Alex Fay’s New York Times crossword
Ah! This is one of those themes that I didn’t notice while solving, having skipped over the clue addenda not needed for solving, but that I admire once I get a good look at it. Three phrases start with synonymous words that involve bisecting something, and the word that follows each synonym is bisected and deposited in two pieces elsewhere in the grid. At first glance I thought it was sloppy puzzle-making, having both WAYS and HIGHWAYS in the grid, but then I saw the higher purpose.
- 20A. SPLIT DECISION is the [Outcome of many a boxing match...or 38- and 36-Down]. 36A and 38D are the metric prefix DECI and the Dan Brown name SION—a split DECI/SION.
- 38A. [Interstates...or 60-Down and 65-Across] are DIVIDED HIGHWAYS that divide into HIGH and WAYS.
- 57A. BROKEN-HEARTED splits into HEAR and TED. It’s clued as [Crushed by sorrow...or 5-Across and 63-Down].
Five clues from the rest of the grid:
- 16A. TYLER was our [First unelected president].
- 33A. HALLOW doesn’t get used much in the present tense, does it? Clue is [Venerate].
- 44A. [Three-ingredient treats] are S’MORES, with marshmallow and chocolate on graham crackers. If you should find yourself at a Houlihan’s chain restaurant, omigod, the s’mores fondue is deeelicious.
- 48A. I needed all the crossings to get ON, ON for ["__, you noblest English...!": "Henry V"]. That’s a lot of punctuation action.
- 52A. An IRA is [Something to roll over, briefly].
- 64A. A [Skateboard trickster's track] is a RAIL.
- 1D. [The second number in a record] is LOSSES if you’re talking about won/lost records.
- 2D. The snit synonym “pet” seems to be getting a lot less play in crosswords than it used to. IN A PET means [Peevish].
- 10D. [Expert in match play, for short?] clues a PYRO.
- 40D. I love the word VAGABOND. Where’s the SUV called the Vagabond? It’s a good car name, isn’t it? It means [Tramp] or hobo, king of the road.
- 46D. [Hangmen's tools] clues NOOSES. Depressing.
- 49D. POTASH is [Soapmaking stuff] and it’s where potassium comes from.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Burns, Baby, Burns”
Matt bends the rules a bit here, having five of his seven Across theme entries shorter than the splashy 10-letter non-theme fill. To compensate, the theme clues are marked with asterisks. The theme answers are all men (sexism!) with trademark sideburns: Isaac ASIMOV, LUKE PERRY, JEMAINE CLEMENT, ELVIS Presley, LEMMY KILMISTER, JAMES DEAN, and Charles DARWIN. Here are my three favorites in all their whiskered splendor…though I never object to a good shaving off of sideburns:
Never heard of singer IMANI Coppola or THE SNORKS ([1980s Saturday morning cartoon characters who lived underwater]), and BOSK is a not-very-common word for [Small grove of trees]. Don’t know what the AVS at 44A stands for. Don’t know SON OF ["___ Mine" (1991 Genesis song)], either. Mysteries!
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Oh, dear. This puzzle lost me at 1-Across. I hereby ask all constructors to purge their word databases of AHME. Does anyone actually utter this [Weary comment] or wistful sigh? Other than me, I mean (and when I do it, it’s just to get a laugh out of my husband). Google suggests songwriters and poets have used “ah, me” but seriously, do you ever hear anybody say it? I could swear that AHME and OHME have become increasingly common fill in the last year or so, and I don’t like it.
The five longest entries are two-word phrases in which both words can precede ROOM to generate 10 “__ room” phrases. Guest room and locker room are 100% solid, but I question whether GUEST LOCKER (27A: [Nonmember's club amenity] is a familiar enough thing to be a crossword entry. As far as I know, the STEAM PRESS (18A: [Laundry room device]) is found in dry cleaners, but maybe I just haven’t been to any top-notch laundry rooms. HOTEL POOL is better, and WAITING GAME and SMOKING GUN are terrific entries. Never heard of a gunroom, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. (It’s a real word.)
The fill suggests a short story: “AH, ME,” NANNIE sighed. “OH, GEE, is that my OGEE? I must ask ULEE to move that to the ODA for me. Then he can cool off with a nice dish of TORTONI.”
I Googled tortoni (40D: [Trattoria dessert]), wondering why I never see this among the tartufo and cannoli and panna cotta and tiramisu. The New York Times had an article on it just last year. The final sentence: “A recipe for tortoni ran in The Times in 1898, just as the dessert was falling out of fashion.” Ah, that explains it.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Fast Food”—Janie’s review
Well, if time is of the essence, Randy’s come up with the menu for you. Each of the four theme phrases describes something you ingest and the lively first word of each describes a very brief period of time. While I’m quite taken with the idea of this, I question the execution in places. Take a look–we get:
17A. JIFFY-POP POPCORN [Salty snack from ConAgra Foods]. Love that word jiffy, but this is the only theme fill that mentions a specific brand-name product…
25A. INSTANT SOUP [Cupful made with a cube]. (Think bouillon.)
43A. MINUTE STEAK [Meat entree that doesn't take long to cook]. None of these items takes “long to cook” so I’m not clear why that condition is part of the clue; nor why the food in question is identified as a “meat entree.” A clue like [Grilled specialty] would have worked as well and would have preserved some of the mystery, no?
54A. FLASH-FROZEN FISH [Seafood put right on ice]. “The catch” instead of “seafood” perhaps?… Again, feels like the clue tips its hand by using a synonym for a word in the fill.
So I look at the execution of this really nice theme, not ASKANCE [With disapproval], but feeling a tad let down by it. Was it [Just adequate]/NOT SO HOT? I offer “IT’S OK” as a [Consoling comment]. If it’s not a RAVE [Great review] or didn’t leave me IN AWE [Open-mouthed] (and I’m not sure that was ever the goal), there’s no SHAME [Disgrace] in this. Randy more than manages to compensate with some (more) A-ONE [Top of the line] non-theme fill here.
That very first cross at 1A and 1D–HORAS [Dances at Jewish weddings] and HAJJ [Pilgrimage to Mecca]–gets things off to an ecumenical start (and gives us that lovely double “J” to boot). The player who [Batted in the A.L. but didn't play the field] DH’ED instead (i.e., was the designated hitter), probably took some time to choose from the [Dugout assortment] of BATS. He may even have had to go up against NOLAN [Rapid throwing Ryan] (who celebrated his 63rd birthday two days ago…).
When you [Promise], you give your WORD, which is a fitting complement to “NO LIE” ["On my honor"]. Is there a [Fly in the ointment]–a SNAFU? As a stop-gap there’s almost always some sort of QUICK FIX [Band-aid] that can be implemented.
I think that was my fave non-theme fill/clue combo today, but other goodies would include WINDSURF [Glide on a board and a sail] and TARZAN [Burroughs's swinger]. Strong clues come to us, too, by way of [Passing essays?] for OBITS and [Headlines in the ER] for EEG. And to close with reference to the theme… if you decide on fresh seafood as opposed to flash-frozen fish, Randy’s provided the [Protection for lobster eaters]: BIBS.