Duncan Kimmel and Clara Williamson’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
On the day before Thanksgiving, let’s show gratitude for some new faces in the constructing world! The NYT debut of Duncan and Clara brings us a literal twist on current/recent TV shows:
- 16a. [“Mad Men”?] PSYCHOPATHS
- 22a. [“House of Cards”?] HALLMARK STORE
- 46a. [“Game of Thrones”?] MUSICAL CHAIRS
- 57a. [“The Walking Dead”?] PALLBEARERS
The theme is a clever variation on the “literal translation of x,” but only one of the theme entries really hit the spot for me. I love HALLMARK STORE because it is actually a house of cards. PSYCHOPATHS works well for the general definition of “psychopathy” as “any mental disease,” but in more specific terms it is associated with antisocial personality disorder, which tends to involve lack of remorse, egocentricity, and a tendency toward violence, but does not usually involve psychosis, which is the image conjured up when thinking of a “mad” person. (end doctor rant here). MUSICAL CHAIRS is a game, but when I think of types of chairs, thrones does not really come to mind. It is technically correct, though. Finally, PALLBEARERS does not make sense to me. They walk the dead, but they are not the dead themselves. using “Walking Dead” without “The” and changing the answer to PALL BEARING would be more technically correct, but that’s not the actual title of the show, and PALL BEARING is not nearly as common a term as PALLBEARERS.
The fill is really clean, especially for a debut. Other than ETUI, I liked it all. I enjoyed the fresh clue for 2d. MESA, [Tenis de ___ (Ping-Pong, in Spain)], and the inclusion of MEI fun (very few things are made worse by the presence of noodles). There is a good mix of older goodies such as Steve Martin’s “King TUT” and Captain KIRK (although Picard will always be my One True Captain) as well as newer pop culture like the O.W.L.S from Harry Potter and APPs such as Tindr and Grindr.
Overall a nice debut. The theme could be tighter, but the fill is excellent, leading to a 3.5 star rating. It’s great to see new constructors. Also, since KIRK is in the grid, I can’t leave without sharing the classic battle scene with Spock from the Star Trek episode “Amok (AMUCK) Time.”
Harold Jones’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wild Turkeys” — Jim’s write-up
Are you ready for the big day tomorrow? If you don’t have a turkey yet, don’t fret. Just do this puzzle.
Similar to yesterday’s puzzle in which DOUBLE was placed in front of each half of a theme answer, today we’re doing the same with TOM. But where yesterday’s theme entries were actual phrases, today’s are wacky made-up phrases using proper names as regular words. Instructions can be found at 54D [Some turkeys, and the makeup of the four theme answers]: TOMS.
- 18A [Holdup done out of spite?] PETTY DELAY. Tom Petty (nasally rock legend), Tom DeLay (former Texas Representative).
- 26A [Valet who can handle dozens of cars per hour?] SWIFT PARKER. Tom Swift (fictional character of the early 20th century and eponym of the adverbial puns known as “Tom Swifties”), Tom Parker (who? Could be this guy or this guy or this guy or another guy). I liked this theme entry best.
- 44A [Holdups before leaving port, perhaps?] CRUISE WAITS. Tom Cruise (anytime you see CRUISE in a crossword, think TOM), Tom Waits (growly rock legend). Two clues with “holdup” in them was misleading.
- 55A [Curls of hair from the Joker?] GREEN HANKS. Tom Green (comedian/reality star/TV host/rapper), Tom Hanks (did you know you could write his name as T. Hanks?).
For me the southwest corner played hardest of all. TOM GREEN has been out of the mainstream public eye for nearly 10 years and doesn’t seem to enjoy lasting popularity. The Joker clue wasn’t helping me much, either.
Also, you don’t generally hear anyone talk about a “HANK of hair” much these days, so I was slow to catch on to that. I mostly got HANKS from the crosses, but then considered it might be part of THANKS given all the Thanksgiving-related clues and entries in the grid.
Personally, I would have preferred SLICK HANKS as that theme entry. TOM SLICK was a cartoon character back in the 60s/70s and part of the “George of the Jungle” TV show, along with Super Chicken. Probably not well-known enough today, but a fond part of my childhood.
Aside from all the turkey, we have several sides sprinkled throughout the grid. 13A YAMS, 44D CORN, 14D STUFFING, 35D PECAN PIE. Further, a number of entries have Thanksgiving-related clues which, actually, I found distracting.
Non-Thanksgiving highlights: MOPTOPS, GRANNIE, and NEMESES. Lowlight: cluing OGLE as a noun at 48D [Bar examination?]. Favorite clue: 45D [It might cause a draft] for WAR. I unhesitatingly plopped in FAN and didn’t think about it until nothing else was working in that corner.
Alternative title or revealer for this puzzle: TOM TOM CLUB.
Peter Wentz’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Farts & Crafts”—Amy’s write-up
Not sure what the title is getting at. “Crafts” refers to the craft breweries that make up most of each theme answer. And the “farts” is … because beer is bubbly and some people get gassy from it?? Anyway, the theme is a “before and after” deal, with a brewery merging with a familiar phrase via the middle word being part of both. Resulting goofy phrases are clued accordingly.
