Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword
Congratulations on your debut, Finn! Crossword Fiend blogger Janie tipped me off about Finn this morning, having talked with the 18-year-old Columbia student at the recent Pleasantville tournament. We look forward to seeing more of your work.
Do you know the (fairly youth-oriented) clothing chain, H&M? The ampersand gets spelled out in the central answer, H AND M, and those letters are the initials of six (!) more theme entries. They’re a lively batch of phrases, too. The Lion King song “HAKUNA MATATA” has nothing to do with HEAVY METAL other than being in the broad category, “music.” HASH MARKS, le HAUT MONDE, a HOTEL MANAGER, and HORACE MANN round out the theme. (If you Google the constructor’s name, you learn from MTV that he attended Horace Mann School. Nice work sneaking your alma mater in there, Finn.) We don’t see a ton of 67-square themes from newbies, do we?
I shopped at H&M in Vienna before the chain expanded to the U.S., and I still wear as PJs the cozy leggings I bought there. And then there’s the olive sweater I bought at the Michigan Avenue location. So I’m fond of the basis for this theme.
There’s plenty of tough fill in here, what with the theme locking down so much real estate:
- 31a. ARHAT is clued as [Enlightened Buddhist].
- 47a. MNEME is [One of the three original Muses]. What, there weren’t always nine of them?
- 63a. [Germany's ___ Canal] clues KIEL.
- 28d. NINON is a [Sheer fabric] I know from crosswords.
- 45d. ASTARE is one of those words you’re unlikely to encounter outside of crosswords. [Rubbernecking] is a better way to describe it.
- ASCH, ALY, BAÑO, HAMM, and ENNIO may also be a long time coming for some solvers.
Highlights in the fill:
- I love the super-fresh LIVE CHAT and GLAD-HAND, and a nice WORLD MAP is always welcome.
- Omigod! The two-L ENROLL spelling is in a crossword for a change. All too often it’s ENROL.
- I like how HI MOM and IMAM cross and echo each other phonetically.
- Also cute: The ESAI Morales/ NYPD Blue one-two punch. Speaking of TV shows I used to watch when they were on, I like the WKRP shout-out.
- 40a. [Hi-tech heart] means the metaphorical “heart” of a high-tech computer, the CPU. With CP* in place and the word “heart” in the clue, I halfheartedly tried CPR, which doesn’t make sense.
Elizabeth Long’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 4d. [Online IRS document submission system, literally?] is e-filing, and here there are a bunch of E’s filing down the grid. Fifteen of them, to be exact: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. (Note: Not a shoe width.)
- 7d. ['60s sitcom set at Fort Courage, literally?] is F Troop, and there are 15 F’s trooping down the grid.
- 8d. A G-string is represented by 15 G’s as a [Skimpy bikini part, literally?].
It’s an oddball theme, to be sure, but I give it points for freshness and for the E-F-G alphabetical sequencing.
The stalest crosswordese lives in the left of the grid, where the E’s nail down the boring stuff, such as ERLE, AGUE, E. LEE, EELY, RTES, ESS, and EEC. The G zone, though, is zippier: GOBS, GNAW, EGYPT, GOYA, and GYRO. “In Egypt, Goya gnaws gobs of gyros.”
There’s plenty of sparkle in the long fill. WEREWOLF, LATE SHIFT, UFOLOGIST, FOIE GRAS, AFTERGLOW, and FINAGLES are all awesome entries. I don’t usually expect to see so many colorful long answers in a mid-week themed puzzle.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
It took me a long time to get down to the lower left corner, which held the key to understanding the theme. 71a: [With 26-Down, luggage tag letters added to this puzzle's theme answers] clues AIRPORT / CODES, and four noted 3-letter airport codes are added to familiar phrases to make them into something entirely different. Only the state is given in the clues, but frequent fliers should know most of the airport codes here:
- 17a. [Democratic contest to replace an Andy Griffith character? (Georgia)] is a MATLOCK ELECTION, with Atlanta’s code, ATL, snuck inside a mock election. Bonus points for Matlock being based in Georgia, though there’s no apparent geographic tie-in for the other three.
