Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The revealer is 69a. [Exam for an ambitious H.S. student … or what this puzzle has been?], AP TEST, and the other eight theme answers all have A.P. initials. Sadly, it is not easy to make a pliable Tuesday puzzle when you jam nine theme answers into the grid. In my debit column are plural AGAVES, LESSEE, PTUI, OSCINE (63a. [Relating to songbirds]—the somewhat broader term passerine is more familiar, though still awfully hard for a Tuesday puzzle), GORP, SEA EELS, and TUNA OIL. I’d have liked to see this puzzle with maybe four or five A.P. answers rather than eight.
Those A.P. answers are AFRO PICK, APPLE PIE, ART PAPER, AL PACINO, AMY POEHLER, AIR PIRATE (is that a thing currently?), AT PRESENT (yawn), and ATOMIC PILE (old-school).
Did you watch the latest episode of The Walking Dead? This puzzle has SOPS UP and SET UP, but lacks a third UP for that “Up Up Up” experience.
50a. [BlackBerry alternative], iPHONE. Ha ha ha, no. BlackBerry has such a minuscule market share these days, this clue feels nine years old.
32d. [Went leisurely downriver, perhaps], TUBED. Last time I went tubing, I was about 11 years old. I have a scar on my knee to remember it by (presumed pull-tab from an aluminum can sliced my knee open, and the day camp leaders all thought someone else was responsible for bringing the first aid kit … so it was left to the school bus driver to pull out a hopefully unused handkerchief to bandage my knee).
2.75 stars from me—too many clunky entries in the grid. I’m sure there are people who rave about thematic density, but I really don’t want to see it unless the constructor’s able to surround the theme material with all smooth fill.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 299), “Lalo Land”—Janie’s take
Well, to be blunt, you’d kinda hafta be livin’ under a rock not to know that these days, there’s an award-winning and -nominated film (“playing now at a theatre near you!”) called La La Land, and clearly, the title of today’s puzz is a bit of a send up of/homage to that title. (And… the name itself is legit: Lalo is also the name of a 19th century French composer.) “Lalo Land” is the place where themers are two-word phrases or names, where the first word begins with “LA-” and the second with “LO-.” You know how this works, and today it works fairly well. We get six theme entries—which is to say, a lot of theme material—including two crossing pairs.
- 17A. LATIN LOVER [Rudolph Valentino attribution]. A lively way to get things goin’, but less sparkly is the crossing
- 5D. LAND LOAN [Lot financing for a home builder, perhaps]. Last week it was FHA MORTGAGE… Sorry financial-industry folks. The array lending vehicles you offer is a boon, but the argot of the field is kinda dry. Dare I say NOT COOL [Unhip]? Nah. Lemme show a little good will here and not cast aspersions. It’s simply that jargon doesn’t always make for the most interesting fill, even when it conforms to the requirements for the fill. Ça va.
- 10D. LARA LOGAN [South African-born “60 Minutes” correspondent]. And she joins a host [sic] of esteemed others in that capacity.
- 34D. LAYING LOW [Knocking to the ground]. Oof! Makes me think of these.
- 60A. LAKE LOUISE [ Turquoise expanse in Banff National Park]. Crystalline LAKE, sparkly fill, but less sparkly is the crossing
- 40D. LAST LONG [Endure through the ages]. When talking about “enduring through the ages,” seems we use/hear that particular phrase more often in a negative context: “The XYZ Era didn’t LAST LONG,” and that even when talking about an entity’s staying power we’re more likely to say that it has the potential to LAST a LONG time (or even that it did LAST a LONG time, but not that it did LAST LONG). Just feel there’s something a little off, a little roll-you-owney with this clue/fill combo. YMMV.
The execution of this puzzle’s theme may not be my fave of late, but there’s quite a bit of excellent fill (and some not-so-shabby cluing…) that breathes some genuine freshness into the grid. So “Huzzah!” for KATYDID and OMNIVORE, SNITCHES and NOT COOL, ICE CAVE (very COOL…) and ANGELA, ORLANDO and “OOH-LA-LA!” Good stuff, all.
I also like the humorous clue right there at 1A. [Target of a schmear campaign?] for BAGEL. That’s a great way to start the puzzle. 6A also made me smile since the [Bali product] had nothing to do with RICE or WOOD and all to do with women’s intimate apparel, specifically, the BRA. Hah! And lest you thought there was no gender parity in the Crossword Nation, wrong. The GENTS who may have been unfamiliar with the O-CEDAR brand of brooms and mops last week, this week get to revel in their SKIL tools. (I’m being jocular here. Of course there are men who buy their own cleaning products [oh, please tell me I’m right…!] and women who absolutely know their way around a toolkit!)
