Shhh!!! Amy’s sleeping. This is Jeffrey, sort of awake on Pacific Daylight Time, filling in.
Today’s New York Times puzzle is by Jonah Kagan. The theme answers hide the word HEART, anagramming by shifting one letter at a time until it becomes EARTH. An added touch is the progression works from the upper right to the lower left of the grid.
17A. [Dear] – NEAR TO ONE’S HEART
23A. [What children should be, so the saying goes] – SEEN BUT NOT HEARD
35A. [Home of the Ivy League] – NORTHEAST
52A. [It's a relief in Athens] – PARTHENON FRIEZE. This was tricky.
59A. [Likely to change everything] – EARTH SHATTERING
Pretty cool spin on the old hidden word trick.
Quickly, other stuff of note:
10A. [Big Apple neighborhood west of the East Village] – NOHO. I always want to put SOHO.
14A. [English novelist Canetti who wrote "Crowds and Power"] – ELIAS. Didn’t know this ELIAS.
20A. [Actress Thompson] – EMMA. Sometimes it is Sada.
21A. [When la Tour Eiffel lights up] – NUIT. Night in French.
22A. [Rock band with a lightning bolt in its logo] – AC/DC
34A. [What Justin Timberlake's "bringin' back," in a song] – SEXY
51A. [___ Mustard] – COL. No indication of an abbreviation.
56A. [Princess with a blaster] – LEIA. Star Wars!
62A. [Baseball's Moises] – ALOU. Expos!
64A. [Oscar-winning "Tootsie" actress] – LANGE
8D. [In direct competition] – TOE TO TOE. Could be eye to eye, but not cheek to cheek.
9D. [Google moneymakers] – ADS. Twitter wants to start having ADS. You have to make money somehow.
12D. [Receptacle for Voldemort's soul in Harry Potter] – HORCRUX. I knew it because I’ve read the books. If you haven’t, good luck.
13D. [Que. neighbor] – ONT. Highway 20 in Quebec becomes Highway 401 in Ontario when driving from Montreal to Toronto.
25D. [Fey of "30 Rock"] – TINA/26D. [Susan of "L.A. Law"] – DEY. A Fey/Dey combo.
Amy here: Who the heck abbreviates COL. Mustard? Don’t you know that if you drop a lozenge down your throat, you’ll choke? Is it almost unfair to have ["…that's ___!"] clueing WHO when WHY seems more likely and leads to the [Palindromic exclamation] YAY, which mucks things up? Also, [Player/preyer] for ROUE is kind of gross. It’s cool to see NEAR TO ONE’S HEART two days in a row—it was in yesterday’s L.A. Times puzzle too.
Jeffrey, have you got big plans for Fey Dey? I always go to the parade.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Jacks to Open”—Janie’s review
There is some wonderful theme fill in this grid, but I’m not convinced that the title “Jacks to Open” is this puzzle’s friend. My first thought, of course, was “poker theme” followed by, “the word ‘jack’ will be able to precede the first word of the theme phrase, or perhaps even the phrase as a whole.” Wrong on both counts (though I was frankly relieved it wasn’t the first…). The word “jack” does factor in, but it follows the first word of the theme phrase. Yes, it “opens” the space between the compound-word theme fill, but that seems a long way to go to make the title apt. That said, I’ll repeat: the theme phrases are peppy and so are the four “jack” phrases that are summoned up. The guilty parties are:
- 17A. FLAPDOODLE [Nonsense]. Great word, no? That gives us a tasty griddlecake or flapjack.
- 10D. BLACK BEAUTY [Anna Sewell book about a horse], which gives us the gambling game blackjack.
- 24D. UNION BUSTER [Scab, for one], for Union Jack (or the British flag).
- 55A. LUMBER YARD [Wood shop] gives us lumber jack. Ah, nothing like the Monty Python take on “I’m a Lumber Jack and I’m Okay!”
If the title doesn’t quite land, the theme does and so does the non-theme fill. Randy acknowledges the New York theatre scene with BOFF [Hit on Broadway], FLOP [Bomb on Broadway] and OBIE [Village Voice award]. In case you didn’t know, Obie = O-B = Off-Broadway. Boff is a word I just met up with in one of Bob Klahn’s puzzles in his puzzle book, The Wrath of Klahn. “Boffo” I knew; boff was new.
A [Performer at the Met] may be a DIVA. And she may be singing in AIDA, a [Verdi opera]. You know–it’s the one sung in Italian and set in Egypt, the real home of SADAT [One-time Egyptian leader Anwar].
Egypt is also on one side of the RED SEA, the deftly clued [It had a major part in the Bible?]. Also from the OT we get EDEN [Paradise of Genesis], and then from the New Testament, ACTS [Follower of the Gospels] (so this “follower” is a book and not an individual).
