Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I’m coming to you live from my friend’s couch, where we’re watching the ABC remake of Dirty Dancing. Admittedly, it was hard work solving this puzzle and watching this trainwreck, but readers, I persevered. This is gonna have to be a fairly quick review so I can get back to making sure Baby gets out of this corner.
I love Erik, and I love this puzzle. The theme is explained at 54a, I’LL GO FIRST [Trailblazer’s declaration … or a hint to 17-, 19-, 34- and 51-Across]. In each of those four theme answers, Erik has taken the “I” in the final word and moved it to the front of the word. Like so!:
- 17a, PURPLE IRAN [Possible result of spilling grape juice on a map of the Middle East?]. Purple Rain.
- 19a, FRENCH IGUANA [Pet with a dewlap and a beret?]. French Guiana.
- 34a, ROLL OF ICONS [Pantheon list?]. Roll of coins.
- 51a, COVER IVERSON [Guard the 2001 N.B.A. M.V.P.?]. Cover version.
These are some really fun finds. I love Purple Rain and French Guiana as base phrases; the Guiana/iguana and version/Iverson transformations are both just visually pleasing, and the theme clues are well chosen. There are no stray “I”s in the theme entries, which is very elegant.
Five more things of note:
- 38a, OMAR EPPS [“Love & Basketball” co-star, 2000]. Always nice to see his full name in the grid.
- Liked seeing 1a, DRAG and 55a, CAMP in the grid; they could’ve been cross–referenced! I did like seeing the video game-related CAMP clue [Wait in a strategic location, in video game lingo].
- Dollars to donuts the 4d, GOLF RESORT clue [Many a Trump property] wasn’t Erik’s.
- 11d, FAN ART [Some derivative drawings] is a really cool entry!
- Fantastic clue for 29d, LINE DANCER [One who might get down to Alabama?].
4.5 stars from me; minor dings for a Roman numeral, ENDO-, and a few abbreviations. Until next week!
Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Possessiveness” – Jenni’s writeup
Shifting gears after last week’s headcracker, we now have an extra-large, not-too-tough crossword with an amusing wordplay theme. As the title suggests, the puzzle plays with possessives, finding new meanings by shifting the “s.”
- 21a [Fishermen who work for a character in “Dirty Dancing] are BABY’S TROLLERS (baby strollers). Nobody puts Baby in the trawler.
- 30a [Muscle quality of a film character played by Gabourey Sidibe?] would be PRECIOUS’S TONE (precious stone). My understanding is that it is correct to have an ‘s even though “Precious” ends in an s; common names and nouns take the apostrophe and historic names (like Moses or Jesus) do not.
- 43a [Event preceding the Hall of Fame enshrinement of Roy Hobbs?] is a reference to the protagonist of the Bernard Malamud story that inspired the Robert Redford film, and it’s NATURAL’S ELECTION (natural selection). This must have been the entry that inspired the 16×17 grid.
- 53a [Pest on the “Mission: Impossible” femme fatale?] is CINNAMON’S TICK (cinnamon stick). I hate ticks. Shudder.
- 63a [Spiels of the captain in a classic Rafael Sabatini novel?] are BLOOD’S PATTERS (blood spatters). Not a pleasant image, although honestly I prefer blood spatter to ticks. The novel in question is, not surprisingly, Captain Blood.
All the theme answers work both ways; it’s not challenging, but fun.
A few other things:
- 2d [Baker’s group] is CREAM – music, not cooking.
- I filled in 17a [Inherently] from crossings and stared at it, trying to figure out what PERSE meant. It’s PER SE. Wake up, Jenni.
- We have an EARL and some NOBLES wandering in, probably still tipsy from Pippa Middleton’s wedding.
- 72a [Dork] is DWEEB but everybody knows dweebs have no knees. Does everyone know that or was it a private joke?
- 65d [It can carry rock and roll] is the TRAM in a mine.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the “femme fatale” in Mission: Impossible is named CINNAMON. We’ll leave my intense dislike of the “femme fatale” trope for another day.
Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hybrids” — Jim’s review
Our theme today is a before-and-after letter-sharing affair. We’ve seen this before in the WSJ on numerous occasions, so it shouldn’t be too surprising.
