Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword
I don’t recall seeing a variation on this theme before, and I like it. Seems like it’s probably been done before because it seems so obvious now, but of course it’s not a theme that ever occurred to me before. Well executed. The riff is “X of Y” phrases in which the Y word can double as a person’s name:
- 18a. WORK OF ART, [Man's labor?]. I have Art Carney and Harry and Tonto in mind here.
- 23a. CRACK OF DAWN, [Woman's flippant remark?]. If this were an Onion or BEQ theme, I don’t think we’d have that “flippant remark” clue.
- 37a. ARTICLES OF FAITH, [Woman's journalism?]. I hope some small-town paper somewhere has a column with this title by a writer named Faith.
- 53a. BUNDLE OF JOY, [Woman's package?]. This is what we call a Crying Game clue.
- 59a. BOARD OF ED, [Man's plank?]. Now I’m wondering if there’s any school superintendent named Ed who calls his Little Guy “Board of Ed.”
You see how diligently Will Shortz worked to keep this theme out of the gutter and I put it right down there anyway.
I get tired of seeing too many “IN A __” crossword entries because sometimes they’re just semi-lazy ways to fill a corner more easily, and I didn’t much like IN A TRICE here. Then I felt better when BUNDLE OF TOY was obviously wrong and we got the sprightly IN A JIFFY instead.
Top clue/answer combos:
- 6d. EX-WIFE, [Splitsville resident?]
- 8d. GRR, [[Damn, this is frustrating!"]]
I rather liked “Rock the CASBAH,” FODOR travel books, and the garden GNOME too. Four stars. I’d give it more, but I’m not sure the puzzle gets credit for all the amusement I found for myself amongst the theme entries and clues.
Mark Bickham’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
Theme: Words that can precede BODY. 60A. [Physiques, and what the starts of the answers to starred clues are] – BODY TYPES
Other theme answers:
- 18A. [*Handycam project] – HOME MOVIE. An umpire is a Home Body.
- 23A. [*Graduates' burdens] – STUDENT LOANS. Universities have many a Student Body.
- 34A. [*Marshall Plan subject] – FOREIGN AID. A Foreign Body is in a place where it doesn’t belong.
- 42A. [*Frustrating call response] – BUSY SIGNAL. Yente and/or Yenta is a Busy Body.
- 50A. [*Cornerback's responsibility] – WIDE RECEIVER. Wide Body is a plane I never seem to get on anymore.
- 20A. [Maritime special ops force member] – NAVY SEAL. Maritime makes the clue too easy.
- 40A. [“Let __ Cry”: Hootie & the Blowfish hit] – HER
- 66A. [“__ a Letter to My Love”: 1980 film] – I SENT
- 6D. [Drummer's pair of cymbals] – HI HAT. This has appeared 3 or 4 times lately.
- 10D. [They may involve rants] – BLOGS. They do not! That is so ridiculous! Stupid puzzle! Stupid clue! Stupid answer!
- 19D. [__ à trois] – MENAGE. Mommy, what’s a MENAGE à trois? Go ask your father and his friend, dear. Another BODY theme answer?
- 50D. [Revolutionary general known as Mad Anthony] – WAYNE. Doug, can you think of another way to clue WAYNE?
A good example of the overused “word that follows” theme. ***½ stars.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Lending a Helping Hand” – Sam Donaldson’s review
70-Across says that AID is the [Helping hand that’s been “lent” to the four longest answers], meaning that “AID” has been inserted into common expressions and nouns to form wacky new ones:
- 17-Across: “Bring on board” has been changed to BRAIDING ON BOARD, with the clue [Working as a cruise ship hair stylist, say?].
- 27-Across: “Men In Black” morphs to MAIDEN IN BLACK, a [Goth girl?].
- 46-Across: Your everyday “prep school” changes to a PRE-PAID SCHOOL, an [Up-front alternative to a student loan?] (this one was my favorite).
- 62-Across: Those Commie “red squirrels” become RAIDED SQUIRRELS, a description that could be used when one [Made a surprise attack on an acorn cache]. Something about an “acorn cache” really makes this clue shine.
The strategic arrangement of black squares offers visual appeal through the “Ls” that frame the center of the grid. But they also facilitate a very clean fill even though there are 59 theme squares occupying fixed space (70-Across counts because it is painstakingly placed in the lower right corner as the last Across entry). We get treated to NEON GAS in Las Vegas, a C-CUP, and a MIX-UP that gets everything ASTIR. Sounds like the plot to The Hangover.
I had NUDGED as the first answer to [Moved a little], but I didn’t like the crossing NOERS as the [Dutch South Africans]. Say what you will about them, they’re just not that cynical. It’s safe to call them BOERS, though, meaning the movement in question is BUDGED.
ROLL-ONS looks great in the center of the grid, but wouldn’t it have been cool if it was stuck under one of the “arms” formed by the L-shaped grouping of black squares? Okay, I think I need to get outside and get some fresh air….
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
It took me a long time to see the theme here. The four 11-letter Across answers aren’t thematic at all. Instead, 3-letter entries with two-part clues with “up” and “down” components are hinting at two answers, not one. The “up” word is found by turning upward in the grid at the end of the short word fragment, and the “down” word by turning downward. Like so:
- 17a. FLA, [Fire up, or beat down]. FLAME when you travel upward in EMAILED, FLAILED when you go down.
- 21a. TRA, [Followed up, or stomp down]. TRACED up in DECAMP, TRAMP down.
- 38a. GAL, [Balls up, or winds down]. GALAS up in SALES, GALES down.
- 40a. PAR, [Mock up, or rear down]. PARROT up in TORRENT, PARENT down.
- 60a. CAR, [Load up, or touch down]. CARGO up in OGRESS, CARESS down.
- 62a. STI, [Prop up, or bite down]. STIRRUP up in PURRING, STING down.
What elevates this theme a ton is that the “up” and “down” phrases are all real verb phrases, to be reinterpreted literally. So “fire up” doesn’t mean “arouse” or “stir” here. It means word meaning “fire” traveling up, ergo FLAME. The only blot on the theme is that in 40a, “rear down” doesn’t sound like a real phrase to me. Horses rear up, but when they un-rear, they’re just coming down, aren’t they? Is there another “rear down” verb meaning that escapes me?
Anyway, try to come up with another pair of words that start with the same 3 letters and can be clued with words that pull double duty in verb phrases that include “up” or “down, and whose endings can split up and down into real words. Really. PURRING with an IRRUP up and an ING down, EMAILED with an AME up and AILED down. Could you come up with six such word sets? Holy purring cats.
Hey, WAIT A SECOND. I just now noticed that the grid is not symmetrical, despite having filled in the grid once for PuzzleSocial testing and then again this morning. Those 11s are all flush right! A lack of symmetry has exactly zero effect on the solving experience, if you ask me—except for the improvement in user experience that fiddling with the blocks can make possible. Six funky up-and-down theme answer trios plus a quartet of interesting 11s and three sections of 7s? Yeah, I’ll do without pretty symmetry for that.
Five stars! It’s a smart theme concept that’s executed well (albeit dispensing with grid symmetry), and that has smooth fill and fun clues (like 65d: TIT, [Bird some library computers might block you from searching for]).
Addendum! Apparently my brain is unable to process top/bottom symmetry even though I can always tell when a crossword has axial or left/right symmetry. Thanks for the correction, Joon.