Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Gimme All Your Lovin'”
You might write and X and an O to represent a kiss and a hug—or perhaps xoxoxo for an alternating series of the two. (Which is weird. I’m switching to oxxxoo from now on.) Matt adds an XO to familiar phrases to create the goofy theme answers he’s clued accordingly:
- 18a. [Spanish guy who joined a Germanic tribe?], SAXON DIEGO.
- 34a. [Like many actresses on “Baywatch”?], BEACH-BUXOM.
- 45a. [Author of “The Watergate Diaries”?], ANAIS NIXON. Sounds hot! I would read that.
- 60a. [The most one-sided line in US history?], DIXON-DIXON. That’s din-din taking a pair of loves and replacing the Mason-Dixon line.
Solid theme, and the ANAIS NIXON was funny. I love a puzzle that brings the funny in at least one theme answer.
Six more things:
- 33a. [Big house fixture], LIFER. As in a prisoner with a life sentence at “the big house,” not a “big fixture found in houses.”
- 52a. [Opening piece?], KEY.
- 11d. [Song that goes “So whyyyyyy don’t you use it?”], THE REFLEX, by Duran Duran. Without Matt’s spelling here, I’m not sure I would have gotten this. With it? Instantaneous.
- 44d. [Leon who sang the theme to “Mr. Belvedere”], REDBONE. This had to have been the pinnacle of Mr. Redbone’s career.
- 58d. [Serious sevensome], SINS. I briefly pondered the seriousness of SEAS.
- 55d. [Holy book], KORAN. With some crossings in place, I went with TORAH. 53a. [Produce], MATE? Well, I guess …. 71a. [Is the author of], PEHS? Wait a minute. MAKE and PENS.
Sparkly fill with THE REFLEX, SIX-PACK, and APOLLO XII all crossing thematic X’s.
Four stars from me.
Paul Hunsberger’s New York Times crossword
A SHOE is the (67a. [Item depicted by this puzzle’s circled letters]), and the words in the circled letters make up the rest of the theme. The upper diagonals represent the shoe’s TONGUE and the LACES just above it. On the left there’s a rather flat HEEL (ouch! not anatomically correct), with a curved TOE on the right. Between them is a chunk of SOLE where the bottom of the shoe’s heel is, then an arching ARCH extending to the front of the SOLE. And apparently our SHOE has had the misfortune of stepping on a wad of GUM.
The long fill is exactly that—long fill. Nothing thematic about IN THE EVENT, STREAMER, DEVALUED, or COLLEGE MEN.
I didn’t love the fill overall (ETTU, OASTS, ASEA, plural suffix –EERS, prefix ODO-, EEN, LST, plural EDNAS, TERN, OVO, EERO, NES, and plural OYS), but you know what? We’ve seen so many earlyish-week NYT puzzles with similar lineups of blah entries, with entirely ordinary themes. This one at least tosses in a bunch of triple-checked words to necessitate compromises in the fill.
Five more things:
- 29a. [Doggone, quaintly], DEUCED. Two syllables. I have never once used this word. It is indeed quaint.
- 47a. [House cooler, for short], AIRCON. Short for air conditioner. Everyone I know who uses this term is Filipino. How about you?
- 6d. [Accommodate], OBLIGE. As in “Will you oblige/accommodate my request?” Took me a while to see the connection between the two.
- 7d. [N.B.A. farm system, informally], D LEAGUE. I sure needed the crossing for that D.
- 48d. [William Sydney Porter’s pen name], O. HENRY. I was trying to remember his real name the other day and drew a blank.
The shoe anatomical drawing is kinda cute, and I don’t recall seeing a visual theme along these lines before. 3.66 stars from me. I still prefer crisper fill and don’t make huge allowances for thematic ambition.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 184), “It’s Sweater Weather”—Janie’s review
A season-perfect puzzle, cuz baby, it’s cold outside! Five themers in this one, each a two-word phrase, the first of which can precede the garment in the title. This type of “category”-style theme may be familiar to seasoned solvers, but less so to newbies—making it a great way to sample the way it works. Really liked that there was no reveal in the puzzle, though since I’d covered up the title before solving, darned if I could identify the puzzle’s common thread—even once I’d completed it. Got me! But once I took a look, I enjoyed the resulting “D’oh”/”Aha” moment. Here’s how the theme set plays out:
- 17A. TENNIS ELBOW [It might put Rafael Nadal out of service?]. Nice wordplay with “service” here. Tennis elbow could put him out of service/take him out of the game—or impact the “service” element of his game. (Perhaps his coach might suggest he try a ROLF treatment, a visit to a therapist who’d [Apply deep-tissue massage].) Tennis sweater.
