Gary Larson’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
A debut puzzle for our last Thursday NYT of 2017! Congrats, Gary! There have been a lot of constructors debuting with Thursdays over the past few months, haven’t there?
The revealer is 55a, UP THE ANTE [Increase what is at stake … or a hint to answering 20-, 30- and 46-Across]. Those three long across answers look like gibberish in the grid, until you realize what that revealer means:
- 20a, WAD POSTER [Where you might see a criminal]. That should be WANTED POSTER, right? But where’s the NTE?…
- It’s in 2d is ETNA [Mount SW of Messina]. The ANTE in WANTED POSTER literally goes up in the grid.
- 30a, DEBUTA(NTE) BALL [Coming-out party].
- The ANTE goes up into 15d, P(ET NA)MES [Honey and Sugar].
- 46a, DA(NTE)’S INFERNO [Account of a hellish trip?].
- The ANTE goes up into 28d, W(ET NA)P [Moist towelette].
And there you have it. I figured out the theme from WANTED POSTER, but I thought the revealer would be “ANTE UP!” rather than UP THE ANTE. Either way, it’s a tight concept, and the theme answers are all well chosen. The fill left me a little disappointed, though. Lots of short gluey stuff like LT. COL and ELIE and NIE and TWA and HOC and AN I, etc. etc. I found DRINKATHON [Affair for bingers] depressing to be honest, as was the gratuitous reference to Donald Trump’s woeful Twitter account in the SAD clue [End of many a Trump tweet].
I liked the fresh clue for the otherwise stale EONS [Volcanoes develop over them].
That’s all I’ve got. A fine Thursday theme, but a mixed bag overall. Until next week — nay, until next year!
Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dropping the Ball” — Jim’s review
It’s the last regular WSJ puzzle before the New Year, so we get a little bit of New Year’s Eve-themed trickery.
There’s no revealer, but the the title tells you everything you need to know. In last Friday’s crossword contest, Os represented dots which we connected to form a Christmas tree. Today, Os are balls being dropped (Times Square style) from one theme entry to another.
- 17a [Prominent feature of a rural landscape?] THE RED BARN with 21a [Singer-songwriter’s specialty?] POET ROCK. The Red Baron lends its O to Pet Rock resulting in both themers.
- 27a [Milkweed’s milky juice?] IVORY SAP with 35a [Eye-teasing version of Dali’s melting watch?] OP-ART TIMER. Ivory Soap and Part-timer.
- 43a [Two things you might see in juvenile detention?] LOCK AND LAD with 48a [Friends who don’t keep secrets from each other?] OPEN PALS. Lock and load and Pen pals.
- 54a [Really sweet Siamese?] SUGAR CAT with 63a [Shares in an antipasto company?] OLIVE STOCK. Sugarcoat and Livestock.
The more I look at this, the more amazed I am at its construction. Four pairs of theme entries in the Across direction means eight full-sized theme entries…which is already a lot if there were no other constraints. But then you have to have four phrases in which an O can be dropped to make a coherent entry and four corresponding phrases which can add an O. And these deletions and additions can’t just occur anywhere in the phrases; they have to occur in particular places to simulate a ball being dropped from one to another. And then, to top it all off, each pair of themers has to stack suitably, if only for three letters; but this is enough of a constraint to make filling this thing a bear. (And look at that central entry, PABLO, four of whose letters belong to theme entries!!!)
I suspect most other constructors would be more than satisfied with three pairs of theme entries (I know I would), but here we’re given four pairs, and I can’t detect much in the way of compromise in the fill.
I don’t even care that not all Os were dropped from the original base phrases (see IVORY SAP). In fact, I didn’t even notice until writing this up.
The one thing which I will admit bothered me once I grokked the theme was that I felt the Os should have dropped straight down from where they would have been in the original phrases. For example, in THE RED BARN, I wanted the O to appear below the N, because it would have been after the R in the original phrase. Instead, it appears below the R.
But looking at the finished grid, I think it makes sense the way it is. If the O fell below the N, your eye would want to read the phrase as THE RED BARNO.
All told, I’m in awe of this theme, its execution, and the fact that the fill seems to suffer nary a whit. There isn’t anything sparkly-shiny in the fill, but it’s all solid: ON CREDIT and OKINAWAN are the featured entries, but there’s a lot of mid-length stuff doing the heavy lifting like PROTON, ARREAR, PABLO, VAPID, REAPS, ONE-ACT, and NARCOS.
Of course there are some iffy entries like OCHS [“The War Is Over” singer], I BE [“Could ___ any clearer?”], and VIDOR [“Duel in the Sun” director]. But, C’MON, for a Thursday, and for a beautifully-executed challenging theme like this, that stuff just falls in the noise. I would abide this kind of fill any Thursday if it meant we got to enjoy this level of theme and execution.
What a great way to finish off the year! I know there’s the contest tomorrow and a Saturday to come, but for the regular weekday puzzles, this one closes it out with a bang.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Returning Gifts” — Ben’s Review
BEQ’s gone all #tbt on us (that’s a Throwback Thursday for those not on Instagram) and served up a puzzle from 8 years ago while we’re all still in that liminal space between Christmas being over and the new year actually starting.
Let’s start by taking a look at the theme entries here, since it was pretty easy to guess what might be going on from the title “Returning Gifts”:
- 20A: Impossible, like an upset victory — AGAINST ALL ODDS
- 25A: Billboard or The Hollywood Reporter, e.g. — TRADE MAGAZINE
- 46A: Traditional Provençal stew — BOUILLABAISSE
- 54A: Squelch — PUT THE KIBOSH ON
So, we’ve got DOLL, GAME, BALL, and BIKE running backwards. Cute.
I hate this song.
Goodness, but some of the fill in this old puzzle is rough. We’ve come a long way, baby. AOLER? SPANG? QuartETTE (which is not a thing, at least according to Google)? OKEMO? ACADS? Cluing LEI as the jeans brand rather than just leaning into the Hawaiian necklace standard? (points for the attempt but this is still a no-go from me) ARN from Prince Valiant? UGH to all of this – it’s always nice to look back on one’s old work and see how far one has come. That’s definitely the case here.
3/5 stars, largely for the clean theme execution despite some blah fill.
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
The puzzle theme conflates two different O’ phenomena into one: the O in Irish names is not the same as ‘o” a contraction of ‘of’. That said, the puzzle’s results, clueing awkwardness apart, were fairly amusing. One-word answers are reimagined as three words with a central o’, and somewhat tortured to get there. Palestine becomes PAL O(F) STEIN; innocents INN O(F) SCENTS; paradigms PAIR O(F) DIMES; and manicures MAN O(F) CURES.
- [Small drum or large antelope], BONGO – of genus Tragelaphus – same as the eland, kudu and nyala – these are the largest of Africa’s antelopes.
- [Old Toyota subcompact], TERCEL. I know these only as male falcons…
- [Herbal cough drop brand], RICOLA. New to me. It wanted to be RCCOLA for the longest time.
- [Melody from a bugler], TAPS and [Sour note from a bugler], BLAT – adjacent clechoing!