Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
So, the puzzle loosened its belt after a hearty Thanksgiving dinner and made room for an extra row in the middle, allowing a central quad-stack of 15-letter answers. Too much turkey and not enough pie, though—the pie being sparkling fill and entertaining clues, the turkey being blah fill.
Pie: 16a: TAILGATE PARTIES, good stuff after a football day (go, Packers). 15a’s clue, [It might tax a levee] for WATER LEVEL. 62a: AVON LADIES is kinda cute, but I think the clue might be horribly outdated—don’t Avon reps use their personal networks and the internet rather than going door to door now? 64a: NEWS BREAK is solid (though I wanted it to be NEWS FLASH). 25d’s clue, [Backdrop for many singles matches?], totally duped me despite the question mark, as I put down BASELINE instead of BAR SCENE. I like that 28d: GOES SOUTH indeed travels downward.
Turkey: Lots of yucky short answers. There are partials (A SET, AS NO, IS SO). Abbrevs (NNE, NSC, ESC, GEN, TUES, UPI, plural AFTS, ALB, DAR, SLR). Fragments (NON-, -ANES). Crosswordese (AGA clued as [Topkapi title], and it’s only from crosswords that I learned that a movie called Topkapi exists and that it takes place in Turkey, and only crosswords that taught me that AGA is a Turkish title; soap actress RENA Sofer, ENS as letters). And some of the long answers are tryptophan-snoozy: GLASS CASE, WAXY COATING, TAKES NOTE, some 15s we’ve seen before (Joe himself used PENTATONIC SCALE in a 2008 puzzle). I don’t at all like GO HEAD OVER HEELS, which really wants to be “fall head over heels.” Also, I’m not sure about 45d: Does anyone actually say a stand-alone “NOHOW!” to convey ["Ain't gonna happen!"]? I could see “ain’t gonna happen—no way, nohow!” but not just “Nohow!” Last but not least, this NOVIA, 48d: [Girlfriend, in Granada], is not a familiar word to those who don’t speak the language in question (which I think is Spanish). No, wait, I lied: One more, the Roman numeral LXIII.
Because of how many times I felt my face scrunching up with dismay while solving, 2.9 stars.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Black Friday Checklist” – Sam Donaldson’s review
That thing about tryptophan and drowsiness? Totally legit. But it still didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of this fun crossword from Tony Orbach. Orbach gives us three items on the ol’ Black Friday checklist. (Well, since we’ve only had Black Friday for about ten years–according to this wildly biased (even by Wikipedia standards) article–I don’t suppose we can really refer to a traditional or “ol’” Black Friday checklist just yet.) Here are the items on the list:
- 20-Across: There’s some LEFTOVER TURKEY, [Something to bring out for lunch on Black Friday].
- 38-Across: We’ve got CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, [Something to bring out for decorating on Black Friday]. (Yipes! I tend not to decorate at all–blame it on growing up on Christmas tree farm. But when I do, it’s certainly not until around, say, December 15 or 20. Anyone reading this already have holiday lights up?)
- 54-Across: And there’s CLIPPED COUPONS, [Something to bring out for shopping on Black Friday]. What about pajamas and a thermos of coffee?
- 56-Down: For good measure, there’s the [List ender], ET. AL., short for “everything that’s accidentally leftout” (best I could do with all this turkey coursing through my system, sorry).
I’ll even give credit for GAS-X, the [Beano competitor], as a good item for a Black Friday shopping list, but perhaps that says more about my diet than you wanted to know.
Orbach consistently crams his puzzles with jazzy fill, and this one is representative of his skills. Indeed, there’s lots to MARVEL AT, including IN A TIZZY, PACK A BAG, LET LOOSE, CLEAN UP, and MILIEU. The cost of these treats? Fatty clunkers like MBE (which, to me, is the multistate bar exam, but here is clued as an [Honorary U.K. title], or “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”), ANNEE, SRTA, and everyone’s favorite skewers, EPEES. But those are very small prices for such wonderful juiciness throughout.
Just for fun, name the letter that replaces the question mark in this pattern: ?CING. If you’re like me (get thee to a therapist!), you tried I or A. I went with “I” when I read the first word of the clue, [Spreading...]. But sometimes it helps to read the whole clue. The rest says [...as a memo, for short], and that leads to CC’ING, short for “carbon copying” (this time I’m serious). The lesson, as always: read the entire clue!
Stephen Edward Anderson’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I like that this puzzle doesn’t include a revealer answer whose clue hits you over the head with the theme. Mind you, a revealer of ADD PI wouldn’t have much meaning outside of its theme explanation, as math people seem more into multiplying by π than adding it. A private investigator hiding in the bushes? I don’t know. Here are the theme answers:
- 17a. [Field operation run by idiots?] is a STUPID FARM. How about [Operation that harvests the vegetables after they've rotted]?
- 23a. [Track meet category for joggers?] is a LOPING DIVISION.
- 36a. [Views from Hamilton?] are BERMUDA OPINIONS. You were thinking of $10 bills first, weren’t you? Hamilton is the capital of the British colony of Bermuda.
