David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Revolutionary”—Amy’s write-up
The “Revolutionary” theme includes two 12-letter entries, a row of four rotating BALLs in circled squares, and four long entries that include the 4 letters of BALL in one of those rotated orders:
- 24a. [Drives around awhile … as suggested by this puzzle’s circled squares?], GOES FOR A SPIN.
- 119a. [1965 #1 Byrds hit … as suggested by this puzzle’s circled squares?], “TURN, TURN, TURN.”
- 3d. [Kicks things off], GETS THE BALL ROLLING. A perfect first themer showpiece. The BALL in this phrase rolls from the B through the A-L-L and on down to ROLLING.
- 20d. [1973 play featuring a sign with a burned-out “E”], THE HOT L BALTIMORE, with the BALL now rolling in LBAL order.
- 49d. [Full of empty talk], ALL BARK AND NO BITE, with the BALL rotated one more notch over to LLBA.
- 42d. [Baker or dry cleaner, maybe], SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, with the BALL in fourth position, ALLB. The next rotation would return us to the original BALL.
The other three entries intersecting each of the spinning BALLs are entirely smooth, with just one abbrev. Now, it surprised me that the BALLs are in a row in the top half of the grid, rather than symmetrically slotted with two above, two below—but it’s easier to see the rotational progression with them all lined up this, so I think it works.
The overall fill is smooth, too. Could always do without ESSE and a Latin state motto FITB clue, but having REGIFTS at 1-Across was a lovely start.
Five more things:
- 23a. [Celebratory Native American feast], POTLATCH. Ooh, neat thing to learn. Here’s a 2008 NYT article about the potlatch tradition from the Pacific Northwest region. It’s all about gift-giving.
- 8a. [What 13-Down means in poker], I CHECK / 13d. [See 8-Across], KNOCK. Ugh, too much poker content.
- 72a. [Ones generating buzz in the music world?], KAZOOS. A literal buzzing sound, not excitement. Took me a while to figure out where this clue was going.
- 2d. [Romaine concern] E. COLI. For real. When the government cuts back on food inspections, we end up with more foodborne infections, which pose a particular risk to those of us whose immune systems have been rendered flimsy. All sorts of reasons why certain salad greens are vulnerable to bacterial contamination … which sucks because salad is a healthful thing!
- 36a. [Challenges for infielders], HOPS. I tried POPS, thinking of pop flies. Ugh, baseball terminology. There are lots of non-sportsy ways to clue a word like HOPS, of course. “Challenges for infielders” isn’t one I’d come up with in a hundred years.
Note that when you watch poker and baseball on TV, you see mostly men playing them. Are crossword puzzles—which are every bit as popular among women as men, if not more so—running the risk of alienated a big group of solvers by skewing male in the content? Probably to a degree, yes.
Four stars from me. Well-executed theme, particularly with the apt GETS THE BALL ROLLING start to it.
David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword, “Flexible Location”—Judge Vic’s write-up
The reveal is key here:
- 14d [Multipurpose, say … or a hint to the starred answers’ starts] INDOOR-OUTDOOR. I’ll reveal a tad more by saying that both indoor and outdoor may precede the first unit of two-unit items of good fill.
The themers, arranged in a pinwheel, come at us thusly:
- 18a [*Pheasants and such] GAME BIRDS
- 49a [*One may teach English] POOL SHARK
- 10d [*Range finder?] VOICE COACH
- 25d [*X-ray device] CAT SCANNER
Even with all that theme, Editor Steinberg, using the pinwheel to his advantage, has managed some nice fill:
- 14a [Exasperated words] I’M SO DONE
- 16a [Supreme Egyptian god] AMEN RA
- 17a [One who recently said “I do”] NEW BRIDE
- 27a [Like Jack Sprat’s diet] NO-FAT
- 54a [Cookie with green creme] MINT OREO
- 56a [Film in which Margot Robbie plays a skater] I TONYA
- 57a [Tesla Model 3, e.g.] CLEAN CAR
- 19d [Candy worn on a finger] RING POP
With nothing much to complain of anywhere. Nicely done! 4.2 stars.
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Flower Arrangements” – Jenni’s writeup
August 18 is Evan’s wedding anniversary, and he took advantage of his bully pulpit to send a public note to his wife. The puzzle notes say “Make some rearrangements to spell my note to my wife, whose name you’ll find in this puzzle.”
His wife is VICKI JONES; she appears at 65a and 68a, clued as [Gotham City journalist Vale (and my wife’s first name)] and [Marvel superhero Jessica (and my wife’s last name)], respectively.
