Hot Crosswords Alert! Three monthly releases are calling out to you:
Patrick Blindauer’s monthly website puzzle for May, to be blogged in this very post, so don’t dawdle!
Pete Muller’s Muller Monthly Music Meta (deadline, May 6).
Brad Wilber’s monthly themeless for April, available with “smooth” (easier) and “crunchy” (tougher) clues. I go crunchy but I’m a few months behind on the “Bewilbered” puzzles. (Am also months behind on the Nation cryptics, and those are weekly!)
Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
Ignore the longest answers in this grid, as they’re not the theme entries. The theme is 38a: CROSS, [Out of sorts ... or what completes the answers to the nine starred clues]. The word CROSS is crossed by 34d: [Weapon for William Tell], or BOW—and it’s a theme answer so consider it to be a crossBOW. The other theme answers cross one another in pairs: crossROADS and crossWORDS in the upper left, cross-COURT and cross-DRESS to the right, Pontiac CrossFIRES and crossBONES down below, and crossHAIRS and cross-BREED in the final corner. The shorter answers in the grid don’t answer their clues without tacking a CROSS onto the beginning.
The highlights in the grid are found among the long fill. BUYS TIME and BEARCLAW, a redundant FREE GIFT, THIRD CLASS, EASY STREET—all good. And who doesn’t love SEAHORSES? The Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans has a lovely collection of seahorses. Plus, Steve Buscemi’s MR. PINK! And an AP TEST, much better than the single word meaning “most apt.” And the old Postal Service mascot, MR. ZIP. How my sister and I loved the plywood Mr. ZIP cutout at the post office when we were little. (Yes, that’s two Mr. answers, but I don’t mind the dupe because both are fun.)
In my debit column, I place fill such as MISSA, ILONA, TASSE, ESE, ALIA, S-SHAPE, SEI, and FAMER. I didn’t have trouble getting them, but I could see them being a turnoff to a newer solver. But it’s a Wednesday solver, and the general difficulty level is also a turnoff/challenge to newbies so tougher vocab is less problematic (though most of these answers make me say “meh”).
Sidebar: This puzzle was puzzle #3 at six of last weekend’s CROSSword tournaments. At the Chicago event, round 3 played out with silent drama. The first two finishers were the finalists from rounds 1 and 2, so their papers didn’t count in round 3. You’d assume finisher #3 would be the finalist, but no—he had an error, just a careless “oops, wrote the wrong letter” making DRESS into DREES. The remaining competitors likely assumed that the finals spot was taken, and we judges figured finisher #4 would run away with it. But she had two blank squares! By this point, it’s getting silly. The fifth fastest person is going to get into the finals?? Guess what. No, really: Guess. That’s right. Finisher #5 had a careless IMATATORS crossing MR. PANK. So the sixth person to finish the puzzle, Alison Howard, who didn’t even want to be in the finals, became the round 3 finalist.
Steven L. Zisser’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
- 20A. [2002 DiCaprio/Day-Lewis historical drama] – GANGS OF NEW YORK
- 28A. [1968 Davis/Lawford spy spoof] – SALT AND PEPPER
- 45A. [1940 Grant/Russell comedy] – HIS GIRL FRIDAY
- 55A. [1962 Rat Pack remake of "Gunga Din" ... or collectively, the ends of 20-, 28- and 45-Across] – SERGEANTS THREE. Referring to noted Sgts. York, Pepper and Friday. Extra points for all being movies, although some deductions for only two of the four being memorable.
Four consecutive “words” you won’t be using in a sentence any time soon:
- 23A. [Ending with stamp] – EDE
- 24A. [U.S.'s Ryder Cup foe] – EUR
- 25A. [Letters from Greece] – NUS
- 26A. [The past, in the past] – ELD
- 41A. [Assured way to solve a crossword puzzle] – IN INK. I never solve IN INK. Tried it once and took forever to clean my monitor.
- 10D. [Dilapidated] – DECREPIT. Oddly likable word.
- 11D. [Like Vegas losers, so they say] – LUCKLESS. Who are “they” and why do they always say stuff?
- 36D. [SiriusXM subscriber, say] – LISTENER. I am one. you can never get enough ’70s songs.
- 48D. [Peter of Peter, Paul & Mary] – YARROW
- 53D. [Christopher who played Superman] – REEVE
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Hi, Mom!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
How fitting that this puzzle had me muttering “Mother…” more than once. The theme features five entries that contain the M-O-M letter sequence somewhere within the answer:
- 17-Across: The [Breakfast orders] are HAM OMELETS. Without some cheese or spinach or tomatoes in there, though, it’s a pretty boring breakfast.
- 38-Across: The [Kenyan port city] is MOMBASA. I wasn’t expecting this one at all, since the Across entries immediately above and below, TITLE ROLES and BEEFSTEAKS, are not theme entries but longer than MOMBASA. Usually the theme entries are the longest answers in the puzzle, but not so in this case. MOMBASA is also unusual in that the M-O-M sequence comes at the very beginning and not buried within the answer, as is the case with the others.
- 54-Across: An ANEMOMETER is a [Wind-speed measurer].
- 11-Down: CAMOMILE TEA is the [Soothing beverage]. I’m more of a hot chocolate guy, myself.
- 25-Down: If you have the time, AT THE MOMENT is a fancier way of saying [Now].
A couple of entries have taken up residence outside my wheelhouse and are waving at me in a taunting manner. In my world, EXE is a type of computer file, not a [Devonshire river]. And SCHERZO is just a typo, not a [Sprightly composition].
But much of the rest of the fill is quite fun. It’s apt to see FEMALES in this grid, but a little surprising to see them crossing MR. MACHO. I also liked STAX, the [Lay's competitor to Pringles], GOOEY, SEXTS (note the comma–it’s not “GOOEY SEXTS”), and TWO BITS, the expression my father always used to describe a [Quarter, slangily].
Aimee Lucido’s Onion AV Club crossword
Note the special green highlighting of the active square. This week’s theme is about a cousin of 1a: HEMP, marijuana:
- 17a. BITTER HERB, [Seder plate staple]
- 24a. ROPE-A-DOPE, [Muhammad Ali tactic]
- 35a. BLUEGRASS, [Music with banjos and mandolins]. My husband and his guitar just started their third consecutive bluegrass class at Old Town School of Folk Music. He’s really digging it, and he’s passing up things like Who, Beatles, and Black Keys ensembles to keep taking bluegrass.
- 50a. GILLYWEED, ["Harry Potter" plant that looks like a bunch of rat tails]. Helpful for extended breath-hold diving ventures.
- 57a. GOING TO POT, [Out of shape...or a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Herb, dope, grass, weed, and pot are all slang for marijuana.
If the G-SPOT is fair game for the New York Times crossword (two recent appearances, if memory serves), it certainly works in the less genteel AV Club. But Aimee’s clue is [It's orgasmic], and that doesn’t seem like an NYT clue.
My favorite bits include the BUELLERS (fair game because Ferris’s mom and sister were key supporting characters in the movie); WIG OUT; “TOO SOON” as a critical [Response to a joke about Whitney Houston's death, perhaps]; [Lose at poker, perhaps] cluing STRIP; and even PUS (because I recently experienced the wonder that is pain relief and infection eradication after a concerted ooze thereof–don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).