Alex Vratsanos and Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s got five theme answers in which each word can precede the word “card” to make a new word or phrase. I generally find such themes dull, as the theme answers are clued straightforwardly and without whimsy.
- 20a. [Equifax offering], CREDIT REPORT.
- 24a. [Three-ring binder user’s gadget], HOLE PUNCH.
- 30a. [Some childish insults], NAME CALLING.
- 41a. [Place to deal in fur, once], TRADING POST.
- 52a. [Arcade achievement], HIGH SCORE.
- And here’s the revealer: 56a. [Some poker holdings … or a hint to 20-, 24-, 30-, 41- and 52-Across] are PAIRS OF CARDS, which I’ve only ever heard called “pairs,” just “pairs.” Not “pairs of cards,” no.
Among the livelier fill, we have a VIP ROOM, THE COPA, SMASH-UP, an EYE-ROLL, and cute baseball nickname BIG PAPI.
Dry spots: 44d. [Navigable in winter, say], ICE-FREE—probably you’re playing those PAIRS OF CARDS in that poker match at the other end of that ICE-FREE road. (Does anybody say this?) Also ACEY, TOPE, UNPEGS, ELOI, and 13d. [Kyrgyzstan city], OSH. Now, Sam’s been publishing a new crossword pretty much every week lately, so I’m betting his grid-filling skills have leaped beyond what’s on display here. Older puzzle submission, Sam?
Odd clue choice for AMY: 62d. [TV title judge]. Judging Amy’s sixth and final season ended a decade ago, and there have been other TV judges in the interim, and other AMYs of note.
3.4 stars from me.
Ben Tausig’s American Values Club crossword, “Glossy Towers”
Okay, I have to dock some points for having to Google a dumb baseball abbreviation. When 58d is either ALE or IPA, and 59d is either EYE or SEE, then you really need to know what 57d. [Positions labeled as 7s, on MLB scorecards] is in order to fill in that corner of [Run] synonyms. LFS, left-fielders? Fine. No way in hell did I know that without Googling it. Baseball-nerd hegemony sucks. LAST, FLEE, and SEEP are all different senses of “run.”
Each corner has a stack of short answers with the same vague one-word clue with a multitude of possible meanings. 1a, 14a, and 17a are three [Take]s: PINCH, as in steal; GUIDE, as in escort/lead; and ADMIT, as in let in. The upper right corner has [Break] for 10a SHOT (as in your big opportunity), 16a TAME (as in break a wild animal), and 19a REST (as in a lull). The last letter I filled in was the H in SHOT, as I was reading 11d. [Own, in Scotland] as the adjective AIN rather than the verb “to possess” or HAE. Feh.
62a, 69a, and 72a are [Set] synonyms: PLACE the verb or noun, ARRAY the noun, and SCENE the noun. All sort of related, these three—no “collection,” no “ready,” no setting a hairstyle old-school.
The theme is rounded out by 39a. [What words that are fun to clue in crosswords usually have … and what appear in each of this puzzle’s four corners], LAYERS OF MEANING, and 7d. [What words that are fun to clue in crosswords usually have more than one of], CLEAR DEFINITION. I like the concept, but if baseball terminology was going to anchor one corner, it would have been nice for the ALE and SEE clues to be less ambiguous, and for the Scottish “own” to have been the Scottish “possess.” Felt a tad unfair/frustrating as is.
The fill’s got some bright sports (SCHLEP, BIRYANI, ST. BERNARD, DICAPRIO) but also some blahs (ULNA TOR ASEA NIM CDI OLOF PAKI CLE SER). 3.75 stars from me.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Two-Tone Toons”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Hump Day, everyone! I hope all is well with you. Today’s crossword puzzle is a little bit of toon trivia, as Mr. Patrick Jordan gives us some interesting tidbits on cartoon characters who happen to be black-and-white in color. Sadly for Sylvester the Cat, he didn’t make the cut in this puzzle. Maybe it was because of the red nose that he sports, despite being black and white everywhere else.
- PEPE LE PEW (17A: [Black-and-white toon whose shorts include “Heaven Scent”]) – Isn’t Pepe Le Pew a dreamboat?!?
