Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
Happy Halloween! I don’t know about you, but I generally eschew costumes and take my kid trick-or-treating in my regular attire. This year, I’ll be going a third of the way to wearing an actual costume: a green and yellow tutu over leggings, with my regular shoes and jacket. Woodland fairy going incognito?
I remembered three and a half hours late that pannonica’s down for the count this weekend—lost power thanks to the East Coast snow and also sustained a tree-branch-through-roof situation. Yes, I’m even more tardy for blogging Henry Hook’s Sunday puzzle, I know.
Anyway! Jeff’s timely theme is about a VAMPIRE, and yet again I was slow to recognize the theme for what it was owing to not really reading long clues all the way through. 38a: [Creature who might…]—VAMPIRE fits and it’s Halloween. So I failed to take note that the phrase “once bitten, twice shy” is referred to by the ends of the theme entries. I was further bamboozled by the great long Downs MUHAMMAD ALI and “E.T. PHONE HOME.” And then there was the typo in 35d: CIVIC. No, CIVCC and SOLCD are obviously not words, and yet it took me 25 seconds to notice the problem.
Reasonably lively and smooth fill, light and friendly clues, solid theme. Four stars.
Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Scare Givers” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle features a theme related to All Hallow’s Eve. Who would have thought? There’s four theme entries, each starting with a classic Halloween figure:
- 17-Across: An [Uncredited author] is a GHOST WRITER. If you have no plans for the evening, you can do a lot worse than renting the Ewan McGregor thriller, The Ghost Writer. It has something of a creepy vibe because its director is the notorious Roman Polanski, but it’s a simultaneously low-key and engaging.
- 31-Across: The [Mild astringent made from the bark of a North American shrub] is WITCH-HAZEL. Did you know the term was hyphenated?
- 47-Across: CAT STEVENS is [Yusuf Islam's former moniker]. It’s bad luck if a Cat Stevens crosses the path of your peace train.
- 63-Across: A SKELETON KEY is a [Versatile lock opener]. So is the ambidextrous guy who works at the canal.
Got off to a slow start at 1-Across, trying MANIC as the answer to [Extremely enthusiastic] instead of RABID. The error was exacerbated by the fact that the A and the I were both right, suckering me into thinking the [Coffee order (abbr.)] had to be MUG even though that’s not an abbreviation (of course, the answer is REG., short for “regular,” as opposed to decaf). The rest was straightforward enough, with COIN-OP, SPRINKLE, and DITSY among the entries I liked most. It wouldn’t be Halloween without a few scares, though, and this puzzle offers YETIS (there’s more than one?) and TSE-TSES, two scary plurals. Having both UNBEND and UNRIG in the grid is also a tad unsightly. KASHA, the [Bow-ties go with], on the other hand, sounds interesting, even though it is new to me. Apparently “kasha and bowties” is a popular kosher dish. I liked this article about it best.
I don’t have any plans to wear a costume today, other than my standard costume of a professor who appears to be knowledgeable about those matters on which he speaks. I’ve never been too much into the whole costume thing. My best costume was probably when I went as Homer Simpson, complete with the yellow face and the can of Duff beer. One other time I went to a party dressed as a dalmatian, while my date went as Cruella de Vil. Looking back, I should have seen then how that relationship would play out.
In any case, no matter whether you’re celebrating the day trick or treating with young ones, attending a party with friends, or just staying at home in the dark watching The Ghost Writer so that kids don’t knock at your door, I hope you have a happy Halloween.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”
Rough start for me, with 1-Across being sports trivia I had no idea about. I know the name STEVE NASH, but I sure don’t know his stats.
Toughest answer to parse was 36-Down. The clue’s about taps, which are beer or water faucets, right? And the answer starts with IPA, India pale ale. IPA *APPS? What could that mystery word be? 50-Across was rather vague for the non-sports-lingo-attuned but eventually I got TDS and stared at IPA DAPPS. *headslap* iPAD APPS, taps of the finger. D’oh!
- CHINGLISH, the play opening on Broadway that was at Chicago’s Goodman Theater months ago. Crossword Fiend’s own Janie saw it with top solver Anne Erdmann, and Paul Rudd saw it with them too. Google ben zimmer chinglish and you’ll find a few interesting pieces about the Chinese/English translation issues that pepper the play, Q&As with playwright David Henry Hwang.
- COKE ZERO is Diet Coke for men who are afraid drinking Diet Coke will make them lose their testicles. There’s a new Dr Pepper drink that offers the same sort of diet soda option for men. I deplore the introduction of pink beer for ladies and alternative diet pops for men. Crikey, people, just drink what you want, and crikey, marketers, quit with all the sexist marketing and you might expand your markets across gender lines.
- STRAPPED FOR CASH, solid phrase.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I finally gave up waiting for the Across Lite version to be posted and solved the puzzle at the LA Times website. I don’t care for that applet one bit, as it slows me down through its navigation. I try to switch from Across to Down and find myself just moving somewhere entirely different.
Imagine that: An October 31 theme that has nothing to do with Halloween. The 10/31/87 market crash is called BLACK MONDAY, and today is another 10/31 Monday. The other five theme answers begin with words that can follow “black”:
- 17a. LIGHT COMEDY. Who doesn’t like turning white clothes purple under a black light?
- 25a. GOLD MARKET—not a term I was familiar with. I don’t hang out at my local [Precious metal trading venue]. Oil is called black gold.
- 38a. BEAN BAG chair. Yummy black beans!
- 42a. An ice fisher(wo)man’s ICE HOLE. Black ice is that stuff that’s hard to see on the road but will cause to to lose traction all the same.
- 56a. I tried BEAUTY SPOT instead of BEAUTY MARK. Black Beauty is a famous horse. Fictional, right?
Solid and timely theme. In the fill, “AFRAID SO” sparkles. Not sure I’ve ever seen the word form TRANCED before (46d: [Hypnotized]); dictionary says the verb trance is usually seen in the be tranced form. Also hadn’t seen the term HOME LAB before; this is an [Amateur photographer's workshop] and not a meth lab.
On Halloween, the day of Tons of Candy Being Handed Out, it would’ve been cute to clue 30d: NIBS as a brand of cherry licorice bits instead of [Penpoints]. I much prefer Nibs to strawberry Twizzlers.