Wesley Johnson’s New York Times crossword
This puzzle’s got a totally laissez-faire attitude, with all the DOESN’T CONCERN ME, COULDN’T CARE LESS, IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM, NO SKIN OFF MY BACK sass. Sure, some of these phrases would sound better with an “it,” “I,” or “it’s” added to the beginning, but four 15s makes a beefy enough theme and those words’ absence jacks up the devil-may-careism.
Pretty sure this inaccuracy has appeared again and again: 38a is clued [Pago Pago’s place] and the answer is SAMOA, but Pago Pago’s the capital of the U.S. territory of American Samoa. The independent nation of Samoa is an altogether different island and geopolitical entity, and its capital is Apia. I bet the NYT crossword isn’t syndicated in any Samoan newspapers. I was just scrolling through the Samoa Wikipedia article looking for a nonexistent section on the Samoan news media and instead I found pictures of a naked tattooed man. Where’s Waldo?
Least expected clue: The partial A TRIP at 32d is clued [“___ to the Moon” (seminal 1902 sci-fi film)]. There were sci-fi movies about space travel in 1902??
Not much else of note in this puzzle, good or bad. 3.25 stars.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Telling Tales” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Ross takes six(!) two-word terms ending with word synonymous with “tale” and re-imagines each term as a “tale” told by an appropriate storyteller:
- 16-Across: The [Tale told by an assistant at a duel?] is a SECOND STORY, a variation on the “second story” of, say, an office building. The second’s job at a duel is to make sure the dueler is well-cared for and, if the dueler loses, to pick up the parts.
- 19-Across: The [Tale told by a ballerina?] is a DANCE RECITAL. Nothing against ballerinas (especially those that look like Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman), but this theme entry felt a little flat to me.
- 32-Across: The [Tale told by a sweater maker?] is a KNITTING YARN.
- 42-Across: My favorite theme entry is this one–the [Tale told by William Tell?] is a SWISS ACCOUNT. You can bank on that story being a good one. (Bonus points for “tale,” “told”, and “Tell” all appearing in the same clue.)
- 56-Across: The [Tale told by an Arabic dancing girl?] is a BELLY WHOPPER. I think this one would have been my favorite if the term “belly whopper” was more familiar to me. I know the “belly flop” but not the “belly whopper.” I got the “whopper” part in the puzzle with no problem. But all I could think of for the start was “Burger King.”
- 61-Across: The [Tale told by a skier?] is a DOWNHILL LIE. A “downhill lie” refers to when a golfer’s feet stand uphill from the ball, forcing the golfer to have dig deeper with her swing. They’re hard to hit, though I have enough struggles with even lies.
I tend to like these “re-imagine a common phrase” themes, so this one worked for me. Given the constraints (explained more fully in the next paragraph), it’s impressive to see all the stacked sixes in each corner. I especially liked PRE-TAX (but that’s probably just me), DAPPER, E-CLASS, and FABLES. For some reason I always seem to fall for the trap set by clues like [One of an “inquisitive” foursome?] for SHORT I (there are four short “i” vowel sounds in “inquisitive”). I did here, too, but even though I’m disappointed in myself for falling victim yet again, I really liked the clue.
I was less impressed with the fill, but I’m not saying I could do any better. Four of the six theme entries are 12 letters long, and that makes for some tricky fittin’. There’s basically no choice but to have theme entries stacked to some extent, and when you have that restriction in play, it’s very tough to get smooth crossings. That’s why you have an abundance of iffy stuff like SSS, INE next to EER, STENOG, DRS atop SAS, and so on. As someone who admires theme density, I was okay with the compromises here, but you may have a different view. Four theme entries with entirely smooth crossings or six theme entries with some marginal fill mixed in–what’s your pick? If the theme is entertaining enough (like this one was for me), I’m fine with the latter.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “You Missed!”
The prepositions have gone haywire in Matt’s puzzle this week. When you throw a ball, you don’t want to miss, but in this theme, all the “throw + preposition” verb phrases and words have missed the basket on purpose.
- 20a. [Add atop a refuse pile, after aiming out and missing?] clues THROW ON THE TRASH instead of “throw out the trash.” This makes me think of the TV show Hoarders.
