Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword
I like this theme: The USPS delivers several classes of MAIL, including those at the beginning of four 15-letter theme answers:
- 17a. FIRST-CLASS CABIN, [Pricey accommodations on a ship].
- 31a. REGISTERED NURSE, [Ward worker]. Dang! I had early voting on the brain and could only think of aldermanic wards and precincts and whatnot rather than a hospital ward.
- 41a. PRIORITY SEATING, [What disabled people are entitled to on a subway]. In Chicago, at least, the elderly and pregnant women are also entitled.
- 62a. [Quick way to pay], EXPRESS CHECKOUT. The last two times I approached the express line with three items, the person who got there ahead of me let me go first. Aren’t people great? I love people.
Elsewhere in the puzzle, what have we got? I like the SASHIMI BARISTA (that’s a thing now, right?), but I am not happy to see 25d: ANENT. You could string together some words here that would give a non-solver a pretty negative view of crosswords: “BORA SETTE OTOE INDO SOL ANENT ACTA HOI ETE SAONE!” Say what?
Moving on, because I need to blog the LA Times puzzle before bed too—2.75 stars. Imagine if one of the 15s had been dropped (making the theme square count 53 instead of 68). We might’ve had a puzzle with fewer of those clunker entries in it.
Steven J. St. John’s Los Angeles Times crossword
Straightforward trivia theme here, collecting several books by MICHAEL CRICHTON, the 57a: [Doctor-turned-novelist born 10/23/1942]. This would have been his 70th birthday except that he passed away four years ago.
- 17a. [57-Across best-seller made into a 1971 film, with "The"], ANDROMEDA STRAIN. In the grid, this is looking like “And Rome D.A.’s Train” to me.
- 26a. [57-Across best-seller made into a 1993 film], JURASSIC PARK.
- 37a. [57-Across best-seller made into a 1995 film], CONGO. My husband loves this book because there’s a gorilla named Amy in it, and there’s a line that goes something like this: “Amy peed on him.”
- 43a. [57-Across best-seller made into a 1997 film], THE LOST WORLD.
This isn’t a particularly tight theme, as 13 (!) Crichton novels were adapted into movies. I’ll bet you haven’t heard of all of them.
Quick solve (the theme answers fell quickly after I glanced at the 57a clue cross-referenced in the other theme clues), Scrabbly grid, smooth except for the iffy crossing between DRACO (1a. [Athenian with harsh laws]) and ALDO (3d. [Fashion's Gucci]). 3.5 stars.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Swing States”—Andy’s review
Theme: States + Palindromes = Waaaackiness!
Three themers in this one:
- 17a. ["Sorry Buckeye State, but the whole General Assembly's coming over for my party!"] NUTS OHIO! I HOST U.N.! That darn Ohio, always inviting itself over. I’m running out of plausible international bodies to pretend to be hosting!
- 27a. [Story about a guy who sells things in the Silver State?] ROD, NEVADA VENDOR. This was totally my favorite theme entry. A sequel to Walker, Texas Ranger, the pilot would follow Walker’s brother, Rod, as he applies for his vendor’s license in Las Vegas. What does Rod sell? You’ll have to tune in next week to find out…
- 45a. With 58-across, “The Granite State! Oops, I just sneezed all over you!”] NEW HAMPSHIRE! AHH, HHAERIHSPMAHWEN. I like this entry because it’s sort of absurdly self-conscious. To me, it says to the solver, “Yes, I recognize that this theme is limited, but screw it.” Unless, of course, I just completely misparsed this entry, and it turns out that the reward for figuring out the theme is more than just a poorly transcribed sneeze.
For the price of two-and-a-half weird theme entries, I expected the surrounding fill to be awesome, and it was fine. I liked DIKEMBE, AQUINO, USATODAY, and that minor league sports team, the HELENA HYENAS. I wanted BARTAB/BENDER crossing to be clued relatedly, but to no avail. Also, isn’t ONE TOUCH a diabetes testing supply company? (Google confirms my consumerism.)
Brave new fill to me was 52a. [Napoleonic marshal] NEY. As in Michel Ney, a.k.a. “Le Rougeaud,” or “The Ruddy.” As in, “Have you ever heard of that dude before?” “Ney.” Ney is for horses, I say. I had also never heard of BRIANA Evigan (of Step Up 2: The Streets fame) before, but I’ll attribute that to my own failing to keep up with starring actresses in dance films who don’t appear in their prequels or sequels. At any rate, she’s a viable Briana alternative to former Team USA goalie Scurry, which is probably a plus if you’re in favor of contemporary Brianas (and really, who isn’t?).
2.66 stars from me. See you all Saturday!
Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Barking Lot”- Sam Donaldson’s review
In terms of fill, DOG NAME is, well, for the dogs. But as a revealer, it works well. Sitting in the grid’s equator, DOG NAME is the [Second part of 17- or 62-Across, or 11- or 28-Down]. That’s because those four entries end with words that can also double as common names for our best friends:
- 17-Across: The [Marilyn Monroe mark] is a BEAUTY SPOT. The [Norma Jean mark] is just a MOLE.
- 62-Across: The [Vehicle on the final three Apollo missions] is a LUNAR ROVER. Alas, it wasn’t a red rover.
- 11-Down: The [Sophocles tragedy] is OEDIPUS REX. Parts of it can be so dull you’d rather take a stick to your eyes.
- 28-Down: The ["Jazzman" singer] is CAROLE KING. I’ve heard of Carole King, but I’m not familiar with the tune. More importantly, I don’t think of King as a common dog name. Fido, Buster, Sparky, Patches–yes. King, not so much. Who knows, maybe this is the name of Patrick’s dog. If so, I’m all for it. The perks of constructing crosswords should include the discretion to feature your best friend if you’re so inclined.
The appearance of a Q and a K so early in my solve had me on the lookout for a pangram. Though the grid has a nice assortment of rare letters, you won’t find a J. Too bad–PERI Gilpin could have been JERI Ryan. That would change PARDONS, [Grants amnesty to], to JAR DONS, [Big figures in the illegal pickle container trade]. I guess that’s why Patrick wisely avoided the pangram.
I don’t know [Impressionist composer Erik] SATIE, and I’m not even sure what makes one an “Impressionist composer.” Is it music that sounds great from a distance but sounds more mangled as one gets closer?
Highlights in the grid include having ARKANSANS and IDAHO side-by-side in one row, the six-letter entries flanking DOG NAME in the center, and the zombie-like appearance of the UNDID.
Favorite entry = SQUEAKY, an apt term for something [Literally crying out for oil]. Favorite clue = [Literally crying out for oil] as the clue for–wait for it, wait for it–SQUEAKY. Yep, 4-Down pulls off the rare Daily Double!