John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Erin’s write-up
In today’s puzzle, four theme phrases end with different types of GELATINOUS FOOD SPREADS:
- 16a. [Wildlife refuges] NATURE PRESERVES
- 25a. [Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current] MOON JELLY
- 42a. [R&B/soul ballad] SLOW JAM
- 55a. [#1 hit of 1975 and 2001] LADY MARMALADE
We’ll start with this: moon jellies are gorgeous. They float around for up to six months before they die. Look at how pretty that creature is.
Now for the puzzle. The theme is about as straightforward as one can get. I like the theme phrases, and three of the four are new to the NYT crossword. The grid looks like a smiley face as well, and a friend has likened it to a dog face, which I don’t dispute.
Simple themes like this tend to belong earlier in the week, but this puzzle is definitely more mid-week in fill. VOLTE-FACE, UPBRAIDED, and PILASTERS are all new to me. BERYLLIUM is another new entry for the NYT; it’s nice to see some love for underappreciated elements. SparkNotes were the big online CliffsNotes when I was in school, so ENOTES is another new term for me. All were manageable from crossings. The one entry that bothered me was IRATER. Does anyone use this in conversation or writing, ever? EYETEETH and HAIRPIN are enjoyable, as well as the lovely clue [Place where you need an ID to get mail?] for BOISE.
Overall, a really simple theme which allows for some novel, if more difficult, fill. 3.4 stars.
David J. Kahn’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Miami Vice” — Jim’s review
Alternative title: “Salutations from Miami!”
I was hoping for something fun from this veteran constructor, and he didn’t disappoint. David Kahn memorializes AL PACINO‘s (10d) role as Tony Montana in SCARFACE (38d) by presenting to us his signature line from the film.
- 17a [*Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut] SAY ANYTHING
- 23a [*”Greetings!”] HELLO THERE
- 31a [*”___ With Love” (#1 hit of 1967)] TO SIR
- 43a [*”Oops”] MY BAD
- 52a [*Member of Robin Hood’s band] LITTLE JOHN
- 61a [*Sentry’s question] FRIEND OR FOE
There’s a lot to love in this puzzle. I love the glut of theme material—68 squares in all! (Even if you had four grid-spanning 15s, that’s only 60, so David’s topped that.) I love the symmetry of the actor and his role. I love the choice of theme answers, including the fact that the little words (TO and MY) get little, symmetrical theme entries. And I simply love the whole pop-culturey idea of it.
I confess I don’t think I’ve seen the whole film, but the line is one that has reached immortal status and has been re-used and parodied many times over the years. It is on numerous “Top Movie Lines” lists including #61 on AFI’s “Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time”.
There are some downsides to the puzzle though. I don’t love ESE and ESS and INA and the fact that there are 30(!) 3-letters (when the max is usually around 20), but with all the theme material, grid compartmentalization is an inevitability. Good job limiting the damage to only ESE, ESS, and INA!
Did I mention I love the choice of theme entries? Granted, I didn’t have an answer for the first two during my first pass, so when I got to 31a, my thoughts were, “Really? A 5-letter theme entry, and it’s a partial?!” But once all was revealed, I loved the combo of TO SIR and MY BAD, as if someone was writing a note of apology to their teacher. The note starts out formally (TO SIR) but concludes slangily (MY BAD). Oh, and LITTLE JOHN and FRIEND OR FOE are just fantastic!
To placate us somewhat for all the 3s, David throws in a couple 8s next to the revealers. 11d is LISTEN IN and 37d is ISRAELIS. Nice. There’s also a lot of good mid-range stuff like PAYOLA (in keeping with the criminal theme), TAROT, HADES, WEATHER, ON TAPE, TIE-DYE, TOFFEE, THROES, and ALFRED.
I had trouble in the MISHA/ASCAP/GRADE-A area even with the crossers ISRAELIS and SCARFACE in place. And of course the puzzle felt very choppy at times with all the 3-letters. But on the whole, this one’s a winner.
Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “Wear and Tear” — Ben’s Review
Happy Wednesday, everyone! This week’s AV Club puzzle from Byron Walden is 3/5 in difficulty, although the theme took me a second look at the puzzle to figure out:
- 18A: Type of bookkeeping — SINGLE ENTRY
- 23A: Seven-times platinum 1978 Foreigner album — DOUBLE VISION
- 35A: Quibbles over meaning — ARGUES SEMANTICS
- 46A: Totally losing it — GOING APESHIT
- 54A: 1980s fashion trend…and a clue to this puzzle’s four longest answers — RIPPED JEANS
It wasn’t immediately clear what that last clue meant in terms of the theme answers, but then it all made sense. Each of the other theme clues also includes a brand of jeans “torn” between the two words of the answer – SINGLE ENTRY hides LEE, DOUBLE VISION has LEVIS, ARGUES SEMANTICS contains GUESS. It took me until this writeup to find the final brand, but GOING APESHIT hides GAP jeans.
Some other interesting fill from this week’s puzzle:
- 16A: Impresario Sol who managed Marian Anderson and Anna Pavlova — HUROK (I have no idea who this person is and got this entirely from the downs)
- 45A: Haas of “Inception” (yeah, I don’t remember him in it either) — LUKAS (Besides the whole “dreams within dreams” conceit, I don’t remember most of Inception, for that matter)
- 62A: Worked over by beavers — GNAWN
- 24D: Layers of large eggs — EMUS (I kept trying to think if large eggs had an additional shell layer with a specific name. Way to overthink this one, brain.)
- 38D: 1957 Isaac Asimov whodunit, with “The” — NAKED SUN (totally solved this by acrosses – never heard of this book before)
- 55D: Steely Dan album between “The Royal Scam” and “Gaucho” — AJA (they played “Reelin’ in the Years” at trivia last week, which always bring up this video clip in my brain. My brain is weird, you guys.)
A few things I didn’t know didn’t immediately know didn’t keep me from enjoying the theme and fill of the puzzle.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Theme is simple, yet elegant. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen it before, but that’s crosswords. Anyway, each theme answer ends in a word that can be a verb associated with a HAIRSALON: WASH, STYLE, COLOR, CURL, CUT and DRY. Going through all that palaver can set you back some; gf and I go for quick buzzcuts that set us back the equivalent of around $3 each. Anyhow, that’s six themers plus the revealer for seven answers. They’re all fairly short: five nines and two eights, but that’s still a tough grid to design, requiring the overlapping seen with the first and last two pairs of answers. Full theme answer list: BRAINWASH, FREESTYLE, OFFCOLOR, BICEPCURL, PRICECUT, CANADADRY and HAIRSALON.
We’re going to expect the rest of the puzzle to be mostly focused on accommodation more than anything else. Surprisingly, there are some nice longer non-theme answers as well!
- RFD/PDT is an ugly cross for me.
- I’d have gone with IDS/DUE over IQS myself, the Q isn’t adding anything of value here.
- [Foul tip?], BUMSTEER. Clever clue. Is that phrase still extant?
- [Newborn’s natural insulator], BABYFAT. Great answer!
- [Service pro], ACER. Stahp! The company is a valid clueing option. The made-up -ER answer is not.