David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Solved the whole puzzle without being aware that there was a hint/note. So the hint is “The completed puzzle conceals the name of a famous composer, along with something that might help you listen to him. Who and what are they?” That big H made of black squares in the middle of the grid completes the center row and column by connecting two pairs of 4s to make 9-letter answers: BEET and OVEN give BEEThOVEN, and EARP and ONES yield EARPhONES. I really do prefer my Friday puzzles to be themeless, with a focus on providing the best fill and interesting clues. The theme here constrains things such that we end up with the super-uncommon (but in the dictionary) word BORESOME. We all wanted TIRESOME here and you know it. *gavel gavel*
One more thing: When your theme gimmick includes ONES, you ought to steer clear of fill like ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER and ONE TO TEN. (See also: ISN’T right above NOT A LOT.) Grids are certainly more elegant without such repetitions.
Seven more things:
- 12d. [1966 Pulitzer-winning Edward Albee play, with “A”], DELICATE BALANCE. 15-letter entries with a [… with “The”] or [… with “A”] tacked on, irk me. There’s probably a workable clue for the phrase outside of the play’s title.
35a. [Healthful juice source], BEET. *chug chug chug* Actually, beet juice’s calories are mostly from sugar. That’s pretty unhealthy for a lot of folks.
- 16a. [Hardin-Simmons University setting], ABILENE. Never heard of it. It’s a small school with Division III sports.
- 23a. [Shipload], TON. That … would be a pretty empty ship with a single ton of cargo.
- 45d. [Beguilers], TEASES. Would you give me a f*cking break with this word being clued as a damned noun? Try the verb! You will like it! Keep sex and sexism out of the clue and not a single person will be pissed off at you. (Has the NYT crossword learned nothing from the entire #MeToo/Time’s Up movement?)
- 47a. [___ Lan (giant panda born at the 17-Across zoo)], MEI. He was assigned female at birth, but is male.
- 44a. [Virtual connection?], EDATE. People don’t actually use that term, do they?
2.75 stars from me. BORESOME alone pulled the puzzle’s score down a good chunk.
Victor Fleming and the LifeQuest of Arkansas Puzzle Class’ Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Terrific Crossword” — pannonica’s write-up
Simple theme idea, commendably executed. 18d [Bigrams on display in this puzzle’s five longest answers] CCS. Specifically, the doubled Cs link the ends of the theme phrases’ first words with the starts of the second words. Let’s see what we can find:
- 17a. [Ride furnisher in a 1968 Steppenwolf hit] MAGIC CARPET.
- 24a. [Place that might have pools and courts, familiarly] REC CENTER. Recreation, obv.
- 33a. [Nashville, to many] MUSIC CITY (, USA).
- 44a. [Inverse trig function] ARC COSINE. Everybody loves inverse trigonometry functions in crosswords, right?
- 51a. [“Rosemary’s Baby” circle (spoiler alert!)] SATANIC CULT. Wasn’t their incantatory refrain UVEA AVEENO ERA? (Row 2)
See? See? Not too shabby.
- 19a [ __ chi (exercise regimen)] TAI. Seems trivializing, reductive, superficial. It’s principally a philosophy of being and movement.
- 37a [Cylinder on a rural skyline] SILO. Preposition choice: “on” vs “in”. Go!
- How about 11d [“No more procrastinating!”] GET AT IT; “at” vs “on”. Go!
- 43a [Dweller on the Caspian Sea] MEDE. Whoa, where’d that one come from? Some spackle for that triple seven-stack. See also 7d [Flying up front?] AER-. Ouch.
- 48a [One sharing the top spot, for short] CO-CHAMP. Stuck with CO-CHAIR for quite a while.
- 50a [Brian of glam rock] ENO. Went with MAY first. ENO is more typically clued in association with other genres besides his time with Roxy Music, D Bowie, et al.
- 59a [Pollen is produced in them] SACS. Not a fan of this clue. Seems simultaneously too specific and slightly inaccurate. Many better was to clue this simple word.
- 4d [Puts a coat on, so to speak] PAINTS. Cute.
- 10d [Lord’s Prayer starter, in Lourdes] NOTRE, 13d [Authority figure at une école] MAÎTRE.
- 16a [NOW cause defeated in 1982] ERA. Yeah, thanks for reminding us here in 2018.
- 33d [Stick in a book] MATCH. Hmm, hadn’t had cause to reflect on this previously, but seems to me that a match stick is in a box, whereas a matchbook contains cardboardy lengths that are just called matches.
- 36d [“Masked” scavenger] RACCOON (~cc~). Sometime scavenger. Opportunistic omnivore. Yes, I’m going to nitpick casual anti-animal slurs great and small when I see them.
- 2d [Images representing gamers] AVATARS. Here are some Cardcaptor Sakura (CCS) avatars.
- 38d [California county containing Ojai and Thousand Oaks] VENTURA. Heh, slipping in crosswordy OJAI.
- 47d [Floor cleaner, casually] VAC, 49d [Karaoke equipment, briefly] MICS. Oh hi, CCs!
Solid but relatively unexciting crossword.
Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
I found this theme a lot more transparent than most Fridays. Spotted it at HAND(EYE) and confirmed with NAKED(EYE). I was prepared to believe HAWK sans (EYE), but once I got to NAKED that penny dropped too. In short, all the edge answers need an EYE added to answer their clues.
I find such themes typically a) fairly repetitive, and b) liable to induce worse than normal fill. That said, we get a cute, fresh revealer in SIDEEYE and longer answers like KATYPERRY, CHEESEDIP and MADMEN. I also think the puzzle was filled with a lot more care than I’ve seen with some of this type of theme.
- [Wolverine rival], BUCK(EYE). Presume this is university sports. I was focusing on the X-men angle.
- [Jodie Foster title role], NELL. Google sez it’s a 1994 that box officed $106 million. I still haven’t heard of it, FWIW.
- [E alternative?], SNAIL. Clunk. Was thinking drugs, but this is trying to cutely refer to MAIL.
- [Arctic trout], CHAR. A very obscure noun to use when there is a common enough verb. Quirky choice!
- [French epic hero], ROLAND. Also a warrior from the Land of the Midnight Sun…
- [Skin-and-bones sort], SCRAG. Crossing GOOD(EYE) was my last square.