(Reagle, original write-up from 11 Oct 2009)
David Kahn’s New York Times crossword, “For Variety’s Sake”—Amy’s write-up
Your revealer is a 3-letter answer (SNL) crossing a not-so-famous movie character’s surname, MILNER. I loved American Graffiti, but sure as heck didn’t recall anybody’s last name in that. Surely Martin Milner, a real person, would have been a better bet? Weird, at any rate, to have a 3-letter revealer amid a sea of long theme answers, which include both “LIVE FROM NEW YORK / IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT,” STEVE MARTIN (do you consider STEVENSON a dupe?), ALEC BALDWIN, and eight unrelated phrases in which the surnames of assorted SNL luminaries (Tina FEY and Kristin WIIG in a pari of 6-letter Downs, and Amy POEHLER, Eddie MURPHY, Gilda RADNER, Bill HADER, Chris ROCK, and David SPADE in the longer Acrosses). Thumbs-up for the inclusion of 50% female and 25% POC cast members.
I don’t know if other phrases include the POEHLER letters in order, but PORTABLE SHELTERS felt sort of random to me. CARROT CAKE and EASTER PARADE were zippier ways to hide the celebs. Dammit, I keep not obtaining a slice of cake for myself, and I keep encountering mentions of cake. Cake would be nice right about now. For dinner.
Overall, I didn’t have much fun inside the puzzle, as there was a lot of fill I wasn’t crazy about. The worst, perhaps, was 76a. [In the, in Italy], NEI. Nay! DABS AT, AGHA, ALTA, EL-HI, STOA, SHES (why clue this as a rarely seen plural rather than “she’s” in, say, a FITB song title?), E-CASH, ALOP—those were the ones that were most aggressively ALOP. They had company.
I know Will Shortz doesn’t care about such things, but it still irks me to find “redhead” in the ELMO clue when RED is nearby in the grid, and to find “easy” in the PIE clue after I’d filled in EASY A. I also know I’m not alone in wishing that Will shared our preference that such things be avoided as much as possible.
I need to go see about some cake for dinner now, if you’ll excuse me. 3.1 stars from me. I probably would have enjoyed the theme more if it had included cast members’ full names as answers, or used Reaglesque puns on their names, something other than “circled letters spaced-out in random, unrelated phrases.”
Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Bringing Your ‘A’ Game”—Andy’s review
Long “e” sounds become long “a” sounds:
- 21a, WHALE BEARINGS [What echolocation is used for?]. Wheel bearings. Cute!
- 31a, COPPING A PLAY [Bit of theatrical thievery?]. Copping a plea.
- 51a, CAFFEINE FRAY [Fight at the coffee shop?]. Caffeine-free. This theme answer spoke to me.
- 68a, VALET OF THE DOLLS [Barbie and Ken’s servant?]. Valley of the Dolls.
- 89a, HATE DETECTOR [Aversion therapy tool?]. Heat detector.
- 104a, WALL STRAIGHT [Quick question at the building site?]. Wall Street. This one was probably the least successful theme answer for me.
- 121a, SHOPPING SPRAY [Cosmetics counter freebie?]. Shopping spree.
I thought I remembered this theme coming up recently; BEQ did it in the NYT in 2010 (also with SHOPPING SPRAY). It’s a fun theme with lots of possibilities, so I suppose there’s no reason not to do it twice. I mostly preferred BEQ’s choices (and he also managed two squeeze in 10 themers to this puzzle’s 7), but I thought WHALE BEARINGS, VALET OF THE DOLLS, and CAFFEINE FRAY were especially nice in this one.
Some fun stuff in this one, including DAY CARE, CAB FARE [Lift charge], MOSCOW clued as [University of Idaho city], AESIR/AENEAS/AEGIS, IT’S OPEN, ARIE [India born in Denver], BEAN DIP, ELIJAH crossing NISAN with two Passover clues.
A few weird entries in this one as well. I’ll never get used to “yes” as a verb, so YESSED looked strange in the grid. ELASTO-, while completely inferable, was something I hadn’t seen in a crossword before. I liked ORENA at first, despite not having heard of it. But then I Googled it to try to find out where the name came from, and it did not Google well. Floridians, is this something you’ve said/heard before? It appeared in a 2000 puzzle by A.J. Santora, but it hasn’t been in a mainstream venue since then.
Until next time!
Bob Klahn’s Sunday Challenge CrosSynergy crossword —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! I hope you all are having a good start to your Sunday, and that this grid, brought to us by Mr. Bob Klahn, didn’t bring you to your knees.
