Is it May 10? Then it’s time for Pete Muller’s bonus crossword, “New Year’s Day.” Available over at the Crossword Fiend forum in both .puz and .pdf formats.
Randy Sowell’s New York Times crossword
Hey, I really liked this puzzle. It could be the El Diablo cocktails from Mother’s Day dinner talking, but I think it’s the crossword. The theme is lively and there’s a lot of fresh fill. Here’s the self-explanatory theme:
- 17A. [Second- or third-string player] is a BENCHWARMER.
- 50A. [Presider at a meeting] is a CHAIRPERSON.
- 11D. [Boob tube lover] is a COUCH POTATO. I’m more of an internet chair potato.
- 25D. [Police informant] is a STOOL PIGEON.
- 53D. If you [Use the start of 17- or 50-Across or 11- or 25-Down?], you SIT on the bench, chair, couch, or stool. I’m not sure why the clue has a question mark, because there is nothing stretchy about this. The things you sit on are included quite literally in the theme answers, and SITting is what you do, plain and simple.
Highlights in the fill:
- 15A. I like this clue: [Suffer ignominious defeat, in slang] is what “EAT IT” means.
- 23A. ["Apologies"] and “I’M SORRY” are equivalent. Solid answer.
- 27A. CLICHES are clued thus: ["As old as the hills" and others].
- 29A. To CHAT UP can mean to [Talk to flirtatiously].
- 41A. PODUNK is a [One-horse town].
- 44A. [One showing diners to their tables] is a MAITRE D’.
- 48A. The PERP(etrator) is a [Suspect, to a cop].
- 57A. Who doesn’t like a two-K word? KIOSK is a [Newsstand].
- 24D. [Time periods lasting about 29 1/2 days] are MOONS. Does anyone ever use this in the negative or minimal? I can’t say I’ve heard someone say “not many moons” or “only a few moons.” It’s always “many moons.”
- 36D. BLUE-CHIP is a [Kind of stock]. Just try not to accidentally sell a thousand times more of it than you intended, m’kay?
- 40D. Love the word MOPPETS. Woefully underused word for [Tots].
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Breaking Even”—Janie’s review
Somehow my experience of solving this puzzle was not unlike that of solving a themeless. It wasn’t until I’d finished solving that I noticed the word EVEN embedded in the four otherwise unrelated theme phrases. Then I look at the title again and wondered how in the world it applied… The phrases aren’t bookended by “breaking” the word up into “EV” and “EN.” What was Bob thinking? D’oh, Jane… The word is broken between the two theme-phrase words, in three cases as E/VEN; in one, as EVE/N. I’d have preferred a “two and two” for balance, but ya can’t always get what ya want, now can ya? And given the overall quality of the fill, grid design and cluing, you will hear me WHINE [Moan and groan] no longer. (Today…)
The theme fill:
- 17A. SNAKE VENOM [Toxicology topic].
- 29A. BLONDE VENUS [1932 Marlene Dietrich/Cary Grant movie]. Oh, that Marlene. Equal opportunity siren, that one. Lurer of younger men, like Grant, and older ones, like Emil Jannings in The Blue Angel.
- 46A. SLEEVE NOTES [LP jottings]. Because LINER NOTES just wasn’t gonna work…
- 62A. ACE VENTURA [1994 Jim Carrey role].
The grid design is pretty nifty, allowing not only for paired nine-columns SW and NE, but I also love the way that single black square at center is surrounded by four sevens. Of the nines, I find PROMENADE [Deck on which to stroll when you cruise] and AU NATURÈL [Fig-leafless] particularly fresh (dig that second combo especially!); and all of the sevens shine: PENDANT [Hanging ornament], ROLODEX [Small circle of business friends?], HOT SEAT [Tough spot] and FURTADO [Her album debut was "Whoa, Nelly!"].
There are some 10 alliterative clues today and I leave it to you to find ‘em, though I will point out two, both with the letter “P”: because it’s a fresher spin on old fill, [Paradise paradigm] for EDEN, and because (if poorly synched here…) this bit is a classic of the first order, [Punny pianist who promoted "phonetic punctuation"] for Victor BORGE.
Bob’s also given us a pair of sequential clue trios (cum repeat words) with [ ___ book exam], [Book reviewers?] and [Book reviews?] for OPEN, CPAS and AUDIT; and [Coaster cry], [Cry...and cry again] and [Never again] for “WHEE!,” ECHO and ONCE. (Complement to that open book exam? How about TRUE/FALSE [Like some tests].)
Finally, I took even greater pleasure today in these “wordplay” clues:
- [Stately potato] for IDAHO (funny concept!!);
- [One hellish river] for STYX; and
- [Sharp or a little flat?] for APT. In other words, this is not a music clue. That’s “sharp” as in “smart” and “little flat” as in “abbreviation for apartment.” (Along the lines of “sharp,” we also get NIMBLE, deftly clued as [Quick to understand] and not in connection with physical agility.) Another “not a music clue”: [Staff note] for MEMO.
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme contains five food items that are “[adjective] + [plural of a man's name starting with J]“:
- 18a. [Ground beef concoctions on buns] are SLOPPY JOES.
- 23a. [Dried meat sticks], how appetizing! SLIM JIMS are the main brand of beef jerky sold in gas stations and 7-Elevens.
- 33a. [Winter underwear] is not clued as an oblong doughnut because of the next theme entry, which tells me that my impression of a tight food-related theme is wrong. Yes, LONG JOHNS are thermal underwear too, but they fit so nicely with the other three food terms.
- 50a. [Toronto ball team] is the BLUE JAYS. If you can catch a blue jay, you can eat it. I’m sure plenty of cats do. Baseball players and songbirds are not commonly considered to be edible, however. And jays are more squawkbirds than songbirds.
- 56a. [Fruit-and-cinnamon-flavored cereal] is APPLE JACKS. APPLE counts as an adjective if it modifies another noun, doesn’t it?
So, I loved this theme when I thought it was all food items, but it goes down a few notches in my estimation now that I see it’s just “phrases that end with men’s J names, most of which happen to be foods but that’s just coincidence.”
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
- 20a. [Grocery store chain based out of Austin] is WHOLE FOODS or, as many call it, Whole Paycheck.
- 22a. [Bow recipient] is a great clue for a SENSEI because it’s so easy to misinterpret. Is that a rhymes-with-cow bow of respect, or a rhymes-with-flow bow to be tied?
- 41a. MUSCLE SHIRT is a [Thing that displays guns], “guns” being pumped-up biceps.
- 53a. I don’t know this song at all, but “RUMP SHAKER” is a [1992 #2 hit by Wreckx-n-Effect] and rump shaking is almost always a good thing.
- 6d. THE WILD BUNCH is a [1969 Sam Peckinpah film].
- 7d. [Drag queen's attachment] is a fake eyeLASH. My husband and I found ourselves watching a couple episodes of Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime last night. Entertaining show, but the mascara commercials scared us. The close-ups of heavily mascaraed lashes put us in mind of woolly bear caterpillars and centipedes.
- 10d. I love the word MENFOLK. [They might not be participatin' in the quiltin' bee], I hear.