And what’s this about A-ROD? He’s teaching?? Clue sez: [N.Y. Yankees guest instructor in 2017]. Talk about your fresh cluing. The Yanks announced just last week that he would be putting in a few days at their spring training (this week), helping the team’s short stops get their games up to speed. Hey, when you can learn from the Short Stop Emeritus himself, take what you can get!
Which brings me to the end of today’s post. Hope you’ll have a fine week—keep solving—and enjoy the way the days keep getting longer. Love that! Thanks for reading and [“Y’ALL come back now, hear?”].
Kyle Dolan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Around the Poker Table” — Jim’s review
Kyle Dolan returns to the WSJ with a poker-themed grid. Poker terms are used in parts of phrases arranged in a pinwheel pattern.
- 17a [Request at a restaurant] “CHECK, PLEASE”
- 11d [2012 #1 song by Carly Rae Jepsen] CALL ME MAYBE
- 61a [Complain noisily] RAISE A STINK
- 25a [It’s rolled out for guests] FOLDAWAY BED
I’m not much of a poker player, but this seems solid enough, I think. Shouldn’t there be an initial BET in there, though? Maybe in place of the CHECK?
As a puzzle though, it feels a little light to me (unless I’m missing something).
With the title as it is (“Around the Poker Table”), the pinwheel pattern seems appropriate, as if we were looking top-down at a poker table with four players. But if that’s the case, the poker terms should be spread out more as if they were coming from four different players around the table.
I would rather see this: the poker terms at the outer edges of the grid. CHECK and CALL are fine the way they are, but RAISE and FOLD should be at the ends of their phrases. As they are now, they kinda get lost in the middle of the grid somewhere.
After a quick look I didn’t find good 11-letter phrases with RAISE and FOLD at the end, but I found an alternate set in: CHECKING OUT, FOLDED PAPER, FAINT PRAISE, TOTAL RECALL.
This might result in a grid like the one I have pictured. Further, you could then go around the grid clockwise starting from the upper left. The first person checks, the second folds (must be a really bad hand), the third raises, and the fourth calls. Or change the check to an actual bet with BETA TESTING.
Even cooler, alter the grid slightly to add a POT to the middle.
So that would be cool, but that’s not the grid we have at hand. Let’s get back to it.
The fill is really nice which is something I noticed in the last Dolan grid I reviewed. I quite like the A-train in the center with ALLEY OOP, AMNESIA, AMETHYST, and AT PEACE. Plus there’s Prince CHARLES, APACHE, TRYOUTS, SMUDGE, SCONCE, DWEEBS (who no doubt like COSINE and CISCO), HARD-TOP, LEGION, and LECTURE. I wasn’t sure about GAH! (26a, [Exasperated cry]), but the more I look at it the more I like it, especially following super snarky “OH, FUN” (23a, [Sarcastic comment on a chore]).
There are a few bits of crosswordese here and there like ABIE, ALPE, OED, AAS, and INS with a clue I’m still not getting [They hold office]. Does that mean someone who’s been elected into office is an IN? If so, eww. Surely not. Someone please explain this one to me.
Mostly though, that stuff wasn’t distracting, and the grid felt clean, making for a fine puzzle.
One thing I absolutely didn’t know was 1a [Gregarious penguin variety]. ADÉLIE penguins are named after ADÉLIE Land, a region of Antarctica, which in turn was named after Adèle Dumont D’Urville, wife of the French explorer who discovered the penguins. Videos of these penguins are required by law to have light, bouncy music, and this one is no exception:
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Repeat Performance” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, people! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Gail Grabowski, features four theme entries in which the first words of each all happen to be synonyms of each other, and all meaning to mimic. Hopefully, this grid didn’t make you see double while solving it!
- COPY EDITOR (18A: [Publisher’s employee])
- MOCK TURTLENECK (28A: [Snug-collared man’s or woman’s top])
- PARROT TRAINING (49A: [Nurturing required for a color companion bird])
- APE COSTUME (64A: [Hairy Halloween ensemble]) – Who doesn’t have an ape costume just lying around at one’s house?!?
