Ron and Nancy Byron’s New York Times crossword
Luckily, I have an appointment in 14 minutes (gathering with the neighbors in the boiler room to show them how to operate the new controls) so I can’t spend much time on this puzzle, which I didn’t much care for. The NO “EL” theme was passable, but the fill felt outdated to me.
The theme: Five movie titles have an L taken out of them and are reclued accordingly. THE BIG SEEP gets a La Brea Tar Pit riff. THE ION KING doesn’t really work for me—which Nobel-winning chemist might be considered a king of ions?? Wha…? CASH OF THE TITANS missed an opportunity to include an archaic Greek coin in the clue (c’mon, crosswordese obol!). PUP FICTION evokes Lassie rather than, say, Cujo; old-fashioned vibe here. And then there’s WAYNE’S WORD referencing John Wayne.
While I enjoyed the THIN ICE/EAT DIRT crossing and the [Prim and proper, e.g.] SYNONYMS, the Scowl-o-Meter kicked into overdrive with the whole ENCLS TAMA ONENO URI DSO EENIE NERI OREL HESSE YSER SHES SOT MHO INGA ORAN TENON explosion. Really, having just a small handful of those entries would have been making me frown a bit. And how many years has it been since the Toyota CRESSIDA was made? Eighteen years.
Now, if you preferred the crosswords you were doing back in the Weng or Maleska era, then this puzzle may well have been right up your alley, but my alley is in another ZIP code. Two stars from me. (You are free, as always, to disagree with my assessment.) And I’m done one minute early! Woo-hoo.
Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword
If you do the L.A. Times puzzle online but missed Tuesday’s post about the puzzle’s new format, check it out.
Donna’s theme today builds to a FEVER PITCH, the answer that unifies the other theme entries:
- 17a. A SPRING ROLL is a [Crisp cylindrical appetizer]. Spring fever? Winter officially starts Wednesday night and I’m thinking I’m ready to move on to spring already.
- 27a. A key [Tango necessity] is a DANCE PARTNER. Did somebody mention Dance Fever? What better timing than to show you a video of Deney Terrio’s Christmas 1981 Dance Fever special.
- 38a. [Jaunt that might get straw in your hair] is a HAYRIDE. Hay fever! Get it while you can!
- 46a. A CABIN CRUISER is a [Pleasure craft] of the boat variety. Cabin fever kicks in around January 10 in the Midwest.
- 63a. [State of excitement (generated by the starts of 17-, 27-, 38- and 46-Across?)] is a FEVER PITCH.
I like SPLEEN clued with [It might be vented] and LARD clued as [Pie baker's shortening] (though my pies all have butter or vegetable shortening). I like the homecoming BONFIRE, and I like John MCENROE, and I like “MARY, MARY, quite contrary.” The rest of the puzzle seemed a little shy of Donna’s usual level of snappy fill and cluing, which means it’s an average sort of 3-star outing.
Francis Heaney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Quite a good puzzle—a solid theme, lots of 7- and 8-letter answers, some super-fresh entries, and entertaining clues. The theme is the 59a: R.E.M. BREAKUP, [2011 headline in music news (I know one of them quit years ago; sue me for preferring the classic lineup)]. I couldn’t tell you which one of Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe left, nor who might ever have served in his stead, so Francis’s approach works for me. The band members’ names are “broken up” by other letters in longer words/phrases:
- 18a. [Not have the luxury of strolling] = BE IN A HURRY.
- 23a. [What low-rise jeans may reveal] = BUTTCRACK. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this answer in a crossword puzzle before. My advice to you: Tuck in a shirt that won’t ride up and let the breeze hit your crack.
- 37a. MINI-MALLS = [Smallish shopping plazas].
- 53a. [Frosty's hat, e.g.] = STOVEPIPE.
My favorite things this week are these:
- 34a. UNIBALLS! I wouldn’t say Uniball Micro pens are really [Sharpie alternatives], other than that both are in the broadest category of pens. I have given up my love affair with the Uniball Micro, though. Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball, in assorted colors. That’s where it’s at.
- 39a. [Inside info, slangily] is THE SCOOP.
- 13d. W.B. YEATS is the [Poet who wrote "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold"].
- 30d. [Pudding's top layer, if it's been left out] is a FILM. *shudder*
- 43d. [Some love a man in one] is a lovely clue for UNIFORM. I have no particular fondness for uniforms, however. Where’s the individuality? (The repeated UNI- prefix is no problem because the one answer is super-fresh and the other has a super-fresh clue. Saved!)
- 45d. [Having overcome religious conditioning, perhaps] clues the new-to-crosswords answer EX-EX-GAY. You could just call that “gay,” but then you leave out the personal history of the “ex-gay” conversion period.
- 62d. ["Voulez-vous coucher avec ___ ce soir?"] is probably the ideal clue for MOI.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Governmental Reorganization” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Take three familiar terms, anagram one word in each term to form a federal agency, then clue the result. That’s the recipe for today’s crossword from Patrick Jordan. It yielded a fun twist on the traditional anagram gimmick. Here are the theme entries:
- 20-Across: The [Passageway in a government group's building?] is the HALL OF F.E.M.A., a play on “hall of fame.” As Brownie can tell you, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is the federal government’s disaster response organization. It became an independent agency in…anyone? anyone?…in 1979, after breaking off from the Department of…anyone? anyone?…Housing and Urban Development, an organization which itself anagrams into…anyone? anyone?…into DUH. Nice work, everyone.
- 39-Across: The [1932 film about a swinging government group agent?] is TARZAN, THE E.P.A. MAN, a play on Tarzan the Ape Man featuring the Environmental Protection Agency. Anachronism Alert! A 1932 film about the E.P.A. would be quite prescient, given that the agency was not created until 1970.
- 56-Across: The [Budget-cutting decree for a government group?] is to TRIM THE A.T.F., a variation on “trim the fat” that swaps out the fact in exchange for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The A.T.F. derives its name from a college fraternity in rural North Carolina. (J.K., if I may be allowed to be hip for a moment. There, the moment has passed.)
The grid is a pangram, but the fill doesn’t feel like it was compromised just to make it happen. I liked both the EASY MARK, the [Swindler's perfect victim], and the HALF-PINT, an [Unimportant person, slangily], and seeing the complete name of EZIO PINZA is a nice touch. Heck, I even like ABDOMINAL, the [Kind of muscle worked by sit-ups], even though I’m a fan of neither sit-ups nor my own abs (hmm, cause and effect?). Oh, and a shout out for FIZZ, the [Effervescent sound] that uses two of the grid’s three Z’s.
I’m still waiting to see [New year's orgy?] as the clue for SEXTET. In the meantime, we have a [Hockey team, for example].