Dear Readers: If you hate all rebus puzzles as a matter of principle/taste, would you please just ignore the crosswords that have them and refrain from assigning a star rating here? We see that you give rebus puzzles 1-star ratings, but you’re not rating the individual puzzle at all—by assessing the quality of the fill and clues or the cohesiveness of the theme—you’re just voting “no” on rebuses and skewing the ratings unfairly.
Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
Now, there are constructors in their 30s and 40s who will include fill like this, but the youngest constructors—and Joel Fagliano is in that group—seem particularly drawn to to it. I commend that. Not every single answer in this grid needs to be slapped because it’s so fresh, but some do:
- 1a. See? Now, that’s how to kick off a crossword. With a “YO MAMA” JOKE. Example: “Yo mama so stupid, she got locked in a mattress store and slept on the floor.”
- 27a. A POLAROID, [It develops before your eyes].
- 33a. [What runs ruin] is PANTYHOSE. I wore pantyhose to a November wedding last year. First time in several years. Pantyhose are loathsome.
- 44a. THE MISFITS is a [1961 film scripted by Arthur Miller]. Them is fits!
- 53a. I don’t know about you, but I checked the crossing for the vowel in 49d. [They're the cutest in the world, per a hit song] clues the Beach Boy’s CALIFORNIA GIRLS, but I wasn’t positive this wouldn’t be a Katy Perry reference with the GURLS spelling. When will ["California ___"] GURLS make an appearance in the NYT crossword? And would that be a sign of a nascent apocalypse?
- 56a. This answer is missing a “frickin’,” if you ask me. “WELL, LA-DI-DA” needs that “frickin’” between the DI and DA to capture the full Chris Farley-as-Matt Foley vibe.
- 27d. Good clue for PASTE: [What a copier will often do]. As in “copy and paste” while editing a document.
- 45a. The HARE who lost the race to the tortoise is a [Fabulous slacker], fabulous meaning “related to fables.”
The Downs don’t thrill me as much—there’s some blah short and long fill there. But the aforementioned entries sparkle.
Not fond of 20a: MISTER TOAD. He’s Mr. Toad. The converse is that the talking horse is Mister Ed, but crosswords keep presenting it as Mr. Ed.
- 17a. Geo-trivia, COLORADO PLATEAU. I used the crossings to piece it together.
- 40a. [Fifth-century capital of the Visigoths] is TOULOUSE. I’d have guessed somewhere more Teutonic.
- 1d. [Geneva-based org.] clues the YWCA. Friend of mine used to work for the YW, but I didn’t know the larger global group was based in Switzerland.
- 6d. I messed up my tree crosswordese. [Poplar trees] are ALAMOS this time, not ABELES. Abeles are poplars too, though.
- 10d. Who? ["Out of the Silence" novelist Cox] is an ERLE who is less famous than Erle Stanley Gardner.
- 25d. [Result of bill-passing] is STATUTE LAW, which sounds completely pleonastic/redundant. But lo and behold, statute law is a dictionary entry unto itself.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Easy as ABC”—Janie’s review
Thematically speaking, this is a curious creation. What makes it perhaps more SUBTLE or SLIER than some others is the way the title plays out vis à vis the theme clues and fill. Still, it feels at once both like another “roll your own” creation (a bit improvised…) and well thought out. Is it simply PAR [for the course] or maybe something a little more EDGY? You be the judge. In the meantime, here’re the title-fed clues and their grid-spanning definitions:
- 17A. [A] TOP GRADE IN CLASS.
- 37A. [B] RED SOX CAP LETTER.
- 58A. [C] ROMAN ONE HUNDRED.
While I’m on the fence about the theme and its execution, what I won’t equivocate about is the grid itself and the ways Patrick’s filled it in. Those three grid-spanning theme answers are all connected by the central, vertically-running ERIQ LASALLE [Portrayer of Dr. Peter Benton on "ER"]. There’s a first-and-last-name combo you don’t often see in the puzzles.
Then, I love those open corners with their pairs of stacked 7s. Among my fave fill there: the carefree TRA-LA-LA [Singsong syllables]; BE A HERO [Save the day]; IMAGERY [Mental pictures] and the lovely imagery the clue [How many lovers walk] stirs up for ABREAST; the spicy OREGANO [Pizzeria seasoning that's related to catnip]; and because the thought of one’s efforts at the computer keyboard evaporating spontaneously pains me, the wince-invoking RE-TYPES clued as [Enters again, as a manuscript].
