Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It took me more than a few minutes to figure out what was going on with the theme clues in Patrick Merrell’s latest for the NYT.
- 17A: ABCDE — ABSCONDED
- 21A: FGHI — AFGHANI
- 26A: JKL — JUNK PILE
- 38A: MNOP — HEISMAN TROPHIES
- 46A: QRST — SQUAREST
- 55A: UVW — PURVIEW
- 62A: XYZ — OXYGENIZE
I’m not quite sure how to classify the theme on this one. Each word contains that consecutive pattern of letters in order, but there’s one answer where a letter appears out of order from the clue (the initial S in SQUAREST). The answers here are interesting choices, but I wish there was a little more connective tissue behind why these words were chosen, otherwise this plays like a themeless with some eccentric clues for four of its entries. If that’s all that’s going on here, I’m underwhelmed to say the least.
Elsewhere in the fill: PORTFOLIO! RIDESHARE! SPAM facts (it was invented in 1937)!
I’m much more familiar with WILCO as a relatively prolific indie rock band than I am with it being “‘Got it, I’m on it,’ in radio lingo” per 16A
Rabbit Rabbit! CIAO!
Pam Klawitter’s Universal Crossword, “Oh, Come On”—Judge Vic’s write-up
THEME: So, we’ll be seeing O’s appended to recognized terms:
- BURST OF SPEEDO
- QUEEN OF THE MAYO. Queen of May seems to be the preferred term. But I’d’ve been fooled by either.
- THE FALL OF ROMEO. … I’d have preferred the be deleted in this one and the one before it. Trimming each to 11x, which might’ve been more manageable.
- AN ARM AND A LEGO
13-14-14-13. That makes it tough to keep the fill stellar. Let’s look at the good and not so much, the rest being average and fully acceptable:
I’m thinking 2.8 stars.
Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Surrounded by Loved Ones”—Jim P’s review
Oh ho ho! It’s time for a little payback! *rubs hands together with glee*
And I quote:
“Finally, I really liked many of Jim’s new-to-the-NYT-xw entries, but BESTIE made me pause. I read a lot of middle grade and young adult lit for research, and I personally don’t want this to open the floodgates to such similar vocabulary as ADORBS (adorable) and TOTES (totally). Feels beneath the NYT.” – Jeff Chen, XWord Info, Dec 14, 2014, regarding my crossword puzzle of the day.
“Beneath the NYT”, eh? But not beneath the WSJ, hmm?
I kid, of course. I’m a big fan of Jeff’s amazing work both in puzzledom and in the fact that he recently got his first novel published. How cool is that?!
But on to today’s grid, BESTIE notwithstanding!
Jeff’s found words that are composed of two parts: the outer (circled) letters spell out a synonym for “friends” and the inner letters comprise a completely separate word which takes the clue. This is revealed to us at 37a [With 39-Across, a description of the answers inside 17-, 24-, 49- and 60-Across] BETWEEN / FRIENDS.
- 17a [Hebrew name meaning “lion”] BESTI(ARI)ES. ARI inside the reviled BESTIES.
- 24a [Big name in 19th-century fur trading] P(ASTOR)ALS. ASTOR inside PALS.
- 49a [Common unit of work] ALL(ERG)IES. ERG inside ALLIES.
- 60a [Fancy plates] MA(CHINA)TES. CHINA inside MATES.
A nice set, eh? I especially like the last find which is a nice contrast to the rather bland ERG. But I really like the theme concept as a whole, and both the title and revealer are spot on.
As per Jeff’s usual, there’s plenty of lively fill to sink our teeth into, such as DOG CRATE, WATERBUG, ENERGETIC, FRIDAYS, DORADO, SNEAKY, LAREDO, and NOSE FLUTE [Wind instrument common in Polynesia]. I’ll have you know that my ancestors come from Micronesia, not Polynesia and we use our noses for smelling things, not for blowing snot onto musical instruments. Seriously. You have a mouth. Use it!
- 29a [Letters on many towers]. AAA. “Towers” rhymes with “mowers” here.
- 30a [Site of some hookups: Abbr.]. ICU. I’m just going to take this clue literally and believe that it’s referring to I-V hookups, and not to any sort of sordid goings-on in the hospital.
- 56a [Home of the annual Jamboozie music festival]. LAREDO. I don’t know anything about this, but since my last name rhymes with LAREDO, I have a soft spot for the town.
Nice theme and puzzle with fun fill throughout. 3.8 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 130”–Jenni’s write-up
Peter sends us into the annual FB hiatus with a chewy themeless. I was surprised when I looked at the time – I thought it took me much longer.
