Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword
I like this theme. There are three pairs of answers that play the container game:
- 16a/22a. [What 16-Across has] is a HIDDEN AGENDA, since the letter string AGENDA appears within HAAGEN DAZS.
- 28a/39a. There’s a DENTAL FILLING in RESIDENT ALIEN.
- 46a/58a. GRAND OPENING has the INSIDE DOPE.
Isn’t that neat? It’s a fresh take on the hidden-word theme, hiding three different words and coupling them with familiar phrases that hint playfully at the way the words are hidden in the crossword entries.
This 72-word grid includes a number of long nonthematic answers as well. The CEMENT NAIL puts me to sleep, but I like AM/FM RADIO, USED CAR LOT, and DELIRIOUS. The short stuff doesn’t do much for me.
The names in the grid mostly skew older. LILA Kedrova (1964 Oscar), IMOGENE Coca (best known for a ’50s TV show), EDSEL Ford (d. 1943), Sammy CAHN (most active 1940s to early ’70s), Noel NEILL, (’50s TV—she’s the [Noel who played Lois Lane], and I’ve never heard of her) and LEO Gorcey (most active 1930s-’50s)?? LIANE Hansen is the baby of the group, and she just retired from NPR a couple weeks ago. We have no NAS, no DRE, no Lady GAGA, no CEE LO here today. I miss them.
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Too bad this puzzle didn’t run a month ago, rather than right after a Republican presidential debate that included seven people, none of them named Trump. I seriously needed to work the crossings to figure out 41a: [Subject of this puzzle’s quip]. I had the whole quote in place but it sounded so New Gingrich! The theme is, it turns out, a CHRIS ROCK quip about Donald TRUMP: “I WON’T VOTE FOR HIM. / I’M AFRAID / HE’LL LEAVE / US FOR / A YOUNGER, / PRETTIER COUNTRY.” Funny enough. I didn’t hear this one when Rock originally said it (which I think was in late April, judging from the Google trail).
- 19a. A NEW DO is [Part of a makeover, slangily].
- 62a. [Desert plant for which a U2 album is named] is the JOSHUA TREE.
- 6d. [Beginning of many “Jeopardy!” responses] clues WHO IS. Sure, it’s basically a partial, but c’mon, it’s Jeopardy! Gotta like that.
- 18d. [Out-of-the-closet coverup?] is sort of a weird clue for TOWEL, but I like its accidental evocation of the Rep.-Weiner-in-the-gym towel pix.
- 27d. Insane trivia: [Ming, the oldest animal ever discovered (400+ years), was one] clues a CLAM. I was going to guess CRAB with the C and A in place. But those clams, they’re merciless.
- 60d. [Outfit that may have feet] clues PJS. Oh, how I loved footie pajamas as a child.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of THE HOOTERS. The clue, [“And We Danced” band], cites a 1985 song that doesn’t sound at all familiar to me.
Another ’80s pop clue is found at 13d: [Gloria Estefan band, briefly]. MSM is short for Miami Sound Machine, as well as the “men seeking men” personal ad category and the mainstream media.
The fill is unusual in that there are two multi-word phrases split into more than one entry (much like the theme quip is). There’s “YES, I / KNOW” and “GETS / OFF OF.” Between those, the PLAUTUS/TERRA Roman/Latin combo, and the theme, there’s an awful lot of cross-reference action this week.
Jennifer Nutt’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme felt familiar so I checked Cruciverb.com and indeed, the same concept was worked out by Norm Guggenbiller in his 2/13/07 LA Times puzzle. Jennifer’s theme was more ambitious, with six theme entries rather than four:
- 17a. [*Aid for loose-leaf filing] clues a HOLE PUNCHER.
- 10d. [*Pay for a verdict] clues FIX THE JURY, which feels a tad non-lexical-chunky to me.
- 14d. A SPOT CHECK gives you a [*Random sample]. Norm had SPOT REMOVER in his puzzle.
- 32d. [*Deli container] is a PICKLE JAR. Norm had this one, clued as a [Dill holder].
- 29d. [*Improvisational gig] is a JAM SESSION. Norm had JAM-PACKED, along with a PINCH OF SALT.
- 61a. PREDICAMENT ties it all together as the [Trouble at the starts of the answers to starred clues]. As single-word theme-revealers go, that sure is a long one. Usually theme-revealers are 3 to 6 letters long, aren’t they?
There’s not much to say about the fill, except that you’d better be up on your 4-letter comic strip dogs whose names start with O, as both OTTO and ODIE are scratching around the sides of this puzzle.
- 46a. [American realist who painted “The Gross Clinic” (1875)] is Thomas EAKINS. Do you know about this painting? It’s 8 feet tall and depicts surgery. At first I feared the title meant it was a gross anatomy lesson and autopsy, but a painting of surgical advancement is less cringeworthy, no? Interesting from a medical history standpoint.
- 66a. [He’s got the life] refers to RILEY of The Life of Riley.
- 69a. FLEX is clued as an adjective: [Like variable work time]. Sounds weird on its own, but “flex time” is completely familiar to me.
- 1d. [Mormon prophet, or the Utah city named for him] clues LEHI. There’s a Utah city of that name?
- 59d. [Charon’s river] is STYX, which is found in the bottom right of the grid. I could swear STYX shows up there more than anywhere else in crossword grids, though XWord Info suggests I am totally wrong. (It was in that spot in the 5/24/11 NYT puzzle, though!)
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Quarterback Protection” – Sam Donaldson’s review
A little bit of sports knowledge is helpful for cracking open today’s puzzle. It features four entries ending with words that double as positions on the offensive line of an American football team. The offensive line is charged with protecting the quarterback (hence the puzzle’s title). Here are your theme entries:
- 20-Across: The [Styx hit of 1983] is DON’T LET IT END. The tight end is the player on the line with buns of steel. The split end is the player most likely to find work as a plumber.
- 27-Across: The [Gated community employee] is a SECURITY GUARD. On the offensive line, guards are primarily responsible for blocking. The left guard blocks against oncoming players from the defense. The right guard blocks against body odor.
- 42-Across: [Spinners and spoons, e.g.] are forms of FISHING TACKLE. On the football field, offensive tackles play outside the guards on both sides of the ball. You can thus have a left tackle and a right tackle.
- 49-Across: The [TV show with more than 30,000 episodes] is ESPN’s SPORTSCENTER. The network treats it as a single word, “SportsCenter,” so I’ll follow suit. In football, the center starts each play by snapping the ball to the quarterback. After hiking the football, the center’s general job is to block, like the other linemen.
Highlights in the fill include IN RAGS, MASONRY, IT’S ON ME, EN MASSE, FOOTER, and AIMEE Teagarden of “Friday Night Lights” (pictured to the right). But there are more items of note:
- I really liked [Buzzing cloud] as an evocative clue at 1-Across for SWARM. A very nice way to start the puzzle. Another evocative clue sits at 26-Across: [Emulates Frosty, sadly] for MELTS.
- Anyone else try SEXTET as the answer to the [Rhythmic group of six]? The correct answer was SESTET.
- The perfect [Cheese go-wth] is MACARONI. Yum. Comfort food at its finest.
- There’s heavy dose of crosswordese in this grid, including EIRE, EPEE, SSTS, NMI, and ICI. But I like the general layout of black squares–the two mailbox flags allow two sevens and an eight to abut or intersect two theme entries in each corner.
Even those who don’t especially like football should find the positions “gettable” from crossings and the familiarity of the theme entries. So I’d give this puzzle a solid three stars and possibly four stars.