Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
I had a hard time focusing on the puzzle, so don’t take my “wow, tough Saturday” solving time as a reliable indicator of the puzzle’s difficulty.
The grid features four pairs of 15s framing the puzzle. There is a ONE’Sie! Yes, STUCK TO ONE’S RIBS, good entry. Did not know 17a. [“The three words that best describe” the Grinch, in song], STINK, STANK, STUNK. Disagree with the pluralization in 13d. [What may hold the mayo], CONDIMENTS AISLE; if there’s a bread aisle and a soup aisle, there’s a condiment aisle. Furthermore, mayo is kinda gross.
Top fill: OPEN TO CRITICISM, AUTOMATIC WEAPON, COMERICA, CATALPA.
Did not know:
- 9d. [Gershwin musical whose name sounds like an approval], OH, KAY. Never heard of it.
- 36a. [“I Only Have Eyes for You” movie musical], DAMES. Never heard of this one, either. That D was my last letter in the grid. 36d. [Twisted, e.g.] works for DANCED but when your crossing gives you a blank in *ANCED, it’s a bit mysterious.
- 30a. [Disinfect, in a way, as a wound], IODATE. That’s iodating? Iodating is a thing??
Hints of crosswordese and dullness: plural ERMAS (I wanted my Franklin et al to be KIRKS) and EDELS and possessive ANNE’S, VETOER‘s -ER, plural abbrevs RELS/PSAS/LSATS/PDS (I’ll allow CDS and AWOLS), OARLOCK, OASTS, LEKS, PACAS, plural SESAMES.
Too much baseball! NAT, LAU, and KINER? Pfft.
Can LENTS (26d. [Periods of forbearance]) properly be pluralized? Can I get a ruling from a devout Catholic language maven?
This 64-worder is facilitated by lots of plurals or other -S endings—I count a bit over 20, which feels like a lot.
3.4 stars from me.
Michael Torch’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Golly Gee!”–Sam Donaldson’s review
Hi, I’m Sam Donaldson. You might remember me from such crossword reviews as I’m Partial to Partials and The X Things I Hate About Roman Numerals. I’m filling in for pannonica on today’s Wall Street Journal crossword coverage. Erudition has left the building!
This week’s puzzle has a simple gimmick: add a G to the front of words in (more or less) common expressions to get wacky new ones, then watch hilarity ensue. It’s not an ambitious theme, but we can all appreciate a simple theme when it’s executed well. It’s like cooking an egg–most everyone can do it, but only the best cooks can do it perfectly and you can definitely taste the difference. (Yes, I had eggs for breakfast this morning. And no, the cook did not distinguish him/herself.)
This puzzle has seven theme entries ranging from 11 to 21 letters in length, which is about average for theme density in a 21×21 grid. Increasingly, I see people refer to theme entries as “themers.” That always sounds awkward to me, but I suppose I can give it a shot here: Let’s look at the
themers theme entries (ugh, I couldn’t do it):
- The [Policy of a hotel that bans honeymooners?] is NO GROOM AT THE INN. Under a strict interpretation of the policy, lesbian honeymooners would still be welcome unless one (or both) of them self-identifies as the groom.
- The [Site to see subterranean Shakespeare?] is THEATRE IN THE GROUND. I came at this answer from the back, so I had only -GROUND in place and confidently plunked down UNDER- in the five squares before -GROUND, figuring the add-the-G part would come somewhere up front. Boy did that make for a messy solve!
- [Ovary?] is a nice clue for NO MAN’S GLAND. Part of me wonders if this was the seed entry for the puzzle.
- An [Error-prone fielder’s situation?] might be described as a GLOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP. That’s a nice central entry. Karma smiles when good theme entries have 21 letters (or 15 letters in a daily puzzle).
- One who [Goes on about Bessemer and Carnegie] GABS OF STEEL. That was easily my favorite theme entry. The base phrase itself is interesting, and the added G provides a very nice twist.
- The answer to [What the alchemist was accused of being?] is UP TO ONE’S GOLD TRICKS. Hmm. Okay, so we need an 18-letter entry to balance THEATRE IN THE GROUND, and there are plenty of phrases that contain the word “old.” One would think there are some options–is this the best one? Maybe I would have liked it more if it was UP TO YOUR GOLD TRICKS, clued along the lines of [“I see what’s going on, Mr. Alchemist!”]. This is one instance where the common crossword substitution of ONE’S for YOUR makes the base phrase too jarring.