1a was a gimme: [“I’ll have what she’s having” in “When Harry Met Sally …” was said by his mother] is ROB REINER. I filled in that corner fairly easily and then came to a screeching halt. I don’t watch “The Voice” (10d). I was listening to music in the 1970s and 80s so I know that [Lead singer of the Pretenders] at 14d is Chrissie HYNDE, but the rest of that corner did not yield.
I dropped in words here and there until I got a decent foothold in the central east portion of the puzzle. It was a worthwhile challenge.
- 16a [Like Jarlsberg] is HOLEY, not SWISS, as I first thought. I have Jarlsberg in my eggs every morning. Mmm.
- 21d [Long rides] are LIMOS.
- 24d [Nerds] are POINDEXTERS. This made me laugh.
- 38a [Turns (over)] is KEELS, which isn’t quite right. KEELS over is more akin to FALLS over than TURNS over.
- 42d [May broadcast on the BBC] is THERESA. Great clue.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: the aforementioned Voice coach is Blake SHELTON. Jimmy Stewart was born in INDIANA, PA (but I know what year he graduated from college!). DMX had his first five studio albums debut at #1. Brian ENO recorded an album called “Thursday Afternoon” in 1985.
I leave you with Chrissie.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Softening Up” —Andy’s review
Brendan claims this is a repeat of an old puzzle, but I can’t find any records of it on his site or on Crossword Fiend. So let’s do a quick recap, shall we?
The title, “Softening Up,” refers to some hard “G” sounds becoming soft “G” sounds, to punny effect. Like so:
- 17a, JAWS BANDAGE [Shark Ace?]. Gauze bandage.
- 25a, JILT TRIPS [Excursions taken to leave your betrothed at the altar?]. Guilt trips.
- 35a, GOLDEN JUICE [Smoothie made of bananas, pineapple and honey?]. Golden goose.
- 49a, JOEL LINES [What’s posted on a karaoke screen when someone is singing “Uptown Girl”?]. Goal lines.
- 59a, MYSTERY JEST [Unknown witticism?]. Mystery guest.
Classic BEQ: Lovely theme entries where the spelling of the affected word changes every time, funny theme clues, etc. etc. There are some fun J words necessitated by the theme, my favorites being A.J. FOYT and FAJITAS.
Fun stuff! I certainly didn’t remember solving this one, so it was new to me :) Until next time!
Jack Murtagh’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
The theme is definitely more creative and intricate than most we see at the LA Times. The instructional STOPDROPANDROLL is in the centre, and four answers continue on below, with the bottom part being a type of roll: DRAGON(ROLL), HONOR(ROLL), DRUM(ROLL) and BARREL(ROLL). All four are quite different, and the dragon roll was a particularly evocative touch.
The rest of the puzzle was definitely trying to stand out, with POKEBALL, KHLOE and CLOWNCAR. I do wish the EELERS/MXII area had been redone because neither of those are answers that should be in a puzzle without dire need.
Glad to know I wasn’t the only one mystified by the NYT.
And Deb’s column makes it clear we weren’t missing anything.
I immediately entered QUEEREST at 46A and was really annoyed when the crosses did not work.
For depressingly many years, I’ve played a game, mostly with myself, sometimes with friends, that goes by the name “The License Plate Game.” (At least, that’s what I call it in my own mind.)
The idea is, when bored and driving or out-and-about, to look at the usually three letter sequence on a license plate and come up with a word in which those letters appear in the same sequence. Bonus points for the shortest or longest such word. Bonus points (if so inclined) to find fill with the fewest number of different letters. Bonus points for the first letter of the license plate to be the first letter of the word and the last letter of the license plate to be the last letter of the word. (See, even the rules, such as they are, are boring.)
Anyways, having done this, as soon I filled in the first themer, internally I exclaimed, “The License Plate Game!” and enjoyed this puzzle, probably much more than most other solvers.
We play that game too! Extra special bonus points if the three letters are consecutive.
Lise and Matt: Huzzah! It’s nice to know I’m not alone!
A long-time gf and I played it competitively with earlier word in alphabetical order winning. It was a surreal aspect of our interaction, as we didn’t play it constantly, but every so often one of us would seemingly out of nowhere say “AGGRANDIZED.” The weird second or two during which the other figured out what was going on is one thing I miss about that relationship. I must be healing; it doesn’t hurt anymore to write about this.
LOL… This story made my day (and my wife’s).
How else would you remember your own plate?
LAT – This was outstanding. A fresh concept, with skillful execution. The payoff was well worth the initial difficulty, though I’m a bit surprised this didn’t run on Friday, the LAT’s usual spot for tricky themes. It would have made a good ACPT puzzle. It’s hard to understand the low ratings. Five stars from me.
