Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
- 60aR [What the starts of 17-, 26-, 35- and 50-Across are] FAIRY TALE.
- 17a. [Slow-cooked beef entree] RUMP ROAST.
- 26a. [Fabled city of wealth sought by conquistadors] EL DORADO.
- 35a. [One with a leg up in the circus business?] STILT WALKER.
- 50a. [Gambling scam] SKIN GAME.
Wow. Rump rhymes with Trump, he sold steaks, he’s obsessed with gold, he’s made a circus of everything (that’s ignoring the very real constitutional and existential threats), and he is a scam artist. A fairy tale. </soapbox>
I just can’t.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inquire Within” — Jim’s review
Monday-level theme, but lively entries all, and a super clean grid to boot. Very nice puzzle.
- 18a [Marx’s masterwork] DAS KAPITAL
- 20a [Ultimate act of betrayal] JUDAS KISS
- 38a [Classic toy introduced in 1960] ETCH A SKETCH
- 59a [Grassy dance attire] HULA SKIRT
- 62a [2001 Tom Cruise/Penelope Cruz movie] VANILLA SKY
An 11-letter central themer is often troublesome because it messes with your corners. Ideally, if you’re going to have a central themer, you want it to be either 15 or 7 letters. Those give you the most flexibility in setting up your grid. But with 11, you’re limited with what you can do in the corners.
I’d say this might be about the best solution. Sure, you get a couple of big chunks of blocks on the sides of the grid, but the corners stay mostly open without being too unwieldy. It’s a good compromise, and Zhouqin manages it very well, giving us tons of fun fill throughout the grid.
I really like “EYES ON ME” (38d, [“Look here!”]) even though I couldn’t parse it with most of the crossings. Similar evocative phrases include “WAIT UP,” “NOT SO,” and “OK, SURE.” Then there’s ASTONISH, TSUNAMI, WALK-IN, HIT JOB, and SHTICK.
All this while still partially stacking some of the themers. See the D and K from DAS and KISS in the north section? Usually that would be a no-go, but Zhouqin finds VODKA and it’s all good. (Well, maybe not plural ILKS, but I’ll give it a pass.)
In the end, even though I was solving while watching TV, it felt very smooth and the vast majority of entries and/or clues were interesting in some way. Two pencils up.
Joel Mackerry’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Wasn’t seeing the theme this morning(as opposed to the NYT, which I appreciated by filling in the revealer without seeing its clue). Thanks to Amy for pointing it out. Fifteen-letter entries beginning with the vowel progression-led ANC, ENC, INC, ONC, UNC. No revealer.
- 17a. [Hebrew or Latin, e.g.] ANCIENT LANGUAGE.
- 23a. [Meetings of self-improvement seekers] ENCOUNTER GROUPS.
- 39a. [Form 1040 and schedules] INCOME TAX RETURNS.
- 53a. [Doctor with a pager] ON-CALL PHYSICIAN.
- 61a. [Most of the Atlantic, to Columbus] UNCHARTED WATERS.
Notable fill: INCOME TAX RETURNS, UNCHARTED WATERS, 10d [Acronym for a big mess] SNAFU, 28d [Be a debtor of] OWE TO, 51d [Operatic icon] DIVA, 66d [Moscow’s land: Abbr.] RUS.
In fairness: ENCOUNTER GROUPS, 42d [Flees] RUNS AWAY. But those don’t actually apply; I’m just listing them there prophylactically. And I can’t SEE (67d) anything else.
Martin Ashwood Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Headline” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody! A nor’easter is bearing down on us right now, but at least it’s warm enough that we don’t have to worry about being buried in snow. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, features multiple-word theme entries that have the letters S-T-A-R span the two words, with the entry STAR IN acting as the reveal (64A: [Headline, and feature shared by 19-, 34-, 39-, and 53-Across]).
- SALES TARGET (19A: [Business goal])
- CAST AROUND (34A: [Look here and there])
- GANGSTA RAP (39A: [Controversial music genre])
- TOURIST AREA (53A: [Popular place for visitors])
So close to being under six minutes with this solve, but couldn’t make out ICE-T quick enough to put it in before the clock struck 6:00 (28D: [Cool-sounding musician]). Liked the many medium-length entries in the grid, with GIOVANNI standing out probably the most for me (56A: [“Don ________” (Mozart opera)]). Actually, RAN RIOT is really good as well (41D: [Went wild]). I didn’t watch the movie that’s referenced in the clue to LEONI, but I probably liked her most in the first Bad Boys movie (52D: [Téa of “Jurassic Park III”]). I hear that Madam Secretary, the CBS TV series she stars in, is pretty good. Have to check it out sometime.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: VET (59D: [Boxer’s doc]) – Between 1971 and 2003, Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, colloquially known as The VET, was a multi-purpose stadium which was home to both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles. Though it provided one of the best home-field advantages in sports, The Vet was also known for its rowdy fans and terrible AstroTurf playing surface which was a constant hazard to players running around on the field.
Thank you for the time, and I’ll see you tomorrow!