Steven Riley’s New York Times crossword
Aww, fun theme! SQUARE DANCE is rendered visually by running the names of six dances around 2×2 or 3×3 squares in symmetrical grid locations. The HULA, FANDANGO (which was just the Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day on Saturday, or I’d've never known it was a dance: Long before it was a website for buying movie tickets, fandango was (and still is) a seductive dance for two. You’ll want to grab your castanets before you hit the dance floor, because those are required for authenticity. Fandango is from Spanish, but no dictionary ventures anything further than that; the OED notes, rather cryptically, that the word is “alleged to be of African origin.”), BOOGALOO, MACARENA, HABANERA, and HORA fit themselves in among the regular Across and Down answers.
The fill that’s entangled with the dancing squares tends towards ugliness or supra-Wednesday vocabulary (EMAG/AMARNA/EGGAR in the northwest corner, for example, and GNARS AZO AMYL O-REN), but we also get ISUZU, NEUTERED beside G-SPOT, RAZZ, and EUROPOP. Shout-out to Martin Herbach for recounting tales of his IKEBANA exploits a few years ago, and his efforts to satisfy an incredibly exacting teacher of this [Japanese flower-arranging art]; not sure I would have remembered the word otherwise.
- 48d. TAILOR, [Either of two characters in "The Emperor's New Clothes"]
- 61d. OHS, [17 of them are sung before "my gosh" in a 2010 #1 Usher hit]. Catchy!
- 63d. THA, [Everyday article in rap titles]
Regular commenter Bananarchy has an interview with today’s constructor. Check it out. (The Campus Crosswords outlet they refer to was started by yesterday’s NYT constructor Milo Beckman, and Caleb Madison is also a Campus Crosswords constructor. They’re in the Harvard Crimson and on the lookout for more college papers to publish in.) Thanks for the interview, Peter.
Norm Guggenbiller’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
Debut for Norm G? Welcome, if so. Welcome back, if not. Today we have 2-, 3-, 4- and 5(!)-word phrases, the last word rhyming with “AIR”, but with a different spelling each time.
- 17A. ["Doesn't bother me!"] – SEE IF I CARE!
- 35A. [After "on," relying mostly on hope in desperate circumstances] – A WING AND A PRAYER. I am torn between whether this is an awesome five-word answer or a 15-letter partial. I’ll give it a pass.
- 57A. ["Shake!"] – PUT IT THERE!
- 10D. [Chick flick subject] – LOVE AFFAIR
- 25D. [Schoolyard handshake] – PINKY SWEAR. What did Tuscadero do when Fonzie saw another girl?
- 14A. ['60s-'70s Twins star Tony] – OLIVA. I know my ’70s baseball. Not as useful a skill as it was once.
- 15A. [Sautéing acronym, à la Rachael Ray] – EVOO. Extra virgin olive oil.
- 41A. [__ fit: tantrum] – HISSY. Seems dated but I like that term.
- 44A. [Boxer Max] – BAER. Is this a sixth theme entry? Not sure how it is pronounced?
I do declare this is a perfectly fine puzzle. *** stars.
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Traveling” – Sam Donaldson’s review
According to 55-Down, the last Down entry on the far-right side of the grid, TRIPS are [Voyages, and an apt finish for the ends of 21-, 34-, 45-, and 56-Across]. I was a little surprised to see this as the revealer, as earlier I had seen TREK, the [Covered wagon journey, e.g.]. There’s a lot of touring going on here!
In any case, the last word in each of the identified Across entries is a word that can precede “trip:”
- 21-Across: In mathematical notation, the [Square] represents the SECOND POWER (“power trip”).
- 28-Across: [Clark Kent, to Superman] is his ALTER EGO (“ego trip”).
- 45-Across: The ["Pillow Talk" actress] is DORIS DAY (“day trip”). She took a day trip, a Sunday drive, yeah.
- 56-Across: The [High-visibility bullet] is the TRACER ROUND (“round trip”). Now if only it was slow enough such that one could duck.
I really liked a lot of the shorter fill here: IT’S DONE, SPHINX, HIT UP, RUN IN, USED TO, NO TIP, the complete name version of ED ASNER, HOT AIR, ZIPPO lighters, and Gordon GEKKO are all good. It’s not just greed that’s good, Gordon.
Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
It’s a half-anagram theme:
- 17a. DEIST OF WAR, [Rational believer in a foxhole?]. Tides of war.
- 24a. BELOW GREASE, [Where "Battlefield Earth" ranks among John Travolta movies?]. Elbow grease.
- 37a. LETTER SORTING, [Post office activity, or a hint to this puzzle's theme].
- 50a. BEGIN EATING, [Dig in?]. Binge eating.
- 59a. GINSU DRUGS, [Pills to improve one's infomercial knife-wielding?]. Using drugs.
I don’t see any common factor unifying this set of phrases with anagrammed words, or their original phrases. Am I missing something? The theme seems a little loose without some kind of unity, and Tyler is usually so scrupulous that I suspect I’m not seeing something.
Commenter David points out that 5a: CRASH is clued as [2004 Best Picture winner], when it had a 2005 release and received the Oscar in 2006. I don’t think there’s any ironclad rule about whether we should go with the year of the movie’s release or the year in which its Oscar was presented, but in any case it appears that 2004 is right out. It is, however, the year that CRASH premiered on the film festival circuit (an Oscar “year” is based on theatrical release).
Shoot! I just ran out of blogging time for now. Fill not quite as ambitious/sparkly as Tyler usually goes, but it works. 3.25 stars because I don’t see an overarching thematic unity aside from “letter sorting.”
Frank Longo’s Celebrity crossword, “Wayback Wednesday”
Plenty of Hitch in the Wayback Machine today:
- 16a. NOTORIOUS, [1946 Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman thriller directed by 51-Across]
- 18a. FRENZY, [1972 thriller directed by 51-Across]
- 33a. TO CATCH A THIEF, [1955 Cary Grant/Grace Kelly thriller directed by 51-Across: 4 wds.]
- 49a. PSYCHO, [1960 Anthony Perkins/Janet Leigh thriller directed by 51-Across]
- 51a. HITCHCOCK, [British director of classic thrillers]
- 3d. Plus, ANNE HECHE, [Actress who starred in the 1998 remake of 49-Across: 2 wds.]. The less said, the better?
Other retro content includes Elvis’s label, RCA; the Grand OLE Opry; classic MOE of the Three Stooges; “The DICK Van Dyke Show”; the FONZ; and HEDY Lamarr.