Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
As soon as I told my husband “Puzzle time,” he turned the TV on and resumed watching the Scripps spelling bee. Well! I don’t have to tell you how distracting that can be, when the eyeballs looking at the computer screen can also behold the 50″ screen with a spelling bee on it. I mean, who can focus on the crossword under those conditions? That’s my excuse for why the puzzle kicked my butt.
And the bee is still on! It took forever to go from five finalists to four. These kids are insanely good at spelling. I’m still watching, so I won’t really be blogging the puzzle too much.
Loved BATES MOTEL, NEMATODE, ZOETROPE, and ESTRAGON. Don’t know who WALLY COX is. Liked the puzzle just fine and didn’t find anything to be unfair or trumped up. Scores a zero on the Scowl-o-Meter!
Pancho Harrison’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Indeed, it appears that the Friday LAT puzzle has returned to its old difficulty level. I got used to it being easier so I find myself feeling a tad dumb when I struggle with the Friday puzzle. It’s not just me, right? The puzzles are tougher now? (Please say yes.)
Took me a while to cotton onto Pancho’s theme. Two-word terms that start with a word that rhymes with “eight” change the end of that first word to a /d/ sound:
- 17a. [Family member whose age is showing?] is a GRAYED UNCLE instead of a great uncle. Eh, “grayed uncle” isn’t really funny.
- 27a. [Horse-cavalry soldier who's hardly capricious?] clues STAID TROOPER (state trooper). Wait, trooper = “horse-cavalry soldier”? I’m guessing that definition is on the antiquated side.
- 46a. [Aggressive drug enforcement strategy?] is a RAID INCREASE (rate increase). Hasn’t this clue heard the news? The War on Drugs is a failure.
- 61a. [Bride's unraveling problem?] is a FRAYED TRAIN (freight train).
Hmm, none of these theme answers is particularly funny or surprising. It’s a bit of a letdown when that happens.
Lots of Googleable answers today (i.e., things that a great many people won’t know off the top of their head and that they’ll be tempted to look up). THAIS = [Massenet opera], [Tivoli's Villa d'__] ESTE, STEROL = [Solid alcohol], ECCE = [Behold, to Livy], DR. LAO = [Traveling circus organizer in a 1964 film], OTHO = [First century Roman emperor], ELSA = ["Lohengrin" soprano], ANSE = ["As I Lay Dying" father]? These are all things I know from crosswords and crosswords alone. (Did you know the opera ones because you’re more cultured than I? Congratulations!) This is…not the sort of fill I look forward to finding in a crossword. The Scowl-o-Meter was going crazy today.
The highlights are to be found in the cluing:
- 37a. Water POLO or (Marco POLO) is a [Pool game, perhaps].
- 2d. [Knack attachment?] clues WURST, as in knackwurst. Totally had me stumped, I admit it.
- 11d. [Unsportsmanlike conduct] has a great answer, DIRTY POOL. Not the kind of pool as in 37a. (Unfortunate word dupe.)
- 26d. Horrible suffix answer, this -ERY, but the [Hatch back?] clue had me thinking hard.
- 29d. [Where some pairs are separated] is in the clothes DRYER. I have a reservoir of socks at the stag party in a laundry basket. Where did the other ones go??
3.3 stars. Those clues saved the puzzle from dipping into the high 2s.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Intoxicating Melodies” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Despite the heavy alcohol content in today’s puzzle, I think I finished this on paper in under five minutes, which for me would be a record. I can’t claim the record officially because I didn’t use a timer, but I found this to be very smooth, like a good scotch. The three theme entries are song titles that start with a potent potable:
- 20-Across: The [Subtitle of a 1979 Rupert Holmes hit (with "The")] is PINA COLADA SONG. If you like pina coladas and gettin’ lost in the rain, if you’re not into yoga–heck, if you have half a brain–then this one was probably a gimme for you too.
- 38-Across: The [1939 Andrews Sisters hit] is the BEER BARREL POLKA. Roll out the barrel and enjoy!
- 56-Across: The [2004 Brad Paisley/Alison Krauss hit] is WHISKEY LULLABY. It probably helped that I’m a big Brad Paisley fan. His songs are often funny (check out “Me Neither,” “Online,” and “I’m Gonna Miss Her“) but this one is mega-sad even by country music standards.
Earlier this week, Amy observed that sometimes all you need are three good, straightforward theme entries and some juicy fill. This one fits the bill nicely. The theme is super-simple, and with only 43 theme squares in play, Peterson has room to flex his considerable skills in grid construction. Notice the unforced incorporation of three Xs and a J, along with great entries like FEEDBAG, IT’S A DEAL, OLD FLAME, FLEA COLLAR, TAPAS BAR, and TOM JOAD. The ALASKANS, those whose [flag features the Big Dipper], can see STALINGRAD, the [WWII battle site in southwestern Russia], from right next door, and how fitting that [Beyond tipsy] is the clue for JUICED. Another great Peterson puzzle!
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Elmer Fudd’s Business Dictionary”
You’d think a theme of Elmer Fudd pronunciations would be easy, but I had to work for this one. Part of it is that the first one didn’t use a W—while most of theme answers have a W or WH word, 23a starts with ONE. Here’s the theme:
- 23a. ONE (run) ON THE BANKS = [Solitary fisherman?]. Well, you’d never really talk about “a person on the banks,” would you? You can only be on one riverbank at a time unless your legs are long enough to straddle the river.
- 31a. WEEDING (leading) EDGE = [Sharpest part of a hoe?].
- 52a. WIFE (life) SAVINGS = [Rescues performed by brave husbands?]. A friend of mine and his husband are taking civil union vows today with 40 other couples at the Chicago History Museum. My best friend and her wife are waiting until the anniversary of their first date in July to enter into their civil union.
- 65a. WHISK (risk) MANAGEMENT = [Chef's organization of beating utensils?].
- 82a. James BOND WAITING (rating) = [Sight you might see outside of M's office?].
- 98a. BOTTOM WHINE (line) = ["Why am I always the base of hte human pyramid!"?].
- 112a. This one’s a twofer. WAGS TO WITCHES (rags to riches) = [Jesters, sorceresses, and everything between?].
Tight theme: All business lingo for the base phrases, with every L or R sound changed to a W sound. The results of the wordplay aren’t too funny, aside fwom making you pwonounce things wike Elmer Fudd.
Decent fill. I liked the ALPACA/LLAMA combo and SANTA ANA with ARTICLE V. Could’ve done with fewer “I” statements (I’M ON IT, I’M OKAY, I SEE IT) and without ATE LUNCH.