Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
The theme is cute in a “spring is almost here” way, but it takes up only 43 squares, and the theme’s limitation on the letter T (only found in the kite’s tail) somehow leads to a lot of undesirable fill. When 1-Across is a partial (AS AN) and it crosses both the more-famous-in-crosswords-than-out SELA and a plural AMYS, the puzzle has to work overtime to win me back. And fill like CMI, LOGE, AGER, OLLA, ELY, ILONA, ORIBI, CANER, AM I, RFDS, ELBA, ISSEL, and YORBA does not reel me in.
The theme entries are FLYING HIGH, BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND, and TAILING OFF, which are all verb phrases that could be associated with kites. Well, the third one really can’t, can it? It just points at the kite’s T tail but otherwise has nothing to do with kites. And oddly, FLYING HIGH isn’t clued with reference to theme when the other two long Acrosses are.
A mere four squares are circled to spell KITE, and then there are six T’s “tailing off” from the T in 38a. I say: If the only way to keep a T out of most of the puzzle is to include things like the ILONA/OLLA/LEILA/ELLIE/ELY zone and the LOGE/AGER crossing, maybe you want you rethink the concept. (Tongue twister time! Say “Ilona olla Leila Ellie Ely” three times fast.)
And it would be nice to space out the restricted-alphabet puzzles so we don’t have two in a row. The same concerns I had yesterday over the sort of fill you get with half the keyboard are present for the don’t-put-T-in-most-of-the-puzzle concept. Solid fill with interesting clues: that is what I’m looking for above all. A cute gimmick with questionable fill tends to lose me.
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Whoa, I wasn’t looking for BOOKER T. and the M.G.’S to run in the Down direction, but I was indeed expecting to find MGS somewhere. The four long theme answers are (semi-)famous names with M.G. initials:
- 17a. [*Moscow park eponym] is MAXIM GORKY. I know this from the book/movie Gorky Park, though the Maxim part came from the crossings.
- 61a. MARVIN GAYE is the [*"What's Going On" singer].
- 10d. [*20th-century cartoonist who wrote "He Done Her Wrong," a 300-page pantomime tale] is MILT GROSS. That clue could have gone on thrice as long and I would still have relied on the crossings to fill this in. None of this rings a bell with me. Gross died in 1953, so “early 20th century” is more on point. I know TV actress Marla Gibbs’ name better, but that’s not 9 letters long.
- 32d. [*"Mad Max" star] is the now-infamous MEL GIBSON.
- 48d. [Leader of the band with the 1962 hit "Green Onions"] is BOOKER T.
- 61d. [With "the," 48-Down's band (which sounds as if it could have included the answers to starred clues)] is a kinda cute rationale for grouping these M.G.’S together here.
- The 14-pack of 7-letter answers, mostly in the corners. TEMPEST (my first [Violent storm] was TORNADO) and ROXANNE. The singing LORELEI. Vicks VAPORUB. OCEANIA above O CANADA ([Anthem for "eh" sayers]), missing only OCARINA for the OC****A trifecta. SWAHILI, the [East African language].
- 43a. SUV is clued [It's not known for MPG efficiency]
- 49a. [Din in the library?] means Kipling’s GUNGA Din, not “noise.”
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “It’s Vine With Me”—Janie’s review
With spring creeping up on us, Sarah gives us a puzzle that conjures up images of the greenery that’ll soon be ours to appreciate. Each of her four theme phrases begins with a word that also names a kind of vine. We get vines of the bean, kiwi, wisteria and ivy varieties. Those bean and wisteria vines are especially pretty, no? The non-vine phrases that deliver this array of flora are:
17A. BEAN COUNTER [Number cruncher]. Which is a reminder that tax season is upon us… Don’t love that, but do love the phrase.
26A. KIWI AIRLINES [Former flier down under]. Nupe, they’re no longer in business.
