Michael Wiesenberg’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
I’m not into cruciverbal actuary but this one feels and looks like it has a low word count. Even so, it never comes across as claustrophobic or strained.
The marquee feature is that offset 14-13-14 stack in the center: 31a [“Hotel Impossible” airer] TRAVEL CHANNEL, 34a [P.M. who won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize] LESTER PEARSON, 35a [Miraculous solutions] SILVER BULLETS. Would have been fun if I could claim to have known precisely none of these, but the last one is too commonplace, even if I spent some moments wondering how to pluralize deus ex machina. Transfixing those is another 13-letter entry: 15d [Office drones] PENCIL PUSHERS.
- Luthiery! 16a [Big name in guitars] IBANEZ, 39a [Guitar-making wood] ASH, 43d [Guitar-making wood] ALDER.
- Belligerence! 49a [ __ war] HOLY, 50a [Like some warfare] AERIAL, 8a [Subject to an air attack] STRAFE, 7d [Give a dynamite finish?] RAZE, 3d [Big mushroom producer, in brief] N-TEST. 4d [“___ war”: F.D.R.] I HATE.
- Toeholds imparted via crossword familiarity: 22a [Banff wildlife] ELK – even as the clue was novel, the answer was nevertheless readily apparent. 26a [Fictional race of the distant future] ELOI. 23a First name in cosmetics] ESTÉE, 44d [Ones preparing Easter eggs] DYERS.
- Prepositional phrases! 14a [Well-known, now[ ON THE MAP, 34d [Be in store] LIE AHEAD, 55a [Fret about] STEW OVER. Related is 12d [Dropped like a jaw] FELL OPEN.
- Reflexive clue: 29d [Denoting the style in one might consider this clue to be written] VERBOSE.
- 27a [Picasso masterpiece with a French title] LA VIE. In the Cleveland Museum of Art. No guitar present. Seems to me that quite a lot of his works have French titles, non?
Tight puzzle with very little junk. Maybe a bit on the easy side for a Friday?
Ed Sessa’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Tournament Puzzle” — pannonica’s write-up
Fairly straightforward, as far as themes go. Rearranged letter string, revealed via 53a [Annual sporting event suggested by the circled letters] MARCH MADNESS, which ostensibly refers to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball championship contest. “Madness” signifies the scrambling, in the manner of cryptic cluing conventions.
Those five letters are seeded within the central areas of three other long across entries.
- 19a. [The Senate, vis-à-vis the House] UPPER CHAMBER.
- 31a. [Base for some pie crusts] GRAHAM CRACKER.
- 38a. [Stipulation of some service calls] MINIMUM CHARGE.
All are very solid phrases.
And just for kicks, look over the grid I found a Saint Patrick’s Day SHAMROCK stepping down (with one diagonal) from the first S in 26a ISMS to the K in 44a KOBE [Port associated with prime beef], which was not as I was no doubt intentionally lead to believe a fortified wine.
- 56d [Pac-12 rival of a Sun Devil or a Bruin] UTE. In the slate of 64 teams, for all I know.
- 1d [Writer who advised “Live to the point of tears”] CAMUS, 31d [“The Balcony Playwright” Jean] GENET.
- Substantial corners, stacked nines in the northeast and southwest. 15a [Homer’s “wine-dark” expanse] AEGEAN SEA, the de-portmanteau’d SPAM ROBOT (18a), URBAN AREA (56a), and the slyly clued 60a [Hands off] TRANSFERS.
- 41d [“Fernando” foursome] ABBA crossing 48a [Line at the shearing shed?] BAA BAA naturally puts me in mind of Iceland’s Dr Gunni (and his friends) and the mildly dubious children’s album ABBABABB! I may be in the minority, though, as the embedded video below has at the time of this writing a grand total of
- Much like the unhyphenated clue for 60a (above), there’s 37a [Comrade in arms[ for ALLY.
- Another notable clue, probably my favorite in the puzzle: 23d [Place for a spat] ANKLE.
- 1a [Staph bacteria, morphologically] COCCI. A coccus is a spherical bacterium; the full generic name of the organism in question is Staphylococcus.
- 30d [Big maker of riding mowers] SCAG, unknown to me, and I’d confidently plopped in TORO.
- 42d [Birthplace of Kate and Pippa Middleton] READING; 57d [Basics of education, briefly] RRR. Whew.
Solid, mild crossword, despite the nominal theme. Very sane.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
It’s Friday, which is frequently “letter addition theme” day at the LAT. Today’s interest is that the bigram is the challenging “ZZ”. We have JAYWALKS to JAZZYWALKS, DI(ZZ)YPROJECTS (Rube Goldberg courtesy P. Merrell , CHIPANDDA(ZZ)LE and SEMPERFI(ZZ).
All those ZZ’s are bound to place challenges on the fill. ANEARFUL is rescued through a cunningly placed GOT. SFFAN rides the tightrope between fresh and arbitrary; the letter pattern also relieves a whole heap of grid stress in that area!
- [Helpful, if impersonal, voice], SIRI. I can’t believe this is used in any way other than as a brief novelty…
- We get two [Ming dynasty art source]s.
- [Date night destinations], ATMS. Surprise answer! Don’t most places take debit cards these days though? Personally, I feel naked without cash in my wallet though…
Leaving you with…
Martin Ashwood Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Old Timers”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, everyone! It’s Friday! Woohoo! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, is for all the clock lovers out there, with each of the first words of the theme entries all relating to parts of WATCHES (38A: [Keeps an eye on, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]).
- HANDS IN HOMEWORK (17A: [Is a good student, say])
- DIALS DOWN (28A: [Reduces])
- FACES UP TO (47A: [Confronts])
- STRAPS IN TIGHTLY (62A: [Buckle up, as a race car driver])
Colorful fill today, especially with the paralleling answers of SEACOW (18D: [Manatee, for one]) and SEBERG littering the grid (40D: [“Breathless” star Jean]). The latter was probably the only entry in which I struck a total blank when reading the clue. Nice little unintentional tribute with the BADER entry, with the Supreme Court Justice recently celebrating her 83rd birthday (50A: [Ruth _____ Ginsberg]). Oh, we have the sports league + ER suffix that everyone loooooves to see, as NBAER is the one that made it today (32D: [Buck or Bull, briefly]). Other than that, liked the fill. Wish I could stay longer, but I’m in the middle of March Madness coverage in person. Can I make a March Madness reference in the next graph??
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: UGH (7D: [“Disgusting!”]) –That’s the sound that many people filling out their brackets blurted out when one of the NCAA Tournament favorites, Michigan State, lost in the first round earlier today to Middle Tennessee, ruining the entries of people who picked the Spartans to go far. (By the way, it’s Middle Tennessee State University, but, when referring to their sports programs, they go by Middle Tennessee.) The loss marked the eighth time ever that a No. 15 seed, which MTSU was, knocked off a No. 2 seed, which MSU was. Look at all that crosswordese with the abbreviations of the schools!!
Hope to see you all tomorrow! Another busy day ahead, but I thank you in advance for your patience with me!