- There’s a happy ending, however, with GIN THE BEGINNING, clued as [First book in a series about juniper berries?]. Given the base phrase, though, it may have been a little more elegant to lead off with this one and end with NO GROOM AT THE INN. But that’s just a personal preference.
The word count is fairly low–136 answers (the norm is 140 or 142). That allows for some interesting longer fill like SPEC OPS, PRE-SELL, OH YOU, CARTOONISH, STAY INSIDE, TOO COOL, HEAD TABLE, and WATER PUMP. But the grid does show signs of stress and strain. Consider OTO, ESIST, A TO, R IS, ANS, and ENOL. If you’re allergic to partials, there were even more that I didn’t include in that recitation. In fairness, only ENOL and ESIST made me wince while solving, so the wince factor was a mere 1.47%.
In my weekly reviews of Merl Reagle’s crosswords I like to list the five trickiest answers in the puzzle. I don’t want the gimmick to get (more) tiresome, so I’ll just talk about a few of my errors that slowed me down. I had no idea about the crossing MOTT ST ([Center of NYC’s Chinatown]) and MAUD ([1855 Tennyson poem]). As you can see from the screenshot, I played Guess-a-Letter until finally trying the M in the bottom row of the keyboard and getting Mr. Happy Pencil to appear. Elsewhere, I had BOOS for BAHS as the [Cries of contempt], CACTUS instead of DAHLIA for the [National flower of Mexico] (don’t judge me), TEST instead of LAST for [Final], LOAN instead of LIST for the [Organizational aid], GLEN instead of GARN for the [Senator in space, in 1985] (of that I am most embarrassed, and on many levels), and PEN instead of BUN for the [Dog holder]. Yeesh! ‘Tis a miracle I even finished the puzzle!
Favorite entry = LEGAL LIMIT, clued as [One should drive under it]. Favorite clue = [It’ll blow your mine] for TNT. I’m a sucker for fresh clues attached to common crossword entries.
Finn Vigeland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Above Average Careers” — pannonica’s write-up
This one’s rather elegantly realized. Take the name of a profession, prefix it with the letter B—alter spelling if necessary—clue new version appropriately.
- 20a. [Expert on San Francisco’s public transportation?] BART HISTORIAN (B + art historian). That’s the acronym for Bay Area Rapid Transit. I’m having trouble resisting seeing the first part as (John) BARTH.
- 26a. [Forward-thinking type at a Jim Beam distillery?] BOURBON PLANNER (B + urban planner). Me, I’m picturing a calendar schedule with tastings mapped out.
- 43a. [Obstetrician?] BIRTH SCIENTIST (B + earth scientist).
The revealer, not unexpectedly at this point (especially considering the venue), is 51a [What 20, 26, and 43 Across might have been in college?] B-PLUS STUDENTS. Damn, that’s good.
The grid looks a bit choppy with those short-entry corners in the northwest and southeast as well as the five-square blocks in the center, yet it manages not to be fragmented or feel inadequately integrated. Has to be said, however, that entries such as STOA, A TO Z, U OF A, GET A, and HBO GO don’t do anything to help the corners feel more substantial.
- 23a [He climbed the walls in 1951’s “Royal Wedding”] ASTAIRE. Of course he only appeared to. 36a [One of many mastered by 23 Across] STEP.
- 13d [They might be rolled up before red-carpet events] SPANX, but I wanted LIMOS.
- Another sly misdirection: 27a [George who wrote “W, or the Memory of Childhood”] PEREC. As much as I like it, there’s an unfortunate flaw, as Monsieur Perec’s first name is Georges, not George. Supplémentaires Français: 11d [“L’__ du Nord” (Minnesota motto] ÉTOILE, 49a [Eau Pour __ (Armani cologne)] HOMME.
- 64a [John le Carré antagonists, maybe] MOLÉS. Gotta watch out for those sinister comidas.
- Longdowns: the obsolescent BOOB TUBE, librettist Arthur LAURENTS (not LYRICist (56d) LORENZ Hart), FORMULAS, TAILSPIN.
- 55a [Ethiopian export] OPAL. Take that, Australia!
- 29d [Big heart?] ACE.
- 53d [Toy company that introduced Tickle Me Elmo] TYCO; 1a [Hollywood restaurateur for whom a salad is named] Robert Howard COBB. nb: Teddy Ruxpin and Furby were created and marketed by other companies, so the blame must be spread.