47A. WISTERIA LANE ["Desperate Housewives" street]. Lasted maybe half the first season with this show—but ya sure can’t go by me for what “the public” likes on TV.
61A. IVY-LEAGUERS [Cantabs and Elis]. We all know that Yalies are also Elis, but if “Cantabs” is new to you, “Those matriculated at or graduated from Harvard University are called Cantabs, derived from Cambridge, where fair Harvard is located, which in England was once known by the Latin Cantabrigia. Hence, Cantabrigians (the residents) or Cantabs for short.” [The Big Ten's Fighting] ILLINI represent some of the best players in the state school system.
This is one of those themes where, for me, the parts are more interesting than the whole. I think it’s the nature of the gimmick here. To her credit, Sarah makes good use of the non-theme entries to add more color to the fill. Of the longer items, I especially like the grid opposites DECORATE [Adorn] and DIALOGUE [Screenplay component]. I like TOE DANCE, but scratch my head at the clue [Ballet excerpt]. Really? To toe dance is to perform on pointe. It’s a verb. I’m really having trouble seeing the logic of cluing it as a noun. “The ballerina performed a toe dance.” As opposed to a tap dance? Maybe. But why an “excerpt”? Just a confusing clue, I fear.
Other peppy fill? “BABALOO” [Desi Arnaz signature song], and peeling off of those “B”s, BABKA [Coffee cake variety] and BWANA [Master, in Swahili]. The connectivity in KARO/OMSK/KWAI is similarly appealing. RACIEST [Most suggestive] is another goody, and I’m also fond of the ACH/ACHES crossing in the NE; ditto the opposites that get the puzzle going: AVOID [Go around] and MEETS [Runs into]. (Yes, I know they’re not parallel parts of speech..)
Fave clue? While I do like the sibilance and alliteration in [C. in C.'s second-in-command] for VEEP, the visual and wordplay of [Ring around the newly weds] gives HORA a lovely lift—so that’s the one that gets my vote today.
Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
This morning’s New York Times reports that the Spider-Man Broadway musical is being retooled and will delay its opening from this week to three months from now. Oh, crazy star-crossed, cast-injuring, audience-disappointing show! Will you ever look like a reasonable use of $65 million?
Francis culls a bunch of song titles from U2′s oeuvre that seem relevant to the ill-fated musical:
- 1a, 17a. [U2 song about most performances of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark"?] is OUT / OF CONTROL.
- 20a, 58a, 20a again. [U2 song about a disastrous "Spider-Man" matinee?] clues SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY.
- 22a. VERTIGO is a [U2 song about a common affliction for "Spider-Man" performers?].
- 32a. NUMB is a [U2 song about the aftermath of a "Spider-Man" injury?].
- 39a. [U2 song appropriate for many performers in "Spider-Man"?] clues I FALL DOWN.
- 48a. 54a. 63a. [U2 song about dangerous "Spider-Man" rigging?] clues TRIP / THROUGH/ YOUR WIRES.
- 72a. [U2 song about "Spider-Man" in general?] is BAD.
Now, I’ve only heard of one of these songs, but each title works great as a punchline for mocking the musical. I like Francis’s approach to satirical skewering of U2′s Bono and The Edge, who are co-creators of the show.
Seven more clues:
- 14a. THE HUDSON is a great entry. [New York river, to locals].
- 33a. [Precise, so to speak] clues SURGICAL. The clue’s got that surgical precision, and yet it wasn’t at all obvious.
- 44a. [College gridiron event] clues BOWL GAME, another terrific entry.
- 4d. [Harmonia ___ (classical label)] clues MUNDI. All crossings for me.
- 21d. [Ticket-buyer who stayed home (perhaps wisely)] is a NO-SHOW. Nice echo of the theme.
- 34d. [Fancy saloon of old] clues GIN PALACE. Whoa, that’s a new one on me.
- 59d. [Stan Shmenge's brother, on "SCTV"] is YOSH. Zero recollection of this one. How else you gonna clue YOSH?