Kyle Mahowald’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Okay! I have to leave in 10 minutes to pick up my son, so:
I like the quaint PONIARDS, “I’M ON FIRE,” a SIGHT GAG, comment THREADS, O HENRY, “WHAT’S NEW WITH YOU?”, “MARRY ME” (is there a proposal here, between TRACI and ELENA?), INSOMNIA’s W.C. Fields clue, Corazon AQUINO et fils, DYNAMIC DUO, “MUST BE NICE” (probably my favorite answer here), and “YES, WE CAN.”
I had to ask my husband if there’s really a MAC PRO. It’s a laptop, apparently? I’m out of the Mac laptop game these days.
Not keen on EES, ONE-A; everything else is reasonable.
Four stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Head Writers” — Jim’s review
Our theme today is two-word phrases where the first word is the same as a famous author’s name, and the second word is that author’s “favorite” ___.
- 23a [Danielle’s favorite instrument?] STEEL GUITAR
- 25a [Dan’s favorite mammal?] BROWN BEAR
- 50a [E.B.’s favorite residence?] WHITE HOUSE
- 59a [Zane’s favorite bird?] GREY GOOSE
- 75a [Stephen’s favorite reptile?] KING COBRA
- 84a [Thomas’s favorite nursery item?] HARDY PLANT
- 111a [Jack’s favorite horror film effect?] LONDON FOG
- 113a [Anne’s favorite condiment?] RICE VINEGAR
This seems like a perfectly fine theme, but I can’t say I enjoyed it much. It still feels a bit loose. At least it’s limited to authors, but there are a lot of STEEL things and WHITE things and BROWN things and KING things and RICE things that could be used. Seems like it needs another limiting factor.
Maybe animals. We already have a BEAR, a GOOSE, and a COBRA. How about WHITE RATS?
Also, HARDY PLANT? That’s as much of a thing as “green paint”, i.e. there is such a thing as a HARDY PLANT, but that’s not a standalone lexical phrase (I don’t think). Here are a couple of other 10-letter choices: [Arthur’s favorite magazine?] MILLER TIME, [Umberto’s favorite NBAer?] ECO WARRIOR.
Further indicating a looseness to the theme, here are even more entry possibilities: [Jonathan’s favorite mode of transportation?] SWIFT BOAT, [Mary Higgins’s favorite hangout?] CLARK BAR, [Pearl’s favorite crop?] BUCK WHEAT.
Here’s another puzzle from 2005 by Gail Grabowski. Same idea, but limited to poets. It included HARDY PLANT, but also had POUND CAKE, POPE MOBILE, and FROST BITE.
So I would have preferred something a bit tighter. But a lot of leeway in the themed fill means we should get some really nice non-theme fill. And we do. Check out: LETS LOOSE, LIONSGATE, GOES MAD, BROKEN BAT, and HAIR COLOR; exclamations “I’VE HAD IT!”, “BE CAREFUL!”, and “SO THERE!; and the operatic triple feature of PAGLIACCI, OTELLO, and LA BOHEME. Plus, my personal favorite EASY PEASY. (There’s also a SI SI SENOR, but that feels like one SI too many.) That’s some really great stuff!
Cluing is very straightforward and the theme felt so over-the-plate, that I barely paused while solving. I made steady, consistent progress from start to finish.
A few notes:
- 3d: [Number of pecados capitales] is SIETE. Translation: “mortal sins”; i.e. the seven deadly sins.
- Somewhat of a dupe: 44d SI SI SENOR and 72d SRA [Mrs of Madrid].
- 94d: Writer TONI Morrison makes an appearance but is not part of the theme. Is she trying to distract us Kanye-style? (See my Wednesday review.)
- I like the appearance of KING‘s CUJO at 116a. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, leading us to RABIES at 10d.
Bottom line: I would have preferred a tighter theme, but it works and allows for some really nice fill.
Kyle Mahowald’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
Haven’t done a puzzle by Kyle in a while. (Hey, that rhymes!) Awesome entry at 1-Across, and tons more great ones in this puzzle. I finished in under 7 (on a computer, which is a little quicker than pencil and paper), so it didn’t play too difficult to me. I can tell my skill level has increased since blogging, but these puzzles in the 21st century are so well made that there isn’t anything remotely obscure in them! That makes puzzles fun to do! I will rate this on a solid 4.2 stars.
I will try to mention all the really good ones, but there may be too many!
- 1A [“You’re kidding, right?”] WAIT, WHAT? – A common phrase now, but only in the last few years. Awesome!
