Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
This showy little grid’s got top and bottom pairs of 15s, along with a stair-stepped stack of five 12- or 13-letter answers in the middle and another 15 running down the middle through them all.
Highlights include HEAVY CASUALTIES, TAKE FOR A FOOL, BARITONE SAXES, MOUNTAIN BIKER, THREE STOOGES (!), MADE CONCESSIONS, PAUL KLEE, and the Down answer LOSS OF INNOCENCE. I also like that 1-Across RASHAD is clued as TV and (Tony-winning) stage actress Phylicia rather than her sportscaster ex Ahmad. (Good gravy! Wikipedia just revealed that her previous ex was the founder of the Village People. Apparently a straight man with a knack for writing and singing disco hits. Who knew?)
Never heard of 16d. [Grammy-nominated blues guitarist in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame], TAB BENOIT. Here’s a video of him playing and singing.
Were there heavy casualties in this grid? Do you think Martin made concessions in the fill to accommodate the long stacks? I might group CTN, AZERA, MAA, TERNE (this [Alloy of tin and lead] rarely appears in crosswords despite its friendly letters; might it be deemed obscure?), OREL, DSC, A LUI, ONE BOTTLE, plural abbrev SCIS, and POLER in my “prefer not to see” category.
3.75 stars from me.
Jeffrey Harris’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Language Barriers” — pannonica’s write-up
Took a while to realize what the theme was after completing the grid. Nothing about those three long acrosses jumped out. Then, working from the ‘barriers’ of the title, examining the interfacial sections yielded nothing coherent. Finally, I looked at the ends—the outsides—of each, and there it was. Kind of like 15a [Falafel wrapper] PITA?
- 16a. [Record-breaking sequoia named after a Civil War figure] GENERAL SHERMAN. It isn’t the tallest, nor the widest, nor the oldest, but it is the most massive living tree. Wikipedia has the details. And, encasing the vascular cambium of ENERALSH like so much bark, is GERMAN. (Alternatively, it could be NERALSHE.
- 38a. [Baseball Hall of Famer with an eponymous street adjoining Minnesota’s Mall of America] HARMON KILLEBREW (Hebrew).
- 59a. [Tom Cruise film set in 19th-century Japan] THE LAST SAMURAI (Thai).
Then I noticed that the two next-longest across answers were also theme entries:
- 22a. [Simoleon] GREENBACK (Greek).
- 48a. [Economic impossibility, per an old saw] FREE LUNCH (French).
I prefer the ones that are split more evenly, but they’re all good.
Those 6-square L brackets in the northeast and southwest corners are distracting, but 14-letter entries’ll do that to a grid.
- 39d [Rocky Mountain grazer] MULE DEER. That’s Odocoileus hemionus, which shares its specific epithet with Equus hemionus, the crossword-friendly ONAGER (notorious to perform an internet search for, depending on how one goes about it). I like to think of O. hemionus as a half-assed deer.
- 22d [Lizard with adhesive toe pads] GECKO. Exploiting Van der Waals forces.
- Potential misfills: 4a [Wash out] FA––, FADE. 65a [It may be kinky] –––M, PERM.
- Favorite clues: 17d [Tighten, possibly] EDIT, 24d [People person] CELEB, 27d [Gp. that performs in theaters?] USO.
- 42a [Second woman to receive the Mark Twain Prize] TOMLIN. She was preceded by Whoopi Goldberg two years earlier. Tricky to render that information without one redundancy or another, or radical EDITing. And I’m not doing that.
Fairly clean fill, but the central block feels a bit tenuous, connecting to other parts of the grid mostly via single squares. Good theme, fine crossword.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
At it’s heart this puzzle is just a “___ TABLE” theme. It is rendered visually with each answer appearing as a table shape: BACCARAT, DRESSING, PARLOR, DINNER, DRAFTING and BILLIARD.
Interesting theme, but clearly too dense and placing too much strain on the surrounding answers. Less theme answers would have made for a markedly better puzzle. HESAMAN is an album track on a double platinum album; it is nowhere near crossworthy. OLDGAGS is completely contrived and not crossworthy. PCCARDS are an obsolescent and never very common computer accessory, and barely crossworthy. DETRE is a terrible partial. There are not that many weak answers, but those that are are egregiously so.
- [Employ with a skimmer], POOLBOY. I thought of credit card fraud. Is skimmer American English for a pool net? It doesn’t help that FRAUD is directly below.
- [Fixed expense], PERDIEM. Good end-of-the-week vocabulary!
- [Wide swimmer], MANTA. A surprisingly opaque clue at first.
- [Tylenol 3 component], CODEINE. Surprisingly, CODEINE is OTC here.
2 Stars. Should have been redesigned, I’d say…
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Take a Detour”—Ade’s write-up
Good evening, everybody! Happy Friday! Just posting the puzzle today, as my responsibilities with my other job have eaten me alive right now. In today’s grid, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, each of the theme entries are different takes on phrases, as the letters “DE” are added to them by virtue of the clues, creating the puns.
- TRASH BIDEN (18A: [Write an op-ed critical of Obama’s second-in-command?]) – Trash bin.
- STRAY CADETS (26A: [Students who’ve wandered away from West Point?]) – Stray cats.
- PRICE WADERS (48A: [Research the cost of fishing boots?]) – Price wars.
- MAIDEN LINE (60A: [“I was a damsel in distress until you rescued me,” e.g.?]) – Main Line.
Favorite non-themed entry of the day? The full name of MORT SAHL, and the trivia true accompanying it/him (55A: [Comedian appearing on the cover of Time of August 15, 1960]). Oh, and here’s that cover. Thank you, Time…and the Internet. (Again, have to cut the blog short, and my apologies to you.)
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SUNS (13D: [Phoenix cagers]) –Know that the Phoenix SUNS were, at one point, one of the best teams in the NBA, especially when they had great point guards like Kevin Johnson (now the mayor of Sacramento) and Steve Nash. Now, they’re 17-48 in the 2015-16 season. How sad.
Thank you for your time, patience and understanding. See you (I think) tomorrow!