Gary Whitehead’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
Patriotic theme today.
- 17a. [Serving on a jury, e.g.] CIVIC DUTY.
- 25a. [Bride's attendant] MAID OF HONOR.
- 45a. [Rural area] BACK COUNTRY.
What do they have in common? 56a reveals all:
- [School whose motto consists of the last words of 17-, 25- and 45-Across] WEST POINT. That makes for “Duty, Honor, Country”.
For bonus material, we have:
- 1a. [Initials for 56-Across] USMA, that’s the United States Military Academy.
- 38a. [Enrollee at 56-Across] CADET.
Take a look at that institution’s coat of arms, right. See that fellow perched atop the shield? Yes, the bald eagle. Want to know what his scientific name is? It’s Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Want to know what that means? It means “sea eagle [with a] white head.” What’s the constructor’s name again? Yup.
Mostly clean fill but, like the Times’ Monday puzzle of 23 May, there is some unexpected C·A·P material: YSER (River of Flanders], SGTS [Some NCOs], SSRS [Armenia and Azerbaijan, once], CIRC [Magazine fig.]. Unlike that same puzzle, GIZMO is spelled in the more palatable (for most) ‘variant’ with a Z. And, wow! what is LAIUS [Father and victim of Oedipus] doing in a Monday? He’s kind of obscure; most people possessed of a passing familiarity with the myth and play are apt to remember
- Column 5: The echolalic CUMIN ACUMEN.
- Column 7: The vaguely Eastern and spiritual SAUDI HAIKU WAY. Remember, study of the “Middle East” used to be called Orientalism. As crossword solvers are well aware, the Chinese tao means ‘way.’
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Signs of the Stars” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Clever theme! Orbach finds four celebrities whose names contain symbols for four different zodiac signs:
- 20-Across: The ["Hello" singing star who's part Leo?] is LIONEL RICHIE. (Leo is the sign of the lion, and L-I-O-N appears in Mr. Richie’s first name.)
- 29-Across: SANDRA BULLOCK is ["The Blind Side" star who's part Taurus?]. (Taurus is the sign of the bull.)
- 44-Across: The ["Short Circuit" star who's part Pisces?] is FISHER STEVENS. Was Short Circuit the 1980s movie with Ally Sheedy and the robot that looks like an early version of WALL-E? In any case, I can’t say I know Fisher Stevens but the name seemed familiar. Fisher Stevens isn’t nearly as famous as Carrie Fisher, but Stevens has the added plus of being 13 letters long, pairing nicely with Sandra Bullock. FISHER STEVENS also has the advantage of having the zodiac symbol in the first name instead of the last name. (If LIONEL RICHIE had been the only theme entry with the symbol in the first name, we would have issued a demerit for inconsistency.)
- 53-Across: The ["Hell's Kitchen" star who's part Aries?] is GORDON RAMSAY. I like my celebrity chefs foul-mouthed and hot-tempered, so Ramsay was well within my wheelhouse.
This is beautifully executed. As previously noted, we have two theme entries with the zodiac sign in the first name and two with the sign in the last name. We have men and a woman. We have a singer, two actors, and a TV celebrity. We have two celebrities who have remained hot for a long time, and two who have either used up their 15 minutes or are on the last minute. No matter how you slice it, there’s a nice variety here. Orbach has sure been on a roll lately!
The 11-letter Down entries are nice, especially HONORS CLASS. My favorite clues were [Shadowy place?] for EYELID, [Spinal Tap guitarist's equipment with a high setting of 11] for AMP, and [Top 40 hit from the '40s, today] for OLDIE.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I’ve seen this sort of theme before, with repeated trigrams (technically, a trigram is a 3-letter chunk representing a single sound, such as SCH, but we’ll use it to mean any 3-letter chunk):
- 17a. [Mechanic's excessively affected gadget box?] is a TOO-TOO TOOL CHEST. I can’t be sure I’ve ever encountered “too-too” outside of crosswordland, aside from hockey player Jordin Tootoo.
- 26a. [Fashionable farm nestling?] is a CHICHI CHICK.
- 47a. [Dance contest winner?] would be a CHA-CHA CHAMP.
- 61a. [High-kicking dancer at an audition?] is a CANCAN CANDIDATE.
Two dances, three C-words, one with an extra word at the end (CHEST). The theme could be made tighter. BONBON BONA FIDES (attesting to the provenance of your chocolates) could stand in for 61a, cutting down the dance/C-word weighting and balancing out the extra word in 17a.
Fill that triggered the Scowl-o-Meter (which my husband has offered to draw for me! He drew the Crossword Fiend at the top of this page, too) includes crosswordese NACRE, INRI, ELON, ONE-A, LEHAR, ASTI, and OPAH.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword
Whoa, whoa, who? Five gazillion names I didn’t know based on the clues are found in this puzzle. Didn’t know ARI Shaffir, Lee HSIEN Loong, ABE Mosseri, LUIS Fortuño, or TATIANA Golovin. Okay, I guess that’s five rather than five gazillion, but it felt like gazillions while I was solving. Didn’t know Jayapura was PAPUANS‘ capital, either, or that there’s a FEDEX FORUM in Memphis. What’s a PUT-UP JOB?? Lots of tough clues overall. Not much to grumble at in the fill other than the name issue. And I did know NENA, ELSA, SNYDER, TIM ALLEN with some crossings, LIAM NEESON, Mrs. O’LEARY, SERPICO (great clue), and NATASHA, so not all the names killed me.
WEINERGATE! Did you ZOOM IN on that photo?