Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword
Yep, Patrick Berry knows how to build a themeless. This one’s got 66 words, none of them junk. Did you notice that there are no dreaded TLAs? Sure, there are eight 3-letter words, but they’re all words, not abbreviations.
Here are the things that annoyed me in this puzzle:
- [this space left intentionally blank].
What I didn’t know:
- 31A. [Robert L. Fish Memorial Award and others] are EDGARS, or mystery awards. I tried OSCARS since it fit the ending, despite never having heard of such an Oscar.
- 41A. [Belmont and Preakness, for two] are STAKE RACES. I went with HORSE RACES, having never seen the term STAKE RACES.
- 18A. RINSO is the [Product once advertised as having Solium]. Got this through the crossings alone.
- 42D. Never heard of the TAMARA who is [Soap opera actress Braun]. Let’s look her up—oh! She was one of the women who played Carly on General Hospital during my home-with-a-toddler years. She’s not too famous.
- 53A. I’ve heard of MAGOG, sure, but calling it [Descendants of Japheth]? All the clue did for me was tell me I was looking for something biblical.
- 10A. [Sedan chair accessories] are the POLES your bearers use to carry you in your sedan chair. That reminds me—I need to pick up a new sedan chair soon. The gold leaf is wearing off my old one.
- 15A. ON THE BALL ([Alert]) is just one of many crisp phrases in the grid today.
- 17A. [Made ends meet somehow] gets SCRAPED BY into the grid. There’s no EKE action! Patrick Berry makes the world safe for the death of crosswordese.
- 19A. THE NATION is the [Magazine founded by abolitionists in 1865]. I had prohibitionists in mind when reading this clue.
- 26A. To BOSS AROUND is to [Order indiscriminately]. Good to do this from one’s sedan chair. The clue feels wanting. More like “order indiscriminately to do”? If you boss me around, you don’t order me indiscriminately; you order me to do things.
- 29A. [Bass part] means the FIN of, say, a smallmouth bass. I love a music-related clue that turns out to have nothing to do with music.
- 33A. [Adult humans have 12 of these] is the clue for MOLARS. I have eight.
- 39A. [Speak on the record?] is a fantastic clue for RAP.
- 51A. SPINAL TAP is the fake [Band name that has an umlaut over the "n"]. My computer won’t let me put an umlaut over an “n.”
- 54A. A batter’s [Swinging place?] is right by HOME PLATE.
- 29D. [What a cook makes when told to "flop two"] is FRIED EGGS.
- 32D. The best [Advice for clearing up confusion]? Just ASK. ASK, or Google. One of those.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword
It took a little thinking to understand how this theme worked. Sure, you probably made sense of it instantly, but I spent the day with scores of fourth graders. It taxes the mind, you know. I don’t know how teachers do it.
- 63a. [This puzzle's title?] is PLANE TALK, which is a pun on “plain talk.” The other theme entries are puns on plane-related phrases and no longer have anything to do with aviation. It feels a little backwards to me.
- 17a. “Aisle seats” turn into ISLE SEATS, or [Capri beach chairs?].
- 25a. To [Quiz a Roman judge?] is to TEST PILATE. (No relation to Pilates exercise.) “Test pilot” is the base phrase.
- 38a. [Affable terriers?] might be FRIENDLY SKYES, playing on United’s “Fly the friendly skies.”
- 51a. [Really dark beers?] could be BLACK BOCKS, which sounds like “black box.”
Without further ado, 10 clues:
- 15a. [Steak seasoning] that you rub on before grilling is a RUB. Mmm, tasty RUB. Who doesn’t like that flavor?
- 32a. [Fights in the sticks] are RASSLES, yes’m.
- 43a. [They're not content to see you] clues RAISERS. In poker, you might be content to see another player’s bet, or you might opt to raise. (Mind you, nobody’s going to use this plural noun outside the “hell-raisers” formation.)
- 59a. [Tokyo-based chip maker] is NEC. Eh, too salty for me. It’s the soy sauce.
- 60a. My favorite clue today is [Where to see an approaching train?] for the ALTAR. The train is on a wedding gown, and the groom is waiting up in front of the altar as the bride struts down the aisle.
