Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Lessen Plan” – Erin’s writeup
Several entries contain dimunitive first words, which indicate that the solver needs to fit an example of the entry’s second word into a rebus square:
- 23a. [Ceres, e.g. (and a hint to something in this puzzle)] DWARF PLANET. We need to “dwarf” the planet MARS into one square to get 68a. [Arranging in proper order] MARSHALING and 68d. [Shade that’s out of this world?] MARS RED.
- 41a. [Show with an android named Vicki…] SMALL WONDER. Shrink down AWE to obtain 126a. [Became less hostile] THAWED and 114d. [Part of a bureau] DRAWER.
- 56a. [Spiritual totem for a Jivaro warrior…] SHRUNKEN HEAD. Squeeze BOSS into one square for 98a. [Vegas VIPs] PIT BOSSES and 86d. Decorated, in a way] EMBOSSED.
- 85a. [Minor sports organization?…] PEEWEE LEAGUE. Make NBA tiny for 21d. [At first, say?] ON BASE and 12d. [Opens, as a gate] UNBARS.
- 101a. [Classic novel written at the Orchard House in Concord, Mass. …] LITTLE WOMEN. Shrink GALS for 74a. [Firm assistants] PARALEGALS and 55a. [Super Bowl XXIII losers] BENGALS.
- 123a. [Circular storage unit…] COMPACT DISC. Itty bitty LP completes 44a. [Examine by touching] PALPATE and 33a. [“I’m in trouble here!”] HELP ME!
This crossword took longer for me as the rebus squares reference other clues, so there’s a lot of back and forth. Also, I solved on my phone, so the rebus squares contained circles, but when I open the file in Across Lite, the circles are nowhere to be found. I’m guessing the solve is a lot more difficult without the circles. Still, I enjoy this type of puzzle. Did not know that MARSHALING meant arranging or assembling, so that tripped me up a bit, but only one planet fit here.
The fill seemed more difficult to grasp this week. Some things:
- 110a. [Rout] DRUB. Did not know this word at all.
- 57d. [Bit of modern history?] URL. Clever.
- 50a. [Lymphocyte found in bone marrow] B CELL. T cells are also formed in the bone marrow but mature in the thymus, and are also found in crosswords much more often than B cells.
- 80d. [Like bogs] PEATY. Apparently this is used to describe Scotch.
- 53d. [2002 hit for No Doubt] HELLA GOOD. Pretty catchy dance song. Enjoy it if you wish.
Alen Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword, “New England Chatter”—Amy’s write-up
Okay, not loving the title, because it makes me think of New England clam chowder being pronounced weirdly, and it’s dissonant with the pronunciation theme. A word with an AR in it gets changed to one with a short O instead:
- 22a. [Commercials for a “Star Trek” movie?], SPOCK PLUGS. Spark.
- 24a. [Yoga teacher’s invitation?], A CALL TO OMS. Arms. Does OM take a plural?
- 36a. [Weather forecaster in Phoenix?], HOT SPECIALIST. Do people say “heart specialist” anywhere near as much as they say “cardiologist”?
- 51a. [Most in-shape person at a cosmetics company?], THE BOD OF AVON. Bard.
- 69a. [Ridicule shouted out of a moving car?], PASSING MOCK. Mark. That would be “mockery” or “mocking,” as the noun sense of “mock” is decidedly dated and obscure.
- 87a. [Quickly added bit of punctuation?], INSTANT COMMA. Karma.
- 100a. [What allowed one physician to get through flu season?], A SHOT IN THE DOC. Dark. I dunno, man. You never say “a shot in a person.”
- 116a. [Regimen with limited intake of corn?], LOW-COB DIET. Carb. Although when you eat corn on the cob, you don’t eat the cob in the first place.
- 119a. [Toddler’s cry upon entering the bathroom?], IT’S MY POTTY. Party. All right, saved the best for last!
You know I spent April 11-14 in New England and didn’t hear a single telltale accent? It was a real disappointment, I tell you. The closest I heard was in Providence and it sounded like more of a Long Island accent.
Kinda wish there’d been just 7 or 8 themers rather than 9 so the grid would have had more breathing room for better fill. While the dreaded PROTEST VOTE and WHISKED AWAY are great fill, the puzzle had an overall vibe of AGA NOU ADIA NIK ULM HITE ESSENE RACEME stuff that is strikingly low on entertainment value.
2.75 stars from me.
Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Haiku”—Amy’s write-up
All right, this is going to be a rehash of my NYT write-up. Explanation of why puzzle title is off, lukewarm response to theme, disappointment with overall fill. The key thing about haiku isn’t that each one is THREE LINES, it’s about the syllable count assigned to the lines (and the best haiku are expected to deviate from the 5/7/5 count for beauty). The theme entries are all three-word phrases (or phrases containing one compound word and one shorter word) where each component can precede the word line. The theme answers are clued straightforwardly, but they’re not all solidly in-the-language phrases that feel crossword-worthy to me. We’ve got HOT OUTSIDE (a bit arbitrary), PRIVATE PHONE CHAT (arbitrary), UNDERWATER PARTY (not at all a thing), TOP FISHING GUIDE (contrived), WHITE PICKET FENCE (absolutely a thing! not at all arbitrary! so you can’t say the themers are all supposed to be playful fake phrases, because this one’s pretty familiar), DEAD AIR TIME (awkward; I feel like dead air and airtime are both real things but the combo is weird), and RED PRICE TAG (contrived). I’d like the theme better if any of these phrases were funny and if they were all made-up rather than being 7/8ths made-up.
SEIS more things:
- 43a. [Texter’s “Just a thought … “], IMHO. Wanted the answer to be FWIW (“for what it’s worth”), as “in my humble opinion” feels a bit off target for this clue.
- 2d. [They’re often about nothing], ADOS. Can you pluralize an ADO? I’m unconvinced. The French for backpack is sac à dos, though. Speaking of French—partial ILE DE, SALLE. Italian TANTO, not at all common in crosswords. Spanish OLES (plural, meh) and SEIS. Latin ESSE. I don’t recall seeing any German.
- 78d. [Marathon practice run], FIVEK. I’m pronouncing that “fi-vek” from now on. Not only does nobody spell out the numeral for race distances, but my marathoner spouse sneers at the very idea of a mere 3-miler as a practice run. His training runs were generally in the 10- to 23-mile range, and a half marathon’s a solid practice outing.
- 79d. [Spike for Hillary], PITON. This clue perplexed me for a bit. Not Hillary Clinton, but mountaineer Edmund Hillary!
- 67d. [Puppeteer Tony], SARG. Okay, I just checked his Wikipedia page. Guess how long ago Sarg died. I’ll give you a hint: It was before my mother was born.
- 52a. [Scale starting words], ONE TO. Huh? As in a 1:87 scale for a model train? Uh, those are given with numerals and a colon and not spelled out.
2.75 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Accident Report” — pannonica’s write-up
From the Better Late Than Never Department, I’m posting this on Wednesday, May 3rd. Minimal it shall be, retroactive as it is.
Five-part quip: A PRISON VAN CRASHED | INTO A CEMENT MIXER | POLICE ARE ON THE LOOKOUT | FOR ROVING GANGS OF | … wait for it … yes, that’s right | HARDENED CRIMINALS.
My only further comment is to point out the very rough surname crossing of 19a [Ayrton of auto racing] SENNA and 5d [Louise in “Bananas”] LASSER.
Thanks to all my Fiendish colleagues for covering write-ups while I was otherwise engaged!