Patrick Merrell’s New York Times crossword
Ay, caramba! Dios mio, but there is a lot of Español in this crossword! The three longest Across answers all include an Ñ or two, not just a plain N but an N with a TILDE over it. There’s a PIÑA COLADA crossing the NIÑA. JALAPEÑO PEPPERS meet a PIÑATA. And “MAÑANA, SEÑOR” (which…is that “in the language” as a distinct phrase?) crosses both PIÑON and AÑOS.
Along with those answers, there are are also a slew of other Spanish words and names: LAS VEGAS, DAHLIA, OMBRE, ANGLO, AMIGOS, MARIACHI, PABLO, MESAS, and La BAMBA.
Now, ONE-EAR is the most awkward answer here, worse than BAP. But I grooved on the Spanish vibe so I’ll give those a pass. I imagine there will be some solvers griping that it’s unfair to include so much Spanish in an English crossword, but really, is there anything here that’s obscure? OMBRE is the least familiar of the Español entries for me.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Happy Almost New Year! We’re verging on 2011, and you know what that means. That’s right: A whole year of Spinal Tap jokes. First up, the Onion crossword theme. THIS IS SPINAL TAP (directed by Rob REINER), ties into the NEW YEAR via the classic quote “THESE GO TO ELEVEN.”
- 16a. [Crowd taunt almost always chanted in the key of F] clues AIR BALL.
- 66a. “BUSY DAY.” [Terse post-work summary].
- 28d. NEWMAN’S OWN! It’s a [Lefty salad-dressing brand] that gives a portion of the profits to a good cause.
- 30d. Well! You don’t see SEX-STARVED in the crossword every day. [Deeply unsatisfied, in a way] is the clue.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “To and Fro”—Janie’s review
This was such a mixed-bag of a solve for me. The theme and theme fill didn’t really spark, but the non-theme component more than compensates. The theme is built on a swap-out gimmick: replacing “TO” in familiar phases with “FRO.” That’s how:
17A. tom turkey → FROM TURKEY [Like an Ankara native?] From what I can tell, the question mark is part of the clue only to signal us that it’s a theme clue. There’s nothing stretchy otherwise about the clue/fill combo—no solid reason for a question mark.
10D. tick tock → TICK FROCK [Bug-ridden garment for a monk?]. Ew. But good reason indeed for that question mark.
35D. to-do list → FRODO LIST ["Assemble the Fellowship," "Destroy the ring," etc.]. Bingo. Very funny and fresh and a great example of the theme set. Is this where the idea began perhaps?
62A. ghost town → GHOST FROWN [Expression at a sad seance?]. Not bad at all, but something feels off about the clue. Seems to me that “sad”should be modifying “expression” and not “seance.” As written, the clue conjures up the image of unhappy living participants. And while it may receive a good-use-of-misdirection defense, it still leaves me less than satisfied. I think it coulda been refined some. (Fitting, though, that the very next clue is [They often hold ashes] for URNS…) As for the base phrase, I’m a fan of the Ricky Gervais dark comedy Ghost Town. A fine way to get rid of sad expressions.
Title-related bonus fill: 39A. [Move to and fro] SWING. Okay…
Another way to get rid of sad expressions? Have a good look at the cracklin’ non-theme fill (with its often active/image-making cluing). Highlights include: SNACK BAR [Where to grab a quick bite], SPROCKETS [Toothy wheels] (and memories of Mike Myers and German expressionism in film on SNL), and the emphatic “I WILL NOT!” [Firm refusal]—something that should perhaps be heeded lest the speaker GO POSTAL [Totally lose it]. “ALL FOR ONE” [Half of a united slogan], SPUTTERS [Doesn't run smoothly], NOISILY [How people might celebrate] (thinking about 12/31?), and THE ARTS [Dance, theater, etc.] add well to the mix.
In the 6-letter-and-under set, I particularly liked SING TO [Serenade], “IT’S OUT!” [Announcer's reaction to a fumble], and side-by-side anagrams LEON and LENO, clued respectively as [Kings of ___ ("Use Somebody" band)] and [He returned to "The Tonight Show" on March 1, 2010]. In an arch play, Leno is nicely countered with his former network colleague “COCO” (a/k/a Conan) [Late-night host O'Brien to his fans]—not to be confused with COCOA [Word before Puffs or Krispies]…
Gary Cee’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is summed up by EYE-OPENER, the middle entry at 38a. Four other theme entries begin with words that can “open,” or precede, the word EYE. GLASSWARE, glass eye. BLIND FAITH, turn a blind eye. RED CARPET, take the red-eye. And RIB-TICKLER, rib eye steak.
Now, 26a: POP STAR could also give us Popeye, but that’s not part of the theme as its symmetrical parter is ATTAINS. I like the clue: [The King or Prince], as in Elvis Presley and purple dynamo Prince.
Other things I loved in the fill:
- 23a. YAHTZEE!
- 5d, 40d. The coffee-and-cigarettes pair of stimulants, CAFFEINE and NICOTINE.
I’m mystified as to why that clue was chosen for 68a: ELLEN. Of all the things Ellen DeGeneres will be remembered for, the profession of her sitcom character is pretty far down the list. [Title owner of a sitcom bookstore] is accurate, but now dated information. The go-to reference should be her popular talk show. Did you hear that her wife, Portia de Rossi, legally took Ellen’s last name to have more of a family vibe? I believe she made up the “Portia de Rossi” moniker for show biz.
Today’s non-crosswording vacation schedule includes a glass-bottom boat cruise over the Keys’ surrounding giant coral reefs (the world’s third largest—did you have any idea?) that will include sunset over the water. And maybe renting a little electric car or checking out the beach, something along those lines. Took the tram tour allllll around Key West yesterday and saw a gazillion sights.