Can’t say that I knew of the existence of SOY INK before, but maybe I should invest init now because of its eco-friendliness (20A: [Environmentally-friendly printing material]). Also didn’t know SNOWS and how that word could also be used (71A: [Puts one over on]). However, now that I think about it, I heard a music lyric once that went, “That’s a bunch of snow,” so, maybe, I should have picked it up then. I absolutely bristled at seeing BACK RUBS since I haven’t been able to enjoy a good one of those in a good while and definitely wouldn’t mind having one as I’m blogging this right now (5D: [They may elicit sighs of relief]). The previous entries mentioned were part of some good fill outside of the theme entries and made this an enjoyable solve, though I definitely went at a leisurely pace with this one. Does anyone have a B-DAY coming up in the next seven days (3D: [Occasion for a card, for short])? I’ll definitely make sure to give you a shout out on here!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PUNT (46A: [Fourth-down play]) – Did you know that the third-longest PUNT in NFL history came from a person who was not a punter? In 1989, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, who already was gaining plaudits for his unique talents he brought to the position of quarterback at that time, unleashed a 91-yard punt at The Meadowlands against the New York Giants. The punt traveled over 60 yards in the air alone, but benefitted from a) the generous bounce off the Astroturf and b) the notoriously swirling winds of Giants Stadium.
See you all at the top of the hump on Wednesday!
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “When Words Collide” – Derek’s write-up
Another themeless! His usually aren’t Saturday tough, in my opinion, but this one packed a bit of a punch. There are a couple of tough entries, but there are also several brilliant parts of this grid. I count 66 words, with some awesome stacks at the top and bottom. 4.5 stars for this one.
Lots to talk about!
- 14A [Kid’s game played on a higher lever?] THE FLOOR IS LAVA – I am not familiar with this game, but I think I did play some version of this when I was younger. Just because it was tougher for me doesn’t make it any less awesome!
- 26A [They get their picks in dark matter] COAL MINERS – Best clue of the puzzle!
- 28A [Seattle-based craft beer brand] REDHOOK – Obviously this may not play well outside of the Pacific Northwest, but we can all learn more about beer!
- 29A [Bite matchups, in dental X-rays] OCCLUSIONS – One of the toughies, unless you’re a dentist!
- 49A [“Ugh, so many responsibilities!”] ADULTING IS HARD! – This is the best entry by far! I may have even said it once or twice!
- 8D [“Perfectly Good Guitar” singer John] HIATT – I am vaguely familiar with this musician, not at all familiar with this tune.
- 10D [Actor Gulager of “The Virginian”] CLU – Definitely crossword famous!
- 29D [Unlikely to win most golf tournaments] OVER PAR – Unlikely to even make the cut in a pro tournament! But yes, even municipal golf tournaments usually have a winner under par, although I am sure there are some winners that finish slightly over par. Still a nice entry!
- 41D [Norse god of indecision that helped create humans (RHINO anag.)] HONIR – Yes! Reminds me of some of the clues in the Games Magazine Ornery Crossword easy clues! OF COURSE nobody would know this!!
- 47D [1974 Hearst abductors] SLA – A crossword famous group?!
Another brilliant puzzle by Matt. Have a great week!
Bruce Venzke & Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
I think I have seen a compilation by this duo before! The theme is not easily evident at first, but I think we are dealing with synonyms for speaking:
- 17A [High-tech bookmark] INTERNET ADDRESS
- 28A [Office gossip] WATER-COOLER TALK
- 48A [Right granted in the First Amendment] PROTECTED SPEECH
- 62A [“Et tu, Brute?” e.g.] FAMOUS LAST WORDS
Unless I am missing something else, that should be the theme. Nice that it took a little thinking to figure it out. Or maybe I am just slow! These two can make puzzles anytime! 4 stars today.
A few notes:
- 9A [Vatican related] PAPAL – Just got through HBO’s The Young Pope, and I am not sure what I think of it. It was at the very least thought provoking, although not always in a good way!
- 71A [River of Central Germany] & 18D [Industrial area of western Germany] EDER & RUHR – Both fairly common, but do we need both of these in the same easy-ish puzzle? Both are near theme entries, so it may be unavoidable. Only a minor complaint, though!
- 7D [Science Diet product] CAT FOOD – My wife wants a cat …
- 28D [Sound of a tree falling, say] WHUMP – I’ve heard trees fall. Do they make a “whump??” Is this Scrabble-legal?? ;-) (It is Scrabble-legal, by the way!
- 41D [“The __-bitsy spider …”] ITSY – My four-year-old could have solved this clue! (If he could read …)
- 47D [Flowering hybrid with thorns] TEA ROSE – This was a Jeopardy! answer just yesterday. Are you all enjoying the College Tournament?
- 55D [Idi of Uganda] AMIN – This guy was a murderer. Why not use [ESPN personality Elhassan]? Amin Elhassan is a former NBA executive that they use to talk about basketball. As he gets more famous, this is surely a more palatable alternative to Idi Amin!
It was 64 degrees today! Hooray!