Alan DerKazarian’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is HAM ON RYE, and each embedded HAM sits atop an embedded RYE. Even the HAM ON RYE revealer hits the sandwich action two-fisted, with WHAM parked on top of the RYE and a DRYER under the HAM. The other sandwiches are SHAMU on FRYER, CHAMP on CRYER, and SHAM on WRYEST.
The revealer’s clued as 57a. [Common deli order … or a literal occurrence five times in this puzzle], but I’m not sure just how common a deli order that is. I Googled both “ham on rye” sandwich and “ham and cheese” sandwich, and the latter gets more than 10 times the hits. It feels like a crosswordese sandwich to me, given the plethora of ONRYE partials with ham clues. (Apparently Ham on Rye is also the title of a Charles Bukowski novel. Bukowski, like rye bread, is an acquired taste.)
Four more things:
- This grid has an awful lot of proper nouns (people, places, brands). Maybe 19 or so? The “I don’t like trivia quizzes” people are scowling, as are the crossword newbies who hit 1-Across ATHOL Fugard crossing 4d. [Kipling’s “Follow Me ___”] ‘OME (“home” with an elided H).
- 46a. [Look for truffles as a pig might], ROOTLE. I’ve never rootled, nor have I misled.
- Gamblers, tell me: Is this a common phrasing? 11d. [Wager], LAY A BET.
- 26a. [Drill attachment with teeth], SAWBIT. No idea what this would be used for. Seems like a nasty thing.
3.3 stars from me.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Game On” – Derek’s write-up
A very different puzzle this week, but the theme is clever, and there is a nice little payoff at the end. Here are the two long entries first:
- 18A [What the three circled areas represent] COIN SLOTS
- 66A [Person who’s ready when an insertion is made] PLAYER ONE
So the grid becomes one big virtual arcade game! The unique aspect of this puzzle is with the coins, which are contained in the circles reading down. The across clues are all double clues, with one answer being with the coin letters used and one skipping over them. It sounds complicated, but it really wasn’t that difficult. I forgot to start the timer, but I finished in under five minutes. The down clues where the coins go are all clued by a dash, which could be called a “slot!” Yes, I will list all 15 clues!
- 28A [Tiny drink [Miss class]] SKIP
- 30A [“A Boy Named ___” [Confident]] SURE
- 34A [Taverns [Loses one’s lunch]] BARFS
- 38A [Spigot [Links hazard]] TRAP
- 39A [Slip-___ [Burden]] ONUS
- 40A [Baseball card info [Set in motion]] START
- 41A [Hosp. workers [Howard and Jeremy, for two]] RONS
- 42A [History [“Blue Ribbon” name]] PABST
- 44A [Deep-___ [Slugfest]] FRAY
- 45A [“Yes ___!” [Andes native]] INCAN
- 47A [Casserole bit [“Guilty,” e.g.]] PLEA
- 48A [Riddle-me-___ [Belgian painter Magritte] RENE
- 49A [Brazilian soccer legend [Key’s comedy partner]] PEELE
- 50A [Blasting stuff [Campsite shelter]] TENT
- 51A [Curvy letter [PC bailout keys]] ESCS
Whew! That was a lot of typing, but a feat of construction nonetheless! 4.3 stars for originality! A few more notes:
- 59A [Bill killers] VETOERS – As I typed this in, I thought it couldn’t be right; but it was!
- 3D [Vividness] BRILLIANCE – Great long entry worked into the thematic middle area.
- 5D [Eve of “The Brady Bunch”] PLUMB – Want to feel old? Jan Brady will turn 58 years old at the end of April!
- 25D [Swedish home of Scandinavia’a oldest university] UPPSALA – Why do I know this??
- 27D [Label for the diet-conscious] FAT-FREE – Yes, I look for this tag sometimes!
- 35D [Philatelists’ prized possessions, perhaps] RARE STAMPS – Nice alliteration! Also nicely dovetailed into the theme entries.
