Steven A. Atwood’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
Today’s theme plays on the differences between American and British English. You know what they say: two countries separated by a common language. Each entry is a common word or phrase defined as if it one part were Britspeak.
- 17a. [*Monthly charge for a London apartment?] is a FLAT RATE. I know plenty of Americans who use the term “flat.” Not sure if that’s regional or generational; I heard it first in San Francisco.
- 26a [*French fries on a London card table?] are POKER CHIPS.
- 40a [*Catalog from a London raincoat designer?] is a MAC BOOK.
- 51a [*Part of a London police officer’s uniform?] are BOBBY SOCKS. I always think of that term for 1950’s kids as “bobby sox” but that’s just me.
- 62a [*Conveyance in a multilevel London store?] is a SHOP LIFT.
Aside from the fact that 17a isn’t really a Britishism, in my book, I liked this theme. It didn’t knock my bobby socks off, but it was amusing.
A few other things:
- 1a is [Man’s name that means “king”]. I confidently plopped in REX and then had to backtrack when I tried to fill in the crossings. It’s ROY.
- 33d [Gets ready to play basketball, say, with “up”] is LACES UP. I think of this as referring to hockey.
- We did have two hockey clues, though, so maybe three would have been too many. 61d [Org. with the Original Six teams] is the NHL and 63d [What 61-Down teams play on] is ICE.
- 44d [___ Harry, vocalist for the band Blondie] is DEBORAH. Wikipedia has her listed as Debbie, which is how I remember her. DEBORAH is correct, of course, but made me stop for a second.
- Words I only see in crossword puzzles: EPOS and OPEL.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that a RATCHET is the mechanism in a unidirectional wrench. I’ve used a RATCHET but never really thought about what it was.
I leave you with the music of my youth.
David Poole’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Drive Around the Block” — Jim’s review
Car models are bumper-to-bumper around the perimeter of the grid, clued via alternative meanings of the words. I won’t list all the clues, but here are the models and their makes proceeding clockwise: Ford TAURUS, Saturn ION, Kia SOUL, Ford LTD, Ford FOCUS, Ford PINTO, Chrysler DESOTO, Honda FIT, Dodge OMNI, Kia RIO, Honda CIVIC, and Chevy TAHOE.
Aside: If you’re wondering why the list is heavily laden with Fords and Hondas and Kias, I’ll tell you, since I’ve made a couple of car-themed grids. It’s because certain car makes lend themselves more readily to word puzzles since they use normal words for names. Ford in particular has a wide range of popular cars with simple names. Other companies, like Toyota, use made-up words (Camry, Corolla, and the like) and of course others don’t use words at all (BMW, Volvo, etc.).
I almost forgot, there’s a revealer in the middle: (41a, [Cognac-and-Cointreau drink, and what each of this puzzle’s border answers is]) SIDECAR. Hmm. To me, the sides are left and right. The top and bottom are, well, top and bottom. I felt the title of the puzzle does enough to indicate what’s going on here and the revealer isn’t really necessary.
The theme is fine, but let’s look under the hood.
Well, here’s your problem! There’s some ASANA, UTERI, and RESIT over here, and a whole lotta NOTV, RES, SDS, UAE, AES, IRT, URI, OHS, CRO, AST, HEPS, and LTD (oops, that last one’s a theme answer) under there. That’s what’s causing all the creaking and rattling.
HEPS is particularly troublesome because it tries to get cutesy with the clue [Drill bits?]. Ouch. You’ve got a clunker on your hands; bells and whistles aren’t going to fix it.
There are a few nice things: PAGODA, CASSEROLES, TOTTERED, and theme-adjacent TAILLIGHTS and MARTINI. (Oops, that last one’s not theme-adjacent. Don’t drink and drive, kids.)
Clues of note:
- 9d [Parental threat to a misbehaving child]. NO TV. Not only is this ugly fill, but I don’t think it even works anymore. My kids barely watch TV these days although they still get too much screen time with various devices.
- 39a [Blood count, familiarly?]. DRAC. I like this one, both clue and entry.
