Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword
OK, I have a tummyache and it’s distracting me, so I’ll keep this super short. Cool theme! SKIPJACK tuna launches us into a bunch of starred clues that are missing the word Jack/jack, and you need to mentally put the jack back for the answers to make any sense. The theme entries’ only connection is that they need that Jack/jack in their clues. TENNESSEE is the home of Jack Daniel’s whiskey. The game blackjack is also called TWENTY-ONE. A flapjack is a pancake or GRIDDLECAKE. A SPARE TIRE necessitates a jack. A natterjack is a kind of TOAD. There’s also BRIE cheese, Cracker Jack’s TOY SURPRISE, a jackknifed SEMI, and the CAPITAL J that begins the name Jack. (And the Union Jack FLAG. Missed that one when first blogging this puzzle.) The theme is inventive and unexpected. The fill is surprisingly solid for a puzzle with 10 11 theme answers.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “4 x 4 x 3″—Janie’s review
Today’s title is a cryptic hint to the make-up of the theme set: 4 phrases with 4 words, each word containing 3 letters. I love each of the phrases independently, but beyond their “4 x 4 x 3″-ness, there’s nothing otherwise unifying that pulls them together. Feels a tad “roll your own” where themes are concerned, but complaints about the phrases themselves don’t exist. Thumbs up for:
- 20A. MOO GOO GAI PAN [Cantonese chicken dish]. As a kid, this was my first “exotic” foray away from chicken chow mein. These days I prefer the spicier Szechuan choices. And lotso water.
- 31A. ALL YOU CAN EAT [Restaurant come on]. Here’re some hints on “how to eat healthy” when you visit your local Chinese food buffet…
- 39A. NOT CUT OUT FOR [Unsuited to, as a job applicant]. Or, with the approach Valentine’s Day, “each other”… Whether or not Mr./Ms. Right is in your life, you may be still be Valentine’s Day averse. If so, the internet is your friend.
- 50A. THE SAY HEY KID [Willie Mays]. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in the first year he was eligible. Just one superb athlete.
Lotta good fill today bolstered by a grid whose flow allows for beautiful open corners NE and SW (with their triple 6-columns) and an assortment of opportunities for adjacent and/or crossing 7s and 8s. Some of the best includes:
- “I’M HOME!” [Announcement from a hallway]. This really conjures up nuclear-family-type images, the kind that mid-20th century TV families like the NELSONS [Ozzie and Harriet], the Cleavers and the Andersons promulgated (and viewing audiences emulated). Hello, Modern Family… Did you know this show is the Republican sit-com of choice? Cool.
- SAT FOR [Took, as a test].
- “DROP IT” ["Don't argue anymore"]. Which has kinda the same testy vibe as TOLD OFF [Gave a piece of one's mind]. Can’t we all get along? How about some more HARMONY [Togetherness].
- MINISTER [Tend (to)], MADONNA [Evita portrayer on screen], AT FIRST [In the beginning], SIDE DOOR [Alternate way in] and
- DOLLOPS [Whipped cream servings]. Rich filling. And rich fill.
Sam Donaldson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Fun theme! Sam breathlessly gathers the tropes of TV infomercials:
- 22a. “BUT WAIT,”—[With 24-Across, infomercial appeal]
- 24a. “…THERE’S MORE!”—[See 22-Across]. “Get two Ginsu knives and our Tae-Bo tapes for one low price! Just three easy payments of $19.99 plus $12.99 shipping and handling.”
- 38a. “OUR OPERATORS ARE…”—[With 49-Across, infomercial appeal]
- 49a. “STANDING BY“—[See 38-Across]
- 54a. “CALL NOW!”—[Infomercial appeal]
Years ago, I saw an ad in the Chicago Reader for a gay dating hotline. The copywriter neglected to use punctuation to clarify sentence structure, instead exhorting “Dial Now Guys Are Waiting.” I like to think of infomercial people as the Dial Now Guys, who are waiting patiently for your call.
- 32d. [University of Montana athletes] are GRIZZLIES.
- 11d. HAZARD PAY is [Incentive for dangerous work].
- General air of chattiness: “WHO, ME?” “IF I CAN…” “NOT SO!” “KEEP IT.”
- 58a. [Nook download] is an EBOOK. Interesting, no? An E___ answer whose time has finally come. When will ECASH and ENOTE gain the same legitimacy? Maybe never.
- NERDY NITWIT KOMODO is a nice trio, no?
- 3d. [Troops encampment] clues ETAPE, one of those crosswordese things.
- 67a. The TYMES are your ["So Much in Love" singers, with "The"]. Never heard of them.
Most appreciated new(ish) clue:
- 55d. [Lake Tahoe's aptly named Cal __ Casino] for NEVA. Likely much more inferrable, especially to the puzzle’s primary L.A. Times audience, than the Neva River of Russia.
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
The theme is “lousy things to tell someone right around Valentine’s Day”: THIS ISN’T WORKING. WE’VE GROWN APART. IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME. LET’S STAY FRIENDS.
True story: My previous boyfriend dumped me in February 1988. He wanted to stay friends. I soon landed in a rebound relationship, just to tide me over while the emotional wounds healed. Still with the rebound guy 23 years later. Wow, deep wounds, huh? Still not ready to move on.
Most Oniony answer:
- 6d. A WANG is a [Johnson]. I remember back around 1989-91, when we used Wangs every day at the office. Eventually the Wangs were thrown over in favor of the newfangled IBM 386.
- 29d. [Flocculent] is to WOOLY as what is to cottony? Flocculent means “having or resembling tufts of wool” or “having a loosely clumped texture.” As in “Dude, that chocolate pudding is totally flocculent. Did you follow the recipe?”
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Mutant Pop”
I had a hell of a time with this mutant portmanteau pop star theme when I test-solved the puzzle. I figured the JUSTIN-somebody theme answer (17a: [Monster hitmaker #1]) was a play on Justin Timberlake, so I had JUSTIN ZOMBIE…LEG? It messed up that whole corner and threw me off balance because it was so forced. So forced, and so very wrong! It’s JUSTIN ZOMBIEBER, playing on Justin Bieber. I’m certain you’re all just as excited as I am about the upcoming Justin Bieber concert movie IN 3-D!!! Are you not at all excited? Then we are equally agog.
27a: [With 44-Across, monster hitmaker #2] is CHRISTINA /HAGUILERA. Is anything more monstrous than mangling “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics in front of the ginormous Super Bowl audience?
54a: [Monster hitmaker #3] is the fictional HANNAH DEMONTANA, portmanteauing demon and Montana.
Toughest clues for me, besides that ZOMBIE-LEG malfunction:
- 38a. N IS ["___ a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdös"]. More often, NIS is clued as part of a Sue Grafton mystery title or as a 1,000-year-old Serbian town.
- 48a. [Mike D's bandmate] is MCA. I’m the last to know, right?
- 3d. ["Like a Prayer" video area] is the APSE of a church or cathedral. I’m the last to know, right?
- 12d. The music magazine NME is clued as a [Melody Maker alternative]. “Melody Maker”? Never heard of it. It was merged with NME.
- 18d. [Plants you can use to make pesto] clues NETTLES. Say what? I’m sticking with basil, thanks.
- 29d. [Akon's wife's name] is ROSINA. Uh, is she in a song or something?
Easiest clue for me:
- 49a. [NYSE ___ (securities exchange)] is ARCA, created by Archipelago, which merged with the NYSE a few years ago, turning NYSE into a publicly held company. Arca is an online exchange, you know. Everyone knows, right? Not just people whose partners work there?