Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword
Julian has chased the eely goal of a 58-word grid and achieved it via a four-leaf clover grid with 44 black squares. The quadrants packed with intermeshed 7-letter answers look good from a distance, but on closer inspection there are some compromises lurking in the grid, particularly in the northeast corner. Did anyone plunk FLEERED in for 14a: [Derided], or did we all start with SNEERED and then unravel the problem? Have never seen LOVE-SHY, REGRADE is a tad roll-your-own-wordish, MEECES is whimsically fake (and was just in another crossword I did a few days ago!), and DENARII is old-school Roman crosswordese.
That said, the other three quarters of the grid are much smoother. The archaic noun WANTONS is unfamiliar to me and ASH-GRAY is blah, but I love the rest of the northwest.”My SHARONA,” SILENT K, EL GRECO, Matt GROENING? Lovely. Down below, the KINDRED KLINGON (terrific language clue for the latter) and a bunch of solid words and phrases are marred only by crosswordese RETS. In the final corner, EFFACER is roll-your-owny, but I like CONFETTI, GET A TAN, and the TORNADO TWO-STEP a lot.
Lots of potential for wrong turns here in addition to SNEERED/FLEERED. Had ADD TO before ADDED and RAN AT before the clunkier HAD AT (any conjugation other than “have at it” sounds weird, including the HAS AT IT I’ve seen in crosswords). Have heard tell of PATIO/PORCH, ONE-TIME/OLD-TIME, and FLATBED/LONG-BED mix-ups, too.
Love the clue for ENJOY: [Word from a waiter]. I absolutely waited for the crossings to work that one out for me.
Robert Wolfe’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I like the theme alright, but find the fill disappointing. There are six short theme answers, each spelling out as a word a letter that is pronounced separately from what follows it (and then recluing accordingly):
- 17a. [Urban area set aside for pekoe purveyors?] might be a TEA SQUARE (T-square).
- 25a. [New Zealand lamb-exporting method?] clues EWE BOAT (U-boat).
- 28a. A QUEUE TIP is the [End of the line?] (Q-tip). Do lines have tips?
- 47a. ["The Look of Love" and "Suddenly I See," e.g.?] could be EYE TUNES (iTunes).
- 49a. [Pitch notation for Debussy's "La Mer"?] clues SEA CLEF (C clef). “La Mer” is French for “the sea,” of course.
- 58a. [Island allotment?] clues CAY RATION (K-ration). I don’t know why an island would get rations, and I also pronounce CAY like “key” rather than “kay.”
The theme works okay, for what it is.
I’m afraid I can’t give this puzzle a FOUR-STAR ([Like expensive restaurants, hopefully]) review. I have groused before about FLAM being clued as if it’s synonymous with flim-flam. The two dictionaries I consulted define FLAM only as a certain drum beat, with nary a hint of a [Hoax]. 31a: [Swimmer who channeled her energy?] is a cutesy clue for Gertrude EDERLE, who swam across the English Channel in the 1920s. Does anyone know who she is if they don’t do crosswords? The other downers include STELA ([Commemorative pillar]), NAOH, DVII, 6-letter partial NEED BE, and INURN. No idea who 11d: ["Felicia's Journey" writer William] TREVOR is, either. Am I alone in that? Because Wikipedia suggests he should be a household name: he is “widely regarded as the greatest contemporary writer of short stories in the English language.”
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Gold-Blooded” — Sam Donaldson’s review
If you’ve ever confused a C for a G, you can relate to this theme. Ashwood-Smith takes three familiar expressions starting with C, changes the C to a G, and clues the resulting wackiness:
- 17-Across: The [Show about roofs?] is GABLE TELEVISION, a play on “cable television.” Here’s Chuck Klosterman’s argument that Louie, a cable television show, is the best comedy going right now. I’m only one episode into the second season, but so far I’d have to agree. (Inside joke alert: Somewhere right now PuzzleGirl is fuming at the missed opportunity to reference wrestling legend Dan Gable in a puzzle.)
- 35-Across: The [Concern of Mr. Clean?] is GRIME PREVENTION, a twist on “crime prevention.” Any reference to Mr. Clean gets two thumbs up from me.
- 53-Across: The [Bad glazier's worry?] would be not just a “class action lawsuit” but a GLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. I wasn’t too keen about this theme entry at first, but it has grown on me to the point that I now like it. A crossword blogger’s prerogative.
When a puzzle has three 15-letter theme entries, there’s frequently the stair-stepping cascade of 4- and 5-letter entries that runs through the center of the grid. Such is the case here, with the streak that runs from SLAY to JARS. These staircases are great for solvers because very often they already have two consecutive letters in place before seeing the clue for the first time. Today was no exception, as I made quick work through the middle.
But then came the northeast corner. There I struggled and struggled with B-BOY, the [Rap devotee, in slang], and EMBEDS, clued not as a verb but as a noun: [Some war reporters]. Had the first one been BOY-EEE, I might have figured it out. But B-BOY was completely new to me. Most of my online research suggests that the term is more closely associated with break-dancing than with rap. (The lead entry in the Urban Dictionary goes so far as to say the frst “b” even stands for “break.” Then again, another definition of the term on that same site uses the phrase “Popular to contrary belief.” The lesson, of course, is to take the Urban Dictionary with the whole shaker of salt.)
