Barry Silk’s New York Times crossword
Highlights in the fill include SURFER GIRL, TEXARKANA, SPARTACUS, “MY PLEASURE,” BRAINCHILD, LOVE POTION, GO BUST, CATACOMBS, and David Bowie’s “LET’S DANCE.”
The SAFETY BELT, COAT HANGER, and DUSTPAN are all mighty snoozy as nouns go. Not a fan of ECT-, ENID, plural OCTS., ERLE, and EARED. And if you’re going to put DASHER in your puzzle, you gotta clue it as one of Santa’s reindeer, not as an odd-job person who’s [No slowpoke]. Are you a dasher? No, you are not. Not even when dashing about. Then you’re a person dashing about.
The OREO COOKIE feels contrived, plus it’s hardly a fig [Newton alternative]. One’s a cookie made from a lot of ingredients you wouldn’t have in your kitchen (would you believe Oreos contain more salt than chocolate??) and the other contains…a lot of other junky ingredients, plus figs. But still—they’re not interchangeable in the cookie department. This clue made me think of Apple’s ill-fated Newton gadget. Remember that one? No?
I’d never heard of the MYRA at 54d, [Pioneering woman lawyer Bradwell]. Judging from the lack of polish in her Wikipedia bio, I’ll say she’s not too well-known. But she should be. Read that bio and see if you’re not also angry with the Supreme Court of 1873. Sexist jerks.
- 17a. [Traveler's check] is the SAFETY BELT that holds him or her in check.
- 32a. [Ancient resident of Mexico's Cholula] is a TOLTEC. At last I know what Cholula hot sauce is named after!
- 64a. The BRAINCHILD clue, [Birth of a notion?] plays on Birth of a Nation.
- 33d. [Maze full of dead ends?] clues CATACOMBS.
- 43d. If you gotta have a DUSTPAN in your puzzle, give it a good clue like [Bunny collector?].
Archaic word of the day:
- 3d. [Robbed, old-style] clues REFT, which is the past tense of reave.
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme includes eight entries:
- 47d. “YOU TOO” is a ["Have a nice day" response, and a literal hint to this puzzle's theme]: each of the other seven theme entries is made by inserting a U into a familiar phrase.
- 16a. [Opening with a thud?] involves a theatrical opening rather than a door opening: BAD DEBuT.
- 19a. [Staple in a Hollywood first-aid kit?] is STAR GAuZE.
- 26a. [Compulsion to set up camp?] clues TENT DuRESS.
- 34a. [Hoss and Little Joe's off-color jokes?] constitute PONDEROSA RAuNCH. Ha!
- 43a. [Civil unrest in Brest?] is FRENCH FuRY.
- 50a. To [Restrain a legendary soul seller?] is to HOLD FAuST.
- 58a. [Classy accommodations at the Spider Ritz?] might be a WEB SuITE.
First thing I want to mention is: RODINO?? Say what? 46d: [House Judiciary Committee chair during the Nixon impeachment hearings]? You don’t say.
- 49a. [Gulf of Finland city] is the top Finnish city in all of crosswordese: ESPOO. “Hey, what’s that smell?”
- 63a. [One transferring property rights, in law] is an ASSIGNOR. Good gravy.
- 65a. [As terrific as they say] clues the colloquial THAT GOOD, as in “it really is THAT GOOD.” This answer feels Brendan Quigleyan to me.
- 7d. ATUS is the weird-looking two-word AT US. I could’ve sworn ["Do you bite your thumb __, sir?": "Romeo and Juliet"] was completed by AT ME, but no. That M made it tough to see BAD DEBUT.
- 11d. [Eponymous skater Alois __] LUTZ? Sure. “Alois Lutz, pleased to meet you. My middle name is Triple.” I’m more familiar with the Lutz on 30 Rock, the closeted guy.
- 33d. To [Corner the market on] is to BUY UP most of something. I like the BUY UP but wish CUTS UP wasn’t in the same grid.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Inside Pitch”—Janie’s review
As protracted as the baseball season has become, I’m here to say that, to my relief…, Patrick has not extended it with a tribute to “America’s favorite pastime.” Instead, as is confirmed at 67-Across, the focus of his theme is another kind of “pitch”—TAR [Driveway stuff (and word that's hidden in this puzzle's four longest answers)]. I’m not wild for the theme set as a whole, but it does have it’s bright spots. Here’s the “inside” goods:
- 17A. MOUNT ARARAT [Turkey's highest point]. Also the landing spot for Noah’s ark. This one looks to have an outside pitch as well—one that goes up the mountain…
- 32A. PAVEMENT ARTIST [What a sidewalk sketcher is called in Sussex]. Hani Shihada is New York City’s best-known “sidewalk” artist. It feels almost disrespectful, blasphemous in some cases, to walk on his creations—but he draws them to last, and they seem to be impervious to the elements for great lengths of time.
