Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
A bit tough for a Friday, no? There was enough connection between sections to allow for smooth flow through the grid, except for that problem of all the clues I didn’t know. Especially in the southwest quadrants. I took a stab at 46a: ELF OWLS, which seemed faintly possible (of course EL FOWL is much funnier than ELF OWL) and turned out to be correct, but those extra letters weren’t much help. No idea that 37d: Alice Cooper’s Ft13thPtVI song was called “HE’S BACK” but now I’m guessing that this was the sequel subtitled “Jason’s Back.” Or maybe “Freddy’s Back.” Wait, that was Nightmare on Elm Street. No idea if there was a “Jason’s Back” episode. 38d: ELLA MAE [Morse who sang “Cow-Cow Boogie”]?? Here’s the 1940s video—a must-see for her googly shifty eyes alone. Figured that 39d was I-something, but “I, FOR ONE” was slow to dawn. That crossing hockey term (SLOT) and the 5-letter answers with multiple possibilites weren’t helping me, either.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of NEW ULM, Minnesota. I went to college in Minnesota, so I have. They make beer there but I don’t know if that’s why I know NEW ULM.
Favorite bits: That was one HEINOUS SHINDIG, wasn’t it? I like the colloquiality of ON AVERAGE and the contemporaneity of GONE VIRAL. I belatedly learned of the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” viral video today (NSFW: Don’t click if you don’t want a to see a nature video with cuss words) and then I watched the same guy’s bullfrog video and saw a bullfrog preying on a mouse, scorpion, and bird. (I bet the GRASS FROGS of 30d are less predacious than the bullfrog.) 5d is a HEINOUS-looking partial but you know what? POP A [__ wheelie] is a fresh phrase that deserves to be an 11-letter crossword answer.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
(Confidential to Donna: Hey, can you email me?)
Neat theme. Four familiar phrases end with words that sound like words that mean “yes” in other languages:
- 20a. [Approval from a Cádiz resident?] is a MEDITERRANEAN “SI.” Cádiz is in Spain and sí is Spanish for “yes.”
- 29a. [Approval from Louis XIV?] is THE ROYAL “OUI.”
- 40a. [Approval from a shocked Scot?] is an ELECTRIC “AYE.” Technically, “aye” counts as an English word too, but it’s not really the go-to “yes” word if you’re not Scottish.
- 50a. [Approval from a sushi chef at the lunch counter?] clues TWELVE O’CLOCK “HAI,”hai being Japanese for “yes.”
Four more clues:
- 4d. [Sugar plant] is a REFINERY. Ooh! Were you duped, too? I was thinking of sugar beets (RED BEETS??) and sugar cane.
- 42d. [Sniggling gear], or gear you use when (as is your wont) you are fishing for eels, includes your trusty EELPOT. I like how EEL is flirting with ELECTRIC in the grid.
- 33d. [One garnering lots of interest] is a LOAN SHARK.
- 2d. [Like the northern Lesser Antilles, vis-à-vis the Windward Islands] clues ALEE. The Leeward Islands, further downwind from the prevailing southeasterly winds that hit the Windward Islands, include Montserrat, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Guadeloupe.
Two margarita answers! There’s NO SALT on the rim and a STRAW to sip your drink with.
3.5 stars. I like the theme’s freshness, but the fill isn’t out of the ordinary.
Pam Klawitter’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Continuing Ed” — pannonica’s review
37a. [A charming place, or what both halves of 17, 24, 50, and 61 Across are capable of doing] FINISHING SCHOOL. The former as a two-part noun, the latter as a verb phrase. Such institutions, some with a twist or two, are still extant.
I’m perennially impressed by this type of theme because it seems as if it should be difficult to come up with enough entries to fulfill the requirements of both parts being able to form a compound word (or phrase) with the same word, and be a viable word or phrase on its own. Though it feels that way, since such themes appear fairly often I suspect that English, glorious sprawling mess that it is, actually has quite a lot to offer in this vein.
- 17a. [Crowning achievement] MASTERWORK (schoolmaster, schoolwork).
- 24a. [Bill splitter] HOUSEMATE (schoolhouse, schoolmate). Clue was initially inscrutable to me.
- 50a. [Meeting place] BOARDROOM (school board, schoolroom).
- 61a. [Employee’s respite] LUNCH BREAK (school lunch, school break). The two halves of this themer feel like the two weakest school words of all, which finishes the puzzle on a slight sour note.
Obviously, I enjoyed the theme, and mostly liked how it was executed. Low CAP Quotient™ (crosswordese, abbrevs. partials), which is always nice. The grid has a good flow and no sections felt isolated. I found the fill to be more engaging than the cluing.
Notes, such as they are:
- Symmetric pair AEROBIC and AMNESIC echo each other somewhat.
- Rather obscure clues enlisted for a couple of relatively common proper names: [Becquerel who shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with the Curies] for HENRI; [Violin-playing orphan in "Little Men"] for NAT. That’s part of what gives a puzzle that Higher Education Vibe. A greater-than-average dose of literary, scientific, classical music[al?], and globetrotting clues keeps it cozy.
