Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword
I do like the theme concept here, but the fill’s a bit of a mess. The theme centers on “I HEAR YA,” which is slangily synonymous with “Amen to that,” so the grid’s got a word ladder that travels from AMEN to THAT: AMEN, OMEN, OVEN, EVEN, EVES, EYES, DYES, DEES, TEES, TEAS, TEAT, THAT.
There are a few sparkly bits in the fill. The football POSTSEASON, KNAVERY, HOLES UP, NITWITS, and ULTRASOUND are all good. However…. That “however” is a doozy. It been decades since the AEDES [Dreaded mosquito] was routine crossword fill (at least in good puzzles—it may well appear daily in low-octane puzzles). The only way to go more old-school in your crosswordese is to be an ESNE riding an ANOA and getting malaria from the AEDES—but these things are from different continents so that’s a tall order.
We also see the variant spelling APPAL, unsavory LESIONS and a STYE, the AER and ZSA danglers, and the ugly plural chemical suffix ENES leading a pack of four-letter E-words ERSE, EWER, and EPEE (plus five-letter ELSA’S). I don’t quite know what to make of the word SODDY. [Like golf course greens]? Hmm. Apparently it’s also a word for the sod houses built in pioneer days.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Mix Masters”
As Usher might sing if he did this crossword, DJ got us fallin’ in love with this puzzle. A mix master is an emcee or DJ, and Matt’s five theme entries begin with the consonant combo DJ:
- 1a. [Magic spirit] clues DJINNI. Scrabble aficionados know that this cousin of genie can also be spelled jinn, djinn, and jinni.
- 17a. The DJIBOUTIAN FRANC is a form of [Currency in the Horn of Africa].
- 37a. DJIMON HOUNSOU is the [Star of “Amistad” and “The Tempest”]. He’s got two Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations, for In America and Blood Diamond.
- 60a. [Pioneering “hot” jazz guitarist] is DJANGO REINHARDT.
- 69a. The DJEMBE is a [Squeezable African drum]. It’s a goblet-shaped instrument and I’m pretty sure my friend Jenni has played it with her drumming group.
I love this theme, and I’m fine with not having the variant Djakarta in the puzzle because these five work so nicely together, and there’s lots of cool fill. I like DIRTY JOB‘s extra theme echo, with its D.J. initials.
Clues and answers of note:
- 2d. [Fruity concession stand bit] is a sticky JUJUBE, which makes the placement of the theme entries possible. How many other J*J*** options are there?
- 20a. [Seahawks safety ___ Scott] is named GUSS, apparently. The Seahawks, of course, just lost to the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s playoff game. The Bears and Packers face each other this weekend in their first NFC championship battle since 1941.
- 6d. The phrase “I SUCK” does indeed constitute [Self-defeating words].
- 30d. [Prefix before musicologist] clues ETHNO. Matt’s got two regular editors—Matt Gaffney for Jonesin’ and Ben Tausig for the Onion puzzles. Ben is on a Fulbright fellowship in Thailand. Studying what? Ethnomusicology, of course!
- 10d. [Home of the Tar Heels, as sometimes abbreviated] clues U OF NC. Never seen that one before. U OF I(llinois) and U OF M(innesota) and U OF C(hicago) should be in every constructor’s database—they’re all major schools and all are familiarly known by these abbreviations.
- 55a. [Lutelike instrument] clues OUD. Lute and oud are etymological cousins, I see. The oud’s played in North Africa and the Middle East.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
What a perky theme! I don’t recall seeing one along these lines before:
- 51a. [2001 Spielberg WWII miniseries, and what 20-, 32- or 41-Across is] clues BAND OF BROTHERS, and those other three theme entries are musical groups composed of brothers. Gareth was born after these bands’ heydays in the ’70s, and I appreciate that he’s evoked the music of my childhood in his crossword.
- 20a. THE JACKSON FIVE is the [Group with the #1 hit “ABC”], of course. Baby Michael, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine…who am I missing?
- 32a. [Group with the #1 hit “One Bad Apple”] is THE OSMONDS. I don’t recall the song, but boy, did I watch the Donny & Marie show as a tween. Even had the Donny Osmond three-ring binder. All the older Osmond brothers were not remotely of any interest to me at that age. I can name more Jacksons and Gibbs than Osmonds. I think there was a Jimmy who was the baby in the family and maybe an older Ken.
