Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle will have you going in circles. LOOP DE LOOP DE LOOP (I didn’t know you could add that last DE LOOP) is clued as 41a. [Maneuver for slot car racers or stunt pilots, as suggested by this puzzle’s circled letters]. There are eight 2×2 boxes that spell out LOOP going clockwise, rotating the starting point clockwise as you travel clockwise around the grid. The 2×2 LOOPs aren’t in symmetrical spots—the southeast half of the loops are dropped one row lower than would be required for perfect symmetry. But the grid isn’t square—it’s one column wider than it is tall—so you’d end up with an oval loop instead of a circle/octagon if the vertical placements had symmetry.
Well, there’s no wordplay to discuss in the theme. It’s just “hey, look at the LOOPs” and then it’s time to go home.
Five more things:
- 32d. [Common grass variety named for its color], REDTOP. I bet those of us who know this mainly know it because Merl Reagle considered putting it into his puzzle in the Wordplay documentary. (I believe he found something more familiar to use instead.)
- 43d. [Parts of chemistry buildings], LAB ROOMS. Is that a phrase? I just call ’em LABS.
- Geography! We’ve got the HMONG (69a. [Ethnic group of Southeast Asia] and the Upper Midwest U.S.) and HERAT (51d. [Western Afghan city]). I’m far more familiar with the former.
- 42d. [Schedule for take-off?], DIET PLAN. I don’t think of “diet plans” as schedules so much as menu plans. What you eat, not when.
- 9d. [Kiss and cuddle], CANOODLE. A fun word, and it’s well placed next to the RUMPLE of bed linens.
Most of the fill isn’t terribly fun or interesting, and the puzzle of “what order will the L, O, O, and P be in this time?” not so engaging. 3.25 stars for me. An ambitious construction, but towards what end? (The folks who swoon at architectural achievements in crosswords are probably much fonder of this puzzle than I was.)
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 187), “Chain Letters”—Janie’s review
IMHO, what we have here today is one mighty fine theme set in search of a re-framed theme. And I’ll FESS up to the fact that this left me with a SO-SO feeling. The “Chain Letters” of the title are revealed in full at 59D. [Walgreen’s rival…or a hint to the puzzle theme] CVS. So those’re the letters of the CVS drugstore chain. In that case, shouldn’t we be seeing that three-letter sequence in the five themers? Instead, we get five two-word phrases in which the first word begins with “C” and the second with “V.” What happened to the “S”? Apparently it got short shrift, but… on the brighter side, there’s some pretty meaty theme fill to appreciate.
- 18A. CASH VALUE [Type of life insurance one might borrow against]. No, this isn’t the liveliest fill, but major props to what follows.
- 23A. CONJUGAL VISIT [Prison hook-up]. Love the clue; love the fill.
- 37A. CHEWABLE VITAMIN [Colorful pill that’s shaped like Fred or Wilma Flintstone]. Talk about fill that’s both crunchy and chewy! Seems this popular product—bound to keep the Flintstones crossword-friendly for years to come—comes in chewable, gummy and sour gummy varieties. Available, no doubt, at your convenient CVS store…)
- 45A. CHERRY VANILLA [Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavor]. Yum. And festive. Maybe a good flavor to have on hand when ushering in 2015. Tomorrow night!!
- 56A. CAPE VERDE [Island nation off Africa’s west coast]. Interesting history here—including its now United-Nations-official-name of “Republic of Cabo Verde,” which reflects its etymological origins as a Portuguese sighting in 1444.
I know. I know. They’re all CVs. But I still find the premise a stretchy one at best. We’re in very subjective territory here. Whence those words of wisdom, “Your mileage may vary.”
The puzzle is on far more solid ground with its long fill, those matching double nine columns NW and SE. Love seeing SEASCAPES right there beside SEASON TWO, with their twinned opening letters. Cool. And nice cluing for them, too. There’s the punny [Paintings created with water colors?] for the former, and the still-timely [“House of Cards” set of episodes released on 2/14/14] for the latter. (Even fresher—move over, Gondoliers—is the up-to-the-minute [“Selma” actress Thompson] TESSA pairing.) Then, in the SE we get [Figure skater Tai] BABILONIA beside “I’M ON A ROLL!” [Gambling addict’s cry]. (Not sure this is an “addict-specific” cry. Wouldn’t even a casual or social gambler who’s on a winning streak be likely to make that boast? Maybe even someone visiting MACAU [Gambling mecca known as the “Monte Carlo of the Orient”].)
There are several other groaner-type clues that (for my money…) also add to the puzzle’s entertainment value:
- [Michelle with a driving passion?] refers to golf champ Michelle WIE who has accomplished great things with her drivers. So, this is not about her love of being behind the wheel or about her innate ambition…
- [Hardly well-dressed?] for BARE. Hmm. Not even dressed at all, in fact. Let’s call this clue an example of understatement.
- [Pancho’s country house?] for VILLA. Villa is Spanish for house; a villa is a country estate (English usage); and then there’s Mexican Revolutionary general Pancho Villa. This one packs a powerful punch!
