David Phillips’s New York Times crossword
Nice-looking grid here, with tons of long fill, not many 3- and 4-letter answers, good flow from place to place. We’ve got family over so I’ll keep this brief.
Favorite fill: BOOGIE, SABOTEUR, SLIDE SHOW, LIVIN LA VIDA LOCA, SMARM, BOTCH, ALCATRAZ, MUHAMMAD ALI, ROLLOVER IRA, WILLIAM TELL, EDIE FALCO, and BEANO clued, as it too seldom is, as a [Gas-X competitor] rather than some obscure lotto variant standing in for church bingo.
- 56a. [Pen that’s no longer used], ALCATRAZ. Penitentiary, that is. Speaking of writing utensils, if you like the Pentel TwistErase mechanical pencils, they’re on sale at Staples—$5 for a twin-pack—until June. Stock up!
- 34a. [Small issues, metaphorically], MOLEHILLS. Not sure we see this one in the plural much out in the wild.
- 10d. [Magnetizable nickel-iron combo], PERMALLOY. No idea, but the crossings didn’t keep me from getting this one.
Four stars from me.
Candace Black and Matthew Sewell’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “National Epigraphic” — pannonica’s write-up
Not sure where to start with this one, so I’ll just give the rundown and work from there.
- 17a. [Historic San Francisco Bay site where immigrants carved poetry into the walls and floors] ANGEL ISLAND.
- 24a. [Historic Twin Cities site where a line from Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” is inscribed] MINNEHAHA PARK.
- 37a. [Historic monument on which Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” is inscribed] STATUE OF LIBERTY.
- 48a. [Historic Capitol Hill site where part of Jonson’s verse on Shakespeare is inscribed] FOLGER LIBRARY.
- 59a. [Historic Baltimore site where visitors can see a draft of a Francis Scott Key poem] FORT MCHENRY.
All right. Am already suspecting the title is off the mark, but may as well break the surface there. Merriam-Webster (as well as American Heritage and many other dictionaries) furnishes two definitions for epigraph: 1. an engraved inscription; 2. a quotation set at the beginning of a literary work or one of its divisions to suggest its theme. Wikipedia, on its page about epigraphy, expands on the concept thusly:
“Epigraphy (from the Greek: ἐπιγραφή epi-graphē, literally ‘on-writing’, ‘inscription’) is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; it is the science of identifying graphemes, clarifying their meanings, classifying their uses according to dates and cultural contexts, and drawing conclusions about the writing and the writers. Specifically excluded from epigraphy are the historical significance of an epigraph as a document and the artistic value of a literary composition.”
What do the theme answers constitute? All involve etching or inscribing in stone, marble, etc., save the last. It’s reasonable to assume that FORT MCHENRY has some sort of similar aspect, but that isn’t what’s mentioned in the clue—just a presumably handwritten draft of a poem, on paper or parchment. Regarding the (landmarked) ANGEL ISLAND of the first themer, carved poetry on walls and floors doesn’t seem a formal exercise, as the other theme answers suggest. MINNEHAHA PARK isn’t a discrete, man-made structure in the way the other answers are (it can be seen that ANGEL ISLAND refers to the former immigration station, now museum), though whatever monument the inscription appears upon would certainly be so.
Honestly, it’s difficult to isolate what precisely the theme answers have in common, aside from all being ‘historic’, involving written poetry, and located in the United States. I don’t feel that’s cohesive or restricted enough, especially with reference to the crossword’s title.
There is some admirable long fill among the downs—TABLATURE, ADHERENTS, PTEROSAUR, FACELIFTS—as paired stacks. On the downside, there is too much mediocre short fill. Plural abbrevs. SPFS, ERS, and EDS, plural OYS? No thank you. Alphabet soup of GOA/AFC/MLK sitting there like an undissolved bouillon cube dead-center in the grid? I’ll pass. RMN, BHA, NEC, DPI, TMI, INST, RAF, SSN? Nuh-uh. Not to mention the French PEU and German SIE, or the crosswordese OSIER, awkward EYER, partial title N IS. People will have issues with one or more of these things. There’s just too much of it—no relief. Oh, and the duplication of 2d [Top-tier] A-ONE and 28a [A-list] ELITE is completely unnecessary.
