Hello! Thanks to Evad’s technical wizardry, all those customized features here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend have been transferred successfully to a new template. My husband was delighted to hear that (a) somebody missed his mascot drawing when it was gone and (b) Evad restored the mascot to its rightful place. I’m pleased to have nested comments now—when people may be writing about so many different puzzles, it’s especially helpful to be able to get your reply in just the right spot. Thanks for the birthday present, Evad!
Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword
I like the theme but not what it does to a bunch of the fill. The theme redefines TOWN SQUARES as 2×2 squares containing 4 letters that can precede town. We’ve got the BOOMtown in the northwest corner, your HOMEtown in the North Dakota zone, BOYS Town in the upper right, FREEtown (capital of Sierra Leone) in the Florida corner, South Africa’s CAPE Town (home to my friend Tertia), and DOWNtown in the Los Angeles corner. I’m especially partial to BOYStown, the nickname for part of my neighborhood—I saw Sheena Easton singing last Sunday at Boystown’s Northalsted Market Days, an awesome street festival that also showcased Olivia Newton-John and the Pointer Sisters. “For Your Eyes Only” has been earworming in my head since I heard Sheena sing it—she still sounds the same.
Where was I? Puzzle. Yes. So I like the consistent layout of the TOWN SQUARES, all traveling clockwise from top left. And I like the longish answers that lattice through the grid—EPHEDRA and PEACHTREE, the SHERATON and BISQUES, SONATINAS and BUSTIERS. But PEACHTREE is clued as [Atlanta’s main street], and that’s a little misleading. When I visited Atlanta for Sam’s wedding, the hotel was right between W. Peachtree Street NW and Peachtree Street NE (two streets that run sort of parallel but then kind of intersect), and Peachtree Circle NE and Peachtree Walk NE are a few blocks away. What the hell, Atlanta? Didn’t anyone ever teach you about grids … and logic? So the clue should read [Name of 12% of Atlanta's streets].
I was not enamored of the compromises that enabled the TOWN SQUARES to fit. BIBI, HIHO/SOMMER, ENA, SESE, and I DON’T/-IAL all felt less elegant than I expect Gorski fill to be. Plus U PENN/PIU/TETS! Ouch. Am making a mental (and written) (or rather, typed) note of the [Cadillac model unveiled in 2012], ATS. This may be the new ALERO, people—the car model that will haunt crosswords forevermore.
HOMEtown girl grumbles at 36d: UNO being clued as [___ Chicago Grill]. Here in Chicago, it’s still called Pizzeria Uno and its sister is Pizzeria Due. The “Uno Chicago Grill” moniker has not been applied to the flagship locations, and that name just seems cheesy and chainy to me. (Sigh.)
Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
First off, a hip-hip-happy 21st (more or less) birthday to Queen Amy of Fiendland!
I’ve seen this puzzle’s theme a few times before; that’s the not the puzzle’s fault exactly, it’s kinda inevitable considering the number of crosswords that have been put out there and the number I’ve solved. I don’t think I’ve seen it with the revealer 59a, “Ran into on the road, or an apt description of 17-, 23-, 36- and 49-Across”, REARENDED, which is clever! So the four answers end with a synonym for fanny (American meaning). There are a lot of words for that bit of anatomy; Hillary Duff could’ve been a theme answer, but she wasn’t. The theme answers chosen by Mr. Krauss made a great set, though; only the first was a little blah, and only if you’re being absurdly picky. They are:
- 17a, “Support, as a cause”, GETBEHIND. “Behind” is an adverb, not a noun like the original, at least I think so, so that’s one point in its favour.
- 23a, “Inside scoop”, SCUTTLEBUTT. That’s a fun word to say, isn’t it? My concise Oxford doesn’t have an etymology, but let’s see… Wikipedia’s cousin Wiktionary suggests it was the nautical equivalent of the water cooler.
- 36a, “Washington neighborhood that’s home to the State Department”, FOGGYBOTTOM. I confess that I don’t know the names of Washington neighbourhoods, although again it’s a really colourful, picturesque name, isn’t it?
- 49a, “Position of advantage”, CATBIRDSEAT. I knew this only from the Thurber short story. Is there a public domain copy? Here ya go!
We also have a Biblical mini-theme running through the grid with 22a, “”Lord, is __?”: Matthew”, ITI; 30a, “Hebrew name for God”, ADONAI; and 10d, “Biblical spy”, CALEB. I always associate the second answer, ADONAI, with the worship song “El Shaddai”.
There’s little if anything to complain about in this grid. Two partials, yes, and a few repeaters, though all of them perfectly acceptable in my book. OK, crossing the theme answer GETBEHIND with 3d, “Eradicated”, GOTRIDOF is probably less than ideal. Of those repeaters, 29a, “Great Lakes’ __ Canals”, SOO is memorable to me, as it left me with an empty square in an old New York Sun Monday puzzle. I’d just started solving US puzzles, but still, the shame!
