Ashish Vengsarkar’s New York Times crossword
A(shis)h, who doesn’t appreciate a wicked twist in a Thursday puzzle? That extra minute it took me to root out a typo didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this puzzle’s theme. Ashish goes chromosomal here, interpreting a set of “his and hers” towel embroidery as XY AND XX. In the other four theme entries, the letters HIS and HERS you expect to find are replaced by XY and XX:
- 17a. Hispanic Heritage Month gets XYPANIC HERITAGE. (This is where my typo was. Had XYSANIC and couldn’t figure out what the 3d clue meant, so I second-guessed the C instead of the S in CAST. Should’ve been CAPT. Cook.)
- 21a. “TRUST ME ON TXY.”
- 48a. [Foiled bites?] of chocolate are Hershey’s, er, XXHEY’S KISSES.
- 58a. THE WRIGHT BROTXX is my favorite theme answer because it gender-bends the flying brothers with an XX chromosome.
I feel like we’ve seen a puzzle or two in the past, maybe in the Sun, that used X and Y chromosomes singly, but don’t recall ever solving a crossword with XX/XY action. Fresh, surprising, makes you work to figure things out.
- 16A. AMIDOL? Never heard of it. “Fetch me a Midol; I’m bloated”?
- 28a, 8a. Sonia Sotomayor’s “WISE LATINA” descriptor makes for a good split entry.
- Favorite entries include WACO TX, SHEESH, SHERWIN Williams (there’s a store not far from me), and ANACONDA.
- 64a. How do you like DO LIKE? Seems a rather informal verb phrase. “Why don’t you do like your sister and clean up after yourself?”
- 43a. [Conrad of old films]? No, the NAGEL I know is the name signed to those ridiculous stylized prints of women. Those were big in the ’80s, as attested by the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album. College students, please tell me you don’t still see Nagel prints in the dorm.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Dark Day”
Nifty theme this week. What happens in a SOLAR ECLIPSE? The SUN gets blotted out by darkness thanks to the moon’s meddling ways. In this puzzle, the word SUN is hiding four times behind three-block bars of blackness. The clue numbering treats those blacked out squares like regular white squares, so what’s visible appears to violate the crossword rules flagrantly.
- 18a. ["Bless you!"] and “GESUNDHEIT!” are things people say after someone sneezes.
- 23a. Hey! There’s a SOLAR ECLIPSE coming on June 1. Don’t get too excited about seeing it from North America, though—it’ll be visible only from the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska.
- 37a. “YOUR SHOE’S UNTIED” is a [Hoax line that's funniest when used on people wearing velcro].
- 55a. [People who perform great deeds without getting credit] are UNSUNG HEROES.
- 61a. SUNNI ISLAM is a [Religious branch with Sharia Law].
What look like 2-letter entries and unchecked squares are actually parts of answers that cross the eclipses. So what looks like the 2-letter 22-Down is actually the 3-letter 19-Down—to NAP is to [Be out during the day?].
Oops, I missed a square. Pretend there’s a D in square 45.
- 41d. [Nine, in old Rome] is the Latin NOVEM with a hidden N. Usually that sort of clue is for a Roman numeral.
- 45a. [First word uttered in the episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"] is “D’OH.” I might have been amused if the answer were THE.
- 6d. [Cheap record store purchase] is the two-word answer USED CD.
- 29d. [Go down a green circle, say] clues SKI. I know of black diamonds. I lack the skills for navigating even the most sub-black-diamond slope.
- 4d. [Source of self-satisfaction?] is a VIBRATOR.
- 42d. The THEREMIN is an [Instrument on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"]. And no, I didn’t notice the doubling up of the “vibrate” word root in these two until just now.
- 56d. It’s crazy, but I like the nutty clue for the Italian number SEI (6): [Number in a half-carton of uova].
- 57d. HUMOR is an [Important human sense].
4.25 stars for the neat theme.
Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Peters Out”
I couldn’t figure out the theme until I read the puzzle’s title again. “Peters Out” means that the last names of famous Peters enclose the theme entries:
- 17a. BOLD STYLE (which seems a hair iffy as a lexical chunk unto itself) has Peter Boyle.
- 24a. Fictional SERIAL KILLERS, Sellers.
- 35a. FAT-FREE MILK, Columbo‘s Falk. Does any person (excluding those whose job is to package and sell milk) call it that? I call it skim milk.
- 43a. GROUND WAVES, which I’ve never heard of but are radio waves transmitted without bouncing off the ionosphere, embrace Peter Graves.
- 52a. JACKIE GLEASON, hobbity director Jackson.
- 66a. TOP FINISH (which also feels iffy to me), reggae star Tosh. “Top finisher” sounds perfect, but “top finish” sounds off.
- 47d. [Good name for a sommelier] is SHERI, sounds like “sherry.” Needed that crossing theme answer to know if it was SHARI or SHERI.
Most violent answer:
- 11d. GLUE STICK. Really. My son’s classmate just got suspended for throwing a glue stick at another pupil.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Hey, it’s a clue-entry reversal puzzle where all of the theme clues sound the same. Oui, oui!
