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C.W. Stewart’s New York Times crossword
C.W./Carolyn! Why, Deb Amlen and I were just talking about you. It’s been too long since we’ve had one of your puzzles. This one’s theme is fairly subtle—well, until you hit the revealer entry that explains what the theme is, and then it’s quite clear. There’s a SPOT OF TEA being served within each of the other five theme answers: ACUTE ANGLE, VOTE AGAINST, LATE ARRIVAL, RABBIT EARS, and WASTE AWAY. It might’ve been nice not to go 4-and-1 on the way TEA is split (four TE/A, one T/EA)—PLANET EARTH and ILL AT EASE would both have been solid subs. But does the average solver eyeball the theme entries and notice that just one of ‘em doesn’t split the TEA the same way. I imagine not.
Highlights in the fill:
- LOW-END, PUT-ONS, “MAY I?,” QUARRELS
- 12d. [Places to get Reubens] is a DELI. Yes, the Flemish painter is spelled Rubens, but that capital R had me thinking of precious oil paintings rather than sandwiches.
- Crosswordese AMAH (with HAREM echoing its downtrodden-women vibe)
- Two of crossworddom’s favorite birds, the RHEA and EGRET, roosting together (the EMU and ANI send their regrets)
55a: [Feature of many a greeting card] clues a VERSE. If you’ve ever been curious about the inner workings of a greeting card company, read David Ellis Dickerson’s memoir, House of Cards: Love, Faith, and Other Social Expressions. That’s the (bargain) hardcover. The subtitle changed to a more accurate reflection of the contents for the paperback edition: House of Cards: The True Story of How a 26-Year-Old Fundamentalist Virgin Learned about Life, Love, and Sex by Writing Greeting Cards. I will say this: While Hallmark indisputably knows the greeting card business, the way they create new cards seems insane. You might spot the book’s author at the ACPT in a few weeks—he’s a puzzler as well as a writer.
Note from Amy: Say hello to Neville Fogarty! He’s young (well, post-collegiate), he’s an avid crossworder and budding constructor, and he’s a funny writer who’s willing to blog about crosswords.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review
Hey, everyone—Neville Fogarty here stepping in with my first guest blog at The Fiend. It’s a little weird to be on the flip side of the blog—I’m used to reading the notes here to help make myself a better solver and constructor. Perhaps I can pass some wisdom on to you now. Anyway—to the puzzle! Donna, who’s always a crowd pleaser, has written a nice tribute puzzle for old what’s-his-name. Remember him?
- 20a. [Cop's often-unreliable lead] is an ANONYMOUS TIP. People don’t seem to request anonymity when tipping at a bar, though.
- 28a. [Retailer's private label] clues NO-NAME BRAND. Wikipedia tells me that that there’s actually a “No Name” brand up in Canada used for this purpose.
- 50a. MYSTERY MEAT is a [Facetious name for a cafeteria staple]. Thinking back to my elementary school years, I think that “mystery” was accurate…but “meat” was not.
- 56a. ["The Gong Show" regular with a paper bag on his head, with "the"] was Murray Langston, better known as the UNKNOWN COMIC. He was in over 150 episodes of “The Gong Show”—wow!
Aside from four great theme entries, we’ve got some nice Tuesday-fresh entries with NY GIANTS, TIN CUP, HOBNOB, KING ME, and TSUNAMI. I did have to look up LSTS, though—that’s Landing Ship, Tanks. Overall, great fill, and nothing too tricky for a Tuesday.
At 23a: [Apostropheless possessive], I’m not sure if it’s Donna or editor Rich Norris who’s got a grammatical pet peeve. ITS is the entry here—save the apostrophe for the contraction it’s. I feel pretty sure that that’s a shared pet peeve among the readers here, though.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Go Get Schooled”
This week’s theme doesn’t really resonate with me. Necessities for students of different ages:
- 20a. [Some college students can't go without it] clues FINANCIAL AID. Indeed, many students can’t go to college without loans or scholarship grants.
- 38a. [Some high school students can't go without it] clues TEXT MESSAGING. There’s no literal go involved here, is there?
