Eric Berlin’s New York Times crossword
Let’s look at this by the numbers: 70 words. Eighteen of ‘em in the 7- to 11-letter range. A few of them pleased me, but I dunno, things like ANIMAL PELT and AEROMETERS fell flat for me. First up, the good stuff:
- 17A. Ever order the TASTING MENU? [It has a lot of small dishes]. I had a great tasting menu at Aqua in San Francisco in the ’90s. It remains the only time I have willingly and enthusiastically partaken of mushrooms. (Wild.)
- 58A. I’m not a fan of gendered-for-no-reason words like COMEDIENNES, but it does look lovely in the grid. [Women who may make people break up?]—break up laughing, not break up a relationship.
- 10D. COULDA! I like the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” spellings. The clue made it gettable even if you’ve never heard of the song (which I had not): ["___ Been the One" (2006 Rihanna song)].
- 18D. GNARLIER is clued [More difficult, in slang]. Was this gnarlier than the usual Friday puzzle for you? No? It was for me.
- 26D. SUSAN is (was?) a [Longtime human "Sesame Street" role]. Took me way too many crossings before I remembered Susan, of Susan and Gordon fame.
- 34D. SATURNINE is a cool synonym for [Gloomy].
I’m torn on LETTER N (42D: [End of discussion?]). I feel like it wants THE up front. LETTER N by itself feels incomplete, naked without the definite article.
Two long science/technology doodad-related terms are stacked together in the southwest. 27D: [Crookes tube emission] is a CATHODE RAY (which is seldom seen in the wild outside of the phrase “cathode ray tube”) and 28D: [Measurers of gas properties], AEROMETERS. I feel that the people who are conversant in those things are more likely than most to be familiar with KIT CAR (4D: [Build-it-yourself wheels]). I prefer the junior version, the Kit Carson.
Clunky fill includes abbreviations (DESC., A.E.C., ELEC., IDENT., U.A.E., O.E.D., SYS., O.N.I., ELEM., SEPT., and ASST.), partials (O’ CAT, A HOT, ON OR), and a sort of awkward plural FINAL CUTS (6D: [Demands of some directors]).
Updated Friday morning:
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Break-Ups,” Janie’s review
Oh, boy, did I enjoy this one. It’s a wordplay theme that all comes down to parsing–the way you “break up” a sentence or phrase for meaning. The five theme-clues all yield amusing three-word answers (some of them groan-worthy); but look at them more closely and you’ll see a familiar two-word phrase as well. In this way:
- 17A. [Cut on an egotist's CD] → THE “ME” SONG. Or, on second glance, theme song.
- 23A. [Country where everyone drives the same color automobile?] → RED CAR NATION. Or red carnation. Groaner alert. Oops. Too late.
- 35A. [Biographical information about Wall Street workers?] → STOCK BROKER AGES. Or stock brokerages…
- 45A. [Benevolent and slim monarch?] → GOOD THIN KING. Another groaner that shares the space with good thinking. The latter will often yield IDEAS [Brainstorming results].
- 56A. [Runt at the Round Table?] → WEE KNIGHT. Or, yes, week night.
Now that’s one nice little gimmick used to fine effect. The remainder of the puzzle does its part to keep things interesting. You and your mate are [Visitors to Vail], SKIERS, say. Stands to reason that a HOSTELER [Innkeeper] there is likely to win your favor if s/he greets you with baked goods that are HOMEMADE [Like cookies from the kitchen], no?
And I learned something about the Latin phrase ["Ars] LONGA, [vita brevis"]. This translates, roughly, as “Art is long, life is short,” but the origin of the phrase is Greek, in fact, and was spoken by Hippocrates (he of the oath taken by physicians). It seems, then, that “art” is not to be understood as “fine arts” but more in the sense of “technique” or “craft.”
