Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword
I really like this theme, except for the INNER CITY theme revealer that fails on two counts. First, each of the theme entries contains a world capital, not just a garden-variety city. Second, two of the five cities (LONDON, HAVANA) aren’t “inner”—they reach to the end of their entries. That said, I do enjoy a good geography theme, and a lively set of phrases and names that contain world capitals is neat. John Gotti the TEFLON DON, cosmonaut YURI GAGARIN (Riga), Jewish wedding staple HAVA NAGILA, ELI MANNING (Lima), and BAKING STONE (Kingston, Jamaica—hey, that’s where Usain Bolt lives) make up a solid set.
Highlights: “TOLD YA” and “THE JIG IS UP” are colloquial speech, which I like to see in the grid. I didn’t know that [Many an illustration in The Economist] was a CARICATURE, but I hear good things about the publication. I also like the PEAS clue, [Food items catapulted with a spoon, maybe], because I was just suggesting elsewhere that multi-purpose cafeteria spoons could be used to catapult peas or pudding.
Could do without these: Crosswordese ONE-A, AWN, NENE. Partials AS I, A SAD, ON OR. The [Skin woe] TINEA—if RINGWORM is too icky for the crossword grid (or the clue list), so is its Latinate name.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Hybrid Cars”
Four 15-letter answers make up this week’s “Hybrid Cars” theme. Each is made by mashing up a car make/model and a word/name that starts with the car name’s final 2 or 3 letters:
- 17a. [Hybrid pickup with really low visibility?], TOYOTA TACOMAGOO. The Toyota Tacoma meets myopic Mr. Magoo. (“Myopic” should mean “movie about a muscle.)
- 33a. [Hybrid car that floats in the ocean?], CHEVY MALIBUOYED. Chevrolet Malibu, buoyed.
- 42a. Hybrid car with a really old sound system?], HONDA CIVICTROLA. Honda Civic, Victrola phonograph.
- 62a. [Hybrid car that runs a few seconds, then stops, then runs again, then stops again...?], FORD FIESTACCATO. Ford Fiesta, staccato. Wow, that would be an annoying car to drive.
Handsome grid, no? I like the stacked 10s in the corners, four fresh answers—the ARCHBISHOP on a RAZOR BLADE trying to AVERAGE OUT those RELAXED FIT jeans.
Three clues of note:
- 28a. [It may feature a store from a mile away], LOCAL AD. Without any crossings, the clue was inscrutable.
- 45a. [Land speed record holder], CHEETAH. Shoot, I wanted USAINBOLT. With a USA rebus square, he’d fit here, but he’s Jamaican.
- 3d. ["Saturn Devouring His Son" painter], GOYA. “Dad! Dad, it’s me! I’m your son! What are y— *crunch*”
Never heard of 53a: “Supermodified” DJ AMON Tobin or 29d: “Stretch Limousine on Fire” folk rocker CATIE Curtis. And you?
Bruce Venzke’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Chow Down!” – Sam Donaldson’s review
The theme is apparent from the five longest Across entries, but just for good measure, 52-Down and 44-Down combine to tell us that a TABLE / SETTING is an [Apt alternative title for this puzzle]. Each of the five long Across answers is a term beginning with a part of a table setting:
- 17-Across: The [Sharply creased skirt feature] is a KNIFE-PLEAT. As one who doesn’t own many skirts (okay, none), this term was new to me.
- 25-Across: One who is FORK-TAILED is said to be [Having the widest end feathers at the outside, as in many birds]. Is the “as in many birds” part really necessary? What else has feathers?
- 35-Across: The [Wading bird with a long, flat beak] is a SPOONBILL. The second avian clue. Why do I feel like Tippi Hedren all of a sudden?
- 51-Across: PLATE ARMOR is [What a knight might wear]. Only the ones that want to live, anyway.
- 60-Across: ["The White Album" song with several references to other Beatles recordings] is GLASS ONION. I didn’t know this, so I took a listen. You can, too.
I applaud the ambition here: five theme entries and a 12-letter revealer (59 total theme squares!), coupled with triple-7′s in every corner. Don’t try this at home! That said, I don’t count this among my favorite puzzles. Too much of the fill was either a bit too weak (LPN, LPS, OLA, ETRE, OPER, AES) or just far, far outside my wheelhouse to give me much entertainment (most notably DORAL, DAKTARI, and three of the five theme entries). But that’s just me. I suspect there’s a large solving demographic out there that really enjoyed this one.
Let’s end with today’s installment of Name That Constructor Month. I feel fairly confident that this is a Bruce Venzke puzzle, but I could be reading too much into the clue for POOL, [Snooker's cousin] (Bruce used to write articles for billiards magazines). The pop culture references here seem consistent with other puzzles from Bruce, too. But we’ve seen me get duped like this before, so I better take all three guesses for insurance. My other two guesses are based on my thinking, “Hmm, I don’t recall seeing this byline in a while.” That seems about as good an approach as any. Thus we have:
1. Bruce Venzke. 2. Sarah Keller. 3. Ray Hamel.
Ding ding ding! That’s two in a row, which means I’m due for a 10-day stretch of complete misses. Perhaps it starts tomorrow!
Name That Constructor Stats After 13 Puzzles: 5 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 20 points total so far; new score to beat = 30.5 points.
Kevin Christian’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Aye, what’s going on here? If you haven’t solved this one, go back and do it – it’s a MUST-READ… er, must-solve.
- 20a. ["Rocky III" theme song that became a #1 hit for Survivor] – EYE OF THE TIGER
- 31a. [Bart Simpson's "Good grief!"] – AY CARAMBA
- 41a. [Robert Graves novel narrated by Nero's predecessor] – I, CLAUDIUS
- 53a. ["Roger," on a ship] – AYE AYE, CAPTAIN
Damn fine puzzle here. “But Neville, 1-Across is a Roman numeral – and a rather arbitrary one at that!” Quit your whining! Yes, it’s a basic square one theme, but it’s well executed with theme entries coming from all different realms. Each begins with a homophone.
But now look at the long fill, and boy is it long! SANTA ANA wins with with the clue [Windy West Coast city?] That’s cute-and-a-half; I could go on IF YOU WANT. No? Well then, WHERE WAS I? Oh that’s right – long stuff like the MAD HATTER. You don’t like that? C’EST LA VIE!
We’ve seen a good theme and good long fill. What about the short stuff? Hm, we’ve got [iPhone message] for TEXT and [World's largest cosmetics company] for L’OREAL. Those are both winners. [Breezed through] gives ACED, not my original guess of SPED – that’s a tricky one! I didn’t know that May was named after MAIA, the mother of Hermes. Did you? The list of good stuff goes on and on.
Still feel like DCCI ruins it right out the gate? You’re entitled to your opinion. but the rest of this puzzle is simply too good to be brought down by something so insignificant.