Andrea Carla Michaels and Johanna Fenimore’s New York Times crossword
The byline’s got a misspelling in the NYT’s applet—I hope the print edition gets it right! It’d be a shame for Johanna’s debut (congrats!) to be sullied by a name mixup. Andrea and Johanna’s theme involves adding an O to the end of key words in various phrases:
- 17a. FULL SPEEDO AHEAD is clued as [Warning about a chubby guy in some skimpy swimwear?]. Even on the heels of the Anthony Weiner imbroglio, a “full Speedo” doesn’t get interpreted as one with a sizeable man-bulge?
- 26a. Not so sure about DIRTY ROTTEN EGGO. “Dirty rotten scoundrel,” yes. “Rotten egg,” yes. When I grew up, it was strictly “Last one in is a rotten egg!”—no uncleanness suggested.
- 45a. I know “snowball in hell,” but I don’t get how SNOWBALL IN HELLO is an [Icy winter greeting?]. How does one get a snowball into a “hello”?
- NO LEGO TO STAND ON? That’s not the [Result of cleaning up some building toys?]. Anyone with a Lego fan in the house knows that “no Lego to step on and thus spur a barrage of cursing” is the happy result of cleaning up the Legos on the floor.
The fill’s pretty smooth and Tuesday-friendly for a puzzle with 60 theme squares. There is that Greek mythology name to slow people down, though—IXION is clued [Zeus bound him to an eternally revolving wheel]. I know some of you filled that one in swiftly, but the rest of us waited for all the crossings. And he’s right next to St. Denis, spelled DENYS here (but DENIS was my first attempt).
Favorite answers: BLOOPERS, WALNUTS, GOGOL, TEAMWORK, KRAKOW, and KNOX.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Happy day after Independence Day! Mr. Christian (sorry – had to go for the Night Ranger rhyme) gives us a pretty straight theme that takes up a lot of space in the grid:
- 9a. [*Jake LaMotta, e.g.] is a BOXER, and a fighter by his trade
- 17a. [*Mexican neighbor of New Mexico] is CHIHUAHUA
- 24a. [*Skiers' patron] is SAINT BERNARD
- 41a. [*Like Hammett's falcon] is MALTESE – it’s the stuff that dreams are made of
- 43a. [*Piece of advice] is POINTER. It looks like you’re trying to write a letter…
- 54a. [*Labrador was added to its provincial name in 2001] - NEWFOUNDLAND, a clue for our Canadian friends
- 67a. [*Beijing dialect] - PEKINGESE, one for our Chinese friends, too
Quick! What do these seven answers have in common?
- 58d. [Steadfast belief (and parent of each answer to a starred clue?)] - DOGMA / DOG MA (groan)
Bone-us round (another groan):
- 51a. [Brand for a 58-Down] - ALPO
- 73a. [Greetings from the answers to starred clues] - BARKS
And that is exactly 1/8 of the puzzle. There are 80 entries here – two more than the usual limit. Was it worth it? I think I’d rather lose the extra related entries and have more fun, non-thematic content in the puzzle. You know, like PLAN B, OOZING and IRON ON. (Homework: use those in the same sentence.) Why is [Philly's signature sandwich] a HOAGIE and not a Philly cheesesteak? I guess a PCS is a sort of a hoagie. Looks like I have former mayor Ed Rendell to blame – he made it the official sandwich. You could’ve done better, Ed. [Agricultural cubists?] for BALERS made me chuckle. It’s nice to see a ? clue that’s just out there every now and then.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Better Living Through Chemistry”
The title suggests that the -IUM words in the theme answers are chemicals, but that’s only the case in maybe 1.5 of 4 entries:
- 17a. [Result of The Hulk's first press conference?] is a PODIUM CAST. (Meaning angry Hulk throw podium across room. Hulk smash.) This one adds -IUM to “podcast,” but of course a podium is not found on the periodic table.
- 58a. “Bar bets” become BARIUM BETS, or ["Let's see who can prepare for their colonoscopy first," et al.?].
- 11d. [Nightspot where you can't be too big or too small?] is CLUB MEDIUM (“Club Med”). Again, not a chemical.
- 29d. [Drug that's only smoked in pictures?] turns “photo op” into PHOTO OPIUM. Opium may or may not qualify as a chemical.
Freshest stuff in the grid:
- 25a. In Microsoft Word, TAHOMA is a [Font close to Verdana]. Close in appearance or just close alphabetically?
- 44a. [Jon running for president] is Mr. HUNTSMAN. If he ends up being forgotten in a couple years but Matt’s republishing his puzzles in book form, this can easily be reclued as that dude in “Little Red Riding Hood.”
- 51a. ARIANNA is the [Huffington behind the Huffington Post].
- 34d. Vocabulary word! SATURNINE means [Gloomy].
Six more clues:
- 40a. [Come out on top] clues DO THE BEST. Sounds a hair awkward as a stand-alone phrase, no?
- 42a. [Yours and mine, in the sticks] clues OUR’N. I’m more familiar with “his’n.”
- 49a. [Indie rock band ___ Riot] clues RARA. Indie rock bands ≠ my forte.
- 65a. SAVOY is a [French section of the Alps], apparently.
- 1d. ["Rent" star Anthony] RAPP isn’t all that famous, is he?
- 41d. [Early baseball Hall-of-Famer ___ Rixey] clues EPPA. What were his parents thinking? And what about the parents of two little boys who were in the newspaper the other day—Kayl and Kaimyn? Baby-name spelling has gotten out of hand.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “It Has a Ring to It” – Sam Donaldson’s review
66-Across reveals the theme with its clue, [Communications device described by the first words of the puzzle's four longest answers]. The answer is PHONE, and sure enough, each of the four longest entries starts with a word that represents a type of telephone:.
- 17-Across: To [Toil long and hard] is to WORK ONE’S HEAD OFF. Um, the version of the expression I know has one working his or her ass off, not his or her head. I can see the benefit of losing some of my ass, but I’m not so sure I want to work so hard that I lose my head. (As for the connection to the theme, many of us have a “work phone.”)
- 26-Across: Another name for a [Traveling advertisement] is a MOBILE BILLBOARD, and a “mobile phone” is an early version of the cell phone. Oh, and speaking of cell phones…
- 43-Across: …the [Activity of some cloning labs] is CELL DUPLICATION. When I Google “cell duplication” (in quotation marks), it fetches about 30,100 results (in 0.21 seconds–a tad slow for my tastes). When I Google “cell replication” instead, it yields about 544,000 results (in an even slower 0.28 seconds). When I narrow the search to find those expressions in relation to cloning, “replication” beats “duplication” by an even wider margin. This highly unscientific approach, which took me 45.4 seconds total, tells me CELL REPLICATION would have been the better answer. But I’m not a cloner, and neither is my double. Can any lurking cloners offer their two cents in the comments?
- 58-Across: [Second mortgages, generally] are HOME EQUITY LOANS, and obviously many of us have “home phones.”
The grid has 60 theme squares (four 15-letter entries), a high number for a themed puzzle. That often forces compromises in the fill, as more fixed squares means fewer choices for crossing entries. Yet this grid looks pretty effortless–a nice accomplishment. The only clunky entries were LEK, the [Currency unit of Albania], and everybody’s favorite [Suffix with pay], OLA. Everything else is quite solid. Sure, there may not be many stellar entries (HAD A GO and LAST LAP were the only real standouts), but I’m happy enough with a smooth grid devoid of bad stuff.