- 49d [Be a whistleblower]. TOOT. Cute. I like it even though I think horns TOOT, while whistles tweet.
This puzzle has a workable theme, but it’s not quite road ready. Under the hood, there’s a lot of duct tape and baling wire. I think it needed to go back to the shop for a tune-up.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Space Shuttles” — Jenni’s review
This is a fairly complex theme that yields pretty easily. Ben gave it a 3/5 for difficulty and for once I agree with that. It’s very satisfying without being stumpery.
Each theme entry is somewhat nonsensical because it’s missing a “space,” which then shows up elsewhere in the puzzle.
- 17a [Just not into cooking things in fat at a low temperature for a long time anymore?] would be so OVER CONFIT. We then find 58a [Space that found its way out of 17-Across], which is DEN. Put them together and you get OVERCONFIDENT. Nice.
- 26a [Where a pig might be buried?] is a SOW GRAVE. The missing space is at 19a: HALL. That’s a SHALLOW GRAVE. Shiver.
- 40a [Celebrity gossip magazine spinoff in the checkout lane at the songbird’s supermarket?] is US FINCH, which I suppose would feature the latest escaped of Gwyneth Sparrow and Tomtit Cruise (sorry. Now you know why I don’t construct). The missing space at 53a is ATTIC, and that gives us ATTICUS FINCH from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This may have been my favorite.
- 50a [Smacks a double, say, allowing the greatest talk show host of all time to score a run?] would take place at the Harpo Enterprises picnic. It’s HITS O HOME. 23a gives us the space: CLOSET, so that’s HITS CLOSE TO HOME.
BEQ ties it all up in a bow for us at 59a [Live puzzle events and, in a different sense, this puzzle’s theme]. The answer is ESCAPE ROOMS. That gave me a big smile. I really enjoyed this theme.
A few other things:
- 1d [Progressive lady] stymied me for a bit because I thought we were looking for someone political. Nope. It’s FLO, the face of Progressive Insurance.
- If you were reading quickly, saw [Disney movie] at 15a, starting with M, and plopped in MOANA, you should have read the whole clue. It’s [1998 Disney movie] so it’s MULAN. Not that I know anyone who did that.
- I’ve seen 12d [Veal ___ (dish named after a Russian noble)] rendered as ORLOFF. BEQ has it as ORLOV. ORLOV gives 38,700 results on Google, many of which are actually for ORLOFF. ORLOFF itself gives over 200,000. I know it’s transliterated from the Cyrillic, and I’m sure either one is acceptable.
- 29a [First baseball team to retire numbers] was, of course, the YANKEES. When the Yanks retired Derek Jeter’s #2 last summer, that was the team’s 21st retired number; they have the most of any MLB team. They were also the first team to regularly use numbers on uniforms – and still have no names on the backs of the jerseys. 90 days until pitchers and catchers report!
- If you’re looking for a place to stay when you come up to catch the next performance of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, don’t call Brendan. 30d [Furniture in my condo nobody’s allowed to crash on anymore] would be his SOFA.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Veronica’s dad (of Archie Comics fame) has a first name, and it’s HIRAM. It suits him.
Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
A two-part revealer occupies a helluva lot of theme real estate, and SHUFFLESANDCUTSTHEDECK is a pretty mundane and wordy way to get to a theme that hides the letters in DECK rearranged across two parts of three entries. Three entries is quite thin, and while BLACKJACKDEALER is cutesily meta (the BLACKJACKDEALER cuts the DECK), the other two don’t cut the mustard for me. Both are pretty arbitrary – a MISPLACEDKEY and BAKEDCOOKIES are just green paint.
I’m not sure POLEMICIST or MAGISTRATE is the best use of the two long down answers built into the grid, and both come with short stacks of alphabetty spaghetti: MTM/ARA/DEG and IRA/SEP/TDS… Small answers are part of puzzles too! Add clunky long partials ORFOE and DIDON (!?!) and unacknowledged weird variant BOCCIE and well, most of this puzzle was a chore.