Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
Hey! What’s this Thursday theme doing on a Wednesday? It must be celebrating my wedding anniversary. Isn’t that sweet.
The theme is absolutely nuts, never before seen (to my knowledge). The five Down theme entries are palindromes, and when they reach their midpoints, they hit the black-square U-TURN (65a: [Maneuver required five times to finish this puzzle]) zone and head back up. Each single square in the U-turn zone is, in fact, unchecked:
- 2d. [Lionized] clues DEIFIED, entered as DEIF.
- 7d. The Napoleonesque palindrome “ABLE WAS I ERE I SAW ELBA” looks like ABLEWASIER. That looks wronger than DEIF, doesn’t it?
- 12d. Echoes of Joe DiPietro’s recent Fireball crossword here, with the ROTATOR cuff lopped off at ROTA.
- 25d. I had MADAME here for a while before understanding the theme. The [Classic introduction] is “MADAM, I’M ADAM,” represented by MADAMI.
- 30d. The playfully fake word AIBOHPHOBIA is used for the supposed fear of palindromes and is itself palindromic.
The grid’s got left/right symmetry instead of the usual rotational. There may be a lot of 3s and 4s in the grid too, but it’s Scrabbly (ZITI, BBQ, WIZ) and the long fill sparkles so aggressively, I can’t help liking the puzzle. A spooky dead PHONE LINE, a genie’s “YES, MASTER,” short SNIPPETS, ouchy PAINTBALL, insurance REDLINING, a sweet LOVE SONG, a sneezy “BLESS YOU,” DR. WATSON, a DRY WIT, and “I TRIED“? Great stuff.
That [Argonaut who slew Castor] is gonna round up some Google traffic to my old crosswordfiend.blogspot.com site, for sure. Nobody much knows IDAS whenever he appears in the crossword.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Abe Linkin” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features four two-word expressions where the first words ends in -A and the second word begins with BE-. Thus, there’s an ABE “linkin’” the two words together:
- 17-Across: The [Lager served with a lime] is CORONA BEER.
- 31-Across: The [TV drama set in Vietnam] was CHINA BEACH. I remember that this show was critically acclaimed, but I never saw an episode.
- 48-Across: The [Bamboo eaters, colloquially] are known as PANDA BEARS. “Colloquially??,” I wondered aloud as I solved, “There’s a stuffier name for panda bears?” Some quick research indicates that the official name is simply “panda,” or sometimes “giant panda.”
- 65-Across: One [Chocolate ingredient] is COCOA BEANS. Others are sugar and butter.
I’m a fan of the “hidden word gimmick,” where a secret word spans the divide between two words in common expressions. But in honor of President Lincoln, I have to be honest: this one didn’t quite do it for me. Maybe it’s because other theme entries come readily to mind (DAYTONA BEACH, KOALA BEAR, VANILLA BEAN, SOFA BEDS, and so forth), or maybe it’s because the non-theme entries have more pizzazz. MAN CAVES, clued as [Places for guys], is just awesome, and I SAID NO WAY, clued as [“What part of ‘fat chance’ don’t you understand?”], may be a tad forced but it’s just kooky enough to be endearing. Even DO IT, the imperative clued as ["What are you waiting for?"], sparkles. When theme entries get swallowed by the non-theme fill, something’s off.
Bonus points for the reference to the [Nightclub in a Barry Manilow song], the COPA, Copa Cabana, where music and passion were always in fashion. Additonal points for working in three Zs, three Vs, and an X in ways that did not at all seem strained.
I admire [Kama ___ Records] as an uncontroversial clue for SUTRA. Hey, dealing with an offended solver can put one in an awkward … wait for it … position. But my favorite clue was [Snakes on a plain?] for ASPS. You can just hear Cleo: “I’ve had it with these incestuously amorous asps on this incestuously amorous plain!”
Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Theme: Circled squares contain the SWEET desserts, FLAN, STRUDEL, SORBET, TRIFLE, MOUSSE, and TORTE. Kudos to Francis for skipping the shorter PIE; brickbats for not finding a longer phrase that contains the letter string CREMEBRULEE in its midst.
The SORBET hider, JACKS OR BETTER, is a great poker term. I generally disdain poker terminology in the crossword, but if you can hide dessert in a 13? So much the better. I wonder if this was the seed entry.
No, maybe the seed entry was the MOUSSE lurking in ANONYMOUS SEX. Raise your hand if you never knew there was any MOUSSE in there. *hand raised*
Haven’t really seen Ted Haggard called PASTOR TED, I don’t think, but then I’m not an evangelical follower of his church so who knows.
ALF LANDON‘s FLAN and ACCOST RUDELY‘s STRUDEL are drier than the first three I discussed, and sticking a tasty TRIFLE inside ASSAULT RIFLES is a bit jarring. Kudos for fitting in six theme entries, though.
In the fill: EEL TANK? Really? That’s just goofy. RESAT is ugly, but it crosses three desserts. RESET would be better, but I’m not sure it’s kosher to depluralize Pecan Sandies and have one SANDIE. Is it a sandy or a sandie, or unsingularizable?
Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Cute enough theme—the CATSKILLS mountains are redefined as “cat skills” such as BALANCING, SELF-CLEANING, HIGH JUMPING (except that you rarely see “high jumping” when people are referring to the high jump event) and…DISAPPEARING? Cats disappear? Whatever. What about scratching and hissing, hmm? I don’t like cats.
And while the theme clues are marked with asterisks, it’s still jarring to have another -ING word in a long Down answer, that DIVINING ROD. Don’t cats divine the future? Seeing into the future sounds like SIGHT UNSEEN, the other long Down—and both of these Downs would be better in another puzzle than in this one. They’re great entries on their own but awkwardly echoed the theme here.
Mostly the fill bugged me. ANA/PSY, AMIGA, GAMY clued as [Plucky] (nooo…plucky = game, gamy = smelling like spoiled meat), MOIL (put in TOIL and didn’t check the crossing, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one because who ever uses the word MOIL??), the weird abbrev CANC., MOL, MON, ADJ, LEA, A BEE, ANKA, AABA, just so many short answers in the “bleah” category.