Doug Peterson and Angela Olson Halsted’s New York Times crossword
Doug’s had a zillion puzzles in various venues, but this is Angela’s first appearance in the New York Times (she’s been in the LA Times already). Congrats, PuzzleGirl! Today’s publication is also noteworthy because of the constructors’ ages. Of the 656 people who have been published during the Shortz era, Angela is the 23rd most middle-aged and Doug is 24th! Quite a distinction.
The theme is morose: Each theme entry is a phrase beginning with a synonym for “sad.” There’s a LOW-BUDGET FILM, the BLUE MAN GROUP, BUMMED AROUND, and a DOWN COMFORTER. Three nouns and one verb phrase? I dunno, folks. Angela and Doug, would you criticize that over at L.A Crossword Confidential? (Insert wry emoticon here.) All four theme answers are lively, fresh fill, though.
Hits and misses:
- Scrabbly! NIXON, AZTEC, XERXES, and OXYMORON all pop. The clue for OXYMORON is great, too: [Military intelligence, e.g., according to George Carlin].
- Crosswordese People Crash: Abba EBAN meets ELIA Kazan. A beginning solver might not have memorized these probably-not-so-familiar names yet.
- 1d. [Incidental activity] is BYPLAY? I swear I don’t know this word. Dictionary says it’s side action in a play or movie.
- 5d. “TOLD YOU!” Love it.
Lots of Russki action: There’s the USSR, YURI, and the URAL, which divides Asian Russia from the part that’s in EUROPE. Are the constructors wearing the TEAM UNIFORM for the USSR? If they are, they probably look silly as that entity hasn’t existed in years.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Back and Forth and Back—initially, there’s a pattern”
The first letters of the theme entries form palindromic sets of initials:
- 17a. [Paired up] clues TWO AT A TIME. T.A.A.T.
- 37a. [Mantra for self-motivated high achievers] is GIVE IT ALL I’VE GOT. G.I.A.I.G.
- 43a. TALKED OUT OF TURN means [Spoke when it wasn't appropriate]. T.O.O.T.
- 66a. [Defiant question sometimes followed by "Would you still..."] clues WHAT IF I WAS? W.I.I.W.
Okay, the theme entries are decent but the initial palindrome thing is just weird and rather pointless, no?
E.g. means exempli gratia. In this initial-oriented puzzle, there are two great E.G. answers:
- 11d. [School supplies brand with a cow logo] is ELMER’S GLUE.
- 32d. An EVIL GENIUS is a [Villainous scientist character, say].
Other answers I like include a metaphorical HOT POTATO, FLAV (a.k.a. Flavor Flav), Ralph BAKSHI, and puppet MR. HAT from South Park.
ASE is stale crosswordese usually clued as an enzyme suffix or the moribund character in some opera thing. Matt takes a new tack here with the clue 30a: ["___ Certified" (sticker at the mechanic's)]. Uh, I have no idea what that means and I needed all three crossings to get those letters.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Another puzzle from an LA Times master constructor. Let’s get right to it:
- 17a. [FedEx, for one] - SHIPPING SERVICE
- 33a. [What many a game of Battleship is played on] - GRAPH PAPER. Do people still play this on paper? I did that once, maybe. I feel like Milton Bradley (Hasbro) is more recognized with the game now. Did you know that they’re making this game into a movie? Yikes! (May ’12, says Wikipedia.)
- 45a. [Stamp seller] - POST OFFICE
- 65a. [Manhattan's Minskoff, e.g.] - BROADWAY THEATER
What do they all have in common? Well, that answer’s been safely deposited in 71a. – each has BOXES. Hey, a crossword puzzle has boxes, too! Or are those squares?
For a moment, I thought that we were putting BOX before or after words in each phrase (service box, box office, etc.) – naturally, Donna’s done a much better job of it in this smooth Tuesday solve.
She’s also made good use of Scrabbly letters. These always mean more to me when they’re in fun entries like SPRITZ, ZELIG, HOAX and EXTRA. Okay, those last two might not look that fun, but they beat Roman numerals as far as short entries go.
I liked how 42a. [Planet after Saturno] looked a bit tricky but was obviously URANO after a moment’s thought.
Your subliminal message of the day comes at line 12: AAH… NO-NOS, NIXON! What do you suppose those tea leaves say about Monday night’s Republican debate? (I didn’t watch, so feel free to educate me.) I also like the line above that - EAT IT, ST. PETE! That’s the way into heaven, isn’t it?
Updated Tuesday morning:
Tyler Hinman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Take Your Pick” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features four (at least I think it’s four) two-word entries where the first word can also precede “pick:”
- 17-Across: The [Group overseeing conscription] in the Army is the DRAFT BOARD. A “draft pick” is something my Portland TrailBlazers routinely waste on 7-foot centers.
- 59-Across: The [Popular video game series discontinued in 2011] is GUITAR HERO. Really, it’s gone already? That was a quick fad. I’ve never played it–did I miss something? (Oh, a “guitar pick” is what rock stars toss out to concert fans every six measures.)
- 11-Down: The [Certain night visitor] is the TOOTH FAIRY. I had the -OOT in place when I got to this clue, so I briefly considered BOOTY CALL. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go. In my defense, I hadn’t figured out the theme at that point, so it’s not like I think there’s such a thing as a “booty pick” (nor do I want to imagine one). Clearly, though, there is a “toothpick.”
- 28-Down: The ICE CAPADES are indeed a [Skating spectacle]. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one, but I’ve certainly seen a lot of ads for them over the years. My basic instinct is that one cannot bring an “ice pick” to the Ice Capades.
Like I say, I think there’s only four theme entries. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “hair pick,” so I doubt that HAIR GEL is a theme answer. Which is too bad, since it had my favorite clue: [Goo often applied on "Jersey Shore"]. I was just getting my GTC on earlier (that’s “gym, tanning, crosswords”), and any references to the delightful train wreck that is “Jersey Shore” is most welcome.
The pinwheel arrangement of theme entries (two in the Across position and two in the Down position) opens up the grid, and Hinman takes advantage by cramming in lots of interesting fill. There’s a ZITHER, William SHATNER, T.S. ELIOT, AMBROSIA, PETARD, and ON A SPREE. Regular solvers are used to “sloe” so it’s nice to get the entire SLOE GIN.
Four random observations:
- My second favorite clue was [Dangerous partner?] for ARMED (as in “armed and dangerous”).
- The [Chaotic goddess] is ERIS. A mere change in vowel and you have a completely different god.
- I needed every single crossing for PARSIFAL, the [Three-act Wagner opera].
- I like the two clue pairs: [Prefix for a millionth] for MICRO and [Prefix for a billionth] for NANO, followed by [Give out] for EMIT and [Gave out] for DEALT.