David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme feels tardy, since the BOHEMIAN / RHAPSODY movie came out on November 2 in the U.S., and if you’re gonna have a Queen theme in fall 2018, shouldn’t it be tied in to that? Anyway, BOHEMIAN and RHAPSODY appear in circled letters in the top and bottom rows, for no discernible reason. 20a/58a is FREDDIE / MERCURY (and I see it’s NYT style to use “frontman,” while at my job we follow Merriam-Webster’s “front man,” even though I prefer “frontman”). His band QUEEN (39a) apparently gave an iconic performance at 25d LIVE AID, which wasn’t in my memory so I looked it up. See below for a 24-minute video of it. Uselessly, the theme answers also include 22a. [25-Down, notably], CONCERT], and 55a. [25-Down, notably], BENEFIT. Why wouldn’t you just find a regular place in the grid for BOHEMIAN and RHAPSODY in the grid, and chuck CONCERT and BENEFIT? I suspect David was keen on the pretty symmetry of the 7/7 pairs connected by the LIVE AID vertical, which in turn is crossed by QUEEN in the middle. But I think most solvers are noticing the fill and clues more than the placement of the themers, no?
Anyway, Freddie Mercury was a legend, and I haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody yet but I look forward to it. I feel like “We Are the Champions” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (the latter is at about the 12:30 point in the video) were maybe the most memorable rock songs of my junior high years.
Wasn’t digging much of the fill, alas. APORT crossing FORA in the opening corner. The implausible SEA FISH (perhaps this is a more common term outside the U.S.?). EVIE ENRY CUER ETYMA. And the acutely unpleasant NAZI, which I was able to find a work-around for in less than 5 minutes and I’m not a gridding whiz. IRONIC IRE CAL CRESS crossing NICE IRAS CELS isn’t great, but NAZI and OWIE aren’t so hot, either. These things make me SURLY.
Three more things:
- How many people go zip-lining ON A DARE, as the clue suggests? I’ve only been on bogus zip-lining (where two people are seated on a thing, zoom down the hill, and then are ratcheted back up the hill—not legit!). And I don’t think someone daring me would get me to do real zip-lining, just deciding on my own. What say you?
- 15a. [Big publisher of romance novels], AVON. Feels like a fresh clue, and I like it.
- 59a. [White mushroom], ENOKI. Question for the mushroom lovers: Is this one you cook with much? I am a mushroom eschewer, so I spend very little time looking at the grocery store’s selection of mushrooms. Are ENOKIs everywhere? Mainly for Japanese cuisine?
Five stars for Queen, 3.2 stars for the theme and fill.
David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Put Your Oar In” — Jim P’s review
Our theme today changes “ur” sounds to “or” sounds. The title ostensibly gives us reason to do so.
- 17a [Pool hall problem?] TORN TABLES. Turntables.
- 21a [Like a thourough paint job?] FOUR COAT. Fur coat.
- 37a [Like a well-equipped aquarium exhibit?] MULTI-PORPOISE. Multi-purpose. I like this one, despite the fact that the “purpose”/”porpoise” pun is ages old.
- 55a [Final stop on a hospital intern’s itinerary?] LAST WARD. Last word. This one feels like a missed opportunity. Surely there were more interesting options.
- 61a [On a shopping spree?] STORE CRAZY. Stir crazy. Another good one. Especially as we are waist-deep in the shopping season.
I liked this fine, and I liked a couple of them more than fine, but it feels pretty wide open. It seems like there are a lot of other possibilities that might result in more interesting entries. I spent just a couple minutes looking and came up with THUNDERING HOARD and BORED OF PARADISE which are both grid-spanners and have potential for humorous clues (although the latter might not due to the wildfires in California).
I love those big corners in the grid with 6s, 7s, and 8s. They’re impressively filled, too, with MELODIES, SKETCHY, MANDARIN, UNTESTED, timely TARIFF, and more. Other goodies include THWART, SLEIGH, and the SWOONS/DROOP crossing.
I’m not so keen on ECLAT [Showy style], SOPS as a plural noun [Placatory offerings], and CUE IN [Bring up to date] (which seemed like it should be CLUE IN) crossing the weird PELF [Loot] (which seemed like it should be PILF, as in short for “pilfer,” even though that’s not a word but a lewd acronym on Urban Dictionary — if you have delicate sensibilities, especially when it comes to baked goods, don’t look).
I had a couple of miscues in that NE corner which made unraveling it a bit tricky.
- I wanted PERQ for PERK [Fringe benefit]. This led to me putting in SQUISHY for the clue [Vague] which I quite liked, even more than the actual answer SKETCHY.
- Just below that I had JOHN for the clue [1976 Wimbledon loser to Bjorn]. When that didn’t work, I switched to IVAN. Bzzt! Wrong again. I should have known it was ILIE Năstase.
Clues of note:
- 5a [Tell target]. APPLE. That’s William Tell and the fruit, not the company.
- 29a [Middle-earth resident]. I’m debating taking a fidget spinner and labeling the three ends ELF, ORC, and ENT, then using that to determine which to fill in whenever this clue comes up. This time I would have needed it to land on ELF to be correct.
- 57d [Explorer with a monkey pal]. DORA. Got me. I was thinking real explorers and briefly considered DESOTO.
A fine puzzle, though the theme felt a little loose. 3.5 stars.
Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #33” — Ben’s Review
It’s a themeless week at the AV Club, and Kameron was NOT playing around in his clues this week:
- 21A: McConnell whose family almost went broke treating his childhood polio, although that doesn’t seem to have left much of an impression — MITCH (???, spare me your “the crossword shouldn’t have political opinions” takes)
- 27A: Comic whose defense of old homophobic tweets was apparently more important than his career — KEVIN HART (????? This clue had me screaming, as the kids say on Twitter)
- 31A: PC People? — SIMS (this was clever)
- 45A:”I Feel for You” singer — CHAKA KHAN (a happy Chakakhanukah to those who celebrated last week)
- 50A: Wayne features — OATERS
- Some really lovely stacks in the upper and lower corners: OSCAR WILDE, STAYCATION, and PE TEACHERS up top, JUNETEENTH, ADULT VIDEO, and NAIL SALONS down below). The clue on NAIL SALONS (“Filing places”) was very nice
- Also nice, this time in the down fill: MANSCAPE, TAPA BARS, LAX TEAM, W.H. AUDEN, RAPA NUI, and ORLANDO.
- RATBERT popping up in the fill reminds me that Dilbert as a comic strip has become the sort of stale corporate stuff it used to mock, and that Scott Adams has terrible opinions about politics! Enjoy your day.
This is EXACTLY what I want from an AV Club crossword – fresh fill that’s a mix of “high-” and “low-” cultural references and clues that aren’t afraid to be timely
Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Apologies for the extremely late blogging.
I noticed early on during solving that it was odd DARJEELING‘s clue didn’t mention TEA, since that is its “only” claim to fame. Turns out there’s a good reason. The revealer is CROSSTHETS and we have three pairs of TEAS, though not clued explicitly, and sometimes jumping over hoops in order to do so. The TEAS very in specificity, but can all be completed by ___ TEA.
[Hook-shaped ski lift], JBAR / JELL seems gratuitous, but if you tell me JBAR lifts are more common than TBARS, I will be mollified.