Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Character Traits” – Erin’s writeup
This week our clues are single letters, cluing phrases that describe their respective letters:
- 23a. [C] CHESS OPENING. The “opening” of the word chess is the letter C.
- 37a. [H] HEAD START
- 39a. [A] ARCTIC FRONT
- 54a. [R] NERVE CENTER
- 69a. [A] HEAVY HEART
- 73a. [C] CULT LEADER
- 89a. [T] STOLE SECOND
- 104a. [E] MATTE FINISH
- 107a. [R] BITTER END
- 122a. [S] SERIES FINALE
The clued letters in order spell CHARACTERS, which is a nice touch (an accent or a serif, perhaps) to a straightforward theme. STOLE SECOND is a bit of an outlier, as the other entries have the clued letter either in the beginning, center, or end of the phrase.
- 100a. [Ham container?] ARK. Noah’s son Ham. Flows nicely into 101a. [Ham container, at times] for FRIDGE.
- 16a. [Symbol for angular velocity] OMEGA. Started to put THETA, asked hubby. “Theta, right?” “I think so, yeah.” Typed in THETA, even though we knew theta just represented the measure of an angle. Realized [Be short, financially] couldn’t start with T and was probably OWE. “Could it be OMEGA? That doesn’t sound right.” “Nah, not OMEGA.” Left it blank, came back to it. Begrudgingly put in OMEGA. (I’m putting this here because hubby never willingly helps me with crosswords. The occasion must be noted.)
- 62a. [Temple treasure] IDOL. I thought of Legends of the Hidden Temple immediately. This was an early 90s Nickelodeon game show where kids participated in trivia questions and physical challenges, and the final team standing ran through a temple looking for the day’s treasure. The temple run was nearly impossible: several large rooms involving lots of climbing, temple guards that could kidnap you upon entering the room they guarded, and time-consuming tasks required to unlock the next room. Please enjoy this montage of kids failing bigtime in one such room, the Shrine of the Silver Monkey.
- 96a. [Fruit salad fruit] PEAR. If you’re lucky. Fruit salads are generally 90% canteloupe and honeydew, and 10% good stuff. You have to get there first to grab some of the yummy bits. More competitive than Legends of the Hidden Temple.
- 128a. [Part of a hand cultivator] PRONG. These are hand cultivators. I, however, cannot shake the image of someone growing body parts in a garden. This probably means I need to magically catch up on lost sleep.
Until next week!
Jerry Miccolis’s New York Times crossword, “Initial Description”—Amy’s write-up
The six long theme answers are made-up phrases concocted to describe each clue word, using the clue word’s letters as the phrase’s initials. SWAN is a SWIMMER WITH ARCHED NECK. MARS, MOSTLY ARID RED SPHERE. ATLAS, AID TO LOCATE A STREET (“aid to locate” feels awkward—”aid for locating” sounds more natural). TRIO, THREE ROLLED INTO ONE, meh. OKAY, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS YES. WASP, WINGED AND STINGING PEST, with an awkward “and.” This is a MOSTLY ARID theme, as there’s no humor built into the concept.
Five more things:
- 20a. [Togalike Roman cloak], ABOLLA. Say what? Good luck to you if you’re newish to crosswords and have not encountered the icky entry 10d ELHI, because that would be a rough crossing.
- 64a. [“Once in Love With ___”], AMY. Here’s Frank Sinatra singing that.
- 112a. [Shudder of emotion], FRISSON. I love that word.
- 97d. [Writer who coined the term “banana republic” (1904)]. O. HENRY. I did not know he brought that into the language.
- 12d. [Lugs], SCHLEPS. I schlepped myself this afternoon. That was hard work.
Overall, the fill was on the “meh” side, with your plural abbrev AT.NOS., TARARA, LONI, EEN, NTHS, OSSA, TEENIE, and all manner of entries I was not excited to see. 2.9 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Group Dynamics” — pannnonica’s write-up
Reimaginings of phrases that happen to contain collective nouns for animals.