“OH, LOOK!” ["Hey, check it out!"], there are two 10s in there as well—DEAN MARTIN [Rat Pack member from Steubenville, Ohio] (hard to imagine him as a country boy…), and BAD GRAMMAR [English teacher's annoyance]. No [A] for that!
Uh-oh—is it legit to have [A] as a clue and then AAAS [Small batteries] in the grid? (I’m being facetious!!)
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Lester Ruff)
So, last year Stan Newman added another nom de plume to his collection. He’s S.N. for his high-octane themelesses and Anna Stiga for the regular grade of Stumper. For easier themelesses, he’s Lester Ruff (“less rough”). When you see that byline, expect less of a challenge than you’re used to seeing in Stumperville.
Nothing too crazy in here, nothing brashly unfair, nothing wildly misleading. Let’s go through the puzzle:
- 1a. MAMA BEAR is a [Character in a moppet whodunit]. Shades of 1-Across in the NYT…”Yo Mama Bear so dumb, her porridge is too cold.”
- 15a. [School rule] clues “I BEFORE E.” That’s not one of the classroom rules my kid has to follow. I was looking for a proscription on talking to your buddies during the teacher’s lesson.
- 16a. DESPOT = [Oppressor]. “Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye” to Mubarak!
- 24a. [Drug discovered in 1853] is ASPIRIN. Pretty sure there were people using the willow medicinally as a pain reliever long before 1853.
- 32a. “LET’S GO” is clued as [Encouraging words]—as in the Wrigley Field chant, “Let’s go, Cubbies!”—rather than the verb phrase about letting go. More fun this way.
- 47a. Least familiar answer in the grid: MANCHE, or [Where Saint-Lo is capital].
- 55a. WANG! That was just in the Onion puzzle this week, clued as [Johnson]. Here it’s the [First computer company with a Super Bowl commercial]. Told ya I used to work with Wangs all the time.
- 59a. [It's just over 2] clues the AT SIGN (@) on your keyboard.
- 65a. Love the name MICAWBER, Dickens’ [Uriah Heep employee].
- 1d. The MIMOSA tree is an [Acacia kin]. I tried the LOCUST tree first.
- 3d. Say what? MELONS are [Financial windfalls] in a vernacular English I do not speak.
- 8d. REEDING is the name for those [Lines on the edges of quarters].
- 37d. [Sounds like a wolf] is the clue for ULULATES. Not at all how I view the sound.
- 50d. A fireplace [Poker target] is the EMBERS.
Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Fairly easy themeless puzzle with lots of fun stuff:
- 1a. COLD PIZZA is a [Breakfast-on-the-run choice for some]. If it’s not cheesy enough, just do what my kid does: spread some cream cheese on top. (Great 1-Across!)
- 59a. My second favorite entry, after COLD PIZZA, is SKI SEASON, an [Up-and-down time?].
- 49a. LANCELOT is cool. But [Knighted son of King Ban]? Never heard of King Ban. He sounds like an oppressive leader.
- 11d. [Album before "Help!"] is BEATLES VI. Really? There’s a Beatles album by that name?
- 1d. I like words that don’t look like any other ones. CODICILS are [Will supplements]. Etymologically, it’s a diminutive of codex. What other words end with -cil? There’s pencil, a diminutive of penis/”tail.” I am not making this up! Now when there are over a thousand pencils in the room at the ACPT, I will be thinking there are a thousand mini penis-tails. (Stencil doesn’t go the same diminutive route for its cil.)
- 3d. LEAFLETS is a lovely word, isn’t it? Much nicer than tract, brochure, or pamphlet. [Ads, perhaps] is the clue.
- 23d. PONYTAIL is clued as a [Clipped style]. As in using a hair clip instead of a ponytail holder? I don’t know about that. Does anyone use a hair clip to make a ponytail?
- 30d. One [Strawberry dessert] is SHORTCAKE. I eyeballed some shortcake/dessert shells near the strawberries at the grocery store yesterday. Didn’t buy them because I already had cookies at home. Would really like some sliced berries on cake right about now, though.
- 39a. The [Designer of Dulles Airport's main terminal] is Eero SAARINEN. Whoa! When’s the last time we had his last name in the puzzle instead of the vowel-rich short first name?
- 34a. [Croat's neighbor] clues SLOVENE, from Slovenia. Can you name another demonym (word for a person from a particular place) that ends in -ene? Cairene!
- SPUTNIK, SASHAYS, HERESY, and ONE-LINERS also enhance the grid.
The abundance of prepositional phrases are on the dry side. DEAD SET ON is great and ZOOMS IN is Scrabbly, but LETS IN ON, IN USE, PILED INTO, NEARER TO, and ENTERS ON are too much.