Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
I think I’ve seen ROLO (14a: [Chewy candy treat]) in at least three recent puzzles. I like caramel and chocolate as much as anyone, but this quasi-cylindrical candy is nowhere near popular enough to be showing up as often as OREO.
Paula’s theme entries are all INNKEEPERs in that the letters INN have been inserted into familiar phrases:
- 20a. WINNING-FOOTED is clued as [Like a successful marathoner?]. It’s not feet that win marathons—it’s sheer endurance. In fact, wheelchair marathoners don’t need feet at all. I wish this had been clued with reference to Cinderella. Also? WINNING-FOOTED is a horrible phrase.
- 28a. [Helsinki hoosegow?] clues FINNISH TANK. Pen, slammer, prison, jail, clink, stir, can—all of these are “hoosegow” equivalents that come to mind before TANK. Wish this had been clued as an armored vehicle or gas tank.
- 48a. SINNING SONG is clued as the [Call of a siren?]. Eh.
- 57a. “GUINNESS AGAIN?” is a [Jaded ale drinker’s question?]. Okay, I like this one. The theme is batting .250.
Do you agree that this puzzle settled in at the Thursday difficulty level rather than Wednesday?
Best clue: 42d: [Chemical agent for climate change] is an ANAGRAM! Cool.
Least familiar name clue: 46d: MATILDA, [Title woman in a Harry Belafonte song]. Not ringing any kind of bell at all.
Best fill: HARDHAT, MOON SIGN, SOFT-SHOE, PANTSUIT (cf. PELOSI), ALENÇON lace.
Worst fill: 1d: GROW DIM, [Darken]. Don’t think this reaches the level of a lexical chunk. Solving experience also not enhanced by SOHIO, ERN, UIE, TAL, OTOE, ENNE, ISO, LEDS, ETAS, OTT, GST, SDS, and HOO. The good stuff didn’t keep me from noticing these little guys.
Matt Gaffney’s swan song Onion A.V. Club crossword
Matt is “retiring” from being one of the Onion’s team of crossword constructors. He claims it’s because exciting new projects command his attention, but I don’t know. I heard a rumor he’s ducking out because of a history of making inappropriate advances towards Herman Cain.
Aptly, Matt’s theme hinges on 49a: HELLO GOODBYE. That Beatles song has lots of opposing pairs; e.g., “You say yes, I say no / You say stop and I say go, go, go,” “You say goodbye and I say hello,” “I say high, you say low,” and “You say why, and I say I don’t know.” Well, the why/I-don’t-know pair didn’t make it into the puzzle but the others did:
- 20a. [Card game with a split pot] is HIGH-LOW POKER. Never heard of it. What is this, a Peter Gordon puzzle?
- 27a. [It has only two possible responses] clues a YES/NO QUESTION.
- 44a. [Annoying conditions when driving a stick shift] clues STOP-GO TRAFFIC. In Chicagoland, it’s either “stop-and-go” or “bumper-to-bumper” traffic. There is no “stop-go” term.
All right, 1-Across looks like it’s got a clue from a database. [Apple with some color] is an IMAC? I am writing this blog on an iMac. It has colors, sure. Silver and black are colors. The “color” clues for IMAC date back to when Apple had all those candy-colored shells. They’ve stuck with white, black, and silver for I don’t know how many years now. A lot.
Freshest answer: 36d: I GOT LAID, a [Frat boy’s boast]. You know he’s lying, right? He passed out alone.
Weird prepositional verb phrases:
- 14d. [Organizes, like a field of hay] = BALES UP. Really? It’s marginally better than [Actor Christian goes to bat].
- 37d. [Gradually remove, as clumps in flour] = SIFT OUT. Who on earth says they’re SIFTing OUT clumps in flour? You’re just sifting flour.
Weird noun phrase: 35a: [Slapstick staple] = PIE TOSS. Is that a thing, “pie toss”? I think it fails the lexical chunk test. You can’t sift that chunk out of the raw material here.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Looks like it’s opposites day. Or “two words that go steady together but aren’t opposites” day. Five going-steady word pairs are mashed up “Before & After” style with a word/phrase that ends with the word pair’s beginning, like so:
- 16a. [Recommendations at the salon] clues HAIRDOS AND DON’TS. As in “Don’t skip conditioner; your hair’s really dry.” Cute that NO-NO crosses DON’TS.
- 21a. [Intricacies of cells] are the ins and outs of cell phones, or PHONE INS AND OUTS. I’m more familiar with “call-in” than “phone-in.”
- 34a. [Attributes at the links] are GOLF PROS AND CONS. Smooth, that. On the plus side, you get to spend a few hours enjoying the fresh air. On the down side, golf can be inordinately frustrating.
- 51a. [Vicissitudes of cargo space] would be HOLD UPS AND DOWNS.
- 57a. [Miscellany of benevolence?] are GOOD ODDS AND ENDS.
A 75-square theme means the rest of the fill gets crunched. This is where your ULAN, OW OW, plural AGUES and LSATS, OOO, ODENSE, and ODED come from. There are a dozen 6-letter answers that help freshen things up a tad, though.
- 52d. [Gogo’s pal, in “Waiting for Godot”] is DIDI, a nickname for Vladimir. Gogo is Estragon’s nickname.
- 43d. I’m not sure that THE GAS fully merits the inclusion of the definite article in a crossword answer. But I’m amusing myself by thinking of it as other than [Something to step on while driving]. “What on earth was that sound?” “The gas.” Or “Aw, why do you need Maalox?” “It is the gas. I has it.”
3.25 stars. I think I’d have liked the puzzle better without 21a, and with 60 theme squares instead of 75, the overall fill would have been more fun.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Instrumental Figures” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle is a tribute to ADOLPHE SAX, the Belgian musician who created–wait for it–the saxophone. Sax sits at 63-Across, with the clue [Inventor whose instrument’s parts are suggested by 17-, 30-, and 48-Across]. Cleverly, those entries contain proper names, the ends of which are sax parts:
- 17-Across:WALTER REED (the small piece of wood attached to the sax’s mouthpiece) has been a [D.C. army hospital name for over 100 years].
- 30-Across: ALICIA KEYS (the brass or nickel thingies used to move the pads that open and close a sax’s air holes) is the [“Fallin'” singer]. Hopefully someone will help her up.
- 48-Across: TINKERBELL (the flared part at the end of the sax) is the [“Hook” fairy].
I liked the tenor of this puzzle, and it was over alto quickly. There’s a playful feel to the fill, with answers like STREAKER (with the great clue, [Running buff in the buff]), INKLINGS, DIVE IN and STAGE MOM. On the other end of the spectrum, SET OFF, WHAM, POWS, and HAD AT IT give off a combative vibe that still feels lively. There’s even a mini-golf (not miniature golf) theme with both PAR and BIRDIE in the mix.
My favorite clue was the one for STREAKER, but other good ones were [London locals?] for PUBS and [Makes scat] for SHOOS. That last one gave me temporary pause–boy, that one could have gone in a bad direction.