Eric Williams’s New York Times crossword
Remember Frank Costanza’s Festivus airing of grievances speech, beginning with “I got a lot of problems with you people”? (It’s a Seinfeld reference.) Over the years I have come up with a cutoff for the number of names and other proper nouns in a crossword, a limit beyond which a lot of solvers will feel overtaxed. That number is 14. This puzzle, not counting the theme answers, hit the 20 mark. The puzzle marked its territory right off the bat—1d and 2d, CLEARY and ROLLIE, cross two capitalized title words, two people’s names, one game name, and just one lowercase word. Why make CRASH a title here? Why clue LOTTA with some 1978 song I have zero memory of, despite being a radio-obsessed 12-year-old then? (Edited to add: Wait! I know that song! The singer wasn’t ringing much of a bell. It’s the one that starts, “It’s gonna take a lotta love.” Duh.)
I suspect those 9-letter fill answers will also throw some solvers out of whack, as VIN DIESEL and LOANER CAR (themselves good entries) look like theme answers more than the four 5-letter theme answers (LIGHT, SABER, DARTH, VADER) do.
The rest of the theme hinges on the coincidence that the two actors who’ve played OBI-WAN KENOBI have names of equal length: ALEC GUINNESS and EWAN MCGREGOR. It might’ve been nice, a constructor friend suggests, to stretch the grid to 16 squares wide so that OBIWANKENOBI could be a single entry, and to make room for LIGHTSABER and DARTHVADER as 10s instead of split 5s.
Deadliest crossing: Square 47. 38d [__ pros. (court record abbr.)] clues legalese abbrev NOL, and 47a [Father-and-son Hollywood duo] clues LADDS. What the …? There’s Alan Ladd and … I got nothin’. Not Cheryl Ladd, not Diane Ladd. I think, after consulting the estimable Herr Doktor Professor Google, that the “and son” refers to David Ladd, who was married to Cheryl Ladd. Um, he isn’t famous. Alan, who died in 1964, was famous. Horrendous crossing here.
Least familiar answer for m: 34d RED DOG, [Blitz, in football]. Never heard the term, which crosses four proper names (including the aforementioned LADDS) and the [Currency board abbr.] DOL. Tough spot for non-football fans.
Most assertively Only in Crosswords answer: 14a AREAR, [To the back]. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary doesn’t even list the word.
Jack McInturff’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
- 17A. [*It's lower during dry seasons] – WATER TABLE. Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Just sayin’.
- 23A. [*Index that measures skin sensation] – WIND CHILL FACTOR. A lottery win in Canada is considered a windfall and is completely taxfree. If I win the lottery I would be able to quit this blogging job.
- 36A. [*Road trip respite] – PIT STOP. The odds of winning the lottery create a pitfall in my plan.
- 38A. [*Winter storm respite for some] – SNOW DAY. A snowfall is the falling of snow from the sky.
- 47A. [*Knocked loopy] – DOWN FOR THE COUNT. Downfall is the falling of down from the sky.
- 58A. [Lag, and a hint to what the starts of the answers to starred clues have in common] – FALL BEHIND. A behind fall is better known as a pratfall.
- 20A. [Cockney abode] – ‘OME. I can be very forgiving in the fill department but I really, really ‘ate ‘OME!
- 7D. [Two-time Grammy winner Patti] – LABELLE
- 11D. [Movement to promote equitable commerce] – FAIR TRADE. I’ll trade you Expo ’67 for a World’s Fair to be named later.
- 32D. [Kid in Westerns] – CISCO
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Some Similes” – Sam Donaldson’s review
I’m as happy as a clam that I got through this puzzle in relatively short order, despite feeling as a sick as a dog (well, it’s just allergies, but I’m working with the theme here). The theme entries are all similes:
- 17-Across: [Simile #1] is COOL AS A CUCUMBER. Frankly, cucumbers are somewhat nerdy, as vegetables go. They’re not nearly as cool as the carrots and asparagus.
- 26-Across: [Simile #2] is QUICK AS A WINK. “Quick as a flash” is slower. But “Quick as The Flash” is considerably faster.
- 46-Across: [Simile #3] is STRONG AS AN OX.
- 61-Across: [Simile #4] is STUBBORN AS A MULE. I’ve heard that comparison on more than one occasion.
The four similes are both familiar and lively. I get the funny feeling I’m missing some extra layer to this theme, however. It’s not the first time I would be as blind as a bat, but after looking for some link between “cool,” “quick,” “strong,” and “stubborn,” and then for some connection between “cucumber,” “wink,” “ox,” and “mule,” I just don’t see it. I’ll feel as a mad as a hatter if there’s something else to the theme.
I’ve never heard of OPI, the [Nail polish brand with a color called Lincoln Park After Dark]. Its website lists all the available shades–my favorite is “A Good Man-darin is Hard to Find,” though “Teal the Cows Come Home” is pretty too.
Favorite entry = LOS LOBOS, the ["La Bamba" band], though ALT KEY has a nice quirkiness to it. Favorite clue = [Witch craft?] for BROOM, with an honorable mention to [Muppet drummer] as the clue for ANIMAL.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
1a: ABBA ties the theme together: The five theme entries are made by pairing two-syllable words whose halves sound alike, in an AB/BA pattern.
- 18a. MINNOW OMEN, [Small dead fish left in someone's bed?]. I want the syllables of “minnow” to flip to “now-mih” but that certainly didn’t occur to me while solving.
- 24a. TAE BO BOWTIE, [Formalwear worn in a '90s workout video?].
- 36a. QUINOA JOAQUIN, [Nutritious grain à la Phoenix?]. Nice find! Two Qs, nice and Scrabbly.
- 50a. PERKY KEEPER, [Goalie with a bounce in his step?].
- 57a. NEWSIE XENU, [Ancient Scientology dictator selling papers on the street?]. Ha! The least expected syllable swap.
Nice open corners in the grid, plus plenty of fun bits scattered throughout:
- 31d. ICUP, ["Word" spelled aloud by naive third graders]. As in “I see you pee,” titter giggle snort.
- 39d. QUEEN, [Mercury group]. Not the element or the car, but Freddie Mercury.
- 49a. [Grammy winner Kool Moe ___] DEE. A far better clue than the daily papers’ [Barely passing grade]. Nobody gets a “dee” on their report card. EAZY E and Talib KWELI also drop in.
- 11d. SEMPER FI, [Marine's motto]. Terrific entry.
Gotta run now. 4.5 stars from me, mostly for the freshness of the theme and its execution.