Some other longa fill I liked includes MAPMAKER [Cartographer] and KEPT DOWN [Stifled] (though my first fill there was KEPT IT IN…). PEEPER [Eye, in slang] is a nice complement to WINK [Fleeting moment] (as in the idiom “in the wink of an eye“). NLERS [Bucs and Cards, e.g.], WBA [Fighting org.], ALI [Champ from Louisville] and ONE-NIL [Low soccer score] are all sports-based, of course, and those last three especially work well with REFEREE, since you won’t just find ‘im as a [Member of an NFL officiating crew].
Only one repeat today (PAM appeared four days ago) and the cluing was a tad straightforward, but there were a few standout clues, and they’d be [Hand holder?] for ARM, [Ending for finish or finish for ending] for ING and [Two after do] for RE-MI. That last one took me far too long to catch on to. D’oh!
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Given the existence of “chick lit,” it took me a while to figure out that CHICKEN LIT (21A: ["Egg-laying for Dummies," etc.?]) was shorted from “Chicken Little.” Each theme entry was made by lopping off -TLE from the end of (sometimes semi-)familiar phrases. Besides the chicken one, we have:
- 17A: [Princeton jazzman?] clues JERSEY CAT.
- 27A: [What a New York baseball owner would do to ensure player fitness?] clues TEST ONE’S MET. I briefly thought this was including that gym rat/exercise word “met,” some sort of metabolic unit, and thought it was a bit arcane for a crossword, but of course it’s a capital-M New York Met.
- 42A: [Sign outside a boarded-up JFK?] might be AIRPORT SHUT. Too bad the clue didn’t have Heathrow in it, given that northwestern Europe’s airports are closed on account of a volcanic ash plume. Picture! A high-school classmate of mine is taking her kid to Iceland next week to see the volcano. Her inner geology geek is squealing with delight.
- 50A: [Little Londoner?] is a PEANUT BRIT. I have given up on peanut brittle. The Indiana Amish folks make this nutty crunch stuff that is to die for. Butter, sugar, nuts—that’s about it. With cashews and almonds and pecans along with peanuts, it kicks peanut brittle’s inadequate behind.
- 56A: [Carpet-cleaning android?] is a VACUUM BOT, but I’m not 100% certain what a vacuum bottle is. Is “vacuum jar” a thing? Is it the same thing? Are thermoses involved? And is anyone else thinking of botflies with BOT BOT BOT staring at them?
I like those open corners with the 8- and 9-letter answers in them. The word TARNISHED (9D: [Sullied]) rhymes with “varnished,” which minus the R and verb ending is VANISH (23A: [Disappear]).
No comment on D-CUPS (59A: [Parts of some support systems?]) pointing squarely at AREOLA (45D: [Colored circle around the pupil]).
Favorite clue: 30D: [Day star?] for OPRAH. (Not EL SOL.) Have you been watching the Life series on the Discovery Channel? Oprah Winfrey is the narrator. She really helps cheetahs attacking a zebra go down easy.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “What’s the Alternative?”
- 17A. [What a marathon runner does after getting a sprain during a race?] is TREAT KNEE. The opposite of KNEE is, of course, Williams. No, wait. The opposite goes with the first word here: trick knee.”Trick or treat.”
- 24A. [Answer to "which Rogers and Hammerstein musical do you want to see and when?"] clues OKLAHOMA!, LATER. The Oklahoma Sooners were more prompt. “Sooner or later.”
- 40A. [Tell-all that doesn't actually tell all that much?] is NOTHING EXPOSURE. The opposite phrase is…”all exposure.” “All or nothing” is certainly familiar, but that’s not making any sense here. Help me out here, folks.
- 52A. [Food shortage that spreads from area to area?] is a MOVABLE FAMINE. “Feast or famine.”
- 65A. [Score the first points in a tennis game?[ clues BREAK LOVE. Lemme think…Ah, yes: “make or break,” make love.
I’d like this theme better if 40A made any sense to me, and if the changed word was in a consistent location in each theme entry. Hmph.