Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
Wednesday seems to be the day of silly twists on related words and phrases. Today’s involves OUT OF THIS WORLD PUNS involving astronomy terms:
- 17a. [Easy two semesters at school?] LIGHTYEAR
- 25a. [Lech Walesa, for one?] POLESTAR
- 36. [Attire during an X-ray exam?] RADIATIONBELT
- 51a. [Lenin, say?] REDGIANT
- 61. [Fabulous deli delicacy?] SUPERNOVA
Three of these are fantastic and accessible. A LIGHT YEAR with a few EASYAs (not in the grid, but used in crosswords often enough) is something many students would hope for. Vladimir Lenin would definitely count as a RED GIANT. Can’t say I’m a huge lox fan, but I’m sure there are people who go from deli to deli looking for some SUPER NOVA. After those, it falls apart a bit. I did not recognize the term POLE STAR (it’s a star like the North Star that is close to the Earth’s axis so it can be seen year-round from one of the planet’s poles), but after it was in the grid I was able to infer its meaning. I don’t tend to think of political figures as stars, though, so that was a stretch. RADIATION BELT didn’t ring a bell at all for me. There are X-ray protective belts that cover just the reproductive organs, so it makes sense as a pun, but I could not recall the term or infer its meaning.
Other than AJAM and AHIGH at the top of the grid, the fill was solid. I loved LUNA / MOTH because they’re gorgeous. The pop culture references seem to skew on the less recent side, save ALLISON Janney and ANGELINA Ballerina. I recommend not introducing Angelina to young children. She is a little prima donna and there are much better role models out there. Luna moths, on the other hand, are awesome.
Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rough Around the Edges” — Jim’s review
Constructor Alan DerKazarian has filled today’s WSJ puzzle with incendiary language. I, for one, won’t stand for this.
Of course you know, this means WARS!
Specifically, BORDER WARS, as identified by 45- and 25-Down. (Yes, that’s a really strangely placed set of revealers. I can only assume that Alan tried multiple grids and this gave the best result. So, we’ll go with it.)
In case you haven’t noticed, the perimeter of the grid is lined with words that can precede the word WAR. They are each clued as if they have nothing to do with WAR, thus masking the theme for a while.
- Top: COLD [Far away, in a children’s game], FLAME [Sweetheart], and BOER [Afrikaner’s ancestor].
- Left: CIVIL [Polite], GULF [Deep divide], DRUG [Put under].
- Right: RACE [Candidate’s focus], TURF [Yard material], PROXY [Web server type].
- Bottom: GANG [Work crew], PRICE [Star of 1953’s “House of Wax”] (That’s Vincent PRICE, BTW), HOLY [Word with cow or smokes].
A nice collection of theme answers and clues. I especially like COLD‘s clue; it took me a while to sort out and gave me a not-unsatisfying “Duh!” moment.
It’s worth noting that most of these are just phrases except for BOER WAR and GULF WAR which are actual events. COLD WAR is a phrase that became the moniker for a historical era.
DRUG WAR made me pause. I normally hear “War on Drugs”, but south of the border, it’s the Mexican DRUG WAR.
I have never made one of these BORDER-type grids, but I hear tell it’s a bear to work with, especially in the corners where you have constraints on two sides. No doubt this is the reason for such challenging fill as IVEY at 14A [Judith with two Best Featured Actress Tonys] and RIDI at 58A [“___, Pagliaccio!” (“Vesti la giubba” lyric)]. We also get MASC crossing ERST in the NE, though the SE escapes relatively unscathed, despite the X in PROXY (which results in the nice inclusion of STAX records).
There’s more less-than-desirable fill such as UNROBES (instead of the more normal DISROBES), ENTRE, ONE L, partials LET NO and AS OUR, and awkward SERENER (which sounds like how a Brit might say the first name of a certain Williams sister).
But I’m willing to look past all that because of the number and choices of theme entries and the constraint they place on the grid. Plus we do get some good stuff like BOMBARDED (adding to the WAR theme nicely), TERABYTE, DRUNKARD, SUDOKU with the good clue [Digital poser], and HOUDINI with the brilliant clue [He got out a lot].
I’m not sure about the clue for SWAMP (51A [Cypress setting]). Are cypresses known for growing in SWAMPs? When I think cypress, I think of The Lone Cypress on 17-Mile-Drive in Monterey, CA. Also, I never heard the phrase [Trial balloon] which is the clue for 57A FEELER. So I needed all the crossings for that.
I also didn’t know AGITATO or TO MORNING, so those were near the last to fall.
Overall, a very good grid despite some constraints and tougher fill. A few challenging clues made the solution that much sweeter. 4 stars from me.
If you didn’t know, as I didn’t, “RIDI, Pagliaccio!” translates to “Laugh, Clown!” The aria “Vesti la giubba” occurs as Canio the clown discovers the tragedy of his wife’s infidelity yet must prepare himself for a performance. He must turn his inner tragedy into outward comedy. Check out Pavarotti’s rockin’ performance:
Seth Geltman and Jeff Chen’s AVCX crossword, “Spare Parts” — Ben’s Review
I thought today’s AV Club puzzle was so fantastic I’m willing to overlook that it felt a little harder, structure-wise, than the 2/5 difficulty rating they sent out with it. This was more of a 3 or a 3.5 there, but the general idea of a RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE (as pointed out by the circled letters in the puzzle) was pretty great:
- 36A: STEP A) Start up the ___ laser, which burns through some… — RUBY
- 3D: STEP B)…___, which split open, dumping miniature… — GARBAGE BAGS
- 25A: STEP C) …___, which smash into a papier-mache… — GOLD BRICKS
- 27D: STEP D) …___, sending a puff of air into a… — BERG
- 40A: STEP E) …___, which slides into the laser, diverting its beam with a clean line across your… — BIG MAC
- 41D: STEP F) … ___, alighting finally on a tube of … — CHIN
- 49A: STEP G) …___, which drips down to soothe your face. Simple as that! — VASELINE
- 62A: Apt Facebook status for this puzzle’s subject — IT’S COMPLICATED
It’s definitely complicated, with the way the theme clues are a little more strewn through the grid than usual (which definitely made getting the cross clues or doing some paging back and forth to remember the previous parts of the machine necessary), but I loved the overall craziness of what was going on.
