Andrew Kingsley’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
Riddle-me-ree….it’s a riddle puzzle. These are never my favorites and this one is not a great example of the genre.
We have four theme answers.
- 18a is the [Start of a Mad Hatter riddle that went unanswered], and we finish at 23a: WHY IS A RAVEN LIKE A WRITING DESK?
- Then we have 45a [Start of a possible answer to the riddle], finishing at 50a: BECAUSE POE WROTE ON BOTH OF THEM.
Yeah, I suppose. Poe wrote “on” a raven if you take “on” to mean “about,” which is technically correct. It’s a stretch, especially since the riddle was meant to be nonsensical; the Mad Hatter is, well, mad. He poses this riddle to Alice so she realizes she’s now in a nonsensical world. Answering a riddle that has no answer is at best unnecessary.
It doesn’t seem like that much theme material, and yet the fill is remarkably blah, as if the constraints of the theme were overwhelming. A few things that caught my eye:
- I don’t think of MILK DUDS as “caramel bites.” I started trying to “Milky Way” in there somewhere, even though they’re not made by Hershey. I probably haven’t eaten a Milk Dud in forty years. It’s probably my memory that’s off; I think of them as malted milk balls.
- 13d [Traded verbal barbs] for SPARRED seems a tad tough for a Wednesday; people spar with their fists, too.
- 1a [African land whose capital is N’Djamena] is at least not an election-related clue for CHAD, but also seemed a bit difficult for a Wednesday.
- I agree that KRAMER was a doofus; was he really a hipster? So much I don’t know about pop culture.
- 33a [Small European finch] is apparently a SERIN. I won’t even call that crosswordese. It’s just obscure.
- I know that NOGS help many a constructor out of a tough spot. No one uses the word. [Often-rummy holiday drinks] are EGGNOGS, if you absolutely must use the plural, which you really don’t. Have to, I mean.
- What I did like: JEDI, TEA COZY, VAPE.
- I had a good day, but I still wouldn’t say I RULE. Who says that?
My rating is a solid meh. Better than feh, not as good as rah.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that DE SICA directed “Two Women.”
Morton J. Mendelson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Take It in Stride” — Jim’s review
We get a before-and-after theme today in which the after-word is the same for all four entries: WALK, located at 55d. The theme entries are clued as if WALK was part of the phrase.
- 18a [With 55-Down, classic movie about a dreamy hike?] THE BIG SLEEP
- 27a [With 55-Down, high-stepping dance for brides and grooms?] WEDDING CAKE
- 45a [With 55-Down, highlights of a trip to Atlantic City?] BED AND BOARD
- 56a [With 55-Down, two cosmonauts outside Mir?] DOUBLE SPACE
I think this is clever and works really well. We’re not subjected to the same word repeated in each entry (thereby eliminating dupes), and each phrase is altered enough to have a completely new and not unhumorous meaning. My only nit is with the entry BED AND BOARD. I’m familiar with “bed and breakfast” and “room and board,” but not BED AND BOARD.
There’s plenty of good non-theme fill all around: ARTERIES, SANTA CLARA, ARGUED OVER, HOUSE SIT, START LOW, BAD SPOT, LAB TECH, SPLENDA, ROYALE, and NELSON.
There are a few questionable entries: WADIS [Arabian valleys] crossing the unsavory SSR [Outdated map letters] and plural DOHS. But for the most part I was enjoying the fill and theme and trying to guess what the next one would be. A most satisfying solve.
Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – what Gareth wrote
SHIFTYEYES uses the first part as an anagram indicator. EYES doesn’t have useful anagrams, so the old “spanning over two parts of an answer” trick is called into play.
The plus part about the theme is the entries: SPIDEYSENSE and JANESEYMOUR, particularly. The other two are SEEYALATER and a lone POPPYSEED.
I can’t fault the fill or the clues, though I can’t find much to say about either. I think we’ve said everything about IRANIS that needs to be said, though it hasn’t made a whit of difference! ENNIS is also quite a crossword-ese deep cut! The 11th largest city in Ireland!
Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “AVX Themeless #10” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week for the AV Club this week, although from Byron Walden rather than Kameron Austin Collins. It’s rated 3.5/5 in difficulty, and here’s the notes from my solve as I commuted home from work tonight:
- 1A: Zoo movies that are black-and-white and blue all over? — PANDA PORN (I’m assuming this is a real thing because it’s in the crossword but I refuse to google it)
- 19A: John of keys — ELTON (this took me FAR too long to get, and I’m still not really keen on the wording of this clue)
- 55A: “There are no words…” — I CAN’T EVEN (as someone who’s been using this phrase a lot lately, I’m warmed to see it show up in the crossword)
- 57A: Something orange and odious that we should all try and finish off by next week– CANDY CORN (AGREED. Candy corn is terrible, don’t @ me.)
- 24D: “James Brown In Dead” duo who are actually Dutch, not Californian — LA STYLE (This is the first techno song to make the Billboard 100! But I don’t think the group’s quite notable enough to make the grid, especially since that was in 1993)
- 29D: Chainsaw operating mode with a diminished air supply — HALF CHOKE
- 31D: Finger-waving utterance — TUT TUT TUT (it’s “TSK TSK” or “TUT TUT”, but not “TUT TUT TUT”, IMO. Sorry.)
Mayb it’s just due to the quality of the previous themelesses the AV Club has run, but this just felt a little underwhelming to me. PANDA PORN was clearly a seed entry here, but some of the rest of the fill felt a little underwhelming. 3/5 stars
Here’s a can of Chef Boyardee being consumed by lava: