Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Combination Locks” – Erin’s writeup
Theme answers this week consist of two haircuts/styles:
- 24a. [Beat one of Dick Tracy’s foes in a price war?] UNDERCUT FLATTOP
- 37a. [Mr. Vila’s nickname when he works on a honeycombed home?] BEEHIVE BOB
- 50a. Line of people about to get whipped by a wet towel?] RATTAIL QUEUE
- 64a. [Roll for an Iroquoian speaker?] MOHAWK BUN
- 82a. [What a young male attendant uses to fly?] PAGEBOY WINGS
- 92a. [Sassy Roman ruler?] FLIP CAESAR
- 107a. [Ray-finned fish in a prestigious school?] IVY LEAGUE MULLET
- 4d. [Elf on the edge?] FRINGE PIXIE
- 67d. [Really fears surfing?] DREADS WAVES
This theme fell a bit flat for me, mainly because I had to look up three of the haircuts. (This Wikipedia page might be helpful if anyone else was as clueless as I was.) The names fell into the grid easily without my knowing they were types of hairstyles, so they did not hold up my solve, but my ignorance made the experience less satisfying. Also, RAT TAIL as a name for whipping a towel at someone is completely new to me. This is just too much theme material that left me scratching my head to truly enjoy it. In the puzzle’s favor, FRINGE PIXIE made me giggle, and there is apparently a FLAT-TOP UNDERCUT, which would have detracted from the theme if it weren’t so silly.
- 5a. [Canine treatment company] ORAL-B and 21a. [Plaque site, perhaps] MOLAR. Nice dental misdirects.
- 15a. [Really rank] FETID. “Rank” is an adjective here. Took me a minute.
- 83a. [Reviews on a blog, e.g.] WRITEUPS. Hi! That’s us!
- 79a. [Seller of Vejmon coffee tables] IKEA. How many hours have crossword constructors collectively spent browsing their catalog to pick product names for clues?
- 119a. [Like uneaten cereal, at times] SOGGY. You mean like the cereal I pour in the morning, then abandon to get whichever child just woke up, feed the child, feed the cats, stop for a minute to curse under my breath when I inevitably step on a small toy left on the floor, realize the laundry needs to go into the dryer, move the laundry to the dryer, see that the litter boxes are almost full, scoop the litter, return upstairs to feed the other child that just woke up, then finally remember to feed myself, only to find out the cereal is now a squishy oaten blob? Yes, this happens at
all of thetimes.
- 93a. [Supreme being in “The Fifth Element”] LEELOO. This might have caused trouble for some people who aren’t familiar with the movie if it weren’t for the fair crossings. I hope you can forgive Evan, though, because who doesn’t love a man who puts his cat in a grid? Say hello to LEELOO the kitty!
Why yes, our cat has ballooned itself into a bag-like blob shape just as science predicted she always would. pic.twitter.com/tRtpcjwFL4
— Evan Birnholz (@evanbirnholz) May 26, 2017
Hope you see some of you at the Indie 500 in a week!
Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword, “In Bad Taste”—Amy’s write-up
The revealer at 106a is A RECIPE FOR DISASTER, and the preceding six themers start with recipe words:
- 27a. [Step 1: Raise hell], STIR UP A HORNET’S NEST.
- 39a. [Step 2: Make some literary gaffes], MIX ONE’S METAPHORS. Now pondering the ludicrous idea of a recipe commanding, “Mix one’s flour into one’s butter and sugar mixture.”
- 56a. [Step 3: Devote energy to something hopeless], BEAT A DEAD HORSE. Such a grim phrase.
- 66a. [Step 4: Be a financial wastrel], POUR MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN.
- 79a. [Step 5: Look pretty schlubby], CUT A POOR FIGURE. A few rows below, RENT is clued as 115d. [Big figure in Manhattan?]. Too much “figure.”
- 96a. [And finally: Has divided loyalties], SERVES TWO MASTERS. There’s an S on the end of SERVE because “serves two” is a recipe phrase.
