Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword, “Upsides”
Lovely theme! The 5-letter Down answers on the left and right sides of the grid also climb upwards and feed into four Across answers in sort of a stair-step fashion. 1-Down is WARTS, so it pulls double—nay, quintuple—duty to complete 1-Across STRAW BALE, 30a STRAINED, 22a STRONG DRINKS, and 26a ST LEO II (ST + pope name + pope number = blah fill, but in the service of a nifty theme, tolerable).
52d TETON takes part in 52a NOTE TO SELF, 61a NOT EVEN A LITTLE, 65a NO TAX, and 70a NORTH. 97d FACED, 97a DECAF TEA, 10a DECALS, 109a DECISION TREE (good entry), and 113a DENUDES. Over on the right side of the grid, the sidewalls form the ends instead of the starts. DEBUT yields YOUTUBED (hang on a second, since when does anyone use that as a verb??), DAUBED, SHARE ONE’S BED, and BRAISED. LIVER gets LESSER EVIL (which confused me, as LESSER is a complete word but makes no sense as the answer for 78a. [It’s not so bad]), TASMANIAN DEVIL (nice!), ANVIL, and AVAIL. Last but not least, DIARY gives us PANTY RAID, UNAFRAID, DIGESTIVE AID, and LEGAL ID.
The theme is rounded out with a two-part revealer, CLIMBING / THE WALLS (38a. [With 91-Across, super-antsy … or like 24 Across answers in this puzzle?]). A lively phrase unto itself, and connected to a nice visual riff of a theme.
Top fill: NFL TEAM, SCRAPHEAP, HAS A SMOKE, LAP DOG, symmetry partners DIE DOWN and DRESS UP, “YO MAMA” jokes, ME FIRST, and PEACH PIE. Given how much of the grid is turned over to the theme material, I’m surprised the fill has this much sparkle and so little dreck.
4.5 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Encore” — pannonica’s recap
I might not be appreciating the theme fully. Let’s walk through it together, shall we?
- 23a. [Eye-bending kegger?] OP-ART PARTY.
- 25a. [Local Belgian media?] YPRES PRESS.
So, pretty easy to see what’s happening here. First letter of first word gets lopped off, second word repeats (encore!) decapitated result, adds new letter to the end. But is there a relationship between those letters? OY? YS? Not looking likely. Not the same pair, doesn’t seem that they’ll form a sequence or spell something out. Continuing:
- 46a. [Warning beeper on a hay machine?] BALER ALERT.
- 49a. [Worry in a hair salon?] BANGS ANGST.
- 80a. [How far an ape may stray?] ORANG RANGE.
OY, YS, BT, BT, OE. Pretty sure there was no explicit instruction regarding the theme, such as anagramming. Looks as if it’s just head-off/tail-on, nothing more.
- 83a. [Shrew with a bite?] SHARP HARPY. Incidentally, harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja) take larger prey than shrews, so I won’t be including a two-fer photograph here.
- 105a. [Sucker for a dandy’s footwear?] SPATS PATSY.
- 108a.[Arctic need for lighting?] IGLOO GLOOM.
- 7d. [Slow-spoken lingo?] LARGO ARGOT.
- 16d. [“Baking done?”] BREAD READY?
- 68d. [Pie tin in a Stooges fight?] SPLAT PLATE. Not splatter platters.
- 70d. [Sales total at a kiosk?] STALL TALLY.
Erm, YO BOBBY, YETIS STYMY STYES? No, anagrams are not happening. And while BREADY, SHARPY, ORANGE, and SPLATE are words, the other themers don’t share this aspect. Unless Apple has plans to create the iGloom (music service for emo fans?). This is fine; themes don’t have to be super-duper exacting.
- Not part of the theme: La Bohème‘s MIMI.
- 28a [Birds caught by gauchos] RHEAS; 30a [Vacquero’s lasso] RIATA; 74a [30-Across expert] ROPER.
- Cinematic crosswordese canine crossing! ASTA meets TOTO (also not part of theme). (97d, 110a)
- 21a [Accurate to a T] EXACT; 24d [Standing lift at Sugarbush] T-BAR; 99a [Makeup of some cubes] SUGAR.
- Not much stands out among the ballast fill for content or cluing. Some good midlength answers in ALAN ALDA, SAND DUNE, BIRDSONG, TURANDOT (Nessun DORMa! (113a)), TAMPA BAY, BEL CANTO.
- 102d [ __ companion] BOON. New to me, sounds equivalent to a fair-weather friend? Speaking of which, 92a [Post-blizzard sights] PLOWS. Oh yes, I’m very ready for the coldness of winter to be done.
C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Course Catalog”—Andy’s review
Can you believe this is the last Sunday before ACPT? The time always seems to fly, and I’m never quite as prepared as I’d like to be. I’m hoping, as always, to see many of you at the tournament!
Not sure why I struggled with this one, but I suspect it’s because I haven’t done enough solving on paper. That said, like most Sunday LATs, it was a very pleasant solve. This one by C.C. Burnikel, called “Course Catalog,” has non-golf-related theme answers whose single-word clues could all describe something in the game of golf:
- 23a, CASUAL SHIRT [TEE].
- 25a, SALES TALK [PITCH].
- 39a, PIECE OF PIE [SLICE].
- 71a, SCOUT RANK [EAGLE].
- 100a, COAT HANGER [HOOK].
- 116a, FISH STORY [LIE].
- 119a, ECO-FRIENDLY [GREEN].
- 38d, DIAMOND FLAW [CHIP].
- 43d, ILL-MANNERED [ROUGH].
Honestly, I had no idea what the theme was while solving. I’m not normally the kind of speed solver who ignores the theme while solving, and today was no exception. I just couldn’t figure out what everything had in common. It took me a minute of staring at the clues after I was done for everything to click.
