- Peter Broda, whom you may know as Bananarchy from his comments here, is running a month-long meta contest (MGWCC style) on his blog. Check it out.
- Patrick Berry has a new Rows Garden puzzle on his website. Here’s the PDF. If you crave more Rows Gardens, visit Patrick’s archives and Andrew Ries’s Aries Puzzles for more.
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
Fun theme, really solid fill, nothing to grouse about? I’m calling this one a 4.5-star puzzle. The theme is five famous dudes’ names spoonerized into goofy phrases:
- 17a. [Actor's order to sock an NBA legend?], WHACK JORDAN. Jack Warden is the actor in the clue’s first word.
- 24a. [Teammate of the 17-Across legend avoiding toilet trainin'?], POTTY SKIPPIN’. Scottie Pippen! You don’t see a lot of theme answers with cross-referenced clues, but this one works (and I grant you, I might be biased because I lived in Chicago during the whole Jordan/Pippen run with the Bulls).
- 33a. [Old comic actor's Little Bighorn headline?], CUSTER BEATEN. Buster Keaton.
- 43a. [Threaten a classic comedienne like a talk-show host?], MENACE DILLER. Dennis Miller meets Phyllis Diller.
- 51a. [Writer-turned-Utah carpenter?], MORMON NAILER. Norman Mailer.
- 62a. [Controls a prison guard like a pop singer?], TAMES JAILER. James Taylor.
There are spelling changes beyond the initial sound in most (but not all) of the theme words, which makes it a little more challenging to piece together the answers and their inspirations. The clues all provide the claim to fame of the pre-spoonerism celebrities, which is handy. The spoonerism results are mildly humorous, which is usually the best you can expect from crossword theme answers—mildly humorous is less fun than raucously hilarious, yes, but it’s a damn sight better than “that doesn’t even make sense,” “that doesn’t really work,” or “that’s totally flat.”
And despite Alan’s inclusion of six theme entries, the fill isn’t forced to eat dirt. Some of the fill is ordinary blah (LAN, AGR, ALAR) but not out of bounds for a Wednesday puzzle, and most of the fill is solid to good. JACKPOT, “FACE IT,” the LUSTY KNAVE, “MARRY ME,” ORGIES, BANJO, and SCOOB all pleased me. The blah bits did not bug me while I was solving. So yes, 4.5 stars from me.
Gary Whitehead’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Eh. Nothing in this puzzle really grabbed me or rubbed me the right way. The theme is baseballish and was not obvious to me while solving:
- 17a. [White Castle offering], HAMBURGER SLIDER. Um, they’re just called sliders, as far as I know. “What’s a slider?” “It’s a mini-burger.” In all my years of White Castle exposure (my entire lifetime) and in the recent years of non-W.C. sliders appearing on bar menus, this HAMBURGER SLIDER phrase has not presented itself to me. (Grumble, mumble, mutter…)
- 24a. [Gadget for sharing a TV signal], CABLE SPLITTER. That’s fine, but mighty dull if you ask me.
- 40a. [Angler's weight], FISHING SINKER. I’ve always just called ‘em sinkers, but apparently “fishing sinker” is fine as a generic term.
- 53a. [Types of them can be found at the ends of 17-, 24- and 40-Across], BASEBALL PITCHES. The fastball, curveball, and spitter/spitball are all more familiar pitches (to me) than the SLIDER, SPLITTER, and SINKER.
If I loved the fill, I could get past the theme not working great for me. But the fill has a fusty feel to it, with answers like LAHR, ISAO, FIDO, ASTI, ILE, IDES, RHEA, TEN G, OSSO, SAGO, ENDO, and ABED (the latter being a word that pretty much nobody uses outside of crosswords, am I right?). Sometimes the longer fill provides the spice, but here, TABULATE, TIE RACKS, WINESAPS, and INSTALLS are about as exciting as that CABLE SPLITTER. And that TIE RACKS is what’s forcing the southeast corner to be so ugly. Bleah.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Starting to Fly” – Sam Donaldson’s review
What’s with all the buzz over today’s crossword, you ask? It’s probably because of all the flies hovering about. The four theme entries in this puzzle end in words that can precede “fly:”
- 18-Across: A [Pomelo or kumquat] is a CITRUS FRUIT (“fruit fly”). I was pretty good at sexing fruit flies in junior high biology class. That was about the only thing I could do right in biology class; my destiny as a liberal arts major basically showed itself years in advance.
- 28-Across: A [Tragic military mistake] is FRIENDLY FIRE (“firefly”). Anyone reading this a fan of Joss Whedon’s show, “Firefly?” Some friends tell me I would like it, but I feel like I have enough shows to catch up on as it is. I still have yet to see The Wire, for crying out loud. And yes, this paragraph was written in 2012 and not 2002.
