Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword
This is Kyle’s debut in the NYT, following on the heels of a couple LA Times puzzles. Congrats! Kyle’s a grad student here in Chicago who has attended the Marbles Crossword Tournament, most recently helping out as a judge. I play the Will Shortz of the event and thus am super grateful to everyone who judges. (Shout-0ut to Kent Brody here, too. And Anne Erdmann, Bob Petitto, and Katje Sabin in past years.)
Kyle’s theme is Elgar’s ENIGMA VARIATIONS, which is a work of music I know (like so much classical music and opera) only from crosswords. It’s perfect for crosswords, though, given that ENIGMA = puzzle. The variations on ENIGMA are the anagrams contained within longer phrases (the full word gamine gets no love). MEAN GIRLS, GRAVEN IMAGE, STEAM ENGINE, and GAME NIGHT all split those nonsense anagrams across the word break. MEAN GIRLS and GAME NIGHT are particularly lively theme entries, aren’t they?
My favorite answers in the fill: TABLELAND, or [Mesa], because I saw my first mesa since childhood last month in Colorado. AVAUNT ["__, and quit my sight!": Macbeth], because of its Shakespearean charm. LOVE NEST, because it’s awesome fill. PATENT LAW, because a neighbor once worked in that field.
- 4a. MOSSO, [Rapid, in music]. Just quizzed my musical husband. “What’s ‘mosso’ in music?” He shrugged. I’m guessing it’s not so well known since I’ve never (to my memory) seen it in crosswords either.
- 7d. [Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du __"] SOLDAT.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Special K”
This week’s theme adds a special K to familiar phrases to change the meaning. In each theme answer, a two-word chunk that follows the “a __” format takes the K at the beginning, turning that ending into a single word:
- 17a. [Get a gold nose ring?] turns “smell a rat” into SMELL KARAT.
- 37a. [Report from the musical instrument store?] takes the movie We Bought a Zoo and makes it the ungrammatical WE BOUGHT KAZOO. I hear this in an Eastern European accent.
- 62a. [Finish up with Tom's wife?] turns “end in a tie” into END IN KATIE.
I enjoy that old Russian dude saying “we bought kazoo” in my head but the rest of the theme doesn’t do much for me. Yay for consistency in theme answer formation, but meh for the actual phrases.
Gotta love it when 1-Across is your third guess. [__ nectar]? Probably GUAVA. Or PEACH. AGAVE? Oh, right. The sweetener in the bottles. Not to be confused with another agave byproduct, tequila.
- 22a. LES PAUL, [Electric guitar pioneer]. Cool guy.
- 43a. [Joe amount] is a CUPPA coffee, not a Joe Sixpack.
- 67a. I GOT A ["___ Man" (1992 hit by Positive K)]. Never heard of it. Is it here just because of the K in the band’s name?
- 9d. [Attack the attacker], BITE BACK. I like that answer.
- 27d. ["Whose Line Is It Anyway?" regular Colin] MOCHRIE. He’s the slightly ostrichy one from Drew Carey’s old improv TV show.
- 41d. [Aptly-named precursor to Wikipedia], OPEN SITE.
- 64d. [What some golfers use as a scoring goal], AGE. Old golfers, unless we’re talking nine holes.
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Course Work” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Confession: I love horse racing. There’s something about the thundering sound of horses at full speed, the drama of watching the horse in last place suddenly find that burst of speed that propels it ahead of the pack as they near the home stretch, and, not unimportantly, the chance to win money that casts a spell on me. So I realize I’m not going to be able to offer the most objective review of today’s Patrick Jordan offering.
The theme, in case you haven’t figured it out, relates to TRACK CONDITIONS, the [Horseracing factors found at the starts of 17-, 26-, 45-, and 62-Across]:
- 17-Across: The [Basketballers' offensive drive] is a FAST BREAK. What, no reference to Fast Break, the Gabe Kaplan vehicle about a college basketball coach? Why does classic cinema get the cold shoulder?
- 26-Across: MUDDY WATERS is the [Blues guitarist born as McKinley Morganfield]. I dunno, “McKinley Morganfield” has a jazz-hipster ring to it already, no?
- 45-Across: GOOD EVENING is a [Greeting at a soiree], as is WHO ARE YOU WEARING and WHICH MERCEDES DID YOU BRING TO THIS EVENT.
- 62-Across: The [Saucy hamburger alternative] is SLOPPY JOE. Bobby Hill, the boy on King of the Hill, had the best description ever for bad sloppy joes: “My sloppy joe is all sloppy and no joe.”
If you ever plan to bet on a horse race, you’ll likely consult a racing form that tells you all kinds of things about the horse’s past performances. The condition of the track in a prior race can be helpful to let you know how the horse is likely to react in a certain setting. Some horses actually do fairly well in sloppy conditions, as others need a pristine (or “fast”) track to really shine.
A couple of months ago, three-time ACPT champ Dan Feyer gave me some helpful advice: Patrick Jordan likes to make all of his grids into pangrams, so be on the lookout for rare letters. Sure enough, you’ll see every letter in that grid, but it doesn’t feel forced. Of the entries with rare letters, I liked SQUIRT, to [Make like a water pistol], and FLEXED, [Did some posing in the Mr. Universe contest] best.
There wasn’t much to slow me down, though I did have FIFI as the [Traditional dog name] instead of FIDO for a while. I’m sort of proud of that error. If you’re going to make a mistake, go big.
Andrea Carla Michaels’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
An early-week puzzle from an early-week maven. Let’s see what ANDREA’S whipped into shape for us today.
- 17a. [Ships' drop-off location?] - BERMUDA TRIANGLE
- 26a. [TV witch series based on L.J. Smith novels] – THE SECRET CIRCLE. Why haven’t I heard of this? Oh – it was on The CW, and just got canceled. Yikes.
- 45a. [1989 Beijing protest site] - TIANANMEN SQUARE
- 59a. ["Field of Dreams" field] – BASEBALL DIAMOND
Shapes end each of the 15-letter theme entries – straightforward and clean. I tried WHEW for PHEW, but other than that it all came pretty cleanly. AUTOMAT isn’t fresh in the sense of being a term we hear a lot these days, but it’s still nice in the grid.
Two things that felt a little tricky for a Tuesday:
- [Cyclades island] – IOS. Isn’t iOS what an iPhone uses? Either way, this is a hard one for a Tuesday.
- [One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters"] – OLGA. It makes sense.
The rest seemed A-OK for today. But was ALFS really necessary? Really?