- 53D [Actress Rosie] PEREZ – A former Soul Train dancer, but I remember her as the choreographer for the Fly Girls on In Living Color years ago! Carrie Ann Inaba from Dancing With the Stars and Jennifer Lopez were dancers in that troupe! She might have had a decent acting career, too…
- 65D [Angle of a branch] AXIL – Yes, I messed up this corner. Tough entry. Crossed with IMMIX! Re-work that corner, Matt!
Awesome puzzle this week. My new task: to hunt down one of the papers this puzzle appears in! Until next week!
Janice Luttrell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
A blazing fast time for this puzzle (at least for me)! The ACPT afterglow must still be burning bright! Yes, it is easier to solve by computer, but under 4 minutes is still pretty fast! A nice tidy theme that is explained in the final long entry:
- 20A [“Fine, don’t listen to me”] SUIT YOURSELF
- 27A [Lobster-steak combo] SURF AND TURF – Getting hungry..
- 43A [Two-rope jumping] DOUBLE DUTCH
- 52A [Nonverbal communication … and what the starts of 20-, 27-, and 43-Across can be] BODY LANGUAGE
So we have BODY SUIT, BODY SURF, and BODY DOUBLE all familiar phrases that are hinted at. I have mentioned it before, but this is another example of a puzzle that you have no idea what the theme is until you get to the bottom, then is it tied up in a neat bow.
3.8 stars today. Points deducted for MESO in the upper middle. Instead of WOMB-ALEE-NASA for entries, why not POET-ETCH-NATO? It’s not much better, but I don’t like MESO at all! Just a suggestion, just a suggestion…
A few more notes:
- 1A [Gearshift letters] P R N D L – I like this entry. Most of us see these letters on a daily basis!
- 32A [“Airplane!” actor Robert] HAYS – Was he ever in anything else??
- 64A [Haunted, say] EERIE – My nomination for the most common crossword word! I’ll have to ask Jeff Chen what it actually is…
- 34D [Lawn bowling game] BOCCE – I actually have played this before. It’s fairly fun!
- 39D [“Enter the Dragon” martial artist] BRUCE LEE – The true master. Died way too early.
- 48D [Seuss’ environmental advocate] LORAX – As much as I despise Disney, I LOVE Dr. Seuss! Takes me back to my childhood, and I’m sure I am not alone!
Great puzzle Janice! See you all this weekend for the tough puzzles!
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 253), “Semester Break”—Janie’s review
Today’s puzzle is a most apt example of the “perfectly wonderful” puzzle. It hits all the marks: solid theme set, some good fill, some clever cluing, some internal glue to tie things together. All fine. On the other hand, it doesn’t go much farther than that, and the gimmick is, well, one we’ve seen a lot–so not particularly fresh. And ya know what? That’s just fine, too. I solve a lotta puzzles—and I’m not a tyro anymore. This is a great puzzle for newbies, who may not have been so quick to see that the word TERM, another word for “semester,” is embedded in each of the five, two-word theme phrases, spanning the “break” between those two words. And look at the lovely theme set this comes to us with (okay… “with which this comes to us”).
- 17A WALTER MITTY [Literary daydreamer]. If you’ve never read this (1939) James Thurber classic short-story (or wish to re-read it), treat yourself.
- 23A. GANGSTER MOVIE [“Scarface” or “Goodfellas,” e.g.]. Somehow this fill blands out for me. I’m thinking it may be because I’m more accustomed to hearing/seeing the plural form, identifying the genre as a whole. Anyone else?
37A. OYSTER MUSHROOMS [Fungi with a seafood-like taste]. Wow. And so beautiful! Now while OYSTER MUSHROOMS are not singled out, MUSHROOMS are one of the vegetables that trigger your UMAMI taste buds. (To be clear, this is what I mean by “internal glue,” those nice connections that can be made between otherwise seemingly unrelated entries.)
