MaryEllen Uthlaut’s New York Times crossword
Congrats to MaryEllen Uthlaut on her NYT debut. I like how the theme entries add -LET to the end of four words to change their meanings. Sometimes the -LET breaks up one of the original words (looseleaf, eavesdrop, ringtone) and sometimes it doesn’t (cut), so there’s a faint air of inconsistency in the structure.
- 20a. A CUTLET ABOVE might be a [Meat slice on the highest shelf?]. At first I was thinking that all of the -LET words in the theme were etymologically related to the -LET-less words, but cutlet‘s derivation is a diminutive of a word meaning rib, not a little cut of something.
- 27a. [Advertising sheet blowing in the wind?] clues LOOSE LEAFLET. I was back at Staples today buying some looseleaf paper for my kid to take to school tomorrow.
- 44a. This one’s my favorite theme entry. Phone ringtones turn into RINGLET TONES, or [Curly lock tints?].
- 52a. [Dribble from an icicle?] might be an EAVES DROPLET.
Highlights and tough bits in the fill:
- 17a. A PUPPET SHOW is [Entertainment you might have a hand in?]. Cute clue.
- 33a. [It has feet in a line] clues a POEM. Metrical feet, that is.
- 63a. [Be under par] doesn’t pertain to golf today, but rather, to AIL.
- 1d. The only reason I know that PPP means [Very, very soft, in music] is from crosswords.
- 8d. [Lily of Africa] isn’t a person, it’s the ALOE plant.
- 28d. Instead of cluing SEN as an abbreviation for senator, they give us this: [When doubled, a breath freshener]. I hear terrible things about Sen-Sen. Licorice, blech.
- 34d. SAINT is clued with two holiday saint examples: [Nicholas or Patrick].
- 43d. STRETTO is a [Feature of a fugue]. Yep, learned this music term from crosswords, too.
- 56d. A car horn’s TOOT is clued as [Driver’s nonverbal “hello”]. City drivers are more inclined to use the horn as an outraged “Hel-lo?!?” than a friendly “Hello!”
- 60d. [“Striving to better, oft we ___ what’s well”: Shak.] is an interesting clue for MAR. Leave well enough alone, eh?
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I ? NY: where’s the love?”
- 18a. A [Humiliating way to live] is IN IGNOMINY.
- 23a. The [Original makers of Rubik’s Cube] were the IDEAL TOY COMPANY.
- 36a. That [Rare postage stamp with an upside-down airplane] is called the INVERTED JENNY.
- 50a. ”IT’S NOT THAT FUNNY” is clued as [Comment after a lame joke others are laughing at].
- 56a. [Hackneyed birthday girl’s request] is “I WANT A PONY.”
The fill’s not as fresh as what we’re used to seeing in Matt’s puzzles. 1d: ZAFTIG, meaning [“Pleasingly plump,” according to Merriam-Webster], is particularly nice.
I ran into one mystery name that made me work the crossings. 14a: ABRA is clued as [“Four Leaf Clover” folk-rocker Moore]. Who? Here’s the video of the song. Moore is the antithesis of ZAFTIG.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. [1978 movie set in a Turkish prison] is MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. I read the book when I was maybe 11 or 12 or 13 and learned many important things. Such as: Don’t smuggle hashish into Turkey. And: You can cook heroin in the bowl of a spoon right there in prison. (Does Crayola still have midnight blue?)
- 35a. A POWDER KEG is a [Volatile situation]. Powder blue is pretty. So is sky blue, but Donna didn’t include, say, SKYWRITER.
- 46a. NAVY BEANS are [White legumes]. The beans are not navy blue.
- 57a. ROYAL COPENHAGEN is a [Big name in Danish porcelain]. I have to give the edge to cobalt blue over royal blue.
A few more clues:
- 30a. The RADISH is a [Peppery root veggie]. Meh. I’ll pick them out if they wind up in my salad.
