Paul Guttormsson’s New York Times crossword
WhaT we’ve goT here is a sTunT puzzle in which every single answer word conTains aT leasT one “T.” Now, packing The puzzle wiTh such a common leTTer means ThaT we see a loT of repeaTers, and Those never enhance The solving experience. Especially when combined wiTh a preponderance of E’s and S’s. ETAIL plus ETRADE, ETTA and OTTO, ALIT and STYE, plural SUETS and RITAS and GTOS and -ETTES and E.T.A.’S and TOS, ET TU and ESTEE? Tut, tut. The puzzle is four T’s shy of the record, with 51.
The three longest theme entries are heavily T’d: TEMPORARY TATTOO, TENNESSEE TITANS, and TEETER-TOTTERING. The latter one, I haven’t encountered much as a verb. The clue, [Tilt-boarding], befuddled me. Why not [Seesawing]?
Most disappointing use of a question mark in a clue: [Trouble with a lid?] for an eyelid STYE. It’s not as if people are always talking about having trouble with pot lids and thus the clue is surprising. Odd.
Oh, look at that. Just noticed that all the clues start with a T, too. That explains the weird clues for TEETER-TOTTERING and STYE. Call me persnickety, but torturing the clues doesn’t always make for a more entertaining crossword.
2.5 stars. A rather joyless outing, all told.
Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
It took me a while to make sense out of Matt’s theme. The paired answers include one term that starts with a color and ends with something that sounds like a letter name, and the other term is thing that is that color and has that initial letter:
- 17a. [Japanese drink, or 19-Across] clues GREEN TEA. What’s green and starts with T? How about a 19a: TURTLE, or [Red-eared slider, e.g.]?
- 25a. [Potential source of blurred vision, or 35-Across] is PINKEYE, or conjunctivitis. A pink “I” word is 35a: INTESTINES, or [Wasteful places?]. All together now: Eww! Maybe this blog post was Matt’s inspiration. If you’re into healthy pink viscera, consider buying these socks or knitting these innards.
- 55a. [Ontario athlete, or 45-Across] is a Toronto BLUE JAY. Our blue “J” is 45a: JOKEY SMURF, a [Little cartoon character known for giving exploding gifts]. Jeez, really? We’re expected to know Smurf names? I refuse!
- 68a. [Sochi and Odessa's body of water, or 66-Across] is the BLACK SEA, and the black “C” is actually dark brown. I call a foul on this one. 66a: COFFEE is clued as a [Brewed awakener]—rhymes with “rude awakener.”
What an odd theme.
There’s some sort of ugly stuff in this puzzle (aside from the viscera). 8d: VAT DYES, 32d: TITOV, 28a: KER? 26d: [FireWire equipment brand] IOI? I guess this is the price we pay for having eight theme answers,
20a: ["Dreams of My Father" memoirist] is Barack OBAMA, who turns 50 this week. He’s having a birthday party/fundraiser/concert in my neighborhood tomorrow night, at Uptown’s Aragon Ballroom. There’s a fair amount of gang-related drug dealing and shootings about two blocks from there, so hey! It’ll be nice to have a heavy police presence for a day. Can we keep them?
21a: [Plant used in perfume] is NARD. Ooh, hardcore crosswordese.
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This theme pairs verb and noun phrases that couple UP and DOWN with the same preceding word. Like so:
- 17a. [What older baseball pitchers might do?] is WIND DOWN WIND-UPS. So, wind-ups can be wound down, and this would be done by the old and tired?
- 23a. [Fetch Halloween costumes from the attic?] clues GET DOWN GET-UPS. I’d rather see your get-ups for gettin’ down.
- 53a. [Post snide comments on a blog?] is PUT UP PUT-DOWNS. I’m sure I don’t know anything about this.
- 64a. [Join the high school wrestling team?] clues TAKE UP TAKE-DOWNS. So half of the theme entries use sports terms.
I was disappointed (she says most unsnidely) to find AMP UP at 12d, as I’d rather have all the UPs and DOWNs confined to the theme entries.
Highlights: The HOW-TO/”I KNOW” combo, PLUGS AWAY. As Brendan Emmett Quigley says in his Reddit Q&A, responding to a question about improving one’s skills to get past the Wednesday puzzle: “It sounds trivial, but doing it every day forces you to get better, even if you have absolutely no shot of even finishing any puzzle past Wednesday. It’s like working out, you have to tear muscle if you plan to build any. You’ll find that over time you’ll be able to see through the tricks in the clues.” Keep plugging away at it, that’s HOW TO do it and be able to say I KNOW how to conquer the crossword.
- 59a. [Italian diminutive suffix] clues INO. Oof. Ino is also the “mythical mortal who helped raise Dionysus.”
- 71a. [Campfire treat] is a S’MORE. Today, I bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s S’More ice cream. Time for dessert!
- 3d. [Scratch] meaning LONG GREEN, meaning do re mi, meaning moolah, meaning dinero, a.k.a. money.
- 5d. [HTC smartphone] is the EVO. Also the first name of President Morales of Bolivia. Did you know he’s (a) a native Aymara and (b) a coca farmer?
- 25d. [Geneticist's concerns] clues DNAS. Are there any geneticists who say, “Oh, sure, plural RNAS and DNAS, we talk about those all the time at our conferences”?
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Just Between Us” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Tho we might hope that nothing would ever come between u and me, Ross gives us five entries where many letters fall between U and ME (that is, each of the five theme entries starts with U- and ends with -ME). U get me? Here they are:
- 17-Across: Sure, URBAN CRIME is a [Problem for mayors], but isn’t it also a problem for other residents of the city?
- 38-Across: The [Poe poem] is ULALUME. The skies they were ashen and sober, just like me.
- 54-Across: A [Day or decade], a week or year. Each is a UNIT OF TIME. As a crossword entry, UNIT OF TIME doesn’t quite seem catchy enough to be a theme entry. It works fine as non-thematic fill, but I’m not sure it holds up well in the spotlight.
- 11-Down: [Like folks in a high tax bracket] is the clue for UPPER INCOME. Others may find that kinda dull, but this tax law professor likes it.
- 25-Down: If it’s [Not good for you], then it might be UNWHOLESOME. And cool.
There’s a good deal of interesting entries here, like SQUIRT, the [Pipsqueak], STEINWAY pianos, and even HIGH TEA, the [Late afternoon meal at the Mayfair]. But notice how the grid is effectively divided into three discrete sections–there’s the nice wide swath running from the southwest to the northeast along with the northwest and southeast corners. To get into those corners, though, you have to enter through one of only two white squares. If neither of those squares is working for you, you have a very tough solve ahead. I typically prefer grids that offer more avenues for access into the various quadrants, though I must say I liked the intersecting 7s in the middle flanked on all sides by the 6s.
Newer solvers might be flummoxed by BOSUNS, what my dictionary calls the “nautical variant” of BOATSWAINS, the “warrant officers or petty officers in charge of a ship’s rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crews.” You’ll sometimes see it as BO’SUNS (added apostrophe) or BOS’NS (apostrophe for the U) or even BO’S'NS. It’s just one of those things you have to get used to in crosswords.
Final note: Did you notice too that the answer to 1-Across is two words: LEG IT? That’s totally legit.