Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s review
top-right top-left [thanks, Kelly] corner containing fill such as REAL EASY, SURE CAN and YES SIR (the latter two both clued as ["Absolutely!"], this themeless puzzle was a real toughie for me. Perhaps despite the hopeful tone of that section, the true character is that constructor Quigley can GLOAT OVER (12d) solvers’ flailings?
It feels densely packed, but not being an aficionado of cruciverbal mathematical analysis, I don’t know if 66 words with 31 black squares is confirmation.
What made the puzzle tricky for me is the fairly even distribution of devious, or oblique-seeming clues in combination with fill that was unfamiliar.
- 11d. [Dollar store?] RENT-A-CARS. Yes, Dollar is a rental car company, and they have storefronts, but I didn’t realize that store is used here in the sense of “stock.” Also, I have never encountered the word RENT-A-CARS in the plural. Rent-a-car, yes. Rental cars, yes. But not that.
- 19a. [Glossy scarf fabrics] ALAMODES. New to me.
- 59a. [Romulus and Remus, to Rhea Silvia] TWIN SONS. Not recognizing their mother’s name took me off course, headed for the hills I suppose.
- 25d. [Aid in gaining an edge] HONE. The subtle misdirection didn’t fool me, but not knowing that HONE is a noun as well as a verb stymied me. Couldn’t get the five-letter strop our of my mind. Whetstone was out of the question.
- 54a. [Like pupils that are too small] MIOTIC. I claim ignorance, pure and simple. For a while had MYOPIC filled in for no good reason.
- 39a. [Deep orangish hue] MARS RED. Unfamiliar, and I frequently work with colors. A Google search for “mars red” is front-loaded with ‘Why is Mars red?’ questions. However, the estimable Pantone company has had Mars Red in its collection (18-1655 TPX) for well over a decade.
- Very few abbrevs. and partials. On the other hand, there were many multiple word phrases, which are not as offensive but seem to break the flow of the fill. REAL EASY, DEAL IN, DARE TO, MARS RED, IGNORE IT, HAVE AT IT, TWIN SONS, SURE CAN, YES SIR, GLOAT OVER, MADE A MOVE. Related, was it really necessary to have TARGET | AREAS cross-referenced in the clues (the disparate 9a & 46d)?
- Full names, however, are always welcome. JOAN OF ARC and GRAPE APE. Speaking of which…
- Double monster action! RODAN in the NW and GRAPE APE in the SE.
- Double micmac action! Ed MCMAHON and Ali MACGRAW.
- Double ocular action! DILATERS and MIOTIC. I still prefer the -or suffix for these words that have “traditionally” ended that way, even if the verb forms end in e. I don’t see anyone writing aviaters, by the way.
- Double long down -ate word action! ELIMINATE and ALIENATES. The former is trickily clued as a noun.
- Whew! Enough action for me.
All in all, despite my many shortcomings exposed in the experience, I found this crossword a solid challenge and a satisfying solve.
James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times Crossword — Jeffrey’s Review
Theme: Change a Z to a D and watch the fun begin!
- 20A. [Easy-to-use sock drawer organizer?] – PEDS DISPENSER. I guess PEDS are some kind of socks.
- 28A. [Dog show eye-catchers?] – COOL BREEDS. Time for one.
- 36A. [Feline alpha groups?] – TOP PRIDES. Like the Lion King.
- 48A. ["Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions"?] – QUEEN SIDES. Better would have been “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” since they were flip sides on the same single.
- 56A. [Winter Olympics winner's wall hanging?] – BLADES OF GLORY
- 1A. [Henri's here] – ICI. It is about time.
- 4A. [Sci-fi psychic] – EMPATH. Troi is an EMPATH. Remember that, crossword fans.
- 16A. [Like some terrible reviews] – ACID. Not this one.
- 23A. [Emphatic words] – I-REPEAT. Also a setting on your IPod. Another IJoke Jeffrey? really? Yup. I went there.
- 53A. [14th-century Russian prince] – I-VAN I. The first Apple truck.
- 54A. [Retro tees] – TIED? YES! We’re going to overtime!
- 63A. [36 for nine, often] – PAR. Golf humour. But not funny.
- 5D. [Zealot-plus] – MANIAC. Two from Flashdance!
- 61D. [Three-switch railroad track section] – WYE? Because we like you! (But RAIL is in the solution).
Nothing to hate here. Gentle Friday stuff.
Happy birthday Will Shortz.
Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Write On” — Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle gives us four entries ending with words associated with writing. There’s a little more tightness to the theme, though, because the writing terms, when read top to bottom, represent progressively longer writing assignments:
- 17-Across: [Impersonal mail] is a FORM LETTER. And one who’s writing some prose always beings with a single letter.
- 23-Across: To [Renege on a promise] is to BREAK ONE’S WORD. After writing a couple more letters, pretty soon you have a word.
- 47-Across: [It may be handed down by a hanging judge] describes a HARSH SENTENCE, and not the DEATH SENTENCE I tried first. (Looking back, I guess I went to a dark place a little too quickly.) And yes, after penning a few words together, you might well have a sentence.
