Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “Mixology”—Amy’s write-up
The theme answers were presumably gathered by having a computer search for words that can combine in an interspersed way to form new words/phrases:
- 23a. [Infant + straying = noted coach], BEAR BRYANT. The BABY letters are circled, the uncircled letters spell ERRANT, and BEAR BRYANT was a college football coach.
- 25a. [Less polite + wildly unconventional = epicenter], GROUND ZERO. Ruder, gonzo.
- 34a. [Urban woe + squirms = pool accessory], SWIM GOGGLES. Smog, wiggles.
- 43a. [Delay + dodos = some compromises], PLEA BARGAINS. Lag, peabrains.
- 60a. [Remain + “Hmm …” = R&B great], BO DIDDLEY. Bide, oddly. (Not digging “Hmm…” as the clue for ODDLY.)
- 70a. [Bill producers + Western wear = info for events], STARTING TIMES. ATMs, string ties.
- 80a. [Show, informally + African capital = Adonis], DREAMBOAT. Demo, Rabat. The only themer that’s a single word rather than a two-word term.
- 97a. [Pasty + vacation expense, maybe = hospital specialty], PRENATAL CARE. Pale, rent-a-car. Apparently our editors have never been pregnant, because the vast majority of prenatal care is provided at obstetricians’ offices or clinics. Neonatal intensive care is a hospital thing, but not prenatal care.
- 103a. [See + umbrella alternative = warming option], RADIANT HEAT. Date, rain hat.
- 119a. [Regarding + undercoat = network with 303 stations], PARIS METRO. As to, primer.
- 122a. [Day of the month + succeed = some recital pieces], PIANO DUETS. Ides, pan out. Grid also contains RAT OUT.
Given that there’s no compelling reason to include all 11 of these theme answers (it’s not as if they make a complete set of some sort), I really wish Matt had dropped a couple of them to facilitate a markedly better fill. When your opening corner includes A SEC, EFREM, and SABRA (with that tough clue, [Negev native]) crossing US OF A and SCLERA, there’s room for improvement. ELKO, SNAILED, SERE, ATE A TON, both URSA and OSA, RUTHS, EDDAS, AGAMA (man! been a long time since I’ve seen that old crosswordese), awkward GET A B, APIA, ON NOW, AGNATES (!), PLAIN FACT (that doesn’t seem like a crosswordable phrase), AEREO, OTERI, SSTS…. Do you remember my Scowl-o-Meter? It lurched back into action tonight. Knock out a pair of theme answers and see if you can’t eliminate a lot of the unseemly fill.
Five more things:
- 1d. [“Jinx” breakers of 2016], CUBS. Why is “jinx” in quotes? And more important, why is anyone using that word in relation to the Cubs, when it’s the “curse” that is what’s been talked about for decades. Utterly tone-deaf from a Cubs fan standpoint.
- 81d. [After Rainier, highest peak in the Pacific Northwest], MT. ADAMS. I’m not from the PNW and I’ve never heard of this mountain, Washington’s second tallest.
- 83d. [Island whose volcanic eruption is rumored to have destroyed Atlantis], SANTORINI. I didn’t know this about that Greek island, but I liked learning it.
- 48d. [Chain that sells chains], ZALES. Gold chains, jewelry store. Zales is in the news today because a conservative Christian group is up in arms over a commercial showing a pair of brides among the other couples.
- 105d. [Hulk Hogan trademark], DO-RAG. Uh, no. That’s his trademark bandana.
2.75 stars for me. The theme idea is neat, but doesn’t bring any humor or whimsy to the table.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Puzzle Imperfect” — pannonita’s write-up
One thing we who write about crossword puzzles have a tendency to do is nitpick, whether it be for pet peeves or some other sort of compulsion, to pad the text, to generate lively discussion among commenters, and so on.
Herewith, 67a [Find 20 flaws with this puzzle?] NITPICK. I’ve added corresponding circles to the grid.
- ORNITHOLOGY, 23a [Bebop tune by Charlie “Bird” Parker]. No idea why the nickname was included.
- MUNITIONS, 3d [War supplies].
- COUSIN ITT, 25a [“Ooky” mound of hair]. From the Addams Family.
- LENITY, 28a [Quality of mercy]. Akin to leniency. A bit strained?
- LIGNITES, 9d Brown coals].
- PRIMOGENITOR, 35a [Earliest ancestor].