There are some pleasures to be had here, though. Learning that the 64a [Meaning of the Latin root for ‘plagiarize’] is KIDNAP, for instance. Or the charmingly strained punnery of 18d [Mann you?] for SIE.
It seems five theme answers is too many; the ballast fill suffers. The theme itself—as I understand it—strikes me as a relative MESS (43a), too disperse to resolve. Not incisive enough. But truly, what it all comes down to is this: does including Pontypridd in the clue for 7d WELSH outweigh the horrific™ sin of putting YANNI in the grid? I say, no.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Grainy Day Puzzle”—Ade’s write-up
Hello everyone, and a happy Friday to you! Here’s hoping you’re doing well and that all of your tax preparing has gone smoothly! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Patrick Jordan, includes theme answers which have the word “sand” embedded in it, and because it shifts throughout each theme, we have the revealer of SHIFTING SAND (56A: [Feature of a windswept desert, and of this puzzle’s four longest Across answers]).
- SANDWICH SHOP (20A: [Place to down a sub]) – A suggestion for what to do for lunch today? Hmm…
- CARL SANDBURG (28A: [“Abe Lincoln Grows Up” author])
- T-STRAP SANDAL (48A: [Footwear named for a letter-shaped component])
For some reason, I view skiing as something just as scary as bungee jumping or some other extreme sport, so I don’t think I’ll be going to the ski haven of ASPEN anytime soon (32D: [Seat of Colorado’s Pitkin County]). Maybe I’m just thinking of the downhill portion of skiing in terms of what’s making me fearful. Is this the first time, at least in my crossword solving experience, that fictional characters were used to point out alma maters, as was the case with YALE today (42A: [Alma mater of Sideshow Bob and Niles Crane])? That, and both of those fictional characters have ties to Kelsey Grammar, so that’s very interesting. I know my dad had collected so many antique appliances and electronics, but even he never got a chance to get his hands on a PHILCO radio – at least I don’t believe he did (49D: [Big name in radios, once]). So would I have gone to Baton Rouge for college if I had known before today – and before 1999 – that the LSU yearbook has that very interesting title (62D: [Sch. whose yearbook is titled “Gumbo”])? Probably not, but I bet my bottom dollar that I would be looking at my yearbook many more times than the one I have now if it had “Gumbo” on the cover!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SNEVA (31D: Auto racing legend Tom]) – If you drive Indy cars, you can’t seriously be considered a legend if you have never won the Indianapolis 500 race. Fortunately, for Tom SNEVA, he did just that in 1983, as well as finishing runner-up at the Memorial Day event three times – all of those before winning the event in 1983. In 1977, Sneva became the first driver to qualify for the Indy 500 while posting a qualifying speed of at least 200 mph.
Have a good weekend, everyone! See you all tomorrow!
Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Parents are Such Squares” — pannonica’s write-up
Not feeling well today, so this write-up will be criminally unexpansive for a nifty and well-executed theme. Apologies.
Rebus theme with differing answers. In the relevant squares (which I’ve circled post-solve) MA goes across and PA goes down.
- 19a. [Tony-winning musical including the song “Find Your Grail”] SPAMALOT / 4d [Training camp figure] SPARRING PARTNER.
- 24a. [Nuts] MAD AS A MARCH HARE / 8d [Obvious] APPARENT / 12d [Bargain for leniency] COP A PLEA.
- 46a. [Loser to VHS] BETAMAX / 10d [Cramped access area] CRAWLSPACE.
- 48a. [Leader of the pack] ALPHA MALE / 49d [“Here You Come Again” singer] PARTON.
- 52a. [Leonardo or Raphael] OLD MASTER / (4d).
- 60a. [Like sachets] AROMATIC / 61d [Driving test component] PARALLEL PARKING.
- 92a. [Newspapers and television] MASS MEDIA / 92d [Gobbler in a game] PAC-MAN.
- 93d. [Disney’s Pongo or Perdita, e.g.] DALMATIAN / 94d [Recon unit] PATROL.
- 102a. [Pen pals?] INMATES / (61d).
- 119a. [Emphasis indicator] EXCLAMATION MARK / 112d [Outpouring] SPATE / 84d [Well-traveled route] BEATEN PATH.
- 127a. [Early shows] MATINEES / 109d [Female friend, in the tabloids] GAL PAL.
Note that the longest answers—a pair of acrosses and a pair of downs—each contain a double helping of rebus squares. Not also that the stray MAs and PAs (e.g., in SPAMALOT and PAC-MAN don’t constitute theme ‘infractions’ as they’re in the wrong (i.e., perpendicular) orientation. See also, across non-themers CAPA, PARS, SPAT, PAUNCH.
More stuff to like: thematic resonances in 115a [“Bye Bye Birdie” song] KIDS, whose lyrics echo the crossword’s title’s sentiment; 74a [Parental units?] GENES; the parent in themer 8-down APPARENT. Possibly indicative of the theme (or merely a convenient aspect of the form) – two answers whose clue is [Cross words]: 36a SPAT, 78a QUARREL.
- Did I mention resonances? How about 12a [Attire for un vampiro] CAPA, 45a [Dangerous canines] FANGS, and 54a [Show that aired “Monster Chiller Horror Theater”] SCTV. Or 102a [Pen pals?] INMATES, 110a [Record holders] EX-CONS (crossing EXXON, no less), and 130a [Prison weapon] SHIV. There are more, and more minor, examples as well.
- Could do without one of these: 3d [Laser pointer battery] AAAA, 118d [Flat sound] SSSS. As well as some of the crosswordese (e.g., ADIT, ENA, GEER, and so on), but a certain quantity is nearly unavoidable.
- Unnecessary duplication between themer CRAWLSPACE and 53d [Be crawling (with) TEEM.
Good theme, very well done. Engaging cluing, a lovely offering. I LIKE (98a).
Peg Slay’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
DROPPER… DROP PER and so PER disappears from theme phrases and we get wackiness. You know how it goes. Subtraction tends to be more difficult to pull off, the phrases are somehow duller, but today’s work quite well, especially the opening ONECENTMILK. One-percent milk is a recent thing here, released to great marketing hype, despite there already being 0% MILK and 2%… I assume JALAPENOPOP would be like extreme GINGERBEER. Given I found quince and chilli jam in a home industries recently, it’s probably coming soon…
Theme answer list:
- [Bargain dairy product?], ONE(PER)CENTMILK
- [Nickname for a roller coaster highlight?], THEBIGDIP(PER)
- [Security workers asleep on the job?], BUM(PER)GUARDS
- [Really hot cold drink?], JALAPENOPOP(PER)
Other notable things, list-style:
- LOKI and SATAN stack.
- [Oath for toondom’s Dick Dastardly], DRAT – this clue means I will now be yelling “Stop the pigeon!” at random for the next few days. People will stare.
- [Turkish tabby], ANGORA. Except Angora cats are white and not tabby-coloured. The clue is, strictly speaking, wrong, though some use tabby as a synonym for cat.
- [__ Reader], ADOBE. Their main rival being UTNE.
- [Arab potentate], EMEER. No var. tag – frowns.
- [Green Day drummer ___ Cool] along with Armstrong and Dirnt, they are now hall of famers.
[Withdrawal process], DETOX. One of the biggest swindles in modern life… Testament to the power of marketing to shape our understanding of the world.