Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
A celebrity puzzle? On a Thursday?
In all seriousness, I expected big things from this byline, and I wasn’t disappointed. As the grid image shows at 39a, the main thrust of the theme is a DISAPPEARING ACT [Part of a magic show]. Specifically, a certain 20a, ESCAPE ARTIST [58-Across, notably] vanishes: HARRY HOUDINI (or, should I say, …).
That’s right: HARRY HOUDINI has disappeared from 58a. Perhaps the most magical part is that all of the down entries that cross HARRY HOUDINI are legitimate entries regardless of whether the letters are there or not! Like so:
- 47d, AC(H)ING [Crushing, as a test].
- 48d, LO(A)NER [One who probably doesn’t get out much].
- 59d, (R)ARE [“r,” in a text].
- 36d, TEMPE(R) [Home of Arizona State University].
- 52d, C(Y)AN [Recyclable item].
- 53d, O(H)MAN [Country whose national anthem is “Nashid As-Salaam as-Sultani”].
- 49d, SL(O)OPS [Spills].
- 60d, (U)RSA [Pretoria’s land: Abbr.].
- 42d, GRIN(D) [D, in an emoticon].
- 55d, A(I)DES [Picnic coolers].
- 56d, S(N)ORE [Needing Bengay, say].
- 57d, T(I)ARA [Reid of Hollywood].
There’s not much else to say except “Wow.” This is a really, really excellent feat of construction. I’m sure Deb and Jeff have some interesting notes on this puzzle’s origins and construction, but I’m impressed it was possible to do this so cleanly with 78 words and 12 intersecting entries.
Some interesting choices elsewhere in the grid: TAXCO, HE-GOAT, PHREAK, SEX TAPE, EDWINA, “I GOT IT,” ADORBS (a debut), and RED SOX all caught my eye. It’s a high word count for a Thursday, and most of the challenge is in the theme, so the rest of the grid/clues were fairly straightforward, I thought. I will say that it was fairly easy to figure out what was going to happen from ESCAPE ARTIST and DISAPPEARING ACT, but it sort of had to be obvious, given that the letters in HARRY HOUDINI weren’t clued by the down entries. And even so, I still enjoyed the bottom third of the puzzle.
Great puzzle, and very appropriate for a Thursday. Congrats on the debut, NPH! Until next week!
P.S. Lollapuzzoola 10 was this past weekend, and it was superb. You can buy the puzzles here and solve in the At-Home Division, but don’t delay! The puzzles are only on sale until September 3!
Kristian House’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Throw in the Vowel” — Jim’s review
Theme: Certain words in common phrases have a vowel added to become the name of a well-known entertainer.
- 17a [Write a bad review of a “Misery” performance?] TRASH CAAN. Trash can.
- 25a [Something the “Florence Foster Jenkins” star might clear?] STREEP THROAT. Strep throat.
- 45a [Covered a “Bridesmaids” co-star in talc?] POWDERED WIIG. Powdered wig.
- 60a [Spot for the “Love Letters in the Sand” singer to play croquet?] BOONE YARD. Boneyard.
I didn’t get much LOL-humor from this set, but I do appreciate the consistency. Each name is that of an entertainer (3 actors, 1 singer; would’ve been slightly better though if they were all actors). Two have the name at the beginning of the phrase, two at the end. And there probably aren’t that many famous names with double-A’s and even fewer with double-I’s, so it’s a very nice find to get CAAN and WIIG whose names become normal words when a vowel is removed.
The entries are in alphabetical order by added vowel, but of course, there is no “UU” name. So we will just have to be content with being one vowel shy of a full set.
In short, I do like the theme, despite not being on the humor wavelength and despite all vowels not being represented.
I had a rough start and felt like I was getting bogged down in Thursday-level trivia. But things gradually improved, and I came to like the theme and the fill.
And there’s a lot of fun fill starting with PINCH HIT and FREAKISH (which, for a time, looked like it was going to be FREE KISS). Also, “I GOT YOU,” FOTOMAT, RACCOON, COCKLES, MONIKER, and VOLTRON. That’s fun stuff.
Clues of note:
- 12d [Crescent formed by two intersecting arcs]. LUNE. Did not know there was a name for that shape.
- 63a [Second or fifth]. UNIT. Nice misdirection. Of course the second is a UNIT of time, and the fifth is a UNIT of volume (typically for alcohol), though it’s been superseded these days.
- 47a [Music may come out of it]. It’s not a musical instrument, but an EARBUD.
- 67a [Software license reader, supposedly]. USER. 34a HAH! [“Yeah, right!”].
- 61d [Strawberry Fields sponsor]. Yoko ONO invited over 100 countries to donate trees, shrubs, and stones to a “peace garden” in New York’s Central Park. According to imaginepeace.com, “ONO has played a crucial role in the history of Central Park since Strawberry Fields was dedicated on Oct. 9, 1985…Strawberry Fields was ‘the Park’s first major landscape to be planned, designed, and constructed with Conservancy funding, and it was sponsored by the Conservancy’s first million dollar donor, Yoko ONO.'”
- 21a [Some of Molly Malone’s wares]. COCKLES. Per Wikipedia, “Molly Malone” is the unofficial anthem of Dublin, Ireland. Here is Sinead O’connor’s version of the traditional song.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Retail Therapy” — Ben’s Review
This week’s BEQ feels a little more straightforward than some other themes I’ve seen run there – it’s some puns based on the idea of “Retail Therapy”:
- 1A/69A: Advice for the sad undergoing retail therapy? — BUY LOW
- 17A: Come-ons for the anxious in retail therapy? — DISTRESSED SALES
- 39A:Transaction discussed during Freudian retail therapy? — IMPULSE PURCHASE
- 61A:Depressing number in retail therapy? — ROCK BOTTOM PRICE
Not sure how this one felt for you, but it was Just OK for me. BEQ’s usually a little more clever than this (and these puns didn’t feel so great), so this was a little bit of a let down on that front.
Theme was SO-SO, but there was some fill I liked: UHURA, ZIMA defined as “Retro alcopop”, Googly EYES (which IMO should have been the official name for Google Glass back when that was a thing), HANOI (described as the capital of “French Indochina”! Took some mental work to remember that French Indochina –> Vietnam –> Hanoi), Gregor SAMSA, BEHEMOTHS, and MOJO.
This one was alright, but could’ve been better.
Peg Slay’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I started in the top-left, and when I found ALOE/ALEE in such a small corner I was surprised. Turns out this is one of those themes where all the answers on the edges can be completed by one word, in this case DOOR. It’s not a theme type that lends itself to interesting answers, and the corners tend to look pretty desperate as well; the opposite corner to ALOE/ALEE has SAMI/EMER…
All the DOORs are pretty straightforward I’d say, except POCKETdoor, which I’ve never heard of. Apparently, the door directly behind me is one, but I’d have just called it a sliding door… If you need to find the rest, they are highlighted in the grid.
New foreign vocab of the day: MASA is [Tamale dough] because it’s the Spanish word for dough… I think this its debut.