Parker Lewis’s New York Times crossword
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday NYT solving times all fall within a narrow range. Did anyone else have Wednesdayish times for the two puzzles that are supposed to be easier supposedly easier Tuesday and tougher Thursday puzzles? No? Just me?
Parker Lewis’s theme interprets “X in a Y” phrases literally by putting the word for the thing that’s in another thing inside the word/phrase for that other thing. (That is a crystal-clear explanation, right?) So “needle in a haystack” nicely splits the second compound word as HAY NEEDLE STACK. There’s also a “kid in a candy store,” rendered as CANDY KID STORE. CHINA BULL SHOP and HAND HELL BASKET round out the theme, which is based on four incredibly familiar yet lively sayings. I don’t care that handbasket and haystack are single words while china shop and candy store are two words. The theme felt completely consistent and fresh while solving.
I could do without APERS (that’s on my Scowl-o-Meter list) but at least it’s got a new (if a little weird) clue: [Chimpersonators?]. The rest of the fill is fine, with bright spots like LONGNECK beer bottles and BEST BUDS.
Let’s do a survey among those of you who are crossword constructors and professors: Do any of your colleagues also make crosswords? I know one school in this puzzle has at least two constructors on faculty: 18a: [California's Santa __ University]/CLARA. The Santa Clara math department boasts both Byron Walden (now the proud dad of a baby boy) and Jeremy Horwitz.
Peter Gordon and Frank Longo’s Fireball crossword, “No-Lose Situation”
We had Patrick Berry’s crossword riff on hangman in the Wall Street Journal Saturday Puzzle last weekend, and now there’s Peter and Frank’s offering. This one teaches us that when playing HANGMAN, you’d be a fool to make the answer word be the Twain story title, THE CELEBRATED / JUMPING FROG OF / CALAVERAS COUNTY. I gather that there are not enough unused letters in the title for the guesser to make enough wrong guesses to be hung before getting the last correct letter. If you start with the gallows in place, KQWXZ would get you to draw the head, body, and three limbs, but every other letter would be a hit.
My question about this puzzle—in a 15×16 grid with left/right symmetry—is “Who the hell plays hangman with a seven-word phrase to be guessed?” Maybe Peter only plays hangman with phrases, I don’t know.
Highlights in the fill: The OLD NORSE language/FORT HOOD/PAYLESS Shoes stack. The [Thanks for Tom Hanks, maybe?] clue for USERID. The other language clue, [No language], for JAPANESE, spoken in no/noh drama. The random pope + Roman numeral SIXTUS I, who makes me want to create a new variation on the Watusi, called the Sixtusi.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
There’s there’s a a lot lot of of double double talk talk going going on on in in this this puzzle puzzle:
- 17a. [Much-feared economic situation] – DIP DIP RECESSION
- 24a. [Sightseer's option] – DECKER DECKER BUS
- 42a. [It both aids and hinders] – EDGED EDGED SWORD
- 56a. [Optimal design for clinical trials] – BLIND BLIND STUDY
In actuality, each of these is a double-something, like a double-decker bus. I think this is rather clever, especially for a puzzle in the LA Times, where there are some extra restrictions on tomfoolery as compared to other publications.
A HOECAKE is what some Southerners call a johnny cake – a cornbread variant, in case your still trying to figure that out. I wanted this to be a hotcake, making it really difficult to grab onto the theme quickly. And while AOL does have an ONLINE AD or twenty, I don’t like the clue. AOL is a service, a computer program or a website. Sometimes it has ads – depending on the flavor of AOL you’re talking about. but the OL of AOL is Online, so this smells fishy.
Favorite clue: 51a. [Cold ones] – BREWSKIS. It’s so obvious looking at it afterwards, but it was tacky and cute before I solved it. But between ALDO, APPL. and REDI, I was not a fan of the NW corner. I’m surprised that I’m not the only one who remembers that terrible MSNBC weekend show that Connie CHUNG hosted with hubby Maury Povich or her not-as-bad CNN show.
I liked it mostly – 4.2 stars.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Isn’t That Special” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries starts with a word that can follow “special” to form a familiar two-word noun:
- 17-Across: The [Judge's command], usually barked while pounding a gavel, is ORDER IN THE COURT. A “special order” is one made by a viewer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
- 25-Across: It’s nice to see the refreshing clue [Pizza provider, perhaps] for DELIVERY BOY instead of the usual [Male role in an adult film]. (You can send your hate mail by “special delivery.”)
- 43-Across: The [Toxic defoliant used in the Vietnam War] was AGENT ORANGE, and there was likely more than one “special agent” involved too.
- 54-Across: A [Background performer, often] is a SESSION MUSICIAN. One performing during a “special session” of Congress might have to be prepared for a long set.
SESSION MUSICIAN strikes me as a little less “in the language” (and a little less interesting) than the other three theme entries. But the others hold up well. FLEW SOLO and BRA SIZE were distinctive answers, and I liked the homage to the What’s My Line? panelist, Bennett CERF. C CLEF was an unusual answer for 1-Across, but I loved the crossing at 1-Down. [Corporal punishment?] was a nice clue for CHOW.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Around the Horn”—Matt Gaffney’s review
Brendan riffs on the ESPN show (or the baseball term) “around the horn” in today’s crossword. He finds five words/phrases bookended by HORN:
- 19a. [Germany's last noble family] is HOHENZOLLERN. Visited their awesome castle in ’92, still have the brochure! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohenzollern_Castle
- 27a. [White as a sheet, perhaps] is HORROR-STRICKEN.
- 34a. [Trafalgar Square figure] is HORATIO NELSON.
- 42a. [Going-nowhere state] is a HOLDING PATTERN.
- 52a. [Penetrating film genre] is HARDCORE PORN. I am unfamiliar with this term, as are you.
- Five theme entries, but 50 black squares. Life is full of trade-offs, and that’s what you get when your theme lengths are 12-14-13-14-12.
- I was all ready to tell BEQ he’d made a mistake at 51-Across, since MAYO is Spanish for the month of May. But then I realized that the language here is Portuguese.
- Fine fill: ED KOCH, YOO-HOO, NO RUSH, OPEN AREA, OK GO, SUZY-Q.
- 61-Across clue: Awwwwwww!
- If you’re in 54-Down (OSLO), you’re also in 44-Down (NOR) and 21-Down (EUR)! No wonder he linked them.
- 10-Down is a nice clue, too.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and be sure to listen to Brendan on HOWARD STERN today, everyone! (Just kidding; at 11 letters, it’s impossible to squeeze him into this grid).