If something goes wrong on the EBAY site, that [Cybershopping destination] you can be sure they’ll call a TECHIE [One who might use a mouse to get rid of a bug?] to correct the problem.
Only repeat today was UNIT, which appeared just yesterday. New clue though, thank you very much. And thank you very much for the assonant cluster at center: ACROBATS, ALAI, ALIAS, AVILA, AVERS and ALAN ALDA. All works fer me!
Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword
THEME: “Wash Your Bits”—Four phrases and a word end with brands of soap. The first theme entries I ran into in this puzzle began with GOLD and EBONY, so I started out thinking the theme had something to do with, I dunno, expensive things. 68-Across straightened me out pretty quickly, though.
- 16A: [Ingredient in some glazed chicken wings] ORANGE ZEST. Who doesn’t like a reference to ORANGE?
- 30A: [Dashboard tuner] (RADIO DIAL). This one is pretty flat. Most dials are round, but the typical radio’s doodad is linear. Also, not sure “radio dial” quite meets the standards for crossword-worthy phrases.
- 37A: [1982 McCartney/Wonder hit] (EBONY AND IVORY).
- 44A: [It became Ghana in 1957] (GOLD COAST). The country called Ivory Coast uses its French name, Cote d’Ivoire. Also, Chicago’s got a Gold Coast. No gold mines, but plenty of wealth all the same.
- 62A: One of two in a Christmas song (TURTLEDOVE). Nice use of a humorous quote to enhance the theme-revealing answer.
- 68A: This puzzle’s theme (SOAP). Zest, Dial, Ivory, Coast, and Dove are all brands of soap or, if you believe marketers, moisturizing bars.
The theme is nothing new—I’ve seen at least two previous soap themes. There might’ve also been a laundry detergent theme. But these are readily accessible to most solvers thanks to the über-familiarity of such brand names, so editors don’t mind when constructors draw from that well again.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “No Kidding”
When I saw RUBBER and PULL OUT at the beginning of two theme entries and saw that the final theme answer ending with -TION summed up the rest, I wanted to fit something-CONTRACEPTION into 61A. Alas, it would not work. You’ve heard of the EQUAL PROTECTION clause, and Brendan asserts that a RUBBER, the PILL, the PULL OUT method, and the contraceptive SPONGE do not offer EQUAL PROTECTION. Geeze, I guess Brendan couldn’t find a good phrase that began with IUD.
PULL OUT THE STOPS sounds incomplete to me. “Pull out all the stops” gets almost 10 times the Google hits, but “pull out the stops” still manages 200,000 so I guess people use it.
- 1A. [Maker of a certain hole: Abbr.] clues CFC. That hole’s in the ozone layer.
- 3D. [Ignoring it might lead to disconnection] refers to your CABLE BILL.
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Nobody likes those playground retorts except constructors, right? I plunked down ARE NOT for 48D: [Playground surrebuttal] instead of ARE TOO, and then paid no mind to the way that mucked up one theme entry and the theme revealer. D’oh! Each made-up theme answer has an embedded TOYOTA that’s “recalled,” or spelled backwards. This week brought the news that Consumer Reports identified a rollover risk for a Lexus SUV (made by Toyota), and you could also say that the hidden cars have been subject to rollover, the way they’ve been flipped in the grid…except that the real-life Toyota recalls were about acceleration and not rollovers.
- 17A. [*People really into golf scores?] are LEADERBOARD NUTS, with a backwards Tundra.
- 26A. [*Wind-making equipment?] clues ZEPHYR MACHINERY, with the Camry.
- 32A. [*Putting a mickey in someone's potion?] clues ELIXIR TAMPERING (Matrix).
- 42A. [*1960s kitsch decor item owned by Tony and Carmela?] is SOPRANO LAVA LAMP (Avalon).
- 57A. [*Where you can order a commemorative Bowie Knife?] is THE ALAMO CATALOG (Tacoma).
- 7D. [*Music in an updated version of "Pagliacci"?] is LEONCAVALLO ROCK (Corolla).
- 65A. [Make of six models that are subject to recall ... and being sent back inside this puzzle's theme entries] is TOYOTA.
You know what’s insane? Byron put in five 15-letter Across theme answers, added a sixth that crossed them all, and still found room for the unifying TOYOTA. That’s 91 theme squares in a symmetrical 15×15 grid, people. “Surely the rest of the fill suffers,” you say. But no. Nineteen fill answers are 6 or 8 letters long, and while there are some high-vowel repeaters (OLEO, ESAI, AGRA, RIVA Ridge), this fill is mostly smooth as glass and sometimes fresh (I’M A CELEB, SHOX). Well done, Byron.