Herre Schouwerwou’s New York Times crossword
The theme is cute—[Pickup line?] is used to clue five different contexts of “pickup”—but the fill is kind of a mess. What’s up with that clue for 1-Across when it’s right on top of a relatively obscure name at 14a? Why [Southern Japanese port city] for KOBE, calculated to make a great many solvers leave that blank and move along to a friendlier clue, instead of going the Kobe Bryant or Kobe beef routes that so much more familiar? [Israeli conductor Daniel ___] OREN isn’t going to bail out the average solver who looked askance at the Japanese port clue.
Here’s the theme:
- 17a. [Pickup line?], “NEED A LIFT?” Picking someone up in your car.
- 24a. [Pickup line?], “CLEAN YOUR ROOM.” Telling your kid to pick up the clutter in their bedroom.
- 39a. [Pickup line?], F SERIES. A line of Ford pickup trucks.
- 52a. [Pickup line?], “SO, WHERE WERE WE?” Picking up your train of thought in a conversation. I had to look twice to make sure SOWHEREWEREWE didn’t actually spell the constructor’s name.
- 63a. [Pickup line?], “IT’S FOR YOU.” Pick up the phone, find out who the caller is looking for.
It’s unexpected to include four spoken phrases and a brand of trucks, but I kinda like that curveball. It’s a bit like the way the Newsday “Saturday Stumper” makes you consider a multitude of possible meanings for a single word.
It felt like there were a lot of crosswordese names in the grid—names that appear in crosswords far out of proportion to their presence in the rest of our discourse. ENYA, ARIE Luyendyk, Cheri OTERI, and ORONO, Maine? Plus words like EYER, NAVE, TSAR, RAGA, HYPO (I was stabbed with needles today, but I’ve never heard a doctor call it a “hypo”) … plenty of Scowl-o-Meter action while I was working this puzzle.
I raised an eyebrow at a clue other than the KOBE one—30a. [___ Deion (onetime nickname in the N.F.L.)] for NEON. Deion Sanders is indeed a notable athlete, but that old nickname? Doesn’t even get a mention in his Wikipedia article. ’90s pop culture is no longer the fresh thing it was in the ’90s. Clue NEON as the gas, clue KOBE as the person or steaks (using caution not to duplicate the BEEFCAKES crossing), and I wouldn’t have groused. Speaking of BEEFCAKES, I wasn’t sure if that plural was legit but Slate used it in an article about ’40s-’70s beefcake photography. (Note: Do not click that link if you don’t want to see retro photos of scantily clad or unclad men.)
TRA [__ la la] is definitely overused in crosswords, but I can’t say I like the full TRA LA LA much better. Who exactly is using this [Joyful refrain]? And why sing TRA LA LA when you can go with trololo?
Four stars for the theme, 2.5 stars for the fill.
Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Metal Chains”
The theme is puns on mall food court chains crossed with heavy metal bands:
- 16a. [Fööd court establishment with the slogan “Here I grill again”?], WHITESNAKE SHACK. Shake Shack. I don’t have much use for Shake Shack now (don’t eat beef so the burgers are out), but look forward to trying a shake there after I’ve had a kidney transplant. They’ve expanded with a couple Chicago locations.
- 21a. [Fööd court establishment with the slogan “Back for the snack”?], DOKKEN DONUTS. Dunkin’ Donuts.
- 37a. [Fööd court establishment with the slogan “Hot dogs of the universe”?], GWARBY’S. GWAR and … is this Arby’s? Arby’s is roast beef sandwiches, not hot dogs. Not sure what’s going on in this one.
- 47a. [Fööd court establishment with the slogan “Vulgar display of flour”?], PANTERA BREAD. Panera.
- 55a. [Location of the establishments in this puzzle?], HEADBANGERS MALL. A play on Headbangers Ball, a longtime (but discontinued) MTV metal show.
I have absolutely no idea what’s up with the slogans in the clues. Are these plays on song titles? On actual restaurant slogans? None of them rang a bell for me.
Five more things:
- 14a. [Partied like a rock star], TORE IT UP. Fresh fill. Wouldn’t work for a literal reference to ripping up a contract or something, but the figurative “tearing it up” is in the language.
- 20a. [Abbr. in 23 Pacquiao victories], TKO. I like this clue better than any other TKO clue I’ve ever seen.
- 54a. [Like John Travolta, hopefully at some point if Scientology lets him (we would totally support you, man!)], OUT. If he is, in fact, gay.
