Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
The theme here is fairly minimal, actually: ERNEST HEMINGWAY in the middle, that’s 15, and the circled letters contain THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, another 18. I guess you count each of those as a 7 with a circled 3 in the middle. Some of the 7s have zip (POTHEAD, ZITHERS, SMOLDER) and some don’t.
There is an automatic quarter-point deduction for OTARU. Maybe even a half a point. It’s dreadful fill. The only way a non-Japanese person knows this [Japanese port] is from doing too many crosswords. (Or possibly from being a hardcore geo-geek.) You get one unfamiliar crossing and you’ve got a deadly square on your hands. Heaven help the solver who doesn’t know ["The Highwayman" poet] is NOYES.
So weird seeing TUSHY clued as [Keister]. “Keister” is another slang term for the hindquarters, it’s true, but it has a decidedly different flavor, no? TUSHY is the sort of word people use with toddlers, whereas keister is more hard-boiled.
Too many proper nouns in this grid. I counted roughly 18, and I find that people grouse when the number’s over 14.
Little-known fact: A lot of margarine is not vegan. So [Dairy-free spread] applies to only a few margarine brands. Have any of those brands ever been called OLEO? I bet the answer is no. (Googling “Blue Bonnet oleo” finds me grocery ads from the 1950s, but not specifically their Light Margarine.)
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Tally Ho!”
You want to take a tally? Count up “eeny, meeny, miney, mo”—or “ini, meany, mione, moe” in this puzzle’s world. 58a: HEAD COUNT, [It may be involved in tallying the four theme answers], gives you those bits of these answers:
- 16a. [He had the 1994 #1 hit "Here Comes the Hotstepper"], INI KAMOZE. I may know of this musician solely via Jonesin’ crosswords. Possibly a BEQ too.
- 25a. [Literary character who had a title "Prayer for" him], OWEN MEANY. Garp novel. I mean, a John Irving novel. I get those two mixed up.
- 38a. [Emma Watson role in eight movies], HERMIONE GRANGER. I think there’s a soft schwa syllable at the O, but shh, don’t break the theme.
- 48a. [He played the bossy Stooge], MOE HOWARD. Did you all read that guest post at the Rex Parker blog the other day, the one in which the writer related a second-hand tale of Three Stooges fetish?
- 14a. [Bad thing to hear when remodeling], UH-OH. Fun clue.
- 31a. [Poisonous fish], FUGU. This is that Japanese puffer fish that has a neurotoxin in some part that doesn’t always get removed. Did I explain that accurately, Herbach?
- 4d. [Where kings don't rule], POKER GAME. Aces high.
- 34d. [They run with torches], ANGRY MOBS. As seen in The Simpsons Movie.
At 28d, CFO is clued as [Accounts head, for short]. Do we really want that “count” and “head” in the clue of a HEAD COUNT puzzle?
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Consider the Source” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The grid features a [Tongue-in-cheek Earl Wilson quip]: SUCCESS IS JUST / A MATTER OF LUCK / ASK ANY FAILURE. This a quip just begging to appear in an American crossword–it breaks cleanly into three 13-letter segments, and each segment serves its job perfectly. The first part introduces the subject (here, “success”), the second part sets up the joke (it’s supposedly just a matter of luck), and the third part delivers the punchline or twist (“ask any failure”). Quips don’t come any cleaner, that’s for sure.
From a solver’s perspective, though, the one essential key to a successful quip theme is simple: the quip should be funny or otherwise compelling. For a large segment of regular solvers out there, a puzzle is “solved” when the theme (here, a quip) is revealed, not when every last letter in the grid is completed. So for this group, the “recreational solver,” the quip’s the thing. It needs to be funny. By “funny,” I don’t mean “riotous,” “hilarious,” or even “laugh-out-loud funny.” I mean simply “amusing enough to make the solve worthwhile.” This one succeeds on that front, I think.
Most of this blog’s readership wants to fill in every square, so for most of us the quip is important, but we also want some good fill. With only 39 theme squares, there’s lots of room for Bruce to add some pep. The 6x5s in the northwest and southeast corners are nice, but there are highlights sprinkled throughout. My favorites:
- DAY JOB is a great entry. The clue here, [Don't quit your ___"], is a little too easy, though. I might have preferred something along the lines of [What an aspiring star probably shouldn't quit anytime soon].
- The answer to [Cinemax rival] is usually HBO, but this time it was STARZ, using one of two Z’s in the grid. I also liked the crossing of YITZHAK Rabin.
- The northwest corner has two highlights in LAPS UP and GEL CAP.
- The southeast corner is similarly lovely with EXURBS, TRENDY, the [Shroud city] of TURIN (for a moment, I wanted BESPIN), and the MESSY divorce. Well, messy divorces aren’t lovely, but you know what I mean.
Finally, a point I can’t let pass without comment: I’m not a fan of starting things off at 1-Across with an abbreviation (here, LT. GOV.), but I’m willing to concede that this is my own pet peeve and that others may not care one whit about it.
Jim Peredo & Jeff Chen’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Is there a saboteur hiding somewhere in this puzzle?
- 17a. [Eight-time tennis Grand Slam champion] - ANDRE AGASSI
- 24a. [Yosemite environmentalist and photographer] – ANSEL ADAMS
- 38a. ["Goody Two Shoes" singer] - ADAM ANT
- 51a. [American Dance Theater founder] – ALVIN AILEY
- 62a. [Mole--and read slightly differently, what 17-, 24-, 38- or 51-Across is] – DOUBLE AGENT… or DOUBLE “A” GENT. Gentlemen with the initials A.A., that is. This is really flipping clever. I can’t stress this enough!
First, kudos for picking men from culturally dissimilar fields. That’s a nice way to spread knowledge of names around. The dichotomy at the very first crossing is grand: STUPID v. SMART. I think the latter describes this puzzle quite well.
Off to a slow start, I stymied myself but putting in HASSOCK for OTTOMAN. Then after getting the second theme entry, I went back and guessed at the theme, hoping for ARTHUR ASHE to fit at 17a., but he was one square short. I’ll bet he made our constructors’ short list for theme entries, though.
There’s really only one way to get from the top of the puzzle to the bottom. We pick up some fun stuff along the way – GONE BAD, KEBAB, DO-RAG and BARBELL. If you’re going to make me play through part of your puzzle tightly, that’s the way to force it. Use fun entries! Let’s not stop now, though – I’M ON A ROLL.
Don’t ask me how I didn’t know this, but I didn’t realize WASP VENOM was a thing. I thought it stung you and that was it. Thank goodness I had someone else knock down the nest on my balcony last week instead of doing it myself. Whew!
I don’t know about BENSON & Hedges; I’d have thought that BENSON, the spin-off of Soap, was better known. No? Well at least we all know who the BRONTE sisters are. ALSO, the two Z’s on the right add just enough Scrabbliness to this puzzle to keep me content. As they say: hold me closer, Tony DANZA.