The rest of the theme answers have numbers in the clues and circles in the answers:
- 25a [Certain engagement announcement (3)] is SHE SAID YES.
- 27a [How an engaged couple might speak to each other (1)] is ROMANTICALLY.
- 54a [Reside with each other, as an engaged couple might (1)] is LIVE TOGETHER.
- 76a [They often get tugged on during the recitation of wedding vows (4)] is HEARTSTRINGS.
- 89a [What an engaged couple may anticipate if they plan to have children (4)] is FAMILY LIFE.
- 107a [Old monetary pledge affirming there was no legal reason a couple could not be wed (4)] is a MARRIAGE BOND.
- 110a [“I do” (4)] is ABSOLUTELY.
I figured out that there were anagrams in the circle. I got LILAC and ROSE and then I got stuck, and then I had to leave town for Lollapuzzoola. Jim Peredo bailed me out. The anagrams are DAISY, LILAC, ROSE, VIOLET, ASTER, LILY, BEGONIA, and LOTUS. That’s not a phrase. Jim figured out that if you take out the letter indicated in the number of each theme clue, those letters spell I LOVE YOU. Awww.
Evan and Vicki won the pairs championship at Lolla on Saturday! Happy Anniversary to you both!
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of a MARRIAGE BOND.
Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Done to a T” – Jenni’s write-up
Each theme answer has an extra T with wacky results.
- 22a [Naughty young athlete?] is a SPORTS BRAT (sports bra).
- 24a [Materials on a king’s palette?] are ROYAL PAINT (royal pain).
- 34a [“Don’t worry about that, Mr. Gingrich”?] is IT’S NOTHING, NEWT (it’s nothing new).
- 52a [“The Alien Simpsons” character?] is MARS BART (Mars bar). This is my favorite.
- 55a [Watery world?] is a SEA PLANET (sea plane).
- 77a [Defective phone download?] is a BAD APPLET (bad apple).
- 79a [Large pub band?] is a BAR NONET (bar none).
- 94a [Tiny golf course rental?] is a SUBCOMPACT CART (subcompact car).
- 111a [Strategy using a heavily pine-tarred bat?] is a STICKY BUNT (sticky bun).
- 113a [Tiff about a checkup?] is a HEALTH SPAT (health spa).
This is a solid, amusing theme.
A short review tonight – Lolla was fun and I am tired. Good night!
Gary Larson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “In the Beginning”—Jim P’s review
Jim P here once again, filling in. Let’s look at the theme entries before we discuss the theme.
- 22a [“G” as in grocery store event?] GRAND OPENING
- 30a [“S” as in Super Nintendo Entertainment System rival?] SEGA GENESIS
- 38a [“B” as in ballpark souvenir?] BOBBLEHEAD
- 65a [“C” as in candidate’s early concern?] CAMPAIGN KICKOFF
- 90a [“F” as in football penalty?] FALSE START
- 98a [“L” as in lordly gesture?] LADIES FIRST
- 113a [“R” as in roaring send-off?] ROCKET LAUNCH
So let’s see if I have this straight. The theme is phrases whose first letter is also the first letter of another word that clues it? Am I missing something? Because that feels very, very loose.
Let’s see if I can come up with my own themers. Okay…How about FIREPLACE [“F” as in flaming locale?]. Or DOG TIRED [“D” as in droopy?]. Or TEDDY BEAR [“T” as in toddler’s toy?].
I could go on (and on). Do you see what I mean? There are very few constraints here meaning the theme in and of itself is rather unsatisfying.
But if you were to solve this as a themeless, it’s much better, especially once you include some of the surrounding stellar fill like: FINE TUNE, EVEN KEEL, SPANX, SYNERGIES (somehow the plural makes this oft-used business term even more esoteric), GAIN FAVOR, BEST BET, COURTNEY, TOO SMALL, MONK SEAL, CANTEENS, KLEENEX, POLE CAT, LOW RATE, MCENROE, BAFFLES, SEA BASS, ARMS SALE, GOES MAD, and MA BARKER. Wow! That’s a lot of good stuff.
There are a few rankling entries, mostly centered around GAIN FAVOR for some reason. I had trouble with the G in ORIG [Copy machine insert, briefly]. Maybe because “briefly” implies (to me) that it’s something people say, which in this case they don’t. If the clue had been [Copy machine insert, abbr.], I think that would have made more sense. The other two I had trouble with were SULFA [Antibacterial drug] (never heard of it) and VILAS [Argentine tennis star Guillermo] (never heard of him). But beyond those, any other little nits I encountered fell well within the noise.
The bottom line? For the theme I’d say 2.5 stars, for the fill 4 stars. Average that out to, let’s say, 3.25.