- 57-Across: The [Capitol Hill runner] is a SENATE PAGE. Several sentences = one page. The House of Representatives recently terminated its page program. I wonder if the Senate will follow suit.
Creamy smooth fill in the grid; the only possible nut (to continue the peanut butter metaphor) might be O-LAN, ["The Good Earth" heroine]. I haven’t read the book, but I found this excerpt from an online plot summary somewhat amusing: “When Wang Lung reaches a marriageable age, his father approaches the powerful local Hwang family to ask if they have a spare slave who could marry his son. The Hwangs agree to sell Wang a 20-year-old slave named O-lan, who becomes his wife. O-lan and Wang Lung are pleased with each other, although they exchange few words and although Wang is initially disappointed that O-lan does not have bound feet.” The key to happiness, one infers, is conversing very little and accepting your mate’s flaws, like the lack of bound feet.
Those with severe nut allergies (the metaphor won’t die) might also balk at STOATS, the [Summer weasels] who seem more famous in crosswords, and NINON, the [Sturdy chiffon]. Personally, I found them only very minor annoyances. Overall, I really liked the grid. Highlights include KISS OFF, the [Slangy dismissal], SCRAWNY together with its fun clue, [Hardly like Atlas], and [One making a feudal effort?] as a clue for a SERF.
Andrew J. Ries’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Proper Channels” — pannonica’s review
The clever theme imagines which movies would match certain television channels, based on the names of those channels rather than their existing programming content:
- 29a. [1989 Richard Dreyfuss film shown on BET, appropriately?] LET IT RIDE. When you keep your bet the same in the next round, that’s one way to announce it.
- 30a. [1950 Jose Ferrer film shown on C-SPAN, appropriately?] CYRANO DE BERGERAC. I’m not sure I understand this one. Does a long nose suggest a span? The C- part correlates to Cyrano, but that isn’t the essential bit.
- 40a. [2007 Brendan Fraser film shown on Oxygen, appropriately?] THE AIR I BREATHE. Diatomic oxygen constitutes 20.8% of air.
- 66a. [2003 animated film shown on Discovery, appropriately?] FINDING NEMO. Find = discover.
- 91a. [1972 Woody Allen film shown on Encore, appropriately?] PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. I don’t know if the perennial misquote of the famous line from Casablanca originated with this work, or if Allen was capitalizing on a preëxisting phenomenon. Encore comes from French, “still, again.”
- 102a. [2004 John Heder film shown on TNT, appropriately?] NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Trinitrotoluene = dynamite.
- 110a. [2000 Ben Kingsley film shown on FOX, appropriately?] SEXY BEAST. A “fox” is sexy, as the whippersnappers say. Wish the clue referenced Ray Winstone, as he was the protagonist. Kingsley’s scene-stealing performance was unforgettable, but he gets enough ink.
- 4d. [2007 Emile Hirsch film shown on Comedy Central, appropriately?] ALPHA DOG. Did not understand this one either. Does it have something to do with “Triumph the Insult Dog”? The Wikipedia page shows no overwhelming association with Comedy Central, but it makes for a frightening read.
90d. [1984 Phoebe Cates film shown on AMC, appropriately?] GREMLINS. Who can forget the AMC Gremlin?
Fun theme, well executed. Presumably as a bonus, a few other channels appear in the grid:
- 58. [HBO rival] TMC.
- 1d. ["The Rachel Maddow Show" carrier] MSNBC.
- 103d. ["Hoarders" airer] A AND E (A&E).
- And in the final across spot, [13.5-inch-high trophy] OSCAR. I’m fairly certain that none of these films were HONORED (81a [Presented with an award, say]) with one in the Best Picture category.
- Geography! MAUI, NEMEA, SAGINAW, AMES, EDO, ANDORRA, LAGUARDIA airport, USA, (ASIAN), MENLO Park. Also, DINAR and RIEL, currencies of Kuwait and Cambodia, respectively. Also, mapping reference in 65a [Capital symbol] STAR.
- People! IVANA Trump, (LEDA), Christine LAHTI, ALLAN Pinkerton, Cleveland AMORY, Harmon KILLEBREW, Germaine GREER, GAIL Collins, DINAH Washington, Olympia SNOWE, NGAIO Marsh, (DARLA), NEHRU, (TOSCA).
- DRAB and DREARY, both clued as [Cheerless]. …sigh…
- Lovely vertical nine-stack in the center-right: TOTEM POLE / HUMANIZED. GYPSY CAB very nice too.
- Tricky clues:
- 94d. [Drive function] STORAGE. As in disk drive.
- 18d. [Targets for crackers] SAFES.
- 43d. [Manhattan setting] BAR. Rye (or bourbon) and sweet vermouth, cherry garnish.
- Trivia learned: 62d [Brand originally called Froffles] EGGO. I liked this, especially since I’ve quipped that “if wishes were fishes, waffles would be faffles.”