- 49a. [Hook on a raft?] is a FLOATING PIRATE.
- 59a. [Obsessive cleaners?] are WIPING NUTS. Good thing this wasn’t clued as a verb phrase.
The base phrases make for a fairly lively batch—stud farm, long division, Bermuda onions, and wingnuts are more fun than a floating rate.
- The southeast corner of the grid has two gnarly answers. 56a: [Italian counterpart of the BBC] is RAI, and that sure isn’t common knowledge for me. But our constructor SEA spends a lot of time in Italy so I’m sure it seemed easy to him. Had a hard time getting the last letter because 57d: ["Indeed!"] doesn’t equate to “I SAY!” in my local parlance. The other crazy word in this corner is clued 64a: [Alternate version, in scores], and it’s OSSIA. Doesn’t ring a bell for me at all.
- 6a. [Subj. for Aristotle] begged me to fill in PHIL., but it’s RHET., not a common answer in crosswords.
- 20a. [Thrice, in Rx's] clues TER. I think a lot of doctors don’t even know this one. Fairly woeful. (The answer, not the doctors’ knowledge.)
- 63a. [Ecua. rejoined it in 2007] clues OPEC. I didn’t realize Ecuador was a petro-nation.
- 31d. [Casa Grande residents] are ARIZONANS. Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Casa Grande. *hand shooting up*
- 32d. [Sixpack with no special qualities?] is JOE Sixpack, an ordinary schlub.
- 40d. [Its headquarters are in Delft] clues IKEA. Swedish company, Dutch city?
- 49d. [Jean de La Fontaine story] is a FABLE. Who needs Aesop?
- 60d. The super-hoppy, bitter India pale ale, or IPA, is a [Type of beer orig. brewed in England]. Didn’t know it was from England.
My favorite clue is 21a: [Do the honors] for POUR. As in pouring tea or wine for more than one person.
Jim Holland’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Surprise Endings” — pannonica’s review
Surprise! It’s the old change-the-last-letter theme, this time with film titles. The ploy of dressing them up in their original novel guises doesn’t elevate it to the typical Higher Education vibe.
- 17a. [Novel about holiday candy?] A CHRISTMAS CAROB. The dickens, you say!
- 27a. [Novel about getting British actor Michael to shut up?] THE CAINE MUTING. Did everybody see this when it went around the internet last year?
- 48a. [Novel about a German man's speech impediment?] SCHINDLER’S LISP. The book was originally titled Schindler’s Ark, but now I see that the US version was always called Schindler’s List.
- 61a. [Novel about a lost contact lens?] GONE WITH THE WINK. »Pa-choo!«
Four themers, two of fifteen letters, two of fourteen. Not a huge amount of material there, which probably accounts for the smoothness and quickness of the solve. In the main, the content and cluing of the ballast fill also doesn’t possess the CHE feel—so much so that I doubt the puzzle was intended for this publication. That said, there are some that are spun that way: some classical references with ARES, LEO, CASTOR, schools with COE College and ELON University, literature with ÉMILE Zola, D.H. Lawrence’s SONS and Lovers, Jane EYRE, and Oscar Wilde’s SALOMÉ. I suppose we could add SNEE, MILO Minderbender and ERLE Stanley Gardner to that last category.
- Japanese autos intersecting: Toyota TERCELS and a NISSAN Maxima.
- 52a [How ecdysiasts finish their act] BARE. If I have my lore correct, ecdysiast is a fancy but precisely apt word coined by H.L. Mencken at the behest of Gypsy Rose Lee.
- 30d [Flapper topper] is a CLOCHE, which is French for “bell.” Makes sense, considering the shape.
I guess the theme answers are a bit amusing, but I won’t be remembering this puzzle.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Buyer Be Where?” (pen name, Colin Gale)
Finally gave up waitinfg for the .puz file to be posted and decided to solve it online at the Wall Street Journal website. Ick! Don’t like that interface at all. I like to see more than one clue at a time. So I went the PDF/pencil route, as you can see.
The theme entries all have a hidden 109d: MALL, never used as such when those letters appear inside longer phrases. There’s an unfamiliar-to-me movie, NORMAL LIFE; director LOUIS MALLE; a CROQUET MALLET with an Alice in Wonderland flamingo clue; ANIMAL LOVER (was today PETA’s throw-red-paint-on-fur-coats day?); YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL; FORMAL LOGIC; TITANIUM ALLOY; JAMAL LEWIS; and I’M ALL YOURS. Solid but unexciting; apt topic for the biggest and most horrifying shopping day of the year.
Mystery man: 72d:
LHARRY JAMES, [Bandleader who married Betty Grable]. She’s so much more famous than he is.
Weird clue: 81d: [It may end in a twist] for a PIG. Be…cause of the twisty tail?
Favorite clue: 34a: [One who might have a shot] for a NURSE giving an injection.
Finest fill: LOWBALL, BELLY LAUGH, actress AMY RYAN (Amy power!), QUAVERY voice.
Overall rating: 3.5 stars.