- 17a. [We] – PERSONAL PRONOUN
- 23a. [Wie] – GOLFER MICHELLE
- 33a. [Oui] – FRENCH YES
- 50a. [Wee] – EXTREMELY SMALL
- 57a. [Wii] – NINTENDO CONSOLE
Now perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Self, this seems awfully familiar!” If you can remember crosswords from just over two years ago, it should – we saw a reversal on this in the New York Times in February 2009: http://www.xwordinfo.com/Crossword?date=2/2/2009. Puzzles like this don’t really feel “Thursdayish” to me, though I can see how the trickiness of the clues brings it to that level.
I liked a good chunk of the fill here: TAX HIKE, BELL LAP, ON HIRE and CRUELLA are all winners for me. I think I’M ON IT, I MEAN IT and SO I SEE are also great fill, but I don’t care for the I and IT repetition. CXIX (119) is a definite lowlight in the fill; these Xs do nothing for me.
Let’s talk clues:
- 4d. [Frozen Wasser] – EIS. That’s German ice. Wasser is capitalized because that’s how German nouns roll.
- 52a. [Ford Field team] – the Detroit LIONS, a freebie for Rex Parker.
- 30a. [Amateur golfer's score, perhaps] – LIE. Now that’s not your average golf clue for the entry LIE! I had PAR since bogey wouldn’t fit.
- 41a. [Nyctophobic fictional race] – wait a second, it’s ELOI! Rich Norris, you’ve done it again with continuity!
Next time on Diary of a Crossword Fiend: 38a. [Golfer Michelle]… Oh, Rich!
(That’s pure speculation, folks. Happy early Memorial Day!)
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Can You Hear Bee Now?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Spoiler Alert: If you have not yet solved this puzzle, stop reading now and take the time to solve it yourself. This is a terrific easy puzzle, and you’ll want to try it out yourself. Go ahead, we’ll wait. We’ll still be here when you’re done or get stuck. Seriously. Now shoo!
Welcome back. See? Here as promised. Now, on with the regular write-up. Orbach replaces the “M” sound in four common phrases with a “B” sound, then clues the wackiness that ensues. Thus, it’s not “Can you hear me now?” but “Can you hear bee now?” Here are the four theme entries:
- 17-Across: To [Crow without doubt?] is to BOAST DEFINITELY, a play on “most definitely.” Note that this isn’t a simple letter substitution where the B replaces the M–the replacement is phonetic. Is “phonetic” the word I want there? I’m not sure. Oh, heck, let’s just move on.
- 27-Across: A VIRGIN BARRY might well describe an [Unopened White album]. For some reason I initially thought this was a reference to a Beatles’ record. There aren’t many instances where you can play with the “Virgin Mary” and get away with it, But Orbach does so nicely here.
- 45-Across: [Yogi Berra's stand-up routine?] would be a CATCHER’S BIT (from “catcher’s mitt”). I like the clue-entry pairing here because I can totally see Yogi Berra playing an amateur night at the local comedy club.
- 59-Across: The [Dirty rabbit owner's chore?] is BUNNY LAUNDERING, a play on “money laundering.” Maybe it’s the bunny, but this struck me as the cutest of the theme entries and a nice payoff at the end.
Four solid theme entries with good clues. That’s enough for a good puzzle. But Orbach goes the extra mile and gives us a grid with lots of rare letters. We have the requisite J, K, X, and Z together with two Qs, two Vs, five Bs, and six Fs. Scrabble-icious! And apart from the interesting letters, there are some great entries like MOUSE TRAP, the [Kids' board game with a Rube Goldbergian device] (if “Goldbergian” is not a word, it should be). I also like STINGRAY and TOTEBAGS.
And finally there’s some nice touches in the clues, like [Garden man] for ADAM and the nicely vague [Like some doghouses, for short] for PREFAB. I only wish the puzzle put up more of a fight, as there were many entries I didn’t even notice until this write-up because I didn’t need the crossings to confirm much. A wonderful puzzle on all levels!
Updated Thursday evening:
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “At Full Tilt”
Oh, sure, the one Thursday Matt Gaffney begs off from blogging the BEQ puzzle (he is hard at work on a book with over 100 [!] puzzles) turns out to be the day my router ist kaput. Aside from my phone, I was internet-free all day. There may in fact be a way to solve Brendan’s puzzle on my Droid, and I could laboriously blog from my phone, but there would be no way to easily refer to the puzzle while blogging. So here we are, after dinner.
Theme: A [FULL] rebus square in the three longest Across answers plays as just the letter F in the intersecting Down. I don’t know why that’s the case. The title, “At Full Tilt,” doesn’t seem to explain it to me. If you “fill” the FULL square completely, then you wouldn’t expect to have an F still showing.
Nice to see LINDA HUNT in the grid, and QUARTZ and TEEN ANGST. I got the vapors from the blasphemy inherent in the answer “OH, HECK,” though.
Bollixed things up for myself at the start by having NO-HIT instead of NO-RUN at 14a. Baseball! I shake my fist at you, o vexatious sport.
Edited to add: Commenter jpdavidson points out that the word FULL appears at a tilt, diagonally down and to the left. So the middle FULL has its U in OUR and its L’s in OLGA and ANAL. Re-rate! 4.6 stars.