- 55a. [Some elementary school students can't go without it] clues a BATHROOM PASS. You can’t go, as in “go pee,” without a bathroom pass unless you’re willing to pee your pants.
It bugs me that this feels like an arbitrary threesome, and that only two of the three seem to have a literal aspect to the “can’t go” part of the clue.
With just three theme entries occupying 37 squares, you expect to see plenty of sparkle in the fill. Highlights include the Star Trek ship ENTERPRISE, “SEE HERE,” MEN IN TREES, the FOR DUMMIES series, and FAX NUMBERS—lots of long answers beyond the theme.
Favorite clue: 49d: [It may pop out of a box] for a TISSUE. I use Puffs but call them Kleenex, of course.
Crosswordese and trouble spots include the following:
- 9a. FALA is the name of [FDR's dog].
- 14a. [Feudal slave] clues HELOT. This is no medieval serf, but a serf in ancient Sparta.
- 52a. [Dictation stat, for short] clues LPM. Lines per minute? Never encountered this abbreviation before.
- 64a. I took German and French, not Spanish. So, [Car, in Caracas] is COCHE? All righty then.
- 65a. TATU is that [Russian music duo that often teases that they'll kiss onstage], two women. Not a name I tend to remember.
- 1d. [Hit the ground hard] clues BIFFED. Hmm, don’t know that word. A guy I know swears by the Biffy bidet attachment. No etymological connection, I’m betting.
Patrick Jordan’s CrossSynergy Syndicate Crossword, “Race Finishes”—Sam Donaldson’s review
“Race Finishes” is a nice title, not only because it describes the theme (four phrases whose last words are types of races) but also because the puzzle offered very little resistance. Had I solved the puzzle on my own computer and not my employer’s tiny, tiny laptop with small keys that just don’t work well for someone with fat fingers like me, I think I would have finished a good 20 or 30 seconds faster. (Oh, and before you rat me out to my employer, I should note that I solved the puzzle late at night while on the road–for business!–and only after duly checking and replying to emails.) And if I, a D Division solver at this month’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, can finish a 15×15 puzzle in roughly 4:40, I’m guessing some A Division solvers flirted with 1:30–on paper.
Oh, the theme entries, you (didn’t) ask? Here they are:
- 17-Across: The [Heraldry emblem] is a COAT OF ARMS, building off of “arms race.” My coat has two arms.
- 52-Across: ["Something's fishy about this"] clues I SMELL A RAT, and us working stiffs know all about the “rat race.” If something’s fishy, it sure doesn’t smell like a rat. Why don’t we say “I smell a tuna” or “I smell cod” instead? (I tried to sell that joke to an observational comic but he didn’t buy it. Instead, he went with a “So what’s the deal with cornbread?” bit. Thus dashed were my dreams of gag writing.)
- 11-Down: To [Retire] is to HIT THE SACK, a play on a “sack race.”
- 27-Down: The [Plumber's access, at times] is a CRAWL SPACE (from “space race”). As I solved, I had the CRA- in place when I read the clue. Immediately upon seeing “plumber’s” at the beginning of the clue, I wanted the answer to start with “crack.” Just thought you should know. Speaking of which, anyone want to take the first bite of the cake to the right?
There are lots of good theme answers that could go with this theme. I COULD EAT A HORSE, I’M ONLY HUMAN, DRESSED IN DRAG, and many others, I’m sure. But finding pairs of the same length must have proved tricky, because the choices here are something of a mixed bag. I SMELL A RAT and HIT THE SACK are lively, but COAT OF ARMS and, to a lesser extent, CRAWL SPACE are just kinda there.
The grid’s nice and smooth, though, which facilitates a quick solve. Jordan deserves credit for a very smooth 74-word grid. The staircase of crossing five-letter entries running diagonally up the grid also helps the solver. For those who care about such things (I don’t), we’re a V shy of a pangram here. More importantly, I think, the grid wasn’t compromised by the insertion of rare letters. Highlights from the fill include ATOM ANT, the [1960s cartoon hero with antennae], and DESPOILS, a term for [Pillages] that might be used by PRIGS, clued here as [Obnoxiously proper types].