Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s write-up
The theme hinges on four famous people’s initials and their (binary) male or female identity:
- 17a. [Malady?], MARIE ANTOINETTE. She’s an “M.A. lady.”
- 22a. [Tamale?], TOM ARNOLD, “T.A. male.”
- 27d. [Roman?], ROY ORBISON, “R.O. man.”
- 30d. [Legal?], LINDA EVANS, “L.E. gal.”
Fresh and unexpected theme. Odd layout, with the left/right symmetry, 15- and 9-letter Acrosses, and 10-letter Downs.
Lively fill includes SPIT TAKE, TIME SINKS, OMIGOSH, those ATM INSIDE signs, and OKEY-DOKE.
Dupe issue: 16a. [Have the answers], KNOW / 36d. [Knowledge range], KEN. I ran into the KEN clue mere moments after filling in KNOW, so it clanged.
Four more things:
- 29a. [Popular fragrance that’s a girl’s name], LOLA. Never heard of it. Those of us with fragrance allergies don’t keep up with the perfume business.
- 58a. [Dweller on the upper Mississippi], IOWAN. “Dweller” is looking so bizarre to me right now. Are you a dweller?
- 1d. [First name in home humor], ERMA. Strangely enough, I read lots of Erma Bombeck books when I was a kid. Not exactly the target audience. Did you know she died in 1996 just a few short weeks after her kidney transplant? So sad.
- 38d. [Gifting someone with a clock in China, e.g.], TABOO. I did not know that! Interesting thing to learn.
3.8 stars. The short fill felt a little flat to me.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Period Pieces” — Jim’s review
Gosh! Seems like it was just last week when Samuel A. Donaldson was here with a crossword. (Checking…) Yup. It was last week. He gave us last Wednesday’s “Tailor Swifties” which I enjoyed.
But I think I like today’s even better. Sam gives us four phrases which contain a two-letter “word” and changes that word to its abbreviation (using the same letters). For example, I’M becomes I.M., ID becomes I.D.
- 20A [Chat online with some ol’ chatterbox?] I.M. A RAMBLIN’ MAN. Cute. Not only do we get the change to the abbreviation, but we get a play on the word RAMBLIN‘. The only downside to this one is that I don’t think anyone uses the term I.M. anymore. Do they?
- 35A [Dismiss the whole computer support department?] LET I.T. GO. Nice. At first I thought there was a tech theme going on with the first themer and this one, plus the clue for BINARY at 23A [Apt subject in Comp Sci 101]. But that’s not the case.
- 38A [Tumultuous hookup in intensive care?] ROCKY I.V. This is the weakest of the lot and the only one where the base “word” is not a word but a Roman numeral. Also “ROCKY” seems like a strange choice to describe an I.V. The clue had me thinking a couple people in the ICU were getting it on which I thought was funny (since that’s the last thing people would think about in the ICU), but the answer was much tamer and a bit of a let down.
- 52A [Nickname for a peddler of fake passports?] THE WIZARD OF I.D. My favorite of the bunch. It’s clever and creative, and you can imagine someone being called this.
This is a 72-word grid and is startling in its cleanliness and great fill. Look at the NE and SW sections which are pretty wide open. Sam could’ve easily put a block where the B in MEGABYTE (24A) is (the first S in CHESS SET), and no one would’ve dinged him for that. As it is, he left it open and we get some lovely choices. MEGABYTE crossing DATA BANK (brilliant!), along with RAINY DAYS. The downside in that section is the ugly ELEVS which results directly from ROCKY I.V. In the north, JIMMY PAGE makes an appearance along with a WALL MAP. And let’s not forget BINARY, TIP JAR, and GYM RAT!
In the SW, I was trying to shoehorn AT THAT TIME in where AT THE TIME went eventually (32D [Back then]). Next door is IRISH SEA, and both cross CHESS SET. We also get FOXWORTHY as well as DITZIER making good use of the Z from WIZARD. I prefer Bram STOKER (45D) to a generic [Boiler room worker], but I guess you can’t have everything.
With tricky clues throughout, solving the puzzle was a slowish affair, but very satisfying. I did get stuck a couple times. The crossing of RAE (38D [Hip-hop duo ___ Sremmurd]) and DAX (40A [Shepard of “Parenthood”]) left me guessing (correctly, I might add). (RAE Sremmurd is “ear drummers” backward.) I didn’t fare as well in the very SW where [Paul’s “Exodus” co-star] crosses [1966 Broadway role for Angela Lansbury]. The [Not altered] clue for AS IS was messing with my head. I was thinking it should be one word like PURE. Eventually I convinced myself that AVIS might possibly fit the clue which gave me VAL for Paul’s co-star, whom I didn’t know but thought would be plausible. So I got a wrong answer there. I eventually sorted it out to be SAL Mineo as Paul Newman’s co-star.
All in all, a great puzzle that hit all the sweet spots for me: tricky clues, clever wordplay, and interesting fill.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Accent Walls” — Ben’s Review
It took me a few minutes after I finished the grid to process exactly what was going on with this Thursday’s BEQ puzzle. Across Lite refusing to display a few characters correctly didn’t really help things out, since they play a crucial role in parsing the answers to some of the clues:
- 20A: Evil twin — DOPPELGÄNGER
- 37A: Embassy Official — CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES
- 49A: Bill Clinton’s secretary of transportation — FEDERICO PEÑA
- 9D: Buck passer? — DOE / ATM
- 21D: Dull feeling — PAIN / ENNUI
- 39D: Chills, maybe — AGUE / NAPS
Treating the accents that appear in the across answers as “walls” (“Accent Walls”? get it?), the otherwise nonsense down answers suddenly make sense as pairs of answers to the same clue. I think I like the concept of this theme a little more than the actual execution – it’s a cute (and even clever) idea, but it didn’t jump out to me as I was solving. Plus, depending on your solving method of choice, you may get frustrated trying to get the accent marks into the grid in the first place.
Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:
- 15A: Actor Vigoda who finally made good on that internet meme this year — ABE (Goodnight, Detective Fish)
- 33D: Pictures of Hawaii, perhaps? — INSETS
- 38D: Soft drink with the “It’s Mine” ad campaign — DIET COKE (I still have this Diet Coke jingle stuck in my head, months after the trivia event that lodged it there has ended)
Again, I liked the idea behind this puzzle, but I’m not sure the full execution did it for me. Still, a good puzzle.
Jim Hilger’s Fireball crossword, “Power Plant”—Amy’s write-up
The theme here is BATTERIES INCLUDED, and three A “batteries” (or a single AAA battery, split into three separate letters?) are inserted into the midst of these phrases to change their words:
- 3d. [Mariners team enjoying the ocean view?], SEATTLE MEN AT COAST. “Settlement cost,” kinda boring.
- 5d. [Kentucky senator Rand met the associate justices of the Supreme Court without accompaniment?], PAUL ALONE SAW EIGHT. “Pull one’s weight,” solid. ALONE SAW EIGHT, awkward.
- 9d. [Singer’s excited cry when being paid with bread?], “WHEE, A LOAF FOR A TUNE!” Wheel of Fortune, really a nice combo of great phrase and goofball theme answer.
Five more things:
- 65a. [Vodka brand name with a faux Cyrillic letter in its ads], GEORGI. Never heard of it.
- 19a. [Fusion predecessor], … ATRA? Overused shaving product brand name, blah. The clue had me thinking physics.
- 42a. [What a submariner wants to keep low], ERA. I’m guessing that “submariner” means something in baseball. I don’t know (or care) what. We get enough baseball stuff in crosswords without adding baseball-nerd terminology, don’t we?
- 59a. [562% of L, quintupled], MCDV. *frown* I know Peter likes his Roman numeral math clues, but nobody much actually likes these answers.
- 38d. [DC Comics supervillain who is a walking vat of toxic waste], CHEMO. I did not know that! Patron supervillain of cancer patients?
There’s an awful lot of short fill that felt flat. You expect some, absolutely. But I felt like there was no escaping the ATRA LEM EER ETA HEE ETTU ASEA, etc. The theme was one-third fun for me. So I’m calling it 3.5 stars; as always, your mileage may vary.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Double Talk”—Ade’s write-up
Hello, everyone! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, is like the grid we did a couple of days ago, with the ___ AND ___ pattern, but this time, the theme makeup is of common phrases used for emphasis. I guess you could say that it’s through and through.
- NULL AND VOID (17A: [Doubly invalid])
- FREE AND CLEAR (28A: [Doubly unencumbered])
- SAFE AND SOUND (48A: [Doubly secure])
- WELL AND GOOD (63A: [Doubly acceptable])
There has to be a web site dedicated to finding out what a Founding Father looked like without his powdered WIG, right (63D: [Topper for many a Founding Father]). Searching that after this blog to see if any real and/or satirical site exists about that. I thought the clue to SMART, once the intersecting down entries gave you a clue to that answer, was pretty clever (1A: [Appropriate word for 1-Across]). I was so wrapped up in French cities in the grid, like ARLES (14A: [Where van Gogh painted “The Yellow House”]), that I put in “Caen” instead of CAFE later on in my solving, even though there was already a French city referenced in the clue (45A: [Paris hangout for Hemingway]). Definitely a DEAR ME moment right there (43A: [Worrier’s words]). There were a couple of obvious sports clues in the grid – NBA FINALS (35D: [Big spring tourney]) and US OPEN (8D: [PGA event]) – but neither made the cut for the “sports…smarter” clue of the day. That honor belongs to…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KIM (40A: [Diminutively dubbed rapper]) –Smack dab in the middle of the grid was a clue that made me think of the former relief pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Byung-Hyun KIM, who made the All-Star Game in 2002 as a member of the D-backs. Of course, Kim will be most remembered for allowing game-tying ninth-inning home runs in both Game 4 and Game 5 of the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees, games that the Yankees won to take a 3-2 World Series lead. Arizona, however, won Games 6 and 7 to take the title.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
Steve Marrin and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
C.C., the caped crusader to mild-mannered Zhouqin is back again with one of her many Robins, Steve Marrin. Today’s theme features an excellent revealer for this early-week theme type, which is (surprise!) running on a Thursday. PLOTTWIST is a colourful answer, though the gimmick itself is not one of my favourites (though I may have published puzzles using it…) You take PLOT and rearrange it one of the 4! ways it can be ordered, and then span those letters between two parts of theme answers. We get padded GO[TOPL]ANB, PIS[TOLP]ETE (clued as someone other than Sampras?!), ETERNA[LOPT]IMIST, and RIO[TPOL]ICE.
[Printing heavyweight], EPSON. I skipped part of the clue and wrote TYSON first…
[Online reminders], ENOTES. Does anyone ever see this “in the wild”?
[Causes of many Alaskan road accidents], MOOSE. Around here it’s kudu…
[She beat out Madeline Kahn, with whom she shared the screen, for Best Supporting Actress], TATUMONEAL. Full name! ADIOSAMIGO its symmetrical partner is also good.
[Org. that publishes weekly player rankings], ATP. Yay for this. I was told it was obscure by an editor once… Huh? It’s the governing body of a major sport and as such is referenced constantly when watching / reading about said sport. See also WTA, and in fact, LPGA.
[Lauren et al.], RALPHS. Wish this was clued as [Upchucks]
[Tazo choice], CHAI. Tazo was the SA name for what you call(ed) POGs. It took a while to twig they were the same thing…