Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword
The theme is puns based on dead European male composers:
- 17a. “BIZET, SIGNAL!” (busy signal) is clued [Command to a French composer at an intersection?].
- 30a. [Command to a Hungarian composer at the piano?] is the exhortation, “PLAY, LISZT!” (Playlist.)
- 46a. [Command to a German composer on a baseball diamond?] is “THROW, BACH“! (Throwback.)
- 61a. “HAYDN, GO SEEK!” is the [Command to an Austrian composer on a scavenger hunt?].
Did you happen to notice that answer up there at 1-Across? [Veracruz's capital], that’s JALAPA. Population <300,000. I sure didn’t know this one.
- 11d. ABS OF STEEL! When I had ABSOF— in place, all I could think of was a prime example of tmesis with expletive infixation. Wasn’t seeing that ABS/OF word break. These abs are a [Hard core?].
- 29d. [1939 title role for Frank Morgan] is WIZARD OF OZ. Crosswords give Bert LAHR all the love.
- 33d. Why not cross the Hungarian composer with TOKAY, the [Hungarian wine]?
- 12d. POOL is a [Game involving banks], as in bank shots off the edge bumpers and into the side pocket.
- 5d. On the golf course, PUTTING is a [Green skill]. I suspect some people will be at a loss here, what with the P coming from JALAPA.
- 45d. “MAIS OUI” is ["But of course!," in Marseilles].
- 8d. For the mathy crowd, there’s a SINE WAVE, clued as [Symbol of simple harmonic motion].
- 43a. Interesting excerpt in this clue: SAKI is the [Author who famously ended a short story with the line "Romance at short notice was her specialty"].
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
If you TRY something, you take a crack at it, a stab, a shot (so violent!). Have a go at it. Make a bid. Or do whatever verb it is you do with an essay. The theme entries begin with those TRY synonyms: CRACK OPEN, BID ADIEU, STAB IN THE BACK. GO WITH THE FLOW, SHOT DOWN, ESSAY TEST.
- 9a. [Hekzebiah Hawkins's daughter] is the fictional SADIE Hawkins.
- 16a. [Phillips et al.: Abbr.] made me think of screwdrivers and Mackenzie Phillips, but the gist here is East Coast prep schools: ACADS. like Phillips and Exeter.
- 38a. [Like "Beowulf," e.g.: Abbr.] clues ANON., as in written by an anonymous author.
- 41a. [When doubled, a number puzzle] clues KEN, as in ken-ken.
- 42a. ["__ Swear": 1959 Skyliners hit] is completed by THIS I.
- 5d. [Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief] is golfer Retief GOOSEN.
- 24d. [The Dardanelles, e.g.] are not a Motown girl group but a geographic STRAIT.
- 42d. TWIDDLE is a great word. It means to [Move about absently, as one's thumbs].
- 46d. [One half of a tiff] is “HE SAID.” Another half is “she said.”
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Going with the Grain”—Janie’s review
When Donna talks about “going with the grain,” she’s not referring to the way one cuts fabric but (pretty much) to those “amber waves of …” Each of the three theme phrases (15 letters all) ends with a word that names a grain. And let me not forget to add that each of the phrases is a stand-out in its own right, imoo. See if you don’t agree:
- 17A. LIKE WHITE ON RICE [As closely as can be]. This one is making its CS debut and possibly its major puzzle debut as well. The etymology of this (yes) genuinely colorful “Southernism” is sketchy at best, but it’s been around for decades at least. Its meaning would derive from the fact that rice and its color are inseparable. Well, white rice anyway… Now back to that “pretty much” qualifier in the first paragraph. I always thought of rice plants as being green, but it seems that the ends of the long-grain variety would qualify as “amber,” too.
- 37A. CATCHER IN THE RYE [Holden Caufield's titular "position"]. Funny clue. Am not sure that I’d ever thought about the title in relation to baseball… Also enjoyed seeing AWRY and its jaunty clue [Wonky] in the mix.
