David J. Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Laura’s write-up
Laura here, your substitute blogger ON CALL [46d: Ready at any time], standing in for Jenni. We’ve got our theme entries:
- [17a: Deputy marshal at 62-Across]: DOC HOLLIDAY
- [11d: Outlaw at 62-Across]: IKE CLANTON
- [28d: With 62-Across, renowned 1881 event that lasted about 30 seconds]: GUNFIGHT AT
- [62a: See 28-Down … or a punny description of this puzzle’s circled answers?]: THE OK CORRAL
… and then, our circled answers:
- [31a: Wishful place?]: WELL
- [35d: Expo]: FAIR
- [37d: Actor Gyllenhaal]: JAKE
- [52a: Punishment that might follow a summons]: FINE
… all of which mean OK in some sense. And they form a little “corral” in the center of the grid, around a cross-shaped set of squares that presumably hold the horses stolen by the Clanton gang. I would say that this theme is just slightly old fashioned, but the Wyatt Earp story never seems to go out of style — there have been over 25 depictions in film and TV since the 1930s (Earp lived until 1929), plus spinoffs like the newish SyFy show Wynonna Earp, which looks pretty awesome to those of us who like sci-fi westerns. Strange not to see EARP in the grid, given that it shows up reasonably often as an entry in non-OK CORRAL-themed puzzles.
What else? Got a TOEHOLD [20a: Initial progress] right away, and nothing gave me A LOT [2d: Gazillions] of trouble as I solved with plenty of SANG FROID [60d: With 42-Across, coolness of mind & 42a: See 60-Down], and no ANGST [26a: Uneasy sensation] to speak of. SALUTER [22d: Private, often] and SNARLER [29d: Angry boxer, e.g.] seemed a trifle awkward, and ugh IGA KOD ARB, but there was plenty of nice fill like MINNOWS [56a: Some fish bait], WILLOWY [6d: Tall and supple], and [45d: Thick-trunked tree]: BAOBAB, which will always remind me of Le Petit Prince.
Mark Diehl’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Up to Scratch” — Jim’s review
Well this is unusual. Mark Diehl has had scores of puzzles published since 1984, and nearly all of them have been themeless. Further, this is the first I can find of his in the WSJ. It looks like we have a genuine debut from a crossword veteran.
The revealer is at 62a [Hunt’s offering, and what you’ll find in the starred answers]: CATSUP. You’ll find the letters CAT reading up in each theme answer.
- 3d [*Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt sported them] WALRUS MUSTACHES. Colorful entry, but only one of the words is truly needed for the theme.
- 23d [*Foster, twice] BEST ACTRESS. That’s more like it, with the key letters spanning multiple words.
- 9d [*Passed pawn, e.g.] CHESS TACTIC. Same problem as the first entry. The first word is superfluous.
- 11d [*Potluck offerings] PASTA CASSEROLE. Solid entry.
Nice theme that works, but I wish other phrases could have been found in which the key letters span across words. Other possibilities: Santa Claus, Microsoft Access, riot act, Patriot Act, fait accompli, beta carotene, etc.
I also would prefer the greater challenge if there were different kinds of cats in each theme answer. But maybe that wasn’t possible. There is a LIONESS at 44a.
My solve went relatively smoothly except in the NW which seemed much more difficult. I couldn’t guess TOWAGE or SHARON. KILTED could’ve been many things based on the clue [Like many Scots]. Even SORES was tricksy [Areas for dressing]. The Down direction wasn’t any better since WALRUS wasn’t coming to me, nor ARTESIAN [Like some wells]. [Sounds of disapproval] seemed to want BOOS, not TSKS. Eventually I got ARTESIAN and plodded through the rest.
But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the grid. The aforementioned LIONESS and ARTESIAN are assets as are MAHI MAHI, EPHEMERA, PANELIST, MYTHIC, and OKSANA [Olympic skater Baiul]. I didn’t know SOMA [“Brave New World” drug], but I think it’s crossworthy especially given the presence of nearby ALDOUS. The most eyebrow-raising entry is BAILEE [One to whom property is left for safekeeping].
In the end though, a solid theme and a plethora of fun fill from a themeless master make for a fun puzzle.
