Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Monster Mash” – Erin’s writeup
There’s a lot going on at this Halloween party! A bunch of scary creatures have paired up and grown cozy enough to squeeze into the same squares.
- 14d.[Monster Mash, Part 1: Night of the Fleshless Lycanthrope] SKELETON / WEREWOLF
- 39d. [Monster Mash, Part 2:
The Bridge Guardian
From Hell] TROLL / DEMON
- 54d. [Monster Mash, Part 3: Attack of the One-Eyed Bloodsucker] VAMPIRE / CYCLOPS
- 86d. [Monster Mash, Part 4: Undead Egyptian From Another Planet] MUMMY / ALIEN
- 97d. [Monster Mash, Part 5: Terror of the Legendary Bullheaded Reptile] MINOTAUR / BASILISK
- The clue for 20d. BEAST is [Monster], and for 111d. CRUSH is [Mash].
The number of theme squares is low, but any more and the quality of the fill would likely suffer, given the constraints of this theme mechanism. The constructor keeps everything squeaky clean here.
- 141a. [“Stranger Things” actress] RYDER. Season 2 was released on the 27th. We haven’t started it at my house yet for fear that we’d stay up all night watching.
- 128a. [Bill of ___] ATTAINDER. Tech Law Journal defines it as “a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial.”
- 5d. [Hermaphroditic creature] EARTHWORM. Earthworm reproduction is fascinating. In case not everyone wants to see diagrams, a description can be found here.
- 44d./45d. [Beguiling character] SIREN and [Emulate a 44 Down] TEMPT. Apparently Temptin is the name of one of the earthworm sex pheremones. I wonder if this is a coincidence.
Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “Going Off Script”—Amy’s write-up
Various famous(ish) lines from movies are paired with “[actor surname] LINE” answers that are familiar(ish) phrases unto themselves:
- 22a. [“The Lion King”], “HAKUNA MATATA.”
- 24a. [Pool divider, or a further hint to 22-Across], LANE LINE. Nathan Lane’s Lion King character said “Hakuna matata.” I thought the strung-up floaty things separating lanes in the pool were called lane dividers, but this site uses LANE LINE that way.
- 42a. [“Jerry Maguire”], “SHOW ME THE MONEY.”
- 59a. [Carnival, say, or a further hint to 42-Across], CRUISE LINE. Tom Cruise.
- 76a. [“The Force Awakens”], “CHEWIE, WE’RE HOME.” We’re jumping over 61a since it is paired with the quote at 101a.
- 99a. [F-150s or Thunderbirds, or a further hint to 76-Across], FORD LINE. Harrison Ford. “Ford line” doesn’t feel so in-the-language to me.
- 101a. [“The Dark Knight”], “WHY SO SERIOUS?”
- 61a. [Musical score marking, or a further hint to 101-Across], LEDGER LINE. Not being a musical type, I have never seen this term. Heath Ledger’s Joker, though, I know.
Fresh angle for a theme, certainly. Of mixed success, but in general, I like it.
Favorite fill follows: ALAKAZAM, which is also a Pokémon (it’s what you get when you evolve an Abra into a Kadabra and then take it one more level). THE CURE? I played the heck out of my cassette of their compilation album, Standing on a Beach, and always liked “Love Cats” (video below). Also liked the ROYAL WE, BONOBO (I encourage you to watch some bonobo videos at YouTube), and FATHER TIME. And PLUMS are delicious but they reach their fullest potential when they are cross-bred, as the clue says, with apricots (pluot, plumcot, Dinosaur Egg plum, whatever you want to call it—I will eat it).
From the “What the…” Department:
- 14d. [Eponymous Israeli gun designer], UZI GAL. Say what? Apparently he was born Gotthard Glas and changed his name to Uziel Gal in Israel. I’m fairly certain that Uzi Gal is not a household name among more than a tiny fraction of solvers.
- 61d. [Pariahs], LEPERS. Insert frowny face here.