- 67a. For [Coco rival], I had ***EE and asked myself, “Self, does Jay Leno have a nickname that ends in EE?” I’m on Team Coco (Conan O’Brien). But this clue’s about Coco Chanel and ESTÉE Lauder.
- 70a. I like ["Grace Under Fire" star Butler], BRETT Butler. Haven’t seen her in ages, and wow, this clue goes back awful far for a not-really-classic pop culture reference.
- 34d. [Prepare for court, perhaps] clues ENROBE. Do judges use this verb, or do they just say “put on the robe”? I like to limit my enrobing to chocolate. For the courtroom, of course, disrobing is fine.
- 40d. Now, you may think KRA is a lousy 3-letter answer, but I like this [Malay Peninsula's Isthmus of __]. Those letters are great. They begin krait (a snake), kraken (release it!), Kramer (Newman!), KRAFT (53d: ["Make today delicious" food giant]) and Krazy Glue (not for doors).
Joon Pahk’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Graphic Violence”
The title phrase is reinterpreted as having to do with graphs, with various mathy terms sounding more violent in another context. For example, [“All-out war was launched on the graph today when the ___ attacked”] clues the AXIS OF EVIL. It is not clear whether it’s the X or Y axis that’s evil, though I have my doubts about the Y. There’s a VICIOUS CIRCLE, COUNTER PLOTTING, FIGHTER PLANES, and a LINE OF FIRE. But where’s the POINT, I ask?
My two favorite clues turn out to be related to one another:
- 28a. [Their players are often benched] refers to PIANOS, not sports teams.
- 4d. [Staff reader] is a MUSICIAN reading the notes on the staff, not the librarian doing Story Time.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “PG 1-3”—Evad’s review
With all the confusion around PB1 and 2 (I believe today’s NYT and today’s CS constructor), PG1, 2 and 13 (Peter Gordon, Paula Gamache, and Puzzle Girl, respectively), it’s interesting to have both coincide in today’s CS/WaPo offering. What happens when two worlds collide? Well, let’s see. . .
Mr. Blindauer serves up a whopping six theme entries that begin with the letter P and have a G in the third position:
- PEGBOARD – my father and I used to play cribbage a lot when I was young. “15-2, 15-4, a double run is 12 and the right jack is 13.”
- “Bouncer’s toy” might be a small dog belonging to security at a nightclub, but here it’s a POGO STICK
- PYGMALION – I learned here about the “Pygmalion effect,” which is the observation that people generally perform better when more is expected from them. I suppose the converse is true as well. I expect you all to do well on tomorrow’s puzzles, by the way!
Nice job using every vowel (and Y) as the second letter in the theme entries, and having them in alphabetical order! All those constraints didn’t compromise the fill; here were some of my favorites:
- A mini theme: “Emulate a stool pigeon” (SING), “Brown pigment” (SEPIA) and “Leave skid marks” (PEEL OUT). Probably not intentional (altho the first two are 1-Across and 1-Down and the other is smack dab in the middle), and certainly not to be discussed over Sunday breakfast.
- “Mold in the freezer” isn’t in that old pint of Häagen-Dazs, but an ICE TRAY
- “Professional drivers usually break it” is not a speed limit, but PAR on a golf course.
- SILICON isn’t implant material (the polymer has an E on the end, and would be featured in the “medical drama” NIP/TUCK), but an element used in making semiconductors.
- Fun to see Dame EDNA Everage referenced with EDNA Ferber, the author of “So Big.” I wonder what else they have in common?
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Closing Statement”
So, Brendan labels his themeless puzzles “Hard” and calls this one “Medium” (or maybe “Mard”). Now, this week’s pair of themelesses took me 5:31 and 4:24, whereas this quip puzzle took me 6:12. So, is Brendan’s meter way off, or am I an outlier who solves themeless crosswords faster than I’m supposed to?
The theme’s “verse” rhymes if you don’t pronounce WTF as “double-you tee ef.” Quip themes, meh. The fill isn’t boring, but the six-part theme doesn’t leave much room for the fill to really sparkle. I like PALTROW and KUGEL, I do. ROQUE and OAK FERN are weird—haven’t heard of either one before.