- 47-Across: The [Goober-shaped sandwich cookie] is NUTTER BUTTER (“butterfly”). Those close to my age will no doubt remember the TV ads urging kids to “have another Nutter Butter peanut butter sandwich cookie.” Check out that ad–someone in the production of that ad just had to be high.
- 62-Across: And speaking of high, there’s Puff the MAGIC DRAGON (“dragonfly”). At a young age I believed dragonflies could breathe fire, but I was led to believe it wouldn’t hurt very much if you came into contact with one because they are so small–the flames were very tiny. Sometimes I wish things like that were true–it would be pretty cool.
There’s not too much here that should trouble newer solvers very much. I slowed down with SIBYLS, the [Fortunetellers], as FRAUDS seem to fit pretty well too. For whatever reason, I always seem to try YENTA as the [“Fiddler on the Roof” matchmaker] before getting to YENTE. MASAI, the [Indigenous Kenyan], also felt tricky.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “I See London”
Brilliant gimmick! The central column of squares can be left blank, as there are no clues for any words that might fit there. The puzzle’s title coincides with GOD SAVE THE QUEEN and ALL OVER THE WORLD clued as [Where Olympic athletes come from to convene in London], suggesting a London twist. You ride the Tube in London and you get warnings to MIND THE GAP and not fall right into the gap between the train and the platform. And so the gap in the puzzle can be filled with MIND THE GAP, and the answers surrounding the gap combine with the gap letters to form valid fill. OLÉ and ISS. take an M to make OLE MISS, TOR and ADO + N = TORNADO, LAUGH-IN and OUT LOUD + G = LAUGHING OUT LOUD.
I don’t remember how I started figuring out the trick. I think it must have been the TOR_ADO. AMI_BLY was fairly obvious to me too. But OLE_ISS and CAR_RIP, both two-word 7-letter answers, were less suggestive than the 7-letter one-word gap answers.
So the middle of this puzzle must have been an absolute bear to construct. Matt had to come up with 7-letter words and phrases (plus two 15s!) that could be split 3/1/3 with valid 3s and with the MIND THE GAP letters fitting into the /1/ spot. And if that isn’t enough, he got two vertical 15s that point the solver to London’s MIND THE GAP. Tell us, Matt: How many hours did you labor to birth this one? Was it three times longer than your usual puzzles take?
There is some ugly fill in here, yes. DESTINE(D) TO GLORY feels weird to me. HDS, A WEE, ANS, TAE, AN IN, IN AT, and TAL also triggered the Scowl-o-Meter. But the surprise factor when I figured out MIND THE GAP buys a lot of forgiveness. 4.5 stars for a memorable trick, pulled down from the 4.75-5 range by that fill.
Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
If you don’t know what PARKOUR is, you should watch the insane, death- and gravity-defying maneuvers in this video. There is running (to get a running start when jumping across a chasm between buildings, say, or running up or across the broadside of a wall). There is rolling (after you jump off a building, you need to roll on the ground, leading with the shoulder of course, to do something with all that energy other than shattering your bones). There is jumping (up, down, over yonder, back and forth, like Spider-Man but without web assistance). And there are flips (a lovely back-flip off a wall closes out the David Belle video). So RUN A FEVER, ROLL IN THE HAY, JUMP THE SHARK, and FLIP A COIN all use those verbs in other, less athletic ways (but not boring ways). Fresh theme, and perfect for the Onion’s younger readership (vs. the older readership of a daily newspaper, somewhat less likely to be hip to parkour).
Favorite clues and fill:
- 16a. LABIA, clued here as [Sexy lips?]. Only one appearance in the Cruciverb database, in a puzzle by Manny Nosowsky, M.D., a urologist who surely encountered plenty of labia in his line of work. Those Michigan legislators would probably freak out about this word, too. This here blog comes down firmly on the side of “Yes, it is fine to say ‘vagina,’ but don’t be juvenile about it.”
- 44a. SANRIO, [“Hello Kitty” maker]. It’s a gimme, right?
- 53a. PEG, [Use a dildo on a man, as a woman might]. Crosswords by PuzzleSocial solvers got a different clue referring to Al Bundy’s wife. The usage here was illustrated for me most memorably on The Sopranos, when Janice and Ralph were in the sack. He did some insulting name-calling throughout (“You hoo-er!”), which was hardly good manners. Or he had her call him that? It’s not clear to me. Who can clear this up?
- 2d. CLUE, ["Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick" game]. Who doesn’t like Clue?
- 27d. OK GO, [“Needing/Getting” alt-rock band]. Don’t know the song, but I love OK Go’s treadmill and Rube Goldberg paint videos. Here’s their similarly odd and surprising video for the song in the clue.
- 47d. UVULA, [It's often enlarged in cartoon depictions of screaming]. Note: It doesn’t say VULVA, it says UVULA. I know. It’s hard to be sure given the other fill here.
Nice theme. 3.5 stars, because some of the fill (e.g., OBEAH, EEE, OOO) isn’s so hot.