Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
This theme is not for those who don’t follow football. Did you know that the CENTER, TACKLE, END, and GUARD are all LINEMAN varieties? I sure didn’t. I would’ve said that “offensive lineman” and “defensive lineman” were specific positions on a football team. Go figure. Anyway, the theme entries end with those positions:
- 20a. SHOPPING CENTER.
- 30a. [Anchor-hoisting equipment] clues CAT TACKLE. Are you kidding me? On what planet is that a Wednesday-level approachable term that people might be expected to know? It was more plausible than CET TACKLE, but the 31d crossing, a dreaded variant spelling (oh, dear) could have been EMEER instead of AMEER.
- 37a. I know the general term “the BITTER END,” but sheesh, [Longtime Greenwich Village music venue, with "the"]? Never, ever heard of it. Here’s their schedule for October. I have heard of exactly one artist. Bonus points for freshness, outweighed by demerits for obscurity.
- 48a. SHIN GUARD.
- 57a. It is indeed a tragedy that RHINESTONE COWBOY is too long for a 15×15 puzzle. That song was such a hit when I was a kid and the occasional country artist got major airplay on the all-hits stations. Instead we have WICHITA LINEMAN, that other Glen Campbell song. He is a lineman for the county? Which county is Wichita in?
I slowed myself down by reading the 9d clue for the 8d spot and deciding that Richard CRENNA was really named CRENSHAW. Dang, that CRENSHAW wasn’t working at all. Not a single square in common with EXECUTOR, which really belonged at 8d.
My favorite answers include several of the multi-word answers. Some multi-word answers that tack on a lousy little preposition leave me cold, but Alan had a good batch of phrases here: SEA STAR/IN SHAPE/ON TOP OF in the upper left, IN A MOOD and DOING OK in the opposite corner, MT. FUJI in the middle, and “LET ‘EM” in the bottom. MYRIAD and CHORTLE are both cool words, too.
Less savory: The aforementioned AMEER, SION defiling 1-Across, suffixes -ENNE and -STER, plural RUTHS, boring ASTA and NEAP, one-L ENROL, nautical APORT, TOASTERS clued as fake-job people rather than appliances, and plural abbreviation EES.
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 17a. LOADED QUESTIONS are [Challenges for an interviewee]. I tried to fit LEADING QUESTIONS in there but it just wouldn’t work. Oprah Winfrey is an example of someone who’s loaded.
- 25a. [Not even close] clues the phrase WELL OFF THE MARK. Your average surgeon is well-off, but not quite loaded.
- 40a. A MANAGING EDITOR is a [Journalism bigwig]. If you’re eking out a living, just getting by but not quite getting ahead, you’re managing. If you’re doing fine but not amassing enough money to be well-off, you’re also managing.
- 51a. [Defied tradition] clues BROKE WITH CUSTOM. Are you broke? There’s a recession in progress. I’m not surprised.
- 31a, 37a. [Neptune, for one] is a SEA GOD, not just a planet. [Seventh of eight, now], not nine, is the planet URANUS, also the first ruler of the universe in Greek mythology.
- 3d. BLAH, BLAH is clued as [Mindless chatter].
- 34d. [1950s Niners Hall of Fame quarterback] Y.A. TITTLE has a funny name.
Other clues and comments:
- 1a. [Mr. or Mrs.] is a great clue for ABBR., but ABBR. is not a great 1-Across.
- 30a: IN AT is echoed in the other partial, 49d: IT NO. Bleh.
- 45a. [Kind of will or trust] clues LIVING. I know what a living will is but am unclear on “living trust.”
- 4d. [Reacted to giving out too many cards] clues REDEALT. Yeah, how else are you gonna clue a word like that?
- 7d. ETUI is clued as a [Case in a purse, perhaps]. Damn, I keep forgetting to call that little zip-up case in my purse an ETUI.
- 12d. [Joan of "Knots Landing"] clues VAN ARK. She hasn’t really been famous in about 30 years.
- 13d. [Longtime Syrian ruling family name] is ASSAD. Could be a tough corner there if you don’t know VAN ARK and ASSAD.
- 27d. [Eight-time British Open host town] is TROON, my pick for most-likely-to-be-Googled.
- 28d. Ooh, I was duped. [Greek leader?] is the HARD G sound that begins “Greek.”
- 48d. To [Communicate digitally?] with your hands is to SIGN. I hope a bunch of solvers were tricked into putting TEXT here.
