Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword
The theme is tied together by ALL-WISE in the middle, clued as [Like King Solomon...or an oral hint to 17- and 62-Across and 11- and 29-Down]. I am familiar with Solomon’s wisdom and with the term all-knowing, but ALL-WISE is sounding weird to me. Is it just me? Those four theme entries contain “all Y’s,” no other vowels, and are all 100% made-up:
- 17A. FLY SPRYLY BY is [Race energetically past?].
- 62A. [Native African's musical beat?] is PYGMY RHYTHM.
- 11D. GYPSY CRYPT is [Where an old wanderer is interred?]. Wow, GYPSY and PYGMY both? This kinda has a weird “remember when people called them that?” vibe.
- 29D. [What Romeo and Juliet had to do?] is SYNC TRYSTS. Unsynced trysts are rather lonely affairs.
The theme is kinda wyrd (that’s the Old English predecessor of “weird,” originally meaning “destiny”). The highlights for me lie elsewhere:
- 49D. SYZYGY is the [Alignment of celestial bodies]. Cool word.
- 30A. FRAIDY CAT is a [Yellow one].
- 12D, 13D. SERENA Williams, [Sister of Venus], stands beside TWO-SET, [Like some short tennis matches] between female players. Serena and Venus both have probably won a boatload of two-set matches.
- 58A. Brand-name ZIPLOC is a [Popular sandwich bag].
- 20A. TATTOO is clued with [It sometimes depicts a dragon or a tiger]. My grandpa had, I believe, a dragon and a lady, from a Shanghai tattoo artist when he was in the Navy 90-some years ago.
My real and fake names almost make a joint appearance today: There’s AMY, [Singer Winehouse], and ORANG, a [Banana-loving zoo critter]. The ORANG would probably prefer to be known for its life outside captivity, mind you.
The least familiar answer to me is 54D: OPHIR, [Biblical land with "ivory and apes and peacocks"]. The Bible says that every three years, Solomon got shipments of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes, and peacocks from Ophir.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Albacore”—Janie’s review
At the core of all of Randy’s two-word theme phrases is the word alba–which spans the end of the first word and the beginning of the second. There is, however, no “tuna” in the grid and I miss it. The theme phrases are fine (two of ‘em are far better than that), but the theme would be better served with something more than the title pulling it together. On its own, I don’t really understand what alba signifies. Or that’s my take anyway. At any rate, the theme phrases are:
- 17A. FINANCIAL BACKER [Venture capitalist]. This feels a little BEIGE [Light brown] as a kick-off phrase.
- 25A. CRYSTAL BALL [Fortune teller's prop]. Much better. Clearly…
- 53A. NAVAL BATTLE [Guadalcanal, for one]. A reminder, too, of the way conflicts used to be fought. Recent naval battles? The Falklands War had its share. These days, though, it seems the closest thing we have to naval battles is the piracy in the Somali waters off of Africa.
- 55A. CLASSICAL BALLET [Margot Fonteyn's milieu]. I’m trying to think if there are ballerinas from more recent generations who have achieved Fonteyn’s world-class status. The closest I can come is Suzanne Farrell, but as brilliant a dancer as she was, I couldn’t say that she’s genuinely in Fonteyn’s league. In this case, it’s true once again: “there is nothin’ like a Dame”…
There’s a lot to like in the non-theme fill and cluing, my faves including:
- CANTATA [Bach composition]. Anyone for the “Coffee Cantata“?
- SOAPDISH [1991 Sally Field film]. Screenplay by Robert Harling (of Steel Magnolias fame). Kevin Kline playing a wonderfully washed-up, hammy actor was in this, too.
- WANNABE [Pretender].
- SNORT [Quick quaff]. Yesterday we had a clue featuring Andy Capp–the comic strip character who can always be counted on to enjoy a quick snort or three.
- [Pippi Longstocking, for one] for SWEDE. I never read the Pippi books, but always liked the way she was illustrated.
- That [Japanese dog] is an AKITA. It crosses KOBE, a major Japanese port-city, but which is clued today as [Bryant of the Lakers].
- There’s a nice palindromic cross of (the almost-alba) ELBA [Island near Corsica] and ABLE [Up to the task]. FLIP [Tumbling maneuver] tumbles gently over the second “L” of …ballet, too.
- And how can ya not love being reminded of the ["And they give you cash, which is just as good as money" speaker], Yogi BERRA? I confess, though, given the logic of that observation, the first name that came to mind was the (one letter shy) George (W.) BUSH…
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Gareth’s theme is “[pronoun + to be, contraction] a [noun]” song titles, and he’s got four of ‘em. Last May 11, Fred Piscop had an NYT puzzle with Gareth’s I’M A…, SHE’S A…, and HE’S A… songs, but with YOU’RE SO VAIN in lieu of WE’RE A WINNER. I didn’t know that last song, but included this video of it in my L.A. Crossword Confidential post—the song’s great. Thanks, Gareth, for bringing it to our attention. Super-tight theme with the parallel grammatical structure of all four theme entries.
Favorite clue: 25D: [Earthmoving machine, and hopefully not the one driving it] for DOZER.
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
At long last, “NO SHIT, SHERLOCK” finds a solid reason to become a crossword answer. Combine it with WATSON AND CRICK and you’ve got Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, lead characters in Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic A STUDY IN SCARLET. I’ve been hearing mostly bad things about the new Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr., but I also heard that his eyes twinkle in it, and I’m a big fan of his eyes. So sue me.
With just the three theme entries, Brendan’s got the wiggle room to work 10 8-letter answers into the fill, most notably SPIKE LEE, a PUB CRAWL, and little SPUD WEBB. Overall, this puzzle seemed a bit easier than most Onion crosswords for me. Is it just that it’s an easy enough theme combined with a BEQ themeless (72 words, yo), and I’ve been averaging one BEQ themeless a week for about a year? Speaking of which…up next, “Themeless Wednesday” at Brendan’s blog.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Wednesday”
This 68-worder has triple- and quad-stacked 8s in the corners. I felt mildly vexed by prepositions this time. IN CARE is basically a 6-letter partial that looks weird without its trailing “of.” The ASPIRE clue needs a [...with "to"], doesn’t it? CAME ON seemed weird for [Started], but makes perfect sense if you’re thinking of a TV show or concert performer. ON TOE is prepositional too, but works fine for [Pirouetting]. We’ve seen IN A TIE plenty before, too. But MESSES IN, clued as [Interferes with]? That felt off to me.
Lotsa grammar for EDITORS—[They're experts in cases] as well as verb TENSES. EDITORS have a normal job. Today’s odd-jobbers are the SALTER and some STEALERS. Aw, no Stealers Wheel reference? Or a switch to the STEELERS crossing the German word ALLE?
Too bad MEDICINE and IRISHMAN appeared together without their obvious restorative partner, GUINNESS.