Elsewhere in the puzzle, I learned that my blood type (B NEG, 30A) is shared by only 2% of people, and that I should trust my crosswordese instincts when it comes to both “Vintage Olds cars” (32A), which are REOS, of course, and the “Best Picture of 1970” (66A), which is PATTON.
I’m still really wowed by the construction of this one, even if it was a little more complicated than I expected.
Mary Lou Guizzo’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Do This Puzzle On A Whim!”—Amy’s write-up
The “on a whim” of the puzzle’s title is synonymous with AT THE DROP OF A HAT, and HAT drops through the 15-letter Downs as we move through the grid from left to right. “HATE TO EAT AND RUN,” “SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?,” EARTH-SHATTERING, and MAID IN MANHATTAN join the 11-Down revealer in dropping HATs. Solid theme with five excellent 15s.
Four more things:
- 2d. [Japanese auto company whose name means “50 bells”], ISUZU. Trivia I did not know. Yay, trivia!
- 22a. [Carnal contraction (the one that doesn’t used the D)], STI and not STD. Come on, BuzzFeed! You have lots of money. Can’t you spend more of it on editing? “Doesn’t used” should be “doesn’t use.”
- With 27a. [Social suffix] having a few possible answers (-ITE, -IST, -ISM, -IZE), I really wanted it to be IZE crossing GLITZ for 10d. [Razzle-dazzle]. Alas, it’s that overused-in-crosswords ECLAT and -ITE.
- 21d. [Creature that always uses the sidewalk?], CRAB. Cute clue.
Four stars from me. Theme’s handled well, and the fill, aside from ECLAT and SSS, is solid.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Schmaltzy Solving”—Ade’s write-up
Good afternoon, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, has an interesting take on some comps phrases, replacing a syllable/entire word in the phrase with a similar-sounding one that gives it that good ol’ Yiddish feel!
- SCHMEAR TACTICS (20A: [Strategies for spreading cream cheese on a bagel?]) – From “smear tactics.”
- SCHTICK IN THE MUD (37A: [Dirty comedy act?]) – From “stick in the mud.”
- SCHLOCK THERAPY (48A: [Intervention that helps those who waste money on junk?]) – From “shock therapy.”
Pretty slick theme, and thought it was slick also to start the grid with a Spanish word (for boss) commonly used here in America, JEFE (1A: [Big kahuna]). The middle left portion of the grid game me the most trouble, with APSIS being the last word on the grid to be completed (25D: [Orbital point]). It also didn’t help that I had “neuro” instead of MICRO at first, and that slowed me down for a good bit (26D: [Prefix with surgery or transmitter]). Definitely my favorite entry of the day was that of our favorite sewer worker, ED NORTON (39D: [Art Carney character]). I’ve read different blogs and comments about entries in grids passing the “breakfast test,” and I’m pretty sure KLAN would fit in that category of words that might not pass that test (51D: [Hate group]). Didn’t notice the fill until after it was solved as I got all of its crossings. Definitely a little cringe-worthy seeing it, especially when knowing about the racist rhetoric that’s being bandied about nowadays and, a good number of times, being passed off as legitimate concerns. That’s far from everyone, for sure, and that’s not the majority of people that engage in that rhetoric, for political gain or otherwise (at least I hope). Anyways, a good puzzle overall, and I didn’t have to EAT MY HAT afterward (4D: [What I’ll do if I can’t get this done]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROUEN (18A: [City on the Seine]) – Former professional football player Tom ROUEN was an All-American punter at the University of Colorado before embarking on a long NFL career, mostly as a member of the Denver Broncos. Rouen won two Super Bowls with the Broncos and was an All-Pro selection in 1994. Rouen is married to six-time Olympic Gold Medal winning swimmer Amy Van Dyken.
Thank you all for your time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Alan DerKazarian’s LA Times crossword—Gareth’s write-up
It’s just a words-that-follow theme, the word being BEAR, but I’m a sucker for zoological themes, and I appreciate the consistency of using actual bears exclusively. Yes, the moon, spectacled, panda and sloth bears get the short end of the stick, but there’s only so much space in the den. The brown, (American) black and polar bears will be nigh universally familiar. The one species solvers are less likely to know is the SUNBEAR. Have a butcher’s at the tongue to your left. How cool is that? Oh yes, there is a somewhat functional revealer in BEARSDOWN. It’s crammed into the bottom-right crossing two theme answers.
I’m not following the clue on [One of two cold atmospheric cyclones?], POLARVORTEX. Is it something that always comes in pairs? Like a cut-off low type of thing? Wish BLACKMAGICWOMAN was clued as the far superior original version, not Santana’s cover…
If you’ve got one oldie in the grid, why not have two? Except GETAJOB, [Find work] is clued more prosaicly.
For the amount of theme action going on, this is quite a well-balanced grid. There are few awkward answers, but they aren’t well-spaced and don’t grate overly. There were clumps with quite a few names, albeit well-known ones: ABBA/SIRI/AIMEE and HOLST/FELIX/AGASSI e.g.
A thought: plural Greek letters like [Letters after phis], CHIS are rather ugly. How familiar is CHI as short for chihuahua to you guys?