Clive Probert’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up
I think it was Martin Herbach who once said “if you can’t find the theme in the grid, check the clues.” Sure enough, I finished the puzzle and didn’t notice any real theme, although there did seem to be a whole lot of Ms. I looked at the clues and realized every single clue starts with M, and then I looked back at the grid and noticed that every single entry contains at least one M. I suppose 28d might be a revealer. The clue is [“Melts in your mouth” candy] and the answer, of course, is M AND M. That’s quite a feat of construction. Mm, mm, good.
Well, someone had to say it.
When essentially every entry is a theme entry, there are bound to be compromises in the fill, starting with the fact that the candy is actually M&M, not M AND M. And then there’s 3d [Muse of memory]. I know the term “mnemonic” so I knew it had to be something like that, but I’ve never heard of MNEME, which looks like a typo.
A few other things:
- 14a [Medieval philosopher with a “razor”] is OCCAM. This may be obscure to many, but it was a gimme for me. I learned this as “The simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts in evidence is most likely to be true.” It’s a basic principle of medical diagnosis. The idiomatic version is “When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.” I was told that it’s called a “razor” because it cuts away unnecessary complication, and it didn’t originate with William of Occam; it has been attributed to several medieval philosophers, including Maimonides.
- 16a [Maker of outlandish products in Road Runner cartoons] is, of course, ACME. It’s a refreshing change from clues about the top of a mountain.
- 28a [MI6 concern] is a MOLE. MI6 is the British version of the CIA, for those who’ve never seen a James Bond movie, so the MOLE in question is a spy, not a burrowing mammal.
- 61a [Mini-metropolis in Utah] is our old friend OREM. According to Google, the population of OREM is 97,499. If you live in New York City, OREM is mini. If you live in Austin, Nevada (population 192) I suspect OREM looks like a very big city. Context is everything.
- 63a [Mount Olympus, at 72,000 feet, is its highest peak]. Since Everest tops out at 29,000 feet, this Mount Olympus can’t be on Earth. Turns out it’s on MARS.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SAMOS was a member of the ancient Ionian League. Didn’t know there was such a thing as the Ionian League or an island named SAMOS. My father always said it was a good day if you learned something.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Power Grid” — Jim’s review
We’re adding fuel to the fire in this clever grid. FUEL INJECTION is your hint to look for types of fuel in the other theme answers. (It’s clued as [Internal combustion process, and an explanation of the other long Across answers].)
- 20a [Germophobe’s attire?] BOILED CLOTHES. Bedclothes + oil.
- 28a [Strategic alliance of poodles, Persians, parrots, etc.?] PET COALITION. Petition + coal. Ha! Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
- 48a [Big Bang’s source?] THE MEGA SPARK. Theme park + gas. Bonus points for going from two words to three. Clever and cute.
I loved this wonderful theme. I couldn’t suss it out until I got to the revealer and had my a-ha moment. In my mind, this was the perfect use of a common phrase as a revealer combined with excellent theme entry finds. It’s especially nice that each theme entry gets a different type of fuel added to it. Fresh, fun, and funny.
Is it IMPERFECT, though? Let’s see what I can find. ROODS was a tough start at 1a [Old quarter-acre measures], and CHASTISES and PRECAST aren’t exactly scintillating fill, but a DOLLOP of KITSCH and MIMOSA did SWEETEN the deal. Medical types will like AXILLA which I mostly remembered from the last time it appeared in a crossword.
Clues of note:
- 17a [Job holder?]. BIBLE. That’s a bit of a stretch. I don’t know that anyone would say the BIBLE “holds” any of its books.
- 32a [Printemps month]. MAI. I’ve seen the word, but had forgotten its meaning. “Printemps” means “Spring.”
- 36a [Jah praiser]. RASTA. Apparently, it’s short for Yahweh. How cool is your religion when you can call God by His nickname?
- Speaking of religion, the clue [Religious teacher] does double-duty for RABBI and SWAMI. Nice.
- 43a [Make full again]. TOP UP. How many of you saw that “again” and immediately wrote in RE___?
- 41d [Candidate’s concern]. IMAGE. Ah, those were the days.
Really nice grid. Great theme and strong fill all around.
Let’s close it out with BECK‘s “Where It’s At.”
Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
What do you want in an early week theme? A clourful revealer, HIDDENGEM, check; fun theme answers – SCROOGEMCDUCK and HEDGEMAZE fit the bill; GEORGEMASON and GRUDGEMATCH work. Only wish there was a little more than just GEM hidden each time, but I’m guessing not enough interesting answers exist with BERYL, RUBY or LAPISLAZULI hidden across their centres…
I have had this theme song stuck in my head for two days now. Neville you aren’t helping! [Fiancee is singing it from the study too, now…]
HIVEMIND is also a particularly juicy morsel worked into this grid. I feel like it could be the bouncing off place for a theme, not sure what…
Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless 21” — Ben’s Review
Either this was an easy themeless from Kam or my skills are really improving on these – I managed to blast through this themeless offering from the AV Club in under 9 minutes. It’s got his standard high culture/low culture blend that makes solving things such a joy. Here’s some highlights:
- Some nice stacks anchoring this whole shabang: ERASERMATE, GET A READ ON, RATTING OUT up top, VA HOSPITAL, AM I TOO LATE, and SAVES PAPER (as in “opts for electronic statements”) down below
- I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding once, when it was released on VHS in the early 2000s, and apparently that was enough for my brain to remember the main character’s name is TOULA 15 or so years later.
- I nailed that “Camel alternative” was going to be a color and not a mammal, though I had TAUPE in the grid before the correct BEIGE
- “Shoegaze relative” would definitely be some DREAM POP like Beach House or Alvvays. I promise those are band names and not things I made up.