Matthew Sewell’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
As my time would suggest, this is a pretty easy puzzle. I figured out that we were playing basketball when I filled in the second theme answer, and the revealer still surprised me (probably because I don’t know that much about basketball).
Our theme answers:
- 17a [Platform sandal feature] = BLOCK HEEL. I raise my eyebrow at this. To me, a platform sandal is something like this, which doesn’t really have a distinct heel at all. I suppose there are sandals with a platform under the forefoot and a separate block heel, but there are also many other shoes with block heels that are not platform sandals. Anyway, my eyebrow is raised.
- 23a [Boyfriend after a breakup, perhaps] = REBOUND GUY. You’re not supposed to marry the rebound guy. Just sayin’.
- 30a [Render a verdict] = PASS JUDGMENT. I prefer “judgement,” and I know I’m in the minority. Eyebrows stay down.
- 40a [Novelty shop buy] = DRIBBLE GLASS.
- 49a [Space Invaders and Asteroids, for two] = SHOOT ’EM UPS. Do gamers really use this term? Do gamers still play Space Invaders and Asteroids?
- 57a [Dynamic basketball sequence represented by the starts of 17-, 23-, 30, 40- and 49-Across] = FAST BREAK. Block, rebound, pass, dribble, shoot. That’s a fast break. Nice.
It’s a lot of theme material, which requires a grid that has a lot of three-letter words, and the fill suffers somewhat as a result. I think the tradeoff is worth it.
A few other things:
- 2d [Inept boxers, in slang] are PALOOKAS. I love this word. I just do.
- 4a [Roundup targets] are WEEDS, not DOGIES. Fooled by the uppercase letter at the beginning of the clue again.
- 22d [Comic-Con, e.g.] is an EXPO. Yes, I suppose it is, although I don’t think of it that way. I’m not sure why I don’t think of it that way, so it’s my issue. Judgement: legit.
- Speaking of Comic-Con, we have a Batman sound effect at 41d [“Ka-POW!”]. The answer is BAM, and I’m glad the clue doesn’t reference Emeril.
- 10d [Not based on fact or research] = ANECDOTAL. Indeed.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: to be honest, I didn’t know what a fast break was. There’s also OSSIAN at 35a; apparently he’s a [Bard of Gaelic legend]. If you say so.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Swell Intentioned” — Jim’s review
Straight-shooting add-a-letter theme as indicated by the title. It’s tightened up a bit by the fact that each base phrase starts with a W. On the whole, they all have a bit of genuine humor, so I like it.
- 20a [React to miswriting a check?] SWEAR AND TEAR. In my book, this is the best of the lot. It’s funny because it’s true.
- 28a [Bifocals for boars?] SWINE GLASSES. Reminds me of the episode of Peppa Pig where Daddy Pig loses his glasses only to find he’s been sitting on them the whole time. Silly Daddy!
- 44a [Knives wielded by muggers?] SWIPER BLADES. This one could’ve done with a different clue. Referring
to a knife-wielding mugger as a “swiper” is awfully rose-colored. I don’t know why you wouldn’t go with [Ice skates for a kids’ TV villain].
- 53a [Teddy bears for a honeybee colony?] SWARM FUZZIES. I guess this works.
The rest of the grid is fine but rather unremarkable. CAR PARTS is good of course, and QUIRES is unusual (10d, [There are twenty in a ream]), but beyond that, I’m not finding a whole lot to comment on — which is probably a good thing.
So I’ll just end it with this:
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Altered States” —Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen, takes the abbreviation of states and uses them as substitutes for words in common phrases. The resulting puns are pronounced the same as the regular phrase when reading the letters of the state abbreviation individually.
- PRIMETIME ME (16A: [Augusta, when the joint is jumping?]) – Primetime Emmy. I heard Orono is much more of the happening town than Augusta is. OK, I just made that up.
- NE TAKERS (23A: [Kleptomaniacs, in Lincoln?]) – Any takers?