EMBEDS, on the other hand, I know. But the clue made no sense to me (in my defense, I solved this puzzle before getting to yesterday’s wonderful NYT debut from Parker Lewis–at least by that time I was ready for it!). My dictionary confirms that EMBED can also be a noun meaning “[o]ne that is embedded, especially a journalist who is assigned to an active military unit.” So there you go, boy-eee.
Overall, the theme had some laughs and the fill had some really nice spots (hello, SOB STORIES and FAIRGROUND). Kudos to Ashwood-Smith for not forcing a K into the grid just to have every letter in the grid. Others would not have been able to resist the siren call of the pangram.
Jack McInturff’s Chronicle of Higher Education Crossword, “Country-a Origin” — pannonica’s review
A 15×16 grid to accommodate the two longest theme entries. 42 black squares seems a large amount, even for a grid of these dimensions. The theme is common phrases in which the first word is replaced by the name of a country ending in -a. The original word has that a sound tacked on to it.
- 3d. [Alcoholic beverage from a Mediterranean nation?] MALTA WHISKY (malt whisky). That’s the Scottish spelling. Of whisky, not Malta.
- 4d. [Slingshots from an island nation?] GRENADA LAUNCHERS (grenade launchers). Pronunciation okay, as the country has a long a sound for its second syllable. Blame the British.
- 23d. [Starch source from a Caribbean nation?] CUBA ROOT (cube root). Look what happens when you query Wolfram|Alpha with “cube root 23d”: link.
- 9d. [Large banknote from an Asian nation?] INDIA FIVE HUNDRED (Indy 500). That might a rubber bill.
- 29d. [Decree from the world's largest nation?] RUSSIA ORDER (rush order). Da?
So. 77 words. Is that a lot? Too many? I don’t know. It was smooth going except for the center-right section. For a long time I had ITCH instead of OUCH at 45a [Reaction to an insect bite?]. The proximate fill was unhelpful: 42d [Tributary of the Seine] AUBE (obscure geography); 41a [Like natural pearls] RARE (generalized); 48a [Ride the waves] BOB (also generalized). Even though the nearby MINUIT [Manhattan purchaser], AVESTA [Sacred texts of Zoroastrianism], and SAC [Org. headed by LeMay] were unknown to me, the crossing fill made them a snap.
Some very likable vocabulary in this puzzle: ASA GRAY, ANISEED, BISCAY, HOLY SEE (is the stacked ISRAELI/SPARRED/HOLY SEE some kind of narrative or commentary?), RAIMENT, EARLDOM. All welcome, even if some of the cluing wasn’t transparent for me. For instance, when I scanned the clue for ASA GRAY [Harvard University Herbaria founder], I read something like “Hibernians” and left the clue for later; when I returned, it was a headsmack moment. “ANISEED balls” as a licorice-flavored candy was unfamiliar, though aniseed itself is not. And of course, as I was solving for speed, I fell into the trap at 32a [Starbuck's orderer]; both the possessive apostrophe and the-er suffix eluded me and, having the H in place, I filled in CHAI instead of AHAB. 30d threw me as well, as the TITANS were an entire race, male and female, not just the [Sons of Gaea]. Oh! Another mistake: I thought Silver Springs, in the clue for 22a, was in Maryland when it turned out to be Florida. Yes, with all the mines I stepped on, it’s a miracle I finished the puzzle at all.
Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Legal Proceedings”
Had I solved this crossword late at night rather than in the morning, I’m not sure I’d have been able to stay awake. It all felt like a rote solve, nothing really captivating or amusing me.
The theme takes a bunch of phrases that contain words that also have legal/judicial senses and clues them as if they’re specific legal references:
- 23a. [Legal proceedings against Team USA?] = OLYMPIC TRIALS.
- 40a. [Legal proceeding at Wimbledon?] = FAULT FINDING.
- 58a. [Legal filing on behalf of Reuters?] = NEWS BRIEF. What, no Murdoch/News Corp. reference? Oh, right—WSJ is owned by Murdoch.
- 69a. [Legal proceeding naming John Scopes?] = MONKEY SUIT. This one is weird because Monkey Trial is the term dedicated to what’s in the clue. “Monkey suit” means tuxedo. Would be happier with this one if the clue were about Bonzo (I know, chimps are apes and not monkeys) rather than Scopes.
- 74a. [Legal proceeding at an intersection?] = STOP ACTION.
- 82a. [Legal proceeding involving Oscar the Grouch?] = CRANKCASE.
- 102a. [Judgments handed down by NBA refs?] = COURT RULINGS. Inconsistency! COURT RULINGS doesn’t have a meaning outside of the judicial arena. The other theme answers, if clued straight-up factually, would have nothing to do with law.
- 122a. [Legal directives about redactions?] = TAKE-OUT ORDERS.
- 17d. [Legal decree in a divorce proceeding?] = SPLIT DECISION.
- 57d. [Legal punishment for bad writing?] = RUN-ON SENTENCE.
I was surprised to find two 6-letter partials in one small section of the grid—10d: LEAP OF and 12d: AS SEEN.
66a. [Report of a shot fired?] is a good clue for BANG, but it depresses me because of all the children who’ve been shot this summer in Chicago. Can’t the NRA get some firearms training for the gangbangers so they can learn how not to shoot random bystanders? They really have terrible aim.
2.5 stars, because of the two theme answers that missed the mark and the fill that didn’t excite me.