- 17a [Hybrid vehicle for use on the water?] HYDROFOIL TANKER
- 31a [Hybrid vehicle for use on city rails?] TAXI CABOOSE
- 38a [Hybrid vehicle for use on streets and lakes] MOPEDAL BOAT
- 54a [Hybrid vehicle for use by Venetian carabinieri?] PATROL WAGONDOLA. I’m not sure why this clue gets different treatment than the others, but it’s better. The latter part of the clue is more specific to what type of craft we’re looking for.
This theme works pretty well for me because we’re talking about hybrid vehicles, and it’s not too far of a stretch of the imagination to combine two disparate types of crafts. Contrast this with mashing together two cities or two countries which is much harder to conceptualize.
With this theme, you can more easily imagine what a MOPEDAL BOAT might look like, for example. My favorite was PATROL WAGONDOLA, which seems like it would be an incredibly inefficient way for Venetian cops to get around. But that’s what makes it funny. Maybe they sing while they cruise their canal beats?
The long fill didn’t seem particularly strong. I like BEEHIVES and COLESLAW, but the longer entries OXYGENATED and ASKS A LOT OF aren’t all that zazzy. No doubt this is due to the K in TANKER and X in TAXI and the fact that they cross two themers.
The mid-range stuff was hit and miss as well. I like HOME EC and MAYFLY for example, but I whiffed on STAUB [Montreal Expos’ first star player] and ALLEE [Tree-lined walkway]. I guess it’s actually ALLÉE.
And in truth, I ended with an error. I had FLOOD at 5d in answer to the clue [It’s formed by a glacier]. Yes, “formed” is kind of a stretch, but it seemed okay at the time. This gave me LULE at 15a for [“Gypsy” composer Styne]—what do I know, LULE seemed just as likely as anything else—and MOON at 21a for [Romeo said the lark was its herald]—wait, there’s no such thing as a nightlark? Correct answers: FJORD, JULE, and MORN.
Clues of note:
- 3d [Ransom from Ohio]. OLDS. Wow, did not know that one. Where does Ransom fit on the baby naming charts?
- 53d [It requires taking turns]. MAZE. Who else put GAME here at first?
- 49d [Britt Reid’s valet]. KATO. Needed the crossings on this as well. I never watched much of the Green Hornet.
- 57a [Suitable standard?]. A TEE. As in “fit to a tee,” I presume? Tricky clue doesn’t really help icky fill.
- 24d [Joined a stock exchange?]. MOOED. You knew this was coming, but it was still good once you got it.
Overall, not a lot of excitement in the fill, but it mostly held together and the theme worked nicely.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Fidget Spinners” — Ben’s Review
I’ve been half expecting to see fidget spinners pop up in one of the indies within the last few weeks, and it’s nice to see BEQ get there first with such a clean theme like this one. Take a look:
- 16A: Beef on social media — TWITTER FEUD
- 27A: 19th Amendment topic
— WOMENS SUFFRAGE
- 42A: What something that needs no explanation can do — SPEAK FOR ITSELF
- 56A: “You got that right” — THAT’S SO TRUE
As you’d expect from a puzzle called “Fidget Spinners”, each answer has a method of fidgeting (FRET, FUSS, STIR, TOSS) spun around inside. Does what it says on the tin. SPEAKs FOR ITSELF.
Other things I liked in this one: CARPI, the cluing on PHOS, CEELO Green (who sings the vocals on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”), cluing ALIEN with the most recent of the movies to be released, “Alien: Covenant”, SOYBEAN OIL and its gridmatcher ODOR EATERS, and TOE TO TOE.
Stuff I didn’t like: Even if you’re cluing it with a Led Zeppelin reference, III is ?????? to me. I also didn’t love SETUP MEN or some of the necessary puzzle glue like ARA.
Victor Barocas’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s theme is elegantly wrought and a bit more complex than most in the LA Times. We have six names – three linked pairs of the same length. The surnames of the upper half reflect an artisan; those of the lower half contain each profession’s typical medium. It’s quite a restrictive compositions, so allowances are made for one fictional character, and one name rejected by its former owner.
The sets are: GEORGEMASON working with SHARONSTONE; HARRYPOTTER working with CASSIUSCLAY; and KARENCARPENTER working with EVANRACHELWOOD. There is gender parity, which is surprisingly uncommon.
The theme is mucho dense, and to avoid complete disaster, the grid is highly segmented. That is generally a frowned-upon design aesthetic, but here is justified to avoid a complete filling disaster. There aren’t many contrived answers, but you will get crosswordese, mostly well-spaced. Hope you remembered your ORONO, KAVA, ARETE and STLO from crosswords past!