Jim Page’s New York Times crossword
Well, the crossword was the last thing I wanted to do at 9:00, but I persevered. And then I had a mistake, aptly, making 13a: LIVE ART instead of LIVE ACT. Never even saw that it made 14d RRUD instead of CRUD—I was just so relieved when 24a turned out to be TO-DO rather than POKY, because [Gunk] cluing ***K had a high risk of evoking great offense. And then! The offense revealed itself down at 54a, where [One caught by border patrol] clues ILLEGAL as a noun. Oh. My. Word. The Times is going to get letters on that one, isn’t it? The newspaper and its crossword don’t usually come off as if Rush Limbaugh writes them.
So. The theme is MARGIN FOR ERROR, with those three words in a rather scattershot placement of three separate entries. The answers around the grid’s margin are all synonyms for “error”: SLIP-UP, FLUFF (which is most correct when it is a marshmallow product in a jar), TYPO, MISCUE, HOWLER (much beloved as a monkey), BONER (I still don’t know anyone who currently uses this word to mean “mistake” rather than “erection”), TRIP (Payne! Trip Payne has an upcoming puzzle extravaganza for a few bucks—check out his website and see if this is something you want in on), and FUMBLE.
Now, this ERROR puzzle is FLAWED because 7d is FLAWED, and isn’t that mighty close in semantics?
It’s also flawed because of the insane words in the fill. FETTLED means [Lined, as a furnace hearth]?? AGENTRY is a [Representative's work]?? I have vaguely heard of this [1960s title sitcom character] FENSTER, but it’s only slightly more familiar than 55a: [Market town that's a suburb of London], REIGATE, which I Googled to double-check while I was looking for my RRUD error, so unfamiliar was REIGATE. Some Susan EGAN I never heard of. The word form RESPECTER, not heretofore encountered. And LIGHT PENS are also news to me. I am a mighty adept solver, and for me to run into this many unknowns in anything that’s supposed to be easier than a Saturday NYT or Newsday “Saturday Stumper” is surprising.
In the plus column are LATE RISER, WHASSUP, OHIO STATE, and MUD PIE.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Scrabble Breadth”
I don’t even know the full theme because that 17a clue is too long. Why is Across Lite too stupid to wrap the text when the clue is long? The “also appears above the grid” kludge is useless when the clue is this long because the font goes microscopic. Lessee (which I’d like to be clued as a slangy “let’s see” sometime instead of a boring lease-related noun): Both STRAIGHTFORWARD and PLAINCLOTHESMEN are kosher-for Scrabble 15s, and both are UNINFLECTED (no tacked-on word endings here) and TRISYLLABIC (hey! the word is a lie, self-referentially). I have not had the opportunity to play one of these 15s in Lexulous.
As for the rest of the puzzle. it’s fine. Not much jumped out at me as memorable or problematic. I don’t know this old “IT’S TOO LATE” song but guess what? It’s too late. I need to close up shop for the night. 3.75 stars. No, make it 4.0. I’m fond of CARR’S Table Water Crackers and am within three feet of a mostly empty box of those crackers right now.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Time Frames” – Sam Donaldson’s review
54-Across tells us that SEC is a [Brief time] (it’s short for a “second,” itself a short duration) and also a letter sequence [(found in all four theme answers)]. As he did in his most recent CrosSynergy puzzle, Ashwood-Smith manages to place the S-E-C sequence in the exact center of each 15-letter theme entry. (This time I noticed that extra touch!) Here are the theme answers:
- 17-Across: [Sushi, e.g.] clues JAPANESE CUISINE. Throw in some gyoza and miso soup and you’ve nearly got a meal.
- 25-Across: To be ON CRUISE CONTROL is to be [Driving at a fixed speed, maybe]. Normally a blogger might comment on the extraneous ON found at the start, noting it has nothing to do with the theme. But for reasons that will be clear sometime next week, I’m not going to complain about it. Hey, sometimes the symmetry requirements don’t break as nicely as you would like, so you just have to adapt.
- 43-Across: To [Proceed carefully] is to EXERCISE CAUTION. There’s an “Exercise Caution” sign at my gym, and I’ve long thought there should be a colon between those words.
- 57-Across: One [Statement of frustration] is WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY. Another is I’M MAD AS HELL, but that’s for a “DASH”-themed puzzle.
Did you notice the foreign invasion in the fill? SOU, ETES, HAJI, EAU, SRIS, AGRA, and CHOU. If you wanted to cast a broader net and include words that have become American-ized, there’s also PRIMA donna, ETUI, and BRIE, though the last one sounds substantially less foreign to my ear.
The one that’s bugging me the most, though, is RAT-TAT, the [Drum sounds]. Isn’t it RAT-A-TAT? I see there’s rap song called “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat,” but that’s about it. But even if RAT-TAT is okay, it seems to me like the answer should be RAT-TATS if the clue refers to more than one drum. (In case you’re wondering, these sour grapes are all I have in the fridge right now.)
