Jeff Dubner’s New York Times crossword
So, the rhyme scheme of an ITALIAN SONNET (2d, 49d) is ABBA ABBA CDE CDE. Those letters are embedded within the four 15-letter answers, CABBAGE PATCH KID, SABBATH BLESSING, EN BANC DECISIONS, and MANIC DEPRESSION. That’s straightforward enough, and yet this puzzle kicked my butt. The central answer, 34a: [Gilbert and Sullivan's follow-up to "The Mikado"]?? What the hell? RUDDIGORE?!? Aside from musical theater freaks, who has ever heard of that?
Crikey. And EN BANC DECISIONS required a lot of crossings. So did everything after SABBATH. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered HI DADin a crossword, so I had HI MOM there too. And ANTIOCH, that’s much more familiar to a Chicagoan as a local suburb than as the 44d: [Ancient capital of Syria].
Fill looks pretty solid overall. Clues work fine. Theme is scholarly/literary, but that shouldn’t have taxed me. Nothing seems unfair except perhaps the wrong-looking RUDDIGORE taking up so much space in the middle. Can I blame the upper respiratory virus that’s kicking my butt along with this puzzle tonight?
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme is inspired by 50: SURROUND SOUND, and the other four theme entries are wrapped with SOU and ND, SO and UND, or S and OUND:
- 19a. ["Afraid you can't have your money back"] clues “SORRY, NO REFUND.” Phrase would sound better as “sorry, no refunds,” but that wouldn’t fit the theme’s constraints.
- 22a. SOUP BRAND is a rather dry phrase for a wet thing, like [Progresso or Lipton].
- 32a. To STAND ONE’S GROUND is to [Refuse to budge]. Nice 15 anchoring the middle.
- 46a. [Home of Notre Dame]—the university, not the cathedral—is SOUTH BEND, Indiana.
The stacking of theme entries at the top and bottom poses limitations on the fill. Thus, the upper middle has that ugly RESOD/PETR/A NEST combo, and the bottom central has the sort of awkward-sounding TO NOW (49d: [Thus far]).
Took me forever to understand the clue for 5d: STARR, [Best successor of 1962]. Pete Best, Ringo Starr, the Beatles. Aha!
Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
The theme entries have letters added to make them be about flames when the original phrase is not. At least, I think that’s the theme. It works clearly three quarters of the time:
- 17a. [Result of hiking with pyromaniacs?] = TRAIL ABLAZE. Trailblaze + A.
- 28a. [Steak Diane or Bananas Foster, served at noon?] = LIGHTED LUNCH, flambé. Light lunch + ED.
- 48a. [Skilled at spontaneous combustion?] = ON FIRE AT WILL. Fire at will + ON. This one adds a short word rather than a letter or two.
- 62a. And…um…I don’t know what the original phrase is for the last one. Open flame –E, +ING? But the flame in open flame is, in fact, fire rather than not-fire. [Result of arson at a tennis event?] = OPEN FLAMING. People! Help me out here. What am I missing?
The fill’s fairly fresh. And there are some fun clues:
- 36a. A NEWBIE is a [Person who needs to RTFM, perhaps]. (RTFM means “read the effing manual.”)
- 7d. [Queer-positive straight person, as it were] is an ALLY. Ally in the house!
- 13d. Prince [Wills' wife] is KATE.
- 35d. White ZINFANDEL is a [Pink drink].
- 54d. On Sesame Street, ERNIE is [Bert's special friend].
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Time Line” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features a timely quip: A DIGITAL WATCH / MET A GRANDFATHER / CLOCK AND BOASTED, / “LOOK PA, NO HANDS!” It’s nice how the punchline of the quip is contained entirely within the last line, leading to a more elegant payoff.
With only three partials and one abbreviation, the fill is quite smooth, even though there are few really interesting entries (like the symmetrically placed CELIBATE ARSONIST, whose need for some lovin’ is clearly burning a hole in something). But I don’t want to come across as second-guessing the fill–with quotation and quip puzzles, I believe, the fill needs to be direct and very gettable so that the solver has a chance with the theme entries that comprise 25%+ of the white space. If the fill gets too cutesy, the puzzle becomes much harder, and that’s not this syndicate’s typical intention.
Some random observations:
- I tried DWARFS as the answer to 10-Down, [Grumpy's group, e.g.]. Right idea, wrong answer. This grid wanted SEPTET. Looking back, I see that’s entirely my fault. The seven dwarfs are an example of a septet, but dwarfs are not an example of Grumpy’s group–they are Grumpy’s group. Must pay attention to the “e.g.!”
- For 50-Down, the [Church area], I plunked down APSE without any crossings, confident my time with crosswords had paid off here. Oops, wrong guess. It was NAVE. How naive of me.
- My favorite clues were [Brass building?] for PENTAGON and [It may have an attachment] for EMAIL.
- For reasons I can’t explain, I always thought the expression was “bid a hasty retreat.” Now I know that it’s BEAT A [hasty retreat]. Crossword puzzles: slowly advancing the English language since 1913.
I’m normally not into quotation or quip puzzles, but this one worked for me because of its elegant construction. 4.2 stars (not to be confused with 4:20).