- 23a. [Crows with not a feather ruffled?] PERFECT MURDER.
- 27a. [Some fish when it’s hot?] SUMMER SCHOOL. Not liking the homophonic some/summer telegraphing here.
- 41a. [Deeply amorous toads?] TRUE LOVE KNOT.
- 64a. [Two batches of chickens?] DOUBLE CLUTCH.
- 72a. [High-tech nightingales?] DIGITAL WATCH.
- 96a. [Divine sparrows?] HEAVENLY HOST.
- 111a. [Limping lions?] WOUNDED PRIDE.
- 120a. [Dixie finches?] SOUTHERN CHARM.
Ending up with a preponderance of birds is an issue for such a theme, and sure enough five of the eight entries here are avifaunal.
102a [Sow’s mate] BOAR (sounder), though it’s clued restrictively by gender; see also 100a [Bucks, rams, etc.] HES. 8d [Outback bird] EMU (mob, reportedly). 34d [Giver of a big gift] CRANE (herd, sedge). 92d [Big-tailed shark] THRESHER (school, I guess) – specifically, the upper lobe of the caudal fin is dramatically longer than the bottom one (can you call that hyperheterocercal?). Bonus: 61a [Spartan queen] LEDA (swan: bank (on the ground), bevy, drift, eyrar, flight, game, herd, lamentation (fanciful), sownder, team, wedge (in flight), whiting. Bonus bonus: 76d [Motley group?] CRÜE.
Incidental to theme: 33d [Aleutian birding Eden] ATTU.
Good job ESCHEWing (97d) duplication: 116d [Poker holding] PAIR, 48d [Two-piece?] DUET, 72d [Gay parents, maybe] DADS.
Least favorite clue: 37d [Nuclear particles, suffixally] -ONS, as in protons and neutrons. There’s a gaggle of other subatomic particles with this suffix, some of which are non-nuclear. Runner-up: the awkwardly phrased 13a [Sailor toon bracer] SPINACH; but I did enjoy the left-shifted PANACHE directly below it at 22a.
Favorite clues: 87d [Shed item] TEARDROP—completely fooled me, 93a [Fashion duds] SEW.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “All in Favor”—Amy’s write-up
Okay, I revealed the solution rather than solving this puzzle because I realized midday Monday that I’d neglected to blog it on Sunday. (I blame the bug I’m trying to fight off, and a family event.) The theme answers modify familiar phrases by adding a PRO- prefix to one word.
- 23a. [Website search response with an attitude?], PAGE NOT PROFOUND. Cute.
- 37a. [Competition at the geometry fair?], PROTRACTOR PULL. Not sure how you’d compete by “pulling” a protractor.
- 54a. [“A penny saved is hardly worth the effort”?], IRREGULAR PROVERB. Great clue.
- 81a. [“I’ll give you five bucks for your Egyptian water lily”?], LOTUS PROPOSITION. Cute.
- 98a. [Positively charged vehicle?], ONE-PROTON TRUCK. “One proton” is insignificant at the size of a truck, mind you.
- 117a. [Miscreant handling letters?], MAIL-IN REPROBATE. Here, the PRO is inserted inside a word rather than at the front. And anything that is MAIL-IN … well, that doesn’t work with the “handling letters” concept.
- 16d. [Quality control job at a maraschino factory?], PROBING CHERRIES. Only a couple months away from Bing cherry season!
- 42d. [Feature of Charlie Brown’s head?], CIRCULAR PROFILE. Cute.
I like this theme better than a lot of add-some-letters themes, as there’s some amusement among the theme answers. The irregularity of dropping PRO inside REBATE in 117a, though, is a minus.
Eyeballing the fill, I’m seeing a ton of clunkers. Four of the first seven Acrosses—TILER BNEG OBIE PARLE—set the stage for the overall feel of the grid.
Four stars for the theme, two stars for the fill.