Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword
I really didn’t like this puzzle until I finally cracked its code: Seven words or phrases contain UU (a total of eight times), but you fill in that “double-U” as a “W.” The Down crossings want the W, while the Across theme answers just look impossible until you understand the theme.
Here are the double-U answers:
- 15a. [1975 Tony winner for Best Play], EQWS, Equus.
- 19a. [Situated somewhere between two extremes], ON A CONTINWM, continuum.
- 24a. [Forever], IN PERPETWM, perpetuum. “In perpetuity” is more familiar to me.
- 39a. ["Capeesh?"], DO YOWNDERSTAND, do you understand. The only one in which the UU is split across words.
- 57a. [Will-o'-the-wisp], IGNIS FATWS, fatuus. I bet there are a lot of solvers who will stare at the clue, the answer, and the double-U answer equally uncomprehendingly. The I.F. phrase means “foolish fire,” and the phrase means “something deceptive or deluding,” the dictionary helpfully explains. Then you have to look up will-o’-the-wisp to understand that: phosphorescent light floating over marshy ground at night, thought to result from burning of natural gases. Not to be confused with ignis fartuus, of course.
- 64a. [Like some bags of food], VACWM-SEALED, vacuum. Once I figured out the theme, I looked for an answer with “vacuum” in it and found it here.
- 70a. [Colorful dress], MWMW, muumuu.
Two thwmbs wp for this theme, which is far more interesting than just including assorted double-U words as is. There are single U’s in the grid too, which is not a flaw; there are no W’s other than the ones contained in the theme answers, however. And did you notice that the grid’s 16×15?
Fave fill: ED NORTON, TWERPS, Corazon AQUINO. Wasn’t really loving the fill overall.
- 60a. [Lottery picks], BALLS. There are about 20 more obvious paths to take in cluing BALLS.
- 32d. [Meet face-to-face?], KISS.
- 10d. [Beauty marks?], perfect TENS.
- 55a. [Gymnasium floor choice], MAPLE. With the MA in place, I got fixated on gymnastics mats.
David Steinberg’s Fireball crossword, “Winning Choice”
So the circled letters are X’s and O’s mapping out a completed game of TIC-TAC-TOE. I don’t get the clue, though: 63a, [Game hinted at by the circled squares, as well as 14-Across, 10-Down, and 34-Down, the winner of which is for you to decide]. Okay, so there’s one diagonal with XXX and all the other combos are non-winners, like OOX. Why “the winner is for you to decide”? Are we making up our own rules for tic-tac-toe now? And what about 36d: XXX, [Letters on love letters]—is that thematic?
The theme is beefed up with TICKED OFF, TACKINESS, and TOE-TAPPER.
The Twitterverse tells me that there was a similar theme in the NYT back on March 5, 2003, but I wasn’t doing the puzzle regularly/obsessively until 2004. So it’s new to me (and I’m still wondering about the “winner is for you to decide” bit).
- 37a. [Good fighter?], EVIL.
- 41a. [Hit town, say], CAME. As in “When did you hit town?”
- 29d. [Weekly Daly costar of the 1980s], GLESS. Cagney & Lacey.
- 32d. [Didn't have any reception, perhaps], ELOPED.
- 56d. [Word preceding the punch line of a knock-knock joke], WHO. “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Inches Apart” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Bob builds a puzzle around three two-word terms where the first word ends in -IN and the second word begins with CH-. Thus, with the break between IN and CH, you have three cases of “inches apart.” Here are the three terms:
- 20-Across: PLAIN CHOCOLATE is the [Cocoa concoction with little or no milk].
- 39-Across: WISCONSIN CHEESE is the food [originally produced to preserve excess milk].
- 54-Across: I wanted the answer to [Junk food changes it] to be WAISTLINE or some 14-letter equivalent, but alas it’s BRAIN CHEMISTRY. I was a little bugged that the other two theme entries had clues referencing milk but this one did not. I had been led to think that “milk” was somehow a part of this theme. It clearly isn’t, so this is my fault. But I still feel like I was led down this rabbit hole deliberately.
