Todd McClary’s New York Times crossword – Doug’s review
Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Amy’s taking a well-deserved night off, so you’re stuck with me.
My first time blogging the NY Times in ages, and I get a Todd McClary puzzle. Nice! Todd’s known for his clever themes, and today’s is a doozy. The long entry at 62-Across is the key: [Gather wealth by exploitation ... as hinted at by this puzzle's circled squares?] - FEATHER ONE’S NEST.
As you can see in my handy solution grid, Todd’s included three birds (ROBIN, LOON, HERON) who have indeed been feathering their nests. And in each case, the feathers are clued in a way that doesn’t suggest a nest:
- 20a. [Smoke column] - PLUME.
- 45a. [Depressed] – DOWN.
- 67a. [Declaration of independence signer?] - QUILL.
My favorite part of the whole thing might be that HERON is actually part of FEATHER ONE’S NEST. That’s an elegant touch.
While I’m on the subject of Todd’s cleverness, I should point out that he periodically posts “Unthemely” puzzles on his blog, The Autofill Project. High-quality themeless puzzles with loads of fresh vocabulary. Check them out.
Some cool stuff in the rest of the puzzle too.
- 36a. [Disc-shaped vacuum cleaner from iRobot] - ROOMBA. Now that’s a fresh entry.
- 57a. [La Salle of "ER"] - ERIQ. Has he been in any shows besides ER? Let’s see…Wikipedia tells me that he plays the psychiatrist E-Mo in A Gifted Man. E-Mo? This guy’s good at getting into crossword grids.
- 66a. [It may be used with a plunger] - TNT. Great clue.
- 68a. [Online memo] - E-NOTE. Not my favorite entry. It’s there to facilitate the inclusion of the flashy XANAX, but E-NOTE doesn’t show up much outside of crosswords.
- 1d. [Measure for a batter? Abbr.] - TSP. Cake batter, e.g. Another great clue. I appreciate constructors & editors who put extra effort into cluing old crossword standbys.
- 33d. [Privately] - ON THE QT. Love this entry. The phrase reminds me of Danny DeVito’s character’s catchphrase from one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential: “Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”
- 56d. ["We're Not ___ Take It" ("Tommy" Tune)] - GONNA. I remember the remake by Twisted Sister. I’ll spare you by not posting the video.
Is that it? I think we’re done. See you in the comments.
Gary Steinmehl’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Some sad news accompanies the byline in the Across Lite version of this puzzle. Gary Steinmehl, writer of hundreds of puzzles across various venues, passed away at the end of January. You can read a detailed obituary here. Let’s have a brief moment of silence for Gary before getting to today’s puzzle.
- 20a. [The smile on an email happy face] – PARENTHESIS
- 37a. [Barrier-breaking noise] – SONIC BOOM
- 56a. [Exalted group leader, facetiously] – GRAND POOBAH
- 65a. [Encouraging cry, such as the one formed by the ends of 20-, 37- and 56-Across] – CHEER
A basic Tuesday theme – no complaints here. I’m glad CHEER was in the grid, as I’m not sure I would’ve seen the common bond without it. I’d have liked to see RAH RAH to start it out (begorrah? menorah?), but that might’ve been too much for keeping symmetry and order. I still like it.
Hey, who expected ANTARES and TENACE crossing in a Tuesday? What’s more, the word tenace is made up of two card ranks. That’s pretty neat. Having the clue as [Bridge holding such as ace-queen] maybe wasn’t the best choice with ace hiding in the answer? It gets the job done.
My favorite entry in this grid is HEAVE-HO. I hadn’t heard the term [Bum's rush] before, but it’s just like walking papers. You’re outta here! The clue [Teen haunts] hardly seems timely for ARCADES. The last time I saw an arcade was on vacation in Ocean City, MD. It was less a teen haunt and more a breeding ground for bacteria. (That didn’t stop me from getting my Skee-ball on, though!) I guess Pac-man Fever’s going into remission these days.
Aimee Lucido’s Celebrity crossword, “TV Tuesday”
Today’s television theme was one of those I had to rely on the crossings to get. A show I’ve never heard of is the topic:
- 13a. CARTOON, [With 50-Across, cable station that broadcasts 29-Across]
- 18a. RAINICORN, [Lady ___ (Jake the dog's girlfriend on 29-Across)]
- 29a. ADVENTURE TIME, [Animated TV series with Jake the dog and Finn the human: 2 wds.]
- 39a. ALGEBRAIC, [Finn's exclamation in 29-Across]
- 50a. NETWORK, [See 13-Across]
I know Cartoon Network! But that is where my knowledge of this theme ended. My kid doesn’t watch this show, I don’t think. Maybe it’s on Adult Swim after his bedtime? No, it’s rated TV-PG. The animation looks funky. This show should get super-popular! You know why? Because the show’s fictional continent is the “Land of Ooo,” and crossword constructors could use an alternative to [Winning tic-tac-toe line] for cluing OOO.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Drink Up”
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you Cheech Marin … well, you know what to do.
- 17a. STORY ARCADE, [Where to play games like Little Red Riding Kombat and Jack and Jill's Skee-Ball?]
- 23a. CHEECH MARINADE, [Meat preparation in "Up in Smoke"?]
- 34a. “IS IT JUST MEADE?,” [Question from viewers if TV's Robin will get a cohost?]
- 48a. MENTAL BLOCKADE, [Imaginary cutoff of supplies?]
- 54a. ABOVE PARADE, [Where cartoon character-shaped balloons fly?]
I like the sounds-like-it’s-almost-a-real-phrase MENTAL BLOCKADE and I’m crazy about that CHEECH MARINADE answer. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Favorite non-theme entry: 46a: B-MOVIE, [Flick where you might see planets held up by fishing line]. Word to the wise: Those are small models of planets. Real planets are notoriously difficult to hook up to fishing line.
Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Front Burner” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Today’s puzzle is so smokin’, I had to wait a few hours for it to cool down before I could post this write-up. (Yeah, let’s say that’s why I’m late with this review.) 65-Down tells us that HOT is [All the rage - and a word that can precede each part of 20-, 39-, and 56-Across]. Sure enough, you could sneak a “HOT” not once but three times into each theme entry:
- 20-Across: HEADLINE TOPIC (hot head, hotline, hot topic) is [The latest celbrity transgression, say?].
- 39-Across: WATERBED SPRINGS (hot water, hotbed, hot springs) is a [Hydro-mattress support?].
- 56-Across: CORNER TUB SEAT (hot corner, hot tub, hot seat) is the [Cozy spot in a spa?] (I could make a case for the spot on a massage table as being cozier, but that’s not the point.) Not familiar with “hot corner?” That’s third base. Not familiar with third base? It’s an ambiguous situation that’s more than kissing but just this shy of, um, well, gee. Scoring?
It’s a little weird that the first two “hot” words in the first two theme entries form a compound word but the first two words remain separate in the third theme entry. That may seem picayune, but I’ve learned it’s the little details like that to which some crossword editors pay close attention.
That microscopic nit is the only (very small) blemish on an otherwise fun theme in a grid that has some great stuff. I love LIGHT INTO and ON THE TAKE, both very conversational terms that nicely counter some of the more URBANE entries like The ILIAD, Jane EYRE, and stuff like ERELONG. I thought the clue for the advertising award, CLIO, was terrific: [Award given to the creators of Dos Equis' "The Most Interesting Man" ad]. Great contemporary reference, even if I hate that particular commercial. My favorite clue, though, was [Bottled spirits] for GENII. You’ve got to rub them the right way.
Stay solving, my friends.