Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword
Pete’s gone all Scrabbly today, with pairs of Q’s, Z’s, X’s, and K’s, plus a J. My solving time suggests this is tougher than the usual Friday puzzle, nudging towards Saturday difficulty.
Favorite entries: SQUARE PEG (my peers are thinking of Jami Gertz and SJP now), TURQUOISE as an [Iranian export], the sorely underused hairstyles known as TOPKNOTS and the POODLE CUT, political ROBOCALLS (I don’t think I’ve gotten any, just calls for money), QUICKIE ([Rush job] is a very Gray Lady–friendly demure clue), and THE X FACTOR.
I call foul: PIETA and PIOUSNESS oughtn’t be in the same puzzle, much less cross each other, as they’re pretty similiar. PIETA is an Italian word drawn from a Latin word meaning “dutifulness,” roughly the same thing. Whereas the true-blue-Q crossing of TURQUOISE and AQUA is pretty.
Top clue: [Lemons are often squeezed into them] for ICE TEAS (though I am firmly in the iceD tea camp). Why did I try ZESTERS here? I blame the overall Scrabbliness for luring me in.
Unfamiliar names in the midst: 16a: ERICA, [Actress Hubbard of “Akeelah and the Bee”]. I loved the movie, but … who? Just looked it up—she played one of Akeelah’s siblings, and I don’t remember Akeelah even having siblings at home. But! Hubbard is currently on a BET series in which Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington!) plays her dad. 24a: AZORES, I know; [Santa Maria’s chain] does not ring a bell, though. 56a: AMATO, [Two-time Italian prime minister Giuliano]? His first stint as PM came after recent NYT answer Giulio ANDREOTTI’s third stint. (So apparently Italian PMs are going to appear regularly in the themeless NYTs. Make a mental note of Monti, Prodi, D’Alema, Dini, Ciampi, DiMita … there are a lot of them I’ve never heard of over the last 25 years.)
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Gladys Knight’s Backup”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Those “of a certain age” like me remember that Gladys Knight had three backup singers known collectively as “The Pips.” In this puzzle, the three longest Across entries are three-word terms with the initials P.I.P., making them three “PIPs:”
- 20-Across: If something will [Succeed, metaphorically], it will PLAY IN PEORIA.
- 37-Across: Inner Beavis knows several great answers to [Lay]. But the one that fits this theme is PLACE IN POSITION.
- 52-Across: The [1986 Molly Ringwald movie] is PRETTY IN PINK. I thought Jon Cryer was just duckie in that movie.
With only 39 theme squares, Randy had a lot of freedom in this grid. So why the single entrance into two corners, and why do we have to endure AES, ETE, and DAS? On the bright side, there’s some jazzy stuff like, um, JAZZ, SPRITZ, RAT PACK, GO APE (though my first guesses here were GO MAD and GO OFF, making for a sluggish start), MAD AT, and UPTON Sinclair.
Classical music and other elements of highbrow culture are usually my weakness, but I was able to navigate through AIDA, ROSSINI, and an ARIA here without too much trouble. Thanks goodness the grid was balanced with HARPO Marx and SIRIUS radio star Howard Stern–those gave me a chance to make up time quickly.
Favorite entry = KNOW-IT-ALL, clued as [Like a crossword blogger]. Check that: the clue is [Smart aleck]. Same thing. Favorite clue = [Navel blockade?] for LINT. That’s purely awesome!
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Gareth’s review
One of the LAT regulars, Ms. DuGuay-Carpenter delivers another outstanding Friday theme; that’s two in a row, after last week’s tour-de-force! I had no idea what was going on for most of the solve. Once I had my a-ha moment, getting the theme really helped mop up the rest, though.
The theme can be summed up as follows: “Whimsical multi-word homonyms of a one-word answer, with the clue being that answer.” Clear as mud? It’ll be easier to explain going through them one by one. I just want to add before I start listing that I found them all highly entertaining even if I have encountered many of them before in corny jokes and such.
- 17a. [Buccaneer], TOPPRICEFORCORN : Buck an ear. The hardest for me to parse!
- 25a. [Pasteurize], TOOFARTOOBSERVE: Past your eyes.
