John Lampkin’s New York Times crossword
Why, look! Even the byline carries out the puzzle’s theme. The constructor’s real name is Chohn Lampkin, but it’s printed as “John Lampkin.”
(That’s a choke.)
The theme entries began as words or phrases that start with CH, but that initial CH has become a J:
- 20a. JOCK FULL O’ NUTS plays on Chock Full o’Nuts coffee, a New York tradition. Sadly, now all I think about when I look at 20a is jockstraps. Surely I’m not the only one? The answer is clued respectably, with no allusion to testicles at all.
- 31a. [Chief heckler?] is a JEER-LEADER.
- 41a. A skydiver may have a JUMP CHANGE. This entry was a little charring jarring because the second word also starts with a CH that’s left alone.
- 53a. [Insulation from jokes?] clues JEST PROTECTOR, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Comments on the fill:
- 5a. To [Bend one's elbow, e.g.] is to FLEX that joint. Also an idiom for drinking liquor, so the clue’s innately misleading. I like that in a clue.
- 24a. [Strippers' tips, often] are sweaty, crumpled ONES. Gross.
- 29a. I like WIE ["___ geht's?" (German "How are you?")] because I just found my old high school German textbook. “How goes it?” is the literal translation.
- 44a, 45a. MIA HAM! So close to having Mia Hamm’s full name in the grid.
- 1d. KANJI is a [Japanese writing system].
- 5d. I dunno. I don’t view FLOUNCE as meaning [Walk with jerky motions]. With exaggerated affectations, sure, but the motions can be smooth and flowing, not jerky.
- 33d. ELTON JOHN! Great entry.
Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I didn’t read the theme clue carefully enough to see what the theme was until after I had finished the puzzle. 1a is clued [With 39-Across and 49-Across, rule broken by the three theme entries' first and last two letters], and the three-part answer is NEVER / SPLIT / AN INFINITIVE. The other three theme answers split infinitives like so:
- 17a. TOM TANCREDO was the [Unsuccessful candidate for governor of Colorado in 2010]. The split infinitive is “to do,” appearing at the beginning and end of the name.
- 23a. [Severing of trade ties] clues TOTAL EMBARGO. “To go” is the relevant infinitive here.
- 61a. [Submarine weapon space] is a TORPEDO TUBE, bracketed by “to be.”
Mind you, there is no earthly reason to assiduously avoid splitting infinitives. A fixation on not splitting the infinitive can lead to tortured sentences that don’t read fluidly. How would I convey the same thought in the first sentence of this paragraph if I freaked out and relocated the word “assiduously”? Awkwardly, that’s how.
Seven more clues:
- 6a. 1301, or MCCCI, is the [Start of the fourteenth century]. Five-letter Roman numerals are rather ungainly.
- 15a. [Character in a smiley emoticon] is a COLON, especially if the person at the keyboard is a gastroenterologist.
- 34a. [Fat Man or Little Boy] is the name of an ATOM BOMB. 22d: FANBOY is not the name of a nuclear device.
- 37d. [Hugo huge in fashion] is German fashion house Hugo BOSS. There. I just gave you one answer in the Sporcle quiz about German corporations.
- 39d. ["If I Ever Fall In Love" group] clues SHAI. The who? An early ’90s R&B/soul group, that’s who. Never heard of them.
- 40d. Constructor Matt is a chess fiend. [Be greedy, in chess] clues PAWN GRAB, a term I’ve never heard.
- 62d. [German grandma] is, informally, OMA. Opa is “grandpa.”
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Meh”—Janie’s review
Ah, one more thing to thank The Simpsons for: popularizing that dismissive shrug-of-the-shoulders word “meh.” This one-syllable expression of ennui can take on so many nuances and in today’s puzzle, Bruce gives us three 15-letter variations on the same theme, each clued [Is indifferent]:
- 20A. DOESN’T GIVE A HOOT.
- 39A. SHOWS NO INTEREST.
- 58A. COULDN’T CARE LESS.
All of which summon up the old song standard, “You’re Blasé,” a veritable hymn to ho-hum. So bravo to Bruce for keeping the puzzle engaging in the midst of the potentially enervating theme environment. This he does primarily by means of some DEFT [Quick and skillful] cluing. Faves today include:
- [Undulation in the stands] for WAVE. Strong visual here.
- [It runs in the woods] for SAP (and not, say, DOE…).
- [Shells and the like] for AMMO. Took me a while for the “aha” as I was fixated on something pasta-related…
- [Opposite of naughty] for NICE. Nine more shopping days… Which side of the list are you on?
- [Circus performer?] FLEA. Did you know that the flea circus is actually part of a centuries-old tradition? Yikes. Would love to see the casting notice for the entertainments with real fleas…
- The alliterative (and sequential) [Bulky book] and [Bottom-line bummer] for TOME and LOSS.
- And (ugh!) [Big lug] for that great word GALOOT. (Will also put KING-FU [Karate cousin] on that “great word” list.)
While an ASSET is a [Useful talent] it’s also a BONUS though not always in the sense of [Incentive for signing]. More like today’s tie-ins, by way of things automotive, f’rinstance KIA [Hyundai alternative] and ISUZU [Trooper maker]. Someone who transfers the liquid fuel between these vehicles would be a SIPHONER [Certain gasoline thief]. Then, in the Spanish 101 category we get CASAS [Barcelona abodes], SEÑOR [Gaucho's address] (i.e., not his mailing address…) and “ADIOS!” [Gaucho's good-bye]. What’s a gaucho? Roughly the South American equivalent of a cowboy. Not to be confused with my alma mater, Goucher College…
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Fun puzzle. The theme is wrapped up with the [Sports psychologist's mantra], IT’S ALL IN THE MIND. The four preceding theme answers end with things are are “all in the mind”: an idea, dream, fantasy, and thought. The choice of theme entries is terrific:
- 16a. “Hey, WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?”
- 21a. Martin Luther King is who’s referenced by [King's memorable words]: “I HAVE A DREAM.” I was thinking of a little-k “king” at first.
- 33a. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s DOUBLE FANTASY is great to see on the heels of the sad anniversary of Lennon’s death.
- 49a. You can be lost in DEEP THOUGHT.
The fill is sprightly, too. Lots of fun Scrabbly fill but the puzzle’s not a pangram because there’s no Z. This is not a shortcoming! The fill would probably have been compromised if Lim had tried to work a Z in. See today’s Rex Parker blog post for a reasoned argument against the pangram. (He links to Liz Gorski’s own essay against pangrams—also worth a read.)
This L.A. Times puzzle goes to the Caribbean with ST. BARTS and JAMAICA. Do you love a LUMMOX? Then sign your note to him (or her) with an XOXO. OH, DEAR. It’s the QUEER JOKING GAMBIT, is it? Take a SWIG of your chosen libation; hopefully you won’t react with a YECH and SPURN it.
Granted, fill like INI, NEA, ANI, IBO, DEA, LAO, and IOLE doesn’t enchant many people, but I liked the aforementioned answers so much, I’m prepared to let the little filler pass this time.