- 47A. “AFTER MIDNIGHT” [Eric Clapton classic]. I especially like the way this title has been re-purposed. (Here’s a YouTube link. The original poster has some spelling issues, but it’s still fun to see this.)
- 58A. “MONSTER MASH” [Halloween playlist favorite]. An even older oldie, but kinda ties in to the range of activities one might engage in or witness “AFTER MIDNIGHT”…
As for the remainder of the fill, kudos for the downward-traveling WILD GUESS and HOME TEAMS. And now that baseball season is upon us, enjoyed seeing UMPS crossing the latter. Just seems appropriate, no? The remainder of the longer fill (mid-range really) is all of the six-letter variety, the highlights of which include ELOPES, NUDIST, TOUPÉE, PICKET, GLOSSY and NICEST.
Anger management comes into play with ENRAGE [Tick off], which gets reinforced elsewhere in the puzzle with [In A PET (annoyed)]. Another tie-in: the shout-out to the [Two-TOED sloth] and the [Sloth’s home], that TREE. Also the side-by-side AT SEA and FOGGY—because sometimes when you’re [Cruising], the atmosphere can become [Very misty].
We also get several smile-making, twisty or otherwise simply well-worded (scenario-suggesting) clues:
- [Skips the bachelorette party] for ELOPES.
- [He barely makes an impression?] for NUDIST. Think about it… Although I suspect the truth is, he makes an a genuinely unforgettable impression… (Perhaps he’ll even inspire the [crossing] ODIST.)
- [Maniacal leader?] for EGO-. “Leader” here is code for “prefix.”
- [Photo finish?] for GLOSSY. Love this one. It has nothing to do with horse racing and all to do with photography.
- [Ballpark fig.] for EST(imate) and [Ballpark figures] for those UMPS.
- [“Our Gang” author] for Philip ROTH and—because Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” was also known as “The Little Rascals”—[Little rascals] for IMPS. (Not to be confused with folk-rock’s Spanky and Our Gang…)
And that’s gonna do it for today. Keep solving, come back again next week and, in the meantime, contemplate the two-TOED (five-clawed) cutie below!
Julian Thorne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Form W-2” — Jim’s review
New byline today! Debut or not debut, that is the question. Well, it anagrams to “Thine Journal” which is pretty suspicious, so it’s probably another in the infinite line of editor Mike Shenk pseudonyms.
Apt puzzle for this week. It’s not Thursday fare which is closer to tax day on Friday, but I think it fits just right on a Tuesday. Our constructor uses the infamous TAX form as inspiration to find two-word phrases with both words starting with W.
- 18a [Alternative to “Hubba-hubba!”] WOLF WHISTLE. This is a pretty icky way to start the theme. Especially with that clue. I’d have preferred something that was less objectifying. How about [Sound from a sexual harasser]?
- 39a [Holder of a rubber blade] WINDSHIELD WIPER
- 60a [Mill powerers] WATER WHEELS
- 9d [Remnant of Herod’s Second Temple] WAILING WALL
- 24d [Equivocator’s specialty] WEASEL WORDS. This makes a nice complement to the first theme answer. I can imagine someone using WEASEL WORDS to justify a WOLF WHISTLE.
But the impressive thing here is the two Down themers cross two of the Across themers each! That’s really hard to do, and yet our constructor does it and still has a pretty clean grid (more circumstantial evidence we’re dealing with a professional and not a brand-new constructor).
We get the odd SAE, SYR, and EST here and there, but nothing out of bounds. RESLOTS (47a, [Moves on the schedule]) and ON HER (51d, [“___ Majesty’s Secret Service”]) really aren’t good, but I think they can be forgiven given the constraints. We do get DR. SEUSS and SO-AND-SO in the assets column.
So all in all, the grid is good and the crossing of the themers is impressively done. But that first theme answer and its clue leave a really unfortunate aftertaste.