Reminder: ★★★★★ = A++. ★★★★ = solid A. ★★★ = B. ★★ = C. ★ = D/F. I look askance at most of the 5-star votes and all of the 1-star votes I see here. Really, who gave 1 star to Patrick Berry’s WSJ variety puzzle?! I think it was the same person who gave my book 1 star at Amazon while saying “This little book is a must for anyone who loves to do crossword puzzles.” And these profligate 5-star awarders—I suspect plenty of grade inflation. Please, people, save 5 stars for the ones that really blow you away by doing something incredible. A rock-solid, entertaining puzzle ought to be getting an A, 4 stars. An A is not an insult.
Fred Piscop’s New York Times crossword
Super easy, breezy Monday puzzle. You may be asking yourself, “Self, why didn’t Fred go with TRAFFIC JAM and, say, ROYAL JELLY, to have the JAR contents at the end each time?” I see two reasons: One, Fred’s a musician and innately drawn to the JAM SESSION. Two, ROYAL JELLY can come in a jar, and none of the other theme entries involve goop that can be sold in a jar. It’s not as if the solver will be gnashing her teeth, trying to link SESSION, MARMALADE, PRESERVES, and STONE. The two J words and marmalade are pretty unmistakably part of a set.
The theme answers are JAM SESSION, Patti LaBelle’s LADY MARMALADE (that’s the “Voulez vous couchez avec moi ce soir?” song), GAME PRESERVES (pluralized to fit the theme), and Yogi Bear’s inedible JELLYSTONE Park. (Hey, did any of you see that Yogi Bear movie last month? If so, my condolences. It looked terrible.) 54d is a JAR, [Where you might find the thematic parts of 17-, 26-, 41- and 54-Across].
LUXEMBOURG and MACADAMIAS are beauts, aren’t they? A nice treat in a Monday grid.
A dear friend of mine went to RIPON College (61a: [Wisconsin college or its city]). Oh, she hated it. Had an absolutely miserable time and left after one year. I do have a soft spot for small liberal arts colleges, though, so I’m glad to see this clue instead of, say, [Bad-mouth]/RIP ON.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Did you LOL at this theme? That’s 41a: [Cyberchuckle, and a hint to this puzzle's four longest answers]. I didn’t LOL because the theme isn’t funny, but I did admire its smooth simplicity. Four phrases begin with those letters:
- 20a. [Comfortable situation to live in, with "the"] clues LAP OF LUXURY.
- 56a. [Low-paying but rewarding project] is a LABOR OF LOVE. (See also: crossword constructing.)
- 11d. [Minnesota-based dairy cooperative] is LAND O’LAKES.
- 29d. ["Like that's going to work!"] clues a dismissive “LOTS OF LUCK!”
So, I liked the theme but I was a bit put off by the retro skew to the fill. Lots of names and whatnot that are not encountered so much outside of crosswords these days—Al CAPP of Li’l Abner fame, ELSA the ["Born Free" lioness], ELKE Sommer, ERROL ([Filmdom's Flynn]), and ERSE. A glut of repeaters starting with E! You could call this puzzle E-Land, except that there’s already an ELAND in the grid.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “No Pets Allowed”—Evad’s review
What, PETs aren’t allowed in our laps when we’re solving crosswords anymore? I’m loath to shoo away one of my cats when I solve; I mean how can you resist if they look like ours?. Luckily for me, constructor Randall J. Hartman only asks us to remove the letters PET from common phrases (or a famous name):
- PETty larceny” becomes “Bag stolen by baseball’s Cobb?” or TY LARCENY. Is the “bag” in question a base or a handbag? Likely the former given his occupation, though stolen bases are not generally considered larceny in the sport of baseball. My favorite Ty is Ty Treadway, erstwhile host of Merv Griffin’s Crosswords, which I’m thinking is only in reruns now. Anyone know for sure?
- The phrase “PupPET on a string” becomes “Young boxer on a makeshift leash” or PUP ON A STRING. I wonder why a boxer? And that must be some tough string to keep a boxer in line, even if it’s a young one!
- Steppenwolf’s Magic CarPET Ride becomes “Laker Johnson’s limo” or MAGIC CAR RIDE. Kind of tortured phrase there, I like thinking of “magic cars” myself, perhaps ones that transport you magically to your destination a la Star Trek.
- Finally we have our famous name PETer Sellers whose equally famous dog is removed, leaving “NBC?” or ER SELLERS. ER has been off the air almost two years now, and starred one of my favorite actors, Eriq LaSalle, not for the least reason how he spells his first name.
Kind of an uneven theme set—an ambitious idea that brought some laughs, which is certainly worth the price of admission. Enjoyed a couple of other famous names: Cellist YO YO MA and guitarist PAUL SIMON, comedian Jerry SEINFELD and ex-Red Sox SS NOMAR Garciaparra. So he’s a broadcaster now, eh? I hadn’t heard. Is his wife Mia Hamm still playing professional soccer? Finally, I leave you this link to a video of CLOG DANCE, not at all to be confused with Riverdance….
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Congrats to Brendan on hitting the big Three-Oh-Oh! This is puzzle #300 (and themeless #100,too).
Quickly, because the day is escaping—Highlights:
- 1d. JIBJAB! Who hasn’t gotten a kick out of seeing their face tacked onto a dancing elf or whatever?
- 17a. BLOOD LIBEL, au courant thanks to Sarah Palin’s recent coopting of the term.
- 9d. For the “this isn’t your grandmother’s crossword” vibe, there’s an ERECTION, and it’s not about building construction.
- 49a. TRADER JOE’S. I need to get over there soon for more of the lavender liquid soap and maybe those teeny peanut butter cup morsels.
- 58a. “PLEASE HOLD.”
- 13d. Great clue for IN A HEAP: [Like dirty clothes, often].
Didn’t know JET WASH was a thing. That was my learning for the day. Well, that and this fabric called TABARET, also new to me.
In the annals of glacier-related crosswordese, SERAC, sir, you are no ESKER.
Not wild about the JOSTLERS poking the STORERS, or I-only-encounter-this-in-crosswords OTRANTO. The clue for SO DO I feels a bit off, as there are so few circumstances in which one might plausibly respond either “Count me in!” or “So do I!” “I really want to go to the party, and not by myself”?