Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
I was paying no mind to the theme until I reached 58a: The NYSE’s OPENING BELL, a [Sound of capitalism? …or a hint to the starts of 17-, 22-, 35- and 46-Across]. He-e-ey! My husband and his colleagues rang the OPENING BELL back in June. No, really! They did. There’s video to prove it.
So, those other four answers begin with ___ bells.
- 17a. FIRE AND RAIN is a [1970 James Taylor hit]. “Fire bell” sounded only vaguely familiar to me. The bell that rings in the firehouse when there’s a fire call, that’s the fire bell. I’m so glad the theme entry is FIRE AND RAIN, though. You know why? So I can make you go listen to a snippet of Roger Whittaker’s terrible, horrible rendition of that song. You will be grateful that you can only listen to 30 seconds of the song at Amazon.
- 22a. A [Mischievous rural pastime] is COW TIPPING. Brendan Quigley just had COW in a puzzle clued with [___ tipping] on Monday. You know what Roger Whittaker’s music needs? More cowbell, for sure.
- 35a. I have never in my life heard an actual dinner bell. Do these still exist? DINNER ETIQUETTE feels a tad contrived as crossword phrases go.
- 46a. Dana Carvey’s classic SNL CHURCH LADY ponies up a church bell. Great entry!
Here are several more items from the puzzle:
- 1a. [Red October detector] is the SONAR used to track the submarine called the Red October. (This is purely fictional, right?) It’s not a red thing that’s an “October detector” here.
- 2d, 20a. What the…? Really? Since when? OTIS is in the ESCALATOR business too, not just elevators? Indeed it is. Moving walkways, too.
- 41a. I know the phrase “cock a snook” thanks to crosswords (of the Saturday variety). [Basslike fish] is also a SNOOK? That I did not know.
- 13d. ORANGE! That’s ["High," in the Homeland Security Advisory System]. Red is code for “Like, Way High.”
- 38d. Took me a while to understand this one. I think [Nail holder] is TOE because of toenails and not because of any hardware terminology. Yes? The toe doesn’t really do any active “holding.”
- 42d. A SCYTHE is a [Swath maker]. Who doesn’t like a scythy swath?
- 43d. THORAX isn’t just a clinical word for the [Chest]—it’s also the name of a medical journal. So is Chest, and Stephen Colbert made fun of that once. I tell ya, it made the day of my friends who work for Chest.
- 49d. [Valentine embellishment] clues DOILY. When I was little, my mom gave my sister and me a bunch of red and pink construction paper to make hearts, plus a bunch of heart-shaped doilies to glue onto them.
Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword
If this puzzle needed a title, I would call it “A Flock of Eagles” in homage to the ’80s New Wave band, A Flock of Seagulls. All four theme entries have the same clue: [Eagle]. And some of the four wouldn’t normally qualify as crossword fill, except that this is one of those answer/clue reversal themes. There’s a KEEN-EYED BIRD, LUNAR LANDER (that one would pass muster as a non-theme entry), TWO UNDER PAR (also solid), and the HIGHEST SCOUT in the Boy Scouts organization. As usual, this theme variety doesn’t do much for me.
Seven more clues:
- 18a. [Former credit card giant] MBNA? Oy. Not the sort of fill you want to see.
- 23a. Plural [Big pix: Abbr.] clues ENLS, abbreviating “enlargements.” Awkward plural abbrev here.
- 30a. In this political season, I misread [Running independently] as “running for office as an independent” rather than as a machine or process running ON AUTO.
- 4d. The verb PLANES is clued with [Does a cabinetmaking task].
- 25d. BUDDHA is [Sanskrit for "awakened one"].
- 58d. TAFT was the [First president to take up golf]. Who’s the last president who didn’t golf?
- 59d. The [Pin cushion?] where one wrestler tries to pin another is a MAT.