- 41A. LIGHT ARTILLERY [Guns of small caliber]. “HMM…” ["Wait, it'll come to me..."]. The start of a ballistic mini-theme? Could be, as the next example of today’s embedded word is
- 58A. PRESENT ARMS [Military position of salutation that uses a rifle]. A universal command, this sign of respect is used by military units around the world. The gents in The DELTA FORCE [1986 Chuck Norris flick...] appear to be presenting arms, but I’m not convinced this is quite the same thing…
Loved seeing [Rat Pack member] DEAN MARTIN in the grid today. Not because I’m a fan, but wow, did he have a great career as a vocalist. Sure, he may have been a rum runner with a very checkered/colorful past, but so many of the songs he recorded were the best selling standards of their day—and continue to be popular. So many were first recorded in MONO [Stereo forerunner], too. While we’re in Rat Pack territory, hello to the second wife of Frank Sinatra, outspoken AVA [Gardner of "The Barefoot Contessa"].
Patrick livens up the fill with a host of other names as well, including: JACOB (Marley) [Ebenezer's partner in "A Christmas Carol"]; WALL-E, title character of the [2008 Pixar film about a trash-compacting robot]; NOEL, Mr. [Coward of song]; [Actress Penelope] ANN [Miller]; and (my faves—for the way their names sound together) both SNEAD and SNERD, clued as [Three-time Masters winner Sam] and [Bergen spoke for him]. Edgar Bergen. Candace’s father.
Other pleasing fill comes by way of PARADE (in its verb form meaning [Strut]), ACE-TEN [Great pair to get in blackjack], LURED IN [Seduced], ON A DIET [Taking off?] (somehow I thought this clue was going to lead me to some travel-related fill…) and AMIABLE [Like Miss Congeniality]. Kind of a kiss-of-death title to hold, no? I’m thinking of blind-date code-language here. “Is s/he cute?” “Oh—s/he has a really great personality…” Kiss o’ death.
Annemarie Brethauer’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Show Stoppers”
So, lots of operas have characters who meet a dramatic demise. This puzzle’s theme gathers seven title characters who die, and clues them by way of the means of death. For solvers who are not opera buffs, the theme amounts to “random opera titles/characters, not all of whom are likely to be familiar.” Yikes!
I’d never heard of RIENZI, who got crisped. Know of Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther, but not the Massenet opera called WERTHER nor the shooting-self part. LAKME is a little familiar to me, but public radio’s Lakshmi Singh is much more in my sphere; pretty sure Laskhmi doesn’t go around eating poison leaves. DON GIOVANNI gets dragged into hell? I had no idea. TOSCA throws herself off a parapet? It was not so long ago that I first found out Tosca was a female character. WOZZECK drowns and CARMEN is stabbed.
Liz Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Play Book”
You know which football player has the play book? It’s the quarterback, or QB. Have you heard of 14d: QB VII, the [1970 Leon Uris book, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]? I had no idea what the book was about until I looked it up just now. Nazi doctor, libel lawsuit? Hmm. QB VII means “Queen’s Bench, Courtroom Seven.” Anyway—there are VII theme entries with QB initials. We’ve got:
- 22a. QUANTUM BIOLOGY, a [Branch of physics concerned with life]. I know nothing about this, and Wikipedia doesn’t give much detail.
- 48a. QUART BOTTLES, or [Quaint milk containers].
- 71a. QUAKER BIBLE. [It was translated by Anthony Purver].
- 94a. The Dutch QUEEN BEATRIX, [Monarch whose residence is Huis ten Bosch].
- 121a. QUADRUPLE BONDS, [They involves eight atoms]. Or, if you prefer, “they involve eight atoms.”
- 38d. QUILT BLOCKS are [Sewing bee squares]. My best friend had this quilt as the chuppah at her wedding last weekend. The blocks were submitted by all the wedding guests, so the quilt is a tactile and visual representation of the family and friends’ love for the couple. What a lovely keepsake!
- 44d. QUICK BREADS, [They're usually made with baking powder]. You’d love my banana-pecan-chocolate chip bread.
Overall, this puzzle was easier than usual. Granted, I had some messed-up squares, but that’s because I was going too fast to look at crossings. UNK with a K threw me off, and [Suspends] could quite plausibly be HANGS or HALTS; didn’t notice that I then had Lauren BACANL and ASTUGE. D’oh!
Caleb Madison’s guest crossword at Brendan Quigley’s blog, “Hit It!”
Caleb’s theme is drug slang, in particular for marijuana. Five nine answers are clued straight but begin with terms for pot: MARY J. BLIGE has “Mary J.” I initially missed seeing the hashish in a Twitter HASHTAG. AUNTIE EM turns out to be slang, too; here the entire phrase is the slang, rather than just the firstword. Then there’s DOPE SHEET, GRASSLAND, POTBOILER, WEED OUT (which I also missed the first time through), HERB ALPERT, and…RUCKSACK? Yes, ruck. Who knew? I liked the crispness of the theme when I thought it had five entries, but you gotta give props for a more comprehensive nine-pack. Plus the tenth answer that holds them together, but mystified me: EIGHTH, or [Common purchase of this puzzle's theme]. This lesson on marijuana weights explains that an eighth is an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 g. What’s a damn shame is that amid all the discussion of subtracting the weight of the bag, there is not a single use of the word TARE. How are potheads supposed to learn their crosswordese, I ask you?
Fill highlights: FAKE TAN and DUMB-ASS are great.
Props to Caleb for fitting a 10-entry theme into a 74-word grid. The boy’s got chops. I give props to his cruciverbal chops.
Not crazy about IOLA, SDS, STS, TSP, ASSN, IDI, or KEL, but overall the fill’s quite smooth. And again, that’s with 10 theme answers in a tight 74-word grid. See? Chops.