- 27A. VARSITY BLUES [1999 sports drama starring John Voight as a football coach]. But at the time, I suspect it was co-star James Van Der Beek, the then-fresh-faced star and tween/teen hearthrob of Dawson’s Creek, who was the main attraction. Regardless, didn’t see it… Varsity sweater.
- 37A. DOG TAGS [Private’s property]. My fave of the themers, for two reasons. First there’s that clue, meant of course to make us think of the phrase “private property.” But then there’s the whole darned “cute” image-conjuring effect this one set in motion, to wit, the four-legged at the left. Dog sweater.
- 47A. LETTER OPENER [Engraved gift for a penpal]. And just look at the interconnect between this pair and [Pen pal?] JAILBIRD. Terrific. But I’m guessin’ any letter opener sent to a pal in the pen would be confiscated pronto. On the subject of incarceration, it seems humorist Abe Burrows, who wrote the book for Guys and Dolls (among many other B’way ventures), was confined for a spell to a so-called “fat farm” (or, to be more politically correct: weight loss retreat…). His request to any visitors (so they say…)? “Bring me a file with a cake inside!” Letter sweater.
- 60A. CARDIGAN BAY [Irish Sea inlet that’s home to bottlenose dolphins]. And shades of Perry Como in conjunction with that cardigan sweater…
Of the five kinds of sweaters, all but the dog sweater have a Venn diagram kind of overlap. There are tennis sweaters that are cardigans, varsity sweaters that are letter sweaters, tennis sweaters that are letter sweaters—you get the idea. And omg, of course the internet has just disabused me of my original statement. Get yer doggy tennis sweaters right here. All of which makes for a most, um, tightly knit theme set!
This puzzle also benefits from a surfeit of excellent non-theme fill and clue/fill pairings. I’ll list some of ’em:
- The rangy quartet of music-based entries: rapper Nicki MINAJ, iconoclast [Frank Zappa’s “]ORRIN [Hatch on Skis”], symphonic [Maestro] ZUBIN [Mehta] and Enya’s NEW AGE sound. Even BITTE gets a musical reference clued as [Please, to Mozart].
- The snappy “NAME IT!” [“I’ll give you anything!”] and [Dapper storybook elephant] for BABAR. It’s been a while since I’d thought of Babar’s penchant for sartorial spiffiness.
- [Former Air Force Two passenger] gives us the full name of AL GORE.
- From Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the seasonal fitb [“…and] I IN [my cap, had just settled down for a long winter’s nap”]. Oh, and perhaps I shoulda made that a quintet of musical entries, but with the approach of winter, let me not forget to mention [“Frosty the Snowman” singer Burl] IVES. (And if you’re thinking about what-to-get-for-whom in this gift-giving season, be sure to check out the Crossword Nation option for the puzzle-lovers on your list.)
- Had you ever heard of the word NANOBREAK [Extremely brief vacation] before solving? It completely makes sense, but was also completely new to me. Only about 9,200 Google hits. And I’m not sure you’ll find it yet in many printed dictionaries, but it’s a “BuzzWord” in the online Macmillan Dictionary, and that’s good enuf authority fer me. It’s not as up-to-the-minute, but its grid-opposite HOBNOBBED [Schmoozed (with)] is equally peppy and welcome in the grid. Ditto ZEALOT and RAVING. As in a [Fanatical fan] may be [Stark] RAVING [mad].
- Four words have to cross three themers—and do so with varying degrees of appeal. In descending order, they’d be JAILBIRD, OTTOMANS, SEPARATE and IRON LUNG. That last one, as I’m wont to say, is definitely more functional than fun, but 1) it’s totally legit and 2) is the constructor’s best choice. BOOK LUNG and SNOW DUNG just ain’t gonna cut it…
- Last, but by no means least, another entry that was entirely new to—one
requiring all the crosses to complete, and that’d be [Taiwanese golf champion Yani TSENG]. First of all, until Googling the name I had no idea of Yani’s gender. This phenom plays on the LPGA circuit. Per Wiki, she is “the youngest player ever, male or female, to win five major championships…” (Eat yer heart out, Tiger.) And she’s only 25 now. If she’s new to you, too, do yourself a favor and read up on her. She’s a jaw-droppingly impressive golfer. Fore!
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Female of the Species”—Ade’s write-up
Hey there! It’s looks like a complete washout already in New York weather-wise, but you can’t call today’s puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Raymond Hamel, a washout. In the puzzle, four theme answers – two across and two down – are two-word terms in which the second word in each are titles that can be used to label females. And in each one, the girls are either bad, or, in one case, a superhero Russian bad-ass!
