Michael Sharp’s New York Times crossword
This theme had me at a complete loss for far too long. None of the answers to starred clues were making sense. And 11d: THE FAMILY, a ’70s TV show—what the hell? The show with Kristy McNichol and Sada Thompson and Meredith Baxter-then-still-Birney was just called Family. Eventually it dawned on me that 36a: [As a package] properly clued all-in-ONE and then All in the Family whomped me upside the head. So the theme answers are “all in ___” phrases with the ALL IN shunted to 63a, where it also serves as a [Poker phrase]. Somehow I kept this puzzle under 4 minutes, still in Wednesday territory but not remotely an easy Wednesday crossword. It’s good to have a little bite by mid-week.
The other ALL IN-less answers are “all in FAVOR,” “all in GOOD TIME,” “all in YOUR HEAD,” and the lovely “all in A DAY’S WORK.”
I just ranted about MARS BAR on Monday, in a BEQ blog puzzle. This clue, [Classic candy with nougat], at least hints at its not being a readily available American candy bar anymore.
- 26a. ABELARD, the French theologian. I never remember what his job was, just the Heloise part. Good story.
- Names in general—I like names in a puzzle, and so does Michael. We’ve got OTIS Redding, CHER, ANA Gasteyer, Biggie SMALLS, Bennett CERF (whose name is best known to me from a book on my parents’ bookshelves when I was a kid and from seeing his name in crosswords since back in the day), Elizabeth CADY Stanton, ARSENIO Hall, Toots (“We Know Him From Crosswords”) SHOR, “KHA-a-a-a-aN!,” Arthur ASHE, General MACARTHUR, Mr. SULU, and Sam RAIMI.
- 40d. Who doesn’t like a TWINKLE?
- 2d. [Alphabetic pentad] is a cool clue for AEIOU.
- 51a. [Many a Justin Bieber fan] is a TWEEN. My son has only disdain, as he is not a Belieber. His classmate Elmira has Bieber t-shirts, Bieber notebooks, Bieber folders, Bieber brain.
- 8d. [Taradiddle] is a high-end quaint vocabulary clue for LIE. Didn’t even see it until after finishing the puzzle. (Never saw SNAFU, either.)
Not crazy about:
- 38a. Spanish ACA, or [Here, in Juarez], which always wants to be AQUI, doesn’t it? (Props for the H/J alliteration, though.)
- 39A. B-TEN bomber. It wants its numeral back, it does.
- 54a. I like the names but could do without ever seeing Toots SHOR in a puzzle again.
- 36d. OENO, [Vintner's prefix], established crosswordese.
- 34a. ["Am __ risk?"] is an awkward partial, I AT. Michael’s original grid had I AM crossing [Mal __] DE MER. Do you prefer I AT/DETER or I AM/DE MER? “I AM” can be clued as a stand-alone phrase and not a partial, and the other foreign stuff in the grid isn’t French overload, so I think I give the edge to the M.
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Brendan riffs on three phrases with FROM in the middle by cluing them all as if they were gifts from various people:
- 17a. You can’t get BLOOD FROM A STONE unless it’s, say, a [Transfusion given by Keith Richards?].
- 34a. [Hair extension given by actress Kelly?] is a FALL FROM GRACE. A fall, if you don’t know, is a hairpiece that covers less than a full wig. I think they’re just designed for women’s hairstyles (or maybe drag queens’).
- 56a. [Bamboo part given by the staff at Pitchfork?] is a SHOOT FROM THE HIP. I’m not hip enough to know what Pitchfork is.
- 41a. Bonus answer, not hewing to the theme’s symmetry: [Gifts, vis-à-vis this puzzle] are the puzzle’s THEME.
Lots of multi-word answers this week:
- 14a. ["Wouldn't miss it for the world!"] clues “I AM SO THERE!”
- 29a. EL CID is an [11th-century Spanish hero].
- 30a. ["Am ___ fat for this dress?"] clues I TOO. Partial answer, meh.
- 64a. ["Got it"]. “I SEE.”
- 3d. ["A Perfect Peace" author] is Israeli writer AMOS OZ. There aren’t a ton of famous people whose first and last names total no more than 6 letters. Amy Tan, Ed Ames, Lon Nol and Pol Pot, Al Hirt and Al Capp, Don Ho, Jet Li, Li Po, U Nu…all of whom have had their full names used in crosswords.
- 5d. ["Button your lip!" initially] clues the initialism STFU (shut the eff up). Does that count as one 4-letter word or four 1-letter words?
- 12d. [12:50] on the clock is TEN TO ONE. 10:1 would be the ratio for that.
- 13d. [Went overboard at Thanksgiving] clues ATE A LOT.
- 35d. [Since day one] is ALL ALONG.
- 36d. ["Voulez-Vous" musical] is MAMMA MIA. Yep, I needed to rely on the crossings for this one. I’m telling you, musicals are hooey and I prefer not to partake.