- 19A [“Out of the Blue” band] ELO – A crossword famous band, that also is a just-plain-famous band! Don’t recognize the song title? That’s because it’s an album title! Included Turn to Stone, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, and my favorite and possibly a new theme song here in dreary Indiana, Mr. Blue Sky!
- 31A [Alouette 1 satellite launcher] CANADA – I wonder from where? What is their equivalent of Cape Canaveral?
- 46A [Programming language named for a comedy group] PYTHON – Really?! I had no idea, but it sounds like how a computer programmer would think!
- 51A [Teamsters president James] HOFFA – As blogged by a card carrying Teamster! One who is actually shocked that Hoffa, Jr. hasn’t ended up like his father!
- 65A [French for “stick”] BAGUETTE – Makes sense. It’s a long loaf of bread. But I learned something new!
- 11D [Light shade … or avoid the shade?] TAN – Best clue in the puzzle! Actually, one of the better clues I have seen in a while!
- 14D [“Piece of cake”] EASY PEASY – I don’t think I have ever used this phrase before! I wrote EASY AS PIE. It’s all about the food with me…
- 30D [Pepperidge farm treat] MILANO – Getting hungry; haven’t had these in forever!
- 35D [“Ice cream or cake?” response, perhaps] BOTH – Love this clue! My only beef is why is “perhaps” added? OF COURSE I WANT BOTH!!
Have a great weekend! See you for Tuesday’s LAT!
Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up
Brad and Doug have cooked up another doozy for us this Saturday. Not overly difficult, but there are some tough pockets in this one. Found a couple of areas where my first guess was correct, but didn’t go with it, and that causes problems. As you can see in the grid image, the Check feature was used, and I did have a few errors. A 72-worder this week, with great clues and fill. How about 4.4 stars for this one!
My favorites, along with the ones that stumped me the worst:
- 23A [Cause of grammarians’ separation anxiety] OXFORD COMMA – I prefer them not used!
- 25A [Gordon Brown, by birth] SCOT – I had BRIT.
- 37A [Zodiacal symbol] ARCHER – I had FISHES. Isn’t the symbol for Pisces two fishes? Wait, isn’t the plural of fish fish?? 11C says it can be either!
- 44A [1998 sports headliner] SOSA – As in Sammy Sosa, former Cub, who hit a bajillion home runs that year. (66 to be exact!)
- 49A [Darrow’s fossil evidence in the Scopes Trial] PILTDOWN MAN – Great entry. A notable hoax I remember from school!
- 58A [Cause of Chilean droughts] LA NIÑA – I had EL NIÑO. I knew it had to be one or the other!
- 63A [Pillowcase dress’ lack] ARM HOLES – I don’t have any daughters, so I have never heard of this. Evidently they are actually made of an actual pillowcase!
- 65A [Reagan employee] TSA AGENT – Best clue in the puzzle. Reagan airport, not the president, is referred to here!
- 7D [Starting point] YEAR ONE – Starting point for business accounts, maybe! Another great clue.
- 12D [2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient] STAN MUSIAL – I had no idea. Great piece of trivia!
- 24D [One of the Golden State’s Santas] CLARA – I had ANITA. I think that’s a racetrack!
- 30D [Latino Public Broadcasting cofounder] OLMOS – Yes, the actor Edward James Olmos is the one mentioned here!
- 45D [In rarefied air] ALPINE – I had this at first, and didn’t think it could be correct. It can mean above the treeline, so I should trust my instincts!
- 61D [Part of many cords] LOG – Another great clue!
Since this week wasn’t bad, next week should be torturous! Have a great weekend!
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hang Around” —Ade’s write-up
Hey everyone! Busy day today here, so no long review, but today’s grid, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, features theme entries in which the first two letters start with “HA” with the last two letters of the answer ending in “NG.”.
- HABIT FORMING (20A: [Addictive])
- HAIR RAISING (35A: [Like a Freddy Krueger film])
- HAPPY ENDING (42A: [Finish that brings a smile])
- HASTY PUDDING (59A: [Harvard theatrical society that included Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt])
Looks like TRUMP is starting to become a more popular entry in crosswords, especially in CrossSynergy – these days (9A: [Presidential candidate whose coif was described by the New York Times as “an elaborate structure best left to an architecture critic]). But, if you need the perfect balance to that entry, on the opposite side we have both OBAMA and BIDEN in the Southwest (66A/69A: [Half of a winning ticket in 2008 and 2012]). Everyone on both sides of the political aisle should be happy…I think. Maybe. Kind of. Oh, enough politics. Here’s a little sports for you…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CASH (52A: [ATM output]) – Former Major League catcher Kevin CASH is currently the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, yet another former catcher who’s now a big league manager.
See you all for the Sunday Challenge!