Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword
- 17A. [BAD] is MISCHIEVOUS.
- 23A. [BED] is a PLACE TO SLEEP. See? That sounds like a clue, not a crossword answer.
- 37A. To [BID] is to OFFER. Mighty short theme answer, that.
- 46A. [BOD] is a PERSON’S BUILD. Another in the not-in-the-language category of phrases that show up in crosswords only in this sort of clue/answer flip-flop theme.
- 56A. [BUD] is SLANG FOR MARIJUANA. No, wait, that’s not the answer. It’s FUTURE BLOOM, which is also not in-the-language.
Highlights in the fill include OPHELIA, a [Shakespeare character who goes insane]; ALAN LADD, ["Shane" star]; BELABOR, or [Beat to death, so to speak], nonviolently; a POT ROAST, or [Slow-cooked beef entree]; and ABNORMAL, or [Strange].
Words seen more in crosswords than in the rest of my life include these:
- 60A. UTE is a [Versatile vehicle, for short]. Who calls what a UTE, exactly? I never hear it. (Not counting the Ute tribe.)
- 62A. [Not quite round] clues OVATE.
- 9D. The ECU is an [Old French coin].
- 25D. [Wroclaw's river] is the ODER. Except in Poland, it’s called the Odra.
- 27D. The AGHA is an [Ottoman Empire chief]. Sometimes spelled AGA.
- 58D. TEC, the middle syllable of “detective,” is a [Gumshoe].
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Smoothie Mix”
- 17a. BLIND MELON is a [Band whose "No Rain" video had the "Bee Girl"].
- 11d. WILD CHERRY is the [Funk band with "Play That Funky Music"] from back in the ’70s.
- 30d. CHUCK BERRY is clued [He sang "Johnny B. Goode"].
- 61a. You’ll need some sort of yogurt or ice cream with that fruit. VANILLA ICE is ["To the Extreme" rapper]. Or maybe the ICE is the smoothie ingredient here.
I realize that the fruits all appear at the end of their theme entries, but it would make for a better smoothie to have BANANARAMA in the mix.
Highlights in the fill include an INCHWORM, BOB DOLE, a TWIX bar, the MANDIBLE that helps you chew that Twix bar, and the movie I AM LEGEND.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword
James Sajdak may well be unaware of the 2000, 2007, and 2010 NYT crosswords that tread the same ground, with 50% to 75% of the theme answers the same. A great many L.A. Times crossword solvers may never do NYT puzzles, so the theme will be fresh and lively for them. But for us crossword gourmands, there’s an “Uh-oh, not again” feeling. The theme is people and places that end with plurals of the seasons:
- 17a. COLORADO SPRINGS is a [City near the base of Pikes Peak]. Two of the three NYTs used this one for SPRINGS; the third had the less familiar SARATOGA SPRINGS.
- 28a. The [National Economic Counsel director] these days is LARRY SUMMERS. Whoops, actually he is the National Economic Council director. He was clued as an ex-Harvard president and as Treasury Secretary in two earlier puzzles (he was billed as LAWRENCE in one). The other puzzle’s SUMMERS was BUFFY the vampire slayer.
- 47a. [Where to board the Maid of the Mist tour boat] is NIAGARA FALLS. One other puzzle had this answer; the other two had HORSESHOE FALLS (what?) and WICHITA FALLS, Texas (pop. 96,000).
- 61a. JONATHAN WINTERS was the [1999 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor]. Two NYT puzzles shared him, while the third had SHELLEY WINTERS.
This theme has now been done to death. Constructors, please stop coming up with a simple theme idea and not checking whether it’s been published before you fill the grid and write the clues.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Welcome, June”—Evad’s review
We have a very timely puzzle for the first day of June. Mr. Hamel strings together four theme entries that are all related somehow to a person named June. (Sorry, joon, “ACPT 2010 Rookie of the Year” didn’t make the cut as spelling counts here!)
- “Sci-fi show costarring June Lockhart” is LOST IN SPACE. A staple of my early adolescence. I hated the conniving Dr. Smith, but my favorite was the stormy Major Don West.
- “Dr. Seuss character voiced on TV by June Foray” was CINDY LOU WHO. The toughest area of the puzzle for me, I had CINDY LOO first. I see here that Ms. Foray was also the voice for Rocky the Flying Squirrel (any Bullwinkle fans out there?)
- Country singer who married June Carter” was JOHNNY CASH. The Carter family were famous country singers in their own right, referred to as “The First Family of Country Music.”
- “Actor who appeared in six movies with June Allyson” is VAN JOHNSON. I couldn’t name one of them, as I see they date back to the post-WW II movies of the 40s and 50s. One was called “Two Girls and a Sailor,” co-starring Jimmy Durante, Lena Horne, Xavier Cugat, Grace Allen, Ava Gardner and Buster Keaton. Now that’s a cast!
Let’s talk briefly about the grid construction today. The placement of these four theme entries is referred to as a “pinwheel.” This is the easiest type of grid to fill, as there is no non-theme entry that crosses two theme entries. If all four themes ran across the grid, a constructor would likely have more trouble as some non-theme entries (“fill”) would have to cross at least two themes with fixed letters. This isn’t difficult, but it does constrain the fill to some degree and can lead to the dreaded “crosswordese” like EERO, ESAI, ERNE, etc.
Pinwheels can only be used if the lengths of all four theme entries are fewer than 12 letters (in a daily 15×15 grid). Here we have 2 10-letter entries and 2 11-letters. If any theme entry was 12 letters or more, there would not be room to run another theme entry down or across leaving the minimum 3 squares for the shortest fill.