Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword
30a. [With 37-Across, lose it … or what 12 answers in this puzzle appear to do] clues BURST OUT / LAUGHING, and wherever a HA is indicated, it’s banished outside the grid. The burst-out entries include 1a haLFMAST, 16a YOU BETCha, 23a haNGER, 46a BERTha, 56a haIRY LEGS, 59a WAUKESha, 5d haSSLE, 11d haVE WE MET, 13d haLCYON, 36d APOCRYPha, 44d TABITha, and 49d YAMAha. All those HA entries are parked in symmetrical spots, an elegant and ambitious touch considering that 12 answers are involved (plus the two-part revealer).
I would expect lots of clunky fill given the presence of 14 theme entries, but really, the biggest scowl I had was for 17a. [Co-star of “Grown Ups,” 2010], SANDLER—and that’s good fill. Shame what sort of material Sandler chooses to make, isn’t it?
Seven more things:
- 28a. [Almost spilling over], ABRIM. Least favorite answer word here. V-TEN with a spelled-out number is a close second.
- 42a. [“Heaven forbid!”], “GOD, NO!” Fresh fill.
- 49a. [Shostakovich symphony “Babi ___”], YAR. It memorializes a dreadful massacre of Soviet Jews during German occupation.
- 59a. [Wisconsin city near Lake Michigan], WAUKESHA. Okay, so technically you could say that a suburb 20 miles from the lake is “near” the lake. But by Milwaukee-area standards, Waukesha is among the suburbs furthest from Lake Michigan, so it’s a weird clue. (Milwaukeeishly speaking.)
- 3d. [Unit of work], MAN-YEAR. I had MAN-HOUR and nothing else was working out there. V. confusing.
- 15d. [Paintings outside the mainstream, per Jean Dubuffet], ART BRUT. Not a term I recall learning, but it makes sense.
- 34d. [Scramble], MAD DASH. Love this entry.
4.25 stars. It was neither too hard nor too easy to figure out the outward-bound HA gimmick, and there was some interesting fill (and a lot less junk than I’d expect with that amount of theme material).
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 84”
Lots of tough clues and tough answers in this one. Here are some that befuddled me for at least a time:
- 6a. [Former “MythBusters” cast member Byron], KARI. They let three subsidiary people go at the same time, and mostly we only ever heard their first names.
- 16a. [Deli roll], HERO. I thought a hero was a sub sandwich. It’s also just a bread roll?
- 20a. [Character in many Woody Woodpecker shorts], BUZZ BUZZARD. Inferrable with some letters, but not a big-name toon.
- 44a. [Its center is 5’8″ above and 7’9¼” away from the oche], BULL’S-EYE. No idea what the oche is. Dictionary says it’s British, also spelled hockey, means the line you stand behind when playing darts. Man, I hope oche shows up in trivia sometime.
- 53a. [Jazz clarinetist with the autobiography “Really the Blues”], MEZZ MEZZROW. Who?? Not an inferrable name. The last name is uncommon and the first name/nickname isn’t one anyone else is using, to my knowledge.
- 34d. [Benjamin Moore paint color similar to Pale Sea Mist], SESAME. Golden/tan or pale blue/green?
- 45d. [Insulation measure], U VALUE. I’ve never bought any insulation. Didn’t know the term.
Someone was just mentioning OLIVE LOAF the other day. And here it is in the puzzle! I have never tried olive loaf and never will.
Not much in the fill that captivated me. Liked BUG OFF, but the four-Z marquee entries were more like olive loaf to me. 3.66 stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “The Other Way Around” — Ben’s Review
Last week’s BEQ wasn’t a favorite, but this week’s is a step back in the correct direction. From the title of the puzzle, it was clear some wordplay would be involved, but this was a nice twist on reversing letters. Rather than switching individual characters, it’s all about reversing the order of syllables in one word to get a new phrase:
- 18A: Optimistic business goal? — ROSY GROWTH
- 23A: Gut reaction in a ship’s hospital? — SICK BAY INSTINCT
- 38A: Guided trip through state assistance? — WELFARE TOUR
- 53A: Any of nine characters that appear underneath a picture of a leaping stag? — JOHN DEERE LETTER
- 60A: Carbs eaten before a martial arts workout program? — TAE BO PASTA
There are some nice finds here. JOHN DEERE LETTER gave me the “aha” I needed to crack exactly what was going on, and I think it’s between SICK BAY INSTINCT and TAE BO PASTA for my favorite amongst the theme entries. Other fill I liked this week: another appearance by the HAIM sisters (57A), TWEED (66A), learning what a EUONYM was (6D), and the use of I/O ERROR (25D) as a “result of a bad drive”.
