Adam Perl’s New York Times crossword
Well, that’s one way to go with a STROKES theme. Another way would be to find phrases that begin with ISCHEMIC and HEMORRHAGIC, but that pair would make for a rather wan theme. Mr. Perl opted for swimming strokes, lurking at the beginning of the phrases BUTTERFLY SHRIMP, CRAWL SPACE, BACK ISSUES, AND BREAST…OF CHICKEN. (BREAST ENLARGEMENT is 1 letter too long, BREAST IMPLANTS too short, and BREAST CANCER both too short and too depressing.)
I had one big Mystery Answer in this puzzle, at 35d: [Facial recognition aid]. IDENTIKIT? What’s that? Google will tell me: It’s Identi-Kit, software used to make facial composite sketches of crime suspects. I don’t know that “recognition aid” really gets at that. And I have my doubts that Identi-Kit is so well-known that it’s welcome in a Tuesday puzzle.
3d: LITTLE EVA, ["The Loco-Motion" singer, 1962]—I pretty much know her from crosswords. Not to be confused with the little Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin…whom I also know from crosswords.
A clue I like: 2d: [Trooper on the highway] for the ISUZU Trooper, with that covert capital T in the clue. Anyone else see that Letterman episode years ago with Rosie Perez as a guest? She talked about her SUV, and the way she said “Isuzu Trupah” caught Dave’s ear and mine. Ever since, my husband and I have used only the Perez pronunciation for that make and model.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “It’s the Pits”
There are all sorts of terms that describe varying deodorants and antiperspirants, and they’re found at the beginning of each theme entry. I’m pleased that SPRAY didn’t make the cut, because I can still taste the foulness of my high-school classmates’ spray deodorant in the locker room after gym. Seriously? In an enclosed space, surrounded by other people, you’re gonna whoosh a spray can? Feh.
The STICK is a SOLID, not a ROLL-ON. The GEL type pretends to be a stick, but I say it’s too liquid to qualify. And the CLEAR, that tends to be a gel form, doesn’t it? Me, I’m partial to the “invisible solid,” which looks white but goes on clear. Who’s with me? Antiperspirant roll call! No, let’s not get into that.
Here are the theme entries:
- 18a. [Automatic alternative] is a STICK SHIFT transmission.
- 24a. [Totally understandable] clues CLEAR AS CRYSTAL. Ehhh…I don’t care for that. “Crystal clear,” “clear as day,” “clear as a bell,” yes. But who says “clear as crystal”?
- 39a. [Featured player in a 1980s music show] is a SOLID GOLD DANCER. Omigod, how much do I love this answer? Now, that is worth the price of admission.
- 51a. [Refrain from a 1941 Woody Guthrie song] is ROLL ON, COLUMBIA. I don’t know the song in question, but I commend Matt for finding a phrase that begins with ROLL ON.
- 61a. [Pain reliever option] clues GEL CAPLETS.
I’m no fan of the multi-word partial entry, and Matt has a bunch of them interspersed among the five long answers. SHOW A, OF L.A., ERE I, A BAG, and A LAST? That’s at least three too many. Other lowlights include initials GBS and HHH, plural DERNS, prefix OSTE, and should-be-IRANIAN IRANI. I don’t like identifying 10 not just “blah” but “blech” sort of answers in a single puzzle. Matt usually does better.
- 23a. RUE takes a break from the regretful verb and becomes [One of the "Golden Girls" actresses], Rue McClanahan.
- 8d. [Scenic routes] are BACK ROADS.
- 33d. BOJANGLES is a terrific entry. It’s [Dancer Bill Robinson's nickname].
- 34d. [Rain-___ (bubble gum brand)] is Rain-BLO. Yes, BLO is a terrible crossword entry. But Halloween is coming, and who among us doesn’t remember bringing home a disappointing quantity of Rain-Blo gumballs? Really, people, don’t give out gumballs on Halloween. Or Sixlets.
- 48d. LOUP [___-garou (werewolf)] is French. It’s an insane entry for a crossword, yes, but I’m pleased to have learned the term. And LOUP is a cognate of lupine and lobo, so it’s not that far out.
- 51d. [Kelly Ripa co-host, to fans] is REEGE, short for Regis. Probably not an entry you’ll see much of in the NYT crossword, but it’s playful and pop-cultury and I like it.
- 55d. [Food so good they wrap other food in it] clues BACON. I wouldn’t know. Haven’t had red meat since the late ’70s. Better to wrap food in bacon than to dress in it, in any case. (Memo to Lady Gaga.)
Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 10a. [Country music pioneer Ernest] TUBB, either before my time or out of my wheelhouse.
- 20a. ['60s-'70s war site, briefly] is NAM. I wonder if that passed the breakfast test back in 1970?
