Aww, R.I.P., Steve Jobs. The crossword world thanks you for all the 4-letter device names (iMac, iPod, iPad) that help us fill in our grids, and for designing the first phone we could solve crosswords on. And then the first tablet we could solve crosswords on even more easily.
On a brighter note, yay, Joon! Crossword Fiend’s resident blogger of the Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest puzzles won his third Jeopardy! match on Wednesday in a real nail-biter, upping his winnings to six figures. Yowzah! He is one smart guy (and has solid buzzer reflexes).
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
We’ve got a quip theme for Thursday, and a rather corny one at that. The theme entries unfurl the following joke: “Did you hear about the lawsuits between Hanes and BVD? Briefs were filed.” I’m no lawyer, but isn’t “briefs were filed” a rather nondramatic part of any lawsuit? Briefs, underwear, HA HA HA. Rolling in the aisles here.
Okay, so we established years ago that quote/quip themes usually don’t float my boat. Well, then! It’s up to the non-theme fill to win me over. I like BABYSIT, SEVEN A.M., and “CAN’T BE!” well enough, but the Scowl-o-Meter’s bell kept ringing with crosswordese (ASTI, MOA, AMAH, literary initials TSE, AGUE, STENS), a suffix (-ATIC), and a partial (A TIME).
Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “Big Mix-Up”
Frank’s theme is ANAGRAMs: CHRISTIANSTED, IT’S IN THE CARDS, HARD SCIENTIST, and DENTIST’S CHAIR all have the same letters. I’m particularly pleased to see CHRISTIANSTED, as my husband and I honeymooned three miles east of it.
The surrounding fill isn’t as juicy as one usually expects in a Longo or a Fireball. Who is this ESMEE with a lengthy clue, and why is her M crossing the uncommon word IMPARADISE? I disregarded the verb nature of the clue for 27d and tried IN PARADISE, which would make a much better entry, if you ask me. So that M is the square I got wrong.
Never heard of the ARI clued as 38d, [Photographer Marcopoulos]. I like to think he got the commission to photograph ESMEE Denters for her first album cover.
I usually know my trees, but had no idea that [Fagaceous flora] referred to OAKS (and also beeches and chestnuts). It’s really not a good sign when two of the words in this puzzle (fagaceous and imparadise) are not to be found in the Mac widget dictionary (which is extracted from the New Oxford American Dictionary). Hmph.
I liked seeing 5d: IRISH SEA in the puzzle. (I bet Joon did, too. Jeopardy!)
Oh! Factual error. O’BRIEN is clued with [Lopez follows him on TBS]. I guess Peter Gordon didn’t hear the news that George Lopez’s late-night show was canceled back in August.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Vowel Play: Four of a Kind” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Here’s a vowel progression theme on steroids (minus the bouts with rage and the protruding veins). Today’s crossword from Tony Orbach gives us six theme entries, each containing exactly one vowel used four times. As if that’s not interesting enough, the entries are presented top to bottom in alphabetical order by vowel, with the A entry on top and the Y entry on bottom:
- 20-Across: The [Bing Crosby hit about an Irish group] is MCNAMARA’S BAND, featuring four As and no other vowel.
- 28-Across: It doesn’t take nearly as many letters to get an entry with four Es–here, it’s PEE-WEE, clued as [Miniature].
- 30-Across: Brand names come into the picture with INFINITI, the [Nissan luxury line] with four Is.
- 44-Across: A CHOO-CHOO is a [Tot's train]. I actually lost some ground here because for the longest time, for reasons I don’t know, I read the clue as [Tot's brain]. Perhaps it was a good description of my own mental state.
- 47-Across: The [Loose dress at a luau] had my mind wandering for a moment, but I quickly recovered and entered MU’UMU’U. (Well, sans apostrophes.)
- 54-Across: Vowel progression themes are just that much more impressive when they include Ys, and Orbach doesn’t disappoint, using LYNYRD SKYNYRD, the ["Gimme Three Steps" southern rock group], and its four Ys.
That’s 54 squares of theme entries (I’m pretty sure I got the math right, though I wouldn’t have the guts to make it a true daily double), and yet the grid is not riddled with awkward fill. Indeed, there’s good stuff aplenty, like LEAD PIPE, WARM-UP, MAYTAG, OH YEAH, GELATI, MY EYE and , well, SAM. The weak stuff is limited to UNROBE (c’mon, in everyday conversation it’s “disrobe” or “unclothe,” not “unrobe”), ULT, and that near-equatorial row of CYL, GIF, and PED. (And, speaking just for me, I can go a long time without seeing both UHRY and RIIS in a single grid.) But hey, given the heavy concentration of themage and the restrictions imposed by the theme, I thought this was pretty darn impressive.
Peter Collins’ Los Angeles Times crossword—Neville’s review
Did you see this coming? There’s a SURPRISE ELEMENT (element of surprise?) in each of the other four theme entries of this puzzle:
- 18a. [Health enhancer, so it's said] – APPLE A DAY
- 20a. [It "is no problem. You just have to live long enough": Groucho Marx] – GETTING OLDER. Hey, it beats the alternative. Am I the only person here who enjoyed last night’s half season premier which continued an arc about getting older? Yes? Moving right along, then.