I know what you’re wondering: Did you need to grease the pan before pouring that batter? What ingredients were you stirring, mixing, and beating, anyway? And obviously you needed to either bake or chill whatever you poured, because you can’t very well cut something pourable without making it set in the fridge or firm up in the oven. This recipe is missing a step or three. Of course, any RECIPE FOR DISASTER probably omits some key instructions, right?
Five more things:
- 49a. Targets of a cleanse], TOXINS. That should be [“Targets” of a “cleanse”], really. It’s bunkum.
- I wonder why we have BUYS/Y-AXIS instead of BUMS/MAXIS in the northwest corner. MAXIS is legit, and YAXIS looks so odd in the grid.
- 76a. [When doubled, a drink with vodka, peach schnapps and cranberry juice], WOO. A woo woo? Never heard of it. Not sure if I think it sounds terrible or tasty.
- 34d. [Stream coming down a mountain?], HOT LAVA. When the molten lava hardens into rock, it’s still lava. Tepid lava?
- 4d. [Like a bronze medalist], THIRD BEST. Feels like an arbitrary phrase (a specifically clued arbitrary phrase). As crossword fill goes, it’s probably in the fifth best echelon, lurking at the same level as your ERNES and plural names and arcane abbreviations.
3.25 stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “Anecdote Antidote” — pannonica’s write-up
It’s a quote theme.
33a/58a/78a/101a. [ … a motormouth’s confession] MY FAMILY MADE ME ATTEND | A SELF-HELP GROUP FOR | COMPULSIVE TALKERS | IT’S CALLED ON-AND-ON ANON.
Ha-ha, ha. Ha.
- There’s a 1d CHASM [Abyss] between 2d PUSHY [Too assertive] and 3d ALOOF [Standoffish]. Not literally, in the grid, but dispositionally.
- 31a [Arcane stuff] ESOTERY, which I daresay is more esoteric than esoterica.
- 8d [Jargon suffix] -ESE. Status report: I continue to chuckle inwardly as I imagine the word jargonese. (nb: there is a significant number of internet search engine results for it.)
- MID-LIST ANNOUNCEMENT: I am today refraining from my habit of listing bunches of clues/entries with strong or in some cases strained connections.
- 40d [One-sixth of a drachma] OBOL. Did not know this.
- Also did not know 102d [Bosox pitching great Luis] TIANT. Recall that the host veue for this crossword is the Boston Globe.
- 73d [Rail-riding bum] HOBO. This has been discussed in these pages before: hobo ≠ bum.
- 47a [Shopping bag] TOTE. Confession: I’m in the market for a new small-to-medium everyday one, as the handles on my old stalwart have finally become shredded to the point of separation. This is in part why I included an image with BEQ’s crossword last week of an ORCA (109d) seemingly arbitrarily on a tote bag.
And so it goes.
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Subtly Seasoned”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is hidden seasonings embedded in longer phrases, and they include herbs, spices, and a mundane condiment. COMIN’ THRO’ THE RYE has MINT. PLATONIC LOVES has CLOVE, but I feel like the people in the clue would be platonic loveRs, not loves. NEWS AGENCIES, boring phrase, has delicious SAGE. Mundane SALT is in UNIVERSAL TRUTHS (gratuitously pluralized, like several other themers, to fit the word lengths needed for symmetry). HEALTHY MEALS has THYME and the phrase feels slightly arbitrary to me. TRAUMA CENTERS has the less-familiar spice MACE. And the awkward PARKED ILLEGALLY has DILL, which I do not care for.
I love to see BROUHAHA in any grid, and ETHEREAL is pretty. Much of the remaining fill left me cold. SAES KOR ELIA ELLO OATER TERR, plural ECRUS, that sort of stuff.
Three other things:
- 80a. [House-warming buys], HEATERS. Cute clue, playing on the concept of a housewarming party and the literal warming of a house.
- 91a. [Fellow “I can’t be torn apart from,” in a 1964 #1 hit], MY GUY. Enjoy this 53-year-old song.
- 109d. [Pan, in filmdom], TRASH. Wait, what? People trash plenty of things that aren’t “in filmdom.” Is there some other angle I’m missing here?
2.8 stars from me.