Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword
A lively theme for a beverage I do not drink:
- 59a. The “COFFEE TALK” SNL sketch ties it all together. This is the recurring sketch in which Mike Myers was in drag as Linda Richman. “Talk amongst yourselves.” The three preceding theme answers begin with slang terms for coffee, all clued as if the phrases actually have something to do with coffee.
- 17a, 23a, 47a. JOE SIX-PACK – MUDSLINGING – JAVA APPLETS like the one I solve the NYT puzzle in. All terrific fill, all clued well for the theme.
Highlights include EXIT RAMP clued by way of [It can be a major turnoff], a BOND GIRL, “I DECLARE,” and a general air of Scrabbliness.
New word for me: BHANG is a [Hallucinogenic beverage]. I looked it up just now: Cannabis! In India! In drinkable form! (Not to be confused with bhangra, which is music and dance that’s spilled over into North American hip-hop.)
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Wisconsin just passed a law permitting people to carry concealed weapons, which I hear makes Illinois the only (!) state to still ban concealed-carry. In honor of the gun craze sweeping the nation, Brendan’s got a CONCEALED WEAPON theme:
- 17a. [Property of chiffon, perhaps] is GAUZINESS, hiding an UZI.
- 24a. An [Em dash, e.g.] clues a PRINTING UNIT. Technically, the em dash is this: —. The printing unit is an em, or em space. Anyway, there’s a hidden GUN.
- 53a. [British game show in which has-beens compete in a jungle, briefly] is I’M A CELEBRITY. Both the American and U.K. versions adds “…Get Me Out of Here” to the title. Illinois’s former first lady, Patti Blagojevich, competed two years ago. She probably could have used some MACE. (Why is this clued as a British show?)
- 65a. CUSS WORDS are clued as [Taboos around kids]. Nonsense! The best way to teach a kid not to swear is to swear a whole lot in front of him so that he decides it’s really uncool, one of those dorky things his parents do. The hidden weapon is a SWORD.
Five Seven out-there clues I had no idea about:
- 1a. [Questor in the video game Gauntlet] is an ELF.
- 14a. [Rock's No Age, e.g.] is a DUO. Who? I was excited when Foo Fighters came on the top-40 station my son loves. So of course (see 65-Across notes) he asked me to turn it down. Mom gives a thumbs-up? The kiss of death!
- 23a. [Earl Sweatshirt's genre] is RAP. I am not familiar with the oeuvre of Mr. Sweatshirt.
- 47a. [Bright aquarium fish] is the clue for OPAH. Uh, they may be colorful but I don’t think they’re aquarium fish. They prefer the deep sea.
- 73a. [Orange or Marshall product] is an AMP.
- 22d. [Spoon drummer Jim] is another ENO.
- 36d. [Faith No More's only hit] was EPIC.
Sad to say, the Kardashian clue for FIANCEE and the “Ice Loves __” clue for COCO didn’t slow me down one whit. I have not seen the latter show, and the former’s show I only saw once, while getting a manicure.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Write Between the Y’s” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The title is a play on “right between the eyes.” In this case, solvers will “write” several letters “between the Y’s,” for the four theme entries feature expressions that begin and end with the letter “y:”
- 17-Across: The [Cleverness shown by New England colonists] is YANKEE INGENUITY. A great start to this theme, no?
- 26-Across: The ["Sincerely" alternative] is YOURS TRULY. It makes for a better ending than “mine falsely.”
- 49-Across: ["Is that a fact?"] is another way of saying YOU DON’T SAY. That’s another snappy theme entry.
- 63-Across: [2016 will be the next one] is a clue that refers not to the next solar eclipse but to the next YEAR OF THE MONKEY.
All of the theme entries are terrific, and the fill is likewise strong. I like ASK FOR IT, though I would have used something along the lines of [Deserve, as bad karma] instead of ["Anything you want"]. To my ear, the “anything you want” clue refers to something like NAME IT, not ASK FOR IT. HANDS UP and G-STRINGS are likewise great. (I wonder if anyone was skimming this post but slowed down upon seeing “hands up” next to “g-strings.”)
I made good time on this one–a sub-six-minute paper solve for me is very fast–as the only unknown to me was [Abner's radio partner], LUM. Sometimes when I’m trying to solve quickly I don’t read clues all the way. So with L- in place and seeing the first word of the clue, I really wanted LI’L, but that wasn’t happening.
My favorite clue was [Charlie Brown expletive] for RATS! I loved Peanuts and related to Charlie Brown, so I took to using “rats” as my expletive of choice, which remains the case today. Now, a few decades later, the rats are often engaged in an action when I swear (as in “&*^%-ing rats!”), but they’re still there at the center of my cussing vocabulary.
Pete Muller’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straight-up vowel progression theme here, with five phrases ending with T*LL using each vowel in alpha order:
- 17a. [Men's clothing category] is BIG AND TALL. The Lambeau Field/Packers “pro shop” featured a Big and Tall section.
- 22a. DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL was born as a [1993 military directive] and died about a week ago.
- 33a. The “with ‘a’” bit is a bit of a demerit. [Bad thing to be caught with at work, with "a"] clues HAND IN THE TILL.
- 46a. [Wears greatly] clues TAKES A HEAVY TOLL. (See 22a for an example.)
- 54a. [Rock and roll band whose lead singer often played flute solos] is JETHRO TULL. Flute solos!
I did this puzzle before bed last night but was too tired to blog it then. I don’t remember what’s in it. Let’s see. The RIGATONI NOVELLAS are great, but nothing else is jumping out at me as juicy.
Five less familiar bits:
- 11d. [It's tapped in a pub] clues ALE KEG. This is a term I’ve encountered only in crosswords.
- 37d. [Sharon of "Boston Public"] clues LEAL. I don’t know who she is, but I know the actress’s name…from crosswords.
- 23d. ["I'm really impressed!"] is a three-O OOOH. Meeeh.
- 47d. [Gardeners, at times] are HOERS, but I’ll bet 99.5% of them have never described themselves as HOERS.
- 51a. [Small streams] are often called RILLS…in crosswords.
Theme’s pretty solid, but the ILIA ULE EEE VAR SAKIS (VAR.) ESTES sort of stuff pulls the puzzle down to three stars. When you have VAR clued as an [Alt. spelling], don’t you want to avoid needing a “(Var.)” tag elsewhere in the puzzle? That’s 21a: [Sushi bar spirits: Var.], SAKIS.
Pete’s following up his NYT ice cream soda puzzle with a Fireball crossword in a couple months. I suspect I’ll like that one better than today’s.