Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 7” – Erin’s writeup
Mixing it up with a themeless this week. I love the three longest entries. ASKING FOR A FRIEND is a fun phrase, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS is timely with the Oscars last week, and I cannot remember ever seeing HEADLESS HORSEMAN in a grid.
Great fill for me: POSH SPICE, YOKEMATES, SPONGE MOP, the onomatopoeic BOING and PLOP. I love Counselor TROI from Star Trek:TNG but feel bad that the show’s other characters get left out. DATA is seen pretty often, yet WORF is another four-letter character who gets very little love. If only he had another vowel.
RATE CARDS [Documents listing the prices for printed pitches in a newspaper] is new to me. While it is definitely A Thing, I cannot recall seeing it in a grid before, and unlike HEADLESS HORSEMAN, I feel RATE CARDS is not as well known. The clue is a bit prolix as well, using “printed pitches” to avoid duping TEASER AD at 29a. There was a lot of fighting in the grid, too: WAR ZONES, SCRAP, and GO AT IT, which really looks like it should be read as GOAT IT.
- 36a. [Like 8675309, say] PRIME. Congrats to the constructor for putting the Tommy Tutone song in everybody’s head.
- 93a. [Animal who becomes a kung fu master in an animated film franchise] PANDA. “There is no charge for awesomeness…or attractiveness.”
- 16d. [No. 1 hit whose lyric “This’ll be the day that I die” was turned into “Soon I’m gonna be a Jedi” by Weird Al] AMERICAN PIE. We were playing “The Saga Begins” last week in the car for our daughter.
Speaking of Weird Al, let’s end with his recent “The Hamilton Polka.” It’ll get “867-5309 / Jenny” out of your head! (Warning for some profanity in the first line, because it’s the first line of Hamilton.)
Until next week!
Matthew Sewell’s New York Times crossword, “If Found, Call …”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is crosswordese dogs (and one that isn’t) hiding within longer phrases, with their owners appearing elsewhere in the puzzle with cross-referenced clues.
- 1a. Heading on a neighborhood poster, LOST DOG.
- 24a. “1984” superstate, EASTASIA with ASTA. 86a. Last seen chasing down clues. If found, call ___ [see 24-Across], NICK AND NORA of … what? The Thin Man?
- 46a. One who can’t keep weight off for long, YO-YO DIETER taking ODIE for a walk. 100a. Last seen being mocked by a cat. If found, call ___ [see 46-Across], JON ARBUCKLE of the “Garfield” comic strip.
- 84a. Pretend, PUT ON AN ACT, with NANA. 44a. Last seen in the nursery. If found, call ___ [see 84-Across], THE DARLINGS of Peter Pan.
- 106a. Proceed enthusiastically, GO TO TOWN, with TOTO. (Great theme entry!) 28a. Last seen riding in a basket. If found, call ___ [see 106-Across], DOROTHY GALE of The Wizard of Oz.
- 119a. Algebraic variables, X’S AND Y’S, with SANDY. 64a. Last seen with a red-haired girl. If found, call ___ [see 119-Across], LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. Sandy the dog gets less play as a crossword repeater since it’s got 5 letters, not 4, and since it can be clued as assorted people, a Utah town, and a gritty adjective. Sandy’s main role in crosswords is in ARF clues.
Cute theme. The cross-referencing was a little dizzying since when I filled in a doggo’s name, it wasn’t immediately apparent where its owner was. I suppose this is consonant with the LOST DOG scenario.
Not much else to say about the puzzle. I liked the fill pretty well—wasn’t finding much that irked me, but also wasn’t finding much that really sparkled.
- 30d. [One-named Swedish singer with the Grammy-nominated song “Dancing on My Own”], ROBYN. There are a ton of Swedish pop singers out there these days. Robyn has been around since the mid-’90s, not that I know any of her songs. Here’s the one from the clue—it did not chart in the US but was a big hit in the UK. I made it through the first four lines of the song before the electronic/dance pop sounds compelled me to stop the video. Instead, let me point you to SZA’s “Broken Clocks”—current R&B hit that she performed at the Grammys a few weeks back.
