Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword
For real? This is a 64-worder? Because it plays a lot more like a 70-worder, with enough fresh, fun answers that I didn’t guess (even with that handful of clunky little answers) that this puzzle fits into the “low word count” category. Each corner has a trio of 9- or 10-letter answers, and there’s a decent amount of flow into each quadrant. Now, that flow may get you into a quadrant, but you won’t necessarily make it to the end that easily. I got confuzzled by 30d: [They're usually found on the margins]. Turned out to be INSET MAPS, but I wasn’t sure about five of the crossings. AEREO or AERIO? WHAPS or WHAMS? IOLA or IOLE? CLOP, is it CLOP?, because I’m not seeing a 30d yet. And 56a: [Big name in salad dressing], KEN’S?!? I buy the salad dressing for my household and that’s not ringing a bell. Just looked at the Ken’s website, and apparently I need to travel to outside the city to Walmart or to grocery chains that don’t exist near me in order to find their balsamic vinaigrette. Bah.
Let’s put down the salad dressing and move on. Likes! I love that top stack of SCARECROWS, TOLEDO OHIO, and I WANT MY MTV. The worst of the crossings is the “pick a partial or crosswordese clue” A LATE, while COMBO MEAL and OHM’S LAW ([I - V/R]) crackle. CALLING IN for a mental health day and SNOWCONES crossing CLOWN clued as a [Coulrophobe's bugaboo] (how can you not love that clue? I mean, assuming you’ve ever seen the word coulrophobia before and remembered its meaning) and restaurateur WOLFGANG [Puck, for one], another nice corner. The old-school name for a tomato, a LOVE APPLE, ushers us into the Florida sector with a POP-UP VIDEO (clued as a modern-day annoyance rather than the old VH1 annotated music video concept) and CHILLAXING. The latter word, clued as [Taking a load off], just means chilling out, vegging, taking it easy (not the unlading sort of “taking a load off”). The New Oxford American Dictionary people do list this word. “ORIGIN: early 21st century: blend of chill and relax.” I use the word myself.
I liked the THREE-HOLE punch and Dionne WARWICK (because I came of age living on Warwick Street) in my Corner of Salad Dressing Doom.
Uh, this TACO PIE? 37d: [Zesty casserole with a crust]? Don’t send me your recipes.
The entries that fall into the “compromises to facilitate a 64-worder” category include, perhaps, AEREO, MAGEE, IOLA, KEN’S, A LATE, SOV, and REDID, and none of these is truly grievous. So I’ll go with 4.33 stars.
P.S. Is it just me or is this a Saturday puzzle slated on a Friday?
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Political Insiders”
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, those pesky secretly funded PACs have been insinuating their tentacles everywhere. Not just throughout the democratic process, but also putting a stranglehold on the Ink Well crossword. Why, this puzzle alone has four PACs behaving as “Political Insiders”:
- 17a. [Gossip about Benedict XVI?], PAPACY DIRT. What do you hear? Got anything juicy?
- 28a. [Vacation spot far, far from Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde?], ISLE OF PAC-MAN. You know the adjectival form of Pac-Man, right? Pac-Manx.
- 42a. [Venomous snake preparing for vacation?], PACKING COBRA. If the cobra is organized like me, she prints out a packing list before each trip to make sure she doesn’t forget anything. Having trouble thinking of what a snake would need to take on vacation, though. Extra mice in case the kids get hungry en route?
- 56a. [Video game state where your character does a lot of spitting and grazing?], ALPACA MODE. Hoo-boy, things get woolly when you play in alpaca mode.
Good corners with those stacks of 9-letter answers, all six of them excellent fill and with solid crossings (MAIER, 38a: ]Infamous baseball fan Jeffrey], is the iffiest crosser).
Did not know 6a: [Potent weed, slangily], KINE. The word nerd in me hopes that a smaller portion of KINE is called “cow.”
29d. [Addition to my family on 5/31/12] clues SON, referring to Ben’s new baby boy. Congrats to the new parents! They shall sleep again around 2014.
44d. [Museum of Sex subject] clues ORGASM, that’s straightforward enough. But 1d: [Certain 44-Down locale] lands smack dab in the middle of controversy by proclaiming the G-SPOT. There are those who say it doesn’t exist, and those who say the first group just doesn’t know where to look.
Elizabeth G. Gorski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Make Room for Daddy” — pannonica’s review
Seemingly in honor of Ben Tausig’s new-found (newly-attained?) paternity (see Tausig 29d, above), the theme entries of this puzzle consist of a base phrase welcoming a PA into their midst, and the unusual results are then clued.