- 82a. [Herb pronounced differently in the U.S. and U.K.], BASIL. So which people say bay-zil vs baz-il? My husband and I split down the middle on this one, and we’re both American so I’m confused.
110a. [Language in which the first four cardinal numbers are ane, twa, three and fower]. SCOTS. Really! Somehow, all those language quizzes at Sporcle.com have failed to teach me the Scottish number words … except that I actually played such a quiz this summer and nailed it. Although clicking through, I see that the Scottish Gaelic number names are waaaay different from these Scots ones, and I don’t know how I managed to puzzle them out.
Exceptionally blah fill includes LEHI and ELHI, KER-, OYS and EHS, ARTHURS, and ONE-A’S. Meh, I say.
Four stars from me.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked crossword, “First Shift” — pannonica’s write-up
Initially thought that the title indicates that the first word in each of the theme entries is shifted around (read: anagrammed) but soon came to realize that it’s only the first letter that’s shifted to another spot in the word.
- 23a. [New Orleans players in need of some pep?] ENERVATED SAINTS (venerated …).
- 31a. [Prison job making lenses?] OPTIC SENTENCE (topic …).
- 39a. [Neglecting to finish your prayer?] AMEN DROPPING (name …).
- 61a. [Unappetizing dessert?] LUMP PUDDING (plum …).
- 67a. [Signal to stop bidding?] AUCTION FLAG (caution …).
- 92a. [Seeing who can cook green beans fastest?] HARICOT RACES (chariot …). Green beans are generally called haricot vert (haricots verts) while unspecified haricots typically refer to kidney beans or navy beans. These and many others are all cultivars of the same plant species, Phaseolus vulgaris. So clue is technically correct, but a bit weird.
- 99a. [Pharmacist with a sneezy specialty?] ALLERGY DEALER (gallery …).
- 111a. [Shifting ground?] EARTH TRANSPLANT (heart …). This final one’s meta, though not explicitly self-referential.
Not too excited by the theme overall, while still appreciating some of the niftier finds (chariot/haricot; venerated/enervated).
- Must start at the most annoying spot: intersection of 10-across and 12-down. Yes, I get that this is a Boston-based crossword. I get that a lot of people enjoy baseball. But seriously, this? 10a [Kapler of the 2004 Sox] GABE and 12d [Fenway’s Mookie] BETTS. It’s fortunate that B was the most reasonable choice of letter for that square, but that’s a narrow-focus crossing to have in a puzzle.
- More Bostoniania: 42a [View from the Charles] MIT, 47a [Jetsam of 1773] TEA, 69d [Sixer foe] CELT.
- 20a [ __ branch] OLIVE followed by 21a [Harmonia’s father] ARES; that’s a deft touch.
- 30a [Ransom of note] OLDS, 25d [ __ Martin of autos] ASTON.
- 86a [Girasol, e.g.] OPAL. Sounds as if it could be a model of car, no? But the make is OPEL, named for the company’s 19th century founder Adam Opel.
- 45a [Cup alternative] CONE. Had BOWL for some time; soup doesn’t work so well with a CONE.
- 37d [Just above average] C-PLUS crossing 46a [Plus] ALSO. Really?
- 66a [Chi preceder] TAI. In the Greek alphabet tau precedes chi (with upsilon and phi separating them). Snipped from Wikipedia:
59d [Pi, e.g.] RATIO.
- 115a [Something to do on 99 Down] WISH; 99d [“__ is Born”] A STAR. Is it kosher to cross reference to an abstracted answer but not its clue? (24a [Legit] VALID.)
- 108d [“Nine” starter] ENNE. Anyone care to explain this to me? Without making too tenuous a connection?
- A bunch of cutesy clues in the crossword. Most of them were OK and none were terrible.
- Favorite clue: 70d [Well] NICELY.
- 75d [Big pictures] EPICS, 106d [Quite a tale] SAGA.
And since this is neither an epic nor a saga, I’m going to 109d [Knock off] and STOP here.