For me, the revealer was a clever way to highlight a crossword theme we’ve all seen before: the answer finishing on the next line. My only issue is that the four themers don’t seem to be related. If I’m missing something and they are related, my rating would increase from a 3 to a 5.
And I see it now, not sure how I missed that. 5 stars.
^ 5 stars from me too. What a fun LAT!
I agree, I loved this LAT theme!
I saw the stop and drop part of the theme pretty quickly! But it took me longer to see how roll applied since I’ve never heard of a dragon roll. But honor roll, drum roll, and barrel roll made it clear!
Typo in the first listing of SQUAREST. Also, the (second) S is actually in the right order, as well as (the first S) being out of order, as is also the case with the Ds in ABSCONDED
NYT: found it unusually difficult to close out, and finished with an error at SHOW/WTC. [Card holder at a casino] / [+, briefly]. That + could mean so many things… Also struggled by putting MONAMI and thus having MOLT not BOLT (fixed) and having a DIP as a [Temperature test, of a sort] which obscured USAGES and HYDE. The puzzle theme wasn’t so tricky as the clues, very Klahnian for me.
LAT: 33A: Nobody eats those at a seder. Different holidays and most recipes are not kosher for Passover.
Thank you. Just did that puzzle and came here to say the same thing.
We make latkes now because my wife is not a fan of kugel. Yes, it’s a bit non-standard but we’ve been doing it for a few years and they’re always a hit. It turns out a lot of people are not kugel fans.
It pained me so much to use BESTIES. Alas, KINGSTON within BAKING STONES didn’t quite work out.
I’m totes going drown my sorrows by frolicking with adorbs unicorns.
We OLDS gotta adapt to the times.
Olds? I’ll accept being old, but … olds? F*** that. Sorry. That’s just c***.
I am very impressed with Jack Murtagh’s two publications. First, a WSJ on December 6, 2018, which the Fiend loved, garnering 15 ratings of 5 and an overall 4.5 score. Today, an even better variation on that theme with an added layer; but apparently only because it is published in the LAT, it has received 2 ratings of 1! What is it with this audience and the Los Angeles Times? The comments have been great; not a single negative word is written, yet at least three people hate the puzzle. What gives?
I agree. Evan summed it up yesterday better than I can but haters are gonna hate.
Shawn, I use matzo meal in my latkes year-round, but they are the food of Chanukah, not Pesach
I remember seeing a recipe that used matzo meal but didn’t think it made sense from a culinary standpoint. Either way, making latkes is too time-consuming and involves too much kitchen space to even consider making for a seder. More of a Chol HaMoed food.
BEQ: HADJI? HORSY? NOSEY? AMUCK? Is this a secondary mini-theme?
As I usually do, I put the [NYT] puzzle down because I had other things to do, and among them was my daily workout. While doing so, the ABCDE clue came to me as “absconded” but I immediately swatted it out of the way because it. Has. Two. Ds. I thought, “maybe it could be a very awkward ‘absconder’?” But nope. “Absconded.” Come on guys, follow some basic rules.
Basic rules were followed, RM. The most basic: First occurrences of the clue letters must appear in clue order in the answer.
An enhanced rule: First occurrences of the clue letters must appear in clue order in the answer before any second occurrences. AMBUSCADE would pass the basic rule above, but would fail this one, as A repeats before DE.
Granted, ABSCONDED, being the only theme entry with a second occurrence, is an “odd man out.” The only entry I know of that you would have been happy with here is ABSCONDER.
The “rule” that wasn’t followed is simply the even stricter one you’ve imposed. That doesn’t mean that a basic rule wasn’t followed.
I guess some people found the LAT, but I wish I were one of them.
I am guessing you are suggesting that you did not enjoy the LAT. What about it was not a hit with you?
Hi Lemonade. I’m one of those who didn’t enjoy the puzzle (1.5 stars from me). On the most basic level, while I can appreciate and even admire the theme construction effort, it wasn’t a fun solving experience for me. There also seemed to be a high volume of obscure cultural references (granted, this is a moving target, but obscure to me). I had no idea what a poke ball is. Nor LST. Glad you enjoyed it, but not my cup of tea.
I appreciate the response and respect your opinion. It is the 1 rating without an explanatory comment that seems silly. I do not suggest everyone should love everything, but if you give it a failing grade tell me why. Please.
What I meant was that the LAT blog was not in the list on Thursday evening when I made the comment. It is now here.
I think you’re short a “rabbit!” to secure good luck for the month… Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!