- So nice to come across ORINOCO without ENYA anywhere in sight.
- BECOMETH, which I’m not particularly fond of but accept because the fill-in-the-blank clue has a sturdy source (Proverbs, from the Bibble [sic]), nearly had me wishing its partner-in-symmetry had been INCREASETH rather than INCREASE, word length be damned. Interesting that SCADS is right alongside.
- I need a reliable way to remember playwright Alfred UHRY.
- 40d [Sickening thing] GERM. I take issue here; many germs can be beneficial.
- Little bit of an editorial faux pas: 27d in this puzzle has the same clue/answer combination as 38d in last week’s puzzle; further, both entries lie in roughly the same place, just to the left of the grid’s center. ["I'll pass"] = NAH.
- None of the clues are memorable, some are a little playful. No favorites.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “G-Force” – Sam Donaldson’s review
First and foremost, congratulations to today’s CrosSynergy constructor, Patrick Blindauer, on his wedding day! This isn’t exactly inside information, because the answer to 64-Down, I DO, uses the clue [What this puzzle’s constructor is saying to his fiancée today]. Best wishes today and forever to Patrick and Rebecca; this happy ditty is dedicated to you!
Now for the puzzle—a letter addition theme that gives a G to four common expressions and plays along as each expression affixes the extra letter up front:
- 17-Across: We’ve all seen a rain check or two, but making its debut is the GRAIN CHECK, a [Silo inspection?].
- 28-Across: The wedding sub-theme continues with GROOM SERVICE, [What the best man gives at a wedding?]. That’s a twist on room service, which, at most hotels, is a twist on one’s wallet.
- 47-Across: The [Social events with lots of handwarmers?] are not mere love affairs but GLOVE AFFAIRS. They’re famous for five-finger discounts.
- 63-Across: The [Member of a sparkly swarm?] is a GLITTER BUG, a play on litterbug.
Look at the variety in the fill! There’s NERDS, both EMO and ENO (what, no love for E.L.O.?), NOVEL IDEA, MINDSET, HAM IT UP, and NO SWEAT. And check out the celebrity dinner party in the northwest, with OPRAH Winfrey, REESE Witherspoon, Georgio ARMANI, PERRY Como, and Marilu HENNER. I would think Oprah picks up the tab for that soirée, no?
<rant> I’m so happy to see DOT as the answer to [Morse symbol]. Only in crosswords have I seen “DAH,” and it bothers me every time. DAH just looks all kinds of wrong. There are DOTS and DASHES and nothing else. </rant>
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking the Fifth” (nom de mots croisés = Natalia Shore)
The last time I encountered the concept of “taking the Fifth,” it was in a Sun-Times article about the Cicero town president being sued. The plaintiff reported that he “turned around and grabbed a breast, passed some gas, got out of the car.” Classy! Cicero, Illinois, has been a reliable source of tacky and sleazy news for decades.
Mike’s theme plays out well. He riffs on the title by taking out the fifth letter of nine phrases and cluing the altered phrase appropriately and playfully. Going in clue order, the nine removed letters spell out NOT GUILTY. Cute! That’s a nice touch that elevates the theme beyond the ordinary. Feels sort of PatrickBerryesque. (Of course, in a chat with Francis Heaney, Brendan Quigley determined that Shenk, Berry, and Frank Longo are the three Crossword Jesuses, so if something is Berryesque, it can also be considered Shenkian or Longoese.)
- 23a. [Perfect moment to put parsley on the plate?] = SPRIG TIME. (Springtime.)
- 25a. [Bathroom fixture that's only 39 inches tall?] = METER SHOWER. (Meteor shower.)
- 37a. [Destiny of a person who can't get a full-time job?] = TEMPING FATE. (Tempting fate.)
- 54a. [Woman clearly weary from all the wedding prep?] = BRIDE OF SIGHS. (Bridge of Sighs. Good one!)
- 65a. [Shrine to Artemis that houses a deer statue?] = HIND TEMPLE. (Hindu temple, plus Greek mythology.)
- 69a. [Open house?] = REALTY SHOW. (Reality show.)
- 83a. [Places for files detailing a craze?] = MANIA FOLDERS. (Manila folders.)
- 95a. [Weighing device with more pounds?] = RICHER SCALE. (Richter scale.)
- 112a. [Chick from a Seven Sisters college?] = BARNARD FOWL. (Barnyard fowl. Ha!)
Not much jumped out at me during the solve this time. More “huh?” clues than usual, starting right in the 1-Across corner, slowed me down some. For example, 4d: [Tuque] clues SKI CAP, but I’ve mostly seen that spelled “toque” so I was lost. And 5d: [Bearer of a cost] suggests the party who’s paying for something rather than the price TAG. WTO (6a. [GATT successor]) and HAN (20a.[China’s second imperial dynasty]) just to the right had me further despairing of my chances here, but the rest of the puzzle was a good bit more pliant.
It’s a 4.5-star theme but the fill isn’t quite at that level, so let’s go with 4 stars overall.