Paula Gamache’s New York Times crossword
I wasn’t really speed-solving with much focus tonight, between watching DNC coverage and wrangling that bug on my keyboard (really! the nerve of that bug, to park itself between the R and T keys). And my attention remains divided, so let’s get on with it. The theme is a riff on the vowel-progression concept, with theme answers starting with B and marching from a long-A sound to a long-U sound. Someone more attentive than I noted that there’s an added constraint to the theme—the first letter after each initial B is not the one you’d expect for its sound. So 18a is BEIGE PAINT (a woefully flat, arbitrary-sounding answer) rather than BA-something. 23a is BIEBER FEVER (which I had a helluva time spelling properly in the grid—my fingers wanted to make it BIEBER FIEBER), not BEE-something. Our BI answer is 36a: BUYER’S REMORSE. 50a is BEAU BRIDGES rather than BO OBAMA. And 56a is BOOTLICKER and not BUBONICPLAGUE.
Toughest clue for me: 5d: [Crime family head]. Kept thinking it would be MAFIA DON or MOB BOSS or something semi-generic along those lines, but it’s MA BARKER.
My favorite words in the grid are 45a: RHEUMY, or [Watery-eyed], and 24d: BANYAN, [Tree with aerial roots]. (The banyan is second only to the baobab in the cool tree sweepstakes.) The UGARTE MESMER Y-SHAPE ARMA UTEP SERE corner was rather annoying, though, and I reckon a sizable number of solvers might get snagged by the crossing of 62a: SHERE/[Sex researcher Hite], whose ’80s heyday was a while back, and 52d: BIERE/[Stella Artois, par exemple]. Why is a Belgian beer in a French clue for a French word? It’s brewed in Leuven, which is in the Flemish (Dutch) part of Belgium, where “beer” is bier and not BIERE.
Patrick Blindauer’s monthly website crossword, “Double Trouble”—Matt’s review
Patrick throws us a nice softball this month, an easy but typically elegant puzzle titled “Double Trouble.” Seven squares in the grid begin both an across and a down answer; in each case, the unclued down entry forms the second half of the across. They are:
1-a/d [Bag-closing device] = TWIST / TIE
6-a/d [Saloon setting, stereotypically] = WILD / WEST
10-a/d [Quick look] = ONCE / OVER
24-a/d [Early adopters] = FOSTER / FAMILY
26-a/d [Like some calming medications] = ANTI-ANXIETY
57-a/d [Event with lots of bowing] = CURTAIN CALL
61-a/d [Nickname for a good looker?] = EAGLE EYES
From the byline one can assume the existence of multiple wordplay layers; here he’s used the first letters of these seven to spell TWO-FACE. I like that the letters spell something relevant, but I have to dock him a quarter-star here since that really wants to be either TWO FACES or TWO-FACED. Unless I’m missing something, which wouldn’t be the first time. UPDATE, 15 minutes later: OK, give the man his quarter-star back, and maybe throw an extra quarter in on top. I saw while solving but then forgot that there’s a meta here: the last clue across reads ["District 9" extras [Bonus: Which comic book character is hiding in this puzzle?] That would be a guy called TWO-FACE, probably because he has two faces. OK, I just Google image searched it and he has two half-faces. See for yourself!
14-a. [Ashlee Simpson album] = I AM ME. Top that tautology, if you can. Also, fyi: you are you.
19-a. [Characters from "The Iliad"] = ETAS. This kind of clue for Greek letters reliably fools me.
11-d. [Gp. that becomes an interjection when you inject an E] = NATO. Neato!
Excellent Week 1 meta — 4.44 stars. It’s kind of neato having no idea what difficulty level to expect from these puzzles month-to-month.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
Thanks to 1-Across, the heavy lifting in my Name That Puzzle game has already been done for me. This month, I’m trying to solve the puzzle and determine the theme without reference to the puzzle’s title. Then I see if I can guess the title. Here, 1-Across tells me that GAMES is the [Magazine for puzzle people, and word that can follow the last words of 17-, 30-, 46-, and 62-Across]. I didn’t need many crossings for this. HUSTLER didn’t fit, and, taking a flyer that the answer to [More meager] didn’t begin with X, I knew MAXIM was out. That left only GAMES, the very first magazine to which I subscribed (while in junior high, if that matters).
Like the clue says, the last word in each theme entry can also precede GAMES:
- 17-Across: The [State that's free from anxiety] is PEACE OF MIND. I was trying to think of a specific location rather than a mental state. I think the clue was playing mind games with me.
- 30-Across: POP-UP VIDEO is the [Recently revived TV show with trivia-filled bubbles called "info nuggets"]. At McDonald’s, info nuggets come in 4-, 6-, and 10-packs. I recommend the barbecue sauce for dipping, though you should wipe your fingers carefully before playing video games.
- 46-Across: The VIETNAM WAR was the ["Platoon" setting]. I never saw Platoon; instead, I decided to watch War Games.
- 62-Across: It’s hard to make an entertaining clue out of WORLD HUNGER, but I think [Global fuel problem] succeeds. (Should there be a question mark at the end of that clue?) Speaking of entertaining, be sure to check out the recently-released-on-DVD The Hunger Games.