- 73d. [Some centerfolds], PLAYMATES. Gross! Come on, dudes. Don’t go porny in the clues when [Kids enjoying the swing set together] is perfectly doable and doesn’t remind solvers of the accurséd male gaze. [Pair on the seesaw].
- 12d. [Sister of Ariadne], PHAEDRA. I read Racine’s version of Phaedra’s tale in a French Literature in Translation college class and … remember nothing of it.
Four stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked crossword, “Beast Wishes” — Laura’s write-up
Here be dragons … and hobbitses, trolls, gnomes, and ghouls, etc.
- [23a: Punt a Shire resident?]: KICK THE HOBBIT (kick the habit)
- [48a: Scandinavian sea monster humor?]: KRAKEN JOKES (crackin’ jokes)
- [79a: Dwarf’s motto?]: GNOME SAYING (know what I’m saying?)
- [107a: Monster that comes out during partial moons?]: CRESCENT TROLL (crescent roll)
- [3d: Islamic spirit matures?]: JINN BLOSSOMS (gin blossoms)
- [7d: Fire-breathing creature collapse?]: DRAGON DROP (drag and drop)
- [71d: Sad German sprite?]: KOBOLD BLUE (cobalt blue)
- [62d: Hobgoblin unlocked in a Kickstarter campaign?]: STRETCH GHOUL (stretch goal)
I’m not sure that DWARF and GNOME are synonymous, and really not all of these are “beasts” — some of them would more accurately be considered mythical or supernatural creatures. And YETI am always up for monster jokes CENTAUR way, WITCHES to say I wouldn’t want to SASQUATCH anyone’s creativity or cite the constructor for PORG grammar.
GOBLIN up the fill:
- [72d: Cold medicine]: CONTAC crossing [87a: Touching base]: IN CONTACT. Six-letter repeated string. Yeah, not grammatically related, but most novice constructors would get a ding for that.
- [12d: Elaborate inlay]: BUHL. I think this refers to furniture made by French cabinetmaker André Charles Bouille.
- [33a: Hush-hush]: ON THE DL. As in “on the down low.”
- [42a: Charlie Bucket’s creator]: ROALD DAHL. Charlie Bucket of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972).
- [112d: Hwy. that passes through Williamsburg]: BQE. That would be Williamsburg, the hipster Brooklyn neighborhood, thus an acronym for Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and an anagram for our constructor’s initials, by which he is widely known.
Joe Kidd’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Commercial Break”—Amy’s write-up
Actress Valerie Bertinelli was complaining on Twitter today that she waits all week for the Sunday LAT crossword and it was printed wrong in the paper. (Wrong grid, I think.) Not a problem for solvers accessing the puzzle via digital means.
Theme is “break up a longer phrase by inserting AD, a commercial,” cluing the resulting goofy phrase accordingly. Theme answers are ESCAPADE ARTISTS, THE CAT’S MEADOW, PROM ADDRESS, SUPER BAD OWL (the only one that also adds a word space—cute themer, but not consistent with the others), JADED CLAMPETT, LATE NIGHT SHADOW, WINTER TIRADE (“winter tire”? Is that like snow tires?), and ROCK OF ADAGES. None of these particularly amused me, except that [Unusually vicious nocturnal flier?] that stuck out with the added word break.
SLAPSTICK and ESKIMO PIES were the only real sparkle in the grid. Plural THADS, plural OWS, clunky HAD AT crossing clunky PAW AT, crosswordese OGEE, just a ton of dryness in the grid.
Three more things:
- 38d. [North Dakota’s “Magic City”], MINOT. I did not know that nickname. A college classmate has lived in Minot for about 25 years. Winters are long, cold, and snowy. It’s hundreds of miles from Minneapolis, 40 miles from Canada. Magical. I eyeballed where Minot is on Google Maps, and Google spotlighted three hotels … described as unfussy, unpretentious, and low-key. Is that code for “have not been renovated in decades”?
- 4d. [Governor’s ride], STATE CAR. Is that … a thing? Does the state car have winter tires?
- 39a. [Neck-to-waist body armor], CUIRASS. If you’re planning to attend the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, don’t forget to pack your CUIRASS! Hundreds of sharpened pencils, adrenaline pumping? You’ll need that protection.
Three stars from me.