No WSJ today, and no Fireball this week because of Thanksgiving.
Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
First of all, Happy 25th Puzzleversary to Will Shortz! 25 years ago yesterday, this Peter Gordon puzzle became the first Shortz-edited puzzle to run in the New York Times. Of the four editors of the NYT puzzle, only Margaret Farrar (1942-1969) has held the job longer, but because the puzzle only went daily in 1950, Will Shortz has edited the most NYT crosswords (at over 9000!).
So let’s talk about this Randolph Ross puzzle, shall we? Each of the theme clues is a word in ALL CAPS with one letter chopped off. Those clues are wacky representations of the four theme phrases, as will become clear:
- 17a, HEADLESS CHICKEN [OWARD]. “Coward” without its head (i.e., its first letter). I don’t know if “headless chicken” is a standalone phrase. “(Like) a chicken with its head cut off,” absolutely. The only Google hit I got for “headless chicken” was a literal headless chicken that was marginally famous in the 1940s, which I don’t think merits it being a theme phrase.
- 25a, BOTTOMLESS PIT
R]. “Quarry” without its bottom letter.
- 42a, ENDLESS SUMMER [SEASO]. “Season” without its end. This is only familiar to me as the famous surfing documentary, with “The.”
- 57a, TOPLESS SWIMSUIT
I]. “Bikini” without its top. Topless swimsuits, as far as I can tell, aren’t terribly popular in the U.S. (unless you count men’s swimsuits, which are almost exclusively topless). Avant-garde fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, one of the earliest supporters of the foundational gay rights group the Mattachine Society, designed the first monokini (content warning: partial nudity) in 1964.
I like this theme idea, and I especially like the consistency of the execution. The clues are all six-letter words where exactly one letter has been removed, and four different directions (head, end, top, bottom) are represented. As I mentioned above, some of the theme phrases didn’t thrill me, which detracted from my overall enjoyment of the puzzle.
The grid is an ambitious 70 words, plus the grid pattern is severely restricted by the fact that the theme answers are two 15s and two 13s. The fill suffered accordingly. No entries stood out to me as exceptional, and the SE corner (ESTH, NUIT, -STER, -ITA) was particularly rough.
A few more bullet points:
- I’ve been seeing a lot more clues for ERAT referencing quod erat faciendum than the usual quod erat demonstrandum lately. Not sure what set off that trend.
- I was surprised to see how often I GAVE had been in the puzzle before (this is the 12th time in the Shortz Era). It’s not a very in-the-language standalone entry without “already” (as evidenced by it being clued as a partial in its first 7 Shortz-era appearances), but I guess necessity is the mother of invention.
- I only noticed two “?” clues:
- 7d, DISARMED [Took the heat off of?], and
- 20a, ACHE [Distress signal?]. I didn’t really love either of them.
A hearty meh from me. Until next time!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Friendsgiving” — Ben’s Review
It’s Thanksgiving! You’re all off with family or, like me, celebrating with family tomorrow and binging all of MST3k: The Gauntlet today, so let’s keep this brief. BEQ invited a bunch of people over for friendsgiving!
- 17A:Actor Mineo and feminist poet Rich are bringing the appetizer — SAL ADRIENNE (salad is not a Thanksgiving food. Unless it’s one of those dessert-y jello/cream cheese sort of salads)
- 20A: Comic Goldberg and “Rap God” rapper are bringing the desert — WHOOPI EMINEM
- 35A:Pianist Rubinstein and wide receiver Johnson are bringing the entree — ARTUR KEYSHAWN
- 54A:”Orinoco Flow” singer and a video game maze runner are bringing a side dish — ENYA MS. PACMAN
- 58A:And finally, guitarist Clapton and saxophonist Coleman are bringing another side — ERIC ORNETTE
Pretty straightforward – each of these pairs of names conceals a Thanksgiving food.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
Robin Stears’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Quite an impressive anagram find this one. Four six letter sets without an ‘S’ – THORNE / THERON / THRONE and HORNET. Also the first time I think I’ve seen CHARLIZETHERON as a full name, so big ups there.
I finished on IRS / LISI. The [Returns home?] clue is brilliant and baffled me. I also don’t recall meeting old actress Virna LISI (could be LISI Virna? No, Virna LISI.) YODOG is something I haven’t seen in a puzzle before, I think. It looks deliberately chosen to spruce up the quiet bottom corner. I like geography answers, so UTRECHT made me smile. Some of you may have struggled, and I think it was locked into the grid early, because it is one of many answers crossing two themers today.
I managed to get through a PhD in math never having seen QEF. So let’s just say I’m not a fan of the recent trend referencing that.
NYT: I like the theme. It made me smile.
Thanks to all involved in bringing us the daily puzzle, constructors, editors, reviewers and commenters in this great community.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Nice write-up. I really appreciated the nice links to additional info.
I was upset at the puzzle because I thought “No, Howard was a duck!” Now I see that it was Coward. Duh on me.
I had the exact same moment of confusion! I liked this puzzle quite a bit other than the first themer–I agree with both this blog and the Rex Parker blog that HEADLESS CHICKEN just isn’t a thing.
I guess I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t like the NYT puzzle. For me, two of the four theme answers didn’t work. “Headless” doesn’t really work with chicken meaning coward. Chicken by itself, sure, but if anything “headless” moves the meaning of chicken away from coward and more to a confused person (a chicken with its head cut off). And a bikini is not a topless swimsuit. (See the discussion’s link to monokini.)
There are other things as well that I didn’t care for, but when half the theme entries are off, the puzzle is a disappointment.
“Coward” is synonymous with “chicken,” therefore a headless chicken is “coward” without its first letter. “[C]oward” is not supposed to be a definition for “headless chicken.” The same goes for all the theme answers: a quarry is not a bottomless pit, but just a pit. Remove the bottom (“quarry” to “quarr”) and it becomes a pit without its bottom, and hence a “bottomless pit.” A bikini is not a topless swimsuit, and a season is not necessarily an endless summer.
Thanks very much, SCA, for your helpful explanation.
A Canuck here just wondering why BEQ’s 20 across refers to bringing the “desert” instead of “dessert”? Is that an American spelling?
It’s a trademark BEQ misspelling. It should be dessert.