- INCOGNITO, 52a [Undercover].
- CHICHEN ITZA, 16d [Mayan pyramid site].
- NITE, 50d [Informal evening].
- NITPICK, 67a [Find 20 flaws in this puzzle?]
- SNIT, 72d [Towering rage, downsized].
- MANZANITA, 81a [Chaparral shrub].
- SOLZHENITSYN, 93a [1970 Nobelist of Russia].
- MONITOR, 100a [Civil War ironclad].
- SEAN HANNITY, 66d [Radio host on the right]. Shouldn’t “Right” be capitalized?
- ANITA HILL, 109a [Figure in a 1991 hearing].
- IN IT TO WIN IT, 111a [Motto of a competitor].
- IN IT TO WIN IT, 111a [Motto of a competitor].
- WALL UNIT, 84d [Modular set of shelves].
- CLOSE-KNIT, 78d [Sharing a tight bond].
That’s 13 across NITs and 7 down ones. But who’s counting?
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Fare Play” – Jenni’s writeup
On the menu this Sunday: puns!
23a [50 Cent lunch item?] = GANGSTA WRAP (rap).
- 25a [Filleted fish vehicle?] = SOLE TRAIN (soul).
- 40a [Fruit purchased in a Big Apple borough?] = PEAR OF QUEENS (pair).
- 50a [Party with spicy bean dishes?] = CHILI RECEPTION (chilly).
- 70a [Horse track meat?] = PREAKNESS STEAKS (stakes). The three S’s in this one threw me for a little while.
- 92a [Helpful dinner bread?] = SUPPORTING ROLL (role).
- 102a [Spoiled milk, e.g.?] = CEREAL KILLER (serial).
- 122a [Shellfish vehicle?] = MUSSEL CAR (muscle).
- 124a [Period when the only topic of conversation is a blackthorn fruit?] = SLOE NEWS DAY (slow). Evan saved the best for last – I loved this one.
All the base phrases are in the language and the puns are amusing. This is a nice diversion for the last day of a long holiday weekend.
A few other things:
- 5d [Libertine marquis] is one word for DE SADE.
- 45a [Grier of “Foxy Brown”] = PAM, of course. Child of the ’70s checking in.
- 85d [Coastal predator] is GULL. I don’t think of gulls as predators, unless the prey is dropped French fries.
- 83d [Dive bars?] = KARAOKE. I don’t think karaoke is limited to dives, is it? Funny clue, and I’m OK with puns escaping from the theme.
- 133a [Is totally awesome] = RULES. The slangy usage is signaled by “awesome.”
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there is a US soccer star named MEGAN Rapinoe. I’m always happy to see women clued as sports figures without qualifiers.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Do Stuff”—Andy’s review
As soon as I saw the title of this puzzle, I knew it would be about 118d, GEL [Styling product hidden in eight long puzzle answers]. Indeed, the eight theme answers are all two word phrases whose first word ends in -GE (mostly -AGE, except for one) and whose second word begins with L-. They are:
- 23a, SAUSAGE LINK [Breakfast item]. Feels almost sad to say in the singular.
- 33a, STORAGE LOCKER [Bus station compartment].
- 43a, CARRIAGE LAMP [Decorative outdoor fixture]. This, apparently. Never heard of it.
- 60a, PAGE LAYOUT [Category including spacing and margins].
- 77a, MILEAGE LOG [Vehicle usage record].
- 92a, LUGGAGE LABEL [Curbside check-in freebie]. “Luggage tag” is much more familiar to me.
- 98a, STAGE LIGHTING [Broadway director’s concern].
- 117a, GEORGE LUCAS [“American Graffiti” director].
Not a particularly exciting theme. LUGGAGE LABEL in particular didn’t strike me as a common phrase, but otherwise a solid set of answers. Very little sparkle in the surrounding fill, but also very little to gripe about. TOORA is one of my least favorite things to see in a puzzle. A few partials/weird constructions/foreign words (IS HOT, AMAS, ÉTÉS, I DARE, MAKE MAD, AS AN, ON ME), but I enjoyed seeing CIVIC DUTY, PAPYRI, ENERGY BAR, and a decent clue for DO-RAG [Biker’s headgear, maybe].
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do SOMETHING ELSE: BINGE LISTENING to podcasts while eating some ORANGE LEAF froyo. Until next time, WAGE LABORERS!