Well, at the very beginning of my solving, things didn’t look too great, and all I could do was just fish around the grid and see what I could fill in, even if I couldn’t actually build around it. OK, I did get ED KOCH immediately, because I’ve watched the movie referenced in the clue about five times (7D: [Mayor whom Gonzo asks for help in “The Muppets Take Manhattan”]). After searching around the grid to fill in other answers that I knew (and there wasn’t that many to start), I came back to the northwest section and things started to fall for me the second time around. (Actually, after about 15 minutes, I had all of the northwest filled in, but nothing else.) Didn’t see the clue to CORFU off the bat, but that was a gimme with my James Bond fandom, especially for the Roger Moore flicks (20A: [Ionian island where “For Your Eyes Only” was filmed]). Almost smacked myself in the forehead when the light turned on that the clue for SLICE was a golf reference (6D: [Driving hazard]). Do we have any golfers on here? Want to share your experiences on the golf course and having to fight against slicing your shots?
Elsewhere in the grid, I couldn’t tell you how happy I was to see the clue for SLOT MAN, and knowing that immediately because of my time spent in magazine and hanging with old-school copy editors (49A: [Copy editor seated inside a “horseshoe”]). I had heard one of those guys talk about copy editors at a newspaper sitting and forming a U shape, with the chief in the middle. There were some slick clues of course, with the ones I liked the most being the ones for DEMON (35D: [Speedy one?]) and TEENAGE (38D: [In the minority?]). I can’t say that I had ever heard the term “beldam” before (unless I missed hearing it in a show or movie that I have seen), so it took me a while to get OLD WOMAN (58A: [Beldam]). Its crossings didn’t help in making me see that, as SMILLA was was over my head (46D: [Peter Hoeg title character with a certain sense]) and I had to guess what the first letter was to WAT (59D: [Buddhist temple in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia]). Oh, and it goes without saying that, after completing the grid, my brain is absolutely fried and smoke is coming out of my ears. My mind is taking a rest for the next 10 hours. If you ask me to use my brain and think within that time, you’re out of luck.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: VANDAL (9A: [Wrecking crew member?])– Oh, shoot! I still have to do this section as well. No matter, as I’ll make this super quick, and let you know that any athlete who plays collegiately at the University of Idaho is a VANDAL, as “Vandals” is the university’s nickname. Is there a team out there nicknamed the Visigoths? There should be, right?
Thank you for your time, and, again, if you need me, I’ll be recharging my brain for the next few hours. Have a great rest of your weekend!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “CrossFit” — pannonica’s write-up
Unless I’m missing a further element (as I did last time discussing a BEQ crossword), the theme is: answers containing the letter sequence F-I-T intersecting other words containing the same letter sequence, at the I. I’ve circled them for your visual convenience.
- 24a/12d. [Net income divided by revenue] PROFIT MARGIN, [“Hypothetically speaking …”] IF IT IS.
- 37a/4d. [Pirate Jean] LAFITTE, [Scatter from Newport News] ELLA FITZGERALD. Tricky. Nothing to do with maritime flotsam at this port city.
- 74a/47d. [Agenda makeup] LIST OF ITEMS, [Walk] HOOF IT.
- 86a/57d. [Abercrombie’s partner] FITCH, [Farm Aid, e.g.] BENEFIT CONCERT.
- 121a/90d. [Attempts] HAS A GO OF IT, [Individual inscription made on a wall] GRAFFITO.
Don’t have much to say about this one, so here a just a meager list of items:
- Most BEQ-seeming clue/answer: 76a [Beck’s “Guero” opener] E-PRO. Runners-up: 13d [Social media anxiety, for short] FOMO (fear of missing out); 45d [Hit to the back of the head] DOPE SLAP, which I’d not heard of. Your call.
- 98a [Marshalls] AMPS. Curious that there’s no question mark or other qualifier here, while, for example, the fairly straightforward 92a [Gets into hot water?] for BATHES is so adorned.
- 50a [Character whose birth name was John Clayton] TARZAN, good trivia. 62a [Adopted family member of 50-Across] APE, I would have used “adoptive” but can see how this syntax is okay.
- 56a [Dances to some jazz music] BEBOPS. Not generally considered to be particularly a danceable subgenre.
- 55d [Penalty for the ultrarich] SUPERTAX. I don’t believe so. And also? This clue sounds rather biased.
- 9d [Like some white rhinoceroses] THREE TON. Supermeh. See also, 58d [Taking the most-trod route, say] ON A PATH.
- 106a [One Direction’s genre] EUROPOP. Really? I don’t claim to be an expert, but …
- 89a [Roofed patio structure] PERGOLA. Depends on what you consider a roof.
Typical mix of clever clues, boring clues, partials, crosswordese, abbrevs., and so on. Essentially an average crossword.