David Kahn’s New York Times crossword
Today we have a tribute theme to the late director SIDNEY LUMET: His film PRINCE OF THE CITY spans the middle of the grid and is crossed by the movies SERPICO and DOG DAY AFTERNOON (both starring AL PACINO) and by NEW YORK. Elsewhere in the grid are the movie FAIL / SAFE, a movie LOT and SET where Lumet worked, the word ANGRY missing from Lumet’s film 12 __ Men, the word ORIENT missing from Murder on the __ Express, and Lumet’s D.W. GRIFFITH Award.
So there are 14 theme entries peppered throughout the grid (in meticulously symmetrical locations). I may have seen one or two of the movies included in this puzzle, so it didn’t resonate much for me personally.
- 65a/66a. O PATRIA / MIA, an Aida aria in two pieces.
- 15a. OVERMAN, or [Provide with too much staffing]. I have seen “overmanned” but never the plain, no “-ed” version of the word.
- 23d. FIX ON, meaning [Choose definitely], feels a hair awkward to me. Anyone got a sentence using the phrase that will persuade me it’s a good entry?
In the “Really?” category, we have ABO, PBA, UEY, ERNO, NOLO, OBI, ISR., REL., ONT., RUN A (which was just in another puzzle a day or two ago and it bugged me then, too), AZO dye, ELEMIS, ABES, SUPE, and ERO. Yes, I know there were 14 theme answers to contend with. I would have been willing to ditch LOT and SET and maybe FAIL / SAFE to facilitate crisper fill.
Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straightforward and simple theme—the first words of four phrases can be “SHOWER HEADS:
- 17a. [1958 Robert Mitchum drama] clues THUNDER ROAD. The title’s more famous as the Bruce Springsteen song that’s been a classic since its release in 1975. (Thundershower is another word for thunderstorm.)
- 26a. COLD PIZZA: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. It’s also a [Dorm room snack]. (Take a cold shower, will you?)
- 40a. ['70s-'80s Haitian president, familiarly] is BABY DOC DUVALIER. (A baby doc shower is a party given in honor of new medical interns.) (No, wait. It’s a party for an obstetrician.)
- 52a. [Early spring shout] is “APRIL FOOL!” (April showers bring May flowers.)
- 65a. SHOWER HEADS are [Bath fixtures, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 26-, 40- and 52-Across].
- 1a. To JOB-HOP is to [Frequently change positions]. The clue sounded like it wanted FIDGET, didn’t it?
- 37d. To LIE IN WAIT is to [Prepare to ambush].
In general, the fill that doesn’t do much for me and a good bit of it has a ’60s/’70s vibe to it: consider SLA, ELSA the lioness, BEBE Rebozo, and EDA LeShan. The letter run/phone trio MNO, suffix -OID, and the partials OF WAY and I’D BE don’t spice things up any, either.
Other fill in the “eh/meh/nah” category:
- 69a. There was a recent Cruciverb-L dust-up about the suitability of HARA-KIRI as crossword fill. Some folks found it lively, while others found it disturbingly deathly instead. Here, we get the fill-in-the-blank half, HARA. Eh.
- 50a. [Prepare for online publication] clues the word WEBIFY, which I had not hitherto encountered. This cursory Wikipedia bit suggests it’s more about making applications web-ready than about editing and coding text for online publication. I would be totally fine with never seeing this word again, certainly not in a crossword.
- 10d. [Orangutan] clues RED APE. Is that a lexical chunk, or just color + noun? It’s not ringing a bell, this “red ape” business.
- 51d. [Black flies, notably] are BITERS. Though you’d be more apt to say “Those black flies really bite” than “those black flies sure are biters,” wouldn’t you?
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
If you’re like me and you chafe at “kreative” spelling, you may have found Tyler’s theme enormously satisfying. (Provided that you know bands from the ’60s to the present era.) Tyler takes five groups whose spellings have always kinda bugged me and fixes ‘em right up:
- 20a. ["Nookie" band, corrected?] clues LIMP BISCUIT. Limp Bizkit is the correct weird spelling.
- 39a. ["Hey Ya" band, corrected?] turns OutKast into OUTCAST.
- 57a. ["Pour Some Sugar on Me" band, corrected?] is a two-fer: Def Leppard is rendered as DEAF LEOPARD.
- 11d. ["Girls Girls Girls" band, corrected?] makes Mötley Crüe into MOTLEY CREW. When I was the features editor of my high-school newspaper, I blithely “fixed” a misspelling in a review of this band’s album. I could scarcely believe it when the girl who wrote the review told me it really, honestly was to be spelled “Crüe.” Nobody knows why metal bands like to abuse the umlaut so much.
- 29d. ["I'm a Believer" band, corrected?] gives us THE MONKEYS in lieu of The Monkees.
I love the theme, but I don’t really love the surrounding fill. I don’t hate it, either. Often I am quite fond of Tyler’s crossword fill, so I was expecting to find more zing here.
- 52a. Lowercase [Bush and gore, e.g.] are NOUNS.
- 5d. An OCTILE is an [Eighth] but I can’t say I’ve ever had a need for the word. Quartile and quintile and decile, I’ve seen.
- 12d. BREE is the [Girl in the lonelygirl15 videos]. Those were a viral video thing I skipped.
- 22d. [Spanish spits of land] clues ISLAS. I think of spits of land as skinny peninsulas jutting out into the water rather than self-contained islands. And you?
- 63d. [Devilish character in "Guitar Hero"] clues LOU. Had no idea.
With the FART ([Gas leak?]) and SMELL ([Refrigerator or shoe issue]) in the bottom of the grid, this puzzle needs a spritz of air freshener.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “A Buck in Passing” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Look! In the newspaper! It’s a word! It’s a phrase! It’s a Quip Puzzle! Yes, it’s Quip Puzzle, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal puzzles. Quip Puzzle, who can change the course of mighty grids, bend real quotations in its bare hands and who, disguised as a mild-mannered crossword in a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and a flailing attempt at entertainment!
Today, Quip Puzzle overhears an excerpt from a conversation that could take place in practically any household: I NEVER SAID IT WAS / YOUR FAULT. / I SAID I WAS / GOING TO BLAME YOU. <Pause for laughter to die down.> Okay, then. Let’s just get to the items of interest:
- When will I ever remember that the Burns poem is “Comin’ THRO’ the Rye,” and not THRU? I don’t know why I can’t get this thro’ my thick skull.
- [A dentist's number] is a terrific clue for GAS. That’s “number” with a silent “b.” Ah, heteronyms–a crossword clue writer’s best friends.
- HOT CAR, the [Stolen wheels], feels a bit arbitrary to me. I can imagine someone saying, “show me the stolen car you told me about,” but not “show me the hot car you told me about.” Besides, as the owner of a Toyota Camry, I think of “hot car” as an oxymoron.
- Hey, it’s the NENE, the [Goose of the islands]! That was the very first word of Crosswordese I ever learned. You know, it’s true–you never forget your first. Welcome back, buddy.
- [Put a mangle to use] is an…interesting…clue for IRONED. My dictionary says a mangle is “a machine for ironing laundry by passing it between heated rollers.”
- Anyone else try CLAMOUR as the [Loud racket] instead of the correct answer, CLANGOR? I thought Clangor was a town in Maine. What, that’s Bangor? I thought that was…well, never mind.
When the longest nontheme entries are only seven letters long (and when there are only five of those), everything rides on the theme, and in this case that’s the quip. I’m not sure this particular quip shoulders the burden successfully. What say you?