In the “meh” category are such entries as TVA, OLLA, EDY, plural abbrev ESQS, prefix OENO, and crosswordese puppeteer Tony SARG.
Nancy Salomon’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ma-Ma’s Girls”—Janie’s review
For her theme fill today, Nancy’s collected a quartet of actress whose first and last names begin with the letters “MA”—making “Ma-Ma’s girls” of ‘em all. (Actually, they all share the first three letters of their first names, but “Mar-Ma’s Girls” really doesn’t cut it…) Three had their time of being, well, Hollywood “hotties” (two of whom are actually highly respected actresses; one of whom is mostly famous for being famous…); one was always more “homespun.” Today’s players are:
- 17A. MARSHA MASON ["The Goodbye Girl" star]. This film got Ms. Mason the second of her four Academy Award Best-Actress-in-a-Leading-Role nominations.
- 28A. MARLEE MATLIN [Star of "Children of a Lesser God"]. And Academy Award Best-Actress-in-a-Leading-Role winner. At age 21. The youngest winner in the category. The role also earned Phyllis Frelich one of the Broadway production’s three TONYS [Theatre trophies].
- 43A. MARJORIE MAIN [Ma Kettle portrayer]. In case you were wondering which was the “homespun” one, that’d be Ms. Main, who began playing Ma Kettle in 1947 in The Egg and I and appeared in nine more “Ma and Pa Kettle” movies, the last one being in 1957. That first time garnered her an Oscar nom for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Each of these three actresses carved out richly diverse and vital careers for themselves. If they’ve not always spent every minute in the limelight, neither would they be called HAS BEENS [Faded stars]. That would be a pretty CYNICAL observation [Critically contemptuous].
- 58A. MARLA MAPLES [TV actress once married to "The Donald"]. Received a lovely financial award on divorcing “The Donald”…
No SOUR NOTES in this one of the literal [Singers' slip-ups] or figurative sort. The puzzle’s internal glue takes care of that. F’rinstance there’s the tie in between MOGAMBO and SAHARAN. The latter is defined as [Dry as a desert]; the former is the [1953 Gable-Gardner movie] about a safari that was filmed in Sub-Saharan Africa. And if it gets too hot down there, there’s an antidote in the IDITAROD [Annual Alaskan sled race] with its sometimes POLAR [Arctic or Antarctic]-like temperatures/climate.
Then we get two quantitative items—the sequentially clued WATT [Current measure] and BTU [Air conditioner meas.]. There are also the baseball-related items: a [Yank, for one] is an AL’ER; the [D.C. ball team] is the NATS (of the National League); each has been involved in a TIE GAME situation [Contest headed for overtime] (or extra innings, as the case may be); and each has seen team members subject to a [General Manager's maneuver], a TRADE. There’s the [Sticky situation] JAM, which works well with SNAG, that [Fly in the ointment]. And there’s also the sequentially clued ASSAY [Rate for purity] and [Like a diamond] for HARD, as gemstones as well as ores may be taken to the assay office.
Other strong fill/clue combos come to us via CAME CLEAN [Fessed up], ARMFUL [Carrier's load], DEA [Traffic-stopping org.?], ONE HALF [Equal piece of a two-way split] and (even with a lovely “autumn in New York” in full swing) those appealing sounding LAGOONS [Tropical shallow waters]. Sigh.
Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
So, I have CNN on to watch the Chilean miners emerge from their tunnel like inspired cicadas. The anchor was interviewing NASA’s chief of space medicine, who noted that the Chilean officials had sought help from experts all over the world, “literally, the four corners of the earth.” I dunno. I’m not sure NASA is the right place for him with that grasp of planetary science.
Easy Onion puzzle this week. The theme riffs on Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars by taking other familiar phrases and reimagining them as Facebook games. There’s DIRT FARMER, TRAFFIC ISLAND, PET PEEVES, NOWHERESVILLE, and SHANTYTOWN. I’ve never played any of those simulation games on Facebook (I’m a Lexulous and Bejeweled Blitz woman), so the theme didn’t really sing to me.
Highlights in the fill include EL NORTE (which I saw in college, a year or two after it came out), CURFEW, a PRINT AD, RULE OUT (which is an discrete unit of meaning unto itself, vs. those random tack-on-a-preposition answers like PLACE ON or PUSH IN), DEAD ENDS, RED ALERT, DIMWITS, and Julie KAVNER.