- 65a. [SpongeBob’s pet Gary, e.g.], SEA SNAIL. This was actually more gettable for me than a straight-up science clue would have been.
- 6d. [Penetration announcement], IT’S IN. Gross. I think a diaphragm reference would have worked better for me. Or a completely nonanatomical setting.
3.8 stars from me.
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I think I’ve seen versions of this theme before, but I’m not sure. In any case, the execution is pretty spiffy, if unconventional. TO/BE/OR/NOT/TO/BE is spelt out in six homophones. Six is quite a lot, given there is already HAMLET in the grid to explain the theme. But Dr. Sessa navigates this by opening with 2 5’s. This bends some of the unwritten rules, but in a pleasing way. The theme entries are:
- [*Split apart], INTWO
- [*Working, working, working], ASBUSYASABEE
- [*1967 NHL Calder Memorial Trophy recipient], BOBBYORR
- [*Half-hitch kin], SLIPKNOT. Should I link to metal? Nah, rather folk music!
- [*”And it took long enough!”], ABOUTTIMETOO
- [*Backup option], PLANB
The worst part of this puzzle by far for me was the opening top-left corner. Not the best place to be iffy, because it sets the tone! The slight frown I had after filling in uncommon plural name ALMAS and contrived feeling LIEBY gradually relaxed though! As I’ve made plain many times before, I’m not a fan of stunts like the bottom-left: cramming high-value letters into easy-to-fill areas just for the heck of it. Today is an example of doing it right! The shortenings like BBQ, PJS and LOL are more like every day language here and actually do pep the little corner up!
- [Part of Q.E.D.], QUOD. Not ERAT! Had the “O” when I got to it, so wasn’t trapped!
- [Asian holiday], TET. On the other hand, this is TET and not EID. It’s bizarre how EID doesn’t show up a lot more given its letter and probably more than a tenth of the planet celebrate it. They’ll have to schedule a military offensive during EID sometime to improve its crossword cred.
- [Géorgie, to Georgette], ETAT. “Georgia” en Francais. I can’t not link to those Australian folk-pop faves!
- [Ancient Israeli fortress], MASADA. I feel like this is something people “should” know, but I see its cross with ADIA could stump some. Not longtime solvers who have committed ADIA to memory of course.
- [Hiding under the covers], AFRAID next to [Tossed off the covers], AROSE. Stylish!
- [One with money to burn], FATCAT. Appropriate given the FIFA scandal and the official whose cat had its own flat in Trump Tower!
- [__ Domani: Italian wine brand], ECCO. Italian wine comes in brands?
Well-executed theme: 3.75 Stars Gareth.
Randall J. Harman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “You’ve Got It All Wrong!”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! Hope all is well with you today. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, is all about inverting Wright and rite…and write and right. The homonyms are inverted in each of the answers, creating puns.
- WRIGHT AID (17A: [Kitty Hawk wind?])
- RITE BROTHERS (28A: [Twins participating in a bar mitzvah?])
- WRIGHT TO LIFER (49A: [Correspond with a death row inmate?])
- RIGHT HOME (66A: [Fox News?]) – You got that right!
Was pretty confused with the JAW AT clue, and its eventual entry (1D: [Scold]). Was looking more for a word that meant to censure, but JAW AT definitely didn’t come to mind. The crosses did the work for me, so didn’t have to get tangled up there for too long. Can you believe that I’ve been to Las Vegas before, but haven’t gambled there yet? Guess I’m afraid to head there and come up SNAKE EYES on the craps table, if I ever make it to a craps table in my lifetime (11D: [Two, in Las Vegas]). I was taken on a ride on the time machine trying to remember KENT, but pulled that out without any crosses (38A: [“Animal House” frat member nicknamed “Flounder”]). If you were in the mood for some Asian geography, then you definitely got it with KOREA (69A: [The Land of the Morning Calm]) and BAHRAIN, which stands out because its capital was used as an entry during the final of this past ACPT final puzzle (4D: [Persian Gulf nation]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RED STAR (47A: [Symbol of Communism]) – On Saturday, the UEFA Champions League Final (soccer) will be played between FC Barcelona and Juventus. In 1991, the team that won the trophy, known as the European Cup back then, was a team called RED STAR Belgrade, as they won the championship in a penalty shootout over French side Marseille after the game was scoreless after regulation and extra time. The Serbian team team was playing under the Yugoslavian flag, as they won the trophy almost immediately before the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Thank you all for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!