Finally, I love the specificity of [Ski lodge drink] for COCOA and [Renaissance Fair cupful] for MEAD. Whatever your own “cup of kindness” as you toast in the new year, know that I lift a glass of bubbly in your general direction. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, peaceful and bright 2015!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Taglines”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everybody, and welcome to New Years’ Eve Eve! We have a straightforward crossword theme for today, with our grid served up to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. In it, the three theme answers are three-word entries in which the first letters of each word end up spelling “TAG.” At least I think that’s the theme, unless there’s something else I’m missing, like identifying the Saturday Night Live alumni.
- TAKE A GANDER: (20A: [Look])
- TONGUE AND GROOVE: (41A: [Joint used in wood flooring])
- TOWN AND GOWN: (58A: [Of a university’s relationship with its surroundings])
As I said before, the mini-theme of the day was SNL alumni, with the appearances of both BEN STILLER (29D: [“Saturday Night Live” alumnus]) and JOE PISCOPO, whom I’ll always remember as Frank Sinatra to Eddie Murphy’s Stevie Wonder on a hilarious SNL sketch duet (11D: [“Saturday Night Live” alumnus]). Let’s not forget the appearance of ADAM as well in terms of SNL alumni (37D: [Sandler of “Blended”]). I actually just found out about a month back that Joe Piscopo is now a talking head on radio in New York City, and he talks almost exclusively politics. Imagine that?! Although not an SNL alumna, I would assume SUSAN hosted the shot at lease once, give her celebrity fame (44A: [Lucci of “All My Children”]). So I guess STAR being almost smack dab in the middle of the grid is very fitting, given all of the star power in today’s puzzle (45A: [Hollywood Boulevard feature]). Outside of the fame and fortune, favorite clue of the day was CHIN-UPS (52A: [They’re good for strengthening biceps]). Oh, and I’ve never seen Alexander being shortened to Al before when talking about AL HAIG (5D: [General who said, “The warning message we sent the Russians was a calculated ambiguity that would be clearly understood”]). With that, along with proclaiming he was running the show after President Reagan was shot, sounds like Haig had said a few interesting things during his many years of service to our country.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROME (16A: [Vatican City setting]) – Jim ROME is a nationally-syndicated sports talk show host (“The Jim Rome Show”) based in Los Angeles. While known for his strong opinions and loyal radio following, he’s probably best known for his confrontation with former L.A. Rams and New Orleans Saints quarterback Jim Everett during a live TV segment back in the mid 1990s, as Jim Everett didn’t take kindly to Rome calling him “Chris Everett.” It’s actually pretty hilarious, so instead of explaining to you all of what happened between Rome and Everett, here’s the video…
See you on New Years’ Eve!
Greg Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
38a. [Moving company service, and what the starts of 17-, 24-, 49- and 59-Across may be used for] is STORAGE, a rather flat word to anchor a puzzle.
- 17a. [Stunt pilot stunt], BARREL ROLL. I’ve never stored anything in a barrel, personally.
- 24a. [Quaint dating-and-dining event], BOX SOCIAL. I have boxes, but have never heard of a BOX SOCIAL. BOX CUTTER is much more familiar, but refers to actual cardboard boxes while the existing theme entries stray from the literal containers.
- 49a. [Man cave celebration]. CHEST BUMP. Good one.
- 59a. [Social agency employee], CASE WORKER.
I was surprised to seem some entries in here that feel a little crusty, crossword answers I learned decades ago in the grid and have seldom seen outside crosswords:
- 48a. [Bailiff’s cry], OYEZ. I listen for it in courtroom TV dramas and never seem to catch it.
- 64a. [Winery prefix], OENO-. In the real world, people don’t bandy about such specific prefixes. We’re good with pre- and post- and anti- and pro-, but OENO has such limited application.
- 2d. [“The Good Earth” mother], O-LAN.
Three more things:
- 12d. [Actress Bloom of “High Plains Drifter”], VERNA. She’s not a household name at my house.
- 36d. [__ bath: therapeutic soak], SITZ. It’s for your nether parts, specifically. There’s also a ZIT and a STYE, if you want to complete the (very mild) gross-out.
- 3d. [NASA’s Curiosity, e.g.], MARS ROVER. This clue would have been so much harder without “NASA’s” in it.
3.5 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Editor’s Note”
Straight-up quote puzzle: 28a. SPEAKER OF QUIP] is TRUMAN CAPOTE, and the quote occupying the rest of the theme spaces is I BELIEVE MORE / IN THE / SCISSORS THAN / I DO THE PENCIL. The various chunks are a little tricky to piece together, as the wording is rather more formal than many people’s everyday speech. Thoughtful quote and not a humorous quip, so the puzzle is low on the whimsy scale.
- 58d. [General Motors great Alfred], SLOAN. I don’t know about you, but I needed an awful lot of crossings to get this one.
- 8d. [Novelist ___ Alexie], SHERMAN. Still waiting for my son to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a YA novel by Alexie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sherman Alexie is a known fan of the NYT and BEQ crosswords; not sure if he does Jonesin’ too.
- 29d. [Where: Lat.], UBI. This one is tied with 42d. [Bk. of the Bible], EPH., for my least favorite entry in the puzzle.
- Partial IN YOU clangs when it’s so close to quote chunk IN THE (and it’s above INTO). There are also I SEE and I BET echoing the “I BELIEVE” start of the quote.
3.33 stars from me.