Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
Whoa, I picked the wrong evening to be overcome by tiredness early. That Fireball crossword hasn’t been touched yet! I’d save it for the morning, but have you seen the morning puzzle lineup? Plus I will be gone for a couple hours Thursday morning. So let’s all yawn through this writeup and the next one. (“Ya-a-a-a-awn.” Did you yawn? No? Maybe you need to see a yawn. Here’s video.)
Theme answers flip-flop the vowels in some homophone pairs. The Belmont Stakes becomes BELMONT STEAKS (not clued as horsemeat! Thank you, Alan and Will) and chopped steaks (plural? huh) become CHOPPED STAKES, wagers. Parking brakes turn into PARKING BREAKS, and what city-dweller doesn’t crave such [Discounts at garages?]? Service breaks in tennis turn into the verb phrase SERVICE BRAKES. Fair enough. Not particularly exciting, but also not one of those “seen it so many times before” sorts of themes.
The puzzle gets its Thursday cred from the grid, with the four corners full of 7-letter answers crossing some other 7s, all smooth fill. Note that 42d: SHAKE UP has no “sheik up” partner.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Add-In”
Yay! I did this puzzle over the weekend at ACPT! I forgot about that. Just keyed my answers in and boom, here we go. The title should be read “Add Hyphen In,” because that’s what you have to do to make proper sense of the theme answers. Local color becomes LO-CAL COLOR. A blister pack, B-LISTER PACK. Grated onion (wait, what?? that’s a thing?), G-RATED ONION. And RE-SERVE WINE and S-WORD FIGHT round out the theme. Fair enough, though I don’t know what recipe calls for grating the onion and how your eyeballs don’t flee from the kitchen while you grate a raw onion.
Favorite clue: 8d: [Rock singer?] for a mythical SIREN singing on a rock.
Smooth fill. Let’s call this one 3.75 stars. I might like the theme better if it were always a single letter being split off by the hyphen.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Do I Know You?” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I like themes highlighting interesting coincidences, like the Orca-nominated Horwitz-Hinman puzzle featuring four World Series pitchers that shared a name with a famous musician who had a #1 hit on the Billboard charts. Amazingly, the names were of symmetrical lengths, making for perfect crossword fodder. Today’s puzzle highlights another interesting coincidence: three common clues for “The Stranger” all have 15 letters. So Hartman made the clues into theme entries and used ["The Stranger"] as the clue for each one. Here are the clues, er, theme entries:
- 20-Across: ALBERT CAMUS BOOK. For whatever reason, I really wanted that last word to be PLAY, and boy did screw up the northeast corner. CARP seemed a reasonable answer to [Chesapeake Bay catch] (it did to me, at least), but what [Top point] starts with R? I thought MILD had to be the answer to [Docile], and AMMO had to the answer to [Bombs and grenades], but that made the Camus work into a PLOD. Ugh. Eventually, of course, I got the Chesapeake CRAB and the docile MEEK, but not without considerable strain.
- 41-Across: ORSON WELLES FILM. Didn’t know this, but the crossings made it gettable. Speaking of the crossings, too bad Tim TEBOW is no longer the [Denver Broncos quarterback]. But will he be the New York Jets QB? Stay tuned. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind in thinking of possible answers for [Like a slumber party], but I confess NOISY wasn’t one of them. Also, I didn’t know Adrien BRODY is the [Youngest winner of the Best Actor Oscar], but I like that little nugget of trivia.
- 56-Across: BILLY JOEL RECORD. This one I knew, as I owned the album at one point. I always liked the title track best. “Movin’ Out” and “Just the Way You Are” are close contenders, though.
My favorite clues crossed each other in the southeast. [Made a face?] is a great clue for DREW. But even better, I thought, was [Make Brown green?] for ENDOW. I’m not sure that infusing cash into something “makes it green,” but the wordplay was good enough to induce a smile while solving.
Did anyone else write in EXALT as the answer to [Crow], see the crossing CARB, and move along without even reading the clue? Tsk times three. I only realized it was EXULT after seeing that the clue for the crossing was [Restrain] (CURB is a much better answer for that clue than CARB).
Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Watch out with this puzzle, or you could get burned.
- 17a. [A falsehood in every respect] – PURE FICTION
- 24a. [Chuck Connors title role] – THE RIFLEMAN
- 39a. [Risky activity, and what certain four-letter sequences are doing in 17-, 24-, 49- and 61-Across are doing?] – PLAYING WITH FIRE
- 49a. ["Scream" or "Halloween:] - SLASHER FILM
- 61a. [Actor's liability] – STAGE FRIGHT
This was a pretty straightforward Thursday puzzle for me; not too many misdirects and a familiar theme type. I’ve added the circles in the grid at right; that would’ve made the puzzle even easier had they been given at the start.
Looking back, maybe I was supposed to be fooled by [Shortening name] for CRISCO, as though it involved nicknames or an ABBR. of some sort. Between this and ESKIMO PIE, I think I’ve got food on the brain. I think I need a little LESS FAT, though.
The ALICE who said ["Three inches is such a wretched height to be"] is the one who ventures into Wonderland; this is one of her remarks to the caterpillar.
One more bit harking back to the ACPT: while on the way to the airport, I realized that if the theme for one puzzle had allowed for adding 2 letters to 3-letter abbreviations, we could’ve seen LMFAO SCHWARZ in the grid. I bet Dr. Fill would’ve had a hard time with that.
Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Site Specific”—Matt Gaffney’s review
You know those websites that intentionally misspell words in their names for branding purposes? Brendan works four of them into this puzzle’s theme:
- 17a. [What keeps photos on the internet?] = FLICKR STICK. OK, I had to look up “flicker stick.” But it’s not a thing, it’s a band, so “Flickerstick.”
- 28a. [Question about one's ability to share a webpage?] = CAN YOU DIGG IT? Great site.
- 44a. [Site for hosting winter pajamas pictures?] = THERMAL IMGUR. I’m not sure I’d pronounce IMGUR as “imager” if I saw it for the first time.
- 58a. [Minimalist blog run by Philip?] = GLASS TUMBLR. Flickr and Tumblr should mrg to form a nw company. It’d b awsom.
The fill gives us a nice theme echo at 11-down with KRAZY GLUE. Other good stuff includes RUG BURN, DUKAKIS, JAMES BOND, I GOT IT, VSOP, the evil KGB, ABZUG, CHLOE, GEISHA, SOFT G, MAKE HAY and GO BAD.
- I wasn’t fooled for a second by the clue for SOFT G [Giraffe's feature?]. It’s been years since anyone fooled me on a SOFT G clue.
- At 26a I’m torn on A-OKAY. It’s a fresh new entry but I can’t be too thrilled with its last two letters. AY, what do I do?
- Nice clue for GEISHA [Obi wearer]. Good to see obi on the other side of the clue/answer divide.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Before and After”
We’ve seen one or two recent themes in which both the first and second parts of each theme entry can partner with a certain other word. Ben reaches for a new level of elegance in the before-or-after theme with this “Before and After” puzzle. The prefixes PRE (1-Down) and POST (62-Down) mean “before” and “after,” and PRE can precede word 1 of each theme entry while POST can come after word 2. Now, the added POSTs don’t mean “after,” they just appear after those word 2s; this is because a prefix ain’t a prefix when it is postfixed instead.
- 18a. TAPE TRADING, [*Activity for a band's obsessive fans]. Pretape is a redundant (and existing) term meaning “tape,” and a trading post where you did your bartering business.
- 28a. HEAT LAMP, [*What fast food burgers might sit under]. Preheat the oven, lean on a lamppost.
- 41a. OWN GOAL, [*Soccer blunder]. “Pre-owned” means “used” and a ball that ricochets off the goalpost probably doesn’t score. OWN GOAL is great, fresh fill.
- 50a. ORDER OUT, [*Get Chinese, say]. Preorder is, like pretape, pretty redundant (but “available for preorder” is everywhere and connotes an order that can’t be filled right away). An outpost is, well, you know what an outpost is, right?
- 63a. CEDE COMMAND, [*Turn over military authority]. Not overtly in the language as a discrete unit of meaning, but precede and command post are solid.
- 3d. MARITAL BED, [*Furniture for a couple]. Premarital bedpost. Love seeing MARITAL BED in the grid.
- 33d. SCHOOL SIGN, [*Outline of a girl walking with her mother, often]. I call it a “school crossing sign,” personally. Preschool, signpost.
Seven of these two-way PRE/POST action phrases? Impressive.
Will Shortz and Matt Gaffney are among the eminent puzzlers who don’t consider duplicating words in answers and unrelated clues to be any sort of violation of Crossword Code. This makes me feel better about missing, when test-solving this puzzle, TOOL SET crossing AUDIO with its [What Pro Tools is used to edit] clue. That’s right, people: This is not a problem. (I reserve the right to grouse about it all the same. First Amendment rights, etc., etc.)
Never, ever encountered 31d: PUGIO / [Roman dagger] before, at least not that I recall. I will absolutely cut Ben slack for that answer, as PUGIO crosses three of the seven (or nine, really) theme entries and the middle section is silky-smooth aside from this one obscurity.
Plus! The grid’s kind of Scrabbly. EAZY E and a pre-potty UNZIP with separate Zs, a hairless MANX crossing ROXIE, playfully clued at [Good name for a geologist?]. Other choice answers include DENNY’S, CHAKRA, WON’T DO, and MADMAN. The indie-puzzle flavor comes from obsessively ANAL, a bunch of CRAP, and a dab of SEMEN. (Who among us does not appreciate the lack of cross-referencing here? Although I see a missed opportunity for a little-s santorum allusion.)
Tony Orbach’s Celebrity crossword, “Top 40 Thursday
Tony Orbach’s in a band, but he’s not globally famous and he doesn’t go by the moniker “Tony O.” Which is a shame, because otherwise he could have put himself into today’s theme:
- 1a. JAY-Z, [Kanye West's "Watch the Throne" musical partner: Hyph.]
- 20a. SHEILA E, ["The Glamorous Life" singer and former Prince percussionist: 2 wds.]
- 33a. HEAVY D, ["Big Tyme" rapper ___ & The Boyz: 2 wds.]
- 35a. KENNY G, ["Songbird" smooth jazz saxophonist: 2 wds.]
- 45a. JESSIE J, [British singer of "Domino": 2 wds.]
- 61a. ICE-T, ["Rhyme Pays" rapper who appears on "Law & Order: SVU": Hyph.]
Jay-Z and Jessie J are current phenoms in the recording biz, while the others’ musical heydays may be behind them.
And no, the stand-alone letters at the ends of these folks’ names, ZEDGJT, don’t spell out a secret word. Six theme answers in a 13×13 grid is plenty of thematic goodies for the Celebrity crossword. Fun puzzle, with a nice little “aha” moment when you realize what the theme is.