José Chardiet’s New York Times crossword
Wow. I don’t know if you loved this puzzle as much as I did, but it’s in my favorite puzzles of 2010 folder. The Wordplay blog confirms that this is the constructor’s debut and also mentions that José is all of 16 years old. Whoa. Impressively, he already knows enough to scout out themes before submitting puzzles, and ditched a theme idea Brendan Quigley had already executed in one of his blog crosswords.
The theme is unified by EYE, which sounds like “i,” which is Apple’s favorite prefix for product names, supplanting even the Mac prefix. The various i___ products are represented in colorful phrases that end with words that can fill in that blank:
- 20a. [*"Ocean's Eleven" actor] is BERNIE MAC, and my mom (hi, Mom!) has a lovely iMac. Any theme that gets started with the late, great Bernie Mac is in the win column.
- 25a. [*Tweaks] means FINE-TUNES. Impressively, the first and last pairs of theme entries are partially stacked in the grid. Yeah, and I have iTunes, too.
- 37a. [*Small sci-fi vehicle] is an ESCAPE POD. My iPod is a Nano, I think.
- 52a. [*"Get Smart" device] is Maxwell Smart’s SHOE PHONE. How fun is that? Probably more fun than an iPhone 4 being gripped just so in the user’s hand.
- 58a. [*Blastoff spot] is a LAUNCH PAD. (a) I was just discussing the WiFi vs. 3G options for the iPad with my brother-in-law today. (b) It was cool seeing the space shuttle on its launch pad last winter at Cape Canaveral.
Lest you come away thinking this puzzle is just a big free ad for Apple, first of all, EX-LAX (16a. [Going brand?]) shares the space. Second, it would be silly to suggest that these consumer products aren’t already household names.
What I really like about this puzzle is the accomplished fill. Look at those corners containing a dozen 7- or 8-letter entries! I was a fan of this puzzle when 2d and 3d fell: LOW BLOW and U2′s THE EDGE are both fresh and lively. Now, we could certainly do without CLEANSE crossing EX-LAX, couldn’t we? Didn’t notice that juxtaposition when solving. I also appreciated vernacular “OOH LA LA” and “DREAM ON,” SPOILER clued as [Unwanted plot giveaway] (some crossword solvers are hotly averse to theme and clue spoilers about puzzles, too), and ATE DIRT.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Vow Your Head”
When a couple gets married, they may promise to be together ‘TIL DEATH (45a. [Brad Garrett sitcom that ended in June 2010]) when they say “I do,” and the sounds of “I do” head up the words in each theme entry. For example, 21a: [Freezes the twos out of a deck of cards?] clues ICES DEUCES, which sounds like”I do” is you lop off the -CES syllables. The other theme entries are AISLE DUEL, IDES DUDES, and IDLE DOODLE. So there are a variety of spellings for both the “I” and the “do” sounds.
Easy puzzle for a Jonesin’, isn’t it?
- 23a. ["OK, now I'm ready to play!"] clues “GAME ON!”
- 47a. [Gossip site] TMZ has been in the alt-crossword grids before, but is it ready for the daily newspaper? I’m guessing no.
- 54a. [Pearl Jam leader Eddie] VEDDER. Yes, the band’s heyday was in the ’90s, but it’s not every day that Eddie Vedder makes it into the puzzle.
- 9d. JANE DOE, [That anonymous lady over there]. The same clue doubles for SHE at 70a.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. ELLE MACPHERSON is a [Five-time "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit cover girl].
- 33a. “EBONY AND IVORY” are the [1982 song title items that "live together in perfect harmony"].
- 40a. The Francis Scott [Key opening?] is “O, SAY CAN YOU SEE.” O is Oprah’s magazine. I’m fine with the other appearance of a stand-alone O in this puzzle—31d: [He put the "O" in "Jackie O"] refers to ARI Onassis.
- 53a. A [Great experience] is the TIME OF ONE’S LIFE. Bonus magazine here—TIME and LIFE have a long history together.
Donna includes two 10s in the fill:
3d. To [Accomplish a daring feat] is to BELL THE CAT.
30d. LORELEI LEE is [Marilyn Monroe's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" role]. I needed lots of crossings for this one.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “In Reverse”—Janie’s review
“PSST! [Clandestine call]—for a puzzle that delivers the wordplay while it has you wondering if maybe you’re becoming a little dyslexic, give this one a try!” As the title suggests, the wordplay in question involves reversing the letters “I” and “N” where they appear together in otherwise familiar phrases.
- 17A. THE GAME OF NICHES [Alternate name for hide-and-seek]. Think about it. That’s pretty good. Now I gotta tell ya, until solving this puzzle, I was totally unfamiliar with the colorful base phrase, “the game of inches.” But I happened to be listening to the local sports news just after solving, and don’tcha know Scott Clark of Channel 7 started to summarize a particularly close call in a particularly close baseball game by saying, “In a game of inches…” While baseball- and golf-writers will claim that each of those is “the game of inches,” from what I can tell, it’s most closely connected to football—and to a particular “motivational” speech delivered by Al Pacino in the movie Any Given Sunday.
- 27A. NITRO COURSE [Demolition class]. That’s your introductory course on nitroglycerin.
- 49A. ‘NINER CIRCLE [Football huddle in San Francisco?]. I don’t know why this one pleases me so much, but it sure does. And what’re the odds that this would fall into the grid at 49 Across?
- 63A. RHYTHM OF THE RANI [Beat pattern for an Indian princess?]. Wow. Nuthin’ like saving the best for last. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Cascades singing “Rhythm of the Rain.” Note that this “in reverse” is distinguished from the others as the one-syllable “rain” morphs into the two-syllable rani.
Elsewhere in the puzzle, we get a double blast of “cool,” neither having to do with the weather. There’s [Cool] meaning ALOOF and then there’s ["Cool!"] as in “NEATO!” Change the last letter of that entry and you get ‘NEATH [Below, to Byron].
I hadn’t realized that SCATHES [Criticizes severely] was a verb. It is. Mostly we see it as the adjective scathing (as in “Moose Murders received scathing reviews and became legendary as a Broadway flop…”). Dictionary definitions tell us that scathe also means “to harm or injure, especially by fire.”
The puzzle also has two excellent 10s: SWEET TOOTH [Penchant for Kisses, say] (so those are Hershey’s Kisses), and COPACABANA [Workplace of Lola and Tony]. RICO‘s here today as well—only clued in a more straightforward way as ["Wealthy" in Oaxaca]. (Here’s a link to the lyric in case you need a refresher…)