I think the song referenced in the penultimate answer, 60d, “Telephone Line” rock gp., ELO is the perfect earworm to leave you guys with, as we say our 11d, “Farewells”, ADIEUS!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Agriculture Shock” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Beware the Ides of August, for they contain quip themes! Yep, today’s puzzle features a riddle: HOW DOES A TRACTOR / BREAK OFF A / ROMANCE? / IT WRITES A / JOHN DEERE LETTER. Even if the punchline is guessable from fifty miles away, it’s still a fun riddle, so the puzzle gets a thumbs-up from me. I know some readers are opposed to quip/quote/joke themes regardless of the actual content, so the star ratings for this puzzle may be lower than for most CS puzzles. (Hopefully the auto-haters can’t figure out how to post their ratings on the redesigned blog!)
One nice thing about quip/joke themes–they don’t take long to explain! Let’s focus on a half-dozen interesting clues and answers:
- The answer to [Not long] is FOR A BIT, noteworthy because it crosses three “theme entries.” I was thinking the answer would be along the lines of IN A SEC, or ANY MOMENT NOW. For some reason I didn’t process that I was supposed to look for a synonym. Maybe I imagined quotation marks around the clue?
- Anyone else try T-NOTE as the [Treasure repository], misreading “Treasure” as “Treasury?” (And also forgetting that “Treasury” wouldn’t be in the clue for T-NOTE since that’s what the “T” stands for, but no need to make me feel especially dumb, right?). Alas, the answer was TROVE.
- The [Ground water source] is an AQUIFER, introducing a Q into the grid. Hmm, a rare letter. And there’s an X down south and an extra J in here. Do I smell a Patrick Jordan puzzle?
- The extra J facilitates ABJECT, a wonderful word for an [Utterly hopeless] state.
- I can’t decide if my favorite entry is GO SOFT or UNCURL. Luckily, I gave up the “favorite entry” and “favorite clue” gimmick a couple of weeks ago, so now I don’t have to choose.
- There’s a mini-theme of outwearing one’s welcome here, with the symmetrically placed END LATE and OUT-STAY. I’ll take the hint and wrap up now.
But wait! I need to take my guesses in today’s segment of Name That Constructor Month. I nailed both the Monday and Tuesday puzzles, but I’m very unsure on this one. As mentioned above, the inclusion of rare letters makes me think of Patrick Jordan, but there’s no Z, and I would think Patrick would shoot for the full pangram. I’ll still guess him, but I won’t feel good about it. My other guesses will be pretty random too. I feel that if I sit and think about this I’ll be just as lost as I am now–kinda like when I play Learned League. There’s no point trying to stall–let’s do this:
1. Patrick Jordan. 2. Randy Ross. 3. Ray Hamel.
Holy cow, three in a row! If this was NBA Jam, the announcer would be screaming, “He’s on fire!” Still, I can’t get cocky. Tomorrow, I may well go down in flames.
Name That Constructor Stats After 15 Puzzles: 6 correct first choices (3 points each), 2 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 23 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 30.5 points.
Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
Beautiful grid, isn’t it? Yes, I know it’s a 16×15 rectangle instead of a square, but it’s got a surprising amount of wide-open white space for a 78-worder. The theme is portmanteau words:
- 18a. [*Out-of-bounds shooters?], STALKERAZZI. Stalkers meet paparazzi.
- 21a. [*Fine in the end?], BOOTYLICIOUS. Booty meets delicious.
- 60a. [*Member of the dreaded 1%?], TRUSTAFARIAN. Trust funder meets Rastafarian. For more on what this means, consult the “search inside this book” function for this title.
- 65a. [*Neologism that describes any of this puzzle's starred entries], FRANKENWORD. Frankenstein meets word. Franken- gets around. See also: Frankenfood.
- 12d. [*Athlete who's going for the gold?], SHAMATEUR. Sham meets amateur. Haven’t encountered this word before. I do think it’s silly that the Olympic definitions for “amateur” athlete eligibility vary so widely from sport to sport. Missy Franklin can’t get endorsements and still swim for a college team, whereas the NBA stars make millions and some track stars make a lot from endorsements.
- 34d. [*One who'd be bedridden without rehab?], SEXAHOLIC. Sex, alcoholic. This is the oldest of the portmanteaux in this puzzle.
I admire the stacking of the top and bottom Across theme answer pairs, as well as the triple-stacked 9s containing the Down theme answers.
Five clues and answers of note:
- 7a. [Rocket material?], SNOT. My personal trainer saw someone blow a snot rocket inside his shirt while running on the treadmill this week. Horrifying.
- 32a. [NY Times movie critic], A.O. SCOTT. I saw his cubicle a couple years ago when Ellen Ripstein gave me a tour at the Times building. It’s delightfully cluttered in a bookish way.
- 52a. [Salsa, e.g., or a salsa dancing move], DIP. Nice two-way clue.
- 1d. COSBY [___ sweater]. Did you know those colorful patterned sweaters are not merely generic Cosby sweaters, but brand-name Coogi sweaters? I just learned that this week. They ain’t cheap, either.
- 8d. [Godwin's Law epithet], NAZI. Godwin’s Law states “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”