, the constructor still found room for some good long fill throughout the grid: STEAM OPEN, TEA GARDEN, HAIRCUT, NIELSEN. On the flip side, there’s a bunch of lesser fill lurking about: stuff like PAO, UAE, SRA, ESSA, TANTO, ETD, VSO, WIS, and so forth.
Some interesting clues herein. Examples: 68a [They’re short in the U.S. and long in the U.K.] TONS; 37a [What an ace might ice] ARM; 28d [Forty-niner’s streaks] LODES.
15a [Something in a crumbled state in Athens] is not the Parthenon or some other ancient ruin but FETA. Feta also comes in cubes, which the sections of this grid remind me of.
Good puzzle, but the theme is strictly not my cup of tea.
addendum: It’s been brought to my attention that I’m a space cadet. This puzzle is actually called Dot Not Included, which addresses two of my questions: the missing tittle and the mysterious title.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
In today’s puzzle, non-comparative “-er” noun adjuncts have an “i” inserted to become comparative adjectives. Standard wackiness results, although all the wacky clues are written the same way, which either a) is more elegant as it tightens the way the theme works or b) makes the clues stilted as it forces them to be written in the same very specific way. Anyway, we get:
- [Baseball, vis-à-vis jai alai?], POKIERGAME. I don’t understand. How does one judge the pokiness of a ball game.
- [GE range, vis-à-vis an Easy-Bake toy?], TOASTIEROVEN. Because of kitchen design flaws, I use my combi-oven as a toaster. I suspect this is an inefficient way to make toast.
- [SpongeBob’s underwear, vis-à-vis Mickey’s?], BOXIERBRIEFS.
- [Jeep, vis-à-vis a Cadillac?], BUMPIERCAR.
It’s a very conservative grid for a Friday, and there weren’t a lot of difficult answers, and yet I still found the puzzle generally tough to crack. I can’t point to anything specific, but the clues in general seemed tougher than usual, although my overall time seems about average.
- LEM/APOLLO/NEIL all get bound together… Seemed a bit forced though.
- [Large Hadron Collider acronym], CERN. I foresee this becoming a lot more common in grids.
- [Piglike animal], TAPIR. Similar in looks, but one is an artiodactyl and the other a perissodactyl.
- [Challenging roommate], SLOB. My cousin does the whole roommate thing. Since moving out, I’ve preferred the staying alone option. Around here anyway, rent works out similarly, so I can’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that!
PS, the bonus theme answer yesterday was NENA, in case anyone cared. Deliberate or not? No-one will ever know.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Slitely altered spellings”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again, everyone! My apologies for the late, late show tonight, but I’m here for you CrosSynergy lovers. Again, life/work just gets in the way of crossword solving sometimes. Today’s crossword puzzle theme, brought to us today by Mr. Patrick Jordan, involves two-word terms in which the second word is a homophone, specifically the “GHT” into “ITE” homophones.
- STRIDE RITE: (17A: [Children’s footwear corporation founded in Boston])
- NICK AT NITE: (53A: [Network-within-a-network featuring old sitcoms])
- MILLER LITE: (11D: [“Tastes great, less filling” sloganeer]) – Person 1: NO! It’s less filling first, then tastes great!!! Person 2: It tastes great first, then less filling!! Bar fight ensues.
- ULTRA BRITE: (28D: [Crest competitor])
Was really quick with today’s puzzle, and helped to know Stride Rite from the off, and from there, had a feel what the theme would be. It’s not unusual to have TOM JONES‘ “It’s Not Unusual” in your mind when coming across his name, and that’s what happening now, even with the reference to another hit song of his in the grid (36D: [“She’s a Lady” singer”]). For some stupid reason, I put in “Toledo” instead of DORADO for a second (46A: [El ______ (legendary city of gold)]). Totally mashed up El Greco and one of his pieces of art, “View of Toledo.” Eh, it happens, right? Pretty smooth solve once again, and good to see GAZEBO again after getting totally tripped up by that word a couple of weeks ago (43A: [Park pavilion, perhaps]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BENJI (44A: [Star of 1980’s “Oh, Heavenly Dog!”])– A sad sports moment for today, as I’m going to focus on Ben “BENJI” Wilson, the first Chicago are high school player to be ranked No. 1 in the country in basketball, and who led Simeon Vocational High School to an Illinois state championship in the spring of 1984. Two days before the beginning of his senior season as a basketball player, Wilson was shot and killed after an argument with two people who attended a nearby high school. The documentary Benji is part of ESPN’s award-winning “30 for 30” documentary series, and if you have time, and can bear a sad tale of potential tragically unfulfilled (as well as celebrating his short life), it’s a riveting watch.
Have a good weekend, everyone! See you tomorrow!