Ashton Anderson’s New York Times crossword
I liked this themeless despite its being peppered with old-school repeater fill, and was surprised by how easy it was. Pretty smooth overall.
- The colloquial phrase action: “IT’S ON ME,” “NO CAN DO,” UP TO PAR, TATTLETALE, TAKE TEN, GO UNDER.
- 11d. [Trump the jack, e.g.] is a SPOONERISM of “jump the track.” (This doesn’t quite count as a dupe of ON TRACK.)
- 27d. A QUICK STUDY is a [Fast learner].
- 25a. Would you have guessed back in 2001 that the [Fundamentalist group] AL QAEDA would be no less relevant 10 years later?
I don’t get the clue for the river STYX: [Gods swear by it]. Someone more mythologically minded than I will surely explain this.
Four-letter repeaters and/or crosswordese that abound today include ODEA, EPEE, ECUS, APSE, ONE-D, AGIN, ET TU, and NEAP. Is there a single one of these you would miss if it didn’t show up in any crosswords for a year? (Constructors, don’t answer that. We know you sometimes need these as crutches.)
Did you know the [Soft palate] anatomical term at 12d? The VELUM is not to be confused with vellum. You use your velum in speaking. The /k/ and /g/ sounds are velar.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
We sure are seeing a lot of Julian’s puzzles in the LA Times these days. Sort of reminds me of the early Dan Naddor days, with a constructor making cool puzzles mostly in the LA Times. Today’s puzzle really made me work for it, and I whizzed through the NYT so I don’t think I’m just having an off night. Is it just me, or did the rest of you also find Julian’s puzzle quite a bit more challenging than most Friday LATs?
The theme riffs on “PUT A LID ON IT” by putting a “lid” of some sort on top of three theme entries to create new phrases:
- 4d. Add TOP to PING-PONG and you getting TOPPING PONG, or [Surpassing a classic arcade game?].
- 9d. [Boxed pasta that's different every time you open it?] is CAPRICE-A-RONI. I probably spent 20% of my solving time unraveling this one—I had blank-MACARONI for way too long.
- 21d. [Wheels for a spy?] is a COVERT-MOBILE.
Did you notice that all the base phrases are hyphenated creatures? Ping-pong, Rice-a-Roni, and T-Mobile. Nice consistency there.
Interesting longer fill:
- 18a. A [Hard time] is a BUMPY RIDE, metaphorically speaking.
- 28a. ARS NOVA is a [14th-century European musical style].
- 51a. If you change it FOR GOOD, you do so [Permanently]. This is more solid as a phrase than the sort of “for good” that’s the opposite of “for evil.”
- 6a. [Dramatist Connelly], MARC Connelly, isn’t exactly a household name.
- 10a. [One standing out in a field?] is a CZAR, I guess in business.
- 67a. ["Prison Break" role] clues LINC. I watched maybe half an episode of that show in the first season.
- 70a. [Med. tests using leads] has three options: ECGS, the synonymous EKGS, and their brainy cousins the EEGS.
- 8d. [Like "Psycho"] clues REMADE. Not the direction I was thinking at all.
- 10d. [Pressing activity?] clues CPR, which entails pressing on the chest to compress the heart.
- 12d. ALDER is an [Electric guitar wood].
- 64d. [Keeps apprised, briefly] clues CCS, as in carbon copies, as in the “cc:” line in an email.
I don’t like the usage in 50d. I know all sorts of people freely intermingle REGIME and regimen, but I do not. [Dieting and exercise, say] are a fitness regimen. I don’t come down on the prescriptivist side too often, but here I do. People of Earth! Save regime for “government.” I beg you.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Can You Forward Me That Link?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s a real sausage fest here today, as Hartman gives us five common terms starting with a type of sausage:
- 17-Across: The [June destination for some kids] is SUMMER CAMP. Frank-ly, I’m not a big sausage buff, so I have only passing familiarity with “summer sausage.” Wikipedia tells me a summer sausage is any sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration. But then the entry ends with this gem: “A summer sausage popular in North Dakota occasionally adds cheese.” There’s no brand name to this “occasionally cheesy” sausage? And it’s available only in North Dakota? And on what occasion is the cheese added? Flag Day?
- 26-Across: The [Politician's pet project procurement] is PORK BARREL. Wait, isn’t the project itself just called “pork?” I’m familiar with “pork barrel politics,” but I was unaware that the project of particular benefit to one’s own constituents could also be called a “pork barrel.” On the other hand, “pork sausage,” the meat upon which this theme entry is based, is all too familiar.
37-Across: The [Palais Augarten boarders] are the VIENNA BOYS CHOIR. What’s the Palais Augarten, you ask? It’s that modest place over there on the right. If you’re so inclined, you can “like” it on Facebook. Wikipedia says that “in North America the term vienna sausage has most often come to mean only smaller and much shorter smoked and canned wieners, rather than hot dogs.” Canned wieners?? That, folks, is Exhibit A in the Vegan Case Against Carnivores.
- 54-Across: [Skin blemishes] are LIVER SPOTS, based on “liver sausage.” Gross theme entry and gross basis for a theme entry. This is the wurst of the lot.
- 62-Across: BLOOD MONEY is an [Extortionist's fee]. Maybe I awarded the “gross” and “wurst” titles prematurely.
With 55 squares devoted to the theme, the grid is already, um, meaty. Still, Hartman gives us a smooth grid highlighted by quadruple-stacked six-letter entries in two corners and some interesting fill like GAME PLAN and AW, C’MON. Notice the five-square black fingers on both sides; fingers usually don’t exceed four squares, so I’m guessing the fifth square was needed to keep the quadruple sixes clean. It would have been nice to have four-square fingers so that we could have two seven-letter Down instead of four three-letter Downs, but, again, perhaps this just wasn’t workable with these theme constraints. (Maybe all this talk about how crosswords are made is of little interest to most readers, but it has to be better than reading about how sausage is made.)
I like how RISOTTO intersects three theme entries as it runs down the grid’s center; you don’t normally see three kinds of sausage in risotto. My favorite clue was [Go out for a while?] for NAP. Hey, that sounds like a good idea. Excuse me….
Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Holding Companies”
The puzzle’s title is reinterpreted by making various phrases “hold” a “co,” thereby changing their meanings entirely. The theme is executed well, and a couple of the answers amused me—THE CAPE COD CRUSADER and Mick and Keith, the PRECOCIOUS STONES. The other six theme entries are all right too.
This is the toughest crossing for most solvers, I bet:
- Where 51a: [Pumpkin seed] meets 40d: [Third-largest moon of Saturn]. PEPITA, say hello to IAPETUS.
A slew of 6-, 7-, and 8-letter answers in the fill keep things lively. SOUS CHEF, COLUMBUS, AT DUSK, HUDDLE, and CLUCKS were nice, no?