Elsewhere in the puzzle, it felt like there was a lot of fill that was either over or underclued. I still have no idea how a TREY (1A) is a “basket from downtown” (but feel free to educate me in the comments), and I would have loved to see another ELO song referenced for their clue at 32A (“Telephone Line”? “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”?). These are pretty minor offenses, though. BEQ’s on the right track with this one, but it could have been a little better.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Closer”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Before I start, just giving you a heads-up that you’ll like the “sports…smarter” moment today, I promise! But today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, has a slick theme. In it, each of the five theme answers are multiple-word entries in which the first words in each, sequentially, are used as a degree of proximity in guessing games.
- COLD REMEDY (17A: [Help for a common winter woe])
- COOL DUDE (27A: [Socially savvy guy])
- WARM COLOR (36A: [Red or yellow])
- HOT PANTS (50A: [Short shorts]) – Tell me about the time in your life when you went through your “hot pants” phase, ladies!
- BOILING HOT (60A: [Apoplectic])
The last entry I got to end the grid was E-READER, and, because I couldn’t make out the hyphenated nature to the answer, I was totally confused when trying to fill out the entry and feel confident about it (12D: [High-volume device?]). Having that intersect with KERN was a slight spot of bother as well because I couldn’t come up with his name as quickly as I should have (16A: [Jerome in the Songwriters Hall of Fame]). I only remember CHOBANI as the brand that Whole Foods didn’t want in its stores because of the complaints the milk came from cows that were fed those GMOs (40D: [Dannon Oikos rival]). There was a lot of geography in the grid, with the likes of BERMUDA (11D: [British territory in the Atlantic]), AMMAN (37D: [Jordan’s most populous city]), OAHU (58A: [Island home of the USS Arizona Memorial]) and ANTWERP, a city I definitely wish to go to sometime soon (26D: [Large port city of northern Belgium]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STRODE (48D: [Walked with vigor]) – For movie buffs out there, I’m almost certain you remember the scene from Spartacus, where Spartacus’s (Kirk Douglas) life is spared in a fight to the death with the black male wielding a trident and net. The person who played the compassionate slave with the trident was Woody STRODE, who, while as a collegian at UCLA, played running back on the football team and was a football teammate of both Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and Kenny Washington, the first African-American to sign a pro football contract with a National Football League team post-World War II. Strode soon followed Washington as one of the first African-Americans post-WWII to play in the NFL. Here’s that scene from Spartacus. Oh, and Crassus sucks!
It’s TGIF tomorrow! Have yourself a great rest of your Thursday!
Kevin Christian’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Definition themes need to really do something interesting to work. Working crossers to figure out how the arbitrary phrase is parsed when you already know the sense of the answer is not a fun kind of puzzle. Here, an attempt is made at playfulness, with the theme clues running the alphabet from [Ban] to [Bun]. What you get is either utterly boring: LEGALLYPROHIBIT, TRASHRECEPTACLE and BREADFORAHOTDOG (I maintain bread and buns are entirely separate baked goods, but Americans seem to use these words slightly differently.) or culturally isolating. I know who ACDCSINGERSCOTT is, but a lot won’t, even though AC/DC have sold an awful lot of records. I didn’t know that [Ben] was the SEQUELTOWILLARD but now I do (the film, not its more lastingly memorable theme-song.)
Like yesterday’s puzzle, we get four spanners. The lack of interesting theme material isn’t helping, but I found much more tough gristly bits here than yesterdays grid. SETTS/ELORO/SOR/UNOS and I guess ELAND (it’s hard for me to perceive how well-known ELANDs are to Americans..) is a disaster. Outside of crosswords, I encounter SETT as a badger’s home far more than the other sense, FWIW. You can probably use at most a couple of entries of that notability in a grid before you lose a lot of solvers’ attention. Sure, some people here have memorised them all and no longer notice. After SETTS, we also get AMAH and KAPP, crossing awkw. LAL.
1.75 Stars. I’m sure I’ll enjoy Mr. Christian’s next offering, but this didn’t work for me at all.