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
This is the same sort of theme Tyler used in his Tuesday CrosSynergy puzzle, but with a little extra: MIDTERM ties everything together because TERM appears in the exact MIDdle of each theme entry. There’s the game MASTERMIND, a MONSTER MOVIE, GREATER MIAMI, and Dale Evans’ horse, BUTTERMILK.
Seven more clues:
- 62a. [The Big Bad Wolf's name, in Disney cartoons] is ZEKE? Who knew? Not I.
- 64a, 57d. Brand name collision. ILLY is an [Italian coffee brand] and SKYY brand vodka is a [Screwdriver choice]. Make mine Phillips head.
- 4d. [One might be purchased with a chair] clues OTTOMAN. I grew up calling that a hassock, but I’m an ottoman person now.
- 18d. This is crazy. The Tuesday CrosSynergy puzzle also contained ELOHIM, or [God, in the Old Testament].
- 28d. ["Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" songwriter] clues NEIL SEDAKA. I just learned the other day that his 1975 hit ballad by that name was a reworking of his uptempo 1962 pop version. Never knew there was a ’62 version. Nor did I know that the German cover is called “Abschiednehmen ist so schwer.”
- 35d. [Balls-out, say] is an odd clue for BARE. You know what’s coming on the market in England soon? Men’s frontal enhancement underwear. I kid you not.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Homemaking”—Janie’s review
It’s the battle of the building materials today as the first word of each of Lynn’s five evocative theme phrases also names a construction medium. All of the phrases are solid; three of the five materials are really solid. Take your choice of:
- 18A. STONE COLD [Not fit to eat, in a way]. Nope. Not even ice cream. Now, I don’t know if this is real or photoshopped (or maybe some combo), but this is one serious house of stone.
- 23A. MUDSLINGING [Defamatory campaign activity]. And, oh boy—’tis the season. Hope things aren’t too ugly where you are. This painted mud house in Africa is exotic and quite fabulous looking.
- 36A. CONCRETE JUNGLES [Unpleasant paved over urban spaces]. Especially when “paved over” and littered. Comme ça. Quite a study in contrast to this mod’ren concrete domicile.
- 48A. BRICK CHEESE [Dairy product first made in Wisconsin]. Wow. That’s a cool little factlet. Here’s a picture of a modest brick house (in Canada), and here’s a picturesque brick and stone house. And just to make things complete, here’s someone’s idea of a cheese house… (That could make some mouse verrrrry happy…) Too bad it wasn’t made of EDAM (but that Swiss does allow for better ventilation…). We find JACK in the grid, too, another type of cheese, but today it’s clued as [Item in a trunk].
- 55A. WOODWINDS [Some horns, e.g.]. Like the saxophone. Seems there was a lot of discussion on Cruciverb as to whether or not a woodwind could be called a horn, but the consensus—especially because of the sax—was a definite “yes.” Here’s a rather beautiful wooden house built on a stone foundation.
Looking at all of these homes makes me wonder who’s living NEXT DOOR [Very close by], and if they socialize, or if someone’s IRON WILL [Unstoppable determination] is responsible for the decision to keep fences between them for optimal privacy. Some people also live in iron houses… People who live in iron houses…best use Rustoleum… All of the home owners, however, may want to consider doing some landscaping, some gardening, keeping their grounds ABLOOM [Full of flowers] as the seasons allow.
Lynn’s grid is very rich in lively sixes. The NW and SE corners have triple 6-columns featuring such fill as the always welcome WILBUR [Charlotte's pig pal in "Charlotte's Web"], the immoderate IMELDA [Well-shod first lady Marcos], and “HEAR YE!” [Repeated phrase of a town crier]. But look around the grid and you’ll also find the likes of IDEALS [Noble principles], LIE LOW [Avoid being noticed], MINNOW [Small fish often used as bait], ADONIS [Gorgeous Greek of lore] and LUNACY [Utter madness].
All of this in combination with concise but snappy clue/fill combos like [Filch]/SWIPE, [Grouch]/CRAB and [Quick smack]/SWAT, helps Lynn in succeeding to create a puzzle that’s anything but GENERIC.