Andrew Reynolds’ New York Times crossword
It’s astonishing how hard it was for me to find the hiding-in-plain-sight theme answer occupying the circled squares. I tried reading the letters as two parallel lines and I tried reading them from the top down before the stair-stepping upwards “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” BY LED ZEPPELIN sledgehammered me in the nose. Yes. That would be a totally obvious tie-in to Jimmy PAGE, his GUITAR SOLO, and his bandmate JOHN BONHAM. Fairly adventurous format for a Tuesday puzzle, but (provided that you are fluent in the language of crosswords and nailed ALETA, ELUTE, ESTOP, EDO, UTO, AFTA, ADZ, and GNAR) it landed solidly in the Tuesday difficulty zone. (That parenthetical list keeps expanding as I peruse the grid.)
Non-Zeppelin musical references include NILS Lofgren, an ABBA song, NIK Kershaw (wait…that’s [Suffix with neat or beat]), and ISAAC STERN.
Likes: [Long-running PBS film showcase] POV; TED KOPPEL; NORWEGIAN; and WIN BY A NOSE. Also enjoyed the clue for ANTS, [Small marching band?]. Dislikes: Those things at the end of paragraph 1.
Four stars for the rockin’ STAIRWAY and good long fill, with deductions for the UTO-ALETA of EDO situation. Let’s call it 3.25 stars overall.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword – Sam Donaldson’s review
At first I thought this puzzle had four theme entries:
- 17-Across: FORT WORTH, the [Cattlemen's stop along the Chisholm Trail];
- 61-Across: GRANT WOOD, the [Iowan known for an iconic painting] (called Dogs Playing Poker);
- 11-Down: GUEST WORKER, the [Foreigner legally employed on a temporary basis] (a completely new term to me, by the way); and
- 26-Down: SPIRIT WORLD, the [Realm sought at seances].
When I finished solving the puzzle, it was easy to see what these answers had in common: the number TWO straddles the two words in each theme entry. Having figured out the theme, then, I spotted a fifth theme entry in the middle of the grid at 40-Across: AT WORST, a term for [Under truly awful circumstances].
But just because the theme was easy to spot doesn’t mean the puzzle’s title is readily apparent. As regular readers know, this is Name That Puzzle Month, where my goal is to guess the puzzle’s title (or come up with a better one if I can). The title should be something about the split in TWO. Splitting Twos is a blackjack strategy rarely recommended, and I have a hard time believing this would really be the puzzle’s title. I did a quick search of phrases starting with “two” and couldn’t find anything apt, so I’m guessing that’s not it. Wait, how about Split in Two, as in “each entry features a split in TWO”? Ooh, I like that, so it will be my guess.
So close! The actual title is “Break in Two.” Split, break. Tomato, To-mah-to. I’ll claim credit for a correct guess here, even though I’m not keeping any stats this month. More important is talk about the puzzle, and this one has a lot going for it. Loved PARTY HAT, OUT OF IT, SCREW UP, COYOTES, and MISFITS. In case anyone cares, yes, Inner Beavis relished THROB in a puzzle that also featured both a SEX SCENE and an ADULT, a [Suitable viewer of an X-rated film], though the ODORS and the PRIG were something of a buzz-kill. My favorite clue was [Coddled ones] for EGGS.
Julian Lim’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review
Get ready to enter this puzzle… just scroll the page down. (Those were terrible and I’ll stop now. Sorry.
- 17a. [*Keep charging drinks] – RUN UP A TAB
- 24a. [*"Occasion to say "Whew!"] - NARROW ESCAPE
- 39a. [*Annual April paperwork] - INCOME TAX RETURN
- 51a. [*Running amok] - OUT OF CONTROL
- 64a. [*Overnight work assignment] - LATE SHIFT
- 71a. [Each answer to a starred clue ends in one] – KEY
OH, BOTHER. We’ve seen this theme before, so it’s nice to see five theme entries, each a fun one, in this grid. I don’t mind an old theme when it’s a fun puzzle, though, and this one was pretty darned fun.
I really liked [Sugar bowl invaders] for ANTS; it had me thinking about college football. The symmetric placement of ROAD RAGE and REAR SEAT is great for a minitheme. I’m not sure why I’ve heard of Phillies second baseman Chase UTLEY, but I have and it made the SW that much easier. Of course, we’re all familiar with [Noted kneeling NFLer] Tim TEBOW by now. On the other hand, I don’t remember Toyota SUPRAS.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Whacked-Out Wordage”
Matt’s in a themeless mood this week. He’s turned to the South for the lead entries TRACTOR PULL and HONEY BOO BOO. We watched part of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo last night. I see what those TV writers were saying when they said mama June was A-OK—she is. I could hang out with her (but not when couponing or pageanting is going on). You knew HONEYBOOBOO was coming to an indie/alt crossword, didn’t you? The jury is out on whether the nickname will settle into the lexicon and become fair game for the daily crosswords that get reprinted in book collections for years to come.
Other entries I’m rather fond of: the STATE PEN, CAKE MIX, RONCO, “INTEL INSIDE.” This 70-worder does have more in the “eh” department than I expected—ILER ALAR SONE EKING ROH ETO LEY IKO TSETSE TENONER CEDER.
Were you surprised to see the spelling used here for 50a: [Romanian composer George of the opera "Oedipe"], ENESCU? We see him more often with his French-friendly ENESCO spelling, but that may well be the case only because O is more crossword-friendly than U.