- BLACK WIDOW: (18A: [Member of the Avengers]) – Superhero Russian bad-ass, in case you didn’t know.
- IRON MAIDEN: (62A: [Rock group named after a torture device]) – For a while, I confused Iron Maiden with Black Sabbath. Please tell me I’m not the only one that had happen to him or her.
- DRAGON LADY: (4D: [Villain in the comic strip “Terry and the Pirates”])
- DEVIL WOMAN: (30A: [1976 Cliff Richard hit song])
Didn’t necessarily get off on the right foot at the top, as I initially wanted to pull the trigger and put in BALD, but wasn’t sure what a uakari was (1A: [Like the uakari or some eagles]). Just found out that it’s a monkey that’s native to South America. Nice. I thought it was the eyes that don’t lie, but leave it to Shakira, and her HIPS, to tell me otherwise (55D: [“____ Don’t Lie” (#1 song for Shakira)]). A couple of other famous female entertainers were featured, and they intersected as well: BABS (34D: [Streisand nickname]) and BARDOT (43A: [French film icon Brigitte]). Actually, there’s more women featured than I first noticed, with the reference to THE PIANO (45A: [Movie for which Anna Paquin won an Oscar]) and NYRO (28A: [“Wedding Bell Blues” composer Laura]). If the grid’s theme is about the ladies, then it’s fitting to load even more fill with famous women. I like it! To boot, sitting on my chair and typing in BELLY RUB tempted me to actually do that to my belly now, just for kicks, but I’m going to pass (34A: [Ear-scratch alternative]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: JAGS (10A: [Fancy sports cars, for short])– The Jacksonville Jaguars, or JAGS for short, are a National Football League franchise that started its first season of play in 1995. One year later, the Jags made a surprising run to the AFC Championship Game, defeating the Denver Broncos, regarded as the best team in the entire NFL, in the conference semifinals. The first head coach in team history was Tom Coughlin, who led the Jags to that improbable playoff win, but then eventually led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you on Wednesday…which is tomorrow. Yes, I can keep track of days, thank you very much!
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I was confused for a while, wondering what the Greek alphabet has to do with the central answer, KWANZAA (36a. [Week-long year-end celebration]). Eventually I decided that KWANZAA was just fill, and the theme is phrases that begin with the first four letters of the Greek alphabet, in order:
- 20a. [Star system closest to the solar system], ALPHA CENTAURI. I don’t care for duplications like “star” in this clue and in 25d. [Relatively cool heavenly body], K-STAR. (And furthermore, I don’t care for answers like K-STAR. People who aren’t engaged in astrophysics typically don’t know these various star designations. They play like “random letter preceding STAR, check the crossing to know which one.”)
- 28a. [Software development phase], BETA TEST.
- 45a. [Bit of electromagnetic radiation], GAMMA RAY.
- 53a. [Atlanta-based carrier], DELTA AIRLINES.
In addition to that star/STAR dupe, there’s also 49a. [Appraise], VALUATE and 64a. [Lacking face value, as stock], NO PAR. (And furthermore, NO PAR is utterly lifeless fill. VALUATE isn’t much better.) I understand that Will Shortz and Rich Norris don’t place much value on rooting out such clue/answer duplication, but these things bug the crap out of so many solvers, and it’s not that difficult to do. When the occasional little one slips through, it’s not the end of the world, but when your word dupes involve the clue for a theme answer, a 7-letter answer, and two lousy 5s, they stick out more and there’s just no payoff.
I’m also grumpy because it’s December, and you can’t put the December holiday KWANZAA smack-dab in the middle of your crossword and have it be irrelevant to the theme. You can do that in any other month, but not now.
I struggled in the opening corner because I don’t know 1d. [Crimson Tide coach Nick], SABAN. Seems tough to have that name crossing ACAI and BORG, doesn’t it?
Fill I liked: EAT MY DUST, INGRATE, TEXAS TEA (even though I learned that term from crosswords), BUNNY, and the very lovely word AQUIFER.
Fill that brings me no joy: ECTO, ABA, AAR, partials OR NO and IN AT, ETRE/ECOLE, NO PAR, SABAN, awkward ALL OK, weird TALCED beside plural ALOES, ENZO, and K-STAR. For a puzzle with 42 theme squares, there’s not really any compelling reason for that much blah fill (other than “as far as I’m concerned, this fill is all perfectly fine,” which plenty of solvers would agree with, but NOT I).
Three stars from me.