David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword
Okay, so the theme entries are four fairly lively phrases with hidden bits of “textese” that people use in instant messaging, e-mail, and text messaging venues. There’s OTOH (on the other hand), IMHO (in my humble opinion), ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing), and TTYL (talk to you l8r). These are fine, but unifying them with 57a: HIDDEN TEXT seems a hair off to me. To you too, or just to me?
The fill skews old, with Anita EKBERG, James ARNESS, F-TROOP, Mr. MOTO, The Sound of Music‘s A DEER, “The Girl from IPANEMA,” “MY EYE,” The Flintstones‘ DINO—wait, what decade is this? Is The Brady Bunch even on yet? It’s my birthday, and yet suddenly I feel about 20 years too young for this puzzle. (Yes, I know XM RADIO is lurking here too. But isn’t that a smidgen outdated too? I think the only U.S. satellite radio option is the merged Sirius XM, that there’s no separate XM RADIO anymore.)
Alex Boisvert’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review
Wowie-wow! A theme that Marky Mark would approve of. Five entries where the the second word is the same as the first, only the ending long e sound has been removed. Bonus points: the long e sound is spelled differently each time.
- 17a. [Meet used in place of a puck?] – HOCKEY HOCK
- 11d. [Intimidator on the bovine playground?] – BULLY BULL
- 35d. [Short-term Arizona State employee?] – TEMPE TEMP
- 39a. [Surcharge for a cab ride?] – TAXI TAX
- 61a. [Davy Jones at an abbey?] – MONKEE MONK
An easy ?-theme for a Tuesday. At first I was thrown thinking animals would always be involved, but that was easy to get past. I know that Alex would never use MONKEE for MONKEY if it would break the theme.
I love the lower right corner of this puzzle – AQUAMAN, COMPAQ and TRAC II all in one section? YIKES! (I’m a sucker for a well-used Q.) ALSO-RAN, ASK ME and GO-KARTS are nice touches, too. I like TOMTOM, too, but maybe that’s because my TomTom tells me how to get around town. (Yes, I’ve successfully moved to Kentucky!)
- Quibble: I don’t like HAWG. I get it, but I don’t like it. HOG? sure. DAWG for DOG? Maybe. Perhaps I just don’t run with the right crowd to get this.
- Kudos for a RE- entry that is actually used as a RE- word: REFRY, as opposed to something like REUNHAT.
Four stars. (Happy belated birthday, Amy!)
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Where’s Charley?” — Sam Donaldson’s review
I suppose the alternate title for this puzzle, Up with Chuck!, might be resting comfortably on the editing room floor. Today we honor four artists—two cartoonists and two musicians, and all men, curiously—who all share the same first name though each is known by a slightly different take on it:
- 20-Across: The [“Peanuts” cartoonist] is CHARLES SCHULZ. I highly recommend the David Michaelis biography, Schulz and Peanuts. It’s long, but fascinating. You’ll never read Peanuts through the same lens again.
- 31-Across: The [“Maybellene” singer] is CHUCK BERRY. You may also know him from such hit singles as Roll Over Beethoven and Johnnie B. Goode.
- 41-Across: CHAS. ADDAMS is [The New Yorker cartoonist] that fits this theme. Some say his cartoons were creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, and altogether ooky. Me, I’d describe them as neat, sweet, and petite. One of his classics appears below. In case you can’t read the caption, it says, “Death ray, fiddlesticks! Why, it doesn’t even slow them up.”
- 53-Across: The [Jazz legend nicknamed “Bird”] is CHARLIE PARKER. I’m not familiar with his work, but I do recall that Clint Eastwood directed the movie about Parker’s life, Bird, and that Idi Amin portrayed Parker. Or maybe it was Forest Whitaker.
The grid has some really zippy fill, most notably NICE JOB, I DO SO, CRAZY IDEA, and UNDER-COOK. Newer solvers might have struggled with some common items of crossword fill:
- The [Lab gel], AGAR, “can be used as a laxative, a vegetarian gelatin substitute, a thickener for soups, in jellies, ice cream and other desserts, as a clarifying agent in brewing, and for sizing paper and fabrics.” If you suddenly lost your appetite, I get it.
- I took four years of Spanish, so OJOS, the [Spanish eyes] was a gimme for me. If you didn’t take Spanish, there’s an easy trick to remember it: picture the J as a nose and the surrounding Os as eyes. Even in lower-case, ojo looks like a face.
- A [Hindu princess] is a RANI, so many of them are RANIS. (Oh, and the [wrap for a rani] is a SARI.)
- The [Country Crock product] is OLEO. Not to be confused with OREO or OLIO (or OJO, for that matter).
- The [Pelvic bone] is ILIUM. Any anatomical part that’s 60% vowels is bound to pop up in crossword grids from time to time. So be on the lookout for RADII and ULNAE too.
- [Rope fiber] is SISAL. It just is. I finally had to remember it as “SISAL and Ebert give it two thumbs up.”
- When it’s five letters, the [Eagle’s abode] is an AERIE (80% vowels!). When it’s twelve letters, it’s PHILADELPHIA.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “To Be Announced”
Each theme answer has TBA hidden in it, but the phrases are strange contrivances. The consistency is that each time, TBA is split across two words, T/BA style, but there are always other words in the phrase that don’t touch the TBA. I dunno—this just didn’t do anything for me:
(edit: p here, at AR’s request, to point out that the letters T-B-A have been inserted into cogent original phrases)
- 17a. [Frequent activity for haberdashers?] = HOLDING HAT BANDS. What, milliners are too old-school for this clue? (holding hands)
- 23a. [Avenue in Oakland?] = generic EAST BAY STREET. (Easy Street)
- 37a. [Why Haim didn’t want to party one night in the 1980s?] = COREY FELT BAD, MAN. (Corey Feldman)
- 48a. [Request from the most relaxing talk radio host ever?] = “CALL IN, SIT BACK.” (call in sick)
- 58a. [Designed for shooting gross globs?] = BUILT TO SPITBALL. Wait, the TBAs aren’t all split across two words, as SPITBALL is one word. Never mind what I said about consistency. (Built to Spill)
The theme covers 71 squares, but that’s 71 squares that fail to entertain me. The thematic density also pushes Matt to include fill like MODI ([Kal Penn, born Kalpen ___ (hidden in COMMODITIES)]), KAN, CMAS, DERMA-, -ISE, -ICAL, plural TALCS, partial I’D BE, never-heard-of-her CILLA ([British singer/actress Black]), and the crossing names-your-grandparents-probably-know of AUDIE ([WWII hero Murphy]) and [Firefighter Red ___] ADAIR. So the theme needed to do the heavy lifting to make solvers willing to swallow CILLA KAN TALCS, and I don’t think it did.
Two stars. (pending reconsideration?)