Michael Black’s New York Times crossword
You know how road signs have certain standardized colors? The theme clues are colors and the corresponding answers are one example of a sign of that color. [White] is the SPEED LIMIT. [Yellow] can be DEER XING as well as alerting drivers to pedestrian crossings, slow school zones, etc. [Green] is for highway signs and street signs, including highway EXIT signs. [Red] means STOP as well as “do not enter,” “wrong way,” and “yield.” [Blue] signifies a HOSPITAL or, more importantly, a rest area where you can get some Auntie Anne’s pretzels. [Orange] is for road construction, including MEN WORKING. Brown is for recreational and cultural places, such as Wisconsin’s Bong Recreation Area.
- EVE PLUMB! “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” Plus TWANGS and TORQUE and a cool, fizzy DIET SODA.
The theme didn’t particularly grab me, as the signs chosen are slightly arbitrary. Why EXIT for green, and why no brown? The fill’s pretty good, though. 3.275 stars.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Change of Direction” – Sam Donaldson’s review
For this D Division dweller, solving times on the computer roughly work like this–Monday takes 5 minutes, Tuesday takes 7, Wednesday is 8, Thursday ranges from 10-15, Friday from 15-20, and Saturday from 20-60. I mention this because today’s solving time suitably reflects the Monday-level difficulty of this crossword. I didn’t even notice the theme until after I was done. Today we have four entries ending in words that can also serve as directions:
- 17-Across: The [Conical children's toy] is a SPINNING TOP. Apparently our household was into word economy, because we always referred to them as “tops” and not “spinning tops.” Besides, if a top is not in motion, can it accurately be called a “spinning top?”
- 28-Across: The [Man of one's dreams] is MISTER RIGHT. A slight upgrade from Mister Right Now (more often than not, at least).
- 45-Across: ONLY ONE LEFT is short-hand for ["Last sale item remaining"].
- 65-Across: The [Washington neighborhood that's home to the State Department] is FOGGY BOTTOM. I did not know this off-hand, but having been to D.C. a few times and with a few key letters like the F and the Gs in place, it came to me pretty quickly. I like the name “foggy bottom”–it’s how I would describe the effect of unflattering trousers.
There are two nice touches that rescue this theme from hopeless mediocrity. First, the entries appear in their appropriate positions in the grid (that is, the TOP entry is on top, the BOTTOM is on the bottom, the RIGHT is flushed over the right, and the LEFT is flushed over to the left). Second, each entry uses the last word not in a directional sense but in some other sense (that is, we get “top” the toy and not “top” the direction, “left” as in “remaining” and not as in “the opposite of right,” and so on).
But it’s a little curious to see STAY UP (clued as [Miss bedtime]) in the grid without something like GO DOWN in the symmetrically opposite location. Since it appears off-center, I’m assuming STAY UP was not intended to be a theme answer, but it clearly qualifies as one and thus appears to be an inconsistency. It was also odd to see three other fill entries ending with prepositions (TAPES ON, RAP AT and SEEING IN). I like my multiple-word entries, but all the extra prepositions start to get a tad annoying. And as long as were griping about some entries, AAAA, the (very) [Tiny battery size] isn’t especially attractive.
Aside from FOGGY BOTTOM, the only entry that required most of the crossings before falling was BEANO, the [Bingo alternative]. The Beano I know has nothing to do with the game of Bingo, though perhaps some Bingo players might benefit from a little more Beano in their daily regimens.
Jeff McDermott’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review (3:05)
Well I’ll be darned. If I hadn’t written it myself, maybe I wouldn’t have remembered this puzzle from early 2009 that ran in the LA Times. Or this NY Times puzzle from the beginning of this year. And I’m willing to bet that I didn’t originate this theme, either. Let’s retire this theme right here, right now. Note: Because of publication turnaround time, I feel certain that Jeff submitted this puzzle before the NYT puzzle, and there’s no reason why he would have remembered my puzzle. No hard feelings against you, Jeff.
- 17a. [Filled to capacity] – JAM PACKED
- 27a. [Certain wildlife refuge] – STATE PRESERVE
- 47a. [Hit from the "Moulin Rouge!" soundtrack] – LADY MARMALADE - the one common theme answer from all three of these puzzles.
- 62a. [Spineless one] – JELLYFISH
Now, even though only one entry is repeated, these spreads just feel a little past their expiration date. That doesn’t keep me from liking things like NO MAN’S LAND, TIME BOMB, TUNE IN, T-MOBILE and JUJITSU.
Clues to enjoy:
- 5d. [Shakespeare's shortest tragedy] is MACBETH. Have you heard about Sleep No More? Neil Patrick Harris loves it and describes it as a mix of Shakespeare, Hitchcock and David Lynch. While I thoroughly enjoy the works of each of these men individually, this just seems like a terrible idea to me.
- 9a. [Drink in a Dixie cup?] – JULEP! I haven’t seen this one before, so I got a big kick out of it.
- 45d. [Made things harder for the lifeguard] – FLAILED. I just came back from a beach weekend – no flailing going on at the beach, but the lifeguards didn’t care for the guys doing flips off each others’ shoulders.
- 59a. [Summer pitcherful] – ICE TEA… where’d the D go in iced?
3.2 stars – mainly because this theme is growing mold in the jar.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Doctor, Doctor”
All right, I feel bad that last week’s Jonesin’ review was eaten by a capricious WordPress god after it was posted. But I’ve been swamped, editing a few dozen crosswords in the last few weeks, and I just didn’t have time to recreate the post. I was out most of the day today (architecture tour on the Chicago River! meals out!), so this review will be a super-short one—but hopefully it will not vanish.
Theme: Four pairings of (semi-)famous “doctors.” DREW PEPPER, clued as drawing a bunch of black dots, is funny. Dr. Drew is that TV rehab doc or shrink, and Dr Pepper is sodapop. HORRIBLE OZ should be clued as the HBO prison from a few years back, no? Dr. Horrible is the Joss Whedon blog-based musical sing-along something-or-other starring Neil Patrick Harris that I have never heard, and Dr. Mehmet Oz is that Oprah protégé who, if you ask me, has lost his scientific credibility—but I will never forget the time he brought a giant bowl of trans-fats on Oprah’s show and she thought it would make a great hand cream and rubbed it on her hands…and rubbed and rubbed, but it was just inordinately greasy and she tried to play it off as nothing until the commercial break. Dr. Doom? I dunno what that is. Dr. Watson is the guy with Alexander Graham Bell and not the Sherlock Holmes sidekick, I think. I could be wrong. NO ZOIDBERG combines James Bond’s nemesis Dr. No and the Dr. Zoidberg character from Futurama, though I sure needed a lot of crossings there. Modestly successful theme, impaired for those of us who don’t know all the doctors.
RIPE OLIVE is a weird answer, isn’t it? I like LOU DOBBS, not as a person but as fill, and LAKE HURON. Lots of nice clues here, like the ones for NO-NO and STONE.