Andrew Chaikin’s New York Times crossword, “21”—Amy’s write-up
The theme is “21,” and all six 21-letter theme entries are clued . AGE FOR DRINKING LEGALLY (of course, LEGAL DRINKING AGE is way better, but it’s only got 16 letters), NUMBER ONE ALBUM BY ADELE (not her first album—that was 19—but her first #1 in the US), GUNS IN A MILITARY SALUTE, SPOTS ON ALL SIDES OF A DIE (I prefer PIPS but that would make it a 20), WINNING BLACKJACK TOTAL, and LETTERS IN THESE ANSWERS. I liked this a lot better than most themes in which the clues and answers are basically swapped.
There were a few grievous bits of crosswordese and cruft that barked at me. TEN LB, OCC, STENS, HI-SPEED (my eyes read that as “his peed”), EL RIO clued as an unincorporated community in California, SMALL A’S (whaaat? no!), SSTS, AT. NO., and the stunningly uncommon-in-crosswords TERNI, 57d. [Italian city where St. Valentine was born].
Six more things:
- 69d. [Guardian Angel Curtis ___] SLIWA. Now, this is an uncommon surname, and if you didn’t live in a city that had Guardian Angels patrolling the trains, I can’t imagine you weren’t asking “WTF??” while solving. With the could-be-misconstrued [Loos] clue for WCS (Britspeak for bathrooms, aka water closets) crossing SLIWA at the W, there are probably going to be plenty of newspaper copies of this puzzle with an error here. (It was easy-peasy for me, though! The Guardian Angels and their trademark red berets were in Chicago when I was a young suburbanite.)
- 33a. [Former Nebraska senator James] EXON. Between this guy, Curtis SLIWA, CLEA DuVall, LON NOL, medieval TRISTAN, David Ogden STIERS, CHITA Rivera … yeah, some tough names for many solvers to wrangle.
33d. [Nonpoisonous, as mushrooms], EDIBLE. Now, I don’t generally eat mushrooms, so I’m no expert. But I can’t help thinking there are mushrooms out there that aren’t toxic but are also not considered edible because they taste terrible. But maybe they all taste sort of similar? Don’t ask me.
- 111a. [Shape of every Baha’i temple], NONAGON. I drove past the one north of Chicago this morning. Just now learned from their website that the building is ringed by nine different gardens. I must go visit soon!
- 75d. [Old civil rights org.], SNCC. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Congressman John Lewis chaired SNCC in his early to mid 20s. Have you seen the commencement address he gave at Harvard? It’s worth the 18 minutes of your time to watch it. (I don’t think there’s a transcript available yet.)
3.3 stars from me.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Stop Making Excuses” – Erin’s writeup
We’ve got some conjunction expunction from common phrases this week:
- 23a. [“Between dried grapes made by Mr. Ripken and Ms. Peeples, which do you prefer?”] CAL OR NIA RAISINS. “California Raisins” minus IF.
- 29a. [Attractive, as a slithery fish would be?] EEL PRETTY. “I Feel Pretty” minus IF.
- 37a. [“This floral ring’s not long enough”?] LEI’S TOO SHORT. “Life is too short” minus IF.
- 63a. [Well-liked opponent of the GOP?] POPULAR DEM. “Popular demand” minus AND.
- 65a. [Fighting forces commanded by the leader of the Police?] STING ARMIES. “Standing armies” minus AND.
- 81a. [Sweet dessert shaped like pitcher Young?] CHOCOLATE CY. “Chocolate candy” minus AND.
- 83a. [Cutlery belonging to the star of “Moonstruck”?] CHER KNIVES. “Butcher knives” minus BUT.
- 106a. [Lift weights?] ELEVATOR TONS. “Elevator buttons” minus BUT.
- 119a. [“Mr. Sajak, be less noisy”] PAT SOFTER. “Pats of butter” minus BUT.
- 125a. [“I don’t want to hear any excuses,” as well as a hint to this puzzle’s theme] NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS
- 1d. [Seller of the Crispy Colonel Sandwich] KFC. Apparently it took them until 2018 to put a boneless piece of chicken on a bun with mayo and pickles.
- 27a. [Gun-control activist González] EMMA. So much love and respect for this remarkable young woman.
- 86d. [Wild plum] SLOE. Fellow crossword bloggers Lena Webb and Michael Sharp have a podcast named “On the Grid.” In one episode they discuss SLOE as well as EELs.
