Michael Black’s New York Times crossword
The theme here centers on three famous names that start with two initials and end with surnames that double as nouns. The initials are split by a slash in the clue, and the theme answer is two things that match the initials and noun. There are a few inconsistencies, however:
- 20a. [M/C Hammer?] clues MALLET OR CLAW. A mallet is a type of hammer, while “claw hammer” is another type of hammer. Also, MC is more “emcee” here than actual initials.
- 29a. [W/C Fields?] clues WRIGLEY AND COORS. There’s an AND here because “Fields” looks like a plural. Wrigley Field, Coors Field—both pair with the singular version of the noun.
- 58a. [L/L Bean?] clues LIMA OR LENTIL. Back to OR because “Bean” looks like a singular noun. “Lima bean” is solid, but nobody says “lentil bean” any more than they say “mallet hammer.”
I’m OK with the OR/AND/OR variance, but the MALLET/LENTIL abandonment of the “word that precedes __” format of the other four words bugs me.
Regular commenter and LAT constructor Gareth Bain is in veterinary school. He just had a patient named OONA (38d: [A Chaplin]). Pretty dumb plastic-eating dog—not likely to be an Asta for contemporary audiences, alas. IPANA is more from human OONA’s era, no? Seems like the answer has been showing up more lately.
Lotsa Latin: ET ALII, ab INITIO, and Dies IRAE, all in the same puzzle. Fast-forward a couple millennia and you get Italian: “ERI tu.” Bu!
Love the word JETSAM (35d: [Tea in Boston Harbor, once]).
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Who doesn’t like a little X-citement in their crossword? Ben’s theme involves appending an X to the end of key words in the theme entries:
- 17a. [Source of relief after heavy dinners at the palace?] is NOBLE GAS-X, for the noblemen and women who’ve overindulged.
- 24a. You could call a [Condom expo?] THE LATEX SHOW.
- 40a. A [Watch come to life?] (“watch” is a noun here, not a verb) clues BIOLOGICAL TIMEX. I confess I’m not sure what biological time is. A much shorter timeframe than geological time is my guess.
- 50a. [Container used to take home leftovers after a memorial meal?] is FUNERAL PYREX. The pyre is gory, but the Pyrex? Genius. We’ve switched from using plastic containers for leftovers to using these tempered glass ones. No leaching of chemicals when you use glass/Pyrex, you know.
- 64a. [Port area with an active trade in feminine products?] is TAMPAX BAY. I love this one! Saved the best for last. I was just reminiscing the other day about the Dazz Band’s 1982 hit “Let It Whip,” and someone ruined that memory by showing me this Tampax commercial featuring the song. You know what? You can close your eyes and not think about tampons and just enjoy a little retro funk.
- 1a. Ordinarily it would suck to plunk a partial entry at 1-Across, but how can you not love I LOST / [Weird Al's "___ on Jeopardy"]? The Greg Kihn Band’s catchy melody plus Weird Al’s Jeopardy! twist? I like the J! clues Al gets.
- 34a. I like the way this clue editorializes: CELLULITE is the [Focus of some bullshit creams for women]. See also: 36-Down’s clue.
- 5d. Topical clue: THE NHL is a [Sports org. not recently involved in a lockout controversy].
- 11d, 12d. OPRAH WINFREY and SPIRO AGNEW get the anagram treatment. [Her full name anagrams to "horny rap wife"], while [His full name anagrams to "grow a penis"]. I knew the second one but hadn’t seen the first.
- 33d. SLIME MOLD is a [Protoplasmic mass that's neither fungus nor animal]. Have you seeen it up close and personal? I have not made its acquaintance.
- 54d. [Lie down for a photograph, fad-wise] clues PLANK. I missed my chance to do this and not be a total dork, didn’t I?
- 65d. MAY is a name and a verb and also a month. In particular, it’s [Zombie Awareness month]. It’s no coincidence that Mother’s Day falls in May.
Two unknowns slowed me down. 52d: NELLE is [Tony-winning producer Nugent], and 46a: RAD is [1986 BMX movie]. Do I need to know this NELLE? Will she pop up again?
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Great theme evoking all sorts of musical and gustatory goodness:
- 54a. THREE TIMES A LADY is the [1978 #1 hit for the Commodores (and this puzzle's title)]. Sappy song, so I’m not linking to a video. What are these three times that she’s a lady, anyway?
- 17a. [Gourmet treat sold in gold boxes] clues GODIVA CHOCOLATE. Yum! Lady Godiva is the key theme aspect here.
- 25a. [Backdrop for tangerine trees, in a Beatles classic] clues MARMALADE SKIES, from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The theme bit is “Lady Marmalade,” the Patti LaBelle song. Here’s Fantasia singing that classic—fiercely!—at a tribute to LaBelle.
- 41a. [Enduring fortune, ethnically speaking] is the LUCK OF THE IRISH. Lady Luck. Aw, no food, no music.
Highlights: “OH, LOOK!” “I’M COOL.” X-FACTOR, HECKLED.
Not crazy about stuff like SCHS, ORONO, ODIE, ENOCH, ESSENE, and SPEE (that’s [WWI admiral Maximilian von ___]—used to see him a lot more in crosswords). But the theme made me happy, so 3.5 stars.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Impaired Repairs” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Today we learn a 60-letter [wife's comment] that conveniently breaks down into four 15-letter parts: MY HUSBAND IS NOT A / SKILLED HANDYMAN. / ONE COULD SAY HE’S A / JACK OF ALL THUMBS. That’s a very serviceable quip for a crossword—it’s evenly divisible, it saves the punchline for the end, and it sounds like a gag from The Bickersons.
The quip’s fine, but the real star of today’s puzzle is the fill. There’s a nice assortment of rare letters leading to interesting entries, and a nice complement of clues to accompany them. Among the highlights:
- An EXIGENCY is an [Urgent predicament]. Some of the best circumstances are exigent ones.
- The [Holy book whose name means "a recitation"] is the KORAN and not, as I guessed off the -OR–, the TORAH. I’ll take Basic Religion for $400, please, Alex.
- Any grid with HOSED running down the center has to merit at least three stars, right? Here, it’s clued as [Swindled, slangily]. I tend to used “hosed” more to describe a hopeless situation or a predicament, as in “The bank is closed? Already? I’m so hosed.”
- I share a similar affinity for [Moviedom's Marisa] TOMEI, so again, there’s no way this puzzle can get less than three stars. All one- and two-star ratings are therefore wrong.
- [Petunia, to Harry Potter] is kind of a tough clue for AUNT, and I even read all of the Harry Potter books (I just finished the last one earlier this summer while on vacation).
- I had NEXT as the answer to [Crown prince, vis-à-vis the throne], but this puzzle was a tad more sophisticated, as it wanted the HEIR to the throne.
- [Snickerdoodle or snap] is a delicious clue for COOKIE. And now I want to break my new diet. Temptations come to you from all directions.
- [Court game's finale?] is a clever way to clue ALAI, because [Jai ___ ] would be just about the only other clue one could use. Had it been clued as [Jai ___ ] it would have looked much more awkward. So there’s another example where good cluing can mask a sub-par entry.