Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney’s New York Times crossword
I tell you, it’s very hard to get reliable substitutes to cover for you during vacation. Do you think the pay ($0) has anything to do with that?
But seriously, big thanks to pannonica, Jeffrey, Sam, Neville, and Joon for all the blogging while I’ve been Out of the Country. I’m still up in the Great White Diverse North, enjoying such things as thunderstorms with tornados in the vicinity and earthquakes whilst 1100 feet up in the CN Tower. And here I thought Canada was a sleepy little big place where not much happens. Who knew?
Anyway! Crossword. 6-Across tips you off to the FOOD pyramid represented by the triangular pile-ups of SOUR CREAM, SNOWCONES, COBB SALAD, and a SWEET ROLL. Yes, those are indeed the four major food groups depicted on the old USDA food pyramid. I do wonder if this puzzle has been in the hopper for a while, as the pyramid was replaced by a food plate this summer. Aside from the answers that contribute building blocks to the food pyramid answers, this is essentially a themeless grid, right? If it isn’t, then I am too pooped to pick up on the extra theme layer.
I bet you a dollar that Francis and Patrick originally clued NEW EDITION with the musical group rather than as a generic noun.
Other foody bits in the puzzle: Almond ROCA, yum! The SWISS BANK above the SWEET ROLL puts me in mind of Swiss rolls. ICKES! Such DRECK! Musical SONATINAS remind me of the mysterious cocktail Deb Amlen and I joke about, the sonatini. LESS SALT is always good, and don’t people say “If blah-blah-blah, I’ll eat my SHOE”? (Or is that just the edible hat?)
Like the puzzle overall, but can’t help feeling I’m missing something. Could do without RYAS (which come in handy in Scrabble and Lexulous sometimes), DIPL, and A WAR. Also, there are a ton of proper nouns in the grid, not all of them equally distinguished.
My esteemed colleagues will be back later with more of the Fiend puzzle party.
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Neville’s review
Here’s a miniature Wall Street Journal type theme to brighten up your Thursday:
- 20a. [Chicken, beef, or fish?] – STOCK OPTION
- 11d. [Shop specializing in Winnie the Pooh merchandise?] – BEAR MARKET
- 29d. [Money set aside for garden mazes?] – HEDGE FUNDS
- 58a. [Expensive bottle of wine?] – LIQUID ASSET
I found this theme to be rather well executed. After the first theme entry, I was able to get the remaining theme entries off the clues alone. Were you as successful? Because of this, it was a pretty easy Thursday puzzle for me. One small nitpick: I feel like we usually see LIQUID ASSET in the plural, and HEDGE FUNDS would be better in the singular. All in the name of symmetry, right?
Some freebie clues for some long entries:
- 9d. [Tight braid] is a straightforward clue for CORNROW… shades of the HEDGE FUNDS again.
- 51a. [Word with crew or key] – SKELETON. Not a gimme, but not Thursday tricky.
- 5d. [Archie's heartthrob] – EDITH was too short, so it must be VERONICA. I can’t think of Archie et al. without thinking of T Campbell’s Penny & Aggie. (Yes, our T Campbell!)
- 42d. ["___ with Morrie": Albom best-seller] – TUESDAYS. Are we sure it’s Thursday?
I liked seeing EQUUS in the puzzle, especially as a play reference. Of course, that means I’m stuck with the idea of a naked Daniel Radcliffe in my head for a while… and now you are too. Sorry (unless you’re into that)! The movie trivia for me came from learning that BERGMAN was a [Three-time Oscar winner for best foreign language film].
Favorite clue: [German sub?] for ERSATZ. Doesn’t get much better than that!
EONS and ERAS in the same puzzle doesn’t thrill me, but you have to go with what works. I’ll give it 4.2 stars; I would’ve given it a fraction more had it run on a Tuesday or had the fill cluing been trickier.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Intellectual Center” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Boy oh boy did the wheels come off for me on this one! The theme is simple enough, and finding it somewhat early proved helpful in navigating through the rest. As 67-Across explains, NERD is the [Geeky sort found within this puzzle's four longest answers]:
- 17-Across: A [Remarkable time period] is a BANNER DAY. Though “banner day” seems fine, “banner year” gets three times as many hits on Google. If the theme had been “hidden breads,” then BANNER YEAR would have been the winner.
- 59-Across: The [Short-legged pet's nickname] is WIENER DOG. This confused me for a while, as I thought this clue was looking for a specific pet name, like how FLUFFY is a [Good name for a poodle]. That and I also thought that “wiener dog” was a valid name for the breed and not just a nickname. Further proof that you don’t have to be especially smart to blog.
