Jeffrey Harris and Ian Livengood’s Fireball crossword, “Instance Messages”
Shhh, it’s a contest puzzle. Don’t give anything away.
I think I figured out the meta answer. I sent in my guess just now because if I wait, I’ll end up forgetting to submit something before the Sunday evening deadline.
I liked the 1-2-3 punch of the trivia clues at 1a, 6a, and 10a, but my favorite clue was 32a.
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword
How to explain this theme? The theme answers have single-word clues in all caps. Scramble up those letters and sneak an IN into the mix, and you get another word. 17a: crosswordese ARETE + IN = RETINAE. Ugly word. You know what looks better? TRAINEE, which I had in the grid for a while, slamming on the brakes of progress. 18a: EAGLE + IN = LINEAGE. 23a: SCOURING + IN = the oh-so-lively COINSURING. (Yawn.) 34a: PLATTE + IN = TINPLATE. 43a: GLANDS + IN = LANDINGS. (Sidebar: You pretty much never see the word GLANS in a crossword. Same with MONS.) 52a: SPECTRES (why the British spelling? SPECTERS anagrams the same) + IN = REINSPECTS. (Yawn.) 61a: ALEFS + IN = FINALES. (Just watched the first episode of Breaking Bad, Season 1. I hope to be caught up before next year’s finale.) 63a: TIMER + IN = MINTIER.
Update! As Byron explains, the theme clues are hinted at by the theme answers: “RET in AE = A(RET)E, RE in SPECTS = SPECT(RE)S, etc….”
Oddly enough, TIE-IN is in the grid at 55d, clued as [Connection], but it isn’t tied in to the tied-to-IN theme. That’s one of four Down INs that aren’t playing the theme game.
My nose crinkled up in an “eww” face when I found myself filling in 4d: RA I, 5d: ERN, 10d: ESNE, and 20a: TASM. The best fill turned that frown upside-down: FILM NOIR and I GUESS SO were particularly nice. And look who’s at 68a, clued as ["Casablanca" villains]: It’s the GESTAPO! They don’t get much more crossword play than the GLANS, frankly.
RETINAE, ESTONIA, and DISTEND provide the letter bank used by much of this grid. Not much in the way of your rare Scrabble tiles.
John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
What a BEAUT! WHOOSH, let’s RUN through this one.
- 17a. [*New skier's area] - BUNNY SLOPE
- 11d. [*Small collectible] – OBJET D’ART
- 33d. [*Paper for the paper] - NEWSPRINT
- 38a. [*Hug] – EMBRACE
- 59a. [*Freebie from the hygienist] – TOOTHBRUSH
- 67/1a. [A football play, or an apt description of what's hidden in the last part of the answer to each starred clue] – END/RUN
There they are – five synonyms for RUN hiding at the END of each theme entry. Cute!
Word of the day: PARVENU – [Nouveau riche]. Would you believe that it’s French? I feel like I’ve seen it somewhere before, but boy this is a fun looking word. It’s my favorite fill bit. I didn’t know LETT – [Baltic resident] either, but that’s not nearly as exciting. It refers to a native of Latvia.
I’m not sure what it is, but the bulk of the clues don’t feel as picturesque as usual. (Yes, I stole that word from the LA Times crossword stylesheet.) Some examples: [Fight against authority] – REBEL. [Teaching story] – PARABLE. There were a few too many one-word clues for my taste, too. We did have few nice ones like [Ladybug's lunch] – APHID and the lengthy [A loose one might activate the "Check engine" light] for GAS CAP. It just seems that the latter were in the minority today. That’s okay – it was still a fine puzzle with a cute theme. The clues just didn’t feel LAT Thursday-worthy to me.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Oodles and Oodles” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Each of the four theme entries ends with -OODLE:
- 17-Across: The [Type of dish often served with soy sauce] is a RAMEN NOODLE. It’s also the main dietary staple of many college students.
- 27-Across: The [Whole enchilada] is the KIT AND CABOODLE. I can’t be the only person who grew up thinking the expression was “kitten caboodle,” right?
- 47-Across: The [Curly-haired dog breed] is the STANDARD POODLE. My step-dog is the standard Australian shepherd, though there’s nothing really “standard” about her. She probably feels the same way about me.
- 63-Across: A [Crazy person] may be described as your standard WACKADOODLE. I thought “wackadoodle” was an adjective and not a noun. Perhaps it can be both? (Or am I (a) wackadoodle for even thinking that?) Regardless, I love this for a final theme entry.
I kept wondering how CANOODLE would work its way into the grid, but upon reflection I realize there are no good phrases ending in CANOODLE, except maybe for HEY, BABY, WHAT SAY WE CANOODLE. Yes, I’ve got mad pickup skillz. Don’t hate the playa; hate the game.
Some interesting clues in this one, like [Neanderthal's "I'm perfectly happy"] for NO MAD, ["Whatever you say, Egyptian sun god"] for OK RA, and ["Watch me crush a beer ___ my forehead!"] for CAN ON. I just now suggested some last-minute changes to these clues, so hopefully by the time you solved the puzzle some of these made a little simpler.
Favorite entry = ICE MACHINE, the [Hotel amenity]. Favorite clue = [Starting point?] for EDEN. Hey, did you see the clue for SNOB, [Stuffed shirt]? Nice reference to yesterday’s puzzle!
Brendan Quigley’s blog puzzle — Matt’s review
You wanna fight? Not with Brendan you don’t; today he gives solvers a black eye — five of them, actually, his trick being that you have to write the word EYE in five black squares to complete the themers:
17/18-a. [Freaky-looking sea predators with sucker mouths] = LAMPREY EELS
26/28-a. [Classic incumbent campaign slogan] = FOUR MORE YEARS
40/43-a. ["Curious George" character, with "The"] MAN IN THE YELLOW HAT
51/54-a. [Place to shed pounds?] = MONEY EXCHANGE. Nice clue.
62-64-a. ["The French Connection" character] = POPEYE DOYLE. Nice movie.
We’ve seen white letters on black squares before, as in Julian Lim’s Fireball last year, but it’s still unusual enough to be novel. Nice execution helps: Brendan’s got five theme answers and they’re symmetrically-placed, so thumbs-up from me on the theme. Two small dings, though: 1) you can’t really help but cotton to a theme like this quickly, since the second part of each theme entry is just clued with a hyphen, which telegraphs the trick, and 2) the black EYEs don’t work on the downs. I know, asking a lot there, but Julian managed to set the bar very high with the above-linked puzzle by doing just that, so gauntlet thrown down! But again, we’re still in healthy thumbs-up theme territory here.
Top clue trio: [Reason someone might do shots?] is DIABETES, [Get your story straight?] is EDIT, and [Quarters] is ABODE.
Top fill trio: QATAR (I just learned from solving this puzzle that that micro-nation will be hosting the 2022 World Cup!), NET TV, and THE PLAYER.
Mystery entry: INSPAN for [Yoke harness]. I guessed a K for that letter, making my [Mortal Kombat combatant] KONYA instead of SONYA and the yoke harness an INK PAN.
Rantbait: [Chess champion of crosswordese] for TAL, eh? The late great Mikhail Tal may be just a handy trigram to you, Mr. Quigley…but to some of us he is a godlike figure! His whiplash attacks — often unsound and seeming to emerge from nothing — made him the most beloved chessplayer in history, even to this day, 20 years after his death. So you’ll show a little respect and like it!
4.15 stars is my guess. Yours?