- MT NESTER (50A: [Bird, in Helena?]) – Empty nester.
- GREEN WITH NV (61A: [Slogan for Reno’s ego-conscious?]) – Green with envy.
It’s funny to me seeing MIND ERASER in the grid because a friend of mine usually brings up the term any time we have a a night when we have a tad too much to drink on a given night, but, until now, didn’t realize that that’s the name of an actual drink (10D: [Mixed drink hinting at its potency]). I guess a good number of drinks, without being nixed with something else, can be considered mind erasers. Fun full in the grid, and especially liked ARMCHAIR (4D: [________ quarterback (home critic)]). I love how that idiom, partially derived from sports, is used many times in a non-sporting context. Also liked THE MASSES fill as well (9D: [Hoi polloi]). There was a time when NILLA wafers were my favorite cookie, and I think it was because one of my favorite elementary school teachers brought it to class one day and I fell in love with once I bit into it (64A: [Nabisco cookie named for its flavor]). My parents ended up buying boxes of it for me immediately afterward when they went out grocery shopping, but, now that I think about it, it’s probably been about two decades since I’ve had a single Nilla wafer. Should I change that soon?!?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SELF (67A: [Freudian interest]) – One of the best coaches in college basketball, Bill SELF is currently the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Kansas. In 13 full seasons at Kansas (not counting the current one), Self and the Jayhawks has won at least a share of the Big 12 Conference titles 12 times, with only his first season at Kansas, in 2003-04, being the exception. Self’s crowning achievement as a head coach also cost me over $500; In 2008, Kansas defeated Memphis in the national championship game in overtime to deliver the Jayhawks their most recent national championship and deny yours truly from finishing second place in my NCAA Tournament pool that year. Darn you, Bill Self!!!!!
Thank you so much once again for your time and attention, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s bit
The theme appears to be a phobia etymology theme. That’s fairly esoteric, but it also seems a tad muddled. Each of four long answers refers to something that is [Not a fearful…] for x-phobes. The answers all feature what x literally means, in English. Acrophobes shouldn’t fear brooklynHEIGHTS, although it was presumably named for some high feature. Agora means market, and agoraphobes shouldn’t fear a moneyMARKET, as it’s not a physical market – that works! Xeno- (strange) phobes should apparently not fear theSTRANGER. The problem is, from what I know, xenophobia is the main theme of the book? Yes? I haven’t read it. If that’s the case this really falls flat. An alfaromeoSPIDER is not an arachnid, so arachnophobes are safe. This works and is an evocative car entry too!
As usual, C.C. Burnikel delivers an excellent grid, filled with care. TARGETEDAD was a particularly good choice of down answer.
Kameron AustinCollins’ AVCX crossword, “AVCX Themeless #12” — Ben’s Review
Oh, boy, it’s themeless week at the AV Club! It’s another lovely grid from Kameron, with plenty of tasty fill inside.
Across standouts for me:
- The mirrored pairing of MRAZ and RISD, two groupings of letters that free from the context of their clues (“Jason with the 2008 hit ‘I’m Your’s'” and “Seth MacFarlane’s alma mater, for short”, respectively) look off
- the MAHARAJAHS-ONE MAN ARMY-PANOPTICON stack in the upper left corner
- a shoutout to QR CODEs (which I don’t recall showing up in last weekends Mystery Hunt, oddly enough)
- COTTAGE PIE (which is what a shepherd’s pie becomes if you only have ground beef rather than lamb)
- BREATHLESS (which I haven’t seen, but totally know of as a film junkie).
- RAP FREESTYLE seems backwards (freestyle rap, anyone?), but the rest of the long answers going down (MOCHACCINOS, Q AND A PERIOD, and OPEN MIC NIGHT) were just fine.
- Somehow PRINTER isn’t what I expected to fill in the blank after “3-D ____”, but it’s nice to see something other than GLASSES show up there.
As always with Kameron, a lovely grid with equally excellent fill.