My favorite part is stacking BLAH atop SO-SO and giving them the same clue, [Far from exciting]. That also summarizes my view on the fill, though I concede it’s not easy to get sparkly fill with 60 theme squares. I did like [Stand-up type?] for COMIC, and I think SINUOUS is a lovely word.
Barbara and Don Gagliardo’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Looks to me like there’s something missing from this puzzle, but I’ve been advised to keep it G-rated.
- 35a. [Massachusetts school ... and a description of the two-word meeting that occurs at each circled letter] - HOLY CROSS
And the six HOLY crossings are:
- SEE/WATER (heh… say that aloud)
- SPIRIT/CATS (I’ve never heard “holy cats!” before)
I enjoyed that this theme was spread out all over the grid and had a bit of a visual element. Great execution of this idea, in my opinion. A tough foothold in the lower right – SO SORRY and PUT IT ON could both begin with different words (I’M, TRY); this was second only to the obvious misstep at 1a. with SSGT for TSGT for me. Seriously: in crosswords it’s always SSGT. Who changed the rules today?
LET LOOSE looks great – but does it match with the overall tone of the puzzle? (BTW - Doesn’t matter.) The symmetric pairing of HORROR and PSYCHO is awesome/eerie; so is the presence of ATOM ANT. I didn’t know TONE ROW, and I nearly had a music minor, so this ranks up there in the “trickiest but legitimate” fill I think I’ve seen in the LAT puzzle. On the other hand, DEAR ANN just doesn’t feel right to me the same way DEAR ABBY would. Does this feel contrived to you like it does to me? Overall, though, high marks from me.
Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday”
When something notable happens in the world of pop culture, you should wonder when a Celebrity crossword will focus on it. Last weekend’s untimely death of golden-voiced Whitney Houston may have been bigger news than the entirety of the Grammys, so here we are five days later to honor her memory.
- 15a/49a. [With 49-Across, singing superstar who left us last Saturday] is WHITNEY HOUSTON.
- 27a. [1992 movie starring Kevin Costner and 15-/49-Across: 2 wds.] is THE BODYGUARD. The soundtrack featured Whitney’s massive hit song, “I Will Always Love You.”
- 33a. “HOW WILL I KNOW” is a [Song by 15-/49-Across that hit #1 in February 1986: 4 wds.]. If you were never a big fan of Whitney’s music, do go listen to the isolated vocal track for this song. Without music, without Auto-Tune, just that crystalline voice.
The typical New York Times tribute puzzle packs in a ton of thematic answers, but the Celebrity crossword mode is to keep the theme compact so as not to force tougher fill. These puzzles are intended to hook newcomers into the crossword habit millions of us already love, and a grid with things like ERSE, ERNE, and THEDA can serve to alienate new solvers by making them think there’s something wrong with them for not knowing those words—when hardly anybody other than longtime crossworders knows them.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Can You Rephrase That?”—Matt Gaffney’s review
This theme is slightly cheesy, but I liked it. BEQ gives us six familiar idiomatic phrases and redefines them literally. Hilarity naturally flows:
- 16a. ["Pour pets from the skies"] = RAIN CATS AND DOGS. It’s raining cats and dogs as I type this.
- 27a. ["Use a mirror to practice puckering"] = WATCH YOUR MOUTH.
- 32a. ["Beside zero"] = NEXT TO NOTHING. This one could’ve used a snappier clue, maybe ["Where Zippo and Nada sit, at the Zero Convention?] Well, something like that.
- 42a. ["Stop reading 'Casper' comics"] = GIVE UP THE GHOST.
- 54a. ["J.K. Rowling buddy novel about a cat detective"] = TOM, DICK AND HARRY.
- And last, but not least — spanning all five theme entries: 64d. ["Like the loser of a who's-thinnest competition"] is LAST BUT NOT LEAST.
- I had HERPES (in the grid, I mean) at 45-d for [You might get this after picking someone up]. Excellent answer-specific trap, which kept me messed up down there for a long time (the trap, not the herpes! Which I never even had in the first place).
- It’s not easy to get a clean grid with six long theme entries, but Brendan did it. The fill weaves effortlessly through narrow spaces, like Jeremy Lin driving through the paint to draw three defenders before dishing it over to Fields or Chandler. BEQ-Sanity!
- The upper-middle and lower-middle of the grid are good examples of this — three long theme entries zipping thru those regions, but not a cringeworthy entry in sight.
- Good fill roundup: I’M A MAC, OH GOSH, NOOB, FTW, BTW. You won’t be surprised to find out that there aren’t any fill words longer than 6 letters — again, all those themers.
- I thought we were getting an ARA Parseghian reference at 18-d, but no.
Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ. This was a puzzle to beat the band, as my grandmother used to say.