Dan Feyer’s New York Times crossword
Dan Feyer! Congratulations on entering the ranks of NYT crossword constructors—and thanks for making it an easy puzzle so that people could try to pretend they’re as fast as you. (Dang it, I missed the 90-second mark by…uh…a number of seconds.)
Since the puzzle was super-Monday-easy level, I didn’t really look closely at it while solving. Enough to know that the circled letters were anagrams of PIN, but not closely enough to see that really, the pins are just being juggled hither and thither, eight of them spinning through the grid. After finishing the puzzle and heading to a search engine, I learned that JUGGLING PINS are the same as juggling clubs—JUGGLING PINS isn’t a term I’d seen before. There’s a CLOWN in the bottom center of the grid, and he or she is the one keeping all those PINs in the air. Sweet visual.
Now, there are very few traditional theme entries here. It’s really just JUGGLING PIN and CLOWN with the whirling PINs, right? So the fill’s pretty smooth, except where the three-way checking required to accommodate a diagonal word constrains things and we see N DAK/OISE, ERN, NNE, and ITA. And Marvin KALB is one of those names that isn’t encountered much anymore, but all the words crossing that name are pretty obvious.
Highlights include the lovely long answers NIPS IN THE BUD, DOM PERIGNON, CRESSIDA, and ENTERTAINED (which ties to Dan’s day job as a musician, no?).
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Aftermath”
60a: [Announcement/event of September 2011, or what happened to the theme answers] is the R.E.M. BREAK-UP, and the other four theme entries have scrambled an REM in their midst:
- 17a. “Remain calm” turns into EM RAIN CALM, or [Dorothy's aunt's precipitation is surprisingly mild?]. Oof. The phrase lacks a verb, and nobody anywhere would ever describe rain by appending a person’s name without so much as an apostrophe-S.
- 25a. [The guy who always dyes eggs in springtime?] turns “remastering” into MR. EASTERING, foisting a verb on us where none exists. Again, oof.
- 39a. [Fictional spy who's really a giant department store founder?] clues BOURNE SUPER MACY, playing on The Bourne Supremacy. This one doesn’t parse right for me, either.
- 50a. [Command for this flan-like dessert to jump in my mouth already?] is C’MERE, BRULEE, building on “creme brulee.” No, no, no. Brulée is an adjective. The noun part of the dessert is the creme. (Pardon the inconsistent accenting. I am in no müd for that.)
Okay! So we’ve established that I have some reservations (“sore meservations!”) about the theme. How about the rest of the puzzle? Well, DRAG RACES, CAL RIPKEN, BAD DREAMS, OPIUM DEN, and Alan SMITHEE are all fun. (Not together! Do not take opium, have nightmares, and then try drag racing against athletes and pseudonymous directors. It can only end badly.)
Have never encountered MERCUROUS (3d. [Full of a liquid metal]) and filled in MERCURIAL, wondering why it wasn’t clued as a non-chemistry adjective. Oh. Now I see. Partials ACE OF and A CAB intersect, and A-BOO and A TIE sit elsewhere. Never heard of 47a: ORV, [Hot Topic founder ___ Madden], but I think Hot Topic is a tween/teen girls’ clothing store. I have heard of CYCAD but wouldn’t have known to define it as 50d: [Seed plant (DC CAY anagram)]—they’re tropical trees/plants that look like palm trees.
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review
It’s a HARRY HOUDINI [Stage name of Ehrich Weiss] tribute puzzle! Houdini died on Halloween 1926—this could’ve been an 85th-anniversary-of-death puzzle had it waited a few weeks. Could you escape the trickery?
- 20a. [Understand how things are done] – KNOW THE ROPES
- 36a. [Places to see links] – FRENCH CUFFS
- 42a. [Simple floral garlands] – DAISY CHAINS
Each theme entry ends with something that Houdini might be bound by in one of his daring escapes. I like how each item isn’t referenced exactly how it would appear in one of Houdini’s acts. I didn’t like the crossing of T-BONED [Broadsided] (as in a car crash) and SABU ["Elephant boy" actor] (who?) – mostly because I couldn’t easily guess a B. Guess I’ll need to commit Sabu to memory.
- There’s a little NUN RAP in the musical Sister Act (go see it!) [Taker of vows] + [Def Jam genre]
- This sounds like a terrible dish: TOE PESTO [Place for a ring] + [Pasta topper]
BLEW IT and the popular DNA LAB strike me as the most fun non-thematic content in this grid. Other than that, it’s a standard Tuesday grid – nothing mind-blowing, but nothing offensive, either. 4 stars from me.
(And be sure to watch our own reigning champion Joon “joon pahk” Pahk tonight on Jeopardy!)
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rearrange the Furniture” — Sam Donaldson’s review
The Queen of Monday Puzzles expands her reign to Tuesdays with this anagram-based puzzle. Lynn Lempel takes five common pieces of furniture (each having two words in its name), anagrams the second word (thus “rearranging” the furniture), and clues the resulting whimsiness (if that’s not a word it should be):
- 17-Across: The DINNER TABLE becomes the DINNER BLEAT, or a [Mealtime sound from the flock?]. Not a baa-d start, but it didn’t exactly pull the wool over my eyes.
- 25-Across: The POLE LAMP becomes a POLE PALM, a [Tropical tree in the Arctic?]. “Pole lamp” is not a familiar term to me, but I like the post-anagram theme entry.
- 34-Across: A RECLINING SOFA is turned into RECLINING OAFS, or [Bumblers taking a snooze?]. I’m happy to see my favorite entry featured prominently in the center.
- 49-Across: Take a TOY CHEST and turn it into TOY TECHS, giving you [Santa's nerdy elves?]. It took me too long to figure out the TECHS, probably because I didn’t have a toy chest growing up. I kept my toys all over the floor of my room.
- 56-Across: One of my favorite pieces of furniture, a ROLLTOP DESK, is morphed into ROLLTOP KEDS, the [New option in sneakers?]. That’s a bad thing to happen to perfectly nice piece of furniture.
The fill is smooth, as we have come to expect from Lempel’s grids (mad props for the triple-stack of vertical 6s in both corners—there’s lots of good stuff there). But I especially enjoyed some of the clues. Having grown up very close to this body of water, [The Willamette River runs through it] was a gimme clue for OREGON, but us native Oregonians may have given thought to cities like CANBY, PORTLAND, and the crossword-friendly EUGENE. I thought [Corp. that stacks up?] was a great clue for IHOP, the International House of Pancakes. And I liked the acknowledgment of Halloween’s full name, [Allhallows __ ] EVE. Oh, and [Handy way to pass the bucks] is a clever clue for an ATM.
COATI, the [Raccoon's cousin], was a gimme for me only because I spent a long time anguishing over using the word in a Sunday-sized grid I constructed several months ago. I found enough prior uses of the word in crosswords that I talked myself into keeping it, but I felt bad about it and had to take a long shower. At least there was a payoff today from my hours of struggle.