- 38d. [Recipe spec] is TO TASTE.
- 41d. [Talkers chew it and editors trim it] clues THE FAT, which I don’t at all like as a stand-alone phrase with the definite article. I do, however, love the clue.
- 58d. [It ships with Macs] refers to the OS X (that’s Roman numeral 10) operating system.
Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Yesterday’s NYT theme lost me with its play on “panelboard” and this one loses me with the flatness of its PANELs, too:
- 54d. [Discussion group, and a word that can follow the ends of this puzzle's five longest answers] is PANEL.
- 17a. GOES OVER THE WALL is a fresh but not, to me, super-familiar phrase meaning [Escapes dramatically from prison]. What’s a “wall panel”? This web page with the answer insists in its title bar, “No! No! No! Wall Panels are not boring. We can prove it.” I glanced at the page and nodded off.
- 28a. A [Narrow defeat, e.g.] is a HEARTBREAKER. Is a “breaker panel” the doodad with circuit breakers on it in my basement? Yes. Snore. Is this puzzle in Builders and Electricians Monthly?
- 38a. [Warning about wind chill, say] clues WEATHER ADVISORY. Chicago just had a winter weather advisory followed by a fog advisory. (See proof at right!) Advisory panels would be more impressive if their decisions were binding.
- 46a. [Steinbeck novel set in Monterey] is TORTILLA FLAT, and “flat panel” gets lots of play in the TV/monitor world.
- 61a. [The lead pipe, the wrench or the candlestick, but not the rope] is a BLUNT INSTRUMENT used in the game Clue. My stars, murder weapons in the crossword! You find an “instrument panel” in a plane cockpit or assorted other vehicles.
Highlights in the fill:
- 11d. PLAYSKOOL is, among other things, the [Mr. Potato Head maker].
- 8d. [Back porch luxury] clues HOT TUB. Not so common in Chicagoland.
- 35d. [Sporty 1960s-'70s Plymouth] is a BARRACUDA, which I barely remembered was a car name. I’m pretty sure that PuzzleGirl’s L.A. Crossword Confidential post will include a video of Heart’s “Barracuda,” which rocks.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Two-Way STs”—Janie’s review
Very cool, kinda complex gimmick today. Each theme answer (and there are six) is a made-up two-word phrase (okay, one is a three-worder, but this description is close enough for jazz). The cool part is that the two words are anagrams of each other; the complex part is that there is an “ST” letter-pair in each word, appearing one time as “ST” and one time as “TS.” Patrick’s balanced the theme fill nicely, so that in the first three phrases the pair moves from TS → ST, and the in last three, from ST → TS. Whence those “two-way STs” (if not “two way streets…”). Here’s how everything plays out:
- 17A. [Philosophical statement about ways to leave?] EXITS EXIST. And not EXIT SEXIST—which is how I parsed this before I understood what was going on. Funny! Dramatic rebuttal to the contrary? Why, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit…
- 23A. [Allows to attack a certain vampire?] LETS AT LESTAT. (This is the three-worder…)
- 31A. [Former Russian celebrity?] TSAR STAR. “Dancing with the Tsars” anyone?
- 43A. [Dropped a bundle?] LOST LOTS. This is probably the most “in the language” theme phrase of the, uh, lot.
- 48A. [Units of measurement for Picasso?] CUBIST CUBITS.
- 59A. [Sallow sucker?] PASTY PATSY. Love the clue. Sounds like it could be the alternate name for the yellow-bellied sapsucker.
There’s much by way of strong fill of the non-themed variety, too. Gotta love the symmetrically placed:
- LASER BEAMS [Light-show lights] and HEALTH FOOD [Rice cakes, protein shakes, etc.].
- ERSATZ [Synthetic] and SCRAPE [Predicament].
- OPEN AIR [Like some arenas] and A.A. MILNE [Winnie-the-Pooh's creator].
- TITULAR [Nominal] and LA SCALA [Milan attraction]; ARTISAN [Crafty person?] and “THINK SO?” ["Really?"].
- SEGUES [Makes the transition] and ["The] SOCIAL [Network" (2010 film about the founding of Facebook)]. While this isn’t my fave movie of the year, it’s spot on in its zeitgeisty-ness—and cast and played to perfection. Try to see the documentary Catfish as a follow-up film. Depicts a real-life Facebook “friending” encounter. Creepy and quite fabulous.
Fave “people” clues: [Giant among Giants] for our old pal MEL OTT; and [Burly Burl whose first Broadway show was "The Boys from Syracuse"] for IVES. Didn’t realize Mr. Ives made as many Broadway appearances as he did, but he was kind of a mainstay in the ’40s and ’50s.
Trickiest seasonal clue? [Carol part]. VERSE? CHORUS? FA-LA? NOEL? Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong. ALTO, as in soprano, alto, tenor and bass. “Love and joy come to you,” too!