David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Lots of Steinberg-is-a-young-constructor sort of fill, which I tend to enjoy. Highlights: GUY CODE (which doesn’t feel as familiar as bro code but is the name of a 2011-15 MTV show), CHANDLER Bing (Friends : today’s teens :: ’60s shows : my peers as teens—Nick at Nite reruns), CHILLAX, DUBSTEP, BELIEBER (yo, Biebs has white-dude dreads now), and ABSOLUT.
Grid code violation: Well, you’ve got cognates THREE and TRIOS crossing. No, no. LAYETTE and LAY OPEN look related, but actually are not etymological cousins.
Five more things:
- 1a. [Artificial eyelashes, informally], FALSIES. Fake eyelashes are in fashion at the moment, and they do get called “falsies.” Am relieved that this word’s not clued as mammary accessories, because that would make for a really gross 1-Across.
- 13d. [Gotham building-climbing tool], BATROPE. That’s a thing for Batman? Whatever.
- 7d. [In any way], SOEVER? Say what? Is that a thing without an introductory what-? Checking the dictionary … soever is labeled as an archaic or literary word. Would be good to have the clue signal that the answer’s rather obscure.
- I wish HAMBONE had been clued as the rhythmic thigh-slapping performance that derives from West African and slave traditions. Here’s a video to give you a taste if you’re not familiar with it; I learned about it from school classmates back in the day. Here’s a little on the history. Sure, it’s cute to have two [Treat for a dog] clues in a row, but culture and arts!
- 30d. [Kept a watch on?], TIMED / 28d. [Keeps a watch on], TENDS. I hit the question-marked clue and really liked it, and then I hit its near-double. More fun to have paired clues that point in different directions, vs. the CHEW TOY/HAM BONE combo.
Four stars from me.
Hi, everyone. PuzzleGirl here with your CHE for this week. This will probably be a brief write-up. I had some minor surgery on my foot on Wednesday and when I volunteered to do this blog post, the nerve block hadn’t worn off yet. I was all, “Sure! Bring it on! I feel great! I’ve got all the time in the world!” Now, on the other hand, I’m sort of wishing I would just die already but frantically counting my Percocet to see if it might be worth it to hold on for a while. It’s not pretty. So let’s take my mind off it for a bit, shall we?
Today’s puzzle features a simple change-a-letter theme. The resulting phrases aren’t all hilarious, but the cluing is good, so I definitely chuckled a couple times.
- 18A: DOGNIPPER [Recording-industry mascot listening to His Master’s Voice?]
- 27A: SEND PICKING [Dispatch to the orchard?]
- 45A: THE MOD SQUID [Cephalopod-about-town in Swinging London?]
- 60A: LITER, DUDE [“Is that a quart, bro?” rejoinder?]
The problem I have with many change-a-letter themes is that I always think the pronunciation changes are going to be consistent too. But, like here, that’s not always the case. In this puzzle, the first two theme answers do, in fact, have matching pronunciation changes (short A to short I). So I thought I totally understood what was going on and then bam! In the third theme answer, the changed letter requires going from and “ah” sound to a short I. And then the last one goes from a long A to a long E sound. The theme is still completely legit. It’s changing the letter A to the letter I. And yet, I want it to be … better.
I will say, though, that THE MOD SQUID might just make up for any negative feelings I have about this puzzle. I mean, that answer is fantastic!
- 15A: Pie-eyed [DRUNK]. I didn’t know that pie-eyed meant DRUNK. I would have guessed that it means optimistic.
- 32A: Frugivorous race of H.G. Wells [ELOI]. I don’t know what “frugivorous” means, but luckily I know the answer for any clue with “race” and “H.G. Wells” in it.
- 43A: Jason Schwartzman, to Talia Shire [SON]. PuzzleSon and I watched the first Rocky movie back in December as a prelude to seeing “Creed” in the theater. I think it holds up pretty well. I had forgotten about the scene where Rocky bullies Adrian into coming into his apartment and then won’t let her leave. That was kind of horrifying.
- 55A: Cellist on the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” soundtrack [YO-YO MA]. Me in my head: “Please be Yo-Yo Ma. Please be Yo-Yo Ma.”
- 4D: Couples with a driver [FRED]. Ha! You can’t fool me with that trickery, but nice try!
- 8D: Dracula portrayer of 1931 [LUGOSI]. With the L, U and O in place, I tried LUPONE, proving once again that the all I know about old-timey actors are their names.
- 27D: Layer of ore [SEAM]. Tried VEIN here first, which slowed me down a little.
- 62D: Coneheads et al. [ETS]. Have you seen the State Farm commercial with the Coneheads? I laughed.
Well, that ended up not being all that brief, did it?? And typing it up was a great distraction for me. Hope you got a little something out of it too! Till next time ….
Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The basics of this theme is very bare bones – the last word of each of five theme phrase is originally four letters, but has lost an R, each time in the third position, to make wacky phrases. Four of the five are R[consonant] words, but MORE becomes MOE and is very definitely sticking out like a sore thumb. Pretty vanilla as themes go, all in all.
- [Oath sworn in a kosher kitchen?], ABOVEALLDONOHA(R)M. Never heard of the phrase as formed. FIRSTDONOHARM, sure, it’s a common medical and veterinary maxim. FIRST out-googles ABOVEALL by 10x, but the latter does seem to exist, at least.
- [Double-dealing in Delhi?], INDIANCO(R)N. With phrases like Indian giver, it was wise to clue this re Delhi Indians.
- [Cutthroat entrepeneur?], BUSINESSCA(R)D.
- [Demand from a Stooge fan?], SHOWMEMO(R)E.
- [“Stir-frying is an option, too”?], ICOULDUSETHEWO(R)K.
There are a number of egregiously bad answers in the grid today. I’d have expected any one of them to be close to deal-breaking. A lot of the problems come from the structure of the grid, which has very large swathes of white with theme answers already locked-in. That, in turn, is from the choice of theme answers, both number (5, although one feels obliged to go for at least 5 without some sort of revealer, often), and length, with a central 11 the chief problem. I can’t believe with such a wide array (I assume) of potential theme choices that a more accommodating theme/grid arrangement wasn’t possible. Then again, if this one was accepted…
Let’s look at some of those entries: MYDUST and INROME are both six-letter partials, no matter how they are clued. ONAANDE is doubly awful: contrived – what does ON + any TVCHANNEL now make acceptable phrases? Plus the more established artificially spelt-out AND. TRIESIT, ASSAYER and the also somewhat arbitrary BADLEAD are other long, iffy answers. When 6+ letters answers wobble, it puts a much larger pall over the entire crossword… Oh, RALL/LOI is not a fair cross, not even close to one – rare surname crossing foreign vocab? Nope, nope, nope.
- [Cabbage family member], BROCCOLI. I had BRASSICA, which is more precisely correct. BROCCOLI is actually one of the many varied cultivars of cabbage, which shows nearly as much phenotypic variability as the domestic dog!
Not a publishable crossword.