Thanksgiving is coming! (Except for you Canadians, who had it weeks ago, and the rest of the world, who doesn’t care when any North Americans overeat.) Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be making pecan pies with my son. If you don’t double the quantity of pecans in each pie, you’re doing it wrong. You may have heard the “It’s turtles all the way down” tale. With my pie, it’s pecans all the way down. Pecans just floating on top of goop? Pfft! That’s for pikers. (Enjoy your feast preparations! And safe travels to you if you’re heading out of town.)
Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
Of all the phrases Ian could’ve picked that begin with ROCK, he just might’ve picked my favorite choice, ROCK THE CASBAH. (Now, for a 21×21, “rock on with your bad self” would also please me.) That Clash song joins the ROSE BOWL, a humble TEA LEAF (meh), and the super-lively answer BEER PONG in this thematic riff on the phrase GARDEN VARIETY—rock garden, rose garden, tea garden, and beer garden are all things. (Although I couldn’t tell you what a “tea garden” is without first checking the dictionary: a garden in which tea is served, or a tea plantation.)
One wonders if Will Shortz’s Westchester Table Tennis Club has hosted any beer pong tournaments.
Highlights: SMOKEY Bear (we would also have accepted a Smokey and the Bandit reference here), the anagram-of-her-mother-Rhea clue for HERA, “COME AGAIN?”, SWANK and ADORABLE (two aspirational adjectives), and the perplexing-until-it-clicked clue for IDIOM ([Cut to the chase, say]). Shoutout to Team Fiend member Jeffrey, who will soon be en route to his personal Mecca, 42d: ORLANDO.
Favorite misstep: I read the 15a clue, [Arthur who often raised a racket], and was ready to fill in BEA. Whoops. It’s Arthur ASHE with a tennis racket.
Most hardcore piece of crosswordese: 63a: ANIL, an indigo [Blue shade] named after the indigo/ANIL plant. I, for one, have never seen anything’s color being described as “anil.”
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword
My usual grumble about McInturff’s puzzles—that the fill is reminiscent of ’80s crosswords—doesn’t hold water today. Hey, how about that.
The theme expands on a nice find in a couple phrases: that there’s a hidden OPEC in them. Like so:
- 20a. [Best Supporting Actress winner for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"] is PENELOPE CRUZ. Never noticed her inner oil cartel.
- 34a. [General's level] is the TOP ECHELON. Upper echelon feels more “in the language” to me.
- 42a. HOPE CHESTS are [Quaint storage pieces]. Get a quilt or comforter! Save it in a wooden box until you get married! No matter how long it takes! (What? That’s crazy. Just use your linens already.)
- 57a. OPEC MEETINGS are [Major oil conferences (they're found, in a way, in 20-, 34- and 42-Across)]. That felt non-”in the language” until I Googled it and decided it was super newsy/headliney even though it’s something I never talk about.
Anyone else read the clue for 1d: [Wranglers and Patriots] and think to yourself, “What the hell sort of JEANS are called Patriots?” They’re models of JEEPS, of course.
This puzzle also has both MOTE and EMOTE. Is dust on your computer monitor in the form of e-motes?
A couple more clues:
- 1a. [Co. that makes Motrin and Tylenol] is Johnson & Johnson or, as the abbreviated “Co.” demands, J AND J.
- 6a. [In __ land] clues LA-LA, which puts me in mind of Laa-Laa, the Teletubby, which reminds me that when showing my husband a bunch of pepper-spraying cop meme pictures (e.g., UC-Davis pepper-spraying cop squirting orange spray on seated people in various famous paintings), he asked where the Teletubbies picture was. Google to the rescue! Here are the ‘Tubbies and the Sun Baby getting pepper-sprayed.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Close Finish” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle uses the vowel progression gimmick. Each of the five theme entries ends with a four-letter word that fits the pattern T?LL. The first one goes with TALL, the next with TELL, and so on through TULL:
- 17-Across: STANDS TALL, clued as [Rises to the challenge].
- 25-Across: WILLIAM TELL is the [Swiss folk hero]. I never knew the story came from the Swiss, though it explains why the plot is full of holes. (Sorry, was that too cheesy?)
- 35-Across: [Evidence of graft] is a HAND IN THE TILL. That’s a lively 13-letter entry for the grid’s equator.
- 51-Across: Something [Resulting in serious damage] is indeed TAKING A TOLL. So is that lady at the turnpike booth.
- 59-Across: C’mon, could the last one be anything other than JETHRO TULL, the ["Aqualung" band]?
There’s 55 squares devoted to theme, yet the fill is remarkably smooth. About the only entries making Amy’s Scowl-O-Meter quiver are the famous AARE River of crosswords, NL-ER (a shorthand term for a National League baseball player that some insist is lousy fill), and the famous-in-crossword-puzzles LOM [Herbert of "The Phantom of the Opera"]. But hey, if that’s the price we pay to get a little ASS and a TRAMP in our grid, IT’S OK with me.
For those new to solving, let’s explain some of the clues and answers: (1) [The Sultan of Swat] is Supreme Court Badass RUTH Bader Ginsburg; (2) one who is [Eligible to serve] is the Irish O’NEA; and (3) the [Part of a dollar sign] is E.S.S., short for the Elegantly-Slashed (capital) S. You’re welcome.
Aimee Lucido’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Welcome, Aimee Lucido, to the ranks of A.V. Club crossword constructors! Aimee fills the slot vacated by Matt Gaffney, who’s moving on to other projects. You can read about Aimee at Wordplay; she made an NYT puzzle for Brown University crossword week. Fireball subscribers will remember her nifty VANISHING CREAM puzzle from this past June, too.
I mucked up the opening corner and had myself convinced that 1d was HEY, which made the start of 18a “YOD,” which convinced me that there was some sort of Yiddish theme going on. Eventually I figured out the [Friendly greeting] was a HUG, and the theme is adding an H after an S to create a new word:
- 18a. ["Lord, give her majesty a Brazilian!"?] clues GOD SHAVE THE QUEEN. This is much more hilarious without the YOD I had in there. This is in the running for funniest answer of the year.
- 24a. [Attempt to promote cream cheese?] is a SHMEAR CAMPAIGN. I could see Einstein’s Bagels going with this. Cute.
- 42a. [Still Charlie after all these years?] clues REMAINS TO BE SHEEN. Although “remains to be” suggests a future uncertainty rather than a present-tense state of affairs.
- 55a. [Straitjacket fit for a bookcase?] clues SHELF RESTRAINT. Am I the only one who’s hearing Sean Connery saying all these theme answers?
- 63a. [Cheesy gimmick?] is a cute double-meaning clue for MOZZARELLA SHTICK.
Three more clues, because I gotta run:
- 61a. [Subreddit abbr. for outrageous questions and answers] is AMA. I think that’s “am a,” as in Brendan Quigley’s I-am-a-crossword-constructor Q&A at Reddit.
- 49a. [It may be bruised if you fall down the stairs] clues your EGO. Perfect tricky clue.
- 37a. [Gwen Stefani purses] are LAMBS, or L.A.M.B.‘s, if you prefer. How many of you with XY chromosomes knew this one? Because it was a gimme for me. I’m delighted that Ben Tausig hired another woman for the Onion group, because crosswords made by men just naturally tend to have a male frame of reference. Great to mix things up a bit more.
Four stars. (P.S. Just noticed it’s a 16×15 grid.)