Raymond Young’s New York Times crossword
Did not like the southwest corner of the puzzle—seriously? SIGN and its plural Italian cognate SEGNI in the same puzzle? “AGRI-food industry”? THAIS?—and was not sentient enough to realize that 46D was wrong until over a minute and a half of scouring the puzzle for my wrong square. I’ve heard of Lonette MCKEE, yes, but forgot the name when I read the clue, [Lonette of "Malcolm X" and "The Cotton Club] and plunked in MCGEE. No, PING THINGS didn’t make any sense with the theme entries, because the hidden things are all PINK THINGS. Cool theme, once I managed to find it: a flamingo, eraser, and carnation are all pink, and they’re hidden in FLAMING OIL (ouch!), the lovely QUE SERA SERA (dismal clue: [Resigned response to tragedy], as when FLAMING OIL has been poured on your loved one), and INCARNATION ([A pharaoh, vis-a-vis Horus, in Egyptian myth]).
Favorite entries/clues: THIRD-HAND, which is how the best gossip is heard. Gold-tone THREEPIO, the ["Star Wars" droid, informally]. [Pump, in a way] clueing QUIZ. [Source of many a bead] of sweat is a PORE; took a while to understand the clue and finish the answer. Was briefly stumped by [Head of government?], which turned out to be the HARD G at the start of “government.”
Anti-favorites: SWEETENER clued with [It may help close the deal]. Nobody calls something that sweetens the deal a SWEETENER, do they? Would’ve liked an ace-K clue here. The too-much-Italian vibe: Besides SEGNI, crosswordese ETNA and ESSO. FRANCIS II, [The last Holy Roman Emperor], and I don’t think they saved the best for last because this guy is not so famous. My husband, the history major, he doesn’t know the name either. 13D: [Animal-like] clues ZOOID; this is a terrible word unless you’re playing Scrabble, in which case it can save your butt. I feel like the DAT clue gets things a little wrong: If you’re saying the “wit dat” part of ["What's up wit ___?"] DAT, you’re probably eliding the apostrophe-s. There’s a popular Saturday Night Live sketch called “What Up With That?” that elides the ‘s but does pronounce the “th” sounds in “with that.” And last, there’s the never-heard-of-him EDGAR, [Mitchell of Apollo 14]. I checked out his Wikipedia bio, and he sounds like a kook.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Fishing Tour”—Janie’s review
As promised in the title, today’s puzzle incorporates several words that are associated with “fishing.” Though there’s nothing that holds them together beyond that, each of the four two-word theme-phrases ends with a word related to the title activity. If not overly exciting, the phrases are all solid. There’s:
- 17A. FAIR CATCH [Punt returner's option]. Football ‘n’ fishin’. Hmmm. I guess all that’s missing is the stogie and the six-pack. The catch, of course, is what ya come home with. Or throw back…
- 10D. PLASTER CAST [Broken limb protection]. If you sustain a serious injury in that football game, say. Here’s a little “how to” on casting (throwing) your fishing pole.
- 23D. PRUNING HOOK [Broken limb remover]. Following 10D as it does, my first reaction to this clue was “Ouch!” The limb in question, however, turns out not to be of the human variety but of the botanical sort. Whew! You know what a fishing hook is. But an actual pruning hook? While I’m hardly a Bible scholar, that’s where I know this phrase from–Isaiah 2:4: He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
- 54A. PARTY LINE [Old telephone connection]. You couldn’t count on privacy with a party line and you prayed your operator wasn’t Ernestine… The hook gets attached to the line, which is cast from your rod, and you reel in your catch. MIA: the sinker (which weights the line..), the rod, the reel, the creel perhaps. So an okay, but not fully-satisfying, development of the theme. For this solver anyway.
Had most of my fun with (what I saw as) the bonus and non-theme fill. Bonus fill? Sure. There’s CLAM [Chowder bit] and [Porgy's love]. I know, I know. The “correct” answer is BESS, but in the land of “fish” puns, I couldn’t help but think of BASS…
Entomologists will appreciate the attention they get today, with the appearance of both APHID [Destructive insect] and HORSEFLY [Biting insect]. Because they have only four legs… [Jitterbugs] doesn’t make the cut. Especially since the clue and fill (JIVES) are verbs. Then, taking off from horsefly, equestrians will also appreciate [Canter or gallop] for GAIT and [Hurried pace] cluing TROT.
I like seeing: HOVEL [Crummy quarters] abutting eye-rhyme NOVEL [fictional work]; WIGS clued as [Old symbols of social status]; crossword puzzle regulars RAH and POW clued musically in connection with [Female rapper ___Digga] and ["Boom Boom ___" (#1 song by the Black Eyed Peas)]; and especially ZEST [Soap introduced with the slogan "For the first time in you life, feel really clean"] followed by BATHED [Used soap]. Who sez crosswords aren’t good clean fun?!
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
THEME: “Sex! Sex! Sex! What, here? Oh, no. Never!”—Three phrases that normally include SEX change a vowel to be something altogether not lewd.
Fun theme, definitely on the small side. Two 12s and a 13 equals 37 theme squares. That leaves room for some chipper fill, and then there are Donna’s clues, which tend to be on the fresh/fun side.
- 20A: [Music lessons for Bill Clinton?] are SAX EDUCATION. Nine band directors out of ten do not recommend the abstinence-only sex education. If you don’t pick up the sax and play it, how are you gonna be any good at it?