- 17a. [Boutique at 90 Minute IPA’s craft brewery?], DOGFISH HEAD SHOP. I haven’t tried anything from Dogfish Head and I don’t do IPAs, but certainly Dogfish Head is a familiar brand.
- 28a. [Discount at Monkey Fist IPA’s craft brewery?], SHIPYARD SALE. Never heard of Shipyard (which is the only one-word brewery in the theme, slight ding for that inconsistency), which is based in Maine and sold at only a handful of places in all of Chicago.
- 44a. [Display stand at Single Chair Ale’s craft brewery?], MAGIC HAT RACK. I’ve only tried their #9, which contains apricot essence. Hate IPAs and aggressive hops, love fruited-up beers. Hold your judgment, I’m a supertaster.
- 58a. [Relaxing vacation mindset at Honkers Ale’s craft brewery?], GOOSE ISLAND TIME. “Island time” is incredibly leisurely. If you aren’t drinking in Chicago, you’ve probably never had Goose Island’s Green Line, named after an El line.
Theme is solid, and the single-wordedness of Shipyard is only a minor minus.
Five more things:
- 1a. [How many pesos you might have after leaving un casino], NADA. “Nothing” is not an answer to “how many,” and NADA doesn’t mean “zero” in Spanish, cero does.
- 23a. [When repeated, “Oh you’re a bad boy…”], TSK. I can’t be the only one who would like this clue so much more if it had a comma after “Oh.” Also, “boy,” meh.
- 47a. [Bread product that might be literally everything], BAGEL. Disagree. It may be topped with everything.
- 63a. [If you’re on a laptop, letters likely above your left pinkie. Go on, look!], ESC. Nope, the escape key is definitely off to the right, unless I’m hitting the tab key (which I seldom am).
- 13d. [Sensitive subject of many Cosmo articles?], G-SPOT. Solid, non-leering clue. Fiend-approved!
Four stars from me. Theme, fill, and clues all pretty good.
Victor Barocas’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Interesting twist on the “both words can precede x” theme. Here part one precedes x and part two y. The revealer is BODYANDSOUL. I’ll start with answers two and three. From CHECKMATE we make BODYCHECK and SOULMATE. Similarly, from SURFMUSIC comes BODYSURF and SOULMUSIC. The first phrase, ENGLISHFOOD seems like a sort of contrived phrase. I think if anything the standard is BRITISHCUISINE and maybe ENGLISHCUISINE as a subtype… Also, have you ever heard of BODYENGLISH? I haven’t. That’s an awfully specific definition! SOULFOOD I have heard of though…
A lot of TV names today. PETERBOYLE gets another full-name outing. For someone best-known as a supporting actor, what’s up with that? We also have ALEXIS [Bledel of “Gilmore Girls”] and the breathtaking [Benjamin of “Law & Order”], BRATT.
I’m all for genuine difficult answers in crosswords in moderation, but ERNES as [Diving ocean birds] is not in that category. They’re usually referred to as White-tailed (Sea-)eagles these days… The lough in Ireland? Much more reasonable, though more difficult to pluralise!
3 Stars, mostly the interest lay it the puzzle’s theme having an interesting twist.
Gareth, who couldn’t resist leaving you with this bit of earwormy early 80s fluff…
Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “T-Mobile” — Ben’s Review
Byron Walden’s latest for the AV Club gives them two fantastic puzzles in a row. It took me a little while to crack some of the theme entries this time around, but the rest of the solve was so pleasurable I didn’t mind. It’s all about paying attention to the title on this one and applying its principle to the names of some notable figures:
- 10A: Person posting nasty comments from the toilet on a train? — PEE CAR TROLL (Pete Carroll)
- 12A: Lobster delicacy from north of the Golden Gate Bridge? — MARIN TOMALLEY (Martin O’Malley)
- 21D: Woman who reserved spots for herself and her half a dozen friends at the rodeo? — SEVEN SEAT GAL (Steven Seagal)
- 22D: Risque British guy who works with Eliot Ness? — RACY CHAP T-MAN (Tracy Chapman)
If nothing else, I got to learn what tomalley was after solving 12A in this week’s puzzle. Nothing sounds like a delicacy like the “soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas.” I loved all of the theme clues this week, as well as the unusual grid shape – always nice to shake things up and break out of the 15×15 mold.
The Charlie Hebdo/Paris call out in 1A for CHAMPAGNE was nice, and having briefly dipped into Wisconsin to pick up my sister from college this morning meant that RACINE came to mind for 25A slightly more quickly than if I had solved it before the drive. Similarly, my tendency to type a little too quickly meant that I knew all too well that the “internet article” at 46A was likely to be TEH. Maybe it’s just the Thanksgiving spirit, but I didn’t find much to dislike for this one. Keep it up, AV Club! This is a great end to the year so far.