- 29a. Chicago O’Hare is ORD, and a laser disc + ORD = LASER DISCORD, or [Bickering over who gets to fire the doomsday weapon? (Illinois)]. I don’t think of lasers as doomsday weapons.
- 49a. Ha! [One who goes to the can for going to the can too often? (California)] is an EX-LAX CONVICT, with L.A.’s LAX combined with an ex-con.
- 64a. [Salvage holiday paper like your grandmother? (New Jersey)] clues OLD-SCHOOL REWRAP, with Newark’s EWR and old-school rap.
All right, I like that. Good theme.
- 32d. An IRANI is a [Zoroastrian descendant], not a generic Iranian.
- 7a. MAMMALS are [Hairy animals] and reptiles and amphibians are not.
- 48d. [Material for some artificial humans] is more barnyard than sci-fi—it’s the STRAW in a scarecrow or Halloween dummy.
- 31d. [Letter in advance?] is the SOFT C that’s the sixth letter in the word “advance.”
- 22a. [Slugger who has paintings of himself as a centaur above his own bed] is A-ROD. Why, A-Rod? Why??
Ecko, Ekco, Ecco…
- 5d. [Maker of woks and kettles] is EKCO.
- 59d. [Danish footwear brand] is ECCO.
- Marc Ecko is a fashion designer.
- Echo is a nymph and a repeated sound.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “All for One”—Janie’s review
Take a look at that title. Now forget The Three Musketeers and think of it in a literal sense, because that’s what Randy’s done with his clever substitution theme, where the letters “A-L-L” are used for “O-N-E” in three lively and familiar phrases. F’rinstance… the base phrase tone cluster would become TALL CLUSTER, clued perhaps as [The NBA All-Star team en masse]. Or something like that. I’ll leave it to Randy to show us how it’s done. The clues are all gems, too, as:
20A. bad to the bone → BAD TO THE BALL [Like a klutzy soccer player?]. Got it? Good, ’cause next
37A. engagement stone → ENGAGEMENT STALL [Putting off popping the question?]. (E. g., “Sorry, honey, not tonight. I have to get my shoes shined”…)
55A. ice-cream cone → ICE-CREAM CALL ["Next," at Baskin-Robbins?].
No, there isn’t a lot of theme fill here, but as the saying goes, what there is, is cherce. And the remainder of the puzzle delivers as well. First of all, there are two strong eights, TRAVAILS [Hardships] and [The Velvet Fog], MEL TORMÉ. VIC [Singer Damone] is a Tormé contemporary; and for vocal music in a different vein, ARETHA [Queen of Soul] and TRINI ["If I Had a Hammer" singer Lopez] are heard from as well.
Then there’re the NW and SE corners with their triple 6-columns—plus the many other sixes that appear in the grid. Among the best: 1-Down’s LA-Z-BOY [Couch potato's spot] and [Like someone in a 1-Down], AT EASE—which connects nicely both with [Boot camp reply] “YES, SIR!” (perhaps [Delinquent G.I.] AWOL, too) and also SIESTA [Sonora shuteye]; THRASH [Clobber] seems to work with ENMITY [Bad blood]; and the work of ARTIST [Renoir or Rembrandt] offers a civilizing influence—and that’s not just a lot of HOT AIR [Empty talk].
On Sunday we were reminded that [Pierce, e.g.] was a PRESIDENT. Today Randy builds on that beginning, reminding us that the [Only president born in New Hampshire] was … PIERCE.
Some nice clue/fill combos come our way with [Sweet ending] for OSE; [Took a tumble] for the slangy ATE IT; [Home to the Craters of the Moon] for the terrestrial IDAHO; [Mercury, for one] for DIME (synecdoche, anyone?); [Candy that's dispensable] for PEZ; the punny [Fodder figure?] for SILO and [Continental divide?] for AISLE (think “airline” here…); and [Terminological inexactitude, to Churchill] (or something that’s truthiness-deficient, to Colbert…) for LIE.
Like a [Request from Allen Funt], this puzzle makes me “SMILE!”