- 39A: [Documentary about Chicago's relationship with its team?] clues SOX AND THE CITY. Horrors! See that tall building looming behind the Wrigley Field scoreboard? It casts a shadow over my building at midday in the winter. We are Cubs fans here. Yes, some Chicagoans are White Sox fans, but that singular “its team” chafes. A good friend of mine flew out to Mesa, Arizona, this week to interview Cubs legend Ron Santo. She said he was “as great as you think.”
- 57A: THE FAIRER SIX are the [More equitable of two civil case juries?]. So…civil cases have six-person juries, I gather? I guess it would be unseemly to suggest that half of a 12-person jury could be patently unfair. Could also have gone with [Blonder third of the Duggar family's kids], except I think they surpassed 18 recently.
A few highlights:
- 43A: [Stuffing stuff] is EIDER down. Do not, I beseech you, use this in your Thanksgiving stuffing. Pillows, yes. Turkey, no.
- 60A: [With alacrity] clues APACE, which is a word Merl Reagle included on his list of flansirs, or words that are “familiar looking although never seen in reality.” Anyone else actually start using this word after seeing it in crosswords for years? I know I have. So has Joon, I believe.
- Recent movies! 2D: REMADE is clued as being [Like "The Day the Earth Stood Still," in 2008]. “Klaatu barada nikto!” There’s a generic ICE AGE, sure, but there’s also 37D: [2002 movie with Manny the Mammoth].
- 7D: AFTA is essentially a crappy brand-name answer. Not because it’s a brand name, but because it’s a not-a-household-name brand name that happens to be 4 letters long and half vowels, so it finds its way into crossword grids despite its non-prominence. But it’s got a clue that rescues it: [Aptly named shaving lotion]. “Aptly” because it’s an aftershave, an or aftashave in a Long Island accents.
- 48D. LES MIZ is the [Musical based on an 1862 novel, for short]. (The novel in question is the Victor Hugo book by the same name.) Who here has not seen the show? I saw it around 1990. Spectacle! Bombast! “Look down! Look down!”
- 49D. EDIBLE gets a slightly twisty clue: [Safe to put away].
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Attaché Cases”
I’m not sure why Across Lite Xed out my unaccented Es since it wouldn’t accept accented letters. Just something Peter did do make sure the theme’s real oomph wasn’t overlooked? Various phrases take an extra E or two, but in this add-a-letter theme, the additions are É with an acute accent, and—as a smackdown to the zillion crosswords in which a diacritical mark in one crossword answer disappears in that letter’s crossing—the É is used in the Down answers, too.
The Montreal Expos (and no, in English, it’s not Montréal) become MONTREAL EXPOSÉ crossing POKÉMON. P/e ratios turn into ÉPÉE RATIOS, crossing an ÉTUDE and an ÉCLAIR. A pushcart also takes two És: PUSH ÉCARTÉ involves a card game, and NÉE and SAUTÉ cross the added letters. Last up is JETÉ PROPULSION, with a ROSÉ meeting.
It’s an elegant and unexpected theme, and it deflates the arguments that we must ignore diacritics in crossword grids because it’s too hard to get them to work with crossings. Which is not to suggest that Peter didn’t have to work at this—how tough was it, Peter? Based on the often-uninspired fill (PLATER, EEE, and PREMIX did nothing for me, and that [Inferior racehorse] clue for PLATER doesn’t make me like the word any better) and the two ugly islands of black blocks, I’m guessing it was incredibly difficult to fill the grid with the É restraints.
At first I thought DONE TO A TEE was part of the theme, because the E-less “to a T” is also a valid form of the phrase. But no, I think it’s just fill here. Highlights include Bush FORTY-ONE, EMERIL LIVE, BELAFONTE, THREE-PEAT, and five Xs.
Worst wrong turn: Wanting BELA FLECK where Harry BELAFONTE belongs.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Shifting Weight”
- 17A. [Press regulations?] could be NEWS LAW. This one is Newton’s Law minus the TON—and I completely spaced on that when I test-solved this puzzle and asked Ben if “news law” was a real entity. Duh, no, it’s not. It’s a TON-less theme entry.
- 26A. DOLLY PAR (Parton) is [Benchmark for a golf-playing clone?].
- 48A. COT MOUTH (the fearsome cottonmouth) is clued as [Condition for some thirsty pre-schoolers at nap time?].
- 58A. [One who snitches on people for stealing booze?] is a BAR FINK, based on the Coen brothers’ film Barton Fink.
- 6D. Where did the TONs go? One is here, in TEAM UPTON, a [Reading group assigned to discuss "The Jungle"?]. Nice allusion to Team Edward v. Jacob, Team CoCo v. Leno. (The verb phrase team up.)
- 11D. Sharp-set is an old term meaning “very hungry”; possibly it evokes the smart set too. Add a TON and get the SHARPTON SET, [Entourage of a New York civil rights activist].
- 25D. [Aviation?] is a DAYTON TRADE (day trading). The Wright brothers were from Dayton, Ohio, weren’t they?
- 35D. The sex act expands to be a SEXTON ACT, like [Wiping down the pews?]. Sextons are people who tend to the church and churchyard. Is this still a job title, or are they called building and grounds maintenance workers now?
What is that, 68 theme squares? That’s a lot of theme material. So the rest of the fill is less zingy than Ben’s stuff usually is.