I’m heading to New York for the ACPT Thursday morning! The usual Crossword Fiend suspects (Janie, Joon, Jeffrey, PuzzleGirl, Sam, and Evad) are all heading out of town this weekend too—all but one will be at the tournament—so you’re getting some fresh guest-blogging blood here. The clever Seth G will hold down the fort all by himself!
I’ll try to squeeze in a little ACPT blogging along the way this weekend, but can’t promise I will have the time. My goal, as usual, is to spend as little waking time as possible up in my hotel room. (And to finish all the puzzles fast and with no errors, of course.)
And now, abbreviated blogging! I haven’t started packing yet.
Caleb Madison’s New York Times crossword
We see ALT and ESC in crosswords all too often, clued as crossword keys. Caleb elevates crossword KEYS to their non-abbreviated, spelled-out splendor as the start of various colorful phrases: SHIFT GEARS, ESCAPE ARTIST, RETURN OF THE JEDI, CONTROL FREAK, and OPTION PLAY. Never heard of the football term OPTION PLAY, but those other theme entries? They rock.
It’s mildly distracting to have two themers stacked with non-theme 10s, but SENIORITIS is juicy and “Wait, DON’T TELL ME” is good too. And I love those two long Downs: PAT BENATAR with an ’80s MTV clue and the PG-THIRTEEN movie rating. The shorter fill tends to be undistinguished, mind you, but sometimes you make tradeoffs to get the juicier long fill.
Damon Gulczynski’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Theme: Both halves of the starred clues can precede 42D: THE LINE. 22A: DOWN BELOW (down the line, below the line). 34A: OVERDRAW. 53A: CROSSWALK. 3D: TOEHOLD. The theme entries are flat, but I like the lively “___ the line” phrases that result. To accommodate the central 8, the grid width needed an even number of squares; it’s widened to 16×15.
There are some great 7-letter answers packed into the corners of the grid but overall I’m not crazy about the fill. The two RE- verbs, REHEEL and RECOLOR, are REgrettable. The MODELER beside the PAYER, across from a SMILER; crosswordese ARETE and TERN and ST. LO; abbreviations and prefixes.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Re-covered”
The theme entries take song titles and add an RE- prefix to make a “re-cover” song with a different slant than a straight-up cover song would have. For example, the Beatles song becomes “I’M SO RETIRED” for the AARP, and the [Blondie song recorded again for Toyota?] would be “RECALL ME.” Entertaining theme, no?
Fill highlights include SNOW FORTS, HARRUMPHS, “I LOVE L.A.,” LEARJET, and STRAP-ON.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pal Around”—Janie’s review
I love it. Yesterday we had palindromes; today we have “Pal Around.” That’s the cryptic way of telling us that letters p, a and l are at the first and last of (go “around”) the theme phrases. And the phrases? A “no two alike,” wide mix indeed that includes:
- 17A. PASSED BALL [Miscue by the catcher]. This is a baseball term I’d never heard before. Live and learn.
- 11D. PAPER TRAIL [White-collar crime evidence, perhaps]. Not, however, a SPOT [Collar ID]. The former is more like financial records and statements, the latter is more like this.
- 30D. PAULA ABDUL [Former "American Idol" judge]. Have never seen more than five minutes of the show, but thanks to sources like SNL and even major newspapers, it’s hard not to have an inkling of who she is. If you need more info, check this out. Her family background is actually quite interesting.
- 66A. PADDED CELL [Protective enclosure]. a/k/a “Rubber room.”
I’m particularly fond of some of the colorful and longer non-theme fill, with my faves being DEADHEAD [Jerry Garcia groupie], MUDPUPPY (fabulous word if more than kinda creepy lookin’ species!) [Large salamander], and DR. PEPPER [Beverage with a museum in Waco, Texas]. Seems there are lots of food museums in the U.S. Am only wondering how/why the SPAM Museum didn’t make the list… Also on my list of favorite fill: “GO HOME!” [Shout to a Yankee or a Yanqui] and ENMITY [Bad blood] (as in “Yanqui, go home!”).
Fave clue/fill combos today would have to include [Rice gatherer?] and ALUM (i.e., an alumnus of Rice University attending a class reunion); and [Mass communication?] and PRAYERS (so this is “mass” as in “church service”). We also get two clues asking for a [Symbol of resistance]. In one case it’s a FIST (political resistance), in the other it’s the OMEGA (electrical resistance). Finally, [Swear words] go into making an OATH; and ["Phooey!"] or “NERTS!” is about as mild as an oath gets.