Are you Team CATSUP or Team Ketchup? I expect the vast majority of Americans go with the K spelling. But the other one is still understood and accepted. The sauce itself has had numerous recipes over the past few hundred years though it originated in China and was based on a fish sauce. (Jane Austen’s recipe included a walnut paste, horseradish, and shallots.) Growing up, I found it odd that my dad used the word CATSUP to refer to soy sauce, but I guess it’s not so strange once you realize both condiments originated in China and were based on fish fermentation.
Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “The Silver Screen” — Ben’s Review
It’s a Paolo Pasco puzzle this week at the AVCX (which mentioned it’s having “a major technical transition” behind the scenes this week that meant I didn’t get this puzzle until late today – delivery on your end may be delayed as well). Rather than another themeless, this one’s got a theme that was easy to figure out from the title of the puzzle, but was still well-executed:
- 23A: Movie about doing a one-person tribute? (1990) — HOMAGE ALONE
- 36A: Movie about a spell-caster whose special power is making things huge? (2004) — SUPERSIZE MAGE
- 50A: Movie about a wheelchair-bound nuclear expert dressed à la RuPaul? (1964) — DRAG STRANGELOVE
- 68A: Movie about condemning, in no uncertain terms, a fellow WWII soldier? (1998) — SAVAGING PRIVATE RYAN
- 83A: Movie about a Wiccan-managed maze? (2006) — PAGAN’S LABYRINTH
- 100A/115A: Movie about camaraderie between people at a wild party? (2001) — THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RAGING
Again: straightforward (add the atomic symbol for silver, Ag, to the title of a movie), well-executed, cute. A Sunday-sized grid packed with all of these was lovely on a kind of gross Boston day.
- “Tablet that shouldn’t be swallowed” is a great clue for IPAD
- It turns out the OBOE is used in the intro to Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”
- I assume Tom Haverford coined “Raw TOAST” as a “(jocular name for bread)”
- “Type of drama James Franco briefly decided to act in, for whatever reason” — SOAP OPERA (he’s an ARTIST, Paolo. He needs to perform his craft!)
- They are still making ICE AGE movies, which means that people are still watching the ICE AGE movies. In my day, we had The Land Before Time and its approximately 40 million sequels and we were fine with it.
4.5/5 stars. This was great. Well done!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The essence of this theme is the repurposing of four textual units. However, there are a couple of things Zhouqin has done to take this context and elevate into a top-notch crossword. First off, the theme order: LETTERS, WORDS, PHRASES, SENTENCES – a natural progression, even if CLAUSES is left out, probably for space reasons, and because of a lack of viable entries / clues. Second, note the consistency of the clues, and also their jarring dissonance. We are first confronted with [Inc. and LLC?] Figuring these clues out results in a classic “a-ha moment”.
To sum up [Inc. and LLC?] are letters used in business names, so BUSINESSLETTERS in wacky world. [Beaming and shining?] are GLOWINGWORDS in the sense of synonyms for glowing. [“Got it!” and “Roger that!”?] require a little stretch to reach CATCHPHRASES. They are phrases used when you catch what someone says. “Mine!” is a catchphrase of a different sort. This reminds me upsettingly of my first club cricket game of the season last Sunday. Dropped a hard catch (still have the bruise) off my own bowling with the first delivery, and then went for four boundaries in a row while my mind was focused elsewhere… Crossword? Oh yes. PRISONSENTENCES, [“What are you in for?” and “I was framed”?] are sentences one might use in presence. Reminds me of Alice’s Restaurant and “What you get?”
- [PGA Tour golf course near Miami], DORAL. I’m pretty sure that should read former… Didn’t Trump’s bungling lead to his course being axed from the tour? The Blue Monster course hosted the Doral Open and then WGC-Cadillac Open for many years…
- [“Never __ Me Go”: Kazuo Ishiguro novel], LET. Topical; I guess with a Nobel prize your novels are now cross-worthy?
- [Driver or putter], CLUB – more in the golf minitheme. [What some caddies carry], TEA is a fake-out though…
- [Be judged unfairly], GETABADRAP. Anyone else have a snarl-up by putting BUM here?
- [Like priests], ORDAINED. Crossword indoctrination made me immediately want ONEL.