I love how multi-generational this puzzle is–Vietnam, The Hunger Games, OPI nail polish, COUNTESS Olivia, and SNAKE OIL I.R.A.s from C.P.A.s. Other great entries include WENT UP TO, TIP-TOE, AREA CODE, PURINA, LOW BID, and SCROOGES. My favorite clues were [Leaves home?] for TEABAG and [Suck it up?] for INHALE. Inner Beavis had a fun time with those entries, too, but Patrick’s humor here is far more appropriate.
So what’s this puzzle’s title? It can’t be something like Games People Play because that would be revealing the answer to 1-Across. But how about Play Time? On some occasions, the title to a puzzle serves as an additional theme entry. So something like Don’t Get Carried Away (as in “away games”) is possible. But I like Play Time better, so I’ll go with it.
Turns out the puzzle’s title is “Play Things.” Same idea, but different title. Close but no cigar, as they say. And that’s fine by me–I’m not a cigar smoker anyway.
Mel Rosen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
Tough Wednesday for me today; in all 3 departments: some of the clues, answers and especially the theme.
Until I came across the revealer at OVER, I had no idea as to how to fill in the theme answers; even with that information I battled with two of those answers. If you haven’t fully comprehended what Mr. Rosen is up to, the theme clues should be interpreted as [Oversaw], [Overhead], [Overcome], [Overboard] and [Overdo] I think [(Over)*Head] as a noun equivalent of smash is American tennis slang? It isn’t something I’ve come across too often. I also struggled to believe the second word of DEFEATADVERSITY, even with a number of letters in place. It still doesn’t sit well with me, it doesn’t sound at all natural, although I guess “We Shall Defeat Adversity” sorta works as far as substitution goes… I dunno. Anyway, (over)all I thought concept-wise it was a clever trick and nice twist on the “definitions” theme genre; however, as always the downside of the genre is at that best you have kinda boring theme answers.
The grid is designed without many long answers. One seven-letter down answer, NOTDONE, crosses three theme answers. There are a further two across 7′s – OPENAIR serving a dual role of being a fun answer and injecting common letters into the grid. I also liked MTCOOK, though I suspect it will be a tough nut for those who aren’t geography fundis. To the right of it was BENGAY. What a weird name! Needed every cross and even then considered “BENGBY”!
One area of fill was IMO quite iffy: where the two dubious suffixes, ITES and STER, cross and are joined by the abbr. SSA. This could be refilled quite a lot more inoffensively if one were to lose ZITI (e.g. MOB for ZIP and KNIT for STER). Was the trade-off for that fairly crosswordesey Z-answer really worth it?
To close, some further clue/answer pairs I found tough:
- ["Coming Home" actor] for DERN meant nothing to me. Actor suggests this isn’t Laura we’re dealing with. It’s Bruce. The film from 1978. Further tidbits from Wikipedia include: “starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern”… ” Fonda and Voight won Academy Award [sic] for their performance.” Poor Bruce missed out!
- I had EGGED instead of URGED.
- AFOOT clued as [In progress, to Sherlock] – I wanted “Sherlock” to be a generic “British spelling/vocab” indicator here.
- [Letters for Louis Quatorze]. Looking at the clue with the power of hindsight I can infer that Quatorze means “fourteenth”, but it was pretty inscrutable at the time.
Ben Tausig’s Onion AV Club crossword
Funky theme: Ben takes NIXON’s Watergate COVER-UP as inspiration for a theme in which ONs are NIXed and UPs are COVERed, in both clues and answers.
- 1a. [September 8, 1974 pard recipient - and what the constructor did throughout this puzzle], NIXON. The ON in “pardON” has been nixed.
- 18a. [Partner in toenail maintenance?], CO-CLIPPER. Coupon clipper loses its adjoining UP and ON.
- 22a. [Tee ball, e.g.?], CHILD SPORT. Child sUPport.
- 37a. [Part of a 1-Across scandal - and what the constructor did throughout this puzzle], COVER-UP. There is an ON in “constructor,” which I just noticed now. Throwing in “cstructor” might have made it harder for solvers to fully understand the theme.
- 51a. [Autograph hound's vehicle?], SIGNING BUS. Signing bONus.
- 56a. [Web developer's elegance?], CODE GRACE. CoUP de grace.
Other clues affected by the ON- and UP-lessness include 6a ([Huge name in electrics] <- electrONics), 21a (["Judge ___": 1995 Stalle film] <- StallONe), 36a ([Clothing with a cats stain, perhaps] <- catsUP), 67a ([Colic procedure] <- colONic), 11d ([Disposable c material] <- cUP), 16d ([Sal's splies] <- salON sUPplies), 30d ([Annoyance for an holsterer] <- UPholsterer), 54d ([Prima dna features] <- prima dONna), and 61d ([Band with the album ""] <- “UP”).
I like how the conjunction of Richard Nix-ON and his cover-UP inspired this theme. 28a could similarly inform another theme: An IT-less LOSES IT puzzle would change 28a’s clue to [Goes apesh].