Ethan Cooper’s New York Times crossword
This week’s Thursday theme is phrases concocted from the names of various computer keyboard keys. Mac users are at a slight disadvantage because we don’t think in ALT terms. Here are the entries:
- 20a. [Prison guard system?], ESCAPE CONTROL.
- 30a. [Hipster Capitol Hill worker after collapsing?], ALT PAGE DOWN. Not sure how closely “hipster” and “alt” track each other these days.
- 39a. [Bill at the "Star Wars" cantina?], SPACE BAR TAB. This is the first theme entry I figured out, and also the best one. The fact that “bar tab” is also a solid phrase unto itself adds a little extra resonance and sense.
- 52a. [Restyle a bit of a D.C. hockey player's hair?], SHIFT CAPS LOCK. I don’t like this one at all. If you don’t follow hockey, you barely even know there’s a team called the Capitals, much less that a member of the team might be called a Cap. “Shift lock” is an awkward little attempt to mean “style hair.”
I wasn’t loving the rest of the puzzle while solving it. 1d: [New Deal work program, for short]? Sigh. CCC = Civilian Conservation Corps, I think, as well as being the Roman numeral for 300. 9d: MONOLOG, [Late-night talk show feature]? I always see it spelled as monologue. 32d: OPEN SKIES, [Like a policy allowing unfettered air traffic], feels arcane to me—have any of you heard of “open-skies policies”? (I bet some of you have. You people have such a broad range of knowledge.) 59d: ELY, [England's Isle of ___], not one of your marquee Islands of Crosswordy Fame. 60a: ORLE, [Heraldic band]? Crosswordese!
Okay, so there weren’t all that many answers that bugged me. I did like AEGEAN SEA (though not its neighbor ARAL with “Sea” in its clue), “BET ON IT,” and SCOT-FREE. Favorite clues: 27a: ["Let's see that again in __"] SLO-MO; 12d: [Mouth watering?] for DROOL; 8d: [More awesome than awesome], slangy EPIC.
Suspected trouble square for some solvers: The intersection of 29a and 24d. The latter is a baseball term, TAG UP, or [Go back before proceeding] to the next base. (Or something like that.) And [D.O.J. heads] are AGS, attorneys general. If your baseballiness or abbreviation savvy let you down tonight, woe is you.
Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword puzzle “Modified Foods” – Jared’s review
Some folks have a problem with genetically modified foods but nobody should take issue with food-modified foods which is essentially what Ben has given us this week.
- [Environmentalists that talk back?] - SAUCY GREENS
- [Sailor that's a bit thick?] - MEATY SALT
- [Samuel L. Jackson, e.g.?] - CRABBY HAM
- [Mac with lousy resolution?] - GRAINY APPLE
- [Government appropriation that seems suspicious?] – FISHY PORK
- [Feud that seems trite?] – CORNY BEEF
For the (extremely) numerically challenged, that’s six long theme answers in a 15×15. Six is a lot. (Six isn’t necessarily, or even usually, a big number in general, but it is in this context.)
I like SAUCY GREENS, MEATY SALT, GRAINY APPLE, and FISHY PORK quite a bit, though I find it (probably wrongly) at least mildly distracting that “salty meat” is a thing while the analogous formulation of the others aren’t. I have nitpicks with the other two: I don’t think of Samuel L. Jackson as archetypically, or even at all, crabby. Sound off in the forums with the actor you think is most stereotypically ill-tempered. My other problem is that to me,”trite” and “corny” are not nearly synonymous. I think of “trite” as meaning hackneyed/overdone/uncreative while “corny” evokes cheesy. I know the dictionary is just perfect for resolving things like this but I currently have mine lent out and I don’t know how to work the internet (I hand write my reviews (usually in calligraphy) and have Amy translate it to the Web).
- [Place to see the face of Jesus, perhaps] - APSE. I like that this clue evokes the theme – not sure if that was deliberate.
- [Purple Haze measures] – OUNCES. Am I overly naive for only now learning that Purple Haze is a type of pot? I always assumed Jimi Hendrix just made up the title out of nowhere.
- [Video Game Developer Meier] – SAM. This isn’t a name anybody actually knows, right? Willful obscurity IMO.
- ["Give me one example."] – LIKE WHAT. Amy likes casual language in crosswords.
- ["You expect me to swallow that?"] – CMON. I could see this clue, with a very different answer, appearing in an Onion puzzle.
- [Bitter salad veggie] - ENDIVE, which does not refer to round 5 of the springboard or platform competition.
- [Trendy beverage plant] – ALOE. I didn’t know they’re putting this in drinks these days – you’re not supposed to drink the lotion, are you?
- [Eighteenth-century Russian noble name] – ORLOV. Whatever.
- [Nickname similar to 48-across] – NANA. See comment for the next entry.
- [Nickname similar to 46-across] – GRAN. See comment for the previous entry.