- 34a. [Sports uniform for an all-out brawl, after aiming back and missing?] clues a THROW-DOWN JERSEY instead of a throwback jersey. I like this one better than the two verb phrases, simply because it’s more interesting than changing the preposition in a verb phrase. Are throw-down, throwback, and throw-up the only nouns made by combining “throw” with prepositions (and maybe “back” is an adverb)?
- 53a. [What your dog might do after eating his way through your linen closet, after aiming in and missing?] is THROW UP THE TOWEL. Dogs!
Did you notice the themeless-grade grid, with those four corners of open space? Tougher than the usual Jonesin’ puzzle, what with the somewhat awkward TREATS AS and REHARDEN in the southwest sector and HUSHEDLY on the opposite side.
Six more clues:
- 24a. [Room where church records are kept] is the VESTRY. I kinda thought that would be where clerical garments were stored.
- 48a. [National code-breaking gp. (found in VACATION)] is ACA. Without that VACATION boost, I wouldn’t have gotten this one. I don’t even know what it’s short for, but I bet it’s not the chiropractors’ association.
- 49a. [Member of a duo that “went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat”] is THE OWL, of “The Owl and the Pussycat” fame.
- 61a. [Magnus Carlsen’s game] is CHESS.
- 35d. [“Letters to a Young Contrarian” author Christopher] HITCHENS. Rest in peace.
- 37d. [Rapper with the 2011 hit “Work Out”] is J. COLE.
My favorite clues/answers are [Happy acquaintance?] for SNOW WHITE, [“Surprised?” follow-up] for DON’T BE, and the squarish FIG NEWTON.
Patrick Berry’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”
You know what? I don’t think I’ve ever regularly watched an FX series. Saw a couple episodes of Nip/Tuck back in the day, but that’s about it. The cable network leans toward edgy dramas that garner critical acclaim, such as the topic of today’s TV theme:
- 15a. CHARLIE HUNNAM,[Jax Teller’s portrayer on 41-Across]
- 20a. RON PERLMAN, [Clay Morrow’s portrayer on 41-Across]
- 36a. KATEY SAGAL, [Gemma Teller Morrow’s portrayer on 41-Across]
- 41a. SONS OF ANARCHY, [FX drama about an outlaw motorcycle gang]
Today’s other famous people in the puzzle include EDIE Falco, DON Cheadle, The Fifth Element director LUC Besson (I love that movie), DIDO the [Single-named singer of “White Flag”], Joel and Ethan COEN, the KOCH brothers of Tea Party bankrolling fame, ALAN Tudyk of Suburgatory, cartoon ABE Simpson, CHANNING Tatum, Nick NOLTE, fictional Hollywood agent ARI Gold, CONAN O’Brien, TOM Selleck, Lamar ODOM, Travie MCCOY, Paul DANO (who played the silent teenage brother in Little Miss Sunshine), KE$HA, Hilary SWANK, Dane COOK, ALI Larter, and rapper NAS. Twenty-one names besides the three full names in the theme—if this weren’t a pop-culture crossword, it would be patently unfair to solvers. But it is a pop-culture crossword! Hopefully the intersection of various names didn’t give you any dreaded “deadly crossing” squares.
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
We’ve got a concealed letters puzzle today that hits a home run with some extra baseball trivia:
- 17a. [Top banana] – MISTER BIG, perhaps played by Chris Noth?
- 25a. [A low-flow showerhead will help lower it] – WATER BILL
- 30. [50 cents, in slang] – FOUR BITS
- 35a. [Baker’s container] – FLOUR BIN
- 50a. [Hit generating four 70-Across] – GRAND SLAM
- 54a. [“The Iron Horse,” baseball’s all-time 50-Across recordholder] – LOU GEHRIG
- 70a. [One of them is hidden in 17-, 25-, 30- and 45-Across] – RBIS
Lou Gehrig’s mention does seem like a bit of an ODD BALL – he leads in grand slams, but Hank Aaron (also nine letters) leads in RBIs. What led to this entry choice? Was this just an attempt to validate the presence of the grand slam in the puzzle? Maybe I’M LOST. Still, a lot of thematic content. The cluing for A LEG UP makes it feel like a six-letter partial, but I’m partial to it nonetheless. Apparently Jason ELAM‘s 63-yard field goal is a recordholder, too – though he shares it with Tom Dempsey and Sebastian Janikowski. Top clue here? [HI Hello] for ALOHA, in its vast redundant glory. This puzzle was a winner by me.