Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword
THE MONTH OF MARCH (40A) began yesterday, but this is no Monday puzzle. Liz riffs on the old “in like a lion, out like a lamb” saying by making a word ladder (one letter changes in each step) connecting those words:
- 1A. LION, ["In like a ___..."].
- 15A. LOON, [Kook].
- 18A. BOON, [Godsend].
- 24A. BOOB, [Doofus].
- 29A. BOMB, [Dud].
- 48A. COMB, [Jim's gift in "The Gift of the Magi"].
- 55A. COMP, [Provide for free].
- 64A. CAMP, [Sleepaway, e.g.].
- 68A. LAMP, [Tiffany treasure].
- 72A. LAMB, ["...out like a ___"].
You can finish the ladder in fewer steps if you include LEON and possibly if you don’t, but Liz needed an even number of rungs (since THE MONTH OF MARCH occupies the middle of the grid) and the LOON/BOON/BOOB/BOMB combo has plenty of flavor.
The structural constraints imposed by this theme led to some undistinguished short fill, though the longer fill’s got some sparkle to it. Consider the GO-TO GUY (46A: [Handy man?]), MOONPIES (41D: [Sweet, gooey sandwiches]), and U.S. DOLLARS (11D: [Mint green?]). On the down side, we have:
- Partials—IS THE, BAD TO, NO TO, ON NO.
- New York town OLEAN clued as [Ingredient in some potato chips]. When’s the last time you saw chips with Olestra in the grocery store?
- Old-school crosswordese—ALB/[Priest's robe], ANSA/[Looped handle, in archaeology], ERNES/[Sea eagles], and STOA/[Greek gathering spot].
I do like the echoes reverberating within the grid. Jim’s COMB goes with 9D: FOB/[Della's gift in "The Gift of the Magi"]. The BOMB partners with another [Dud], the FLOP at 42D. The three CA*N men dance about the grid—55D: ["It's News to Me" columnist Herb] CAEN, 59D: actor [James of "Thief"] CAAN, and 33D: [Songwriter Sammy] CAHN.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We don’t see a lot of L.A. Times themes that don’t bludgeon the solver over the head with obviousness—there’s often a grand unifying entry or a long explanatory clue that tells the solver exactly what the point is. I like Donna’s puzzle because it trusts us to grasp the theme on our own: insurance.
- 17A. POLICY STATEMENT is a [Government declaration of its intentions], and an insurance policy is something a lot of people I know do not possess.
- 25A. That horrible [Vietnam War defoliant] with the delightful citrus name is AGENT ORANGE. My favorite insurance agent is the fictional Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. “Am I right or am I right?”
- 43A. A [Gold Rush villain] was a CLAIM JUMPER. May your insurance claims be processed expeditiously and without denials.
- 55A. PREMIUM GASOLINE is a [High-octane fuel]. Insurance premiums skyrocket. It’s what they do. They have mistaken themselves for private college tuition, apparently.
It’s nice to see GOMEZ, [Morticia's mate], for a change; we see Cousin ITT way too much in the grid. Pretty smooth fill overall, no?
Vocabulary word of the day: JINN is clued as an [Arabian folklore spirit]. Remember this one for Scrabble. Also spelled djinn or jinni, and closely related to genie.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “If I Were a Betting Man”—Janie’s review
The cross of 18D and 23A sets the tone for today’s punny theme fill. That’s where WAG [Funny fellow] crosses GAG [Practical joke]. The former would be our constructor; the latter, his construction. Today, Randy takes the names of four well-known guys and substitutes poker-term sound-alikes for their first names. Prepare to groan as you make the acquaintance of:
- 17A. ANTE WARHOL [Poker-playing painter?]
- 31A. CALL REINER [Poker-playing director?]
- 48A. ALL IN FREED [Poker-playing disc-jockey?]
- 65A. CHECK COREA [Poker-playing jazz pianist?]
Andy, Carl, Allen and Chick may be rolling their eyes; me, I just smile. Keeping …Freed company on the airwaves, btw, is IMUS [Radio host Don]; keeping …Reiner company in cinema-world is [Film critic Pauline] KAEL. EASEL is a [Prop for Gaugin]; it was probably one for …Warhol, too. Might be interesting to hear …Corea playing piano as part of an OBOE [Double-reed woodwind] and HARP [Stringed instrument] trio. Not likely, perhaps, but interesting to contemplate.
I also smile at the symmetrically placed, colloquial exhortations to “KNOCK IT OFF!” ["Quit that!"] and the more moderate “TAKE IT EASY!” ["Lighten up!"]. Are these utterances heard at a [Barroom brawl] MELEE, perhaps?
Kind of fun have LEVEES [River embankments] in the same puzzle with MELEE; and LEAVE [Hit the road] right next to levees. The cleverly-worded twinned clues [Organ near a temple?] and [Problem with an organ near a temple] yield the side-by-side EAR and ACHE. And there’s a temperament connection to be found between PRIMA [___ Donna] and the “diva,” whose [...delivery] is an ARIA.
In the “I-never-knew-that” column: that [Fiberglass predecessor] is ASBESTOS. I never knew that! Or that a SUMO was a [Sport held in a dohyo] which is a particular kind of “wrestling ring.” “Dohyō.” Hmmm. That sounds a bit like “Hip-hop Homer” to me…
Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
- 20A. LESS EXPENSIVE is clued as [Comparatively cheap, in Madison Avenue-speak]. Actually, advertisers pretty much use “expensive” as a negative, don’t they? Describing the competition’s product? “Costs less” or “three easy payments of just $29.99!” are more plausible than an advertising appearance of LESS EXPENSIVE.
- 28A. GOES EXTREME is clued as [Makes more in-your-face commercials, in Madison Avenue-speak].
- 35A. [What a good staff has, in Madison Avenue-speak] is SALES EXPERIENCE.
- 43A. ["This is more than just a product," in Madison Avenue-speak] clues “IT’S EXCITING!”
- 54A. [What this puzzle's theme answers contain (if you look closely enough)] are SUBLIMINAL ADS. I put SUBLIMINAL SEX, because that’s what’s in there. They’re hiding the SEX, not the ADS.
- 67A. SEX is clued with [They say it sells (we'll see how this puzzle does)]. Yeah, I wanted this in 54A.
I like the overall concept of the theme, but this execution falls short.
- 17A. TWEEZERS! They’re [Splinter removers]. Word to the wise: Invest in a pair of super-skinny Tweezerman brand splinter tweezers. They’re almost needle-sharp and work a lot better at extricating slivers. Especially handy if you have a child who is not kindly disposed to extended tweezer sessions when he gets a splinter.
- 11D. NINETEEN gets a good trivia clue: [When you can drink, in most of Canada].
- 44D. XEBECS are [Three-masted sailing ships]. Not to be confused with the REBEC, a medieval stringed instrument. Handy to know that both words exist, because otherwise *EBEC just looks wrong.