Kevin Adamick’s New York Times crossword
Today’s theme is 4/4 word pairs stacked together in a pinwheel formation around the edges of the grid. Structurally, it’s a tad weird because then you have a third 8-letter answer in each quadrant to fill out the stack, and those answers are entirely unrelated to the 4/4 gimmick.
1a: MAHI MAHI is good, while 15a: “AMEN, AMEN!” strikes me as weird (not one of those churchGOERS so I wouldn’t know if this is actually solid). Really wanted 13d to be WINK WINK to go with the elbowing “nudge, nudge,” but it turned out to be “HINT, HINT.” Its partner, 14a: “YADA, YADA,” is better. The movie 64a: LIAR, LIAR is solid, while the 8-letter partial 66a: SERA SERA is misbegotten. 35d: AGAR-AGAR is the longer name of our crosswordese friend AGAR, and doubling it sure doesn’t make it go down easier. 36d: BORA BORA is good and shares 1a’s Pacific vibe.
Sing Sing prison would’ve been decent, and choo-choo would’ve been fun. I’m sure you can think of other 4/4 options for theme entries.
Lots of odd fill here. 9a: HITCHY is obscure and oddball. 20a: NENE is crosswordese and mildly distracting as a 2/2-structured answer. Nobody in sports commentary would ever call a 28a: [Tennis whiz] an ACER. I’ve never heard of 38a: LACERTA, [The Lizard constellation]; with mostly common letters, you’d think it might show up in the occasional Saturday puzzle if it were at all familiar; Cruciverb’s database shows its last appearance as a Sunday NYT in 2000. Not sure that tanned leather can be 52a: RETANned, but those “tanorexic” types who are addicted to tanning beds might possibly be said to RETAN. And possibly the worst 3 of the month, 61a: LAR, [Actress ___ Park Lincoln]. Who?? Wikipedia explains, “She is perhaps best known for her roles in the 1987 film House II: The Second Story as Kate, and in the 1988 horror film Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood as Tina Shepard.” O-o-okay, then.
The word count of 70 is low enough for a themeless puzzle, but when you’ve got a Wednesday puzzle rather than a Thursday one, it would be nice to rejigger the grid layout to loosen things up in a 76- or 78-word puzzle.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Calling the Pied Piper” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Interesting that I solved today’s puzzle using only my keyboard instead of my keyboard and mouse. It’s interesting because the puzzle is already full of RATs. You’ll find a RAT added to the ends of four different two-word terms that get re-clued as new expressions:
- 17-Across: The Brat Pack (Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, et al) becomes the BRAT PACK RAT, a [Hoarder with an attitude?]. Have you ever seen Hoarders, the cable show that features the homes of real-life hoarders? It seems many of them indeed have attitudes, but I suppose I would too if I felt my way of life was about to be challenged.
- 28-Across: A Navajo rug becomes a NAVAJO RUG RAT, or a [Native American toddler?].
- 49-Across: The jungle gym, a playground staple, becomes a JUNGLE GYM RAT, or a [Bodybuilder from the rain forest?]. This one’s easily my favorite, though the other two just mentioned are also strong.
- 63-Across: Finally, the Red River morphs into the RED RIVER RAT, a [Rafter who got too much sun?]. This one induced more of a “Meh” from me, but it’s hard to compete with JUNGLE GYM RAT.
This is the second consecutive CS puzzle to feature stacked long Downs in two corners, and I still admire it. MOVIE ROLE and the very lively UP AND AT ‘EM in the northeast are awesome, but even ANNULMENT (with the terrific clue, [Union buster?]) and GINNIE MAE, the [Organization that assists with home ownership] are solid.
I kinda wanna deduct a half-point for the presence of RATTAN, but it’s not really a duplication. It’s just a larger word that starts with the R-A-T letter sequence. So I’ll leave the points as is.
Other great clues in this puzzle included [Garden party?] for EVE and [Something beaten up while hanging around] for PIÑATA. I liked how the grid included both ALTER and EGO, allowing for the fun cross-referenced clue of [Spider-Man, to Peter Parker]. That’s all for now. Excelsior!
Aimee Lucido’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I only understood half of phrases-with-Santa’s-reindeer theme:
- 17a. DONNER PARTY, [Theme of a reindeer's birthday celebration?]. Word to the wise: Skip the cake.
- 28a. CAPTAIN COMET, [Reindeer commanding a ship?]. He’s a comic book character I’d never heard of.
- 46a. CUPID SHUFFLE, [What a reindeer does before dealing?]. No idea what that is. Googling… It’s a 2007 song and its associated line dance, by Cupid. Catchy.
- 62a. BREAK DANCER, [Destroy a reindeer's will?].
- 1a. ["Fortune" turner] is VANNA White. Never heard anyone call it “Fortune.” “Wheel,” sure.
- 11a. VAT, [Brain container in a thought experiment]. Is this about Schrödinger’s cat?
- 20a. AREOLA, [Painful thing to pierce]. Is this a first? For a crossword to clue AREOLA as the nippular ring rather than a vague “colored ring” or “pupil surrounder”? And more importantly, is there any body part that isn’t painful to pierce?
- 57a. [Constructing crossword puzzles, arguably] is an ART. As with all art forms, sometimes the result is schlock and more rarely you end up with something transcendent.
- 7d. OPAL, [Jeweler's mineraloid]. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that clue for OPAL before.
- 33d. [Giant Jesus] is Jesus ALOU. [Ex-Cub Moises] would not be nearly as fun.
- 47d. [More than fast] isn’t supersonic, it’s STARVE.
Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The PHONE is an [Instrument used to give someone the end of 18-, 27-, 43- or 55-Across], those words being BUZZ, JINGLE, CALL, and RING. As in “give me a buzz,” etc.
- 18a. OSCAR BUZZ, [February Hollywood speculation]
- 27a. RADIO JINGLE, [Station-branding tune]. “Ad jingle” feels more in the language to me than “radio jingle,” but then, I’m not in the radio business.
- 43a. CURTAIN CALL, [Applause acknowledgment]
- 55a. CLASS RING, [School souvenir]
I started this puzzle with 1-Down through 5-Down, and two of those clues felt off-base to me. 2d: ERRATA aren’t [Manuscript mess-ups], they’re mistakes that made it into the final printed product and may or may not have been present in the manuscript. And while 3d: COINED is a valid verb for what goes on at the mint, I’m a wordy person who prefers the “coin a new word” angle over the literal, metal-being-stamped [Made cents].
Favorite clue: 12d, [Round item in a square box] for PIZZA PIE.
11d: ABUTMENT is a boring word, but I appreciate the Dr. Scholl’s insole mislead of [Arch support]. The Tower Bridge in London has a South Abutment Arch featured in videos here. And if you are looking for great insoles, the Official Insole of Crossword Fiend is the Powerstep. Costs a lot more than Dr. Scholl’s, but my feet say it’s worth every penny.
Could do without plural COES, ORONO, and the boring 3s (ETE ORL VHS TAI LAN DOL), but I like POLAROID (did you hear about Kodak’s stash of weapons-grade uranium?), IRONCLAD, and BANGED UP. Overall rating. 3.25 stars.