- 2d. [Car company whose name is Latin for “Hark!”] is AUDI. Hey! New trivia clue for a common crossword answer!
- 6d. [Diner hodgepodge dish] is HASH. Don’t smuggle any hash into Turkey, folks.
- 29d. [Dermatologist’s concern] is SKIN. Thanks, Donna, for sparing us talk of WART, CYST, RASH, ACNE, or ZITS.
- 38d. [Rhett’s last verb] is GIVE. In his last line, “damn” is a noun.
- 49d. [Folded (one’s hand), in poker slang] clues MUCKED. Whoa. Not in my vocabulary.
- 53d. [Patterned fabric] clues TOILE. Tuile is a cookie. Tulle is a light netting type of fabric. Moiré is a rippled-looking fabric. Everyone got that?
As usual, Donna does a bang-up job writing interesting and fresh clues.
William I. Johnston’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Cross Words”—Janie’s review
Oh, boy, does Will get a lot of mileage with this theme which gives us (basically) one clue for all three of the 15-letter theme entries. The clue that delivers so efficiently can be found in the title; the variations appear as follows:
- 20A. [Cross (noun)] CHRISTIAN SYMBOL. Simple. Perfect. And then look how Judeo-Christian Will goes in the puzzle by also including: [“…why has thou] FORSAKEN [me?”]; [“]HAVA [Nagila”] the traditional and spirited Hebrew song—often heard at Jewish weddings—that everyone dances the hora to…; YOM [Kippur], the Day of Atonement, now some ten days away; and RABBI [Torah teacher] and the one who likely to be leading those High Holy Day services.
- 37A. [Cross (verb)] MIX ANIMAL BREEDS. Or plant species. Famous cross-breed of the animal variety? Why the jackalope, of course!
- 54A. [Cross (adjective)] ANGRY AND ANNOYED. Now that’s mix to be avoided, said Pollyanna (though under the “right” circumstances, I suppose it’s not difficult to become that way).
In addition to this very tight theme/theme-fill, Will gives us lots of great non-theme fill, lots of “tie-in” fill and lots of clever cluing. Beginnin’ at the beginning, there’s GATE CRASH [Attend uninvited] and the very current FLASH MOB [Spontaneous assembly often organized online]. This was my first exposure to that term, and makes me think this “assembly” might be “organized” to gate crash—literally or figuratively. SHIMMERED [Shone fitfully] is a beautiful word, curiously (but not inaccurately) clued. The IDITAROD is that [Alaskan race] run with DOG-and-sled teams (though today dog—which crosses Iditarod—appears in its verb form, meaning [Follow relentlessly]).
“RAPUNZEL, Rapunzel—let down your hair!” and that’s why the clue is [Strong locks provided access to her] (and this is a gal who never had the benefit of Fructis Garnier or L’Oreal or Pantene or nuthin’!). While Rapunzel was held captive by a witch, that witch could be describe as a bit of an OGRE [Folklore fiend] herself. SADLY [“Alas…”], it was only after her rescue that true love and CUPIDS [Valentine figures] were part of her world—but better late than never!
An [Arm or a leg] is a LIMB; a [Leg part] is a CALF. An [Arab dignitary] is an EMIR; [“Son of” in Arabic names] is IBN. Some (first-)name dropping occurs by way of OSCAR [Muppet in a trash can] and ETHAN [Frome of fiction], EMME [One-named supermodel] and TARA [Skater Lipinski].
It seems Will has his way with an alliterative clue, which we see in:
- [Married mujeres (abbr.)] for SRAS;
- [She sheep] for EWES;
- [Sudden silence] for HUSH;
- [Sinuous swimmer] for EEL;
- And the pair that’s almost too much… [Very, in Veracruz] and [Very, in Verona] for MUY and MOLTO—as in LAUDS [Gives kudos] (to) the constructor by saying, “Muy bien!” or “Molto bene!”