- 51a. ["A Moon for the Misbegotten" playwright] – EUGENE O’NEILL. Joon, has he played on your baseball team? (More congratulations to Joon on his third Jeopardy! win, and continued luck on “future” episodes.)
- 56a. [Longshoremen's aids] – CARGO NETS
So there’s a different element hiding inside of each of these entries. Good entries, nice execution, and wait – what’s this? Two unrelated 11-letter down entries? Wonderful! I love seeing BATTLE CREEK, Michigan in this puzzle, and I’m glad that REVELATIONS isn’t clued with regard to the last book of the Bible – it’s a frequent Jeopardy! error to add the S to the end of that book. (I hope you didn’t do that, Joon.)
- 6a. [Slip a Mickey] – DRUG. Really!? This clue made it into an LA Times crossword? Unbelievable.
- 16a. [Half of 10?] – ZERO. Ugh. I don’t care if one digit is a zero and the other isn’t – I didn’t like this clue. Didn’t find it punny.
- 2d. ["Writing on the wall" word] – MENE, as in “Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin,” which was written on the wall in the biblical Book of Daniel. Could not have told you this – fortunately, I’m a fan of Apolo ANTON Ohno (by which I mean I watch the Winter Olympics).
- 51d. [Vandalizes, in a way] – EGGS. So many bad influences in this puzzle, Peter A. Collins. Naw, I’m just kidding. Mischief Night is just around the corner!
Nice puzzle, Peter – 4.21 platinum stars.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Double Switch” — pannonica’s review
The most striking aspect of this puzzle, initially, was the blackness. There are 45 blocks in the grid, paired with 75 words, which comes across (and down) as mildly anemic.
The title might well have been “Double Double Switch,” because it’s more intricate than it appears at first. It isn’t simply that doubled consonants in the theme answers are replaced with a different duo; each sequential pair of themers swaps their letters.
- 17a. [Gang of rabbits?] NIBBLE RING (nipple ring). The Bs come from…
- 22a. [Pennsylvania butcher's surface for extra parts?] SCRAPPLE BOARD (Scrabble board). The Ps were borrowed from 17-across.
- 29a. [One who knowingly sells faulty scratching posts?] CAT SCAMMER (cat scanner). Cats are savvy consumers; it’s their doting ‘owners’ who get scammed. But am I really parsing a nonsense phrase?
- 40a. [What the priest yells when someone faints during confession?] SINNER DOWN! (simmer down). Typically preceded by a shout of ”Cleric!” instead of “Medic!”
- 47a. [Lotsa high voices in the choir?] MESS O’ SOPRANOS (mezzo-sopranos). Not to be confused with The Daily Show’s “Mess o’ Potamia.”
- 57a. [Little chick taking down a worm, e.g.?] FUZZY EATER (fussy eater). Before I understood the theme fully, I’d thought the original was “funny eater.”
A relatively low CAP Quotient™ and pangrammatic fill helped make for an enjoyable solve.
- Longish downs in the colloquial “I AM SO DEAD” [OMG! My parents are gonna ground me for a million years!] and the erstwhile persona for rapper Eminem, SLIM SHADY.
- Further pop-culture in British band THE XX, television’s PUNK’D, “proto hip-hop group” ESG (originally Emerald, Sapphire, Gold) which I’d never heard of (which isn’t saying much) and didn’t particularly care for in the puzzle.
- Boring three-letter entries spiced up by long, colorful fill-in-the-blank quotes: LIE ["So you're just gonna sit there and __ to my face?"]; APE ["Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty __"].
- Druggy misdirections: [Charlie Sheen town with lots of powder] ASPEN, [Lines done by musicians] LYRICS.
- Hardcore crosswordese: XEBEC [Old-timey sailing ship with three masts], AREPA [Columbian snack], ETAPE [Military camp].
- I’m guessing that some younger solvers will have no idea how ISO is a setting on an SLR camera, especially since the clue for the cross-referenced answer specifies a digital model. It refers to film speed and stands for International Organization for Standardization. Similarly, FTP (for “file transfer protocol) is seen less often these days.
- Not sure how PAM spray is a [Preserver of muffin tins]. It doesn’t make them last longer, it just makes them easier to clean. Does it preserve the integrity of the tins? I don’t buy it.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “Pop Quiz”
Brendan’s a little busy with his newborn baby girl, so today’s puzzle is a reprint from his “Time Out” days. But it’s still new to you and me, so let’s have a look.
Themage: six phrases whose final word is a brand of soda: RUNNING TAB, STAY-AT-HOME DADS (root beer), NEW HIRES (root beer), MAN (I’ve got my orange) CRUSH, ANIMATED SPRITE, and KIMBO SLICE.
- Only BEQ would use KIMBO SLICE as a theme entry. Excellent.
- Is ANIMATED SPRITE a thing?
- 53d (IN BED) is an outstanding entry/clue.
- So is 43d (NAME ONE).
- I got 59a (NEPAL) with just the A. When it comes to vexillology, step off if I’m in the room.
- When I see a clue like 64d (CLI), I never take the time to figure it out unless I really, really, really need those letters.
- Humorous to see 37d (VAR) as an entry instead of in a clue.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and have a sugar-filled Thursday, everyone!