Some bullet point highlights:
- 22a, OMAN [Sharqiya Sands country]. Apparently, the Sharqiya (or Wahiba) Sands are a beautiful desert region in Oman. They sound like a beautiful casino region in Oman.
- Not sure how I feel about having the clue [“Scram, kid!”] at 7d, GO HOME, and also having AMSCRAY in the grid. Not quite a dupe, but also not not a dupe.
- Can we talk about 26d, SGT. STAR [Goarmy.com virtual guide]? (A) Who in their life has heard of Sgt. Star before unless they’ve been strongly considering enlisting in the Army but were unsure and needed the virtual tour of the website? (B) Am I going to have to start complaining about the military-crossword complex? I have A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE to complain about as it is. What is this doing the grid?
- 60d, I DUB [“So ___ thee unforgiven”: Metallica lyric] wasn’t great, but the crossings are mostly fine (the I in RIIS isn’t particularly obvious, but once you have “So _ dub thee unforgiven” the letter should fall into place).
- It took me a while to suss out 75d, I DO [Hearing promise]. I’m assuming it’s the response to “Do you swear to tell the truth…” etc.
- Lovely clue for 83d, DALE [Buttermilk lover Evans]. (Buttermilk was Dale Evans’s horse.)
Solid (if unexciting) theme, solid fill (except for our beloved SGT. STAR). 3.33 stars. Until next week!
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “On the Road Again”
Merl adds CAR to familiar phrases to form goofy phrases that are then clued appropriately:
- 23a. [Sign outside a cheap hotel?], SORRY, NO CARPETS. Hey, less textile fibers to absorb bodily fluids.
- 30a. [Comment about a kid who prefers the old “Tonight Show”?], LIKE FATHER, LIKE CARSON. I thought of Leno first.
- 52a. [Part of a horticulture series?], BIRTH OF A CARNATION. Birth of a Nation is the famously racist 1915 silent movie.
- 68a. [Pint-size pal of the Jolly Green Giant?], TOMMY CARROT. Given that the J.G.G. has a pint-size pal, Little Green Sprout, this one is weird.
- 87a. [Little Boy Blue’s girlfriend?], LITTLE GREEN CARMEN. It took me a while to figure out what on earth the first word would be here since “little green men” is the familiar phrase but “Little” is in the clue so it seemed impossible that it would be in the answer.
- 103a. [Whom Vinny may be seeing tonight?], SOME FRIENDS OF CARMINE.
- 118a. [Most popular dance instructor in Mexico?], CARLA CUCARACHA. Is there a dance for the song “La Cucaracha”?
Many of Merl’s wordplay themes are funnier than this one, which didn’t hit my funny bone.
Never heard of: 48d. [Slab that printers used to mix on], INKSTONE.
Five more things:
- 46d. [Otologist], EAR MAN? I had EAR DOC and nodded approvingly. Then I had to change it to MAN with a frown.
- 78a. [Truth teller’s protestation], I DON’T LIE. Feels a hair contrived.
- Toughest crossing: 116a. [Connected series], CATENA (that root is found in the word concatenate) meets 104d. [Pope’s vestment], FANON. Lots of grumbling throughout crossword nation today, I predict.
- 1a. [Craterlike basin of a volcano], CALDERA. Somewhat difficult science word for 1-Across, and then its crossings include a partial (A ROLL), a French phrase (LE ROI), an abbrevation (DAR), a suffix (-ERY), and crosswordese (AGORA). Not my favorite corner.
- 56d. [Coconut-husk fiber], COIR. Old crossword answer. I do not currently own anything made of coir. And you?
3.33 stars from me. 62a CLUB SODA was my favorite entry in the puzzle, and I don’t even want to drink any of it.
The Post Puzzler No. 259 by Mike Nothnagel – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle is built a round a central 15 and a central 13. I’ve never heard of Mr. HENRIKLUNDQVIST. I will assume his fame is worth being a puzzle centrepiece. Its down-going partner is SHUTYOURMOUTH – a rather blunt retort.
I finished this in 10:24 (AL), which is fairly fast for a themeless. And yet the puzzle felt consistently out of step with my own frame of reference. I assume US sports and contemporary TV types ripped through this one even quicker! The most uncertain area for me was where the unfamiliar and not very inferrable MLCARR crossed other names SAUL and MORTON. I considered SOUL and MOUTON for those squares as well. Apparently SAUL is a character from a show called Breaking Bad some people have become obseesed with. Also apparently, Ms MORTON played her role in 2003 and was nominated for an Oscar for it. That doesn’t mean I’ve heard of her or the film, but it does mean it’s fair enough as an entry.
There were other highlights – if have to wonder at the subtext of MARRYME crossing SHUTYOURMOUTH. A further comment on the matter seems to be NEVERMIND. This is followed by a request for a DNASAMPLE. Hmm… Speaking of NEVERMIND, American audiences may have not yet discovered the joy that is NEVERMIND the Buzzcocks. [If absolutely necessary], INAPINCH is a vibrant idiom, and is followed appropriately by CATNIP. There’s also a retro ZIPGUN, from back in the days when levels of small arms manufacture allowed for effective control of guns. Imagine that?
Other things likely to mystify:
- [Only group with elements in all three states of matter at room temperature], HALOGENS. Bromine is a liquid. Iodine is a solid – what we mostly encounter are iodides dissolved in water. Astatine is theoretically a solid too, but it’s extremely radioactive…
- [Sister on “The Goldbergs”], ERICA. The Goldbergs
- [Tanglewood setting], LENOX. A surprisingly terse Wikipedia entry.
- [Symbols of resistance?], OMEGAS. Resistance is measured in ohms. The symbol for ohm is omega.
I choose an abstention from rating due to cultural incompatibility.