Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword
The theme is PG-THIRTEEN (which, mind you, is always written with numerals), and there are 13 places where the letter chunk PG appears in the grid. These theme entries are, however, not all slotted in symmetrical spots. The long Acrosses work out—SWAMP GAS, CAMPGROUND, STOPGAP, TOP GEAR, PG-THIRTEEN, LIP GLOSS. But there’s also PGA at 25a and APGAR at 70a, three long Downs (PINUP GIRL, CRAP GAMES, KEEP GOING), and two shorter, randomly placed Downs (MPG, CAP GUN). The asymmetry feels inelegant to me. I also question whether CRAP GAMES is truly in the language—most dictionaries exclude the term, preferring the plural CRAPS for the dice game.
I don’t generally give high marks to puzzles with a surfeit of theme material, as the surrounding fill often suffers. That is the case here, where the Scowl-o-Meter rattled into service at CMII, ONE-A, U TENN (not listed among the school’s nicknames here), IRES, ERSE, OTOS, NES, ISAO, AAR, PRIE, AES, A POSE, REOIL, and a slew of abbreviations (I counted 12 of them, way too many). It knocks me ASKEW when there’s so much ungreat fill.
2.66 stars from me. With great theme ambition comes great responsibility, the duty to backpedal if the fill is not working out. I know there are solvers who don’t give a damn if a puzzle is filled with crosswordese, but I expect better.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Bar Hopping” – Derek’s write-up
OK, I will admit: I didn’t get the theme immediately! But I solved mainly while paying little attention to the title! The after text says “going from bar to bar” which puts in your mind some alcoholic binge, but what is actually happening is each them entry is made up of two words that can each precede the word BAR. Here they are:
- 17A [How to enter an Olympic-sized pool of Cap’n Crunch?] CEREAL DIVE
- 62A [Milky Way and Mars, for instance?] SPACE CANDY
- 11D [Mallet to use on the “Press Your Luck” villain?] WHAMMY TOOL
- 28D [Sister channel to the Baltimore Ravens network?] CROW SPORTS
Nicely done. Inspired by some recent Vegas trips, Matt? Just kidding. My favorite part about puzzles of this sort are the hilarious clues. It is sometimes challenging to produce a clue for seemingly nonsensical entries, and Matt does this as well as anyone. This was also one of the great Merl Reagle’s strengths, as well. It makes for an enjoyable solving experience.
Lots of neat fill in the puzzle. I especially liked SPEX, OUCHIE, the clue for DCCVI, and HDTV. 3.6 stars from me. Shorter posts while on vacation!
Fred Piscop’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Ah, a puzzle by my good old friend Fred Piscop! A master for years, and this puzzle showcases his mastery. The three theme entries end with the words ME, MYSELF, and I. When I hear that phrase, I think immediately of an old 80s rap song!
Here are the theme entries:
- 17A [“Am I supposed to take this seriously?] ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
- 39A [“Oops, thought you wouldn’t heat that”] TALKING TO MYSELF
- 62A [Nursery rhyme plum finder’s boast] WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I
The middle entry could double as a secondary theme, as these all seem like phrases you would say to yourself! Not too difficult, and in typical LAT fashion, virtually nothing ugly in the fill. I’ve not used the phrase BY JINGO in, well, forever if at all! I like the clue for the seemingly awkward ASKER as [“Jeopardy!” contestant]! Well done.
This one is a solid 3.8 stars from me. Nice amusing Tuesday puzzle. Will get back to longer posts this Saturday when I am back from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. (Shedding a small tear because we are leaving in a day or so!)
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 223), “That’s Whack!”—Janie’s review
Taking yet another page from the Reagle playbook (with a happy emphasis on the play part), Liz gives us a change-of-sound puzzle that manages to incorporate some fine punning as well. What’s “whack” is that our constructor demonstrates her decided knack for changing the “kn-“/”n” sound in well-known base phrases to “w.” Sometimes more successfully than others (imho), but always in good fun.
- 17A. [Feedback from a minute brute?] WEE JERK REACTION. Knee-jerk reaction. Ooh. The bar has been set very high here—and I love it. Funny concept and it conjures up a funny visual as well.
- 23A. [With 49-Across, painful lessons learned when cooking with diamond-like fryers?] / 49A. [See 23-Across] SCHOOL OF / HARD WOKS. School of hard knocks (where my father, a high-school graduate and self-made man, proudly proclaimed he we went to college). Okay. Somebody has to help me here. I’ve found images aplenty of “diamond wok pans” and see that some wok pans are diamond coated, but how are woks actually “diamond-like”? And since they’re made of metal,
how would woks be anything but “hard”? Love the base phrase, but am not convinced the transformed one lends itself gracefully to the theme set.
- 35A. [Spouse who’s a real cut-up at Thanksgiving?] CARVING WIFE. Carving knife. This one’s pretty direct.
- 57A. [Sitcom about a dad who’s the leading producer of horse halters?] FATHER “WHOAS” BEST. Father Knows Best. Deeply corny, so you know I’m on board. But parsing this one took a little time. “Whoa” is a word that halts horses; thus it is a “horse halter.” Dad is the one who produces not these… but the command “Whoa!” most. Also like that this strong entry completes the promise of the initial one. A nice way to finish out thematically.
And the puzzle is further bolstered by a grid with well-filled, open corners and a strong array of clues and fill throughout. We get a great start at the cross of 1A and 1D with GALE, clued by the ambiguous [Wind up on a mountain?] (so that’s the noun “wind” and not the verb “wind up”), and providing the opening “G” of the classic [Advice for a pioneer] to “GO WEST!” Then we get UNESCO, the [Paris-based peace gp.] that I tend to think of in conjunction with World Heritage Sites. (Italy has the most. Wow.) And then SEETHE with its visceral clue [Do a slow burn]. The SE is a little less interesting with EKES BY and TSE-TSE, but is brightened by BOREAL, which references the north wind.
RETORT, EVIDENCE and FROSTED nicely anchor the NE—and I especially like the way my salivary reaction kicked in with that last one’s foodie clue, [Covered with buttercream icing]. Ditto the crossing [Relish eaten with tandoori chicken] CHUTNEY combo. Yum. And in the same geographic territory we also get a shout-out to super-model/entrpreneur CLAUDIA Schiffer (once also famous for being engaged to David Copperfield, some two decades ago [but who’s counting?…]).
In the SW, we get the (“FAB!”) SAD TALE, Toni COLLETTE and CAR HOP, who often came to us as a [Skating waiter] (good visual here). That territory is further enlivened by ARMOIRE and its excellent clue [Unwearable wardrobe] (because here “wardrobe” is another name for a piece of furniture and not the word for your collective articles of clothing); and also MALCOLM a/k/a [Mr. X].
In the “Gotcha!” department, learned that the ADLAI Stevenson in question—Grover Cleveland’s veep—was grandfather to AES, the man who so often appears in puzzles as [DDE’s opponent]. I really appreciated that as a fresh clue and felt the same way about learning that the phrase [“ASK NO questions, and you’ll be told no lies”…] is attributed to none other than Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, chapter 2).
Fave clue of the day? The non-biblioteca [It’s past due in Italian] for TRE, as in “uno, due, tre, quattro…”
And with that, I leave you til next week. We’ve had some real (welcome!) hints of fall mornings here in NYC. Hope it’s mighty fair where you are, too!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “High and Outside”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! I hope you are doing well, and also hope you got the joke that makes up today’s theme, which was created by Mr. Bob Klahn. Not sure if it plays off the “leaps tall buildings in a single bound” line and/or the great fictional ape that climbs the Empire State Building and having the planes circle around him and mistaking the fictional superhero as one of the planes he reaches out and grabs. Maybe I’m just too slow in catching jokes. Either way, here are those theme answers.
And yes, I just finished solving this puzzle inside of a tennis stadium, for those who noticed the times at the top of the page…
- I DON’T HAVE TIME TO CATCH A PLANE (20A & 53A: [Part 1 of 44-Across’s response after 34-Across bounded to the top of the Empire State Building to challenge him to a fight?])
- SUPERMAN (34A: [See 20-Across])
- KING KONG (44A: [See 20-Across])
I can’t tell you how invaluable two of the answers in the Northeast were in terms of getting me going. Totally remember a few years ago when, during the time a lot of people around me watched MTV, a lot of my friends talked about O TOWN and, specifically, the show in which the band was formed (16A: [MTV-created “Making the Band” band]). Never watched more than five minutes of the show, but never really got why it was so popular. (Well, I guess I should have watched then, huh?) My biggest hang-ups were the proper names, including ROGER BACON (11D: [“Doctor Mirabilis,” 13th-century English philosopher considered by some to be the world’s first scientist]) and MOLIÈRE, though the latter was a little more familiar to me and was able to piece that one together and take a good guess at that entry (9D: [Pen name of Jean Baptiste Poquelin]). Was proud I knew YACHT immediately from its clue, as I’m that great in terms of my etymology knowledge (5D: [Word from the Dutch for “pirate ship”]). Given all of the Klahn puzzles I’ve done over the past 16 months, this ranks as tough, but fair. Oh, and thank you, Bob, for throwing in the sports clue at the top that helped me to get going…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MARTA (9A: [Five-time FIFA World Player of the Year, 2006-2010]) – Immediately when seeing this clue, I thought of the women’s winner, not the male counterpart. Then when I knew that the name of the male player who could be the answer (Messi) shares the same first letter as the person actually being clued, then it was a lock for me. MARTA is a Brazilian soccer player who plays as a forward, and arguably the greatest women’s soccer player ever. After her fourth of her five consecutive FIFA World POTY awards, she signed on to play domestically in the United States for the Los Angeles Sol of Women’s Professional Soccer. After the league folded in 2012, she went on to play professionally in Sweden. She has scored 92 goals in 95 career senior appearances for the Brazilian national team.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!