The theme doesn’t do much for me, but Bob’s puzzles are nearly always about the clues and not so much the theme. In no particular order, here were the clues that stood out to me:
1. [It goes from side to side] as a clue for WIDTH is a great example of a fiendishly clever clue that has you thinking of all kinds of oscillating objects, only to have the answer instead be a concept, a measurement.
2. [Whale's location?] is a funny clue for THAR. Thar! Thar she blows! (Notice that the very next clue is [Whale locator], for SONAR. I didn’t notice the close relationship until now, likely because 16-Across is over on the far right and 17-Across is, as nearly always, on the far left.)
3. ALDA appears all the time, so it was a fun twist to see ALAN clued as [Alda of "Tower Heist"]. I call that a “reverse wink” to regular crossword solvers.
4. Another reverse wink comes with ["___ Gold" (1994 Clive Cussler novel)]. What regular crossword solver doesn’t see “___ Gold” and immediately think ULEE’S? Here, it’s INCA.
5. [The Dead and the Red] is not the story of Russian fans of stoner rock. It’s a terrific clue for SEAS.
6. Likewise, [Without a hitch?] is a fun clue for SINGLE.
I was less enamored with some of the cluttered fill like AT WT, CTR, and USOS. Normally I would have added MRS to this list, but the clue, [Husbands or wife], is my favorite in the whole puzzle. How fun to see it as both a plural (Misters) and a singular (Misses)! So I felt clemency for MRS was appropriate in this case.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Signs of Stress” — Jared’s review
Ben takes a common phrase or entity and reimagines it with an accent mark placed over one of the E’s. To wit:
- 17a. [Discussion with one's therapist about a sparkly gold bath toy?] – LAMÉ DUCK SESSION
- 25a. [Totally tired of yellow journalism?] – OVER EXPOSÉ
- 36a. ["You go, señorita!"?] – OLÉ MISS. As simple as this one is, it was my favorite of the bunch. It’s just so elegantly cute.
- 45a. [The NRA's official winery?] – GUNS N ROSÉS
And the big reveal…
- 57a. [Pompous pretensions, and this puzzle's theme] – AFFECTED ACCENTS
The great thing about being a relative newbie compared to other Fiend reviewers and readers is that if a theme has been done before, I tend to be blissfully ignorant of it. So, this idea was new to me, even if it wasn’t to the grizzled vets. In any case, I loved this theme. The original phrases are solidly in-the-language and the accented versions aren’t so much of a stretch that they require granting a sort of “artistic license” that we often have to give to accept a creative theme. And more imporantly, they’re funny, or at the very least, entertainingly evocative.
- 1a. [Parachutist's cry] – GERONIMO. Fun entry. I tend to think of it more as something shouted by a kid doing a cannonball into a pool but maybe that’s just me.
- 15a. [Condition for Homer] – ALOPECIA. I may be just beginning to experience it myself. I’m told the mitigating drug is expensive and has side effects that affect “performance” though, so I’ll be watchfully waiting for now.
- 20a. [Imaginary craps advantage] – HOT HAND. I love when superstition gets called out in crosswords. And no, there isn’t such thing as a “professional craps player” either. I promise, your only “system” is self-delusion.
- 29a. [Sounds frowned upon at dog shows] – ARFS. Dog shows – where a dog can’t be a dog.
- 42a. [The Great and the Fat, e.g.] – EPITHETS. This clue stymied me for a bit. Hint: Think of it as ["The Great" and "The Fat", e.g.].
- 65a. [A third one is the subject of many science fiction stories] - WORLD WAR. If you’re conflating “science fiction” with the “dystopian future” genre, sure.
- 28d. [Number one in bowls?] – PEE. Clue/answer combo of the puzzle. I don’t tend to like bathroom humor but this made me laugh out loud.