- 42a. [Propaganda], RESPECTFULGOOSE : Proper gander.
- 54a. [Melancholy], PINKISHSHEEPDOG : Melon collie
As usual, four grid spanners makes for few longer answers elsewhere. I only have a few answers I’d like to comment on. There was only one answer that made me wince: 43d. [Sex Pistols fan, e.g.], PUNKER. Really!? I’m not sure that NOADS really is a 22a. [Wikipedia policy?]. No outside ads, sure, but don’t those internal pledge drives count? 35a. [Like many college texts], USED. They had to put “many” because some students are too lazy and don’t bother… (Actually “used” here means not new).
That’s me done! See you in the comments.
Julian Lim’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Never Again” — pannonica’s review
It’s convenient that 36a ISOGRAM is an autological word. That is, one which describes itself. The clue for it helps make this clear: [Word or phrase with no repeated letters, such as every answer in this puzzle].
This is definitely a stunt puzzle, probably better appreciated by constructors than solvers. In fact, without the reveal, I would have had a difficult time discerning the theme, which is no doubt impressive.
It certainly makes for some unusual fill. 16a-across is [Ballplayer Joe idolized by Charlie Brown] SHLABOTNIK. If I’m not mistaken, his thoughts may have on occasion turned to his idol while Charlie was standing on the 22a PITCHER’S MOUND [Bump on a diamond]. The other longest answer also has a sporting flavor, the JAVELIN THROWS of [… the men's decathlon and the women's heptathlon] (47a). See also the matching clues of 2d and 26a, [Sporting-event cheer] RAH and OLÉ.
There aren’t many entries that feel forced, like stretches in service of the isogram conceit. The worst in my opinion is 51a VALETING [Waiting on someone?], followed by the pluralized GOTHICS [Novels featuring ingénues in spooky settings] and 32d ["90210" airer] THE CW (C for CBS, W for Time-Warner). And seeing either of those latter two in another crossword wouldn’t cause me to raise my eyebrow too high, so it’s really just that odd VALETING.
Shakespeare! 38a [Prince in "Henry IV"] HAL, 4d ["Upon this __ heath you stop our way …": "Macbeth"] BLASTED. The latter pairs perhaps somewhat macabrely with 42d BROILED.
- Favorite clue: 21d [One who might have feet of clay?] GOLEM.
- More sports! 22d [1971 Cooperstown inductee] is pitcher Satchel PAIGE. 62a [Untoppable gymnastics scores] TENS. 25d [Ex-Viking Tarkenton] FRAN. 48d [Prep for a billiards shot] ALIGN. 57d [Org. concerned with course work?] PGA.
- 40d [Quaint drinking spots] TAVERNS. Hm, perhaps in the UK and in fantasy fiction, but in my experience most aren’t any more quaint than “bars and grilles.”
- 18a [WWII museum piece] BREN, not STEN. Throw in an UZI and some AKS, and you have a veritable crossword arsenal.
- 9d [Sullies] IMBRUES.
Very good puzzle.
Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fly-By-Night” — pannonica’s review
Okay, I’ll refrain from expounding on diurnal chiropterans and play along with the puzzle’s Halloween-flavored theme, which happens to be rebus-style entries containing the letter sequence B-A-T.
- 10a. [Tasmanian devil's prey] WOM(BAT). Though, like hyenas, they’re very opportunistic and quite a lot of their diet consists of carrion. The genus name is Sarcophilus, which evocatively means “flesh-lover.” I assume this clue was used because of the sinisterness of “devil.” In the same vein, the clue for 81a COBRA, [Hooded attacker] is unnecessarily sensationalistic.
13d. [Fasten securely] (BAT)TEN DOWN, often preceding “the hatches.”
- 23a. [She tells the tale of a knight] THE WIFE OF (BAT)H. That’s “knight,” not a themey “night.” From The Canterbury Tales, natch. See also 29d [Knight's address in the "Game of Thrones" books] SER. Okay, whatever you say.
9d. [Victim of the Ancient Mariner] AL(BAT)ROSS.