- [One must touch it to score] – PLATE. I’m torn on whether the payoff here justifies the inaccurate clue. Unless you’re specifically playing baseball, you don’t need to touch the plate to score.
- [Clinch a victory] – ICE IT. Never heard this expression.
- [Name that doesn't stick?] – PAM. Clue/answer of the puzzle. Short, simple, but so cutely elegant. (In case you’ve never cooked or just never realized there was a way to make stuff not adhere to the pan, PAM is a brand of non-stick cooking spray.)
- [Track sounds?] – NEIGHS. The “neigh” means “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t make me run to exhaustion against my will but I guess I’ll continue to comply lest you have me taken out back and shot.” Horse racing!
- [One of the B's in ABBA] – BJORN. And here I thought the band name was just a tribute to their favorite rhyme scheme!
Gareth Bain’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
- 16a. [*Bedroom fixture] – CHEST OF DRAWERS
- 21a. [*Tuxedo shirt feature] – WING COLLAR
- 34a. [*Fog metaphor] – PEA SOUP
- 49a. [*Fashion icon with her own perfume] – COCO CHANEL
- 54a. [Screwball, and what each starred answer's beginning is] - SOME KIND OF A NUT
So that gives us a chestnut, wingnut, peanut and coconut. STELLAR work, Gareth. It’s no surprise that Gareth snuck Republic of South Africa in this grid since that’s where he lives! I TRIED to find a bone to pick with this puzzle, but there’s thankfully nothing wrong with it.
[It's blown in the winds] clues OBOE – so clever! [Ends and centers] for LINEMEN was another tricky one. But for me the most misdirecting by far was [Two-piece suits] for BIKINIS… I tried ARMANIS working off the right-hand side! Beurre NOISETTE is new to me, though. Hazelnut butter does sound tasty right now. THE FBI, IN TACT and ADELAIDE – I’LL SAY! It’s all great. Two thumbs up for this one.
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Out of Africa” – Sam Donaldson’s review
Even this geography-challenged solver enjoyed today’s CS puzzle. The four longest Across entries are puns based on the names of African cities:
- 17-Across: “Tuna sandwiches” are TUNIS SANDWICHES, or [Northern African lunches?]. You’ll find Tunis in–get ready–Tunisia.
- 25-Across: A chiropractor becomes a CAIRO-PRACTOR, an [Egyptian manipulator?].
- 41-Across: [Moroccan lefts and rights?] are RABAT PUNCHES, a play on “rabbit punches.”Apparently “Rabat” translates to “Fortified Place.” I’m not setting up a joke here–I just thought that was interesting.
- 53-Across: The [Sudanese cable channel for kids?] is KHARTOUM NETWORK. I always like it when my favorite theme entry comes last–it gives the puzzle the extra oomph of having a punchline.
Those open corners with the stacked 7s are a very elegant touch that allow for lively fill. I like PLACEBO, ASE HITS, ON A DARE, AS FAR AS, the one-two punch of CHAIM / POTOK, and EN MASSE. There are only 70 answers in this puzzle, fewer than many puzzles not constrained by a theme. Like freestyle puzzles, though, this one has some tougher bits (like ARNEL and ORIANA) and some marginal entries (CSIS, CHIS, REWEAR). But I give big props to the overall smoothness and execution of this grid.
So who made this? Time for today’s guesses in Name That Constructor Month. My three-day ace-it-on-the-first-guess streak is in great jeopardy. I have my guesses, but I don’t have much confidence behind them. I taking Martin Ashwood-Smith first since he’s no stranger to themed puzzles with very low word counts. My only reservation with this guess is that we just saw his byline last week for his 500th CS puzzle. Then again, one with 500 puzzles is bound to have two in two weeks, right?
The second and third guesses are likewise going to constructors who would, I imagine, be up for this kind of challenge. It would, I think, be someone who regularly dabbles in difficult constructions. Here goes nothing, then:
1. Martin Ashwood-Smith. 2. Randy Ross. 3. Patrick Blindauer.
Well, it’s not a three-pointer, but I’m happy to have included Randy in the guesses. Name That Constructor Stats After 16 Puzzles: 6 correct first choices (3 points each), 3 correct second choices (2 points each), 1 correct third choice (1 point each); 25 points total so far; adjusted score to beat = 30.5 points.
Brendan Quigley’s blog puzzle — “Marching Bands” — Matt’s review
Star across answers: FRO-YO, GROUCHO, JESUS, R. KELLY, BONZO and CARROT. In the bands themselves I liked YOU’RE ON!, LEBRON JAMES, KLEENEX, THE RAZOR, palindromic RACE CAR, CHERNOBYL (with the evil clue [Plant in the news, 4/26/1986] and the 1-word E-band GROANERS.
I don’t do enough Marching Bands to give this a star rating, but I did have fun solving it. Isn’t that enough?