- 10-Down: The [Dark parts of one's persona] may be described vividly as one’s INNER DEMONS. This means every inner demon has an inner nerd. Go figure.
- 24-Down: The [Social event] is a DINNER DANCE. This one also slowed me down, as I first tried DINNER DATE (doesn’t fit!) then DINNER DATES (bu the clue calls for a single noun and not a plural!). I tried sussing out the last word through crossings, but [Being tracked, maybe] gave me no traction (it turned out to be AT LARGE), and I held on to ROLE as the [Piece in a movie script] (it was LINE) for way too long. Oh, and I managed to convince myself that HOSE had to be the answer to [Water down]. So that whole corner became a self-imposed Gordian knot. Ugh, it hurts to recall it.
My trip through this grid sprung so many traps that it started to sound like Riverdance. In addition to the errors described above, I had AMEND instead of EMEND for [Fix, as text] (rookie flub, I know), ETA instead of ARR for the [JFK info], EATS CROW instead of EATS DIRT for [Humbly accepts blame], AVER instead of AVOW for [Declare openly], and MOPE instead of MOUE for the [Sulky expression]. You can try to convince me it’s good fill until the cows come home, but I just hate MOUE.
But these are my mistakes, and I’ll humbly and happily eat crow, er, I mean, dirt. The grid itself is pretty lovely. Though it had me wondering, “What’s a 1920s term for a ewer?”, I love [20s containers] as a clue for ATMS. I resisted MOOLA as the answer to [Lettuce or cabbage] just because I know it as MOOLAH. But the clue is certainly on the money.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Geez, That’s Fast” — pannonica’s review
How fast? Megahumongogigantofast, that’s how fast. Actually, as the central entry indicates, Tausig is talking about a [Modern type of data network, and this puzzle's theme], which is FOUR-G, aka 4G. The “latest and greatest,” which in technology often implies fastest as well. Each long themer contains four gees. Geez.
- 17a. [Frozen waffle catchphrase] LEGGO MY EGGO! Or is it a “snatchphrase”? Good to see the full slogan in a grid, as opposed to just EGGO and, tangentially, LEGO.
- 27a. [Big business at the border] DRUG SMUGGLING. If I were Jeffrey, there’d be a link to that Glenn Frey song here. It’s against my principles to subject anyone to Glenn Frey.
- 47a. [Autocompleting search aid] GOOGLE SUGGEST. You know what it is, even if you didn’t know what it was called until now. The feature can be helpful, but it can also be funny.
- 60a. [Nations mentioned in Genesis] GOG AND MAGOG. Now that’s just fun to see and read. Gog and Magog, Gog and Magog, Gog and Magog…
I liked this theme and found the puzzle an enjoyable solve. Can’t quibble with any of the four long themers, which are all “things,” nor with the clues, which are all succinct and—either by coincidence or design—seem to exhibit distinct literary consonance. The single nit, and nitpicking is lately in the air in FiendLand, is that the grid is free of extraneous Gs except for the one at the crossing of GOUGE and GO NO near the center. Wish that could have been avoided.
Some non-thematic long fill keeps the grid lively, including the 11-letter verticals (11d) TRANSGENDER and (24d) RUMMAGE SALE. The former shares its clue [Part of LGBT] with 61d GAY; refreshing to see that neither is abbreviated. Sparkly quartet of seven-letter entries in OBERLIN, NAMASTE, TEE TIME, CASE LAW. Okay, 75% sparkly. Maybe 66%. I mean, I liked them more than I didn’t like them. Also charmed by the symmetrical pairing of QI GONG and GAWAIN; not that they’re related in meaning, but that they look and sound good together.
Least favorite things:
- LTYR (light year) and LDRS. (leaders). Yicky-looking. GM CORP too.
- 22a [A vegetariano avoids it] CARNE. Even though “vegetariano” is legit español, it smacks of stereotypical ‘fake’ Spanish, especially with the hybrid language clue.
- Could do without ANA and -IANA in the same puzzle.
- Contrary to that last complaint, the HARTZ/HERTZ crossing at the Z pleased me.
- 1a opens the puzzle with the odd-looking THEQ, clued as [Where LeBron used to play, for short]. With no looking, all by my onesies, I infer that the home arena of the Cleveland Cavaliers is informally called “The Q.” Thank you, thank you. I have no guesses for what the Q is in its expanded form.
- Symmetrical pair TEETH and MA’AMS are a letter-pattern pair as well. May they be called a “cryptogram-pair”?
- I’m usually not too charitable when it comes to less-than-very-common abbrevs. and acronyms, but I’ll unhesitatingly make an exception for [Doctors Without Borders, abroad] because MSF is such an admirable organization, and also because Médecins Sans Frontières sounds so much better. Everyone should use its official name.
Gotta get going.