Allan Parrish’s New York Times crossword
If you built a giant version of this crossword out of wood, you’d need to cut some TEAKS into lumber to make it. Each theme answer ends with an anagram of TEAKS. We’ve got TENT STAKE, ROLLER SKATE, MINUTE STEAK, DOUBLE TAKES, and JOHN KEATS. Not much to say about that. It is, as they say, what it is.
The corners and the middle look good from afar with all the 6s and 7s, but I dunno, I wasn’t loving those sections. LAILA and BARDOT crossing four straight names (SELASSIE, CLARK, ADIDAS, MEL OTT)? ILENE crossing ISAK? Hmph.
My mystery answer of the day: ["Get back, ___ … Go home" (Beatles lyric)] clues LORETTA. I know the song, sure, but never, ever had any idea there was a Loretta in the lyrics. I am notoriously bad at picking up lyrics if I haven’t read them.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Spell the New Year”
Can you spell the new year? Does that begin with “t-w-o t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d” or “t-w-e-n-t-y”? (Language maven Ben Zimmer discusses that choice in his latest Boston Globe column.) Either way, it ends with “t-w-e-l-v-e” and those letters are found in order (but spaced out) in the theme entries:
- 16a. [Car feature (see letters 5, 6, 9, 10, 14 and 15)] is FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE.
- 33a. [With "The," 1994 movie with Anthony Hopkins and Dana Carvey (see letters 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 15)] clues ROAD TO WELLVILLE. It’s about nutty cereal kooks of yore.
- 51a. [Queen song covered by Nine Inch Nails (see letters 3, 6, 11, 12, 14 and 15)] is “GET DOWN, MAKE LOVE.” Never heard of it.
Not the most entertaining sort of theme, is it?
- 4d. ["Flight of the ___"] CONCHORDS! I can’t believe HBO canceled the show. Nice to get a little Conchordy goodness in the recent Muppet movie, at least.
- 9d. [You can make a mountain out of one] clues a MOLEHILL. You know what, though? It’s going to take a hell of a long time (and a lot of rocks) to make that transformation.
- 34d. [One of two fought between the U.K. and China] clues an OPIUM WAR. See? Now that’s what I’m talking about. The current “war on drugs” would be much more popular if we called it an opium war.
Lots of proper nouns in this puzzle. L.A. RAM, ROTO-Rooter, OCELO, ELAH, EURAIL, HAAS, CHAS, PHIL, TORRE, SEAL, The SIMS, The SOUP and SPAMALOT, RENÉ, ORFF, CONCHORDS, ALIA, NAVI, SHEL (those last three all crossing ELAH? Ouch), JOLIE, SPADE, AGRA, ETNA, and LOIS? How many is that, 24? About twice as many as is many solvers’ limit.
Bernice Gordon’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
This is a puzzle theme that shouldn’t be chucked:
- 20a. [Sounding relieved] – HEAVING A SIGH
- 25a. [Doing witches work] – CASTING A SPELL
- 42a. [Preparing greens] – TOSSING A SALAD
- 47a. [Losing it] – THROWING A FIT
We’ve got synonyms starting our theme entries, and they all go in slightly different ways. I like that each of this is a full-fledged phrase. The -ING A ends up being a freebie once you’ve figured it out the first two times, but I think that’s the only way to successfully carry out this theme. What I think this puzzle could go without is so many “cheater” squares! I thought yesterday’s LAT puzzle had a lot, but this one has 10 cheaters. With theme entries of length 12-13-13-12, there’s not a real need for any cheaters unless there’s some other tour de force going on – did I miss something?
There’s some neat fill in here – my favorite piece was COLD FEET – [A last-minute loss of nerve] – in the SE corner. Spelling bee fans recognize the [Big name in newspaper publishing], SCRIPPS – but the LAT doesn’t belong to them. A nice act of cross-promotion… or maybe it just fit in the grid. I love a WAPITI, and was surprised to see one in a Tuesday grid. Maybe we’re going to start to see harder early-week grids soon. And ELSA is a constant reminder that I need to watch Born Free.
Tricky crossing of the day:
- 49a. [Nastase of tennis] – ILIE; he was a big deal back in the ’70s – would I lie to you?
- 62a. [New Zealand parrots] – KEAS; somehow I forgot this key bit of crosswordese. Shame on me!
A neat theme here, but I’m not crazy about the rest of the execution. But maybe this piqued your fancy today!
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Repeat Performance” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The four theme entries each begin with a homophone for the letter “C:”
- 17-Across: A SEA SERPENT is an [Imaginary snakelike swimmer]. True story: when I took swimming lessons just before starting kindergarten, I had to be rescued from the shallow end by the swimming instructor. From the shallow end. Even though I could clearly hear him shout, “Just stand up!” So it should come as no surprise that I think of myself as an “imaginary swimmer.” I’m just not snakelike (at least I think not).
- 28-Across: A [So-so scholastic calculation] is a C-PLUS AVERAGE. Under today’s rampant grade inflation, of course, C+ is the new F.
- 47-Across: Another way to say ["Good-bye"] is SEE YOU AROUND. I like “Vaya con Dios,” but you couldn’t exactly use it in a homophone theme.
- 63-Across: SI, SENORITA is an [Affirmative answer to a Mexican miss]. As we have seen recently, “oui” can work in a homophone theme. “Oui, Michelle Wie, we are playing golf on the Wii.”
It was smooth sailing after I got out of the northwest corner, but that section made for a very slow start. I’m not well acquainted with five-finger discounts, so BOOST as the answer to [Shoplift, slangily] was hardly a gimme. I was fine with OPRAH and even ORATE as the answer to [Speak at length]. But then I hit a little wall. It took two crossings to get MAE (West, I presume) as [Cary's co-star in "I'm No Angel"] (Cary Grant, I presume). And I kept wanting NORIEGA as the [Former Nicaraguan leader] instead of ORTEGA. Heck, it even took a while to suss out THE GAP as the [Big name in casual clothing since 1969].
Lots of fun stuff in the fill, including TV HOSTS [Colbert and Stewart], the THREE IRON that I almost never use, and even an ARMOUR hot dog next to some BEAN SALAD. Are any current players for the ASTROS really [Houston celebs]? Notice it only takes one YANKEE to have the same weight in this grid as the entire ASTROS organization. And I’m not even a Yankees fan. Just sayin’.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, I tried BOOBS as the answer to [Dolly's notable feature], but only after plunking down VOICE first (honest!). The answer, alas, was BOSOM.