- 1d. ["High Hopes" lyricist Sammy] CAHN is old pop culture.
- 2d. 1-A, or ONE-A, was the [Top draft status] back when the U.S. military had the draft. I wonder if this was the first “number word replacing numeral” crossword answer to hit the big time (“the big time” meaning “heavy rotation as a repeater entry”).
- 4d. ['60s "trip" drug] is LSD, popular among those protesting the war in NAM.
- 5d. [Early gas company based in Cleveland] is SOHIO, defunct for over 20 years.
- 8d. Crosswords always tell us that people cheer “RAH!” at sports events, as a [Bleachers cry]. Does anyone actually yell “Rah!”? I have never encountered this word in the wild.
- 9d. [John __ Lennon] ONO, he didn’t like the war in NAM, did he?
- 10d. [Kid's make-believe phone] clues TIN CAN. I know tin can is still “in the language,” but most of what people call tin cans are actually aluminum or steel. (See also: tinfoil. Made of aluminum.)
- 27d. [One-horse carriage] is a SHAY. I’m guessing this answer was more common in crosswords of yore, and that today’s puzzle editors would prefer not to find this in the grids they choose.
Hmm? What’s that? The theme? Oh, yes! The theme:
- 58a. BEACHFRONT is [Valuable shore property, and a hint to what the first words of 17-, 23-, 37- and 45-Across have in common].
- 17a. [Top banana] clues HEAD HONCHO, a colorful term. (Beach head.)
- 23a. [Unstable situation, metaphorically] is a HOUSE OF CARDS, also a terrific answer. (Beach house.)
- 37a. [Huge mess] clues BALL OF CONFUSION, which is a term I have never used. You? (Beach ball.)
- 45a. PARTY ANIMALS are [Gregarious fun lovers] and a cool crossword answer. (Beach party. Hello, Annette and Frankie!)
I call foul on 36d: DNAS, or [Genetic info carriers]. Nineteen prior appearances in Cruciverb—and you can bet that people complained about the pluralization every time. RNAS is marginally better, as you have messenger RNA and transfer RNA.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Gotcha!”—Janie’s review
The last words of each of today’s three theme phrases are all things you don’t want to get caught in: a net, a trap and a web. Now Doug gives us nice-enough theme phrases, but with one exception (the first), there isn’t much distance between the meaning of that last word in or out of its grid context. The phrases in question are:
- 20A. ["Swish!"] “NOTHING BUT NET!” Fantastic. This is a basketball reference, of course, and is also the basis of a series of McDonald’s ads in which kings of the court duke it out, playing high-stakes one-on-one for the coveted Big Mac. Only catch is, the ball can’t touch the rim, so each shot must be “nothing but net!” Here’re Jordan and Byrd goin’ at it. This kinda net is handy for catching fish or butterflies (though apparently this model is currently unavailable…).
- 35A. [1998 remake in which Lindsay Lohan played twins] THE PARENT TRAP. Oh, man. I saw it first time around with Hayley Mills… Am wondering if The Beatles picked up the “yeah, yeah, yeah” thing from “Let’s Get Together.” You be the judge. So the movie is about twins who try to “trap” their estranged parents into reconciliation. It’s all very benign and fortunately, no one has to resort to one of these.
- 52A. [Children's novel about a pig named Wilbur] CHARLOTTE’S WEB. And a most beautiful book it is, too. Your basic timeless classic. (Ditto the one with POOH, [Piglet's pal].) But a web is a web, no? Okay, these examples comin’ up are flat as (matte finish) paint, but I think the theme may have been stronger with those “Gotcha!” words at the front of the phrase and not at the end—so we’d have things like NET PROCEEDS and TRAP SHOOTERS and WEB BROWSER—where there’s a clear difference in meaning of the words we’re to focus on.
I was much happier with the likes of “OH, SUSANNA!” ["...with a banjo on my knee" tune], STRIKE UP [Start, as a conversation] (or “the band”), and TURMERIC [Spice used in curry powder] to keep things lively. MORTICIA [Wife of Gomez Addams] is a great addition to the fill; with her long, center-parted locks, she makes HAIR CARE [Beauty school subject] look very easy.
Additionally, love the triple 6-columns NW and SE with MITTEN [One of a winter pair] and NEWTON [Isaac or Wayne] (whaddaya suppose they’d talk about together if they were in the same room?…); scattered sixes JUMP ON [Rebuke severely], SET TOS [Short squabbles] and ORANGE [Skittles flavor] (Amy’s fave?); and sevens SOAPIER [More in need of rinsing] and LARAMIE [University of Wyoming city].
And that, friends, is all she wrote. “CIAO!” ["Ta-ta!"].