- 23a. [Saffron-flavored dish dedicated to the Queen of Jazz?] (PA)ELLA FITZGERALD.
- 40a. [Pay-per-view option for can-do subscribers?] CA(PA)BLE TELEVISION. At this point I thought the theme was more impressive, in that the inserted PAs would be advancing two letters with each subsequent entry…
- 58a. [Five-star entree of angel-hair pasta?] HEAVENLY RE(PA)ST. …but alas, not so.
- 66a. [Tasteful viewing fare for sommeliers?] THE (PA)LATE SHOW. Say “ahh.”
- 81a. [Freedom-seeking jailbird's worst nightmare?] (PA)ROLE REVERSAL. Pardon me!
- 96a. [Persistent girlfriend, in tabloid headlines?] UNMITIGATED GAL(PA)L.
- 118a. [Soap opera set in a body-treatment business?] DAYS(PA) OF OUR LIVES. Nifty plural-to-singular action.
A rather entertaining bunch, considering the forced nature of such a theme’s mechanics. Sizable, too (17s, 16s, 14s, and 13, to equal107 squares). I appreciate how the PA locations are varied: at the beginnings of words, in the middle of words, between words, and pretty much throughout the lengths of the themers. The only obvious spot missing a PA is the very end of one of the phrases, and that’s nigh-impossible; the only words or phrases of any length that end that way are a few taxonomic binomials, phi beta kappa, and some Incan words, and none of them make any sense without the PA.
More coincidence with other puzzles appearing today, including another CLOP at 85a (An Echo of Hooves*?) 67d POP-UP AD (vs. POP-UP VIDEO), and perhaps some others, but I’m starting to fade and am feeling out of SYNC (110a).
Longfill roundup: fun HIPPIE CHIC and HOT MUSTARD and not-all-that-lengthy SPLOTCH, good SKI LODGE, SLEUTHS (Hammer and Spade), and SPRAY-ON, okay ALKALIS and IN DROVES. DRAMEDY (cross-referenced with GLEE) is way cooler than WAY COOL.
Moderate (but not quite low enough for my liking) CAP Quotient™, frequent playful and/or tricky cluing, and good theme add up to an above-average puzzle.
Oh. With I–LA– in place for 77d [It's Arabic for "submission"] I almost completed it as IN-LAW, not ISLAM. Yep, time to call it quits.
*June Tabor, born in Warwick, England. Coincidence!
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Parental Consent” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Any misgivings I had about solving a crossword with a quote theme were allayed when I saw the quote came from Bill Cosby, one of my favorite comedians. As Bill Cosby jokes go, this one is middle of the road (though it does have the benefit of breaking symmetrically): WE ARE THE / ONLY / ANIMALS / THAT LET / OUR KIDS / COME / BACK HOME.
I like the quadruple-stacked 6s in two corners. That arrangement in the northeast corner, UNTOLD, NORWAY, SVELTE, and TEASER, is especially lovely. (And hey, the other stack has POOPED, which makes it an automatic winner too.)
Not surprisingly, there were a number of fun clues here. My favorites:
- [It may have a black eye] for PEA.
- [Well-armed deep-sea denizens] for OCTOPI.
- [Course that shows what you're made of, briefly] for ANAT.
- [Take in take-out] for EAT.
- [Due for a change?] for WET.
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword
The theme takes phrases in which the first word ends with -SS and the second word starts with S- and deletes that last S:
- 17a. [A pint to drown your sorrows?], DISTRESS ALE. I’m not sure what “distress sale” sale means. To the dictionary! “A sale of goods or assets at reduced prices to raise much-needed funds.”
- 27a. [Great diner food?], FIRST-CLASS EATS. “First-class seats” are the ones with more elbow room and knee space on an airplane.
- 44a. [Filmed scenes from a Triple Crown event?], PREAKNESS TAKES. The Preakness Stakes is/are a horse race.
- 59a. [What a hamster wheel requires?], ENDLESS PACE. Is “endless space” actually an in-the-language phrase? It’s not ringing a bell.
The fill had a bit of an older feel to it, with schnozz-OLA, B-SIDE, MERV Griffin, GO FLY A KITE, MANSES, CLARET, and KEWPIE doll all embodying a retro vibe.
Freshest clue: [Brooklyn hoopsters] for the NETS, who just moved from New Jersey. So Brooklyn now has NBA hoopsters as well as a surfeit of hipsters. Can the borough survive?
Surprised to see TILDES, the Spanish accent marks in año and señora, clued as [Math squiggles]. As in “I’ve blogged ~9,000 crosswords.”
I wasn’t crazy about the theme, particularly 59a, and not much in the rest of the puzzle sang to me. Three stars.