- 41a. [Group with the #1 hit “Jive Talkin’”] is THE BEE GEES, the brothers Gibb. Barry the handsome, and twins Robin and Maurice. Bonus credit for knowing their baby brother Andy Gibb, the solo artist. Question: Do you count as a “band” if you’re all vocalists? And did any of the Osmonds play an instrument? Tito and Jermaine played guitar and bass.
I like the consistency of having the definite article THE in each theme entry, and the variety of presentations the brothers chose for their last names. Hanson and the Jonas Brothers are other all-brother bands, but Hanson lacks a THE and the Jonases duplicate the word BROTHERS that’s in 51a.
- 4d. [“Flowers for __”: story from which the film “Charly” was adapted] clues ALGERNON. Read the book in high school; never saw the movie.
- 39d. [Highbrows] can be EGGHEADS.
- 61a. [Present moment] clues NONCE, as in “for the nonce” and “nonce words.”
- 65a. VENN is your [Eponymous logical diagram creator]. There are plenty of Venn diagrams drawn on index cards at this site, usually for humorous effect.
Edited to add: Whoops! Guess who forgot that Jeffrey’s been blogging the Tuesday LAT puzzles? Me, that’s who. Here’s what he had to say:
One-line review for those in a hurry: Gareth brings the fraternal beat in this rockin’ puzzle.
- 1A. [Lin or Angelou] – MAYA. Name a third MAYA. I dare you.
- 36A. [Lena who played Glinda in the movie version of “The Wiz“] – HORNE. Theme tie-in alert: Also starring Michael Jackson.
- 37A. [Epi center?] – PEE. Don’t knock the clue. This is a family puzzle.
- 38A. [Nez __, Native Americans who breed their own horses] – PERCE. You had me at Nez ___.
- 58A. [Cosecant's reciprocal] – SINE. It isn’t secant?
- 65A. [Eponymous logical diagram creator] – VENN. Shout out to PuzzleGirl!
- 6D. [Big cheese associated with Big Macs?] – KROC. Ray Kroc. It was all about milkshakes.
- 11D. [Doughnut shapes] – TORI. I do like the doughnut spelling. I wouldn’t call TORI Spelling doughnut shaped.
- 21D. [Wrestler Ventura] – JESSE
- 29D. [What double-checked totals should do] – AGREE. Take it from an accountant; they never do. So you have to triple-check.
- 30D. [Runs through a sieve] – RICES
- 31D. [Jeanne d'Arc et al.: Abbr.] – STE’S. Mais oui.
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Five Fingers”—Evad’s review
ACPT phenom Tyler Hinman brings us today’s CS/WaPo puzzle, where five phrases end with a word that can also follow the word finger:
- A “finger bowl” (Madge: “You’re soaking in it!”) becomes the FIESTA BOWL. I get all confused with the BCS bowls these days, I know the championship game between Auburn and Oregon was this bowl (prefaced now with Frito-Lay’s Tostito’s brand I think) held in Glendale, Arizona. What I don’t follow is which bowl is chosen for the championship game–is there a rotational schedule? I seem to remember the Cotton Bowl always being the championship game, but then I wouldn’t trust any of my recollections when it comes to college sports.
- A “Chocolaty chew” is indeed a TOOTSIE ROLL. I think “finger rolls” are an oblong dinner roll, but they may also be those infuriating contraptions that bind two index fingers together when inserted on either side and pulled.
- “Finger paint” becomes WATERCOLOR PAINT. My mother paints beautiful watercolors; sadly, I have none of her drawing talent.
- I’d say much of CHINESE FOOD is “finger food”; my favorites are appropriately chicken fingers in duck sauce.
- The HOMES mnemonic shows up a lot in puzzle clues, here it references the GREAT LAKES as a whole, instead of just one of them. The “Finger Lakes” are the beautiful long and narrow lakes north of Ithaca, NY.
I’d say this puzzle is pretty unremarkable weekday fare–these type of themes work better for me when the theme phrases have little to do with the “finger” phrase they were derived from. Here food, lakes, paint, etc. all have the same meaning in their base and theme phrases. Only bowl stands out as much different. New to me was the hip-hop group DE LA Soul. Here’s one of their recent tracks, Saturdays: