Gary Cee’s New York Times crossword
Who scheduled this Monday puzzle to run on a Wednesday? Probably the same guy who scheduled a Wednesday puzzle for Tuesday and a Tuesday puzzle for Monday. Cute theme, though: BEER CHASER plays a second role, that of describing the first words of the other theme answers. BOTTLENECK, GARDEN PARTY, BARREL OF MONKEYS, and BELLY DANCER make for a zippy foursome, and they evoke a beer bottle, beer garden, beer barrel (is that a thing?), and lovely beer belly.
Favorite bits: The WHEAT penny. VLOG (my favorite vlogger is Jay Smooth, and PuzzleGirl can attest to his awesomeness). Salade NICOISE, which was just on Jeopardy! [Social contract theorist John] LOCKE. (Locke! I miss Lost.)
Nonfavorites: ALAI, AGAZE, OLEO, REA, TOR, AMU. I didn’t even see all of these while solving, though, because the puzzle was solving itself so expeditiously.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword
This puzzle sort of threw me off balance with all the long Across answers that don’t have starred clues and aren’t part of the theme. I kept trying to merge them with the grand unifying answer GO OFF, but no. It’s a neat theme, though:
- 40a. [Explode, and words needed to complete the four starred answers] clues GO OFF. If something “goes off” in another sense, it departs—just as the GO OFFs have gone off in the four theme answers. It’s rather circular, isn’t it?
- 17a. To [*Get carried away] is to go off THE DEEP END.
- 64a. To [*Act prematurely] is to go off HALF-COCKED.
- 11d. To [*Lose it] is to go (or be) off ONE’S ROCKER. I feel like “be” works better than “go” here. Yes? No?
- 28d. To [*Digress] is to go off ON A TANGENT.
There’s a lot of sparkle to admire elsewhere in the grid:
- 1a. “OH, SNAP!” is a [Response to a good barb]. I started out trying TOUCHE but Kermit the Frog’s “HI-HO” wouldn’t allow that.
- 35a. [Fly without a plane] clues HANG-GLIDE. I rather like consonant pile-ups like that NGGL in the middle.
- 45a. UP TO SPEED is an idiom meaning [Informed of the latest news] or abreast of the standard procedures.
- 54a. MR. GOODBAR is a [Nutty Hershey's treat], peanuts in milk chocolate. Also a cinematic gigolo reference.
- Technically, these two have a duplicated word, but both are zippy and I can forgive the dupe. 49d: “AND HOW!”(["Amen!"]) and 9d: “AND YET…” (["Even so…"]) are both examples of the colloquial speech that livens up a crossword. (See also: 1-Across.)
Less pleased with IDA., ENYA, OBI, ALTA, ANAT., OYEZ, P.E.I., BELG., and ACRO-. But at least there’s juicy stuff outside of the theme. When a theme is the only place to find any sparkle, it bums me out (especially when the theme fails to make up for its environment), but this puzzle has a 90% solid theme.
Brendan Quigley’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I zipped through the first theme answer but quickly found myself in over my head in trying to figure out the other four theme entries. They’re mashups of three band names, but boy, it really helps if you recognize something in the clue:
- 17a. ["La Bamba" band covering "More Than a Feeling" with "Funky Cold Medina" rapper?] references Los Lobos, Boston, and Tone Loc in LOSLOBOSTONELOC. A flat-out gimme.
- 23a. [Bill Callahan covering Scottish math metal with "I Know What Boys Like" band?]…huh. The end is the ’80s band the Waitresses. “Scottish math metal” means nothing to me and I’ve never heard of Callahan. The answer is SMOGWAITRESSES. So Callahan is Smog? And Scottish math metal clues, um, OGWAI? Google-fu powers, activate! Mogwai.
- 39a. ["TV Party" punks covering some '80s Hollywood glam metal with "Scrape" punks?] clues BLACKFLAGUNSANE. Know Black Flag is a punk band (I’m thinking of starting a hardcore punk band called Goutrage), have no clue on the rest. Google-fu to the rescue: L.A. Guns, Unsane.
- 48a. [Richard D. James covering "Seventeen" with Pat Smear's band?]…let’s see…Did Janis Ian sing “Seventeen”? That’s not helpful here. The answer is APHEXTWINGERMS. There’s a band called Germs? Yes, there is. Mr. James is electronic musician Aphex Twin, and Winger recorded “Seventeen.” Pretty sure they’re a Debra Winger tribute band. Is it a coincidence that my head started hurting while that video was playing?
- 58a. In ["I Feel For You" singer collaborating with "Psycho" garage punks to cover "MMMBop"?], Chaka Khan covers half of Hanson and…Sonics? That’s a group? The Sonics are a ’60s group that just recently reunited. (Not to be confused with “Reunited,” which is Peaches and Herb.)
Whew! That was a lot of research just to understand five answers in a crossword. Thank goodness the crossings weren’t too ambiguous to piece the theme entries together—though my last square was the X where 48a meets 40d:[DJ Funkmaster ___] FLEX. Nice job with the Downs’ cluing and fill, Brendan, or I never would have made it through all the theme answers.
Fave answers: “I RULE,”14a: “Recognize and realize, fools!”]. VALUE MEAL. Total FACE PLANT (which I narrowly avoided doing on this puzzle).
Rating: somewhere between 4 “wow, impressive” stars and 1 “what is this…I don’t even” star.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “401(k)” – Sam Donaldson’s review
As the resident United States tax practitioner here on the Fiend, it makes sense that I get to cover the puzzle entitled “401(k).” Alas, the theme has nothing to do with the taxation deferred compensation arrangements (ooh, that gives me an idea!). Instead, each of the four theme entries contains four Os followed by one K. In shorthand, I suppose, that would be “4-O,1-K.” Cute idea! Let’s check out the theme entries:
- 17-Across: The COLORADO ROCKIES are the [Western team with a geographic nickname]. I guess LOS ANGELES LAKERS wouldn’t quite work.
- 27-Across: Hey, GOOD LOOKING! You sure are [Pleasing to the eye]. How about giving me a hand with my…
- 48-Across: SCHOOL BOOKS? You know, my [Backpack fillers, often]? Whoa, hold on! It was just an innocent favor! Put down that…
- 63-Across: MOLOTOV COCKTAIL before you hurt someone! Namely me! That [Bottle-based weapon] is super dangerous!
The long Downs are bustin’ out all over with coolness, from RIGOLETTO and SPLOTCHY to BLAST OFF and even MAO ZE DONG. Why does it seem like there are a dozen ways to spell Mao’s name in English? Is there a definitive one?
As good as the fill is (c’mon, what did you expect from a Lynn Lempel puzzle?), I found some of the clues to be the real highlight. I liked [What a prognosticator might scrutinize] as the clue for PALM. That’s indirect enough to slow me down but ultimately gettable with one or two crossings. ["God's joke on human beings," a la Bette Davis] is a fun clue for SEX (though why not use “per” instead of “a la?”). But my favorite was [Mr. America bulges] for PECS. Not my first guess.
I’ve heard of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, but I’ve never seen the acronym WCTU for the [Alcohol-eschewing org. for the ladies]. Did that trip up anyone else?