- 57A. SOW ONE’S WILD OATS [Indulge in reckless, youthful behavior]. Why does the name “John Edwards” come to mind?…
Anyway, here’s how (long-grain) rice, rye and oats look in the field:
This puzzle derives much VIGOR [Energy] from its non-theme fill (and clues) as well. First of all, there’s some implied bonus fill. We get another grain in the grid, and that’s CORN [Tamale necessity]. And where in the U.S. does it grow in abundance? Same place as that ["Field of Dreams" setting], IOWA. All those grain fields require some tending, of course, and therefore some [Tilling implements] or HOES are provided. With good field (and LAWN) maintenance you’ll be pest-free, but should you see one, please make the midway the only place you actually whack-a-MOLE.
There’s long, strong fill in TWENTY-ONE [Blackjack target] and DRIVERS’ ED vividly/accurately clued as [Class in which the lesson might come to a screeching halt?].
JESTS [Kids around] and JOLT [Sudden blow] make for a strong NW corner—not only because of the “J,” but also because of the specific image-inducing clues. I also like how the “T” of the former creates the start of THE GRINCH [Seuss villain with a heart two sizes too small]. And that’s a grizzly if lively clue for the word that comes off the final “S,” too: [First in a series of slasher flicks] for SAW…
Donna incorporates a little Old Testament mini-theme by way of EVE [First lady], ESAU [Seller of a famous mess of pottage] and MIRIAM [She left Moses in the bulrushes].
Finally, some fave clues:
- [Bridge position] because at four letters and not EAST or WEST, the sea-faring HELM felt very fresh.
- [Strawberry Fields benefactor], a fine way to celebrate Yoko ONO.
- [Hit or miss?] because I missed for so long. VERB. Let the solver beware!
Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Everything you wanted to know about ABSINTHE is found in this puzzle. I had the opportunity to try absinthe in Prague back when it was still illegal in the U.S. but I’m partial to beverages that, you know, taste good. Here’s the theme:
- 17a. [Popular 19th century nickname for 51-Across, with "the"] is GREEN FAIRY. Never heard that term.
- 21a. [French name for the ritualistic preparation of a cocktail made with 51-Across] is LA LOUCHE. Never heard of that, either.
- 26a. [Psychoactive component in some formulations of 51-Across that allegedly caused hallucinations] is THUJONE. That doesn’t ring a bell, but the -ONE ending did. It’s the THUJ part that looks implausible.
- 47a. [19th century poet who called 51-Across his "beautiful madness"] is RIMBAUD. Yeah, he was an absinthe tweaker.
- 51a. [Spirit that saw the ban on its sale in the United States lifted in 2007] is ABSINTHE. Wait, ABSINTHE can see things? WIth the hallucinations, I wouldn’t be surprised.
- 60a. [Author who felt tulips growing up his legs upon drinking his first glass of 51-Across] is OSCAR WILDE. Never heard that one, but it’s a peculiar image and I like it.
You’d think a puzzle whose theme was filled with so many “never heard of”s would have been really tough, but the surrounding and crossing fill behaved beautifully and gave me no trouble.
- For sheer ballsiness (or ovariness), a shout-out to the Super Crosswordese Crossing of ADIT and ETUIS. The former is a mine shaft opening, though in the Onion, the clue (57d. [Opening at the end of a shaft]) looks lewd. The latter are 64a: [Ornamental needle cases]. I think the drug-abuse harm-reduction folks should provide heroin users with ETUIS for hypodermic needles. ETUIS and crossword books.
- 43a. [Backpackers, frequently] are HIPPIES.
- 66a. [Fist bumps] are DAPS. “Terrorist fist jab” is not the proper term.
- 24d. ["You got chocolate in my peanut butter..." candy brand] is REESE’S. Mmm.
- 31d. To [Put down in writing?] is to PAN something in a review.