- 34d. [NL player certain to be traded midseason, if he's any good] – ASTRO. The only sport I follow is track and field so you’ll have to help me out with this one. Do the Astros have an inability to hold onto their star players or something?
- 52d. ["Bah, humbug!"] – PFUI. I was going to call this out as completely made-up but it actually out-googles “phooey” which is what I assumed is the default spelling.
Great theme, fun entries, creative cluing, minimal junk. 4.35 stars.
Brendan Quigley’s blog puzzle, “Bring Da Noise” — Matt’s Review
Today’s puzzle is quintessential BEQ: a fun theme (with a lot of theme entries), a wide-open grid (just 72 words), and lively, Scrabbly fill the author doesn’t sacrifice much to achieve.
The title is “Bring Da Noise,” and Brendan does just that, adding an onomatopoetic noise to a base phrase, yielding five wacked-out new phrases. They are:
17-a [Something that's tough to eat, but filled with antioxidants?] = BAMBOO BERRY (“bam!” + the classic cereal “Boo-Berry”)
24-a [Bit of fiction with a shower scene?] = LOOFA STORY (“oof!” inserted into the great movie “L.A. Story”)
32-a [Drop trou while standing on a pier?] = MOON SHIP OWNER (“pow!” inserted into “moonshiner”)
42-a [Parent paired up with guitarist Frank?] = MA AND ZAPPA (“ma and pa” + “zap!”)
51-a [Simply the best man cave?] = MODEL TV ROOM (“Model T” + “vroom!”)
So all five of these are funny, with the sound — different each time, which is nice — affecting the base phrases in unexpected and cool-looking ways. Big thumbs-up on the theme. Add-a-letter(s)/drop-a-letter(s) themes have all been pretty much done by now, so I like the variety of adding a different set to each theme entry, as here.
Fill roundup: lots of good 6-letter plus entries SQUADS, BOO-YAH!, AL OERTER (awesome entry; besides Carl Lewis in the long jump, the only other person to win gold in the same event in four straight Olympics), PAYPAL, WARHORSE, WANT AD, JOANNA, US MINT and XGAMES, plus I liked JAPAN just across the sea from KOREA. I’ll take Brendan’s word on MELANITE, DECAYER and OKEMO, but dock him .05 for ORT. Still, excellent fill.
Jared gave the Tausig 4.35 today, which sounds like the right number for this puzzle as well.
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Well I nearly flipped my LID over this puzzle. Stick with me – we’ve got nine theme entries! It’s nothing to SNEEZE AT.
- 20a. [*Sounds familiar] - RINGS A BELL
- 2d. [Volkswagen brand] – AUDI
- 10d. [*Daydreamer] – STAR GAZER
- 19a. [Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsor] – MACY’S
- 34d. [*Easily] – HANDS DOWN
- 52a. [Auto insurance giant] – ALLSTATE
- 59a. [*Easy place to go downhill] – BUNNY SLOPE
- 47d. [Marilyn Monroe was its first cover girl] – PLAYBOY
- 73a. [What the start of each starred answer is part of, for a company that intersects that answer] – LOGO
Killer theme – a lot of AHAS to be had here. Another great puzzle in a week of consistently top-notch LAT crosswords. Hope you didn’t think ENRON had a bunny in its logo, though.
On a Thursday I like entries like DROP OUTS, but a clue like [They don't graduate] just feels too straightforward. There’s nothing else it could be. FISH-EYES gets a similar treatment with [180-degree lenses]. I’m not saying they’re bad clues; I just long for something a little more evocative or clever for this long and fun entries. On the other hand, the simple WREN gets [Singer of complex songs]. That’s the way to do it. It’s not misleading, but it paints a picture beyond, say, [Small songbird].
[Grouse] – CRAB. These are both animals being used as verbs meaning to grumble and complain. That’s a neat find there – I wonder if any other animals fit the bill?
Very GOOD puzzle; I’m constantly IN AWE of the work put out by this pair of constructors.