- Colloquial exclamatory fill: 61a [“It’s all too much!”] I CAN’T, 12d [But you said I could have a turn!”] NO FAIR, 6d [“Well, THAT was weird”] OK THEN, and even 34d [“Don’t make me laugh!”] HAH.
“Above Average” (as I am wont to say) puzzle. OK, then.
Harold Hornung’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’m sure this wasn’t a theme that was hard for anyone to grok. FOR is added to the beginnings of the first words of the four long across answers: FORGETTHESACK, FORGOBANANAS, FORGIVEAHOOT, FORSWEARWORDS. They all work and provide strong, entertaining images – even if they’re not laugh out loud funny, but then when are wacky answers EVER laugh out loud funny?.
You get nine free letters once you get the first themer, but the rest of the clueing felt a little tougher to accommodate this. [Hogwarts co-founder Hufflepuff], HELGA is not a HELGA I know. [Gun designer ___ Gal] is the presumably eponymous UZI. How many prepositions did you go through for [Gawking, perhaps] – I had LOOKINGAT then IN… I also battled to see [Source of extra spending money], TAXREFUND because I saw TA?RE FUND, which just doesn’t go anywhere! Another big red herring was [Old sitcom redhead], OPIE. If you came across this without crossings, you’d immediately leap to LUCY, wouldn’t you? I know I would!
- I’ve seen it enough now not to freak out, but do people ever call orang-utans ORANGs??? It feels like the [Rue Morgue killer] needs a “with ‘utan'”.
- [Big fight], MELEE. I’m told there’s a big fight happening, but it’s not a melee.
- [Balancing aid], EAR. Specifically, the vestibular apparatus. I damaged my left vestibulo-cochlear nerve as a preteen in an accident. The vestibular branch returned to function, but not the cochlear side of things…
- [Indian state known for its beaches], GOA. It is? It’s known to me as being on the coast, so I guess that means by definition it has beaches, but it is it really in the Cancun, Phuket, Gold Coast axis as a beach destination?
- [Russell’s “Tombstone” role], EARP. Virgil? Or Wyatt?
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Stop Ins”—Ade’s write-up
Happy Friday, everyone! Sorry for the late post, but am currently at Madison Square Garden watching the Rangers and Penguins Game 5 right now. As a lot of you might have already known, a newer version of this puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, had been emailed to you late last night. In today’s puzzle, each of the three theme answers has the letters “STOP” spanning two words in the entries.
- ESTO PERPETUA (20A: [The Gem State’s Motto]) – We all knew off the bat that The Gem State was Idaho, right? For some reason, I probably know about between 40 and 45 of the 50 state nicknames off the top of my head.
- AUGUSTO PINOCHET (36A: [Ex-Chilean dictator]) – I actually was reading about him, and other dictators, last night. You can question my choice of reading material on a later date!
- FAST OPERATOR (50A: [Swindler])
The intersection of JUTE (34A: [Gunnysack fiber]) and JOVE was a slight problem, but jove hit me soon enough and the crossings weren’t so difficult (34D: [“By ____, I think she’s got it!”]). We’ve had a lot of poets in grids, but not sure I’ve seen AUDEN before (33D: [“The Age of Anxiety” poet]). Always like seeing the long non-theme entries, and my favorite was COAT HANGERS (3D: [Apparel holders]). I was so tempted to put SCHEMATIC as the “sports…smarter” clue of the day, and that’s because of the words spoken by erstwhile Notre Dame football head coach Charlie Weis when he took the job in December of 2004 (35D: [Techie’s drawing]). During his introductory press conference, he mentioned that, because of his extensive coaching experience in the National Football League, that his teams at Notre Dame would have a “decided schematic advantage” against their opponents in college. In five seasons at Notre Dame, he went only 35-27 and was fired after the 2009 season. So much for that “decided schematic advantage.” But today’s “sports moment” deals with more Gem State goodness…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IDAHO POTATO (25D: [Russet Burbank, e.g.]) – True or false: one of the college football bowl games during the end of the college football season is called the Famous IDAHO POTATO Bowl. Well, if it’s in this space, then it has to be true. Founded in 1997 as the Humanitarian Bowl, this postseason bowl games is played at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho in the middle of December. If you like your college football bowl games with a blue-hued football field, this is the place to go!
And now, we’re headed to overtime in MSG! Have a great rest if your Friday, and I’ll see you tomorrow…and much earlier this time!