- MR. PEABODY (63A: [Black-and-white history-hopping toon])
- FELIX THE CAT (10D: [Black-and-white toon whose prototype was called “Master Tom”])
- KUNG FU PANDA (25D: [Black-and-white Dreamworks title toon whose real name is Po])
If you thought the cartoon characters stopped with the theme answers, Mr. Jordan started the crossword with a famous cartoon character, DOPEY (1D: [Ear-wiggling Disney dwarf]). Almost adjacent to that, there’s JAPAN, famous for its brand of anime also (3D: [“Seven Samurai” setting]). And to finish the cartoon homages, there’s AYE and its clue (7D: [Popeye’s “precisely”]). As much as I’ve started to fall in love with dogs in the past couple of years, I couldn’t deal with the SHEDDING and having to tend to that on, for example, a weekly basis (5D: [Pet problem that may prompt increased vacuuming]). To be honest, I haven’t watched many of Woody Allen’s movies at all despite many chances to do so, so maybe someone can tell me if ZELIG is worth a gander (16A: [1983 Woody Allen mockumentary]). Finally, I would like to give a shout out to my amazing friend, Kristen, who now is working at PRADA here in New York, and at a high-end position with the company (66A: [Pricey handbag maker]). Fancy, Kristen…very fancy indeed! (That’s an inside joke.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BORG (39A: [Björn who once served on courts]) – Who was the first tennis player to earn more than one million dollars in prize money in a single season in the sport of tennis? That would be Björn Borg, who accomplished that feat in 1979. Borg won 11 career Grand Slam titles – six at the French Open and five at Wimbledon – but, interestingly enough, lost all four times he reached the U.S. Open final. In 1976 and 1978, he lost the final to Jimmy Connors, and in 1980 and 1981, he lost to John McEnroe. Because of the intense pressure piled upon him due to his early success (won his first Grand Slam title, the 1974 French Open, at 18) and worldwide popularity and endorsement deals, he retired from the sport at the ripe old age of…26.
Thank you for your time once again, and I’ll see you on Thursday!
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
GETCRACKING is a superb phrase to build a puzzle around. In this case, the first answers all start with things that can be cracked: EGGs and NUTs are cracked open. CRACKing a window is opening it slightly. CRACKing a book is used in certain specific phrases, usually in the negative, to mean opening a book to read it. Do people use this independently of said phrases? Other angles not explored: a bottle (link to Eminem deliberately not supplied), a joke, a smile, a code, a safe, a game, a rib, a whip. There was room for a little more variety, but hey, the answers generated from the existing list make for an excellent set: EGGDROPSOUP, NUTALLERGY, BOOKEMDANNO, WINDOWSHOP.
Central 11’s create grid design challenges. We’ve mentioned that before. Here, the solution used is 3 heavy, somewhat constricted design. This allows for a grid that’s under control, but lacks the typical two or three flashy longer non-theme answers. There are many six-letter (and two seven) entries, and answers like IDOIDO, DENADA and DREIDEL are nice answers which also have useful letter patterns!
More subtle touches: ADDLE crosses EGGDROPSOUP and [One working in a studio], PAINTER crosses [One living in a studio], TENANT. [Milk source], TEAT appears to be a trap: I dropped in GOAT natch. [Table salt additive], IODIDE – most of us will have put IODInE first, yes? Potassium IODIDE (KI) is the specific IODIDE added to table salt (NaCl) – both are examples of halides.
- [Like a ballerina], FLUID. True, while not having a particular mental association, for me at least.
- [Faddish ’90s disc], POG. Until I looked it up, I believed these to be US-only. Not so, only they were TAZOs here and found in chip packets.
- [Punk rock subgenre], EMO. Classic pop song, labelled emo, the message of which seems to be “don’t be emo”.
Oh wait, I though the theme was familiar. Turns out I did it on July 23 2013 also in the LA Times. The revealer was more banal, and my choices were joke, smile, safe and case. This seems dreadfully forced, but I really didn’t realise I had done the theme until after blogging the puzzle, other than a vague sense of deja vu, but that’s not unusual in crossword themes.