- 5d. [“Rainbow Connection” singer] KERMIT. Let’s end with a rendition of the song featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy along with Queen Latifah and John Legend.
Gail Grabowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Suppressed Urges”—Amy’s write-up
I didn’t find the theme too exciting. YEN is 107d. [Urge hidden in this puzzle’s eight longest answers], and each theme answer follows the —Y EN— format.
- 25a. [No-fuss course], EASY ENTREE. I’m not sure this is a legit stand-alone phrase.
- 27a. [“Spin” that really doesn’t affect the ball], BODY ENGLISH. The zippiest of the themers.
- 44a. [Invitation enclosure], REPLY ENVELOPE.
- 83a. [“Curious though it may seem … “], “FUNNILY ENOUGH…”
- 99a. [Fairy tale feature], HAPPY ENDING.
- 104a. [Frank account, e.g.], DIARY ENTRY. The clue uses both the “honest” sense of frank and Anne Frank here.
- 35d. [Focusing completely], FULLY ENGAGED.
- 40d. [Military construction expert], ARMY ENGINEER.
I prefer Sunday themes that feel a bit playful, and “these letters are in the middle of those phrases” doesn’t fit that mold.
Favorite fill: “BUNDLE UP!”, DOES LAPS, BOTNET, and the implausible consonant run of CFL BULBS.
Five more things:
- 61a. [Wine label first name], CARLO. More accurately, [Jug wine label first name]! Carlo Rossi wines are specifically in big glass jugs. Some poor ad copy from their website: “For forty years, people have been enjoying Carlo Rossi’s unpretentious, fruit forward red and white wine in a jug. Carlo Rossi, the man, always believed that good wine doesn’t have to cost a lot, that is a belief that Carlo Rossi has stuck by. From the delicious grapes to the sturdy glass jug, quality and value has been the goal. ¶ There are many theories about why Carlo Rossi wine comes in a jug. Some say it’s from the grape stomps. People would gather for a grape stomp and carry the fresh juice home in a jug. Others think it is about the convenience. A ring makes it easy to carry, pour and share. But we think it’s just another way Carlo Rossi wine stands out from the crowd. No matter what the reason is, be sure to enjoy your jug of wine with friends and family.” LOL.
- 20a. [Donovan of “Clueless”], ELISA. Not one of the main five characters. Are we this hard up for notable CARLOs and ELISAs?
- 69a. [Landlord’s sign], TO LET. I call a foul on this, since it’s not an American term but there’s no hint of that in the clue. This is perennially one of my least favorite phrasal entries.
- 54d. [Light beer?], PALE ALE. I really wanted this to be PILSNER, though the question mark would probably be a bit out of place then. Your PALE ALEs of the India style, IPAs, are rarely my cup of … pilsner.
- 92a. [He pardoned Richard], GERALD. Ah, Watergate, Ah, presidential corruption and impeachment and pardoning by an ally.
Three stars from me.
Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon’s CRooked Crossword, “Marathoner’s Playlist”—Laura’s review
This puzzle’s theme makes more sense if you remember that the CRooked is the Boston Globe‘s Sunday puzzle, published five weeks later. Five weeks ago was the Boston Marathon; as everyone knows, NATICK is a town at the eighth mile of the course. Cox & Rathvon imagine songs to run by:
- [27a: Front racer’s tune?]: LEADER OF THE PACK
- 45a: Track for fatigued finishers?]: BACK BAY SHUFFLE
- 61a: Marathoners’ anthem?]: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
- 84a: Song of racers hitting the
wall?]: RUNNING ON EMPTY
- 98a: Uphill stop for tuned-in
racers?]: HEARTBREAK HOTEL
- 4a: Number about personal
bests?]: GOOD TIMES
- 78a: Song of racers’ readiness?]: FOOTLOOSE
The song I hadn’t heard of in this list is BACK BAY SHUFFLE, which is a swingin’ Artie Shaw tune to which you could dance a swell foxtrot. According to a noted jazz blog, the song is “a little tone poem describing the scramble of musicians after a late Boston gig to catch the last train back to New York, lest they be stranded over night.” You can catch a train to New York at Back Bay Station; Back Bay is also the neighborhood where the Boston Marathon ends. The 2013 Marathon bombing at the finish line killed three people and injured hundreds. This year was the fifth anniversary of the bombing; if you’re interested, check out Our Marathon, a “digital memorial” and oral history site created by librarians, archivists, and students from Northeastern University.