- 25a. [Try] TAKE A STA(B AT). Ah, there’s an expanded version of the old crossword chestnut. Also, STAB + BAT insinuates a vampire vibe.
17d. [Buyer's incentive] RE(BAT)E. Yes, I had SALE before the theme became apparent.
- 51a. [Strange quark, for one] SU(BAT)OMIC PARTICLE. Again, there’s no doubt that this clue was used for the eerie factor. This sort of attention to detail is appreciated.
37d. [He put a bounty on Han Solo] JAB(BA T)HE HUTT. Yes, but it wasn’t a quicker picker-upper. That Solo guy was elusive.
- 59a. [Caustic criticism] BRICK(BAT). Metaphorically speaking. I have yet to hear of someone hurling mortar as well (although mudslinging is quite common).
46d [Nasty biddy] OLD (BAT). See also 85d [Witch] CRONE and 1a [Some witches' familiars] TOADS.
- 63a [Meth makers, informally] (BAT)CHERS. New to me, but then again I haven’t seen Breaking Bad.
63d. [Diamond helper] (BAT)BOY. Must … not … post … that … image.
- 70a. [It may be colored purple] (BAT)TLEGROUND STATE. Only realized belatedly this was a political clue, in the blue-red schema, and not something like the official colors of signs for historic battlefields. Have no idea why I was thinking something like that, but there I was, thinking something like that. See also 66a [Like much politics] PARTISAN.
70d. [Pool party?] (BAT)HER. Just the one.
- 80a. [Tapered off] A(BAT)ED.
44d. ["Heaven and Hell" band] BLACK SAB(BAT)H. And not an umlaut was shed that day.
- 84a. [Person in a pyramid] ACRO(BAT).
73d. [Leave from work] SAB(BAT)ICAL. Duplicates the SAB(BAT)H of 44d far too closely.
- 95a. [Boot camp practice] CLOSE COM(BAT).
86d. [Forensic expert] DE(BAT)ER. Was mislead by the clue, as well as the nearby RNA (98d).
- 97a. [Best Picture nominee that lost to "My Fair Lady"] ZOR(BA T)HE GREEK.
99d.[It's a dyeing art] (BAT)IK.
That is a hell of a lot of themers. A spooky amount. Very nice how the BATs appear in various positions within the words and phrases—beginnings, ends, centers—as well as being split or intact throughout. Their physical locations in the grid are not symmetrical, though most of the across answers that contain a rebus square are symmetrically paired with another that also have a rebus square; this is because longer fill tends to be theme fill.
More clues and entries with varying degrees of gratuitous Halloweenish tang: 21a [Skeleton key?: Abbr.] ANAT., 27a [They may raise spirits] SEANCES, 28a [Breathing spell] REST (no wait let me guess, in the Harry Potter books this is called something like “Inspirimus Dormir”), 34a [ __ macabre] DANSE, 39a [Amorphous masses] BLOBS, 48a [Name shared by 12 popes] PIUS, 48a [Horrific] AWFUL, 90a [Thora Birch's "Ghost World" role] ENID, 100a [Wail for a while] VENT, 3d [51, for one] AREA, 7d [Skeleton starter] EXO, 62d [Stephen King's home] BANGOR, 65d [Grave monument] STELA, 82d [React to a ghost, perhaps] RUN, 96d [Rosemary's portrayer] MIA.
- 55d [Willie Nelson sound] TWANG. Applicable to guitar and voice.
- Ugly fill: O’-THE, ORSONS-OLSENS-BOONES, BUY-UPS, ODESA, RELIER-SPICER-SUDSER.
- Less familiar proper nouns: 15d [Danish navigator Bering] VITUS. 79d [Swiss home of William Tell] ALTDORF. 33d [Black Sea port, to natives] ODESA.
- SCARIEST CLUE IN THE WHOLE PUZZLE: 88a [LXXIX times XIV] MCVI. (Okay, not really scary—just really, really annoying. Kind of like Halloween.)
- Repetitious: 72a [Political losers] OUTS, 71d [Navel formation] OUTIE.
- By process of elimination, favorite clue: 65a [It's held in Paris banks] SEINE.
Fun puzzle, but a bit exhausting.